To no one’s surprise, President Trump’s phone call this past weekend to Georgia’s Secretary of State about the presidential election results caused a media firestorm.
The president told Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger that he wanted “to find 11,780 votes” and accused Georgia’s vote count of being off “by hundreds of thousands of votes” in favor of Joe Biden. Raffensperger’s office then gave audio of the call to the Washington Post, which published an exclusive report with the headline, “In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor.”
Media coverage often focused on debunking Trump’s claims, and many outlets framed the president negatively. But that coverage sometimes came from where you’d least expect it.
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Left-rated sources including the Post, New York Times and CNN typically framed Trump’s behavior on the call as inappropriate and possibly illegal. Many center-rated sources like Reuters, BBC and Axios reported similarly, often fact-checking the president’s claims and highlighting criticism of Trump from around the political world.
Joining them, though, were several right-rated outlets that often give the president more favorable coverage.
How Some Right-Rated News Outlets Broke With Pro-Trump Narrative
Not all right-rated outlets offer news coverage that’s biased in Trump’s favor. Some, like National Review, often take firm anti-Trump positions. Right-rated outlets aren’t all blindly pro-Trump either, and some will do separate stories that paint him positively and negatively.
But many right-rated sources do often publish narratives that run counter to anti-Trump themes seen from many left and some center-rated sources. In this particular case, however, that was notably scarce.
Newsmax (Lean Right bias) published an article centered on Raffensperger saying Trump’s claims cited false data. Seen by some as an ally to Trump, Newsmax issued a retraction in December after being threatened with a defamation suit by voting technology company Smartmatic, which claimed Newsmax spread lies about it while covering election fraud claims.
The Daily Caller (Right bias) covered GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s take that Trump’s call to Raffensperger “was not a helpful call,” and highlighted silence on the matter from GOP lawmakers in a separate report.
TheBlaze (Right) reported on Georgia’s Republican Lt. Gov. saying the call was “based on misinformation,” and on a former solicitor general’s comments that Trump’s behavior on the call may be impeachable.
The Wire framed the Post’s report as questionable, originally saying it “published just four minutes of what they say is an hour-long conversation” before the Post released the full hour-long call. The Wire also published a clip of an interview Raffensperger did on Fox, framing it as him “dodging questions.” Some reports from Fox focused on pushback from Trump’s legal team and from Georgia Sen. David Perdue.
No right-rated sources offered original fact-checks of the phone call, though few do their own fact-checking anyway.
What Does This Shift Mean?
Though not total, coverage of the call from right-rated news outlets was often free of pro-Trump narratives. Is this something to put a lot of stock into?
There aren’t many narratives steadfastly suggesting the call was “good” for Trump’s chances to overturn the election results, even from Trump’s own camp — rather, that argument says Raffensperger’s office is guilty of clear bias by having recorded and released part of the phone call. The skewed media coverage may be simply because this situation was objectively bad for Trump in many more ways than it was good.
There is the possibility that right-rated media outlets are turning on Trump as Biden’s presidency begins. Trump may soon be a competitor to many of them, and they may consider shifting their coverage in an effort to discontinue endorsement and enablement of his brand.
And there’s also the chance it’s neither of these. Due to its subjective nature, media bias and its causes are often impossible to nail down definitively. That’s why reading news from multiple sources should be high on your New Year’s priority list.
Henry A. Brechter is the Managing Editor of AllSides. He has a Center bias.
This piece was reviewed by Daily News Specialist Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).