Government figures released late Friday show the immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border reached its worst-ever levels in fiscal year 2022, but as they have throughout the Biden era, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts barely noticed. In fact, these liberal networks saved their most intensive coverage of the year until just the past two months — and then, instead of holding Biden accountable, they scorched Republican Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott for sending a few thousand migrants to liberal enclaves such as New York City and Martha’s Vineyard.
A new Media Research Center study finds that evening news viewers in August and September heard 13 times more critical statements about those Republican governors for their handling of a relative handful of migrants than of President Biden and his administration for their failure to keep the border secure in the first place.
For the just concluded fiscal year (October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022), Customs and Border Patrol reported more than 2.37 million encounters with migrants along the southern border, a hefty 37 percent increase over Biden’s first-year disaster in 2021, and a whopping 500 percent increase over 2020, the last year of the Trump administration.
During those same 12 months, the three evening newscasts generated a meager 143 minutes of coverage, or approximately one minute of airtime for every 16,600 migrants encountered at the border. But in August and September, nearly three-fourths of all immigration news (44 out of 61 minutes, or 72.5%) was about the few thousand migrants shipped to northern liberal locations.
In fact, the arrival of only about 50 migrants in Martha’s Vineyard on September 15 was greeted by 19 minutes of coverage over multiple nights, making those few dozen migrants about 6,000 times more newsworthy (in the eyes of the liberal media) than the 2.37 million who crossed into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California during the past year.
The tone of this coverage was lopsidedly anti-Republican, barely touching the Biden administration. We calculated the spin of this coverage by tallying only clearly positive and negative statements from non-partisan sources (in other words, reporters, anchors, voters and other unaffiliated sources). This methodology is designed to exclude the partisan back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans, in order to zero in on the spin being imparted by the networks themselves.
Using this approach, only ABC’s World News Tonight suggested any blame of the Biden administration, and then only twice. On September 16, viewers heard the President claim: “We have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging these political stunts.”
ABC correspondent Mireya Villarreal countered: “But in El Paso, Texas, it’s clear the process isn’t working.”
Four days later, ABC viewers heard correspondent Rachel Scott shout a question as Biden tried to leave an event: “Why is the border more overwhelmed under your watch, Mr. President?”
Neither statement was especially fierce, but they were the strongest suggestions heard on these newscasts that Biden and his team were in charge of the border debacle. In contrast, these networks’ criticisms of the Republican governors were far more frequent and pugnacious.
Instead of focusing on the Biden failures exposed by the migrants arriving in the north, reporters chose instead to dismiss it all as a political stunt. “Driven by bus and fueled by politics, another wave of migrants arrived in New York City today,” NBC’s Maggie Vespa said on August 7 of a group traveling from Texas.
Talking on September 15 about the flight of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, ABC’s Mary Bruce perfectly parroted Democratic talking points: “It’s a stunt using human beings to score political points.”
Two nights later, the CBS Weekend News carved out airtime for an “aid worker” making the same partisan point: “Using people as political pawns to make a political point is wrong, and this is really an immoral thing for whoever is doing it to be doing.”
On September 20, CBS’s Manuel Bojorquez touted a “federal civil rights lawsuit” alleging DeSantis committed “bold-faced lies” to coerce migrants to sign up for the flight to Martha’s Vineyeard. Bojorquez never told viewers that the group behind the litigation received nearly $1.4 million from George Soros’ Open Society network, nor the conclusion of other lawyers that it was “very unlikely” to succeed.
We tallied 26 negative comments about the Republican governors, compared with only a single non-partisan comment supporting the GOP governors, on NBC September 18. A pecan farmer from Eagle Pass, Texas, whose own farm “is becoming the busiest corridor for illegal crossings,” told NBC reporter Priscilla Thompson: “I’m glad they’re moving them up there. The United States government needs to do something.”
Immigration was a huge focus of the evening newscasts during the Trump years, but since January 2021 the networks have turned a blind eye to Biden’s debacle at the southern border. Now that the immigration crisis is back on their radar screen, reporters are using it as just another club to wield against Republican governors.
What a perfectly partisan approach to the news.