Do the media really treat Biden worse than Trump?
In a recent opinion column, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank argued that President Biden is treated worse by the media than President Trump was during his time in the White House. And yes, you read that correctly.
Milbank’s proof is provided by something called a “sentiment analysis,” which has never been tried before in analyzing media coverage. Nate Silver, one of the most respected statisticians out there and the founder of FiveThirtyEight, called Milbank’s conclusion “complete crap” due to the poor algorithms applied.
To this good thread explaining why the “sentiment analysis” cited in the @milbank WaPo article this weekend is complete crap—the analysis was used to make the claim that the press is just negative toward Biden as Trump—I’ll also add a couple of comments based on their data. 1/ https://t.co/V8pPJoM13p
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 6, 2021
Designing good algorithms is hard, but this is an especially bad one.
And as a news consumer, you should be extremely wary of statistical methodologies you don’t understand but that confirm your priors. 8/8
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 6, 2021
Milbank’s piece – which was retweeted by White House chief of staff Ron Klain and shared by some other media critics – acknowledges that Biden received mostly good press until August, when things suddenly changed.
But what happened back then? Ah, that’s right: The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan occurred that month, which ceded control of the country to the Taliban, allowing for the reemergence of al Qaeda and ISIS, and leaving hundreds of Americans behind in the process, some of whom remain there to this day.
Thirteen U.S. service members were also killed by an ISIS terrorist outside Kabul International Airport during the drawdown. And days later, a U.S. drone accidentally killed an Afghan family, despite initial Pentagon claims that it had taken out a key ISIS asset; seven children were among the dead.
gee what happened in August to result in sudden bad press?
so unfair that handing over a country to the Taliban, 13 Americans getting blown up, drone striking innocent family, & leaving hundreds of Americans & thousands of Afghan allies behind didn’t result in positive coverage. pic.twitter.com/EQuV52f3N7
— Jerry Christmas (@JerryDunleavy) December 4, 2021
Bottom line: Despite Milbank’s argument, there was simply no way to positively spin the Afghanistan debacle. And you cannot spin in any positive way core inflation being at a 30-year high, all while this administration has passed trillions in new spending while proposing trillions more in new spending in an effort, they say, to reduce inflation. This spending will only exacerbate the inflation problem, as anyone who has passed Econ 101 can tell you.
You also cannot positively spin gas prices being at their highest levels in nearly a decade. Or spin that President Biden shut down the U.S. Keystone Pipeline about five minutes after taking office while not doing anything to stop Nord Stream 2, which has emboldened the Russians by making it a major supplier of energy in Europe.
You cannot positively spin rising violent crime and smash-and-grab robberies being a nightly event in this country, which the administration blames on (checks notes) COVID-19.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 2, 2021
You cannot positively spin the ongoing crisis at the border, which the media ignore more than they spin. In a related story, more than 2 million people are set to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021, which is more than the combined populations of Washington, D.C., Boston and Denver.
And you cannot positively spin that Democrats are increasingly seen as the anti-parent party, as evidenced by the gubernatorial results in the formerly blue state of Virginia and Glenn Youngkin’s improbable victory by running on that issue.
Former Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter (@StefCutter), addressing last night’s election results: “The one thing that we need to make sure of is that Republicans in 2022 don’t become is the party of parents” pic.twitter.com/7nkxADC2KG
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 3, 2021
Economy. Crime. Immigration. Education. Foreign policy. Five of the biggest issues going into the 2022 midterms on which Democrats are playing defense. But if you listen to Milbank and read his piece, it’s the media’s fault for being mean to Biden, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary in terms of performance.
Perhaps we should look at tried-and-true studies from nonpartisan organizations instead of depending on a longtime MSNBC pundit.
According to a comprehensive study by Harvard University, Trump received 93 percent negative coverage from CNN and NBC News in the first 100 days of his presidency. CBS News coverage was 91 percent negative, while the New York Times and Washington Post clocked in at 87 percent and 83 percent negative, respectively.
Similarly, the Pew Research Center found that Trump received just 5 percent positive coverage, with 33 percent being deemed neutral. His predecessor, Barack Obama, received eight times more positive coverage than Trump. Pew also found that 68 percent of the coverage that Biden received was either positive or neutral.
Ted Koppel, one of the great objective journalists of the broadcast era, summed up the coverage of Trump best during his presidency.
“I believe [the New York Times and Washington Post] have, in fact, decided as organizations that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States,” he said in 2018. “We’re talking about organizations that I believe have, in fact, decided as organizations that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States. We have things appearing on the front page of the New York Times right now that never would have appeared 50 years ago… analysis, commentary on the front page.”
Fast forward to 2021, and President Biden is currently polling at 30 percent approval among independents, per a Wall Street Journal poll released Dec. 7.
Just 19 percent “strongly approve” of the president’s performance, showing a profoundly weak base of support so soon into his first term after receiving a record number of votes for president last year. And just 3-in-10 Americans believe the economy will improve in 2022. Just 27 percent of the country says the U.S. is on the right track, while incredibly high margins believe inflation, crime and border security will get worse, not better.
But one Washington Post columnist believes these numbers are the product not of public sentiment but of the big bad media, which have it out for Joe Biden more than they did for Donald Trump.
You really can’t make this stuff up.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.