Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who's The Whitest Cable Show Of All?
July 16, 2014

FAIR's study of the race/gender mix of guests on cable news shows arrived at some startling conclusions.

People of color constitute about 36 percent of the US population. On All In, the show that came closest to parity, there were 76 percent as many people of color as there would have been if the sources had matched the nation’s demographics. By comparison, people of color appeared 53 percent as much as their demographic proportion on OutFront, 39 percent on AC360, 42 percent on Hannity and 29 percent on O’Reilly. On Maddow, people of color were represented just 17 percent as often as they occur in the general public.

Latinos—who make up 16 percent of the US population—were particularly underrepresented on cable, with only 31 appearances (3 percent of sources) in the study. Eight of these appearances, more than a quarter of the total, were byCNN contributor Sunny Hostin on AC360; only four other Latino women appeared across all six shows. The diversity of Latino voices was even further diminished on Fox, where five of the seven Latino guest appearances were made by Fox personality Geraldo Rivera.

Male guests widely outnumbered women on every show (730 to 285), making up 72 percent of the guest lists. Just 5 percent (46) of cable news guests were women of color.

The show closest to gender parity was the O’Reilly Factor, where women were 36 percent of guests, followed by Hannity, also on Fox, with 35 percent women. However, all but one of O’Reilly’s female guests were white; Hannity had only four women of color on his show. This pattern is related to the phenomenon of the “Fox News blonde,” the young, attractive female guests who are regulars on both shows; they’re not actually all blonde, but they are almost uniformly white (SteveDennie.com, 1/26/12).

All of these shows could use a shakeup in their booker department, I think. The danger of relying on think tanks and PR firms for your guests is results like these.

And the Whitest Show of All Winner is....Rachel Maddow. For real.

Women of color (about 18 percent of the US public) were strikingly underrepresented on most shows, getting 34 percent of their demographic share on AC360, 26 percent on OutFront, 11 percent on Hannity and 3 percent on the O'Reilly Factor. Maddow, again, had no women of color as guests during the study period. All In came closest to parity, with women of color at 60 percent of their demographic share.

Non-Latino white men, on the other hand, were overrepresented on every show. The Fox News shows had the least overrepresentation, with white men appearing 162 percent as much as they do in the general public on Hannity, and 167 percent on the O'Reilly Factor. Next came All In, where white men had 175 percent of their proportion of the public. White men appeared a little more than twice as often as their demographic share on Out Front (209 percent), AC360 (210 percent) and Maddow (213 percent).

Despite the fact that Fox News managed to squeak into the 'least overrepresentation' category, they make up for it by putting on people like Allen West and Ben Carson, who might meet the racial diversity requirements but hardly represent the majority of African-American views.

I would like to see MSNBC quit putting their shows in racial silos. They would argue this is an unfair measurement because they have Joy Reid's show on weekdays and Melissa Harris-Perry on the weekends. But that's a silo. Joy does appear on other shows as a commentator -- mostly The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. With Mario Díaz-Balart's show in the lineup, they can claim Latino outreach. But if we really want to understand each other, wouldn't it be better to hear diverse voices no matter what show we're watching?

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