STUDY: Networks Obsess Over 'Far Right,' Oblivious to 'Far Left'

March 24th, 2023 9:00 AM

Television broadcast networks tend to slap a “far-right” label onto anything even remotely conservative, often referring to Republican members of Congress, fringe conspiracy theorists, and outright domestic terrorists with identical terminology for all three. Yet these same networks refuse even to acknowledge the existence of a “far-left,” — and in fact, since the 2022 midterms, they have not applied that label to any group or individual even a single time.

An MRC study found that between November 9, 2022 (the day after the 2022 midterm elections) and March 21, broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC used such labels as “far-right,” “extreme right,” and “ultraconservative,” a total of 101 times on their flagship morning and evening shows, as well as their Sunday political talk shows. During that same period, analysts found only one instance in which a journalist used an equivalent “far-left” label.

That single case occurred during the January 22 edition of NBC’s Meet The Press, in which moderator Chuck Todd attempted to frame the overturned Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision as a “middle ground” compromise in the abortion debate:

When you look at the public’s opinion about Roe, and in some ways Roe has become more popular since it was overturned, is that the middle ground, the public — you know, maybe nobody loved it on the far left and far right, but was that actually the right middle ground for the American public?

Across all three broadcast networks, the totality of airtime the fringe left received since November was limited to that single vague reference.

Meanwhile, “far-right” and similar labels were applied to a very wide array of individuals. Republican members of Congress were by far the most heavily labeled group (38 times), followed by general references such as “the far right,” or “extreme rightwing Twitter users,” (19 times). There were 12 instances of labeling for the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 11 cases for the Oathkeepers, 10 cases for the radical German group that attempted a coup in late 2022, and five for the supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. All others were labeled only once or twice.

Watch the video below for a sample of the coverage:



This 101-to-1 disparity tracks with the broadcast networks’ well-established habit of obfuscating or outright ignoring extremism from the left.

For example, the pro-abortion radical who attempted to murder Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his family received a tiny fraction — less than 10 percent — of the coverage that Paul Pelosi’s attacker received during the first five days following each incident. The attempt on Justice Kavanaugh’s life also received several orders of magnitude less coverage than the January 6 hearings did during an equivalent time frame.

Back in 2018, ABC and NBC ignored attacks by a left-wing mob on the home of Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson. That same year, NBC covered up an assault on their own camera crew by a pack of antifa members.

And earlier this month, ABC and CBS downplayed a case of violent arson against a police and firefighter training center in Atlanta, Georgia. ABC dismissed the attack as mere “foolishness,” while CBS referred to the arsonists as “demonstrators.”

There is no arguing that far-right extremists exist in the U.S. and abroad. Rather, what’s at issue here is the media’s inability to acknowledge extremism on the left. It seems that whenever they do bother to report on the misdeeds of far-left actors, they meticulously avoid ideological labels.

Below is the methodology for this study. Click “expand” for details.

Analysts looked at a combination of Nexis transcripts and Snapstream recordings for the following shows: (ABC) Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos; (CBS) CBS Mornings, CBS Evening News, CBS Weekend News, and Face The Nation; (NBC) Today, NBC Nightly News, and Meet The Press.

Every edition of those shows which aired between November 9, 2022 and March 21, 2023 was examined for ideological labels such as “far right” or the “far left,” (a full list of terms is listed below). A label was counted only if it was applied by a member of the media, to include contributors, hosts, and reporters. Guests and panelists were included if they were identified as journalists.

Attributions were not included. For example, a journalist remarking that President Biden had “once again referenced ‘extreme MAGA Republicans’ in his speech,” would not be included, as the speaker was merely quoting someone else who applied the label.

Labels were defined as any of the following terms:

  • Conservative extremist/Conservative extremism/Extreme conservative/Extremist conservative;
  • Liberal extremist/Liberal extremism/Extreme liberal/Extremist liberal;
  • Rightwing extremist/Right wing extremist/Right-wing extremist/Extreme rightwing/Extreme right wing/Extreme right-wing/Extremist right;
  • MAGA extremist/Extreme MAGA/Extremist MAGA/Ultra MAGA/Ultra-MAGA;
  • Leftist extremist/Leftist extremism/Extreme leftist/Extremist leftist/Extremist left;
  • Leftwing extremist/Left wing extremist/Left-wing extremist/Extreme leftwing/Extreme left wing/Extreme left-wing/Extremist left;
  • Far right/Far-right/Ultra right/Ultra-right/Ultraconservative/Ultra conservative/Ultra-conservative;
  • Far left/Far-left/Ultra left/Ultra-left/Ultraliberal/Ultra liberal/Ultra-liberal;
  • Hard right/Hard-right/Hardcore right/Hard core right/Hard-core right/Hardcore conservative/Hard core conservative/Hard-core conservative;
  • Hard left/Hard-left/Hardcore left/Hard core left/Hard-core right/Hardcore leftist/Hard core leftist/Hard-core leftist/Hardcore liberal/Hard core liberal/Hard-core liberal.