Since March 30, Fox News has spent only 45 minutes discussing the evolving allegations that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) had a sexual relationship and traveled across state lines with a 17-year-old. By contrast, the network has focused on various stories involving Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for twice as much time: 1 hour and 30 minutes in total.
The New York Times first reported in the late afternoon of March 30 that several sources revealed to the paper that investigators with the Department of Justice are looking into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws. The department opened the case in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William Barr. Fox spent 32 minutes discussing the allegations over March 30 and 31, but its coverage has been scant since then despite numerous updates to the story.
Gaetz has been one of the most frequent congressional guests on Fox News: According to Media Matters’ internal database, Gaetz had 309 appearances since August 1, 2017 -- second only to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). Despite the network’s lack of focus on this story, Fox’s own Tucker Carlson gave a platform on his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, to Gaetz “to respond to these stories” and provide “his view” of the allegations. Carlson explained to his audience that he booked Gaetz without any “background on it at all and not even any very informed questions.”
Meanwhile, Fox has instead focused on various supposed scandals of Ocasio-Cortez day after day. The network collectively has devoted roughly half as much time to Gaetz’s investigation as it gave to the congresswoman’s Instagram video explaining the white supremacist and militaristic context of calling the situation at the southern border a “surge,” her tweet that President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is not big enough, her Twitter feud with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) over immigration policy, and her ranking in the Center for Effective Lawmaking’s report on Congress’ most effective legislators.
While Fox focuses on manufactured outrage over Ocasio-Cortez’s political views, the network is quickly brushing aside the very real scandal of one of its most frequent and favored congressional guests.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for either of the terms “Gaetz” (including misspellings) or “Gates,” which we identified as a common misspelling for the congressman, and we searched for any of the terms “AOC,” “Ocasio-Cortez,” or “Ocasio Cortez” from 6:00 p.m. EDT March 30 through 11:00 a.m. EDT April 6, 2021.
We timed all segments about either Ocasio-Cortez or Gaetz, which we defined as any instance when either member of Congress was the stated topic of discussion or when we found “significant discussion” of either member. We defined “significant discussion” as instances when two or more speakers in a multi-topic segment discussed either representative with one another. We also timed any passing mentions of either representative, which we defined as instances when a single speaker discussed either representative without another speaker in the segment engaging with the comment, and any teaser for a segment coming up later in the broadcast about either representative. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.
We searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for all segments on Fox News that included member of Congress and tallied the number of unique appearances per representative or senator per episode from August 1, 2017, through April 2, 2021.
Correction (4/7/2021): This post originally included an inaccurate date in the methodology and chart; data collection ran through 11:00 a.m. EDT April 6, 2021, not 11:00 a.m. EDT April 5, 2021.