Broadcast Networks Deliberate, Then Decide to Carry Trump's Border Speech

Donald Trump-Getty-H 2018
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The president's upcoming Tuesday night address on immigration and border security quickly became a political hot potato.

Still licking their wounds from criticism faced over their coverage of the 2016 presidential election, the three major broadcast news networks — NBC, ABC and CBS — all took time to "deliberate" on Monday before eventually deciding to air President Donald Trump's upcoming Tuesday night address about immigration and border security.

The media micro-controversy began, as it often does, with a tweet. "I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern," the president wrote Monday afternoon.

Trump's announcement was greeted with partisan invective and a pre-emptive scolding of the television networks that broadcast to "the Nation" and would be expected to carry the president's speech.

These networks, which have been accused of poorly covering Trump's presidential candidacy and handing over their still-massive audiences to him, ultimately decided to join with the big three cable news networks and will air the speech, which is likely to contain some of the factual inaccuracies and distortions the president is known for.

Many on Twitter called for the networks to opt against airing the speech, following a precedent set in 2014, when they passed on a speech made on immigration by President Barack Obama that was considered to be too partisan for national broadcast.

Tuesday night's speech will run no longer than eight minutes, the networks were told by the White House, and will focus on the partial government shutdown, the situation at the border with Mexico and the midnight deadline for federal paychecks.

CBS News, the first of the Big Three to announce a decision, will air a special report hosted by CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor.

CNN and Fox News were quick to announce plans to air the speech, while MSNBC took time to internally discuss coverage plans before confirming on Monday evening that it would air the speech.

The decisions to carry the speech were not particularly popular on Twitter.

"RIDICULOUS that they are caving after saying no to Obama on the same topic," said former Joe Biden chief of staff Ronald Klain. 

Some suggested that the networks should fact-check the speech in real time. "Live fact-checking is required for this," said former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, a CNN contributor. "Putting on the bottom third of the screen, 'this is not true,' is not hard. We know what the lies are."

On Monday evening, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a joint statement demanding that the networks give Democrats equal time as the president to discuss immigration. The statement intimated that Trump’s address would likely be “full of malice and misinformation,” given past assertions the president has made on the issue.