ABC News and The Post last weekend published the results of a poll with some bad news for President Biden. What happened after that was a touch scandalous, if you believe Fox News host Dana Perino.
Polls are indeed a big lift. This one targeted a random sample of 1,006 adults via landlines and cellphones. An ABC News document presenting the findings and analysis tallies 16 detailed pages. Only a corrupt and activist news operation would invest in such a data operation, and then proceed to “bury” disadvantageous findings.
A look back at ABC News transcripts and online postings reveals that the network buried the poll results by presenting:
· An online story on midnight Sunday, timed to the release of the poll results. The bad news for the president was buried in the headline: “Biden struggles, as does his party, as most Democrats look elsewhere for 2024: POLL.”
· A three-minute video package on ABC News Live — the network’s 24/7 streaming channel — in which political reporter Brittany Shepherd noted that “especially with voters under 30 — I think it’s about 75 percent of those voters want someone new — but I think that there’s no real alternative right now for those voters, and I think the big question is, will they just abandon voting altogether?” Here’s a screenshot from that package:
· A prominent mention of the poll on the network’s marquee Sunday morning show “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. “We are coming on the air this morning with our brand new poll conducted with The Washington Post,” said Stephanopoulos at the show’s outset. “It shows major challenges for President Biden and the Democrats as we approach the midterms.” Viewers saw this graphic buried on their screens:
· A three-minute package on the poll results on “World News Sunday.” White House correspondent MaryAlice Parks noted that a majority of Democrats want “the party to replace President Biden at the top of the ticket in 2024.”
(The Post also reported the Biden numbers Sunday in a story leading with the poll’s findings on midterm elections.)
If all that activity strikes Perino as suppression, what would hype look like?
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Fox News to cite the basis for Perino’s claim. Fox News declined to issue a statement on the matter.
Perino is a Fox News veteran, having joined the network in 2009 as a contributor after serving as press secretary for President George W. Bush. These days she co-anchors the morning program “America’s Newsroom” — part of the network’s so-called straight-news side — and partakes in the afternoon roundtable “The Five,” where she often saves the discussion from lunacy and flights of fancy with a pointed fact or two. At a network whose prime-time anchors — particularly Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson — fashion frequent, vicious and baseless attacks on media outlets, Perino has long stood out as a relatively sane voice.
And that’s precisely the point here. Not only did Perino whiff on the empirical question at hand — that ABC News didn’t report on its own poll — but she bundled that false suggestion with a mention that the allegedly suppressed material was “super bad news for the president.” With that commentary, Fox News’s cartoonish depiction of the mainstream media advanced another inch or two.
A couple of lessons here. One is that you should never, ever accept at face value any claim on Fox News — except when it comes from the network’s polling operation or election-night desk.
Two is that the crisis of trust in American media outlets won’t abate until Fox News’s sleazy commentary abates. At industry conferences each year, journalists and academics wring their hands about what media outlets can do to boost the industry’s sagging trust levels. Certainly there’s plenty of work they can and should do, though they face an implacable force in Fox News. Because somewhere out there, there are some network viewers who just heard that ABC News buried poll results unfavorable to Biden.
And no one will ever convince them otherwise.