Several major print and broadcast news networks did not cover former President Donald Trump’s amplification of a supporter’s call to place the judge and prosecutor in one of his myriad trials under citizen’s arrest.
On Monday, Trump reposted a Truth Social post calling for the citizen’s arrest of Judge Arthur Engoron and Attorney General Letitia James, who are overseeing and prosecuting the civil trial against the former president and his companies for fraud. The post accused the pair of “blatant election interference and harassment.”
That salvo came just days after Trump described his political enemies as “vermin” that he promised to “root out,” and as the institutional right lays the groundwork for him to carry out his top priority of arresting them. It drew harsh criticism from legal experts, with Los Angeles Times columnist and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman calling the repost “actual incitement to break the law and it greatly endangers the judge and AG,” and frequent Trump defender Jonathan Turley saying that an attempted citizen’s arrest “would most certainly constitute a criminal act.” It also follows the issuance of multiple gag orders against Trump due to what special counsel Jack Smith’s team described as the “pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted by the defendant are, as a result of the targeting, subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation.”
But the story did not break through to print coverage in any of the nation’s five highest-circulation newspapers — the LA Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Nor was it mentioned on the morning, evening, or Sunday political talk shows on ABC News, CBS News, or NBC News. The repost received roughly 25 minutes of airtime on MSNBC and 3 minutes on CNN — but none on Fox News — according to a Media Matters review.
This muted coverage is part of a pattern, as I noted last week in assessing reports on Trump’s “vermin” remarks:
The editors, producers, and reporters at major national news outlets signal the relative importance of various stories through the volume and prominence of the attention they give them. During the 2016 presidential election, for example, those notables treated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email travails as the single most important story of the cycle. President Joe Biden’s age has likewise been a fixation for news outlets this year, even though Trump is only a few years younger.
But Trump’s extremist outbursts often draw little or no coverage from major news outlets. That is remarkable, particularly given how genuinely unhinged his remarks often are, and given that right-wing institutions are laying the groundwork for a future Trump administration to carry out top priorities like arresting his political enemies.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original episodes on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evenings News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within close proximity of any of the terms “citizen arrest” (including derivations), “Engoron,” or “Letitia” (including misspellings for both names) from November 13, 2023, when Trump reposted a Truth Social post calling for the citizen's arrest of Judge Arthur Engoron and Attorney General Letitia James, through November 19, 2023.
We also searched print articles from the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post for either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within the same headline or lead paragraphs as “citizens arrest,” “citizen's arrest,” “citizen arrest,” “Engoron,” or “Letitia” from November 13, 2023, when Trump reposted, through November 19, 2023.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Trump's ReTruth calling for Judge Engoron and Attorney General Letitia James to be placed under citizen's arrest was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the repost. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the repost 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 repost 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 Trump's repost scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute.