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Television news all but ignored Jill Harth’s allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Donald Trump, her former business associate, when The New York Times reported on the story in May. In the months since, major news networks have continued their underreporting about the serious allegations facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
In an exclusive interview posted on July 18 with ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams, Harth reiterated her allegations that Trump illegally sexually harassed and assaulted her when they worked together in the early 1990s. Although Harth’s claims have been reported before in the context of Trump’s well-known misogyny -- most recently by The New York Times and The Boston Globe -- media outlets continue to ignore the fact that Harth is specifically alleging unlawful conduct on the part of the self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate.
The last time Harth’s allegations were prominently reported was on May 14 by the Times, in a front page story based on over 50 interviews with women who have dealt with Trump as well as court records. Those varied accounts “reveal[ed] unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” by Trump, according to the Times. One of the examples was Harth’s account, which the Globe had detailed extensively in April and which could at a minimum constitute illegal sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As explained by the Globe, Trump allegedly sexually assaulted Harth on multiple occasions after Trump, Harth, and her former boyfriend entered into a business partnership related to a beauty pageant around 1993. After the short-lived business relationship collapsed, Trump and Harth were involved in a breach of contract dispute and a subsequent lawsuit that included Harth’s sexual harassment and assault claims.
In the July 18 post accompanying Abrams’ new interview, LawNewz reported that Harth “withdrew [her sexual harassment lawsuit] after she said Trump agreed to settle with her husband on the contract claims. Abrams questioned why she would do that if she claims the allegations are true. ‘I was under the control of my husband who was kind of the boss, I wanted to be over with and done with,’ she said, adding that it was a stipulation of the settlement that she withdraw her sexual harassment claims.”
According to a Media Matters analysis of television news coverage conducted a week after the Times story was published, although news outlets discussed Trump’s sexism and misogynistic conduct in general, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC all virtually ignored Harth’s specific allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault. A narrower search of Nexis transcripts for coverage from May 23 through the July 18 posting of Abrams’ interview with Harth revealed a similar pattern. Media Matters found no mentions of Harth by name, nor any discussion of her allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Trump, in available Nexis transcripts for this time period.
In an update to the July 18 post, LawNewz 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. LawNewz reported that Trump, citing the National Enquirer, whose chief executive is reportedly a close friend of his, said 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.’”
Watch Abrams’ interview with Harth and her lawyer Lisa Bloom, who is also currently involved in legal actions against Bill Cosby, here:
Methodology: For the time period between May 14 and May 22, Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms "Jill Harth," "Harth," "Sexual harassment AND Trump," “Trump AND Harth,” "Sexual assault AND Trump,'" and “Brewer Lane.”
For the time period between May 23 and July 18, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms "Jill Harth," "Harth," "Sexual harassment AND Trump," “Trump AND Harth,” and "Sexual assault AND 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.
During his July 7 testimony on Capitol Hill, FBI Director James Comey dismantled several right-wing media myths about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. In his testimony about the FBI’s recommendation against pursuing criminal charges, Comey debunked flawed comparisons and corrected faulty definitions that right-wing media have repeatedly pushed.
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FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend criminal charges be filed against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Right-wing media, echoing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, soon baselessly accused Comey of excusing Clinton’s “gross negligence” in violation of the Espionage Act.
Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.
Right-wing media are claiming that President Obama’s endorsement of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is “a terrible conflict of interest," suggesting the FBI could otherwise indict Clinton but will not do so because of the endorsement. Mainstream media and legal experts have reported for months that the “chatter” that Clinton will be indicted “is just plain ridiculous,” noting that “there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate basis for any sort of criminal charge against” Clinton.
Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.
In reporting on the recent Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured up to 200 others, broadcast evening news programs and the Sunday morning political talk shows have largely ignored an outdated federal law that could deny financial compensation to victims and their families.
After the horrific Amtrak passenger train crash on May 12, much of the media coverage has focused on the technical causes of the accident and whether increased infrastructure spending might prevent future tragedies.
But a Media Matters analysis of evening news broadcasts and Sunday shows' coverage of the derailment indicates that the major networks have largely ignored how the victims of this crash might be denied financial compensation from Amtrak that will adequately cover their medical expenses going forward. Because of a 1997 federal law that limits the amount of money the victims can recover for their injuries to $200 million, many of the victims -- and the families of those who died -- may get stuck trying to pay for the costs associated with the crash out of their own pockets.
Only the May 17 edition of ABC News' This Week briefly mentioned the outdated law, in a segment with ABC's Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams. As Abrams explained, the $200 million cap is not per victim, but the total amount that can be paid out per incident, regardless of the number of fatalities or extent of survivor injuries:
I find that when I'm engaging in media criticism, it's helpful to have a basic grasp of the facts. Mediaite founder Dan Abrams apparently disagrees, and his website seems to be happy to curry favor with the boss by covering up his ignorance.
Last night on CNN's Parker/Spitzer, Abrams -- publisher of a media reporting and analysis website -- posited that it's no big deal that five potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are currently working at Fox News. I disagree with Abrams -- as we've documented, Fox has donated at least $40 million in airtime to these potential candidates, while providing them with an extraordinarily friendly platform to promote themselves. But I'm willing to acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree on this.
The problem is that Abrams' explanation for his opinion exposed that he doesn't actually know what he's talking about:
WILL CAIN: Dan, I got the first question for you. It's complicated. So what? What's the big deal that the Republican primaries are going to take place on FOX News?
ABRAMS: Look, I don't know that they're going to take place at FOX News because remember, these people are commentators. These are not hosts of shows. If these people were hosting primetime shows, then I might say, you know what? This is going to be a real vehicle for them to get their positions out there, to advocate.
But as commentators, they are answering questions. And sure, that means they get publicity but they're also not the only ones in the country -- these five -- who have considered political -- or political aspirations and they are commentators on TV.
OK. So Abrams thinks it would be a problem if one of these Fox candidates had their own show, but since none of them do, it's no big deal. The idea that these potential candidates can't "advocate" because they're just commentators seems deeply flawed - anyone who's ever watched Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum on Fox knows that they are not asked challenging questions, and have wide latitude to "get their positions out there." But more importantly, Abrams' premise - that none of the Fox candidates has their own show - is just flatly inaccurate.
Dan Abrams, meet Mike Huckabee.
Dan Abrams, an NBC legal analyst and former MSNBC host, has launched Mediaite.com, a website described as "the site for news, information and smart opinions about print, online and broadcast media, offering original and immediate assessments of the latest news as it breaks."
Rachel Sklar, former senior contributing editor and founding editor of Huffington Post's Eat The Press, has signed on as Editor at Large while Colby Hall, a former producer for MTV and VH1 will serve as Managing Editor.
Hall describes the site as "Huffington Post meets Gawker."
As part of its buzz seeking approach, Mediaite.com hosts a "Power Grid" ranking of "1477 individuals from 325 media entities broken down into 12 categories." Here are a few of the categories that may be of interest to you along with the current rankings:
TV Anchor/Hosts: (1) Oprah Winfrey (2) Conan O'Brien (3) Katie Couric (4) David Letterman (5) Dr. Phil McGraw
TV Reporters: (1) Jake Tapper (2) Chuck Todd (3) Richard Engel (4) Lara Logan (5) Nancy Cordes
Media Moguls: (1) Rupert Murdoch (2) Michael Bloomberg (3) Sumner Redstone (4) Oprah Winfrey (5) Arnaud Lagardere
TV Pundits: (1) Newt Gingrich (2) Karl Rove (3) Ann Coulter (4) Dick Morris (5) Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Radio Hosts: (1) Rush Limbaugh (2) Glenn Beck (3) Sean Hannity (4) Michael Savage (5) Dave Ramsey
Print/Online Reporters: (1) David Pogue (2) Andrew Ross Sorkin (3) Dana Milbank (4) Jennifer 8 Lee (5) Ezra Klein
Print/Online Columnists: (1) Paul Krugman (2) Thomas Friedman (3) Maureen Dowd (4) Michelle Malkin (5) Christopher Hitchens
I'll admit I've enjoyed Abrams' work at MSNBC over the years but can a website opening with such buzz worthy fluff provide some honest, serious media criticism as well? I sure hope so. In the mean time, what do you think of the rankings?
PolitiFact.com editor Bill Adair falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama's and Sen. John McCain's campaigns have been equally guilty of making what PolitiFact has characterized as inaccurate claims in public statements and political ads this summer. In fact, since June 7, 57 percent of Obama's claims assessed by PolitiFact were rated "mostly true" or better, while 62 percent of McCain's statements assessed by PolitiFact were described as "half true" or worse. Further, McCain has twice received PolitiFact's sharpest critique, "pants on fire," a designation not given to any Obama statement.
MSNBC and Editor & Publisher have noted that Fox & Friends featured photos of New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and editor Steven Reddicliffe that appeared to have been digitally altered. But Fox News has yet to address the controversy.