After devoting nearly ten minutes of air time to Donald Trump’s boycott of the Republican debate on Thursday’s evening newscasts (rather than preview the debate itself), on Friday morning, the broadcast networks offered over 21 minutes of political coverage continuing to hype Trump’s absence while only managing 7 minutes for the GOP contenders who participated in the event.
On NBC’s Today, the on-screen headline proclaimed: “Trump Overshadows GOP Debate,” with correspondent Peter Alexander touting: “Defying critics who called his move a mistake, even inviting two underdog opponents to speak, Trump compared the crowd and the number of cameras at his veterans’ fundraiser to the Academy Awards.”
The headline on ABC’s Good Morning America announced: “Trump Takes Center Stage at Competing Event.” Correspondent Jon Karl noted: “From the start of last night's debate, the Republican candidates took on that elephant not in the room....Trump’s competitors mentioned his name seven times in the debate’s first ten minutes...”
As the headline on CBS This Morning told viewers, “Trump Tries to Own Debate Night Despite Boycott,” correspondent Major Garrett declared: “And in yet another first for this campaign, Trump proved he makes news where he is and even where he isn't.”
In total, from 7 a.m. ET to 9 a.m. ET, the three morning shows provided 21 minutes 3 seconds of coverage to Trump skipping the debate and only 7 minutes 43 seconds to the debate itself. Put another way, 1,263 seconds of air time went to Trump and only 463 seconds to the debate, a disparity of 2.73 to 1.
While heavily skewed toward Trump, CBS provided the most balanced air time, giving the missing GOP frontrunner 8 minutes 30 seconds while providing 5 minutes 12 seconds to the debate.
Both NBC and ABC had nearly identical slanted coverage. Today gave Trump 6 minutes 2 seconds versus 1 minute 8 seconds to the debate. GMA had 6 minutes 31 seconds for Trump and only 1 minute 23 seconds for the debate.