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Fox And Friends, America’s Assignment Editor

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Now showing at America’s most influential mainstream media outlets: But Her EMAILS II: This Time It’s White Supremacy.

President Donald Trump has taken Fox News’ advice and successfully turned the network’s fearmongering about an “invasion” by a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico with the intent to seek asylum in the United States into a major issue for the upcoming midterm elections. While the caravan is shrinking and remains more than 1,000 miles away from the U.S. border — a journey of weeks on foot — Trump has been able to use his bully pulpit to move it to the top of the media agenda.

Notably, The New York Times and The Washington Post have run a total of 115 news stories in their print editions mentioning the caravan over the last three weeks. Each paper has run at least one such story on its front page on nine of the last 10 days.

The caravan formed in Honduras on October 12, but neither paper mentioned it in print until October 17. The previous day, Trump had tweeted a threat to cut aid to Honduras after watching a Fox & Friends segment about the caravan. Each paper covered that threat, the Times on A8 (with a story headlined “Trump Warns Honduras Over Migrant Caravan”) and the Post on A10 (“Migrant caravan moves north, drawing outrage from Trump”).

Since then, both papers have regularly featured the story in their news pages, including on A1. Many of these articles are, on their own merits, laudable. They provide the compelling stories of the migrants themselves, debunk the president’s lies and conspiracy theories, and point to the facts that undermine his demagoguery.

But the sheer volume of the coverage can’t help but fuel Trump’s claims that the caravan’s approach represents a crisis and suck oxygen away from other stories in the lead-up to the midterm elections. This plays into the GOP’s deliberate strategy, developed by Fox commentators and adopted by the White House, of focusing attention on the caravan in order to drive conservative voters to the polls.

The Post has run 65 total news articles mentioning the story in its A section, running at least one on each subsequent day. On nine different days the paper ran four or more pieces, topping out at seven articles on October 30. Thirteen of the articles ran on the paper’s front page, the first one coming October 20.

It’s not exactly true that nothing has changed — whereas EMAILS stories mostly uncritically repeated Republican spin about the fake scandal, in this case there have been a lot more stories pointing out that the “crisis” is fake. But turning a complete non-story into a campaign coverage-dominating story is really bad and pernicious even if some of the coverage is critical. Margaret Sullivan has more. 

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