Cable news networks spent the better part of Tuesday afternoon obsessing over comments made by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in which they reignited feuds with President Donald Trump over his inability to tell the truth and his contribution to political discord. However, during the windfall of coverage -- which oftentimes touted the two senators “blast[ing] Trump” -- there was barely any mention of the fact that both Flake and Corker have almost always voted with Trump’s agenda.
On October 24, an ongoing fight between Trump and Corker escalated with Corker lashing out at the president for “‘debasing’ the country with his ‘untruths,’ ‘name-calling’ and ‘attempted bullying,’” according to The Washington Post. On the same day, Flake announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, noting that “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is.’”
Cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, provided extensive coverage of the events, hyping the fact that “two Republican senators” were blasting Trump. Overall, on October 24, CNN covered the topic for five hours, 20 minutes, and 14 seconds; Fox News spent one hour, 41 minutes, and 11 seconds on the topic; and MSNBC ran five hours, 23 minutes, and 49 seconds of coverage detailing the feuds.
Yet, according to FiveThirtyEight, Flake has voted with the president’s agenda 90 percent of the time and Corker has voted in favor of Trump’s agenda 86 percent of the time as of October 25. In fact, on the same day they spoke out against the president, both senators voted with Trump to upend a major consumer protection rule. With the significant amount of discussion spent on Flake’s and Corker’s words, one would think that the networks could have found plenty of time to mention the senators’ voting records. But they were barely mentioned. For example, in the over 12 hours of coverage from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on October 24, a Media Matters review of keywords in SnapStream (“Flake” or “Corker” in conjunction with “vote” or “support”) found just 14 references to Flake’s and Corker’s pro-Trump voting. The senators’ voting records were mentioned five times on Fox and CNN and four times on MSNBC, according to that search.
When two sitting senators in the same party as the president criticize him publicly, it will undoubtedly get covered. It’s important, however, to put the criticism into perspective. While Flake and Corker did criticize Trump, their collective actions throughout his presidency have just enabled his agenda -- and that, too, must be pointed out.