Frenzied Media Give Four Times More Coverage to Akin Flap Than Biden's 'Chains' Smear

August 22nd, 2012 1:23 PM

A week after giving relatively light coverage to Joe Biden's "chains" smear, the broadcast networks eagerly dove into the Todd Akin controversy, giving over four times more coverage to an uproar involving a statewide (conservative) politician than a controversy involving a national (liberal) politician. NBC, CBS and ABC's evening and morning shows have devoted an astonishing 88 minutes (or 40 segments) of coverage to Congressman Akin's "legitimate rape" remark. Over a similar three day period, the networks allowed a scant 19 minutes (or ten segments) to a racially charged gaffe by the Vice President of the United States.

CBS This Morning reporter Norah O'Donnell on Tuesday pronounced, "If Akin is still running for the United States Senate, everybody is going to be asking about Akin, abortion rights, women's rights, etc., during the Republican convention." CBS journalists certainly did their best to make sure "everybody" would be talking about the Republican. The network hyped the story the most, pushing the controversy for 13 segments and 37 minutes.

Last week, Joe Biden spoke to a largely black audience and smeared the Republican Party, telling his audience, "They're going to put y'all back in chains!" That gaffe (among others), spurred much embarrassment among Democrats and talk of dropping Biden from the ticket. Yet on CBS, reporters allowed just under ten minutes, a nearly four-to-one-gap.
NBC offered a scant six minutes, just three full or partial segments. (In comparison, the network produced 18 segments on Akin.) That's a difference of five-to-one.

On Tuesday's Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell tried to connect Akin to the GOP presidential ticket.

Highlighting the congressman's confused remark about rape victims not getting pregnant because their bodies "shut down," Mitchell noted, "By the way, doctor, the doctor who first espoused Akin's statement and used to head the right-to-life party, the Romney campaign called an important person to them."

Today panelist Star Jones on Tuesday insisted that "the Romney/Ryan ticket is going to be tarred" with Akin for the "entire campaign."

Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday immediately attempted to turn a previously obscure congressman into an example of GOP opinion. Talking to Jake Tapper, he breathlessly wondered, "We saw the President pounce in the White House briefing room yesterday. How are the Democrats going to try to capitalize on this today?"

ABC promoted the Akin story with nine segments over 19 minutes. In contrast, the same network focused on Biden's problems for a mere three and a half minutes over three segments. This amounts to another five-to-one disparity.

Stephanopoulos on Wednesday interviewed Akin, bristling at a Tweet the campaign sent out saying the "liberal media is trying to" force Akin "out of the race." The host complained, "The calls for you to go have come from Mitt Romney, Republican Senators, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh. That is not the liberal media."

However, one reason that the conservative movement has been so concerned about Akin's comments is, precisely, because the liberal media have chosen to elevate the gaffe into a national incident and to tie Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to the remarks. On Monday's World News, David Muir connected Akin, saying "...That congressman has often seen eye to eye with Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan on abortion."

Gaffe-prone Biden has created many problems for the President and the Democratic Party. But one wouldn't know it from watching the scant coverage on the networks.

For another comparison, one to actual rape charges, the networks went very light on Juanita Broaddrick's rape accusations against Bill Clinton. After Broaddrick's appearance on Dateline, the networks allowed just four items on her charges.

[Thanks to MRC analysts Kyle Drennen, Matt Balan and MRC intern Jeff Meyer for assistance.]