Cable TV Has a Disturbing Love Affair With Donald Trump


Back in June, there was a legitimate question about whether Donald Trump deserved significant news coverage. Today there isn’t. He’s been leading the polls for the Republican presidential nomination for months, and that makes him news no matter what crazy stuff he says.

There is, however, still a legitimate question about whether TV news networks are actively aiding Trump by giving him more attention than he deserves. Jim Tankersley points us to the 2016 Campaign Television Tracker for data on this point, and their database tells us that Trump has gotten 47 percent of all TV mentions among Republican candidates since he announced in June. Marco Rubio has gotten 6 percent. It’s fair that Trump gets more than Rubio, but rather plainly he shouldn’t be getting that much more.

So who’s responsible for this? The chart on the right shows mentions over the past week. Fox News mentioned Trump 452 times, but the biggest guns by far were CNN and MSNBC, who apparently have serious Trump obsessions. CNN mentioned him 1,375 times and MSNBC mentioned him 1,484 times. Why? Mostly because they just cover politics more extensively. CNN’s mentions of all candidates over the past week were roughly 2x Fox’s, and MSNBC clocked in at nearly 4x.

As for Trumpmania, CNN is by far the biggest offender. Both Fox and MSNBC have given Trump about half of all Republican mentions over the past week. CNN has given him 70 percent. They’ve all but quit covering the other candidates entirely. Needless to say, this has gone beyond mere reporting and is now edging toward outright advocacy. This kind of coverage is obviously a huge benefit for Trump.

Does anyone do this kind of analysis for major print media? I’d be fascinated to know if Trump love is mostly a TV phenomenon, or if it’s a more general media phenomenon.