Mike Ciandella is a research analyst for the MRC's News Analysis Division
Mike Ciandella is a research analyst for the MRC's News Analysis Division, and manages the MRC's Bias by the Minute project (BBTM). Bias by the Minute is an extensive database of evening news broadcasts from ABC, CBS and NBC, stretching back to January 2015. By utilizing this database, Ciandella and other MRC analysts are able to release detailed studies on network media coverage. On top of this, BBTM also publishes studies looking at cable news coverage, timing out the coverage of various topics to the second.
You can check out the full archive of Bias by the Minutes stories here: http://newsbusters.org/administrative/bias-minute
Latest from Mike Ciandella
As President Trump approaches the end of his first 100 days in office, he has received by far the most hostile press treatment of any incoming American president, with the broadcast networks punishing him with coverage that has been 89% negative. The networks largely ignored important national priorities such as jobs and the fight against ISIS, in favor of a news agenda that has been dominated by anti-Trump controversies and which closely matches what would be expected from an opposition party.
On the April 5 NBC Today, correspondent Kristen Welker repeated last-minute accusations that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch had plagiarized – but it wasn’t until after she had gone onto other topics and was wrapping up her report that she mentioned that the person he was accused of plagiarizing had already debunked those claims.
“We never thought of ourselves as a country where, like, Uday and Qusay get to be ministers of whatever they want,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow ranted during her monologue at the start of her show on April 3. The rant was in response to Eric Trump’s wife, Laura, being hired by Donald Trump’s campaign’s digital vendor, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s trip to Iraq.
On CNBC’s Squawk Box on March 30, a former senior Obama administration official tried to take back her earlier admission that the former administration tried to “get as much information” as possible on Trump and his associates before the transition of power – but she only dug herself in deeper.
The broadcast and cable news shows raced to proclaim the stall in the passage of an Obamacare replacement as a “disastrous” failure for the Trump administration, with reactions ranging from gloating exaggerations to blatant falsehoods. “The President who fancies himself a master of the art of the deal is still an apprentice when it comes to politics,” CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley chortled on March 24. “This is an embarrassing defeat for President Trump and for Paul Ryan,” NBC Senior Politics Analyst Mark Halperin on the March 24 Nightly News.
All it took was one picture of Trump meeting with an all-male Congressional committee to get the BBC to lump him in the same boat as a country that until 2015 didn’t allow women to vote. The liberal Twitter mob attacked the White House on March 23 after Vice President Mike Pence tweeted out a picture of President Trump meeting with the House Freedom Caucus. Although Kellyanne Conway was in the room off screen, critics complained that the photo of a meeting about the now-defunct GOP healthcare bill didn’t include any women, but the BBC took it one step further.
When President Trump made his claim that President Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, the media demanded evidence. Since Trump’s initial tweet on March 4, the evening news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC have called on the White House to provide more evidence a grand total of 123 times.
Despite a complete lack of newsworthiness, the morning news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC on March 15 spent 20 minutes and 28 seconds speculating about President Donald Trump’s tax returns based on two pages that even they had to admit were “certainly not scandalous in any way.” On March 14, Rachel Maddow revealed that her much-hyped excerpt from Trump’s 2005 tax returns were completely inconsequential and revealed nothing relevant. Nothing good, nothing bad. Just nothing. It was so little payoff for so much hype that even CNN mocked Maddow.
Media criticism of the current GOP health care bill has been swift, but ObamaCare’s rollout was met with unified and resounding support from these same networks. In his report on NBC Nightly News on March 7, correspondent Tom Costello included a clip of a George Washington University professor who claimed that “The losers in this are lower income people who need financial assistance to be able to buy coverage that’s affordable for them.”
Since Saturday, when Donald Trump first took to Twitter to accuse former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, the morning and evening shows of ABC, CBS and NBC have devoted 107 minutes, 33 seconds to refuting the President’s claim. In contrast, new reports from previous weeks suggesting the Obama Administration did, in fact, initiate surveillance were essentially ignored at the time.
If you ever doubted that the media see the news through a partisan prism, consider this: in less than two days, ABC, CBS and NBC devoted nearly 7 times as much coverage to Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russian Ambassador in his role as a U.S. Senator than they did when then-Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012.
A new American President is always a big story, but TV news is obsessed with the Trump administration — and not in a good way. In the first 30 days (January 20 to February 18), our analysts determined that the President and his team were the subject of 16 hours of coverage on just the Big Three evening newscasts, or more than half (54%) of all of the news coverage during this period. And while most new presidents enjoy a media honeymoon, the tone of Trump’s coverage was nearly as hostile (88% negative) as we found during last year’s presidential campaign (91% negative).
The Syrian Assad regime has “killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at a prison north of Damascus known to detainees as ‘the slaughterhouse’,” according to an Amnesty International report covered by The Associated Press. This is the same regime that has used chemical weapons to control its own people. Despite all three networks posting the AP story on their official websites yesterday early afternoon (ABC was the last at 1:56 PM), the evening shows of ABC, CBS and NBC refused to mention this staggering report.
On January 30, the first weekday morning after President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order which temporarily banned immigration from several Middle East countries, the networks devoted 64 minutes, 8 seconds of coverage to this topic. However, on January 12, then-President Obama ordered the ending of America’s longstanding “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which had allowed Cuban refugees entrance to the United States. But the broadcast networks were largely silent.
The broadcast morning and evening news shows have spent 20 minutes and 18 seconds focusing on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comments about the size of Donald Trump’s Inauguration crowd. Meanwhile, when President Trump signed a far more consequential executive order that limits the penalties from the Affordable Care Act, the same networks spent only 1 minute and 39 seconds covering it – less than one-twelfth the coverage.
The broadcast news networks barely even mentioned the latest significant overhaul of U.S. policy by the Obama Administration.
For two decades, the United States has granted asylum to Cuban fleeing the Castro regime who make it to American soil, a policy known as “wet foot, dry foot.” Now, in his final days in office, President Obama has ended this policy, to applause from the Cuban government. According to NBC’s Today, “The policy change has been in the works for several months, as the U.S. and Cuba work to cement changes in their relationship.”
Last night and this morning, ABC, CBS and NBC dedicated a paltry 86 seconds to this news. ABC was the worst with a stingy 15 seconds of coverage, while CBS came in close behind with 23 seconds.
Despite repeatedly calling it “unconfirmed” and “unsubstantiated,” the ABC, CBS and NBC morning news shows on Wednesday spent a combined 44 minutes promoting allegations the Russian government had information that they could use to blackmail President-elect Donald Trump. These allegations stemmed from a 35-page “report” published by BuzzFeed, which itself doubted the veracity of the information.
When President-elect Donald Trump announced that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be taking an advisory role in the White House, all three broadcast evening news shows raised concerns about “nepotism,” with each one specifically using that word. But, on January 25, 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed his wife to lead a health care task force, the broadcast networks praised the decision, and not a single one even mentioned “nepotism.”
In an attempt to promote a pro-abortion “women’s rights” march in Washington D.C. following Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Washington Post Express accidentally made a graphic with a crowd rallying in the shape of the symbol designating – male?
After being published online and on Facebook for hours and being distributed in print (the Express is a free newspaper available at many stands throughout the Washington D.C. area), the Express was forced to admit their mistake. “We made a mistake on our cover this morning and we’re very embarrassed. We erroneously used a male symbol instead of a female symbol,” the paper tweeted from its official account. They followed up with a picture of the corrected graphic, this time using the female symbol instead.
On November 5, 2008, the day after the election, CBS Evening News correspondent Chip Reid said of then-still-president George W. Bush, “he is now not only deeply unpopular, he's a full-fledged lame duck.”
But in the 57 days after the 2016 election, the morning and evening news shows of ABC, CBS and NBC haven’t used the term “lame duck” even once.
Instead of downplaying President Obama’s role, the networks hyped disagreement between him and Trump, calling it a “turf war.” (Mary Bruce and Rebecca Jarvis, December 24, ABC World News Tonight).