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Friday, March 23, 2018

News outlets covering the presidential election have made the mistake of treating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as two equally flawed candidates. That false equivalence has made it harder for voters to understand the categorical differences between their options on November 8.

In typical elections, news outlets often treat both major presidential candidates as relatively similar — comparing their flaws, scrutinizing their respective scandals, and framing the election as a choice between two comparable options.

That approach hasn’t been appropriate this election cycle. Clinton is not a flawless candidate — her campaign has been dogged by conspiracies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But she is a relatively conventional one — abiding by both constitutional and political norms.

Trump, on the other hand, represents a dramatic break from mainstream American politics. He threatens the First Amendment, demonizes minority groups, cozies up to white supremacists, championed the birther movement, invites Russian interference in the election, promises to arrest his political opponent, lies constantly, lacks the most basic interest in and knowledge of public policy, says he may not accept the results of the election because he believes it to be “rigged” — the list goes on and on.

These are not equally flawed candidates. But a number of news outlets have treated them as such, devoting similar amounts of attention and ink to Clinton and Trump’s respective controversies.

The New York Times has been criticized for its disproportionate focus on Clinton’s email server and the Clinton Foundation, so much that the paper’s public editor penned a defense of the paper’s coverage:

The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates.


If Trump is unequivocally more flawed than his opponent, that should be plenty evident to the voting public come November. But it should be evident from the kinds of facts that bold and dogged reporting unearths, not from journalists being encouraged to impose their own values to tip the scale.

That approach, treating both candidates’ scandals equally and hoping voters come to the correct conclusion, is a big part of the reason that voters view Trump and Clinton as being similarly untrustworthy, and view their missteps as similarly concerning. Audiences internalize the way the media covers each candidate in relation to the other.

Treating two wildly different candidates as if they’re equally flawed is not “fairness” — it’s a journalistic failure. And news outlets that have failed to explain the categorical differences between the controversies dogging Trump and Clinton’s presidential campaigns have done a real disservice to voters who want to understand what’s at stake in November.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Illustrations by Dayanita Ramesh.

Photo: A combination photo shows Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) in Palm Beach, Florida and Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) in Miami, Florida at their respective Super Tuesday primaries campaign events on March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette (L), Javier Galeano (R)

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Copyright 2016 The National Memo

39 Responses to How False Equivalence Ruins Trump-Clinton News Coverage

  1. At least part is a Media so frightened of being called “liberal” that it has abandoned its responsibility to be informative.

    Another part is a Media that must be a profit center for its owners. Thus anything that can be categorized as “Liberal Media” is strictly taboo.

    • Just how stupid are you people? Don’t answer. The answer is beyond obvious. The Clinton’s are a criminal enterprise. Always have been. They learned their trade from Alinski, who was taught by Capone. Doesn’t the fact that she is a corrupt, lying bitch that only wants to profit from the American people bother anyone of you? Or do you want to live under servitude? You know the Democratic Party is the party of slavery? They formed the KKK as their enforcement arm. America needs a non politician as leader.
      As far as the media, they are in hillarys pocket and do what they are told like good little comrades. I hope there are enough Americans left that will stand up and not allow this election to be stolen by the liberal communist. We have our second amendment for a reason.

        • Just stupid enough to hand over our country to perhaps the most corrupt person in our country?
          I would expect that from a blind commie liberal.

          • You do know that Trump is being sued for fraud, and he faces criminal investigation in at least three States?

            Buzz word personal insults. Your intellectualism holds me spell bound.

          • You do know that the Clinton’s would and should be in prison for all their crimes if not for having the DOJ and FBI on their payroll??

          • Just fixed it.

            Thanks for looking out for me.

            And for the jollies of it, think of the size of the conspiracy kep would need to have the system work as he imagines.

            Is it a conspiracy if it involves a majority of the voters? If so, I was a member of the conspiracy to vote for President Obama, twice?

          • I was also brainwashed into voting for the Emperor. I’ve been a registered Democrat since I was eligible to vote. I was not a fan of the GOP by any means, and I’m still not. I woke up a few years ago when the regime started acting as if our laws and Constitution were beneath them. I’ll never again support a commie Democrat. Hillary is just more of the same that we have had for the past several decades. We need someone that will follow the oath they take. You know. The one that states that they will protect and defend our Constitution from ALL enemies? All Hillary wants is power to line her pockets, just like most of the career politicians, although I can’t think of anyone more corrupt than the Clinton’s.
            I doubt our votes make much of a difference anymore. With all the bs that has gone on with the DOJ and the FBI, it is clear that our government is as corrupt as it gets. Perhaps it is time for the peasants to rise up and take our country back from the liberals by force.

          • The Second Amendment was more about you being able to be drafted into the army & bring your own gear so the government wouldn’t have to pay for it.

            In all seriousness, do the math. How many people are in your conspiracy? How many people are corrupt? Or are you saying that everyone is corrupt?

            Would you buy a used car from Donald a Trump? “This car is great, believe me.”

            Your talk sails close to rebellion. President Washington had harsh things to say about rebellion in a republic. Or was President Washington a liberal communist too?

          • Liberals always like to interpret the Constitution to fit their agenda. Every dictator in history has first removed the people’s means of defence against them. Our second amendment was prominently placed as a means of defence against a too powerful, too corrupt government. It has nothing to do with hunting, or a military group. It is there as a means for the American people to protect and defend the Constitution. It was the only reason Japan never invaded our lands. They knew that near every American was armed, and it would be a fight at every turn of the road. Maybe you should read some actual history, not the common core version. I would also suggest you see ” Hillarys America”. It will open your eyes about the Democratic Party and all they have done and are doing. My democratic party has become the new Amerikan Communist Party, and I will have no part of it.

          • “It was the only reason Japan never invaded our lands.”

            Correction: There were three primary reasons the Japanese didn’t invade America. They were called the American military, Big Boy and Little Boy. Hope that clears up a bit of the right wing fog in your mind.

          • Never been a registered democrat myself but also voted for Obama in 08 knowing that when the average Joe has money in his pocket he spends it on products. Trump NEEDS to win by a large margin, just like the primaries, in order for it not to be stolen. It’s propaganda their feeding the American public that HC is ahead to suppress the vote. However, one poll I heard of that polls 1000 people from each state, 1/3 republican, 1/3 democrat, 1/3 independent has Trump winning most states by a VERY large margin….87% in some cases… it comes!

          • I agree about the polls and the media. I also think that Trump is going to win the popular vote, but I doubt the regime will allow him to win the electoral vote. There are too many corrupt politicians in office that do not want ANYTHING to change that would upset their lifestyle of the rich and famous. Ridding ourselves of ALL career politicians from government is the only way we can take back our country without an actual uprising.

          • kep, ABSOLUTELY! Let’s have an uprising! Kill anybody that doesn’t agree with you! Burn it down! Pit brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor! The only sure way to “make America great again”!
            Here’s what would make America great again, fool: people like you, Samaras and Trump just shut the hell up and move to a place more to your liking….Russia, perhaps?

          • Killing anyone that does not agree with you is what liberal commies do. Pitting brother against brother, and being divisive is what our current regime has been doing for the last 8 years. What I want to see is our country and government to start remembering that they are required to follow the Constitution and that they work for the American people. Politicians have become the ruling elite, and as demonstrated by both the Emperor and Hillary, that they think they are above our laws. When a criminal like Hillary can blackmail or bribe their way out of charges, I think we have a situation where the people need to implement change, using whatever means they must. Violence is always a last resort. However, liberals seem to use violence as a first go to method.

          • You poor delusional fool. As most cons do, you project all of the republican faults and foibles onto anyone that doesn’t buy into the conservative bullshlt. You are too far down in the barrel to listen to any degree of reason. Have a nice time at the Trump defeat ball.

          • You would place the most corrupt, criminal as leader of our country? Talk about being so brainwashed that you would embrace a lie over glaring truth. There is hope for you. Liberalism is a possibly curable mental disorder. Perhaps you should seek help, if you can afford to pay the Obama care premium and deductible, but soon you will need to take out a mortgage to do so. Yet another lie from your regime.

          • Isn’t it wonderful how the Clinton’s are starting to meltdown with all the revelations about how corrupt and criminal they are?

          • You really should broaden your horizons. Maybe your handlers would let you out of your basement for a bit?
            You haven’t read any of the wiki leaks papers? Have you seen any of the project Veritas tapes? The height of corruption and electoral rigging..

          • Please name that poll, Jim, and provide a link if you have one. I’d like to see that for myself. I’m funny that way.

          • Not too sure that will happen, considering how corrupt our government has become. We may have a better chance of getting our country back by rising up and taking it. Our Founders knew there was a possibility of power corrupting our leaders. Hence the second amendment that the liberals like to think only is meant for hunting.

          • Meanwhile Kaine gets a crowd of 35 people in Florida while Trump fills 20,000 in an auditorium……landslide I’m telling you!!!

          • People always have a tendency to gather around to watch a disaster in progress…what’s new? Why would the disaster known as Trump be any different?

  2. The reason the media is treating both candidates as being equally qualified for the Office of the Presidency is because a large segment of our population considers lack of qualifications, lack of relevant experience, immaturity, and unpredictable personal attributes that may bring about desperately needed change, in the country with the strongest economy in the world, the most powerful military in the world, and rights and freedoms that are the envy of much of the world.
    Faced with that mindset, the media obligingly abandoned their professional and intellectual responsibilities in favor of ratings and profits.

    • Edward R. Murrow is rolling in his grave. While he did not take down Joe McCarthy by himself (McCarthy really provided all of the raw material for his own takedown), he let everyone know just how terrible a person McCarthy was. He gave McCarthy plenty of rope with which to hang himself. I can envision Murrow doing the same thing to Trump and Trump, in full bloviation, falling into the trap. In McCarthy’s time, of course, there was a disgusted Senate to censure him and contribute to his demise. Trump and McCarthy were cut from the same cloth.

  3. It isn’t so much the so-called “equal coverage” claim that bugs me. It’s the fact that Teflon Donnie can pick up his phone and dominate a cable or radio news show for an hour of free coverage. If Secretary Clinton tried that, she would be vilified for attempting the same. This is how Teflon Donnie and his surrogates have managed to control the message. Fortunately, their message has been so over the top that they have turned off more potential GOP voters than they have attracted.
    The sad thing is listening to some of the people who either have already cast votes for or plan on voting for Mike Pence’s running mate are the ones who would be most damaged financially by a (sorry, but I have to say his real name now) Trump Presidency!

    • Truthfully Trump is his own worst enemy. He just doesn’t know when to shut up ???? & let things go. We’ve all been subjected to his rants & tantrums for the last 18 months & frankly most people just want him to go away. There is such a thing as media overexposure to the point we can’t stand to hear his voice or look at his ugly mug any longer

    • HC could do the same thing but would be forced to answer tougher questions than what’s your favorite color. The ones most damaged financially are okay with taking a hit to get this country back on track. If that’s what it takes so be it!

  4. ..ISIS. What they do not say is that the real problem is ISLAM itself; the ideology that inspires the terror and islamic imperialism. The terrorists just regroup elsewhere and modify their tactics.

    The migration of Muslims into Europe and America and the radicalization of the Muslims already there is a huge victory for radical Islam. They are achieving their intention of striking fear into our hearts and and in intensifying the hatred that these Muslim immigrants have for our way of life.

    The more Muslims we kill the greater the number of terrorists there will be willing to murder us. The jihadists have unlimited human resources to call upon.

    We cannot defeat Islam in Muslim countries and our own Liberals will not allow us to defeat Islam in our own countries.

    The jihadis want polarization in our societies and conflict; the only solution is complete polarization, to completely separate ourselves from Muslims and Islam.

  5. It sure doesn’t help that for a year in a half Hillary actually received 84% negative coverage compared to Trump’s only 56%????

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