May 22, 2017

CNN’s Berman Picks Wrong Data From Harvard Media Study to Falsely Taint Fox

Thursday morning, Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy issued a report which confirmed what the Media Research Center, the parent of NewsBusters, reported in April, namely that President Donald Trump “has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.” On Sunday, CNN’s John Berman tried to cast Fox News as a conservatively biased outlier — as opposed to the relatively fair and balanced entity it has actually been during the Trump administration’s early months — by selecting results of one tiny element of the Shorenstein report and presenting it as if it was the study’s comprehensive conclusion.

After presenting his bogus stat, Berman went further, falsely accusing Fox of engaging in a news strategy (with chyron caption help) of “deny, deflect and downplay” to defend Trump.

Here is the video clip containing Berman’s incorrect bias claim (HT Daily Caller), followed by Berman’s slap at Fox’s alleged pro-Trump strategy:

Transcript:

JOHN BERMAN, CNN: Is President Trump besieged by the media attempting a sort of coup?

It really all depends on where you turn your dial to get your news. This is according to a new study from the Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media Politics that analyzed news coverage of the President’s first 100 days and found that the coverage, quote, “set a new standard for unfavorable coverage of a President,” with Fox News being the only outlet where the majority of the coverage was positive.

(Note: Berman never actually closed his “quote,” which surely led many viewers to believe that the “Fox News” portion of the final sentence above was part of Shorenstein’s study. It wasn’t. The second quote mark has been inserted where what Berman said stopped tracking the Shorenstein report.)

Let’s stop there to go after CNN’s graphics.

CNN’s graphic supporting Berman’s narrative claimed that Fox was positive towards Trump 67 percent of the time. That’s wrong. The 67-33 breakdown seen in the video is for one small element of coverage, namely that relating to Trump’s fitness for office — which as seen below, accounted for only 3 percent of overall U.S. news coverage relating to Trump:

PercentOfUStrumpCvrgByTopic0217

Here is the official graphic for the tone of coverage only relating to presidential fitness from the Shorenstein Center which CNN adapted for its broadcast:

ShorensteinToneOfCvrgFitness042917

Here is the actual graphic from Shorenstein which shows the comprehensive positive/negative tone results for each network:

ShorensteinToneOfTrumpCvrg0417

Berman and CNN not only vastly misrepresented Fox’s positive/negative breakdown, which, as just seen, has been just about breakeven. They also misstated the actual results seen at the other four U.S. outlets seen in the second chart above.

Overall, this is not a minor bust. It’s a major botch.

But we’re not done. Returning to the video transcript:

BERMAN: And speaking of Fox, when it comes to the spate of stories and controversies surrounding the President this week, the programming direction there seemed to be to deny, deflect and downplay. Watch.

Berman and CNN then played video clips from the following Fox shows to support that claim:

  • Hannity.
  • Special Report, with Bret Baier replaying a segment from “The Five” with Jesse Watters.
  • Jeanine Pirro, appearing on Fox & Friends.
  • A monologue by Eric Bolling telling the New York Times and Washington Post that you should be ashamed of your reporting.”
  • Fox & Friends, with the hosts expressing frustration over having to talk about almost nothing but Russia.

The problem with these selections is all but perhaps the final one would not have fallen within the plainly stated scope of the Shorenstein study:

The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).

Only the final item among the five CNN/Berman selections listed above might have been treated as a “news report” by Shorenstein had they appeared within the time period covered by the research.

So what’s John Berman’s point? That these commentators have opinions? So what? That they are the commentators’ opinions is obvious to all.

Berman and CNN just injected their opinions into a “news” story based on wrongly selected data which just so happened to make Fox News look more positive towards Donald Trump than it has actually been. They then tried to make viewers believe that Fox has gotten even more Trump-friendly since then by showing commentary instead of genuine news reports.

It’s really tiresome to have to use this term so often, but given that CNN gave it life and then used it to attack NewsBusters shortly after Trump’s election, it’s still very clearly fair game to label Berman’s report a crystal-clear example of fake news.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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