Hillary Clinton had a rough debate last week--and an equally rough weekend of news analysis of her presidential campaign's official reaction to what her advisers characterized as the "piling on" of her male rivals in the battle for the Democratic nomination. (General theme: If Clinton can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen--woman or not.)
But has the coverage of the only female candidate been fair? That's a question Erika Falk attempts to explore in historical context in her new book, Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns. (Review copies hit reporters' mailboxes about the time many were writing about how the Clinton campaign responded to her roughing-up at the debate; the book is scheduled for wide release in late January.) Falk, associate chair of Johns Hopkins University's Communication in Contemporary Society program, examines the campaign coverage of eight presidential races involving women, from Victoria Woodhull and Belva Lockwood in the late 1800s to Carol Moseley Braun in 2004.
Her conclusion? Though there has been progress, it has been less than one would expect, she says, given the "radical changes that have taken place for women in politics and journalism over the last 130 years." She found that men continued to receive more frequent and in-depth coverage compared with "equivalent women" and that it has been more difficult for women to establish viability as candidates. But some may argue that valid as Falk's conclusions may be, Clinton, the powerful Democratic front-runner who has lacked neither expansive coverage nor assertions of her viability, has thrown the past on its head.
By Liz Halloran