Since June 1, Fox News has devoted significantly more time than cable news competitors CNN and MSNBC to airing live coverage of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rallies, live events, and press conferences. Fox has also aired less live coverage of similar events from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton compared to its rivals.
In September alone, Fox News aired 7 hours and 32 minutes of live coverage from Trump events, compared to CNN, which aired 5 hours and 18 minutes of Trump events, and MSNBC, which aired 5 hours and 48 minutes of Trump events. Conversely, Fox aired only 3 hours and 25 minutes of Clinton events during the month -- far less than CNN (5 hours and 4 minutes) and MSNBC (5 hours and 14 minutes).
Combined, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC together aired coverage of Trump’s events 71 times in September, totaling 18 hours and 39 minutes, and coverage of Clinton’s events 54 times, totaling 13 hours and 44 minutes. (Since most events were covered on all three networks simultaneously, each event could have been broadcast up to three times.)
Trump holds a large lead in overall airtime since Media Matters started tracking coverage of live events in June. Across the three cable networks, Trump’s events have been given 65 hours and 3 minutes of coverage, compared to 49 hours and 47 minutes of coverage for Clinton events. However, the gap in airtime is due in large part to the sheer number of Trump rallies and events during the period studied. The networks together aired some live coverage from Trump events 186 times during the period studied while airing coverage of Clinton events only 137 times. Clinton’s events were covered on average for 21 minutes and 48 seconds, compared to 20 minutes and 59 seconds for Trump.
Since June 1, Fox News has devoted far less airtime to Clinton events than its cable rivals have -- 13 hours and 52 minutes for Fox, compared to 18 hours and 18 minutes for CNN and 17 hours 36 minutes for MSNBC. The conservative network also holds a wide lead in Trump event airtime during the same period: 25 hours and 25 minutes, compared to 21 hours and 27 minutes on CNN and 18 hours and 11 minutes on MSNBC.
Trump’s wide advantage in event airtime is apparently part of a strategy by the candidate. He has cut back on interviews with non-Fox outlets -- seemingly in hopes that the networks will simply carry his events, where he mostly has an unchallenged platform to pitch himself to voters. (He has not held a press conference since July).
As Media Matters and others have documented, Trump has largely abandoned televised interviews with outlets other than the friendly Fox News. In July, Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz noted Trump’s shift in interview strategy and wrote that some of the candidate’s advisers thought “it doesn’t matter if Trump bypasses interviews on CNN and MSNBC as long as those networks, along with Fox, keep carrying extended portions of his evening rallies, with the added benefit that he doesn’t have to answer questions.”
In an interview this week, top Trump adviser Roger Stone pointed to the cable news networks' penchant for airing Trump rallies as one of the ways they “aided” his rise, saying Trump “understood that his rallies, as long as he was drawing large crowds, would get coverage like a news event. Got wall-to-wall coverage on the cable networks.”
From June 1 to September 30, we tracked all live coverage of rallies, events, or press conferences featuring Trump or Clinton on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between 6 a.m. and midnight. Timing for events began the moment newscasters stopped talking and switched audio over to the event and ended the moment audio switched back to the newsroom and newscasters began speaking again. All breaks in live coverage of events were timed separately and removed from totals. We excluded live coverage of the party conventions because the study defines the amount of coverage devoted to campaign events, and the conventions are considered unique events outside the media's normal day-to-day campaign coverage.