If you thought Omarosa was everywhere over the past few weeks, you were right.
The progressive research firm Media Matters for America analyzed coverage of former Apprentice contestant and White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s publicity tour for her new book Unhinged. The survey tallied mentions of Omarosa across cable news networks from August 9 to August 15.
On CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, coverage of Omarosa’s antics easily swallowed up more substantial news items which would’ve dominated the discourse in a pre-Trump news cycle.
The three networks spent a combined 34 hours and 28 minutes on the White House intrigue surrounding Omarosa’s tapes and her other baggage; that’s almost a day and a half of news coverage devoted to one bit of Oval Office gossip.
MSNBC was the worst offender, devoting 15 hours and 53 minutes to the story. CNN followed with 13 hours and one minute. In a rare show of restraint, Fox News was third with five hours and 33 minutes of Omarosa outrage.
With all this breathless Omarosa reporting, each of the networks neglected more important stories. Media Matters focused on four in particular:
- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing has been scheduled even though many of his records are still private;
- the immigrant family separation crisis—more than 500 children still haven’t been reunited with their families;
- the revelation that three of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly running the Department of Veteran’s Affairs;
- and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Ben Carson’s rollback of an Obama-era fair housing regulation.
Kavanaugh received one hour and 43 minutes of coverage across networks, while the immigrant children got one hour and eight minutes. The VA issues were covered for only seven minutes.
Worst of all, HUD’s move to increase housing segregation got only 23 seconds of airtime—15 seconds on MSNBC and eight on CNN. Fox didn’t mention it at all.
President Barack Obama instituted the rule to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in 2015. It forced cities to assess and correct housing discrimination in their communities, and affected millions of homeowners.
But Carson dubbed the act an “ineffective, unworkable social experiment” and decided to suspend it with little notice. He now wants to make HUD money contingent on cities loosening zoning rules so they can get a “nice juicy government grant.”
The state of New York sued to block this measure, but a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last week. Ironically, HUD is taking a hard line against housing discrimination in Facebook ads while dismantling it in real life.
HUD’s actions could have far-reaching national effects, especially among communities of color. But anyone watching cable news last week would’ve thought the only person of color who mattered in America was Omarosa.
This isn’t the first time cable networks have prioritized fluff over substance, A recent analysis found that MSNBC has aired 475 Stormy Daniels segments in the past year but zero about the America-backed war in Yemen.
White House intrigue has its place—it’s definitely fun to watch and read about. However, networks can’t forget to cover substantive news that affects readers’ lives in the midst of all the tabloid scandal.
There’s no doubt media priorities have changed in the age of Trump. But some stories are just too important to ignore.