Bias by the Minute

On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden ended his flirtation with a bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination, but only after an extended period in which the broadcast networks gave his non-candidacy more airtime than that of any declared Republican or Democratic candidate other than frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. From August 1, when the networks began covering the possibility of a Biden candidacy, through October 20, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts devoted 98 minutes of airtime to the possibility of a Biden-for-President campaign.



According to the latest statistics from the MRC’s ongoing tracking of ABC, CBS and NBC’s evening news coverage of the campaign, frontrunner Hillary Clinton has garnered 80 percent of the Democratic airtime since January 1. Her closest announced rival, the socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has received just six percent of the airtime, or about 24 minutes vs. 337 minutes for Clinton. Unlike their treatment of the prominent Republican candidates, the networks have given both Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders nearly 100 percent positive coverage.



Since the September 16 GOP debate, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts have significantly ramped up their coverage of businesswoman Carly Fiorina, giving her more than 15 percent of the GOP candidates’ airtime over the past two weeks. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush attracted just three percent of TV news coverage; in the first six months of 2015, Bush dominated the coverage with 36 percent of all GOP airtime.



He’s only been in the US for a few days, but the Pope has already accomplished what 16 GOP presidential candidates haven’t been able to for months: getting more network coverage than Donald Trump. 

During the first three days Pope Francis was in the U.S., the news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC spent eight times the amount of coverage on the Pope than they did on presidential hopeful Donald Trump.



On Sunday, Hillary Clinton will make her first appearance on the Sunday morning political shows as a 2016 presidential candidate when she sits down with CBS’s John Dickerson on Face the Nation. She’s getting a very late start: While Clinton has so far avoided interviews with the “Big Three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) Sunday shows, 18 other presidential candidates have made a total of 106 appearances since January 1, with Socialist Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) topping the list with 12.



A Media Research Center study finds that, over a two week period, coverage of Donald Trump’s campaign took up nearly 78 percent of all CNN’s prime time GOP campaign coverage – 580 minutes out of a total of 747 minutes. All 16 non-Trump candidates got a combined total of just 167 minutes.



Two weeks after the first GOP presidential debate of Campaign ’16, the broadcast networks continue to obsess over Donald Trump to the near-exclusion of the other sixteen Republican presidential candidates. An MRC analysis of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts during the two weeks prior to the August 6 debate (including weekends) found Trump accounted for 55% of all GOP candidate airtime. After the debate, Trump’s share of the coverage rose even higher, to an astonishing 72% of all GOP airtime.



There are currently 17 declared candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but viewers of the three broadcast evening news shows this year have mainly heard about just two of them: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and New York businessman Donald Trump. And even though Trump received virtually no TV news attention until he officially declared on June 16, he’s received far more network news coverage than Bush has received all year.



Over the past 9 days, ABC News has spent a grand total of 46 seconds on Planned Parenthood executives trying to sell pieces of aborted babies for a profit. Yet, ABC’s Good Morning America on July 23, found 2 minutes to discuss how a beauty pageant contestant might be posing a threat to sharks.



Despite briefly mentioning at least six reported instances of American citizens joining ISIS in June, and multiple FBI warnings about ISIS’s influence in the United States, the networks chose to devote more time to the “threat” posed by the existence of the Confederate flag.

The evening news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC spent just 17 minutes, 35 seconds on the threat ISIS poses to American, and 37 minutes and 18 seconds on the controversy over the flag. This disparity in news coverage occurred during a ramped up social media campaign by ISIS to recruit Americans and other westerners to commit acts of terrorism.



The hunt for convicted killers who escaped a prison in New York State was the most covered topic on the evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC for the month of June. This was closely followed by coverage of the brutal massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, with considerable amounts of air time dedicated to the 2016 presidential campaign, the ISIS terror threat and the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage.



Back in 2008, the three broadcast evening newscasts showered then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama with good press during his trip to Europe that July, giving it a total of 92 minutes over an eight-day period (July 20 to July 27, 2008). GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s trip to Europe last week didn’t garner a single mention on ABC’s World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News.