Judging by his tweets, President Donald Trump’s views about freshman congresswomen like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been shaped partly by the severely critical things he has heard on Fox News.
So we looked more closely and came away with two big findings. First, Ocasio-Cortez and her “Squad” mate Ilhan Omar have been talked about a lot more on Fox than on other cable news channels this year. Second, the freshmen have been getting more attention on cable than seasoned leaders of the Democratic Party.
Trump’s week-long criticism of the “The Squad,” including his “go back” tweet, has intensified these dynamics.
But it has been true all year long: Ocasio-Cortez has been mentioned on Fox almost three times as often as she’s been mentioned on CNN or MSNBC. This has fueled the perception, particularly on the right, that her positions and policies are representative of the Democratic Party as a whole.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country.” He didn’t specify what he believes makes them incapable. But his tweet provoked even more discussion of the subject.
And a new poll indicates that the right’s criticism of the women has had palpable effects. CBS News, citing the results of a new survey conducted by YouGov, reported on Sunday that Ocasio-Cortez and Omar, along with fellow congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, “are better known to Republicans than they are to members of their own party, and as with many members of Congress, many Americans are unfamiliar with them.”
Right-wing media coverage is just one cause of this effect, to be sure.
But it is striking to discover just how much airtime the Democratic lawmakers have garnered — especially from some of their harshest critics.
Tucker Carlson, for example, has called Ocasio-Cortez a “moron” and asserted that immigrants like Omar, who was born in Somalia, are “dangerous.”
His prime-time show frequently promotes claims that “radical Dems are destroying the party,” to quote one recent on-screen banner.
Last week, Carlson said “it’s pretty obvious” that the freshman congresswomen “are becoming, with the help of CNN and MSNBC, the face of the Democratic Party.”
Carlson’s guest, Richard Goodstein, a lawyer and Democratic political consultant, challenged that. He pointed out that Fox News “does a pretty nice job of elevating her.” Carlson conceded the point but said “it’s not just Fox promoting these people.”
The data backs up Goodstein’s observation.
Between January 3 and July 20, Ocasio-Cortez has been mentioned at least 1,325 times on Fox News, according to data from the Internet Archive’s database of television news closed captioning text.
The database ingests all of the words that are uttered on a variety of TV sources, including cable news channels.
The data is incomplete because it does not include nicknames, like AOC, or other shorthand references to the names of individuals. But it provides a rough yardstick for how much airtime and attention is spent on various topics.
During the same time period, Ocasio-Cortez was mentioned at least 465 times on MSNBC and 464 times on CNN.
Omar’s name has been invoked at least 405 times on Fox this year, compared with 230 times on CNN and 177 times on MSNBC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who wields far more power than any individual congresswoman — has been mentioned at least 2,418 times on Fox, 2,068 times on MSNBC, and 1,957 times on CNN.
There are logical reasons why freshmen congresswomen, representing an insurgent wing of the party, have been getting an outsized amount of attention.
But the attention has been coming from Fox News at a far greater level than CNN or MSNBC.
For comparison’s sake, Democrat James Clyburn, a key member of House leadership, has been mentioned far less than Omar or Ocasio-Cortez. The closed captioning database found at least 63 mentions of Clyburn on Fox, 81 on MSNBC, and 57 on CNN.
The CBS poll asked about Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib in the midst of Trump’s rhetorical attacks.
The finding: “All have net favorable ratings among Democrats who do know them — particularly among Democrats who are liberal — and dramatically unfavorable ratings among Republicans,” CBS reported. “That adds up to their having net unfavorable views among the public as a whole, and in this, they are similar to more established leaders of both parties,” like House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.