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

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

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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.

Methodology

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. 

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