As the 2022 midterm elections approach, Fox News is providing dramatically more coverage of competitive U.S. Senate races in weekday prime time than either CNN or MSNBC.
In the four weeks following Labor Day, Fox’s weekday prime-time broadcasts mentioned the Democratic nominees in seven competitive Senate races more than twice as many times as CNN and MSNBC's broadcasts did combined, according to a Media Matters review. The network’s prime-time block also mentioned the Republican candidates in those races more frequently than did those of the other two networks combined.
The Senate is currently evenly divided, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote that gives Democrats control. If Republicans net a single seat in the November elections, they will gain control of the body. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been deliberately cagey about what the party's agenda would be if that were to occur. But Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who heads the body that works to elect Senate Republicans, has proposed a radical blueprint that would raise taxes on half of Americans while putting Social Security and Medicare at risk, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put forward a nationwide abortion ban.
Fox functions as the communications arm of the GOP, and its biggest stars are working to ensure that Republicans take over the Senate and have an opportunity to implement a hard-right agenda. The network’s powerful right-wing propagandists are bombarding their audiences with a steady stream of attacks on the Democratic nominees while lavishing positive airtime on the Republican ones. Meanwhile, the prime-time hosts on the other two networks are largely ignoring the Senate elections.
The Republican nominees made at least 19 appearances combined on Fox prime-time shows over the same period, Media Matters found. Several of the GOP candidates owe their nominations to the patronage of Fox’s stars, and they typically received friendly platforms to recite their talking points and condemn their opponents. Meanwhile, the Democratic nominees received only 4 appearances on MSNBC’s prime-time broadcasts and none on CNN. (No Republican nominees appeared on CNN or MSNBC prime time during the period, nor did any Democratic nominee appear on Fox prime time.)
Media Matters reviewed Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle; CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, and the 10 p.m. hour of Don Lemon Tonight; and MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Alex Wagner Tonight, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell from September 6 through October 3 for mentions of the names of the Republican and Democratic nominees for Senate in the seven states FiveThirtyEight identified as most competitive: Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
Fox mentioned the Senate nominees at least 336 times in prime time – 212 times for the Democrats and 124 times for the Republicans. CNN and MSNBC combined mentioned the nominees only 179 times, 76 for the Democrats and 103 for the Republicans.
Fox News’ prime-time shows have been fixated on Pennsylvania’s Senate race, with the nominees accounting for 190 mentions, more than half of the total prime-time candidate mentions on the network. Republican TV personality Mehmet Oz received 56 mentions in Fox prime time over the four-week period, while Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman received a whopping 134. Sean Hannity’s zealous promotion helped hand the GOP nomination to Oz, an unpopular first-time candidate, and the Fox host and his colleagues are working diligently to carry him to victory.
CNN and MSNBC prime-time shows have also given more attention to the Pennsylvania Senate race than any of the others. But mentions of both nominees on both networks combined still amount to only 103 references, just over half as many as aired on Fox.
Fox retains that dominance in nearly every other Senate election. The network provided the most prime-time candidate mentions in every race we reviewed except for North Carolina. In that case, CNN and MSNBC combined for 13 candidate mentions, a figure Fox equaled or exceeded in every other race. Fox prime time provided at least twice as much coverage as the other two networks combined in four of the races.
Fox prime time provided a steady stream of mentions of both Democratic and Republican nominees who were all but ignored on CNN and MSNBC. It mentioned 11 of the 14 candidates we reviewed more often than either of the other two networks. Of those, Fox prime time mentioned 10 more often than the combined totals of both networks – and at least doubled the mentions on the other networks in seven of those cases.
Fox prime time’s 19 interviews of GOP Senate nominees since Labor Day included 6 for Oz; 3 each for Nevada’s Adam Laxalt, Arizona’s Blake Masters, and Georgia’s Herschel Walker; and 2 each for Ohio’s J.D. Vance and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. MSNBC has interviewed Fetterman twice in prime time, while North Carolina’s Cheri Beasley and Georgia’s Raphael Warnock each appeared once.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original weekday episodes of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, and the 10 p.m. hour of Don Lemon Tonight; Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle; and MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Alex Wagner Tonight, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell for any of the terms “Barnes,” “Beasley,” “Budd,” “Fetterman,” “Johnson,” “Kelly,” “Laxalt,” “Masters,” “Masto,” “Oz,” “Ryan,” “Vance,” “Walker,” or “Warnock” from September 6, 2022, through October 3, 2022.
We then reviewed each mention of any of the above terms for whether they clearly referenced any of the following senatorial nominees: Mandela Barnes (D-WI), Cheri Beasley (D-NC), Ted Budd (R-NC), John Fetterman (D-PA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Adam Laxalt (R-NV), Blake Masters (R-AZ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mehmet Oz (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Herschel Walker (R-GA), or Raphael Warnock (D-GA). We included instances spoken by anchors, hosts, correspondents, contributors, personalities, or guests who appeared on any of the searched programs. We did not include instances in played clips or read quotes.