The contrast between media coverage of two women, Hope Hicks and Chelsea Manning, who are each refusing to cooperate with federal investigations did not go unnoticed on Memorial Day Weekend.
On Thursday evening, The New York Times unveiled an article about Hope Hicks, former aide to President Donald Trump, and what the paper portrayed in a tweet as an “existential crisis” for the former White House staffer: her likely refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on June 19.
Hope Hicks, one of the best-known but least visible former members of President Trump’s White House staff, is facing an existential question: whether to comply with a congressional subpoena https://t.co/8NXpfQvxQL pic.twitter.com/L7aWVMsIdq
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) May 24, 2019
The article was derided as being too friendly to Hicks as opposed to holding the former Trump aide to account for blatantly breaking the law. House Democrats are increasingly frustrated with Trump and his allies flouting of congressional oversight.
Hicks, who worked for President Donald Trump during his campaign and the first two years of his presidency, is reportedly considering becoming the latest ex-Trump official to defy a subpoena—which is supposed to be illegal.
To journalist Soledad O’Brien, the photo choice and tone of the Times piece reflected “bias.”
“A picture of a person who is considering not complying with a subpoena is basically a glam shot,” O’Brien said on Twitter, “and it’s framed as a thoughtful, perfectly equal choice.
Critics pointed to the lack of glossy profiles and complimentary coverage for another woman who refused a subpoena: Army veteran Chelsea Manning. Manning has been held in federal custody for 75 of the past 82 days, with a brief seven day interlude.
“Oddly, the NYT didn’t frame Chelsea Manning’s refusal to testify against Assange in the same way,” said journalist Dan Gilmor.
The coverage contrast was pointed to by a number of journalists and activists, many of whom demanded that the paper treat Manning with the same respect as Hicks.
Journalist Marcy Wheeler used her Twitter account to make the contrast clear, tweeting pictures of the relative coverage for each woman.
Compare and contrast NYT's treatment of two different famous women facing subpoena. pic.twitter.com/YQTXUfvBLE
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 26, 2019
“Chelsea Manning doesn’t get this treatment,” said comedian Ryan Houlihan.
Documentarian and investigative journalist Lindsay Beyerstein, in a series of tweets, laid out the difference between the two women’s actions.
“Regardless of how you feel about Chelsea Manning’s stance, it comes at real cost to her,” Beyerstein said. “And she has ideological reasons for not complying. Hope Hicks just doesn’t feel like it.”
Women’s March co-president Bob Bland called for Manning to be given, at minimum, at least the respect Hicks got from the Times.
“If this is how The New York Times is covering government subpoenas now, please retract and give Chelsea Manning the glamour shot and charitable take she deserves,” tweeted Bland. “After all—she’s the one actually protecting democracy instead of trying to dismantle it for profit!”