The body of missing college student Mollie Tibbetts was found
Tuesday after an illegal immigrant confessed to the brutal
murder, but media outlets took dramatically different approaches
to the story.
The bombshell development sure to impact the immigration debate
came amid a wild news day that also included a pair of major
stories involving President Trump: Michael Cohen’s plea deal and
the verdict in the Paul Manafort trial. Fox News, ABC, NBC and
CBS all covered the gamut, but anyone who relies on MSNBC or CNN
was left in the dark regarding the Tibbetts story.
Mediaite columnist Joseph Wulfsohn told Fox News that it’s
“fairly obvious that certain news outlets prefer to cover
stories that make the president look bad” and the Tibbetts story
“didn’t fit their narrative,” so it fell by the wayside.
“Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “All In with Chris Hayes,” “The
Rachel Maddow Show,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell” and
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams all completely ignored the
Tibbetts story during primetime and the network didn’t cover it
whatsoever from 5 p.m. through midnight.
Earlier in the day, Fordham University Professor Christina Greer
appeared on MSNBC and casually referred to Tibbetts as “a girl
in Iowa” that “Fox News is talking about,” essentially
dismissing the important of her body being found as a non-story.
Greer’s dismissal went unchallenged by MSNBC host Ali Velshi.
Mollie Tibbetts 2
Mollie Tibbetts was dead found after an intensive search that
lasted more than a month.
CNN’s “OutFront,” with substitute host Poppy Harlow, covered
Tibbetts for three minutes and 31 seconds, but the story was
ignored on “Anderson Cooper 360,” “Cuomo Prime Time” and “CNN
Tonight.” The news of an arrest in the Tibbetts case broke just
before 5 p.m. ET when “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” was
preparing to kick off. Blitzer focused exclusively on Cohen and
Esteemed media analyst and professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox
News that “the saturation coverage of the Cohen and Manafort
legal developments merit thorough coverage” but “the Tibbetts
story has captivated the nation” and should have been given
“The story needs to be brought to closure now and deserves
suitable coverage, even if not to the degree of the Cohen and
Manafort developments. News organizations can cover multiple
breaking stories at one time and one story need not be ignored
in the process,” McCall said. “It is challenging to cover
multiple big stories in one day, but it is not impossible to
keep an appropriate level of coverage and agenda balance.”
“It is challenging to cover multiple big stories in one day, but
it is not impossible to keep an appropriate level of coverage
and agenda balance.”
- Media analyst Jeffrey McCall
MSNBC and CNN did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
While liberal cable news stations essentially stuck to Cohen and
Manafort, the broadcast news networks managed to cover Tibbetts
during 30-minute newscasts. ABC’s “World News Tonight,” NBC’s
“Nightly News” and CBS’ “Evening News” all led with Cohen and
Manafort but covered Tibbetts in the first half of the program.
In fact, anchors David Muir, Lester Holt and Jeff Glor each
mentioned Tibbetts’ accused killer was in the country
“illegally,” as conservative watchdogs were ready to pounce on
outlets that ignored his illegal status.
“It shouldn't take much for any journalist to describe Mollie's
alleged killer as an illegal immigrant, but it's always an
uncertainty because of how the media largely defend this group
of people. So it was definitely a surprise last night when the
broadcast network coverage cited [Cristhian] Rivera as an
illegal immigrant,” NewsBuster’s managing editor Curtis Houck
told Fox News.
“A broken clock is known to occasionally be right,” Houck
continued. “This story does matter to people, so it's good news
that the broadcast networks have done their due diligence while
MSNBC in particular hasn't. News organizations are perfectly
capable of multitasking.”