The three major networks, through Thursday morning, have devoted a staggering 67 minutes and 49 seconds to obsessing over every aspect of whether the New England Patriots cheated in their AFC championship win on Sunday. Yet, only ABC allowed a scant 34 seconds to the Obama administration's release of five terrorists out of Guantanamo Bay and back to areas connected with extremist violence. The contrast is 120-to-1.
NBC was, by far, the most lopsided in terms of journalistic priorities. From Monday through early Thursday, the network's morning and evening shows produced 33 minutes and 35 seconds to the so-called "Deflategate." Last week, however, NBC didn't offer any coverage to the release of five detainees, just seven days after the slaughter of cartoonists in Paris.
ABC came in second, devoting 19 minutes and four seconds to examining every detail of the deflated footballs used in the Patriots win over the Colts. Even reaction to the State of the Union on Wednesday was secondary. Yet the network managed only 34 seconds for Guantanamo. Last Thursday, Good Morning America's Amy Robach briefly related, "Well, the U.S. has freed five more detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The men were accused of fighting for Al Qaeda."
She ominously noted, "Many of the prisoners were transferred to Oman which shares a border with Yemen, a hotbed of al Qaeda activity." That 16 second story was followed up with an 18 second report on Thursday's World News.
CBS, like NBC, didn't cover the release of the terrorists. Yet, the network focused on Deflategate for 15 minutes and ten seconds. On Wednesday, during a segment on the State of the Union, co-host Gayle King quizzed Vice President Joe Biden: "What do you make of Deflategate, that 11 of the 12 balls allegedly that the Patriots used in that championship game were underinflated. What do you think of that, soft balls?"
Not only did the release of the detainees get almost no coverage, the contrasting football story featured hyperbolic language.
On January 21, GMA's Robin Roberts proclaimed it a "super scandal. On January 22, George Stephanopoulos trumpeted, "The embattled Patriots coach speaking out this morning as more cheating allegations emerge."
World News's David Muir deemed it a "bombshell." A CBS This Morning graphic promoted the story as a "pressure cooker."
Americans oppose closing Guantanamo 53-29 percent, according to a new Rasmussen poll. Yet, shuttering the detention facility has been an Obama administration priority since the President issued an executive order on January 21, 2009. Now, Obama appears to be trying to achieve his goal a few prisoners at a time. (In December of 2014, six detainees were released.)
While the networks have been flooding America with coverage of deflated footballs, they have been quietly covering for the President's unpopular attempts to close Guantanamo Bay.