The broadcast networks treat accusations of Russian hacking very differently when they can use it as an angle to bash Trump. When Russian cyber criminals were accused by intelligence agencies of hacking the emails of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, the networks devoted 58 minutes, 47 seconds to these allegations since December 12.
But, when Russian hackers were accused of hacking into the White House in 2014, it went largely ignored. Between the three of them, ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows only spent 4 minutes and 51 seconds total on the White House hack – less than one-tenth as much coverage as the 2016 hack got in only eight days.
In fact, while NBC Nightly News managed to devote 22 minutes and 9 seconds to the Russian hacking in 2016 – the most of the three evening shows (ABC: 14 minutes, 34 seconds; CBS: 22 minutes, 4 secs) – that network failed to even mention the 2014 White House hack until April of the following year. and even then only for 51 seconds – the least total coverage for any of the three evening shows (ABC: 78 seconds; CBS: 3 minutes, 23 seconds)
At least part of the reason for this seems apparent: a breach of White House security in 2014 would have reflected poorly on President Obama. On the other hand, journalists can use stories on Russian interference in 2016 to bash Trump for failing to criticize Putin, or for remaining skeptical of US intelligence reports.
Some reporters even used this story to imply that Trump would have never won the 2016 election without Russia’s help.
On December 16’s NBC Nightly News, Senior Investigative Correspondent Cynthia McFadden reported that “Officials tell NBC News that the nation`s intelligence agencies all agree, seeing Donald Trump elected became one of Russia`s motives, along with undermining confidence in the U.S. election.”
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On World News Tonight on December 12, ABC’s Tom Llamas seemed surprised that Trump wouldn’t admit that the Russian government was interfering with American politics on his behalf. “The President-elect also disputing reports the CIA believes Russia's goal was to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump get elected.”
“The Trump transition has been overshadowed by allegations of Russian interference in the presidential election,” CBS Evening News correspondent Errol Barnett said on December 17. “In a memo to CIA staff Friday, Director John Brennan said he, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, are all on the same page about Russian interference and that the intent was, in part, to boost Trump once he won the Republican nomination. During the campaign, Trump was criticized for cozying up to Russia.”
But the media couldn’t blame the 2014 hack eight months before he officially declared his candidacy on Trump. Instead of blaming any American for that cyber-attack, or wondering about the competence of the administration’s defense against hacking, network reporters didn’t speculate about a reason, or, like ABC’s Pierre Thomas, they simply stated that, “One theory is that they’re retaliating due to U.S. support for economic sanctions because of Russia’s suspected role in the Ukrainian conflict.”