Reprinted with permission from Press Run
Sexist double standards don't come any brighter, or more well defined, than the eager, nonstop coverage Trump continues to receive months after losing his White House election, compared to how the Beltway press gleefully tried to run Hillary Clinton out of town after her 2016 loss.
For the media, Trump the man remains a captivating topic who provides endless angles of intrigue and who is treated as a looming star of American politics. This, after becoming only the ninth president in U.S. history to lose a re-election bid. Clinton the woman though, was treated as an incompetent has-been who threw away a sure-fire win, and one who needed to get off the national stage immediately. Trump has receiving very little media second guessing.
"I was really struck by how people said that to me, 'Go away, go away,'" Clinton observed in 2019, "They never said that to any man who was not elected." Trump's media treatment this year confirms her claim and that the tough coverage she received was tailor made for the first woman nominee.
Against the backdrop of President Joe Biden's "boring" administration, journalists seem eager for the chaos and clicks that Trump creates. The coverage seems to swell with each passing day, as the press marvels at Trump's lasting power. This was a breathless Business Insider headline this week, even though it would been more timely in 2017: "The Definitive Oral History of How Trump Took Over the GOP, as Told To Us By Cruz, Rubio, and 20 More Insiders."
The premise to virtually all the coverage is, of course Trump will run again. By contrast, the first woman White House nominee was treated quite differently after her defeat as journalists angrily, and irrationally, demanded she "go away":
• "Hillary Clinton Just Won't Go Away" (National Journal)
• "Why Won't Hillary Clinton Just Go Away?" (Washington Examiner)
• "It's Time for Hillary Clinton To Go Away Forever" (Toronto Star)
• "Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly into the Night?" (Vanity Fair)
• "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Hillary?" (Politico)
• "Hillary, I love you. But please go away" (Los Angeles Times)
The issue was so vexing, a New York Times column asked, "What's to be done with Hillary Clinton, the woman who won't go away?" Not long after, an annoyed Michelle Cottle at the Times published "Hillary Clinton's Master Class in Distraction," perturbed that the day's most famous Democrat was giving media interviews and speaking out against Trump.
Following the election came constant pundit hand wringing that Clinton, "doesn't place enough blame on herself," the Times stressed. Media men in particular focused on pressing Clinton to acknowledge her mistakes. Journalists today demand almost no self-reflection from Trump regarding his lopsided loss to Biden.
Clinton ran on one of the most decorated resumes in American history: First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State. But the post-election media message was simple: She was a poorly-advised, "bad" candidate who just didn't get retail politics in America.
By contrast, how many in-depth reports have you read about how and why Trump lost Georgia and Arizona, two longtime Republican bastions? "I've yet to see reporters from NY Times, WaPo, Politico etc chide Trump for not running a good campaign in Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia the way they spoke about Hillary and Wisconsin/Ohio/Etc," Oliver Willis tweeted last week.
By piling on Clinton and her campaign, the press didn't have to ask itself the hard questions about 2016 — about the obvious misogyny that fueled so much of the coverage, and whether America is a fundamentally racist country for having elected Trump.
There was also an unmistakable glee the media took in recounting Clinton's loss. In late December, 2016, the Washington Post published a mocking piece after a journalist posted a candid photograph of Clinton sitting alone in a local restaurant near her home, looking "forlorn."
Sadly, none of this is surprising. "Women candidates often inspire something more akin to paranoia," Megan Garber noted in The Atlantic. "They are often treated as interlopers, their presence regarded, in ways both subtle and astoundingly obvious, as an encroachment."
What we're seeing today is the media embrace two extreme approaches for covering recent White House campaign losers. No defeated candidate has ever been showered with much attention as Trump has. And no defeated candidate has ever been showered with as much contempt as Clinton was. Note that she actually tallied two million more votes than Trump in 2016, and Trump lost 2020 by eight million. Yet the double standard persists.
Sexism is a helluva drug.