The parallels between the shooting in Alexandria, VA last week and the 2011 shooting involving Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) are striking. Both involved a member of Congress sustaining critical injuries. In Giffords’ case, the media assumed a political motive for the gunman, while the Alexandria shooter almost certainly was politically motivated. Both shooters turned out to be unhinged.
Comparing the two incidents gets more interesting when you begin to look at the media’s handling of both cases. Over at The Federalist, Joy Pullman has done a tremendous amount of research, combing both LexisNexis and the Wayback Machine to examine the amount of coverage in each situation. What she discovered probably won’t surprise you.
Take a look at the raw numbers of mentions of “Gabby Giffords” and “Steve Scalise” (and other variant spellings of both):
In the first three days, it’s obvious that the Alexandria shooting received more coverage nationwide, although national papers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today gave more coverage to the Arizona shooting.
Let’s look at how that coverage changes when Pullman extended her search through the first week after each incident:
Notice how the Scalise story fizzled out, while the Giffords story remained at the forefront of coverage. But that’s not all. Placement matters too, as Pullman’s colleague Sean Davis demonstrates:
I can’t help but assume that Giffords’ shooting remained so close to the top of coverage partially because the mainstream media so desperately wanted to blame conservatives for the incident. But could it really boil down to the fact that Giffords is a Democrat while Scalise is a Republican? Could it be pernicious, old-fashioned media bias? Looks like that’s the case once again.