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Presidential framing in the Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill cases

Blumell, L. ORCID: 0000-0003-4608-9269 & Mulupi, D. (2020). Presidential framing in the Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill cases. The Communication Review, doi: 10.1080/10714421.2020.1776042


Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas in 1991 called attention to widespread sexual abuse in the US. Testimony from Christine Blasey Ford against Thomas Kavanaugh 27 years later underscored the lack of progress in its eradication. Using the cascading network activation model, this study identifies the episodic and thematic framing of both cases in relation to top-down influencers. A content analysis (N = 901) of US newspapers and TV networks showed episodic framing dominated coverage in both cases. Both Bush and Trump successfully emphasized their nominee as deserving of SCOTUS. Trump also significantly contributed to the negative framing of Blasey Ford. Thematically, Republican-led framing focused on American values and maintaining the rule of law, whereas Democratic-led framing concentrated on raising awareness to the systemic problem of sexual abuse and threat the nominee posed to progressive rights. News coverage included challenging both presidents, but only for a total of 15.9% for Trump and 10.7% for Bush. On the other hand, Hill was challenged in 40.5% and Blasey Ford in 73% of news coverage. In sum, even with strong opposition, the cascade model’s success indicates that White House messaging continues to usurp social justice issues.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, on 13 Jun 2020, in the Communications Review, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, cascading network activation model, episodic framing, thematic framing
Subjects: E History America
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
Text - Accepted Version
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