While Biden's inauguration was broadcast across MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN on Wednesday, the three networks and their talking heads took different approaches in their coverage and commentary.
The Fox News Channel took a very comparative and more critical approach to Biden's inauguration than its competitors, highlighting the administration transition from Republican to Democrat control.
Fox News' Sandra Smith wonders if Biden signing executive orders on his first day will show he's not for unity, asking "what message does this send."— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) January 20, 2021
Chris Wallace: "It says that he won. It’s as simple as that." pic.twitter.com/y1zGSBubtV
The outlet also echoed right-wing calls for Biden to act with "humility" in moving forward with new legislation - a lot of which would undo past orders imposed by 45.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) just now on Fox News: "I want Biden to act with a sense of humility." pic.twitter.com/cKmCr7cuMU— The Recount (@therecount) January 20, 2021
However, some netizens remarked that the news outlet's inauguration commentary was arguably questionable.
lol wtf— Lis Power (@LisPower1) January 20, 2021
Fox anchor: 'That was a really interesting moment there, even though you have big burly secret service agents holding the door for you, the president went over and held the door for his wife, then put himself in the car ... I've not seen that before.'
h/t @Payarm18 pic.twitter.com/sYkSQ7MXz4
“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace told Sandra Smith that Biden's first presidential speech to the American people was “the best inaugural address I’ve ever heard.”
The famed journalist was also caught mocking senior political analyst Brit Hume, who, in addressing Biden's remarks, appeared to say that the presence of COVID-19 vaccines somehow make up for the real-time death toll and hospitalizations caused by the novel disease.
"Everybody wants to say that the COVID crisis is getting worse, and certainly the numbers suggest that, but we have a vaccine. And we believe and have every reason to believe it works,” Hume said after anchor Martha MacCallum remarked that Biden has accepted "an enormous mantle of responsibility."
“There’s some serious distribution issues that I suspect will be fairly quickly resolved. And that is what we’ve hoped for from the beginning, that there would be a vaccine," Hume added.
Fox News' Brit Hume says that the covid situation is getting better with the vaccine.— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 20, 2021
Chris Wallace on a hot mic "Really? 100,000 people died..." pic.twitter.com/zvUrjNdUiO
Moments later, the broadcast audio sounded like it was losing its signal and Wallace could be overheard remarking about "100,000 people dying." Many took the hot mic moment to be a rebuke of his coworker's statement.
I flipped over to Fox News only to hear Chris Wallace said this was the “best Inaugural Address” he’s ever heard. I was then reminded of the reason I stopped watching Fox News last November.— Aaron J. Carpenter🇺🇸 (@aaronjcarpenter) January 20, 2021
According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard, the US has logged more than 24 million cases of the novel coronavirus and over 404,000 related deaths.
CNN's discussion of the inauguration generally included a rather optimistic tone on the incoming administration.
The opening of CNN's inauguration coverage: "Today, democracy endures as a historic partnership begins..." pic.twitter.com/tdUS9EnrhY— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 20, 2021
John Harwood, CNN's new White House correspondent, received quite the welcome to his new role after tweeting his views on the transition from Trump's administration to that of Biden's.
journalism—>fan fiction— 🌈😷Gunpowder&Vanilla🔫💻 (@Autumn__Fox) January 20, 2021
This poetic approach has been a common theme for the network's talking heads. Tuesday night, CNN political director received a side-eye from journalist Glenn Greenwald and tens of thousands of netizens after he likened the National Mall lights to Biden's "arms embracing America."
Not even North Korean TV would say this. Just listen.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 20, 2021
LOL. Damn. https://t.co/yHUnPbdpG2
In the hours between Trump's departure and Biden's arrival, CNN took an apparent swipe at 45, publishing an article highlighting Trump's decision to break with tradition and not attend the inauguration of his successor.
April Ryan, White House Correspondent for The Grio, tweeted the article's allegation about Melania and Donald Trump sleeping in separate beds.
As the #WhiteHouse prepares for Joe & Jill Biden’s arrival, @CNN confirms a story about The Trumps sleeping separately. #Inauguration2021— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) January 20, 2021
Excerpt: "Donald Trump slept in his own bedroom, which was previously a study or den during other administrations.” https://t.co/8wkasDQbWx
Lastly, MSNBC's inauguration coverage was similar to that of CNN, with a pro-Biden tone that spoke to the ushering in of a new era based on "truth."
At one point, MSNBC chief anchor Brian Williams, who was notoriously sacked from NBC in 2015 over false reporting, argued that "it's gonna be a shock to witness a fact-based White House briefing in that briefing room."
NBC's Geoff Bennett insists reporters don't just love White House press briefings because they get to appear on camera and ask questions. Lyin' Brian Williams adds that "it's going be a shock to witness a fact-based white house briefing in that briefing room." pic.twitter.com/bNjuegWg4V— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 20, 2021
Williams' comments came before the first press conference was even held.
John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, joined MSNBC on Wednesday and argued that based on his experience in government, he believes Biden's intelligence community will be working to squash a "pro-Trump insurgency" that is allegedly brewing and that, according to him, harbors “even libertarians”.
MSNBC, CNN Positioned to Benefit from Biden Presidency
Fox News was reportedly given almost exclusive access to Trump when it came to mainstream interviews.
According to former CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, Fox News was granted at least 113 interviews from the US president over the past four years, while NBC/CNBC were allowed to interview Trump only eight times.
CNN never received interviews from the former president, though it is unclear how many requests were issued by the network. Biden, however, is likely to receive a lot of media requests from MSNBC and CNN.
Throughout the Trump Administration @FoxNews was its broadcast arm. It’s clear @MSNBC and @CNN are going to be the broadcasting arm of the Biden administration, from today’s saccharine coverage. Neither is a good look for independent journalism.— Andrew Neil (@afneil) January 20, 2021
Interestingly enough, Biden's Wednesday swearing comes amid CNN and MSNBC's celebration of their first ratings win over the Fox News Channel for the first time in two decades.
Citing Nielsen, Forbes reported earlier this week that, for the week of January 4 through January 10, CNN and MSNBC averaged around 2.8 million and 2.3 million viewers per day, respectively.
Fox News news averaged 1.7 million watchers, continuing its decline since election day. According to Mediate, Fox News Channel has trailed in the key 25-54 age demographic since the November election.