Over the last week every major news network has covered the story of Trayvon Martin, but one network has covered the story noticeably less than others. CNN was the leader on the story of Martin’s killing from the start, mentioning the story 41 times from February 26 to March 19. MSNBC mentioned the story 13 times over the same time period. Fox News, on the other hand, only mentioned the story once. Since March 19 the story has exploded on MSNBC and CNN, with the Martin story being featured on nearly every show. Fox News, however, still has put the story in the background, only warranting a mention once every few hours.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Martin was a 17 year-old African American student was shot by a self-appoint neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was white, and the 911 tapes from the incident suggest that race may have played a role in the killing. Martin was unarmed, and weighed nearly half as much as Zimmerman, yet Zimmerman was still not arrested for the killing because the police believe he acted in self-defense.
[See also: Five shocking facts from the Trayvon Martin case]
In the past Fox News has extensively covered other individual cases of controversy. The best example may can be seen in the New Black Panther case of 2010. That case involved allegations that two African American men intimidated mostly white voters at a polling place in Pennsylvania. A default guilty judgment was obtained against one of the men by the Justice Department, but conservatives were upset that more was not done. Over the span of 20 days, the same time period mentioned above for the Trayvon Martin case, Fox News covered the New Black Panther case with over 100 segments. Megyn Kelly alone covered the New Black Panther case 45 times over just three weeks.
The New Black Panther case involved no loss of life like the Martin story. No voters even came forward to allege any intimidation in the New Black Panther case. An internal investigation subsequently cleared the Department of Justice lawyers of any wrongdoing in the case. Fox News devoted less than two minutes to this report after spending over 8 hours covering the allegations against the DOJ.
The Trayvon Martin story may be getting neglected by Fox News because it does not easily fit within the narrative they regularly prefer to communicate. The New Black Panther case was about a perceived oppression of the majority (white voters) by minorities. The New Black Panther case was about an alleged cover up by the Obama administration, no matter how unsubstantiated those allegations might be. The Martin case, in contrast, is about the alleged abuse of a minority at the hands of the majority. The Martin story also brings up all kinds of questions about gun control, as Zimmerman had a concealed weapons permit and his killing might be defended under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Perhaps the best example can be seen with Megyn Kelly, host of “America Live” on Fox News. Kelly has been labeled the “outrage queen” of Fox News by some of her critics. To Kelly’s defenders, she simply shows justifiable disgust when covering stories of injustice. Kelly perceived an apparent injustice in the New Black Panther case, and she regularly displayed her outrage over the story on air to her audience. However, that same kind of outrage has been noticeably absent in the Martin case. To her credit, Kelly has covered the Martin killing, but not to the same degree and with the same kind of energy as the New Black Panther case. Yesterday Kelly spent a significant amount of time discussing a carnival accident involving a three-year-old girl. The girl suffered no serious injuries, but the “controversy” of being let on the carnival ride was debated in-depth by a legal panel. Martin, of course, suffered from more than just serious injuries, but his case did not warrant the same amount of time on Kelly’s show.