Networks Continue to Provide Minimal Coverage of VA Scandal

On Tuesday, July 22, Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to take over as Secretary for the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, appeared before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, yet his testimony received a minuscule 24 seconds on ABC, CBS, and NBC. 

In fact, the only “big three” coverage of McDonald’s testimony came on Tuesday morning, before the actual hearing occurred, courtesy of NBC’s Today. None of the network newscasts covered the actual nomination proceedings on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. 

Given the initial breadth of coverage on the V.A. scandal, one would think that the confirmation hearings for the man tasked with fixing the agency would receive significant air time from ABC, CBS, and NBC.  Unfortunately, this was not the case, as network coverage of the scandal has seen a dramatic decline since it first broke in May. 

An analysis from the Media Research Center’s Scott Whitlock found that network coverage of the ongoing V.A. scandal declined 84 percent in June. In May, the “big three” spent a total of 179 minutes on the scandal before reducing their coverage to only 30 minutes in June. 

From July 1 through the morning of July 15 the networks spent less than twenty minutes on the V.A. and only provided an additional 2 minutes of coverage between the evening of July 15 and Wednesday, July 23.  

Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC which ignored McDonald’s actual testimony, here’s how the New York Times detailed his plans to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs: 

Mr. McDonald, a former Army captain who graduated from West Point, told the panel he would act quickly to improve the department, focusing on the health care system and vowing to be transparent, even promising to give lawmakers his cellphone number. “When you run a large corporation, you have a cellphone,” he said. “It’s on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” 

Among other improvements, Mr. McDonald said the agency would eventually need to change the way it evaluated and rewarded employees, which has been blamed for encouraging hospital officials to hide long waiting lists as they struggled with a shortage of doctors to meet veterans’ growing treatment demands.

Special thanks to the MRC’s Scott Whitlock.

— Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Jeffrey Meyer on Twitter.