We interrupt the daily obsession with Hillary Clinton’s non-criminal email “scandal” (for those who subscribe to the “it looks so so bad” theory, please read this and then think again) to point out that her opponent has a history longer than a society girl’s wedding dress train of ACTUAL illegal, unethical and sleazy behavior, some of it going on RIGHT NOW, all while the Post’s Roz Helderman waits raptly for the right wing nutballs at Judicial Watch to puke out her daily sustenance.
Paul Waldman, whatcha got for us?
The big difference is that there are an enormous number of reporters who get assigned to write stories about those issues regarding Clinton. The story of something like the Clinton Foundation gets stretched out over months and months with repeated tellings, always with the insistence that questions are being raised and the implication that shady things are going on, even if there isn’t any evidence at a particular moment to support that idea.
When it comes to Trump, on the other hand, we’ve seen a very different pattern. Here’s what happens: A story about some kind of corrupt dealing emerges, usually from the dogged efforts of one or a few journalists; it gets discussed for a couple of days; and then it disappears. Someone might mention it now and again, but the news organizations don’t assign a squad of reporters to look into every aspect of it, so no new facts are brought to light and no new stories get written.
The end result of this process is that because of all that repeated examination of Clinton’s affairs, people become convinced that she must be corrupt to the core. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of negative coverage of Trump, because of course there is, but it’s focused mostly on the crazy things he says on any given day.
But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:
Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. According to the allegations, Ailes’s behavior was positively monstrous; as just one indicator, his abusive and predatory actions toward women were so well-known and so loathsome that in 1968 the morally upstanding folks in the Nixon administration refused to allow him to work there despite his key role in getting Nixon elected.
Waldman’s conclusion, with which I heartily concur (my emphasis):
To repeat, the point is not that these stories have never been covered, because they have. The point is that they get covered briefly, then everyone in the media moves on. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.
That’s important, because we may have reached a point where the frames around the candidates are locked in: Trump is supposedly the crazy/bigoted one, and Clinton is supposedly the corrupt one. Once we decide that those are the appropriate lenses through which the two candidates are to be viewed, it shapes the decisions the media make every day about which stories are important to pursue.
And it means that to a great extent, for all the controversy he has caused and all the unflattering stories in the press about him, Trump is still being let off the hook.
Maybe the Post should pull a couple of its reporters off the “tut tut, it may not be illegal, but it looks so unseemly” beat and report on actual criminal and unethical behavior. The Florida AG and Roger Ailes stories are happening RIGHT NOW. Literally, as the Post is breathlessly reporting this morning (some ten minutes ago) that Gretchen Carlson has settled her claims against Fox regarding Ailes’ harassment for, ahem, a cool $20 million.
But hey, there’s a Judicial Watch press conference at noon, and y’know, priorities?