Column: Network News Bosses Want No Republican Challengers to Donald Trump

News & Politics

Sen. Tim Scott’s surprise suspension of his presidential campaign underlines that no one should be relying on the network news programs if you want coverage of the presidential race. The late-night comedians ganged up to mock Scott as an unknown after he withdrew.

On ABC, unfunny Jimmy Kimmel cracked, “If you don’t know who Tim Scott is, it’s why he decided to suspend his campaign for president.” But whose fault is that?

Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center discovered that the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news shows don’t want any challengers to Trump.  From January to July, Trump received almost three-quarters (74 percent) of all GOP candidate airtime. That increased to a staggering 87 percent of all candidate coverage from August to October.

In those three months, the networks allotted 30 minutes to Ron DeSantis, 14 minutes to Mike Pence, and even less to Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie (four minutes each),  followed by Nikki Haley (two minutes), and Tim Scott (just one minute). It’s obvious they are withholding their power of publicity. They want absolutely no one to “break through.”

The gap was even more pronounced in October alone: Trump garnered 82 minutes of coverage, vs. two minutes for Pence (when he withdrew!) with a teaspoon of seconds for the other candidates. That’s 97 percent of the GOP candidate news for Trump.

This lunge toward Trump is much more pronounced than in 2015. Back then, Noyes found that from January through July of that year, Trump drew 36.6 percent of the network evening-news coverage, to 22 percent for Jeb Bush. But from August to October, Trump shot up to 56 percent of the attention, to 12 percent for Bush.

In 2023, the media elites obviously feel that after the January 6 riot, Trump is an existential threat to American democracy. But this raises the question: So why are you crowding out all of his challengers? He’s a budding dictator, so you give him all the coverage, like we don’t have a democracy?

As usual, Trump’s coverage has been categorized as 93 percent negative. Someone might ask: how would hyper-negative coverage be good for the other Republicans? Well, it’s obviously helping Trump.

The pattern carries all the same logic of 2016: Trump’s the easiest to beat, so drown out the other candidates. Flood the zone with your caterwauling.

Someone could interject and suggest that coverage of Trump’s legal troubles shouldn’t count as campaign news, even if it’s obviously candidate news. From August to October, Trump’s legal troubles took up 320 minutes of network air time, compared to just 27 minutes for the issues.

In October alone, it was again even worse. ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted 84 minutes to the Republican field, but only about two minutes of that time was devoted to policy: 72 seconds on immigration, and 57 seconds of candidate reaction to the Israel-Hamas war.

Let’s guess there’s a partisan reason for that. The Democrats at ABC, CBS, and NBC don’t want to give any fraction of television to Republicans criticizing the policies of Joe Biden. They might cover inflation or immigration or Israel, but they don’t want to include any GOP soundbites arguing Biden’s dreadful policies are to blame for anything.

Obviously, Republican viewers have a litany of other options for information on the Republican campaigns. But the so-called “gatekeepers” cannot be trusted. Their gates seem more like a border wall.

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