The Onion ironically bills itself as “America’s finest news source,” meaning its funniest satire site. And its fare almost always lives up to the title — it may have a liberal slant on LGBT issues, but it’s usually quite a laugh. In the case of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, however, it has rather painfully missed the mark.
Don’t get me wrong, some of its articles have been funny, and have actually hit the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua right where it hurts. But those are the vast minority. Of 21 articles since January — when Univision purchased a 40 percent controlling interest in the company — a full 17 prove rather soft on Clinton. By contrast, coverage of Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump has been almost entirely decidedly negative — and that’s ok, satire should be negative.
The problem isn’t that The Onion slams Republicans and conservatives, but rather that it doesn’t equally slam Hillary. (Or Bernie Sanders, whom it treats as truly principled and does not mock for his avowed “democratic socialism.” It mocks capitalism more severely than socialism.)
Before delving into the most egregious Onion support for Hillary, I will acknowledge the few strong posts about her — including the most recent article.
The most powerful and accurate coverage was also the most recent. The headline “If I Could Just Be Completely Honest For A Second, I Believe Exactly What You Believe” both mocks the way the public views Clinton as untrustworthy and her weak efforts to solve that problem. It is the rare perfect Onion article on Hillary.
The best coverage of Hillary Clinton is in The Onion. https://t.co/nbuSxhIdna
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) May 26, 2016
Then there are three strong contenders: “Clinton Reminds New Yorkers She Moved There Hoping Career Dreams Would Work Out Too” mocks Hillary’s calculated move to New York City — where she quickly ran for the U.S. Senate. “Clinton Takes Campaign Staff To Little Hole-In-The-Wall Financial Institution Not Many People Know About” hits Clinton on her connections to Wall Street, while “Clinton Throws Flash Grenade To Divert Attention From Question About Senate Voting Record” mocks her pandering to the left to compete with Sanders, despite a more moderate record.
Compare even these funny attack posts to those leveled at Trump. “Report: 70 Percent Of Trump Endorsements Made After Staring At Bedroom Ceiling For Four Hours,” “Nation Unable To Recall If Trump Said He’d Personally Fund Abortion Bombings Or If That Just Sounds Right,” and then there’s this rather uncalled for one: “‘I Can’t Do This Again,’ Shaking, Sweating Donald Trump Says After Nervously Vomiting Before Rally.”
Then there are the anti-Cruz posts, which flirt with really crossing the line — and a few of which descend into profanity. “Ted Cruz Provides Detailed Response To Moderator’s Question About Why His Face So F***ing Infuriating,” for example, or “‘Run! Run And Never Look Back!’ Whispers Heidi Cruz While Hugging Carly Fiorina On Rally Stage,” or “Ted Cruz Dressed For Campaign Rally By Swarm Of Loyal Vermin.” These are funny, but also very insulting — as good satire often is.
The problem isn’t necessarily that The Onion hits Trump and Cruz, but that it doesn’t hit Hillary, not in the same way, and not to the same effect. Here are 17 examples of The Onion going easy on the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, from the funniest to the most pro-Clinton.
Next Page: Hillary Nude?
17. Hillary Clinton Appears Before Rally Completely Nude in Bid For Authenticity
This hits on Clinton’s need for authenticity, but is something Hillary would never even consider. That makes it slightly funny, but it falls below typical Onion fare, and is rather crude — luckily the Twitter photo cuts off the nudity, which I encourage you to avoid.
— The Onion (@TheOnion) March 19, 2016
16. Poll Finds Hillary Clinton Candidate Most Americans Want To Have 8-Ounce Glass Of Tap Water With
I consider this remotely funny, playing off of the “candidate most Americans want to grab a beer with” motif. It mocks Clinton’s lack of ability to relate to people, but does it in a way that doesn’t necessarily reflect negatively on her — a rather bland way to go.
Poll Finds Hillary Clinton Candidate Most Americans Want To Have 8-Ounce Glass Of Tap Water With https://t.co/WanrGD8gsl
— The Onion (@TheOnion) January 7, 2016
From the next page on, we will be entering what Paste Magazine’s Shane Ryan describes as “a specific tactic … Negative stories must refer to monolithic campaigns, or allude to dark fate. What it must not do is target Hillary’s personality, or policies, or any of the actual weaknesses.” Ryan adds that, by choosing these stories, The Onion avoids “the content that writers use to brutally skewer the other candidates.”
Next Page: An Ominous Campaign — like the Plagues of Egypt.
15. Clinton Ominously Tells Iowan Supporters To Mark Front Doors With Campaign Logo Before Sundown
The allusion to Moses in the biblical book of Exodus made this story a hit among conservative Christians, but it’s more a vague attack about the juggernaut of Clinton’s campaign than a story actually about her as a candidate.
Clinton Ominously Tells Iowan Supporters To Mark Front Doors With Campaign Logo Before Sundown https://t.co/0pnZ7SWsBu via theonion
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) January 31, 2016
14. Clinton Credits Nevada Victory to Inescapable, Pitch-Black Tide of Fate
— The Onion (@TheOnion) February 20, 2016
13. New Yorkers Cower As Clinton Victory Speech Reverberates Across Entire State
— Michael Wiik (@mwiik) April 21, 2016
Such stories do play into the uneasiness with which many Democrats see Clinton winning the nomination too easily, but they don’t generally reflect on Clinton herself.
Next Page: The unstoppable campaign continues.
12. Hillary Clinton Clearly Tailoring Debate Answers to Unclaimed New York Superdelegate
This story gets at Clinton’s major edge over Sanders — the superdelegates — and how many Democrats feel disenfranchised by having the nominee chosen by them, rather than voters. However, it also presents Clinton’s campaign as focused and effective at winning.
— The Onion (@TheOnion) April 15, 2016
11. Retreating Clinton Campaign Torches Iowa Town To Slow Advance Of Sanders Volunteers
Retreating Clinton Campaign Torches Iowa Town To Slow Advance Of Sanders Volunteers https://t.co/HDrsCKzJY5
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) January 29, 2016
10. New Hampshire Covered In Shadow As Floating Clinton campaign Headquarters Takes Up Position Over State
New Hampshire Covered In Shadow As Floating Clinton Campaign Headquarters Takes Up Position Over State https://t.co/X9ae557lHY
— Onion Politics (@OnionPolitics) February 8, 2016
9. Clinton Aide Told To Leave Behind Weak Volunteer Who Collapsed During March To South Carolina
Again, this presents Hillary’s campaign as cold and merciless, but does not reflect on her.
Clinton Aide Told To Leave Behind Weak Volunteer Who Collapsed During March To South Carolina https://t.co/m4iqXcITTg
— Onion Politics (@OnionPolitics) February 12, 2016
Next Page: More Clinton Juggernaut, because readers don’t want any other kind of story, right?
8. Clinton Tosses Unpledged Superdelegate in Trunk of Car
— The Onion (@TheOnion) March 6, 2016
7. Hillary Clinton Issues Single-Word Victory Speech Following Super Tuesday Results: Satisfactory
— WilliamHarryman (@WilliamHarryman) March 2, 2016
6. Clinton Campaign Airlifts 200 Crates of Volunteers to Wisconsin Headquarters
— Ami Dodson (@amidod) April 4, 2016
5. Clinton Campaign Treasurer Crushed To Death After Stack of Campaign Funds Topples Over
This headline doesn’t even connect her fundraising to Wall Street, which would at least have been somewhat of a decent dig…
— Pitt Griffin (@pittgriffin) April 10, 2016
Next Page: Starting to move, almost, in the direction of pandering.
4. Hillary Squat Sets Personal Single Rep Squat Record While Watching Bernie Sanders On Gym TV
This is decently funny, but more a deflection from the real issues than anything else. It also, ironically, seems intended to humanize her, and thus seems slightly like pandering.
Hillary Clinton Sets Personal Single Rep Squat Record While Watching Bernie Sanders On Gym TV https://t.co/i5J2WGMQIZ
— Onion Politics (@OnionPolitics) May 20, 2016
3. Hillary Clinton Pleasantly Surprised After Finding Old $20,000 Donation Check in Coat Pocket
Successful fundraiser, maybe?
— Bill Frezza (@BillFrezza) March 19, 2016
2. Defensive Clinton Campaign Releases New ‘Who Are You To Judge Me?’ Ad
This does not necessarily paint Clinton in a good light, but the article highlights her experience — “Have you ever been a senator? … Oh, wait, I know-you must have served in the president’s cabinet and delicately handled international affairs that impacted the entire world.” Then again, this line is pretty great: “You haven’t? Then maybe you should think for a goddamn minute before you pass judgement on me, you ingrates.”
— Onion Politics (@OnionPolitics) March 23, 2016
Next Page: This pandering is despicable.
1. Female Presidential Candidate Who Was United States Senator, Secretary Of State Told To Be More Inspiring
I. Have. No. Words.
Female Presidential Candidate Who Was United States Senator, Secretary Of State Told To Be More Inspiring https://t.co/mHsgdul5GQ
— Onion Politics (@OnionPolitics) February 16, 2016
Of course, when it comes to satire against Clinton, you could just turn to Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. At least he has the chutzpah to mock Hillary for — I don’t know, shutting down women who claim to have been sexually abused by Bill and then saying “every survivor of sexual abuse deserves to be heard.” Or, hiding her emails from the public while she was secretary of State, and while a Russian firm mysteriously got a great Uranium deal after it donated to her foundation. Oh, and there’s Benghazi — which The Onion does not believe to be off-limits.
Worse, these aren’t just baseless right-wing attacks, but well-known events reported in The New York Times! Surely they are acceptable grounds for satire, one would think — especially when The Onion is not afraid to mock Cruz’s face, his relationship with his wife, and the (entirely baseless, but nonetheless funny) claims that the Koch Brothers backed Marco Rubio, turning him into their personal robot — seriously, this is one of the greatest Onion stories of this election.
There is a great deal of dirt on Clinton, which could easily have been made into wonderful satire. It is a shame The Onion seemed to ignore a great deal of it.