Sunday, July 6, 2008

Times Takes Anti-Hillary "Sexism" Charges Seriously

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Posted by: Clay Waters

As Times Watch has amply documented, the New York Times went along with the rest of the mainstream press in clearly favoring Barack Obama in its primary coverage. But Friday’s front page carried one last valentine to the Hillary Clinton campaign, “Critics and News Executives Split Over Sexism in Clinton Coverage,” by Katharine Seelye and Julie Bosman. The Times treated with respect allegations of media sexism from feminist supporters of Hillary, though it didn’t fully endorse the allegations.

Angered by what they consider sexist news coverage of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, many women and erstwhile Clinton supporters are proposing boycotts of the cable networks, putting up videos on a “Media Hall of Shame,” starting a national conversation about sexism and pushing Mrs. Clinton’s rival, Senator Barack Obama, to address the matter.

But many in the news media -- with a few exceptions, including Katie Couric, the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” -- see little need for reconsidering their coverage or changing their approach going forward. Rather, they say, as the Clinton campaign fell behind, it exploited a few glaring examples of sexist coverage to whip up a backlash and to try to create momentum for Mrs. Clinton.

Taking aim from the inside, though, was Ms. Couric, who herself has faced harsh criticism as the first woman to be the solo anchor of an evening news broadcast. Ms. Couric posted a video on the CBS Web site on Wednesday about the coverage of Mrs. Clinton.

“Like her or not, one of the great lessons of that campaign is the continued -- and accepted -- role of sexism in American life, particularly in the media,” Ms. Couric said.

She went on to lament the silence of those who did not speak up against it.

Seelye and Bosman then quoted large chunks of Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, who is among those calling for a “national discussion” of sexism.

Mrs. Clinton may have begun that discussion in her concession speech on Saturday when she said that women deserve equal respect, along with equal pay, and that “there are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century in our country.” She was referring to what emerged as conventional wisdom during the campaign that racism is no longer tolerated in America, but sexism is.

Yet to demonstrate sexism in the media, the Times recycled the same old hits Times columnist circulated by Judith Warner and Katie Couric, which suggests that the "sexism" suffered by Hillary was perhaps not quite as pervasive as her feminist defenders claim:

Cable television has come under the most criticism. Chris Matthews, a host on MSNBC, called Mrs. Clinton a “she-devil” and said she had gotten as far as she had only because her husband had “messed around.”

Mike Barnicle, a panelist on MSNBC, said that Mrs. Clinton was "looking like everyone’s first wife standing outside a probate court." Tucker Carlson, also on MSNBC, said, "When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."

The Times even faulted itself:

The establishment news media were faulted too. The New York Times wrote about Mrs. Clinton’s "cackle" and The Washington Post wrote about her cleavage.

Ken Rudin, an editor at National Public Radio, appeared on CNN, where he equated Mrs. Clinton with the actress Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” “She’s going to keep coming back, and they’re not going to stop her," Mr. Rudin said. He later apologized.

There’s an interesting admission en passant -- although the media denies being biased against Hillary, some admit that press coverage of Obama was so incredibly laudatory that it may have looked that way.

Many in the news media say it is important to look at the coverage of Mrs. Clinton in the context of the coverage of Mr. Obama. While hers was frequently positive, his was even more so -- even “euphoric,” said Mr. Rieder of American Journalism Review. That may have added to the impression that the Clinton coverage was negative, he said.

Starting in mid-December, 90 percent of comments about Mr. Obama on the three broadcast networks were positive, and 61 percent about Mrs. Clinton were positive, according to a study by Robert Lichter, a communications professor at George Mason University. But as Mr. Obama became the front-runner, things evened out. The study said that by the time Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign on June 7, they were getting about the same amount of positive coverage, with Mr. Obama at 48 percent and Mrs. Clinton at 45 percent.

The Times sympathetically portrayed the protests of two feminist groups, the National Organization for Women and the pro-abortion PAC Emily’s List. NOW has promised a waiting world a "Media Hall of Shame" devoted to sexism, a project the media will no doubt treat with a reverence it has never shown to conservatives who complain of unfair coverage.

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