Networks Debate Whether To Cover Trump’s National Address On Immigration

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Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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Broadcast networks are currently debating if they will air President Donald Trump’s first prime-time national address Tuesday, citing fears that they will become a platform for untruths from the president.

Trump announced Monday that he will deliver an address from the Oval Office about the “humanitarian and national security” crisis on the U.S. southern border amid the third week of the partial government shutdown. The White House requested airtime from television networks at 9 p.m. EST.

While CNN and Fox News both confirmed that they would carry the national address, the major broadcast networks — CBS, ABC, and NBC — are apparently unsure as to whether they should air the speech live.

The networks are primarily concerned that Trump’s speech will be too partisan and contain too many falsehoods to be aired live without some kind of fact-checking. Some, like cable news network MSNBC, have opted no longer to cover White House press briefings and press conferences live for the same reason.

One television executive explained the dilemma to CNN’s Brian Stelter, writing in a text, “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.”

There is some precedent for networks opting not to cover a presidential address — CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox chose to forego coverage of former President Barack Obama’s immigration address in 2014. One network insider told Politico at the time that the speech, which covered immigration reform, was too “overtly political.” (RELATED: CNN, MSNBC Cut Away From Trump’s Speech After Covering Entirety Of Obama’s)

However, Trump’s address is arguably higher-stakes, since it comes in the middle of a partial government shutdown and the president has floated the idea of declaring a national emergency to build the wall. And, unlike Obama’s frequent public addresses from the Oval Office, this will be Trump’s first prime-time address.

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