Media Matters
Says Fox News gave Republican senators twice the air time as Democrats during a hearing about the Islamic State.

Media Matters on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 in a post on the Media Matters blog

Media Matters says Fox gives GOP senators twice as much air time in ISIS hearing

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Sept. 16, 2014, in Washington. (Getty)

The president’s request to arm some Syrian rebels and conduct an air campaign against the forces of the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS or ISIL, has found bipartisan support in Congress. But the liberal media analysis group Media Matters says the partisan divide is alive and well on Fox News.

At least in terms of minutes of air time.

In a blog post Sept. 16, the group charged that Fox News gave Republican senators twice as much time as Democrats during live coverage of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy in Syria and Iraq. There were only two people giving testimony, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Fox News "aired more than 16 minutes of GOP questions, while showing less than eight minutes of Democratic questioning," the Media Matters post said.

We decided to check their math, and compare Fox News to MSNBC and CNN, the two other cable news channels that carried the hearing.

We used the subscription-based service Critical Mention to review coverage minute by minute on all three networks. Here’s what we found:

The Media Matters reporter added up the minutes correctly.

Fox News provided 16 minutes of Republican questioning, compared to eight minutes of Democratic questioning.

The other networks provided more of the raw feed of the hearing than did Fox News, thus more balance. CNN and MSNBC included the opening statements from the chair Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the vice-chair Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and questions from more senators from both parties.

We counted each senator’s time based on the period when he or she had control of the microphone, not based on how long their lips were moving. The length of their questions had no effect on the tally. We rounded to the closest minute mark so the one-minute differences in the MSNBC and CNN coverage might not reveal very much. CNN had about a 90-second technical glitch that cut out about a minute of Inhofe’s time.

Only MSNBC offered continuous coverage, although not from start to finish. The full hearing lasted almost four hours. Both Fox News and CNN pulled away at some point and rejoined the hearing in progress. Fox News rejoined to air questions from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. CNN cut away twice, rejoining once for questions from Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and again to carry Graham’s question session.

Our ruling

Media Matters said that Fox News gave Republican senators twice as much air time as Democratic ones during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. They said Republicans got 16 minutes compared to the Democrats’ eight. That matches our count.

We also found that other networks provided more time and more evenly divided time to members of both parties.

We rate the claim True.