Mueller Discussion on CNN, MSNBC Plummeted After He Testified in July

Free Beacon analysis: Mueller mentioned more than 161,000 times on left-leaning cable outlets over 27 months

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the Rayburn House Office Building July 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
September 9, 2019

Interest in Robert Mueller and the sprawling Russia investigation he oversaw for two years plummeted on MSNBC and CNN following his testimony last month, a Free Beacon analysis found.

After mentioning Mueller an average of at least 3,398 times a month on its airwaves over the past 26-and-a-half months, MSNBC broadcasts only mentioned his name 370 times in August, a decrease of more than 89 percent. CNN's drop was even more precipitous; after his name was heard an average of at least 2,716 times a month over that same period, it fell to 177 times in August, a drop of more than 93 percent.

Overall, the word "Mueller" was uttered on MSNBC (90,001) and CNN (71,942) at least a combined 161,943 times over the 806-day period from May 17, 2017 to July 31, 2019. Click here to see a day-to-day breakdown.

If it takes about one-third of a second to say "Mueller," it would take roughly 15 hours to say it that many times consecutively. On average, the word "Mueller" was said by someone more than 111 times a day on MSNBC and more than 89 times a day on CNN. That dropped to less than 12 times a day on MSNBC and less than six times a day on CNN in August.

The number is a low estimate of how often Mueller was discussed on the two left-leaning cable outlets. IQ Media monitoring service will, at times, count a word mentioned twice in the same sentence as only one mention, and there were several days where no closed captioning was available for CNN. However, the count does include times non-media personalities discussed Mueller, for instance, President Donald Trump talking about the investigator at a press conference.

The period covers from the day Mueller was appointed special counsel to a week after his testimony about his report before Congress, which took place on July 24. Members of the media ripped his testimony as "boring," "uninspired," and a "disaster," with one MSNBC analyst saying he had "sucked the life" out of his own report.

Trump frequently derided the matter as a "witch hunt," but Mueller's probe swept up several members of Trump's orbit for matters unrelated to Russian election interference, including his former lawyer Michael Cohen and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Both men are now serving prison sentences for various financial crimes.

However, Mueller concluded there was no conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia to meddle in the 2016 election—frequently referred to as "collusion" on cable—and did not come to a conclusion as to whether he obstructed justice.

The Free Beacon's analysis, which used the IQ Media monitoring service, did not include repeat airings of shows in its count. For instance, MSNBC and CNN re-air their primetime programming starting at midnight until their live morning programs begin. MSNBC airs repeats of several Friday daytime and primetime shows on Saturday evenings, and CNN re-airs Sunday shows State of the Union and Fareed Zakaria GPS.

On weekdays, CNN airs 20 hours of original programming, beginning with Early Start at 4 a.m. ET, through two hours of liberal host Don Lemon's show Tonight at 10 and 11 p.m. MSNBC airs 19 hours of original programming on weekdays, starting with First Look at 5 a.m. until Brian Williams's The Eleventh Hour at 11 p.m. It began airing First Look at 4 a.m. on Mondays earlier this year.

MSNBC's Morning Joe re-airs some of its 6 a.m. hour at 8 a.m., but the Free Beacon kept that hour in its analysis since there's still some live programming during that time.

The Free Beacon analysis also omitted hearings this year where Mueller and Attorney General William Barr testified, which were broadcast live on all three major cable networks.

The peak of Mueller talk came in April of this year, when Mueller was mentioned at least 7,477 times on MSNBC and 6,622 times on CNN. Mueller's report was released to the public on April 18, leading to 1,583 mentions of his name on MSNBC (830) and CNN (783) that day alone.

The Free Beacon could only find eight out of 806 days between May 17, 2017, and July 31, 2019, where MSNBC didn't discuss Mueller at least once.

Among them were Sept. 9-10, 2017, when the network was covering Hurricane Irma; Oct. 2, 2017, when it was covering the Las Vegas massacre; and Sept. 27, 2018, when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accused him of sexually assaulting her, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Three were holidays: Independence Day of 2017 and Christmas Day of 2017 and 2018.

CNN didn't mention Mueller on 32 days in the period under analysis.

A later Free Beacon story will compare the more conservative Fox News's coverage of the Mueller probe with that of its liberal counterparts.