On Monday, The Washington Post reported on a former Trump campaign staffer who says President Donald Trump forcibly kissed her during his 2016 campaign. Such a report would be a major story if made against any other president, but it garnered scant coverage by cable news outlets despite a long list of public reports of sexual misconduct by Trump. While MSNBC discussed the story for 25 minutes on Monday, Fox News devoted less than one minute of coverage to the allegations, and CNN ignored the story altogether.
Alva Johnson, who worked as a Trump campaign staffer in Alabama and Florida, said in interviews with the Post and alleges in a lawsuit that Trump forcibly kissed her during a campaign stop in Florida. According to the Post, Johnson’s boyfriend, mother, and stepfather confirmed she told them the day it occurred. The paper also reported that an attorney Johnson consulted two months after the incident “gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her ‘credible’ but did not take her case for business reasons.” According to the Post, Johnson’s lawsuit also alleges that the Trump campaign “discriminated against Johnson, who is black, by paying her less than her white male counterparts.”
MSNBC provided the most coverage of the cable networks, devoting over 25 minutes of to the story yesterday -- nearly half of which came on All In with Chris Hayes. Fox News’ and CNN’s coverage paled in comparison: Fox devoted less than one minute to the allegations, all of which was centered around the White House’s denial, while CNN failed to even mention the story at all.
Johnson joins at least 16 other women who have reported sexual misconduct by Trump spanning decades -- including several reports that directly mirror Johnson’s allegation. Trump and his spokespeople have repeatedly attacked these women as liars and political pawns seeking fame and financial advancement.
As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted, the report would be “enormous, world-stopping news” if made against former President Barack Obama, but accounts of sexual misconduct are “priced in” when covering Trump. Cable networks’ decision to ignore a new, credible report of sexual misconduct by the president -- the first alleged to have taken place during his presidential campaign -- is yet another example of media’s normalization of Trump’s conduct in office.
Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for any mentions of “Johnson,” “kiss,” “Washington Post,” or “staffer” and timed all conversation related to the story on February 25.