Former Vice President Biden has been making headlines this week as his potential presidential campaign gears up, but surely not the kind he was hoping for. Following Lucy Flores’ claims that Biden’s touching of her in 2014 made her deeply uncomfortable, more women have come forward with similar concerns, and Biden’s “hands on” style of greeting has become a political meme. Some Democratic-leaning news outlets have notably come to Biden’s defense, but what has TV coverage of the story as a whole looked like?
The timeline below shows the total percentage of weekly airtime on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News combined that mentioned Biden since June 2009, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive. The past week has seen the second-most television news coverage of him over the past decade, trailing only his 2012 reelection.
Looking at the past two weeks by channel, all three initially covered the Flores allegations, but CNN and MSNBC quickly moved on. Fox News, on the other hand, has continued to devote significant attention to the story. Since Flores spoke up on March 29, Fox News has spent almost as much time on the story as the other two channels combined.
The tremendous discrepancy in coverage can be seen most starkly in the graph below, which tallies the total airtime devoted by each station since March 29 to the Robert Mueller and Biden stories. MSNBC has spent 3.2 times as much time on Mueller as it has Biden, with CNN spending 2.3 times as much airtime. Fox News, on the other hand, has paid almost equal time to both stories.
Even two weeks after Barr’s release of key conclusions of the Mueller report, there has not been a single day in which the Biden story received more airtime on MSNBC than the Mueller story, and Biden bested Mueller for just a single day on CNN. It seems MSNBC, in particular, is working to keep the Mueller story alive.
Putting this all together, it is notable that in the #MeToo era, the reckoning over a powerful politician’s uncomfortable interactions with women has not drawn more attention. CNN and MSNBC have largely downplayed the Biden allegations, preferring to focus their time on the Mueller investigation, while Fox News has granted both stories nearly equal airtime.
If #MeToo allegations against one of the most prominent Democratic contenders can’t break through the news cycle on CNN and MSNBC, and with prominent Democrat Justin Fairfax withstanding his own #MeToo moment in Virginia, it raises the question of whether #MeToo’s role in the 2020 election cycle may be fading.
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