Who Needs Fox? NY Times and Morning Joe Battle for Title of Chief Hillary Basher

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

One of the most egregious aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign is the vitriolic, gender-biased attacks against Hillary Clinton by major media outlets.

The New York Times has taken the lead, but they are not alone.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski use their Morning Joe platform on MSNBC to malign Hillary and mangle her public image. The show has become a cesspool of Hillary-bashing rivaling the fetid swamps of fringe rightwing Clinton haters. 

The Washington Post angles their headlines for maximum damage to Hillary’s character. CNN ponders criminal penalties against her when no criminality is alleged.

It goes on and on. The institutional forces that have barred American women from the presidency are manifested in the media’s obsession to take down the first woman with a viable path to the White House.

Let’s start with the Times, which infamously, falsely and unapologetically accused one of the most significant female political figures in U.S. history of being under criminal investigation. The Times happily provides a national platform to Maureen Dowd, whose visceral hatred of the Clintons borders on the pathological and whose columns deliver anti-Hillary frames concocted by conservative oppo shops funded by the likes of Karl Rove. As we’ve written:

Voters need to understand that what they think they know about Hillary is often the result of sophisticated propaganda techniques, where tightly-crafted talking points are focus-grouped and deployed by shadowy GOP groups then magnified by the mainstream media and pundits.

Dowd’s words are chosen meticulously: they fit perfectly into the narratives and frames that have been developed for over two decades to smear Hillary: “Acting all innocent, disingenuous, egregious transgressions, militant fans, craving a championship, surreptitious, wanting to win at all costs, calculating, history of subterfuge, crafty, sketchy value system, seamy, Faustian bargain, sheen of inevitability, robotic, queenly attitude, suspicious mind-set, unsavory.” 

Delivering such excessive negativity in a single piece is not opinion writing. It is not journalism. It is a personal vendetta aided and abetted by the New York Times, with the intention of spreading potent sexist frames crafted by conservative opposition researchers.

Not content with Dowd’s screeds, the NY Times today hands over its hard-earned credibility and global megaphone to Peter Wehner, former deputy director of speechwriting for George W. Bush. Wehner unleashes a verbal assault against Hillary Clinton, going after her with a gusto that matches the wide-eyed and manic attacks on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Says Wehner, Hillary comes across as “inauthentic, charmless and brittle.” “Brittle” is quite a choice of adjectives to describe a woman. Do you think he wanted to say “frigid” and chickened out?

Predictably, Wehner harps on the trumped-up email issue, making the false comparison to David Petraeus - a comparison already debunked by Petraeus’ prosecutor.

Not to be outdone, on the same day that a Republican operative smears Hillary in the pages of the NY Times, Morning Joe continues its frantic Hillary obsession with a blatantly and demonstrably false claim that regulations “forbade” the use of private email.

It is difficult to articulate the particular brand of anti-Hillary invective honed by the Morning Joe crew. Suffice it to say it is an unhealthy and unhinged combination of envy, awe, muted rage and dripping disdain, typically delivered by a panel of males with the eager participation of Mika Brzezinski.

Consider this exchange:

“You want me to indict and damn Hillary Clinton and I’m not going to do it.” This was an exasperated NYT reporter Jeremy Peters on the set of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski tried to chip away at him and push him to personally declare that Clinton did something horribly wrong. The topic was Clinton’s infamous email server, which, in recent weeks, has absolutely outraged Brzezinski.

Or this:

The panel of MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Hillary Clinton for her wardrobe choice during a press conference about her emails, saying it looked like a prison jumpsuit or Mao Zedong. 

Or this:

Joe Scarborough suggests Clinton planned questions about her server to coincide with Virginia shooting coverage.

Or this:

Falsely claiming that President Obama had signed regulations on email use while Clinton was still at the State Department, Scarborough asserted that her practices were not permitted and that it was inaccurate for Clinton to cite other former secretaries of state in her defense since the policies didn't exist while they were in office.

Or this:

Scarborough: "You have to be really stupid" to trust Hillary Clinton's "ridiculous" story.

Day after day, Morning Joe pushes their furious attacks, doing their level best to compete with the New York Times for the title of Chief Hillary Basher.

It is a sad and sorry spectacle, particularly shameful considering these media outlets are reinforcing a gender barrier that telegraphs to young girls around the world: America will not allow a woman to be president.

As #HillaryMen, we will do our best to fight back and defend Hillary. Join us.

UPDATE: Media Matters catches Morning Joe in the brazen act of editing out a pro-Hillary segment:

During an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius thoroughly debunked arguments that Hillary Clinton should be charged with a crime as a result of her use of a private email system while serving as secretary of state. When MSNBC re-aired the first hour of its program later in the morning, the bulk of Ignatius' debunking had been edited out.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.