Hillary Clinton called out FBI Director James Comey, Putin, and even suggested that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, but the one group that she should not have left out while discussing her 2016 defeat was the media.
During an interview with CNN’s Chrisitiane Amanpour Clinton said, “I was on the way to winning until Jim Comey’s letter on October 28, and Russian Wikileaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off, and the evidence for that intervening event is I think compelling persuasive.”
She added, “If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president.”
Clinton was correct, but much of the damage that she suffered from the Comey letter and the Russians was amplified by the media. Many in the media approached Hillary Clinton’s campaign like something that they did not want to cover. The press came into the campaign with a biased view of Clinton and pre-baked narrative of “Clinton scandals” that they were waiting to fill.
Nate Silver calculated that the coverage decisions made by the media cost Clinton 3 points in the polls, “Clinton experienced a sharp, 3-point drop in her polls after the Comey letter came out. Then on 11/8, she lost FL, WI, PA & MI by <=1 point. It's a fairly open-and-shut case. But the media's election post-mortems have mostly ignored it because it implicates the media's judgment." What Silver was talking about is the fact that the media spent three times more time talking about Clinton’s emails than her policies. The negative coverage didn’t begin during the election. Clinton received nearly universal negative coverage in the year before the primaries began.
How the media chose to cover this election mattered. Trump got nearly $5 billion in free media coverage during the 2016 election. In the last week of the campaign, 72% of Clinton’s coverage was negative in comparison to 65% for Trump. In a close election, that fact that Clinton got more negative coverage mattered.
Hillary Clinton bears the ultimate responsibility for the loss, but the media were not flawless neutral observers in this election. If Hillary Clinton is going to point out reasons why she lost, one of the biggest reasons was that the media happily played up the bogus email scandal and pushed Russian propaganda because it fit their election narrative.
The media failed democracy in 2016, and unless they are held accountable, they will do the same in future elections.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association