In February 2012, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing about how an Obamacare mandate would harm religious liberty. These religious liberty concerns have been upheld at the Supreme Court all the way down, but were dismissed as illegitimate by Democratic leaders and their many allies in the media.
Democrats on the committee wanted to have a Georgetown Law student testify in favor of forcing religious groups that provide student health plans to violate their consciences if they don’t sponsor abortifacients and birth control. She wasn’t seated, and Democrats walked out in dramatic protest, later holding an event to hear her speak about how evil her Catholic university was for not violating Catholic teaching.
Sandra Fluke became the centerpiece of the Democrats’ “War on Women” messaging that they pounded throughout the year. The media completely ate it up, hook, line, and sinker. Within minutes, she was put on every major network and cable outlet. The media ran with stories about how women weren’t allowed to testify at the hearing, even though two female college administrators — Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett, the senior vice-president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University, and Dr. Laura Champion, medical director of Calvin College Health Services — testified. The facts were no barrier to the headlines, which included CBS’ “Dems decry all-male House panel on WH contraception rule” and CNN’s “Angry lawmakers challenge lineup at hearing: ‘Where are the women?'”
A Lexis-Nexis search shows that the media ran too many stories in 2012 for the search to filter (more than 3,000) but a cursory search shows the Washington Post ran a whopping 139 stories on Sandra Fluke that year and CNN had 146 pieces dealing with Fluke. MSNBC (94), New York Times (63), Associated Press (49), NBC (23), Los Angeles Times (13), ABC (13), and CBS (11) also played their role in advancing this story.
The Fluke media blitz was managed by powerhouse public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker, and it continued throughout the year. The Washington Post‘s “health policy” reporter Sarah Kliff wrote more than 80 stories about her, the Komen foundation’s attempts to stop funding Planned Parenthood, and failed Senate candidate Todd Akin (and none on Philly abortionist and serial murderer Kermit Gosnell). Fluke’s media coverage far outweighed actual public interest in her, culminating with Time naming her a finalist for their “person of the year.”
One of the interesting things about the public relations blitz to make Sandra Fluke a household name in order to advance a key Democratic campaign theme was how everyone complying with the public relations blitz pretended it was organic. Very few journalists admitted they were running a story pre-packaged by the country’s most Democrat-aligned public relations firm, the firm that was also behind Planned Parenthood’s wildly successful destruction campaign against the Komen Foundation (as described here). Instead, they all pretended that a fresh-faced little law student just happened to find herself in the middle of a media maelstrom. The media’s talking points matched those of the Obama administration-staffed public relations firm down from start to finish.
An innocent, random young woman was victimized by mean old Republican men. Sound familiar? It should.
We’re in the middle of the exact same phenomenon with Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe Donald Trump allegedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” This time, they’re even cutting out the public relations firm middle men.
Hillary Clinton made Machado the centerpiece of a line of attack against Donald Trump during Monday night’s debate:
CLINTON: And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.
CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.
CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.
Almost immediately media outlets ran fully researched front-page and top-of-the-newscast stories quarterbacking this major Hillary Clinton campaign theme to prominence. That means they were already ready to go, more or less. There was no daylight between actual Hillary Clinton campaign talking points and the stories that ran on front pages across the land. Here’s a typical example of media cooperation that neglects to note the means by which the campaign is accomplishing its goals:
.@HillaryClinton capitalizes on Trump fat-shaming former Miss Universe https://t.co/0P3SnSO4K5 pic.twitter.com/B2GgS3xwhX
CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2016
The backstory to this hugely important news story is provided by CNN in a 1997 report:
NEW YORK (CNN) — When Alicia Machado of Venezuela was named Miss Universe nine months ago, no one could accuse her of being the size of the universe. But as her universe expanded, so did she, putting on nearly 60 pounds.
Indeed, the reigning Miss Universe learned the hard way that an extra 15 or 20 pounds can gain you a ton of publicity. But now she’s determined to shed at least 15 pounds, though the loss of her Miss Universe crown is no longer an issue.
‘Some people when they have pressure eat too much. Like me. Like Alicia,’ said Donald Trump, the executive producer of the Miss Universe Pageant.
Since winning the crown, the former Miss Venezuela went from 118 pounds to — well — a number that kept growing like the size of the fish that got away.
There were calls to take away her crown but the pageant encouraged her instead to get her weight down. Trump’s supposedly horrific remarks were made in the context of a generally jovial atmosphere. CNN’s report ended with Trump telling a “rowdy pool of reporters” that “A lot of you folks have weight problems. I hate to tell you.”
She was Miss Universe. She put on “nearly 60 pounds,” according to CNN. Trump, who chaired the pageant or whatever, made many remarks about it. Some people think this is an issue of more relevance than, oh I don’t know, Hillary Clinton’s Syria policy. The rest just know it’s far easier and more entertaining to run the “War on Women” playbook that was so successful for the Democrats and their wholly controlled mainstream media establishment.
The New York Times‘ Michael Barbaro and Meghan Twohey published a breathless piece headlined “Shamed and Angry: Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe Mocked by Donald Trump.”
“Good Morning America” bought the Clinton spin hook, line and sinker. “Donald Trump hasn’t changed since fat-shaming me in 1996, Alicia Machado says.”
A check of Lexis-Nexis on Thursday morning, less than 72 hours after Clinton unveiled her campaign message, showed that CNN transcripts had 46 mentions of Machado, CNN.com another 27, and CNN Wire with another 23. The New York Times has already run 11 stories around Machado, the Associated Press as many as 17, the Los Angeles Times with five, the Washington Post with five, and more in the Chicago Tribune, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the San Francisco Chronicle, the Arizona Republic, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Boston Globe, CBS News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and even smaller papers such as the Tulare Advance-Register.
It was immediate and it was everywhere. That’s not a coincidence. That’s coordination.
The Intercept’s Lee Fang provided some helpful facts showing how the media and the Clinton campaign work together seamlessly to force narratives helpful to the Clinton campaign:
Lee Fang (@lhfang) September 28, 2016
It’s interesting that Frank Thorp V, the “Producer & Off-Air Reporter covering 2016 at @NBCNews” is fully aware that this story is being generated as a public relations campaign by the Clinton campaign, and is tweeting about it regularly:
Less Groupthink, Please
It’s certainly fine and good to use things candidates say as hooks for stories. But the media should do it evenly, and not by being beholden to whichever public relations firm has the most employees embedded, if you know what I mean, with members of the Clinton campaign.
Trump made reference to something in the debate related to temperament that I saw no stories built around.
TRUMP: Wait. The AFL-CIO the other day, behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you were talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there’s a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.
He was referring to this clip of Hillary Clinton that he would like the media to pay attention to.
But when Clinton talks about Machado, and runs conference calls for the media with her, and sets up photo shoots with her, and whatnot, everyone just complies and forgets to mention they’re taking marching orders from the campaign.
How else to explain how everyone chose the same angle as the Clinton campaign asked them to? Media outlets could have noted that they themselves were calling Machado a fatty-boombaladdy at the exact same time Trump made his remarks. They could have noted that beauty pageant winners are generally judged by their … how do you say it … BEAUTY. Or they could have chosen entirely different angles.
For example, Hillary Clinton’s kill shot was to say that Machado had become a U.S. citizen recently and would be voting for her. A less compliant media might have noted or emphasized that the Mexican attorney general’s office said Machado was romantically involved and had a daughter with a notorious drug lord, Jose Gerardo Alvarez Vazquez, also known as “El Indio.” Or that a Venezuelan judge said Machado threatened “to ruin my career as a judge and … kill me,” after he indicted her then-boyfriend for murder. Or that the Associated Press reported allegations that she drove the getaway car, even though there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
But these angles run counter to another media/Clinton campaign theme of discrediting the idea that immigrants to this country, under our current policies, are anything other than perfect people. (You may see a second version of it this week in how the media emphasize or downplay the immigration status, voting habits, and murder spree-ness, of this guy.)
Yes, CNN did ask Machado if she threatened to kill a judge. She replied, oddly, “What matters is my self-esteem.”
The media might have the same response to why they’re playing cabana boy to the Clinton campaign. They’re not interested in reporting the news so much as feeding their self-perception of righteousness. A journalistic establishment that was less entertainment, less pseudo-event, less undistilled public relations coup would serve us well right about now.