As November 8 draws closer, the chaos of this unprecedented election season somehow continues to escalate. For both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the past week brought a barrage of negative revelations to light—although the mainstream media has covered Trump incessantly while keeping Clinton out of the limelight.
Late last week, recordings surfaced of Trump speaking about his inappropriate sexual advances toward women. The media maelstrom that followed set the stage for a tense presidential debate on Sunday, but Trump emerged from the debate less scathed than many anticipated. Still, his troubles continued into this week: Several women have come forward, alleging that Trump’s lewd comments were not just talk. On Friday, a contestant on “The Apprentice” accused Trump of making “unwanted sexual advances” toward her in 2007.
The Trump campaign tried to suppress coverage of the issue by demanding that The New York Times remove its story that featured the accusations of two women. On Thursday, David E. McGraw, assistant general counsel for the Times, issued a response. “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself,” McGraw wrote. He continued:
The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance—indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.
Many Democrats seized on the allegations of sexual assault and publicly denounced Trump. “The words are demeaning,” Vice President Joe Biden stated on Twitter last Saturday. “Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault.”
Michelle Obama, who has spent several months stumping for Clinton’s campaign and quietly attacking Trump without ever mentioning his name, delivered harsh words at a Clinton rally on Thursday. “I can’t believe I’m saying a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” she said. Watch the video of her impassioned speech below:
Top Republicans have been abandoning Trump’s campaign in droves, leading Trump to ramp up his criticism of the GOP. “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to,” he tweeted earlier in the week. “Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win—I will teach them!”
In response to the allegations of sexual assault, the Trump campaign has turned to an underreported—yet extremely important—political development: new WikiLeaks emails concerning the Clinton campaign.
During the past week, WikiLeaks has released thousands of emails in almost-daily drops. The emails stem from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, so the continuous leak has been dubbed the “Podesta emails.” The abundance of material covers a wide range including Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s relationship with Wall Street, foreign policy and more.
“Rather than responding to any of the content provided by WikiLeaks, the Clinton campaign has released statements about Russia and Donald Trump, making unverifiable claims that Russia is working with WikiLeaks to undermine the United States,” Truthdig contributor Donald Kaufman wrote. “The campaign also claims, with no evidence provided, that some of the emails could be fabricated, although WikiLeaks has no history of publishing falsified documents.”
The Clinton campaign continues to make allegations against the Russian government in relation to the ongoing leaks, and this—rather than the content of the leaks—is receiving substantial media attention. According to CNN, “[t]here is mounting evidence that the Russian government is supplying WikiLeaks with hacked emails pertaining to the US presidential election.”
Clinton’s campaign strategy appears to be working, as most mainstream media outlets and members of the Democratic Party have begun to point fingers at Russian President Vladimir Putin (and his alleged relationship with Trump). “Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon fired off tweets to WikiLeaks’ Twitter account, calling WikiLeaks a ‘propaganda arm of the Russian [government]’ and accusing Julian Assange of ‘colluding with [the] Russian government to help Trump,’ ” Truthdig contributer KiMi Robinson wrote.
This strategy tells us plenty about Clinton’s campaign, according to Truthdig Managing Editor Eric Ortiz. “Deflection is not a show of strength,” he wrote. “By choosing to demonize WikiLeaks, blame Russia and vilify Donald Trump, the Clinton camp and the oligarchs and plutocrats in their orbit are embarrassing America and exposing the illusion of democracy. They also are missing an opportunity to show leadership and be presidential.”
So, yes, Trump deserves immense criticism for his decades of abhorrent behavior. “Donald Trump’s ‘locker-room talk’ turns the presidential race into even more of an un-presidential sideshow,” Ortiz continued. “Yes, his conversation with Billy Bush was lewd, crude and rude. Anyone with a conscience should be repulsed. Indeed, Trump deserves a punch in the face by Robert De Niro.”
But, despite the circus that is the 2016 election, the political media still should be required to evaluate each campaign. WikiLeaks should be celebrated, not demonized, for doing the work that used to be the norm for journalistic institutions. And flat-out criticism of Trump ignores the grander nuances of why so many Americans are attracted to his campaign.
In regard to the brouhaha surrounding Trump’s campaign and the radio silence on WikiLeaks, we turn to you. How heavily should these allegations weigh against Trump’s campaign? How strongly should the “Podesta emails” weigh against Clinton’s campaign?
Let us know in the poll below. One vote per person, please. (Make your selection and then click on “Vote.” To see results of the polling, click on “Results.”)
—Posted by Emma Niles