Television news all but ignored Jill Harth’s allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Donald Trump, her former business associate, when The New York Times reported on the story in May. In the months since, major news networks have continued their underreporting about the serious allegations facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
In an exclusive interview posted on July 18 with ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams, Harth reiterated her allegations that Trump illegally sexually harassed and assaulted her when they worked together in the early 1990s. Although Harth’s claims have been reported before in the context of Trump’s well-known misogyny -- most recently by The New York Times and The Boston Globe -- media outlets continue to ignore the fact that Harth is specifically alleging unlawful conduct on the part of the self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate.
The last time Harth’s allegations were prominently reported was on May 14 by the Times, in a front page story based on over 50 interviews with women who have dealt with Trump as well as court records. Those varied accounts “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. One of the examples was Harth’s account, which the Globe had detailed extensively in April and which could at a minimum constitute illegal sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As explained by the Globe, Trump allegedly sexually assaulted Harth on multiple occasions after Trump, Harth, and her former boyfriend entered into a business partnership related to a beauty pageant around 1993. After the short-lived business relationship collapsed, Trump and Harth were involved in a breach of contract dispute and a subsequent lawsuit that included Harth’s sexual harassment and assault claims.
In the July 18 post accompanying Abrams’ new interview, LawNewz reported that Harth “withdrew [her sexual harassment lawsuit] after she said Trump agreed to settle with her husband on the contract claims. Abrams questioned why she would do that if she claims the allegations are true. ‘I was under the control of my husband who was kind of the boss, I wanted to be over with and done with,’ she said, adding that it was a stipulation of the settlement that she withdraw her sexual harassment claims.”
According to a Media Matters analysis of television news coverage conducted a week after the Times story was published, although news outlets discussed Trump’s sexism and misogynistic conduct in general, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC all virtually ignored Harth’s specific allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault. A narrower search of Nexis transcripts for coverage from May 23 through the July 18 posting of Abrams’ interview with Harth revealed a similar pattern. Media Matters found no mentions of Harth by name, nor any discussion of her allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Trump, in available Nexis transcripts for this time period.
In an update to the July 18 post, LawNewz 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. LawNewz reported that Trump, citing the National Enquirer, whose chief executive is reportedly a close friend of his, said 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.’”
Watch Abrams’ interview with Harth and her lawyer Lisa Bloom, who is also currently involved in legal actions against Bill Cosby, here:
Methodology: For the time period between May 14 and May 22, Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream transcripts for coverage 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.”
For the time period between May 23 and July 18, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms “Jill Harth,” “Harth,” “Sexual harassment AND Trump,” “Trump AND Harth,” and "Sexual assault AND 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.