How Much Did Cable News Cover Trump’s ‘Pay to Play’ vs. Clinton Foundation Story?


Political observers are well-familiar with the term “pay to play,” but over the past month, that phrase has been coupled with Hillary Clinton and drilled into voters’ heads, despite near-universal agreement that none of the concerns about the Clinton Foundation actually amount to any sort of quid pro quo. The label has been pushed by Republican surrogates, but parroted by “objective” media figures of the “some say” and “questions remain” school of journalism:

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been busted in what is a textbook example of a “pay-to-play” allegation, donating $25,000.00 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi after Bondi had solicited a donation from Trump, and while she was in the process of deciding whether or not to pursue the Trump University fraud case. After receiving the donation, Bondi decided not to pursue the case. That story has been out since March, but it was recently reported that Trump had to pay a $2500.00 fine to the IRS because he made the donation through his charitable Donald Trump Foundation.

The contrast between these two stories has spurred many to observe that not only is Hillary Clinton being raked over the coals for what everyone agrees is, at worst, something that “looks bad,” but Donald Trump’s clearly illegal act involving a clear allegation of quid pro quo is barely being covered. That disparity, it turns out, has a number.

In a search of cable news transcripts for the past month, there have been 644 mentions of the “Clinton Foundation” and “pay to play” on the three major cable news networks. The breakdown is as follows (according to TVEyes):

CNN 207

Fox News 335


Conversely, the number of times “pay to play” and “Pam Bondi” have been mentioned together during that time is just 11, five on CNN and six on MSNBC.

And in case you’re wondering if the Pam Bondi story got more traction when it first came out, you’re right, it did. Prior to August, there were 15 mentions of Bondi and Donald Trump, none of which included the phrase “pay to play,” according to a transcript search.

Whatever you think of the merits of the Clinton Foundation story, and there are sharp divides on that issue, the fact that Donald Trump has been found guilty of wrongdoing in a scheme with an identifiable quid pro quo should merit more than one-sixtieth the coverage, shouldn’t it?

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