The media can’t be bothered to fact-check Trump’s accusers
The roll-out of women accusers against Donald Trump continues. On Saturday, accuser No. 11, Jessica Drake, an adult-film performer who also operates a Web site “Guide to Wicked Sex,” came forward. Drake claims she met Trump 10 years ago at a golf outing and he invited her to his hotel room.
When she got there, he hugged her tightly and kissed her on the lips.
Attorney Gloria Allred, a two-time Hillary Clinton convention delegate and Democratic Party grenade-thrower, flanked Drake as she told her story to reporters.
Last Thursday, Allred staged another press conference to unveil Accuser No. 10, Karena Virginia. She says Trump took hold of her right arm in a crowd at the 1998 US Open. When he did, his hand also made contact with the side of her breast.
Sexual assault is a serious issue. But these accusations raise another grave issue: Is it fair for the media to rush to publicize damaging claims against Trump — or anyone else — without witnesses or back-up evidence?
Consider accuser No. 1, Jessica Leeds. She told The New York Times that almost 40 years ago, Donald Trump sexually groped her on a flight to New York, while a man across the aisle looked on, his eyes “bugging out of his head.”
Less than 48 hours after interviewing Leeds, and despite Trump’s protests that the charge was false, the Times ran the allegation on the front page. The reporters couldn’t confirm the date or even the year the incident supposedly occurred, or on what flight. They didn’t find even one witness. No facts.
Two days after the Times article, Anthony Gilberthorpe came forward, saying he was the man across the aisle: “I was there,” and what Leeds is claiming is “wrong, wrong, wrong.” Gilberthorpe said Leeds was all over the mogul, and when Trump went to the bathroom, she confessed she wanted to marry him. Gilberthorpe, whose colorful past raises questions, also had no facts to prove his statements.
So, who’s telling the truth? Impossible to say. That isn’t stopping the media from repeating the Times’ account, despite all the holes.
And despite the controversy over an earlier Trump hit piece by the same reporters. They argued that Trump treated women in his Miss Universe contests like objects, inspecting them up and down on stage. Imagine that at a beauty contest.
Two women quoted in that article — Miss California USA Carrie Prejean and Rowanne Brewer Lane — said the Times reporters had twisted their words.
Is accuser No. 11 the last? Probably not. Natasha Rickley, a former Miss Nebraska Teen, says ABC News is trying to reach every beauty contestant who ever had contact with Trump.
Allred appears heavily involved. Democrats have called on her to smear Republican candidates in the past, including presidential hopeful Herman Cain and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
On Oct. 15, Allred led accuser Summer Zervos into a press conference like a pony on a rope to accuse Trump of forceful kissing and touching. These accusations are rushed into print without facts. The Washington Post blazoned Kristin Anderson’s accusation that Trump put his hand up her mini skirt at a night club, even though she couldn’t remember what year it happened or the friends with her that night. Pretty thin.
What about “innocent until proven guilty”? The media often forget that, like when a student at the University of Virginia concocted a tale of gang rape. The sensationalist coverage of that smeared innocent people. But it didn’t influence a presidential election.
A Reuters poll released Friday shows 63 percent of Americans now believe Trump committed sexual assault.
Maybe he did, and maybe not. Trump and the public deserve fair, balanced coverage of the accusations until the facts are known. Sadly, they’re not getting it. Times media reporter Jim Rutenberg suggests that “normal standards” of journalistic fairness do not apply because in the media’s view, Trump is a “demagogue” who must be brought down. Voters beware.