One of the strangest aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign has been the mainstream media’s decision to spend equal time criticizing Trump and Clinton. This has created a false equivalence. Imagine a political contest between Godzilla (Trump) and Bambi (Clinton). Because of the equal time rule, the nightly news would report, “Godzilla destroys Los Angeles,” and then, “Bambi ravishes community garden.”
Science reporter <a href=http://fusion.net/story/341420/the-maddening-world-of-false-equivalence-media-from-a-climate-reporter-who-knows/ >Art Phillips</a> noted a similar false equivalence with regards to climate change. The mainstream media reports on some devastating climate change event – such as <a href= https://weather.com/news/climate/news/july-2016-warmest-global-temperature-record >record high temperatures</a> – and then feels obligated to feature a climate-change denier. This sets up a false equivalence, as if views on the reality of climate change are equally split; the reality is that 97 percent of climate scientists believe that the earth has been warming over the past 100 years.
The media’s obsession with false equivalence has influenced coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump is the most despicable US presidential candidate in modern times. Hillary Clinton is a mainstream candidate. Nonetheless, the media treats them as if they are equivalent. They’re not. Trump is Godzilla.
The biggest Trump story has been his embrace of white-nationalist policies. It started at the beginning of his campaign, in <a href= http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/06/16/trump_mexico_not_sending_us_their_best_criminals_drug_dealers_and_rapists_are_crossing_border.html >June of 2015</a>, with his strong stance on immigration – calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists– and has continued since. As Hillary Clinton noted in her <a href= http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/transcript-hillary-clinton-alt-right-reno-227419 >August 25th speech</a>: “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Trump’s mainstreaming of white nationalism is, by far, the biggest story in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Nonetheless, following their self-imposed doctrine of “equivalence,” the media has typically followed tales of Trump’s racism with various spins on Clinton’s emails.
To be clear, Hillary Clinton was wrong to use a private email server. It violated State Department policy. Nonetheless, the FBI and the Department of Justice have determined that Clinton’s use of a private email server was <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/19/politifact-sheet-hillary-clintons-email-controvers/>not a crime</a>. Therefore, the email story is not equivalent to Trump’s white nationalism.
What the mainstream media does not discuss is the fact that Donald Trump is unqualified to talk about Clinton’s emails. He is non-technical; he does not use email or a personal computer. Moreover, Trump is not a lawyer and he has never had a security clearance.
The second biggest story of Trump’s campaign has been his willingness to lie. The independent fact checker, <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/ >Politifact</a>, reports that 70 percent of Trump’s statements have been judged “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” In comparison only 29 percent of Clinton’s statements have been judged “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” (Half of Clinton’s statements were judge “true” or “mostly true” versus just 15 percent of Trump’s statements.)
In June, <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jun/16/10-biggest-falsehoods-year-trump/ >Politifact</a> chronicled Trump’s top 10 lies of the year. Not surprisingly, many were about immigration: “The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is ‘30 million, it could be 34 million;’” “The Mexican government forces many bad people into our country;” and ,“There is ‘no system to vet’ refugees from the Middle East.” Some other Trump falsehoods: “We’re the highest taxed nation in the world” and “The unemployment rate may be as high as ‘42 percent.’”
Quoted in The Huffington Post, historian <a href= “http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-historic-liar_us_57a72edce4b03ba680129d06” >Douglas Brinkley</a> observed: “In American history, we’ve never had a major presidential candidate who fabricated facts with the regularity of Donald Trump. He just simply makes up things.”
Commenting on Trump’s astounding mendacity, the mainstream media has attempted to be “evenhanded” with absurd complaints about the Clinton Foundation.
<a href= https://www.charitywatch.org/ratings-and-metrics/bill-hillary-chelsea-clinton-foundation/478 >Charity Watch</a> gave the Clinton Foundation an “A”rating; in 2014 the foundation raised $325 million and gave away 88 percent. The 2015 annual report of the <a href= http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/clinton-foundation-controversy-actual-work >Clinton Foundation Health Initiative</a> indicates it, “helped more than 11.8 million people in more than 70 nations gain access to low-cost HIV medicines (saving the global health system billions of dollars) [and] has distributed vaccines that annually helped save 138,000 lives.”
There is <a href= https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/08/23/the-latest-clinton-email-story-just-isnt-a-scandal/?utm_term=.8a0efd81b1bd>no credible evidence </a> that Secretary of State Clinton gave favors to Clinton Foundation donors. No criminal complaints have ever been filed.
What the mainstream media does not discuss is the fact that the Clintons are philanthropists and Trump is not. When Hillary Clinton released <a href= http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/hillary-clinton-releases-her-tax-returns/457896/ >eight years of tax returns</a> it showed the Clintons had donated $15 million to charity – roughly 10 percent of their income. Of course, we do not know how much Donald Trump donated because he has refused to release his tax returns; however <a href= https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/08/05/daily-202-lessons-from-my-search-for-donald-trump-s-personal-giving-to-charity/57a3eb5fcd249a7e29d0cf7a/ >The Washington Post</a> found that, given his wealth, Trump gives very little money to charity.
It’s absurd to compared Trump’s astonishing capacity to lie with the Clintons’ support for their foundation.
Donald Trump is a monstrous individual – Godzilla. Hillary Clinton is a mainstream politician — Bambi. They are not equivalent. To suggest they are equivalent brings discredit to the US media and distorts public perception in the presidential election.