Conservatives have long contended broadcast and cable news networks are biased in their reporting. Those same networks dismiss that claim as baseless.
Now the Media Research Center (MRC) has the data that proves what those on the right knew from experience. The MRC study shows CNN and MSNBC hosts Democratic representatives and senators seven times more frequently than their Republican counterparts.
The study also shows that even when networks like CNN interviews a Republican, they use Democratic talking points as the basis for their questioning.
To compile its report, MRC randomly selected three weeks of every broadcast on CNN and MSNBC in the hours from 6am to Midnight Eastern time. The weeks (January 7-11, March 25-29 and June 10-14) offered 540 hours of programming to consider for the study.
MSNBC was the most partisan where it interviewed congressional Democrats 13 times more than their Republican counterparts. During those sample weeks MSNBC featured 148 Democrats and only 11 Republicans.
CNN wasn’t much better with a ratio of 136 Democrats and 29 Republicans interviewed.
Although Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, 87 percent of interviews by the two networks involved Democrats. Of the 103 interviews considered, 90 were with Democrats and just 10 with Republicans.
This disparity is made worse by the fact mainstream media “journalists” do not conduct equally hard-hitting interviews with both sides. Both CNN and MSNBC routinely ask adversarial questions of Republicans that favor Democratic agenda.
When those networks feature Republican panelist, they are #NeverTrumpers like Bill Crystal.
The methodology used by MRC is that an agenda question was defined as one in which the interviewee used recognizable talking point from the opposing party.
Republican guests were posed with a total of 310 questions in which just over half reflected the agenda of one party or the other. But that is where “fair and balanced” ended. Of those 156 questions that reflected the agenda of one party, 97 percent reflected an adversarial/Democratic agenda. Only four questions showed a friendlier, Republican agenda.
Democrats experienced markedly more hospitable questions. The MRC study showed:
Of 660 questions identified as having a partisan tilt (out of 1,653 total questions), 535 (81%) were based on a friendly Democratic agenda, while the remaining 125 (19%) asked the Democrats to respond to an adversarial/Republican agenda.
The Washington Post ignored these raw numbers by dismissing any suggestion there is proof of bias. When Paul Farhi of the Post asked rhetorically if the media has become more biased, he protested, “there’s little to suggest that over the past few decades news reporting has become more favorable to one party.”
David D’Alessio, a communications sciences professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford agreed with The Washington Post saying his studies showed something quite different than MRC.
The problem with the professor’s claim is that he drew his conclusion from 99 studies of campaign news coverage done over the last 60 years. MRC, on the other hand, took the time to watch CNN and MSNBC to see what and how they were reporting.
Examples MRC offers of a Democratic agenda question being posed to a Republican are:
- CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on The Situation Room, January 7, “The President has largely dismissed concerns about federal workers not receiving their paychecks … Do you believe President Trump understands the financial hardships these Americans and their families are about to go through?”
- MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki to Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) on MTP Daily, June 10, “Special Counsel … says there are 10 potential instances here of obstruction of justice involving the President of the United States — if you don’t want impeachment and you are on the Judiciary Committee, what do you do?”
Sometimes this bias can be seen more in what is not reported rather than what is. At the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, USA Today’s editors repeated almost verbatim his claim that his administration had been scandal-free.
The mainstream media was largely silent about what they should have seen as major scandals. NBC’s Tom Brokaw glibly repeated Obama’s scandal-free talking points despite the investigation into the ATF’s Fast and Furious program and Republican investigations into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups.
A 2018 Axios poll revealed that 92 percent of Republicans believe the media intentionally reports false stories. Perhaps that’s because CNN and MSNBC have done their best to prove them right.