MSNBC Keeps Mueller Story Alive, But the Public Is Done

ANALYSIS
MSNBC Keeps Mueller Story Alive, But the Public Is Done
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
MSNBC Keeps Mueller Story Alive, But the Public Is Done
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
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Last Sunday, Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, putting an end to two years of speculation over the dual questions of Trump-Russia collusion and possible obstruction of justice by the president.

Predictably, the news media had a field day, with the conservative press touting Barr’s pronouncement as total exoneration, while the liberal press continued to see conspiracy.

The timeline below shows the total percentage of airtime by day in 15-second intervals across MSNBC, CNN and Fox News that mentioned Mueller since January 2017 through March 28, 2019, as monitored by the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive.

Unsurprisingly, the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation yielded the most media mentions of his name over the last two years, with MSNBC his biggest fan.

Looking at the past month, the timeline below zooms into the period of March 1-29, 2019. Fox News was the quickest to move on from the Mueller investigation, with CNN also shifting to other topics after briefly beating MSNBC in its Monday recap of the Barr summary and reactions from across the political sphere.

MSNBC, on the other hand, seems to be struggling to let go of the story that had been a ratings bonanza.

In contrast, the general public seems to have tired of the story much sooner. The timeline below shows hourly U.S. search interest for “Mueller” from March 21-29 using Google Trends, showing that by Tuesday search interest had largely returned to its pre-report levels.

While cable news is still running stories about the investigation and MSNBC, in particular, can’t seem to let it go, the public appears to have largely moved on.

Fox News covered “collusion” slightly more than the other two stations over the last two years, devoting 0.64 percent of its airtime since January 1, 2017 to mentions of the word, followed by 0.56 percent of CNN’s airtime and 0.53 percent of MSNBC’s.

As with the Mueller investigation as a whole, web searches for “collusion” and “trump” together largely faded by the middle of this past week after peaking with Barr’s Sunday summary.

As with the Mueller investigation as a whole, “obstruction” was a favorite topic of MSNBC’s, with the channel devoting 0.1 percent of its airtime since January 1, 2017 to mentions of the word, followed by 0.07 percent of CNN’s and 0.04 percent of Fox News’. Surprisingly, even MSNBC has largely shifted away from mentioning obstruction this week, moving attention back to the overall Mueller investigation.

As with both “collusion” and the Mueller investigation as a whole, web searches for “obstruction” and “trump” together have largely faded away.

Putting this all together, all three news channels have shifted their coverage away from obstruction and collusion over this past week, even MSNBC. CNN and Fox News have largely ramped down even their coverage of Mueller, but MSNBC appears to be trying to keep the story alive for as long as it can. 

In contrast, the web-searching public seems to be largely done with all three stories. 

In the end, it seems that with the exception of MSNBC, the Mueller story is finally over for both television news and the public. The only question is how much longer MSNBC will try to keep the story alive.

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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