CNN has been obsessed over President Donald Trump’s dinner chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin — but yawned by comparison at former President Barack Obama’s infamous “hot-mic” moment with Dmitri Medvedev, then the Russian President.
The conservative watchdog Media Research Center on Wednesday compared press coverage of the two events. From 5 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, CNN devoted a full 75 minutes of coverage to revelations that Trump and Putin spoke for nearly an hour at a dinner of world leaders two weeks ago at the G-20 summit in Germany.
No one other than Trump, Putin, and a Russian interpreter knows what the leaders talked about, but the fact the public did not previously know about the meeting and the broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election sent speculation into overdrive.
By contrast, CNN gave just 25 minutes during a comparable seven-hour period on March 26, 2012, when a microphone picked up a conversation between Obama and Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea. Obama told his counterpart that a dispute over missile defense could be solved but only if Russia gave him space.
“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev said. “I understand your message about space. Space for you.”
Obama then elaborated, alluding to his upcoming re-election campaign.
“This is my last election,” he said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Responded Medvedev: “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” a reference to Putin, whom many experts considered the true power in Russia even after he temporary gave up the presidency in favor of a stint as prime minister.
Rich Noyes, research director of the Media Research Center, said it is hard to imagine the frenzy that would ensue if a microphone captured Trump telling Putin that he needed “space” and would have more “flexibility” after an election.
“It’s a window into what the media think of each of these presidents,” he said. “They trusted Barack Obama … They seem to have a very condescending view of Trump and don’t think he should be trusted to be left alone with a world leader.”
“The media trusted Barack Obama … They seem to have a very condescending view of Trump and don’t think he should be trusted to be left alone with a world leader.”
The think tank points out in its report that CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer described the hot-mic incident in 2012 as “an awkward moment, indeed.”
Some in the media seem to consider the Trump-Putin meeting as more evidence of nefarious connections between the president and Russia.
For his part, Trump on Tuesday tweeted that coverage of the dinner was “sick.” In another tweet, he wrote, “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!”
The political environment, of course, is much different now than in 2012. Then, there were not clouds swirling over Obama’s presidency involving Russia as there are now. Given that, could it be justified that CNN would devote more time to the story?
Noyes said the reason for the different context is that reporters have “hyped Russia to the point where they have built this up as a major story even without any compelling evidence.”
Indeed, a separate Media Research Center report on Wednesday demonstrates just how much Russia has overwhelmed coverage of all other news. From July 9 to 18, according to the report, the evening news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC covered the Trump-Russia probe for a combined 114 minutes. That is twice as much as the combined coverage given to two other major stories — the Republican health care bill (44 minutes) and the Islamic State’s battlefield defeat in Iraq (13 minutes).
Meanwhile, none of the network evening news shows during that period gave a second of coverage to the stock market reaching a record high, the death of the ISIS leader in Afghanistan, the firing of top officials at the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs, or the FBI’s investigation into possible criminal misconduct by the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during her tenure as president of Burlington College in Vermont.