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.
In the weeks leading up to Monday night’s first one-on-one clash between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the liberal media have set the stage for NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and his fellow presidential debate moderators to be rougher with the GOP nominee. Journalists from the New York Times to CNN have openly declared that Trump is so intolerably “polarizing,” “racist and sexist” that he must be treated to a completely different standard than the Democratic candidate.
Not since Ross Perot in 1996 has a third-party presidential candidate polled as strongly as Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is right now — he’s currently averaging more than eight percent, according to RealClearPolitics. At the same time, other polls show record levels of voter disapproval for the Democratic and Republican nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In spite of this, the broadcast network evening newscasts are essentially blacking out the existence of alternatives to Clinton and Trump — a potentially fatal blow to candidates who are required to average 15 percent support to qualify for the upcoming presidential debates.
Never say they aren’t consistent. As per usual, during 2016 the media ignore Democratic scandals while hyping Republican scandals. Between the three of them, the evening shows of ABC, CBS and NBC spent a combined 6 minutes, 56 seconds on the LePage controversy, just in the month of August. For contrast, here are some Democratic scandals that they neglected to cover:
The broadcast networks have refused to cover the repeated failures of ObamaCare in 2016. During the entire year, ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News have yet to give the floundering program any coverage at all, while CBS Evening News only found time to cover two of the ObamaCare updates – and that only added up to 2 minutes and 18 seconds of coverage for the entire year.
When a white supremacist endorsed Trump, the broadcast networks blamed Trump for it. But when the radical father of a terrorist endorsed Hillary and showed up in the front row of one of her rallies, these same networks quickly dismissed it as nothing worth worrying about. During the first three days of coverage after David Duke endorsed Donald Trump back in February, the evening news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC devoted 11 minutes and 35 seconds to bashing Trump for not immediately denouncing Duke, after he already had.
To ABC and NBC, a Donald Trump misstatement is worth reporting multiple times, but a falsehood by Hillary Clinton isn’t worth a second of coverage. On July 11, Hillary Clinton grossly distorted FBI Director James Comey’s statement on her handling of classified email during a CBS News interview. She restated this assertion to host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
It seems like the only way a military family can get media attention these days is by bashing Donald Trump. On the evening shows of August 1 and the morning shows of August 2, the broadcast morning and evening news shows spent an additional 29 minutes and 53 seconds on the speech by family of slain U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan at the Democratic National Convention, while the same shows only spent 47 seconds on Benghazi mother Pat Smith’s speech at the Republican National Convention.
Two weeks ago at the Republican National Convention (RNC) a grieving mother blasted Hillary Clinton for the debacle of the 2012 Benghazi attack. Last Thursday, at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), grieving parents gave a speech criticizing Donald Trump for his statements against Muslims. While all the grieving parents deserve sympathy, the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network evening and morning shows seemed to only care about the parents that showed up at the Democratic Convention.
With both the Republican and Democratic conventions now concluded, it’s time to judge the news media on how fairly they covered the two parties. Media Research Center analysts looked at various aspects of coverage, all of which demonstrate that journalists obviously favored the Democratic gathering.
The real test for fair and balanced coverage isn’t the amount of airtime, but the spin reporters employ in reaction to the speeches and events at each convention. Using media coverage of last week’s Republican convention as a template, here are five ways the media can prove they’re not biased by treating the Democrats in a similar fashion.
The morning after the first night of the 2016 Republican National Convention, all six broadcast and cable network morning news shows pounced on the fact that Melania Trump's much-touted speech shared similar phrasing with Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to that year's Democratic convention. The flap over Mrs. Trump's speech swamped all other convention topics, especially on cable.
The Affordable Care Act crisis is continuing, but you wouldn’t know that if you relied on ABC, CBS or NBC for your news. On July 5, CNBC called Connecticut’s state co-op “financially unstable,” noting that “HealthyCT is the 14th of 23 original ObamaCare co-ops to fail since they began selling health plans on government-run Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.” A few days later, on July 8, Oregon’s co-op became the 15th to fail. Illinois followed on July 12.