Posted on July 25, 2018

Study: TV’s War Against Trump’s Immigration Enforcement Agenda

Rich Noyes and Bill D'Agostino, MRC News Busters, July 24, 2018

During the 18 months of the Trump presidency, immigration has received more airtime on the three broadcast evening news shows than any other policy topic. The networks’ coverage has been relentlessly hostile to the administration (92% negative, just 8% positive), largely because these newscasts have framed nearly all of their coverage around the plight of those adversely affected by the administration’s enforcement agenda, and have virtually ignored law enforcement or anyone harmed by illegal immigration.

From January 20, 2017 through June 30, 2018, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news programs spent a combined 995 minutes discussing various immigration topics, or roughly one-sixth of all coverage of the administration. Since Inauguration Day, only the Russia investigation has received more airtime (1,680 minutes).

The next-most-covered topic, the nuclear confrontation with North Korea, garnered 719 minutes of airtime, or about 4 1/2 fewer hours of coverage than immigration. Even in June, when the evening newscasts devoted very heavy coverage (132 minutes) to North Korea and the historic June 12 summit between President Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un, these broadcasts spent nearly twice the airtime on the administration’s zero tolerance policy and the resulting separations of illegal immigrant parents and their children.

As of June 30, the separations policy had received 245 minutes of airtime, slightly less than the 267 minutes the networks devoted to the travel ban announced in the early days of the administration. Negotiations over a replacement to President Obama’s DACA policy received 114 minutes of coverage, while the proposed border wall with Mexico was the topic of 100 minutes of evening news airtime.


92% of the evaluative comments about Trump’s immigration policies have been critical, vs. a mere eight percent that have been supportive. This is even more hostile than the administration’s overall good press/bad press score of 10% positive/90% negative, as of June 30.

{snip} We tallied each individual soundbite in these immigration stories, and found a heavy preference for the personal anecdotes of those seen as victims of the Trump policies: illegal immigrants and their families, or banned travelers and their families.

Those groups, along with their lawyers, accounted for 478 of the 1,087 soundbites from non-partisan sources aired on these newscasts, or nearly 44% of the total. An additional 163 soundbites came from protesters opposed to the administration’s immigration policies (individuals or plainly understandable chants), plus 85 soundbites from activists associated with liberal groups.

{snip} There were only four soundbites from activists associated with groups committed to enforcement of immigration laws.

There weren’t any soundbites from pro-administration protesters to balance out the 163 from anti-Trump protesters, but 15 stories included heard audible chants at Trump rallies favoring a border wall and/or Mexico paying for the wall.

{snip} Reporters and anchors themselves amplified the messages of “fear,” “dread,” and even “terror” among those barred from entering the U.S. or facing deportation.


{snip} During the past 18 months, the networks’ coverage of immigration has not been news, but rather obvious advocacy {snip}.