United States / 24-02-2017
Study: Nightly broadcast news virtually ignores rise in antisemitic threats
Among cable outlets, Fox had by the far the least prime-time coverage
Nightly broadcast news shows have proven incredibly reluctant to cover the spate of antisemitic threats and attacks made since President Donald Trump’s election. Cable outlets provided a bit more coverage during prime-time, with Fox News as the exception, clocking just one segment on the topic. Given the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalist groups -- and given Trump’s repeated reluctance to discuss the rise of antisemitism -- it’s particularly important for news media to provide audiences with information on the threats and attacks which have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.
Antisemitic threats and attacks have been on the rise
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded 100 antisemitic incidents in the days following now-President Donald Trump’s election. And as Vox’s Sarah Wildman pointed out, the number “may be enormously underreported because, as with all hate crime statistics, the incidents were largely self-reported by groups that may not feel comfortable talking to law enforcement.” In addition, SPLC’s report did not take into account online harassment, which was rampant during the election.
This wave of antisemitic hate has not gone away. Since January, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America’s members have received 68 bomb threats at 53 facilities in 26 states and one Canadian province. And in February, vandals damaged more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis, echoing the vandalism committed by Nazis during World War II.
Nightly broadcast and prime-time cable news have largely neglected the trend
Despite the fear among many Americans, broadcast news outlets have drastically undercovered these stories. Since the election, ABC’s World News has spent 5 minutes and 45 seconds on the threats, while CBS’ Evening News and NBC’s Nightly News have spent 3 minutes and 1 second and 3 minutes and 6 seconds, respectively on the topic. Out of the eight segments the newscasts aired in the four-month period, four aired on NBC, and two aired on each ABC and CBS. NBC was the only network to report on the trend in January; all the other segments took place in February.
Prime-time shows (between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.) on CNN and MSNBC fared slightly better. In total, CNN aired 10 segments on the trend, devoting a total of 45 minutes and 38 seconds to it, while MSNBC’s five segments clocked in at 20 minutes and 23 seconds. All of the segments, except one that MSNBC aired in November, took place between February 17 and 22.
Fox News’ coverage, on the other hand, was especially abysmal. Since November 9, the network has only aired one segment on the trend, on the February 21 edition of Hannity, and host Sean Hannity used it to segue into a smear campaign against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).
Now more than ever, media must highlight these incidents
Especially now, media must devote significant attention to these hate incidents and threats. During the election, the antisemitic white nationalist movement known as the “alt-right” rose from the fringe to become one of the most significant factions in conservative media. Trump’s candidacy and subsequent election have also elevated the white nationalist movement.
And media cannot rely on Trump to bring up these incidents himself. It was only after he came under increasing pressure -- and some reporters made failed attempts to broach the subject -- that Trump finally acknowledged and denounced the rising violence aimed at Jews, on February 21. If media continue to wait for Trump to acknowledge these incidents before reporting on them, viewers may never know that they are happening.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for mentions of “Jewish,” “cemetery,” “JCC,” “antisemitism,” “antisemite,” “antisemitic,” “St. Louis,” “University City,” and “Chesed Shel Emeth Society” on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS November 9 through February 22. Mentions on cable news must have taken place between 8 and 11 p.m. on weekdays and mentions on broadcast news must have taken place during the nightly newscasts on a weekday. Segments included in the analysis featured a significant discussion of a specific incident or threat or a significant discussion of the overall trend in antisemitic threats and incidents.