If, while watching either the CBS Evening News or ABC’s World News Tonight, you’d sneezed, you could have missed their only mentions of Sanders’ announcement. On ABC, anchor David Muir dispensed with the matter in less than 20 seconds:
“Now, to the race for 2016, and a new contender tonight. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, saying he’s running for the Democratic nomination, vowing to press Hillary Clinton over climate change, campaign finance reform and income inequality in the middle class. Clinton saying she agrees the ‘focus must be on the middle class,’ welcoming him to the race tonight.”
Muir then moved on to the really important news of the day -- a full report on the fact that Sofia Vergara is being sued by her ex. Over on CBS, it was even worse. The only mention came as an afterthought at the end of an unrelated report about the Clinton Foundation controversy; correspondent Nancy Cordes said, “Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who just got into the presidential race today and is Clinton’s first Democratic challenger, well, he said he thinks the [Clinton Foundation] donations are a fair campaign issue.”
The NBC Nightly News wasn’t much better. Sanders’ announcement was contextualized as a potential problem for Hillary Clinton on her road to the Democratic nomination. Correspondent Andrea Mitchell shoehorned a few words about Sanders and a pair of soundbites from the candidate into her report about Clinton’s political chameleonism over the years.
There isn’t much Houck can say about the virtual non-coverage doled out by ABC and CBS–he notes that Sanders received “only a brief reference” on CBS and a “19-second news brief from anchor David Muir.” Of the NBC mention, Houck writes that “Mitchell offered some fawning words for” Sanders and describes Mitchell’s report thusly:
“In between soundbites from Sanders, Mitchell gushed that ‘[h]e’s no your typical blow dried politician’ since he was ‘[a] one time socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont’ and will be ‘challenging Clinton over her fundraising and possible conflicts of interest.’“
It’s unclear on what planet reciting a few barebones biographical details constitutes “fawning” and gushing but Houck apparently files his reports from there (this one under a headline that reads, in part, “NBC Hails Bernie Sanders”).
To conclude, Houck, seemingly unfazed by the logical implications of what he’s just been outlining, tries to put the whole business in the context of the MRC’s standard conservative persecution fantasy:
“In contrast to the coverage Sanders has received thus far, the networks were far less warm toward any of the three declared Republican candidates.”
His characterization of the network reports on those candidates is as absurd and indefensible as his representation of the Sanders coverage. When it comes to fashioning these misrepresentations for the Republican candidates (or for Democratic candidate Clinton), he has a lot more with which to work — unlike Sanders, all of them, upon declaring for the presidency, received full reports on all of the evening newscasts.
[Note: This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog dedicated to a critique of the Media Research Center]