Each of the three newspapers I analyzed covered Herman Cain’s defense that he was falsely accused in sexual harassment allegations. The articles discussed the two women who spoke out against Cain and informed us of the joke he made on his secretary’s height a decade ago. They also discussed the implications of this publicity for Cain’s campaign.
The Washington Post was probably the least kind out of the three newspapers. They used wording that seemed to make Cain seem nervous and unconfident about responding to the allegations, and they made the most creeper-like depiction of his comments to his former secretary. The reporter probably intended to harm Cain’s credibility in the eyes of the audience. This bias can be traced to a liberal bias; the author mostly seemed poised against Cain, but there are a lot of times when the credibility of an entire political party can suffer if the candidate’s reputation is hurt badly enough. For many readers, this can indeed have this effect, given that the situation seems to boil down to his word against hers.
The Boston Globe [publishing an Associated Press story] was more factual, but did point out his other campaign fumbles and the article seemed to focus on the negative impact this could have on Cain. This article may have the effect of killing voters’ confidence in Cain, given that the polls are so finicky, and many voters seem only to want a candidate that can win the ultimate race against the Democrats. If this was the effect the author intended, then the bias would be against Cain, but not necessarily liberal.
The New York Times emphasized more strongly the instability of his campaign, spending plenty of time discussing every other point at which Cain has drawn criticism. The bias again was against Cain, and the audience may walk away from this feeling even more unsure of Cain’s overall strength and seriousness as a candidate.
Deborah James, a student at Colorado Christian University, examined a week’s worth of news coverage from October and November 2011 in The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Boston Globe, regarding the sexual harassment allegations against then-GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. The above is her take on one day’s reports. She wrote this for our News21 course on “Persuasion and News in the 21st Century.”