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Burying Access Hollywood


The Times has a long story about how Trump survived the release of a tape showing him boasting about committing sexual assault on tape. Despite the length, though, it doesn’t even really try to explain how a story that involved both extremely serious misconduct and an obvious prurient angle about someone who was both a major party candidate for president and a major celebrity got buried so quickly. For example, this is the entirety of the discussion about WikiLeaks desperately trying to save Trump by dumping the Podesta inbox later that night.

Of course, even set against a trove of October surprises through history, 2016 was something different. In a span of hours on Friday, Oct. 7, intelligence community leaders publicly accused Russia of interfering in the election, The Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” article and WikiLeaks began disseminating hacked emails from John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman — timing that her team did not find coincidental.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, looked into whether the release of Mr. Podesta’s emails was connected to the “Access Hollywood” tape but did not publicly establish a link to the Trump campaign. In the end, many Clinton aides believe, nothing that day affected the election as much as a letter three weeks later from James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, reviving the topic of Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.

The first sentence of the second graf is strange; one hardly needs to establish a link to the Trump campaign to make an inference that pro-Trump ratfuckers timed the release of emails to step on the Access Hollywood tape, and nor does the Trump campaign need to have been involved for the release to have a substantial impact in mitigating the impact of the story (which it quite clearly did.) Similarly, you can’t talk about the effect of the Comey tape without talking about both the extraordinary volume of coverage a story with far, far less substantive or prurient interest than the Access Hollywood tape received for more than a year.

And of course this is why a bunch of descriptions of stuff Trump did that weekend doesn’t tell us anything about the real question — that is, why did the media get bored so quickly with a story that was an objective blockbuster about Trump while they had no problem investing long-term attention in a bunch of inane trivia about Clinton that wasn’t even interesting gossip? And that’s a story the Times is still not remotely willing to touch 4 years later.

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