Condemning Republicans, Cheering Democrats: The Media’s Biased 2016 Convention Coverage

July 29th, 2016 12:45 PM

With both the Republican and Democratic conventions now concluded, it’s time to judge the news media on how fairly they covered the two parties. Media Research Center analysts looked at various aspects of coverage, all of which demonstrate that journalists obviously favored the Democratic gathering.

By a 12-to-1 margin, journalists spent far more time deriding the Republican convention for its negativity, even as their reactions to Democratic speakers were consistently positive and often enthusiastic. Cable news had its own unique biases: MSNBC carved out time on each night of the GOP convention for interviews with top Democratic officials, but — despite promises to the contrary — aired no such interviews with Republicans during the Democratic convention. Meanwhile, CNN devoted more than an hour of airtime during the Democratic convention to airing 18 party-produced videos, but only included three such videos during the GOP convention.

Here are details of our research evaluating the convention coverage, with special thanks to MRC analysts Matthew Balan, Mike Ciandella, Nicholas Fondacaro, Curtis Houck and Scott Whitlock.

■ Double standard on convention videos: During the Republican convention, CNN’s primetime (8pm to midnight, ET) coverage included just three RNC-produced videos totalling a bit more than 14 minutes of airtime: a non-partisan tribute to the Apollo 11 mission; a video narrated by Lynne Patton telling how she was helped by the Trump family; and the six-minute Thursday night biography of Donald Trump shown in advance of his acceptance speech. CNN skipped videos on important topics such as the Benghazi attack and the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious scandal, instead airing journalist panel discussions.

But during the Democratic convention, CNN chose to air 18 of the Democrats’ videos, six times more party videos than they aired during the GOP convention. Included in those that made the cut on CNN: two “Funny or Die” videos mocking Donald Trump’s policies, and several “Trump In His Own Words” videos criticizing the GOP candidate’s controversial statements. In addition, CNN showed the party-produced videos introducing speakers including Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, President Obama, and the nearly 12-minute video for Hillary Clinton that aired on the final night of the convention.

The total airtime for Democratic videos shown during CNN’s primetime coverage: 62 minutes, or more than four times the 14 minutes of airtime given to Republican videos during the same time slot the prior week.

■ Double standard on giving free airtime to the opposition: During the first night of the Republican convention, CBS’s 10pm ET primetime coverage included a four-minute long segment of an interview of Hillary Clinton, during which Rose invited Clinton to bash her Republican opponent, asking if Donald Trump was “the most dangerous man ever to run for President of the United States?”

But during their primetime coverage of the Democratic convention, CBS included no interviews with Republicans so they could bash Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, MSNBC’s primetime coverage (8pm to midnight ET) of the GOP convention included five interviews with elected Democrats: Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) on Monday, July 18; Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Tuesday, July 19; Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on Wednesday, July 20; and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on Thursday, July 21.

None of the Democratic interlopers missed a chance to take shots at the GOP. Schiff was brought on board a few minutes after Pat Smith spoke about the loss of her son in Benghazi. “We’ve never politicized a tragedy like this,” Schiff claimed, “and I just think it really is unfortunate to bring a grieving woman before the convention this way.”

Later in the week, Senator McCaskill condemned the GOP program as “very dark and angry, and mostly fact-free,” points echoed the next day by Senator Franken, who blasted the convention as “very ugly.”

Setting up his interview with Representative Ryan, anchor Brian Williams explained that “we like to bring in the other side, as in fairness we’ll be doing when it’s the Democrats’ turn.” But that wasn’t true: during all four nights of the Democratic convention, MSNBC’s 8pm to midnight coverage included absolutely no interviews with any Republicans.

■ Double standard on complaining about negative rhetoric: During the first two days of the Democratic convention, various speakers called Donald Trump a con man, a fraud, a bigot, and a racist; someone who “cheats students, cheats investors, cheats workers,” who “rejects science” and would take America “back to the dark days when women died in back alleys.” Trump’s policies and rhetoric was described as “cruel,” “frightening,” “deceitful,” “deeply disturbing” and “ugly.” He was someone who promoted “racial hatred,” who had “hate in their heart,” and was “making America hate again.”

But while the media routinely attacked the Republicans during the GOP convention for negative attacks on Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ attacks on Trump were given a pass. MRC studied ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and NBC’s coverage from 9pm to midnight during the first two nights of each convention. During the GOP convention, journalists scolded the Republicans for negativity 63 times; for the same time period during the Democratic convention, viewers heard only five such comments from reporters, a more than 12-to-1 disparity.

A few examples: CBS’s Bob Schieffer on July 19 said Clinton had been “accused of everything from a ‘who’d a thought it’ to the diphtheria epidemic.” On NBC, Tom Brokaw said the convention was trying to “work up a big hate for Hillary.” On MSNBC, Chris Matthews called the convention a “festival of hating Hillary tonight, this brewing up of almost a witch-like ritual tonight,” adding the words “bloodthirsty” and “blood curdling” to describe the delegates’ reaction to Chris Christie’s speech. [See video compilation below for many more examples.]



During the Democratic convention, the references to negativity were far fewer and much milder. CNN’s Gloria Borger on July 25 pointed out that speakers were “belittling and making fun of Donald Trump a lot tonight.” On MSNBC the next night, regular panelist Steve Schmidt, a former GOP campaign consultant, said there had been “real tough blows tonight on Donald Trump,” for the purpose of “the destruction of Donald Trump’s character.”

Tell the Truth 2016


■ Gushing over Democratic speeches while panning the GOP: In addition to the supposed negativity of the overall program, journalists scorned the individual speeches delivered at the GOP convention, especially nominee Donald Trump. CBS’s Scott Pelley said Trump was “more vengeful than hopeful,” while ABC’s Terry Moran called it “more of a harangue than a speech.” NBC’s Tom Brokaw thought some viewers “are going to see someone they will only think of as a demagogue of some kind.”

Thursday’s reactions to Hillary Clinton’s address, while unenthusiastic, included none of the criticism aimed at Trump. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie said Clinton’s was “a do-no harm speech,” while her colleague Chuck Todd thought it “was a grinder” of an address. CNN’s Gloria Borger admitted “it was not an oratorical masterpiece” but called Clinton’s speech “sturdy” and “steely.” Over on CBS, co-anchor Norah O’Donnell touted Clinton for “stressing her steadiness, her readiness, her experience and her empathy.”

Up until Clinton’s speech, the media had been positively swooning over the Democratic speakers. On Monday, CNN’s Jake Tapper was excited by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, calling his speech “a crowd pleaser like no speech I’ve seen at a convention since a young state senator Barack Obama in 2004.”

Minutes later on ABC, anchor George Stephanopoulos gushed over First Lady Michelle Obama: “Polished, passionate and personal,” while on MSNBC, Joy Reid called the First Lady’s speech “magnificent, exquisite...[and] splendid.”

Hardball host Chris Matthews loved all of it: “I just thought the whole night was a slugger’s row of wonderful sentiments.”

As the week wore on, none of the major Democrats earned a bad review. On Tuesday night, CBS’s Gayle King found Bill Clinton’s speech on behalf of Hillary “heartwarming.” The next night, correspondents for NBC, CBS and ABC praised vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine for his “suburban dad” personality, whose “extraordinary” Spanish-speaking skills made for “a Spanish lesson down here.”

And, of course, President Obama sent thrills up journalists’ legs. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a President, save Lincoln, who is as great a speechwriter as this man,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell oozed. “It was magnificent,” MSNBC’s Matthews tingled, “a wonderful farewell address.”


Every four years, the party conventions give the establishment news media a chance to provide even-handed coverage of the two parties. Once again, unfortunately, the networks have shown their obvious bias in favor of the liberals that rule the Democratic Party.