When one learns of a powerful man using his position to sexually assault women, the only morally acceptable reaction is disgust, closely followed by discussion of how such abuse was allowed to happen. Such was the media reaction, by and large, to the revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein, with one notable exception– Fox News. Because, apparently, to make the headlines at Fox, it’s not enough to be a serial sexual abuser: you have to be a prominent Democratic donor as well.
The last thing anyone wants is for the discussion about sexual assault to become politicized, but when Fox allows exactly that to happen, one can’t not call them out on it. What Fox said– and didn’t say– about the Weinstein scandal and others speaks volumes about their hypocrisy.
There is no “fake news” here– Fox hasn’t reported anything that didn’t happen (that we know of). But what they choose to focus on, and what (or who) they leave out, is an equally powerful indicator that Fox is the epitome of irresponsible journalism.
Fox News’ coverage of Weinstein was thorough and swift, but if only they could be just as conscientious when covering harassment allegations against ex-host Bill O’Reilly. Media Matters reported on Oct. 25 that Fox spent 12.5 hours in three weeks covering the Weinstein scandal, compared to 20 minutes in seven months for Bill O’ Reilly’s behind-the-scenes behavior. On Oct. 26, The Huffington Post declared: “At this pace, Fox News would need 21 years to give O’Reilly the amount of coverage they gave Weinstein over three weeks.”
It is hard to imagine that Fox would allow this to happen if O’Reilly wasn’t a conservative hero.
Fox had the audacity to call out liberal media outlets for not giving attention to Weinstein days after the allegations were made public on Oct. 5, in the New York Times by reporter Sharon Waxman. Sean Hannity criticized “the selective moral outrage we have come to expect from the left” on Oct. 6– a day after the Weinstein story broke. Well, you know what they say: it takes one to know one. He, and the rest of Fox, has been quick to defend O’Reilly and ex-host Roger Ailes (not to mention Donald Trump). Hannity called the claim against Ailes by a former Fox employee “BS”, and expressed his hope that O’Reilly would return after featuring the latter on his show.
Besides, if Hollywood and the left has been slow to denounce Weinstein, Fox News must be like a plane moving faster than the sound it makes– down to the sonic boom it leaves in its wake. That boom is called hypocrisy: within a week after Oct. 5, nearly every prominent figure in Hollywood and leftist politics had unequivocally denounced Weinstein. On Oct. 10, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC interviewed NBC contributor Ronan Farrow, who published the allegations of 13 women against Weinstein in The New Yorker, including allegations of rape. It was a five-minute segment, yet MSNBC had already devoted more time per week to Weinstein than Fox ever did to O’Reilly– and, as Fox never tires of reminding us, you can’t get more liberal than MSNBC.
Both Hillary Clinton and the DNC have pledged to donate funds received from Weinstein to charity, including to feminist organizations. To me, that was the most surprising thing, since the RNC and Republican politicians certainly aren’t rushing to donate money they received from O’Reilly, Ailes, and Trump.
Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast asked numerous Republican state committees and PACs, to whom Trump personally gave $250,000 or more in past years, if they plan to return his donations after the RNC called on Democrats to do this with Weinstein’s money. As of Oct. 12, he has received no answers from any of them. Maybe, on another level, there is nothing surprising about this at all: maybe the truly surprising thing would be a Republican organization that actually cares about women.
Yes, ideally, Weinstein would have been condemned immediately. But at least the left hasn’t de-emphasized him over a political opponent, and a week’s delay is very different from seven months. Liberal media isn’t blameless, though: apparently, Weinstein’s intervention led to the New York Times “gutting” a story Waxman had on Weinstein’s misconduct as early as 2004. Farrow told Rachel Maddow that he had to publish his story in The New Yorker after Weinstein put pressure on NBC, even personally threatening Farrow with a lawsuit. But there is no indication that this silence was an attempt to protect Weinstein due to his political support– it was a rapist using his influence to control the system, which must be the real story here.
I have yet to see any discussion by Fox about how Weinstein, O’Reilly, and all the rest aren’t created in a vacuum: they are the products of a culture that legitimizes violence against women. Instead, we got an Oct. 17 op-ed (written by a woman, by the way) headlined “No, ‘not all men’ are like Harvey Weinstein– but apparently the left wants you to think so”. That doesn’t seem to be an exaggeration: apparently the author actually believes that the left is claiming that all men commit sexual assault, and therefore feels the need to point out that, no, not all men do this. The left is clearly doing nothing of the sort. There is a clear difference between arguing that violence against women is a product of a toxic culture and saying that all men (but never other women, apparently) sexually assault women. The author also claims that “feminists didn’t go on TV to say that Trump was part of a wider culture that abuses women in this way”– but they did hold the revolutionary Women’s March saying exactly that.
By far the most bizarre thing about the article must be a reference to men “defiling nearby plants.” Seriously. As if perpetuating the idea that a woman is permanently “defiled” by assault wasn’t bad enough (and people wonder why Weinstein’s accusers were uncomfortable coming forward?), she just had to use a truly mind-boggling metaphor. But maybe her experience at Fox News has given her justification for the word “nearby”.
Moreover, this article seems to suggest that Weinstein is just one bad apple. That is the absolute worst thing for a media outlet to be saying now. When you capture one member of a gang, you don’t say he’s a bad apple, you move in on his accomplices– and Weinstein was the godfather of a gang that’s been around for decades.
It is the duty of the media to explore every issue to its greatest extent, and it is against the very purpose of journalism to deliberately limit one’s coverage of any issue, especially one as explosive as this. Especially when allegations have surfaced against so many more powerful men since Weinstein: James Toback, Mark Halperin, George H. W. Bush. This delusional view is keeping other survivors from coming forward, and their joined voices are the most potent weapon against continued abuse.
It is the victims we must remember. Their stories can never be a tool of political mudslinging. By using the Weinstein revelations to attack their opponents, Fox News is not only hurting the discussion on the issue of sexual assault, but disrespecting the very real women who survived Weinstein and found the courage to bring him down.
None of us can ever know what that is like, how much strength coming forward takes. But Fox feels somehow entitled to their voices, their hearts and minds– not so different from how Weinstein felt entitled to their bodies.