Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


FOX News Moderators Insert Themselves at GOP Debates More Than Any Other Outlet

Bookmark and Share

FOX moderators have averaged a 40 percent larger share of speaking time compared to moderators at the other eight debates since September

foxnewslogo1.jpgFOX News generally received warm reviews for their handling of the recent Republican presidential debate held in Sioux City, Iowa last week.

The debate generated high ratings, some unique questions, as well as lively exchanges between the candidates.

But there is a distinguishing feature to FOX News debates that separates them from the other media outlets which have presided over the many GOP gatherings this fall.

FOX debates appropriate a larger share of speaking time for their moderators than any other news outlet.

A Smart Politics content analysis of the 10 Republican presidential debates conducted since September finds that those moderated by FOX News rank 1-2 for the amount of time consumed by moderator questions, comments, and admonishments.

FOX News has had a great run over the last decade in promoting its brand effectively as well as generating a bevy of popular (and controversial) network hosts and political commentators.

In keeping with their self-assured style, the network has not been shy in featuring its personalities when given the opportunity to host debates this campaign season.

The two FOX News debates since September have not only generated the most speaking time for its moderators but also the largest percentage of moderator vs. candidate time (accounting for the differing lengths of the various debates).

The recent FOX News Iowa debate on Thursday evening saw its moderators speak for 27 minutes and 27 seconds - the most of any debate since Rick Perry joined the field in September.

The seven candidates on the stage spoke for only 64 minutes and 35 seconds during the two-hour broadcast.

Only the CBS / National Journal debate provided less time of the candidates speaking (at 55:26), though that gathering had a total running time of just 90 minutes.

The FOX debate in Sioux City eclipsed the previous high water mark for the most moderator exposure this autumn, which was also notched by FOX during their Florida debate in Orlando in September (coming in at 26 minutes and 15 seconds).

By contrast, the three debates hosted by CNN since autumn saw its moderators Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper clock in at just 17:38 (in Tampa, Florida), 14:03 (in Washington, D.C.), and 13:21 (in Las Vegas, Nevada).

Moderators have reached the 20-minute mark in just two other debates, though well shy of FOX: CNBC's Michigan debate (22:54) and NBC / POLITICO's gathering at the Ronald Reagan Library in California (21:34).

Some particularly lengthy questions from the FOX crew in Sioux City include:

"If I may, sir, in 1994, when you were running for the Senate, you wrote a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans in which you said, "I am more convinced than ever before that, as we seek full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent," who was Ted Kennedy. In 1994, you also said you supported not only an assault weapons ban, but also a five-day waiting period. And in 2002, when you were running as governor, you said that you supported the tough gun control laws in Massachusetts. And then as you say in 2004, you also signed an assault weapons ban. So you are still more of a champion of gay rights than Ted Kennedy was?" - Chris Wallace (to Mitt Romney)

"You heard Speaker Gingrich -- you heard Speaker Gingrich reference the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and that is one of the courts that he has suggested abolishing. It is a left-leaning court and as he points out, as he has done before, he believes it's an activist court because in part it was the court that -- that issued a ruling striking down "under God" in the pledge years ago. A decision that was reversed by the Supreme Court leader. Do you agree that the Ninth Circuit should be abolished? And if so, what would then happen if a Democratic president came into office and we had a democratically controlled Congress that later took aim at the right- leaning federal courts. Where would it end?" - Megyn Kelly (to Michele Bachmann)

"You just responded this morning, sir, tweeted originally and with follow-up statements as a major break through of this plan on the part of Republican congressman Paul Ryan working with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to find a sort of updated way to keep Medicare solvent. This would involve a choice, those who like the program as it is can stick with it. They will be a private option, et cetera. But earlier on, this might have confused Congressman Ryan and others for whom you had said was the initial Medicare fix that it was right wing social engineering. Later on you backed off that comment, said there was much you could find in Mr. Ryan's plan to like." - Neil Cavuto (to Newt Gingrich)

Of course, not all of these presidential debates have been the same duration, and media sponsors have also varied in the amount of bells and whistles that go into their production packages (e.g. CNN regularly includes a boisterous WWE-style trotting out of the candidates plus the singing of the National Anthem etc.).

But even when examining the percentage breakdown in speaking time between the moderators and the candidates, FOX again demonstrates the greatest tendency to place an emphasis on its personnel vis-à-vis the other media outlets.

Moderators at FOX's debates in Florida and Iowa rank 1-2 in terms of the largest distribution of speaking time for the moderators versus the candidates.

In Orlando, the FOX panel of Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace accounted for 27.9 percent of the speaking time between the two entities, with the candidates at 72.1 percent.

The FOX quartet in Sioux City - Baier, Kelly, Wallace, and Neil Cavuto - were close behind at 27.4 percent.

Overall, FOX moderators have averaged a 40.1 percent larger share of speaking time (27.6 percent) vis-à-vis the candidates on the stage than the moderators at the other eight debates since September (19.7 percent collectively).

Only CNBC's Michigan debate team of Maria Bartiromo, John Harwood, Jim Kramer, and Steve Liesman reached the 25 percent mark.

Whatever the reasons for FOX News to take up a much larger percentage of the debate's broadcast time with their on-air personnel, there may be something to be said for moderators taking control of the debate with a firm hand.

By far the ugliest debate of the season - with the most personal attacks - was the debate moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper in Las Vegas.

During that mid-October debate, CNN gave the candidates almost free reign, with Cooper recording only 14.7 percent of the candidate/moderator share of air time.

The result was a verbal bloodbath, with Mitt Romney laying hands on Rick Perry at one point of a heated exchange.

To look at the data another way, candidates at the debates in Nevada and D.C. enjoyed a 5.70 to 1 and 5.36 to 1 advantage in speaking time over the CNN moderators respectively.

By contrast, candidates at the FOX debates in Florida and Iowa notched only a 2:46 to 1 and 2.66 to 1 speaking time advantage over the moderators.

Percentage of Moderator Speaking Time in GOP Presidential Debates Since September

Debate
Moderators
Candidates
Moderators
Ratio
% Cand.
% Moder.
FL #2
FOX
64:35
26:15
2.46
72.1
27.9
IA #3
FOX
72:54
27:27
2.66
72.6
27.4
MI
CNBC
68:07
22:54
2.97
75.0
25.0
CA
NBC/POLITICO
72:22
21:34
3.36
77.0
23.0
SC #2
CBS / NJ
55:26
16:24
3.38
77.5
22.5
NH #2
Bloomberg/WPost
72:49
18:04
4.03
80.1
19.9
FL #1
CNN
69:04
17:38
3.92
80.3
19.7
IA #2
ABC
70:32
15:48
4.46
81.7
18.3
D.C.
CNN
75:18
14:03
5.36
85.2
14.8
NV
CNN
76:03
13:21
5.70
85.3
14.7
Note: The final two columns denote the percentile share of speaking time between the Republican candidates and moderators respectively (excludes introductory packages, questions from the public etc.). Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Ex-Presidents Take Center Stage at Iowa Debate
Next post: Punditry Quotes of the Week: Ron Paul Edition

2 Comments


  • Sorry, Diane Sawyer, I was wrong.

  • Fantastic post! I was just having this conversation with a colleague about the same thing. I also found that they were somewhat harder on Ron Paul as I don't think he got as much airtime. Regardless, I think we agree on some aspects of Fox's coverage. Great debate though! Thats Politics right?

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting