Amid the U.S. major media focus on hundreds of Nigerian school girls being kidnapped by the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, The Daily Beast's Josh Rogan first reported a week ago that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to designate the group as a terrorist organization during her tenure, despite being urged to do so by both the FBI and CIA.
Since that news broke on May 7, NBC, ABC, and CBS have aired a total of 51 stories on the kidnappings but only briefly mentioned Clinton's failure in 3 of those stories – once on each network – totaling barely two minutes.
NBC devoted a mere 45 seconds to the controversy for the potential 2016 presidential candidate during a report on the Saturday edition of Today. The subject received 41 seconds of air time on ABC's This Week on Sunday, only after being brought up by The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol. Time magazine senior correspondent Michael Crowley noted it on Sunday's CBS Face the Nation for 53 seconds, but proceeded to dismiss the importance of labeling Boko Haram as a terror group.
[Thanks to News Analysis interns Connor Williams and Laura Flint for helping compile the story count]
All three networks certainly had plenty of opportunities to bring up the unflattering news for Clinton. On May 7 – the day the story broke – ABC's Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts sat down for a fawning softball interview with Clinton but never asked about the failure to call Boko Haram a terrorist organization. None of ABC's touting of the exclusive exchange that followed mentioned it either.
Stories favorable to the possible 2016 Democratic candidate have received more attention. NBC found time for two full stories on Tuesday – one on Today and one on Nightly News – defending Clinton from Republican strategist Karl Rove, who raised questions about her health. Both CBS This Morning and Good Morning America did similar stories on Wednesday.
On Monday, This Morning took a minute of air time to gush over an excerpt from Clinton's upcoming memoir.
Here are the network mentions of Hillary Clinton's refusal to call Boko Haram terrorists:
8:04 AM ET
KRISTEN WELKER: In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resisted calls from the CIA and FBI to designate Boko Haram, the group behind the Nigerian kidnappings, as a terrorist organization, which could have directed resources toward combating their operations.
MICHAEL LEITER [NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST]: The U.S. was a bit slow to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. But for those of us in the counterterrorism business, we have seen very troubling signs of radicalization in Nigeria for several years.
8:05 AM ET
WELKER: Republicans are signaling that they will use this latest issue as one more peg to question Clinton's record as secretary of state if she decides to run for president. Mitt Romney called her record a, quote, "liability." Former Secretary Clinton has not responded to this latest criticism yet.
This Week With George Stephanopoulos
10:43 AM ET
BILL KRISTOL: President Obama, this week, said – said, you know, it's really time the international community finally does something about Boko Haram, this terrible Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria. His own State Department, with Secretary Clinton in charge, had refused to put them on the terror list for two years.
10:45 AM ET
BRAZILE: But, you know, going to Bill's point about Boko Haram, you know, the State Department received a lot of information, even from the former ambassador, John Campbell, who wrote a book, Nigeria Dancing – and something dancing. Nigeria is the second large – now the biggest country in Africa in terms of its economy. There were real reasons why they waited or hesitated to put this organization as an – as a terrorist group.
Face the Nation
11:20 AM ET
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you all about this awful thing that's happening in Nigeria. You heard [former Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates say there really is not a lot we can do besides providing some intelligence help, drones, things of that nature. But you also heard Mike Rogers say we should have gotten more involved in that whole situation a long time ago. Michael.
MICHAEL CROWLEY [TIME MAGAZINE]: Well, there has been a robust debate about that. And Hillary Clinton and her camp are on the defensive right now because it has been reported that she chose not to put Boko Haram on the terrorist designation list a couple years ago. I think it's a reasonable argument, there were a lot of smart people who said there were reasons not do this. The top State Department official who works on Africa advised against it. And it's not entirely clear to me that – it's not clear at all to me that that would have made a decisive difference in what's happening now.