Accuracy in Media

It is the media’s fault Hillary Clinton did not beat Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

If the mainstream media had written less about Clinton’s scandals and more about her policy proposals, she would have been elected president, according to a media analysis piece on Vox on Tuesday.

The premise of “The embarrassing epilogue to the media’s obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails” – subhead: “Maybe Clinton’s emails shouldn’t have been covered as if they were the single most important issue facing 2016 voters?” – by Ian Millhiser is deceiving in and of itself.  

It is a keyed to a report that came out last week from a State Department review of the handling of classified information pertaining to Clinton’s emails to determine whether there was a failure to safeguard classified information and whether anyone could be held personally culpable.

The review found 91 violations attributable to 38 people and another 497 violations where culpability could not be readily established. The probe involved only emails Clinton had provided to the State Department. At least 33,000 emails remain missing and were not part of the investigation.

But Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress – a think tank founded by former Bill Clinton aide John Podesta – used the report as a pretext to close the book on Clinton wrongdoing in 2016.

“We can all finally stop worrying about Hillary Clinton’s emails,” Millhiser wrote. “… The report can be fairly summarized in two sentences: She shouldn’t have done that. But it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

We were led to believe it was because the media conflated two stories, Millhiser wrote – that of “Clinton’s use of a private server for State Department business and the leaking of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee server – and the latter, we’d learn later, was a Russian military intelligence operation.”

We have learned no such thing. The server never was examined by federal government authorities of any stripe. The notion the DNC server was hacked by Russians comes from CrowdStrike, the mysterious cybersecurity technology firm with ties to Russia and Ukraine that worked for the Democratic National Committee. The Russians vehemently deny involvement in this, and President Trump’s asking Ukraine’s president to get to the bottom of this is the subject of the Democrats’ push to impeach the president.

Mainstream media downplayed the report, Millhiser wrote.

The New York Times, he charged, ran as many cover stories about Clinton’s email scandal as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the 2016 election. But its story “on the State Department report concluding that her emails weren’t actually that big a deal ran on page A16 in print (It was featured somewhat more prominently on the Times’ online homepage).”

Moreover, according to Media Matters for America, the liberal media watchdog group, the three major cable networks and three broadcast networks spent less than 56 minutes combined on the new State Department report, Millhiser wrote.

He pointed to another report from Harvard researchers that showed “Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.”

“The overall impression created by this reporting, in other words, was that the emails were more important than all of the policy questions facing voters in 2016 – questions like whether millions of Americans would lose health care, whether the United States would bar immigrants because of their religion, and who would control the Supreme Court,” Millhiser wrote

“We cannot know with certainty what would have happened if news outlets did not fixate on this story during 2016. But as Tina Nguyen wrote in Vanity Fair, “you could fit all the voters who cost Clinton the election in a mid-sized football stadium.”




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