House holds Barr, Ross in criminal contempt

Win McNamee/Getty Images North America

Win McNamee/Getty Images North America


We ran the numbers: There are 604 news articles covering this topic. 47% (286) are left leaning, 41% (246) center, and 12% (72) are right leaning.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt over a disagreement surrounding the US census. 

The vote, which passed 230-198, came as a response to the officials’ failure to produce documents requested by the House in its investigation of the Trump administration’s effort to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

Experts believe the addition of the question could deter immigrants from participating in the census -- which counts all people living in the US, both citizens and noncitizens -- resulting in an undercount of around 6.5 million people. 

This undercount would affect the raw population data that’s used to draw House districts, determine access to federal programs, and allocate federal money. 

While the contempt vote seems to have equal implications for Democrats and Republicans, the majority of news coverage landed on the left and center of the political spectrum. 47% of the news coverage leaned to the left, 41% was centrist, and 12% leaned to the right. 

Left-leaning sources tended to focus on Republican response to the House vote and the motives behind the census addition. The Washington Post highlighted White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham saying the vote was “yet another lawless attempt to harass the president and his administration.” The Post added that, while the Trump Administration claims it needs the information to “better enforce the Voting Rights Act”, evidence emerged in May suggesting that the question was designed to give a specific electoral advantage to Republicans and whites. 

Right-leaning sources claim  the contempt vote as a political stunt by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as Trump’s efforts to gain citizenship information through alternate routes. In an article, The Washington Times included the attempt by Barr and Ross to convince Pelosi to postpone the contempt vote, saying that the House “is both unnecessarily undermining inter-branch comity and degrading the constitutional separation of powers and its own institutional integrity.” In addition, The Washington Times detailed that, while Trump will not be adding the question to the 2020 census, he instead “plans to explore other avenues to gain information about respondents’ citizenship status.”

Centrist sources highlighted that the contempt vote, while passing, largely fell along party lines with a final vote of 230-198. Business Insider reported that Democratic leadership moved the vote forward in response to Trump’s “go back” tweets aimed at four Democratic congresswomen. Business Insider also quoted Trump saying “Knowing this information is vital to formulating sound public policy, whether the issue is healthcare, education, civil rights, or immigration.” Trump added, “We must have a reliable count of how many citizens, noncitizens, and illegal aliens are in our country.”