The coverage of the current nomination struggle over the next justice of the Supreme Court looks extremely different on Fox News than on CNN and MSNBC. On Fox News, hosts and guests are overwhelmingly focusing on a false narrative that Democrats oppose the confirmation of nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the court based on her Catholic faith and personal life. The channel’s initial coverage serves as the bellwether for the right-wing media playbook of how they want the fight to transpire over the next month. Reputable media outlets must recognize the spin for what it is -- a manufactured criticism seeking to distract from the fact that Barrett was nominated as a means to end the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade, and countless other progressive accomplishments and precedents.
Despite several top administration officials and members of Congress -- including the president, the first lady, White House press secretary, and at least two senators who serve on the Judiciary Committee -- testing positive for COVID-19, Republicans still plan on a quick confirmation of Barrett in October. Barring yet another outbreak among these key players or a sensational new discovery about the nominee’s past or record, there is every reason to think Fox News will continue the false framing it engaged in for the first week prior to the president’s coronavirus diagnosis, even though these claims of a concerted attack on the nominee’s religion are baseless.
A Media Matters analysis of weekday programming found that from September 21 to October 1, Fox News aired 87 segments about alleged faith attacks against Barrett, while CNN and MSNBC had only six each. Notably, the information about Barrett being the nominee didn’t leak until September 25, while the official nomination took place on September 26. But 37 of Fox’s 87 segments aired before the news leaked around 4 p.m. EDT on September 25.
This fabricated right-wing narrative is all by design. As The New Republic’s Matt Ford explained:
This is a trap. Conservatives know they can’t defend Barrett’s nomination on process grounds after Mitch McConnell’s Merrick Garland blockade in 2016. Nor can they easily defend her nomination on political grounds, since most Americans oppose replacing Ginsburg before the election and prefer Biden over Trump when it comes to choosing the next justice. So they’ve invented an anti-Catholic bias on the left, seeking to bait Democrats into saying ridiculous things about Barrett’s personal life and background. The right’s hope, perhaps, is that the shared sense of grievance and victimhood that propels Trumpism can be harnessed in this case as well.
Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. EDT through midnight) from September 21 (the Monday after Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing) through October 1, 2020 (the day before Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis). We searched for segments that analysts determined to include any suggestion from any speaker that Democrats or the Democratic Party were attacking Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith.