Despite the fact that former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Dick Cheney each has an extensive history of heart problems, a review of the data shows that Clinton's recent scare received much more attention in both the mainstream and social media than Cheney's. Here's a recap:
Comparing mainstream news coverage
articles on Google News about Bill Clinton's emergency heart surgery Feb. 11 and 12
articles on Google News about Dick Cheney's fifth heart attack from Monday to Wednesday
- » Two stories, two paces: Clinton's heart issues had immediacy, whereas Cheney's story broke more slowly. Also, timing was a factor: Clinton's surgery story hit in the late afternoon on the East Coast, while word of Cheney's heart problems didn't become known until nearly 8 p.m. Washington time. As a result, Clinton was in the news cycle for two days while Cheney only led the news cycle for one.
- » Saturation point?: Immediately after the Haiti earthquake first broke, the media focused on Clinton due to his personal ties to the country, but he wasn't covered heavily day-to-day before the heart problems. Cheney, on the other hand, was a daily figure in the news in the days before his heart attack, thanks to a much-hyped appearance on ABC's "This Week" and his well-regarded (and surprising) CPAC speech.
Social media reaction
- You'd Expect Such High-Profile health scares to stir up Twitter users. And to some degree they did. But casting a wider net shows that both Bill Clinton's new stents and Dick Cheney's cardiac episode didn't overwhelm the site's popular consciousness the way that, say, a certain shocking celebrity death did. (One that, by the way, grabbed the site more in one 60-minute period than Haiti did at any point.)
of all tweets on Feb. 11 from 5 to 6 p.m. were about Bill Clinton's heart surgery source
of all tweets on Monday from 7 to 8 p.m. were about Dick Cheney's fifth heart attack source
of all tweets on Dec. 20 from 2 to 3 p.m. were about actress Brittany Murphy's death source
Two patients, two different tones
- Clinton love-tweet While there were some jokes about Clinton's past, most tweeters offered messages of concern, such as this pun of support from R&B singer Maxwell: "Our hearts go out to our former President Bill Clinton."
- Cheney hate-tweet Daily Show co-creator and prolific tweeter Lizz Winstead summed up the sentiment of the ill-wishers: "Dear Dick Cheney, Hear you are resting comfortably. Why doncha tell the millions who don't have healthcare what that feels like. #sickdick"
- » Cheney-watchers found elsewhere: While he trailed in tweets, Cheney had a much larger share of other social media hotspots, such as WordPress.com blogs and Yahoo Buzz, according to stats from Web analytics firm UberVU.
- » "This Week" nearly as buzzed-about: Cheney's appearance on the ABC talk show, where he claimed the Obama administration was slow to fight terrorists, drove nearly as many Twitter reactions on Sunday -- 2,388 -- as the heart attack did on Tuesday (2,943).
- » Clinton led the blogs, too: According to Google, 388,693 blogs mentioned Clinton's hospital visit in the three-day period immediately after. Cheney drew roughly half that -- 202,194 -- and that was with help from a NewsBusters report noting how Joy Behar and Bill Maher each made fun of his ailment.
...And then there was Rush Limbaugh
- The Radio Host's health scare was a huge talker. While Google Insight, which allows for analysis of search term popularity, won't let us compare Clinton's heart problems directly to Cheney's (due to a lack of updated information -- thanks a lot, guys), it did provide a couple of fairly astonishing facts: Barack Obama's State of the Union speech drew fewer searches than Bill Clinton's scare, but more impressively, Rush Limbaugh's chest pains near the end of last year, which turned out to be nothing, drew significantly more searches than either of those even. Shock's a huge driver of talk-radio audiences. But apparently a fifth heart attack doesn't phase the Web.