If you thought that the Biden administration was colluding with major news outlets to score some friendly economic coverage, CNN may have just proven you right.
Last week CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that the Biden administration had been holding private meetings with major news outlets, in which they pressured the media to add more positive spin to their economic coverage.
“Senior White House and admin officials have been holding briefings with major newsrooms over the past week as they try to reshape economic coverage,” Darcy tweeted on December 6.
It looks like CNN got the memo. Over the course of two weeks, the cable network’s coverage of oil and gas prices shifted from 77 percent negative to 79 percent positive. For a sampling of this past week’s coverage, watch the video below:
MRC analysts examined all of CNN’s regular coverage over the past two weeks (November 30 through December 13), and evaluated the tone of every instance in which anchors, journalists, and reporters discussed oil and gas prices.
In the week before these meetings between Biden officials and news organizations concluded, gas prices were mentioned nine times on CNN; seven of those mentions (77.7%) were negative in tone and two were positive. However during the week immediately following the meetings, gas prices were discussed 43 times – of those mentions, a whopping 34 (79%) were positive in tone, while the remaining nine were negative.
The positive coverage relied heavily on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, particularly their most recent report showing that the average price of gasoline nationwide had dropped by about five cents between November and December. Much of the coverage conveniently ignored the fact that gasoline prices had risen by 61 percent over the previous year, making this past November’s average price of $3.39 per gallon the highest since 2014.
For this study, a negative tone was defined as any suggestion that gasoline was expensive (i.e. “high gas prices,” “a concern,” “rising”). Conversely, if the speaker emphasized marginal price decreases while either downplaying or ignoring significant overall price increases, the mention was classified as positive (i.e. “relief at the pump,” “gas prices down”).
If CNN’s abrupt adoption of positive spin on gas prices has nothing to do with pressure from the Biden administration, then it’s quite a remarkable coincidence, given the severity of the shift in tone.