Friday, April 30, 2021

Did Sexism Play a Role in the Media's Coverage of Biden and Clinton "Scandals?"

The Pew Research Center has done an extensive analysis of news coverage during Biden's first two months in office. They specifically looked at differences between media outlets that were aimed at (1) a left-leaning audience,  (2) a mixed audience, and (3) a right-leaning audience. Here is one finding that caught my eye.

In the first 60 days of the Biden administration, all three media outlet groupings were much more likely to frame their stories around the president’s policy agenda than his character and leadership skills...Four years ago, around three-quarters of stories about the new Trump administration (74%) were framed around the president’s leadership and character, with very little difference among media groupings.


Of course, that is understandable given that Trump trafficked in conspiracy theories and name-calling while rarely (if ever) talking about specific policies. 

The coverage of Biden also differs sharply from how the media treated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of course, she lost the election, so we never got the opportunity to analyze how the media would have covered a Clinton presidency. But the Berkman-Klein Center at Harvard found this when comparing coverage of Clinton vs. Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election. 

The media focus was on the so-called "Clinton scandals," while covering the issues Trump was talking about (ie, immigration). That was true even though, as Jennifer Rubin noted, "Hillary Clinton is the most exonerated politician ever." By my count, she has been cleared of four major attempts to smear her reputation: (1) Whitewater, (2) Benghazi, (3) emails, and (4) the Clinton Foundation. But other than an opinion column like the one from Rubin, the accusations against Clinton still hang in the air and are often used by her critics on both the left and the right to claim that she ran a terrible campaign. 

 It is impossible to quantify how much the difference in coverage of Biden and Clinton is the product of sexism. But it is also impossible to ignore the fact that the media was quick to debunk the claims about Biden being corrupt, but lingered endlessly on similar claims about Clinton. Neither were based on any solid evidence. That seemed to matter a whole lot less when the target was a woman. 

Markos Moulitsas has done something that rarely happens with media figures. He wrote a column about the fact that he was totally wrong in his initial opinion about Biden during the primaries. In that piece, he noted this difficult fact:
Black voters in South Carolina took a look at the field, considered America’s relationship with race and gender, and said, “Nope, we ain’t chancing it. Getting rid of Trump is our number one priority, and the old white guy is the safest bet getting there.”

It hurts so much to admit it, because it says things about America that we all wish weren’t true (mainly, that we still have a long way to go on equality), but not only were they right to place all the chips on Biden, but he may very well be the only Democrat who could’ve beaten Trump last year. By virtue of his race, gender, and sexual orientation, Biden avoided the visceral, vitriolic hatred that conservatives muster up for anyone that doesn’t look or love like them.

None of this is meant as a critique of Biden. By all measures he is an older white man that is championing the cause of equality over the challenges posed by sexism, racism, and classism. But we can still mourn the way that the media is treating him differently than they did when a woman ran for president...and be better prepared for the next time.   

3 comments:

  1. "It is impossible to quantify how much the difference in coverage of Biden and Clinton is the product of sexism. But it is also impossible to ignore the fact that the media was quick to debunk the claims about Biden being corrupt, but lingered endlessly on similar claims about Clinton. Neither were based on any solid evidence. That seemed to matter a whole lot less when the target was a woman."

    Yes. Even the Tara Reade scandal -- which collapsed thanks to the receipt-collection of the KHive (and especially their founder Bianca Delarosa) -- was never likely to weigh on Biden as heavily as all the idiot scandals hung around Hillary's neck. People were looking for excuses to damn Hillary just as they were looking for excuses to be okay with Biden, and so the fake scandals were embraced to differing degrees.

    And of course, it's always easy to downplay even an actual sexual assault on a woman, by claiming she was "overreacting" or it was actually consensual.

    The only people who clung to Tara Reade long past her expiration date were Bernie Bros who hoped that, if they could sufficiently wound Biden, Bernie would get the nomination. Fortunately, the Bernie movement is just a shadow of what it once was.

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  2. The only ray of hope is that she actually won the popular vote by millions.

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  3. lol markos so mediocre so often wrong

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