Over the past 24 hours, CNN and MSNBC have gleefully brandished the mugshots of Donald Trump’s co-defendants like grim trophies for their audiences to gawk at.
MRC analysts examined all coverage on CNN and MSNBC from 6:00 p.m. on August 23 to that same time the following day. During that 24-hour span, the two cable networks displayed mugshots of former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, former Trump administration Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and the other defendants a whopping 188 times, amounting to a combined 83 minutes of airtime.
MSNBC led the pair in both total on-screen displays and screen time; they showed the mugshots 122 times, for a total of 56 minutes and 23 seconds. CNN showed the images 66 times, which amounted to 27 minutes and 12 seconds of screen time.
By far the biggest contributor to these totals was the August 23 edition of MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber. That show was the only one on either network that managed to spend more time with a mugshot on screen than without. Throughout the show’s 46 minutes of non-commercial coverage, mugshots of at least one of the defendants were visible for an absurd 25 minutes and 9 seconds.
If that sounds excessive, consider what the mugshots signify to the journalists working at these networks. They are the figurative scalps of their party’s political enemies, who, in their minds, are guilty of one of the greatest evils ever perpetrated in America.
Hours after the mugshot of Rudy Giuliani was released, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes gushed of its significance on the August 23 All In:
It always seems, you know, in the way that it’s used in the New York Post, and in the tabloids, you know, it sort of presumes guilt in its form. The mugshot looms. It looms on the cover of tabloids, it looms…
And it’s a small thing, but watching this does feel like there’s, in terms of how Fani Willis is handling this, there’s a real kind of equal justice under law kind of vibe here.
The following morning during the 9:00 a.m. ET hour of CNN News Central, co-host John Berman speculated eagerly about the possibility of a Trump mugshot: “We’ll see over the course of the next several hours if there’s a mugshot taken, if it’ll be released.” He added, perhaps wistfully: “What we haven’t seen is perp walks.”
On August 17, CNN host Jake Tapper complained on Twitter about claims that lefty journalists were “reveling” in the details of the Georgia indictment. “CNN journalists & commentators, including conservatives, stating *facts* about Trump’s legal issues are falsely described as reveling in them,” he huffed. “Wildly, characteristically dishonest.”
But Tapper’s supposed outrage looks rather overdone, given his own enthusiasm about the freshly-obtained mugshot of Mark Meadows during CNN’s August 24 live indictment coverage. More than once during the 3:00 p.m. ET hour, he requested that producers bring the photo back on the screen so he could continue discussing it.
If these journalists want to get offended when they’re accused of publicly enjoying this latest Trump indictment, then they should probably stop publicly enjoying it. For a start, they could quit waving around the latest mugshots like excited baseball card collectors.