Broadcast news’ coronavirus coverage has ignored Trump's 2018 firings of pandemic response leadership
The flagship morning shows and evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC have ignored President Donald Trump’s firings of the “entire pandemic response chain of command” in 2018 during their coverage of the coronavirus over the last two weeks.
Following the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the Obama administration “set up a permanent epidemic monitoring and command” group at the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council to coordinate policies among key federal agencies and respond to potential global pandemics. But as Foreign Policy explained:
In May 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down, calling for reassignment of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer and dissolution of his team inside the agency. The month before, then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton pressured Ziemer’s DHS counterpart, Tom Bossert, to resign along with his team. Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced.
The cuts may hobble the United States’ ability to respond to the growing coronavirus crisis, but viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ This Morning and Evening News, and NBC’s Today and Nightly News wouldn’t know that important context.
Media Matters reviewed morning and evening news segments about the coronavirus from the three major broadcast networks that also mentioned any aspect of the Trump administration’s response to the epidemic over the past two weeks. We found no coronavirus stories that mentioned the Trump administration's response until February 24; from February 24 through 9 a.m. February 27, we found 19, none of which mentioned the 2018 firings.
Additionally, just two segments, one on World News Tonight and one on Good Morning America, mentioned the Trump administration's proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018. Early that year, the CDC was forced to reduce efforts to combat global disease outbreaks like the coronavirus by 80%. And only two segments, one on World News Tonight and one on This Morning, mentioned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comments that the president’s $2.5 billion emergency request was “too late” and “anemic.”
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ This Morning and Evening News, and NBC’s Today and Nightly News for segments that included both of the terms “coronavirus” and “Trump” between February 13 and 9 a.m. on February 27.
The graphic includes segments only from February 24 through 9 a.m. on February 27 because we found no coronavirus stories that also included mention of the Trump administration's response until February 24.
We looked for segments where coronavirus was the stated topic of discussion or where two or more speakers discussed coronavirus with one another. We did not include teasers of upcoming segments or passing mentions of the coronavirus during segments about other topics.