September 23rd, 2020


Has skeptical media coverage of Hillary gone overboard?

Aaron Blake

By Aaron Blake The Washington Post

Published May 4, 2017

For the second time in two weeks, Clinton supporters are warring with the media.

First there was scrutiny of Chelsea Clinton's comments about not running for office - which drew a loud chorus of Leave Chelsea Alone - and now it's scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's growing list of things she blames for her 2016 loss.

In both cases, long-simmering complaints about the media's coverage of the Clintons have boiled over nearly six months after the 2016 campaign, a testament to how hard feelings remain. Clinton backers clearly feel the former first family is unfairly scrutinized on a near-constant basis. And this from the supposedly liberal media.

So what's going on here? I think it's actually pretty simple, and it's a chasm between Clintonworld and the media that isn't going to be bridged anytime soon.

Both Trump backers and Clinton supporters have complained vociferously about how their candidate has been covered over the past two years. And the way I see it, the media's attitude toward the two is actually somewhat similar: The coverage of both has indeed been highly critical, and that criticism of both is completely justifiable.

Two of the media's chief obligations are to the truth and to cutting through political rhetoric to get to that truth. In Trump, we had a candidate and now president who shows very little concern for saying things that are factual. In Clinton, we have a politician who often appears to be self-serving and to be saying whatever she thinks will be the most politically expedient in the moment.

Trump, of course, is much more blatant with his contempt for the truth; there's really no equating the two. He racked up nearly 500 false claims in his first 100 days as president, going very few days or public appearances without uttering something that was provably false. Much of the coverage of him focuses on these provable falsehoods, and, thus, it looks to his supporters as if the media is out to get him.

Clinton's tendency was on display during her interview with Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. Clinton said on the one hand that she takes "absolute personal responsibility" for her 2016 loss, but she also spent much of her time onstage - and in previous interviews - emphasizing all the outside reasons the election was stolen from her: James B. Comey, Russia, misogyny and even debate questions. At one point, she seemed to sarcastically talk about documenting her own faults as a candidate, calling it her "quest for absolution."

It all seemed very familiar. The issue of her private email server as secretary of state was a long, drawn-out version of the same thing, with Clinton first declining to apologize for it, later apologizing and saying it included no classified documents, then later qualifying that statement, etc., etc.

Back to present day: It's fine to blame your loss on those other things! But to say that you take "absolute personal responsibility" while focusing more on all of these things suggests you really don't mean it. It's the point many of the 2016 campaign's top reporters made after Clinton's appearance:

Maggie Haberman tweeted: Yes. Saying one thing and then saying the opposite. It's what potus does too

Jeff Zeleny tweeted: What @HillaryClinton didn't say: She missed the mood of the country. Email server and paid speeches were big deal. All but ignored rural USA

Glenn Thrush tweeted: Hillary takeaways 1) Loathes Trump 2) blames Comey/Putin 3) the 'real' Hillary-funny, hard-edged, unguarded 4) blames everyone but self

Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod also doesn't think Clinton is being totally straight with us. He laid into her during an appearance on CNN on Wednesday morning - while acknowledging that she had a "legitimate beef" with Comey, the FBI director.

"Jim Comey didn't tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention. Jim Comey didn't say, 'Don't put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign,'" Axelrod said. "One of the things that hindered her in the campaign was a sense that she never fully was willing to take responsibility for her mistakes - particularly that server.

"She said the words 'I'm responsible,' but everything else suggested that she really doesn't feel that way, and I don't think that helps her in the long run."

Bingo. Clinton eventually came to express regret for her email server, but her reluctance to say that fully and forcefully frustrated her campaign and wound up seeming far less than genuine. Including, by the way, to the public, which at times viewed her as less honest than even Trump.

Her explanations for her 2016 loss are in the same vein: Saying one thing that appears forced, while appearing to say what she really thinks with everything else. Clinton supporters will give her the benefit of the doubt on that because they think her heart's in the right place. But that's the luxury of being a partisan and a political activist.