… And Now, Sharon Bialek Vs Herman Cain on Harassment Accusation. Party Bias in Media Coverage

There is a new chapter in the ongoing story of harassment allegations against Republican Herman Cain. Now a fourth woman accuses Republican candidate of past misbeheviour. Novelty in terms of reputation and communication crisis comes by the fact that the accuser is no under anonimity. Sharon Bielek presenter her griefs in a public press conference, providing details of alleged Cain’s misconduct.

In the meanwhile, the official response to the current crisis events is a total denial of alleged facts. We reprint here the statement provided in the official web site of candidate Herman Cain, by 8 November 2011.

There is a new stage in the reputation and communication crisis as the accuser provides details concerning the alleged sexual harassment. See for instance news article by New York Times (Woman Accuses Cain of Groping; He Denies Charge, New York Times, 7 Nov 2011). Reaction to accusation is an announced press conference for today, Nov 8:

“There is not an ounce of truth in all of these accusations,” Mr. Cain said in a jovial interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC, where the highly charged issue was discussed by the host in the mostly humorous terms typical of late night television. “That’s why I’m willing to do a press conference tomorrow,” Mr. Cain said, “to set the record straight.”

Of course, this new dimension of the political crisis creates a new political game. Who is more interested in providing media attention of this new case? Democrats for eliminating a rising rival star and discredit Republicand candidates in general, or Republicans for urgent need of clarification of the situation in order to clear the candidate or to bet for other alternative options?

As showed in our two precedent posts about this reputation crisis case, we did not found evidence concerning strong partisan bias in media coverage, while we observed an increase of attention among Democratic oriented media in the latest evolution of the case.

Now, the measures that we use is the share of news reporting the Sharon Bialek case in relation with all news about harassment allegations against Herman Cain. We check if there is partisan bias in terms of  media attention. We use as a tool media coverage given by Democratic states (by 2008 voting records) vs Republican states. Please refer to previous posts for additional information about the methodology. As explained there, we consider more reliable data in the left side of the graphs.

Results are elaborated with 2451 articles explicitly referring to Sharon Bielik in the main text.

Our empirical results show is that there is an increase of media attention to Sharon Bialek accusations by Democratic oriented states in comparison to Republicans. Political rivals are focusing more in this potention devastating scandal than Republicans.

We do find partisan bias in covering this reputation crisis case. Response by Herman Cain today will probably be crucial for his political plans.

We can compare the media treatment given to Bialek case with coverage given to all news about alleged sexual harassment that appeared ten days ago, and that were the object of the precedent two post in this blog.

Results are presented in couples. First column in each case refer to coverage given to all news about harassment, while second column refers to share of news about Bialek case. value has been normalized in order to facilitate the visual comparison.

We had mixed results concerning which party was providing more media attention, as results were similar. Now, when embarrassing Bialek case emerges, the weight of Democratic states media attention surges substantially, while Republican interest keeps stable.

In the precedent post we identified the eventual presence of racial considerations in media coverage, as states with a higher proportion of Afroamerican residents provided more relative media attention. This racial bias changes completely of direction when covering Bialek case. Now, media from states with lower proportion of Afroamerican people cover more intensely news about this woman accusations. Sharon Bialek is Caucasian.

Media coverage of Sharon Bialek accusations by leading US news providers

Like in the precedent post, we show also the individual coverage behavior of some selected newspapers and news provider.

We follow the same approach than results referring to states. We present the share of news about the explosive last alleged victim Sharon Bialek in comparison to all news referring to sexual harassment allegations since first mention in Politico.

First, leading newspapers. We find that those focusing the more in Bialek case are Denver Post, Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal. In the other side, we find New York Times and Houston Chronicle.

Coverage given by TV broadcasters (as reflected in written online news) are presented in the next figure. CNN and ABC publish more news about the last case, while Fox News and ABC News refer to it in a lesser extent.

Finally, as for news agencies we get that AFP is leading media attention on Sharon Bialek allegations, while Bloomberg and Reuters show a less intense media coverage.


Is the media coverage intensity showed by leading news provider about this current political crisis following a random path?

We can provide some evidence that the editorial decision about how much coverage to give to Bialek allegations obeys precisely an editorial choice.

Data presented refer to news concerning to both newspapers, tv broadcasters and news agencies.

The following graph shows us that the decision about how many articles to publish about Bialek allegation has a direct relation with the decision taken before of how much media coverage to give to the harassment allegations first published by Politico.

Please note that such a relationship it is not required to appear by itself, as they refer to two possible unrelated decisions. First variable (Y, Harassment news share) refer to the importance given to all news about allegations in relation to all news given to Cain BEFORE Bialek case was known. Second variable (X, Share of news about Bialek compared to all news about harassment allegations) could potentially take any value in relation with first variable Y.

But we find a relationship between both variables. Those leading newspapers that provided a lot of information and news about the sexual harassment cases tend to publish also a lot of news about Bialek declaration, in comparison to all news about harassment. This is the case of Denver Post and Chicago Tribune. In the other segment, those news provider that showed a small interest in news about harassment in comparison with all news about Herman cain, they also tend to no give much attention to Sharon Bialek statement, in comparison with all other precedent news published about harassment accusations.

There is a clear politically oriented bias in media coverage of this current reputation crisis. In both sides, of course.