Ahead of Thursday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing featuring TikTok CEO Shou Chew, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC had their flagship morning news shows spouting off tales of possible despair and financial ruin from TikTok influencers the Chinese-owned social media app paid to fly to Washington to appear as props.
Always game for the superficial, ABC’s Good Morning America was at the forefront of the pressure to keep the app that’s dumbing down the country alive. Co-host Robin Roberts teased that “creators lobb[ied] lawmakers, saying a ban would threaten their livelihoods.”
Senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott bemoaned Chew was going to be “in the hot seat” as lawmakers argued “its Chinese parent company ByteDance can’t be trusted, warning data like your browser history and location could be shared with the Chinese government.”
After citing the case of TikTok spying on journalists (including Forbes’s Emily Baker Wright), she pivoted to falling into TikTok’s trap by globbing onto two of the influencers flown to go before cameras (click “expand”):
SCOTT: Sources tell ABC News the Biden administration told the company to either sell their stakes or risk being banned. But creators like Jason Linton say that would be devastating for his family.
JAMES LINTON: Hello, everybody. We are on the Dad Life trampoline.
SCOTT: For the small town in Oklahoma, they built an online community of 12 million followers and a source of income.
LINTON: And we’ve gathered so much of the community on that platform that we weren’t able to reach before.
SCOTT: Callie Goodwin from South Carolina —
CALLIE GOODWIN: I think this can be a game changer.
SCOTT: — says 90 percent of her sales from her card company come from TikTok. [TO GOODWIN] Do you think your business could survive without TikTok?
GOODWIN: Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I think so much of our community and the way that people find us and how we interact with our customers and our sales is driven by TikTok.
SCOTT: Many of those TikTok creators are already lining up outside of today’s hearing room.
NBC’s Today upped the ante with the influencers losing their businesses and livelihoods as the central theme. Fill-in co-host Sheinelle Jones stated:
The battle over TikTok is taking center stage on Capitol Hill today. The C — the company’s CEO facing lawmakers amid a push to ban the wildly popular platform over its ties to China and concerns that private information of users could be at risk of being exposed or exploited.
Correspondent Savannah Sellers added from the Hill that Chew wasn’t “the only one trying to convince lawmakers” as “[d]ozens of creators were also on the Hill Wednesday, sharing how the platform has helped them both personally and professionally.”
Sellers doubled down, boasting of “TikTok creators descending on the Capitol, flown in by the company to explain what a potential ban could mean for them and other users.”
She worked in the basics as to what was wrong with TikTok, but she bookended that with interviews alongside TikTok users (click “expand”):
SELLERS [TO JARY]; Tell me what it would mean if TikTok went away for you, for your life?
KENNETH JARY: Oh, I would be so sad if that went away and I hope it don’t happen.
TIKTOK CREATOR: I may not be able to financially support myself anymore.
SELLERS: At issue? TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and its ties to China. Some critics fear the Chinese government might get access to user data through a national security law requiring companies to turn over any personal data relevant to the country’s national security or may even use the app to spread misinformation. Today’s hearing comes amid the backdrop of the Biden administration’s recent ultimatum to ByteDance: sell its stake in TikTok, or face a U.S. ban. And a Justice Department investigation into a claim the company illegally surveilled journalists, for which TikTok says three employees have been fired.
SELLERS: For Jason Linton, whose videos on adoption and foster care have nearly 13 million followers, it’s changed his life.
JASON LINTON: TikTok has built us a community where we can share so much of the emotions, so much of those moments, so much of the pains, we can share it and we can just encourage one another.
Back live, Sellers concluded by warning that putting national security first “could” have “political ramifications for any party or administration that actually takes the step of banning TikTok” and especially “with young people” who lean “overwhelmingly liberal.”
NBC kept up the pressure campaign as it reaired another piece and then some in the 3rd Hour of Today and co-host Craig Melvin stacked the deck, citing the “debate over whether to ban the most downloaded app in the world” and co-host Al Roker jokingly predicting it could be another tech hearing where members of the Congress come off clueless.
And on CBS Mornings, they went a step toward reality in pointing to a poll “show[ing] 61 percent of those surveyed favor a ban, but that number is smallest among young people who are more likely to use TikTok” and “56 percent consider the platform a potential national security risk.”
Congressional correspondent Nikole Killion went through the claims of Chew, the spying tale, and a soundbite from two members of Congress (with Delaware Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester having reservations about a ban) before going to two clips from a TikTok creator. In one, the influencer said a ban “would be detrimental, of course, for me and my business.”
The liberal media’s cowardly defense of a Chinese social media app was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Dove (on ABC and NBC), Jergens (on CBS), and Nissan (on NBC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcripts from March 23, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), here (for NBC’s Today), and here (for NBC’s 3rd Hour of Today).