Trump announced in a tweet on Monday that he will deliver his address at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday. In his tweet, the president characterized the situation on the border as a “national security crisis.”
Four hours later, none of the major networks had announced whether they would air the address. Network newsrooms were abuzz with speculation about what the broadcasters would decide.
Presidents have been using Oval Offices addresses on broadcast networks to make big announcements for decades. But the networks sometimes resist requests for air time for a variety of reasons, including the perceived urgency of the subject and the popularity of the shows that would be interrupted.
With Trump, there are other factors to consider, including his record of deception and his tendency to ramble off script in long speeches.
Many Trump critics posted messages on social media urging the networks not to air an address that could be filled with falsehoods. Some said that a prominent Democrat should be given equal time. It is unclear if any sort of Democratic rebuttal is in the works.
Spokespeople for ABC, CBS, NBC, the Fox broadcast network, and PBS either declined to comment or said they would comment at a later time.
One of the TV executives who spoke to CNN Business confirmed that the White House had requested time for the speech, as is customary in the relationship between a president and the press.
“Time has been requested for 9 p.m. Networks are deliberating,” the network executive said.
Trump is almost certain to go ahead with the address regardless of what the broadcast networks do.
Spokespeople for CNN and Fox News said their networks would air the address. A spokesman for MSNBC said the channel’s coverage plans were “still being discussed.” It would be highly unusual for the cable news networks not to air a presidential prime time address.
Trump’s Monday request for networks to air his speech touched on a number of debates that have been raging in journalism since his ascension to the Oval Office. Among them: Should his fact-free speeches be aired live? What kind of fact-checking methods should networks employ?