Hostile: 89 Percent of Network Trump Coverage Is Negative

Study finds ABC, CBS, NBC overwhelmingly biased against president in first 80 days

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 20 Apr 2017 at 11:46 AM

Although the mainstream media famously afforded former President Barack Obama a “honeymoon period” in the early months of his presidency, President Donald Trump received no such fawning treatment, according to a study released Wednesday by the Media Research Center.

Three of the major news networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — gave Trump “by far the most hostile press treatment of any incoming American president,” the MRC study found. Through analysis of the three networks’ evening news coverage from Jan. 20 to April 9, the study found that 89 percent of coverage of the Trump administration had been negative.

“They don’t like his policies. They don’t like his character. And I think they are trying to just run his campaign into overtime to continue to try to discredit him in the eyes of the American public.”

“I think the elite liberal media do not think that Donald Trump is worthy of being president,” Rich Noyes, MRC’s research director and one of the report’s authors, told LifeZette. “They don’t like his policies. They don’t like his character. And I think they are trying to just run his campaign into overtime to continue to try to discredit him in the eyes of the American public.”

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The study’s authors analyzed the news coverage concerning Trump’s first 80 days in office and found that the networks “largely ignored important national priorities such as jobs and the fight against ISIS,” instead choosing to push “a news agenda that has been dominated by anti-Trump controversies and which closely matches what would be expected from an opposition party.”

In total, networks ran 896 stories covering Trump’s administration, including 737 full reports and 132 shorter reports, as well as 140 reports that centered on separate main topics but touched on the Trump administration, MRC found.

The networks in question predominately covered five main topics that consumed 1,900 minutes and 43 percent of their collective coverage: Trump’s travel ban, the investigation into Russia’s tampering with the presidential election, the push to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump’s cracking down on illegal immigration and enforcement, and his claims that Obama “wiretapped” him.

Those five topics alone accounted for 63 percent of the networks’ negative coverage of the Trump administration. Coverage on those topics was more than 90 percent negative.

“Now normally a new president gets a honeymoon where, you know — a sort of a blank slate — you start clean,” Noyes said. “It is very different from what you had with Barack Obama in 2009 when he was celebrated by the media. And to look at the coverage of those 100 days during these hundred days is just night and day.”

Bombshell revelations have since suggested there was incidental surveillance and perhaps inappropriate unmasking of Trump officials before and after the election.

The three networks spent 223 minutes covering the president’s travel-ban executive orders with a 93 percent negative slant. The media allocated 222 minutes, with 97 percent negative coverage, of allegations of Russian collusion in 2016 election meddling.

Obamacare stories earned 152 minutes with a 94 percent negative slant, while immigration topics totaled 120 minutes with 93 percent negative reporting. As for Trump’s wiretapping claims, the networks doled out 98 minutes filled with 99 percent negative coverage.

Regarding the wiretapping claims, NBC’s Lester Holst used the opportunity to portray Trump as a serial liar, saying on March 20, “After a string of unproven claims, will this president struggle to keep the trust of the American public?”

CBS’s Scott Pelley suggested on March 8 that Trump may even suffer from psychological problems when he asked Democratic official Leon Panetta whether it is “appropriate to ask whether the president is having difficulty with rationality?”

Bombshell revelations have since suggested there was incidental surveillance and perhaps inappropriate unmasking of Trump officials before and after the election.

Key topics of great importance — such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and the war against the Islamic State — received a mere 69 minutes and 57 minutes of coverage, respectively.

“Eight years ago, the networks’ treatment of President Obama’s first 100 days was very different,” the MRC report noted. “Back then, the networks delivered most of their coverage to Obama’s key policy priorities, topped by the nearly $1 trillion ‘stimulus’ package (150 stories, or 15 percent of the total). The network spin for that legislation: 58 percent positive, vs. 42 percent negative.”

MRC’s report at the time indicated “the networks also doled mostly positive coverage for Obama’s intervention in the housing market (59 percent positive), his decision to use taxpayer money to fund embryo-destroying stem cell research (82 percent positive), as well as his push for more government action on global warming (78 percent positive).”

But major networks did not even attempt objectivity with Trump, according to MRC.

“It reaffirms their own bias that they see [their coverage] as objective,” Noyes said. “But, you know, we’re in [a] period now where the media, the news media — even those that are supposed to be objective — can’t get past their own point of view.”

The methodology used in the study "was designed to isolate the networks' own slant, not the back-and-forth of partisan politics," MRC noted, saying that the analysts "instead tallied evaluative statements which imparted a clear positive or negative tone to the story, such as statements from experts presented as non-partisan, voters, or opinionated statements from the networks' own reporters."

This methodology led to the tallying of "1,687 evaluative statements about the Trump administration, of which 1,501 (89 percent) were negative vs. a mere 186 (11 percent) which were positive."

"But their coverage seems no different than, you know, what you get from liberal politicians or liberal editorialists," Noyes noted. "It's vehemently, stridently critical of this president. And they were demonstrably supportive of the last president."

Noyes noted that one of the "easiest" ways the media often afford positive coverage to a new president during the "honeymoon period" is to report on a few of the "soft, gaudy stories you might get about the first family."

"They don't have to embrace Donald Trump's most polarizing policies, but a nice story about the children or Melania, you know, a little behind-the-scenes at the White House that just sort of reaches across the aisle and is a feel-good story that all sides should be able to agree with," Noyes said. "Those are harmless, but they go a long way to sort of affirm the institutions. And instead, it's just been vehemently critical almost from the very first."

The coverage of the Trump administration's first 80 days has instead been nothing short of hostile, the MRC study found.

"I expect this is going to be the trend for the next four years, that you're going to see the media acting as a hostile opposition party to this president," Noyes said. "And we'll see if it ever changes the public's perception, or whether or not the public has made up its minds not just about the president but about the elite media."

  1. barack Obama
  2. Donald Trump
  3. mainstream media
  4. Media Bias
  5. Media Research Center
  6. Trump Administration
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