The New York Times, accused by Clinton allies this week of trying to undermine Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential bid, heaped favorable coverage on Barack Obama in its 2008 presidential coverage while characterizing Clinton as "cold, calculating, and overly ambitious," according to a timely new study.
As the Clintons set to spar with the media again, the study in the authoritative "Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly" found that sexist coverage is likely to be the biggest hurdle the Times will throw at Clinton, expected to try for a second time to be the first woman nominated to run for president.
University of Washington's Lindsey Meeks studied the Times' 2008 coverage of Obama, Clinton and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and easily determined that the women were treated as "novelties" and their gender singled out far more than Obama's.
The result: Obama won on issue coverage, while Clinton was subjected to a majority of gender coverage.
"As Clinton transitioned from her first month on the campaign to the rest of the election, the Times emphasized her novelty more, and her issue competency less," wrote Meeks.
But even in the area of novelty, Obama won, she wrote. That's because his status as one of the first blacks to run was seen as more interesting than Clinton's gender. "Obama's firstness as an African American candidate was often cast as a historic social achievement, whereas Clinton's firstness was not exalted in such terms until she exited the election," said the study.
Being the New York Times, their coverage infected the rest of the mainstream media. "The Times," wrote Meeks, "is a history-defining institution." She said that "its agenda-setting impact stretches farther: The Times also affects other news organizations and their readers as an intermedia agenda-setter--which means the Times sets and influences the agenda of other news organizations."
The Times this month has written stories critical of the Clinton political machine and the former president's foundation, drawing complaints from defenders such as David Brock of Media Matters.
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.