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  • The insane, toxic Trump adulation of Jeanine Pirro

    Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro sold out her public image and debased herself to become one of President Trump’s go-to pundits

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If you were to ask me who Jeanine Pirro works for, I’m not sure I could give you a straight answer. On paper, at least, she is an employee of Fox News, which pays her money to host a weekly show called Justice with Judge Jeanine. It’s a terrible program that exploits the well-worn cable news trope of using a crackpot pundit’s career in law enforcement to give unearned credibility to their howlingly stupid opinions. In theory, Justice with Judge Jeanine is a platform for Pirro (a former judge, former district attorney, failed Senate candidate, and speed-limit scofflaw) to give her take on the week’s top legal stories.

    In practice, however, Pirro serves as a combative and vocal propagandist for President Donald Trump. Pirro makes it her business to be the loudest pro-Trump voice in whatever room she happens to find herself in, and she moonlights as an informal adviser to Trump, who reportedly seeks her out for her counsel. Pirro’s advocacy for the president is so aggressive that it often borders on insane -- some of her commentary would be at home in an authoritarian state media apparatus. And she has enthusiastically sold out the cause she built her career in public life on -- advocating for women who were victims of abuse -- to become a sneering and poisonous sycophant to the most powerful elected official in the country.

    An ambitious rise and embarrassing fall

    Jeanine Pirro does not lack for ambition. Her career in public life saw her score a series of firsts: She helped create and lead what was then called the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau for Westchester County, New York; she was the first woman to be elected as a judge on the Westchester County court; and she was the first woman to serve as the county’s district attorney. Her ex-husband, Al Pirro, was a well-connected real estate lawyer and GOP fundraiser who knew all the power players in New York -- one of his biggest clients in the late 1990s was Donald Trump, back when he was still in the real estate game.

    She had a talent for drawing media attention and relentlessly marketed herself as a hard-charging prosecutor who brought legal hell down upon sex offenders and domestic abusers. Pirro positioned herself as an advocate for women at a time when victims of domestic abuse were an afterthought in the criminal justice system. Her political ascent was durable enough to survive Al Pirro’s 2000 conviction on charges of tax fraud and conspiracy.

    All this success and exposure made her a star within the New York GOP, which, in the mid-2000s, was desperately looking for someone to derail the re-election of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. Pirro, the crusading, media-savvy district attorney, seemed like an obvious choice, and in August 2005, she announced her campaign for the U.S. Senate. She came into the race with a ton of hype and lofty expectations, and almost immediately Pirro proved she was completely out of her depth.

    Pirro’s campaign was an unalloyed fiasco from the start. Her speech announcing her candidacy became a nationwide joke after she spent half a minute silently fumbling for a missing page of her prepared remarks (The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart cracked that she observed “32 seconds of silence in memory of the premature death of her campaign”). Her first campaign ad didn’t directly state that she was running for a seat in Congress, and she showed up at the wrong location for a press conference announcing the ad buy. Pirro was also a fantastically inept fundraiser. Her campaign pulled in just $438,555 in its first fundraising quarter, compared to Clinton’s $5.3 million. (Amusingly, $900 of Clinton’s haul that quarter came from Donald J. Trump, according to campaign finance records.)

    With no money, no traction, and almost exclusively negative press attention, Pirro came under pressure from New York Republicans who wanted her to get out of the race so another candidate could take on Hillary. Among the high-profile Republicans plotting against Pirro’s ambition was her own husband, who reportedly urged state GOP officials to convince her to end the campaign.

    Pirro quit the Senate race after just four months and opted instead to run for New York attorney general. She won the Republican nomination running unopposed. But whatever slim hope Pirro might have nurtured for a comeback was crushed in September 2006 when she herself came under federal investigation for conspiring to wiretap her husband, who she suspected was cheating on her.

    No charges ended up being filed, Pirro lost the race to future New York governor Andrew Cuomo by 20 points, and she and her husband separated a year later. With her political career left a smoldering ruin, Pirro made the move to television. After a short run as host of a low-rated Judge Judy-like courtroom reality program, Pirro jumped to Fox News and started hosting Justice with Judge Jeanine in 2011.

    Pirro enthusiastically sells out for Trump

    Pirro’s affinity for Trump makes sense in a lot of ways: They’ve been friends for decades, they’re both Republicans, they’re both combative New Yorkers who crave media attention. But in one very important aspect, Pirro and Trump should -- at least in theory -- be irreconcilably opposed.

    Remember that Pirro’s entire public image was built around her work on behalf of victims of abuse: women who had been cowed into silence by their abusers and left unrepresented by the law and the courts. Her career as a politician was rooted in the idea that she was a tireless and hellacious enemy of sexual predators, wife beaters, and perpetrators of domestic violence. A 2005 profile of Pirro in the New York Observer described her as “half crusading cop, half crusading mom” and said her career was defined by “work with victims of spousal abuse and sexual abuse, murder, stalking, rape, [and] torture.”

    As a pundit, however, she has fanatically aligned herself with the nation's most prominent accused sexual assaulter. Donald Trump has faced too many credible allegations of assault against women to simply wave off, but Pirro has done exactly that, making every excuse for him, even when Trump got caught describing his own sexual misconduct.

    “The comments are shameful and cringeworthy. The words are disgusting, devastating, and embarrassing. It’s the kind of locker room and frat house talk that personally infuriates me,” Pirro said on her program following the release of the Access Hollywood tapes in which Trump boasted of groping women by their genitalia. “But guess what: I still without a doubt support Donald Trump.” Her rationale aligned perfectly with the excuse offered by Trump: that his comments were just “words” and not to be taken as an admission of sexual assault. And regardless of what Trump said, she argued, he was still better than “double-talking woman” Hillary Clinton.

    Pirro mortgaged her own reputation to defend Trump from his own self-incrimination. “He has always been a gentleman,” Pirro said on Fox & Friends in October 2016. “I know the man, and I can speak as a woman who has fought for battered women, I have crusaded for women my whole career to level the playing field for women who are victims of crime.” When multiple women came forward with their stories about Trump’s sexual assault, Pirro dismissed them as not credible and perhaps part of an anti-Trump conspiracy. “It’s a little too convenient. All of the sudden all of these people on one day on the day when WikiLeaks starts coming out,” she said.

    Last month, during one of the “Opening Statements” that she starts each show with, Pirro lashed out at former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned from the White House amid allegations that he’d physically abused his ex-wives. Pirro called Porter a “batterer” and lamented that “he doesn’t walk around with a scarlet letter or a sign on his forehead that says ‘I beat women.’” But she also went out of her way to exculpate the people in the White House who protected Porter for months, like chief of staff John Kelly, casting them as victims of anti-Trump hysteria. “You want to stop a four-star general who is running the White House, who believes in chain of command, who makes a decision within 40 minutes because you hate Donald Trump?” she asked before absurdly suggesting that the Rob Porter scandal was actually Barack Obama’s fault somehow. “Find another scapegoat. You might want to look at the last president.”

    The reason Pirro has so enthusiastically set fire to her reputation like this is that Trump is her avenue to power and influence. She protects and champions Trump in the face of all the damning evidence because he’s her friend, and because he’s the president of the United States and he gives her access.

    Softballs and poison

    Jeanine Pirro’s access to Trump comes in several different forms. She’s not just a pro-Trump pundit -- she’s also an adviser whom the president routinely seeks out. The New York Times reported in November 2017 that Pirro had once interviewed to be Trump’s deputy attorney general and that she had met with Trump in the Oval Office to “excoriate” Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Daily Beast reported that Trump regularly consults Pirro “privately for advice on political and policy matters.” Pirro was the keynote speaker at a January event at Mar-a-Lago put on by a pro-Trump political group, and she’s reportedly discussed with Trump the possibility of writing a rebuttal book to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

    As a media figure, Pirro has scored two interviews with Trump since his inauguration; both were embarrassing spectacles that set new boundaries for the definition of “softball.”

    Her most recent sit-down with Trump was on February 24. The “questions” she asked him were, in several instances, just direct invitations for Trump to praise himself. This, for example, is an actual question posed to the president of the United States by Jeanine Pirro:

    Mr. President, your approval rating is soaring. And we can talk about the economy and the low unemployment and the stock market and all of the great things that have been happening with the economy. But you have accomplished all of this -- and, by the way, there’s a poll that put you at 50 percent, and at CPAC you were at 93 percent approval rating -- you did all this in one year with the economy. To what do you attribute these incredible advances?

    “I know that you support the military and you’re giving them the resources they need -- are we going to have a parade?” she asked at another point. The parade (one of Trump’s favorite pet issues) elicited a follow-up from Pirro: “When do you think we can have this parade? Because I want to go to the parade!”

    Her previous interview with Trump, on May 13, 2017, came in the immediate aftermath of his massively controversial firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Pirro used the opportunity to soothe Trump’s ego. “The media’s in a frenzy, and so given that some of these congresspeople thought he should have been fired … doesn’t it suggest to you that it isn’t even about Comey, it’s about anything that you, as president, do?” (Trump, of course, agreed.) That question wasn’t nearly as sycophantic as Pirro’s take on the messaging disarray within the administration. “Are you moving so quickly that your communications department can’t keep up with you?” Pirro asked. “Yes, that’s true,” Trump responded.

    I’d like to think that any media personality bearing even the spindliest shred of professional integrity would choke on the idea of being so exuberantly obsequious to the most powerful politician in the country. Pirro, however, is not so encumbered.

    The obverse side to Pirro’s gross deference to Trump is the noxious vitriol she spits at anyone who crosses the president, be they political adversaries or government officials who’ve drawn Trump’s ire.

    Like her Fox Business Network colleague (and fellow presidential propagandist) Lou Dobbs, Pirro is a staunch advocate of arresting and prosecuting Trump’s perceived enemies for the crime of opposing Trump. On December 9, 2017, she caused a stir by calling for a “cleansing” of the FBI and the Justice Department (DOJ), which she said were full “of individuals who should not just be fired, but who need to be taken out in handcuffs” and whose “corruption and lawlessness” require that they made into “examples.” Her fervor for “cleansing” the DOJ was undercut by her difficulty in identifying any actual crimes committed by the people she wanted purged -- special counsel Robert Mueller’s arrestable infraction, for example, was that “in a year, with a team dedicated to destroying Donald Trump, he can’t come up with one piece of evidence.”

    That insane harangue caused a media backlash driven largely by the fact that Pirro herself was a former law enforcement official calling for a purge of law enforcement. The following week she responded with an escalating series of attacks on the DOJ, grandiosely declaring: “I hereby double down.” She said there is “a criminal cabal in our FBI and the Department of Justice who think they know better than we do who our president should be,” describing it as “a crime family like in the movies except this time the FBI is the crime family.”

    Hillary Clinton also features prominently in Pirro’s weekly diatribes, likely due to Trump’s ongoing obsession with his former rival and Pirro’s own history as a failed Clinton foil. Last week saw huge stories break on guns, trade, and White House staffers, but Pirro’s “Opening Statement” on Saturday’s show focused on a tweet by Clinton about Trump and Russia. “The woman is even dumber than I thought,” she said as the starting point for a six-minute screed aimed at a candidate who lost an election 16 months ago.

    Earlier this year, Pirro filmed a “Street Justice” segment in which she wandered around Chappaqua, NY, pestering locals with inane questions about the Clintons. “Does Hillary Clinton drop off her pantsuits here?” she yelled through the open door of a dry cleaner (the employee inside ignored her). Then she tromped through the local woods “looking for Hillary,” apparently because Clinton was spotted hiking there after the election. The segment was confusing and pointless but extremely amusing to Pirro. “You think she’s home writing another book? Or maybe she’s still reading ‘What Happened’ because she can’t figure out what happened!” she said, taking obvious delight in what she believed to be a joke.

    The wages of propaganda

    Like other pro-Trump propagandists in the Fox News family, Jeanine Pirro understands that the way to attract and maintain the president’s attention is through grandiose, inflammatory demonstrations of dog-like loyalty. Trump watches a disgusting amount of cable news and loves pundits who posture as fighters and scrappers. Pirro markets herself precisely that way: a brawler who brings the principled, no-nonsense sensibility of a crusading judge to her weekly program. But Pirro has no principles and her only crusade is deifying Trump. And for her service, she is rewarded with access to the White House and the president.

    Corrupt arrangements like these have a baleful influence on how media figures behave. The most unethical and least principled actors in the media ecosystem are the ones who enjoy the best access and benefit from the exposure granted by their proximity to the president. This perverse incentive structure makes flagrant toadyism and barking lunacy desirable attributes (or, at the very least, it makes them less intolerable as trade-offs for access). The rise of unscrupulous pro-Trump whack jobs like Jeffrey Lord and Ed Martin speaks to this dynamic: inflammatory, manifestly untrustworthy voices given positions of prominence by media outlets because their slavish devotion to the president.

    This rotten dynamic puts a sycophant and sellout like Jeanine Pirro on the inside track, and it makes the Trump worship and scalding venom of Justice with Judge Jeanine a formula to be emulated.

  • Alex Jones is hawking pro-Trump children’s book that indoctrinates them to white nationalism

    The book also teaches kids that sexually assaulting women isn’t a big deal

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is selling a “limited edition” of a children’s book that depicts President Donald Trump as a cartoon bunny named Thump. The book promotes white nationalist imagery and makes light of the video of Trump admitting to sexually assaulting women and the national outrage that followed.

    The book, called Thump: The First Bundred Days, was written by a group of co-authors including Brett R. Smith, the creative director of the Steve Bannon-backed Clinton Cash: A Graphic Novel, and Timothy Lim, who has worked with Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Hasbro. The book is published by Post Hill Press, whose books are distributed by Simon and Schuster. 

    The online store of Jones’ conspiracy theory outlet Infowars is selling the book with an exclusive poster showing Jones and Thump and describes the product as “the perfect book for teaching your kids or reading through it for yourself!”

    Jones hosted Smith for a promotional interview on January 3, and flipped through the book, revealing some of its disturbing content.

    On one page that Jones showed, the text read, “Thump found friends in strange places and in all shapes and sizes. Such as the frogs that croaked ‘KEK!’ They were full of surprises!”

    The line is a reference to Pepe the Frog, an originally innocuous cartoon that was transformed into a talisman for white nationalism during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    The book also references a video released in October 2016 that showed Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Thump reads, “Thump was caught talking of grabbing all things pusillanimous. Protesters even made pink hats: their ire was unanimous.”

    Although pusillanimous is a synonym for cowardly, it’s a reference to Trump saying that he grabbed women “by the pussy.”

    During segments of the broadcast, which also featured far-right troll and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, Smith explained, “We really wanted to come out with something fun and light, something that kids and adults, all Trump supporters could enjoy.”

    Jones lavished praise on the book, suggesting people donate copies to their local libraries (after purchasing them from Infowars), and saying, “This is genius.” Smith added that what’s “great about Thump as well is that parents can use Thump to talk to their kids about Trump, and they can say, ‘No, Thump is a good guy, he’s the hero that we need.’”

    Trump appeared on Jones’ show in 2015 to praise the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation. Since then, Jones has been a sycophantic supporter of Trump. He’s said he communicates with Trump and writes him memos, and most recently defended the president’s penis.

  • Cable news networks forgot Trump sexually assaulted women, until the Harvey Weinstein stories broke

    Evening programming on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all devoted much more time to the allegations against Trump after The New York Times reported on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    By and large, 2017 was a year of reckoning for men who have sexually harassed and assaulted women. But 2017 was also the year evening programming on cable news forgot about the women who said President Donald Trump sexually assaulted them.

    Over the past year, we’ve seen powerful men lose their jobs and reputations after women and men came forward telling their stories of harassment and assault. One man whose reckoning has yet to come, however, is the president of the United States. By October 2016, at least 20 women had said then-candidate Trump engaged in sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. The accusations largely came after a video clip emerged of Trump admitting to sexual assault in 2005.

    A Media Matters analysis found that the stories these women told about Trump’s alleged -- and admitted -- sexual misconduct were largely forgotten by evening cable news hosts and guests in 2017, especially on Fox News. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of coverage came only after The New York Times initially reported on Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault, which precipitated a wave of coverage about dozens of men who now stand credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

    This study found:

    Fox News spent less than 40 minutes on Trump's sexual misconduct in 2017

    Between January 1 and December 15, 2017, evening Fox News programs spent a total of 37 minutes and 21 seconds on the women who said Trump assaulted or harassed them.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    In contrast, CNN spent 2 hours, 53 minutes, and 22 seconds on the allegations, while MSNBC spent 2 hours and 16 minutes discussing them.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    While many shows ignored and minimized the allegations against Trump, some of his most ardent defenders on Fox faced them head-on to merely dismiss them out of hand.

    On the December 13 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, host Laura Ingraham attempted to discredit the allegations against Trump, asking, “If someone accused of you something from 20 years ago and you denied it ... would it be fair for people to say, God, he’s accused?"

    And on the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity alleged that the women who spoke out against Trump said they were “taken out of context purposely by The New York Times.”

    Most of the discussions of Trump's sexual misconduct took place after reporting about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault

    The vast majority of the reporting on the accusations made against Trump on evening cable news took place after The New York Times reported on October 5 about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment and assault. The so-called “Harvey effect” spurred women to come forward to discuss their experiences of sexual violence. In turn, the reporting on Weinstein also appeared to create an opening for cable news to bring up the allegations made against the president. In the nine months before The New York Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news spent less than an hour discussing the allegations made against Trump. However, in about 2 1/2 months after the Times reported on Weinstein, evening cable news devoted nearly five hours to reporting on the accusations against Trump.


    John Whitehouse / Media Matters

    For many survivors across the country, it’s nearly impossible to forget that 20 women have reported sexual harassment and assault committed by our president, who has admitted to such behavior. Cable news shouldn’t forget about it, either.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of “Trump” within 50 words of all permutations of “assault,” “rape,” “harass,” “grope,” “grab,” “sexual,” or “allege” that took place on evening ( 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) programs on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News between January 1 and December 15, 2017. For inclusion in this study, segments had to feature a significant discussion of the allegations made against Trump.

    We defined a “significant discussion” as one of the following:

    • a segment where the allegations against Trump were the stated topic of discussion;

    • a segment in which two or more speakers discussed the allegations; or

    • a host monologue during which the allegations were the stated topic of discussion.

    Qualifying segments were then timed using iQ media. Repeated segments were not counted. Teasers for upcoming segments were also not counted.

    * Due to 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.

  • CNN and MSNBC highlighted Trump's selective outrage about sexual assault while Fox News defended him

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    During the 11 a.m. hour of news shows on CNN and MSNBC, hosts highlighted President Donald Trump’s selective outrage about recent reports of sexual assault by politicians amid long-standing accusations against him. Meanwhile, Fox News used the same hour to defend Trump’s failure to comment on accusations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, despite the president’s statements about Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who is also facing a report of sexual harassment.

    After a report came out Thursday in which a woman said Franken sexually assaulted her and showed photographic proof, Trump was quick to condemn the Democrat, calling the photo of Franken groping the accuser “really bad” on Twitter. But both Trump and his press secretary have avoided commenting on the allegations against Moore, even though the White House has said Trump supports the Republican National Committee’s decision to pull financial support from Moore.

    While Fox News defended Trump’s silence on Moore, CNN and MSNBC, in particular, reminded their viewers of Trump’s own past reported behavior by detailing the numerous sexual assault reports that he faces, his repeated denial of the allegations, and his attacks on the women who have come forward. 

    From the November 17 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle:

    STEPHANIE RUHLE (CO-HOST): Now let's look back at some of the women who have come forward with allegations against President Trump leading up to the election. We'll start with former Miss Finland, Ninni Laaksonen, who told a Finnish newspaper that Trump groped her before an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman back in 2006. Then there's Jessica Drake. She said Trump invited her to his hotel room and tried to kiss her and her friends without permission. She claims he later offered her 10,000 bucks and a chance to use his private jet if she went to dinner with him. Karen Virginia said Trump walked up, grabbed her arm, and then touched the inside of her breast at the 1998 U.S. Open. Cathy Heller told The Guardian some 20 years ago Trump grabbed her, tried to kiss her, and grew angry when she twisted away. Summer Zervos claimed Trump groped her in 2007. She brought a defamation suit against him after he called her and other accusers "liars." Kristin Anderson described an incident to The Washington Post where a finger slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh, and touched her vagina through her underwear at a crowded Manhattan night spot in the '90s. She fled the area and turned to take a look at the man who did it. Anderson said she recognized him. It was Donald Trump. Jessica Leeds told The New York Times she was on a plane with Trump in the early '80s when he grabbed her breasts and reached his hand up her skirt. Rachel Crooks told The New York Times she was assaulted by Trump in an elevator in Trump Tower in 2005. Mindy McGillivray told The Palm Beach Post Trump groped her while she was attending a concert at Mar-a-Lago in 2003. Natasha Stoynoff wrote in People magazine that Trump pushed her against a wall and jammed his tongue down her throat at Mar-a-Lago in what is now seeming a busy 2005. Jennifer Murphy, another contestant on The Apprentice, told a fashion magazine Trump kissed her on the lips after a job interview in 2005. Yahoo News reported Cassandra Searles wrote in a Facebook comment that Trump grabbed her butt and invited her to his hotel room. Former Miss Utah Temple Taggart told The New York Times Trump kissed her directly on the lips the first time she met him back in '97. Jill Harth alleged in The New York Times Trump pushed her against a wall, tried to kiss her, put his hands up her skirt, and touched her crotch at a dinner one night.

    And, finally -- and I need to take a drink on this one, I'm so tired from all of these -- the multiple reports from beauty pageant contestants in a BuzzFeed article, including -- wait for it -- teen beauty pageant contestants -- alleging that Donald Trump had walked in on them while he was changing -- they were changing, excuse me. So how did the president respond to all of these allegations? Let's remember. All of them, a huge amount of allegations. He called some of them, quote, "vicious claims and totally and absolutely false" at a rally one month before the 2016 election. 

    From the November 17 edition of CNN's At This Hour with Kate Bolduan:

    KATE BOLDUAN (HOST): So can we get real for a moment? This is no longer a ‘Can you believe the president said that?’ kind of a moment. This has officially become a ‘The president doesn't get to do this’ moment. He doesn't get to question [Sen.] Al Franken [(D-MN)] and stay silent on Roy Moore. And no one should allow it. It's playing politics with a discussion that should rise above that. So no, Mr. President, join the full conversation going on around you, or don't -- you don't get to be part of any of it. Is the concern over there really about being dragged into the topic of sexual assault and harassment once again? Too bad. That should have been considered in how you responded to your accusers during the campaign. And that should have been considered before your campaign brought Bill Clinton's accusers to one of the presidential debates. So, too bad. You don't get to pick and choose when this issue matters and when it doesn't. You don't.

    From the November 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

    JULIE BANDERAS (CO-HOST): OK, but, Katie, let's not forget, President Trump originally did support [Sen.] Luther Strange [(R-AL)] in the special election, while [Breitbart chairman] Steve Bannon backed [Republican Senate candidate Roy] Moore. And so far President Trump has refused to comment on Moore. But you have to understand that politics are going to play a role here. I mean, maybe he's waiting for, perhaps, the local GOP in Alabama to come up with another candidate. Could that be the reason why President Trump is trying to stay out of this? Because a lot is riding on the GOP not to screw it up in Alabama.

  • Sean Hannity's extensive history of undermining women who report sexual misconduct and defending the men accused

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE, JULIE ALDERMAN & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Sean Hannity has become a reliable ally for powerful men accused of sexual assault and harassment, regularly using his platform to discredit women who report sexual misconduct and cast doubt on their complaints. Here is a look back on the ways Hannity has attempted to undermine these women and defend the men who have been reported.

    Roy Moore

    Eight women have said Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, a former judge of Alabama Supreme Court, sexually harassed or assaulted them, or had relations with them, when they were teenagers. The Washington Post first reported on November 9 that Leigh Corfman was 14 years old when Moore made sexual advancements toward her, and a number of women have since come forward with similar claims.

    Hannity: Many women who report sexual harassment “will lie to make money.” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “Then you have false allegations that are made, and -- how do you determine? It's ‘He said, she [said].’" [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “How do you know if it's true? How do we -- what's true? What's not true? How do you ascertain the truth?” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “We do have Ten Commandments. One of the commandments is ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ We know human beings break, with regularity, the other nine commandments. Did they break this one?” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “But then also, are there false allegations? And when it's ‘he said, she said’ or whatever, how do you tell the difference?” [Premiere Radio Networks, Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity invoked the Duke Lacrosse team case; Michael Brown, who was shot by a white cop in Ferguson, MO; George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin; and Freddie Gray, who was killed in police custody to suggest there’s a history of accusers lying. [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: The “swamp,” “the sewer,” and the “establishment” are out to get Moore. [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: The Wash. Post “hates anything Republican, anything conservative.” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Roger Ailes

    In July 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the now-deceased former Fox News CEO, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against her when she would not have “a sexual relationship with him.” An additional 25 women also came forward with similar accusations. Reports later detailed startling revelations of Ailes’ attempts to cover up his sexual misconduct by spying on employees and silencing his accusers.

    Hannity to Carlson: “Why did you stay after such ‘harassment’ asking for more airtime?” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Hannity about Carlson: “Why did [Carlson] send handwritten notes with smiley faces asking for more airtime after the ‘alleged’ traumatic incident?” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Hannity attacked accusations levied by Carlson as coming from a “publicity seeking” attorney. [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity: “Hundreds of woman (sic) at Fox that I talked to” said all allegations against Ailes are “BS.” [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity: “I have spoken to many woman (sic) who work at Fox that have the most amazing stories of how kind Roger is to them.” [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity to Gabriel Sherman who reported on Ailes: “U r an Ailes and Fox stalker.” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Donald Trump

    In 2016, at least 20 women accused then-candidate Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. In October 2016, The Washington Post reported on a video clip in which a hot microphone caught Trump bragging to Billy Bush, then of Access Hollywood, “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women.”

    Hannity shrugged off accusations against Trump, arguing, “King David had 500 concubines for crying out loud!” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/7/16]

    Hannity suggested that one of Trump’s accusers may have “welcome[d]” the sexual assault.  [Media Matters, 10/13/16]

    Hannity mocked one of Trump's accusers: “Donald Trump groped me on a plane. It was all right for the first 15 minutes, but then he went too far.” [Media Matters, 10/14/17]

    Hannity on Trump accusers: “Just saying ‘help’ would solve the problem.” [Media Matters, 10/20/17]

    Hannity called accusations of sexual assault against Trump “an attempt to neutralize the WikiLeaks revelations,” referring to the stories generated from hacked Democratic emails.  [Media Matters, 10/13/16]

    Bill O’Reilly

    On April 1, The New York Times reported that former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, paid out at least $13 million in settlements with five women who said O’Reilly harassed them.

    Hannity gave O’Reilly a platform on his shows multiple times to attack the women who reported him. [Media Matters, 9/26/17, 10/5/17]

    Hannity hosted disgraced former Fox host O’Reilly after he was fired from the network. [Media Matters, 9/25/17]

    Clarence Thomas

    In 1991, Anita Hill, who worked as a former aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his time at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “submitted a confidential statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging that Thomas had sexually harassed her 10 years earlier,” according to CBS News. At least two other women also accused Thomas of sexual assault.

    While interviewing Thomas, Hannity referred to his accusers as “those that systematically went about destroying you.” [FoxNews.com, 10/3/07]

    Hannity implied that Thomas was “an innocent man” who had had “his reputation destroyed forever.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/10/17]

    Hannity has praised Thomas for “giving one of the most powerful defenses” against sexual assault accusations. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/10/17]

    Herman Cain

    In 2011, at least two women reported that Herman Cain, who was at the time a candidate in the Republican presidential primaries, had sexually harased them during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

    Under a screen graphic that read “Herman hysteria,” Hannity questioned whether the charges were “politically motivated,” and badgered an accuser for “staying in the car” with Cain after she says she was harassed. [Media Matters, 11/11/11]

    Hannity sought to discredit accusations against Cain and Justice Clarence Thomas, parroting their characterization of the charges as a “high-tech lynching.” [Politico, 11/10/11]

    Hannity on Cain’s press conference denying sexual harassment accusations: “You would think this is going to end it.” [Media Matters 11/9/11]

    Bill Shine

    After Ailes was ousted in August 2016 amid mounting sexual harassment allegations, Fox News promoted Bill Shine to co-president of the network. As senior executive vice president, Shine had reportedly “played an integral role” in covering up sexual harassment claims, including those against Ailes. Shine had a role in pushing “women into confidential mediation [and into] signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid” as well as in establishing a “counter-narrative” to discredit Carlson. He later resigned after reports surfaced that he was cited “in at least four lawsuits” that accused him of ignoring, dismissing, and even concealing sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.

    Hannity: “Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Hannity: If Shine is fired, “that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Hannity: “#Istandwithshine.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]