Fox News Ahmaud Arbery slain Shelley Luther jailed
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Fox covered jailed salon owner 2 hours more than slain jogger Ahmaud Arbery

  • Update (5/8/20)

  • Since publication of this report, Media Matters has continued to track cable news coverage of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing and Shelley Luther’s jailing. Fox News has covered Luther for 2 hours and 48 minutes. By contrast, the network has covered Arbery for just 47 minutes. That amount of coverage is far behind the other cable networks: CNN has spent 1 hour and 25 minutes and MSNBC has spent 1 hour and 32 minutes on Arbery.

  • Fox News coverage of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the jailing of Shelley Luther
  • Cable news coverage of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery
  • This update extends both periods of coverage to May 8 at 2 p.m.

  • Original report

  • Since news broke on May 5 that Shelley Luther, a Dallas, Texas, salon owner, had been jailed for reopening her business in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order, Fox News has covered the story for one and a half hours total. That’s seven and a half times as much coverage as the network has given to Ahmaud Arbery, a black man in Georgia who was out for a jog when he was reportedly mistaken for a burglar and killed by two white men with ties to local law enforcement. Arbery’s death was covered by Fox for just 12 minutes total.

    Coverage of Arbery’s killing, which occurred in February, started to increase last week after footage showing the fatal shooting went viral online. The story has sparked widespread outrage, especially given that the father and son duo who chased Arbery down in their pickup truck and shot him have not been arrested.

    Luther, on the other hand, chose to go to jail in an “act of civil disobedience” after repeatedly refusing to comply with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s stay-at-home orders. The salon owner was violating a temporary restraining order on her business and had previously ripped up an official cease-and-desist letter during a protest against Abbot’s orders. When a judge offered her a choice between apologizing and saying she’ll follow the law or going to jail, Luther opted for jail. In the process, she has become a folk hero of sorts on Fox.

    Fox has discussed Luther’s jailing seven and a half times more than the killing of Arbery. Additionally, Fox’s prime-time programming has completely ignored the killing of Arbery but has spent nearly 20 minutes on Luther’s story -- with Fox host Sean Hannity even interviewing Luther’s boyfriend on his May 6 show.

    Overall, Fox has covered the killing of Arbery significantly less than the other cable news outlets. Since May 3, when the story was first reported on cable news by Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, CNN has spent approximately 38 minutes on the story and MSNBC has spent 26 minutes -- compared to Fox’s 12 minutes of coverage.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video archive for the terms Arbery (including misspellings) or variations of “jog” within close proximity of variations of “kill” from May 3 through May 7 at 9 a.m. to find coverage of Arbery’s story. We searched for the terms Luther (including misspellings) or variations of “jail” within close proximity of the term “salon” from May 5 through May 7 at 9 a.m. for coverage of Luther’s story.

    We timed teasers for upcoming segments, passing mentions of the stories in segments on other topics, and segments about the stories. We included as segments when either story was the stated topic of discussion or where we found “significant discussion” in a segment on other topics. We defined “significant discussion” as instances when two or more persons discussed either story with one another. We timed only the speech relevant to either story in those instances.