TV networks blame GOP for shutdown, conservative study finds

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
U.S. President Obama delivers remarks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington
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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the end of the U.S. government shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, October 17, 2013. The U.S. Congress on Wednesday approved an 11th-hour deal to end a partial government shutdown and pull the world's biggest economy back from the brink of a historic debt default that could have threatened financial calamity. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)

"Let's be clear," President Barack Obama said on Thursday, a day after the Republican-led House voted to approve a Democratic-led Senate bill to end the partial government shutdown. "There are no winners here."

But according to a study conducted by the conservative Media Research Center, there was a clear loser presented to the more than 20 million viewers who tuned in to the evening newscasts of the three major television networks during the shutdown: the GOP.

"What those viewers heard," according to the MRC analysis, "was a version of the shutdown story that could easily have emanated from Barack Obama’s own White House."

“This current government shutdown traces its history back to a determined core of GOP House members who are vehemently against Obamacare and were willing to shut down the government because of it,” Brian Williams said on the Oct. 14 broadcast of "NBC Nightly News," MRC's Rich Noyes noted in a blog post announcing the study.

Of the 124 stories broadcast on the ABC, NBC and CBS nightly newscasts about the shutdown from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15, the study found 41 blamed Republicans or conservatives for the impasse, 17 blamed both sides and none specifically blamed Democrats.

In the two weeks leading up to the shutdown, the MRC said, the same networks ran 21 stories blaming Republicans, four blaming both sides and none blaming Democrats.

That's 62 blaming Republicans and none blaming Democrats for those of you keeping score at home.

But those numbers mirror polls conducted before and during the shutdown, which found most Americans blamed the GOP for the shutdown. In one, 62 percent of respondents blamed Republicans for the shutdown, while less than half blamed Obama or the Democrats in Congress.

According to, another conservative site, the slant against the GOP was equally evident in print. The Washington Post and New York Times, the site said, "covered victims of the government shutdown over victims of Obamacare by a margin of 100 to 1."

Media Matters, the progressive research center that monitors conservative media, has yet to publish a similar study on the shutdown coverage.

The MRC study did not include cable news, which had mostly wall-to-wall coverage of the shutdown since it began on Oct. 1. CNN, for example, ran on-screen shutdown and debt ceiling deadline clocks for virtually the entire impasse and consistently featured interviews with moderate Republicans who disagreed with the tea party's tactic.

"I know you have the counter on your screen right now that talks about how many hours we've been in the shutdown," Republican Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party conservative, said on CNN on Oct. 10. "I would suggest that CNN also put up a counter of the debt clock, about how quickly we're accumulating debt. It's frightening when people see how fast that's accumulating."

Fox News' approach to covering the shutdown, on the other hand, was to pretend it wasn't a shutdown at all. According to the cable news network, it was more of a "slimdown."

The MRC study also did not look at Sunday morning talk shows, which have featured a parade of congressional lawmakers arguing for and against the shutdown in recent weeks.

On CBS on Thursday morning, “Face the Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer declared Obama the clear winner in the shutdown.

“The president won this thing,” Schieffer said.