Reassessing balance: News coverage of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood scandal before and during #metoo

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© The Author(s) 2019. Sexual abuse became an important part of news coverage in the months leading up to Donald Trump’s presidency and continued to dominate news cycles with the emergence of the #metoo movement. Yet, it remains to be seen whether the increasing amount of stories about sexual abuse have actually advanced social justice. We conducted content and textual analyses of newspaper, cable television, and online coverage of the Access Hollywood scandal before and during the #metoo movement (N = 1890) to understand how the journalistic objectivity norm of balance via issue dualism influenced reporting on sexual abuse. Television and right-leaning media had the highest levels of rape myth acceptance in their coverage for both time periods. The use of issue dualism advantaged Trump as Bill Clinton and other prominent accused men shifted focus away from Trump and largely overlooked the women coming forward against Trump. The objectivity norm of balance reduced and politicized this complex issue, as well as gave power to Trump’s retaliation while minimizing the serious accusations that have been brought against him.

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