Network and cable news largely ignore wave of anti-Asian violence

MSNBC gave almost 20 minutes to the issue. While ABC, NBC, and Fox aired just a few minutes of coverage, CNN and CBS have not covered the story at all.

Recent reports have indicated an uptick in a disturbing trend of violence against people of Asian descent in the U.S., which has continued throughout the pandemic amid racist associations between the virus and Asian countries. Cable news outlets and TV channels of corporate broadcast networks have largely ignored the recent reports of increasing violent assaults on elderly Asian Americans in California, as Asian Americans call on the country to pay attention and take action against rising anti-Asian discrimination.

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, xenophobia and anti-Asian discrimination have been on the rise globally. Hate incidents against Asians skyrocketed in the U.S., while then-President Donald Trump and his media allies stoked the flames by repeatedly linking the coronavirus to China, often referring to it as the “China” virus.

Recent reports detail a string of attacks against Asian American seniors in the Bay Area of California, and the attacks have prompted Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to recently announce the creation of a special response unit to investigate crimes against Asian Americans. 

One of these violent attacks, which occurred on January 28, resulted in the on-camera death of an 84-year-old Thai man, Vicha Ratanapakdee. This attack wasn’t isolated and, as The Cut reported, recent assaults indicate a “massive spike” in violence against Asians in the U.S., particularly among the elderly:

As Amanda Nguyễn, the civil-rights activist and co-founder of Rise, a sexual-assault-survivor advocacy organization, noted in an Instagram video over the weekend, the past few weeks alone have seen several violent attacks on Asian Americans across the country: An 84-year-old Thai American man, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was killed in an unprovoked attack in San Francisco; a 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman was assaulted in broad daylight in San Jose and robbed of $1,000 in cash she had taken out for the upcoming Lunar New Year celebration; and in New York, Noel Quintana, 61, a Filipino American, was slashed in the face with a box cutter while riding the subway.

In the caption under her Instagram video, Nguyễn called out the media’s failure to “spotlight our stories,” adding, “Racism kills.” 

Cable and network television news outlets have largely failed to cover the recent surge in anti-Asian violence related to the pandemic, even though Asian Amerians have been urging action on the issue. Over the last two weeks since January 28, ABC has shown one segment on the topic on Good Morning America and NBC aired one reporter segment on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. Though MSNBC aired just three segments discussing the violence, it covered the issue the most with almost 20 minutes of airtime. Fox News aired two segments addressing the subject -- both on Fox’s 11 p.m. EST show Fox News @ Night. CNN and CBS have not aired segments discussing the spike.

While MSNBC’s coverage was minimal, two particular segments were strong examples of thorough reporting on the rise in anti-Asian violence and elevation of Asian American voices so they have a chance to explain the violence’s impact on their communities, as well as the media’s silence. 

On February 7, anchor Alicia Menendez hosted actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu, along with Nguyễn, to discuss the violence in a segment that lasted nearly nine minutes. Kim explained how the attacks make “our community fearful to interact, to be outside, and it actually silences the community.” Nguyễn asked “how many more people need to be killed in order for the media to think we are worthy of a story” and explained that “silence erases our humanity.” Addressing the politicians, Nguyễn added, “We are more than a special interest group for your ballot box. We are Americans.” Wu added, “We are crying out for help and we are crying out for people to lend a hand to help us with our plight.” Nguyễn concluded the segment: “We were promised equality in this country and it is betrayal of the fundamental tenet of what it means to be American if people stay silent in the face of hate.”

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Citation From the February 7, 2021, edition of MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez

The following day, anchor Joy Reid hosted Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Connie Wun, co-founder of AAPI Women Lead, in a segment that lasted just under seven minutes. Kim spoke about the impact the rising discrimination has had throughout the pandemic, particularly as Trump refused to stop using the “China virus” slur. Wun emphasized the U.S.’s long history of anti-Asian racism and noted that Asian communities “historically, and have been, and continue to suffer under racism and white supremacy and xenophobia and poverty.” Wun also pointed out that the media's tendency to falsely portray all Asian communities as well-off and “invisibilize” Asian American experiences makes Asians “extremely vulnerable to violence and stereotypes about us.”

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Citation From the February 8, 2021, edition of MSNBC's The Reid Out

Continuing to ignore the surge in violence against Asians, the historical roots of anti-Asian violence in the U.S., and stories from Asian communities further otherizes people of Asian descent and exposes vulnerable Asians and Asian Americans to hate, discrimination, and violence.


Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN; Fox News Channel; MSNBC; ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ This Morning, Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for any of the terms “COVID,” “COVID-19,” “coronavirus,” “virus,” “pandemic,” “outbreak,” “violence,” “attack,” “death,” or “hate crime” within close proximity to any of the terms “Asian,” “Asian American,” “Chinese American,” “Pacific Islander,” “Asian Pacific American,” or “anti-Asian” from January 28 through February 10, 2021.