According to the three networks, the serious effort by conservatives to defund ObamaCare isn't worth as much coverage as the addition of a new dog to the President's family. In just a 24-hour period, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening and morning shows devoted six minutes and 23 seconds to the debut of the puppy "Sunny." In contrast, those same shows have granted a scant two minutes and 26 seconds over a two-month period (July 9 through September 8) to the move by conservative senators such as Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to strip funding from the increasingly-unpopular ObamaCare.
The networks didn't bother to stack the deck with segments heavily opposed to the "Defund It" push, promoted by influential conservative organizations and some GOP lawmakers. Instead, they chose to deprive the campaign of nearly all publicity, omitting it from their normal political coverage. ABC was the worst offender, with the network offering a mere eight second reference to the defund effort.
However, on August 19 and 20, the hosts of World News and Good Morning America discussed the Obamas acquisition of Sunny the Portugese Water Dog for 174 seconds. This is a disparity of 20 to one – an accomplishment even more amazing considering that it was July 9 when Senator Lee first began pushing to defund ObamaCare.
The sole ABC mention of the conservative plan came on the August 18 Good Morning America. George Stephanopoulos told GMA Sunday host Bianna Golodryga: "...If [congressional Republicans] shut down the government, say, over their cause to de-fund Obamacare, they will relegate themselves to minority status for generations."
NBC allowed slightly more coverage, 52 seconds worth. On August 9, Chuck Todd simply repeated White House talking points. Recounting an Obama news conference, he hyped, "[The President] said this about Republicans threatening government shutdown: 'The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent thirty million people from getting health care is a bad idea.'"
The key players in the effort, people like Lee and Cruz, also didn't get much attention. Since July 9, CBS's morning and evening programs included one clip of Lee and one of Cruz. NBC allowed just one snippet of Cruz. ABC's morning and evening shows had none.
On August 12, the Today show showcased one of those clips, insisting that "Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz is hoping to pick up steam by antagonizing the President."
CBS provided the most about of coverage of the drive to defund Obamacare (86 seconds). At the same time, the network, over the 24 hour period of August 19 and 20, offered the least amount of time to Sunny (22 seconds).
On the July 28 CBS Evening News, reporter Jeff Pegues featured Senator Lee asserting, "We all know that the government is going to get funded. The only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without it."
But he also included a clip of GOP Congressman Peter King deriding his Republican colleagues: "There's no reason to be threatening to bring down the government. Let`s make this work. Let's get the spending cuts we need. But American people get turned off with the threat of terror politics."
The repeal effort got slightly more coverage on the Sunday morning shows, This Week, Meet the Press and Face the Nation. But the evening and morning shows receive much higher ratings and command more influence. Considering that something as superficial as a new presidential dog earned substantially more coverage in 24 hours, one can only imagine the push a Democratic Congress would have received in its efforts to derail the law of a Republican President.