I talked about the accusations of author E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump over the weekend. Carroll has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1996. As I said, only the Washington Post even bothered to put the accusation on the front page. As a result, half of America was unaware the story even happened, because it wasn't reported.
In an excerpt of her memoir published Friday, Carroll wrote that Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the mid-’90s. Trump denied the accusation, saying in one statement that he had never met Carroll (a photograph included in the story showed otherwise) and in a later interview claimed she was “not my type.”
The accusation generated significant coverage. But in a news cycle already saturated with other stories, including tensions with Iran, it got relatively short shrift in newspapers like The New York Times and on Sunday morning talk shows.
“The day that [Carroll’s allegation] dropped it felt like it was very much a part of the conversation on Twitter,” Shani Hilton, deputy managing editor for news at the Los Angeles Times, told CNN on Sunday. “It was really blowing up ― I mean all day long … Two days later, it kind of feels like it’s faded away.”
In a HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted Friday night and Saturday, just 11% of Americans said they’d heard a lot about Carroll’s allegations. About half those polled, 53%, hadn’t heard anything at all. (Because survey respondents tend to be more politically engaged, these numbers are, if anything, probably a little high.)
For the sake of comparison, polling this year found that respondents had heard more about the renewed debate over the Hyde Amendment, the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, the new Alabama abortion law, the release of the Mueller report, the blackface controversy involving Virginia’s governor and the end of the government shutdown.
“In the case of Trump, the sheer number of sexual misconduct allegations seems to have had a desensitizing effect,” Vox’s Anna North wrote, “with the press and the public beginning to treat an account of sexual assault by the US commander-in-chief as simply business as usual.”
That ― along with the general stability of Trump’s ratings ― may help to explain why views have changed so little since Trump’s time on the campaign trail.
Trump sexually assaulting women is now the new normal. It's no longer news. And America no longer cares. More people heard about Joe Biden's Hyde Amendment flip. More people heard about the Virginia Beach shooting (another news item category we've become 100% desensitized towards).
Trump simply normalizes his evil, and our broken media shrugs and plays along.