Monica and Stormy -- An Analysis of Media Portrayals of the Leading Women in the Trump and Clinton Sex Scandals

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Women played key roles in the scandals of William J. Clinton and Donald J. Trump, especially Monica Lewinsky and Stormy Daniels. In the cases of both men, their reputations as womanizers preceded their presidencies and lasted throughout. Clinton was impeached as an outgrowth of lying about sex; Trump’s extramarital affairs dogged him during his presidency, became the subject of ongoing lawsuits against him, but never made it into his impeachment proceedings. The news media played a significant role in bringing the stories of the presidents and their women to the public and shaping how the two presidents were perceived by voters. Those portrayals varied greatly, with the women of the Clinton era facing media derision over their bodies, psychological makeup and motives while the Trump women’s bodies were mostly left undescribed, and their stories taken as truth. This thesis argues that the differing press treatment of those women was influenced by the presidents’ reactions to the allegations, a mob mentality, more women in media and media management, changes in sexual norms that culminated in the “#MeToo” movement, and the explosion of the internet and social media. Comparing how the media behaved during the two scandals is an instructive tale for journalists in reporting on future political sex scandals.