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Of Course Obama's Race Protected Him from Negative Media Coverage

In a stunning moment of honesty, former President Bill Clinton said that Barack Obama benefited from “friendlier media coverage” than other presidents have because of his race. When asked during an interview on “CBS This Morning” about the differences in how Obama and Trump are treated by the media, Clinton conceded that the media’s standard for Obama was different than for other presidents. “They did treat him [Obama] differently than other Democrats and Republicans,” Clinton said, in a rare moment of honesty. “It was the political press.”

You think? Let’s look at the evidence. According to Pew Research Center, Obama received an absurdly larger share of positive media coverage compared to his two predecessors and his successor during his first 60 days. Trump’s media coverage was only 5 percent positive, while Obama’s was 42 percent positive. Obama’s positive coverage was also significantly greater than George W. Bush’s 22 percent and Bill Clinton’s 27 percent.

A study by the non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) also supports the claim that Obama received abnormally low levels of scrutiny from the press during his first year in office. Only one network offered a level of scrutiny consistent with past presidents: Fox News Channel.

Reviewing the first thirty minutes of FNC's Special Report with Bret Baier, CMPA found roughly three times more negative coverage of Obama (78%) vs. positive coverage (22%) during 2009. This compares to the broadcast networks doling out 74% bad press for Ronald Reagan in 1981 and 77% bad press for George W. Bush in 2001. In 1993, Bill Clinton fared better than his GOP counterparts (28% positive vs. 72% negative), but much worse than President Obama.

As the MRC's Tim Graham noted in a just-released special report from MRC, Omitting for Obama, the three broadcast networks were routinely late in picking up on negative storylines about the Obama administration, and gave paltry attention to major scandals such as the radical affiliations of ex-White House aide Van Jones, ACORN, and the pro-communist musings of then-White House communications director Anita Dunn. Instead, those stories were brought to light by alternative news sources, such as Fox News, talk radio and the conservative blogosphere, and then only grudgingly covered by the old media.

What was the reason for the media’s rose-colored coverage during the Obama years? According to Bill Clinton, “They liked him. And they liked having the first African-American president.”

Many of us have been saying for years that Obama’s race shielded him from criticism. The media routinely ignored, downplayed, or excused his numerous scandals. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of a number of corruption charges, including trying to sell Obama’s former Senate to the high bidder—but Obama, who met with Blagojevich to discuss suitable candidates, was never held accountable for his role in the scandal. The media gave him a pass.