Cuomo Rises as Trump Falls in COVID-19 Coverage

Cuomo Rises as Trump Falls in COVID-19 Coverage
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
Cuomo Rises as Trump Falls in COVID-19 Coverage
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
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Donald Trump has at times accounted for more than a third of daily television news airtime on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, and since his election has never dropped below 10%. The coronavirus finally appears to have not only diminished his media perch, but provided a new mediagenic rival: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The timeline below shows the percentage of combined airtime on the three cable news channels since Jan. 1 that mentioned President Trump, Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio or Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive processed by the GDELT Project. Trump’s steady 10% of daily airtime begins dropping below its weekly cycle around Feb. 26 and has continued steadily downward to 2.4% as of this past Saturday. Biden’s steadily increasing media profile similarly abruptly shriveled on March 12.

As the virus has spread across the country, wreaking medical and economic carnage, both the president and his likely Democratic opponent have stepped back from center stage rather than taken command of the media spotlight. Even de Blasio has received little airtime despite his city being especially hard hit.

In their place have stepped the nation’s governors, the most prominent of whom has been Cuomo. On Friday, he accounted for just over 1% of total airtime compared to 3.3% for the president of the United States.

A similar dynamic has played out in online news, with the timeline below showing the percentage of online news monitored by the GDELT Project that mentioned the four. It took a bit longer for mentions of Trump to begin declining in online news, but since March 15 he has accounted for a steadily lessening portion of global news, while Biden began declining around March 12.

In contrast, Cuomo and de Blasio began taking off around March 2. Mentions of Cuomo have risen more dramatically since Friday and as of Sunday he accounted for 1.4% of online news coverage compared with 2.9% for Trump.

Putting this all together, as the coronavirus has spread rapidly across the country, the nation’s showman-in-chief has notably faded, shifting more to the background as governors step into the media limelight. Cuomo’s outsized media profile suggests the press may have found a new favorite and the Democrats have someone else who can challenge Trump’s media star power.

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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