The 2024 presidential race has been going on for months, but the real kickoff is the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee. For most of these candidates, this will be the highest visibility they have achieved in this campaign. They can blame Donald Trump, and the Trump-obsessed media.

The four-indictment whirlwind around Trump — alongside a courtroom battle over an ancient rape allegation — has dominated the narrative of the Republican campaign. A new study of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January through July from the Media Research Center’s Rich Noyes found these were the top stories:

No. 1: Trump’s classified-document investigation and indictment.

No. 2: Trump’s hush-money-to-Stormy-Daniels investigation and indictment.

No. 3: Trump’s Jan. 6 investigation and indictment.

No. 4: Trump’s rape-and-defamation battle with accuser E. Jean Carroll.

No. 5: Ron DeSantis’ “woke” controversies in Florida on race and gender.

No. 6: Other Trump legal challenges.

No. 7: Mike Pence’s role on Jan. 6.

No. 8: Mike Pence’s classified-documents investigation.

Under all that, over the last seven months, the three networks offered only 11 minutes on abortion, eight minutes on immigration, six on the Ukraine war and three on gun control. How can anyone really call this “campaign coverage”? TV news producers make it feel like the entire Republican campaign is occurring in courtrooms and lawyer huddles, not on the campaign trail.

These are the same arrogant TV journalists who boast that they are the guarantors of democracy and decency and a well-informed electorate. But they seem entirely hostile to airing the issues and the actual exchanges of views between candidates. So far this year, stump speeches aren’t making the news. Only arrests and arraignments are.

Trump drew 664 minutes of airtime (or 74% of the Republican total), while DeSantis came far behind in second with 126 minutes. Then Pence had 63 minutes, alongside 17 for Nikki Haley and 12 for Tim Scott. No one else got to 10. Eight years ago, in the last open Republican primary, Trump drew only 37% of total coverage, and even then, it felt like he was dominating the national stage.

That’s not to say that the networks were nice to Trump. The stories were 90% negative toward Trump, and also 78% negative on DeSantis. Fully 85% of the airtime on Trump centered on his legal troubles.

Then reporters say Trump is “stealing the spotlight” from his rivals, as if they aren’t among the ones who manage the spotlight. Voicing over a screen that read “Trump To Surrender After Skipping Debate,” NBC’s Garrett Haake touted Trump as “poised once again to steal the spotlight this week from the party he seeks to lead.”

After eight years of this onslaught, it seems amazing that Republicans are so supportive of Trump in the early polls. Wildly negative coverage of Trump has never hurt him much with Republicans, and in some quarters, it drives a sympathy vote. But the pro-Biden media clearly hope independents and Cheney-Kinzinger Republicans will accept their messaging and turn out in droves for Biden.

Network newscasts paired their “Trump’s Impending Arrest” stories with gushy chronicles of Biden touring Maui displaying his “signature empathy.” Their “news judgment” can be defined as, “Whatever makes the Republicans look terrible and the Democrats look wonderful is news.”

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog To find out more about Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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