Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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How cable news covered Trump's rallies before the 2018 midterms

As Trump’s rallies ramped up, Fox’s live coverage decreased

  • President Donald Trump has held 54 rallies since he took office. The rallies, which increased in frequency as the midterms approached, were oftentimes just consisted of random Trump diatribes full of lies, name-calling, and media bashing. Nonetheless, from April through August, Fox News aired almost every rally in its entirety, helping Trump promote himself and boost the profiles of Republican candidates he was supporting. When Trump’s rally schedule ramped up, Fox News’ coverage became less consistent. The network went from airing all of Trump’s rallies in their entirety to showing about 65 percent of the total time of the rallies in September, to just 19 percent of the rally time in October, and only 5 percent of rally time in November. From April 28, when Media Matters started tracking Trump’s rallies, through November 5, Fox gave the events nearly 21 hours of airtime, which is equivalent to over $34 million in free advertising. On the other hand, in the same time period, CNN and MSNBC aired under 40 minutes of the rallies combined.


    Rally coverage: April to Election Day

    April-August rally coverage

    September rally coverage

    October to Election Day rally coverage

    Trump’s rallies: April to Election Day


    Since he was sworn in, Trump has held 54 rallies. The rallies kicked into overdrive in October, with the president hosting 16 rallies during the month. Trump additionally had 10 rallies in November leading up to Election Day on November 6. Media Matters started tracking cable coverage of the rallies in April, and between then and Election Day, Trump attended 42 rallies. In that time, Fox News aired nearly 21 hours of these rallies live, CNN aired nearly 21 minutes live, while MSNBC aired 17 minutes live. In total, Fox News aired 44 percent of Trump’s rallies live.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rally coverage: April-August 

    Rally dates: April 28 - Michigan; May 10 - Indiana; May 29 - Tennessee; June 20 - Minnesota; June 25 - South Carolina; June 27 - North Dakota; July 5 - Montana; July 31 - Florida; August 2 - Pennsylvania; August 4 - Ohio; August 21 - West Virginia; August 30 - Indiana

    Trump attended 12 rallies from April through August. From the April 28 rally in Michigan through the August 30 rally in Indiana, Fox News aired each event in its entirety. During that time period, CNN didn’t air any live footage of the rallies, and MSNBC aired less than 10 minutes of live rally coverage.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During this time period, a Trump rally would take over large portions of Fox’s nightly programming. Not only did the network always air the entire rally, but often the programming before and after it focused on what the president would or did say.

    While CNN didn’t air any live footage of the rallies during this time period, hosts frequently acknowledged the rallies when they were occurring, noting they were “monitoring” them for news. CNN also frequently sent correspondent Jim Acosta to report live from the rallies, and guest panels often discussed what was said at the events. Though MSNBC aired portions of Trump’s April 28 rally in Michigan -- which was held at the same time as the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner -- the network almost entirely ignored his subsequent rallies. Many times, programming on the network didn’t even acknowledge that the rallies were occurring, though occasionally MSNBC aired short clips from the events to discuss statements from Trump.

    In total during this period, Fox aired nearly 14 hours of Trump rallies, MSNBC aired just over eight minutes of the rallies live, and CNN didn’t air a single second of the events. The airtime Fox gave Trump during this period was worth an estimated $24,210,289 in advertising value, according to calculations by media monitoring service iQ media. MSNBC’s eight minutes of live coverage was worth an estimated $56,737.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rally coverage: September  

    Rally dates: September 6 - Montana; September 13 - Missouri (canceled); September 14 - Mississippi (canceled); September 20 - Nevada; September 21 - Missouri; September 29 - West Virginia

    Trump hosted four rallies in September (two additional rallies were canceled due to Hurricane Florence).

    Fox’s live coverage of the rallies started to wane during the month, dropping from 100 percent in April through August down to about 65 percent in September. (Though the network has continued to stream every rally in its entirety on its YouTube channel.) Although the live coverage decreased, Fox sent two hosts to two rallies to “interview” Trump. During the September 6 rally in Billings, MT, Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth conducted an interview “as part of a Trump campaign rally.” And at the September 20 rally in Las Vegas, NV, Sean Hannity hosted “a pre-game show … inside the arena.” CNN’s Brian Stelter described Hannity’s show as having “the feel of a pep rally, both for the crowd and for the audience at home.”

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over the course of the month, Fox News aired only Trump’s September 29 weekend rally in West Virginia in its entirety. The network aired almost all of the September 6 rally, and about a quarter of the September 20 rally, but barely any of the September 21 rally. In total, the network aired nearly three hours of Trump’s September rallies. The airtime Fox gave to the president during this period was worth an estimated $4.4 million in advertising value, according to calculations by media monitoring service iQ media.

    CNN and MSNBC didn’t carry any of Trump’s rallies live during September.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Rally coverage: October to Election Day

    Rally dates: October 1 - Tennessee; October 2 - Mississippi; October 4 - Minnesota; October 6 - Kansas; October 9 - Iowa; October 10 - Pennsylvania; October 12 - Ohio; October 13 - Kentucky; October 18 - Montana; October 19 - Arizona; October 20 - Nevada; October 22 - Texas; October 24 - Wisconsin;  October 26 - North Carolina; October 27 - Illinois; November 1 - Missouri; November 2 - West Virginia and Indiana; November 3 - Montana and Florida; November 4 - Georgia and Tennessee; November 5 - Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri

    Trump hosted 16 rallies in October and 10 rallies in November leading up to Election Day. Fox’s rally coverage significantly dropped off as Trump’s rally schedule ramped up. The network aired only 19 percent of Trump’s rally time live in October, and just 5 percent of Trump’s November rallies.

    Fox showed only seconds of the October 1 and October 2 rallies. Host Tucker Carlson acknowledged the October 1 rally was occurring, noting, “The president is speaking in Tennessee, we’re monitoring that speech, and we’ll go there of course if news occurs.” Fox aired 15 minutes of the October 4 rally and carried the entirety of October 6 weekend rally in Kansas live.

    Breaking the mold for the first time since Media Matters started tracking, CNN aired portions of Trump’s October 6 rally live. The network cut to the rally twice, for a total of 16 minutes and 31 seconds of coverage.

    Trump’s October 9 rally received almost no live coverage. Even though Trump praised Fox News and particularly its prime-time hosts during the Iowa rally, the network aired it live solely as a bumper before three commercial breaks, for a total of just 37 seconds. After this rally, in total Fox had aired 76 percent of Trump’s rallies since April.

    Trump's October 10 rally garnered no live coverage. The president once again mentioned a Fox host during the event, touting Jeanine Pirro’s endorsement of a candidate, but the network barely even acknowledged that the rally was occuring. After the unaired rally, Trump called in to two Fox News shows, one that night and another the next morning. After the October 10 rally, in total Fox had aired 73 percent of his rallies since April. 

    Trump’s back-to-back rallies on October 12 and October 13 received no live coverage from CNN or MSNBC. Fox News didn’t air any of Trump’s October 12 rally, and for the first time since Media Matters started tracking, the network didn’t air the entirety of Trump’s weekend rally, instead just airing about seven minutes of it. As the network has started to turn away from airing the president's rallies uninterrupted and in their entirety, Trump has taken to increasingly calling in to Fox shows. He called in to Fox Business on October 16 and gave an interview to Fox Business’ Stuart Varney on October 17. Varney recorded his entire show live from the White House

    CNN and MSNBC didn’t air any of Trump’s October 18 rally in Montana. Fox aired just one minute and 13 seconds of it, right before a commercial break. During the rally, Trump lauded Rep. Greg Gianforte’s (R-MT) previous assault on a journalist. The networks’ total coverage from April through the October 18 rally was down to just 65 percent.

    Trump hosted rallies in Arizona on October 19 and in Nevada on October 20. CNN and MSNBC didn’t air either of the rallies live. Fox News aired eight and a half minutes of Trump’s Friday night rally and just under a minute of the president's Saturday rally. This is the second weekend in a row that Fox didn’t air Trump’s weekend rally in it entirety. Following the October 20 rally, Fox News had aired a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes of Trump’s rallies live, just 15 percent. The network’s total coverage from April through October 20 was down to just 61 percent. 

    CNN and MSNBC didn’t air any of Trump’s October 22 Texas rally. Fox News, for the first time during its weekday rally coverage in October, aired the entire rally, including Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) speech before Trump took the stage -- a total of an hour and a half of live coverage. Following the October 22 rally, Fox had aired 24 percent of Trump’s October rallies live and 63 percent of all Trump’s rallies since April. 

    Trump decided to hold his October 24 Wisconsin rally despite emerging reports that a spate of explosive devices were sent to billionaire George Soros, the Clintons, former Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obamas, CNN, and other Democratic leaders. CNN was the only network to air any portion of the rally live, airing just over four minutes of Trump’s opening remarks on the subject. After breaking from the rally, anchor Anderson Cooper called out Trump’s hypocrisy, criticizing the president for not mentioning the explosive device sent to CNN and for blaming the media and their reporting for what happened. Following the October 24 rally, Fox had aired 22 percent of Trump’s October rallies live and 61 percent of all Trump’s rallies since April.

    Trump hosted a rally in North Carolina on October 26 and a rally in Illinois on October 27, hours after a gunman murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Neither CNN or MSNBC aired any of the October 26 rally, while Fox News aired under 30 seconds as a bumper before commercial breaks. The beginning of the October 27 rally, which was held the day of the shooting, was aired on both MSNBC and Fox News. Fox aired 12 and a half minutes while MSNBC aired six minutes. CNN didn’t air any of the event. Following the October 27 rally, Fox had aired 20 percent of Trump’s October rallies live and 57 percent of all Trump’s rallies since April.

    Trump’s October 31 Florida rally and November 1 Missouri rally received almost no airtime. CNN and MSNBC didn’t air either rally, while Fox aired just 25 seconds of the October rally and 4 seconds of the November rally, each as bumper before commercial breaks during Tucker Carlson’s show.  

    Trump’s final rally push kicked off on November 2, when the president started having multiple rallies a day. CNN didn’t air any of Trump’s November rallies, MSNBC showed only a nearly three-minute portion of the president's November 5 Ohio rally, and Fox aired short portions from nearly all of the last round of rallies for a total of over 34 minutes of coverage.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters