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Sex abuse allegations expose the media's hypocrisy on Trump

Sex abuse allegations expose the media's hypocrisy on Trump
© Camille Fine

“Not every horny narcissist with bad judgment is named Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE.”

That was the actual “reportage” of New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush last year, in an article referring to the online sexual exploits of former congressman Anthony Weiner.

It appears, in retrospect, that Thrush might well have been describing himself.

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Now, as long-silent accusations of sexual harassment surface like so many whack-a-moles, Thrush is one of the latest casualties.

 

News reports about his behavior, allegedly inflicting unwanted advances on a series of young women, describe the fedora-wearing Thrush as a successful and influential reporter who once worked for Politico and was then plucked away by the New York Times — once, perhaps, the most prestigious news publication in the world.

Some of his accusers say they feared his industry connections and felt smeared by him after they rebuffed his advances — all of which Thrush has denied.

But there’s a question as to how he was allowed to become an influential force in newsrooms and in political journalism, as described by offended female colleagues.

“Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter,” wrote his former Politico colleague Laura McGann on Vox.com. She added, “Thrush is a talker — or, as many put it, ‘a bullshi--er.’ He likes to hear gossip, and he likes to spread it.”

McGann goes on to claim that Thrush manufactured gossip about female colleagues to deflect from his misbehavior, and that it was sometimes damaging to their careers.

As far as his professional work, we know from emails published by WikiLeaks that Thrush engaged in ethically questionable behavior there, too. As I wrote in my article Newsgate 2016:

Chief Politico political correspondent Glenn Thrush sent part of an article to [Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE campaign chairman John] Podesta for approval before it was published. ‘Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this,’ Thrush writes in the April 2015 exchange. ‘Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u … Tell me if I f----d up anything.’ Podesta signs off and the article is published. An email on April 17, 2015 shows Thrush also sent eight paragraphs from a pre-published article to Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri with the title ‘please read asap…don’t share.’ Palmieri writes colleagues, ‘Glenn Thrush is doing a story about how well launch went and some part of it will be about me — which I hate. He did me the courtesy of sending what he is going to say about me. Seems fine.’

Let me be clear: This sort of behavior violates basic journalism tenets — at least as far as I was taught. Double-checking facts is always a good idea; but the idea of sending, pre-publication, sections of articles to the subjects of the articles is verboten. Can you imagine Woodward and Bernstein sending their Watergate articles to Nixon for pre-approval? Do you think Thrush offered the same benefit to Donald Trump campaign officials?

We journalists are as imperfect as anyone — if not more so. But the red flags that surrounded Thrush as he rose to the top make one wonder about what our industry sees as desirable.

To review: Thrush was a married man with possible sexual skeletons in his closet, he allegedly made up twisted tales about colleagues he’d allegedly groped to deflect from his own alleged misbehavior, and he was a self-described “hack” who pre-approved story material with Democrat campaign officials. (Plenty of ammunition, by the way, to theoretically make Thrush vulnerable to possible blackmail attempts in terms of influencing his stories.)

Who better to promote to a coveted position at the New York Times to write factually and fairly about the world’s most important political office?

And write, he did. Thrush teamed with his Politico colleague Maggie Haberman, who was also snapped up by the New York Times to cover the Trump White House. They have produced an impressive array of stories attacking Donald Trump in an opinion-laden tone that would have relegated them to the likes of the National Enquirer just a few years back. Yet the articles were presented as if straight news.

Haberman, too, comes with questions after emails published by WikiLeaks. From my Newsgate 2016 article:

Hillary Clinton staffers described Maggie Haberman, then of Politico, as an ideal ‘friendly journalist’ with whom to place stories. ‘We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed,’ writes one staffer in an email.

And:

Nov. 13, 2015 Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon indicated the campaign had successfully planted a negative story about Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE in the New York Times. ‘After hitting a wall with other outlets, NYT will do a story about DiSanto. Adam Jentleson in reid’s office is giving a statement saying the connection is troubling and raises questions. Could pop this weekend,’ Fallon emails another Clinton ally. Three days later, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman published the article questioning whether a State Department official (DiSanto) was improperly leaking damaging information to Grassley.

With all of this in mind, let’s examine a few excerpts from relevant reporting on Donald Trump.

On June 29, 2017, Thrush and Haberman co-wrote a New York Times article referring to Trump’s  “history of demeaning women for their age, appearance and mental capacity … disregard for civility when he made critical remarks on television and on social media, particularly about women.”

On Oct. 8, 2016, Thrush and co-author Katie Glueck, writing for Politico, declared that it was "fitting that the election of Hillary Clinton as the first female president might have been sealed by Donald Trump's treatment of women as subordinate, interchangeable, pliable playthings” and said Trump’s “talk of sexually preying on women makes Romney's '47 percent' tape seem like a high-minded Great Courses lecture.”

In fact, several accounts Thrush published about Trump sound eerily similar to what young women say Thrush did to them. Thrush wrote:

Another case of … ‘groping’ by Trump, reporting that the developer had laid hands on a dinner party guest … ‘I didn’t know how to handle it,’ the woman [said]. ‘I would go away from him and say I have to go to the restroom. It was the escape route.’

And:

[Trump] made an unwelcome, unexpected pass … ‘Trump took Tic Tacs, suggested that I take them also. He then leaned in ... catching me off guard and kissed me almost on the lips. I was really freaked out.’

Thrush called it “poetic justice — that a womanizing bully was being humbled by the women he’s humiliated.” As he so aptly wrote in 2016: “Not every horny narcissist with bad judgment is named Donald Trump.”

Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of the New York Times bestsellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program “Full Measure.”