Television networks have devoted almost 42 minutes, most of it negative, to covering President-Elect Donald Trump’s choice as chief White House strategist — while ignoring the controversial history of the man who might be the next leader of the Democratic Party.
The Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog, compiled the data for a study published Wednesday. Trump’s selection of Stephen Bannon has generated 41 minutes and 46 seconds of coverage on the Big Three networks. Of that, 74 percent has been negative, focusing on topics like Bannon’s alleged ties to white nationalists and other bigots.
“They are covering his bid; they’re just not covering him negatively at all.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has gotten just two minutes and nine seconds of coverage with his bid for Democratic National Committee chairman. None has been negative, according to the Media Research Center.
“They are covering his bid; they’re just not covering him negatively at all,” said Rich Noyes, the center’s research director.
It is not like there is not a controversial record to report, Noyes said. The study points to Ellison’s alleged ties to the Nation of Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been linked to terrorism and anti-Semitism. The study also points to a video in which Ellison once suggested that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were akin to the Reichstag fire that helped propel Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party to power in Germany in 1933.
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A sample of the coverage highlighted by the Media Research Center includes:
- ABC News correspondent Tom Llamas on Monday calling Bannon “a champion of the Alt-Right, a conservative movement many say is fueled by racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism.”
- NBC anchor Lester Holt telling viewers that Trump was “lifting a man with ties to white nationalists into the heart of the White House.”
- CBS reporter Chip Reid reporting old domestic charges against Bannon — charges that were dropped long ago — and accusations that Bannon did not want his children going to school with Jews. That comes from an allegation that Bannon’s wife made during a divorce proceeding.
Several news organizations in recent days have quoted Bannon’s assertion that Breitbart News, where he was executive chairman before taking a leave of absence to run Trump’s presidential campaign, was a forum for the “Alt-Right.” The news sources then provide readers with a definition of that term. Reuters described it this way: “a loose grouping of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and anti-Semites.”
Noyes said it is unfair to offer such a definitive description, particularly for a term that is so unfamiliar to most Americans. He said he had personally never heard it before this year’s presidential election.
“What does Bannon mean by that?” he asked.
Noyes said it also seems unfair to tag Bannon with every incendiary headline that Breitbart ever ran while he was executive chairman.
“He was the publisher. He wasn’t the editor in charge of headlines,” he said.
The Media Research Center report quotes an unlikely defender of Bannon, Ben Shapiro, who resigned as Breitbart’s editor at large in May after Bannon failed to defend a Breitbart reporter who accused Turmp’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowsi of assaulting her. He called Bannon a “vindictive, nasty figure.”
Shapiro wrote Wednesday in the Daily Wire that the media undermine their own credibility by over-the-top accusations.
“They claim that he’s personally anti-Semitic and racist and a white nationalist and anti-Israel, without evidence,” Shapiro wrote. “This is ridiculous. And all it does is provoke defense from the right. For God’s sake, I’m now defending Steve Bannon! The media can’t stop their overreach, because everybody on the right is Hitler to the media, which means that Bannon must be Super-Duper-Hitler.”
One reason why the media have focused more heavily on Bannon is that he will be in a far more influential position, with an office in the West Wing, than Ellison. But Noyes said leading the Democratic Party, particularly at a time when the party is shut out of the White House and the Senate and House majorities, is nothing to sneeze at.
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“They’re both big-deal jobs,” he said.