Despite controversial West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship only finishing a distance third place in Tuesday’s Republican primary, on Wednesday, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning devoted much of their election coverage to his defeat while barely mentioning the GOP candidates who won primary contests in numerous states.
On GMA, a stunning 83% of a 2 minute 50 second report focused exclusively on Blankenship’s loss. “The GOP put forward their three strongest candidates for Senate in Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, where convicted coal baron Don Blankenship came up short after President Trump came out against his candidacy,” proclaimed co-host George Stephanopoulos at the start of the segment.
Correspondent Tom Llamas breathlessly hyped: “Republican leaders avoiding what they feared could be a catastrophe. Coal baron Don Blankenship losing in the West Virginia senate primary.” Only after spending most of the story on the ex-convict-turned-candidate’s many controversies, did he even mention who actually won the race, Republican state attorney general Patrick Morrisey.
Stephanopoulos then briefly noted the political vulnerability of incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin: “And Republicans have some hope to mount a strong challenge there to Manchin.”
Only the final 30 seconds of the report actually highlighted the outcomes of other races:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Also, in Indiana, a deep red state, and a Democrat on the ballot there against the Republican who won yesterday.
LLAMAS: Yeah, this was another big headline last night, especially for Republicans. Mike Braun, he ran against two congressmen in Indiana, and he actually carried around cardboard cutouts of the two congressmen, asking voters if they could tell the difference. In that case there in Indiana, Republican voters chose the outsider Mike Braun, who will be facing off in November in that senate race.
Before the election returns came in Tuesday night, Llamas offered a similar full report on World News Tonight that promoted Blankenship’s candidacy.
On Wednesday’s CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O’Donnell offered this 39 second news brief on the primary results, 50% of which was about Blankenship:
Voters have set the stage for three pivotal Senate races in November, with Republicans battling to keep control. West Virginia Republicans rejected Don Blankenship in one of the most closely watched primaries. The former coal executive and ex-con led a controversial, racially-charged campaign. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won that race and he’ll face off with Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin in November. In Ohio, GOP Congressman Jim Renacci will take on Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and businessman Mike Braun will run against Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly. Right now, the GOP holds a 51 to 49 Senate majority.
Interestingly, NBC’s Today show provided no coverage of the primary elections despite a full story on Tuesday’s Nightly News warning viewers about Blankenship. “Primary races in Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina today, but it’s the one in West Virginia that’s getting national attention because of a controversial candidate. An ex-convict trying to pull off a primary win to take on Democrat Joe Manchin this fall,” announced anchor Lester Holt.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday, Hardball host Chris Matthews was all but certain of Blankenship winning: “Is this for real? And yet, in West Virginia, he’s surging. He’s surging past his opponents. In all likelihood we’ll be reporting tonight...it’s very possible late tonight, or early tonight we’ll be talking about the victory of Blankenship, the guy who was put in prison for mine safety violations.”
He later predicted: “I would say Blankenship’s going to be on the front page of all the paper’s tomorrow.”
Of course that was based on the assumption that Blankenship would win and become a liability for the Republican Party. When that did not happen, NBC quickly dropped the topic.
Meanwhile, ABC and CBS still attempted to make Blankenship the story, rather than acknowledge the GOP candidates who actually won and have strong chances against Democrats in November.
Here is a full transcript of the May 9 report on GMA:
7:13 AM ET
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to move on now to those primary races yesterday setting the stage for November’s midterms. The GOP put forward their three strongest candidates for senate in Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, where convicted coal baron Don Blankenship came up short after President Trump came out against his candidacy. Our Chief National Affairs Correspondent spoke to Blankenship last night. Tom Llamas joins us now from Charleston, West Virginia. Good morning, Tom.
TOM LLAMAS: George, good morning to you. Don Blankenship said he was Trumpier than Trump, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. On Twitter, President Trump telling voters here in West Virginia not to vote for him. Blankenship telling me that tweet torpedoed his campaign.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Convicted Coal Baron Loses High-Stakes Primary; GOP Eyes November as Blankenship Loses Bitter Battle]
Republican leaders avoiding what they feared could be a catastrophe. Coal baron Don Blankenship losing in the West Virginia senate primary.
DON BLANKENSHIP: Right now, it doesn’t look good.
LLAMAS: Overnight, Blankenship conceding. He ran as an outsider, taking on the establishment, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
BLANKENSHIP: One of my goals as U.S. Senator will be to ditch Cocaine Mitch. When you vote for me, you’re voting for the sake of the kids.
LLAMAS: The “Cocaine Mitch” reference a claim that a ship connected to Mr. McConnell’s father-in-law was found with smuggled drugs. Post-election, McConnell firing back with this humorous tweet. McConnell reimagined as Pablo Escobar for the TV show Narcos, with the message, “Thanks for playing, Don.”
Blankenship had also been accused of race-baiting when he attacked McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in another campaign ad.
BLANKENSHIP: Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.
LLAMAS: During ABC’s live digital coverage, I asked him about his use of the phrase, “China people” and how some Asian-Americans were offended. But why not apologize?
BLANKENSHIP: Well, I do apologize to anybody that’s legitimately offended, but I don’t believe that the politicians are legitimately offended.
LLAMAS: Now, Blankenship did win in one way, his parole ended yesterday. He served a year in prison in connection with that mine explosion where 29 miners died. Throughout this campaign, Blankenship blamed the federal government for that accident. Come November, Senator Joe Manchin, the incumbent, the Democrat, will take on the Republican here, Patrick Morrisey. George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Republicans have some hope to mount a strong challenge there to Manchin.
Also, in Indiana, a deep red state, and a Democrat on the ballot there against the Republican who won yesterday.
LLAMAS: Yeah, this was another big headline last night, especially for Republicans. Mike Braun, he ran against two congressmen in Indiana, and he actually carried around cardboard cutouts of the two congressmen, asking voters if they could tell the difference. In that case there in Indiana, Republican voters chose the outsider Mike Braun, who will be facing off in November in that senate race. George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Alright, up against Senator Joe Donnelly. Okay, Tom, thanks very much.