Media Fails In Coverage Of Sen. Menendez Corruption Trial

Amber Athey | Media and Breaking News Editor

The media’s coverage of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez’s corruption trial has been a story of omission and bias, with many outlets giving scarce coverage to the story and others botching it completely.

Menendez is the first sitting U.S. senator to be tried for corruption in 36 years, perhaps an indication that it is a story worth covering accurately. But despite him being accused of taking nearly one million dollars in bribes in exchange for political favors, major outlets have hardly touched the story.

For example, on Wednesday, the first day of the trial, the big three broadcast networks didn’t mention the story on their evening shows. CBS brought up the trial once in the morning, while ABC and NBC ignored it completely. (RELATED: Networks Ignore First Day Of Sen. Menendez Trial) 

Similarly, CNN only mentioned the trial twice on Wednesday (one of the mentions was at four AM), while MSNBC mentioned it four times. Fox News mentioned it dozens of times and in just about every hour of their broadcast.

Bre Payton, a writer with The Federalist, points out that the disparate coverage is equally exaggerated when the timeframe is set from the end of August to September 5, the day before the trial started.

In that time period, CNN mentioned the trial just once, MSNBC mentioned it just 3 times, while Fox News brought it up 16 times on air.

Twitter tells a similar story: MSNBC tweeted about the trial just two times since the beginning of August, CNN tweeted about it three times, and Fox News tweeted about it 12 times.

The bias seems to run deeper, though, when investigating how the media talked about the trial when they did give it coverage.

The New York Times was blasted when they managed to run a 1300-word piece about Sen. Menendez’s corruption without once mentioning the fact that he is a Democrat. Menendez’s party affiliation was only added into the piece after the criticism became too much bear, but even then it was slipped into the fourth paragraph and not the lead. (NYT Writes 1300 Words About Dem Senator’s Corruption Trial Without Mentioning He’s A Democrat) 

NBC News made a similar error on Wednesday when publishing a wire from the Associated Press. In the lead of the republished story, NBC referred to Menendez as a Republican from New Jersey.

The original AP story never called Menendez a Republican and even referred to him as a Democrat later in the lead, suggesting the falsehood was added in by NBC News. It took NBC News two hours to correct the mistake, and that was only after it was caught by multiple reporters. (RELATED: NBC News Wrongly Claims Sen. Menendez Is A Republican)

Let’s not forget that Menendez is still a sitting Senator and has appeared on television numerous times while boasting federal charges-not that it was ever brought up during his interviews.

As documented by US News & World Report, the charges weren’t mentioned during Menendez’s March interviews on Bloomberg TV, on CNN with Jake Tapper, nor on MSNBC with Katy Tur. The Tur interview is especially interesting considering Menendez was asked to opine on the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When MSNBC did bring up Menendez’s trial on Wednesday, their newest anchor, Ari Melber, was frank in his assessment of the case.

“The case against Menendez as a legal matter doesn’t look close, it looks overwhelming,” Melber asserted.  (VIDEO: MSNBC Host: Case Against Menendez ‘Doesn’t Look Close, It Looks Overwhelming’)

If that is true, it seems all the more incredible that outlets have face-planted so hard in their coverage of this case.

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