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.
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.
In the wake of the horrific attack on an Orlando nightclub by a man espousing allegiance to ISIS, it didn’t take long for the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) to advance the preferred political line of the Democrats, in this election year, to push for more gun control. Beginning on the evening following the shooting, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt on June 12, sounded the clarion call for gun control: “Today’s terror attack brings national security and the debate over gun control to forefront of the presidential campaigns once again.” And for the next week, an MRC study shows the broadcast network news programs flooded their shows with statements favoring gun control over gun rights by a ratio of 8 to 1.
Out of the four broadcast news Sunday political shows, only Fox News Sunday covered Obama CIA Director John Brennan directly contradicting the President’s optimistic assessment of the war against ISIS. Both CBS’s Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week mentioned the CIA director’s grim report, but failed to mention that it contradicted President Obama. NBC’s Meet the Press didn’t mention Brennan’s statement at all.
Voters who have relied on the network evening newscasts for information about the 2016 presidential candidates saw four times more airtime devoted to controversies involving presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump than to the scandals surrounding his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. During the recently concluded primary season (January 1 to June 7), the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts conveyed 432 minutes of coverage of Trump's controversies, vs. 105 minutes of airtime for Clinton's scandals.
A Media Research Center analysis of all 950 ABC, CBS and NBC weekday and weekend evening news stories about the 2016 presidential campaign from January 1 to June 7 finds the broadcast networks organized their coverage to ensure that Clinton’s historic candidacy was almost entirely reported by women correspondents, while the GOP race was largely reported by male correspondents.
Despite Trump being the only candidate remaining in the GOP race, his supporters accounted for only 12 percent of all participants (9 out of 77 total) in roundtable discussions on Sunday shows from May 8 to May 29. A staple of Sunday political shows, the roundtable discussions give a chance for pundits from across the political spectrum to voice their concerns and opinions about the political news of the day.
Asked what he thought of privatizing airport security, the head of the TSA laughably responded that “no matter how you do it, you need federal oversight of the system to ensure consistency and high standards.” Even more laughable, two NBC hosts just accepted that answer and moved along to asking if Congress needs to pay the TSA more. Amid record lines, staffing turnover and scandal, the crew at NBC’s Today tried to help Peter Neffenger, the TSA Administrator, find someone else to blame during an interview on May 26.
The backlash against the increasing delays caused by the TSA has been so bad that on March 24, the TSA reassigned its head of security. According to CBS Evening News, 450 people missed their flights from Chicago’s O’Hare airport on May 15 because of TSA delays. Despite devoting more than 42 minutes to the abysmal failures of the TSA since coverage began on May 10, neither ABC, CBS nor NBC once even hinted that the Obama Administration might bear even some of the blame on their evening news shows.
Despite more evidence that The Clinton Foundation was used as a slush fund to enrich the Clintons and their cronies, the Big Three networks have all but stopped covering the scandal swirling around the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s charitable organization. A review of the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) evening and morning programs (since January 1) shows only a total of 4 minutes and 24 seconds was devoted to the “charity fraud.” In contrast, a decades-old controversy of Donald Trump pretending to be his own publicist garnered eight times more coverage (38 minutes and 2 seconds) in just four days.
A look at the past four months of news coverage shows Donald Trump received three times as much TV news coverage as his closest rival, Ted Cruz, and a whopping 15 times as much as John Kasich. On the Democratic side, however, the gap was much narrower, with Bernie Sanders getting more than two minutes of TV news coverage for every three minutes given to Hillary Clinton. In other words, the Democratic race was treated as an actual contest between Clinton and Sanders, while TV news coverage of the GOP race was organized around Donald Trump, with his competitors treated as afterthoughts.