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Media coverage of The New York Times’ report detailing allegations of misogyny and sexual harassment on the part of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump virtually ignored allegations of possible illegal behavior and focused instead on one of the women in the report who claimed the Times “spun” her words.
On May 14, The New York Times published a front-page story titled “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.” The article, based on over 50 interviews, “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.
Two of the people the Times referenced in the report were Jill Harth and her former boyfriend George Houraney, who had both “worked with Mr. Trump on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City and later accused Mr. Trump of inappropriate behavior toward Ms. Harth during their business dealings.” The Boston Globe detailed Harth and Houraney's accounts extensively in April, which included accusations of sexual harassment by the candidate against his reported business partner in the pageant, Ms. Harth:
After a few weeks of negotiating, they came to terms on many aspects of a deal. It was time to celebrate. Trump invited the American Dream executive team, along with at least nine past and present calendar models, to a party at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach in January 1993.
During dinner, Harth alleged, Trump demanded that she sit next to him.
“When we got to the dinner table, Donald started right in on the groping under the table, to tell you the truth,” Harth said in her deposition.
Some of the salacious charges about what happened later that night, based on Harth’s assertions, were reported in 1997 in New York tabloids and the National Enquirer. Trump took her into an empty bedroom — the one normally used by daughter Ivanka, who at the time was 11. Trump forcibly “kissed, fondled, and restrained” her from leaving, according to Harth’s suit.
Several weeks later, Harth again went to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting to discuss the competition. After some of Trump’s business associates left, Harth alleges that Trump forced her into a bedroom, made “unwanted sexual advances,” and began touching her “private parts” and “uttering Svengali-type proclamations of love.”
Harth said in the lawsuit that she immediately “became nauseated and vomited profusely.”
A Media Matters analysis found that Harth’s account of sexual harassment was not examined by media on morning, daytime, or evening news programs on CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, or CBS, and was mentioned only once on MSNBC in a report on All in with Chris Hayes. But the Times report suggests that Harth’s story is part of a pattern of “unsettling workplace conduct,” which could constitute allegations of what is legally known as the creation of hostile work environments through unlawful sexual harassment.
Only one show made this connection about the gravity of the allegations -- ABC’s The View on May 16 -- but co-host Joy Behar didn’t go into more detail beyond saying, “That is called sexual harassment.”
By contrast, media outlets mentioned Rowanne Brewer Lane’s allegations that the Times “spun” her words at least 40 times. According to the Times, Brewer Lane alleged that Trump had “asked her to change out of her clothes” and “to put on a swimsuit.” Since the publication of the report, Brewer Lane has labeled the account “a hit piece.”
Methodology: Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream transcripts for coverage between May 14 and May 22 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.” A supplemental search was conducted using alternate spellings including the terms: “Trump and har” “Trump and herth,” “herth,” “harf,” and “Trump and harf.”