As Election Day demonstrated, the contentious 2016 presidential campaign witnessed a stunning uprising of the people against the Washington establishment and political elite. This was not the only revolt that transpired Nov. 8, however. Election Day also represented a victory of the American people over the establishment news media, as they repudiated its liberal bias and attempt at influencing the election.
Throughout the election cycle, Donald Trump and his supporters were derided for claiming that the mainstream media was "rigged" against the Republican candidate in favor of his opponent. But given the way Election Day unfolded, with Trump pulling off an upset victory despite being written off by much of the media, the allegations of media bias may not have been so far-fetched.
Evidence Of Media Bias
Even before Election Day, many asserted that Trump faced an unfair amount of negative press, as the media published story after story painting him as a racist, xenophobe and just about every other horrible name in the book. Case in point, throughout the campaign, the Huffington Post published the following editor's note at the end of stories about Mr. Trump:
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
Further, following Hillary Clinton's health incident at a 9/11 commemoration ceremony, the venerable Washington Post published an article, entitled "The man who discovered CTE thinks Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned," which centered around a theory that Clinton may have been poisoned by Trump or Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The claim was made by Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who had found that a number of NFL football players suffered from brain damage due to repeated blows to the head. Instead of dismissing the poisoning claim as a conspiracy theory, the author appears to defend Omalu, as she wishes to remind readers that his "credentials and tenacity are well known." She also wants us to know that Putin was "implicated by a British inquiry" over the death of a former KGB operative, and that Trump "has expressed admiration for Putin."
Also, back in October, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly reported that at least three media organizations had "ordered their employees to destroy Donald Trump."
Lack Of Confidence
It is not surprising, therefore, that most American voters lack confidence in the news media's ability to report accurately on the presidential candidates. According to an Investor's Business Daily/TIPP Poll conducted in September, more than two-thirds of registered voters (67%) reported that the media's reports on the candidates are often inaccurate, while only one-quarter trusted in the accuracy of its news stories. Further, as news outlets devoted much of their attention to analyzing the various moves and statements made by Donald Trump during his campaign, nearly half of voters felt that the media was being too easy in its coverage of Hillary Clinton, with only 16% saying that the media had been too tough on her.
A majority of voters in the poll also felt that the news media tends to exert too much influence on U.S. elections. Overall, more than two-thirds of Americans (69%) believe that the news media wields too much of an influence on elections in the country.
The Myth Of The October Surprises
The media attempted to exercise their influence in various ways during the last few weeks of the campaign. When an 11-year-old "Access Hollywood" hot mic tape was released in early October, many in the news media ran with the narrative that this was the "October Surprise" bombshell that could doom Trump's campaign. The cable news networks devoted ample coverage to this story, showing the footage repeatedly. An article in Politico, entitled "Trump caught on tape making crude, sexually aggressive comments about women," stated that the hot mic revelation "could damage irrevocably Trump's attempts to win over female voters." Some also saw the media's extensive coverage of unproven sexual assault allegations against Trump as an attempt to depress turnout among his supporters.
These controversies proved to have minimal impact on voting decisions, indicating that the American people have rejected the media's attempts to influence the election. In an IBD/TIPP survey of 779 likely voters, conducted Oct. 14-19, about three-quarters of likely voters reported that the negative stories surrounding Donald Trump either had no impact on their voting decision or made them more likely to vote for the candidate.
The People's Repudiation Of Media Influence
Thus, despite the media's best efforts to defeat Trump through a barrage of negative news stories, most Americans appeared not to be swayed by media coverage.
Election Day provided the most definitive proof of both the media's bias against Trump and the people's repudiation of its attempts to influence the election narrative.
Heading into the day of the vote, most news outlets were confident that Clinton would become the 45th president of the United States, as they pointed to poll after poll showing the former secretary of state comfortably leading Trump. This coverage seemed to impact voters' sentiment regarding whom they expected to win the presidency. In the final installment of our daily IBD/TIPP Presidential Election Tracking Poll, released on the day of the election, nearly half of likely voters (46%) felt that Clinton would win the presidency, while only 24% reported that Trump would likely become president.
Yet the media's negative coverage could not stifle Trump's supporters. As predicted in our final poll, which showed the Republican nominee with a 1.6-point lead over his rival, Trump stunned the media establishment and easily won the presidency.
New York Times' Soul Searching
After an election cycle that saw the news media so clearly bent on belittling and defeating a candidacy, media outlets must now conduct their own soul searching as they come to terms with an election result that caught them by surprise.
The New York Times appears to be making an attempt at such a postmortem. It published a letter to Times readers that some regard as a "mea culpa" for its election coverage. In the letter, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wonders whether his paper underestimated President-elect Trump's support.
In his recent article titled "A 'Dewey Defeats Truman' Lesson for the Digital Age," Times journalist Jim Rutenberg also admits that the media failed to "capture the boiling anger of a large portion of the American electorate that feels left behind by a selective recovery." He expresses his amazement at how frequently "the news media has missed the populist movements that have been rocking national politics since at least 2008."
Although Sulzberger and Rutenberg are admirable in their admission that the paper's election coverage got it wrong, they fail to acknowledge the fact that much of this coverage intentionally aimed to undermine Donald Trump's campaign by painting him as an unacceptable demagogue. Throughout the election cycle, even the hard news section of the New York Times went negative on candidate Trump. For instance, a Nov. 6 piece on the closing days of the campaign claimed that "Mr. Trump still privately muses about all the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day."
A question also needs to be asked regarding whether or not the Times would have delivered these "mea culpas" had Donald Trump lost the election.
But Rutenberg's point about the news media overlooking the growing populist sentiment among Americans comes close to identifying what, in our opinion, is the root cause of the media's underestimation of Trump's support, and media bias in general. As many media outlets are headquartered in major cities, journalists and pundits are sheltered in the bubble of a shared elite liberal mentality. Maybe if members of the elite media had stepped outside their comfort zone and investigated the problems facing the working class in the Midwest, they would not have been so wrong regarding the election.
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