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  • Pro-Trump Spin On Cable News Goes Off The Rails

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Following several new reports of women alleging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, Trump campaign surrogates’ defenses took a bizarre turn. Here’s what Trump’s surrogates and media allies had to say during news appearances in the last day, which included dismissing the realities of sexual assault and attempting to pivot to old, debunked “scandals.”

  • Pundits Who Question The Timing Of Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump Are Just Stigmatizing The Victims

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Several right-wing media figures are lending credence to attempts by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and surrogates to undermine accusations from a growing number of women that the candidate sexually assaulted them by calling into question the timing of the stories. Some right-wing media figures are calling the timing “fishy” and saying that “it’s good to be skeptical,” but the reports all explain the timing: Trump’s denial at the second presidential debate that he had committed sexual assault was the catalyst for the women to come forward. The Trump campaign’s false timing talking point also ignores the many valid reasons women don’t report sexual assault.

    On October 12, three newspapers published accounts from four women who say Trump sexually assaulted them The New York Times told the stories of two women who say Trump “touched them inappropriately,” one of them reporting that he groped her on a plane, and the other saying he kissed her without her consent. A People magazine writer recounted Trump “pushing [her] against the wall and forcing his tongue down [her] throat.” And a fourth woman told The Palm Beach Post that she was “groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.”

    These reports came just days after Trump, during the October 9 presidential debate told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “No, I have not” assaulted women as he described in a recently released 2005 Access Hollywood video. In the video, Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women and said, “I don’t even wait. … When you’re a star, they let you do anything.”

    Trump’s campaign has denied the accusations, calling the Times report a “coordinated character assassination” and claiming that to “reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault.” Numerous right-wing media figures are helping to carry water for these claims. On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump surrogate Ben Carson, “You’re wondering why now, the timing?” and Carson claimed, “There's an atmosphere that's been created by The New York Times and others that says, look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we'll give you fame, we'll give you whatever you need.” CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager who is still a campaign adviser, also questioned the timing of the reports, saying, “What I do find very interesting is the timing of this. … They wait until 25 days before an election to bring out an incident.”

    Other right-wing media figures and outlets have picked up this line as well. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough argued that “it’s good to be skeptical when you have stories that are 30 years old that come out days before an election.” He added that, while he’s “not skeptical of the stories,” “if this had happened to me 30 years ago, I would say, ‘This would be a really good time for me to come forward.’ Right? Right? Instead of now.” Fox’s Howard Kurtz said, “I think it’s fair to question why is this coming out now. ... It does sort of raise questions about the timing.” The right-wing blog HotAir asked, “Are we simply going to ignore the awfully convenient timing of this batch of accusations in defiance of reason and the normal rules of engagement in political warfare?” And Townhall’s Matt Vespa wrote that the timing of the reports “sounds like a coordinated effort by the Democrat-media complex,” adding that “there’s something incredibly fishy about all of these incidents coming out now as opposed to over a year ago” during the primaries or after the Republican National Convention when Trump’s campaign was struggling.

    This defense of Trump reflects tactics used to defend former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- who is currently advising Trump -- after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Carlson alleged that she was fired from Fox “because she refused to sleep with” Ailes. Defenders of Ailes attacked Carlson’s account by suggesting it was suspicious that her allegations came after she was terminated.

    All of the reports giving voices to Trump’s accusers explained that the Access Hollywood video and Trump’s denial at the presidential debate were the trigger for the women coming forward. According to the Times, a friend of one of the women, Jessica Leeds, “encouraged her to tell her story to the news media. Ms. Leeds had resisted until Sunday’s debate, which she watched with Ms. Ross.” And People’s Natasha Stoynoff explained in her personal account why she did not come forward at the time and hasn’t spoken publicly until now:

    But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed


    Now he’s running for president of our country. The other day, I listened to him talk about how he treats women on the Access Hollywood tape. I felt a strong mix of emotions, but shock wasn’t one of them.

    I was relieved. I finally understood for sure that I was not to blame for his inappropriate behavior. I had not been singled out. As he explained to Billy Bush, it was his usual modus operandi with women. I felt deep regret for not speaking out at the time. What if he had done worse to other female reporters at the magazine since then because I hadn’t warned them?

    And lastly, I felt violated and muzzled all over again.

    During the presidential debate, Donald Trump lied about kissing women without their consent. I should know. His actions made me feel bad for a very long time.

    They still do.

    CNN’s New Day modeled how media must reject Trump’s defense -- which is based on disparaging the victims’ characters -- while reporting on these stories: The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich pointed out that the women who came forward all explained that Trump’s debate answer motivated them to do so, and co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that women often do not report sexual assault because they are “embarrassed and humiliated.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Jackie, the big pushback from the campaign thus far -- other than we're going to sue, this is all a lie -- is why now? Why did they wait so long to come forward? Conveniently timed to hurt our campaign here towards the end of the election. What do you make of that?

    JACKIE KUCINICH: Well, in the New York Times story, what these women said was that after they heard Donald Trump make that denial during the debate is when they felt like they were compelled to come forward. So, that seems to be the answer to that question. And, if women were calling different news outlets, there's a story in The Palm Beach Post, there’s the People magazine story. Once you’re seeing that, it does seem to be triggered by what Donald Trump said in the debate.

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): And there’s another reason, and that is that women are afraid to come forward -- not afraid, women are embarrassed, women are humiliated. This is an experience that you do not relish ever telling in public and that is what this same entertainment reporter from People magazine writes about.

  • Meet Jill Harth, One Of The Trump Sexual Assault Accusers His Media Surrogates Ignore

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    After the release of a 2005 recording of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, Trump surrogates appearing in the media are defending the nominee by suggesting that the recording reveals just "words” and that he did not act on them. As proof, these surrogates claim the nominee has never been accused of committing sexual assault. But Jill Harth, a former Trump business associate, filed an unresolved lawsuit alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and is now speaking out again. 

  • “A New Low In American Democracy”: Journalists And Pundits Condemn Trump’s Threat To Jail Clinton

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Journalists condemned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threats, made during the second presidential debate, that he would jail Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if he were elected, saying they were the sort of thing you would hear in “countries with dictators” and “authoritarian countries” and calling them “stunning” and “a new low in American democracy.”

  • Trump Allies Promote Rape Apologist Days After Sexual Assault Revelations

    Gen. Michael Flynn And Donald Trump Jr. Promoted Rape Apologist Mike Cernovich’s Defense Of Trump’s Confessed Abuse Amid Hot Mic Scandal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Influential members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promoted a defense of Trump from “alt-right” blogger Mike Cernovich, a sexual assault apologist who denies the existence of rape culture, as the GOP reeled from the revelation that Trump once bragged about committing sexual assault.

    On October 7, The Washington Post published 2005 audio and video of Trump saying on a hot mic: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Trump later added, “And when you’re a star they let you do it,’ Trump says. ‘You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The comments have been widely condemned as an admission by the Republican presidential nominee of sexual assault.

    Late in the evening of October 8, Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn tweeted a link to Cernovich’s defense of Trump’s confessed abuse while promoting the blogger’s supposedly “terrific book” about masculinity. Hours later, BuzzFeed political reporter Rosie Gray noted that Donald Trump Jr. had retweeted the link. In the video linked to by Flynn, Cernovich and libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux disparage concerns over Trump’s “locker room talk from 11 years ago,” which they portray as nothing more than “alpha male” exaggerations as they complain about a “selective outrage hysteria that seems to be the hallmark of the left”:

    As Media Matters has documented, Cernovich is a sexual assault apologist and noted conspiracy theorist prominent on the “alt-right” fringe of conservative media. Cernovich operates a website called Danger & Play where he peddles misogyny, Islamophobia, and other baseless conspiracy theories to the lowest common denominator. His social media accounts, particularly on Twitter, frequently dismiss the existence of date rape, which he claims is a natural male activity -- “the hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape.”

  • Television News’ Silence On Jill Harth's Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump May Finally End

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former Donald Trump business associate Jill Harth’s past allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the Republican presidential nominee have resurfaced this year in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and most recently The Guardian. Television news, however, has remained nearly silent on these serious allegations of illegal and possibly criminal misconduct facing Trump. Following a October 7 Nicholas Kristof column in the Times detailing a new interview with Harth about her sexual assault allegations and The Washington Post’s explosive report on a 2005 recording of Trump bragging about the exact type of behavior Harth described, will major news networks’ virtual silence about the story continue?

    Harth first brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against Trump in 1997, which was later dropped as a condition for settling a separate contract dispute with Trump. In the original complaint and subsequent accounts, Harth described several alleged instances in which Trump sexually harassed and groped her, as well as one instance of attempted rape, when they were business partners in the 1990s. Her accusations were included in comprehensive reporting on Trump’s dangerous misogyny and behavior with women by The Boston Globe in April and The New York Times in May.

    In the weeks after the Times front-page story featuring Harth, television news largely ignored the accusations of unlawful conduct, aside from one report on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

    After several more months of news network silence, Harth and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, gave interviews in July further detailing the allegations, which could at a minimum constitute illegal sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In an exclusive interview posted on July 18 with ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams, Harth reiterated her accusations and demanded an apology from Trump.

    LawNewz later reported that “about 8 minutes” after the Abrams interview was posted, the Trump campaign and then the candidate himself contacted LawNewz in the middle of the Republican National Convention to deny the allegations, saying in a phone call, “If you look in the National Enquirer, there was a story in there that she was in love with me. The woman has real problems…It’s ridiculous, I’ve never touched this woman.”

    Two days later, The Guardian published an interview in which Harth described not only her allegations from the 1990s, but also her experience coming to terms with Trump’s presidential run and her decision to speak out once again. In August, Harth spoke to WNYC about the allegations, and the outlet published a copy of her original 1997 complaint as well as documents sent from the Trump legal team in an attempt to discredit her.

    A new Media Matters analysis found that television news has still remained virtually silent on Harth’s specific allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault since her July 18 LawNewz interview. A search of available transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from July 19 through October 6 --  the day before the Kristof column was published -- revealed that Harth’s allegations were mentioned only four times across all six networks. Bloom was a guest for three of the four segments mentioning either Harth’s accusations specifically or allegations of sexual assault or harassment against Trump in general. Harth was mentioned once by name in the available Nexis transcripts for all six major networks -- in an August 2 segment, again on All In. Bloom, also an NBC legal analyst and CNN commentator, appeared as a guest to discuss Trump’s behavior with women and relationship with accused serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes.

    The relative television media silence on Harth’s allegations has persisted since July in spite of at least four major news stories related to Trump and sexual assault or harassment. Numerous segments across the networks tackled the Trump campaign’s threats to discuss Bill Clinton's past, Trump’s relationship with ousted Fox News chairman and accused serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes, and Trump’s comments about workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military, without mentioning Harth’s alleged harassment and assault.

    On October 8, MSNBC’s AM Joy began its Saturday morning coverage reporting the release of the Trump recording and its aftermath and hosted Lisa Bloom to discuss Trump’s relationship with women, and Harth specifically, in detail. Bloom again reiterated Harth’s allegations against Trump and excoriated media for ignoring Harth’s case for so long. Host Joy Reid noted that the “hot mic” recording of Trump from 2005 “seemed to corroborate” what Harth has been alleging for years, a sentiment Kristof repeated in his column. Perhaps Bloom’s appearance on AM Joy and Kristof’s conclusion that Harth is “telling the truth” after interviewing her and “reviewing the lawsuits and depositions from the time” will signal to others that the time has come to report on these disturbing allegations against the presidential nominee in full.


    For the time period between July 19 and October 6, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC for any mentions of the terms “Jill Harth” and “Harth,” as well as any mentions of the phrases “sexual assault” or “sexual harassment” within 50 words of “Trump.” Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks.