News & Politics

CBS Analyst is Shocked! Shocked!, He Says, that Media not Covering Machado's Sordid Past

In this May 17, 1996, file photo, the new Miss Universe Alicia Machado of Venezuela reacts as she is crowned by the 1995 winner Chelsi Smith at the Miss Universe competition in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Draper, File)

Bill Rahn, managing editor of CBS News Digital, is a very sharp fellow. He noticed something “curious” about coverage of former Miss Venezuela Alicia Machado by other news outlets: they are not including any of her sordid past when reporting the story.

It isn’t so much that Rahn is oblivious to the media bias inherent in covering anything to do with Donald Trump. It’s that he noticed it and is surprised by it.

The most interesting thing about the mainstream articles is what they leave out. There is no discussion at CNN or The New York Times, for instance, about her post-pageant fame as the fiancée of Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, or how he reportedly called it off after a reality show she was on revealed video of her apparently having sex with a housemate.

Likewise, there is little mention of how a Venezuelan judge once alleged on live TV that Machado had threatened to kill him. Or how the Mexican attorney general’s office later said she was the girlfriend of a major narco trafficker, and that she he had a child with him, according to Univision and other outlets. Or how a government witness who reportedly testified about their affair was later shot to death.

A certain reticence is fair and appropriate when discussing the private lives of people alleging abuse at the hands of powerful men. The Clintons, of course, are no strangers to this, as they have been accused repeatedly of trying to smear women who’ve said President Clinton was sexually inappropriate with them.

But there’s something odd about news coverage that avoids easily available and fascinating stories about that person’s life. And it’s especially peculiar when that person is a campaign surrogate for a major party nominee, which is what Machado is now.

It should go without saying that, even if all the allegations against Machado are true, they do not justify Trump derogating her with sexist and racist language. Moreover, it speaks volumes about Trump that Machado’s accusations are plausible. More than plausible, in fact, as some of the harassment happened in front of the camera, which underscores Trump’s habit not only of bullying people, but of turning that bullying into a spectacle.

Additionally, if all the allegations against Machado are true, they would not necessarily undermine her accusations against Trump. People should not sit off in priggish judgment of her life, or assume she’s a liar because she made mistakes when she was younger.

But that doesn’t mean that her life, which has been reported on extensively in the Spanish language press, should be sanitized and whitewashed by the press. The political media is not in the beatification business; if it’s out there, readers deserve to know it.

The idea that these allegations don’t undermine Machado’s credibility is absurd. In any “he said, she said” argument, people have a right to know the character of the person making such serious allegations. And Machado, who admitted she is not a “saint girl” (understatement of the year), has plenty to answer for.

But what kind of an idiot is Rahn, who is apparently clueless about how the game is played? Machado has absolute moral authority according to most of the media, which means anything untoward in her background must be scrubbed to move the narrative along. But it’s hard to scrub stuff like this:

Then there’s the case of Jose Geraldo Alvarez Vasquez, a Mexican drug trafficker who was known as El Indio. The Mexican Attorney General’s office said that he had a romantic relationship with Machado, and that they had had a daughter together.

Machado denied the accusation, which was covered extensively in the Spanish-language press at the time. Earlier this year, in fact, CNN Español referenced the story in a piece about drug dealers crossing paths with celebrities. No charges were ever brought against Machado, and the government witness who was first to testify about her supposed romance with Vasquez was later assassinated, as people who break ranks with the cartels sometimes are.

The only reason Machado wasn’t indicted is because the witness against her was killed? And this is the woman Hillary Clinton chose as a surrogate to promote her woman-friendly candidacy. What does that say about the candidate’s judgment?

All of these allegations are not figments of the imaginations of right-wing nutcases or conservative media. Rahn calls her past “fascinating.”

Machado has lived a full life, and a uniquely fascinating one. So why would any journalist avoid talking about it?

The fact that Rahn even asked that question shows a naivete that disqualifies him from covering anything more important that a high school student council race.