Hillaryland Beats the Press, One Last Time

Convention delegates call foul on primary coverage

It’s an easy mark. Political candidates who end up coming short can always blame the press for the loss. For being too hard on them. For being too easy on their opponent. For slanting coverage. For inadequately explaining their attributes. For undercovering good stories.

So guess who’s saying all that at this year’s Democratic convention?

“I didn’t think the media treated Hillary fairly,” said Angela Ramirez Holmes, a delegate from Pleasanton, California.

Not surprisingly, many of the complaints coming from Ramirez Holmes and the other Clinton delegates I spoke to, both men and women, centered around the perceived (and occasionally very real) sexism directed at their candidate.

“I feel like women candidates sometimes get covered on what they wear, what they eat, how often they work out, instead of for their brains,” said Ramirez Holmes, who works as a local political consultant in the Bay area.

“I don’t remember any comments about Barack or Biden about what color tie they were wearing, how it matched their skin, or whether it was too bright,” said Amy Torello, the chair of the Alameda County party.

Micheal Wagner, a salesmanager and Clinton delegate from Spokane, referred to Robin Givhan’s infamous Washington Post article parsing the candidate’s neckline during a single senatorial appearance.

“The sexism was in all states, from one to ten,” echoed Cynthia Schwartz, another Washington state delegate. “Like when Tucker Carlson said that whenever he heard her voice he wanted to cross his legs. That was a nine or ten.”

“My gut is that there is sill an acceptable level of sexism in this country that even in mixed company you can say incredibly sexist things,” said Alan Clendenin, an air traffic control manager from Tampa. “The most frustrating thing about it is that it went unchallenged, by the party, by the candidates, but also by the rest of the press. The media should be a watchdog for that sort of thing.”

But the Hillary delegates’ complaints also trod more familiar ground, singling out particular coverage decisions and frames that they thought worked against Clinton.

“When Hulk Hogan endorsed Obama, there were hours of coverage. When the astronaut, John Glenn, endorsed Clinton, it was a ticker,” says Ramirez Holmes. “Now, tell me how Hulk Hogan ranks above a senator from Ohio?”

Others weren’t happy with the way the press treated the final contests of the race. “The focus wasn’t on all the primaries she was winning. There was more talk about ‘why isn’t she dropping out.’ The news media never emphasized all of the positives,” said Schwartz, “Even when she won Pennsylvania by 10 points, they weren’t talking about how marvelous that was. They were talking about how it was less than the 15% that they though she should win.”

Several of the delegates singled out MSNBC, unsurprisingly.

“MSNBC had Hillary in their crosshairs from the moment the race started picking up,” said Clendinin.

“They should have been straight off announcing their coverage as editorial comment—Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews. And I’m really disappointed with Andrea Mitchell, who used to be a real reporter,” says Wagner.

In the end, several said, the coverage drove them to something of an apostasy in Democratic circles.

“A lot of Hillary supporters fled to the most conservative news feed. Like our old friend Bill O’Reilly,” says Wagner. “I actually find him to be a real newsman.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.