Anti-Semitism Coverage Surges, With Fox Taking the Lead

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The historic diversity of Congress’ freshman class has upended decades of tradition regarding the body’s historically unwavering support of Israel. Rep. Ilhan Omar in particular has garnered attention for tweets widely viewed by the Jewish community as trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes. The result has been the most media coverage of anti-Semitism in a decade, with Fox News taking over from CNN in devoting the most attention to the subject.

Looking back over the past decade, the timeline below shows the percentage of airtime by month on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News that mentioned “anti-Semitism” or “anti-Semitic” or “antisemitism” or “antisemitic,” using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive.

From June 2009 (the start of the data) through March 18, 2019, anti-Semitism received little coverage on the three channels. In February 2017, President Trump’s condemnation of growing anti-Semitism led to a small burst of coverage on CNN and MSNBC, while the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting led to a flurry of attention on all three, though CNN once again devoted slightly more airtime to the subject.

Since the start of this year, however, Fox News has taken the lead in coverage of this subject. In all, Fox has spent 0.57 percent of its airtime mentioning it, compared with 0.26 percent of CNN’s airtime and 0.16 percent of MSNBC’s.

Just over a third of all coverage of anti-Semitism on the three stations over the past decade has aired in just the last 2 ½ months.

The timeline below shows the percentage of daily coverage on the channels mentioning anti-Semitism thus far this year.

Fox has maintained a steady stream of coverage, with particular attention paid to Omar. Past remarks from the Democratic congresswoman regarding Israel “hypnotizing” the world and her support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement received a small burst of coverage in January, though they were barely mentioned on MSNBC. Her AIPAC tweet last month received nearly twice as much attention on Fox as on MSNBC or CNN.

This month’s House resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry offers perhaps the most striking comparison of the growing difference in coverage among the stations. The resolution was covered by Fox News 2.3 times more than by CNN and 3.4 times more than by MSNBC.

Putting this all together, anti-Semitism has received little coverage by CNN, MSNBC and Fox News over the past decade, with CNN spending slightly more time on it than the other two. In the past year this has changed dramatically, accounting for more than a third of all coverage of the topic on the three stations over the last 10 years. As the discussion of anti-Semitism has centered on the comments of Democrats, Fox News has emerged as the new standard-bearer, while CNN and MSNBC have paid far less attention.

It seems that in our increasingly divided nation -- and given our segmented media institutions -- even our national conversation around hate is dictated by whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican.

RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

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