- Pool/Saul Loeb via Reuters
- The impeachment hearings dominated the news cycle this week, as many of the major networks carried the testimonies of diplomats George Kent, Bill Taylor, and Marie Yovanovitch live.
- A person’s understanding of the testimonies however is dependent on which station they watched the proceedings on Wednesday and Friday, as CNN and Fox News carried two different versions of the same event.
- On the conservative-friendly Fox News, Republican talking points were often posted on the screen.
- To see more stories, visit Business Insider’s homepage.
Millions tuned in on Wednesday and Friday to watch diplomats George Kent, Bill Taylor, and Marie Yovanovitch testify on President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian leadership.
Their stories were so compelling that the major news networks decided to run the testimonies live, without breaks, for hours.
But that does not mean viewers of CNN were treated to the same experience as those that watched Fox News’ version of the hearings. The conservative-friendly Fox News, which had the most viewers of any network according to Nielsen, frequently seemed to use graphics, among other programming decisions, in a manner that was friendly to Trump.
While Fox News hosts like Brett Baier made waves for talking about the seriousness of the allegations from the diplomats, the channel’s opinion hosts derided the events, attacking the witnesses’ character and even their water-drinking habits.
Below are examples of how CNN and Fox produced radically different coverage of the same events.
Fox presents Republican talking points as fact
- Screenshot/Fox News
It’s common for networks to run biographical information about people who are not well-known to the general public. Obscure Foreign Service officers are not usually on TV for hours on end, but diplomats like George Kent, Bill Taylor, and Marie Yovanovitch were subpoenaed by Congress to testify about President Donald Trump’s actions in Ukraine.
Fox included the biographies of the three diplomats, but also included some Republican talking points that could easily be viewed as stone-cold facts by an unknowing viewer.
The audience quickly learned that Taylor, for instance, had been attacked by Trump previously, and that the GOP had already criticized his knowledge of the situation.
fox's graphic for bill taylor vs. msnbc's graphic
you already know how this is gonna play out pic.twitter.com/Xv28fiaMJY
— Danielle Misiak (@DanielleMisiak) November 13, 2019
Fox also put up background information about California Democrat Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment hearing, which Politifact has already partially debunked.
CNN stuck to general facts and recent testimony for its on-screen graphics about the witnesses.
This – FINALLY – is the point. Very, very clear that the White House finally released the aid only when the whistleblower report was coming to light and the Intel committee was already starting its investigation! They relented because they finally got caught. pic.twitter.com/GiFbOMBKSE
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2019
Fox’s quick commercial break
- Parker Molloy/Twitter
Media Matters editor Parker Molloy quickly noted on Wednesday what would be the start of drastically different coverage options of the two hearings with this tweet:
Schiff starts asking questions and Fox News immediately jumps to commercial pic.twitter.com/t9VVazGLqp
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) November 13, 2019
The networks showing the hearings – it was played on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and others – hardly ever took a commercial break, saving ads for pauses in the hearings. Fox News, however, quickly cut to commercial right when Schiff began his questioning.
Some Fox affiliates didn’t even carry the hearing
- Wendy WIlliams Show
In politics-crazed Washington D.C., everyone was tuned into the hearings, with even the local news channels running the testimonies.
Except for one station that is.
ABC, NBC & CBS in DC are all airing the impeachment hearings
Fox—which is owned by Fox Corp—is airing Wendy Williams instead pic.twitter.com/dSv82dReZF
— jordan (@JordanUhl) November 13, 2019
The national network carried the hearings, however, and the conservative news network covered it online as well, though not without controversy. The lead headline on the site’s homepage Friday focused on Trump’s tweet about Yovanovitch, not her testimony.
Top headline at Fox News right now. Just beyond parody. pic.twitter.com/nB9emZMhIK
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) November 15, 2019
Networks’ big-name hosts have different takes
- Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon
Fox News has often defended its conservative opinion shows by saying its straight news anchors are unbiased, and the testimonies did bear some of this out. Brett Baier, for instance, pulled no punches after one string of testimony.
That was a turning point in this hearing so far. She was already a sympathetic witness & the President’s tweet ripping her allowed Schiff to point it out real time characterizing it as witness tampering or intimidation -adding an article of impeachment real-time. https://t.co/HSCkGMIqmH
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) November 15, 2019
On CNN, the analysis roundtable format the network has gotten famous for included voices on both sides of the political spectrum.
"This has to be the worst day of the presidency so far for Donald Trump… this is the worst day," says David Gergen on the combination of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony, David Holmes' opening statement and Roger Stone's convictions.https://t.co/4IomPPiki8 pic.twitter.com/enlba2MzZH
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) November 16, 2019
But the most-watched and most famous hosts on Fox kept up their unwavering support of Trump. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham all spent time attacking the witnesses during their shows this week. One that many online found funny was the focus Ingraham’s show had on George Kent’s water bottle.
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) November 16, 2019
Wow I wonder why she didn't witness the bribery I wonder if she was fired in order to keep her from witnessing the bribery I guess we'll never know pic.twitter.com/lylZSDJuPo
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) November 16, 2019