Study: Mainstream Media Acted as Trump’s Mouthpiece, Clinton’s Foe

A study from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center provides overwhelming evidence that the mainstream media were instrumental in electing Donald Trump. The key takeaway:

“Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.”

The chart below illustrates the staggeringly disproportionate focus on Hillary Clinton’s emails.

With few exceptions, mainstream reporters, editors, and pundits categorically refuse to accept responsibility for their hostile and lopsided coverage of Clinton, preferring to blame her for their faults. But charts don’t lie and this one, from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, speaks volumes:

The mainstream media’s stubborn refusal to admit culpability in Trump’s election is curious, considering a number of prominent journalists are on record conceding broad-based antagonism toward Clinton in the press.

  • As far back as 2014, Chuck Todd said, “I don’t think the country has Clinton fatigue. I think the media has Clinton fatigue. You can sort of feel it.”
  • In the summer of 2015, Jonathan Allen explained the Clinton Rules: “The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire.”
  • In 2016, Mark Halperin admitted that “there’s a deep well of anti-Clinton sentiment in the press.”

How else to explain a headline like this?

Questioning the media is standard operating procedure in politics and because of that, reporters are inclined to attribute all criticism to partisanship. However, the profoundly unjust treatment of Clinton (including 600 consecutive days of email coverage) is unlike anything we’ve seen in U.S. politics, evidenced by the double standard in coverage of private emails used by senior Trump administration officials.

TheBeat w/Ari Melber on Twitter

Clinton’s emails were “covered more than Watergate or any political scandal in U.S. history,”[email protected] on #TheBeat

In 2016, Paul Senatori, chief analytics officer of media research firm mediaQuant, told the Washington Post, “it’s amazing that Hillary Clinton has gotten more negative sentiment than Trump.” “Amazing” is an understatement.

Indignant denials notwithstanding, the conclusion is inescapable: The mainstream media tilted the playing field in favor of Donald Trump.

By any standard of fairness, that is a travesty.

-Peter Daou

UPDATE: A new Washington Post analysis provides further confirmation of the mainstream media’s abject failure in 2016.

BuzzFeed recently interviewed a number of the women who came forward with allegations about Trump, asking them about how they viewed that experience in light of the new revelations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. One woman said that she was glad Weinstein was fired from his production company, but was disappointed about how the allegations against Trump had been “brushed . . . under the rug.”

The last month of the 2016 — like so many periods over the last two years — was choked with new revelations and surprises. On the day the “Access Hollywood” tape was released — right after it was released, in fact — WikiLeaks also began to dump a set of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Later in the month, then-FBI Director James B. Comey announced that his agency was investigating newly discovered emails from Clinton, a revelation that some have credited with dooming Clinton’s candidacy.

That was the main rug under which the allegations against Trump were swept: Stories about Clinton’s email server. Analysis of closed captioning from news programs over that period, compiled by the TV News Archive, makes that clear.

News programs covered the “Access Hollywood” tape heavily after its release and on an ongoing basis through the rest of the election. But discussion of Clinton and WikiLeaks was much heavier.

Columbia Journalism Review conducted an in-depth study of mainstream media coverage and found a clear bias against Hillary Clinton:

The research team [counted] sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classifying each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues. In particular, they classified each sentence as describing either a scandal (e.g., Clinton’s emails, Trump’s taxes) or a policy issue (Clinton and jobs, Trump and immigration). They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal.

Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.

And to this day, virtually no accountability:

Clinton did get a raw deal from the press, which largely ignored her on serious policy and allowed Trump to frame the coverage.

The campaign exposed the worst characteristics of the media — its addiction to the sensational, its propensity for overkill, and its profit-driven desire for clicks and ratings.

As a Tyndall Report study noted, the major TV networks gave 220 minutes to policy in 2008. In 2012, it was 114 minutes. In 2016, it was 32 minutes.

The email story, by contrast, got 100 minutes of airtime.

Given that this helped put a narcissistic reality TV star with no governing experience in the Oval Office, some soul-searching is in order.

Is that happening? There’s precious little evidence.

Peter Daou on Twitter

I don’t see how a chart like this from Harvard doesn’t result in mass apologies from the media. Instead they are defiant and hostile.

Will Jordan on Twitter

Harvard 2016 study: For every sentence written about Clinton’s policies for jobs, ~4 written about emails

This 2016 article demonstrates that the problem was clear early in the campaign. National media coverage was unrelentingly negative toward Hillary Clinton.

Harvard Study Confirms The Media Tore Down Clinton, Built Up Trump And Sanders

It’s no secret that, from the moment she announced her candidacy back in April 2015, Hillary Clinton has been bludgeoned by negative media coverage. The email server; the Wall Street speaking fees; the attacks from both Trump and Sanders. I’ve debated with people who legitimately fear she will be imprisoned before the election.

The widespread myth that Clinton was “flawed” and disliked is undercut by this Gallup graph of her favorability over time. The dramatic shift in 2015 and 2016 is the result of a massive character assassination campaign aided by Russian propaganda.

PODCAST: Listen to Peter Daou and Tom Watson analyzing the mainstream media’s failures since 2015.

Ep 3 – Indicting the Mainstream Media

Peter Daou and Tom Watson deliver an indictment of the mainstream media’s political coverage, focusing on Trump, Russia, Mueller, and Clinton.

  1. The media cares mostly about the media; media first, ratings, sales, controversy their name and reputation. Hype and greed rules the moment, the day, and breaking news – then as it does now. Yes, there are reputable reporters and opinion writers, but the bottom line is, it still is what keeps them in business. This country, including the media, has to take stock of itself and decide what is truly right and what is really wrong. Impartiality yes, but hype for hype’s sake and the almighty dollar can and will ruin the faith and trust in all media. It is happening now. The ‘Fake News’ media is also helping to destroy this country but nothing is being done about that either. Wake up, America! Media needs to wake up and become more credible and accurate. If it walks like a duck, quakes like a duck and looks like a ducK… guess what.. It is a duck!

  2. Typical but truthful example of “her emails” and pro Trump coverage by even MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell was her boasting and showing she had obtained Hillary’s emails thru Wiki leaks. All on live tv with a huge stack of papers in hand Mitchell seemed to braggingly display a “gotcha moment.” That hurt because I knew it probably would be the only dialogue till the election. All MSM owes Hillary and her supporters an apology for such slanted coverage. Unfortunately they won’t in their denial of this truth.

    1. James Comey bears a great deal for Clinton’s loss too, his fixation on emails, when he and the FBI had knowledge of Trumps and Russia at the same time. If Comey had disclosed Russia and Trump at the same time, the election outcome may have been different. Guessing Comey was looking for a big score for the FBI, and also Comey ignored the rule about investigation within 60 days before and election. Comey brought up the emails again 11 days before the election.

  3. The 4th Estate is vital to our Democracy, as augmented in this last election. Make no mistake, this was a War of Information to win votes. A free and balanced Press should have been our best defense against Russia’s attack on our Democracy, but the Press failed voters in epic proportions, and there has been no accountability. Without accountability, needed changes are unlikely.

    This became painfully apparent with the initial Weinstein coverage. The focus was not on his victims, not on his criminal behavior, and not on the institutions that protected his ongoing assaults on so many women’s lives – but to the donations he gave to a former president and to a failed presidential campaign. That was the Big Story.

    In any other setting, this would be seen as unacceptably flawed journalism. So why do pros like Katy Tur, Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, ad naseum continue stooping to tabloid standards when it comes to Hillary Clinton?
    News Flash – Obama and Clinton are not why Weinstein’s unholy reign continued for decades. Cannot say the same for incompetent journalism.

    This obsession to deflect attention to HRC, regardless of the facts, hurts the innocent, degrades our free press, and weakens our Democracy. Honest Americans expect more from our 4th Estate. Weaponized News has no place in a free society. Stop It!

    cc Jeff Zucker, CNN
    Andy Lack , NBC News,

  4. This was obvious during the campaign. The collective media thought that she would win regardless. They all thought Trump was a joke and they could paint Hillary as a villain day in and day out and she’d still come out ahead on election day. I don’t know what can be done now. A public apology from these people to Hillary, her voters, and the country that they helped screw would be nice but I’m not holding my breath for that. We were robbed. The 2016 election was the biggest injustice of my lifetime.

    1. It was obvious, not just to those Americans who are still able to discern between fact and fiction, good and evil, truth and lies, but to all reasoning people worldwide. Putin must be enjoying the success of his strategy to turn Americans against each other, to defeat the USA from inside.

  5. It’s so great to see a truly honest and fact based description of the media’s culpability in the last campaign. What’s left out is how easily influenced the public has become from infotainment.

  6. Since her book came out, with her side presented, she has faced more negative remarks from those who don’t or can’t believe the mistake they made by voting for Trump. It’s not easy to admit you were played for a fool by our most dangerous enemy (Russia). People need to demand a thorough investigation into all of the connections by the Trump associates, family and Trump himself. The truth can’t hurt them if they were correct, and it can save us all if they were used to manipulate our democratic process.

  7. Precisely! The media has Hillary fatigue and yet by some sort of masochist instinct, they keep looking for Hillary ‘news’ like an addict looking for their next fix, as small as it may be.
    I have to thank Ben Mattis Lilley of slate for being one of the obsessed though. Without his preoccupation with Clinton, i would have never discovered this cool site

  8. This is just what I was saying during the elections. Yes, thd media were constantly pushing trump and sanders there is no doubt about it…

  9. This was obvious throughout the campaign. MSM showed every second of every Trump stump speech. They cared more about ratings than actual news coverage. Nonetheless, I still believe Hillary truly won the election. I also believe the Administration knows she won. There should have been an actual vote audit. Hillary is the rightful President.

    1. I 100% agree that Hillary is the rightful president. The election wasn’t fair and she still received a couple million more votes than her opponent. The fact that we’re all supposed to just forget that and move on is enough to drive me insane.
      Personally, I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed that she only got 65.8 million votes because I truly believed that my countrymen were better than that. Millions more people should have been bright enough to realize that she was the exponentially better candidate.

      Anywho, it really irritates me that many people on the left (I’m basing this off of Twitter) get defensive when someone dares to say that they’d like it if Clinton ran again. The whole “she lost, move on” nonsense ignores the fact that the so-called winner had literally millions less votes than she did. I voted for her in 2016 because I wanted this country to have 16 straight years of progress. I didn’t vote for her thinking she’d only get one term. I voted for her in 2016 knowing that I’d vote for her again in 2020. If we lived in a just society, 2020 would simply be the start of her second term. And since when are people not allowed to have hopes and dreams? In my dreams, I get to go to DC and watch Hillary’s inauguration. But anything written about Hillary’s potential/hopeful political future is met with a fury of “she lost, get over it”, “she’s never running again”, “that would be a disaster for the country”, etc. It shouldn’t upset people that some of her supporters want her to run again but it does. I try to understand where they’re coming from but I just can’t. I don’t see any validity or logic in their argument because it ignores the reality of what the 2016 election was. They sound like so many others that simply try to silence any HRC supporter that they find in the wild (aka the internet). It’s like Hillary supporters are sunflowers and everybody else is trying their hardest to stop us from growing. They’re kicking our stems, trying to block out the the sun, releasing pests in the fields we’re in, etc. It’s nuts.

      1. Most detractors are Male Bernie supporters hoping to get him on the ticket or a younger more liberal candidate, male of course. Then there are the GOP

    2. Yes, Hillary is the rightful president. When someone cheats to win a contest, they are disqualified when the cheating is discovered. The contest goes to the original “runner up,” in this case, the person who won the popular vote. She fought, she overcame incredible media bias & trump’s treason w/ Russia, she won, she deserves the presidency, and we deserve her, the most qualified person to ever run for president.

  10. Is the word irony or schadenfreude needed now that Trump has turned on his very “electors” and now refers to them as “Fake News?” This country’s downfall might be traced back to just after nightly news with the likes of Cronkite and Murrow converted to nightly entertainment and the need for ratings over substance.

  11. Impressive charts above. I was so sick of hearing about Hillary’s Emails.

    As Hillary clearly presented her policies & plans, media networks would either cut away from her & go to positive coverage of Trump or Flash: BREAKING NEWS: about some negative subject about Hillary. Nothing negative about Trump was ever presented by the media. All of their negative coverage was focused Only on Hillary. So Unfair to Hillary.

  12. This articulates what we all witnessed. The sad thing is, that there aren’t enough people calling the media out on this. Where are the Democrats? Why don’t they ever bring this study up (which I have downloaded the over 100 page document). The study is thorough and specific. The media deliberately sabotaged a candidate, dismissed everything about the Russians and hacking, and didn’t take their role to ‘inform’ seriously. They really need to examine why they did what they did, and take responsibility so it doesn’t happen again. The country is more important than ratings, ego, and a desire for ‘scandal.’ Now these same perpetrators are ‘shocked’ and bewildered by the mess they themselves helped to create. It’s the very reason why I refuse to watch mainstream TV news anymore. They don’t deserve my attention.

    1. Fear of seeming “anti-press” and then getting even worse coverage is my guess. Although given how at this point the coverage of Dems is unrelentingly harsh, it may be time for some prominent Dem leaders to start calling out the bad reporting and encouraging rank and file to stop supporting it. Start with NYT and CNN.

  13. Americans have a right and a duty to vote, and while that includes the duty to give serious (critical) thought to the candidates and the issues, it also includes the civic duty seldom mentioned even in civics or social studies programs: every citizen’s duty to follow their conscience when voting. Had that been done, Ms. Clinton would have carried the Electoral College AND the popular vote, and our country would not now be recoiling in horror at its leadership and the ‘political terrorism’ in which they are now so gleefully indulging. This includes the constant manipulation of the MSM, the dismantling of agencies crucial to the survival of our species, including Departments of Energy, Education, Agriculture, etc.). The 1st duty of citizens:
    “Mankind soon learn to make interested uses of every right and power which they possess, or may assume. The public money and public liberty, intended to have been deposited with three branches of magistracy, but found inadvertently to be in the hands of one only, will soon be discovered to be sources of wealth and dominion to those who hold them… They [the assembly] should look forward to a time, and that not a distant one, when a corruption in this, as in the country from which we derive our origin, will have seized the heads of government, and be spread by them through the body of the people; when they will purchase the voices of the people, and make them pay the price. Human nature is the same on every side of the Atlantic, and will be alike influenced by the same causes. The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.”
    – Thomas Jefferson

    Trump must be lawfully removed. It is our sacred duty.

  14. And still they persist. Post-election coverage has subjected HRC to a campaign autopsy unlike anything else we’ve ever seen in this country. Nine months after the election, this is serious journalistic bludgeoning of a dead horse, yet there seems to be no end of both vitriol and glee. The media got played 360 degrees by Republicans, sucked into the promise of red meat from Trey Gowdy’s congressional committee, instead of admitting there was none they magnified every insinuation to justify their time and effort. Then they chased the theatre of the Trump campaign, behaving more like Trump’s PR staff than did Trump’s PR staff. With the 2016 campaign they came very close to being the fake media Trump accused them of being, even if it was more careless than intentional. They were certainly the Keystone Cops media.

    #StillWithHer #YouOweHerABigFatPublicApology

  15. This is what still pisses me off about the election more than anything. I religiously watched coverage on CNN, MSNBC and a little Fox, 18 months before the election. This Harvard study verifies what I witnessed, a so-called liberal TV coverage more interested in featuring a big, loud, shiny, blustery, controversial object like Trump — more than smart woman. He got better ratings. Sell ads for more money. Stock goes up. The public forgets the media are in business to make money. Fox News and Limbaugh have even had to admit they are entertainment. Trump’s core buys it as truth in reporting. Since the election, the same TV news coverage that helped elect Trump (except for Fox) are now taking him down. They make money both ways, conveniently forgetting how they helped elect him in the first place. Leftys like to complain about Fox, but CNN and MSNBC need to be forced to admit their complicity in this debacle at some point. I’m happy to see Harvard starting the conversation.

    1. I concur. There must be a huge discussion, investigation, acknowledging their bias and unfairness, outside and in of big corporate media and new channels, especially of the so-called left. We have tons of recorded proof. Gather it and expose the press to the scutiny it says our government needs. We will all be better for it. And yes, then they all need give a mia culpa to Hillary, America, it’s voters and the world.

    2. Like federick frank, I too “religiously watched coverage on CNN, MSNBC and [very little] little Fox, 18 months before the election.” Fox goes without saying, but CNN and even MSNBC were so egregiously complicit in hurting Hillary and helping elect Trump (although I’m with Nancy below that Rachel Maddow was a rare exception) that it still makes my head want to explode. CNN was the worst giving such megaphonic platforms to Trump surrogates Corey Lewandowski (who quit the day after the election to start his own Trump business), Kayleigh McEnany (who now anchors the “Real” Trump news; HA), and Jeffrey Lord (since fired over his Nazi remarks). Hillary’s book was published yesterday; today she was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I haven’t watched yet but recorded it on DVR. I’ll be very curious to see if she takes Cooper to task for his own complicity. If she doesn’t, well, I think she should have. Between the MSM’s coverage, the relentless Republican barking points, Russia, and Comey, the deck was stacked so incredibly high against her that it was nearly impossible for her to win. And how about those 70K votes in Detroit that weren’t counted? Oh, and how about the MSM toeing the Republican line in their claims ever since election day that the Russians didn’t hack into actual voting machines, that the actual vote tallies were not meddled with? THEY CANNOT KNOW THAT AS ABSOLUTELY NO FORENSICS HAVE TAKEN PLACE ON THE MACHINES! The bottom line is, the presidency was STOLEN from Hillary Clinton, and trump IS NOT a legitimate POTUS. Lastly (and then I’ll get off my soapbox), it really angers me when I hear about so many Democrats [allegedly] wishing Hillary would fade off into the sunset, as though her book and coming out in public to talk about what happened and is still happening is harmful to the Dem Party. If that’s true, it is so totally wrongheaded. They say we need to go forward, not backward. Hillary is not going backward, she is facing the REALITY of what happened. And until the Democratic Party does the same–and takes a long, hard look at it (I’m not talking about the congressional investigations), there can be no going forward.

  16. Ciizens United and Speech Now paved the way for vast sums of corporate and billionaire, political money to flow into the MSM bank accounts. The whole campaign was structured to provide disproportionate influence, to the R’s through the media (19 debates with as many candidates). Payola is a reality. Have you ever seen so many GE ads, as during our last election? Then there is the ratings game = more MSM money. As an extra measure, let’s get help from Russia. It bought Trump a free pass, to tell his whoppers without any follow-up questions. “My dad loaned me one million, and I paid him back and built my business(and don’t ask me any questions about it)”. “I alone can fix it” ” Better, cheaper, health care, for all….across state lines…it’s easy…I’m a genius…good genes” “Mexico will pay for the wall… Hillary’s e-mail, e-mail, e-mail As much as Hillary was deflated, Trump was hailed. “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Let’s have a congressional investigation of Trump:
    1) Obstruction of Justice
    2) Collusion with Russians and Russian interference in our elections.
    3) Money laundering by Trump properties.
    4) Cover-up
    5) Lying on Fed application
    6) Gross incompetence, negligence, and anything else that comes up in the investigations.

  17. I would love to see follow up on this topic but with consideration of possible Russian influence. As I understand it, this slanted, distorted focus on negative HRC “news” was exactly the GOAL of their efforts to influence the election. It seems that they accomplished that in spades.
    Certainly it’s good to hold media accountable and I hope this will cause some self-reflection. BUT, how much of this was caused by the onslaught of Russian efforts to make “news” out of nothing? Weren’t the US media victims of this Russian campaign too?

  18. Re : Trump —He was good at playing the press like a piano and at gathering them like flies on carrion.

    His antics, Limbaugh like political incorrectness and bombastic nature, and lies were covered.

    The press could not believe their good fortune covering someone who one, person said was, like a guerilla beating up his competition because he did not know or care about whether it was right or not.

    Any news became good news when it came to him getting name recognition. Yes, the TV press and radio were enamored as they would be for a fire, train wreck, or a car chase.

    There were good critical articles but they did not get large coverage in comparison.

    Re: Sanders He got coverage because he seemed to have integrity, was not under investigation, and young and old liked him. The fact that he was a socialist was interesting for the media.

    Of course both were men which gave them a large home court advantage. You had people like Guliani televised saying, “better Trump than any woman.”It was clear that there was an anti woman bias.

    News by its nature has a bias against the old and familiar in favor of the new and different. Clinton was old news to them so they did not follow her with as much intensity as they did Trump or Sanders.

    Television and radio news focused on the private emails she deleted but not on the many business emails he deleted in violation of Court Subpoenas. They only got covered by print journalists.

  19. I have been saying this all along and asking media figure I watch and listen to to take responsibility to at least admit this happened. But they don’t . This is why I despise the MSM. You can’t trust them. They are entitled. They also write a false narrative time after time and follow it no matter what. They did the same thing to Al Gore in 2000 when they insisted he was less popular and yet MORE people voted for him, including in Florida which no one will admit.

  20. Thank you for delivering the truth and the data to prove it. You have just validated 66 million people. #NotMyPresident #StillWithHer

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verrit #0116110
“Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.”

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