New reporting published the full trove of text messages that Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave the January 6 committee — including texts with “at least 34 Republican members of Congress as they plotted to overturn President Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.” A Media Matters review found that local ABC, CBS, and NBC broadcast news affiliates serving viewers in over 100 media markets (that reach the 16 states with members of Congress named in the new texts) covered the story for a combined total of just 20 minutes, 13 minutes of which came during coverage from South Carolina-based stations.
On December 12, Talking Points Memo published the full log of messages between Meadows and Republicans in Congress that discussed overturning the 2020 election. Parts of the text log were made public earlier this year by CNN, but the new and previously unreported messages show that Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) called for martial law to be imposed days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) wrote to Meadows about efforts to set up a “cyber team” that would seize voting machines in some states and put them under “lock and key.” Additionally, GOP members of Congress from Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia texted Meadows requests for pardons for friends as they aided Trump’s push to overturn the election, including North Carolina representative and Sen.-elect Ted Budd. The full text log also reveals additional Republican members of Congress who pushed alarming rhetoric and unfounded conspiracy theories in their attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Media Matters reviewed local broadcast TV news in the 16 states that had at least one member of Congress who texted with Meadows about overturning the 2020 election and found that the texts were only covered for 20 minutes total between December 12-16. Notably, 13 of those minutes came in coverage from South Carolina-based affiliates devoted to the revelation that Norman had called for martial law to be imposed days before Biden’s inauguration. This also included South Carolina-based news stations airing in Georgia and North Carolina media markets, which covered Norman’s call for martial law for 4 minutes and 6 minutes, respectively, while failing to inform audiences that multiple members of Congress from their own states were also named in the log as having shared outlandish conspiracy theories, requested pardons, or spread “big lie boosterism.”
Local ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates that broadcast into media markets serving Arizona, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — all states which also had members of Congress named in the new reporting — did not cover the texts at all.
The lack of local TV coverage on the reporting ignores the “ongoing threat to democracy” detailed in the messages from Meadows’ phone, as described by the editorial board of Meadows’ home state newspaper The Charlotte Observer.
Local TV news outlets in 12 states failed to cover their Congress members’ texts and inclusion in the story
Arizona: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Arizona media markets covered the texts.
Georgia: Reps. Rick Allen (R-GA), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Jody Hice (R-GA), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), and former Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)
- No ABC, CBS, or NBC affiliates that broadcast into Georgia media markets mentioned that multiple representatives from the state were implicated in the newly revealed Meadows texts.
- The only Georgia-based TV station to cover the texts was a Savannah-based NBC affiliate, which covered the calls for Norman to resign for 1 minute, but failed to cover headlines from the text log related to Georgia’s own congresspeople.
- South Carolina-based CBS and NBC affiliates that broadcast into parts of Georgia and North Carolina through the Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville-Anderson media market covered the new Meadows texts for 4 minutes total but focused only on Norman’s call for martial law, making no mention that multiple Georgia representatives were also implicated in the new texts. ABC affiliates broadcasting into the state’s media markets did not cover the texts at all.
Louisiana: Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Louisiana media markets covered the texts.
Minnesota: Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Minnesota media markets covered the texts.
Missouri: Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Missouri media markets covered the texts.
North Carolina: Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC), Ted Budd (R-NC), Richard Hudson (R-NC), and Greg Murphy (R-NC)
- No North Carolina-based stations or affiliates that broadcast into the state’s media markets mentioned that multiple representatives from the state, including a senator-elect, were implicated in the new texts. South Carolina-based CBS and NBC affiliates that broadcast into parts of North Carolina — through the Myrtle Beach-Florence, South Carolina, and Greenville-Spartanburg-Asheville-Anderson media market — covered the new Meadows texts for 6 minutes combined, but focused only on Norman’s call for martial law. ABC affiliates broadcasting into North Carolina media markets did not cover the texts at all.
North Dakota: Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
- No affiliates that broadcast into North Dakota media markets covered the texts.
Ohio: Reps. Warren Davidson (R-OH), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and Jim Jordan (R-OH)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Ohio media markets covered the texts.
Texas: Reps. Brian Babin (R-TX), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Chip Roy (R-TX), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Texas media markets covered the texts.
Utah: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Utah media markets covered the texts.
Wisconsin: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Wisconsin media markets covered the texts.
Wyoming: Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
- No affiliates that broadcast into Wyoming media markets covered the texts.
Local TV news in three states gave scant coverage to the Meadows texts
Alabama: Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Barry Moore (R-AL)
- A CBS affiliate in Brooks’ district covered his described role as a “ringleader” for just 1 minute in a single headline read the day after the text log became public. ABC and NBC affiliates ignored the texts completely.
Pennsylvania: Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA), Fred Keller (R-PA), and Mike Kelly (R-PA)
- CBS and NBC affiliates broadcasting into Pennsylvania media markets covered news surrounding Meadows’ texts for 4 minutes, but nearly 3 of those minutes were covering related news that the Department of Justice had attempted to gain access to Perry’s texts (including those with Meadows). No ABC, CBS, or NBC affiliates reported on the two other members of Congress from Pennsylvania implicated in the log.
Tennessee: Rep. Mark Green (R-TN)
- Two Tennessee-based local ABC affiliates read headlines on Green’s texts with Meadows — in which he pushed a questionable legal theory citing a Newsmax segment suggesting that the election could be overturned at the state level — for roughly 2 minutes combined. CBS and NBC affiliates did not cover the texts.
Local TV news in South Carolina was the exception in covering the Meadows texts and Norman’s role in the story
- Local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC in South Carolina reported on Norman’s text to Meadows calling for martial law and the subsequent calls for his resignation for a combined 13 minutes. The day after Norman’s text became public, the South Carolina-based station WLTX read a headline on Norman’s text and highlighted that he also pushed the debunked conspiracy theory that Dominion voting machines “were being manipulated to change votes for President Biden.”
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original news programming on local ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates in the below media markets for the term “Meadows” within 50 words of any of the terms “Biggs,” “Kelly,” “Long,” “Davidson,” “Roy,” “Babin,” “Cramer,” “Green,” “Gohmert,” “Murphy,” “Gosar,” “Norman,” “Lee,” “Brady,” “Perry,” “Budd,” “Emmer,” “Jordan,” “Hudson,” “Hice,” “Loudermilk,” “Johnson,” “Perdue,” “Allen,” “Gibbs,” “Brooks,” “Cruz,” “Lummis,” “Greene,” “Moore,” “Keller,” “Bishop,” or “Clyde,” from December 12, 2022, the day the texts became public, through midnight ET on December 16, 2022.
We included and timed segments, which we defined as instances when the Meadows texts were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the texts. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the texts with one another.
We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned the texts without another speaker engaging with the comment. We did not include teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the texts scheduled to air later in the broadcast.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute.
The below media markets broadcast into the 16 different states with members of Congress named in the reporting:
Abilene-Sweetwater, TX; Albany, GA; Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM; Alexandria, LA; Amarillo, TX; Atlanta, GA; Augusta, GA-Aiken, SC; Austin, TX; Baton Rouge, LA; Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX; Billings, MT; Birmingham (Anniston and Tuscaloosa), AL; Boise, ID; Buffalo, NY; Casper-Riverton, WY; Charlotte, NC; Charleston, SC; Charleston-Huntington, WV; Chattanooga, TN; Cheyenne, WY-Scottsbluff, NE; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH; Columbia-Jefferson City, MO; Columbia, SC; Columbus, GA (Opelika, AL); Columbus, OH; Columbus-Tupelo, MS-West Point-Houston, AL; Corpus Christi, TX; Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX; Dayton, OH; Denver, CO; Des Moines-Ames, IA; Dothan, AL; Duluth, MN-Superior, WI; Erie, PA; El Paso (Las Cruces), TX; Elmira (Corning), NY; Fargo-Valley City, ND; Ft. Wayne, IN; Green Bay-Appleton, WI; Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, NC; Greenville-New Bern-Washington, NC; Greenville, SC-Spartanburg, SC-Asheville, NC-Anderson, SC; Harlingen-Wslco-Brnsvl-McA, TX; Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, PA; Houston, TX; Huntsville-Decatur (Florence), AL; Idaho Falls-Pocatello, ID (Jackson, WY); Jackson, TN; Jacksonville, FL; Johnstown-Altoona-State College, PA; Joplin, MO-Pittsburg, KS; Kansas City, KS; Knoxville, TN; La Crosse-Eau Claire, MN; Lafayette, LA; Lake Charles, Louisiana; Laredo, TX; Lima, Ohio; Lubbock, Texas; Madison, WI; Meridian, Alabama; Macon, Georgia; Memphis, TN; Milwaukee, WI; Monroe-El Dorado, LA; Mankato, MN; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson (Williston), ND; Mobile, AL-Pensacola (Ft. Walton Beach), FL; Montgomery-Selma, AL; Myrtle Beach-Florence, SC; Nashville, TN; New York, New York; Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA; Odessa-Midland, TX; Omaha, NE; Ottumwa, IA-Kirksville, MO; Paducah, KY-Cape Girardeau, MO-Harrisburg, IL; Parkersburg, WV; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix (Prescott), AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Quincy-Hannibal-Keokuk, IL; Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC; Rapid City, SD; Rochester, MN-Mason City, IA-Austin, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; San Angelo, TX; San Antonio, TX; Savannah, GA; Sherman, TX-Ada, OK; Shreveport, LA; Sioux Falls (Mitchell), SD; Springfield, MO; St. Joseph, MO; St. Louis, MO; Tallahassee, FL-Thomasville, GA; Toledo, OH; Tri-Cities, TN-VA; Tucson (Sierra Vista), AZ; Tyler-Longview, TX; Wausau-Rhinelander, WI; Wheeling, WV-Steubenville, OH; Wilkes Barre-Scranton-Hazelton, PA; Victoria, TX; Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX; Wichita Falls, TX & Lawton, OK; Wilmington, NC; Youngstown, OH; Yuma-El Centro, AZ; Zanesville, OH