On the same day Donald Trump asked broadcast networks for air time, he attacked the news media as ‘the enemy of the people.’
President Donald Trump announced Monday that he “will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.”
Keep in mind that just a few hours earlier, Trump declared on Twitter: “The Fake News Media in our Country is the real Opposition Party. It is truly the Enemy of the People! We must bring honesty back to journalism and reporting!”
On the same day that he continued his never-ending attack on the free press, President Trump is asking the media to give him prime-time air to address the nation.
It is a disservice to the American people to broadcast, without context or real-time fact-checking, someone who is using the airwaves for the sole purpose of lying to the American people about an overtly racist agenda.
In 710 days, Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims. He is a proven, pathological liar. He lies about things large and small. He lies when he doesn’t even need to. He even lies when there is indisputable evidence proving he is wrong.
Read more commentary:
ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox were still deciding Monday night whether they would air Trump’s address. Cable news stations CNN, Fox News and Fox Business have confirmed that they will air the speech live, while MSNBC is considering the request.
For any network considering airing Trump’s “address” live, executives should consider his bizarre statements during his 90-minute Cabinet meeting last week. He claimed to have fired former Defense Secretary James Mattis, when in reality, Mattis resigned. He laughably declared that he “would’ve been a good general” when he used five deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam. He said he “could be the most popular person in Europe” while also saying, “I don’t care about Europe.” He mocked the building of a library in Afghanistan and oddly claimed that “Jeff Flake is now selling real estate, or whatever.”
Then there was Trump’s brief publicity stunt Thursday in the White House briefing room, where he refused to take any questions from reporters.
Giving Donald Trump air time without context or conditions is downright irresponsible. Yes, the public at large has a right to hear from the president, but the media have a responsibility to provide their audience with context and facts.
Here are several options for how the news networks could approach Trump’s Tuesday night remarks:
►Air the president’s address on a 15-to-30 minute delay so they can fact-check his statements and air those fact-checks as the remarks are broadcast.
►Refuse to air the speech in its entirety and only air truly newsworthy sound bites about substance and public policy.
►Get an advance copy of the speech and clear it for accuracy before agreeing to air it.
►Give a Democrat, such as Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, equal time to rebut the president.
The reality is no matter what news networks do, Donald Trump will not relent on his crusade to brand the media “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” Knowing that, the news media should err on the side of the public good and the public interest. They should calibrate their programming decisions around the most effective way to communicate truth, fact and context to their audiences.
Make no mistake about it, if the media decide to air the president’s remarks unchallenged and unfiltered, they are complicit in spreading propaganda and disinformation to the American people.
Kurt Bardella is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and served as the spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009-13. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/01/07/abc-cbs-nbc-fox-msnbc-cnn-trump-wall-speech-column/2506114002/