Mueller underwhelms — so CNN and MSNBC do pre- and post-testimony fake news and obfuscation

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's six-and-a-half-hour-long testimony in the House on Wednesday was expected to be a big ratings win for the three cable news and three broadcast television channels, all of which covered it wall-to-wall.  Not only did the event underperform, but so did President Trump's key media nemesis, CNN, which came in dead last at #6.

The red-hot competition for viewers apparently led MSNBC and CNN to add a new level of fakery — both before and after Mueller's testimony.  MSNBC contributed to the conspiracy theory that Fox News was planning to black out live coverage of Mueller, while CNN obfuscated its poor showing in a post-Mueller hearing TV ratings analysis.

Conventional wisdom has it that when the news is perceived to be unfavorable for President Trump, Resistance outlets MSNBC and CNN get a boost in viewership.  Mueller's long awaited testimony was expected to turbo-charge the Resistance and re-ignite talk of impeaching the president, but his performance clearly underwhelmed.  Still, Fox News, the channel perceived as the friendliest to the president, won both the day of coverage (hosted by its news department's anchors and reporters) and prime time, when opinion shows are programmed on all three cable "news" channels.

According to Nielsen Media Research, as reported by Forbes on Thursday:

Fox News drew a total audience of more than 3 million viewers between 8:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. ET, leading all broadcast and cable competition. MSNBC finished second with 2.4 million total viewers, followed by ABC (2.12 million), NBC (1.99 million), CBS (1.91 million) and CNN (1.5 million). CBS, it should be noted, is currently dark in 10 million American households because of an AT&T dispute with DirecTV, Nexstar and other carriers, which may have dampened its overall ratings.

The weekend before Mueller's testimony, a widespread conspiracy theory emerged — with the assistance of MSNBC — claiming incorrectly that Fox News would not broadcast the hearings live because they were expected to embarrass President Trump.  In fact, Fox News had been running prominent on-air promos for weeks advertising its plans to cover the hearings live, initially scheduled for Wednesday, July 17 and then moved back a week after Mueller was given more time to prepare.

The details of this hanky-panky suggest a new, down-low strategy on the part of a cable news channel to depress the ratings of a competitor.  On Sunday, frequent MSNBC contributor Joyce Vance tweeted her 337,000 followers the false information that Fox News would not cover the hearings.  After criticism on social media, she deleted the tweet, claiming that it was a sarcastic joke — but not before author and Resistance keyboard warrior Stephen King tweeted the fake news about Fox's plans to his 5.33 million Twitter followers.

Joyce Alene's Fake Tweet — deleted but not before it ultimately got about 7,000 retweets.

Stephen King's tweet — which is still online.

On Monday, as Brian Flood reported in an article at Fox News dot com on Tuesday, Vance's claim had "morphed into a full-blown conspiracy theory — and anti-Trump liberals don't seem to care."  In fact, on Monday, MSNBC guest Rick Wilson spread the fake news about Fox during an appearance on the channel, and he was not corrected.

According to Flood:

Wilson appeared on MSNBC's "Deadline: White House" and apparently missed the memo that Vance deleted her inaccurate tweet prior to his segment.

"Now Fox isn't covering the hearings," Wilson said during a discussion about the upcoming Mueller testimony.

[MSNBC host Nicole] Wallace didn't correct him and responded, "Really?"

"They're apparently not going to take them live. Everybody else is taking them live," Wilson said, misinforming MSNBC viewers in the process.

"TV viewership for Mueller hearings falls flat" was an article on Thursday about the Mueller hearing ratings by Brian Stelter, CNN's chronic Trump nemesis.  Stelter significantly failed to note that CNN came in last in the Mueller ratings.  Instead, Stelter contrasted the total ratings for Mueller's testimony with the numbers for James Comey, Michael Cohen, and Bret Kavanaugh when each of them testified before Congress.  Stelter:

If Democrats were banking on massive viewership of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's televised testimony, they're feeling broke today.

The Mueller hearings had a loyal audience, but they didn't break any ratings records. Not by a long shot.

Preliminary Nielsen ratings totals — which are subject to adjustment — show an average of 13 million viewers across six major networks Wednesday.

Stelter's closing comments ironically give one some hope that viewer interest in taking President Trump down is finally waning:

When the final Nielsen ratings come in, the Mueller hearings are likely to be in line with Michael Cohen's testimony back in February.

In a possible sign of Trump-related fatigue, neither the Mueller or Cohen hearings were as highly-rated as former FBI Director James Comey's explosive day of testimony in June 2017, which drew about 20 million viewers.

Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications.  Peter's website is  Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.

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