Rich Noyes is the Senior Editor for Newsbusters
Rich Noyes is currently Research Director at the Media Research Center where he manages the MRC's longterm studies showing liberal media bias. An expert with more than 30 years of experience studying the news media’s impact on U.S. politics, Noyes has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and many radio talk shows, and has authored articles which have appeared in the Journal of Political Science, New York Post, Investor’s Business Daily, Roll Call and Human Events.
Latest from Rich Noyes
After Attorney General William Barr released the key findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month-long investigation, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts showered Donald Trump with good press (80% positive) for the first time since he became President. But the good news for the White House only lasted for two days; after that, the networks resumed their lopsidedly hostile (79% negative) coverage of the President and his administration.
From January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day) through March 21, 2019 (the last night before special counsel Robert Mueller sent his report to the Attorney General), the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts produced a combined 2,284 minutes of “collusion” coverage. Now that the investigation they relentlessly touted has ended with an outcome favorable to the President they despise, those networks seem ripe for a “reckoning.”
During the first break in Michael Cohen’s testimony on Wednesday, NBC’s panel of anchors, reporters and legal analysts all celebrated his performance. “Michael Cohen has comported himself pretty well,” NBC’s Chuck Todd asserted. NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, touted Cohen as “the quintessential cooperating criminal....This is what cooperating witnesses look like, sound like, and feel like.”
On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos framed today’s congressional testimony from ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen not as a case of an admitted liar potentially seeking to avoid the consequences of his crimes, but as an “epic,” “historic,” “Watergate”-style showdown, with Cohen playing the role of Nixon White House whistleblower John Dean.
According to published reports, new CBS News President Susan Zirinsky is considering a shake up at the CBS Evening News barely 15 months after the network installed Jeff Glor as anchor. If true, it would mark the departure of the least anti-Trump of the Big Three anchormen, just as the 2020 campaign is heating up. Compared to his predecessor Scott Pelley’s belligerent Trump bashing, Glor has struck a more neutral tone in its political coverage and avoided the hyperbolic coverage of his competitors.
In just 35 days, the partial government shutdown generated nearly five hours of coverage on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts. By a six-to-one margin, network reporters framed the shutdown as the fault of President Trump, not the Democrats. Out of 297 minutes of total shutdown coverage, just 27% was devoted to the debate over the border wall — far less time than was given to TSA workers calling in sick, delays at airports and the personal plight of government workers who had their paychecks delayed.
At the midpoint of Donald Trump’s first term, the establishment media’s obvious hostility shows no signs of relenting: 90% negative, vs. just 10% positive, matching the historically bad press we documented in 2017. But polls show this negative coverage has had no discernible impact on the public’s attitudes toward the President. Instead, the media's partisan approach has earned them high marks from Democrats, while alienating most Republicans.
Democrats take control of the House of Representatives today, but you don’t hear journalists instructing them to “show that they can govern” by finding ways to “compromise” with President Trump, as you do when Republicans are poised to gain power. “Opposing the President is not a policy,” NBC’s Matt Lauer lectured New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the November 5, 2014 Today.
The media’s current appreciation for the 41st President stands in sharp contrast to how they covered his presidential campaigns and his administration. When George H. W. Bush was still in the arena, liberal reporters were among his most vociferous critics, who deplored his campaign tactics, accused him of exacerbating racial tensions, and bashed him for failing to adopt liberal policy positions.
It’s been 18 years since a presidential election was clogged and stalled by a recount after a close finish in Florida, and now it’s happening again after Republicans led the election night tallies for Senator and Governor in the state. This time, the national media are scoffing at complaints that Democratic election officials could be seeking to overturn the will of the voters. Back in 2000, those same outlets dripped with suspicion that Florida’s Republican Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, was conspiring to steal that election away from Democrat Al Gore.
This year, with Republicans in control of the White House, House and Senate, journalists are actively electioneering on behalf of Democrats, as a way to put a check on the power of President Trump. But eight years ago, when Democrats held both the House and Senate going into President Obama’s first midterm elections, the media were distressed that liberal power might be diluted, and upset that voters failed to appreciate the tremendous “victories” and “amazing legislative agenda” that Obama and the Democrats had accomplished.
With just one week to go before the 2018 midterm elections, the broadcast networks are heavily spinning their campaign coverage against the Republicans, even as President Trump’s campaign activities have received more airtime than all of the individual Senate, House, and gubernatorial contests combined.
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.
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.
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.
Since the 1980s, the well-worn liberal playbook is to claim that Republican appointees to the Supreme Court should be voted down as ideologues who are outside the judicial mainstream. The establishment media aids this tactic by often tagging GOP nominees as “conservative,” while ignoring — or even disputing — the liberal bent of Democratic nominees to the Court. True to form, ABC, CBS and NBC’s morning and evening broadcasts branded Judge Brett Kavanaugh a “conservative” a total of eleven times in the first 24 hours since his nomination by President Trump.