The untimely passing of an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court is a major national event with huge ramifications that warrants topmost news coverage. MRC Latino's latest study shows, however, that the nation's leading Spanish-language networks found the passing of a liberal icon to be much more newsworthy than that of a conservative stalwart.
As seen in the chart below, MRC Latino assessed the coverage given by Univision, Telemundo, and CNN En Español to the respective passings of Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Our study shows that within a 7-day period of their passing, Justice Ginsburg drew well over 4 times as much coverage from the Spanish-language networks as did Justice Scalia. That's 83 minutes and 36 seconds for Ginsburg, versus 17 minutes and 48 seconds for Scalia.
At the time of Justice Scalia's passing, the networks were preoccupied with Pope Francis' visit to Mexico, which drew top billing for quite a few days. Unfortunately, the networks didn't make much of an effort to adjust their coverage to reflect the gravity of Scalia's passing. What's more, coverage of Scalia's passing was primarily devoted to analyses of what potential rulings on DACA and other issues might look like with an Obama-nominated successor. In other words, the networks went straight to what was best for business. There was little reflection, if any, on Scalia's jurisprudence, his impact, or his opinions (and dissents) on issues of importance to the Hispanic community, such as abortion, the free exercise of religion, among others.
In contrast, Justice Ginsburg didn't just draw more coverage- she drew glowing coverage that bordered on hagiography. Much of her posthumous coverage was framed around her opinions on DACA and other immigration cases. Anchors made sure to frame Ginsburg as a "friend to immigrants" and "champion of equality" at every turn, while deemphasizing her record on abortion. Univision, in particular, went so far as to hunt down RBG's immigrant housekeeper for an exclusive interview.
Analyses of how President Trump would fill the vacancy created by Ginsburg's passing were framed around the nonexistent Final Wish Clause of Article II of the Constitution of the United States, and on how a Trump nominee might rule on DACA, Obamacare, abortion, gun control, and other liberal policy issues dear to Spanish-language media.
The notion of a liberal slant within U.S. Spanish-language media is not a new one, as our 5-year study conclusively showed. The untimely passing of two Associate Justices to the United States Supreme Court proves that not much has changed since.
Methodology: In preparing this study, MRC Latino reviewed coverage given on Univision and Telemundo's 6:30 PM newscasts, and CNN En Español's Directo USA weekday newscast, during the 7 days that followed the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively.
Many thanks to MRC Latino analyst Kathleen Krumhansl and MRC Latino interns Sebastian Aquino and María Bello for their contributions to this study.