Major broadcast and cable news networks have agreed to air President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night Oval Office address on what he has dubbed a “crisis” on the southern border.
Trump’s announcement Monday that he will deliver remarks in prime time prompted debate over whether the networks should provide the president a platform given his propensity for spreading falsehoods, especially in his fight with Democratic lawmakers to secure additional government funding for a border wall.
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According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump has made 1,130 false or misleading claims about immigration since taking office.
Nevertheless, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and Fox Business each confirmed by Monday evening that they would carry the president’s remarks. And though Trump has dubbed the non-Fox networks the “enemy of the people,” he still benefits from networks’ inclination to honor airtime requests for presidential addresses.
But the networks haven’t always ceded valuable prime-time coverage to other presidents.
In 2014, four broadcast networks — CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox — declined to run a speech by President Barack Obama on immigration, while the cable networks aired the address. A network insider told POLITICO at the time that “there was agreement among the broadcast networks that [Obama’s speech] was overtly political.”
The networks are sure to face no small amount of blowback from the decision to air Trump’s address amid a government shutdown triggered by partisan debate over the president’s signature campaign trail promise, with administration officials and Democrats on Capitol Hill remaining at an impasse over the border wall proposal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for a televised opportunity to respond to the president.
“Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,“ the Democratic leaders said in a statement.
Some commentators are already suggesting certain restrictions on Trump’s speech, such as a brief delay so fact-checkers can scrutinize the president’s statements in real time.
“If you are going to run this speech, you need to do two things: a tape delay to point out lies and misrepresentations in real time, and a rebuttal to follow,” tweeted Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based conservative think tank.
Washington Post writer Greg Sargent argued against the networks’ carrying the president’s speech live, pointing to charts showing how “Trump’s dishonesty about immigration has escalated throughout his presidency” and “reached staggering heights” at “moments of political difficulty.”