Hillary still believes the vast, right-wing conspiracy is responsible for her political failures. In her first big interview since last year’s loss, Clinton tells New York magazine the right-wing media is a force with no effective opposition:
“Look, we have an advocacy press on the right that has done a really good job for the last 25 years,” she says. “They have a mission. They use the rights given to them under the First Amendment to advocate a set of policies that are in their interests, their commercial, corporate, religious interests. Because the advocacy media occupies the right, and the center needs to be focused on providing as accurate information as possible. Not both-sides-ism and not false equivalency.”
Two problems here. First, Clinton says the right has used the “rights given to them under the First Amendment” to advocate for their interests. It’s a bit worrisome that someone who was a senator and who just ran for president seems to think rights are given by the U.S. Constitution. What the First Amendment actually states is that the government cannot infringe on certain basic human rights. Again, people make this mistake all the time but a presidential contender ought to know better.
Second, in Clinton’s view of the world, there is apparently no such thing as left-wing media. The left doesn’t have writers (take your pick) or blogs (Daily Kos) or massive news sites (HuffPost) or entire TV networks (MSNBC) devoted to advocating for their interests. I’m barely scratching the surface here. There are hundreds of writers, blogs and even news sites which explicitly take a progressive position on issues. The only area of media where progressives have really struggled is in radio.
The impulse toward false equivalency is only getting worse, in her opinion. “The cable networks seem to me to be folding into a posture of, ‘Oh, we want to try to get some of those people on the right, so maybe we better be more, quote, evenhanded.’ ” When I mention MSNBC’s hiring of conservatives including George Will, and the New York Times’ new climate-change-skeptic opinion columnist, Bret Stephens, her brow furrows. “Why … would … you … do … that?” she says. “Sixty-six million people voted for me, plus, you know, the crazy third-party people. So there’s a lot of people who would actually appreciate stronger arguments on behalf of the most existential challenges facing our country and the world, climate change being one of them! It’s clearly a commercial decision. But I don’t think it will work. I mean, they’re laughing on the right at these puny efforts to try to appease people on the right.”
As for evenhandedness, a 2013 PEW report found that progressive network MSNBC was 85% opinion and 15% news. That was significantly worse than Fox News which was 55% opinion and 45% news. So the idea that progressive media is being too evenhanded by hiring a few conservatives just doesn’t hold up.
To be sure, Trump got plenty of negative coverage in the press as well, but, during the campaign at least, the negative stories didn’t seem to stick to him with the same adhesion. And even now, as investigations of his administration’s connections to Russia splash across front pages, the Times has launched a new feature, a weekly call to readers to “Say something nice” about him. I ask Clinton if she’s seen it. “I did!” she says with a wide smile, taking a beat. “I never saw them do that for me.”
There’s a reason the Times has to solicit nice comments about Trump. A Harvard-run study on coverage of Trump during his first 100 days found that 87% of the NY Times’ coverage was negative. If they didn’t solicit a kind word, one would rarely appear in the paper. And CNN and NBC News were even more tilted against Trump (93% negative). Later in the interview, in explaining her new 501 group which seeks to adopt ‘the resistance’ Clinton adds this charming take on the opposition party: “The other side is sustained by greed and hate and power and ideology, and they never quit. They get up every day looking to take advantage and drive their agenda forward.” That fits with Hillary’s statement during the campaign that Republicans were the enemy she was most proud to have.
That’s a pretty extreme take for an allegedly center-left candidate, but it fits with Hillary’s statement during the campaign that Republicans were the enemy she was most proud to have.
Back in 1998, Hillary gave an interview to the Today show in which she denied that her husband, President Bill Clinton, had done anything wrong with Monica Lewinsky. “I do believe that this is a battle,” Clinton said adding, “I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this.” Clinton then uttered a phrase which has followed her ever since. “The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast, right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
The vast, right-wing conspiracy has always been her deflection when she’s trying to avoid blame. The idea that the left doesn’t have advocacy media (including some big money sites like Media Matters devoted to defending Hillary Clinton) is laughable. Hillary has faced plenty of opposition from the media over the years, but so have other candidates including George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, to name just a few, all of whom have been attacked with ugly and unfair criticism at times.
Hillary acts as if the right is unique in dishing out ugly, partisan opposition even as she disparages the other side as animated by “greed and hate and power.” That’s a pretty dark, Manichaean view of American politics. Hillary doesn’t get enough blame for espousing it for the last 20 years.