Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records on Tuesday. This was the first time a former U.S. president – now presidential candidate — faced criminal charges.
To see how the left and right covered the story differently, AllSides conducted a media bias analysis of 20 media outlets — 10 on the left and 10 on the right — to uncover how different sides of the aisle covered these breaking stories. For details, see how we did this.
Trump Arrest & Arraignment Coverage: April 4th
Donald Trump flew from his home in Florida to Manhattan to face arraignment, which occurred on Tuesday, April 4, in which he was formally charged with 34 counts of business fraud related to hush money payments to adult film actors which allegedly had affairs with Trump.
The right covered Trump’s response to the indictment and arraignment significantly more than the left, and seemingly with a more positive light on the former president. While HuffPost (Left bias) indicated with spin in its coverage that “Trump spent Tuesday morning posting complaints about the case in all-capital letters to his Twitter-like platform,” most outlets analyzed on the right focused heavily on Trump’s statements and Tuesday evening speech at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
In fact, the analysis found that outlets on the right highlighted Trump’s speech at Mar-a-Lago as their top story significantly more than the left. Here is a taste of the top headline on a few media websites, all pulled at 10:00pm ET on Tuesday, April 4th:
- Outlets on the Left
- HuffPost (Left bias): “Read The Full Statement Of Facts Detailing Donald Trump's 34 Charges”
- The Daily Beast (Left bias): “Trump Literally Lists All His Grievances in Post-Arraignment Speech”
- CNN (Left bias): “READ: Trump indictment and statement of facts related to hush money payment”
- New York Times (Lean Left bias): “From President to Defendant: Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felonies”
- ABC News (Lean Left bias): “What legal experts say about Donald Trump's indictment”
- Washington Post (Lean Left bias): “Trump pleads not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records”
- Outlets on the Right
- Washington Times (Lean Right bias): “Donald Trump defies onslaught of legal attacks: 'A persecution, not an investigation'”
- The Post Millennial (Lean Right bias): “BREAKING: Energetic Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago after arrest — 'This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election'”
- New York Post (Lean Right bias): “Trump rips Alvin Bragg after NYC arrest: ‘The criminal is the district attorney’”
- Breitbart (Right bias): “Donald Trump Holds Post-Arraignment Press Conference at Mar-a-Lago”
- National Review (Right bias): “Trump Accuses ‘Criminal’ Prosecutor of Election Interference in Defiant Post-Arraignment Speech”
- Fox News (Right bias): “Trump slams Bragg after pleading not guilty: 'I never thought anything like this could happen in America'”
As can be seen by the headlines above, most outlets analyzed on the left continued to highlight the arraignment as their top story while most on the left highlighted Trump’s post-arraignment speech at Mar-a-Lago instead.
Here’s a word cloud showing the top words used on both sides of media coverage (for more information, see our methodology):
Overall, top words on both sides of coverage were very similar, yet there were a few distinctions.
The left mentioned Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen more, who was sentenced to prison in 2018 for a conviction related to hush money payments. Politico (Lean Left bias) reported that “After initially denying any wrongdoing, Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to two federal campaign-finance charges, admitting that the unreported payments were effectively donations to Trump’s campaign because they were intended to aid his candidacy.” [Emphasis from AllSides].
Cohen’s guilty plea was mentioned in just 3 of the 10 outlets analyzed on the right, and 8 in 10 outlets analyzed on the left.
Outlets on both sides mentioned Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg at similar rates. However, outlets on the right highlighted the most criticism of him, usually in providing more quotes from Trump. The National Review (Right bias) said that “...former president Donald Trump cast Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg as a “criminal” prosecutor who, along with other progressive prosecutors across the country, is twisting the law in service of a political agenda.” [Emphasis from AllSides].
Trump Indictment Announcement Coverage: March 30th & 31st
On Thursday, March 30th, a grand jury voted to indict former president Trump. The story spread like wildfire. Within minutes, major news outlets across the country – and around the globe – were reporting on the indictment.
Similar to coverage after the arraignment, top words on both sides were very similar in nature. However, the left mentioned Michael Cohen more in coverage, while the right mentioned Alvin Bragg more, on average.
The left also mentioned “election” at a greater rate, oftentimes referring to other potential criminal charges that former President Trump is facing, including allegations of Trump trying to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.
Outlets on the left and right extensively covered the alleged hush money payments, yet outlets on the right mentioned Daniels by name slightly more than the left. Specifically, Fox News (Right bias) reported that Daniels in 2018 denied allegations that she had an affair with Trump:
"I recently became aware that certain news outlets are alleging that I had a sexual and/or romantic affair with Donald Trump many, many, many years ago. I am stating with complete clarity that this is absolutely false… My involvement with Donald Trump was limited to a few public appearances and nothing more.” Daniels wrote in a letter. “"Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false…”
Shortly thereafter, Daniels reversed her story, indicating that she did have an affair with Trump. While some outlets on the right mentioned this detail, outlets on the left generally omitted the fact that Daniels originally denied the allegations. Both sides mentioned that Donald Trump has denied an affair ever happening.
Generally speaking, the right also seemed more skeptical of the indictment.
National Review (Right bias) indicated that the charges “appears to be about as execrable an exercise of prosecutorial discretion as one can fathom.” The Post Millennial (Lean Right bias) argued that the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg ran his campaign “on a platform to prosecute Trump, though there was no substantial case at the time, and he's worked to build that case over the past few years. Bragg's office has invetigated [sic] the Trump organization, scrutinizing Trump's business practices prior to his time in office.” The Epoch Times (Lean Right bias) said that “Bragg’s case against Trump, which some have said employs a ‘novel’ legal argument, faces significant legal hurdles…”
CNN (Left bias) argued that Republican leaders “lambasted Bragg despite having not seen the charges or evidence against the former president. The angry reactions were consistent with Trump’s previous attempts to intimidate Bragg, which were set off nearly two weeks ago with his inaccurate prediction that he’d be arrested early last week.” [Emphasis from AllSides].
A piece of information omitted by the right was that Bragg also was behind the conviction of the Trump Organization in December 2022 for tax fraud. Several outlets on the left mentioned this, including TIME (Lean Left bias), which mentioned that it has “not directly charged Trump with a crime in that proceeding.”
Finally, outlets on the right quoted Donald Trump’s statements in response to the indictment more often than the left, in which the former president described the event as a “Witch-Hunt.” The left did not quote the president nearly as much as the right, which could also be considered bias by omission.
AllSides also collected screenshots of homepages from media outlets throughout the indictment and arraignment process. To view that analysis, click here.
How AllSides Conducted This Analysis
AllSides analyzed 20 outlets for this analysis, including 5 Left-rated outlets (CNN, HuffPost, MSNBC, Vox, The Daily Beast), 5 Lean Left-rated outlets (New York Times, TIME, Washington Post, Politico, ABC News), 5 Lean Right-rated outlets (Washington Times, The Epoch Times, The Post Millennial, New York Post, Washington Examiner), and 5 Right-rated outlets (Breitbart, Fox News, Newsmax, National Review, Daily Wire). All of these outlets appear on the AllSides Media Bias Chart™.
The story collection process involved collecting the top story (i.e. the story closest to the top of a page) about Donald Trump’s indictment/arraignment, excluding stories that were labeled as updating live, on each outlet’s homepage on five separate occasions: on March 30th at 6pm ET, March 31st at 9am ET, March 31st at 5pm ET, April 4th at 4:30pm ET, and April 4th at 10pm ET. The stories collected in March were analyzed under “Trump Indictment Announcement” and stories collected in April were analyzed under “Trump Arrest & Arraignment” in this analysis.
There were 85 stories collected in total through this process; some duplicate stories were present at content collection times. Stories used in the analysis included op-eds and excluded podcasts.
In total, 44,178 words were analyzed from outlets rated left of center and 37,056 words were analyzed from outlets rated right of center. Embedded tweets were not analyzed. Common words such as “said,” “this,” “of,” “and,” “it,” “for,” and “with” were excluded from word clouds.
Andrew Weinzierl is AllSides’ Bias Research Manager & Data Journalist. He has a Lean Left bias.
Clare Ashcraft, AllSides' Bridging & Bias Assistant, contributed to this analysis. She has a Center bias.
This piece was reviewed by Co-Founder and CEO John Gable (Lean Right bias), Bridging & Bias Assistant Clare Ashcraft (Center bias), and Daily News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).