On May 15, 2018, on CNN’s Don Lemon show, to point out the disparity in coverage between CNN (“real news”) and Fox (purportedly biased, right-winger news) host Don Lemon aired segments from Fox and Friends, where those hosts expressed frustration that people within the White House leaked a staffer’s comments about John McCain, allegedly joking he wouldn’t be around much longer due to his brain cancer, and thus cease to be an obstruction to the Trump agenda. The mainstream media has been inordinately sympathetic to McCain over the last year, possibly as a result of his near incessant criticism of Trump. After airing the Fox and Friends clip, CNN’s Lemon and panel took the position that Fox commentators were part of an echo chamber, and that their focusing on “leaking” was a distraction from the real issue of the substantive comments about McCain contained in the leaks. On May 11, 2018, USA Today published a story with the headline “Donald Trump aide who said John McCain is ‘dying anyway’ still has a job,” with the clear implication that the aide should not have a job, in USA Today’s opinion, which was not an opinion piece. The New York Times published a story on May 11, detailing the White House’s refusal to apologize over the leaked statement about John McCain. The list continues, and all of the “reliable” mainstream outlets focus on the content of the leaked remark from a White House aide, and not the controversy over the leak itself.
While the remark about McCain may be more salivating and newsworthy for journalists to focus on than the mere fact of a leak, this represents a massive departure from these same journalist’s and commentators’ coverage and opinion of Hillary Clinton and Wikileaks, in 2016. IN 2016, Republicans and critics of Clinton were quick to point out that Clinton and her people did not dispute the accuracy of the Wikileaks documents and emails released to the public in a slow drip in 2016, and intelligence officials did not find that any of the documents released were fake. At the time, rather than dive into the substance of the leaked materials from the DNC and Clinton campaign, as well as Hillary’s emails, mainstream media, including CNN, focused on the impropriety of the “hack,” while ignoring largely the substance of the documents themselves. CNN and other mainstream outlets spent an overwhelming majority of coverage time on the the Access Hollywood tape, and other Trump coverage, before and after October 2016, than on the damning revelations about Clinton and her campaign.
To the extent media covered the substance of information Hillary would rather not have been made public in 2016, mainstream media like CNN worked to downplay the substance, summarizing the substance of Podesta’s emails as they related to Clinton that “Clinton has a reputation of being careful and guarded, at times calculating, and the emails show a campaign that runs that way.” CNN also concluded in the October 18, 2016 article, as to some of Hillary’s leaked speeches “the speeches offer no dramatic differences between what Clinton said publicly, as Sanders and other liberal Democrats suggested they might during the Democratic primary.”
A DataFace study conducted and published in August 2016 revealed that Trump received an enormous amount of print and online media coverage, to which Hillary paled in comparison. The study aggregated WSJ, Weekly Standard, Washington Post, New York Times, Slate, Politico, For News, and the Chicago Tribune.
While receiving more news coverage than your opponent would seem to be a good thing, for Mr. Trump, a study conducted by Harvard’s Shorestein Center of Media, Politics, and Public Policy of media coverage of Trump’s first 100 days in office revealed that not only did little change in terms of Trump continuing to dominate headlines, but that “Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.” The study also found that “Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.” The sources for this study included the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS Evening News, CNN’s The Situation Room, Fox’s Special Report, and NBC Nightly News, and three European news outlets (Financial Times, based in London; BBC, Britain’s public service broadcaster; and ARD, Germany’s oldest public service broadcaster).
But the negative tone towards Mr. Trump is perhaps unsurprising, when considering that it was revealed in October 2016 by Wikileaks, that over 65 msm “journalists” had private meetings with Clinton’s top advisors; Politico’s chief political correspondent, Glenn Thrush, would feed drafted articles to the Clinton campaign for review before publishing, as an example. Wikileak-ed John Podesta emails revealed that NY Times and CNBC’s John Harwood secretly advised and emailed John Podesta to look out for Ben Carson as a potential threat, and bragging about how he provoked Mr. Trump while “moderating” a presidential debate in 2015.
Of course, this is not the most over-covered, Trump-leak story since Trump took office. It is, however, one of the most recent.
But why the change in focus from the sin and crime of leaking to the goldmine of the leak itself, i.e., the substance? True, there was some modicum of press given to the Hillary bombshells released in 2016 leading up to the election (for to do otherwise would have been journalistic malpractice and an obvious act of suppression by any network flatly ignoring the story), but it paled in comparison to, and was “trumped,” by Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, and the 19 or so women who appeared and disappeared after the election to accuse him of alleged groping etc.
Every Trump White House leak has been met with glee by a mainstream press, salivating over the prospect of a ratings booster, and another morsel to feed the hysterical, anti-Trump, news-consumer base. One is hard-pressed to recall comparable, wall-to-wall news coverage of Obama White House leaks. Such coverage of the Trump White House entails the near incessant suggestion by newsmen and pundits that the inference to be drawn is that Trump is incompetent, otherwise he would control these leaks, and his staff. Perhaps it is too much for the ordinary citizen to connect the dots and follow the money trail from corporate media, to corporate Democrats and RINOs that serve the donor corporate media and their parent companies and advertisers. Be that as it may, the disparity in coverage between Trump leaks and Clinton leaks (and hacks, in the case of Podesta) is glaring.