Guilty until proven innocent: the interference of biased media

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Amidst his confirmation hearing, a massive controversy has arisen over the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, an American lawyer and jurist who was eventually confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Americans watching the nationally televised hearing were able to draw their own conclusions about Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence. However, the news media played an undue part in influencing the public’s opinion against Kavanaugh.

Studies following the hearing reveal that the majority of media have chosen to focus on the doubtful aspects rather than depict it in whole. The conservative Media Research Center shows more than 90 percent of coverage of Kavanaugh has been negative. Because the media is for many Americans the main source of information, it is concerning that media outlets, through negatively biased coverage, have the ability to influence the public’s perception of the candidate. The case of Brett Kavanaugh is an especially worrying example, because it is very possible that Kavanaugh may have been denied due process under the law, specifically a fair confirmation process, as a result of media bias.

I understand that this claim may be hard for some to comprehend, as Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed. However, his confirmation was still nearly stopped by public opinion, a result associated closely with negative coverage by the media. Several senators, including Jeff Flake of Arizona, received thousands of phone calls urging them to vote against the nomination, and two citizens went so far as to block the door of the elevator Sen. Flake was taking to implore him to vote against the nomination. The emotional moment, which was caught on video and quickly distributed by media sources, was widely credited as the reason that Flake decided to demand an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh before giving the nominee his vote. Such influences of public opinion are a direct result of negative coverage by the media.

Now, to be clear, I am not supporting Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, or any other conservative figure or agenda that one might try to associate me with. I believe rape and sexual assault are despicable actions that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

However, by jumping to conclusions and basing media coverage based on these assumptions, the public is deprived of all the facts. As a result, the opinions of Americans become limited to the majority opinion of the media.

For members of the media to deliberately portray people in a negatively biased manner is irresponsible, as it cultivates public opinion – a large force that has the power to sway the decisions of authority figures – to be negative and prejudiced. If we cannot hear the accused’s side of the story without condemning him, then what kind of democracy are we? We owe it to any accused individual, as well as to each other, to cover people accused of crimes fairly in the media, such that they may have a true right to due process. If not, we risk falling victim to a culture of “guilty until proven innocent.”