As Hillary Clinton's tour in promotion of her new book continues, Andrew Endymion has offered a corrective to some of the nonsense the former candidate is spewing all over her press appearances. "Despite the claims of Hillary's most brainwashed groupies," he writes, "the media was overwhelming in its support of her campaign," support, he documents, that has continued right through Clinton's current tour, where she's granting interviews to sympathetic press outlets that allow her to mouth outlandish comments about that campaign over and over again without any serious challenge. This blog covered the performance of the press throughout the Democratic primary campaign, work that buttresses Endymion's article.
Bernie Sanders, Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, began his campaign an almost complete unknown and much of the corporate press seemed determined to keep it that way, instituting what became known as the "Bernie Blackout."
When Sanders officially joined the race in April 2015, the evening newscasts of the three major networks virtually ignored the development. ABC’s World News Tonight disposed of it in less than 20 seconds, with half of that devoted to Clinton's reaction to it. The CBS Evening News gave it only a portion of a single sentence as an aside at the end of an unrelated report about the Clinton Foundation. The NBC Nightly News shoehorned a few seconds about it into a report about Hillary Clinton's political chameleonism over the years. Not a single newscast ran a full report on Sanders, despite all three having devoted full reports to the campaign launches of Clinton and every Republican who had, to that date, announced his candidacy.
In May 2015, Steve Hendricks wrote a pretty good Columbia Journalism Review piece on how the press was handling Sanders' candidacy:
"The [New York] Times, for example, buried his announcement on page A21, even though every other candidate who had declared before then had been put on the front page above the fold. Sanders's straight-news story didn't even crack 700 words, compared to the 1,100 to 1,500 that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Hillary Clinton got. As for the content, the Times' reporters declared high in Sanders's piece that he was a long shot for the Democratic nomination and that Clinton was all but a lock. None of the Republican entrants got the long-shot treatment, even though Paul, Rubio, and Cruz were generally polling fifth, seventh, and eighth among Republicans before they announced."
The Tyndall Report, which tracks the network evening newscasts, reported that Bernie Sanders’ campaign received only 20 minutes of coverage in the entirety of 2015, compared to Clinton’s 121 minutes. Clinton's other Democratic rivals Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb managed very little public support and were given even less coverage. For comparison, even Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, whose campaigns were jokes, managed to draw 57 minutes in the same period.
When the corporate press wasn't trying to ignore Sanders to death, it was working to marginalize him, presenting him as a fringe candidate, an uber-longshot, a dealer in fairy-dust who advocated policies far too extreme to ever be taken seriously in American politics despite the fact that they commanded the support of very broad majorities of the public. When it was judged worthy of any mention, his campaign was analyzed primarily by how it would affect Clinton's candidacy, which supported Clinton's favored narrative of her own inevitability. After the first Democratic debate, which wasn't even held until October 2015, press pundits pretty much unanimously declared Clinton the winner by a blow-out, while every available metric suggested the viewing public thought Sanders had won.
As the primary contests proceeded and Sanders gathered steam and couldn't be so easily ignored, press attacks on his campaign increased and became increasingly vicious and even less grounded in reality. Endymion mentions some notorious incidents, such as the Washington Post's decision to run no less than 16 anti-Sanders stories in the 16 hours leading into the critical Michigan primary and the time the editors of the New York Times pulled from the paper's website a positive story examining Sanders' legislative record, rewrote it into an anti-Sanders hit-piece then republished it without ever indicating any change had been made. After Sanders completely destroyed Clinton in Wisconsin, the frustrated Clintonites launched a campaign to present Sanders as unqualified to be president. Sanders responded to this attack by turning it back on itself and the press corps, at the urging of the Clinton campaign issued a collective gasp and spent a week insisting Sanders had said Clinton was unqualified to be president and trashing him for it. Sanders was interviewed by editors of the New York Daily News, a paper that endorsed Clinton and characterized Sanders as "a fantasist who's at passionate war with reality," and a question was raised about how Sanders would break up the big banks, a key Sanders issue but one the Daily News editors didn't understand--they completely bungled the facts and made it sound as if Sanders didn't know what he was talking about. Much of the rest of the press spent the next few days (at the behest of the Clinton camp) pillorying Sanders as the candidate who can't explain how he'd break up the big banks. This, unlike most of the other examples of press malfeasance, did lead to a bit of a backlash, as people who did understand the matter began to come forward and point out Sanders had gotten it right but the damage had been done and that Sanders had made a mess of the issue is a bit of conventional wisdom repeated by Clintonites to this day.
ABC News' World News Tonight devoted only 4 minutes to coverage of Sanders in 2015, the lowest of any network (three of those minutes were in December). I wrote regularly about ABC News' horrible coverage of the Democratic race, which was almost entirely Clinton-centric, with Sanders only ever making brief cameo appearances as some odd outside force the heroine of the story had to overcome on her way to the presidency. Night after night, ABC's "reports" on the race couldn't have been more pro-Clinton if they'd been produced by the Clinton campaign itself. They, in fact, often looked like Clinton campaign ads. Clinton, for example, was notoriously incapable of drawing crowds. In what seemed a perfect metaphor for the campaign, she would routinely have to address audiences in which the reporters covering her outnumbered the spectators who had come to hear her, while Sanders was drawing the largest crowds of anyone on either side, a constant source of embarrassment for Clinton. In the final WNT report before the Iowa caucus, there was correspondent Cecilia Vega insisting, in an entirely gratuitous fashion, that a huge crowd had gathered to see Clinton and even showing footage of people allegedly waiting on line. "Look at how far back it stretches." I covered example after example of this sort of made-to-order pro-Clinton nonsense.
While Clinton's wins were trumpeted, Sanders' wins were regularly pooh-poohed, with some press outlets failing to mention them at all. In the aftermath of the Republican and Democratic contests of 5-6 March, correspondent Tom Llamas took to Good Morning America to report "a seismic weekend for the Republican field, Sen. Ted Cruz having a super Saturday, winning two states and taking the most delegates." Cruz had won 2 out of 5 contests. At the same time, Sanders took 3 of the weekend's 4 contests, including racking up much more impressive wins in the same states as Cruz plus Nebraska and also took the most delegates but while Cruz is covered as having had a "seismic weekend," Llamas doesn't even mention two of Sanders' three victories and dismisses the only one he opts to cover ("but Clinton [is] still way ahead when it comes to delegates."). On 26 March, Sanders completely destroyed Clinton in Hawaii, Washington and Alaska, the latest wins in a streak in which he'd taken 6 of the last 7 contests; instead of live election coverage, MSNBC and CNN opted to show, respectively, re-runs of a prison reality-show and a documentary about Jesus.
The Democratic superdelegates are party insiders who, though not elected by anyone, are each granted the same standing at the party nominating convention as thousands of actual voters. A super doesn't vote until the convention and he's free to change his mind at any point up to then but press outlets insisted on ubiquitously including those supers who had expressed a preference in the various delegate counts. Hillary Clinton sewed up a massive portion of this Establishment good ol' boys club before any real voters had spoken and the improper inclusion of the supers in these counts made Clinton look unbeatable. Even DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Clinton partisan who collaborated with the Clinton campaign to tilt the primary process in Clinton's favor, publicly noted that the press was misrepresenting the race by this practice. But it continued anyway until, the day before the 2nd-biggest round of contests on the Democratic calendar, the press used the supers to declare the Democratic race closed and Clinton the nominee, one of the more brazen and outrageous media interventions in an electoral contests in memory.
Clinton's only significant critical coverage throughout this process was over her private email server while she was Secretary of State but as Endymion notes, the reason this so persistently stayed in the news is because Clinton refused to be honest about it. Practically everything she said about the matter was a lie and with every new revelation proving the last lie, she'd simply introduce another that would then blow up in similar fashion.
On her current book tour, Clinton is correct in her assertion that Trump was boosted by the press. From his entrance into the race, Trump was getting many times the coverage of anyone else. But as Endymion notes, it's hardly proper to let Clinton go from show to show complaining about this given that it was the official policy of her campaign right from the beginning to pump up Trump's candidacy. The Clinton camp asked for this, the press, which had done everything to pump up her own weak, loser candidacy, was happy to oblige. And now, as the woman who is more responsible than anyone for inflicting Trump on the U.S., returns to the public eye to pimp a book of lies aimed at absolving herself of any real responsibility for anything that happened in the campaign, well, the press is happy to provide a friendly platform for that too.