Fox News' Dr. Seuss obsession, by the numbers
Fox News spent more than twice as much time discussing Dr. Seuss being “canceled” as covering major news on vaccine distribution, January 6 hearing
If you watched Fox News yesterday, you’d think the most pressing news of the day was the supposed cancelation of Dr. Seuss. The network devoted an hour and nine minutes of coverage to Dr. Seuss, more than twice as much as it gave to multiple positive news stories about the coronavirus vaccine distribution and a congressional hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray on the January 6 attack and the threat of extremism.
On March 2, Wray testified publicly for the first time since the January 6 Capitol attack and knocked down a variety of right-wing conspiracy theories and talking points about the perpetrators of the attack and the threat of white supremacist extremism. Wray noted that some motivating factors for the attack were “militia violent extremism and some instances of racially motivated violent extremism, specifically advocating for the superior[ity] of the white race.”
Tuesday was also full of news regarding the coronavirus vaccine distribution, with a report early in the day that Johnson & Johnson, which began rolling out its vaccines that day, would be partnering with rival Merck to make the vaccine in order to speed up the process. Later in the day, President Joe Biden announced that the timeline for all adults who wanted a vaccine receiving it was now the end of May, two months earlier than his administration previously predicted.
Both of those stories received scant coverage on the network in comparison to the news that Dr. Seuss Enterprises had decided to stop publishing six of the author’s books, citing hurtful and wrong portrayal of people following a review by a panel of experts and educators.
The network covered Dr. Seuss and the “cancel culture” for 1 hour and 9 minutes, more than twice the time it spent covering Wray’s testimony -- 22 minutes -- and the vaccine distribution news -- 26 minutes.
Not only did the Wray hearing get scant coverage (the network didn't air any of it live), but nearly half of the discussion about it was from prime-time host Laura Ingraham, who used the time to argue that “Congress relies on the smear that America is teeming with racists” and criticized Wray for devoting resources to white supremacist extremism. Wray had noted in his testimony that “the vast majority" of racially motivated violent extremism is “what you would call white supremacist violence."
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for original programming on Fox News Channel for March 2, 2021. For the Dr. Seuss story, we searched transcripts for any variation of the term “Seuss” (including misspellings); for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with FBI Director Christopher Wray, we searched transcripts for any of the terms “Wray,” “FBI,” “Federal Bureau of Investigation,” “Senate Judiciary,” “domestic terrorism,” “Capitol riot,” “conspiracy,” “antifa,” or “protester” or any variation of any of the terms “January 6,” “the 6th,” “insurrection,” or “supremacy”; for the two coronavirus vaccine news stories, we searched transcripts for either of the terms “Johnson” or “Merck” or any variation of the term “vaccine.”
The two coronavirus vaccine developments included the news that Merck would be assisting Johnson & Johnson with production of its vaccine and that President Joe Biden announced that vaccine deployment is two months ahead of his administration’s schedule with a plan to inoculate all U.S. adults by May 2021.
We timed any segment about any of the stories, events, or developments, which we defined as instances when such stories, events, or developments were the stated topic of discussion or when we found “significant discussion” of such stories, events, or developments. We defined “significant discussion” as instances when two or more speakers in a segment discussed one of the stories, events, or developments with one another. For multi-topic segments, we timed only the relevant portion. We also timed any passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a speaker in a segment addressed any of the stories, events, or developments without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers for segments coming up later in the broadcast about any of the stories, events, or developments.