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  • Chris Wallace’s History Of Sexist Remarks Poses Another Challenge For His Role As Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Final presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace faces the challenge of asking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the numerous allegations that he sexually assaulted several women, but Wallace’s ability to confront Trump’s treatment of women is no doubt tainted by his own history of sexist and sexually charged rhetoric about women.

    Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday, has made numerous sexually charged remarks about women, such as calling the National Transportation Safety Board chair a “babe” and remarking that “you would not expect a government bureaucrat to be an attractive woman” and making creepy comments about former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for years. Appearing on conservative radio host Mike Gallagher’s show in 2009, Wallace asked if Gallagher could “put in a good word” for him with Palin. Just a few months later, on Imus in the Morning, Wallace replied, “one can only hope” when asked if Palin would be “sitting on [his] lap” during an interview. Even the hosts of Fox & Friends, who are no strangers to sexism, confronted him over those comments. Wallace also explained in 2011 that one of the reasons he was “dazzled” by Palin is that she’s “very attractive.”

    In 2015, Wallace again stirred controversy when he remarked that singer Kelly Clarkson, who had already been fighting an onslaught of body shaming in the media, “could stay off the deep dish pizza.” The comment brings to mind Trump’s statements about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he called “Miss Piggy” and described as an “eating machine.” Wallace did eventually apologize, calling his comment “offensive.”

    Making fun of Clarkson’s weight, however, was not the first time Wallace ridiculed a woman’s appearance. In 2013, Wallace approved of a New York Post cover photograph of a supposedly angry Hillary Clinton labeled “No Wonder Bill’s Afraid,” which was heavily criticized as “blatantly sexist” and “offensive sexist garbage.” Wallace called the cover “funny” and asserted that “nice can be overrated sometimes.” With a history of comments like this, how will Wallace approach Trump’s dismissal of People reporter Natasha Stoynoff as too ugly for him to assault?

    Wallace’s history of making sexist comments taint his ability to confront Trump over the vulgar video of the candidate boasting about sexually assaulting women and the increasing number of women accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct. Although Trump denied that he had sexually assaulted women, the mounting accusations allege that his words were in line with the sexually predatory behavior he bragged about in the 2005 tapes.

    Wallace’s role as debate moderator poses other challenges as well. Wallace changed his stance on fact-checking in debates (he says it’s not his role, even though he corrected Trump during a primary debate), and he has been wildly inconsistent in how he talks about immigration. Additionally, a Fox News host is hardly the most appropriate moderator for this debate given that Trump has retreated to the station as a safe space -- and avoided other press -- while his campaign implodes under the allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

  • Pro-Trump Spin On Cable News Goes Off The Rails

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Following several new reports of women alleging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, Trump campaign surrogates’ defenses took a bizarre turn. Here’s what Trump’s surrogates and media allies had to say during news appearances in the last day, which included dismissing the realities of sexual assault and attempting to pivot to old, debunked “scandals.”

  • Pundits Who Question The Timing Of Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump Are Just Stigmatizing The Victims

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Several right-wing media figures are lending credence to attempts by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and surrogates to undermine accusations from a growing number of women that the candidate sexually assaulted them by calling into question the timing of the stories. Some right-wing media figures are calling the timing “fishy” and saying that “it’s good to be skeptical,” but the reports all explain the timing: Trump’s denial at the second presidential debate that he had committed sexual assault was the catalyst for the women to come forward. The Trump campaign’s false timing talking point also ignores the many valid reasons women don’t report sexual assault.

    On October 12, three newspapers published accounts from four women who say Trump sexually assaulted them The New York Times told the stories of two women who say Trump “touched them inappropriately,” one of them reporting that he groped her on a plane, and the other saying he kissed her without her consent. A People magazine writer recounted Trump “pushing [her] against the wall and forcing his tongue down [her] throat.” And a fourth woman told The Palm Beach Post that she was “groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.”

    These reports came just days after Trump, during the October 9 presidential debate told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “No, I have not” assaulted women as he described in a recently released 2005 Access Hollywood video. In the video, Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women and said, “I don’t even wait. … When you’re a star, they let you do anything.”

    Trump’s campaign has denied the accusations, calling the Times report a “coordinated character assassination” and claiming that to “reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault.” Numerous right-wing media figures are helping to carry water for these claims. On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump surrogate Ben Carson, “You’re wondering why now, the timing?” and Carson claimed, “There's an atmosphere that's been created by The New York Times and others that says, look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we'll give you fame, we'll give you whatever you need.” CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager who is still a campaign adviser, also questioned the timing of the reports, saying, “What I do find very interesting is the timing of this. … They wait until 25 days before an election to bring out an incident.”

    Other right-wing media figures and outlets have picked up this line as well. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough argued that “it’s good to be skeptical when you have stories that are 30 years old that come out days before an election.” He added that, while he’s “not skeptical of the stories,” “if this had happened to me 30 years ago, I would say, ‘This would be a really good time for me to come forward.’ Right? Right? Instead of now.” Fox’s Howard Kurtz said, “I think it’s fair to question why is this coming out now. ... It does sort of raise questions about the timing.” The right-wing blog HotAir asked, “Are we simply going to ignore the awfully convenient timing of this batch of accusations in defiance of reason and the normal rules of engagement in political warfare?” And Townhall’s Matt Vespa wrote that the timing of the reports “sounds like a coordinated effort by the Democrat-media complex,” adding that “there’s something incredibly fishy about all of these incidents coming out now as opposed to over a year ago” during the primaries or after the Republican National Convention when Trump’s campaign was struggling.

    This defense of Trump reflects tactics used to defend former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- who is currently advising Trump -- after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Carlson alleged that she was fired from Fox “because she refused to sleep with” Ailes. Defenders of Ailes attacked Carlson’s account by suggesting it was suspicious that her allegations came after she was terminated.

    All of the reports giving voices to Trump’s accusers explained that the Access Hollywood video and Trump’s denial at the presidential debate were the trigger for the women coming forward. According to the Times, a friend of one of the women, Jessica Leeds, “encouraged her to tell her story to the news media. Ms. Leeds had resisted until Sunday’s debate, which she watched with Ms. Ross.” And People’s Natasha Stoynoff explained in her personal account why she did not come forward at the time and hasn’t spoken publicly until now:

    But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed

    [...]

    Now he’s running for president of our country. The other day, I listened to him talk about how he treats women on the Access Hollywood tape. I felt a strong mix of emotions, but shock wasn’t one of them.

    I was relieved. I finally understood for sure that I was not to blame for his inappropriate behavior. I had not been singled out. As he explained to Billy Bush, it was his usual modus operandi with women. I felt deep regret for not speaking out at the time. What if he had done worse to other female reporters at the magazine since then because I hadn’t warned them?

    And lastly, I felt violated and muzzled all over again.

    During the presidential debate, Donald Trump lied about kissing women without their consent. I should know. His actions made me feel bad for a very long time.

    They still do.

    CNN’s New Day modeled how media must reject Trump’s defense -- which is based on disparaging the victims’ characters -- while reporting on these stories: The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich pointed out that the women who came forward all explained that Trump’s debate answer motivated them to do so, and co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that women often do not report sexual assault because they are “embarrassed and humiliated.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Jackie, the big pushback from the campaign thus far -- other than we're going to sue, this is all a lie -- is why now? Why did they wait so long to come forward? Conveniently timed to hurt our campaign here towards the end of the election. What do you make of that?

    JACKIE KUCINICH: Well, in the New York Times story, what these women said was that after they heard Donald Trump make that denial during the debate is when they felt like they were compelled to come forward. So, that seems to be the answer to that question. And, if women were calling different news outlets, there's a story in The Palm Beach Post, there’s the People magazine story. Once you’re seeing that, it does seem to be triggered by what Donald Trump said in the debate.

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): And there’s another reason, and that is that women are afraid to come forward -- not afraid, women are embarrassed, women are humiliated. This is an experience that you do not relish ever telling in public and that is what this same entertainment reporter from People magazine writes about.

  • People Writer Accuses Donald Trump Of 2005 Sexual Assault

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Amid numerous media reports of women alleging nonconsensual sexual contact and advances by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, People writer Natasha Stoynoff wrote about her own attack at the hands of Trump.

    On October 12, Stonyoff published an article on People titled, “Physically Attacked by Donald Trump -- A People Writer’s Own Harrowing Story.” In the article, she alleges a December 2005 sexual assault by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago property while she was there to interview Trump and his wife Melania about their marriage. From the article:

    We walked into that room alone, and Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds, he was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.

    Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me. But Trump is much bigger—a looming figure—and he was fast, taking me by surprise, and throwing me off balance.
    I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.

    The butler informed us that Melania would be down momentarily, and it was time to resume the interview. I was still in shock, and remained speechless as we both followed him to an outdoor patio overlooking the grounds. In those few minutes alone with Trump, my self-esteem crashed to zero. How could the actions of one man make feel so utterly violated?  I’d been interviewing A-list celebrities for over 20 years, but what he’d done was a first. Did he think I’d be flattered?

    I tried to act normal. I had a job to do, and I was determined to do it. I sat in a chair that faced Trump, who waited for his wife on a loveseat. The butler left us, and I fumbled with my tape recorder. Trump smiled and leaned forward.

    “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?” he declared, in the same confident tone he uses when he says he’s going to make America great again. “Have you ever been to Peter Luger’s for steaks? I’ll take you. We’re going to have an affair, I’m telling you.” He also referenced the infamous cover of the New York Post during his affair with Marla Maples. “You remember,” he said. “Best Sex I Ever Had.”

    Melania walked in just then, serene and glowing. Donald instantly reverted back to doting husband mode, as if nothing had happened, and we continued our interview about their wedded bliss. I nodded at his hollow words and smiled at his jokes, but I was nauseated. It didn’t seem to register to him in the slightest that what he’d done might have hurt or offended me, or his wife.

  • UPDATE: Jennifer Aniston fires back at Dan Quayle errr Bill O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Earlier this week Media Matters noted that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly had done his best impersonation of former Vice President Dan Quayle attacking Jennifer Aniston for "speaking out in support of single mothers as part of her promotion for a new movie about a single mom, 'The Switch.'"

    O'Reilly said of Aniston:

    She's throwing out a message to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds, 'Hey, you don't need a guy, you don't need a dad' ... that's destructive to society.

    The famous actress has hit back with class and humor, telling People Magazine, "for those who've not yet found their Bill O'Reilly, I'm just glad science has provided a few other options."

    People's Julie Jordan writes:

    "Of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is obviously two parents of a mature age. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth," Aniston tells PEOPLE exclusively. "And, of course, many women dream of finding Prince Charming (with fatherly instincts), but for those who've not yet found their Bill O'Reilly, I'm just glad science has provided a few other options."

    Aniston, who is currently starring in The Switch, a film about a woman who gets pregnant using a sperm donor, told reporters recently that women no longer have to wait for the perfect guy to start a family.