December 6, 2019

In Prime Time, Two Versions of Impeachment for a Divided Nation

Viewers are flocking to opinionated outlets with irreconcilable differences. Although every major TV station broadcast the hearings, Fox News and MSNBC were far and away the most popular networks for Americans to watch the opening round of public testimony this past week, outdrawing CNN and the “Big Three” networks of ABC, CBS and NBC, according to Nielsen.

On Wednesday, a pair of veteran foreign service officers testified that Mr. Trump had pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate his domestic political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. On Mr. Hannity’s show, the right-wing radio pundit Mark Levin compared the officers to “two homeless guys.” A guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program said the men “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.”

On MSNBC, the host Chris Hayes praised the officers, telling viewers they had revealed “brand-new evidence of the president’s plot to extort Ukraine.”

“Today, the American people got a fuller picture of the corrupt abuse of power by the president of the United States,” Mr. Hayes said, around the time that Mr. Carlson was telling his audience that the testimony was “pointless and tiresome.” Mr. Carlson added, “It made you realize that Democrats really have no master plan for impeachment.”

Television played a crucial role in framing impressions of the nation’s last two impeachment dramas. The Watergate hearings of 1973, now viewed with nostalgia as a moment when Americans could more or less agree on facts, were broadcast in sober tones on PBS. (ABC, CBS and NBC rotated coverage to avoid losing daytime ad revenue.)

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/16/business/media/impeachment-media-fox-msnbc.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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