Hillary’s unlikely ally: The media

Hillary Clinton has an unlikely ally in her bid to defeat Donald Trump this fall: the media.

The Democratic presidential front-runner has had a long, contentious relationship with the press, most notably in her 2008 run for the White House. But 2016 figures to be much different. 

Much of the political media disdain Trump, and that feeling is palpable in green rooms in New York City and Washington, D.C.

{mosads}The thought of a Trump presidency simply scares political journalists for a number of reasons, including his proposal to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue media companies.

Many pundits had to eat their words when they predicted Trump would implode and had no shot at winning the Republican nomination. Now that the celebrity businessman is the presumptive nominee, Trump critics in the media, including some on the right, don’t want him to win in November.

It’s not unusual for Republicans to feel slighted by political reporters, most of whom vote Democratic in presidential election years. In a 1992 survey of Washington-based journalists, 89 percent said they voted for Bill Clinton, while 7 percent backed George H.W. Bush and 2 percent supported Ross Perot.

But it is rare for the Clintons to have the media on their side.

Team Clinton has routinely bashed mainstream media publications, including The New York Times. In his book “Killing the Messenger: The Right-Wing Plot to Derail Hillary Clinton and Hijack Your Government,” David Brock accused the paper of being a “megaphone for conservative propaganda” and wrote it “has a special place in Hell” for its coverage of the Clintons. Brock, a former Republican, now heads a pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC.

Meanwhile, Trump this week went after The New York Times for its front-page Sunday investigative piece, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private.” Reporters for the Times interviewed more than 50 women over the course of six weeks, but one of them — who was featured in the first sentence of the article — ripped the paper on Monday.

During an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends,” Rowanne Brewer Lane said the Times had “spun” her comments about Trump.

Brewer Lane, who agreed to Trump’s request at a 1990 party to try on a bikini, added, “He never made me feel like I was being demeaned in any way.”

Trump called the article “a hit piece” and lambasted the Times in several tweets on Monday.

Last week, Trump targeted The Washington Post for assigning 20 reporters to cover his campaign, claiming, “Every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions.”

Washington Post officials, including associate editor Bob Woodward, maintain they will be doing extensive reporting on both the Democratic and GOP presidential nominees.

During the divisive 2008 primary contest between Clinton and Barack Obama, former President Clinton said the media rooted for the current commander in chief. By and large, that was true, though it was at least partly attributable to how poorly Hillary Clinton’s 2008 communications team dealt with reporters.

Clinton wisely tapped a whole new media team for her 2016 run, and that has smoothed over tensions from eight years ago.

While many political reporters are likely to vote for Clinton in the fall, that doesn’t mean the Clinton messaging team has it easy. Trump has attracted massive television ratings for political media outlets, and competing with him on the airwaves will be a challenging task.

Trump has also used his fights with the media effectively as part of his us-against-them narrative.

In some ways, not having the media on Trump’s side plays into his hands.

For example, Joe Scarborough on Monday said the Times went too far.

“The Times overreaches every time on Donald Trump. … And they’ve done it again. They’ve overreached, and they’ve taken a negative for him and turned it into a positive that he can spin against the media,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt also indicated the blowback to the Times story would help Trump.

“I do think that the Democrats are going to do a good job of bringing Republicans together. … There’s some healing to do on the Republican side, but boy, days like this … it makes it a lot easier,” he told MSNBC host Steve Kornacki on Monday.

Throughout the Republican presidential primary, Trump has called the mainstream media “scum,” “dishonest,” “sad” and “unfair.”

In a tweet last week, Trump said, “Why does the media, with a strong push from Crooked Hillary, keep pushing the false narrative that I want to raise taxes. Exactly opposite!”

Despite his public battles with media personalities, Trump has given the press what it craves most: access.

Of course, that free media time was a focal part of Trump’s strategy to defeat his GOP rivals. While candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) ducked interviews, Trump made almost daily appearances on political talk shows, and he continues to do so.

Team Clinton is aware of this potential problem and has shifted its media strategy. For example, Clinton recently called into television shows for phone interviews — a staple of Trump’s communications game plan.

Tags Barack Obama Bill Clinton Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio
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