September 23, 2018

Genuine empathy for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been in short supply in the media - especially among its male members. That's why it was so refreshing to hear Brian Stelter spend a good four minutes ripping the right wing media machine to shreds for its treatment of her, and have it come from a place that does appear to be one of real empathy. He literally asked his viewers to put themselves in her shoes.

You lived with this trauma for years and kept it a secret. And back in July you confided in a reporter about it, but insisted on confidentiality. During the Senate confirmation hearings, you thought about going public, but decided not to, to keep your secret buried. But your name started to leak out. Reporters started to knock on your door. You felt like your civic responsibility to speak out outweighed your anguish and terror about retaliation. That was a week ago. That was the quote from the first Washington Post story. Now, if you're Ford, you're living in a hotel. You're staring down death threats, you're thinking about testifying. The president of the United States is tweeting about you, casting doubt on your story. And everybody on tv is talking about you. Of course, none of them actually know you but sound like they do. They sound so confident like they want to know the truth, or do know the truth but only you know your truth. Maybe you turn your tv off in disgust and look at your phone but it's worse on the internet. Social media full of lies about you. You're a private person, not a public person. You're not used to people talking about you and all of a sudden, all these smears, all these hoaxes. From people pretending like they know you.

Stelter went on to detail the misinformation put out by the "right-wing smear machine," starting with nasty reviews on that, as it turns out, were for a different Professor Ford. Since when did accuracy matter to the right wingnuts? That didn't stop Laura Ingraham, The Drudge Report, and other "bright lights of the right" from promoting that misinformation, leaving "actual news outlets" to chase down the truth and debunk the lies. Stelter was brutal and honest in his assessment.

He moved onto things more subtle, like the efforts to imply perhaps Dr. Blasey's memory was maybe not quite right. Memory can be faulty, right? The old mistaken identity thing that happens all the time. (Dudes, it is NEVER the evil twin, I'm telling you.) Stelter outlined Ed Whelan's outlandish and outrageous conspiracy theory suggesting and actually naming another man he imagined might have been responsible for Dr. Blasey's assault. The notion was so quickly discredited and denounced, Whelan did an almost immediate about-face.

He's the head of an ethics center! And he had to apologize and everything. Ford clapped back perfectly. She came out and said she knew both men. She knew Kavanaugh and this other guy that was being named, and there is zero chance she could confuse the two of them. Now Fox, "Fox and Friends," president Trump's friends brought up the idea the next morning and talked about the theory on air and gave it validity, even as Whelan was backtracking and apologizing and pretending like it never happened.

Again, a week of smears. A week of lies. Put yourself in her shoes. What would you be feeling right now?

What I'm feeling is appreciation for Stelter's insisting people ask themselves this question at all, along with this particular analysis of the media.

Oh, and I'm sure Stelter will be pleased to learn that Mr. Whelan is actually no longer head of an ethics center. As of Sunday afternoon, he has been put on leave.

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