For a week now, Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former reality show star turned White House staffer turned ex-White House staffer, has been one of the main stories on cable news. Over a seven-day period, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News spent a combined 34 hours and 28 minutes covering Manigault Newman and news generated by her. And while some of the allegations she has put forth are certainly newsworthy, the extent to which the obsessive Manigault Newman coverage drowned out major stories of national interest is staggering.
Coverage of Manigault Newman started to kick into high gear last week when it was reported that she might have tapes from her time in President Donald Trump’s White House. What started as a slow trickle of coverage on Thursday by both CNN and MSNBC turned into a monsoon of coverage by all three cable networks as Manigault Newman began sitting down for interviews to promote her new book and made public some tapes to back up allegations made in her book. During the same time period, stories of arguably more importance received significantly less coverage.
Media Matters tracked the amount of time devoted to coverage of Manigault Newman between August 9 through August 15. Additionally, we tracked the coverage of four other stories throughout that time period: reporting that three of President Donald Trump’s “Mar-a-Lago buddies are secretly running the V.A.”; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s attempt to roll back an Obama-era rule aimed at curbing housing segregation; any reporting about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearings have been scheduled even though many of his records are still not public; and the ongoing family separation crisis in which the most recent numbers show that over 500 immigrant children are still separated from their families.
From August 9 through August 15, Manigault Newman received over 34 hours of coverage on the three cable news networks combined. MSNBC, which got a package deal of interviews with the former White House staffer, had the most coverage, spending nearly 16 hours discussing or interviewing her. CNN was next, with 13 hours of coverage, and Fox News devoted just over five and a half hours of programming to discussing Manigault Newman.
Discussions about Kavanaugh, the nominee for the Supreme Court, amassed under two hours of coverage across the cable networks between August 9 through August 15. Fox News had the most coverage, with nearly an hour devoted to Kavanaugh. MSNBC spent nearly 40 minutes on Kavanaugh while CNN covered Kavanaugh for just over 10 minutes. This Supreme Court vacancy will have dramatic and lasting impacts on America, but it was barely able to break through the coverage of Manigault Newman.
The ongoing family separation crisis received just over one hour of coverage in the same time period. MSNBC devoted 45 minutes of coverage to the crisis, CNN spent 18 minutes discussing the separated children, and Fox News gave just five minutes to family separation.
New reports that were just coming out about the goings-on of the Trump administration and cronyism were almost completely lost in the Manigault Newman news. The story about three of Trump’s buddies from Mar-a-Lago (Bruce Moskowitz, a doctor; Ike Perlmutter, the chairman of Marvel Entertainment; and Marc Sherman, an attorney) essentially dictating policy for the Department of Veterans Affairs received just seven minutes of coverage between CNN and MSNBC combined. Fox News didn’t even mention it. Even worse, the story about HUD trying to roll back policy that aims to prevent housing segregation received only 23 seconds of coverage across the three cable networks.
Here’s how the coverage of the stories broke down on each network:
Tyler Monroe, Sanam Malik, Grace Bennett, Gabby Miller, Shelby Jamerson, and Zach Pleat contributed to this research.
Media Matters searched the Snapstream video database from August 9, 2018, to August 15, 2018, looking at the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC -- for five competitive stories that broke or had significant updates at the beginning of the period studied:
- Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book and secret-tape revelations about President Donald Trump
- Announcement of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings
- The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating parents and children at the southern border
- The Trump administration’s intent to change the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule that fights segregation in housing
- The revelations that three Mar-a-Lago club members are effectively directing policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For the first story, Media Matters searched for mentions of “Omarosa,” including misspellings. For the second story, we searched for “Kavanaugh” (including misspellings) or “Supreme Court” within close proximity to “nominate,” “nominated,” “nominee,” or “justice.” For the third story, we searched for variations of “immigration,” “immigrant,” “children,” “family,” “parents,” “kids,” or “border” within proximity to variations of “reunited,” “reunify,” and “separate.” For the fourth story, we searched for “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” “Fair Housing Act,” “Housing and Urban Development,” “HUD,” “Carson,” or “housing” within close proximity to “segregation.” For the final story, we searched for “Moskowitz” within close proximity to “Bruce” or “doctor,” “Perlmutter” within close proximity to “Ike” or “Marvel,” “Sherman” within close proximity to “Marc” or “lawyer,” “President” within close proximity to “club,” “Veteran’s Affairs,” or variations of “V.A.”
For each transcript found, we timed only the relevant speech for each story. We included all mentions, teases, segments, panels, and interviews that fully or partially touched on any of these five stories, including during shows that were being reaired.