How cable news is covering Trump's rallies

How cable news is covering Trump's rallies

As Trump’s rallies ramp up, Fox’s live coverage is decreasing

››› ››› LIS POWER

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Updated through Trump's October 18 rally.

President Donald Trump has held 37 rallies since he took office. The rallies, which have increased in frequency as the midterms approach, are oftentimes just comprised 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’s supporting. Recently, as Trump’s rally schedule has ramped up, Fox News’ coverage has become 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, and the network has aired only 16 percent of the rally time so far in October. Since Media Matters started tracking Trump’s rallies on April 28, Fox has given the events nearly 18 and a half hours of airtime, which is equivalent to over $30 million in free advertising. On the other hand, in the same time period, CNN and MSNBC have aired less than 30 minutes of the rallies combined.

Rally coverage to date

April-August rally coverage

September rally coverage

October rally coverage

Trump’s rallies to date

Since he was sworn in, Trump has held 37 rallies. The rallies kicked into overdrive in October, with the president holding eight in the first 13 days of the month. He additionally scheduled three rallies for the week of October 14. Media Matters started tracking cable coverage of the rallies in April, and since then, Trump has attended 25 rallies. In that time, Fox News has aired over 18 hours of these rallies live, CNN has aired 16 and a half minutes live (all on October 6), while MSNBC has aired just over eight minutes live (all on April 28). In total, Fox News has aired 65 percent of Trump’s rally time 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 

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

Upcoming rallies: October 19 - Arizona; October 20 - Nevada

So far in October, Trump has hosted nine rallies; he has two more scheduled this weekend.  

Fox’s rally coverage has continued to drop off, with the network thus far airing only 16 percent of Trump’s rally time live in October. 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 the October 6 weekend rally in Kansas live. So far in October, Fox News has aired a total of 1 hour and 36 minutes of Trump’s rallies.

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. So far in October, Fox News has aired just 16 percent of Trump’s rallies. The networks’ total coverage from April through the October 18 rally is down to just 65 percent.

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Media Matters will continue to track how cable news channels are covering Trump’s rallies and update this post accordingly.

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News
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