Media Coverage Of Kavanaugh Was Criminal. Here’s How They Can Fix It Going Forward.

Media Coverage Of Kavanaugh Was Criminal. Here’s How They Can Fix It Going Forward.

Coverage of the Joe Biden sexual assault allegation definitively shows that the media protect political allies who are accused of sexual assault and attempt to destroy those they perceive as political opponents.
Mollie Hemingway
By

Coverage of the Joe Biden sexual assault allegation definitively shows that the media protect political allies who are accused of sexual assault and attempt to destroy those they perceive as political opponents. It’s nowhere near sufficient to simply note that fact. They must be forced to change their behavior and amends must begin to be made. They can start by apologizing to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and removing the “sexual assault” asterisk they constantly put next to his name.

Dozens of thoughtful articles have detailed the major media’s shockingly disparate coverage of a sexual assault allegation against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden versus the unsubstantiated allegations against Kavanaugh.

It’s a low bar, but the charge against Biden is the stronger of the two. Unlike the situation with Kavanaugh, Biden’s accuser Tara Reade has evidence she at least met her alleged perpetrator. Even Biden defenders admit that Reade worked for him in 1993. There remains no evidence Christine Blasey Ford ever even met Brett Kavanaugh, the man she accused of trying to rape and inadvertently kill her in the 1980s.

Also unlike the Kavanaugh situation, Reade has evidence she told multiple people about the alleged assault at the time she claimed it happened and shortly thereafter. Blasey Ford never tied Kavanaugh to any claim until three decades after the 1980s, and only when he was a nationally known figure being talked about as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

Blasey Ford couldn’t get any of her claimed witnesses to back up her story. That includes her lifelong friend, Leland Keyser, who was pressured by mutual acquaintances to change her story when she said she could not corroborate Blasey Ford’s account. Both men have very good reputations among their female friends, staff, and colleagues, although Biden has also recently been forced to apologize for his well-known handsiness with women in his midst.

Nevertheless, whereas the entire media put all hands on deck to push Blasey Ford’s story and help her smooth out its many problems, they more or less had to be dragged kicking and screaming to cover Reade’s accusation, finally issuing stories on Easter Sunday after 19 days of steadfastly ignoring the claim.

For the Kavanaugh allegation, the media issued gauzy and hagiographic profiles of Blasey Ford and used the most sympathetic storytelling imaginable to dramatically roll out her allegation. They made the story massive by publishing as many articles as they could on literally anything that could be spun in Blasey Ford’s favor and against Kavanaugh’s. They applied intense public pressure against any Kavanaugh defender. They had their editorial pages pushing in lockstep for his destruction.

By contrast, the Times and other media outlets are hoping to dispose of the Biden problem with a dry, one-off accounting of Reade’s claim. Whereas the standard employed by the media for Kavanaugh’s accuser was “Believe All Women” no matter their lack of evidence (you might recall their many stories explaining the importance of that standard), the standard employed by the media for Biden’s accuser is full skepticism.

The New York Times even removed a line noting Biden’s history of handsiness with women, and deleted a tweet that said the same, at the request of his campaign. The disparate treatment goes on and on and on.

The situation is so blindingly obvious that one New York Times columnist was forced to confront New York Times editor Dean Baquet about it. Baquet asserted, implausibly, that Biden wasn’t a major news figure and the allegation wasn’t a major news story and so, you see, his paper handled both situations properly. In the words of National Review, “The New York Times Knows Nobody Believes It about Biden, Kavanaugh, and Sexual Assault.”

No additional time needs to be spent discussing whether the New York Times and other media outlets were proper or fair. We aren’t idiots. Everyone who lived through the Kavanaugh coverage knows that the Biden coverage is indefensibly different.

But noting the hypocrisy and corruption is not enough. The following items must be attended to immediately.

Remove Kavanaugh’s Asterisk

Nearly every time Kavanaugh is mentioned in a news story, the Blasey Ford allegation is mentioned. The mention of the unsubstantiated allegation serves as a stigmatizing asterisk next to his name.

Blasey Ford’s attorney Debra Katz admitted on videotape that this was their goal. She said that she and her client were politically motivated against Kavanaugh’s nomination and put forth the accusations so there would be an “asterisk” next to Kavanaugh’s name. Helping Katz with her political goal of placing an asterisk next to his name has been the fully compliant media.

The asterisk serves many malicious purposes. It ensures that every story his wife, daughters, mother, father, colleagues, and friends read about him contains this allegation that has never been substantiated. It serves to keep him from safely leaving his house.

More broadly, it harms the significant portion of the country that supports an originalist understanding of the Constitution. The ultimate goal isn’t just malice toward a father and husband the left perceived as a threat to a political goal. The ultimate goal is to delegitimize the Supreme Court and any decision at odds with The New York Times editorial board.

The media have lost the right to apply the asterisk through their disparate treatment of sexual assault allegations based on the politics of the accused. The media don’t get to get away with treating people differently based on their politics and continuing that disparate treatment into eternity with the uneven application of the asterisk.

This must stop. No more asterisks. Alternatively, the media can begin to use asterisks in each and every one of the stories on all of their political allies, such as Biden, who have been accused of rape.

Stop Using ‘Credibly Accused’ For ‘Unverified’ or ‘Unsubstantiated’

When the media really got going with their “Believe All Women (Who Accuse Our Political Opponents)” approach, they began to use the phrase “credibly accused” for allegations that were unproven. If the media claimed Kavanaugh had been “credibly accused” of rape once, they said it ten thousand times.

They even said this when Michael Avenatti’s client Julie Swetnick put forth the claim that Kavanaugh — a man who had favorably gone through six FBI background checks — was the secret leader of an underage gang rape cartel that roamed the streets of suburban Maryland. Somehow that phrase is not in use for Biden, who was by their own weak definition and liberal use of the term more than credibly accused of rape by his former employee.

Apologize to Brett Kavanaugh

That the media couldn’t even dream of putting Biden through one thousandth of what they so casually put Kavanaugh through should prick the conscience of everyone who participated in the ghoulish feeding frenzy. They know how vile it is to ruin someone’s reputation without definitive evidence.

True improvement begins with repentance and a willingness to turn away from evil behavior. What the media did to Kavanaugh was disgusting, and they should apologize.

That’s Just a Start

The above issues are the bare minimum that need to happen to begin to restore credibility to the corrupt media. There’s no reason to believe that they want to be taken seriously or as anything other than partisan activists who accomplished their desired political mission in how they treated Kavanaugh and Biden. (Or how they handled the conspiracy theory that Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Or how they covered the 2016 election. Or how they’re covering the global pandemic.) But if they do, and if they want to be treated respectfully by those outside their political alliance, they must work on these issues.

They also must institute hiring and firing reforms, firing editors and reporters who perpetrate this sad state of affairs and hiring people who don’t share their groupthink, their political agenda, and their malicious capabilities.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. She is Senior Journalism Fellow at Hillsdale College and a Fox News contributor. She is the co-author of Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
Photo Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

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