NEW YORK, N.Y. – Washington’s day of high-stakes political drama on Monday played out much differently depending on where motivated television viewers decided to get their news.
CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC all followed FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a congressional committee Monday morning live. For a while, so did ABC and NBC, cutting in to normal daytime programming. Given how coverage of President Donald Trump has been a ratings magnet, that wasn’t surprising.
Comey, in his testimony, said the FBI is investigating possible co-ordination between Russia and Trump associates during last year’s election. The director also said he’d found no evidence to support Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.
Shortly before 1 p.m., the networks diverged. Fox News wrapped up its coverage of the hearing, which lasted until 3:20 p.m. and was shown nearly in its entirety on CNN and MSNBC.
Instead of showing the hearing, Fox spent considerable time airing people talking about the hearing, starting with its commentary show, “Outnumbered.” There was an emphasis on discussion about whether any real evidence of collusion had emerged, and Republican concerns about leaks to reporters.
“If you’re a Republican or Democrat, you have reason to distrust (Comey),” said Fox panelist Meghan McCain. “I don’t see that it moves the needle either way for the American public.”
On Fox, there was little evidence that the hearing was continuing. The network carried White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s early afternoon briefing. So did CNN, adding a silent box on its screen showing the hearing; it eventually cut away from Spicer to show the hearing again. MSNBC began carrying Spicer, but immediately shifted away when a break at the congressional hearing ended.
Following Spicer’s briefing, CNN’s Dana Bash was particularly biting in assessing his performance.
Spicer, she said, is “trying to defend the indefensible and explain the inexplicable,” she said. “Today it was on steroids.”