The death of George Floyd not only sparked more than three months of protests against police brutality and racism, but also made these issues a focal point of the 2020 presidential election. With just two months away before Americans decide who will take over the Oval Office, Black Lives Matter has become the most significant protest movement in the United States. While demonstrations have been largely peaceful, cities like Portland have become hotbeds of unrest. However, according to a new report released by the US Crisis Project, about 93% of racial justice protests in the United States have been peaceful and nondestructive since Floyd’s death. But as major cable news covers these developments, Fox and MSNBC offer two completely different narratives for voters: one that distinguishes peaceful protestors from ill-intentioned rioters and looters, and one that does not.
The former appears to be the mindset over at MSNBC. On the last day of August, Joe Scarborough and Reverend Al Sharpton discussed Joe Biden’s handling of the protests. Scarborough insisted Biden and civil rights groups like the NAACP have consistently condemned the unwanted violence. Sharpton agreed, making the case that Biden has spoken out against the unrest over the last several months.
“He [Biden] clearly has been one of the leading voices against the violence and against the looting,” said Sharpton, “while he supported our legitimate right to peaceful protest…people that are violent on either side are undermining what we are trying to achieve in terms of having policing that is fair and equal…”
On Fox News, Sean Hannity made the opposite claim. In his Gish gallop, rapid style of punditry, Hannity both condescendingly and authoritatively insisted Biden was not only weak, feeble, and hiding in his basement, but that he never denounced the riots at all, and that it was too late for Biden to issue any condemnation. In the same segment, Hannity also scoffed at the notion that peaceful protestors existed, and continued to assert that Biden, Democrats, and the liberal media were complacent in the increasing violence, despite evidence that Biden has been condemning rioters and looters since the death of Floyd.
In general, voices at Fox News have been trying to link the violent protestors to Biden and the Democratic Party at large. For example, Greg Gutfeld recently did a segment titled “Democrats ignored the violent riots until it impacted the polls.” Comparatively, MSNBC has been covering aspects of the protests that link Donald Trump to the violence, such as his defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, or how armed white supremacist groups have been invading these demonstrations. Earlier this month, Joy Reid asserted that if Trump wanted to end the rising mayhem, that he should tell his supporters via Twitter to go home, alluding that he is partly responsible for the violence that has been carried out by his supporters.
The Trumpian insult about Biden hiding in his basement had been making its rounds on Fox, but recently, the network had to shift gears in light of Biden making a visit to Kenosha, WI, to meet with the family of Jacob Blake. Last week in a Fox News Alert, Erin Perrine, the Trump 2020 director of press communications, said that Biden’s visit was for “purely political reasons.” Even though this is a desperate take, it is not a surprising one; at Fox News, if Biden does not leave his basement, he is hiding, but if he does leave to visit with a shooting victim, it is a political stunt.
While MSNBC is not without their past of examples of Democratic biases, they seem to be covering the central message of Black Lives Matter in a manner that distinguishes peaceful protestors from bad actors attempting to hijack their movement. Their analysis of these developments, overall, seems to parallel Biden’s views and rhetoric on the dynamic of the protests, an outlook that greatly contrasts against any Trump supporter who religiously watches Hannity and other Fox News pundits. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how MSNBC covers Biden’s views on Black Lives Matters’ call to defund the police, as he does not exactly share the same approach to police reform.
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- Trump campaign blasts Biden’s ‘purely political’ Kenosha visit
- Hannity: Violence in US is preview of a Biden presidency
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