There are important ramifications to that difference. Fox News is the most trusted news or commentary source among Republicans, according to Suffolk University polling — meaning that Fox’s coverage will likely drive a significant amount of the understanding many Republicans have of what’s happening in the probe.
When coverage of the hearing began on Wednesday, Fox News offered viewers a particular framework. Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr., for example, was identified on-screen at one point with the generally pejorative ways in which President Trump and his allies had described him and his testimony.
If you weren’t watching live, though, and instead tuned in on Wednesday evening, what you learned about what had happened during the hearing depended very much on which cable news network you flipped to.
The Internet Archive has a database of the lower-thirds of cable news programs (often colloquially referred to as chyrons) that gives some insight into what each network covers. It’s not a complete set of what each network showed, and the data it includes requires some cleanup to remove stray characters. But what was captured on Wednesday night during the prime time hours, 8 to 11 p.m., is nonetheless quite revealing about what viewers were exposed to.
We’ve broken each channel’s coverage out by show. Flip between the channels to see the differences in coverage as captured by the Internet Archive.
CNN and MSNBC focused heavily on the revelations made during the public hearing, particularly the revelation by Taylor that he’d been informed about a call in which Trump focused heavily on proposed investigations by Ukraine the day after talking to that country’s president.
Fox News, however, generally focused on the context for the hearing, disparaging Democrats and waving away the actual testimony.
Tucker Carlson, kicking off the 8 p.m. hour, began with an interview of White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (Grisham hasn’t sat for any interviews with major networks that aren’t Fox.) He then transitioned to suggesting that the whistleblower who first brought the Ukraine situation to light might have violated the law. Then on to criticism of tech platforms for not allowing users to share the name of a person alleged to be the whistleblower.
Sean Hannity’s coverage focused more broadly on the hearing — and on lifting of voices of criticism. Laura Ingraham, in the 10 p.m. hour, disparaged the hearing and suggested that it would come at a political cost for Democrats.
What’s outlined is three hours not of coverage of the hearing but, instead, of framing of it. Certainly CNN’s and MSNBC’s coverage included some framing of what occurred, but generally as an important and revelatory event. The focus of Fox during prime time was quite the opposite.
Democrats launched the impeachment, they argue, to hold Trump to account for his actions. They clearly hope, however, that they’ll have the votes both to impeach and — perhaps — to remove him from office. To do so, they’d likely need to see a groundswell of support for removing Trump, something they hope might follow from public hearings.
If Wednesday night’s coverage is any guide, Fox News viewers will likely not be swayed.