Television news networks largely ignored former President Donald Trump's suggestion that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, deserves to be executed. Only CNN and MSNBC covered Trump's inflammatory Truth Social post about the general, while broadcast news outlets and Fox News completely ignored it.
On September 21, the Atlantic published an article that included interviews with Milley, who is about to retire. The piece is subtitled “How General Mark Milley protected the Constitution from Donald Trump'' and quotes a report that Milley “believed that Trump was ‘shameful’ and ‘complicit’ in the January 6 attack.” Milley also told a story detailing Trump’s disdain for veterans injured in combat.
The next day, Trump attacked the general on his social media platform, Truth Social, accusing him of behaving in a manner “so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!”
Despite the extraordinary nature of Trump’s suggestion, from 8 p.m. ET on Friday, September 22, when Trump posted on Truth Social, through 9 a.m. ET on September 26, ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press all failed to mention the post.
Fox News also failed to mention Trump’s attack on Milley. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC devoted 21 and 41 minutes, respectively, to Trump’s Truth Social post in the same time period.
Given Milley’s possible involvement in multiple Trump indictments, former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal noted that Trump is on “thin ice” regarding his online behavior, potentially violating protective orders to prevent the former president from tampering with witnesses.
Cable and broadcast news have a history of normalizing Trump’s behavior and ignoring the unprecedented comments the former president regularly makes. With the 2024 election nearing, TV news outlets must break out of this pattern and hold the front-runner in the Republican primary accountable for his racist, misogynistic, untruthful, dangerous, and bizarre behavior.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC as well as all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for any of the terms “Trump,” “former president,” or “truth social” or any variation of the term “execute” within close proximity of either of the terms “Milley” (including misspellings) or “Joint Chiefs” from September 22, 2023, when former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social suggesting that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley deserves to be put to death, through 9 a.m. ET September 26, 2023.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Trump’s post was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the post. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the post with one another.
We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the post 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 post scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute.