Since the story broke just before 1 a.m. EDT on October 2, news media have been consumed with news of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. There was a deluge of reports that covered mixed information about Trump’s condition, mounting numbers of White House infections, the administration’s refusal to contact trace any of those infections, and the president telling Americans not to let the coronavirus “dominate your lives” even though more than 210,000 people have already died in the U.S. during the pandemic. And that was only the first few days.
Of course, the president of the United States contracting a deadly virus and his administration seemingly lying about his health status is a major national and international news story. But this piece of news has taken over the news cycle to the point that Trump’s return to the White House on Monday cut off every scheduled evening network news program.
The media have been scrambling to cover the deluge of news related to Trump’s diagnosis responsibly, which means some stories are not getting as much airtime as they would in a typical week. In this exceptionally chaotic time, here are just some of the major non-coronavirus stories you may have missed since last Friday:
New reporting revealed that the Trump administration was intentionally separating families at the border
The New York Times published information on October 6 from an internal Justice Department investigation, reporting on the Trump administration’s “order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants even if it meant separating children from their parents.” The Times revealed that in 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions directly told prosecutors at the border, “We need to take away children.” Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went even further, reportedly telling the prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were at the time. The report confirms that although Sessions tried to separate himself from the policy, allowing Department of Homeland Security to take most of the blame, he and other top DOJ officials were “a driving force” in pushing it. The report also revealed that the policy of detaining and prosecuting every misdemeanor illegal entry case left Border Patrol officers “stretched too thin” for reviewing felony cases that let “sex offenders” fall through the cracks and be released from custody. It also showed that the DOJ officials did not view the welfare of children they detained as their responsibility.
A Media Matters analysis found that by the morning of October 8, “Fox News, ABC News, NBC News, and CBS had zero reporting on the story, while CNN devoted just 9 minutes to coverage” since the story broke. MSNBC had the most television coverage of the story during this time, with slightly more than half an hour of reporting.
The officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died was released on $1 million bond
Former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter for the May 25 killing but was released on bond on October 7 until his trial in 2021. Reporters have not yet uncovered how Chauvin was able to post $1 million in bond.
A Media Matters analysis found that Chauvin’s release has been covered across the major broadcast and cable networks for a grand total of just 7 minutes.
DHS officials were told to speak positively about the 17-year-old vigilante gunman who allegedly killed two people during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin
NBC News revealed on October 1 that instructions were given to public-facing DHS officials to speak kindly about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who allegedly killed two people with an AR-15 rifle during protests in Kenosha.
A Media Matters analysis found that the DHS instructions were covered for a total of 27 minutes across the top broadcast and cable news programming -- and 26 of those minutes were on MSNBC. ABC, CNN, and Fox failed to cover the story at all, and NBC and CBS each covered the story for about 30 seconds apiece.
2020 became one of the deadliest years for transgender Americans
Felycya Harris, a transgender woman and interior designer, was shot and killed in Georgia on October 3. Harris is at least the 31st transgender or gender-nonconforming person in the U.S. to be killed in 2020, matching the most violent year on record three months before 2020 ends. Reports indicate that another Black trans woman, Brooklyn Smith, was killed on October 7.
A Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable TV news found that networks did not produce a single substantive report on anti-trans violence from October 1 through 8. (There was one 13-second mention on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.) Moreover, TV networks largely failed to report on the summertime spike in anti-trans violence except during LGBTQ Pride Month in June.
Report reveals details of serial sexual harassment by a senior Trump campaign official
Jane Mayer at The New Yorker published a piece on October 1 detailing the 2018 firing of former Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, now a Trump campaign senior adviser and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. The new piece explained the network’s reasons behind Guilfoyle’s firing, including extremely graphic details of her reported serial sexual harassment of an assistant.
A Media Matters analysis found that this report of sexual harassment by Guilfoyle was not covered on any news programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or Fox News Channel, and it was mentioned for a total of 14 seconds on MSNBC in the week following Trump’s diagnosis announcement.
Four million acres have burned so far in California this year, doubling the previous record
Record-setting wildfires have burned 4 million acres of land in California, but fire crews could see some relief this week as the weather is getting cooler and some rain is predicted. The August Complex Fire alone has officially burned 1 million of those acres as of October 5, making it a “gigafire” and a potential harbinger of future disasters as climate change worsens fire conditions.
In a prior Media Matters study, cable and broadcast news aired 309 segments covering the California wildfires from September 14 through 18, 53% of which connected the fires to climate change. By contrast, in this period of October 2 through 8, the same media aired only 22 segments or mentions of the wildfires and only three connected them to climate change.
September was revealed to be the hottest on record worldwide
Globally, last month was the warmest September on record, breaking the record set just last year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts with 99.9% certainty that 2020 will be one of the top five hottest years in recorded history. Record-breaking temperatures, which are becoming all too common, serve as a reminder that the climate crisis is happening unabated.
A Media Matters analysis found that no major television news program has yet covered this new climate change data.
Leaked documents showed Exxon is projecting a massive increase to its annual carbon emissions
Leaked documents obtained by Bloomberg revealed that Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil producers, is projecting a yearly increase to its already enormous contribution to the climate crisis “by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece.”
This story, published on October 5, has not yet been covered by any major television news program.
Other stories you may have missed
- Tapes were released of first lady Melania Trump going on a profanity-laced rant about migrant children separated from their parents: In tapes secretly recorded by former friend and senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff in 2018, Melania Trump can be heard complaining about White House Christmas decorations and having to show empathy for children separated from their parents in immigrant detention centers, as well as disparaging the media and liberals. Wolkoff released a second set of recordings on October 5. (Wolkoff has also written a book about her relationship with Melania Trump.)
- More information about the police killing of Breonna Taylor was released: On October 2, 15 hours of grand jury audio tapes were released, revealing that police in Louisville, Kentucky, were lacking basic evidence from the March shooting including a diagram of the scene, and they admitted that they did not search Taylor’s apartment despite supposedly executing a search warrant. There was also no excuse or explanation given for the fact that police officers’ body cameras were turned off during the shooting. Louisville police released some body cam footage along with a mountain of other documents pertaining to the case on October 7, including video of Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, telling police they killed his girlfriend. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron dismissed calls for a special prosecutor and lashed out at critics while blocking the release of further grand jury materials. Cameron later filed a motion in court to attempt to keep a grand juror from speaking publicly.
- The St. Louis gun couple was charged: Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who brandished guns at protesters marching in front of their house in June, were “charged with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering, both felonies,” on October 6.
- Another video alleging voter fraud from right-wing group Project Veritas was debunked: An attempt by right-wing hoaxer James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas to smear Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has swiftly fallen apart. In two videos published during the week of September 27, O’Keefe alleged that Omar was “connected” to an illegal cash-for-votes scheme. As part of the evidence, O’Keefe displayed Snapchat videos of a man collecting ballots in his car during a city council special election over the summer. However, local news outlets soon revealed that O’Keefe had staged vital portions of his video, that ballot collection was legal at the time the Snapchats were taken, and that Project Veritas also reportedly attempted to bribe the man who took them.
- There are still legitimate concerns about Trump’s debate comments regarding poll watchers: Trump’s comments during the first presidential debate threatened to weaponize poll watchers as a voter intimidation tool. On October 7, Reuters reported that Republicans in key states are reportedly already recruiting thousands to “watch” early voting sites.
- The Republican governor of Texas is limiting ballot drop-off boxes: Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order on October 1 to limit ballot drop-off boxes to one per county, meaning more populous counties with up to 4.7 million people will have only one drop-off box and absentee voters in more rural areas will be forced to travel long distances to submit their ballots. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the governor to prevent this, claiming that the order places an undue burden on voters and the 11th hour change violates the Texas Constitution.
- The Supreme Court is back in session: A new Supreme Court session is starting with eight justices following the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So far, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have lashed out at Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that established the right to same-sex marriage, on October 5. This brings up a possible threat to marriage equality if the court gets a 6-3 conservative majority, which could also be a problem during an upcoming case on the Voting Rights Act. (The court has an opportunity this session to destroy what remains of the law that prohibits racial discrimination in state voting practices.)
- A new study found that the president was the main source for misinformation in voting: A Harvard study published on October 1 found that most misinformation on voter fraud comes from social media promoting information from “political and media elites,” especially Trump.
- Russia is using American conservative news sites to spread propaganda: The Wall Street Journal published an October 7 report that found Russian news outlet RT was still getting a lot of traffic in the United States. RT is part of the Mixi.Media traffic-swapping network along with multiple major conservative outlets, including RealClearPolitics, National Review, The Daily Caller, and others. This allows members to display their content on the other network members’ home pages, giving RT the ability to put Russian narratives in front of the eyes of American conservatives.
- More fallout from Trump’s newly revealed tax information: The New York Times continued its reporting on 20 years of Trump’s tax information, writing on October 6 that Trump’s production company writing off $70,000 in hair care for his now-canceled reality TV show The Apprentice may have been illegal. Another report published on October 9 revealed that Trump had to engineer over $21 million in payments from his Las Vegas casino in order to fund his 2016 campaign.
- National Rifle Association leader is being investigated for tax fraud: The Wall Street Journal reported on October 5 that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre is under investigation for tax fraud by the New York state attorney general’s office.
- The attorney general of Texas has been accused of bribery: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refused to resign on October 5 after a letter from top aides accusing him of bribery and abusing his office became public over the weekend. Paxton was previously indicted five years ago for felony securities fraud, though a trial date still hasn’t been set.
- Billionaire U.S ambassador forces taxpayers to pay for Trump resort stay: The Scotsman published a report on October 7, which detailed that billionaire Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, charged taxpayers for a stay at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland, which included a £426 dinner.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on cable channels CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC; ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for any of the terms pertaining to select stories included in this piece from October 1 through October 8, 2020.
For coverage of Trump administration officials pushing for the child separation policy, we searched for any of the terms “Sessions,” “Rosenstein,” “Nielsen,” “Hamilton,” “Miller,” “Horowitz,” “Vance,” “Department of Justice,” “DOJ,” “Justice Department,” “Trump administration,” “zero tolerance,” “prosecution,” or “policy” within close proximity any of the terms “illegals,” “alien,” “kid,” “family,” or “migrant” or any variation of any the terms “child,” “separate,” or “immigrant.”
For coverage of Derek Chauvin’s release from jail on a $1 million bond, we searched for the term “Chauvin,” including misspellings.
For coverage of the sexual harassment reports against Kimberly Guilfoyle, we searched for the term “Guilfoyle,” including misspellings.
For coverage of the DHS guidance to speak positively about vigilante shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, we searched for the term “Rittenhouse,” including misspellings.
For coverage of the trans victims of violence in 2020, we searched for any of the terms “trans,” “transgender,” “transsexual,” “transphobia,” “transphobe,” “transphobic,” “gender identity,” “gender nonconforming,” or “gender fluid” within close proximity to any of the terms “violence,” “crime,” “hate,” “attack,” “homicide,” “shoot,” “shot,” “murder,” “death,” “die,” “dead,” “kill,” “stab,” “strangle,” “beat,” or “burn.” We also searched for all full name variations, as well as deadnames, of every trans individual who died from violent acts in the United States in 2020.
For coverage of the newly released Exxon documents, we searched for the term “Exxon.”
For coverage of the record-breaking September temperatures, we searched for the term “September” within close proximity of any of the terms “heat” or “record” or any variations of the terms “warm” or “hot.”
For coverage of the California wildfires, we searched for the terms “fire” or “wildfire.”
We included full segments on each of these select stories, which we defined as instances when a given story was the stated topic of discussion, and “significant discussions” of a given story, which we defined as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed it. We timed only the relevant portions of multitopic segments. We also included passing mentions of each story and teasers of upcoming segments about the stories later in the broadcast. We rounded all times to the nearest minute