Undergoing the kind of painful research project we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies, one George Mason University media researcher watched a ton of late night material from two major networks and recorded exactly how many jokes were directed at President Trump versus how many were directed at former Vice President Joe Biden.
To no one’s surprise, the study found that Trump was mocked by network late night comedians far more than his 2020 presidential opponent, though looking at the numbers is still surreal. According to Robert Lichter, a researcher at GMU’s Center for Media and Public Affairs, Trump was 97% of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert’s mockery, while Biden only got 3%.
Talk about handling the worst presidential candidate in U.S. history with kid gloves. They practically ignore Biden, as if it were an industry-wide mandate to do so from the DNC itself. (It probably is.)
The study, headed by Lichter, consisted of watching and tallying the political jokes aimed at both presidential candidates from NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the month of September 2020.
For that period, the GMU report counted a combined 455 jokes at the expense of President Trump and a meager 15 directed at Biden. That means late night bashing of Trump between the two programs is approximately 30 times higher than bashing Biden.
The study clarified that these numbers don’t even take into account the 64 additional late night jokes about Trump’s family and his administration in general.
Lichter, a communications professor at George Mason University who’s been “studying late-night humor and politics since 1992,” acknowledged the point that conservatives know all too well: that Republicans get more heat than Democrats from the comedy writers. The treatment for Trump is particularly nasty this cycle, however, especially compared to the last one.
According to the center’s previous research, “Trump was the punchline for 78% of the jokes to Hillary Clinton’s 22%” in 2016.
So, late night is more biased than ever. And the DNC candidate is more protected than ever. Lichter added, “When Trump’s onstage, everyone else is blacked out.”
The researcher even mused that Hollywood’s joke bias is so prodigious, that comedy writers and late-night hosts may find themselves in a pickle if Joe Biden wins. They clearly love Biden and wouldn’t do anything to hurt him. Lichter opined, “I think they will find a way to keep making jokes about Trump, even after he leaves office.”
Judging by late night’s almost disturbing obsession with President Trump, Lichter’s probably right. He did such a number on them, that they’ll probably never let him rest. Trump will be in Colbert’s head rent-free forever.