Image via NewsNation

On January 12, NewsNation (Center bias) hosted a “Democratic Presidential Candidate Forum” in which 2024 Democratic presidential candidates Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), author Marianne Williamson, and Young Turks (Left bias) host Cenk Uygur sat down with host Dan Abrams to discuss issues facing Americans and their views on the nation.

Despite the reach of NewsNation as a major media outlet, and the novelty of the program itself, the event was largely ignored by media across the spectrum.

Abrams led the programming, framing it as a “debate and discussion with three candidates that the DNC doesn’t really want you to hear from.” 

“President Biden has been anointed the Democratic candidate. They clearly hope to avoid any serious challenge,” Abrams continued, before introducing the candidates. 

He then added that NewsNation invited President Biden to join, without a response from the Biden team, and reminded viewers that candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West were not present, because they had switched to run as independents.

While Biden is the incumbent and this would normally supersede the appetite for primary elections, his low approval rating and seemingly deteriorating mental fitness have led many Democrats to question whether his administration has the best interests of the party in mind. 

In the discussion, the three candidates showcased themselves as united against the President and the tactics of the current Democratic establishment. 

Uygur said if Biden is the Democrat nominee, the race “is already over,” and criticized the DNC for “canceling primaries and elections when their tagline is ‘democracy is on the line.’”

Williamson criticized the mainstream media for its lack of coverage of her campaign: “The numbers that I have – even when they are totally neck-and-neck with Nikki Haley – hers is called a ‘surge,’ mine is just another to erase and invisibilize.” 

Phillips criticized the DNC for having “the audacity to tell New Hampshire voters that their primary is meaningless,” and called attention to a recent cease-and-desist letter the state of New Hampshire sent to the DNC, accusing it of unlawfully suppressing voters in the state.

Over the remainder of the next television hour, the candidates laid out their views on the economy, foreign policy, and democracy, among other relevant topics.


How The Media Covered It

Media coverage of the panel was scant. Many media outlets across the spectrum did not find the forum’s occurrence or candidates' statements worthy of coverage. Whether the result of a political agenda or the perceived importance or lack thereof of the story, this is a form of media bias known as bias by omission.

Some outlets mostly acknowledged the candidates as longshots for the White House, but did however cover the forum.

Naturally, NewsNation published a few articles promptly after the forum, in which it combed through certain key points of the conversation, including ballot access for former president Donald Trump, police reform, the border crisis, and the economy.

The Hill (Center bias), which like NewsNation is owned by Nexstar Media Group, also covered the discussion in the form of two features. 

One article highlighted the three candidates’ agreement that banning Trump from ballots is the wrong approach for the upcoming election. The other paid special attention to Rep. Phillips’ comments that Democrats “have to wake up to the truth” that is the “disaster” currently unfolding on the United States’ southern border with Mexico.

Phillips’ immigration comments were also paid attention across the spectrum by The Daily Wire (Right bias) and Mediaite (Lean Left bias). Mediaite, like The Hill, also ran another article situated around the candidates' criticism of efforts to keep Donald Trump off the ballot.

AllSides was unable to find other media coverage of NewsNation’s forum, or comments the candidate made during it, despite, as Williamson pointed out, previous polls that have shown her polling as high as Republican hopeful former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Recent Mainstream Coverage of the Candidates

Despite the lack of coverage of the panel, Phillips and Williamson made a few headlines earlier in the week when the two met for a one-on-one debate hosted by New England College on January 8 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester, NH. 

According to The Boston Globe (Left bias), in an article titled "Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson debate in N.H., underscoring President Biden’s absence" there were “about 200 people” in attendance for the talk. The Globe didn’t describe the demographics of the audience, but Reuters (Center bias), which mentioned the event in an article titled “Biden's age pushes some New Hampshire voters to Phillips, Williamson” described “a large portion of the attendees” as “high school students on a field trip who are younger than 18.”

Some outlets like Politico (Lean Left bias) and Vanity Fair (Lean Left bias) slanted coverage of the debate against Williamson and Phillips. Politico’s headline read, “Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson rail against Biden to a crowd of seventh graders,” while Vanity Fair’s was similar: “Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson Trash Joe Biden to a Room Full of 12-Year-Olds.”

Examining Politico and Vanity Fair’s Recent Coverage of Williamson and Phillips

Although Williamson has always looked like a longshot, Politico has exhibited bias against her throughout 2023, mostly focusing on negative angles surrounding her campaign. The most recent headline from Politico regarding Williamson came in December: “Williamson cries foul over ballot access in Massachusetts.” Before this, the most recent Politico headlines featuring her name came in October 2023; “Marianne Williamson’s campaign is running in the red,” and within two days of each other in July 2023; “Leaked audio of Marianne Williamson volunteer staff call reveals a bleak state of her campaign” and “Marianne Williamson campaign is deep in debt.”

A search on Vanity Fair’s website shows the website has not posted an article with her name in the headline since September 2019, when it published an article titled “Marianne Williamson Insists She’s Not Crazy After Telling Followers to Stop Hurricane Dorian With Their Minds.”

At this time, Williamson was running for president during the 2020 election cycle. In addition to the slanted headline, Vanity Fair exhibited photo bias with this feature as well. 

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images via Vanity Fair)

As for Rep. Phillips, despite lower polling numbers than Williamson, Politico has paid ample attention to his campaign and has not been nearly as negative in its coverage.

The most recent headlines including the elected Democrat’s name have come on January 14, and January 12, respectively: “Dean Phillips ramps up attacks on Biden in New Hampshire” and “Federal judge rejects attempt to place Dean Phillips on Florida primary ballot.”

As for Vanity Fair, its most recent headlines involving Phillips have been slanted in ways that the outlet has previously exhibited when writing about Williamson. On November 3, it published “Dean Phillips’s First Town Hall Unravels Over Israel-Gaza” and on October 25; “Dean Phillips Apparently Has a Campaign Bus. Will He Throw Joe Biden Under It?”


NewsNation’s Democratic Presidential Forum was not widely covered across the media spectrum, and neither were its candidates' remarks. Outlets like Reuters, Politico, and Vanity Fair found the small one-on-one debate between Williamson and Phillips that took place earlier in the week in Manchester, NH, to be more newsworthy, particularly the demographic of the attendees.

One possibility for omitting the panel from coverage could be that major news outlets were reluctant to elevate the content of their competition, while another could be the candidates’ current standings make it unlikely that they will measurably impact the Democratic presidential race.

When looking for potential holes in media coverage, the AllSides Balanced Search can be a useful tool for dividing online search results by bias. Additionally, utilizing social media sites and other search engines can help paint a full picture of why certain media outlets may elect to cover or pass on a specific story that may appear newsworthy.

Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides. He has a Center bias. 

This piece was reviewed by Joseph Ratliff, AllSides Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Malayna J. Bizier, Content Intern (Right bias).