Donald Trump
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox and broadcast news largely ignored Trump promoting the prosecution of his political enemies on social media

Trump boosted calls to prosecute Liz Cheney in front of “televised military tribunals”' and to jail 15 more high-profile politicians who have opposed him

Donald Trump recently amplified posts accusing former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) of “treason” and calling for her to be prosecuted in front of “televised military tribunals,” and for a slew of high-profile politicians — including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former Vice President Mike Pence — to be jailed. Fox News covered the former president and presumptive Republican 2024 nominee’s threatening reposts in only 1 segment, while morning and evening weekday news programs on corporate broadcast networks apparently all ignored them.

  • On his Truth Social platform on June 30, Trump “promoted two posts from other users of the site that called for the jailing of his perceived political enemies,” reported The New York Times. This included one post targeting Cheney, which claimed that she is “guilty of treason,” while “a separate post included photos of 15 former and current elected officials that said, in all-capital letters, ‘they should be going to jail on Monday not Steve Bannon!’” The new threats add to a growing list of comments or endorsements from Trump calling for the prosecution of his political opponents, further stirring fears of potential abuses of power should he be reelected.

  • From June 30, when Trump amplified the threatening posts, through July 8, the only two corporate broadcast news programs to cover them were Sunday shows CBS’ Face the Nation and NBC’s Meet the Press. None of the morning or evening broadcast weekday news shows appeared to discuss Trump reposting threats against his political opponents.

    On cable, Fox News also almost entirely ignored the story. Your World with Neil Cavuto was the only Fox show to seemingly talk about them, and only once, in an interview with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) for about 2 minutes.

    CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better, covering Trump’s threatening reposts for 20 minutes and 16 minutes, respectively. (Other segments on CNN and MSNBC during the studied period discussed Trump's past comments about prosecuting his political opponents, but they often failed to specifically mention these most recent threats.)

  • While some major media figures and outlets have downplayed the seriousness of Trump's threats over the course of his campaign, former Ambassador Norm Eisen explained the risk of such “vindictive prosecutions” on the July 2 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

    NORM EISEN (CNN LEGAL ANALYST): It's a dead serious risk, Anderson. Former President Trump has said dozens of times that he would contemplate doing that. ... We have to take very seriously, history teaches us, when over and over again these autocratic threats are made, that they are possible. And of course, the new Supreme Court opinion tears a hole in the fabric of rule of law [and] unleashes a president to do more of these kinds of things.

  • Video file

    Citation From the July 2, 2024 edition of Anderson Cooper 360

  • Methodology

  • 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 for 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,” “Truth Social,” or “ReTruth” or any variation of “repost” within close proximity of any of the terms “Liz,” “Cheney,” “treason,” “military,” or “tribunal” or also the term “jail” within close proximity of any of the terms “McConnell,” “Pence,” “Biden,” “Harris,” “Schumer,” “House select committee,” “opponent,” “rival,” or “enemy” from June 30, 2024, when Donald Trump reposted calls for Liz Cheney to be prosecuted in front of “televised military tribunals” and to jail his political rivals, through July 8, 2024.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Trump reposted calls for Cheney to be prosecuted in front of “televised military tribunals” and to jail his political rivals were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of Trump's social media reposts. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the reposts with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned Trump's reposts 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 reposts scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.