In Two Days, Networks Devote 25 Minutes to Rick Perry's Indictment
In just two days, the three network morning and evening shows deluged viewers with over 25 minutes of coverage (17 stories) on the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. These programs made sure to speculate as to whether the controversy could "end any chance" for the Republican in 2016. [MP3 audio here.] The indictment came after Perry lobbied for Texas District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunk driving conviction.
From Saturday morning through Monday morning, CBS offered the most amount of coverage, five stories over nine minutes and 14 seconds. Over the same period, ABC produced six segments (or eight minutes and 48 seconds). NBC delivered six segments for of seven minutes and 37 seconds.
(The overall total would rise to 37 minutes – 21 segments– if one included This Week, Meet the Press and Face the Nation.)
Similarly, when Chris Christie's Bridge-Gate scandal broke in January, ABC, CBS and NBC went into hyper drive, responding with 88 minutes in less than 48 hours.
On Saturday's Today, co-host Lester Holt began the show by trumpeting, "Texas Governor Rick Perry charged with two felony counts of abuse of power after he allegedly tried to strong arm a political rival. Could that end any chance of a White House run in 2016?"
Offering a familar line, Dan Harris began the August 16 Good Morning America by announcing, "Potential presidential contender indicted overnight -- Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, accused of abusing his power in office."
On Monday, Today's Peter Alexander summarized the indictment as part of an overall problem for 2016 GOP contenders:
PETER ALEXANDER: But his indictment does raise another issue for Republicans. It's another 2016 contender with a blemish on his resume. You've got Perry's indictment. Chris Christie's Bridgegate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker under new scrutiny for allegations of campaign finance violations.
To their credit, the networks explained the legal problems of the Travis County, Texas District attorney who ultimately prompted the indictment. On Saturday night, CBS Evening News's Manuel Bojorquez noted:
MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: The case is about power with both Governor Perry and the special prosecutor accusing each other of abusing it. The dispute started in April of last year when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was pulled over for drunk driving. Her blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, and she was uncooperative.
BOJORQUEZ: Lehmberg pleaded guilty. Perry demanded Lehmberg resign and threatened to veto funding for her office's public integrity unit which investigates political wrongdoing, if she did not step down. When she did not, he followed through. Because of the threat, Perry now faces two felony counts-- abuse of official capacity, which carries punishment of 5-99 years. And coercion of a public servant. Michael McCrum is the special prosecutor.
However, the networks largely downplayed the surprising support Perry has received from liberals such as David Axelrod and Alan Dershowitz.
On Saturday night, ABC and CBS hyped the "political embarrassment of a mug shot" for Perry.
— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.