Fox News filled the void of cable news’ coverage of a Chicago mass shooting with offensive tropes and a focus on blaming “decades of Democratic rule”

While CNN and MSNBC each spent only around 10 minutes covering last week’s mass shooting at a funeral in Chicago, Fox filled the void with over an hour’s worth of coverage of the incident that pushed problematic tropes about urban gun violence and blamed the city's Democratic leadership.

On July 21, 15 people in Chicago were injured in a drive-by shooting during a funeral for the victim of a different drive-by shooting. Several people at the funeral fired back at the vehicle before the driver hit a parked car and the occupants fled on foot. 

That same day, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed the Trump administration’s plans to send federal agents to the city in order to combat rising “violent crime.” President Donald Trump made the formal announcement on July 22 that, as part of “Operation Legend,” his administration would be sending a ” surge” of federal agents to "help drive down violent crime” in Chicago. 

In the week following the shooting, from 4 a.m. July 21 until midnight July 28, the three major cable news networks covered the shooting for just over an hour and a half in total, a Media Matters study found. CNN and MSNBC contributed 12 and 11 minutes of that time, respectively, while Fox News dominated with just over 1 hour and 15 minutes of coverage. All live programming was included in this analysis. 

All three cable news networks aired breaking news updates about the shooting in the 24 hours after it took place. They also put the incident into a broader context by mentioning it in more wide-ranging or multi-topic discussion segments. 

On CNN and MSNBC, that broader context included covering rising gun violence through the summer across the nation and discussing what the federal involvement in Chicago will look like.

But there was significantly more coverage on Fox, where the discussion included framing the shooting as a “typical night” in Chicago, blaming the city’s Democratic leadership for the violence, and insisting it could be solved if only the city’s police were not handcuffed by activists who demanded they “stop enforcing the law.”    

Fox News was the only network to cover the shooting the night it happened, and prime-time host Sean Hannity immediately used the opportunity to call Lightfoot “incompetent” and to blame the violence on ” decades of Democratic rule.” That same night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham opened her show with the Chicago shooting before comparing the city to “the Wild West.” 

The next day on Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime, The Hill’s Joe Concha brought up the funeral shooting only to accuse MSNBC and CNN of purposefully not covering it because "maybe it steps on a narrative around what’s going on in cities like Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis, and New York.”  

That night, Hannity characterized the mass shooting as another “typical night” in Chicago because the mayor ” hates the president more than she cares about innocent men, women, and children in her city”:

Video file

Citation From the July 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): By the way, last night we reported on that horrific mass shooting in the south side of Chicago. Fifteen people seriously wounded outside of a funeral home in what appears to be a gun-related incident. At least 60 shell casings recovered from the scene, caught on camera by nearby surveillance system, take a look.

...

Mayor lightweight isn't doing anything to protect her city. Moments later, two visibly shaken witnesses in a war zone, as the president has been calling this, and applauded the president's plan, “Please help us. Please send in help." Well, the mayor and the governor won't let him do that. Take a look. 

...

As this devastating scene unfolding, sadly, typical night. Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is a lightweight in terms of protecting people, busy on Twitter. What was she doing? Bashing President Trump, tweeting, “Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump's troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents." She clearly hates the president more than she cares about innocent men, women and children in her city.  

Mainstream cable news outlets have long struggled with how to adequately cover gun violence, particularly mass shootings. In general, mass shootings are the least common type of gun violence yet breaking news about these incidents tend to dominate the media conversation around gun violence issues. This mass shooting, however, which involved Black victims and took place in a major city, did not receive the same treatment by cable news. 

CNN’s and MSNBC’s scant coverage allowed Fox News to fill the void with dangerous, false, and even offensive tropes about gun violence in big cities.

Methodology:

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming between 4 a.m. and midnight daily on CNN, Fox News Channel, or MSNBC for the term “gun” or any variation of the terms ” shoot,” “kill,” ” murder,” “fatal,” or ” wound” within close proximity of any of the terms “Chicago,” ” funeral,” or "Auburn Gresham” from July 21 through July 28, 2020. We timed all mentions or discussions of the shooting, including teasers, headlines, passing mentions, interview questions, breaking news, and full segments.