Joe Biden will be formally inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday. But will he be given an easier ride by the US media than his predecessor?
Donald Trump is leaving the White House for the last time with a deafening chorus of derision from most of the mainstream US media.
But did they give the 45th President a fair crack of the whip and are the big US media outlets inherently biased in favour of the Democrats?
Republican trust in media sunk under Trump but Democrats’ trust has risen – In-depth look at what last four years have done to media freedom and trust https://t.co/U41g7N0Bz9 pic.twitter.com/p9axtsIvJ1
— Press Gazette (@pressgazette) January 15, 2021
Why was coverage of the violence associated with the Black Lives Matter protests more sympathetic to the demonstrators than coverage of the so-called “storming of the Capitol” on 6 January?
Did George W. Bush get more criticism for his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan than Barack Obama, who ordered more drone strikes in his first 12 months in office than his predecessor had in eight years?
Just putting this out there. Media Bias chart. pic.twitter.com/qfxFiGMn15
— Miranda Walker (@YayImNan) January 11, 2021
In his 2008 campaign for the White House Barack Obama promised to close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay and on his second full day as president he issued an executive order to close it within a year.
Eight years later, when he left office, it was still open.
The US media said nothing about this failed promise, or several others that Obama made.
He’s honestly right. The left constantly lies to us, everyone loved Obama but his laws were far more dangerous internationally however the Democrats control the media so nobody was aware of what laws that were being passed & wars being fought. I can support this claim, but
— 𓂀⚔️ (@jesse_riddim) January 11, 2021
Bill Clinton introduced a draconian “three strikes and you’re out” law in 1994, which would eventually lead to the incarceration of tens of thousands of African-Americans.
The mainstream media glossed over this and Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary remained darlings of the Democrat-supporting media and African-Americans turned out in huge numbers to vote for her in November 2016.
The long-term consequences of the “three strikes and you’re out” law were only exposed by Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary, 13th, which came out shortly before the 2016 election but did not get a great deal of traction until the Black Lives Matter protests broke out in 2020. In April 2020 Netflix released it, for free, on YouTube.
So is there a bias towards the Democrats in mainstream US media?
The Democrats insist they are moderates and not radicals. They insist they want to represent all Americans. Really? Awfully quiet about the blatant Big Tech censorship of half the country though…funny.
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) January 15, 2021
Let us for one moment leave aside the social media giants Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and look at the major media groups.
CNN, the giant Atlanta-based 24-hour news channel, was founded by Ted Turner, who once described himself as a “socialist at heart” and in 1991 married Jane Fonda, the actress and activist who had been so opposed to the Vietnam War that she was dubbed “Hanoi Jane.”
“That is how the terrorist attack of Jan. 6 happened. Millions of Americans infected with the virus of disinformation,” says @jaketapper.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 17, 2021
In 1996 CNN was sold to Time Warner – now Warner Media – and in 2018 they were bought out by AT&T for US$85 billion.
But AT&T have not meddled with CNN’s political bias, which remains deeply liberal and pro-Democrat.
The channel’s main presenters, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Abby Phillip and Anderson Cooper, did not even pretend to hide their loathing of Trump and their admiration for Biden during the 2020 election campaign.
CNN commentator Van Jones even broke down in tears on 7 November after Biden finally declared himself the winner of the election.
NBC and MSNBC, which are owned by Comcast, tend to serve a liberal audience – in 2014 a Pew survey found 48% of their viewers were “left-of-centre” and only 18 percent were “conservative.”
At President @realDonaldTrump’s direction, the National Guard is on the way along with other federal protective services.
We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) January 6, 2021
Among many examples of bias against Trump was a false claim MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace made on 5 August 2019 – two days after white supremacist Patrick Crusius killed 23 people in a mass shooting El Paso – when she said the President had been “talking about exterminating Latinos.”
The Walt Disney Company owns ABC News while CBS is owned, through Viacom, by National Amusements.
Thanks Rowan, great show. The media bias against Trump has been putrid.
— Jamie 🇦🇺 (@Jamiebakers) January 18, 2021
The Colorado-based watchdog AdFontes Media placed ABC News in the middle of its bias chart – in other words relatively neutral, along with the BBC and CBS – although many conservatives feel ABC and CBS have been prejudiced against Trump since his inauguration in January 2017.
Of the other major media corporations Fox News – owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp – supports Trump up to and including the 2016 election, but has been noticeably cooler towards him in the last two or three years.
I watch CNN a fair bit, I’ve learnt a lot about US Politics, but its heavily (sometimes uncomfortably) opinionated. It seems its often, accuser, judge and jury.There is not much attempt to avoid bias. That makes me value our own UK reporting, but the US style is creeping in here.
— Sophie Ireland (@straycatsbandb) January 13, 2021
As Fox News became more critical of Trump and his agenda, the commander-in-chief himself lashed out at the channel and urged his supporters to switch to the One America News Network (OANN), which was founded by Robert Herring, a right-wing businessman.
It’s been less than an hour since Trump was impeached for a second time and Fox News has already moved on to a segment on perceived media bias.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) January 13, 2021
So when it comes to the main TV channels pumping news into US households the majority have a pro-Democrat leaning.
What about newspapers and news websites?
Four of the five biggest news websites in the US are NBC, CBS, Fox News and CNN but the most popular of all is Yahoo! News, although this is just an aggregator which draws in news stories from a range of other news providers.
Among other news websites which get a lot of traffic are Buzzfeed, the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.
The Washington Post was bought by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos in 2013 while Arianna Huffington is a confirmed Democrat and Buzzfeed’s founder Jonah Perretti turned down Trump ads on the site in 2016, saying: “We don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”
The newspaper with the biggest circulation in the US is actually the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It goes in for sensational headlines and has targeted Trump and right-wing figures like Ted Cruz as well as Democrats.
During the election campaign the Post ran an exclusive story about emails allegedly found on Hunter Biden’s laptop but it is now being sued by a Delaware computer repair shop owner who claims he has been wrongly portrayed as a hacker.
Another media organisation accused of supporting Trump is the National Enquirer’s owner, AMI, which was accused in of “buying the silence” of a doorman, Dino Sajudin, in 2015 over a rumour Trump had fathered a “love child.”
The Atlantic – an increasingly influential media voice in the US – was bought by the Emerson Collective, a “social justice” organisation run by Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene.
But probably the most influential newspaper in America is the New York Times, which is owned by billionaire publish Arthur Sulzberger.
In June 2019 Sulzberger wrote an op-ed piece in the rival Wall Street Journal in which he accused Trump of “crossing the line” by accusing it, in a tweet, of “treason” over a story about cyber attacks on Russia.
Vanity Fair reported Sulzberger had reached out to the Journal’s editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, and asked him to publish the article because he wanted to speak to “folks who are maybe more conservative, folks who are influential in the business community” who tend to read the Wall Street Journal, rather than the New York Times.
In 2018 Sulzberger reiterated that: “The New York Times is not for sale.”
With the ownership of the mainstream media in the US unlikely to change in the next few years it is likely the Biden administration will be given a much easier ride than the Trump regime.
But the 74 million people who voted for Trump at November’s election already know about media bias and many of them already tune out the mainstream media.