The television networks have flooded us with hours and hours of coverage of the Robert Mueller probe as they continue to look under every rock for some sign of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. But on May 4, a federal judge harshly blasted Mueller's tactics in court, even going as far as challenging the scope of his authority in this probe.
Was this a big story for our objective press? Did they insist on giving us a dispassionate examination of the facts? No. ABC and CBS gave it 30 seconds of airtime combined. ABC devoted two minutes to it, and that was that.
A new Media Research Center study shows that in the first four months of 2018, these three networks have aired 321 minutes of evening-news coverage of the Russia investigation, and the tone toward President Trump was 98 percent negative. When you're this close to being perfectly negative, why wreck the trend?
At least the Washington Post put the judge's bombshell rebuke on the front page Saturday. The New York Times buried it on the bottom of page A13, below other Trump-scandal stories.
On the taxpayer-subsidized airwaves, "PBS NewsHour" offered nothing. NPR asked a reporter one question at the end of a segment on Saturday morning's "Weekend Edition." This is a story that broke on Friday, but it didn't make either network's regular "week in review" panel.
This was a test for the Mueller-obsessed media — and they flunked. They are thoroughly invested in how Mueller's team could help them damage, or even end, the Trump presidency. They have zero interest in undermining their white knight. Apparently, they're not alone.
''You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud,'' federal judge T. S. Ellis III scolded Mueller's team during a court hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. ''You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.''
He added: ''I don't see what relation this indictment has with anything the special counsel is authorized to investigate. ... What we don't want in this country is we don't want anyone with unfettered power.''
It can't get much tougher than that.
Mueller would appear to have unfettered power over the networks, too. While they have used the Russia investigation to bury Trump in negative evaluations, they haven't shown any interest in transparency for Mueller and his supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Judge Ellis and House Republicans have demanded that Mueller fully disclose the (heavily redacted) contents of the instructions Rosenstein gave him on the scope of his investigation.
On Jan. 3, when Manafort's lawyers challenged Mueller's investigation as being too broad, ABC gave it 51 seconds; NBC gave it 30 seconds; and CBS gave it 13 seconds. Add that up and so far this year, by our count, the networks have devoted roughly four minutes to serious allegations of Mueller's overreach with a team of investigators that clearly believes it has the power to delve into anyone's private life if it will harm the president.
That's sure not how these transparently liberal networks treated Kenneth Starr when he threatened Bill Clinton's presidency. Back then, The Center for Media and Public Affairs found that from July through September 1998, Starr's network evening news evaluations were 15 percent positive and 85 percent negative. In the same time frame, Clinton received 37 percent positive coverage — while he was being impeached!
Liberals pretend that criticizing or questioning Mueller reeks of obstruction of justice, but the public isn't buying this nonsense. The Media Research Center has documented that from January to April, there was another long stretch of 90 percent negative Trump coverage on the evening news. Yet Trump's approval ratings went up.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.