FNC's 'Grapevine' Segment Summarizes MRC's Campaign Bias Study

In Monday's holiday night “Grapevine” segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, fill-in anchor Jim Angle summarized the MRC's new study, "Rise and Shine on Democrats: How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats on the Road to the White House" (Executive Summary). Angle relayed how “according to the watchdog group Media Research Center, not only are the morning shows on ABC, CBS and NBC overwhelmingly focused on Democrats, they're actively promoting the agenda of Democratic candidates.” Specifically, “the report found that Democrats get twice as much coverage as Republicans with New York Senator Hillary Clinton receiving the most” and “69 percent of the questions to Democrats reflected a liberal premise” while “82 percent of the questions to Republicans came from the same perspective.”

NB's posting of video of MRC President Brent Bozell discussing the study Thursday night on FNC's Hannity & Colmes.

Picking up on an AP story on the study, CNN's Jack Cafferty and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Thursday highlighted the study. Friday NewsBusters item, with video of Cafferty.

Full transcript of the item Angle read during the “Grapevine” segment on the September 3 Special Report with Brit Hume:
As the 2008 candidates pick up the pace, everyone is jockying for media attention, but is network television playing fair? According to the watchdog group Media Research Center, not only are the morning shows on ABC, CBS and NBC overwhelmingly focused on Democrats, they're actively promoting the agenda of Democratic nominees as well, candidates rather. The report found that Democrats get twice as much coverage as Republicans with New York Senator Hillary Clinton receiving the most. And more than half of all campaign segments focused on Democrats. The study found that 69 percent of the questions to Democrats reflected a liberal premise and that more than 82 percent of the questions to Republicans came from the same perspective. Undeclared liberal candidates, like former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, received more coverage than many of the declared Republicans.
The study, released Wednesday, was coordinated and written by MRC Research Director Rich Noyes, with research assistance from MRC news analysts/NewsBusters bloggers Geoffrey Dickens, Scott Whitlock and Justin McCarthy.

The PDF, which matches the hard copy, of the entire 18-page Special Report.

The HTML version of the full Special Report study, with a couple of video clips.

The text of the Executive Summary for the August 29 Special Report study:
Rise and Shine on Democrats
How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats On the Road to the White House

As the 2008 presidential campaign season gets underway, wide-open primary races in both the Republican and Democratic parties are competing for the media's attention. So are the broadcast networks covering both sides equally, or are they tilting the campaign playing field in favor of liberal Democratic candidates?

To find out, Media Research Center analysts reviewed all 517 campaign segments on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's The Early Show and NBC's Today from January 1 through July 31. Those three broadcast morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable news competitors, and are geared toward everyday voters, not political junkies. These programs are therefore a prime battleground in each campaign's quest for positive media attention.

The results are astonishing: Not only are the network morning shows overwhelmingly focused on Democrats, they are actively promoting the Democrats' liberal agenda.

Among the major findings:

# The networks offered nearly twice as much coverage of the Democrats. More than half of all campaign segments (284, or 55%) focused on the Democratic contest, compared with just 152 (29%) devoted to the Republicans. The remaining stories either offered roughly equal discussion of both parties or did not focus on the major parties.

# All three Democratic frontrunners received more attention than any of the top Republican candidates, with New York Senator Hillary Clinton receiving the most coverage of all.

# Undeclared liberal candidates such as former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg received more network TV attention than many of the declared Republican candidates.

# The network morning shows doled out nearly three times as much airtime (4 hours, 35 minutes) to interviews with the various Democratic campaigns. In contrast, the Republicans received just 1 hour and 44 minutes of interview airtime.

# In their interviews with the candidates, the network hosts emphasized a liberal agenda. Of the substantive questions that could be categorized as reflecting a political agenda, more than two-thirds (69%) of the questions to Democrats reflected a liberal premise, and more than four-fifths (82%) of the questions to Republicans came from the same perspective.

# The top Democratic candidates received much more favorable coverage than their GOP counterparts, with Senator Clinton cast as "unbeatable" and Illinois Senator Barack Obama tagged as a "rock star." The most prominent Republican, Arizona Senator John McCain, was portrayed as a loser because of his support for staying the course in Iraq.

# Not once did network reporters describe Senator Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards as "liberal," while ABC only once labeled Obama as "liberal." Yet the networks showed no hesitation in attaching the "liberal" label to Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, who was so branded 12 times.

These early returns suggest that ABC, CBS and NBC are skewing their news in ways that will benefit the Democratic candidates in 2008. The broadcast networks have a responsibility to cover both parties in a fair and even-handed manner -- not for the sake of the candidates, but for the voters. That means giving viewers a chance to hear from all of the major candidates in interviews, asking them similar questions, and balancing the day-to-day news coverage to keep both Democratic and Republican primary voters equally well-informed.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center