With the exception of MSNBC, cable news networks -- particularly CNN -- have devoted scant coverage to the potentially illegal actions of senators who sold off stocks after being briefed on coronavirus. MSNBC has spent nearly 30 minutes covering the story, while Fox News has spent 10 minutes. CNN has spent just 52 seconds covering the apparently unethical and possibly illegal behavior.
Thursday night, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) came under scrutiny for a series of stock sell-offs that came after their Senate committees received non-public information about the growing coronavirus crisis. The first story broke when ProPublica published an article about Burr’s stock dumping despite his public reassurances about the United States’ coronavirus preparedness. Later that evening, The Daily Beast posted a report about Loeffler selling off millions in stocks. The stock market has subsequently suffered major losses.
By Friday morning, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) were also in the conversation, although further scrutiny suggests their trades were less problematic. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay pointed out on Twitter that Inhofe was selling stock well before the private meetings, and noted that Feinstein’s trading seemed to be “clearly innocuous.”
Senators reportedly using non-public information to avoid the financial fallout the rest of the country is experiencing has understandably enraged many people. MSNBC has led the cable channels with 29 minutes of coverage, and mentioning the story on six shows since last night. Fox News followed with ten minutes of coverage, and mentions on five shows, including an interview with Loeffler on America’s Newsroom where she was asked about the reporting. Some of Fox News’ coverage has come under scrutiny for focusing on Feinstein’s actions rather than that of Republicans. CNN has barely discussed the story at all -- the network's sole 52 seconds of coverage come from a headline read during its 4:00 a.m. show.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “Burr,” “Loeffler,” “Inhofe,” or “Feinstein” within close proximity of any of the terms “stock,” “sold,” “sell-off,” “sale,” or “transaction” between March 19 and noon March 20, 2020.