A weekly round up on what’s happening and what we’re seeing at the TV News Archive by Katie Dahl and Nancy Watzman. Additional research by Robin Chin.
It was an extraordinary week on TV news. Cable news hosts and guests are known for brawling, and there was plenty of that, but this week there were also tears, revulsion, and outright astonishment in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration at a press conference on August 15 that there were “very fine people on both sides” at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. We’ve preserved it all at the TV News Archive, and here present some highlights–or some might say lowlights–in public discourse.
Vice captured white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us”
When white supremacists carrying tiki torches marched at the University of Virginia on the evening of August 11 to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, Vice news was there recording their chants of “blood and soil,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “Whose streets, our streets.” CNN later aired this clip from the Vice video that shows the marchers chanting and counter protesters confronting them and yelling, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA.”
Trump responded by blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville
The protest turned deadly on Saturday, August 14, when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters leaving dozens wounded and a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, dead. Trump came under criticism for making a public statement, saying: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
On Monday, Trump denounced the KKK and neo-Nazis
After a barrage of criticism, on Monday, Trump made a statement denouncing white supremacists by name: “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
On Tuesday, Trump was back to finding fault with “both sides”
On August 15, at a press conference in New York City on infrastructure policy, Trump lashed out at reporters asking about Charlottesville during the question and answer period and stated, “I think there’s blame on both sides… you had some bad people in that group, but you also had people who were very fine people on both sides.”
How top-rated cable TV news shows reported on Charlottesville
As the Charlottesville controversy unfolded on Monday and Tuesday, the Nielsen top-rated shows on TV cable news revealed a sharp contrast in the editorial decisions made in covering it.
On Monday evening, MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” spent around 79 percent of the show on Charlottesville and its aftermath. Sixteen percent of the show was spent on ongoing investigations of Trump and his campaign and five percent on presidential pardons. Maddow’s guests included Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer and author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson. Maddow began her show with a monologue detailing a history of criminal activity to financially support the neo-Nazi agenda, including a new civil war.
The same night, Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” devoted about one-third of the show’s time to Charlottesville; 14 percent on the Democratic National Committee email hack; 27 percent on a memo by a former Google employee about gender; 11 percent on U.S. “no-go” zones of Sharia law; 14 percent on North Korea, and three percent on a Georgia congressional race. His guests included former NYPD officer Dan Bongino, White House aide Omarosa Newman, former NSA technical director Bill Binney, fired Google employee James Damore, Breitbart London editor-in-chief Nigel Farage, and author and political commentator Charles Krauthammer.
On both Monday and Tuesday, Anderson Cooper devoted 100 percent of coverage to Charlottesville during the first hour of his show, “Anderson Cooper 360.” His guests on Monday included Susan Bro, the mother of slain counter protester, Heather Heyer; Harvard University’s Cornel West; former director of black outreach for George W. Bush, Paris Dennard; The New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman; news commentator and author Van Jones; Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis; former Republican National Committee chief of staff Mike Shields; and photographer Ryan Kelly, who snapped the photograph of James Fields, Jr., plowing his car through a crowd of counter protesters.
Several Fox hosts and guests expressed emotion about Trump’s statements
While much of the Fox News coverage put a positive spin on Trump’s statements, what stuck out were the exceptions to that general rule on the conservative cable news channel.
Fox News host Kat Timpf, on air Tuesday when Trump gave his press conference, reacted by saying, “It shouldn’t be some kind of bold statement to say a gathering of white supremacists doesn’t have good people in it. Those are all bad people, period. The fact that’s controversial… I have too much eye makeup on now to start crying right now. It’s disgusting.”
Here is GOP strategist Gianno Caldwell, fighting tears on “Fox and Friends,” as he says, “I come today with a a very heavy heart… last night I couldn’t sleep at all, because President Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country… good people don’t pal around with Nazis and white supremacists.”
Fact-check: Trump’s Tuesday press conference (provides context and timeline)
FactCheck.org’s Eugene Kiely and Robert Farley quickly published a post after Trump’s Tuesday press conference putting several of his assertions in context and providing a timeline of events. For example, they noted that while Trump had said, “before I make a statement, I like to know the facts,” that “Trump hasn’t always waited for ‘the facts’ after a tragedy. For example, he speculated that ‘yet another terrorist attack’ was to blame for an EgyptAir plane that disappeared May 19, 2016. The cause is still unknown.”
Fact-check: Counter-protestors lacked a permit (four Pinocchios)
At his Tuesday press conference, Trump said, “You had a lot of people in that [white nationalist] group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know — I don’t know if you know — they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.”
“[T]hey did have permits for rallies on Saturday — and they did not need one to go into or gather near Emancipation Park, where white nationalists scheduled their rally. No permits were needed to march on the U-Va. campus on Friday night,” wrote Glenn Kessler for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. He gave the president’s claim “four Pinocchios.”
To receive the TV News Archive’s email newsletter, subscribe here.