My interest in how news stories are covered leads me to ponder what the reason is for the lack of front page stories about E. Jean Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, who claimed Donald Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s. I put this into a historical framework as Republicans were furious with outrage when Juanita Broaddrick’s claimed Bill Clinton had raped her 21 years earlier. So why the subdued coverage from the press now? We know why the GOP is lingering in the deep grass and staying quiet. They have a master who does not allow them wiggle room. They have been neutered. President Reagan kept jelly beans in a jar on his Oval Office desk. We know what Trump keeps in his jar.
To my question about the press I sought out the Columbia Journalism Review, a perfect course for issues of this type. And they had a theory already posted on their site for inquiring minds.
Why the low play? It could be a case of fatigue. We are hit so often with claims of Trump’s misconduct—and liberals, at least, have such low expectations of him—that horrifying allegations lose their shock value and slide off. Deeper forces are likely at work, too: as the writer Molly Jong-Fast asked on Twitter, “Is the misogyny so baked in that we no longer treat allegations of rape seriously?” It’s not a new question. Ahead of the 2016 election, CJR’s Pete Vernon interviewed Lucia Graves, a reporter with The Guardian, about the muted reaction to her interview with Jill Harth, who accused Trump of groping. Graves, who was “extremely frustrated” that other outlets did not pick up Harth’s claim, said it took the Access Hollywood tape for the allegations against Trump to dominate the news cycle. “I think it’s so remarkable that Trump had to literally say every single one of those things to another man, and people had to hear it recorded before people believed the story that has been out there for months,” Graves said
Whatever the reason, it’s astonishing that Carroll’s allegation isn’t ubiquitous in our news media this morning. Its relative absence is doubly surprising when you consider that the #MeToo moment—with its brilliant reporting on Harvey Weinstein and so many other abusive men—has arguably been the biggest story of the Trump era not to centrally feature Trump. Somehow, Trump escaped accountability at the height of that moment. It looks like that’s happening again.