Media Reality Check
Occasional compilations and studies, from the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division, documenting distorted coverage and/or media omissions. Archive on MRC.org has the full text posts of Media Reality Checks from 2015 and earlier.
As the midterms fast approach, there are a bunch of Democrats who find themselves embroiled in scandals and controversies. But if you only got your news from the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks, you’ve probably never heard about them. From Texas Senate Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke lying about his DUI arrest to DNC chair Keith Ellison being accused of domestic violence, the following is a list of Democratic controversies that the nets are keeping their audiences (for the most part) in the dark about:
Over the summer, the broadcast networks continued to pound Donald Trump and his team with the most hostile coverage of a President in TV news history — 92 percent negative, vs. just eight percent positive. Nearly two-thirds of evening news coverage of the Trump presidency focused on five main topics: the Russia investigation; immigration policy; the Kavanaugh nomination; North Korea diplomacy; and U.S. relations with Russia, while bright spots such as the booming economy accounted for less than one percent of total coverage.
During the past three weeks, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has received a deluge of news coverage accusing him of vile crimes, including attempted rape and even organizing gang rapes. While these charges did not originate with the news media, the lack of satisfactory corroborating evidence should have caused ethical reporters to refrain from gratuitously repeating allegations that painted Kavanaugh in a monstrous light. But this is not what happened.
During the twelve days since Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein publicly announced the existence of an unspecified allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows have spent nearly six hours (344 minutes) regurgitating various unproved allegations against the Supreme Court nominee. But only a tiny percentage of that coverage — a measly eight percent — has been devoted to Kavanaugh’s denials and the lack of corroboration for his accusers’ accounts.
On Tuesday, two of Brett Kavanaugh’s high school classmates, each named by accuser Christine Blasey Ford as witnesses to the 1982 assault she alleges, issued public statements flatly denying that they saw anything even resembling Ford’s story. Yet on Wednesday, CNN viewers barely heard a peep about these denials, even as the Kavanaugh story dominated their on-air coverage. From 4:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN spent 3 hours and 23 minutes talking about the Kavanaugh controversy, but only a paltry eight minutes of that time was devoted to these confirmations of Kavanaugh’s unequivocal denial.
An MRC study of all ABC, CBS and NBC evening news coverage of the President this year finds reporters used highly-charged words to paint him as unhinged or out-of-control. Viewers heard Trump variously described as “furious” (17 times), “fuming” (14), “outraged” (8), “venting” (5), “infuriated” (5), “livid” (3), “enraged” (3), “seething” (2), or just plain-old “angry” (23). The President was also “on the warpath,” “volcanic,” “unglued,” “spoiling for a fight” and even “went ballistic,” according to reporters at various times this year.
Liberal cable news outlets evidently had their own fairy tale ending in mind when former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations: impeachment. On Wednesday, CNN and MSNBC reporters, anchors, and paid contributors used the word an absurd 222 times in 18 hours.
By far, the biggest news story of the Trump presidency has been the Russia investigation. As of August 15, the three broadcast network evening newscasts have devoted a combined 1,854 minutes to the probe, or nearly one-fifth (19.6%) of all of their Trump news. Yet virtually none of that airtime (just 62 minutes, or 3.3%) has been spent scrutinizing Robert Mueller’s investigation — a big shift from twenty years ago, when the networks made Ken Starr’s conduct the focus of much of their coverage.
The media are hyping former White House aide Omarosa’s negative takes on “racist” Donald Trump and of course playing audio from her surreptitious tapes – with the networks devoting 93 minutes on the topic so far. On Monday’s Today show, co-host Savanna Guthrie teased: “Just ahead, our exclusive - live with Omarosa on the secret recording she made of President Trump...and the troubling picture she’s now painting of the president.” Guthrie even joked with Omarosa as she began the interview: “I should let you know, I’m recording this conversation.”
Early Friday, NewsBusters reported that CNN spent only one minute of airtime on the recanting of a former Ohio State University wrestler’s allegations against Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. After reviewing coverage of the original NBC article which leveled the claims against Jordan, NewsBusters found that there was a massive discrepancy in reporting.
Following the arrest of Republican Congressman Chris Collins, the broadcast networks once again showcased their partisan double standard when it comes to corruption allegations against members of Congress. Collins’s arrest on Wednesday on insider trading charges resulted in a deluge of coverage, over 18 minutes in less than 24 hours. But in 2015 and 2016, ABC, CBS and NBC buried the indictment, trial and conviction of two Democratic representatives, offering absolutely no coverage of the scandal surrounding Congresswoman Corrine Brown (convicted of fraud) and a paltry 68 seconds to Chaka Fattah (convicted of bribery and fraud).
During the 18 months of the Trump presidency, immigration has received more airtime on the three broadcast evening news shows than any other policy topic. The networks’ coverage has been relentlessly hostile to the administration (92% negative, just 8% positive), largely because these newscasts have framed nearly all of their coverage around the plight of those adversely affected by the administration’s enforcement agenda, and have virtually ignored law enforcement or anyone harmed by illegal immigration.