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Pam Vogel

Author ››› Pam Vogel
  • The Trump FCC is now being investigated for making rules changes to help Sinclair

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The nefarious relationship between the Trump-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC), conservative local TV news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the Trump administration itself is now under investigation.

    On February 15, The New York Times reported that the FCC inspector general has opened an internal investigation into potential improper conduct by Trump-appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai and his aides in advocating for deregulatory rules that specifically benefited Sinclair.

    The Times noted that little is known about the extent of the investigation, which was launched at end of last year but had been undisclosed until now. The investigation began after several lawmakers called on the inspector general to investigate a “disturbing pattern of a three way quid-pro-quo.” Congressional letters to the inspector general, David Hunt, detailed reports of communications and meetings involving Pai, the Trump White House, and Sinclair executives. According to the Times report:

    A New York Times investigation published in August found that Mr. Pai and his staff members had met and corresponded with Sinclair executives several times. One meeting, with Sinclair’s executive chairman, took place days before Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump, took over as F.C.C. chairman.

    Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.

    In November, several Democrats in Congress, including Mr. Pallone, called on the inspector general’s office to explore all communications — including personal emails, social media accounts, text messages and phone calls — between Sinclair and Mr. Pai and his staff.

    The lawmakers also asked for communications between Mr. Pai’s office and the White House. They pointed to a report in March 2017 from The New York Post, in which Mr. Trump is said to have met with Sinclair’s executive chairman, David Smith, and discussed F.C.C. rules.

    The internal investigation could also tackle a series of recent FCC actions that have directly allowed Sinclair greater room to expand:

    • In April, the FCC reinstated an outdated media ownership rule known as the UHF discount, making room for a new level of local media consolidation at the hands of big media groups like Sinclair.
    • Weeks later, Sinclair announced it was proposing to acquire Tribune Media, a huge local news merger that wouldn’t have been allowed without the UHF discount in place. The FCC and Trump’s Department of Justice are now the only agencies that need to approve the deal.
    • In October, the FCC voted to eliminate a rule that required local news stations to maintain offices within the communities they serve, making it easier for Sinclair to consolidate and centralize local news resources as it buys up more stations.
    • In November, the FCC rolled back rules that limit broadcast station ownership, allowing for Sinclair to more easily own or operate multiple stations -- or merge stations -- in the same local media markets.

    Sinclair’s unprecedented gains under Pai’s purview are not just significant in terms of media consolidation; they’re ideologically dangerous. The company is known for requiring its local news stations across the country to air almost-daily segments that function as Trump propaganda. Its pending acquisition of Tribune would allow these segments to quietly spread further into major cities and battleground states ahead of the 2020 presidential race.

    The new FCC internal investigation, however, could throw a wrench in Sinclair’s plans. According to the Times, “Antitrust experts said this new investigation may complicate the reviews of the Sinclair-Tribune deal by the F.C.C. and the Justice Department. Even if the deal were approved, they said, any conclusions of improper conduct by Mr. Pai could give fuel to critics to challenge the review in courts.”

  • Lawsuit: A “women’s leadership forum” on Wall Street was headlined by a sexist right-wing pundit

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new lawsuit alleging toxic workplace culture for women at a prominent Wall Street firm includes a gross Fox News connection that pretty much sums up how easily misogyny transcends any single workplace or industry.

    On February 12, firm employee Lauren Bonner filed a federal lawsuit saying Wall Street billionaire Steven Cohen’s investment firm Point72 Asset Management is a “boys’ club” in which women are paid less than their peers and regularly demeaned. The lawsuit detailed numerous instances of alleged discriminatory workplace conduct and structural sexism -- including a 2016 women’s leadership event headlined by former Fox News contributor Keith Ablow.

    The lawsuit contends that several executives and employees regularly made comments about women employees’ appearances, kept women from being promoted or compensated as much as their male peers, referred to women as “girls” and “sweethearts,” and excluded women from meetings. According to the suit, one executive reportedly wrote the word “PUSSY” on a whiteboard and kept it up for several weeks for all to see; a consultant reportedly told a high-ranking employee that he could “fuck” an unidentified woman if he wanted to, because “she works for me.”

    The New York Times’s report on the lawsuit ended with a Fox News connection:

    In one example of the firm’s allegedly inhospitable culture, the lawsuit described a women’s leadership forum that Mr. Cohen hosted in October 2016 at his 35,000-square-foot mansion in Greenwich, Conn. One of the main speakers was a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor who, according to the lawsuit, described Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, as “an accomplished man’s wife.”

    A person who attended the event confirmed that account.

    A review of the full legal complaint reveals that the aforementioned “psychiatrist and Fox News contributor” is Keith Ablow. Until recently, Ablow was a member of Fox News’ so-called “Medical A Team” -- a contributor role the unethicalpop psychologist” utilized primarily to feed junk science and bigotry to gullible Fox viewers.

    Though he’s now largely disappeared from Fox airwaves, some of Ablow’s apparent qualifications for speaking at a women’s leadership forum include past on-air treasures like regularly bullying transgender people, claiming same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality, delivering racist rants about former President Barack Obama and ebola, and criticizing German Jews for not having “more actively resisted” Nazi occupation.

    Of course, Ablow also has highly nuanced, informed opinions about gender. He has:

    • proclaimed that gender equality means men can hit women;
    • claimed young girls “provoked” harassment by wearing leggings to school;
    • written that “every single man alive has been sexually harassed by being exposed to sexually suggestive clothing worn by women specifically to convey erotic messages in schools and at work”;
    • suggested model Kendall Jenner sexually harassed him by appearing “half-naked” in public;
    • wondered if any actresses had ever "victimized [Harvey] Weinstein by playing on his narcissism and need for sex, exacting from him incredibly valuable opportunities"; 
    • argued Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Louis C.K. -- all reported for sexual harassment -- should have been “protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act”;
    • defended former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, questioning the timing of numerous women who came forward with stories about Moore abusing them when they were teenagers;
    • blamed Victoria’s Secret and women who shop there for “creating more Harvey Weinsteins”;
    • called for men to have veto power over women’s abortions;
    • suggested former first lady Michelle Obama should “drop a few” pounds;  
    • asserted that women are inherently less charismatic political candidates (unless they’re pretty like Sarah Palin); and
    • frequently fearmongered about so-called attacks on traditional masculinity.

    Bonner’s legal team surely knows a few things about the sort of misogyny likely featured at Point72’s “women’s leadership forum” with Ablow -- it’s the same firm handling several legal actions tackling serial workplace sexual harassment at 21st Century Fox.

  • Sinclair solicits contributions for an election fight while running a nationwide segment supporting Trump's military parade

    Sinclair edges ever closer to full-blown state media

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s secretive campaign to transform local news stations into Trump propaganda machines is becoming all the more difficult to ignore -- both behind the scenes and on air.  

    On February 1, TV news trade outlet FTVLive first reported that Sinclair’s political action committee (PAC) had sent a letter to executive-level employees (including many station news directors) encouraging them to donate to the PAC. The letter, which FTVLive published in full, says the PAC “supports candidates for Congress who can influence the future of broadcasting.” It also praises Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) head Ajit Pai, and worries that Congress may attempt to derail Pai’s pro-Sinclair agenda. The letter says, “Since the change in administration last year, we now have an FCC Chairman who appreciates the important role of local broadcasting enough to launch a number of politically unpopular deregulatory initiatives necessary to ensure the future of our industry.”  

    What that vague sentence actually means is: Pai has spearheaded several FCC actions that all seem, incidentally, to benefit Sinclair more than anyone else. The rapid deregulation of the local broadcast industry under Pai’s leadership essentially permits Sinclair to have news control in an unprecedented number of local media markets across the country, in major cities and battleground states. It does nothing short of pave the way for Trump’s reelection.

    And if any lawmakers dare to challenge the FCC in its blatant regulatory overhaul, Sinclair PAC aims to be ready for an election fight -- ethics be damned.

    The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi spoke to experts about the PAC solicitation, and they seemed pretty shocked by the overt partisanship of making such a request of news directors:

    Major TV news outlets such as ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC say they prohibit their journalists from contributing to political parties, candidates or causes, and don’t ask them to chip in to the company’s PAC. The prohibition is aimed at eliminating the perception of partisanship by journalists.

    Given that tradition, Sinclair’s policy “violates every standard of conduct that has existed in newsrooms for the past 40 or 50 years,” said Lewis Friedland, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin and a former TV news producer. “I’ve never seen anything like this. They certainly have the right to do it, but it’s blatantly unethical.”

    By contributing money to Sinclair’s lobbying efforts, he said, news directors would be tacitly supporting the company’s agenda, potentially raising doubts about impartiality and independence when reporting on issues such as city or state legislative debates about deregulation. “It would cause people to ask whether they’re being fair and balanced in their coverage,” he said.

    [...]

    In addition to breaking with journalistic tradition, the company’s request could put its news directors in an untenable position, said Mark Feldstein, a professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland. Despite Sinclair’s official reassurances, said Feldstein, a former local and network TV reporter, some news directors might feel that opting out would be perceived by their superiors as an act of disloyalty.

    Days after reports revealed this “blatantly unethical” behind-the-scenes strategy at Sinclair, its chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn produced yet another “must-run” segment that can only be described as propaganda.

    The “must-run” practice is itself questionable: Sinclair has been requiring all its local news stations to air Epshteyn’s “commentary” segments, essentially feeding audiences thinly veiled pro-Trump missives mixed in with local news stories, weather, and sports. 

    In a Bottom Line with Boris segment posted on February 12, Epshteyn argues that the dictator-style “military parade” floated by Trump last week could be a needed “morale boost" and “well worth” its estimated $21 million price tag to “promote national unity and strength.”

    Epshteyn -- a former Trump aide -- has starred in segments veering dangerously close to state media before; he routinely defends pretty much every action Trump takes and has relished the opportunity to attack media or individuals he views as too critical of the president. Thirsting for a Trumpian “military parade” is, in some ways, the next logical step.

  • The Daily Caller has been making light of child sexual abuse for years

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tucker Carlson’s right-wing outlet The Daily Caller has long advanced conspiracy theories, recently promoted Pizzagaters and white nationalists, and routinely propped up GOP policies with shoddy online writing, including from notorious plagiarizers. But there is one uniquely horrifying editorial element of this website that it deserves to be tied to forever: The Daily Caller has had a years-long, unchecked fixation with mocking survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

    For years, The Daily Caller has routinely posted abhorrent stories making fun of reported sexual abuse of children and teenagers by adult women perpetrators. A whole category of posts beginning in 2013 are tagged as “Teacher sex” on the site -- more than 100 in total. Taken together, they suggest that boys and young men cannot be victims of sexual abuse if the reported abuser is an attractive young woman who uses gifts or special treatment as a form of sexual coercion. The "Teacher sex" posts largely follow the same formula:

    Another thing nearly all these posts have in common: They are written by Eric Owens, The Daily Caller’s education editor.

    Here are just a few examples that have been posted since last October, when the #MeToo movement began to dominate public conversation:

    [2/6/18]

    [12/6/17]

    [11/19/17]

    [11/10/17]

    [10/28/17]

    Owens also has a long history of mocking queer and trans students -- which seems to have kept his “education” writing isolated in the Daily Caller cesspool. (Owens was previously moonlighting at a niche education outlet but appeared to have stopped writing for it after Media Matters pointed out his predilection for bullying LGBTQ kids back in 2015.)

    It’s worth remembering that The Daily Caller was co-founded by professional misogynist and outrage-haver Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ far-right and neo-Nazi darling. Carlson uses his current Fox evening show to bully and yell about women -- often right in their faces -- and sometimes spur their online harassment. It’s no wonder his website seems to devote its entire “entertainment” section to objectifying women celebrities, or that its education editor is focused primarily on writing horrifying things about vulnerable kids.

    It’s toxic masculinity at its peak: The Daily Caller wants its young men readers to believe they have the right to objectify women’s bodies; and if someone tries to hurt them or take away any ownership of their own bodies, the correct reaction is to repress the trauma they experience and pretend the abuse was funny and cool.

  • Newsmax is airing Bill O'Reilly's hot takes on Trump's State of the Union address

    Serial sexual harasser to give commentary on speech by man who has openly bragged about committing sexual assault 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservative outlet Newsmax will be hosting disgraced serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly to “provide in-depth analysis” of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address tomorrow night.

    Newsmax announced on January 29 that O’Reilly will provide “live analysis” for Tuesday’s address by Trump -- with whom he has much in common -- on its Newsmax TV channel. In its press release, Newsmax CEO and close Trump friend Chris Ruddy said that O’Reilly’s “frank, no-holds-barred analysis is needed in American media more than ever.”  

    O’Reilly has settled at least six legal claims related to workplace sexual harassment over the course of 15 years, including one extremely notable settlement with former Fox analyst Lis Wiehl amounting to a whopping $32 million.

    After O’Reilly departed from Fox News following The New York Timesinitial reporting on the settlements in April 2017, he was largely and rightfully relegated to recording audio and video clips in his home office for his personal website. And his handful of media appearances in recent months have illustrated exactly how little his “analysis” is needed.

    In September, O’Reilly sat down with former Today show host Matt Lauer -- with whom he also has much in common -- and personally attacked one of the women who came forward about his harassment.

    And, to underscore the complete moral bankruptcy of Fox News and Sean Hannity, O’Reilly has several times appeared on Hannity’s radio show and on his Fox News show, sometimes to launch similar attacks. O’Reilly even appeared in person in the studio at Fox News, possibly sharing a space with women who’d been subjected to his harassment. (Fox heavily promoted O’Reilly’s return to its airwaves with zero shame about the number of women who’ve suffered at the hands of the network.)

    According to Ruddy, who has openly and proudly discussed courting O’Reilly before and has given him airtime already, this is the man whose analysis America needs “now more than ever.”

    Meanwhile, several lawmakers are planning to bring guests at the State of the Union who’ve spoken out about sexual harassment and assault. Will O’Reilly have anything to say about them?

  • The attacks on Jane Fonda show who Megyn Kelly really is

    Megyn “Santa just is white” Kelly called Fonda “a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage” 

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Megyn Kelly may be an NBC host now, but her January 22 monologue about actress Jane Fonda reveals how little Kelly has deviated from her signature Fox News diatribes.

    This morning, Kelly devoted a three-minute monologue to attacking Fonda, a former guest on her show, and largely focused on the actress’ radical anti-Vietnam War activism in the 1970s. Kelly’s monologue exhibited classic Fox News feigned outrage about a guest Kelly seemed to originally have no problem booking. “This is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage. ... She has no business lecturing anyone on what qualifies as offensive,” Kelly said.

    The attack on Fonda appeared to be in response to a comment Fonda made during an interview she and her Netflix costar Lily Tomlin did on Today last week. During the January 16 interview with anchors Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, Fonda made a joking aside referencing her interview with Kelly last September in which Kelly had awkwardly asked Fonda about her past plastic surgery. At the time, Fonda had deflected the question and had instead discussed the film she was promoting. Fonda has since spoken about the embarrassing exchange several times, noting she would still return to the show if Kelly “comes around and learns her stuff.”

    NBC reportedly pays Kelly an annual salary of $18 million to host her hour of Today featuring interviews and monologues like the one this morning. She will be co-hosting the network’s State of the Union address coverage next week.

    During her time as a Fox News host, Kelly was known for delivering race-baiting and anti-feminist rants, including dismissing campus sexual assault, declaring a black teenage girl attacked by Texas police was “no saint,” and insisting that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ were both white. A former Fox colleague reportedly told Yashar Ali that her monologue this morning “just shows that [Fox News] never made her do anything… this is who she is.”

    From the January 22 edition of NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today:

    MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Look, I gave her the chance to empower other women, young and old, on a subject which she purports to know well. And she rejected it. That’s OK. But I have no regrets about that question. Nor am I on the market for a lesson from Jane Fonda on what is and is not appropriate. After all, this is a woman whose name is synonymous with outrage. Look at her treatment of our military during the Vietnam War. Many of our veterans still call her “Hanoi Jane” thanks to her radio broadcast which attempted to shame American troops. She posed on an anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down our American pilots. She called our POWs hypocrites and liars, and referred to their torture as understandable. Even she had to apologize years later for that gun picture, but not for the rest of it. By the way, she still says she is not proud of America. So the moral indignation is a little much. She put her plastic surgery out there. She said she wanted to discuss the plight of older women in America. And honestly, she has no business lecturing anyone on what qualifies as offensive.

  • Sinclair defends Trump’s racist “shithole” remarks as mere “salty language” 

    And local news viewers across the country will now be subjected to it

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Nearly one week after President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations as “shithole countries” in a racist diatribe, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s #1 Trump shill Boris Epshteyn would like local news audiences to know that it doesn’t matter.

    In a January 17 Bottom Line with Boris “must-run” segment for Sinclair, former Trump aide and Sinclair chief political analyst Epshteyn added his voice to the chorus of desperate right-wing media figures defending Trump’s latest racist moment. He argued that the entire “dust up” about Trump saying yet another clearly racist thing was about a president using “salty language” and saying “a curse word to a group of adults in private.” Epshteyn’s segment does not mention what the comments were in reference to, or name any of the countries targeted -- he doesn't even use the words "immigrant" or "immigration."

    He instead reserved his criticism for media outlets that reported on the comments and quoted the president saying "shithole," saying, "The problem here is that these networks are played in public places throughout our country. They are in airports, doctors’ offices, and restaurants. The screens are seen by adults and children alike. The allegation is that President Trump said the word once in a private meeting. How is it ok to repeat it and splash it on the screen hundreds of times? I believe that makes no sense." During the segment, the word "shithole" is even blurred out in a screengrab of CNN's coverage. 

    Seriously, just watch this.

    This embarrassing segment will now be forcibly aired, often spliced with local news coverage, on more than 100 Sinclair-owned or operated news stations throughout the country as part of the media giant’s infamous “must-run” line-up.

    Sinclair is known for its history of injecting right-wing spin into local newscasts, most notably with these “must-run” segments. The segments have included blatant (and sometimes embarrassing) pro-Trump propaganda missives from Epshteyn since last spring. In the last six months, Epshteyn has used his Bottom Line With Boris segments to attack members of the press for being too mean to the president, praise seemingly every move Trump makes, and offer jaw-droppingly ill-timed defenses of Trump and his staff members. Most recently, he developed an entire segment arguing that Trump’s horrifying “nuclear button” tweet threatening nuclear war with North Korea was a strong foreign policy move.

    Thanks to the Trump Federal Communications Commission, pro-Trump propaganda like this could soon air on even more local TV news stations and in major cities across the country, reaching 72% of U.S. television households.

  • Trump's "shithole" comments are racist. Everyone needs to just say that.

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump did something racist again. At what point will some media outlets just say that? 

    On January 11, The Washington Post first reported that in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration, when discussing "protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal," Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly added that he’d rather have more immigrants from countries like Norway.

    That is a racist statement, and Trump said that because he is racist.

    It’s far from the first overtly racist comment Trump has made in his life or even in his presidency.

    In fact, an undeniable shadow of racial animus hangs over Trump's every action, whether it’s playing footsie with white nationalists or denying black people housing access, picking public fights with black athletes and pundits and public figures or questioning President Barack Obama’s place of birth, calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists or calling for the death penalty for a group of innocent black and Latino teenagers.

    News outlets may hesitate to ascribe racist motivations to an individual, even if so many of their readers can see it clearly. That’s a bit understandable -- but describing concrete, individual actions and statements doesn’t require the same sort of divination.

    Yet some print outlets seem, still, to only feel comfortable calling Trump’s actions racist in the opinion section, or including words or sentiments from third parties that are more comfortable calling racist things racist (like many of their colleagues on mainstream cable news, finally) .

    At this point, major national papers are left to perform bizarre word acrobatics to avoid just saying it themselves. The reporting on Trump’s “shithole” remarks is the latest example.

    • In its report about the "shithole" remark itself, the Post wrote that Trump used “racially incendiary language” and described him as having a “long-standing tendency to make racially charged remarks.”
    • The New York Times wrote that Trump used “disparaging words” and “vulgar language” about the countries in “the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants.”
    • USA Today said Trump used “a crude description” because he “reportedly grew frustrated.”
    • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump made “vulgar comments” during a “back-and-forth” on immigration.

    What more horrifying things does Trump need to do or say that would actually be labeled racist in a report? Judging from what’s been sugar-coated so far, I hope we never know the answer.

  • Don’t erase stories of abuse with vague headlines

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Media outlets are undeniably publishing more reports about sexual misconduct than ever before, which means that while longtime experts on this sensitive topic are working in overdrive, a whole new swath of writers are in need of guidance on how to cover this topic with respect and accuracy.

    A recently reported story about a Tennessee pastor’s sexual assault of a teenager inadvertently highlighted one best practice for covering this topic: Don’t summarize reporting with vague words that obscure the details of abuse -- especially when those words are borrowed from the admitted offender himself.

    On January 5, a woman named Jules Woodson shared on a blog her account of sexual assault by Memphis pastor Andy Savage. Here is an excerpt from Woodson’s description of the assault, which she says occurred when she was 17 years old:  

    We reached a dead end and he turned the truck around before putting it in park. We were stopped, and he turned the headlights off. Suddenly, Andy unzipped his jeans and pulled out his penis. He asked me to suck it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it. I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did. He started touching me over my bra and then lifted my bra up and began touching my breasts.

    After what I believe to have been about 5 minutes of this going on, he suddenly stopped, got out of the truck and ran around the back and to my side before falling to his knees. I quickly buttoned my shirt back up and got out of the truck. Now I was terrified and ashamed. I remember him pleading, while he was on his knees with his hands up on his head, ‘Oh my god, oh my god. What have I done? Oh my god, I'm so sorry. You can't tell anyone Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you.’  He said that several times. My fear and shame quickly turned to anger. I had just been manipulated and used.

    Days later, Savage vaguely addressed Woodson’s account in front of his congregation, admitting to “a sexual incident” and asking for forgiveness; he was given a standing ovation.

    National outlets covered Woodson’s admission of assault -- and his congregation’s reaction -- and generally took care to include details about Woodson’s experience in her own words. That careful work was undone, however, when several outlets ran their pieces with headlines that adopted Savage’s wording and essentially obscured the realities of the abuse.

    Rather than label the stories with simple, accurate headlines that state what happened (i.e. “Memphis pastor admits to sexually assaulting teenager”), Slade Sohmer noted on Twitter that some outlets relied on Savage’s minimizing word choice (“sexual incident") instead: 

    [The New York Times, 1/9/18

    [The Washington Post, 1/10/18

    [CBS News, 1/9/18]

    [Newsweek, 1/10/18]

    [New York Daily News, 1/9/18

    In spite of reporters’ efforts to center Woodson’s account of the assault and to provide context about the ways the church community treated -- or even erased -- Savage’s misconduct at the time, so many news consumers will only see the vague, dismissive term “incident,” mirroring the language of the admitted offender.

    This isn’t the first time media have allowed a predator’s own words to set the terms of a public conversation about abuse. Every time they fail to properly identify assault, they do a disservice to readers and contribute to the system of injustice survivors continually encounter at every turn.

    After all, if you saw just these headlines what would you think happened to Jules Woodson twenty years ago? Is it what Andy Savage would want you to think?

  • Replacing a harasser with a highly qualified woman is a good start, but it isn’t enough 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In 2017, we saw the first wave of high-profile men lose their media jobs after they were publicly named for sexual harassment or abusive behavior. This phenomenon seems to be far from over, but the last few weeks have also marked a new phase of the so-called reckoning: the first concentrated round of successors. A few stand-out and obviously qualified women are now being given the overdue opportunity to step up -- but the ways their employers have treated their new roles signals there’s a lot more work to be done.

    Back in December, PBS announced it would fill Charlie Rose’s time slot with CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour’s show “on an interim basis.” Earlier this month, NBC formalized its replacement of Matt Lauer with longtime Today co-host Hoda Kotb, and CBS News co-anchor Alex Wagner was announced as a replacement for Mark Halperin in Showtime’s political documentary series The Circus. Yesterday, The New York Times formally announced it was appointing reporter Katie Rogers to its White House beat, which was vacated by Glenn Thrush.

    Simply replacing male harassers with qualified women is not nearly enough, though. The examples so far do not represent anything close to a cultural change, which is what’s needed to effectively address such a clearly systemic problem. For each of these accomplished women, their promotions or new gigs have been coupled with sexist indignities or caveats.

    Just hours after Hoda Kotb was announced as the new permanent Today co-anchor, Page Six reported that she would be making a significantly smaller salary than the serial abuser whose seat she would fill -- even as Kotb plans to continue co-hosting her additional fourth hour of the show, working literally more than Lauer.

    Others aren’t technically replacements at all. Katie Rogers was named the Times’ new White House correspondent after Glenn Thrush was removed from the beat. But Thrush was not fired, to be clear, and will apparently continue to report for the Times in a to-be-determined new role in late January following a brief suspension. And Christiane Amanpour isn’t taking over Charlie Rose’s eponymous PBS show (which he produced independently) or even hosting a new show for PBS that would adopt the same format. Instead, PBS is simply electing to air her current show, Amanpour, “on an interim basis,” during Rose’s old time slot. (Rose's other former employer, CBS, has now reportedly filled Rose's morning show seat with Sunday news anchor John Dickerson.) 

    These initial replacements were obvious choices to make and, in some cases, long overdue. But today’s context reeks of an opportunistic exploitation of the public female body by news corporations, and it cheapens the accomplishments of Kotb, Wagner, Rogers, and Amanpour, and others they represent. Indeed, some of these same women were asked to serve as the public faces for processing the offenses reportedly committed by their predecessors. As Doreen St. Felix wrote in The New Yorker on Lauer's firing, “It is no surprise that, to convey something like moral mooring to a vastly female audience, the networks rely on women anchors to break the public fall.”

    This icky feeling now can be summed up with a simple but telling act: The Hill, in promoting its write-up on Wagner’s new role on The Circus, tweeted, “Showtime’s ‘The Circus’ to replace Mark Halperin with female journalist.” The story was still about Halperin, after all, as it had always been; Wagner’s name or any of her myriad qualifications were less important than the convenient symbolism her body allowed media to neatly package into a few characters.