Fox News' Fox News at Night for September 15, 2023: Biden's age

Research/Study Research/Study

Cable news mentioned Biden’s age or health nearly 4 times as often as Trump’s

In a four-day period, Biden’s age or health were mentioned 193 times while Trump’s were mentioned just 56 times

  • In a four-day period beginning with the release of The Washington Post-ABC News poll that included questions about the age and health of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on September 24, Media Matters found that cable news outlets mentioned Biden’s age or health 193 times -- nearly four times as often as Trump’s age or health (56 times) -- despite the fact that the two are nearly the same age.

    We found a massive imbalance in the volume of coverage when it came to claims that mentioned either of the candidates’ ages. The three major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) mentioned Biden’s age 154 times and Trump’s age 48 times. MSNBC mentioned both candidates’ ages more than the other networks did, referencing Biden’s age 77 times — more than Fox (55) and CNN (22). However, MSNBC was also more likely to invoke Trump’s age (31 times). Fox and CNN mentioned Trump’s age 9 and 8 times, respectively.

    As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, the media’s focus on the president’s age and health is a disservice to American voters since such coverage elevates the issue far higher in the public consciousness than it deserves. And the lopsided nature of that coverage in which Biden is more often a target than Trump — who is equally as advanced in age, faces more relevant questions about his mental capacity, and is also facing 91 felony charges — creates an unfair focus on Biden.

  • Cable news mentions of Biden's or Trump's age
  • All three cable news networks also mentioned Biden’s health more frequently than they mentioned Trump’s health. Fox was ahead of the other networks with 52 claims that included mention of Biden’s health. MSNBC followed with 37 mentions of Biden’s health, and CNN mentioned the president’s health just 5 times. By contrast, Fox mentioned Trump’s health just 3 times. MSNBC mentioned Trump’s health just slightly less often than Biden’s with 30 mentions. CNN mentioned Trump’s health just twice.

  • Mentions of Biden's or Trump's health
  • This lopsided media focus on Biden’s age and health over Trump’s comes at a time when the leading GOP presidential candidate has recently called for the death of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, claimed in a speech that windmills are driving whales “crazy,” mixed up Jeb Bush and George W. Bush when referring to the Iraq War, and threatened to investigate NBC and MSNBC parent company Comcast for treason.

  • When Biden's age or health did come up, MSNBC was most likely to also mention Trump's

  • Out of the 154 claims that mentioned Biden’s age, we found that MSNBC was most likely to also mention Trump’s age compared to the other networks. Of MSNBC’s 77 claims that mentioned Biden’s age, 30 also mentioned Trump’s age. By contrast, for Fox's 55 claims that mentioned Biden's age, they also mentioned Trump's age just eight times.

    Out of the 94 claims that mentioned Biden’s health, we again found that MSNBC was most likely to also mention Trump’s health compared to the other networks. Of MSNBC’s 37 claims that mentioned Biden’s health, 20 also mentioned Trump’s health. By contrast, for Fox's 52 claims that mentioned Biden's health, they also mentioned Trump's health just twice.

    CNN hardly touched on Biden's age or health with just five and three mentions, respectively.

    Previously, we found that in the week after Biden’s official reelection announcement on April 25, cable news mentioned the president’s age nearly 600 times while Trump’s age was mentioned just 72 times.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for any of the terms “Biden,” “Trump,” or “president” within close proximity of any of the terms “age,” “77,” “78,” “80,” “82,” “86,” “70s,” “80s” “health,” “mental,” “physical,” “acuity,” “fall,” “trip,” “nap,” “sleep,” “nod off,” “doze off,” “strength,” or “decline” or any variations of any of the terms “old,” “elder,” “fitness,” “seventy,” “eighty,” “attention,” or “cognitive” from September 24, 2023, when The Washington Post-ABC News poll including questions about Biden’s age and health was released, through September 27, 2023.

    We included claims, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on any topic mentioned either or both Biden or Trump’s age or health within a single, uninterrupted block of speech.