Did sex harassing-reporters cause Clinton to lose the election?

A provocative thesis targets Rose, Lauer, et al. 

Economics, voters' anger, likeability and poor tactics are all cited for Hillary Clinton's election loss. Now we're told we should add Charlie Rose opening his bathrobe to a job applicant.

Journalists Rose, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin and Glenn Thrush all stand accused of sexual harassment or assaulting female colleagues. But can they also be charged with losing Clinton the presidential election?

A provocative if far from ironclad thesis comes in a New York Times op-ed ("The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election") by Jill Filipovic, author of “The H Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness” and a contributing Times opinion writer. In sum, she asserts that "many" of those charged with sexual harassment were "on the forefront" of coverage during the election and thus influential. Then this:

"A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn’t that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status."

Really?

Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist, says, "Some of this is probably true, but I recall pretty near media narrative unanimity that Clinton was 'cold,' 'distant' and 'unfriendly.' Not sure these individuals were the only few. Thrush was also pretty hard on Trump (especially in the Off Message podcast he did when at Politico)."

"As an historical aside, incumbents (although Clinton was not technically so, she was running for her party’s third term) always complain that journalists are harder on them than challengers (i.e., 1992 Bush v. Clinton; 2000 Gore v. Bush). "

Jennifer Lawless, a political scientist at American University (and a former congressional candidate in Rhode Island), says, "As a political scientist, I'm wary about making generalizations from a race that was the most unusual we've ever seen in presidential politics."

"I agree with the characterization of the way that these particular men treated Clinton and Trump, but I would want to analyze their coverage of other candidates, as well as the way that men and women who are not sexual harassers covered Clinton and Trump, before I could conclude that there's clear evidence for the argument."

"As a woman and a former congressional candidate, though, I'd certainly prefer being covered by someone who hasn't behaved this way and think I'd be far more likely to get a fair shake."

Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, one of the most respected longtime political reporters, forwarded some seemingly relevant links to past stories. The denominator: the rise of female reporters in covering the campaign. There was this from Politico's Hadas Gold (now at CNN). And this from CNN's Brian Stelter.

"For this thesis to work," she said, "it seems she should have backed it up with concrete examples that are specific to these men (did I miss any, beyond Lauer’s much-criticized debate performance?) And also to show that their coverage was significantly different from coverage of Clinton by male journalists who are not harassers and from coverage of Clinton by female reporters."

Kathy Kiely, a longtime (and great) Washington reporter-editor who is now a journalism professor at the University of New Hampshire, says, "It's totally worth wondering how much the presence of sex harassers in newsrooms — and bosses who tolerated them — affected the coverage of the campaign, especially coverage of Trump's boorish behavior (hey, if you're doing the same thing, why is that even a story?)"

"Much as I hate to bruise the egos involved (not!), it would be way overstating the influence of these bad boys to suggest that they affected the outcome of the race. Was misogyny a factor? You betcha! But you don't have to be a sexual predator to be a misogynist. You don't even have to be a man. This is a much bigger, much more deep-rooted phenomenon. And it's going to take more than a few heads rolling to extirpate it. If ever."

Disney's pursuit of Fox

Informs Bloomberg: "Walt Disney Co. renewed discussions over acquiring a significant part of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s media assets, according to a person familiar with the talks."

"Disney joins companies including Comcast Corp. looking to buy a piece of the Murdoch family’s empire. The discussions are said to include the 20th Century Fox film studio and Fox’s stake in U.K. satellite provider Sky Plc., according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The talks don’t include Fox News, the Fox broadcast network or the Fox Sports 1 channel."

Compounding Brian Ross' latest screw-up

The Washington Post chronology details a ham-handed day for ABC News, replete with the stock market briefly tumbling and President Trump finding another cause for media-bashing tweets:

"The network had 'broken' Ross’ report Friday with a tweet that read: 'JUST IN: @BrianRoss on @ABC News Special Report: Michael Flynn promised ‘full cooperation to the Mueller team’ and is prepared to testify that as a candidate, Donald Trump ‘directed him to make contact with the Russians.’ ”

"The tweet, which has since been deleted, included a link to a story and a photo. It was shared and liked tens of thousands of times before it was removed."

"Later Friday night, ABC issued a 'clarification,' in the form of a new tweet and Ross’ on-air appearance on 'World News Tonight' with host David Muir. The subsequent tweet, which has also since been deleted, read: “CLARIFICATION of ABC News Special Report: Flynn prepared to testify that President-elect Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians *during the transition* — initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria, confidant now says.'”

And this is far from the first time for a high-profile mistake from Ross. Indeed, you should wonder about his long-standing support from management in light of those very substantial errors, as one was reminded in The Post story

"A reporter covering the Hartford City Council who made such errors would have been severed from the Courant newspaper staff, encouraged to seek a career in, well, public relations," says Jack Davis, a former ace investigative reporter and onetime publisher of The Hartford Courant. But not at august ABC News, where Ross is suspended for four weeks, that's it. (Poynter's Al Tompkins looks at the use of confidential sources and has some advice.)

Scoop of the day

"Scribbles by Mitch McConnell’s Grandchild Accidentally Incorporated Into G.O.P. Tax Bill"

The Borowitz Report amplifies, "The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the toddler’s scrawl would add one trillion dollars to the budget deficit and result in ten million Americans losing their homes, but said that the scribbles were the most coherent passage in the bill."

The morning Babel

"Trump & Friends," in its unceasing search for glass-half-filled news on Trump, focused on House and Senate officials preparing to reconcile their two tax bills and Mueller's firing of an FBI agent for anti-Trump texts. It beckoned Dan Bongino, "former NYPD officer," to call Trump a victim of "the most disingenuous, disgusting and disturbing political witch hunt in American history." Bongino must not have read the papers during Lincoln's or Grant's days, when folks really made things up.

Meanwhile, rivals "Morning Joe" and "New Day" went with Michael Flynn's guilty plea and the claim by Trump lawyer Michael Dowd that he was actually the one who wrote a tweet about it on Trump's Twitter. 

"Morning Joe" beckoned New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt for explication of his story with Sharon LaFraniere and Scott Shane on "Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia" and why it's another stumbling block for Trump. And CNN quickly waded into the free programming offered, per usual, by a 6:16 a.m. Trump tweet on why "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama." Yes, what amounts to a Moore endorsement. But, amid Democrats rolling their eyes over Moore, co-host Chris Cuomo and the Washignton Post's Karoun Demirjian underscored the de facto irrelevance of Democrats in the legislative process right now.

There was no Trump response — at least not yet — to Billy Bush's New York Times piece on the notorious "Access Hollywood" tape, which the president has intimated is somehow a fabrication. Bush writes, "He said it. 'Grab ’em by the pussy.'"

The cloud of boosterism

The conventional sports wisdom in Chicago was that the awful Bears would beat the awful 49ers at home. Once again, wrong. The awful 49ers won, 15-14, in a game that made me thankful for being in Niles, Illinois, watching indoor soccer (good guys won, 10-0).  Six of seven Chicago Tribune reporters and columnists predicted the Bears, with only Phil Thompson getting it right. Over at the Sun-Times, four of five were wrong, with just Adam Jahns getting it right. 

Covering Tiger Woods

Woods' return to competitive golf after his latest surgery generated ample coverage from the Golf Channel/NBC sports and golf publications. And ESPN had a contingent of at least five despite its latest round of layoffs. As for newspapers, it was a small array of prominent ones there in expensive environs in the Bahamas, including USA Today, The New York Times and New York York Post. And there was also an army of Japanese army of reporters but it was really following favorite son Hideki Matsuyama.

The Times' Karen Crouse writes, Woods' own "positivity spread some holiday cheer throughout a golf industry that, as evidenced by the PGA Tour’s countdown tweets and the Golf Channel reporters’ breathless commentary, is determined to milk every last drop from its longtime cash cow."

And from the balmy Bahamas to the chill of Norwich, Vermont

Speaking of Crouse, she has a book about to hit stores called "Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town’s Secret to Happiness and Excellence," about a a small Vermont town that's an unlikely Olympic pipeline. Since 1984, she tells me, "it has put at least one of its own on every U.S. Winter Olympics team but one, and two Summer teams."

She started her scrutiny as a look at what must be in the maple syrup up there to serve as a special ingredient of success. It evolved into a tome on parenting. "The secret is that these kids are raised the organic, old-fashioned way — no hyper-specialization, no sacrificed childhoods, no helicopter parents. And as a result they are better able to transition into contented, productive adulthoods. The book really is a permission slip for parents who are tired of the professionalization of youth sports but are afraid of getting off the treadmill, lest they do wrong by their kids. The community cohesion is a huge part of the story — these kids thrive because they come from a one-for-all, all-for-one community instead of a place where life is approached as a zero-sum game and your child prospers at my child's expense."

So far, the Simon and Schuster-published effort has received strong early trade reviews, including Library Journal, which notes, "From ski jumpers to runners, swimmers, and downhill skiers, the number of Olympians who call Norwich home is off the charts, statistically." Crouse's authorial debut is "a refreshing reappraisal of parenting and connection" and "challenges the current overextended, high-pressure world of youth athletics and provides the tools to help foster a positive, hometown-based alternative."

Well, it does sound more important than covering Tiger Woods likely Sisyphean effort at winning again. He is, after all, now 42. Those atop the leaderboard at this weekend's pseudo tournament (there were only 18 players, all invited by Woods. as opposed to more than 150 players in a regular tournament) are 28, 40, 26, 24, 25, 27 and 37. 

Big radio operator, big problem

iHeartMedia, which is the biggest radio operator in terms of number of stations, now sees key creditors spurning its latest debt-restructuring plan. This comes as Cumulus Media Inc., the second-largest radio operator, files for bankruptcy as it's saddled with billions of dollars of debt and huge competition from the internet. iHeartMedia debt due this year and next year is fairly small, says The Wall Street Journal, "but then debt repayments ramp up to a total of $8.4 billion in debt maturing in 2019."

A tax bill editorial

The New York Times editorialized, "With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days."

Here's the response of Republican consultant John Feehery, a former top aide to several GOP House leaders: "The New York Time is evolving from a credible news source into a liberal Super PAC. They have lost all of their objectivity and now are arguing out of naked self-interest. This tax reform bill is a bad for rich liberals but good for the rest of the country."

Peggy Noonan on the press role amid the sexual assault scandals

Noonan revived notice of Pope John Paul II's admirable 1995 Letter to Women, sent to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and also noted how the media "will be more important than ever. They have just broken a scandal through numbers and patterns — numbers of accusers and patterns of behavior. If journalists stick to this while also retaining their deep skepticism and knowledge of human agendas, things will stay pretty straight."

"So far, American journalists have been sober and sophisticated, and pursued justice without looking for scalps. Human resources departments will have to operate in the same way — with seriousness and knowledge of human nature."

And more on the scandals

After citing the cases of Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, Garrison Keilor, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., Reason contributing editor Cathy Young writes that she isn't sure it will result in greater gender equity and mutual respect, but "One thing can be said with certainty:"

"Any notion simply bashing romantic or sexual interactions at work will fail. Too many of us find lovers, partners and spouses in the setting where we spend most of our waking hours. To move forward from this moment, we must acknowledge not just the awful impact of sexual harassment on women but the reality that the modern workplace is, among other things, a place where romantic overtures are not always unwelcome."

Going after a reporter

The New York Times reported last week, "If not for the reporting of Jamie Kalven, an independent journalist in Chicago, the world might never have known the name Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a police officer as he walked down a street holding a folding knife."

Now lawyers for the cop charged with the murder want to know Kalven's sources for key stories, which he won't disclose. Among those rising to his defense is The Sidney Hillman Foundation, a nonprofit that honors journalism that promise social and economic justice, which cites his "courageous refusal to name his sources."

If you missed it ...

One of the best feature stories of the weekend was the look at the rise of and dramatic changes in the cashew industry by The Wall Street Journal's Bill Spindle and Vibhuti Agarwal. It's a tale of globalization, with the former General Foods Co. originally contracting with local Indian entrepreneurs in the 1920s to create an industry based on very labor intensive labor. But smart Vietnamese have spirited away much of the business after devising a machine that can extract cashews from their shells and now dominate a $6.5 billion global market.

Why Prince Harry knows about declining newspaper circulation

The Chicago Tribune now recalls that Meghan Markle, his fiance and former Northwestern University student, played a Chicago journalist in a 2014 Hallmark Channel flick, "When Sparks Fly."

She played Amy Peterson, "who has been with the Chicago Post for seven years. Because circulation is declining, her editor suggests the staff come up with 'something explosive.' Peterson takes this advice literally as she goes home to Lakeside, Wash., to interview her parents, who put on the fireworks display for the town's annual fourth of July celebration."

Whew. There's apparently nothing about an editor or other superior groping her or exposing himself. We've gotta rent this movie. It sounds therapeutically quaint.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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