Research/Study Research/Study

Fox News largely ignored the shooting of Ralph Yarl

Fox News has a fixation with crime — just not this crime

  • Despite its usual obsessive coverage of crime, Fox News largely ignored the shooting of Ralph Yarl, dedicating only 13 minutes to the story and showing that the network truly cares about promoting only those stories that fit its narrative.

    On April 13, 84-year-old Andrew Lester allegedly shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, who is Black, after Yarl mistakenly went to the wrong address in Kansas City, Missouri. Lester, who is white, was taken into custody, with the prosecutor stating that there is a “racial component” to the case and the mayor saying Yarl was “shot because he was existing while Black.” 

    Fox News covered the story for only 13 minutes following the shooting through April 18, much less than its cable news counterparts CNN and MSNBC, which dedicated  3 hours and 49 minutes and 2 hours and 8 minutes of coverage over the time period, respectively.

  • Graph showing Fox News' lack of coverage of the shooting
  • Half of Fox’s segments discussing the shooting were brief headline reads. The only prime-time coverage came during Tucker Carlson’s show, where he downplayed the shooting, noting that “these types of mistakes do happen,” and used it as an opportunity to attack the Biden administration for releasing a statement about Yarl.

  • Video file

    Citation From the April 18, 2023, edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes

  • Fox’s dearth of coverage notably came during a week in which the network fixated on the House Judiciary Committee’s highly politicized hearing on crime in New York City. As Chris Hayes noted, Fox has fed its viewers a “constant stream of paranoia … that danger lurks behind every corner” and that the “child who rang your doorbell is obviously there to murder you.” Fox’s lack of coverage in the Yarl shooting once again has revealed the network’s playbook: exploiting violent crime as a political tool when it fits the network’s narrative, while ignoring stories that don’t.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “shot,” “gun violence,” “death,” “attack,” or “assault” or any variation of any of the terms “shoot,” “wound,” “kill,” “injure,” “gunfire,” or “terror” within close proximity of any of the terms “Kansas City,” “16,” “84,” “head,” “door,” “bell,” “doorbell,” “ring,” or “knock” or any variation of the term “teen” or any misspellings of either of the names “Yarl” or “Lester” from April 13, 2023, the night of the shooting, through April 18, 2023.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the shooting of Ralph Yarl was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the shooting. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the shooting with one another. We also timed live coverage of press conferences on the shootings.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the shooting without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the shooting scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.