Fact Check

Did MSNBC Exclude Bernie Sanders from a Graphic About a Campaign Event?

Context is important when assessing viral internet claims.

Published Sep 24, 2019

DES MOINES, IOWA - SEPTEMBER 21:Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) greets guests at the Polk County Democrats' Steak Fry on September 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Seventeen of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and more than 12,000 of their supporters made an appearance at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
An infographic of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates that aired on MSNBC excluded U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
What's True

An infographic that aired on the liberal cable news channel MSNBC depicted 10 Democratic presidential candidates but excluded Bernie Sanders.

What's False

However, Sanders wasn't the only candidate not shown in the graphic; Andrew Yang and Beto O'Rourke also were excluded, among others.

Did a graphic showing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on the liberal cable news network MSNBC exclude U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders? It did, and it remains unclear why, though Sanders wasn't the only candidate left off.

The infographic aired during a report on Iowa's Polk County Steak Fry, an event on Sept. 21, 2019, that drew 17 candidates to Iowa ahead of that state's caucuses, including Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who is running as a Democrat.

It's unclear why the graphic pictured only 10 candidates, even as host Richard Lui reported that 17 were present at the Iowa event. But a screenshot of the image ricocheted around social media alongside claims that MSNBC was suppressing news about Sanders. One such accusation was lobbed by "High Fidelity" film actor John Cusack.

We sent questions to MSNBC media representatives asking why the graphic did not include Sanders, but received no response at the time of publication.

The graphic features the faces of candidates U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. It also shows former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; author Marianne Williamson; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Sanders was left out of the image but so were other fellow candidates, including entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Beto O'Rourke. Nine of the 10 candidates pictured attended a forum in Iowa on LGBTQ civil rights issues (Joe Sestak, a former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, attended the forum but was not pictured).

The screen-captured graphic is likely one piece of visual information taken out of a larger context. A simple Google search for the terms “MSNBC” and “Bernie Sanders” reveals that the network regularly covers Sanders, while a search on the television-monitoring site TVEyes reveals mentions of Bernie Sanders appeared in closed-captioning 26 times on MSNBC over the weekend in question.

The Iowa caucus is seen as an important benchmark in Democratic primary races because it comes first and is often, though not always, an indicator of who will get the party's nomination for the general election.


Pfannenstiel, Brianne. "Largest Polk County Steak Fry in History Draws 12,000 Attendees, 17 Presidential Candidates."   Des Moines Register. 21 September 2019.

Fitzsimons, Tim. "Democratic 2020 Hopefuls Tout Their Pride at Iowa LGBTQ Forum."   NBC News. 20 September 2019.

Ulmer, Clare. "Why Is Iowa First? A Brief History of the State's Caucuses."   Des Moines Register. 30 August 2019.

National Constitution Center. "Who Wins in the Iowa Caucuses? Not Always the Eventual Nominee."   27 January 2016.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more