In recent weeks, Republican nominee Donald Trump and his campaign have aggressively peddled a widely-debunked conspiracy theory that because Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been photographed near pillows and stools, she must be dying of a secret illness.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump has also repeatedly praised and defended Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, requested Russia’s help in stealing Clinton’s emails, and advocated for a stronger alliance with the man human rights advocates have said created the “worst human rights climate since Soviet times.” And newspapers, including the Washington Post, have extensively documented financial ties between Russia and Trump’s businesses and his former campaign manager.
But this did not stop the Post from posting a story from the Associated Press on the front page of its daily commuter paper on Friday that equated the two stories as a demonstration of how both campaigns have embraced “conspiracy theories.”
Above a doctored photo of Clinton’s head over a patient in a hospital gown with an IV drip and of Trump being operated by Putin as a handpuppet, the Express’ headline reads, “Is Clinton too ill for office? Is Trump a puppet of Putin? Conspiracy theories usually confined to the internet’s dark corners have burst into the presidential race.”
The article itself is no better:
Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious “illness” afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin. …
Clinton has largely avoided discussing the conspiracies, leaving it to members of her campaign team or allies. But she is preparing a Reno, Nevada, address on Thursday that will accuse Trump of supporting an “alt-right” campaign that presents “a divisive and dystopian view of America.”
It concludes by noting that “Clinton’s team frequently points to Trump’s ties to Russia,” and has a page on her campaign website about their “bizarre relationship.”
The notion that Clinton’s well-documented chronicling of Trump’s record of racist remarks and his ties to white supremacists or ties between Putin and Trump that were documented by the Express’ parent paper and others are somehow comparable to a clear smear campaign may be this election’s clearest example of “false equivalence.”