Nets Can’t Help Themselves But Cover for Chinese-Owned TikTok After Disastrous Hearing

March 24th, 2023 4:14 PM

The broadcast networks were shamed into stepping up their game Thursday night and Friday morning in covering the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on TikTok as members of both parties put on one of the more bipartisan displays one could ever witness in these divisive times, but they still managed to slip in a few pathetic nods to so-called influencers.

Thursday’s NBC Nightly News opened with anchor Lester Holt saying “[t]he head of the wildly popular but also heavily criticized social media platform came to Capitol Hill today and walked right into a bipartisan storm of suspicion and distrust about the app.”



Correspondent Savannah Sellers had a heavy dose of highlights before speaking with a supposed TikTok influencer to downplay the outrage as ignorance (click “expand”):

SELLERS: Chew says TikTok’s top priorities are protecting users’ safety especially for teenagers, securing U.S. data, and being a place for free expression. Despite the company’s reassurances, 43 states have already banned, restricted, or are considering to ban TikTok on government devices.

DUNCAN JOSEPH: So much of the community I’ve created is on TikTok. That’s what I’ve devoted my life to working and creating for.

SELLERS: Duncan Joseph makes a living creating TikTok videos for his 4.5 million followers. [TO JOSEPH] Do you think that the lawmakers who are asking the questions today understand TikTok?

JOSEPH: I think there are some people that definitely have never used the app, haven’t even seen it working and you can tell because one even — one lawmaker even called it tic tac.



SELLERS: In the know or not, lawmakers believe the data concern is real.

Fast-forward to the end and Sellers very briefly added that “[a]nother big theme” was “dangerous videos and trends teenagers could be exposed to, things like misinformation, violence, content about suicide,” but threw TikTok a bone by saying “those issues facing all social media platforms.”

Sellers was back on Friday’s Today and dove further into TikTok CEO Shou Chew’s “focus on safety for teenagers with TikTok implementing age-based restrictions and time limits for its youngest viewers.”

She replayed her exchange with a TikTok user and went further by touting perhaps TikTok’s top congressional defender, Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who griped his colleagues “are jumping off a cliff to ban TikTok and we haven't even had a larger conversation around the understanding of how all this works.”

She concluded:

Now, following the hearing, a TikTok spokesperson told NBC News the company’s CEO came to answer questions, but they say the day was dominated by political grand standing. They also noted that some five million businesses use TikTok to reach customers. That was one of the points that many of those creators on the Hill were actually making in the lead-up to this also.

Shifting to ABC, World News Tonight had senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott on the case and largely stuck to the bipartisan fury, only stating at the end that members of Congress “recognize that millions of young Americans use TikTok every single day, so now the White House and Congress are forced to weigh its popularity with the risk.”

Good Morning America would stand to lose a healthy portion of its programming if TikTok were banned, so they naturally played up the ban as a negative. Co-host Michael Strahan teased Congress as “focus[ed] on privacy and security concerns...while TikTok creators fear a possible ban.”

Scott played clips from three TikTok users, with one claiming their bookstore would suffer and another shrugging off her being tracked by the Chinese (click “expand”):

SCOTT:  TikTok creators nationwide on edge, fearing a possible ban.

RACHAEL WOOLSEY: It's not looking good. It honestly looks like TikTok will get banned, which makes me so sad. 

“ROYALRKIVES”: So, y’all trying to ban TikTok because it endangers children, but there was a mass shooting yesterday. “Well, TikTok tracks your data.” So does Twitter, so does Facebook.

SCOTT: Reid Moon says his Utah book store, Moon’s Rare Books —

REID MOON: I have a lot of cool books here.

SCOTT: — struggled during the pandemic and was given a new life when he joined the app.

MOON: We have almost recouped all of our COVID losses. [SCREEN WIPE] Nine out of 10 people visiting our bookstore said, "I had to come by, I saw you on TikTok." [SCREEN WIPE] Look at that!

SCOTT: He said banning TikTok would force them to downsize.

MOON: It would hurt business absolutely.

SCOTT: In a five-hour hearing, lawmakers from both parties on a House committee focusing in on privacy and security.

And on CBS, the Evening News went a different route as congressional correspondent Nikole Killion spotlighted both the national security and psychological dangers of TikTok.

“Lawmakers also pressed Chu on harmful content aimed at younger users, from buying drugs on the app to dangers in some TikTok challenges and videos promoting eating disorders and suicidal be behaviors,” she explained, adding that “[t]he Nasca family attended the hearing” as “[t]heir 16-year-old son died by suicide after viewing disturbing video served up on the platform.”

That was left on the cutting room floor for Friday’s CBS Mornings, but they had a lengthy interview with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr on an issue he’s been studiously vocal about for years. Speaking to co-host Tony Dokoupil, he said “[t]he evidence we have now is crystal clear” against TikTok remaining independent from China along with the fact that the hearing “could not have gone any worse for TikTok.”

But at the beginning of the show, in the “Eye Opener,” CBS touted ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on Comedy Central for dismissing the TikTok controversy. Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King boasted that “[s]ome people would say [Franken’s] not wrong” and believe “he’s making a very good point.” Dokoupil agreed and argued “[t]here is a double standard” against TikTok compared to other platforms.

Thursday and Friday’s simping for TikTok was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Cadillac (on CBS and NBC), Ensure (on ABC), Farmers Insurance (on NBC), and IBM (on ABC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant transcripts from March 23, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC). For March 24, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).