At the presidential debate on Sunday night, Anderson Cooper of CNN thrice asked the same question in reference to the “Access Hollywood” tape that had been leaked two days prior. The text doesn’t quite give the indication of just how hard Cooper pushed for the denial, but here it is:
For the record, are you saying, what you said on the bus 11 years ago, that you did not kiss women without consent or grope women without consent.
So you’re saying you never did that.
Have you ever done those things?
That night, prominent #NeverTrumper Ben Shapiro wrote, “This exchange is the set-up. The next week is going to be the punch line.” He added, “That Cooper grilling was a complete set-up, and Trump fell for it. Every woman Trump ever kissed without permission will now come out.”
Within a few days, a series of negative stories about Donald Trump making unwanted advances on women were unveiled throughout the political-media industrial complex. BuzzFeed, The New York Times, The Guardian, the Palm Beach Post, CBS News, People magazine, and NBC News all released stories within a few hours of each other.
They’re all unseemly. The People piece by Natasha Stoynoff, for instance, is about how she did a feature on the first anniversary of Trump’s third wedding. She writes that she went to Mar-a-Largo and he stuck his tongue down her throat and said they’d have an affair. She says he also bragged about his sexual prowess and then acted normal whenever Melania was around.
None of it is particularly surprising for a man who spent decades bragging about his sexual prowess, adultery, handsiness, sexual entitlement, and so on and so forth. I mean, here’s Jay Leno joking about a Trump candidacy in the 1990s:
Jay Leno pretty much predicted how horrible this election would be back in 1999: pic.twitter.com/e3bi5W1yC4
JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) October 10, 2016
That this information is coming out is all so obvious that if you saw all these warning signs — and everyone saw these warning signs — and still supported Trump, you should look inward.
Still, it’s intriguing that there was an obviously coordinated push. Opposition researcher Luke Thompson, also not a Trump fan, had some thoughts on the coordination:
Ok. Trump is horrible. But I want to talk a little bit about the oppo dump that’s happening in real time. This is world class work folks. This is a brilliantly coordinated drop, with staggered embargoes. First, notice the mix of local outlets and national outlets. There’s a great mix of print and broadcast as well. Start with the NYT to get eyeballs on the web and TV. CNN picks it up immediately. Ok. Now you’ve got a story rolling. Within an hour, you start to get multiple waves coming out of local outlets. These get picked up. Within ninety minutes you’ve got reporters reporting on existing reporting. The cycle is locked in. Nobody’s assessing the stories. And here’s the kicker: the victims live in FL, OH, even UT. THEY’RE ALL SWING STATES! It’s masterful to be honest. Take a bow.
Perhaps if the target weren’t someone as reprobate and immoral as Donald Trump one could muster some sympathy. But he chose the wanton, unscrupulous lifestyle and bragged about it. So the mood upon seeing this coordinated attack is more like this scene from the great 2004 film “Anchorman”:
This was the second debate in a row that set up a media attack on Trump. In the first debate, the work was done by Hillary Clinton herself. Folks noted at the time she had rushed through a response on one question and added in a mention of a Miss Universe who had said Trump called her fat. The next morning, Cosmopolitan and The Guardian published photo features of Alicia Machado that had been waiting around. The New York Times had a double-bylined article published within hours. And the rest of the media — and Trump himself, of course — kept the story going all week.
Now we learn of reports that NBC executives planned to release their “Access Hollywood” tape for maximum impact on the election. They wanted to wait for the day after the debate, but others leaked it to the Washington Post prior to the debate.
Cooper works hard to get the denial from Trump, kudos to him. And three days later we now have everyone leaking the story at once.
Again, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. All’s fair in love and war. And so on and so forth. But there is something curious about this high level of coordination between the media and the Clinton campaign. It’s worth asking whether it’s healthy. Heck, it’s worth noting that “coordination” is the nicer construction on what just transpired.
Enter yet another #NeverTrump guy on Twitter, who goes by the handle @PoliticalMath. He wrote a lengthy series of Tweets that I’ll reproduce here:
To my liberal friends: I know you think this is paranoid & conspiratorial but let me try to paint for you how it feels to be on the right. For a year, we’ve been saying ‘the press has massive dirt on Trump but they won’t release it until after the nomination.’ Every anti-Trump person said this over and over ‘they have so much dirt on him, they’re not telling you what they have’ and we got mocked. ‘Hey if we had a dirty Trump story, we’d publish it before the [nomination].’ ‘We’re doing our job, your voters are just dumb.’
The more realistic of us on the right suspected the press wasn’t ‘holding’ a story so much as not really looking too hard into Trump. So Trump got to be on every cable channel non-stop, oppo was very thin, investigative pieces were weak sauce for months & months. We on the right accused the press of not doing their job & we just got laughed at, people saying we were ‘blaming’ the press for Trump. Which is kind of true, we did blame the press (I tried hard to say that this was the fault of MANY actors). But it’s been months of this.
After a year of saying ‘they have dirt on him.’ After there is no chance he’ll step down. All this comes out. This *could* be a coincidence. It’s totally possible that the press discovered a decade old story JUST IN TIME for the election. In which case, I suppose we are lucky they didn’t discover it 4 weeks too late. Whew. We dodged a bullet on that one, didn’t we?
It’s possible that it’s just an uncanny coincidence. But, as PoliticalMath continues, “this fits EVERY theory about a dishonest, vicious, conniving press. Down to the last prediction & detail. Make your excuses about how the press MIGHT not be culpable but know that this was predicted in detail by media skeptics on the right. And when you predict something to this level of granularity & it comes true, you can’t just call the people who predicted it ‘crazy.'”
To put a fine point upon it, unless you claim to believe that every single person involved in these allegations just happened to be spurred at the same exact moment to go public and only because Cooper just happened to force magic words out of Trump’s mouth, we have three explanations for the current timing of the opposition research dump. None of them looks particularly good for the media.
1) The media had the information, but chose not to write about it until now. 2) The media didn’t bother looking for any of the information until after Trump had clinched the GOP nomination. Or 3) the media didn’t look for the information during the primary and didn’t look for the information during the general, and only used what the Clinton camp gave them over the last few weeks.
Even a combination of those answers doesn’t look too good for them.
It’s not even that most these stories were particularly unknown — although who could have known the “Access Hollywood” tape existed or the People magazine writer’s account unless they chose to publish it — but they were written about differently earlier in the year. Take the New York Times piece (by the same people who authored this week’s hit) on Trump’s treatment of women. Instead of with coordinated shock and horror, it described Trump this way:
What emerges from the interviews is a complex, at times contradictory portrait of a wealthy, well-known and provocative man and the women around him, one that defies simple categorization. Some women found him gracious and encouraging. He promoted several to the loftiest heights of his company, a daring move for a major real estate developer at the time.
He simultaneously nurtured women’s careers and mocked their physical appearance. ‘You like your candy,’ he told an overweight female executive who oversaw the construction of his headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. He could be lewd one moment and gentlemanly the next.
It’s not that this is bad. In fact, it’s probably far more accurate than the dramatic feeding frenzy going on at this moment. But it’s so different from what we’re being told now. It’s interesting, no? And it’s a piece specifically about his lewdness with women!
The thing to keep in mind, sadly, is that these political reports aren’t interested in helping women who accuse powerful men of sexual assault. I mean, the New York Times did this to Juanita Broaddrick just on Sunday:
Mollie (@MZHemingway) October 9, 2016
Or what about this?
David Rutz (@DavidRutz) October 12, 2016
The women aren’t named, no mention is made about sexual misconduct. There’s just passive mention of his “accusers.”
The entire issue of Bill Clinton’s sexaul assaults of women and Hillary Clinton’s enabling of it was dismissed thusly by CBS:
CBS News (@CBSNews) October 9, 2016
This is not a journalistic class interested in helping women exploited by sexually entitled men or their powerful wives.
Again, if you thought anything other than this would happen to Trump, you are an idiot. I’m sorry, but you are. Still, the media cooperation with the Clintons against the Trump campaign is disconcerting. Not for Trump’s sake. He and his enablers deserve this. But for the country and her civil discourse and self-government.
We all know that if Trump weren’t the nominee, something generally along these lines would be happening no matter who the Republican candidate was. Trump is deserving of what comes his way, but it’s hard to blame Trump voters for detecting a pattern in how the media treat candidates who don’t align themselves with the political agenda of most journalists.
Consider this tweet:
I swear to everything, if one more journalist makes this observation without self-awareness, I will lose my mind. https://t.co/I90RyalyO6
BWH (@BWH85) October 13, 2016
It’s popular for reporters to talk about how “quaint” the binders full of women controversy was. But let’s remember what actually happened there. What happened was that Mitt Romney talked about his efforts to hire more women into his administration as governor and for that he was beyond pilloried. President Obama quoted this line “as evidence of Mitt Romney’s extremism and his back-to-the-1950s reactionary worldview” and newspapers ran stories, columns, and video packages mocking it.
Or the time that The New York Times strongly suggested John McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist. The lobbyist sued, and the paper published a note a year later saying “the article did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain.”
Trump isn’t worse than anyone else in Hollywood, a land where sexual entitlement is embraced, protected, and covered up until such time as it’s necessary to throw someone under the bus. NBC had this video for years. Billy Bush was apparently bragging about it at the Olympics. It didn’t draw attention prior to Trump’s run because it was so normal. NBC paid Trump millions and millions of dollars all while knowing he was this cad. But now it’s all crashing down at just the precisely right moment.
So this week, when we could be having frenzied outrages about the racism of Clinton staffers, the conspiratorial anti-Catholicism of Clinton staffers, the crony capitalism of the frontrunner, and her ties to foreign governments, we are instead continuing to learn that the man who has bragged for decades about being a lecherous womanizer is that. It’s good for accomplishing the goal of electing Hillary Clinton and maintaining the status quo. But it might not be good for a media already distrusted by millions, or for institutions on the brink of crumbling.
“By the time Hillary and the media are done with Trump, Carthage’s fate after the third Punic War will seem merciful in comparison,” wrote Varad Mehta. Those who don’t think Trump a fit candidate for office will not shed tears over this. But who serves those with concerns about Hillary Clinton’s fitness for office?