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Fox News’ culture of sexual harassment did not end when founder Roger Ailes was given the boot. Instead, the network seems to have replaced him with men who engaged in or helped cover up similar behavior.
Last year, longtime Fox executives Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine became the network’s co-presidents, replacing Ailes, who left the network after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment.
Abernethy has now been accused of retaliating against an employee who refused a personal relationship with him, while Shine was previously identified as playing “an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.
After the allegations against Ailes came to light, the network’s parent company launched an investigation by a law firm hired to review the allegations and provide legal advice. But in spite of numerous reports pointing to a broader culture of sexual harassment at the network, the inquiry was reportedly never expanded beyond Ailes. Fox got its “revenue machine back on track” and tried to move on, as Vanity Fair put it.
But in promoting Ailes’ proteges to replace him, the network exposed itself and its employees to more of the same behavior.
Soon after Ailes’ removal, Fox paid former on-air personality Juliet Huddy “a sum in the high six figures” not to sue the network after her lawyers sent Fox a letter alleging that she had been sexually harassed by host Bill O’Reilly, The New York Times reported today. The details are grotesque, and this is not the first time O’Reilly has been accused of such behavior.
But the allegations extend beyond the network’s biggest star. The same letter reportedly indicated that Abernethy “had retaliated against [Huddy] professionally after she made clear that she was not interested in a personal relationship.”
Shine has yet to be publicly accused of the same behavior. But he reportedly played a key role in keeping similar accusations from exploding into the public eye.
New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman -- the leading source on the Ailes scandal -- said that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims.” He explained on CNN that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.” Other reporters confirmed hearing from Fox sources that Shine had known of Ailes’ misconduct.
Since the initial accusations came out against Ailes, news reports have indicated that he was only part of the problem. At least a dozen other women told the Times in July they had experienced sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox, with many of them citing supervisors other than Ailes.
It’s long past time for Fox to commission a real, independent investigation into its culture of sexual harassment. The network’s women should not have to live in fear of retribution from executives and hosts seeking sexual relationships.
Joy Reid Models Four Must-Do’s When Reporting On Reproductive Rights Topics During The Trump Administration
During the January 8 edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy, host Joy Reid put on a master class in how to cover anti-choice lawmakers’ latest attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.
The Sunday after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans would prioritize defunding the essential health care provider, Reid demonstrated four best practices for reporting on reproductive rights topics: hosting diverse guests, discussing the material consequences of policy decisions, including personal testimony in reports, and emphasizing the disparate impact of anti-choice laws on marginalized communities.
Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider for millions of Americans -- many of them low-income patients reliant on Medicaid to access primary care. To justify defunding Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have falsely claimed that the organization’s primary goal is to coerce women into having abortions using taxpayer money.
In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Due to the Hyde Amendment, the federal government is already barred from funding abortion services. Instead, the government reimburses Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services provided to low-income patients via Medicaid -- just like any other health care provider. Although right-wing media argue that so-called “community health clinics” (CHCs) could absorb this patient demand should Planned Parenthood clinics close, experts agree that CHCs lack the capacity, experience, and resources to replace Planned Parenthood.
In its coverage of the defunding effort, AM Joy set the standard for reporting the consequences of congressional Republicans’ politically motivated attack on health care access -- and other outlets should take note.
During the January 8 segment, Reid hosted two women to discuss the impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood: the organization's president, Cecile Richards, and the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), Jessica González-Rojas.
In a previous study of prime-time cable news coverage of reproductive rights topics, Media Matters found that networks relied heavily on male panelists to discuss the consequences of policy decisions about abortion and reproductive rights issues. This problem of representation is also more generally borne out across the Sunday political talk shows, which have overwhelmingly relied on guests who are white, conservative, and male.
Hosting diverse guests is essential to providing in-depth, quality coverage of many topics. Non-white and non-male perspectives in newsrooms are often rare, a trend that should incite concern not only about equality but also about coverage accuracy.
AM Joy also focused on the material impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood -- not just the political spectacle of the legislative fight.
At the start of the segment, Reid immediately debunked the pervasive conservative arguments about the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood:
JOY REID: Let’s be clear about this so-called defunding legislation -- what it would really do. It would prohibit Medicaid recipients from obtaining any kind of services from Planned Parenthood. We're not talking about abortion services because federal law already prohibits those being paid for with federal dollars. We're talking no cancer screenings, no contraception, no STD testing, no medical services as all. The defunding will be packaged with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which is currently providing health insurance to 22 million people and counting.
Richards and González-Rojas each provided examples of the consequences that defunding Planned Parenthood would have for a number of patients across the country. As Richards explained, “Any senator who votes [to defund] is hurting women in their own home state” because they are “essentially saying to low-income women, 'You can't go to Planned Parenthood for your cancer screenings and birth control.’”
González-Rojas agreed, adding that when Indiana denied Planned Parenthood state Medicaid reimbursements, “we saw an STI outbreak,” and when Texas blocked the reimbursements, “we saw the rates of unintended pregnancy and birth increasing. We heard stories of women splitting birth control pills to make it last longer.”
Throughout the January 8 segment, Reid emphasized personal testimony from herself, Richards, and González-Rojas about relying on Planned Parenthood for essential health care.
Reid noted that Planned Parenthood was “the place where, when I graduated from college and had no money and was broke and had a low-paying job, [I] got all my health care.” Richards echoed the sentiment, explaining that “one in five women in this country go to Planned Parenthood for health care in their lifetime, including me, including you.”
AM Joy also provided a platform to discuss the disparate impact of anti-choice laws, which have a greater impact on marginalized communities than on other groups.
As González-Rojas explained:
JESSICA GONZÁLEZ-ROJAS: I think a good example comes from Texas when we saw the defunding of a lot of the family planning services in Texas. We saw a health crisis happen. We saw health disparities happen. Things like cervical cancer, which is largely preventable, Latinas had huge rates of cervical cancer and that's something that they shouldn't have happen in their life. If they have access to regular screenings, paps, mammograms -- all the services that Planned Parenthood provides -- those types of things would be prevented. So this is a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on immigrant communities, on low-income women and families, young people, so a fight against Planned Parenthood is a fight against our communities.
Because the economics of accessing necessary health care are already so precarious for many communities, networks and outlets should emphasize the disproportionate impact anti-choice laws have on these groups whenever possible.
Fox Will Now Feature Watters' Poor-Shaming, Sexism, And Transphobia For An Hour Every Week
Fox News has announced that news correspondent Jesse Watters' monthly special Watters' World will now be a weekly show on the network. Watters has a track record of producing segments where he shames homeless Americans and mocks members of the LGBT community. During his segment and while guest-hosting shows on Fox, Watters has also repeatedly made disparaging comments about immigrants, women, Asian-Americans and African-Americans.
Former Infowars Reporter Joe Biggs Also Threatened To Release Revenge Porn And Commented Positively About Sexual Violence And Punching Women
Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN), a pro-Trump “news” network that’s expanding operations, has hired a host who has tweeted his approval of date rape, sexual violence, and punching women and transgender people. He also threatened to release revenge porn of a “bitch” who allegedly cheated on him.
Freelance reporter Joe Biggs announced in a January 3 Facebook post that he is going to “be filming a PRO 2nd Amendment show for Right Side Broadcasting! It will cover all things 2A. From CHL [concealed handgun licenses], safety, veterans issues and hunting. Hope you will all tune In and share the content. I'm very excited and have amazing guests lined up.” The network posted a link to Biggs’ Twitter account and wrote, “great new things to come in the future... Stay tuned!”
The Washington Post wrote in October that Right Side Broadcasting “has been the unofficial version of Trump TV since last summer, streaming the Republican nominee's campaign events in all their unedited glory online.” The Post noted that the fledgling outlet had received a “boost of legitimacy … when the billionaire's campaign teamed up with Right Side to produce pre- and post-debate analysis shows that streamed on Trump's Facebook page.”
Biggs previously worked as a reporter for Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars.com. He has pushed numerous conspiracy theories, including about pizzagate, the false claim that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. During one Infowars video, Biggs claimed that Clinton has surrounded herself with “evil people” and suggested that hacked WikiLeaks emails revealed “an undercover pedophile ring” run by the Clintons.
Biggs also claimed after the December 2015 San Bernardino, CA, shooting that “there's something fishy going on. This is one of those that has false flag written all over it without a doubt. … SWAT team was already geared up. The SWAT team was already geared up and there within seconds. They were geared up and ready within seconds. They knew that this was going to happen.”
Biggs has repeatedly tweeted his approval of date rape and sexual violence. He tweeted to someone, “I like to reason with her (reason=chloroform) and then just drink a lot of beer and release.” He turned an American Pie joke into a pro-date rape reference by writing that “this one time at band camp i slipped a bitch roofies and convinced her my dick was a dick and not a flute.” He also tweeted, “Every girl at this bar wants to fuck me. They don't know it yet because the drugs haven't kicked in.” He addressed a “slut” by tweeting: “put my dick in your Mouth or I'll put it in your ass and lube it with tobasco.” He tweeted that his “favorite part of cuddling” is taking “nude photos of my dick all around your face #sleeptightbitch” and “your [sic] supposed to punch her in the face then cum on her tits right? Or did i twist it up.”
Biggs summed up his idealized relationship with women when he wrote, “What Happened to the Good ole days when women just fucked your brains out and made you dinner” and “shut up bitch and blow me.” He also addressed a “bitch” who cheated on him: “Cheat on me bitch. But remember. I have many sex tapes and photos of your nasty ass In action. I might accidentally load them here.”
Biggs has also written incendiary anti-LGBTQ tweets. He told his followers, “trannys eat kittens, and that's just not cool man. Punch a tranny save a pussy” and attacked those who disagree with him by calling them “fag.” He is also selling an “LGBT” shirt that stands for “Liberty, Guns Beer & Big Tits.”
Here is a sampling of tweets from RSBN’s newest host:
this one time at band camp i slipped a bitch roofies and convinced her my dick was a dick and not a flute
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 15, 2012
Every kiss begins with....
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 15, 2012
@RXCYCLIST I like to reason with her (reason=chloroform) and then just drink a lot of beer and release
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) March 6, 2012
Yeah. Cheat on me bitch. But remember. I have many sex tapes and photos of your nasty ass In action. I might accidentally load them here
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 7, 2012
I love to play hide and seek with my blind neighbor. It never gets old. I just put my dick in front of her face. She never learns
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 26, 2012
My favorite part of cuddling is when you fall asleep and then I took nude photos of my dick all around your face#sleeptightbitch
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 26, 2012
Your supposed to punch her in the face then cum on her tits right? Or did i twist it up
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 6, 2012
Every girl at this bar wants to fuck me. They don't know it yet because the drugs haven't kicked in.
~the secret service......
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 21, 2012
Love is fucking your girls mouth even after she's passed out from lack of oxygen and then bringing her back for surprise anal
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 20, 2012
My dick is a chick magnet. They might not agree. But I'm a god damn scientist so I know these things. Now shut up bitch and blow me
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 26, 2012
If your a chick and dont give blow jobs.....your a God Damn terrorist. I kill terrorists. So suck a dick and save a life
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 21, 2012
Hey girl. If you don't see a sandwich in my hand. Then put my dick in your
Mouth or I'll put it in your ass and lube it with tobasco. Slut
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 21, 2012
My penis is soaked in the tears of 18 yr old women and broken dreams
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 27, 2012
What Happened to the Good ole days when women just fucked your brains out and made you dinner
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) August 15, 2012
Good. Fuck Hillary. She's lying ass cunt https://t.co/FIt8iM5V1K
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 29, 2016
Call me old fashion, but something about clubbing a bitch over the back of the head before sex really sets the mood right
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) March 8, 2012
I she has a deep voice she's probably a tranny.....an trannys eat kittens, and that's just not cool man. Punch a tranny save a pussy
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 21, 2012
I'm gonna punch some bitches in the face real soon. But first I have to jerk off. You fucking fags
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 22, 2012
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 23, 2016
Says the guy who called ear plugs rubber bullets. Fag https://t.co/XHMnCbTaqF
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) July 19, 2016
Don't call Michelle O a tranny. Last person who did that went into a coma and died.
— Joe Biggs (@Rambobiggs) September 9, 2014
New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports that according to Fox News insiders, Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s replacement on Fox “will be a pro-Trump conservative.”
On January 3, Megyn Kelly announced that she will be leaving Fox News for NBC, saying in a statement on her Facebook page, “I have decided to end my time at FNC, incredibly enriched for the experiences I've had."
According to insiders who spoke with Sherman, “the Murdochs will choose a woman” to replace Kelly in her nightly 9 PM slot, and all agree “that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative”:
Inside Fox News, staffers are speculating over who will replace Kelly. According to insiders I spoke with today, the consensus seems to be that the Murdochs will choose a woman to fill her 9 p.m. time slot. The leading internal contenders include Trish Regan, Shannon Bream, Sandra Smith, and Martha MacCallum. Two sources said Kimberly Guilfoyle is lobbying for the job.
The one thing Fox insiders are in agreement on is that whoever replaces Kelly will be a pro-Trump conservative. In the wake of Ailes’s ouster, some media observers speculated that 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wanted to reposition Fox to the center, bringing it more in line with his moderate political views. But the selection of a pro-Trump host to fill Kelly’s slot would suggest that Fox is instead doubling down on its right-wing politics and planning to align itself with the new administration. After initially being hostile to Trump, Murdoch has made moves to curry favor with the president-elect. Fox insiders told me that Murdoch personally named pro-Trump anchor Tucker Carlson to replace Greta Van Susteren at 7 p.m.
Murdoch’s relationship with Trump has greatly improved since the depths of Trump’s battle with Kelly last year. “I really like Rupert Murdoch!” Trump told guests at Mar-a-Lago over the holidays, according to an attendee. “Roger Ailes was a friend of mine, but Fox’s coverage is so much better since he left.”
If Fox News’ politics ultimately solidify as more pro-Trump than they were during the campaign, that might be to the benefit of Murdoch’s business interests. According to a well-placed source, Trump has asked Murdoch to submit names for FCC Chairman. Murdoch, another source said, also wants conditions put on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, and he could lobby Trump to make that happen.
Writer Denounces Platform’s Refusal To Protect Users From “Alt-Right” Harassment
Writer Lindy West, who spent years cultivating a reputation for engaging with (and frequently demolishing) social media trolls, has announced she’s leaving Twitter because of the “global repercussions” of the platform’s “refusal to stop” harassment campaigns launched by the white supremacist, misogynist “alt-right” movement.
In a January 3 opinion piece at The Guardian, West explained that she had deactivated her Twitter account after “half a decade of troubleshooting” to curb personal harassment and threats from anonymous users trolling her on the social media platform. West, who regularly engaged with her tormentors on Twitter and even confronted a user who harassed her while posing as her dead father, concluded that Twitter was “unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.”
West explained that her decision to leave Twitter didn’t stem from simply reaching a breaking point when it came to trolls, but rather that it represented her disgust with Twitter’s “refusal” to “intervene and start protecting its users” from coordinated harassment campaigns led by members of the so-called “alt-right.” As West pointed out, “Twitter executives did nothing” for years in which the “alt-right” was “beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities.” This harassment included the deeply racist and misogynist campaign against black actress Leslie Jones last summer, led by “alt-right” Breitbart.com editor and serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos, and the similarly misogynist Gamergate “hate-storm” in 2014.
Recent “alt-right” manipulation of Twitter represents a dangerous escalation of the sort of Twitter harassment, abuse, and disinformation West has fought for years. A combination of trolls (e.g., anonymous users goaded and led by the ideologically hateful “alt-right”), robots (bot and spam accounts created specifically, often by the trolls, to amplify the abuse or disinformation), and dictators (or at least leaders with authoritarian tendencies) are using the platform to rile users with fake news stories and general misinformation, confirming and encouraging harmful views that justify the abuse of others. It’s created an ecosystem that’s “feeding into the worst instincts of humanity,” and Twitter’s inaction has amounted to a stamp of approval that West said she can longer accept.
From West’s January 3 op-ed (emphasis added):
I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt) – it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now – how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users? – and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared. Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency. Twitter executives did nothing.
On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”
“We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?
Trump uses his Twitter account to set hate mobs on private citizens, attempt to silence journalists who write unfavourably about him, lie to the American people and bulldoze complex diplomatic relationships with other world powers. I quit Twitter because it feels unconscionable to be a part of it – to generate revenue for it, participate in its profoundly broken culture and lend my name to its legitimacy.
James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal announced that he would be leaving the paper’s “Best of the Web” column to run “the op-ed pages of the newspaper and its digital counterparts” as editorial features editor.
Taranto has a long history of producing overtly sexist content at the Journal. He has claimed that “female sexual freedom” has led to a “war on men,” said attempts to address sexual assault in the military were becoming an “effort to criminalize male sexuality,” and argued that "contemporary feminism" is “based on a false theory of equality.”
Here is a video compilation of some of the worst sexism from James Taranto:
In the small world of politics and media Twitter, one of a few tropes emerged this year: astonishment -- isolated and seemingly brand-new each time -- when woman-centered outlets published high-quality political reporting and opinion pieces.
When Teen Vogue ran a December 10 op-ed from weekend editor Lauren Duca headlined “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” this small, homogenous media world seemed shocked that a young woman could aptly write about both makeup and the psychological tactics of a dangerously deceptive political figure. It was as though young women and the stories they crave, or the whole of American life for that matter, cannot contain multitudes.
As many women writers -- and especially women of color -- quickly pointed out, the Teen Vogue piece shouldn’t surprise anyone. Neither should it be shocking that, in September, Cosmopolitan set the standard for Ivanka Trump interviews when reporter Prachi Gupta asked Ivanka, who ostensibly spearheaded Donald Trump’s child care proposal, substantive questions about that policy and in the process revealed its many weaknesses. The “real” media figures who were surprised by the Teen Vogue opinion piece also might not have known that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have given multiple exclusive interviews to Essence, Ebony, Latina, and Teen Vogue over the years.
What (mostly male) critics fail to recognize is that their reasons for dismissing women’s magazines actually form the foundation of those publications’ success. Magazines created by and for women audiences -- not to mention exclusively online outlets like Broadly, Refinery 29, The Establishment, and Jezebel -- inherently do things differently, and that’s their strength. They’re helmed by people who wouldn’t normally see their experiences depicted on the pages of papers of record. They’re also answering to an audience of women, especially young women and women of color, by finding ways to inject otherwise untold perspectives into the political discourse.
This emphasis on giving platforms to those commonly excluded by dominant media narratives explains why Teen Vogue -- run by Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth, a millennial black woman, and digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, a 25-year-old gay man -- produces consistently dynamic reporting on the realities of the white supremacist and misogynist movement that calls itself the “alt-right.” It also explains why it reaches millions with personal stories of transgender teens affected by North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law, a young woman who got an abortion in Ohio, girls from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, and young female Muslim activists. (Teen Vogue also owes much to Rookie magazine, founded and edited by the 20-year-old Tavi Gevinson, which regularly publishes political stories focused on personal narrative, and earlier this year ran an exclusive reader Q&A with Hillary Clinton.)
It explains why Latina magazine’s politics and culture editor, Raquel Reichard, has curated a strikingly personal collection of first-hand, narrative-driven accounts explaining how this year’s threats to abortion rights uniquely harm Latina communities.
Essence and Ebony have been doing this work for decades, no doubt serving as critical models for the more recently developed political voices of traditionally whiter magazines like Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire. In the weeks since Trump’s election, Essence has consistently called out his cabinet picks for their connections to the racist “alt-right” movement and their histories of racist remarks. An Ebony opinion piece labeled the “alt-right” “white supremacy by any other name” and examined what Trump has said -- or refused to say -- about racial intimidation.
Essence has also challenged mainstream praise of female conservative media figures who have benefited from white feminism, describing right-wing pundit Tomi Lahren as a “white supremacist fave” and warning of the media’s uncritical embrace of “repugnant and unapologetic racists” like Lahren and Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who the magazine says are “dangerous for black women.” What’s more, women’s magazine writers are not afraid to correctly identify rape culture, white supremacy, or outright lies when they see them. And Elle unequivocally stated that Ivanka Trump, who has been touted as the champion of women in her father’s administration, “will not fix ‘women’s issues’” and called out her “exceptionalist white womanhood.”
In a year when women have been repeatedly attacked through legislation, on social media, and even by the president-elect of the United States, Cosmopolitan was unafraid to call the Twitter harassment of black actress Leslie Jones -- organized by bigoted, misogynist Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos -- a hate crime. Gupta’s October take-down of Donald Trump’s history of sexual harassment concluded, “Trump doesn’t seem to understand what harassment is or how it works.”
This is the essential difference between women’s magazines and what are seen as more traditional outlets for political reporting: Women’s magazines are designed to speak -- directly and above all -- to women, particularly young women and women of color.
As a collective group that frequently feels the impact of new state and federal policies before others and in highly magnified form, these women are craving the truth about how such policies come to be. And by and large, they aren’t finding it in mainstream political press outlets largely helmed by and written for white men, who forcibly construct a “both sides” argument where often one, frankly, does not exist.
The success of women’s magazines underscores the fact that newsroom diversity -- in its most intersectional meaning -- is, in the words of CNN’s Tanzina Vega, “imperative to make sure your coverage is better, more nuanced and more accurate.” As Washington Post deputy general assignment editor Swati Sharma explained recently for Neiman Journalism Lab:
A new administration is at foot, and with it nascent movements are growing across the country. How will those sentiments be accurately covered with empathy, nuance, and authenticity? We need people in those communities to capture the messages, the angst, the people who make up the groups.
As we prepare for a new presidential administration that promises to be infinitely more hostile to both members of the press and the women who make up these magazines’ newsrooms and audience, the media figures who have expressed shock over high-quality political reporting by such publications might consider instead turning to them for a lesson in telling the full story.
Graphic created by Dayanita Ramesh.
2016 was a red letter year for xenophobia and misinformation. From smears about Muslims to hostility over LGBT rights, media have had to push back against a torrent of lies and distortion. Here are 12 times the media rebuffed right-wing lies and deceit.
As sexual assault allegations against President-elect Donald Trump piled up in the months before the election, CNN and Fox News each relied on paid Trump surrogates and media allies to peddle some of the worst sexual assault apologism of the past year.
After uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about sexual assault, a number of women came forward with specific allegations against the then-candidate. In CNN and Fox’s coverage of Trump’s despicable comments, his media allies downplayed the severity of sexual assault and attacked the credibility of those who spoke out, while both networks initially characterized the comments as merely “vulgar” or “lewd.” When women came forward with specific accounts of being sexually assaulted or harassed by Trump, CNN and Fox gave ample airtime to paid surrogates and media allies who minimized and made excuses for Trump’s actions.
Sexual violence has no place in our society, let alone on cable news networks. So why did CNN and Fox spend the end of 2016 subsidizing media personalities to deny allegations and engage in pure sexual assault apologism?
As Media Matters previously noted, CNN’s decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates made the network a consistent platform for the campaign to trivialize the severity of sexual assault. CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- systematically dismissed Trump’s comments,calling them a “distraction” and framing them as normal “locker room” talk.
For example, Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, flippantly claimed that “nobody cares” that the nominee of a major political party was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Scottie Nell Hughes similarly argued that Trump’s deplorable comments were unimportant because “no woman woke up affected by these words” -- ignoring the sheer number of social and political risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment.
Once women began to make their allegations public, CNN’s Trump surrogates focused their attention on normalizing sexual assault and attacking the credibility of the alleged survivors. Lewandowski questioned the timing and veracity of the reports, before deflecting questions by invoking discredited attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the connections between the 2005 recording and specific allegations against Trump, paid apologist Kayleigh McEnany called the claims baseless and blamed Trump’s accusers because they “let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”
Fox fared no better in its coverage of Trump’s unacceptable comments. In addition to similarly dismissing Trump’s statements as “locker room talk,” “frat house language,” and “guy talk,” Fox employees also joined the effort to undermine the credibility of Trump’s accusers.
On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump surrogate Ben Carson (now nominated to be a member of his cabinet) accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public by creating incentives for people to “come out and say something” in order to garner “fame.” Carson added, “What a bunch of crap.”
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade argued that “none of them are vetted” -- referring to the accusers -- and it was entirely possible that “they all could be lying.” Others questioned the timing of the myriad allegations against the Republican nominee, calling them “a little coordinated… a little too convenient,” and claiming that the proximity to the election meant “it’s fair to question why is this coming out now.” In reality, multiple media sources have corroborated most of the claims brought forth by Trump’s accusers.
In some cases, Fox personnel openly attacked individual women for speaking out, as seen in senior political analyst Brit Hume’s tirade against Jessica Drake -- a Trump accuser who directs and performs in adult films. Hume responded to Drake’s allegations that Trump had “grabbed” and hugged and “kissed” her “without asking permission” with a series of tweets suggesting she could not be offended because of her profession.
Sexual assault is a serious issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half”of its survey respondents (47 percent) “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”
Despite widespread fearmongering from right-wing media that false rape reports are common, these incidents are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 67 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement.
Reporting on rape and sexual assault has long been a challenge for journalists, regardless of who is involved. When the accused occupies a position of prominence, journalists and networks must refuse to let threats of lost access or demands for false balance sanitize their reporting. In May 2016 -- before the Trump allegations -- Woody Allen’s son Ronan Farrow published an article blasting the media for cultivating a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. As Farrow explained, although it’s not the media’s job “to carry water” for those making accusations against powerful men, the media do have an “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”
On each of these charges, CNN and Fox clearly failed -- enabling some of the worst sexual assault apologism of 2016.
*Image provided by Sarah Wasko
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Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...
Loading the player reg...