The Media Today

Kavanaugh aftermath dominates weekend coverage

October 1, 2018

“Our understanding of sexual violence against women and the trauma—the lifelong trauma that ensues—has not progressed since I covered the Anita Hill hearings 27 years ago,” Katie Couric told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday morning. The fallout from Thursday’s testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh continued over the weekend, dominating coverage as confusion spread over the scope of an FBI investigation brought about by a last-minute compromise on Friday.

Comparisons to the Clarence Thomas hearings, prevalent in the run-up to Thursday, continued in the aftermath of the testimony. The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Felix argued that the spectacle entrenched the worst forces present in that 1991 event. “What took place on Thursday confirms that male indignation will be coddled, and the gospel of male success elevated,” she wrote after the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing ended. “It confirms that there is no fair arena for women’s speech. Mechanisms of accountability will be made irrelevant. Some people walked away from 1991 enraged. The next year was said to be the Year of the Woman. Our next year, like this one, will be the Year of the Man.

For others, however, the trauma of the past week carries a silver lining. CBS’s John Dickerson called it “a week of anguish,” adding that there will be no winners once the denouement arrives. “And yet,” Dickerson continued. “Calls to sexual assault hotlines have increased 200 percent since Ford’s testimony. Senators on both sides and even President Trump deemed her credible. It is now the default in America that accusers must be treated seriously and respectfully. Now, only the willfully ignorant don’t know why women don’t report abuse. This means my daughter will live in a better world than her mother, who like thousands of others was inspired to explain why she didn’t report—a collective act that transformed what had been a wound into a walking stick. There is more anguish to come from this drama, but the culture has changed: a week of public anguish will mean less private anguish in the future.”

RELATED: The media bullying of Christine Blasey Ford

The decision by Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake to demand an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh means that the story will play out for at least another week. 60 Minutes premiered its 51st season with a joint interview of Senators Flake and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), who explained the story behind their last-minute discussions that led to Friday’s compromise. But before their segment reached airwaves, NBC reported that the scope of the investigation would be limited by the White House counsel’s office.

This week will see a scramble by news organizations to report out new details of the allegations against Kavanaugh. Leaks from the FBI’s investigation are likely to fuel speculation about the probe’s eventual outcome, and pressure on possible swing votes—Flake, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—will focus attention on that handful of senators. All of that will take place against a backdrop of larger conversations about sexual assault, gender equality, and how far—if at all—we’ve advanced over the past 27 years.

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Below, more on the weekend’s coverage of Ford, Kavanaugh, and what comes next.

  • #MeToo in DC: The Washington Post’s Ann Gerhart and Danielle Rindler look at the way the #MeToo movement has brought the swift downfall of many powerful federal officials over the past year.
  • On the investigation: Despite a Saturday night tweet from President Trump claiming that the FBI will be able to interview “whoever they deem appropriate,” NBC News reports that investigators are not permitted to interview Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick, nor may they talk with former high school and college classmates of Kavanaugh who may be able to shed light on his behavior at Georgetown Prep and Yale.
  • Ford’s impact: C-SPAN senior executive producer and host Steve Scully talks with HuffPost’s Maxwell Strachan about the flood of calls the network received on Thursday from women describing their experiences of sexual abuse. “It was such an organic moment,” Scully says. “It just happened. We didn’t plan it.
  • Kavanaugh and the truth: Both Susan Collins and Jeff Flake have stated that it would be disqualifying should Kavanaugh have been shown to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Boston Globe editorial board argues that bridge has already been crossed. “Make no mistake: Brett Kavanaugh’s a liar,” reads the Globe’s searing editorial. “He lies about little things. He lies about big things. He lies under oath.”
  • What we saw: CJR’s Darrel Frost examines the choices made by photo editors in their outlets’ coverage of Ford and Kavanaugh. He highlights the “power in the editing and curation at agencies like Getty and the AP, the gatekeepers to the majority of images Americans see.”


Other notable stories:

  • This story has largely fallen out of the national conversation, but the number of migrant children held by the US government is soaring. The New York Times’s Caitlin Dickerson reports that the federal government is struggling to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children, a fivefold increase over the same time last year. “In the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks,” Dickerson writes. “There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.
  • One year after Stephen Paddock opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more, the mystery over his motive remains, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Zusha Elinson. “Several hypotheses on the Las Vegas gunman’s possible psychopathy and desire for infamy have begun to emerge, but they are tentative and based on limited evidence—a troubling outcome for people whose job it is to look for clues that could help prevent such a deadly incident in the future,” Elinson writes.
  • Important piece from The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi: “The White House press room is overwhelmingly white. Does that matter?
  • A hopeful sign from the LA Times as it expands under new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong: the paper is reopening or expanding several foreign bureaus.
  • In her debut piece for CJR, Zainab Sultan reports on Puerto Rican journalists who have struggled to find work on the island a year after Maria.
  • From the department of never stop applying: New York Times multi-Pulitzer winner Eric Lipton posted several of his rejection letters from newspapers he applied to earlier in his career.

ICYMI: Ford, Kavanaugh, and America divided

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.