A biweekly round up on what’s happening at the TV News Archive by Katie Dahl and Nancy Watzman.
This week we dive into research resources, fact-checks, and backgrounders on the sexual harassment charges sweeping the worlds of media, politics, and entertainment.
Past TV news appearances by O’Reilly, Franken, Halperin & more preserved, searchable
The names of well-known and influential men accused of sexual harassment continue to pile up: Louis C.K.; Rep. John Conyers, D., Mich.; Sen. Al Franken, D., Minn.; Mark Halperin of ABC; Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame; NBC’s Matt Lauer, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore; Fox’s Bill O’Reilly; Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS; Leon Wieseltier, formerly of The New Republic; Harvey Weinstein, and of course the president himself, Donald Trump.
Some of these men made their living on TV and all of them have many TV appearances preserved in the TV News Archive. These include, for example, clips making the rounds in this week’s stories about Lauer’s television history: this one where NBC staff did a fake joke story about Lauer himself being harassed by a colleague; and this interview with the actress Anne Hathaway after a photographer took a photo up her skirt and a tabloid printed it.
We’ve also got this September 2017 interview Lauer did of Bill O’Reilly, in which he asks the former Fox News host: “Have you done some soul searching? Have you done some self-reflection and have you looked at the way you treated women that you think now or think about differently now than you did at the time?” O’Reilly answers, “My conscience is clear.”
TV news use of term “sexual harassment” peaked in 2011
Cable TV news programs mentions of the term “sexual harassment” are picking up, but not yet at the level they were back in November 2011, according to a search of TV News Archive caption data via Television Explorer. What was big news then? Accusations of sexual harassment against then presidential candidate Herman Cain, who the following month dropped out of the 2012 race. Cain was back on TV this week, in an interview on the current claims of sexual harassment against powerful men, on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle.
Cain says: “Now, what’s different about my situation, and let’s just say Roy Moore’s situation, is that they came after me with repeatedly attacks and accusations, but no confirmation. They now believe that if they throw more and more and more mud on the wall, that eventually people are going to believe it. But that has backfired because, as you know, the latest poll shows Roy Moore is now back in the lead in Alabama, and the people in Alabama are going to have to decide.”
Fact-checks and backgrounders on sexual harassment charges
Our fact-checking partners have produced numerous fact-checks and background pieces on sexual harassment charges and statements.
“How politicians react to such charges often appears to reflect who is being accused. Democrats are quick to jump on allegations about Republicans — and vice versa. But the bets start to get hedged when someone in the same party falls under scrutiny,” writes Meg Kelly for The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker.
For example, here’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D. Calif., on “Meet the Press” in 1998, defending then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, Pelosi said, referring to the investigation by Ken Starr into allegations against Clinton: “The women of America are just like other Americans, in that they value fairness, they value privacy, and do not want to see a person with uncontrolled power, uncontrolled time, uncontrolled – unlimited money investigating the president of the United States.”
And here’s President Donald Trump on the White House south lawn, defending GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore: “Roy Moore denies this. That’s all I can say. And by the way, he totally denies it.”
Kelly also wrote a round-up of sexual harassment charges against the president himself: “During the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked then-candidate Trump point blank whether he had “actually kiss[ed] women without consent or grope[d] women without consent?” Trump asserted that “nobody has more respect for women” and Cooper pushed him, asking, “Have you ever done those things?” Trump denied that he had, responding: “No, I have not.”…But it’s not as simple as that. Many of the women have produced witnesses who say they heard about these incidents when they happened — long before Trump’s political aspirations were known. Three have produced at least two witnesses.”
In another piece, Glenn Kessler, editor of The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, writes in a round up of corroborators, “Such contemporaneous accounts are essential to establishing the credibility of the allegation because they reduce the chances that a person is making up a story for political purposes. In the case of sexual allegations, such accounts can help bolster the credibility of the “she said” side of the equation.” One of the statements of denial he quotes is this one from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who says when asked if all of the accusers are lying: “Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president’s spoken on it.”
Here’s FactCheck.org’s Eugene Kiely on Sen. Tim Kaine, D., Va., and his claim that the Clinton campaign can’t give back contributions from Harry Weinstein: “Asked if the Clinton-Kaine campaign will return contributions it received from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Tim Kaine repeatedly said the campaign is over. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean the campaign can’t refund donations.” FactCheck.org deemed this claim “misleading.”