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Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Cable news continues to undercover data showing crime rates are falling

Fox News, which dedicated the least coverage of all the cable channels, spent its longest segment on the FBI quarterly crime report denying the bureau's findings

Following yet another FBI report showing there has been a national drop in violent and property crime rates, Fox undercovered the news, instead spreading the right-wing narrative that FBI statistics are incorrect and that people should “walk outside and use your eyes.” The network spent only 5 minutes on the FBI report in the week following its release. Mainstream cable networks MSNBC and CNN did not perform significantly better, covering the report for just 11 minutes and 9 minutes, respectively. 

  • FBI reporting shows that murder dropped in Q1 of 2024, continuing the trend from 2023

    • On June 10, the bureau released the FBI quarterly crime report data for Q1, which showed a significant drop in violent crime and property crime. While this report is not conclusive, the findings suggest a 26% drop in murders, a nearly 18% drop in robberies, and 15% drop in overall violent crime in the first quarter of 2024, compared to the same period in 2023. [CBS, 6/11/24]
    • This latest data from the FBI follows the post-pandemic trend of lowering crime rates. Preliminary data from the FBI suggests that in 2023, crime rates dropped across the country from 2022 levels, including a 13% decline in murder. [MSNBC, 3/19/24]
  • Cable news undercovered the FBI’s Q1 crime figures with Fox's news programming mentioning the report for just 9 seconds

    • Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC spent a collective 25 minutes covering the FBI report in the first week following the release of the numbers. Fox News spent the least amount of time, covering the report for only 5 minutes. MSNBC and CNN performed slightly better, but still spent only 11 and 9 minutes, respectively, on the report in the same time period. 
    • Fox News had 2 segments on the report, and CNN and MSNBC had 3 each.
    • Fox News’ coverage came almost entirely from opinion programming. The bulk of Fox News’ recent coverage came from a Jesse Watters Primetime segment that argued the FBI crime statistics are incorrect. Watters’ guest Paul Mauro tried refuting the FBI data, saying, “Quality of life is not captured in any of the FBI numbers and if you live in the blue city, walk outside and use your eyes.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 6/12/24]
  • Video file

    Citation From the June 12, 2024, edition of Fox News' Jesse Watters Primetime

    • Fox's news programming addressed the report in a single 9-second passing mention. Sandra Smith reported that Biden is expected to mention the FBI data in a speech saying, “They are going to talk about drops in certain crime rates using certain FBI data.” [Fox News, America Reports, 6/11/24]
  • Fox News has repeatedly provided insufficient and misleading coverage of the data showing reduced crime rates

    • Fox News barely covered a Q3 December FBI report that showed crime dropped in 2023, mentioning the data twice for a total of 2 minutes on the network in the month following the release. Both mentions came from one of Fox News' Democratic personalities, Jessica Tarlov. CNN and MSNBC discussed the report for 10 minutes and 4 minutes, respectively. [Media Matters, 1/5/24]
    • Fox News also undercovered the FBI report on the drop in crime in Q4 of 2023. In the two weeks after the FBI report was released, Fox News gave less than 2 minutes of coverage to the decline in crime rates. [Media Matters, 4/3/24]
    • Fox News personalities have claimed the FBI’s crime data is wrong, saying the Biden administration or FBI manipulated the numbers. Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said, “They claim crime in America actually went down last year. Do you buy that? You shouldn't because it's a lie. The only thing that went down is the Democrat who bribed the FBI to publish this.” [Media Matters, 4/17/24]
  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “murder,” “homicide,” “robbery,” “theft,” or “larceny” or any variation of either of the terms “crime” or “violent” within close proximity of any of the terms “drop,” “decrease,” “downward,” “decline,” “fell,” “plummet,” “trend,” or “rate” or any variation of the term “low” from June 10, 2024, when the FBI released the FBI Quarterly Uniform Crime Report data for Q1, through June 16, 2024. 

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the downward national trend in crime highlighted in the FBI Quarterly Uniform Crime Report data release for Q1, inclusive of January through March 2024, was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the downward trend highlighted in the report. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the downward trend with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the downward trend without another speaker in the segment engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the downward trend scheduled to air later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.