Kayleigh McEnany | Media Matters for America

Kayleigh McEnany

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  • TPUSA invited a slate of sexists to speak at its Young Women’s Leadership Summit 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA, the student-aimed conservative organization that raises its money by stoking fear among rich conservative donors about the alleged liberalization of college campuses, will host its fourth annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit June 14 through 17. Slated to address the young women attending is a roster packed full of misogynists.

    While Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is perhaps most famous for a laughable 2017 stunt in which its members donned adult diapers and sat in oversized playpens to express their outrage over safe spaces, its stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Despite TPUSA’s lofty goals, the organization’s events are often little more than sophomoric spectacles designed to fearmonger -- often via Fox News airtime -- about the supposedly leftist leanings of U.S. colleges. But the group also has a more sinister history that includes hosting serial harassers and defending racists. Overall, TPUSA is focused on combating “political correctness,” and conferences like the Young Women’s Leadership Summit are one vehicle used to accomplish this goal.

    TPUSA’s website invites “young, conservative women” to apply to attend the summit, and it promises to deliver “professional development and leadership training,” as well as opportunities to network with fellow young conservatives. While at first glance, the event seems to be about women's empowerment, the slate of speakers scheduled to present says otherwise. The roster includes people who publicly support misogynistic policies, routinely dismiss the importance of issues that advance gender equality, and use dangerously sexist rhetoric. Here is a breakdown of 10 of those speakers and their histories of anti-women messaging:

    Charlie Kirk

    Jeanine Pirro 

    Dana Loesch 

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Katie Pavlich

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Tomi Lahren

    Ben Shapiro

    Candace Owens

    Jordan Peterson

    Charlie Kirk

    The founder, chief fundraiser, and public face of TPUSA, “boy wonder” Charlie Kirk has a long history of attacking feminism and a tendency to dismiss and mischaracterize the problems women face. He is also ever-ready to complain about girls intruding on sacred male spaces like the Boy Scouts.

    Jeanine Pirro

    At first glance, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro seems an obvious choice for the summit. As the first woman elected to serve as the district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, Pirro spent years working on behalf of abuse survivors, often women and children. Since her years as DA, however, Pirro has seemingly turned her back on abuse victims, using her Fox show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, to downplay sexual misconduct allegations.

    • When Pirro’s former Fox colleague Gretchen Carlson reported then-Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ many instances of severe sexual misconduct, Pirro aggressively defended Ailes, dismissing Carlson’s lawsuit as “absurd” and describing Ailes as a “no-nonsense guy.”

    • In October 2016, Pirro was quick to defend then-candidate Donald Trump after the release of an Access Hollywood video, which caught him bragging about sexually assaulting women. Two days after the video was released, Pirro dismissed Trump’s violent remarks as “locker room talk" and "frat house language." She also proudly announced that the video did nothing to change her vote, and that Trump was still an undoubtedly better choice than “double-talking woman” Hillary Clinton.

    • Days later, when multiple women reported that Trump had touched them inappropriately, Pirro rejected their reports as “a little too convenient” and criticized their timing.

    Dana Loesch

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch is a remarkably bad choice to speak at a women’s conference, considering her numerous glib comments about rape, her mischaracterization of issues that advance gender equality, and her cruel attacks against transgender women. Additionally, Loesch has openly ridiculed college-aged women, the demographic TPUSA’s summit is aiming to capture, for wanting access to contraceptives.

    • After conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh aimed misogynistic insults at Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student who testified in front of Congress about access to contraceptives, Loesch launched a barrage of heinous attacks against her. She denounced Fluke as unable “to control her sexual urges” and claimed that Fluke had testified that she “simply cannot stop getting it on.”

    • Loesch then extended her attacks to seemingly include all college-aged women who want access to contraceptives, ridiculing them for acting “like they’re nymphos” and dismissing young women's call for contraceptives coverage as "insulting to the original spirit and intent of the suffrage movement."

    • Loesch has a history of making flippant remarks and ill-advised jokes about rape, including comparing the penalization of gun owners for improperly storing firearms to “shaming a rape survivor.”

    • Loesch has been quick to fearmonger about false reports of sexual assault (which researchers say make up only an estimated 2 to 8 percent of allegations), and she came immediately to the defense of former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) after he claimed that it’s “really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant.

    • In addition to her trivializing rhetoric on rape, Loesch has made careless and insensitive comments about gender, including claiming that some women “wouldn’t know what masculinity was if it hit them in the face."

    • According to Loesch, the gender wage gap is “an absolute myth.” And after actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay describing her own experience with pay inequality, Loesch denied that “sexism” played a role in Lawrence’s experience, instead accusing Lawrence of having a “self esteem issue.”

    • Loesch has additionally aimed cruel and dangerous attacks at transgender women, going out of her way to misgender former soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    • Loesch also claimed that Manning was given “preferential treatment” and an “unnecessary surgery” when she received hormone therapy while in prison. In reality, hormone therapy is medically necessary, and to say otherwise simply serves to dismiss the health needs of transgender women.

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Former Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle has repeatedly used her platform as a Fox News host to make misogynistic and demeaning remarks, and she has spoken out in support of street harassment.

    • In a bizarre 2014 endorsement of catcalling, Guilfoyle defended street harassment by arguing that society should “let men be men” and insisting that “men are going to be that way.”

    • Later in the same year, during a discussion about women voting, Guilfoyle asserted that “young women on juries are not a good idea” because “they don’t get it.” She went on to contend that they’d be better of going “back on Tinder or Match.com.”

    • Guilfoyle has also derided women who have abortions in the third trimester as “selfish and disgusting,” even though women who receive abortions that late in their pregnancies do so because of serious concern for the fetus or their own health and are thus often forced to make heartbreaking and terrifying medical decisions.

    Katie Pavlich

    Katie Pavlich is an editor at the conservative outlet Townhall as well as a Fox News contributor. Pavlich has a history of using insensitive rhetoric and spreading misinformation about sexual assault as well as a tendency to espouse sexist tropes. In 2015, Pavlich gave a disastrous speech on sexual assault at Iowa State University, during which she insulted sexual abuse survivors and spread misinformation about the realities of sexual assault on campuses.

    • During the Iowa event, Pavlich argued that the incidence of sexual assaults on college campuses had been exaggerated and advanced the evidence-free notion that allowing students to carry concealed guns on college campuses could reduce sexual assault (the NRA is a sponsor of TPUSA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit). She also made the wildly insulting claim that "lots of the time" women "make a decision about whether you are going to stop a sexual assault or not" before it happens and sarcastically apologized while disagreeing with a woman who shared that she was sexually assaulted as a child. 

    • In 2016, Pavlich “guarantee[d]” that Russian President Vladimir Putin and “the Saudis” would find then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s voice “grating.”

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Many of the speakers invited to TPUSA’s summit have served as Trump apologists, but perhaps none have done so as consistently as Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany. In her constant defense of Trump’s sexist and violent rhetoric, McEnany has demonstrated her own indifference toward the sexism and abuse that women often face at the hands of powerful men.

    • McEnany defended Trump in the aftermath of the release of the Access Hollywood video, which contains Trump’s claims that when he sees a “beautiful woman” he will “just kiss” them and not “even wait” to speak to them first. The video also features Trump saying that “when you’re a star… you can do anything,” including grabbing women “by the pussy.” McEnany claimed that she didn’t “think [Trump] was condoning sexual assault.”

    • Days later, after multiple women said that Trump had sexually assaulted them, McEnany argued that “Donald Trump's claim is stronger” than that of one of the accusers.

    • McEnany also excused Trump’s tone-deaf assertion that if his daughter was sexually harassed at work, she ought to find a new job. She claimed that was “the same advice I would give to my sister.”

    • Her sycophancy continued in 2017, when she contended that Trump crossed no boundaries when he made a sexist remark to an Irish reporter.  

    Tomi Lahren

    Fox’s Tomi Lahren has built a career out of making unapologetically cruel and anti-feminist rants. She has a long history of attacking women and empowerment movements, including during a speech at the 2016 TPUSA summit.

    • During her 2016 YWLS speech, Lahren attacked various groups of women and derided modern day feminism. About liberal women, she told the crowd, “You notice the difference between a conservative women’s conference and a liberal women’s conference, because y’all dress like women.” In reference to Hillary Clinton, she proclaimed, “Don’t tell Hillary, but you can wear a dress and still be a woman,” and then she called both Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “men” based on the clothes they wear. She accused actress Lena Dunham of making false rape accusations, and she commented that Dunham was “somewhere getting undressed on HBO” and “no one wants to see that.” She described feminists as “barely women,” and she described the modern-day feminist movement as “all about “gimme -- it’s gimme this, gimme this.”

    • On another occasion, during a particularly vicious tirade, she described modern-day feminism as “the dumbest load of hypocritical crap ever masqueraded as an equality movement.”

    • In an interview with Playboy, in which she described feminism as “bad,” she implied that feminism attempts to simplify women into “wanting free abortions or free birth control, and by using a false statistic like the 77 cents on the dollar bullshit.”

    • In another instance, she slightly tweaked her previous definition of the feminist movement, arguing that feminism is in fact “about man-bashing & free birth control.”

    • Lahren once claimed female activists attending a planned “Day Without Women” protest were not “real women.” According to Lahren, “Real women don’t have to remind the world every single day that history once slighted us. Real women don’t wake up and skip work to march for abortions or paid contraceptives.” She added that she wasn’t sure about “a day without women, but I could use a day without this nasty feminist BS masqueraded as women’s rights.”

    • Lahren condemned the 2017 Women’s March as a “vulgar display of hate and bitterness” and “a giant temper tantrum clogging our streets and hurting our ears and eyes.” She condemned the protesters themselves as “actual mean girls” and opined, “If only these marchers put this much time/effort into their families & life choices. Perhaps then they wouldn't have to glorify abortion.”

    • She complained about girls being allowed into the Boy Scouts.

    • She (wrongly) denied that there is a gender-based wage gap.

    Ben Shapiro

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro frequently misinforms his audiences about the obstacles women face, demeans and attacks transgender women, and serves as a reliable source of misogynistic commentary on multiple issues.

    • Shapiro has repeatedly denied the existence of a gender wage gap (once again, it's real). When actor Jennifer Lawrence discussed her experience with pay inequality, Shapiro claimed she was just “whining about a bad contract.”

    • He has dismissed the impact that having children has on women’s earnings potential. 

    • Shapiro is against women serving in combat positions, tweeting: “Women SHOULD NOT register for the draft. National service is one thing. Combat? Come the hell on.”

    • He has claimed that “fewer women are interested in getting into tech because of all of the demands of work-life balance.”

    • He has repeatedly attacked and misgendered transgender women, tweeting that transgender people have “mental illness[es]” and claiming that Chelsea Manning only “think[s]” she’s a woman.

    • In response to the 2015 edition of MTV’s Video Music Awards, Shapiro tweeted: “Feminism is apparently the proposition that women are empowered by showing their breasts, but men are sexists for looking at them. #VMAs”

    • He accused “leftist women” of “redefin[ing]” rape and cautioned his followers not to believe “the lies” about “rape culture.”

    • He mocked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke for her activism on contraceptive access and labeled her a “fascist” for wanting contraception to be more accessible to workers.

    • Shapiro has launched numerous attacks against planned Parenthood, claimed that women who seek abortions are “kill[ing] their own children,” and denied that medical care received by pregnant women is part of “women’s health.” 

    Candace Owens

    TPUSA’s communications director, Candace Owens, is a vicious critic of the #MeToo movement. She has attacked its leaders and maliciously defamed and insulted victims of abuse. Owens has also maligned feminism and she often promotes sexist and demeaning tropes.

    • Owens has been a vocal critic of the #MeToo movement, which has helped elevate the voices of people who have experienced abuse and has led to the rightful downfall of numerous abusive men. Owens, however, has accused the movement of turning “sexual assault into a trend,” contended that its premise is that “women are stupid, weak & inconsequential,” and claimed the movement is at fault for men who won’t hire women. Owens’ attacks on #MeToo were so tone deaf and clueless that even conservative women condemned them, causing at least one conservative organization to pull out of the conference, and leading TPUSA’s Kirk to beseech attendees not to attack Owens publicly.  

    • Owens also wrote that the “entire #metoo” movement was evidence of how “vicious and cunning women can be when they feel scorned.”

    • She argued that the leaders of the movement “were at one time willing to trade sex for career advancements” and accused them of leading a “political witch hunt.”

    • Owen’s has promised that her 2018 TPUSA speech will center on why she “hate[s] the #metoo movement.”

    • Owens has claimed that women “are being systematically taught to equate ‘regret’ with ‘rape,’” an old and incorrect assertion that is sometimes used to minimize the reality of sexual assault.

    • She has accused “modern feminism” of “singlehandedly (sic) deteriorating relationships and eventual motherhood” and argued that feminists “hate men” and are “miserable.” She also claimed that “if you believe in equality between men and women, you cannot be a feminist today.”

    • Owens has perpetuated sexist tropes with such statements as “Women are naturally jealous creatures. It’s not a trait they grow out of, they just get better at hiding it.”

    • She once relayed the “interesting theory” that “something bio-chemically happens to women who don’t marry and/or have children” to her Twitter followers. She offered comedians Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, and Sarah Silverman as “evidentiary support.” In a similar vein, she noted that “the most vicious perpetuators of modern feminism almost never have any children.”

    Jordan Peterson

    Right-wing YouTube star and Canadian professor Jordan Peterson advances a philosophy that demonizes and demeans women, refuses to respect the needs of transgender women, and shares videos that have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression.

    • Peterson has argued for a hierarchical system built around gender and has condescendingly claimed that those who view our culture as an “oppressive patriarchy” simply don’t want to “admit” that the “current hierarchy might be predicated on competence.”

    • During a discussion about the “incel” (short for involuntarily celibate) who murdered 10 people in Toronto, Canada, at least in part because of his antipathy toward women, Peterson suggested that the “cure” for violent men is “enforced monogamy” to ensure that lower-status men get to have sex with women.

    • Peterson has argued that “conscientious and agreeable women” are more likely to prioritize their families over their work.

    • He has questioned whether “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance?” and asked, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    • He warned against women trying to “usurp” men.

    • He has called Nazi sympathizer and unapologetic anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”

    • Peterson ardently rejects the right of transgender people to be called by their prefered pronouns and insists that calling people by the pronouns they prefer won’t “do [them] any good in the long run.” In reality, misgendering is a cruel and dangerous act.  

  • WSJ debunks Murdoch-fueled conspiracy theory on FBI texts and Obama

    The conspiracy theory, which was debunked by WSJ and others, was heavily pushed by Fox News and other right-wing outlets

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The latest right-wing media ‘scandal,’ has completely fallen apart after The Wall Street Journal and others debunked several facets of the story. Fox News spent the day pushing Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) claim that a text message between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok referring to preparing talking points that then-FBI Director James Comey would use to brief then-President Barack Obama, implied an interference by Obama in the FBI’s investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server. Right-wing media, heavily led by Fox News, and other mainstream outlets ran with the claim, despite the fact that there was no active investigation into Clinton’s emails at the time the text message in question was sent.

  • CNN’s voting rights coverage demonstrates its Trump sycophant problem

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Over the past year, CNN diluted its coverage of voting issues by stocking its discussion panels with pro-Trump sycophants who consistently lied to prop up the president’s false claims about voter fraud in the 2016 election. CNN’s panelists stood in contrast to the channel’s reporters, who were somewhat more proactive in calling out Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and illegal voting.

    During (and since) the election, CNN was widely criticized for adding as commentators a roster of Trump loyalists, including former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), conservative commentators Scottie Nell Hughes and Kayleigh McEnany, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Jeffrey Lord, former White House staffer under then-President Ronald Reagan (Hughes and Lewandowski have since left CNN). Over the past year, these sycophants have used their platform on the network to spew lies about voting and have repeatedly defended Trump’s debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election.

    • Lewandowski made 14 false statements about voting during his four appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • Lord made 21 false statements about voting during his 13 appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • McEnany made 41 false statements about voting during her 11 appearances on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic

    • Santorum made eight false statements about voting during his one appearance on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    • Hughes made three false statements about voting during her one appearance on CNN between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, to discuss the topic.

    This barrage of lies from CNN’s pro-Trump coalition stands in contrast to the network’s reporters, who made somewhat of an effort to call out Trump’s lies about voting. During the same period, CNN correspondents Jeff Zeleny, Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, and Drew Griffin made a total of 85 true statements about voting and refrained from repeating any of the falsehoods their conservative colleagues pushed.

    Ideally, panelists are supposed to engage in a healthy discussion based on a shared set of facts. But CNN’s Trump surrogates prop up lies when they discuss voting, often to defend the president and his alternate reality.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts for evening cable news programs and broadcast morning news and evening newscasts from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. We included the following programs in the data: ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News, CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News’ The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren*, On the Record with Brit Hume*, Tucker Carlson Tonight*, First 100 Days*, The Story*, The O’Reilly Factor*, The Kelly File*, and Hannity, and MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily, For the Record with Greta*, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. Due to the substantial reorganization of Fox News’ programming during the study period, programs that were either added or removed from the network during the study period are marked with an asterisk. During the study period, Greta Van Susteren moved to MSNBC and began hosting a program there; unlike with the network’s previous 6 p.m. programming, the transcripts for this program were included in the Nexis database, and thus were included.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments where the stated topic of conversation was voting rights or issues related to voting, or where “substantial discussion” of these topics occurred. We defined “substantial discussion” as that where two or more speakers had at least one direct exchange on the topic. Host monologues were also included only when the speaker made two independent mentions of voting or voting rights within the same segment. We did not include statements made in news or video clips in edited news packages except those made by a network correspondent. If news packages aired more than once, Media Matters coded only the first unique appearance. Similarly, if a live event -- such as a town hall or public forum -- was held during regularly scheduled programming, these segments were also excluded because the participants were not network or media guests.

    The resulting 561 segments were then coded for the mention of one or more of four general topics of conversation: logistical barriers to voting on the state level, the election, legal issues, and gerrymandering. Segments were also coded for the number of accurate or inaccurate statements each speaker made about six topics: widespread voter fraud, massive noncitizen voting, voter ID laws, voter registration inaccuracies, early voting, and gerrymandering. The statements coded for were:

    • There is widespread voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Widespread voter fraud does not exist (accurate).

    • There is massive noncitizen voting (inaccurate).

    • Massive noncitizen voting does not exist (accurate).

    • Voter ID laws are useful to fight voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Voter ID laws would do little combat voter fraud (accurate).

    • Voter ID laws do not affect voter turnout (inaccurate),

    • Voter ID laws disenfranchise voters, especially minority voters (accurate).

    • Voter registration inaccuracies lead to voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Voter registration inaccuracies are different from voter fraud (accurate).

    • Early voting leaves elections more susceptible to voter fraud (inaccurate).

    • Early voting does not leave elections more susceptible to voter fraud (accurate).

    • Gerrymandering has not contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (inaccurate).

    • Gerrymandering has contributed to an outsized Republican majority on a federal and state level (accurate)

  • Obamacare Repeal And The Myth Of Trump As The "Great Negotiator"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before House Republicans and President Donald Trump were forced to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their ill-fated first attempt to gut health care reform and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media repeatedly trumpeted Trump's supposed ability to get the bill passed because of his mastery of the "Art of the Deal." Here's a look back at how they described the "great negotiator," which was "the whole point of Trump":

  • How Trump Manipulates Media Coverage Of His Immigration Policies

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Leading up to his joint address to Congress, media outlets helped President Donald Trump misleadingly cast himself as sympathetic to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, known as “Dreamers,” and other immigrants. Trump’s manipulation tactics became evident again when media outlets uncritically parroted his claim that he was open to comprehensive immigration reform hours before he gave his address, which demonized immigrants as criminals and falsely claimed that they are a drain on the economy. As the Trump White House once again steps up its efforts to misrepresent its immigration stance, it is important media not be spun again.

  • Here Are 21 Times The White House And Media Allies Explained That The Muslim Ban Was About Muslims

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & BRENNAN SUEN

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, confirming that Trump and his supporters’ previous public statements expressing their intent to unconstitutionally discriminate against Muslims can “be used in proceedings.” Media Matters has compiled 21 quotes from Trump, his team, his cable news surrogates, and figures on Fox News admitting that the ban’s original intent was to single out Muslims.

  • How Two Major Cable News Networks Enabled Some Of The Worst Sexual Assault Apologism Of 2016

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    As sexual assault allegations against President-elect Donald Trump piled up in the months before the election, CNN and Fox News each relied on paid Trump surrogates and media allies to peddle some of the worst sexual assault apologism of the past year.

    After uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about sexual assault, a number of women came forward with specific allegations against the then-candidate. In CNN and Fox’s coverage of Trump’s despicable comments, his media allies downplayed the severity of sexual assault and attacked the credibility of those who spoke out, while both networks initially characterized the comments as merely “vulgar” or “lewd.” When women came forward with specific accounts of being sexually assaulted or harassed by Trump, CNN and Fox gave ample airtime to paid surrogates and media allies who minimized and made excuses for Trump’s actions.

    Sexual violence has no place in our society, let alone on cable news networks. So why did CNN and Fox spend the end of 2016 subsidizing media personalities to deny allegations and engage in pure sexual assault apologism?

    As Media Matters previously noted, CNN’s decision to hire and pay a number of professional Trump surrogates made the network a consistent platform for the campaign to trivialize the severity of sexual assault. CNN’s Trump surrogates -- Corey Lewandowski, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes -- systematically dismissed Trump’s comments,calling them a “distraction” and framing them as normal “locker room” talk.

    For example, Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, flippantly claimed that “nobody cares” that the nominee of a major political party was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault. Scottie Nell Hughes similarly argued that Trump’s deplorable comments were unimportant because “no woman woke up affected by these words” -- ignoring the sheer number of social and political risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment.

    Once women began to make their allegations public, CNN’s Trump surrogates focused their attention on normalizing sexual assault and attacking the credibility of the alleged survivors. Lewandowski questioned the timing and veracity of the reports, before deflecting questions by invoking discredited attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1970s. When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the connections between the 2005 recording and specific allegations against Trump, paid apologist Kayleigh McEnany called the claims baseless and blamed Trump’s accusers because they “let him do X, Y, or Z. That implies consent.”

    Fox fared no better in its coverage of Trump’s unacceptable comments. In addition to similarly dismissing Trump’s statements as “locker room talk,” “frat house language,” and “guy talk,” Fox employees also joined the effort to undermine the credibility of Trump’s accusers.

    On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Trump surrogate Ben Carson (now nominated to be a member of his cabinet) accused the “biased” press of manipulating the public by creating incentives for people to “come out and say something” in order to garner “fame.” Carson added, “What a bunch of crap.”

    Fox’s Brian Kilmeade argued that “none of them are vetted” -- referring to the accusers -- and it was entirely possible that “they all could be lying.” Others questioned the timing of the myriad allegations against the Republican nominee, calling them “a little coordinated… a little too convenient,” and claiming that the proximity to the election meant “it’s fair to question why is this coming out now.” In reality, multiple media sources have corroborated most of the claims brought forth by Trump’s accusers.

    In some cases, Fox personnel openly attacked individual women for speaking out, as seen in senior political analyst Brit Hume’s tirade against Jessica Drake -- a Trump accuser who directs and performs in adult films. Hume responded to Drake’s allegations that Trump had “grabbed” and hugged and “kissed” her “without asking permission” with a series of tweets suggesting she could not be offended because of her profession.

    Sexual assault is a serious issue. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that “nearly half”of its survey respondents (47 percent) “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”

    Despite widespread fearmongering from right-wing media that false rape reports are common, these incidents are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), 67 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement.

    Reporting on rape and sexual assault has long been a challenge for journalists, regardless of who is involved. When the accused occupies a position of prominence, journalists and networks must refuse to let threats of lost access or demands for false balance sanitize their reporting. In May 2016 -- before the Trump allegations -- Woody Allen’s son Ronan Farrow published an article blasting the media for cultivating a “culture of impunity and silence” around reporting on sexual assault allegations. As Farrow explained, although it’s not the media’s job “to carry water” for those making accusations against powerful men, the media do have an “obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously.”

    On each of these charges, CNN and Fox clearly failed -- enabling some of the worst sexual assault apologism of 2016.

    *Image provided by Sarah Wasko