Fair enough: ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and NBC all showed roughly as much of the Republican convention last week as they had the Democratic convention the week before. But not fair at all: while cable news let the Democratic advertisement run without any significant interruption, CNN and MSNBC refused to give the same consideration to Republicans, repeatedly stepping over the party-produced content to deplore and criticize what viewers were trying to watch.
The interruptions on MSNBC, in fact, were 600 TIMES greater during the Republican convention (201 minutes) than during the Democratic convention (21 seconds). On CNN, their analysts and advertising stepped on 78.5 minutes of the GOP convention, vs. just 12.5 minutes during the Democrats’ show, a five-to-one disparity.
Because the Republican convention included about 100 minutes more content (682 minutes total) than the Democratic program (583), broadcast viewers actually saw more of it: 222 minutes on ABC and NBC, vs. 191 and 173 minutes for the Democrats, respectively. CBS showed 226 minutes of the GOP convention, vs. 159 for the Democrats. On average, the three broadcast networks let their viewers see about 33% of the Republican convention, vs. 30% for the Democratic convention — a pretty balanced scorecard.
Cable, however, was a much more partisan story. During the Democratic convention, CNN and MSNBC essentially shut down and let viewers see the whole program; the only omissions were a few commercial interruptions on CNN, and those parts of the program that followed the main speech of the night (usually a musical performance and closing prayers delivered by clergy).
During the key two hours of the Democrats’ show, CNN dropped out for 12 minutes, 31 seconds of advertising over four nights. MSNBC didn’t even do that, never once taking a commercial break; their only “interruption” was a 21-second mistake on Night Two, for which co-anchor Rachel Maddow profusely apologized: “We’re actually not interrupting. We’re going right back to it. We were just having a moment. Sorry! Right back. Sorry!”
Of course, if they had wanted to, these networks could have tried to protect their audience from Democratic misinformation. FactCheck.org, for example, found misleading claims emanating from Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But the “watchdogs” at MSNBC and CNN never felt the need to break in.
But with the Republicans, CNN busted into the show 16 times for “analysis,” while MSNBC interrupted 28 times to mock or deride what had just been said. Add it all up, and CNN viewers missed out on 78.5 minutes of the convention program, while MSNBC concealed 201 minutes of the show.
CNN’s first night, for example, saw four interruptions for “analysis,” all of which was negative. MSNBC broke in six times to challenge the GOP program; co-anchor Rachel Maddow justified the rudeness: “It is our responsibility to not broadcast potentially dangerous misinformation.”
The next night, CNN broke in five times, while MSNBC (which joined the convention program late) interrupted seven times. After Billy Graham’s granddaughter, Cissie Graham Lynch, talked about the importance of religious freedom, Maddow bailed out of the convention so viewers could hear a comfortable liberal talking point: “This President campaigned on banning people from this country on the basis of their religion with the Muslim ban. So in terms of him supporting religious freedom, that should be noted.”
On Wednesday, MSNBC’s dipped out so co-anchor Joy Reid could grouse about the naturalization ceremony that the GOP showed in order to salute the millions of immigrants who have chosen a legal path to citizenship. Reid snapped: “He [the President] uses those people as props. He used people that would be from the S-hole countries he would not let into this country.”
That same night, MSNBC stopped their convention coverage to bring on the hapless Democratic Mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, to dispute the idea that her city and others were condoning lawlessness. (You might remember her dithering for weeks after protesters created their own “autonomous zone” in Seattle, and how her police chief quit over the lack of respect the city had showed officers.)
On Thursday, MSNBC chose not to air the first half hour of the convention so they could whine about, among other things, the lack of masks among invited guests at the White House. Co-host Nicolle Wallace fumed about President Trump: “He’s going to get people killed. He’s going to get people sick and they just might be his own voters.”
Once they permitted viewers to see the actual convention, they dipped out six more times prior to the President’s speech, including for a “reality check” from former Obama White House aide Ben Rhodes, who made the cartoonish talking point that “all of Donald Trump’s favorite leaders around the world are dictators, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Donald Trump hasn’t found a dictator that he hasn’t wanted to draw closer to, and he’s alienated all of our Democratic allies.”
Rhodes, of course, infamously aided the Obama-Biden administration’s effort to “draw closer to” the dictators in Iran, but that checkered history apparently hasn’t disqualified him from talking about the subject on a safe left-wing cable channel.
CNN and MSNBC, of course, long ago become the frontlines in the liberal media’s #Resistance to the Trump administration. But it would have been an important signal that some tradition of fairness remains in the media to have shown the Republican convention in the same manner as the Democratic convention, with the commentary saved for later.
But liberal journalists apparently don’t trust viewers to watch a Republican convention without a media chaperone on hand to prevent any pro-Trump opinions from breaking out. That’s hardly a fair standard — and voters see the bias for themselves.
Special thanks to Scott Whitlock and Curtis Houck for a second week of late nights spent tallying the numbers in this report.