Monday, June 11, 2007 | Contact: Colleen O'Boyle (703) 683-5004
MRC Study: After Celebrating Immigration Bill's Debut, ABC, CBS and NBC Mostly Ignored the Debate
TV's Paltry, Left-Leaning
The evening newscasts (ABC's World News, CBS Evening News
and NBC Nightly News) ran the most coverage (54 minutes,
about 3 percent of airtime), while ABC's Good Morning America,
CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today discussed immigration
for less than 50 minutes, or about 0.6 percent of their airtime.
Other key findings:
Popping Champagne Corks.
When it was announced, the networks greeted the deal as good news.
"This is a giant step towards immigration reform," ABC's Martha
Raddatz exulted on World News May 17. Moments later, reporter
Kate Snow confided that "there is a sense in the immigrant community
that this deal is almost too good to be true."
Over on CBS, reporter Sandra Hughes profiled an illegal immigrant
working as a housekeeper. "Knowing she has a chance to become a
legal citizen makes her happy to the point of tears," Hughes
championed, but presented the proposed $5,000 penalty as an onerous
burden. "It's a lot of money to ask for to process the paperwork to
become legal," the maid dubbed "Susie" complained.
Reform vs. Amnesty.
On 47 occasions, reporters matter-of-factly used the positive
adjective "reform" to describe the Senate bill, but only twice did
reporters refer to it as "amnesty." When ABC's Chris Cuomo called it
"amnesty" on the June 8 Good Morning America, he meant it to
sound positive. "The [poll] numbers are in favor of giving some type
of amnesty to these people. Isn't that the humane solution? Why are
you so adamantly opposed to it?" Cuomo challenged GOP Rep. Tom
Real Border Security?
Most reports (75%) uncritically described the bill as one that
"would toughen border security." One of the exceptions came May 18,
when ABC's Diane Sawyer actually challenged co-sponsor Ted Kennedy:
"All that is being done is adding 300 miles of fence to a 2,000 mile
border....How is this gonna stop more illegal immigrants from coming
Cost to Taxpayers.
The costs of illegal immigration were mentioned just twice. In his
May 22 commentary on CBS's Early Show, Lou Dobbs revealed how
"Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation estimates the net cost to
our government and taxpayers could be more than $2.5 trillion over
the next two decades." The only network news report on the subject
came May 27, when NBC Nightly News reporter Robert Bazell
used a small hospital in Arizona, as a case study: "The cost of
treating non-citizens forced the Copper Queen [Hospital] to close
its obstetrics unit....Nation-wide, undocumented immigrants cost the
nation $6 billion a year for health care."
networks' sympathies were easy to spot. On June 8, ABC's Charles
Gibson suggested the bill's defeat "makes you wonder...if our
political system is really equipped to attack and solve the big
problems." The networks' paltry coverage makes one wonder if they
are still equipped to adequately cover big debates like immigration,
or if that job has already been yielded to energetic talk radio.
Rich Noyes, with
research assistance from Matt Balan
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