A new study shows that of all Donald Trump’s news coverage in the 2016 campaign, 77% of it was negative towards the New York City real estate mogul. And while the study, conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, showed that political coverage of all candidates was overwhelmingly negative, Hillary Clinton’s coverage was better than Trump’s. All told, only 64% of her coverage was unfavorable.
Even with those findings, the study’s author, Thomas Patterson, found a way to spin sympathy for Clinton. Noting that coverage of both candidates was 87% negative on the question of their presidential fitness, Patterson questioned whether or not the media made false equivalencies.
“Were the allegations surrounding Clinton of the same order of magnitude as those surrounding Trump?” Patterson wrote. “It’s a question that political reporters made no serious effort to answer during the 2016 campaign.”
Is that right? Patterson thinks the media treated Clinton’s email debacle with the same scrutiny as Trump’s “scandals”? They covered it – no denying that – but they covered it in approximately the same way they covered Benghazi. In at least 75% of the stories, the reader/viewer was subtly led to believe there was nothing to the email investigation. It was just a political witch hunt. The other 25% hit Clinton on her non-stop inability to tell the truth, sure, but that’s nothing compared to the day-in, day-out, unprecedented assault they waged on Trump. Clinton got the kind of negative coverage that most shady presidential candidates get. Trump’s negative coverage was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s disingenuous to pretend like they were ever treated equally by the mainstream press.
Patterson’s real issue, though, is not bias but the negative nature of political coverage in general.
“A healthy dose of negativity is unquestionably a good thing,” Patterson acknowledged. “Yet an incessant stream of criticism has a corrosive effect. It needlessly erodes trust in political leaders and institutions and undermines confidence in government and policy.”
He’s probably got a point there, but people have been complaining about “bad news” since the dawn of television. If there was something to be done about it, it would have been done by now. By bringing it up in this context, Patterson is giving liberals yet another thing to “fix.” Another thing to blame for an election result they simply can’t comprehend.
The truth is, the mainstream media did everything in their power to put Clinton in the White House while still maintaining (barely) the illusion of objectivity. Trump still won.
Ten years from now, they’ll still be trying to figure out how that could have possibly happened.