STUDY: As The General Election Looms, Trump Retreats To Fox News
In June, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump far outpaced presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in interview airtime on cable and broadcast news programs. Trump also held a wide lead in the number of mentions on the three major cable news networks.
Trump essentially clinched the Republican nomination in May, and Clinton followed by locking up the Democratic nomination in early June. As the race moves into the general election, Media Matters tracked the total mentions of each party's presumptive nominee on the three major cable news networks. We also tracked and timed each candidate’s interviews on all cable news programming and on broadcast news' morning, evening, and Sunday morning shows.
According to Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, Trump’s campaign has shifted its strategy in terms of media appearances by the candidate, largely scaling back on interviews with outlets outside of Fox News. The interview data from June shows this strategy taking form.
Outpacing Clinton’s 2 hours and 16 minutes of interviews, Trump appeared for just over 5 hours of interview airtime during June (in March, for example, the networks aired nearly 14 hours of interviews with Trump). His Fox-focused strategy was also clearly evident during the month -- Trump’s interviews appeared on Fox News for a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes. Trump’s Fox News interview total was by far the most by either candidate on any network.
By contrast, the only qualifying Trump interview to air on MSNBC during the month was an approximately 3-and-a-half-minute preview clip of Lester Holt’s June 23 NBC interview that covered Trump’s criticisms of Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi terror attack, Clinton’s personal email server, and whether Trump would accept money from Wall Street, among other topics.
Removing Fox News from the equation, Clinton had more interview airtime overall. On ABC, CNN, and MSNBC, Clinton led in interview time by approximately 12, 6, and 42 minutes, respectively. Trump led Clinton on CBS and NBC by approximately 24 and 7 minutes, respectively.
Networks have been widely criticized for conducting interviews with Trump over the phone throughout the campaign. During June, he was interviewed by phone far more than Clinton: nine interviews totaling 1 hour and 17 minutes of airtime for Trump, compared to three interviews for 24 minutes for Clinton.
Showing the extent to which news about Trump has dominated the media this election cycle, Trump led in total number of mentions by a significant margin on all three cable news networks. Overall, Trump held 65 percent of all mentions on cable while Clinton had 35 percent. The gap was largest on MSNBC and CNN, where Trump led by nearly 7,000 mentions each. On Fox News, Trump held an advantage of almost 3,000 mentions.
Media Matters searched iQ Media's database of raw video for mentions of the words “Trump” or “Clinton” on all original programming on the three cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC -- from June 1 through June 30, 2016, between 6 a.m. and midnight each day. We tallied each individual utterance in order to measure the amount of relative discussion of each candidate. While we recognize that this broad definition would includes family members in the counts -- for instance, a mention of “Clinton” may be of former president Bill Clinton rather than Hillary Clinton -- we feel that mentions of family members more often than not occur in discussions about the candidates themselves, and these mentions likely represented a small portion of the overall data.
From June 1 through June 30, we also tracked every interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the three cable networks from 6 a.m. through midnight, and we tracked interviews on ABC's Good Morning America, World News Tonight with David Muir, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos; CBS' CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, and Face the Nation with John Dickerson; and NBC's Today, Nightly News with Lester Holt, and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. We included all original interviews. We included repeats of interviews if aired in their entirety or if a significant, uninterrupted portion was aired on a different show. Previews of upcoming interviews were included if a significant, uninterrupted portion was aired. A significant, uninterrupted portion needed to be at least 3 minutes in length to be included in this study. Clips shorter than 3 minutes of past or upcoming interviews were not included. Interviews were timed from the moment the guest was introduced to the moment the guest left the show.
Charts by Sarah Wasko. Additional research by Media Matters research staff.