New York Times media reporter Ben Smith bought back a smidgen of the paper’s shredded credibility by authoring a relatively—for the Times—thorough article exploring the phenomenon of TV news shows declining to interview Tara Reade. The problem is that there is good reason to question Smith’s sincerity. His query is like asking why all those supposedly #MeToo-supporting Democratics who condemned Brett Kavanaugh are endorsing Biden. Gee, what a mystery! What could explain it?
Well, not completely. TV networks make their revenue on ratings. That a Reade interview would attract viewers is no-brainer, so why hasn’t there been a rush to grab her first? The answer to that question, which Smith treats as completely confounding, is clear–res ipsa loquitur, in fact—but it is a topic of widespread denial, rising to the status of gaslighting. Journalists, as well as the organizations they work for, are more committed to allying themselves with the Left than they are to practicing ethical journalism, or even making money. Sherlock Holmes’ formula applies: when you have eliminated every other explanation for a phenomenon, the one remaining, however unlikely, has to be the correct one. Smith compares the lack of interest in Reade with the way the news media treated Juanita Broaddrick, Bill Clinton’s alleged rape victim. It’s not a bad comparison, except it wasn’t a mystery why Broaddrick was ignored at the time either. The mainstream news media supported Bill Clinton, and he was popular. TV journalists were less concerned about finding and reporting the truth than they were with getting Clinton through a crisis. Smith writes, “The treatment of Mr. Clinton’s accusers by the Democratic Party and the media alike is one of the original sins that led to today’s divided, partisan news environment.” That’s correct, but the mainstream media’s handling of that story was an exception then. Today it is pretty close to the rule. (In another article in the same edition, the Times sneers that “trying to undermine the credibility of the news media is central to [Trump’s] re-election efforts.” That’s exac tly right. Fortunately for the President, the news media is doing a great job undermining its own credibility.
- Finally, she was booked for an interview on Fox News. I can’t help thinking this was part of the plan. If Fox breaks the embargo, her accusation becomes a “conservative media story” and Fox News propaganda. Conceivably, this explains why Fox was so tardy in interviewing her. News organizations should be reporting, not strategizing.
If that was Fox’s motivation, that’s unethical too.
- Smith tries to blame the pandemic for Reade being ignored. That’s hilarious; everyone is desperate for substantive news that isn’t about the virus. The lock-down has reduced news of all kinds: no sports, fewer violent crimes, no plane crashed or massive traffic accidents. A credible accusation of rape against a Presidential candidate should cause a media feeding frenzy.
“Representatives for CNN and MSNBC declined to explain why they haven’t booked a woman who is, whether you believe her or not, one of the few newsmakers right now who could cut through the pandemic,” writes Smith. At the risk of repeating myself, Gee, what a mystery! What could explain it?
- It’s very possible that seeing Reade will make some viewers less likely to believe her, even if her answers to questions seem believable. She 30 years older now; many people won’t be able to imagine the middle-age woman Reade is now as someone a married U.S. Senator would target for a sexual assault.
An infamous case in the District of Columbia many years ago involved a 12-year old girl who was the victim in an alleged sexual abuse case. The trial was delayed for three years, during which time the girl had grown from 5 feet, 2 inches tall to 5′ 8″, voluptuous and a believable as 21. Her lawyer also stupidly allowed her to wear make-up and clothing that guaranteed the jury would believe the defendant’s “I didn’t know she was a child’ defense. The defendant was acquitted.
The tide is turning, however. The New York Times editorial today calls for an investigation of Reade’s claims. That’s more than Broaddrick ever got.