STUDY: Media Outlets Hosted Donald Trump For Nearly 14 Hours Of Interviews In March
Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO
The six major broadcast and cable news networks hosted Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for 13 hours and 43 minutes over 63 interviews in March.
Media outlets have been widely criticized for showering Trump with nearly endless coverage. According to a study by The New York Times, Trump has received nearly $2 billion in free earned media over the course of the campaign.
Media Matters reviewed video for the weekday morning news, evening news, and Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC as well as all-day programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, looking for interview appearances by Trump in March. The candidate was a regular presence on the airwaves during the month.
Cable news outlets and the broadcast networks have also faced backlash for allowing Trump to call in to shows for interviews (rather than requiring that he appear in person or on satellite video). During March, the outlets studied conducted 39 phone interviews with Trump -- only CBS did not interview Trump by phone during the month.
Fox News provided the most interview airtime to Trump, with 6 hours and 15 minutes, which is nearly the same amount of time that the network devoted to him in February. (Trump has dominated Fox News' airwaves since last May.) In 16 of his 28 interviews on Fox, Trump called in by phone.
CNN and MSNBC followed with 3 hours and 50 minutes and 1 hour and 53 minutes, respectively. Both networks recently hosted hour-long town hall specials featuring Trump and other candidates, which helped inflate his airtime totals. Like on Fox News, Trump's interviews on MSNBC were conducted primarily over the phone, and most of those were on the network's flagship morning talk show, Morning Joe, which media have criticized as friendly to Trump. (Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have defended the practice of allowing Trump to call in for interviews, saying any candidate would be welcome to do so.)
On broadcast, ABC devoted the most interview time -- 58 minutes -- to Trump. Unlike the other networks, ABC interviewed Trump only by phone in March -- nine times in total. NBC followed with 30 minutes of airtime, and four of its five interviews with Trump were conducted over the phone. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd told New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg last month that the show "will no longer allow Mr. Trump to do prescheduled interviews by phone." His show's interview with Trump in March was conducted via satellite, but all four of Trump's interviews on NBC's Today were conducted over the phone.
CBS spent the least amount of time interviewing Trump, devoting just 17 minutes to the candidate. CBS' morning show, CBS This Morning, made headlines in early March after refusing to allow -- unlike several rival networks -- Trump to change interview format from satellite to phone at the last minute.
Overall, on four of the six networks, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone: 100 percent on ABC, 80 percent on NBC, 71 percent on MSNBC, and 57 percent on Fox News.
Media Matters previously reported that out of all the remaining presidential candidates, both Democratic and Republican, only Trump had called in to any of the five Sunday morning political talk shows. ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and CNN's State of the Union together have interviewed Trump by phone 30 times between January 1, 2015, and March 27, 2016. Only Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday has declined to allow interviews by phone for any candidate.
Media Matters has launched a petition asking news networks to end their practice of conducting phone interviews with Trump.
Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database and our interview video archive for interview appearances by Trump on ABC's Good Morning America, World News with David Muir, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos; CBS' CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, and Face the Nation with John Dickerson; NBC's Today, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd; and all-day programming between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. All original interview appearances were counted. Repeats were counted only if they aired on a separate date. Special presentations and post-debate interviews were included.
Charts by Oliver Willis.