Only CBS Covered Defunct Trump University – for 2 Minutes in September

Trump University became a heated topic for last night’s GOP debate, but viewers of ABC, CBS and NBC news may never have heard of it. Despite the ongoing nature of the lawsuit involving Trump University, this topic has only gotten one story on any of the broadcast network evening shows since the campaign began last year.

Sen. Marco Rubio accused Donald Trump of creating a “a fake university,” and scamming would-be students out of $36,000, during CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate on February 25. “And you know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald.”

A little later in the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz added that the case against Trump University was “a fraud case.” “I you want to think about if this man is the nominee, having the Republican nominee on the stand in court being cross-examined about whether he committed fraud,” Cruz said. “You don't think the mainstream media will go crazy on that?”

Trump responded that “they actually did a very good job” and that he had “won most of the lawsuit.”

Out of 840 total minutes of broadcast evening news coverage of Trump during this campaign season, only one 148 second story on CBS Evening News discussed Trump University or the ongoing lawsuit involving it. 

According to the CBS story, which aired on September 24, the “now-defunct” Trump University was a “non-accredited school that offered, among other things, real estate seminars, but no degrees.” Neither CBS, nor any of the other networks, ever visited this story again. Yet, as of February 20, CBS had spent 201 minutes covering Trump, while the other two networks had spent even more time than that (317 minutes for ABC and 322 minutes for NBC).

Transcript of the portion of the debate discussing Trump University:

RUBIO: I don't know anything about starting a university, that was a fake university. 

TRUMP: That’s called – let me just tell you – that’s called

RUBIO: A fake university! 

BLITZER: Hold on. One at a time, Mr. Trump.

RUBIO: There are people who borrow $36,000 to go to trump University and they're suing him now. $36,000 to go to a university, that’s a fake school!

TRUMP: And by the way -- and by the way -- 

And you know what they got, they got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump. That's what they got for $36,000. 

TRUMP: And they actually did a very good job. But I won most of the lawsuit. 

RUBIO: Most of the lawsuit. 

BLITZER: I want to bring in my colleague, Marie -- 

TRUMP: Am I allowed to respond to this? 

BLITZER: You're allowed -- you've been responding. 

TRUMP: I haven't. 

Later in the debate:

CRUZ: Marco made reference earlier to the litigation against Trump University. It's a fraud case. His lawyers have scheduled a trial for July. I you want to think about if this man is the nominee, having the Republican nominee on the stand in court being cross-examined about whether he committed fraud. You don't think the mainstream media will go crazy on that? 

Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella is a research analyst for the MRC's News Analysis Division