As the Media Research Center documented on Monday, the Big Three Networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) had buried the devastation of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico underneath a mountain of coverage of President Trump’s spat with the NFL. Come Tuesday, they finally got around to giving the crisis the airtime that it deserved as all of them started they evening programs with it. But for ABC, it was just another opportunity to rake President Trump over the coals.
Instead of focusing on the shattered lives and the dangerous living conditions of the millions of Americans living on the island territory, sensationalist Anchor David Muir began World News Tonight by targeting the President.
“And tonight, the President is asked, was he preoccupied with the NFL and his tweets? The president tweeting 24 times about the NFL, but he did not tweet about Puerto Rico over the weekend,” Muir announced as his show was coming on the air. “Tonight, he's defending himself, and the White House releasing this photo of a meeting in the situation room, to signal they are doing all they can.”
Proving they were more interested in political attacks against Trump than reporting on the crisis itself, ABC’s first report on Puerto Rico was conducted by Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega and not someone on the ground there.
“On the ground, total devastation. Nearly the entire island still without power. More than half of it without water. But many say, until now, the President's public response has been subdued,” she claimed, pointing to Trump’s lack of Twitter activity on the crisis until recently.
Vega then held up two Democrats as examples of those criticizing the President. “Among those who called him out, the Mayor of San Juan, who said, "You don't put debt above people, you put people above debt." New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez going even further,” she praised, before playing a clip of Velazquez hyperbolically proclaiming that Puerto Rico was Trump’s Hurricane Katrina. The ABC reporter also failed to mention that the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, was a staunch Democrat.
“And today, we put the question to the President. Is Puerto Rico getting all the help it needs from you, Mr. President,” Vega mentioned, hyping up her pushing of Democratic talking points.
World News Tonight’s exploitation of the Puerto Rico crisis came the day after they spent a measly two minutes and 20 seconds on the subject. Meanwhile, they spent over eight minutes agonizing over Trump’s feud with athletes.
In general, ABC’s coverage or lack thereof of the dire crisis in Puerto Rico had been absolutely disgusting. Between September 24 and September 25, the network spent 52 minutes and 54 seconds flipping out over Trump’s position on kneeling during the National Anthem and the ensuing protests. In sharp contrast, they spent a meager seven minutes and 39 seconds on Puerto Ricans fighting for their lives. That’s a seven-to-one disparity.
It was despicable of ABC to use the first substantial portion of time they decided to dedicate to the humanitarian crisis for their own political games.
World News Tonight
September 26, 2017
6:31:27 PM Eastern
DAVID MUIR: Good evening. And it's great to have you with us here on a Tuesday night. And we begin with what authorities are calling a humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico. More than 3 million American citizens live there. And tonight, the President is asked, was he preoccupied with the NFL and his tweets? The president tweeting 24 times about the NFL, but he did not tweet about Puerto Rico over the weekend. Tonight, he's defending himself, and the White House releasing this photo of a meeting in the situation room, to signal they are doing all they can. Tonight, the President plans to now visit Puerto Rico. And ABC's Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega leading us off.
[Cuts to video]
CECILIA VEGA: President Trump in the rose garden today with a message for Puerto Rico.
DONALD TRUMP: We will get through this and we will get through it together.
VEGA: On the ground, total devastation. Nearly the entire island still without power. More than half of it without water. But many say, until now, the President's public response has been subdued. Overnight, in a series of tweets, President Trump emphasized Puerto Rico's massive debt, saying it owes "billions of dollars to Wall Street and the banks, which, sadly, must be dealt with."
Among those who called him out, the Mayor of San Juan, who said, "You don't put debt above people, you put people above debt." New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez going even further.
NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: This is going to turn to be Mr. Trump's Katrina.
VEGA: And today, we put the question to the President. Is Puerto Rico getting all the help it needs from you, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Puerto Rico is very important to me, and Puerto Rico, the people are fantastic people. I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans.
VEGA: The President highlighting the praise he's received.
TRUMP: It's the most difficult job, because it's on an island in the middle of the ocean. It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your trucks there from other states. And the Governor said, we are doing a great job.
VEGA: While brushing off questions about whether he's been preoccupied by his battle with the NFL.
TRUMP: Was I preoccupied? Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.
VEGA: And today, the White House released these photos to show it. The president in the situation room, being briefed on Puerto Rico.
[Cuts back to live]
DAVID MUIR: So, let's get to Cecilia Vega, live at the White House tonight. And Cecilia, the President announcing he will now travel to Puerto Rico?
VEGA: Yeah, David. He says had will go there on Tuesday, but also headed to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Navy ship Comfort. It's a medical ship with as many as 1,200 active duty and reserve personnel on it. But David, we are being told it will take about a week before it arrives.
MUIR: A week. Cecilia Vega leading us off tonight, thank you.