Damage Control: Networks Barely Note Biden’s Facebook Walk Back, Stocks Tanking

July 20th, 2021 1:14 AM

On Monday night, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC played the role of PR professionals for the White House as they assisted them in minimizing President Biden’s about-face that Facebook “is killing people” with misinformation and the pitiful day on Wall Street amid new liberal fear-mongering about the need to bring back Covid restrictions.

Unsurprisingly, no one stood up for the First Amendment, free speech, or the importance of not criminalizing dissent with a combined total of one minute and 49 seconds on Biden’s mixed messaging (and one minute and nine seconds on the economy).



NBC Nightly News was by far the worst as Biden’s reversal only garnered 19 seconds and the stock market tanking seeing only five seconds.

National correspondent Miguel Almaguer snuck in a Biden nod in the second half of his segment about the latest coronavirus news (click “expand”):

MIGUEL ALMAGUER: The fight to get more Americans vaccinated is also a battle against misinformation. The President now walking back comments after pointing the finger at Facebook Friday. 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow saying that Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation.

And on the stock market, anchor Lester “fairness is overrated” Holt teased it at the top, but when it came to official time, the five seconds were leading into Almaguer’s report: “The Dow suffering its worst drop since last October on fears of a resurgence.”

The CBS Evening News wasn’t much better with 34 seconds on Biden and 16 seconds on stocks (minus teases). Usually an indication that a story would be important enough to garner a full segment (or close to it), anchor Norah O’Donnell teased both stories, but neither were.

And O’Donnell’s Biden tease, it came off as uncritical in a way that certainly wouldn’t have happened under Donald Trump: “Biden versus Facebook. After the President accused the social media giant of killing people with vaccine misinformation, the walk-back as he calls on Facebook to do more.”

Seconds later in her news rundown, O’Donnell added that Biden gave a “stunning reversal” and defended him by claiming that Biden “said he meant to blame a small number of bad actors on the social media platform.”

With the chyron “Biden Clarifies Comments on Covid Misinformation,” senior White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe ended his report about the administration calling out Chinese hackers with Biden’s Facebook disaster:

Meanwhile, the President today clarified comments he made Friday about social media companies like Facebook that allow the spread of misinformation about the pandemic. He said the sites are “killing people.” Well, the company pushed back and today, the president clarified it's the bad actors that spread misinformation on social media who are to blame, not any one company. 

On the stock market, the newscast’s only formal mention came at the top of the show from O’Donnell:

The stock market had its worst day in months on fears that a midsummer surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant could bring another global economic slowdown. The Dow dropped with airlines, hotels, banks, and oil companies all taking losses.

Though it’s far from a compliment, ABC’s World News Tonight came out on top in the time department with one minute and 15 seconds on the Facebook backtracking and 48 seconds on the economy.

Anchor David Muir began by saying Biden was “backtracking after what he said about Facebook on Friday,” but boasted that he was “clearly frustrated with the amount of misinformation on the virus and on vaccines across social media.”

After playing what Biden said on Friday, he tossed to White House correspondent Rachel Scott (click “expand”):

MUIR: When asked about Facebook, he said they're killing people. So, let's get right to ABC’s Rachel Scott at the White House because, Rachel, we heard a different tone from the President today. Surely still upset, frustrated by the misinformation that’s out there, but not taking aim directly at Facebook anymore.

SCOTT: Yes, and today the President’s comments infuriating Facebook and today, the President walked it back, saying that it's misinformation on Facebook that is killing Americans, not the social media company itself. The President going on to say that, instead of taking it personally, that Facebook should crack down on bad information about vaccines. But tonight, Facebook says they have done just that. A spokesperson telling us that they have taken aggressive steps to remove more than 18 million pieces of misinformation on the site, even kicking off repeat offenders.

A few minutes later, Muir went to the economy, which had its “worst day of the year...amid the alarming surge in Covid cases[.]”

Chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis reported the drop was attributed to Wall Street “question[ing] some of the economic optimism surrounding the reopenings,” but otherwise said not to worry because “that nest egg...should still be higher on the year with the S&P 500 up 13 percent, year to date.”

The networks running PR for the Biden administration was made possible thanks to the support of advertisers such as ADT (on NBC), Dell (on ABC), and Progressive (on CBS). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant network transcripts from July 19, click here.