MSNBC Emerges As Only Network To Expansively Cover Expiration Of Violence Against Women Act

Most cable news and major news networks were silent on the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and House Republicans' failure to reauthorize the law for the first time since 1994. However, MSNBC provided its viewers with extensive coverage of reauthorization, repeatedly warning that the law was set to expire if Congress did not act and exposing the GOP's obstructionism.

After the Senate voted 68-31 to approve the bipartisan VAWA in April, 2012, the bill was sent to the House where Republicans allowed the act to expire. House Republicans reportedly blocked the reauthorization due to objections over the law's expanded provisions to protect Native American women, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT victims of domestic violence. House Republicans later proposed their own version of the bill that stripped the Senate's added protections.

Media Matters looked at the month leading up to the expiration of the VAWA and found that both Fox News and CNN failed to cover the need to reauthorize the act, while MSNBC informed its viewers of the law's status. A search on Nexis for segments referring to the Violence Against Women Act on Fox News and CNN between December 1, 2012 and January 2 found only one mention between the two networks. In comparison, a search of MSNBC transcripts turned up ten references to the expiring VAWA and House Republicans' efforts to block the reauthorization along with another two brief mentions of the law in broad discussion.

In fact, during the December 16, 2012 edition of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes devoted two segments to the importance of House Republicans' refusal to approve the law. The panel noted the danger that the GOP's obstructionism posed to women victims of domestic violence across the country.

Furthermore, Media Matters found that the major networks' morning and evening news shows did not cover VAWA in the month leading up to its expiration at all. A search of Nexis transcripts shows that ABC, NBC, and CBS failed to report on the law and the need to reauthorize it.

The Violence Against Women Act has been highly effective in preventing domestic violence in the United States. Debbie Segal, who chairs the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, said “VAWA has been the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.” Moreover, statistics show that domestic violence against women fell by more than half since the VAWA's enactment. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1993, the year before VAWA's passage, and 2008, “the rate of intimate partner violence against females declined 53%.”

At one point in the month leading up to VAWA's expiration Fox did take on the general issue of women who are “victims of violence.” During the December 5 edition of Fox News' The Five, host Greg Gutfeld said women “should have guns” to protect themselves against domestic violence. Co-host Dana Perino added that victims of domestic violence should “make better decisions.”