Some Very Odd Results in the Cable News Ratings Following the Afghanistan Implosion

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

It seems the Afghanistan fiasco has the liberal news audience fleeing the story.

There is a lot of consternation both on the left and in the media circles (yes, yes — I know) over how the press has become willing to be critical of President Biden regarding how big of a mess the withdrawal from Afghanistan has become. So much so that some in the press are saying that the whole disaster is actually being overhyped.


This was a position Brian Stelter took, suggesting that too much emphasis was being placed on the debacle. On his Sunday edition, he had Matthew Dowd as a guest to agree and say that the media coverage has been way over the top. This, while Stelter’s CNN colleague Clarissa Ward — who has been on the ground in Kabul and delivering gripping accounts of what was transpiring at the airport — has described this event as the most gripping story she has ever covered. Between Dowd’s preening and Ward’s testimonials, it is not difficult to see where the heart of the story lands.

These desperate attempts to rationalize and explain away the harrowing events have had a ripple effect on viewers, as well, it appears. The ratings on the Sunday news programs this week reflect a unique dichotomy, even by the slanted standards of that day of the week. 


Fox dominating is no surprise, but there is a bit of a shift with that network taking the top FOURTEEN slots on that day. Then there is MSNBC, which did not even crack the top-30?! While the network is traditionally soft on that day, for it to slide even further than normal indicates an issue within the audience. At a time when a global story is unfolding nearly hourly, it would seem a time to see the audience share increase. 

Speaking of Stelter, he continues to operate well below the levels his show Reliable Sources had been earlier in the year. His return here of over 850,000 viewers is a bit better than he has done in recent weeks, but it was doubled by his direct competition. On FoxNews, Howie Kurtz has his own media analysis program, and his program Media Buzz regularly does twice the ratings of Stelter.

A contributing factor here is that MSNBC has been downplaying the Afghan crisis throughout the week. It truly has been a case of news avoidance on the story. Throughout last week, the network’s main news page has barely addressed the extraction disaster. On Friday, the network appeared to be primarily focused on the drama surrounding the game show “Jeopardy.”


What would appear to be happening is those looking to learn of new developments in the story are going elsewhere to find them.



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