Network news coverage of President Donald Trump and his administration has been overwhelmingly negative, according to a new study from a conservative media watchdog.
During Trump’s first 30 days in office (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18), the Media Research Center study found that Trump and his administration were the subject of 16 hours of coverage on network evening newscasts on NBC, CBS, and ABC News. Coverage of Trump equated to 54 percent of all the news covered in evening newscasts by the networks during that time period.
“Only 3 percent of the reports about Trump that aired on NBC and CBS were positive, whereas 43 percent were negative and 54 percent were neutral.”
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While incoming administrations often enjoy something of a grace period from the media, the MRC study shows that the tone of Trump’s media coverage was 88 percent negative — just shy of the 91 percent hostile coverage directed at Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Our measure of media tone excludes soundbites from identified partisans, focusing instead on tallying the evaluative statements made by reporters and the non-partisan talking heads (experts and average citizens) included in their stories,” wrote the authors of the MRC study, Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella, in a post published on Newsbusters.
The MRC study also documented many situations in which network anchors and reporters prefaced their stories with an anti-Trump editorial tone.
“It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality,” said “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley as he began his Feb. 6 broadcast.
“Instead of working to clarify or backtrack on President Trump’s false claims,” NBC’s Hallie Jackson quipped on the Jan. 24 “Nightly News,” “today his press secretary instead tried to cement them.”
Trump garnered the most negative coverage over an executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven terror-ridden nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
On this issue alone, the three evening newscasts spent more than 3 hours (188 minutes) covering the topic, which accounted for about one-fifth of all of the Trump administration’s coverage, according to the MRC study.
NBC’s Lester Holt began his Jan. 30 newscast covering the order from, “The Statue of Liberty, which for nearly 130 years has symbolized the welcome arms of a country of immigrants.” In his analysis of Trump’s executive action, Holt cited several anonymous “critics” who “call it a solution in search of a problem, and an unconstitutional and thinly disguised ban on Muslims.”
The MRC study also notes immigration issues accounted for 62 minutes of network airtime. A majority of the coverage was slanted to play up the risk of deportation for all illegal immigrants.
For example, on Feb. 11, ABC’s Jim Avila’s coverage of the order was cast as a “stern warning to all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, most of them law-abiding and paying taxes and working, that they are no longer safe to stay here.”
When former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign Feb. 13 following an onslaught of media reports speculating the extent of his relationship with Russia, the media covered it for 48 minutes.
The study also concludes that these media networks rarely dedicated the same amount of coverage to positive stories as they did for negative ones.
Trump nominating federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia only received roughly 32 minutes of coverage. The networks spent a total of 49 minutes discussing the confirmation battles ahead of Trump’s Cabinet picks, particularly that of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos collected the most airtime from the networks (17 minutes), followed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (10 minutes), and failed Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder (7 minutes). Collectively, the networks spent less than one-tenth as much coverage (just over four minutes) on Senate Democrats’ calculated strategy of obstructing the confirmation process, according to MRC.
Further underlining the partisan tone from these networks, almost an hour of media coverage (56 minutes) was dedicated to anti-Trump protests on several topics, with nearly one-fifth (82 out of 442) of Trump stories that aired during these 30 days including some discussion of an anti-Trump protest.