This post has been updated to include Al Jazeera America's airing of Sanders's speech.
Bernie Sanders was the proverbial tree falling in a forest on Tuesday night. None of the three major cable news channels aired even a moment of his speech live.
Did it still make a sound?
Apparently the Vermont senator addressed supporters for a full hour (!) in Arizona, one of three states holding Democratic contests next Tuesday. But CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC ignored him — much like Sanders ignored the fact that he was in the midst of defeats in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. C-SPAN carried the speech. And Al Jazeera America, which will go off the air next month. So … there's that.
Sanders has complained about a lack of media attention, and the blackout of his remarks certainly didn't go unnoticed.
Okay, it's really a bit much none of the nets are carrying Sanders speech. Bad decision. Kasich's not even in the race and he got covered.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 16, 2016
If you’re interested in what Bernie Sanders has to say (MSNBC, CNN and Fox are not), CSPAN has his speech: https://t.co/F4QV7JcDUd
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) March 16, 2016
Networks Ignored Bernie Speech, Promising Trump Would Be Speaking Soon - Wow. Bernie ignored. Only on C-Span. Sick. https://t.co/yLpQCp1LOb
— Thom Hartmann (@Thom_Hartmann) March 16, 2016
Thank you @NPR for playing Sanders speech on my way to the supermarket. All 5 of us nationwide got to hear it thanks to network blackout.
— Adam K (@IBoughtTheLaw) March 16, 2016
Some things to keep in mind amid the outrage:
The cable networks surely could have aired some of Sanders’s speech, but it largely overlapped with Donald Trump’s. Sanders will lose that head-to-head media matchup every time. Everyone does. Just last week, Hillary Clinton’s speech following primaries in Michigan and Mississippi got pushed to tape delay on all three channels because Trump was still speaking.
(If you’re upset because cable news picked Trump over Sanders, that’s fine. Just know that Sanders wasn’t singled out.)
Also, the Sanders-John Kasich comparison isn’t as favorable as the democratic socialist’s fans like to think. Yes, Sanders has performed better in his race than Kasich has in his, but with the way the nominating process works, the Ohio governor may have a better shot at becoming his party’s standard-bearer. It’s a long shot, for sure, but it is possible that Republicans could be destined for a contested convention, giving Kasich at least a chance. Sanders’s path is almost impossible to find; it’s just math.
If you're wondering why Kasich’s speech was covered and Sanders’s wasn’t, a big reason is that Kasich is considered a dark horse and Sanders is considered a dead horse.
Here's one more reason: Sanders didn’t make news in his remarks.
Sanders is just giving his stump speech. Like today is just any other day on the campaign trail.
— Ginger Gibson (@GingerGibson) March 16, 2016
Oh, that’s why they didn’t televise Sanders. He gave his usual stump speech.
— Karoli (@Karoli) March 16, 2016
So far Sanders giving standard stump speech: rigged economy, broken justice system, corrupt campaign finance system. pic.twitter.com/BJbUMw0XRc
— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) March 16, 2016
Over ten minutes into his speech here, no acknowledgement from Bernie Sanders that there was any voting today.
— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) March 16, 2016
It’s not like the cable channels didn’t have feeds of Sanders's speech available to them. You can just imagine the conversations in their control rooms:
PRODUCER: Hey, should we break in to show Bernie’s speech? He saying anything newsworthy?
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT ASSIGNED TO SANDERS FEED: Nope. Same old, same old.
PRODUCER: Okay, forget it.
No one’s saying Sanders should resort to Trump-like antics to get attention, but if you’re teetering on the brink of mathematical irrelevance, you can’t also be boring.
Sanders deserved more than the absolute zero he got on Tuesday night, but he knows by now how the coverage game is played: Be a winner, be interesting or be forgotten.