Vox: Poor Hillary Clinton Gets a Raw Deal from the Media

Hillary Clinton Campigns In Iowa, Meeting With Small Business Owners
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Vox has a piece on Hillary Clinton’s unique relationship with the press which sounds a lot like special pleading in favor of a candidate who, by the author’s own admission, has a long history of lying.

Jonathan Allen describes Hillary’s relationship with the media as “toxic” and suggests her long history with the media has distorted coverage of her campaign. Allen makes the point that some critics have gone overboard attacking Hillary, but his piece comes across as special pleading since the same could be said of many of Hillary’s rivals on the right.

Here’s how Allen describes the vicious cycle that exists between Hillary and the media:

[T]he Clintons have a bunker mentality when it comes to transparency. But their paranoia leads them to be secretive, and their secrecy leads Republicans and the press to suspect wrongdoing. That spurs further investigation, which only makes the Clintons more secretive. The paranoia and persistent investigation feed each other in an endless cycle of probe and parry.

That seems fair enough. But while Allen spends time selecting comments from Rush Limbaugh and others which he can justifiably claim were unfair attacks on Hillary, he eventually gets around to admitting the media has some justification for not trusting Hillary.

[J]ournalists often assume she is acting in bad faith. There’s good reason for that… With the Clinton White House, the modus operandi was to stonewall as long as possible, lie if necessary — or just out of habit — and turn questions around on the questioners. After all, Bill Clinton once wagged his finger at a press conference and told reporters, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman … Ms. Lewinsky.” He’d lied in a deposition, too.

It wasn’t just Bill who was lying either. Hillary was helping to coordinate the attacks against some of his accusers. She was the person who famously put all the attacks down to “a vast right wing conspiracy” trying to attack her husband.

In reality, many of the GOP candidates have just as much reason to complain. Chris Christie spent 8 months being hammered by partisans for Bridgegate. Exactly as Allen claims about Hillary, everything was seen as subject to investigation and nothing ever seemed sufficient to clear him. We’ve had three investigations which all concluded Christie was not involved, but the story lingers.

How about Scott Walker, who was the subject of protests and a recall election ginned up by progressives and labor unions? Then, a politically-motivated DA made it his mission to find dirt on Walker and his allies using tactics which included police raids of opponents’s homes.

And it would be difficult to argue that Ted Cruz has a positive relationship with the media, especially the progressive media. The point being that Hillary is not the only figure in the race who has opponents who dislike her and sometimes go too far in pursuing accusations against her. She isn’t unique except, perhaps, that she’s been playing the game longer than most. And frankly, some of her behavior seems worse than most. Here’s an example Allen cites as unfair:

She made a ton of money giving paid speeches to people with business before the government. So did Jeb Bush, of course. But until Bush recently released an accounting of some of those speeches, the media had little interest in his dealings. Kudos to Ken Vogel of Politico, who did some digging on that for a story published Thursday.

That’s true, but it doesn’t prove Hillary’s questionable behavior is the same as everyone else’s. Did Jeb Bush take $200k from a local Boys and Girls Club and not make time to meet with any of the kids? That seems like a special kind of rapaciousness. Did Jeb Bush represent an accused rapist and chuckle about getting him off scot-free through clever legal maneuvering? That seems to show a rare lack of empathy. Issues like these simply don’t get mentioned in Allen’s piece (just as they aren’t mentioned by the national press in general).

Allen goes on to argue that Hillary is generally taken as too calculated. Again, he finds a few critics (including Maureen Dowd) who go too far. But Allen once again overlooks instances in which Hillary seems far more calculating than the average candidate. What other candidate fakes a loud conversation with themselves to avoid talking to the media? Any GOP candidate would find themselves shamed in public over something this blatant. For Hillary it was barely a blip.

How about Hillary’s inability to answer a simple question about ice cream as happened recently? When a photographer asked, “What’s your favorite flavor?” Hillary responded, “I like nearly everything.” Perhaps it’s true that Hillary has no opinions about ice cream, but it’s noteworthy that she seems to want to be on every side of every question, even this one.

Allen concludes that Hillary is too powerful to need help dealing with the media, but his entire article amounts to a plea to be more generous because of the alleged “double standard” in covering her. In fact, Hillary’s treatment by the media is based partly on her family history of lying, is not unique among the candidates, is sometimes too willing to overlook her genuine blunders, and is partly a reaction to her startling lack of authenticity, even about ice cream. In short, she’s not the only candidate getting a hard time from opponents, but she’s the only one Vox is volunteering to defend.

Finally, the end of Allen’s piece deserves attention because it makes an admission against interest about the liberal media’s power in a 2-person race:

I take a dim view of the idea that journalists successfully anoint political winners. The media might have been in the bag for Barack Obama, but he didn’t win because he got positive coverage. He won because he had better strategy, a better message, and better skills at delivering that message — in the 2008 primary and in the two general elections he won.

That said, the media can definitely weigh down — and even destroy — a candidate. The emphasis on a candidate’s flaws — real or perceived — comes at the cost of the candidate’s ability to focus his or her message and at the cost of negative attention to the other candidates. This is a problem for Clinton, and it seems unlikely to go away.

Allen first claims the press can’t anoint a winner, but then he says the media can “destory” a candidate by focusing on their flaws. If we’re talking about a race that comes down to just 2 candidates (as he clearly is here), then his statements contradict one another. If the media can destroy one candidate in a 2-person race, then the media can in fact pick a winner. The winner is the candidate the media chooses not to destroy.

As Allen says earlier in the piece, “The act of choosing, time and again, to go after the same person has the effect of tainting that person, even when an investigation or reporting turns up nothing nefarious.” He may think that applies primarily to Hillary, but it’s more likely to apply to whatever GOP candidate is left standing as her opponent.


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