Accuracy in Media

Hillary Clinton has a litany of reasons she lost the presidential election: It was James Comey resurrecting the email scandal a week before the election, poor campaign work, Russian conspirators, Trump’s intimidating manner on the debate stage.

But the hardest to believe of all … Hillary blames the press. Media covered too much of what she didn’t want told and too little of what she wanted told about Trump. Reporting settled on the negative, refused to read her policy papers and didn’t capture the beautiful vision she had –- but struggled to express -– for America’s future. 

Most people outside her campaign would find this claim far-fetched. Every day’s paper carried multiple stories about how Trump was unfit for office, knew nothing of what it took to be president and was corrupt in dealings with Russia. Estimates put the coverage of Trump at upwards of 90 percent negative. 

But Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for the Washington Post, bought it hook, line and sinker

Sullivan said that far too much was made of the email story. Clinton installed a secret server in her home to avoid having her emails on public servers and thus subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. 

The story dragged on for months as Clinton fought prosecutors to keep from having to turn over emails, claimed they had been lost, claimed devices on which they might be found had been lost or smashed at the direction of government IT employees and challenged the classification of emails that had been turned over.

In July 2016, Comey announced the FBI did not have sufficient evidence to make a case against Clinton, which intensified coverage of the email issue.

“None of Donald Trump’s scandals … generated the kind of sustained, campaign-defining coverage that my emails did,” Clinton wrote.  

Sullivan tried to enlist media figures to back her theory. 

“Half the people want to blame us for Trump, and half the people want to say that we’re terrible to Trump,” said CNN chief Jeff Zucker. 

Chuck Todd came out with something about lessons learned, saying, “You cover the campaign that’s in front of you. You don’t get to cover the campaign you want.”

Sullivan’s former employer did not want to engage. 

“That kind of self-examination and review of coverage is something we engage in all the time and have done so after this election,” said Carolyn Ryan, who directed the Times’ political coverage during the campaign. 

Not even CBS’ David Rhodes, whose brother was a national security adviser to President Obama, would bite.

“There’s always a blame-the-media phase of any campaign,” Rhodes said.

Sullivan did lay some blame on Clinton.

“She dings the press for its failure to focus on substance, and for giving Trump far too much uncritical exposure during the primary season,” Sullivan wrote. “It’s all true, though Clinton must share in the blame because she failed to do what successful candidates must: generate news, drive home a clear message and provide at least some measure of excitement.”

The reasoning here is on the level of kids who kill their parents then throw themselves on the mercy of the court because they are orphans. Trump got more coverage because far more reporters were out to get him. They shied away from Clinton’s campaign because, in many instances, the less said the better. 


For a candidate who was editing the stories of the reporters covering her to complain about press coverage is absurd. For the media columnist of a major daily newspaper to take that case seriously is laughable. 

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