The ongoing trial of Sen. Bob Menendez involves a multi-million dollar bribery and corruption scandal and sordid details aplenty. The trial’s outcome could fundamentally alter the political makeup of the U.S. Senate. In a deeply divided congress where every vote counts—Republicans are frantically trying to persuade their colleague from Alaska to support the latest version of a healthcare reform bill—one would think this trial would matter to members of the media.
CNN’s own Poppy Harlow noted on September 6 the case was “a big deal… because this is the first bribery case involving a sitting U.S. Senator in over three decades,” and promised to cover it closely. But the network has only mentioned the trial once since then, a Media Research Center study found. Since the trail began earlier this month, CNN has only spent a total of 14 minutes covering the case.
To his credit, CNN’s Jake Tapper has been doing most of the heavy lifting on the Menendez trial: two-thirds of the network’s coverage occurred during his show. In addition, the network’s website has run numerous articles covering the trial at length. But why isn’t this coverage making it onto TV?
Mike Ciandella of NewsBusters noted earlier this week that morning and evening news coverage on the three big news networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) has been even sparser than cable news counterparts:
Broadcast network morning and evening news coverage of the trial has been even sparser than CNN’s. NBC’s Today, and all three broadcast evening news shows (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) have yet to even mention the trial. So far, ABC’s Good Morning America has run just a single story on September 13 (1 minute, 48 seconds), while CBS This Morning has only provided a news brief on September 6 (22 seconds).
An updated study from MRC revealed the numbers have not changed.
If Sen. Menendez is found guilty and vacates his Senate seat, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could pick a Republican successor, which would alter the political makeup of the U.S. Senate to 53 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent, but caucuses with the Democrats.
You can listen to an in-depth discussion of the Menendez trial here.