In stark contrast to its cable and broadcast counterparts, Fox News largely failed to cover the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, dedicating just over 1 minute of coverage to the incident over the course of a full week.
Abu Akleh, a journalist with decades of experience covering the Middle East, was shot and killed while covering a raid by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Her outlet, Al Jazeera, reported that the Israeli military is responsible for her death.
The incident received international attention and condemnation, prompting considerable coverage from American news outlets. However, according to a Media Matters review, Fox News fell markedly short of its cable and broadcast competitors, devoting just over 1 minute of coverage to her killing in the week that followed. From May 11 to May 18, Fox News covered Abu Akleh’s killing in only 2 segments on Fox’s Special Report with Bret Baier and 1 news alert for Fox News Live. Each roughly 20-second segment offered viewers little more than sound-bite analysis of the incident. Beyond these scant reports, both daytime and prime-time programming at Fox — including both its supposed “straight news” and opinion shows — virtually ignored the killing of the American journalist.
CNN and MSNBC fared better, covering Abu Akleh’s killing for 1 hour and 21 minutes and 46 minutes, respectively. The majority of CNN’s coverage of the killing consisted of correspondent segments, but the longest segment (about 9 minutes) appeared on Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter. It included an interview of an Israeli official describing Israel’s role in Abu Akleh’s death and defending the scenes of police brutality at her funeral, which host Stelter pushed back on. MSNBC had several standout segments, including from hosts Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi, which spoke to who Abu Akleh was as a journalist and colleague and what her work represented to the Palestinian people.
Broadcast news also covered her death more frequently and extensively than Fox News, even though broadcast networks allocate far less time to live news programming each day. ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS each covered the story more than Fox, with CBS devoting 8 minutes of coverage to her killing, the most of any broadcast network that we counted. NBC and PBS followed at 4 minutes each while ABC had nearly 3 minutes of coverage.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s death drew a significant response from the highest levels of the U.S. government and from international organizations. Other news networks recognized the newsworthy circumstances of her killing and devoted meaningful coverage to the event and her legacy. Yet during a week of 24-hour “news” coverage, Fox could spare only about a minute to cover this incident.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America, World News, and This Week; CBS' Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press; and PBS’ NewsHour for any of the terms “Shireen Abu Akleh,” “Abu Akleh,” “Al Jazeera,” “journalist,” “correspondent,” or “reporter” within close proximity to either of the terms “West Bank” or “Jenin” or any variation of either of the terms “Israel” or “Palestine” and also within close proximity of any of the terms “shot,” “murder,” “raid,” or “fire” or any variation of any of the terms “kill,” “shoot,” or “wound” from 12 a.m. ET May 11, 2022, through 11:59 p.m. ET May 18, 2022.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh 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 did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned the shooting without another speaker engaging with the comment, or 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.