Clinton’s negative media coverage still trumps Trump

Illustration by Kate O'Leary.
Illustration by Kate O'Leary.
Illustration by Kate O'Leary.
Illustration by Kate O’Leary.

We live in a world where women have been taught to listen without interrupting and to expect male interruption in return. A world where women have been taught to speak their own quiet language. A language rooted in patriarchy, oppression and silence.

Then women are asked why they do not speak up.

Perhaps no individual embodies this female struggle quite like Hillary Clinton.

As the first female presidential candidate, Clinton must campaign against her male counterparts for an office in a political system that prefers traits historically-rooted in masculinity.

Campaign success revolves around oration. Candidates strive to speak the loudest and say the most, both of which are considered masculine qualities.

Clinton kicked off her 2016 campaign with a controversial “listening tour.” The tour featured multiple stops across the state of New York and allowed voters to share their input on various issues.

Despite diplomatic efforts to make the election somewhat more personal for voters, Clinton was criticized by the media for being a “listener.” A quality that is commonly attributed to femininity and misinterpreted as inferiority because it is perceived as passive.

When Clinton listens and remains quiet, she is depicted by the media as emotionless and cold. When Clinton does embody the authoritative, masculine tone similar to that of Trump, the media condemns her for being hot-headed — a catch 22.

In an interview with Humans of New York photojournalist Brandon Stanton, Clinton touched on her frequent representation by the media as stiff:

“I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions… you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off,’” Clinton said.

“I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”

Clinton recently referred to half of Trump supporters as “deplorable” and the media immediately spit out headline after headline bashing her for an apparently inexcusable offense. (Good thing she didn’t call all Mexicans rapists, though — could you imagine?)

The most coverage Clinton has attracted in recent times, aside from her comment on Trump supporters, focused on her Pneumonia diagnosis. Although a relatively insignificant health concern, the media used Clinton’s diagnosis to paint her as a weak candidate.

It is with no surprise that Clinton receives far more scrutiny simply because she does not fit the masculine mold of a stereotypical presidential candidate.

The United States is witnessing a female run for office for the first time in history and it is made very apparent through Clinton’s negative media coverage, especially in comparison to coverage of her male competitor, Donald Trump.

A study conducted by Harvard University analyzed media coverage of presidential candidates on major news outlets throughout the period of time before any primary or caucus votes are cast. Political scientists refer to this period as “the invisible primary.”

Harvard professor Thomas Patterson believes the winner of the invisible primary is the best predictor of which candidate will win the presidential nomination — even more so than the winner of the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary.

According to the Harvard analyses, a mere 12 percent of Donald Trump’s coverage was actually devoted to the issues and 43 percent of issue-based coverage was covered in a negative tone.

On the other hand, 28 percent of Clinton’s coverage was devoted to issues. Of that 28 percent, a whopping 84 percent was covered in a negative tone — nearly doubling Trump’s amount of negative coverage. 

Scrutiny is an inevitable and necessary part of every election, but it is impossible to deny the disturbing discrepancy between Clinton and Trump’s media coverage leading up to the primaries. As a candidate who perpetually offends the masses with his racist, ableist and sexist comments, Trump received only half the amount of negative coverage as Clinton.

This begs the question of whether Clinton’s negative coverage stems from the country’s unrealistic standards for a female presidential candidate. America may not be as progressive and ready for a female president as the country believes itself to be.

Candidates should be held to equal standards of qualification and honesty, but that does not appear to ring true for the 2016 election.

Clinton is held to a substantially higher (and outright unattainable) standard than all of her male counterparts and her negative media coverage serves as undeniable proof of the disparity in standards.

According to fact checks conducted by PolitiFact, a fact checking website that rates the accuracy of politicians’ claims, 76 percent of Trump’s statements are either “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire false.”

Clinton’s falsehood comes in at only 28 percent, yet the media continues to reiterate and portray her as an untrustworthy candidate, despite Trump’s perpetual dishonesty.

Trump has made wildly incorrect claims he states as facts in regard to everything from Obama’s support of ISIS to crime rates, immigration and even citizens cheering when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.

Supporters continually mistake Trump’s audacity and disrespect for a refreshing form of honesty while Trump manages to weasel past the degree of criticism Clinton receives.

The sad truth may be that America is not ready for a female president just yet.


Ellie Fialk. Photo by Julie TrippEleanor Fialk
Eleanor is a junior broadcast journalism and philosophy double major with a concentration in ethics and public policy. She often writes about issues of social justice and human rights, and her dream career would include traveling the world as a documentary filmmaker. You can usually find Eleanor binge watching an entire television series in one night or planning her next backpacking trip.
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