Author Page | Media Matters for America

Rob Savillo

Author ››› Rob Savillo
  • Cable and broadcast news have virtually failed to discuss the ACA open-enrollment period

    Embarrassingly, Fox News devoted the most coverage to the topic, with just under 14 minutes total in two months

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    The open-enrollment period to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov will end in less than two weeks on December 15, but if you rely on TV news you may not even know that the enrollment period began November 1. The three major cable news networks and the three broadcast news networks together have given the open-enrollment period embarrassingly scant coverage in the last two months -- a meager 16 1/2 minutes in total from October 3 to December 3, according to a Media Matters review.

    Key findings:

    • In a roughly two-month period, cable and broadcast news networks provided just 16 1/2 minutes of coverage of the ACA enrollment period.
    • CNN and MSNBC mentioned the open-enrollment period for less than two minutes combined.
    • ABC and NBC failed to cover the enrollment period, and CBS devoted just about one minute.
    Perhaps the most notable aspect of this very limited reporting is where it did show up: Fox News covered the open-enrollment period the most, with almost 14 minutes total. It was also the only network to host discussion-based segments framed around the enrollment. (A November 1 discussion on Fox’s Outnumbered Overtime with Fox News medical correspondent Marc Siegel and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) touched on various aspects of the ACA, and another discussion on November 30’s Fox & Friends First with Nan Hayworth of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum focused on lower enrollment numbers for 2019.)

    That Fox provided the most coverage of the enrollment period is troubling on its own; the network has a history of providing misleading and outright false coverage of the ACA as a part of a larger effort by right-wing media to discredit the health care law. Recently, the network allowed Republican politicians to lie about their positions on insurance coverage protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, misled in its coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration ending subsidies that make health care plans on the exchanges affordable, and aired misleading charts about enrollment numbers. Not to mention the network’s record of airing misleading human interest stories, false narratives, and unending refrains that the ACA is “failing.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In addition to the two segments featuring longer discussions of the ACA, Fox also ran three news briefs on November 1 announcing the open-enrollment period. CBS ran two news briefs announcing the enrollment period that same day, which amounted to roughly one minute of airtime.

    No other network aired a segment about the enrollment period. CNN and MSNBC only mentioned the enrollment period in passing for less than one minute each, while ABC and NBC did not mention it at all. No cable news or broadcast news network aired an advance announcement of the enrollment period; all coverage in the 29 days before the November 1 enrollment start date was mere passing mentions amounting to about one and a half minutes.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll, only 24 percent of non-group enrollees ages 18-64 (those who are uninsured or who purchase their own individual insurance) knew about the December 15 deadline for open enrollment. The percentage of non-group enrollees who did not know about the deadline at all increased from 53 percent in October 2017 to 61 percent last month.

    Since taking office, the Trump administration has shortened the open-enrollment period by half, from 12 weeks to six. Previously, enrollment was open from November 1 to January 31, but bowing to pressure from health insurers, Trump set a cutoff of December 15.

    This smaller sign-up window is not the only assault on enrollment numbers. The Trump administration has also scheduled 60 hours of downtime for the HealthCare.gov website for scheduled maintenance every Sunday from midnight to noon during the enrolment period (except for the last Sunday), has reduced funding for enrollment groups that work to sign up Americans in states that don’t run their own exchanges by as much as 92 percent, and has slashed funding for its advertising by 90 percent.

    As a result of these Trump administration policies, advocates predicted a decline in enrollment in the health care exchanges. Sign-ups for 2018 were down to 11.8 million from 12.2 million the year before, and sign-ups for this enrollment period are on track to be even lower.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of “enrollment” within close proximity of “Affordable Care Act,” “ACA,” “health care,” “healthcare,” “Obama care,” or “Obamacare” from October 3 (the earliest transcripts were still available) to December 3, 2018, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from 4 a.m. through midnight and on ABC’s, CBS’, and NBC’s early morning shows, morning shows, evening shows, and Sunday morning political talk shows.

    We timed and coded any passing mention, teaser, news brief, or news segment mentioning or discussing the open-enrollment period. For passing mentions, we only timed the relevant speech. For teasers and segments, we timed them in their entirety.

  • STUDY: Broadcast news shows have covered the royal couple, Mega Millions, and Kanye more than health care policy in 2018

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In a year when American voters list health care as one of their top concerns in the upcoming midterm elections, broadcast evening news shows have failed to air a single substantive segment about the issue. They have, however, provided breathless coverage of the newest British royal couple, continuous updates on lottery jackpots, and even segments on rapper Kanye West’s bizarre visit to the Oval Office.

    Last week, Media Matters investigated coverage of health care policy and GOP-led efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News and failed to find a single substantive segment on the issue. Instead, the broadcast evening news shows this year have aired 45 segments on the relationship of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for a total of over one hour and 18 minutes, and that does not include special coverage of their wedding. The latest, record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot was covered in 13 segments for about 10 minutes in total. Each network also aired a segment on Kanye’s visit with President Donald Trump, which totaled six minutes. Substantive coverage of health care policy still stands at zero.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The night after our study released, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker filed a two-minutes-long news package on Nightly News that focused on the midterm elections as framed through the importance voters placed on health care. Welker’s piece did not focus on health care policy or GOP attacks on the ACA.

    But her piece did give a pass to Republicans now campaigning on protections for pre-existing conditions that they not only vowed to undo but also worked to eliminate. The piece quoted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as an example of Republicans who once “railed against all aspects of Obamacare” and now want to keep “key portions like coverage for pre-existing conditions.” But Cruz has said, as recently as June, that he believes the Justice Department’s position that pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional is “reasonable” and has voiced his support of the Texas-led lawsuit against the ACA that challenges the legality of the entire law. Let’s not forget that Cruz once spoke for over 21 hours straight on the Senate floor against the ACA, and that Republicans in the House voted 54 times to repeal the ACA in the first few years after its passage.

    As we approach Election Day, broadcast news shows continue to underserve their audiences of millions by failing to substantively cover this critical issue.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for transcripts of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News containing the following keywords: “Obama” or “health” within close proximity of “care,” “insurance,” “plan,” “bill,” or “coverage” or the terms “Affordable Care Act,” “ACA,” “American Health Care Act,” “AHCA,” “Obamacare,” or “healthcare” between January 1 and October 23, 2018.

    We checked every single mention on health care policy, which included any mention of health care policy in general, the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act, or any of the GOP-attacks on parts of the ACA, such as topics related to the individual mandate, pre-existing conditions, cost-sharing reduction payments, limited coverage plans, or the lawsuit led by Paxton and Schimel. We looked for substantive segments about health care policy, which we determined were segments if any of the aforementioned were included in the headline or lead of the transcripts. Passing mentions of health care policy in segments about other topics were not determined to be segments about health care policy.

    For other topics covered between January 1 and October 23, 2018, we searched for mentions of: “Prince Harry,” “Meghan Markle,” or the term “royal” within close proximity to “Harry,” “Meghan,” “couple,” “wedding,” or “baby” for segments on the royal couple; “Mega Millions” or “Powerball” for segments on the lotteries; and “Kanye” for segments on Kanye’s visit to the Oval Office. As with health care policy, we determined segments by whether the aforementioned terms were included in the headline or lead of the transcripts and did not include passing mentions of the aforementioned topics in the results.

  • STUDY: Broadcast evening news shows have ignored health care in 2018

    The nightly news shows haven’t aired a single substantive segment about health care policy this year

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The flagship evening news shows on the three broadcast networks have not aired a single substantive segment on health care policy in 2018. They have ignored Republican efforts to sabotage health care policy despite voters consistently calling health care a top issue as the midterm elections approach.

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is under assault, but you wouldn’t know that if you turned into ABC’s World News, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News. The 2018 midterms are less than three weeks away, and health care has been a top issue cited in polls over and over again this year. But so far, the flagship broadcast evening news shows -- which attract millions of viewers each night -- have failed to air even one substantive segment on the GOP-led attacks on the ACA.

    A key provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, undermined a major component of the ACA by reducing the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Since then, Republicans and the Trump administration have made repeated efforts to sabotage health care policy in 2018. On February 26, a coalition of 20 states -- led by Republican attorneys general Ken Paxton of Texas and Brad Schimel of Wisconsin -- filed suit against the federal government claiming that the ACA was now unconstitutional since the new tax law had effectively removed the penalty for not having any insurance.

    On June 7, the Trump administration declined to continue defending the ACA against the lawsuit. In a brief from the Justice Department, the administration argued that the elimination of the tax penalty for non-coverage meant that the prior Supreme Court ruling that upheld the individual mandate no longer applied. The Justice Department not only claimed that the section of the ACA regarding the individual mandate is unconstitutional, but went further by arguing that the provision protecting Americans with preexisting conditions is also unconstitutional.

    Most recently, the administration has been pushing short-term, limited duration plans and “association health plans” designed to offer lower-priced coverage by skirting the protections afforded by the ACA, such as requiring insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that while such plans are about one-fifth of the cost of some of the least expensive ACA-subsidized plans, they may come with greater out-of-pocket costs, yearly or lifetime coverage limits, no maternity coverage, and limited prescription drug or mental health coverage (if they had any such coverage at all).

    But little of this critical information made it to viewers of the broadcast evening news shows despite health care being such an important issue for voters this election cycle. Ignoring this subject does a disservice to the American public.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for transcripts of ABC’s World News, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News containing the following keywords: “Obama” or “health” within close proximity of “care,” “insurance,” “plan,” “bill,” or “coverage” or the terms “Affordable Care Act,” “ACA,” “American Health Care Act,” “AHCA,” “Obamacare,” or “healthcare” between January 1 and October 18, 2018.

    We checked every single mention on health care policy, which included any mention of health care policy in general, the Affordable Care Act, the American Health Care Act, or any of the GOP-attacks on parts of the ACA, such as topics related to the individual mandate, preexisting conditions, cost-sharing reduction payments, limited coverage plans, or the lawsuit led by Paxton and Schimel. We looked for substantive segments about health care policy, which we determined were segments if any of the aforementioned were included in the headline or lead of the transcripts. Passing mentions of health care policy in segments about other topics were not determined to be segments about health care policy.

  • STUDY: Fox News leads networks in pushing White House's false narrative that Trump tax cuts increased wages

    Fox News’ right-wing propaganda dominated cable news coverage of Trump tax cuts 

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News has relentlessly repeated the false narrative that President Donald Trump’s tax plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, either increased wages for workers or was the direct cause of some major companies issuing one-time bonuses to employees. Since Trump signed the legislation into law on December 22, 2017, Fox News hosts, correspondents, and guests have made the claim 248 times. In reality, wages have been essentially stagnant since the tax bill was signed, companies poured the vast majority of their tax savings into stock buybacks, and U.S. dividends hit record highs in the months after the tax bill became law.

    What Republicans billed as a middle-class tax cut has overwhelmingly benefited the richest Americans and wealthiest corporations. Now the GOP-controlled House just passed tax cuts 2.0, which economist Jared Bernstein described as a plan that “doubles down on everything that's wrong with the plan they passed at the end of last year."

    Summary

    Background

    Findings

    Summary

    Media Matters reviewed transcripts of the three major cable networks’ evening news shows beginning at 4 p.m. for CNN and Fox News and 5 p.m. for MSNBC (4 p.m. transcripts of Deadline: White House were unavailable) through midnight each weeknight. We looked for comments on wage increases or bonuses versus comments on corporate stock or share buybacks or dividends in discussions about the tax bill since it passed on December 22, 2017.

    Fox led coverage, with comments spread over 182 segments during the nine-month study period. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC each aired only 29 segments containing comments that this study analyzed. Fox was able to set the narrative by having significantly more coverage of the topic and overwhelmingly pushing the administration’s false talking point that the tax cuts spurred wage increases or bonuses.

    Background

    Prior to passage of the Trump tax cuts, the White House Council of Economic Advisers claimed that the legislation would “increase average household income in the United States by, very conservatively, $4,000 annually.” Council Chairman Kevin Hassett clarified in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the household income increase would actually be a wage increase: “When profits go up, capital investment goes up, and wages follow. That’s the reason we estimated, based on what has happened around the world, that households will get an average $4,000 wage increase from corporate tax reform.” And the day Trump signed the tax bill, he credited it with encouraging companies to issue bonuses to their workers.

    However, real hourly earnings have been stagnant since the tax bill was signed into law, even declining slightly from August 2017 to August 2018, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued in September. In August, Pew Research Center released a report showing that real wages haven’t moved in decades. Instead of using their tax cuts for wage or investment growth, companies chose to pour the vast majority of their tax savings into unprecedented stock buybacks, and U.S. dividends reached a record high in the wake of the tax legislation.

    The bonuses were not all what they were promised to be, either -- few employees met the requirements necessary to qualify for the $1,000 maximum bonuses that several large companies announced. Many employees at Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s qualified for only $200-250 bonuses. And AT&T and Comcast announced bonuses to employees in 2017, which allowed them to deduct the cost at the prior 35 percent corporate tax rate rather than the new 21 percent rate of the tax bill.

    The new focus on wage increases at the likes of Walmart -- from $9 an hour to $11 an hour -- obscured the fact that the company had been raising wages for the past few years anyway: In 2015, the hourly wage rose to $9, and in 2016, it rose again to $10. At the same time as news spread of the increase to $11, the retailer announced layoffs of thousands of employees. In the past, Walmart has resisted efforts to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    Findings

    The facts didn’t stop Fox News from tirelessly repeating the administration line that wages were up and bonuses were issued because of the tax cuts. Fox News hosts, correspondents, and guests have claimed the tax cuts led to higher wages or company-issued bonuses 248 times since December 22, 2017. Fox’s business-focused show, Your World with Neil Cavuto, led the coverage with 78 segments total, including 133 comments made about wage hikes and bonuses.

    This narrative drove the network’s coverage as evidence refuting these false claims was a much smaller fraction of the discussion. Fox commentators correctly noted that wages had remained flat over the last year or that companies had been using the vast majority of their tax savings on stock buybacks or dividends only 57 times over the same nine-month period.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On CNN and MSNBC, tax cuts, wage increases, bonuses, and stock buybacks were hardly topics of conversation. Speakers on CNN repeated the White House’s narrative almost as often as others pointed out wage stagnation or stock buybacks. The top CNN show, Erin Burnett OutFront, was emblematic of this pattern, with 14 comments about wage increases or bonuses and 12 comments about stagnant wages or stock buybacks.

    On MSNBC, the administration line on wage increases and bonuses was barely mentioned; comments on wage stagnation or stock buybacks were made three times as often. MSNBC’s top show, All In with Chris Hayes, demonstrated this trend with zero comments about wage increases or bonuses and 12 comments about stagnant wages or stock buybacks.

    Overall, discussions of the tax law on Fox vastly outnumbered discussions on CNN and MSNBC.

    More than three-quarters of Fox’s dishonest coverage occurred during the two months after Trump signed the tax bill. Between December 22, 2017, and January 22, 2018, speakers on Fox made claims that the tax legislation increased wages or caused companies to issue bonuses 99 times. In the following 30 days, the claims were repeated another 92 times.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This persistence on Fox drowned out comments on all three networks that correctly identified the country’s consistently flat wages or corporate stock buyback initiatives since the tax bill went into law -- these claims were made less than 20 times in any single 30-day period on any of the three networks.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Throughout the course of the study, Fox News completely dominated coverage on wage increases, bonuses, and the tax cuts, misleadingly connecting them over and over while failing to mention that the vast majority of corporate tax savings went into stock buybacks.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database for weekday evening news shows on the three major cable news networks: CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. Evening news includes all programs beginning at 4 p.m. and ending at midnight with the exception of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, which airs for one hour at 4 p.m., because its transcripts are unavailable in Nexis.

    We counted comments that fell into one of three categories:

    1. Comments that claimed that the tax bill had or would increase wages or cause companies to issue bonuses to employees.
    2. Comments that were critical of claims that the tax bill had or would increase wages or cause companies to issue bonuses, including comments that identified anecdotal wage increases or issued bonuses but said those increases or bonuses were a small portion of the tax savings spent by companies; or comments that identified that wages had been flat or stagnant over the last year since the signing of the tax bill.
    3. Comments that identified that stock or share buybacks or dividends were a larger portion of the tax savings spent by companies than any benefits given to workers.

    We defined a “comment” as a single block of uninterrupted speech from a single speaker in the transcript. In the case of crosstalk as identified by the transcript, we coded each speaker engaged in the crosstalk as making a single comment rather than several back-and-forth comments. We excluded comments made in video clips unless a speaker on the program used language that clearly endorsed the comment either directly before or after the clip aired. More than one category may occur in a single comment.

    We excluded comments that merely stated “paychecks would increase” or workers would have “more money in their pockets” and the like since these comments may only suggest that withholding would be less, and therefore, workers would have a higher paycheck; however, these comments do not necessarily suggest that workers’ base wages would increase.

    We designed our searches to look specifically for comments about the tax legislation that fit the above categories. For categories (1) and (2), we looked for the terms “wages,” “earnings,” “money,” or variations of “pay” within 10 words of variations of “increase,” “high,” “grow,” or “decrease” or the terms “up,” “hike,” “more,” “raise,” “rise,” “stagnant,” “flat,” or “lower” or the term “bonus” all within 50 words of the terms “tax” within 10 words of “plan,” “bill,” “reform,” “cut,” or “law” or the term “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

    For category (3), we looked for the terms “stock” or “share” within 10 words of “buyback” or the terms “dividend,” “shareholder,” “merger,” or “acquisition” all within 50 words of “tax” within 10 words of “plan,” “bill,” “reform,” “cut,” or “law” or the term “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

  • In 2018, Sunday shows have covered Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico for only 20 seconds

    And since the hurricane hit, the shows have devoted a total of less than 90 minutes to the issue

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    Since Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, the five Sunday morning political talk shows have given the disaster scant coverage.

    ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News’ Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press have spent only one hour and 27 minutes discussing Hurricane Maria and its impact on Puerto Rico since September 24, 2017, but the vast majority of that coverage came shortly after the hurricane hit. In 2018, the Sunday shows have mentioned Puerto Rico for a total of just 20 seconds even as the island was dealing with power outages, revisions in the official death toll, and other ongoing recovery challenges.

    This week, The Associated Press reported that Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello raised the official death toll from Maria from 64 to almost 3,000 based on research from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

    The first official death toll came a week after landfall on September 27, when Rossello announced that 16 people had lost their lives. The following week, that figure was increased to 34. Since the hurricane, various studies have put the death toll estimates anywhere from about 1,000 to 8,000.

    Puerto Rico’s recovery has been a long process, and the impact has been ongoing. What hasn’t been ongoing is the media’s focus on the island. In February, a New York Times report revealed that a FEMA contract that called for 30 million meals to be sent to Puerto Rico resulted in only 50,000 meals being delivered. This story was mostly ignored by cable and broadcast media. In May, a new study came out that found the death toll from Maria could have potentially been 72 times higher than the official count. Media were too occupied with Roseanne Barr to devote much coverage to it, and the Sunday shows entirely ignored it. In June, nine months after Maria hit, AEE Power, which provides electricity to almost 1.5 million Puerto Ricans, reported that thousands of its customers were still without power. It wasn’t until August, 11 months after the hurricane, that power was restored almost fully. That same month, the Puerto Rican government finally acknowledged a higher death toll, and the media still failed to pay much attention, with Sunday shows again ignoring the story completely.  

    Throughout all these developments, the Sunday morning political talk shows -- which have an outsized role in setting the political agenda week after week for the Washington elite -- have hardly covered this humanitarian disaster. The Sunday after Maria made landfall, only two Sunday shows even mentioned the hurricane: State of the Union for just seven seconds and Meet the Press for 24 seconds. Almost all of the Sunday shows’ coverage came the following week on October 1, 2017: This Week covered the story for about 18 minutes, Face the Nation for almost six minutes, State of the Union for approximately 19 minutes, Fox News Sunday for nearly 17 minutes, and Meet the Press for about 15 minutes. In total, the Sunday shows covered Maria for just over one hour and 15 minutes that day. Since then, they have provided only approximately 11 minutes of additional coverage -- of which, only 20 seconds has been in 2018.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database for mentions of “Puerto Rico” or “Hurricane Maria” from September 17, 2017 -- three days before landfall -- through August 26, 2018, for the five Sunday morning political talk shows: ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan, CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Fox News’ Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. We timed each teaser for an upcoming segment, passing mention, news correspondence from reporters on the ground or in studio, and guest interview or panel for coverage of Maria. We timed only relevant speech and excluded speech on other topics.

  • Fox News’ coverage of Mollie Tibbetts’ death spiked after it was linked to an undocumented immigrant

    The story served a two-fold purpose for the network: distract from bad Trump news and ratchet up anti-immigrant sentiment

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News' August 21 coverage of the tragic death of Mollie Tibbetts spiked after law enforcement identified their suspect as an undocumented immigrant. In the eight hours between reports that the 20-year-old University of Iowa student's body had been found and the announcement of the suspect's alleged legal status, the network discussed the story for 21 minutes; after law enforcement announced that the suspect was undocumented, that coverage spiked to over three times as much throughout the next seven hours.

    The news of Tibbett’s body being found broke around 9 a.m. that day, and Fox spent 21 minutes on the story during the next eight hours. But once local authorities identified the suspect as an undocumented immigrant during their 5 p.m. press conference, Fox’s coverage jumped to 69 minutes for the remainder of the evening. The spike in coverage occurred despite Fox airing President Donald Trump’s rally for over an hour and news breaking that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort had been found guilty on eight counts and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen had pleaded guilty to two felony campaign finance charges in which he directly implicated the president.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The story of Tibbetts' death was featured on Fox’s entire evening schedule from 5 p.m. to midnight. Every single mention, tease, news correspondence, interview, and panel -- save one, a less than 30-second comment on Tucker Carlson Tonight -- noted the suspect’s alleged immigration status.

    Shortly after the press conference began, commentators on Fox were already weighing in on how Trump could use the revelation about the suspect’s legal status politically, while downplaying the developments in the Manafort and Cohen cases.

    The Five co-host Dana Perino suggested that Americans don’t necessarily care as much about Manafort and Cohen’s convictions -- what they really care about is the immigration status of the suspect in Tibbetts' case:

    One thing I think that the president might do is -- maybe he won’t comment on either of these two things [Manafort and Cohen] at all given that we just heard from the police in Iowa with the Mollie Tibbetts case that they are holding -- the federal government is holding a man, illegal immigrant, as a suspect in that case, in that murder. And to me -- thinking about the fact that the Mueller thing is a little bit complicated; the Cohen thing is interesting, and it is explosive, no doubt. But if you are out there in America and you’re watching this and you’re thinking, “What do we really care about right now?” I think the president will probably be talking a lot about that.

    Co-host Greg Gutfeld agreed, stating, “I just have to piggyback on what Dana said. I think that right now Trump’s main argument [on immigration] has now just been backed up by a very ugly reality. And I can’t see how that isn’t -- when you stack that up against these other tax evasions and guilty pleas, for an average American, [the Tibbetts case] resonates.” Later in the show, Gutfeld said, “In terms of what is important, I think no one at the Trump rally tonight will give a damn about Manafort or Cohen, but this will probably be fresh in their minds.”

    Introducing the topic of Trump’s West Virginia rally that evening, host Bret Baier stated during Special Report: “We’re likely going to hear a lot about Mollie Tibbetts and this illegal immigrant who’s in custody in Iowa.” Matthew Continetti of the conservative Washington Free Beacon replied, “That’s, of course, safe political terrain for Trump where he has a real point about the problems that illegal immigration are causing in the United States of America, and here we have the most visceral and tragic example of it with Mollie Tibbetts.”

    Right before Trump’s rally, The Story host Martha MacCallum asked her guest David Wohl, “What do you expect the president might say about this case tonight?” Wohl replied, “He is going to go over this extensively tonight. ... This is the number one story, Martha. Michael Cohen’s being indicted for campaign issues that Trump had nothing to do with is secondary completely to this story, Martha. This is what parents care about.”

    After the rally concluded, the remaining lineup on Fox all discussed Trump’s comments about the Tibbetts case and the suspect’s alleged immigration status. Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, The Ingraham Angle, and Fox News at Night all included a clip of Trump’s speech at the start of segments about Tibbetts.

    The spike in Fox News’ coverage after local authorities linked Tibbetts' murder to an allegedly undocumented immigrant made two things clear: The network was looking for a story to take some heat off the Cohen and Manafort news, and its streak of exploiting stories to hype "immigrant crime" remains unbroken.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Snapstream video database’s transcript and closed-captioning archive on August 21 for variations (including misspellings) of the terms “Tibbetts,” “Mollie” within close proximity to “Tibbetts”, or “Tibbetts” within close proximity of “immigrant,” “killed,” “murder,” or “missing” on Fox News Channel from 5 a.m. to midnight. We timed all mentions, teases, news correspondence, interviews, and panels only for relevant speech about the Tibbetts case.

  • The Trump administration refused to enact election-related sanctions on Russia. Fox News barely covered it.

    Fox spent under 10 minutes covering Russia sanctions while CNN and MSNBC devoted over three hours to it

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ROB SAVILLO

    Over the course of nine days, Fox News devoted less than 10 minutes to the news that President Donald Trump’s administration refused to enact sanctions on Russia, which Congress mandated last year with overwhelming bipartisan support in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC gave this development significant coverage, with CNN devoting nearly two hours and MSNBC covering it for well over an hour during the same time period.

    In July 2017, Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), with bipartisan, veto-proof support. The bill mandated “new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Though Trump signed the bill into law, he was vocal in opposing it and called it “seriously flawed.”

    January 29 was the deadline for the Treasury Department to issue sanctions against entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. On that day, however, the Trump administration announced it would not implement the sanctions, with a State Department official claiming that “the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”

    A Media Matters analysis of cable news coverage from January 29, when the administration announced it would not impose the sanctions, through February 6 revealed that CNN devoted an hour and 47 minutes to the news, MSNBC covered it for an hour and 24 minutes, and Fox spent a paltry nine minutes and change on the news:


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Treasury Department did publish a list of senior Russian political figures and wealthy oligarchs just before the deadline, which CAATSA mandated, but “underlined that those named aren’t being targeted for new sanctions.” After questioning by BuzzFeed News, a Treasury official admitted that the list “was derived from Forbes’ ranking of the ‘200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.’” Although Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the Senate banking committee on January 30 that “there will be sanctions that come out of this report,” the Trump administration faced congressional criticism for its refusal to enact sanctions by the deadline.

    Fox’s failure to adequately cover the Trump administration’s refusal to hold Russia responsible for its interference in the 2016 election comes amid a growing campaign by Fox News figures to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russia during the election.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched closed captioning in the video database service SnapStream for discussion of the Trump administration's refusal to enforce sanctions on Russia between January 29 and February 6, 2018. We searched for combinations of the following terms within the same 20-second clip: "Russia," "Trump," "administration," "president," "White House," "sanction," "sanctions," "oligarch," "oligarchs," "oligarchy," "list," or "treasury."

    We included all-day original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC between 4 a.m. and midnight each day. We did not include reruns of weekday programming that aired on weekends or early in the morning.

    We timed any segment where the topic of discussion was the administration's refusal to enforce sanctions. We also included segments where there was “significant discussion” of sanctions. We defined “significant discussion” as two or more speakers in the same segment discussing sanctions with one another. In segments where multiple topics were discussed, we only timed the portion of discussion relevant to sanctions. We also timed teasers for upcoming segments on the sanctions and “passing mentions” about the sanctions during segments on other topics. We defined “passing mentions” as one speaker mentioning sanctions and no other speakers in the segment engaging in discussion from the comment.