As voters head to the polls in Virginia today, three men at the top of state government there remain in office despite what ordinarily would have been career-ending scandals earlier this year. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both acknowledged wearing blackface in their youth, while Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault, which he denied. How have the media covered these allegations of blackface and sexual assault and what do they tell us about the shifting winds of “woke” and “#MeToo” culture?
The timeline below shows the combined number of mentions of “Northam,” “Herring” and “Fairfax” by day on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News from Jan. 1 of this year through Nov. 3, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive processed by the GDELT Project. (Click on the image to enlarge).
Immediately clear is that all three stories came and went within the space of less than two weeks and have barely been mentioned since. Despite their intersection with two of the Democratic Party’s most important issues, race and the #MeToo movement, the stories disappeared as quickly as they had come.
The bar chart below shows how many times each of the three channels mentioned the three stories. Fox News covered them more than its peers, with this difference most pronounced in its coverage of the assault allegations against Fairfax. In fact, both CNN and MSNBC covered the Northam blackface allegations twice as much as they mentioned the allegations against Fairfax, while Fox News mentioned it just 1.2 times as much.