Tuesday night, for the first time in his presidency, President Donald Trump will be addressing the nation live during primetime from the Oval Office — but it’s not a given that the nation is actually going to stop to watch him. The four major broadcast stations including ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX did not rush to confirm they would actually air the president’s speech, pushing aside their regularly scheduled programming. Although the others could come around to the idea by Tuesday night, the only networks who immediately confirmed plans to air the speech were Fox’s cable channels and CNN.
One anonymous television station executive complained to CNN’s Brian Stelter of the president:
‘He calls us fake news all the time, but needs access to airwaves… If we give him the time, he’ll deliver a fact-free screed without rebuttal. And if we don’t give him the time, he’ll call every network partisan. So we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.’
The Trump team has previously whined about supposed partisanship at major networks when they wouldn’t air a racist campaign ad, as if the media is obligated to share exactly what Trump wants.
His Tuesday address is meant to cover the supposed crisis at the nation’s southern border necessitating Trump’s refusal to approve any government funding if it doesn’t include billions of dollars for a border wall. In reality, there’s little evidence to back up the Trump team’s claims about the threats posed at the southern border, and the president and members of his team have flagrantly lied repeatedly. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for instance, has been among those to claim that large numbers of known or suspected terrorists are apprehended at the United States’ border with Mexico, but that’s just not true.
Considering these issues, any network that does air Trump’s speech Tuesday night will no doubt be giving him a platform to spread his lies to millions of people across the United States.
There is a precedent for networks refusing to air presidential speeches. ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX all declined to air a late 2014 address that then-President Barack Obama offered on immigration policy, although it was picked up by a number of cable networks, including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
The respective positions offered in the two speeches under consideration likely couldn’t be more different, of course.
Prominent political analyst Larry Sabato offered:
‘Any network that gives President Trump time for his “national address” tomorrow evening on #TheWall is morally obligated to offer equal time to the opposition. Who should respond? I propose President Obama. It’s that important.’
Although that might not happen, the showdown between Trump and everybody else over his insistence on a border wall remains ongoing.
Democrats — now in control of the U.S. House — have insisted the concept of a border wall is a nonstarter for funding negotiations. As the mess continues, Trump will be traveling to the border with Mexico later this week, where he’s claimed migrants are “invading” and bringing drugs, crime, disease and whatever else he can dream up.
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