I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of 2016 presidential election media coverage. It’s been a mess since the beginning, when Donald Trump kicked off his campaign with the statement that Mexicans are rapists, and major news channels and newspapers responded by giving him just what he wanted: more coverage than any other candidate.
For months I maintained the position that if we all stopped clicking on Donald Trump headlines, he would go away. But no one was interested in that strategy, and now it’s too late to implement it. The media played a major role in Donald Trump’s rise to power, and now it seems as though they are rooting for him to maintain it.
Two weeks ago, a woman filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump, alleging that he raped her in 1994, when she was 13 years old. Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit is Jeffrey Epstein, a man who has already served a year in prison for soliciting an underage prostitute, and who was recently described by Donald Trump as a “terrific guy.”
This story was first reported on June 20th by The Real Deal, a publication dedicated to covering New York real estate news. It was picked up by Gothamist, The Daily Beast, Snopes, and a few other websites. I did not learn about the case until a friend of mine shared this Huffington Post blog about it. The case was not covered in Huffington Post’s news section, nor in the news section of any major publication.
Meanwhile, I received two New York Times push notifications this week with updates about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Has the media decided Donald Trump is just so despicable that it isn’t worth covering another atrocity allegedly perpetrated by him, while Hillary Clinton is expected to be a perfect human being, so more coverage of her emails serves the public good? Have they decided Donald Trump is just so immune to negative coverage that reporting this lawsuit is a waste of time, while another story on Hillary’s email server is guaranteed to make her even more unpopular?
Or, is giving credence to rape accusations against powerful men still socially unacceptable? (Re: Peyton Manning)
It’s difficult for me not to think that sexism has a hand in guiding the media’s wacky priority list. I know a lot of people are getting tired of accusations of sexism in this presidential race, but sexism would explain why a female candidate sending emails from a private server faces a thousand times more public scrutiny than a male candidate allegedly raping a child.
To reiterate what has already been determined about Hillary’s emails: Federal law did not prohibit public officials from using private email accounts until 2014, after she left office, and none of her emails were considered classified at the time she sent them via a private server. And yet, Hillary is branded a criminal, while Donald Trump—who has now had three legal claims of sexual assault filed against him—remains the successful businessman whose greatest offense is his ego.
You can counter that the claims of sexual assault against Donald Trump are unproven in a court of law, and to that I will counter that Hillary has not been convicted of any crimes either. In this country, the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” tends to serve the privileged. That principle goes out the window when we discuss accusations against women and people of color.
Donald Trump may be a megalomaniac who has no experience in public office and has shocked the entire world by making it this far in the race, but the absurdity of his candidacy does not mean that he should be vetted less critically than his opponent. He may be a racist and a misogynist from whom we can never expect anything but the worst, but the reality is that he’s one election away from being the most powerful person on the planet. If we dismiss his transgressions as just being typical of his character, we may allow him to actually hold that power in his hands.
To all the media gatekeepers out there: If you are frustrated by the fact that criticisms of Donald Trump do not dissuade his supporters in the slightest, I sympathize with you. But your frustration is not an excuse for failing to deliver those criticisms which Trump deserves. Perhaps this latest development would have no effect on Trump’s poll numbers, but it still needs to be covered. This is information that the public needs to know.