Something funny is happening, and it bears mention. While identifying, cataloguing, and objectively measuring media bias is hard, since the target is moving, snapshots tell a story.
In broad terms, President Trump has gone head-to-head – as no president in modern history – with the media, confronting the unending barrage of inaccurate, twisted, intentionally misdirected, misinterpreted, and politically motivated stories.
With more stomach for calling out bias, hypocrisy, and media mischief than most, he hits it every day. That he can do so is a testament to his determination, stamina, and insistence on fair treatment – not just for himself, but for others.
That he has a point, after four years, is beyond question. A 2019 analysis of network coverage – including ABC, CBS, and NBC coverage from 2017 onward – concluded coverage was overwhelmingly negative. “In 2018 alone, coverage was 90 percent negative,” and that was with a roaring economy, tax cuts, border security, Chinese deal, foreign policy victories.
The Media Research Center assessed that hostility grew in 2019. Every American not blind to history, context, and bias could see attacks escalate in 2020. By example, one analysis noted, “out of 684 evaluative comments included in these [network] broadcasts … 96 percent have been negative versus … four percent …positive.”
The impeachment gambit, which ironically elevated Trump’s popularity as due process was ditched, increased negative coverage. After Pelosi turned impeachment on in September 2019, network newscasts drooled to relive Watergate.
Russia collusion and Ukraine news were the rage, talking heads brushing up on Latin with “quid pro quo.” In six weeks of impeachment, more than three-fifths of network news on Trump (645 minutes) pushed scandal.
Incredibly, negative interpretations of ending ISIS, killing two notorious terrorist leaders, confronting Iranian nuclear weapons, stopping North Korea’s missile launches, calling out China on economic, political, and military illegalities, dominated also.
Negative twists on Trump’s targeting inveterate killers of Americans, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani, are hard to imagine – but occurred. The Washington Post and CNN went so far as to fawn. Said CNN, quoting one analyst, Soleimani’s “soldiers loved him … a quiet, charismatic guy, a strategic genius …” Yes, too bad Trump ended the run of terror. See, https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/03/asia/soleimani-profile-intl-hnk/index.html.
Assessing coverage of the President, one report indicates two-thirds of all media statements on him have been negative. Can you imagine similar treatment, say, for Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, or – mercy be – Obama? See, e.g., https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/michael-van-der-galien/2019/11/13/media-bias-tv-networks-blast-trump-with-96-negative-news-n70386
As the 2020 election cycle heated up, Russia collusion and impeachment bottomed out. The media hunted a damning story – one to politicize. They needed a narrative, and COVID-19 provided it. Conveniently, it ended the roaring economy, allowed them to join Democrats in blaming Trump.
Even that strategy, however, cratered. As a thoughtful commentator noted, “The most dangerous flaw in the modern news media is their now-constant vulnerability of becoming deeply invested in a particular narrative at the very start of a large story, and then having the ensuing tunnel vision prevent them from adjusting their reporting as new facts become available.”
The commentator was addressing media obsession with coronavirus “new cases,” which is a dead end that has no logical, empirical, or sustainable connection to Trump, as medical experts confirm. Still, the idea is to paint Trump with blame, and keep painting until something new.
Notably, this obsessive anti-Trump reporting is creating undue fear, based on one-sided data and underreported recoveries. In the process, media outlets are “sabotaging America’s recovery from this crisis.” See, https://nypost.com/2020/07/06/media-is-obsessed-with-covid-cases-but-death-rate-is-what-is-important/.
Amplifying errors, social media – including online video-sharing – keeps misleading narratives alive, and a British study found “four-fifths” of social media channels “sharing coronavirus news and information were maintained by professional news outlets,” thus giving bullhorn treatment to their bias. In the process, health news was “politicized.” Most Americans noticed. See, https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/coronavirus-information-youtube/.
But all this confirms intuition. The media misreported on Trump from the outset and gave a pass to political detractors. They were offended that he called them out. They squirmed.
That brings us to this weekend. Mainstream media outlets continue to laud Joe Biden, but even that is getting old. So is COVID-19. They still need to stop Trump’s reelection, undermine his irrepressible patriotism, love of free markets and individual liberty.
Here is where it gets funny, in a “have they no shame?” way. For months, frontpage news was coronavirus deaths, subtext that it was Trump’s fault. Biden says “every death” is on Trump. While rubbish, this has been the top story, above the fold for months.
Now, suddenly, Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies – and the Supreme Court may go 6-3 to Republican. That could restore textual fidelity to the Constitution, reverse decades of judicial activism. The stakes are high for socialists. The press – and every Democrat campaign – is suddenly worried.
So what happens? Guess what – COVID-19 is page 16 news. If that does not give the lie to months of hysteria and pin-it-on-Trump mania, one is hard pressed to find better evidence. On an anecdotal basis, some numbers.
On September 20, two days after Ginsberg passed and Trump announced he is preparing to nominate, COVID-19 news is less significant than the weather. On NBC, of 64 top stories, seven were coronavirus, all bottom of page. On CNN, of top 55 stories, five were coronavirus. On CBS, of 42 top stories, seven mentioned it, all bottom of page. On ABC, of top 83, 11 touched virus, most tipped against Trump. Everything has turned to Supreme Court.
So, what does the anecdotal data suggest? Just this: The media is on a mission, to discredit Trump. When COVID-19, economic struggles, and Trump discouraging “panic” was all they have – they ran with it, made it fire and fury.
Heaven forbid a real story pops, that threaten the leftist agenda. Trump could realign the Supreme Court. He might set up a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Suddenly, COVID-19 vanishes.
Moments like this, when what was supposed to dominate gets pushed aside, tell us more than statistics. What suddenly looks like a threat to Democrat power gets top billing.
In a nutshell, media bias is hard to perpetually authenticate, although good people try. Sometimes a single day’s pivot tells you what you need to know: The mainstream media are on a mission, and it is not fair and balanced, objective or respectful. It is tilted, tainted, sometimes torrid, and increasingly anti-Trump. You knew it, and now they have proved it – in spades.