Last week, ThinkProgress released a report showing that, in the debate over the House economic recovery bill on the five cable news networks, Republican members of Congress outnumbered their Democratic counterparts by a ratio of 2 to 1. The analysis tallied interview segments about the stimulus on CNBC, Fox Business, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC during a three-day period, finding that the networks had hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 26 times.
The economic recovery package passed the House last week with zero Republican votes, shifting the focus to the Senate. Though the venue has changed, the debate on cable has not improved much.
In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that Republican lawmakers outnumbered Democratic lawmakers 75 to 41 on cable news interviews by members of Congress (from 6am on Monday 2/2 through 11pm on Thursday 2/5):
Some observations from our analysis:
– Last week, Fox News came the closest to balance with 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. But the so-called “fair and balanced” network was not able to maintain such a ratio this week, hosting 24 Republicans and only 11 Democrats.
– The business news networks were particularly egregious this week. CNBC had more than twice as many conservatives, with 14 Republicans and 6 Democrats. Fox Business was even worse, hosting 20 Republicans for just 4 Democrats.
– In the previous study, the supposedly liberal MSNBC favored Republicans 15 to 9. This week, however, MSNBC became the only network to host more Democratic members of Congress than Republicans, with 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Though the imbalance is already stark, the tilt of the coverage would have been even more lopsided if the analysis had been broken down into whether a lawmaker who appeared on TV was a supporter or a critic of the economic recovery plan. Some of the most frequent Democratic guests this week were outspoken critics of the proposed stimulus plans, such as Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Kent Conrad (D-ND).
Fortunately, the imbalance on the networks is not going unnoticed. A House Democratic leadership aide told Politico’s Michael Calderone yesterday that “what happened with cable last week is that Republican House members were the only show in town.” A “very senior” Democratic aide told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent that the leadership is “aware of the problem and are taking steps to fix it.” The aide noted that “there is also an onus on producers to remedy this issue.”