In a little more than 24 hours, talking heads on the big three television news networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — mentioned impeachment no fewer than 73 times, focusing on the controversy over President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The deluge of impeachment mentions came before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted Democrats “will have no choice” but to start an impeachment investigation and before news broke that she would support a resolution likely aimed in that direction.
The ABC, CBS, and NBC morning shows included a combined 17 mentions of impeachment on Monday, NewsBusters reported. The evening shows included 16 more mentions. On Tuesday morning, the big three networks included 40 references to impeachment. Out of the 73 total mentions, only two included a caveat that impeachment was “divisive” and could “backfire politically” on Democrats.
Perhaps thanks in part to this media onslaught, the dam broke on Tuesday. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights activist whom many call the Democrats’ conscience, endorsed impeachment around noon. Shortly afterward, news broke that Pelosi would back a resolution that will likely lead the House in that direction.
The Ukraine scandal did indeed seem damaging to Trump. In July, the president allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter in cooperation with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. On Tuesday, Trump announced he would release the full transcript of the call, during which he reportedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden no fewer than eight times.
Hunter Biden was a board member of the Ukrainian Burisma Group when Joe Biden served as secretary of State. During his tenure, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma.
Trump’s call with Zelensky came after he withheld nearly $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, which is fighting a war with Russia in Crimea. Critics have suggested Trump used the funding to pressure Zelensky to help Giuliani’s investigation into Hunter Biden. The source who spoke about the call insisted there was no quid pro quo involved, however.
Furthermore, Trump has claimed he slow-walked the funding because other European countries had not contributed to help Ukraine. The money was eventually sent as appropriated by Congress.
Trump’s decision to release the transcript of the call with Zelensky suggests he has no fear the call will strengthen Democrat calls for impeachment.
Much still remains to be seen about the call. If Trump had issued a quid pro quo, offering to direct military funds in exchange for Zelensky helping to investigate Hunter Biden in order to weaken the current Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, that would be a huge scandal and may merit impeachment. There are several holes in this reasoning, however. Why did the source who went public with the story say there was no quid pro quo? Why does Trump feel confident enough to release the transcript?
The media’s obsession with impeachment came before the dam broke, and may have contributed to the Democrats’ decision to move in that direction.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.