FAIR’s magazine, Extra!tracked the breakdown of guests featured in one-on-one interviews and roundtable discussions on the four main Sunday morning talk shows, ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” from June 2011 to March 2012. The results skewed heavily Republican, white and male, with only token representation by blacks and Latinos, and virtually no appearances by guests outside of one of the two national political parties.
Extra! points to November 6 of 2011 as typical of the ideological breakdown of the Sunday shows. CBS’s Bob Schieffer welcomed “a cross section of Republicans” to discuss the issues facing the primary that week. On ABC’s “This Week,” lone liberal Arianna Huffington was featured alongside conservatives Matthew Dowd, George Will and Niall Ferguson. “Meet the Press” featured Republican operative Alex Castellanos with Wall Street Journal conservative scribe Kimberly Strassel alongside a pair of middle-of-the-road Beltway journalists.
The study showed that one-on-one interviews with policy makers and other national figures, which are the ratings bread and butter of the talk shows, featured 166 Republicans to Democrats’ 70. Roundtable discussions welcomed 189 Republican guests and 109 Democrats.
It’s worth noting, also, that the liberals typically presented on these programs are mostly centrists with very few out-and-out progressives, leading FAIR to quip that “corporate media’s idea of a debate is conservative ideologues matched by centrist-oriented journalists.”
Women and persons of color were wildly underrepresented in round tables. Women guests made up a mere 29 percent of panelists. Roundtable guests were 85 percent white, with 11 percent of guests being African-American and 3 percent Latino.
“And those numbers come with significant qualifications,” the report cautions, “‘Fox News Sunday,’ for instance, featured the greatest number of African-American roundtable guests—but 24 of those 27 were Fox pundit Juan Williams. ABC’s ‘This Week’ featured 19 African-American debate guests, 13 of whom were Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.
It could be argued that during this period the nation has been in the throes of a long and competitive Republican primary race, hence the heavy percentages of Republicans and right wing operatives. A similar study done by the group Media Matters during the 2004 Democratic primary race still found 56 percent of the guests chosen for the Sunday morning shows were Republicans to 44 percent Democrats.