“Unless America talks to the other side and we can just talk to each other,” host Steve Doocy said on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday morning, “this is going to be a country — they might as well split the country right in half, right down the Mississippi.”
As it turned out, there really wasn’t much of an outcry by incensed liberals but more of an outcry about an anticipated outcry that never developed. Nonetheless, Fox News ran multiple segments about the purported targeting of Vaughn over the course of the day — as did its partner network Fox Business Network, stretching the definition of “business” even further than the definition of “news” had been pulled.
Data tracking closed-captioning on the major cable networks from Monday through Wednesday shows how the coverage on the two Fox networks compared with CNN (which mentioned Vaughn sparingly) and MSNBC (which appears not to have done so at all).
(“Vince” was used as a search term because “Vaughn” was often not captured accurately by the real-time closed-captioning. The figures in the above graph reflect the percentage of 15-second segments in an hour mentioning “Vince.”)
Late Tuesday night, with CNN airing the Democratic presidential debate, other news broke: Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, had turned over a number of documents to the House Intelligence Committee. The committee published several sets of information, including handwritten notes specifically mentioning an effort to get the president of Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. It was new evidence related to the impeachment of Trump, the trial for which also began this week.
MSNBC, unfettered by the debate, jumped into coverage. CNN quickly joined them. Fox News? Less so. While MSNBC and CNN both said “Parnas” repeatedly, according to the closed-captioning data, Fox News was far less likely to. (The closed-captioning data, compiled by the Internet Archive, captures data from broadcasts in the Pacific time zone.) Fox Business mentioned him only once during this period.
The scale of the mentions on MSNBC are dramatically larger than the other networks (we truncated them for clarity) but the point should be clear: more frequent discussion of Parnas on CNN and MSNBC.
There’s an obvious imbalance between how the networks approached the two stories. That’s made more obvious when comparing Fox’s mentions of Vaughn to the mentions of Parnas: For the first three days of the week, both Fox networks mentioned Vaughn more than Parnas.
The most recently available closed-captioning data are through Wednesday. The Internet Archive also collects data from on-air chyrons (more accurately called “lower thirds”) — the descriptive text at the bottom of the screen during a news program. Those data are available through Thursday for CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
Both Fox News and Fox Business mentioned “Vince” more than Parnas as a raw count. Combined, the two mentioned Vaughn 53 more times than Parnas. CNN and MSNBC each mentioned Parnas more — 400 times more, combined.
The chyron data, collected numerous times a minute, is more stark. MSNBC, which aired hour-long interviews with Parnas on Wednesday and Thursday nights, mentioned Parnas in chyrons nearly 19,000 times, including multiple occurrences of his name in the same chyron. CNN similarly mentioned Parnas thousands of times.
Fox News mentioned Parnas in chyrons about 660 times, somewhat fewer than the mentions of Vaughn. (No chyron data is collected for Fox Business.)
It’s quite possible that, by the time all of the data for the week are in, Fox News will have joined its competitors in mentioning Parnas more than Vaughn. The available data, though, suggest that the two subjects were, at best, running head-to-head over the first part of the week.
Lamentably for those interested in learning about Parnas on Fox Business, the first revelations from the documents he provided about his efforts on the president’s behalf and the first interviews that he gave to news outlets were deemed to have far less pertinence to business-news consumers than an actor chatting with the president at a football game.