MRC analysts reviewed all 141 stories on the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network evening and morning shows that mentioned the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus and their Senate counterparts during the ObamaCare repeal/replacement debate, and discovered that while congressional conservatives were overwhelmingly given ideological labels, those that opposed them were rarely, if ever, labeled by journalists.
CBS provided the most coverage (54 stories) that mentioned House and Senate conservative efforts on the health care bill. NBC was next (49 stories) followed by ABC, which aired (38 stories) on its morning and evening newscasts during this period.
In these stories, MRC analysts documented how network reporters assigned a whopping 223 ideological labels to House and Senate Republicans — either to individual members of Congress, or factions like the House Freedom Caucus within the GOP.
Overwhelmingly, the networks used “conservative” tags to talk about Republicans. Fully 80 percent of these labels (179) talked about “conservatives” or those on the “right;” just 20 percent (44) referred to “moderate” Republicans.
Eleven percent of the labels (20) painted conservatives as extremists: “far right,” “hardline,” “very conservative” or “ultra-conservative.” Such deliberate labeling is designed to stigmatize conservatives, casting them as outside-of-the-mainstream ideologues, as compared to their (usually unlabeled) adversaries.
Democrats were never labeled as “liberal” or “progressive.” Twice Democrats were referred to as “moderate,” both times on CBS.
CBS led the way with 61 uses of the “conservative” label to just 17 “moderate” tags. ABC was second with 60 “conservative” labels and 15 uses of the word “moderate.” NBC had 58 “conservative” labels to just 12 “moderate” uses.
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