Hunter Indictment Gets Four Times the Coverage of Scandals Surrounding Democrats

August 23rd, 2018 7:07 PM

In roughly the first 36 hours since prosecutors indicted California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter on campaign finance violations charges, the morning and evening newscasts on ABC and CBS have spent a total of 4 minutes and 44 seconds covering the story since Wednesday morning.

CBS This Morning spent 1 minute and 59 seconds on the topic on Wednesday morning and an additional 51 seconds on Thursday. And over on ABC, Good Morning America mentioned it in a 17-second brief on Wednesday while, hours later, World News Tonight spent one minute and 38 seconds on Duncan.

Believe it or not, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News and Thursday morning's Today failed to mention Hunter (albeit the blackout ended on Thursday's NBC Nightly News). Appearing on Wednesday's Andrea Mitchell Reports, Kasie Hunt gave a possible explanation as to why: “Well, lucky for Duncan Hunter in many different ways that there was a lot of other news crowding out his own.”

The “other news” Hunt spoke of referred to the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime Trump confidante and lawyer Michael Cohen's guilty pleas.

While the coverage of Hunter’s indictment did not quite equal the enormous airtime given in the initial 24 hours to indicted New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins, this coverage in the first 36 hours of Hunter's scandal still far exceeded the time spent on crimes committed by former House Democrats Corrine Brown (FL) and Chaka Fattah (PA) as, from the time of their indictments to sentencing, it was by a margin of more than 4-to-1. CBS and NBC devoted just 68 seconds to the Fattah scandal while completely ignoring the Brown scandal.

ABC did not cover the Fattah scandal at all but managed to spare nearly two minutes for Hunter's indictment. In contrast, the nets spent more than 18 minutes on the Collins scandal in the 24 hours following his August 8 arrest.

When covering the news of Hunter’s indictment, the networks made sure to point out that Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump in 2016 with the first being Collins. Wednesday's CBS This Morning made sure to harp on that fact.

On ABC, Wednesday's World News Tonight did not mention Collins by name but the news out of Californai marked “the second indictment of a House Republican and an early Trump endorser this month alone.” The much shorter segment on Good Morning America described Hunter as “one of the President’s supporters in the House.”

The indictment of a sitting member of Congress surely deserves media attention. If only the media realized that coverage is warranted in the case of both Republican and Democratic politicians.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Wednesday’s edition of CBS This Morning is below.

CBS This Morning


7:17 a.m. Eastern

JOHN DICKERSON: A Republican Congressman and his wife are accused of spending $250,000 in campaign funds on themselves and falsifying their financial records. California Representative Duncan Hunter and Margaret Hunter were indicted yesterday, charged with describing vacation trips and dental work as campaign related. Duncan Hunter was one of the first members of Congress to support the Trump presidential campaign. Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with details of the indictment. Good morning, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning. There are dozens of charges in this indictment. House Speaker Paul Ryan called them deeply serious and moved to strip Hunter at least temporarily of his committee assignments last night. According to the indictment, the couple treated campaign funds essentially like a personal piggy bank after overdrawing their own accounts 1,100 times over the course of seven years. They allegedly used campaign cash to pay for utilities, school tuition, the theatre, trips to Hawaii and Italy and international travel for nearly a dozen relatives as well. The indictment alleges that Hunter tried to cover up these outlays by disguising them as campaign expenditures. Family dental bills, for instance, were recorded as gifts to a charity called “Smiles For Life.” At one point his wife allegedly suggested that a pair of golf shorts be recorded as a purchase for the Wounded Warriors. Hunter is the second Republican congressman to be indicted this month. New York Republican Chris Collins was charged with insider trading. Collins and Hunter were the first two Congressmen to endorse President Trump during the campaign. Hunter’s attorney calls this indictment politically motivated. Hunter himself has shown no indication that he plans to resign. And it isn’t even clear that he has time to get his name off the ballot in California before November anyway. He and his wife, Norah, are scheduled to be arraigned in San Diego tomorrow.

NORAH O’DONNELL: All right, Nancy on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Wednesday’s edition of Good Morning America is below. 

ABC's Good Morning America


7:31 a.m. Eastern

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS: Also right now, one of the President’s first supporters in the House, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife have been indicted, accused of using campaign funds for personal use including luxury vacations. House Speaker Paul Ryan has removed the California Congressman from his committee assignments until the matter is resolved but the Congressman saying he is going to run for re-election.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Wednesday’s ABC World News Tonight is below.  

ABC's World News Tonight


6:48 p.m. Eastern

DAVID MUIR: Next tonight, the stunning indictments of a California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife. Prosecutors now accusing them of spending campaign funds, your money, at Costco, tuition for their kids, a trip to Italy. Tonight, the Congressman now responding, and here’s Lindsey Davis.

LINDSEY DAVIS: The California Congressman accused of using campaign money as a personal piggy bank, tonight, defiant.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: This is the new Department of Justice. This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement. That’s what’s happening right, it’s happening with Trump and it’s happening with me.

DAVIS: But in a 47-page indictment, prosecutors allege Duncan Hunter and his wife used a quarter million collars in campaign money and falsified documents to pay for personal expenses they could not otherwise afford; including more than $11,000 at Costco, $6,000 for their kids’ tuition and more than $14,000 for a family Thanksgiving vacation to Italy. In that instance, prosecutors say, in an attempt to legitimize the spending, the marine vet attempted to set up a tour of a U.S. Naval Facility in Italy. When Navy officials couldn’t offer one on that date, prosecutors say Hunter subsequently told his chief of staff, “tell the Navy to go expletive themselves.” Tonight, Hunter, who was among the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, is refusing calls to step down, calling the allegations politically motivated. And Hunter is also refusing to give up his committee duties, so, the Republicans will then have to vote in September to have him removed. Now, remember, this is the second indictment of a House Republican and an early Trump endorser this month alone. Democrats now think that both seats could now be in play for the midterms. David?

MUIR: Lindsey, thank you.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s edition of CBS This Morning is below.

CBS This Morning


7:17:27 AM-7:18:18 AM (51s)

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter says charges of spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses are nothing but politics. Hunter and his wife are scheduled to appear in court this morning, in his first comment on the case, the California Congressman accused the Justice Department and Republican Attorney General Jeff sessions of acting as a law enforcement arm for Democrats.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: You have the most political folks in the U.S. Attorney’s office here that attended a Hillary Clinton fund-raiser before they dropped the charges on me two years ago. You have partisan biased Department of Justice employees that are doing it to Trump, they’re doing it to me.

GOLODRYGA: Hunter and his wife allegedly used campaign money to pay for utility bills, school tuition and international travel.  He says they are excited to go to trial.