STUDY: At Least 90% of TV News Fails to Call Trump Prosecutors ‘Democrats’

April 15th, 2024 7:58 AM

Barring a last-minute hiccup, today a Democratic prosecutor — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — will begin his unprecedented criminal trial of former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s certain presidential nominee in November’s general election.

Despite the obvious political implications of such a prosecution, a new study of ABC, CBS and NBC evening news coverage shows at least 90% of their coverage failed to inform viewers that Bragg and the other elected Democrats going after Trump are “Democrats.” It’s as if the networks prefer to disingenuously portray the indictments and civil lawsuits as the work of nonpartisan career prosecutors, rather than as partisan attempts to use the court system to hobble the electoral prospects of the country’s top Republican.

For this study, our analysts reviewed all broadcast evening news coverage from January 1, 2023 through April 10, 2024. Here’s a rundown of how the networks are failing to adequately disclose the partisanship of the three elected Democrats prosecuting Trump: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg; Fulton County (Georgia) District Attorney Fani Willis; and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

■ Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg: Bragg attained his current post after he ran and won as a Democrat in the November 2021 general election. During his campaign, Bragg all but promised to use his office to pursue the former President — to hold him “accountable,” as Bragg not-so-subtly put it as he vied with other Democrats for the coveted nomination.

And Bragg isn’t just a mainstream Democrat — he’s clearly on the far left (“progressive”) wing of the party. A New York Times “fact check” last March grudgingly documented the links between Bragg and left-wing billionaire George Soros as “real but overstated....Mr. Soros donated to a liberal group that endorses progressive prosecutors and supports efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system — in line with causes that he has publicly supported for years. That group used a significant portion of the money to support Mr. Bragg in his 2021 campaign.”

In other words, Bragg is exactly the sort of ideological prosecutor the Soros squad pushed in big cities across America a few years ago, with damaging results for the people who live in those jurisdictions.

In spite of this, since Bragg zeroed in on Trump early last year, the Big Three evening newscasts have rarely mentioned his undisputed partisanship. ABC’s World News Tonight has aired 56 stories discussing Bragg’s “hush money” case against Trump, yet sharp-eared viewers only once heard that Bragg was a Democrat — on February 26, 2024, when correspondent Aaron Katersky relayed how “a spokesman for Trump... called Bragg ‘another deranged Democrat prosecutor.’”

That’s still better than the CBS Evening News, which aired 48 stories discussing Bragg’s case, none of which revealed that the District Attorney is a Democrat. NBC Nightly News was the most informative on this score, informing viewers that Bragg is a Democrat in 16 out of 59 stories, or about 27% of the time — still barely one-fourth of stories.

Add it all up, and the Big Three only labeled Bragg as a Democrat 17 times out of 163 stories, which means Bragg’s partisanship was omitted from nearly 90% of evening news stories about his election-season indictments of the former President.

■ New York Attorney General Letitia James: Twice elected as an anti-Trump Democrat (in 2018 and 2022), James showed her ambition for higher office when she briefly challenged incumbent Kathy Hochul for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2021. After two months, she dropped that campaign in favor of a second term as the state’s Attorney General.

“There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job,” James explained. That same day, she stepped up her investigation of the Trump businesses that led to the unprecedented $355 million civil judgment against the former President, now being appealed.

In other words, James seems to have concluded she needed to win a judicial victory against Trump to make herself more popular among Democratic voters.

Yet on ABC, CBS and NBC, there’s been even less discussion of James’s blunt partisanship than of Bragg’s. Through April 10, ABC’s World News Tonight has aired 44 stories mentioning James’s suit against Trump and his businesses, yet only one — back on November 6 — identified the state Attorney General as a “Democrat,” in a fleeting on-screen graphic that was shown for less than two seconds.

Similarly, the CBS Evening News produced 35 stories that discussed James’s civil case, but only once did viewers learn about James’s partisanship. As with ABC, the information was disclosed in an on-screen graphic, as the March 24, 2024 Sunday night newscast briefly showed a Trump campaign message demanding that “Insane radical Democrat AG Letitia James” keep her “FILTHY HANDS OFF OF TRUMP TOWER.”

Compared to its competitors, NBC Nightly News was again the most informative. The newscast discussed the civil case in 26 stories, seven of which (27%) mentioned James’s party affiliation. Yet that means the vast majority of stories (73%) omitted this important information.

The final tally: As of April 10, the Big Three have aired 105 stories about the civil case against Trump, but only nine mentioned that the official who brought the charges, Letitia James, is a partisan Democrat — leaving this crucial fact out of 93% of network stories.

■ Fulton County (Georgia) District Attorney Fani Willis: As with Bragg and James, Willis’s partisanship is not in dispute. She ran and won as a Democrat in 2020, and she is running for re-election this fall as a Democrat. This spring, during a misconduct hearing into her affair with a lead prosecutor, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported “prominent Democrats” in Georgia were “rallying around” Willis, hoping to keep her from being removed from the Trump case.

Nonetheless, while ABC’s World News Tonight (60) and the CBS Evening News (39) have aired a combined 99 stories mentioning Willis’s prosecution of Trump, none — ZERO — have told their viewers that the District Attorney is a partisan Democrat. For its part, the NBC Nightly News mentioned Willis was a Democrat eight times out of 50 stories — omitting this fact from the remaining 84% of its coverage.

Add it all up, and out of 149 evening news stories about the Georgia election case against Trump, a scant five percent revealed that Willis was a Democrat, vs. 95% that kept viewers in the dark.


From the beginning of these cases, journalists have had a choice in how they frame these various legal challenges to Donald Trump: Democrats vs. a Republican (i.e., a partisan food fight), or nonpartisan law enforcement vs. an accused lawbreaker. Clearly, the editorial choices made by these broadcast networks shows they are framing these cases as the actions of nonpartisan law enforcement officials — all of whom just happen to be Democrats.

But if it were a leading Democrat who had been placed under the legal microscope by a trio of elected Republicans, does anyone think that the media would be so reluctant to even mention the partisanship of the prosecutors?

Of course not.