Leland Vittert, Dan Abrams, and Chris Cuomo busts hover above newsnation logo

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Nexstar's NewsNation is just another right-wing cable network

The network, host of the next GOP primary debate, spreads racist tropes, promotes anti-immigrant hate, and defends men reported for sexual misconduct

When Nexstar launched NewsNation in 2021, it promised “fact-based and unbiased news.” Instead customers got another right-wing cable news network. NewsNation’s evening opinion shows contain the same sort of racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant hate as other right-wing networks. While Leland Vittert leads the charge with his slanted On Balance rants, Chris Cuomo's and Dan Abrams' shows aren't exempt from right-wing narratives and framing. Fittingly, NewsNation was just chosen to host the fourth GOP presidential debate.

  • NewsNation, which is hosting the fourth GOP primary presidential debate, is Nexstar’s right-wing-connected foray into 24-hour cable news

    • NewsNation is a cable network owned by Nexstar, a media company that “owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services” to over 200 local stations. Nexstar launched NewsNation in 2021, and it’s currently available in about 75 million households with around 118,000 weekday prime-time viewers. [Nexstar, accessed 11/10/23; Variety, 1/25/21; Deadline, 10/31/23
    • NewsNation’s current evening headliners are former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, former ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams, and former Fox reporter Leland Vittert. CNN parted ways with Cuomo after reports that he advised his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to respond to sexual harassment reports. Before joining NewsNation, Abrams hosted Live P.D., which followed police officers on patrol until it was canceled in 2020. Vittert worked in a variety of positions at Fox News for eleven years until his 2021 departure. [NewsNation, 7/19/21, 8/3/20; Variety, 7/19/21; CNBC, 6/11/20; NPR, 12/4/21; The Wrap, 4/30/21]
    • NewsNation sells itself as “fact-based and unbiased news” but has gained a reputation as a “Fox News lite.” In a review for The Daily Beast, Joe Berkowitz wrote that NewsNation is a “both-sides news organization only in that its coverage is aimed at both Never Trumpers and Maybe Trumpers.” [Nexstar, 1/25/21; The Daily Beast, 9/14/23] 
    • NewsNation has hired multiple disgraced media men who have been reported for alleged sexual misconduct. Several high-profile NewsNation employees, including President Michael Corn, host Chris Cuomo, and contributor Bill O’Reilly, have been reported for alleged sexual misconduct. [The Hollywood Reporter, 12/29/21; NewsNation, accessed 11/15/23, 8/7/23; NPR, 12/5/21; The New York Times, 10/21/17]
    • Multiple editors left NewsNation shortly after its launch, citing a “right-wing tilt” and the secret involvement of ex-Fox executive Bill Shine. Shine, who reportedly helped cover up serial sexual misconduct at Fox News before joining the Trump White House and reelection campaign, reportedly consulted on NewsNation’s launch. [The New York Times, 3/7/21; Media Matters, 4/28/17, 3/8/19]
    • Nexstar President Sean Compton and many NewsNation employees have right-wing media connections. Compton previously helped Sean Hannity and Donald Trump expand their talk radio presence. Many higher-ups are former Fox employees including Managing Editor and Vice President of News Cherie Grzech, Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, and correspondents Robert Sherman and Connell McShane. [The New York Times, 3/7/21; AdWeek, 6/21/21; NewsNation, accessed 11/1/23, 11/6/23; Nexstar, 9/12/23]
  • NewsNation’s evening opinion shows lean into racist tropes and commentary

    • Dismissing the notion that the topic is racist, Leland Vittert attributed crime rates to the “moral decay among urban Black youth.” Vittert opened his September 27 show claiming looting and rioting in Philadelphia backed a racist narrative about a purported crime wave across America. He added, “The perpetrators are urban Black youth devoid of any moral compass and, in many cases, devoid of any regard for human life.” [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/27/23
    • Vittert blamed “the moral decay among urban Black youth” on Black political leaders and “fatherless households,” alluding to a racist myth about Black fathers. He maintained that looting “happens because of the moral decay among urban Black youth and the ignoring of it by Black leaders.” Vittert invoked a myth that absent Black fathers, not systemic racism, are responsible for higher incarceration rates among Black youth. Most Black fathers live with their children, and, of those that do, are as or more likely to engage with their kids as fathers from other racial groups. [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/28/23; The Washington Post, 1/10/17; Vox, 6/19/16]
    • In another segment on “the moral decay among America’s Black youth,” Vittert asked, “How much of it also is a problem of a lack of parenting?” [NewsNation, On Balance, 10/2/23]
    • Vittert: “Gun Violence in America is mostly Black men shooting other Black men.” Referencing a racist trope linking Blackness to criminality, Vittert suggested the media ignores Black-on-Black gun violence because it doesn't fit their narrative about mass shootings. [NewsNation, On Balance, 10/30/23; ABC, 8/1/20
    • Dan Abrams guest John Ziegler criticized “left-leaning nets” for overlooking a Las Vegas hit-and-run that killed a white man. He said: “There’s no question the media is afraid of this story because it’s Black-on-white crime. … The simplest explanation is the one you’ve already given, which is: if the races were reversed, the media would be all over this.” [NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 9/20/23; AP News, 9/26/23]
    • Abrams suggested mainstream media ignored the Las Vegas hit-and-run because the victim was white and the perpetrators were people of color. “If the races were turned, are you telling me that this wouldn’t be everywhere in the left-leaning media?” he asked. After panelist Cenk Uygur pushed back, Abrams insisted they “have to try and play apples to apples on this stuff.” [NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 9/22/23
    • Abrams accused mainstream media of having a double standard between white victims and “Black victims of white violence” over a chyron reading, “when victim doesn’t fit racial narrative: Mainstream media ignores horrific crime stories.” Abrams added, “Imagine if these were Black victims of white violence? I would think there would be special coverage, national conversations about race relations in America.” As one guest pointed out, “there is not a historical basis for black people killing white people indiscriminately as there is in the inverse.” [NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 11/14/23]
    • Former Fox host Geraldo Rivera reacted to new information about Tupac’s murder: “I think sometimes, that hip-hop has killed more young Black men than racism in America." Rivera continued, “It extols the virtues of violence.” [NewsNation, Cuomo, 9/29/23]
  • Evening opinion hosts spread anti-immigrant hate by praising migrant detention policies and fearmongering about a nonexistent invasion

    • Appearing on On Balance, MAGA artist Scott LoBaido promoted a racist trope that a migrant “invasion” will bring diseases and crime to America. LoBaido stated, “You can’t bring in millions and millions and millions of young men of military age who have not been vetted or checked for pedophilia, rape, murder, viruses, diseases and plant them into the working community." [Media Matters, 4/1/21; NewsNation, On Balance, 9/20/23
    • Appearing on On Balance, former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores suggested asylum-seekers waving a Venezuelan flag at a border checkpoint were “declaring war” on the U.S. Leland Vittert asked Flores if “the military age men who are coming across [are] not more interested in something else in America than they are the American dream?” Flores responded, “Absolutely. To me, when you do something like that, you’re declaring war and I feel like it’s a threat.” [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/26/23]
    • Chris Cuomo advocated for Trump-era immigration policies: He advocated adopting “obvious ideas that anybody who studies the situation or who works on the border in policy will tell you: restore the home country deals that were made during the Trump administration that put money and resources into the countries doing more processing there instead of here. Detain people entering illegally. Have the resources to do it.” [NewsNation, Cuomo, 9/15/23
    • Dan Abrams justified a “heartless but effective” political stunt in which Republican governors sent migrants to liberal-leaning parts of the United States. Abrams stated, “You can argue that bussing these migrants to these cities and treating them as sort of pawns for political purposes is heartless and there’s truth to that. But these southern states have been forced to deal with this national crisis for years and by transporting migrants to these big cities, big blue cities, they brought it home to many who live far away from the borders.” Govs. Ron DeSantis (FL), Greg Abbott (TX), and Doug Ducey (AZ) have sent migrants to Democratic-controlled areas to supposedly give liberals a more heightened sense of the border crisis. Some migrants say they were deceived into accepting such offers. [Media Matters, 9/19/22; The Hill, 9/15/22; NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 8/18/23]
    • Abrams again called the Republican governors’ migrant bus stunt effective. “Call it heartless. Call it a stunt. The GOP governors’ plan to send migrants to blue cities is working,” he said. [NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 9/22/23]
    • Leland Vittert asked Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) if there’s “anything we can do about” large numbers of “military-age men'' who “come through Venezuela, where the Chinese have very close ties” and might “become saboteurs during a war with China over Taiwan.” Vittert pointed out that “a lot of them [have] shaved heads.” [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/19/23
    • Over a chyron titled “Chinese invasion,” Vittert previewed a segment that suggested Chinese migrants pose a national security threat by asking, “Why aren’t all these people treated like a small army of invaders?” After the commercial break, Vittert and Rep. Mark Green agreed the U.S. was not taking the increase in Chinese citizens — especially the “hundreds of military-age males” with “shaved heads” — apprehended at the southern border seriously. [NewsNation, On Balance, 11/2/23, 11/2/23]
    • Vittert said images of “4,000 or so Venezuelans and other men of military age with tight haircuts lined up, some from China and other places" are a political opportunity for Republicans, noting that the migrants’ “intentions are unknown.” Vittert added, “These are the kind of pictures that would fuel a real push towards Republicans.” [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/20/23]
    • Vittert brought on a guest from an anti-immigrant group with ties to white nationalism to fearmonger about the border. Todd Bensman, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies, came on NewsNation to promote an article alleging that “America’s border war has begun.” [Media Matters, 7/13/21; NewsNation, On Balance, 10/6/23; The Daily Mail, 10/5/23]
  • NewsNation regularly attacks the #MeToo movement and defends men reported for alleged sexual assault

    • NewsNation legal analyst Sara Azari said the #MeToo movement has done “absolute damage” to the Title IX investigation process, calling it a “racket.” Azari claimed that Title IX procedures are “set up to just kind of check the box” until they find a man guilty. [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/18/23; The New York Times, 9/17/23
    • Leland Vittert praised a former Yale student for suing the university and a student who accused him of sexual assault for defamation for “standing up for what’s right,” calling Yale’s Title IX hearing a “kangaroo court.” Vittert said the student, who was kicked out of Yale following a Title IX hearing, a “victim” of a pendulum that had “swung so hard in one direction.” [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/18/23; The New York Times, 9/17/23; National Women’s Law Center, 8/17]
    • Vittert questioned whether universities could properly tackle sexual abuse charges when “there's universities that have gone overboard about believe all women.” Vittert added, “We’ve covered extensively how the university's quote-unquote judicial process has been used to punish students,” mentioning the Yale student. “Believe all women” is a strawman argument frequently used by right-wing media to undermine survivors. [NewsNation, On Balance, 9/20/23; The Washington Post, 5/12/20]
    • Chris Cuomo reacted to allegations that podcaster Russell Brand had sexually assaulted multiple women by asking Journalist Matt Taibbi about Brand's character, to which Taibbi replied, “Having met a lot of phonies in media, I don’t think he’s one of them.” Four women, including one who was 16 at the time, have reported that Brand raped or sexually assaulted them. [NewsNation, Cuomo, 9/18/23; The Times, 9/16/23
    • Dan Abrams and guest John Ziegler criticized YouTube for demonetizing Brand, with Ziegler complaining, “The standard now is any woman who wants to effectively demonetize someone on YouTube can make an allegation against them.” Abrams said of YouTube’s decision, “It seems we’re suddenly in the business of presuming guilt when it comes to a content platform.” Ziegler added there are “significant problems with the allegations” against Brand, including one victim’s use of an anonymous actress to tell their story. [NewsNation, Dan Abrams Live, 9/19/23]