Newly minted California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner was as clear as could be when CNN’s Dana Bash asked her about voting in the 2020 election.
“It was voting day and I thought the only thing out here in California that I worry about, which affects people, is the propositions that were out there,” Jenner said. “And I didn’t see any propositions that I really had one side or the other. And so it was Election Day and I just couldn’t get excited about it. And I just wound up going to play golf and I said, ‘I’m not doing that.'”
The implication was simple: For Jenner, politics was so broken that she simply couldn’t bring herself to be a part of it. Not a perfect message for someone running for office, but if you want to position yourself as an outsider, the I-was-so-fed-up-I-didn’t-vote-but-then-decided-to-do-something-about-it narrative isn’t a bad one.
Plus, plenty of celebrity candidates — or people who haven’t made politics their life’s calling — haven’t voted all that consistently. Which makes them like lots of people who may vote intermittently, if at all.
So if the story ended there, no big deal. But it didn’t end there.
Because Politico checked the Los Angeles County voting rolls and found that Jenner did, in fact, vote in the 2020 election. (Politico had previously reported that Jenner had voted in just 10 of the 26 California statewide elections held between 2000 and 2020.)
CNN confirmed that reporting on Wednesday afternoon — and sought out the Jenner campaign for comment about the discrepancy. A campaign aide told CNN’s Maeve Reston that Jenner did vote by mail but weighed in only on the ballot propositions, not on the presidential or other down-ticket races.
But again, that’s not what Jenner told Bash. Which was, again, that “I didn’t see any propositions that I really had one side or the other. And so it was Election Day and I just couldn’t get excited about it. And I just wound up going to play golf and I said, ‘I’m not doing that.'”
Which is very odd! Because 99 out of 100 times when politicians (and would-be politicians) lie about their past voting histories, it’s to say that they voted a lot more often than they actually did. I can’t think of a single time — this is a first! — where a candidate lied about (or at least misstated) not having voted, when they did in fact vote!
Why did she do it? The most innocuous explanation is that she simply misspoke. What Jenner meant to tell Bash was that she couldn’t bring herself to vote in the 2020 presidential race, not that she didn’t vote at all. Of course, why specifically mention ballot initiatives in the same sentence as saying you didn’t vote, if you knew you had cast votes on them last November?
The only other explanation I can think of is that Jenner wanted to really push the idea that she is a political outsider — and got caught stretching the truth a little too much to make that case.
The Point: Jenner’s gaffe slows any momentum she was trying to build in the early days of her challenge to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). And for the life of me, I still can’t totally figure out why she did it.