Cable news once again virtually ignored Muslim voices when hosting guests to discuss President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban that now blocks migrants from six majority-Muslim nations (instead of seven), a pattern which has been consistent in cable news reporting since the election of Trump.
On March 6, Trump signed a new executive order temporarily banning U.S. entry for immigrants and refugees from six majority-Muslim countries. The new order, which is set to take effect on March 16, was issued six weeks after Trump’s original January 27 order was blocked by a federal court. While the new order excludes Iraq, replaces the indefinite ban on refugees from Syria with a 120-day freeze, drops the explicit exception for religious minorities, and exempts permanent residents and visa holders, experts and advocates agree that the new order still amounts to religious discrimination and is thus still potentially unconstitutional. Legal experts and advocates like the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat note that “it’s just another run at a Muslim ban …. They can’t unring the bell,” and that Trump’s stated intent is still the same. The state of Hawaii on March 8 issued the first formal legal challenge to the new ban, and other states are considering filing suits as well.
Despite the controversy surrounding Trump’s executive order and its consequences for immigrants and refugees, in the day and a half following Trump’s signing of the order cable news programs barely hosted Muslim guests to discuss the ban. Out of 90 total guest appearances across the three networks that included significant discussion of the Muslim ban, only 5 guest appearances featured Muslims. CNN hosted 2 Muslim guests, MSNBC had 3 total appearances by two individual Muslim guests (Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) appeared on the network twice), and Fox News hosted 0 Muslim guests.
This isn’t the first time the cable networks failed to include Muslim voices in discussions about Trump’s Muslim ban, and this consistent failure by the networks is becoming increasingly indefensible. A February 9 Media Matters analysis found that, in the week after Trump signed the first iteration of his Muslim ban, prime-time cable news programs hosted 176 guests (some repeat) for significant discussions about the policy, but only 14 guest appearances were Muslim. In the 24 hours after the June 12, 2016, mass shooting in Orlando, FL, Muslims were villainized by some figures in the media after a Muslim man killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others after opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub, yet cable news hosted only a few Muslim guests. In the month after the 2016 election, only 21 percent of the guests who appeared on evening cable news to discuss Islam were Muslim.
What types of guests did the networks include? Mostly journalists, analysts, politicians, and in the case of CNN’s New Day, Dan Stein, the head of a nativist, anti-immigrant, SPLC-designated hate group with ties to white supremacists.
With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise, and an administration attempting to implement government-sanctioned discrimination, the need to feature Muslim and refugee voices on TV is more urgent than ever before.
Media Matters used Snapstream and Nexis to search for all guests appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between 12 p.m. (the first full hour of programming after the order was signed) and 11 p.m. on March 6 and between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on March 7 in segments where the revised Muslim ban was the stated topic or there was significant discussion of Trump’s revised Mulim ban, using the terms “refugee,” “travel,” “ban,” “Muslim,” “Islam,” “vetting,” and “executive order.”
Snapstream was used to code segments from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox and MSNBC. Nexis was used to code all segments from CNN, as well as Fox and MSNBC segments between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“Significant discussion” is defined by a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people. Network correspondents and reporters were not counted as guests, even when they appeared on panels. Pre-taped interviews where there was no significant dialogue between the reporter and guest were excluded from the analysis. Reruns of interviews from previous programming were excluded from the analysis. Guest appearances were coded for whether the guests self-identified as Muslim either in the segment or prominently elsewhere in the media. Guests were counted once per episode.