This morning I broke from my usual media consumption routine during my weekend shift of Hot Air work. Normally I leave the television tuned in to CNN’s New Day with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul. After a couple of hours I shut it off. The reason was that there were really only two stories being covered over and over again. One was the imbroglio over the various women accusing Donald Trump of groping or kissing them and the other was the Wikileaks release of John Podesta’s emails. That’s probably a fair balance of two major campaign stories if we want to pretend that there’s no element of media bias at play, but one of them was being discussed for vast blocks of time while the other received a quick question for two guests to debate for a minute or so and then they cut to commercial.
Care to guess which story was which?
This got me thinking yet again about the recent claims that Donald Trump is engaged in some sort of war on the media. How horrible! The man is clearly trying to undermine our democracy. This theme jumps out at me in every batch of headlines I crack open these days. For examples, look no further than the story which our own Larry O’Connor broke open earlier this week about DNC Chair Donna Brazile feeding debate questions to Hillary Clinton. Larry interviewed Jake Tapper about it and he described it as journalistically horrifying.
How much do you know about that story? If you get all of your campaign information from cable news I’m guessing the answer is not much. In fact, while it may have happened briefly, I haven’t personally seen it so much as mentioned on CNN over the past few days. There’s been the odd coverage of some of the other emails, but not this story. By contrast, I now know virtually every detail of the Trump accusations, down to the level of what sorts of clothing the women were wearing, their seating arrangements on planes or in clubs and the names of their mothers and sisters who they complained to.
Still, the media largely finds any criticism of the balance in their coverage to be a cause for further attacking Trump rather than an examination of their own practices. Paul Farhi at the Washington Post complains, The press always got booed at Trump rallies. But now the aggression is menacing. Paul Waldman went further, declaring that Trump’s “war on the media” has failed.
But now, it’s important for Republicans to understand this critical fact about Trump’s outright declaration of war against the media: It’s failing. It hasn’t intimidate reporters into giving him the adulatory coverage he wanted; in fact, if anything it has encouraged them to investigate him as thoroughly as possible and describe him accurately as the uniquely disturbing and threatening candidate he is.
Joe Concha, writing at The Hill, put the media’s coverage of the campaign in perspective when he compared the network news air time allotted to accusations made by several women against Trump versus the amount of time they spend talking about the Clinton related Wikileaks revelations. And I’m asking you to really pay attention to this short snippet even though it involves some math. (Emphasis added)
In viewing recordings by The Hill of each of the major network news evening newscasts, which are watched by an average 22-24 million viewers each night collectively, the newest batch of Wikileaks revelations — which include derogatory comments of Catholics by senior Clinton campaign officials and more disturbing examples of collusion between the media and said campaign (See: newsworthy stuff) — was covered for a combined 57 seconds out of 66 minutes of total air time on ABC, NBC and CBS.
In a related story, allegations by four women against Donald Trump accusing him of unwanted sexual advances was covered a combined 23 minutes.
Add it all up, and one presidential candidate’s negative news of the day was somehow covered more than 23 times more than another candidate’s negative news of the day.
Keep in mind here that this is the ratio of coverage for all of the various Wikileaks stories about Clinton. The mentions of the specific collusion between TV One co-host Roland Martin, Donna Brazile and Clinton campaign was only a tiny fraction of that. But isn’t this, at least in some ways, the most shocking story of all to emerge from the dusty vaults of John Podesta’s G-mail account? We’re talking about a story where the media isn’t just providing unbalanced coverage, but actually aiding and abetting the Clinton campaign in a presidential debate. If we have evidence of even one instance of this going on, why would anyone already distrustful of the media bias landscape choose to believe the protests coming from cable news talking heads?
So where is CNN’s coverage of this critical story? To their minor credit, while it’s not being discussed on the air, their website does at least hold a single article on this debacle from Brian Stelter. (Though to find it you need to do a search on the key phrase “Donna Brazile” and then scroll down past her bio, her CNN profile, some complaints about Ted Cruz from June of this year and several articles from the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia before finding this piece which was published on Tuesday.)
In it, he concludes that there almost certainly was a leak to Brazile and she absolutely sent at least one question to the Clinton campaign. (She’s refusing to answer the charge directly, of course.) And we should be clear here that it was text taken from Roland Martin’s question. None of Jake Tapper’s questions showed up in the emails. But still, this should be one of the biggest stories of the campaign, and yet you barely hear a peep about it.
Is Donald Trump engaging in a “war on the media” this year? I suppose so. But they certainly seem to be asking for it.