Net Coverage of Hunter Scandal Nearly Quadruples in Past 24 Hours

August 24th, 2018 5:35 PM

After the morning newscasts of ABC and CBS spent a total of 4 minutes and 44 seconds covering the criminal indictment of California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter in the first 36 hours since the story broke, the number increased four-fold following another news cycle, with the total standing at 17 minutes and 13 seconds as of Friday morning.

On Thursday evening, all three evening newscasts featured lengthy reports on Hunter and his wife following a court appearance. The CBS Evening News featured a package on Hunter’s arraignment, which lasted for two minutes and 11 seconds. Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, made sure to mention: “Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse President Trump during the campaign. The first was New York’s Chris Collins, who was indicted earlier this month on insider trading charges.”

Over on ABC's World News Tonight, a segment by reporter Lindsey Davis also totaled two minutes and 11 seconds and noted Hunter’s ties to Trump

NBC Nightly News didn’t cover the Hunter indictment on Wednesday but more than made up for it on Thursday's broadcast by devoting 1 minute and 56 seconds to it. Introducing the segment, host Lester Holt hyped that Hunter was “one of President Trump’s earliest supporters.” Correspondent Gadi Schwartz reiterated that point, saying that Hunter was “one of the first to support then-candidate Trump’s bid for (the) Presidency.”

The deluge kept flowing on Friday as Good Morning America’s Hunter coverage dragged on for two minutes and 47 seconds. At the conclusion of the segment, Davis explained: “Under California law, because Hunter won the primary in June, his name cannot be removed from the ballot. Also, California does not allow write-ins so these allegations could put a traditionally Republican seat up for grabs.”

Friday’s CBS This Morning also featured an extensive update that lasted for two minutes and 31 seconds. After Cordes mentioned that Hunter “appeared to blame his wife,” co-host Norah O’Donnell quipped that it’ll be “interesting to see how that throwing the wife under the bus strategy works.”

NBC’s Today featured a short news brief that lasted 53 seconds. Today featured a clip of Hunter’s interview with the Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum from the night before, where he said that his wife “handled my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got into Congress because I’m gone five days a week, I’m home for two. So and she was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that will be, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure.”

Tallying up all of the numbers since the news of Hunter’s indictment first broke Wednesday morning, CBS has spent seven minutes and 39 seconds. ABC came in second place at six minutes and 53 seconds, but keep in mind that they spent absolutely no time covering the indictments and subsequent convictions of former House Democrats Chaka Fattah and Corrine Brown. NBC News has spent a total of 2 minutes and 49 seconds on Hunter since Thursday evening.

As of Friday morning, the networks have devoted more than 15 times the amount of coverage to the Hunter scandal in the first 60 hours than they did for the entire duration of scandals surrounding the aforementioned Democratic politicians from indictment to conviction. And people still think the media has no bias.

A transcript of the relevant portion of August 23's CBS Evening News is below.

CBS Evening News


06:40 p.m. Eastern

JEFF GLOR: California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife pleaded not guilty today to charges they use a quarter million dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses. More on this from Nancy Cordes.

NANCY CORDES: Republican Duncan Hunter was surrounded by protesters as he entered a San Diego courthouse. His wife arrived separately. Inside, they both pleaded not guilty to 60 counts, ranging from wire fraud to falsifying records. They’re accused of using campaign funds constantly over seven years to pay for groceries, utilities, school tuition, video games, a Hawaiian vacation, even airfare for the family’s pet rabbit. Hunter’s attorney tried to frame the case as an election-year hit job.

HUNTER: This investigation, we believe, was politically motivated. It was, it was started by prosecutors that attended a Democratic fundraiser.

CORDES: But the indictment lays out dozens of examples of Hunter and his wife allegedly disguising their spending to make it seem campaign related. A $700 payment to the local dentist was recorded as a “charitable contribution to ‘Smiles For Life,’” a $200 weekly golf outing Hunter claimed was “‘a Christian thing’ with a supporter.” The former marine tried to justify using campaign funds for a $14,000 Italian vacation by scheduling a visit to a Navy base there. When Navy officials couldn’t accommodate his chosen date, Hunter allegedly “told his Chief of Staff, ‘tell the Navy to go f*** themselves’…”

HUNTER: They’re completely false.

CORDES: Republicans worry the case creates an opening for Hunter’s Democratic challenger.

AMMAR CAMPA-NAJJAR: Washington, shoot them up and spout them out and engulfed him in the corruption that has plagued Washington for too long.

CORDES: Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse President Trump during the campaign. The first was New York’s Chris Collins, who was indicted earlier this month on insider trading charges. Jeff.

GLOR: Nancy Cordes, thank you.

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

ABC World News Tonight


06:41 p.m. Eastern

TOM LLAMAS: We turn now to the Congressman and his wife indicted in California. Protesters yelling “lock him up” as Congressman Duncan Hunter was outside the courthouse today. The couple accused of spending $250,000 in campaign money on personal expenses, everything from Costco to a lavish vacation in Italy. Here’s ABC’s Lindsey Davis. 

PROTESTERS: Lock him up! Lock him up!

LINDSEY DAVIS: Jeers and chants of “lock him up” greeting U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter as the Republican Congressman arrived at court separately from his wife, Margaret. Inside, the couple pleading not guilty to an explosive 60-count indictment. Federal prosecutors detailing a laundry list of instances from 2009 through 2016 of the couple allegedly using a quarter of a million dollars in campaign money to pay for personal expenses; more than $15,000 for airline tickets and hotel rooms, including a lavish trip to Italy, $250 to fly a family pet to Washington, D.C. According to prosecutors, they spent more than $3,000 on fast food, disguised family dental bills paid with campaign funds as a charitable donation to “Smiles for life.” On one occasion, prosecutors say when the lawmaker didn’t have enough money to buy shorts, his wife advised the former marine to buy them at a golf shop so they could characterize the purchase as golf balls for wounded warriors. All this, according to the indictment, as the couple racked up more than $37,000 in insufficient funds fees on their personal accounts. 

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: The U.S. Government can do what they want, whenever they want to, and they’ve shown that against me. They’ve shown it against trump. 

DAVIS: Hunter, one of the first congressmen to endorse the President, maintains the indictment is politically motivated, despite the charges being brought by a Trump appointee. 

LLAMAS: Lindsey Davis joins us now, live in studio and Lindsey, this is an election year and Duncan says that he, excuse me, Hunter says that he is going to fight and fight for his re-election and because of California law, he will stay on the ballot? 

DAVIS: That’s exactly right, Tom. You know, Hunter  has willingly give up some key assignments, but he’s vowing to stay in the race and his name will stay on the ballot because in California, basically, first of all, you’re not allowed to have write-ins and because he won the primary in June, your name has to stay on the ballot. Tom? 

LLAMAS: Lindsey Davis for us tonight, Lindsey, thank you.

A transcript of the relevant portion of NBC Nightly News is below.

NBC Nightly News


07:09 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Now to the spending scandal rocking the political world. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who was one of President Trump’s earliest supporters, arraigned in court today. Both Hunter and his wife pleading not guilty to charges they lavishly spent campaign money on themselves. Our Gadi Schwartz has the story. 

GADI SCHWARTZ: Congressman Duncan Hunter arriving at court this morning greeting a crowd of cameras and protesters. Inside, the  Republican Congressman from California and former marine pleading not guilty to wire fraud, falsifying records, and campaign finance violations. In a blistering indictment, prosecutors say Hunter and his wife Margaret violated campaign laws when they blew through a quarter of a million dollars of campaign money for personal use; including nearly $30,000 for family vacations to Italy, Hawaii and Vegas, more than $12,000 for fast food, alcohol and groceries. A trip to Sea World, their kids’ private school tuition and payments to a family dentist allegedly classified as a    charitable contribution. His wife allegedly spending $152 on makeup at Nordstrom telling the campaign, it was gift basket items for the Boys and Girls’ Clubs of San Diego and the purchase of Hawaiian shorts as “some golf balls for the wounded warriors.” After a Wounded Warrior event this week, Hunter said this. 

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: I’ve done nothing wrong and I say bring the trial now. 

SCHWARTZ: The Congressman, one of the first to support then-candidate Trump’s bid for Presidency, says all this was politically motivated but experts take issue with the way money was spent. 

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it seems that it was a personal piggy bank for himself that he was dipping into those funds as if it was his personal checking account to fund a lifestyle that was well above his means. 

SCHWARTZ: For now, Hunter removed from his committee appointments in Congress but still receiving a salary of $174,000. Today in court, asking for a lower bond because his family was living paycheck to paycheck. Gadi Schwartz, NBC News. 

A transcript of the relevant portion of ABC's Good Morning America is below.

ABC’s Good Morning America


07:11 a.m. Eastern

MICHAEL STRAHAN: And now to embattled California Congressman Duncan Hunter, who is in court on charges he and his wife illegally used more than $250,000 in campaign funds on themselves.  ABC’s Lindsey Davis joins us now with more. Good morning, Lindsey.

LINDSEY DAVIS: Good morning, Michael. The Hunters appeared in court yesterday defiant and entered pleas of not guilty. While federal law pro…forbids spending of campaign funds for personal purposes, according to the 47-page indictment, the couple did just that, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, tuition, gas, groceries, even dental work. Overnight, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter on the defense. 

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: My campaign did make mistakes. There was money spent on things, not by me but by the campaign and I paid that back before my last election. I paid back $60,000 after I did an objective audit. This is pure politics. 

DAVIS: Earlier in the day, the California Representative and his wife Margaret pleading not guilty to federal charges that they used a quarter of a million dollars in campaign money to pay for personal expenses. Prosecutors allege they illegally used more than $15,000 of campaign funds for airline tickets and hotel rooms including a lavish trip to Italy, more than $11,000 at Costco, $6,000 for their children’s tuition, $3,000 on fast food and even disguised family dental bills paid with campaign funds as a charitable donation to “Smiles for Life.” On one occasion, prosecutors say when the lawmaker didn’t have money to buy shorts his wife advised him to buy them at a golf shop so they could characterize the purchase as golf balls for wounded warriors. The couple stood next to each other in court but appeared to avoid eye contact. And after that court appearance, Hunter pointed directly to his wife’s involvement in his finances. 

HUNTER: When I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress. She was also the campaign manager so whatever she did, that will be, that will be looked at too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it. 

DAVIS: The investigation started more than seven years ago and the charges were brought by a Trump appointee but Hunter maintains the indictment is politically motivated. 

HUNTER: The U.S. Government can do what they want whenever they want to and they’ve showed that against me and they’ve shown it against Trump. 

DAVIS: Hunter says he has no intention of going anywhere, vowing to stay in the race in November’s upcoming congressional election. 

HUNTER: We’re going to fight through it and win and the people get to vote in November. 

DAVIS: Under California law, because Hunter won the primary in June, his name cannot be removed from the ballot. Also, California does not allow write-ins so these allegations could put a traditionally Republican seat up for grabs. 

STRAHAN: Definitely up for grabs. We’ll watch this one play out in court, it looks like. 

AMY ROBACH: All right, Lindsey. Thank you very much.

A transcript of the relevant portion of CBS This Morning is below.

CBS This Morning


07:12 a.m. Eastern

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Well, California Congressman Duncan Hunter says he will be reelected in November after he and his wife pleaded not guilty to 60 counts of using campaign funds for personal expenses. The couple is charged with conspiring to steal more than a quarter million dollars from his campaign, falsifying spending records and ignoring multiple warnings from staff about improper use of campaign funds. Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the latest. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning and despite those dozens of charges, the judge agreed to set a low bail, $15,000 for the Congressman, $10,000 for his wife, because prosecutors said the couple is currently living paycheck to paycheck, in an interview, Hunter denied some of the purchases, defended others and in some cases appeared to blame his wife. A few hours after his arraignment, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter said any misuse of campaign funds was not his fault. 

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: My campaign did make mistakes. There was money spent on things not by me but by the campaign. 

CORDES: He said his wife, charged alongside him, handled the finances. 

HUNTER: Whatever she did, that will be, that will be looked at, too. 

CORDES: The indictment says both Hunters used campaign funds for seven years to pay for groceries, school tuition, utilities, alcohol, and dinners out. Three family vacations in one year cost donors more than $24,000. 

HUNTER: That’s how we campaign and try to raise money is by traveling, having dinners, meeting people and raising more money.

CORDES: When Hunter needed a pair of Hawaii shorts, his wife allegedly suggested he buy them at a golf pro shop so they could list it as a campaign purchase, of some golf balls for wounded warriors. 

HUNTER: I did not use campaign monies especially for wounded warrior stuff, there’s no way. 

CORDES: Hunter says he conducted a “objective” audit before the 2016 election and paid back $60,000 but the government alleges he and his wife stole more than $250,000. Republicans worry Hunter’s legal trouble creates an opening for his Democratic challenger, a Palestinian Mexican-American Democrat who had already been outraising the incumbent in what is normally a reliably Republican district. 

AMMAR CAMPA-NAJJAR: And I think Washington shoot ‘em up and spout ‘em out and engulfed him in the corruption. 

CORDES: It is too late for Republicans to replace Hunter on the ballot, even if he were to step down. He has been stripped of his committee assignments, a move he initially resisted but now Norah, he says he’ll go along with it. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: Interesting to see how that throwing the wife under the bus strategy works, Nancy, thank you. 

A transcript of the relevant portion of NBC's Today is below.

NBC’s Today


07:14 a.m. Eastern

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Meantime, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, pleaded not guilty Thursday. Allegations are that they illegally used campaign funds for personal expenses. They’re accused of using over $250,000 to finance their own family vacations, golf outings, school tuition and theater tickets. Well, Hunter seemed to point the finger at his wife on Thursday, saying she’s the one that handled the money. 

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: She handled my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got into Congress because I’m gone five days a week, I’m home for two. So and she was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that will be, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally. I didn’t, I did not use campaign money.

GUTHRIE: Well, Hunter says the charges are politically motivated and without merit. Thursday, he voluntarily stepped down, though, from three committee assignments in the House.