Trump has recently vowed to implement “ideological screening” for migrants, saying he’d turn away anyone who doesn’t like “our religion”; accused “liberal Jews” of voting “to destroy America & Israel”; claimed migrants are “poisoning the blood of our country”; and complimented the terrorist group Hezbollah as “very smart.”
Yet these extreme and alarming statements received scant coverage across major TV news networks: Three of the four comments received no more than 22 minutes of attention each, with only one nearing an hour. In total, across major broadcast and cable news outlets in the two weeks after each comment occurred, the four comments together received less than 2 hours of coverage combined.
In the two weeks after the former president pledged to implement ideological screening for migrants entering the country, adding that he’d turn away individuals who don’t like “our religion,” broadcast news totally ignored the comments, while cable news devoted just under 7 minutes total. CNN and MSNBC each devoted about 3 minutes, with Fox News devoting less than 1.
When Trump stated that “liberal Jews” were voting to “destroy America & Israel” in a Truth Social post during the Rosh Hashana holiday — which advocate groups called out as incendiary and playing into antisemitic tropes — broadcast news again failed to mention the statement in the following two weeks. MSNBC covered Trump’s post for 9 minutes, CNN for just over 3 minutes, and Fox ignored it.
When Trump claimed migrants were “poisoning the blood of our country” (consistent with the racist “white replacement theory” sentiment), all networks failed to pick up the comment until MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan called attention to it a week later. At that point, MSNBC devoted about 12 minutes of coverage and CNN about 10, with broadcast news and Fox News once again ignoring the statement.
In total, those three extreme comments alone received just over 40 minutes of coverage combined in the two weeks after each statement was made. None of them were mentioned on broadcast news, and Fox News mentioned only the “migrant screening” comments — and only once.
Although the former president’s comment praising the terrorist group Hezbollah as “very smart” — made just days after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel — was covered more than the other statements, it still got minimal coverage. The comment received just over 1 minute of coverage combined on broadcast channels ABC and NBC, with CBS failing to mention it. CNN devoted 14 minutes to the comment, Fox News 17 minutes, and MSNBC about 28 minutes (more than half of which came from Morning Joe).
Despite — or perhaps due to — the frequency of Trump’s extreme comments, TV news networks are seemingly desensitized to his rhetoric. The networks have shown they are capable of covering such extremism — as Joint Chief of Staff head Mark Milley was retiring, networks eventually got around to covering Trump's suggestion that the General deserved to be executed — but often they regularly choose to ignore the GOP front-runner’s inflammatory commentary.
This lacking coverage isn’t just limited to Trump’s extreme statements, TV news regularly ignores Trump’s gaffes while highlighting Biden’s. Meanwhile, cable news consistently dedicates ample time to Biden's age while largely ignoring Trump’s. As we enter into the heat of the 2024 presidential race, TV news outlets must highlight Trump’s extremism and inform viewers of the Republican front-runner’s unpopular beliefs.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN as well as all original episodes of 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 either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within close proximity of any variation of the term “Jew” from September 17, 2023, when Trump posted on Truth Social about “liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel,” through September 30, 2023, two weeks after the initial comment.
We searched the same transcripts for either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within close proximity of any of the terms “smart,” “Netanyahu,” “Hezbollah,” “Lebanon,” “Lebanese,” “Hamas,” or “Gaza” or any variation of either of the terms “Israel” or “terror” from October 11, 2023, when Trump praised Hezbollah as “very smart,” through October 24, 2023.
We searched the same transcripts for either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within close proximity of any of the terms “Gaza,” “Israel,” “Syria,” “Somalia,” “Yemen,” “Libya,” “refugee,” “asylum,” “Hamas,” or “Muslim” or any variation of any of the terms “migrant,” “immigrant,” “emigrate,” “terror,” “jihad,” or “Islam” also within close proximity of either of the terms “travel” or “ban” or any variation of either of the term “screen” or “ideology” from October 16, 2023, when Trump pledged to implement ideological screening for migrants, through October 29, 2023.
Finally, we searched the same transcripts for either of the terms “Trump” or “former president” within close proximity of either of the terms “blood” or “poison” and also within close proximity of any of the terms “refugee,” “asylum,” or “illegals” or any variation of any of the terms “migrant,” “immigrant,” “emigrate,” or “terror” from September 27, 2023, when Trump claimed that migrants are “poisoning the blood of the country,” through October 10, 2023.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when any of Trump’s comments were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the comments. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed Trump’s comments with one another.
We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment about any topic mentioned Trump’s comments 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 comments scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute.