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We haven’t seen such rampant and hyperbolic live TV coverage of somebody getting on an airplane since Pope Francis’ trek to the U.S. Yes, Hillary Clinton was climbing the stairs of her campaign plane in White Plains, New York!
Having not stumbled and collapsed in a bloody heap, the press declared that she “appeared energetic and in high spirits after the bout of pneumonia that sidelined her.” (CBS News) She was alive, in fighting shape and ready to pillory a surging Donald Trump as she “refined her message.” (The Wall Street Journal) There was also coverage on Fox News, which would later go live to her campaign press bus in North Carolina for a report.
There’s been a lot of chatter about “false equivalence” and a double-standard in coverage of Clinton. Peter Beinart has a smart piece in The Atlantic, “Fear of a Female President,” that assesses decades of academic research about fears that powerful women provoke. He divines a sexist backlash against her that “could convulse American politics for years to come.” (The Atlantic)
Beinart doesn’t explicitly focus on press coverage but, in an email exchange, wrote me, “I think it’s a plausible hypothesis.” On her pneumonia, “She may not have handled this perfectly, but I do think there’s an unconscious bias that makes journalists more critical of her health challenges, as it does in other realms.”
Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, is more convinced that the press is a guilty party. “I think of some of it is not intended,” she says. “That doesn’t mean the onus shouldn’t be on journalists to be more careful. But they are often writing about her and not realizing gender implications. She’s described as ‘weak’ and ‘faltering’ when she has pneumonia. It taps into broader notions of a weak woman.”
Note, too, how her voice was deemed “shrill” at times during the primaries, while a shouting Bernie Sanders was a paragon of passion. For a woman, it’s not being cool, calm and collected.
Most interesting is work by Lawless and Danny Hayes of George Washington University. Their book, “Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era,” studied 11,000 newspaper articles in the congressional elections of 2010 and 2014. (Amazon) They inspected references to candidates’ physical appearance, backgrounds, marital status, you name it, to see if there was genre-driven differences in how men and women were treated. They concluded there was not.
The media wasn’t more inclined to associate females candidates with “women’s issues,” like child care, or write about their looks or dress. They weren’t more inclined to link men rather than women with strength. The researchers tried to find media bias and could not. (The Washington Post) More likely catalysts of coverage were whether somebody was a Republican or Democrat, not whether they were male or female.
What’s that say about media coverage of Clinton? It’s about a woman never having gotten this far in a presidential campaign, says Lawless. We know female mayors, state legislators and congressmen. No big deal. But we don’t know a female this close to winning the White House. And, thus, a lot of people are nervous. Her gender is important for all us, including the press.
Deadspin makes end-run around Univision
Univision bought Gawker Media and last week caused a stir when its board voted to removed six posts that had been previously published by Gawker media sites, including three on the Deadspin sports site. They’re part of various bits and pieces of litigation. Now, Deadspin has published a story that contains the text of at least two of the deleted posts, which involved a former Major League pitcher and alleged behavior at a youth tournament. (Awful Announcing)
Folks at Gawker are justifiably furious, nearly exited but opted to vent their rage through their new union representatives. They want Univision to change an interpretation of a provision in their contract that was relied upon to yank down the posts. One savvy media lawyer tells me that Univision was probably within its legal rights, even if transparently nonsensical in this textbook saga of a corporate cultural clash. It won’t end well.
Be warned: If the phone rings, or you get an email from a guy who says they’re Bill O’Reilly, Andrea Mitchell, Charlie Rose, the editor of your local paper, the managing editor of Time magazine, or your friendly TV weatherman, well, it could be an FBI agent impersonating them. If a male voice says he’s Sean Hannity from Fox News, ask if he can cite 20 reasons not to vote for Clinton (if he doesn’t within 30 seconds, it’s not the real Hannity). The FBI’s Inspector General issued a report Thursday on the practice that makes clear the agency has tightened its rules on such gambits but has not ditched them. (FBI) That doesn’t sit well with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University and chairman of the press group’s steering committee, said it’s “deeply troubled by today’s disclosure in a report from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General that the FBI believes that there is a place in this country for federal agents to impersonate journalists. (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)
The horse race
There’s a Media Pollapalooza prompting all the chatter about a giant Trump surge. “Dramatic swing puts Trump back on top.” (Business Insider) But the stats mavens at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight still say it’s very much Clinton’s to lose. They say her chances of winning are 60.3 percent, while Trump’s are 39.76 percent. (FiveThirtyEight)
Meanwhile, there’s anxiety on the right. Charles Krauthammer and National Review Editor Rich Lowry, neither a fan of Trump, both write today about the distinct possibility that he could now do it. “Trump now has a legitimate shot at winning the general because he got the lucky draw of at least the second-worst presidential nominee in recent memory and, pending how she fares over the next two months, perhaps the worst,” writes Lowry. (National Review)
Tweet of the day
Having just had one, and thus forced to drink that godawful liquid the night before to clean out my pipes, I’m not big on colonoscopy jokes. But, ladies and gentlemen, bring it on for comedian Chris Rock, or, actually, a Chris Rock parody account. “The single most surprising news from Trump’s health records release was that his most recent colonoscopy did not find Sean Hannity.” (@chrisrockyoz) When it does come to how both candidates aren’t divulging most of their health records, be reminded of the thousands of pages that Sen. John McCain disclosed to reporters in 2000 and 2008 presidential runs. Longtime confidant Mark Salter explained the reasoning to me. (U.S. News & World Report)
‘Course correction’ at The Guardian
“Executives from The Guardian said Thursday there will be cuts at the British news organization’s U.S. operation, announcing a 30 percent reduction in headcount across the board.” (Politico) In a meeting with newsroom staff, Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel called the changes a ‘course correction.’ Eamonn Store, CEO of The Guardian’s U.S. operations, told staff that the changes were due in part to low ad sales and to revenue projections that are ‘not enough to maintain our current cost base.’ Store said the company needs to make up for a revenue shortfall of $4.4 million over the next six months.”
The “right-wing media kooks”
Conservative political blogger Jennifer Rubin goes after right-wing media kooks in “Who will hold the right-wing media charlatans accountable?” (The Washington Post) The problem is “not just the talk-radio screechers or the Sean Hannitys or the Breitbarts.”
No, says this right-of-center voice, it’s “’Respectable’ conservative commentators in print, on TV, online and even in some think tanks (who) parrot nonsense about free trade, blame immigration from Mexico (which is, on net, negative) for a raft of economic woes, hold vigils for the end of gay marriage (sometimes extending to the right to discriminate against gays), celebrate lawlessness when convenient (disregard the Supreme Court!) and scream ‘law and order’ when it is about keeping immigrants in the shadows.”
The “voice of the Alt-Right”
Milo Yiannopoulos “wears a pearl bracelet, a huge diamond in his ear and a necklace with a gold dog tag. His nods shake his blond extensions. He likes to brag that he’s a bottom for tall black men and that he used to hold a paint sample called Pharaohs Gold 5 to men at clubs to see if they were dark enough to have sex with.” (BusinessWeek) He’s 31-year-old Brit and star writer for Breitbart News, media handmaiden to the Trump campaign, who’s a very loud and acerbic defender of ultra-right political views. He’s been banned from Twitter but still has 250,000 subscribers to his YouTube orations. He’s a troller par excellence, as this extensive profile underscores.
Tyranny within us all?
Charles Pierce turns a bit Hobbesian in Esquire, citing James Madison’s line in the Federalist Papers, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” The point was we all have a tyrannical impulse.
So when it comes to Clinton’s “deplorables” remark, alluding to the many racists and xenophobes among us, “the elite political media exploded, but she was not wrong. The reaction was primarily fueled not by the racists and xenophobes themselves, but by everyone else, who knew that, through their atrophied attention to their obligations as citizens in a democratic republic, they had enabled the racists and xenophobes and surrendered their birthright as Americans to a wish for a tyrant.” (Esquire)
The Brady Bunch returns!
CNN’s coverage of Trump’s economic speech yesterday evoked memories of the opening title sequence in “The Brady Bunch,” the late-1960s-early-1970s sitcom about a blended family. The title sequence was composed of a three-by-three grid of the main characters, all seemingly looking at one another. Well, CNN had two co-hosts and one, two, three, four, five, six guests. The only thing of real note was University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, a former top aide to President Obama, referencing a Wall Street Journal survey of the 45 living former members of the White House Council of Economics Advisers, a group that spans the past eight presidents (and includes the droll Goolsbee, who competed in debate against Ted Cruz in college). None support Trump. Not one. (The Wall Street Journal)
Fashion Week photos
Would you like “175 Stunning Street Style Photos From New York Fashion Week?” (Cosmopolitan) What about “Phil Oh’s Best Street Style Pics From New York Fashion Week?” (Vogue) OK, how about “Photos: Backstage at New York Fashion Week?” (Daily Beast) Not enough for you? Then try “New York fashion week spring/summer 2017: 10 key shows — in pictures.” (The Guardian) It ended last night but the lingering images are plentiful.
The end-of-week cable chatter
Surprise! “Fox & Friends” beat up on Clinton for allegedly throwing her own campaign staff “under the bus” in describing poor communications about her pneumonia. Reporter Ed Henry then argued that if true that her running mate Tim Kaine heard about it days after top staff, it presages big problems for Kaine in a Clinton White House. And co-host Steve Doocy found it ironic that she played James Brown’s “I Feel Good” Thursday when, in fact, Brown died of pneumonia.
It was birther, birther, birther on MSNBC and CNN, with heavy accent on a Trump aide walking back (dishonestly) Trump’s position on President Obama’s birth certificate. And CNN leavened matters with an excellent and long analysis of Trump’s befuddling economic plan. But the current pundits’ zeitgeist is that the half-truths and even outright deceits may not be upending Trump. So maybe Clinton is thankful there’s a weekend to perhaps figure out what’s amiss. Have a good one. I’m chauffeur to soccer and baseball games.
CORRECTION: The Tweet of the Day was based initially on the belief it was one from the comic Chris Rock. It was a parody Chris Rock account.