Political Animal


January 25, 2012 2:50 PM If it’s Sunday…

By Steve Benen

Media Matters has, on more than one occasion, documented the extent to which Sunday morning shows rely heavily on Republican guests. This week, Roll Call took a crack at it, referencing its own database of lawmakers’ television appearances.

Not surprisingly, Roll Call found, “If you were watching the major Sunday morning talk shows last year, your odds of seeing a Republican Member of Congress in the guest chair were far greater than seeing a Democratic Member of Congress.”

In 2009 and 2010, Republican Members held a small advantage over Democratic Members in appearances on these programs, getting 52 percent of the invites in both years. […]

But in 2011, the GOP lawmakers captured 64 percent of the Congressional appearances on the five shows that Roll Call tracks, and every network featured more Republican lawmakers than Democrats. Of 330 Congressional appearances tallied by Roll Call last year, 210 went to Republicans and only 120 went to Democrats — fewer if you subtract the eight appearances made by Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent who caucuses with Democrats.

A 210 to 120 margin isn’t exactly close.

The Roll Call piece quoted Michael Shanahan, assistant director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, saying the gap is understandable in light of the 2010 midterm results and the dramatic debates of 2011. “Really, who were the actors in this drama? Republicans,” Shanahan said.

That’s not a bad explanation, I suppose, but it doesn’t quite work for me. If the media turned to Republican officials more in 2011 because of various disputes dictated by the GOP, what explains the media also relying on Republicans officials in 2009 and 2010 — when there was a Democratic White House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic House?

For that matter, what explains the fact that the same dynamic has existed for many years, with the Sunday shows always relying on more GOP guests?

The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with what Josh Marshall described many years ago as the way in which the political establishment is “wired’ for Republicans — major outlets routinely place more importance on GOP opinions and perspectives, so it stands to reason they’ll invite more GOP officials on to the Sunday shows.

Something to keep in mind the next time someone complains about the “liberal” media.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • joyzeeboy on January 25, 2012 2:55 PM:

    Steve, Gunna miss you! as you are just about the only liberal media in existence!

  • Jon on January 25, 2012 3:00 PM:

    Republicans are just more entertaining. They say all kinds of crazy stuff. They get worked up. They froth at the mouth. They rant and denounce. Democrats tend to babble on about common sense and calm, reasonable solutions. Boring!

    Look, they call themselves "News Shows," just like Murdoch calls his little project "Fox News." But these are entertainment franchises. Whether intentionally or not, Republicans are just more entertaining.

  • JS on January 25, 2012 3:00 PM:

    All the more reason Steve needs to get up to speed as quickly as possible to take over "The Rachel Maddow Show", so we can have Rachel as host of "Meet the Press".

    With her guest this week.. no Republican agrees to come on. Again.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 25, 2012 3:01 PM:

    They are all just varying degrees of Faux Nooze.
    If you see a talking head on your TEEVEE with a regular gig you can guarantee he is one of the 1% with high paid news readers like Brian Williams in the upper echelon of that group. There is no doubt whose team they are on especially given the fact it is controlled by the big 6

    They are just thrilled that they still have a horse race in the Primary...more opportunities to sell pharmaceuticals.

    Watching a bank of teevees (10) in the Gym yesterday (Florida) , I was subject to no less than 57 superpac and candidate ads in a 30 minute period 80% were anti Newt. at one point 8 of the ten had a political add on.


  • stormskies on January 25, 2012 3:01 PM:

    And when the Repiglicans were in power during the Bush years there was a 2 to 1 advantage for these Repiglicans. The state rationale at that time by the corporate producers was that because the Repiglicans were in power warranted this ratio. But, of course, for the two years that the Democrats had the Congress and the Senate, and the President, the Repiglicans sill had more than the Democrats. Welcome to corporate/ Repiglican news. Pieces of pig shit like David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory know why General Electric pays him over 3 million a year ........... as do the rest of the corporate shit stains who have their Sunday propaganda fests

  • T2 on January 25, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Shanahan is off base. The truth is simple.....the Media wants to get the GOP scenarios out there so they become the "starting point" for conversations. And secondly, they over-tilt to GOPers so they can't be called "Liberal Press".....which of course is a smokescreen dreamed up by the very GOPers to ensure they always get the lions share of interviews.

  • citizen_pain on January 25, 2012 3:11 PM:

    This isn't surprising given the fact that the majority of network, print, and radio media companies are owned by a handful of corporations with an incentive for republican rule, because you know, a gazzilion dollars a year is jut not enough and the socialist commie fascist marxists want to give their money to peasants.

    Steve - I've been reading you since the carpetbagger days. You are by far the best and most prolific blogger out there. Congrats on the new gig.

    And the answer will always be orange!!

  • MonkeyBoy on January 25, 2012 3:21 PM:

    I'm sure the viewer demographics of all those shows heavily slew towards old white men, so they are just giving them what they want.

    I really doubt that if they tried to make the lineup more appealing to say younger women that it would make much difference in their audience because younger women are much less interested in watching political punditry.

  • c u n d gulag on January 25, 2012 3:25 PM:

    If it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Republicans!"

  • NHCt on January 25, 2012 3:26 PM:

    Fortunately none of these programs matters. It's like pissing in a dark blue suit. It might feel good, but no one knows you did it.

  • Gandalf on January 25, 2012 3:29 PM:

    MonkeyBoy I'd also add that anyone that watches the sunday political shows is probably brain dead. Hell I'm a political junkie and I wouldn't spend five seconds watching that tripe.

  • Danp on January 25, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Republicans are always the actors. Everything is hyperbolic. Theater of the absurd.

  • biggerbox on January 25, 2012 3:34 PM:

    I kind of resent Shanahan portraying the governance of my country as a stage play, but no matter. Last I looked the Executive Branch and the Senate were both in the control of Democrats. His explanation is absurd.

    To say nothing of the self-reinforcing effect of his proposal - the fact that they are on TV more is what MAKES them the 'actors in this drama'.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 25, 2012 3:35 PM:

    @ MonkeyBoy,

    I imagine that, general interests aside, younger women (or anyone else in their right mind) couldn't stomach watching a bunch of wrinkley, old 'Publicans spew the repulsive silliness that only a 'Publican Teabaggers would only believe.

    I like to catch bits and pieces of the sunday morning shows, but only in small doses. I'm normally in the gym, and they have the usual GOP suspects parading about the flat screens. Thankfully the sound is off; otherwise I'd have to chuck a dumbbell at a flat-screen that I can't really afford to replace... I'd watch more, but I can't stomach the lying sacks of pooh.

  • Sadie on January 25, 2012 3:50 PM:

    Look at the bright side. Republicans haven't done themselves any favors this year despite their domination of the airwaves.

  • T2 on January 25, 2012 4:01 PM:

    Sadie, I'd argue that it is the overexposure of the lunatic fringe known as Republicans on these non-FOX talk shows that contributes to their falling like/dislike numbers. People watching FOX are beyond redemption, however those watching NBC, CBS, and ABC aren't typically that hardcore. They watch (because many of us always have) and they see the GOPers spouting increasingly preposterous rhetoric. And they don't like it.

  • JS on January 25, 2012 4:05 PM:

    No new posts for over an hour? Steve must be at the office party.


  • John Dillinger on January 25, 2012 4:19 PM:

    Republicans are less likely to go home to their families on weekends, so they are more available for Sunday morning bookings in DC. I think this is particularly true of McCain, who reportedly has a poor marriage. Him staying in DC most weekends may be how they keep it together.

  • Kathryn on January 25, 2012 4:53 PM:

    I second John Dillenger's post, always got the feeling nobody was happier to see grumpy McCain lose than Cindy.

  • schtick on January 25, 2012 6:02 PM:

    I got so sick of seeing people posting "librul media" about stuff on my FB page that I finally asked: How can all the media be liberal except for Clusterfaux Fake and BS Nuwz if it is all owned by the repubs?
    Now they may cry about the librul media on their FB page, but they don't bother with mine anymore.

    crapcha....once ctonho....once was enuff, Tonto!

  • Jose Padilla on January 25, 2012 6:49 PM:

    My guess is the demographics of the people who watch Sunday Morning talk shows is older white males (i.e. Republicans). My experience is that most conservatives are more interested in politics than most liberals or moderates. Hence talk radio, FOX News, etc.

  • marcelle on January 25, 2012 10:39 PM:

    This blog post is the closest you've come to saying "it's a money thing" with the Republican guest roster dominance on Sunday morning shows. Well it's about time. Here's looking forward to more off-the-cuff "saying what we're all thinking".....Wherever you go.