×

Major Networks Decide to Carry Trump’s Primetime Border Security Speech

WASHINGTON — Major broadcast and cable networks will carry President Donald Trump’s primetime speech on border security, as the White House tries to use the power of the bully pulpit to break an impasse with Democrats that has led to the partial government shutdown.

The White House requested primetime at 9 p.m. ET for the speech, but the broadcast networks engaged in some deliberation as to whether to carry it amid concerns that it would be merely a political event or that Trump would have to be extensively fact-checked for falsehoods in his remarks. The broadcast networks in 2014 declined to air President Barack Obama’s primetime address on immigration, reportedly because it was seen as “overtly political.”

Trump said his address will be on “the humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border,” not mentioning the wall. The White House told CBS that the speech would be no longer than eight minutes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the networks to give Democrats rebuttal time.

“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,” they said in a joint statement.

The networks did not immediately say whether they would carry a response.

The major cable news networks will carry the speech live, as was expected, but the broadcast networks deliberated for much of the afternoon. On social media, pundits and media critics questioned just how the networks would cover the speech or whether they would air it live at all.

“So this should be a relatively easy decision,” wrote Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for Obama, noting the 2014 decision to not air Obama’s immigration speech.

“Trump will attack the networks no matter what they do. So why be complicit in lies by caving in? Demand to see the speech in advance and say no if he is lying. Is this treating him differently from other presidents? Yes. Because no other president has lied on the scale he does,” wrote columnist E.J. Dionne.

As Trump has amped up his public campaign for border wall funding, news organizations have grappled with how to put his statements in context or to fact check in real time. For instance, during a news conference on Friday, Trump claimed that predecessors in the White House had told him they would have supported a border wall, but that was contradicted by spokespersons for the living ex-commanders in chief.

Still, to deny the airtime would come with the inevitable pushback from many on the right. Trump routinely calls the “fake news media” the “enemy of the people,” and did so earlier on Monday, and has reveled in characterizing journalists as the “opposition.”

“Many have become crazed lunatics who have given up on the TRUTH!…” Trump wrote on Monday.

Moreover, Trump has said one of his options is to declare a “national emergency” to gain funds for the wall from the military budget, rather than by congressional resolution. If Trump declares such an emergency during the speech, the broadcast networks would want to be there for a major news event.

“I don’t know how you walk past this one if you are a news organization, when the president is speaking at a moment like this,” Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, told CNN. He is the former chief White House correspondent for the network.

Democrats have refused Trump’s request for $5.6 billion to fund the initial construction of a concrete or steel structure, denying the president the fulfillment of a central campaign promise. He did say throughout the campaign that Mexico would pay the cost to build the wall, but did not specify how that would be done.

Trump’s demand for wall funding led to the partial shutdown of the federal government that has so far lasted 16 days and sidelined about 800,000 federal workers. Negotiations between Vice President Mike Pence and congressional leadership aides over the weekend yielded little progress.

Democrats say that if Trump declares a national emergency, it will be of questionable legality. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN on Monday that while Trump could declare such an emergency, it would almost certainly be challenged in court.

Oval Office addresses used to be a standard venue for presidential addresses to the nation, as the commander in chief sat at his desk and looked earnestly in the camera to express some major concern or warn of a crisis.

But that type of speech has fallen out of favor in recent administrations, as perhaps too stilted for the modern era and difficult to make an impact with such a fractious viewership.

Trump has chosen other venues, like the Diplomatic Room or the East Room, for major announcements, or other locales to give policy addresses. In August, 2017, he outlined his strategy for Afghanistan at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. Obama also preferred other spots than the Oval Office, and gave his farewell address to a rally in Chicago.

David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser, wondered why Trump had chosen the Oval Office for this speech, given that Trump has been more comfortable where he can be before an audience.

Axelrod wrote on Twitter, “I can’t think of a less effective format for @realdonaldtrump than an Oval Office address. He’s terrible at reading off a prompter. Stiff. Wooden. And unlike his stand up act, there’s no crowd to rev up. No reporters to dog. No room for ad libs. And a requirement to be brief!”

More Politics

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk – and success — hanging [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein Bail Decision Delayed, More Accusers Coming Forward

    Jeffrey Epstein won’t find out if he’s going to be released on bail until July 18, even as prosecutors argued that the multimillionaire businessman presents a flight risk and could endanger his accusers unless he remains in jail. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, Epstein’s legal team said their client is willing [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    FTC Approves $5 Billion Fine Against Facebook for Privacy Violations

    The Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Facebook around $5 billion for violations of the FTC’s consumer-privacy rules, according to multiple media reports — the biggest privacy-related fine in the commission’s history. The $5 billion figure may be a record-breaker, but it represents less than Facebook reported in net profit ($5.43 billion) for the first [...]

  • United States Secretary of Labor Alexander

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta Resigning Amid Epstein Controversy

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has tendered his resignation to President Trump after facing criticism for a plea deal he struck with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 after Epstein was charged with luring teenage girls to his mansion for sex. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump made the announcement Friday, telling reporters that Acosta [...]

  • President Donald Trump listens to a

    Donald Trump's Blocking of Critics on Twitter Again Ruled Unconstitutional

    Donald Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution when he blocks specific users on Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled, upholding a lower court’s decision. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday ruled that the First Amendment does not allow public officials who use social media in an official capacity to [...]

  • Ross Perot Dead: Once Presidential Nominee

    Ross Perot, Billionaire Third-Party Presidential Candidate, Dies at 89

    Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire who ran for president twice in the 1990’s, has died. He was 89. Perot died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas after a battle with leukemia, the Associated Press confirmed. “In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action,” his family’s statement said. “A true [...]

  • Peter Shapiro

    Peter Shapiro Named Chair of HeadCount Board of Directors

    Peter Shapiro, founder of Dayglo Ventures, which operates music venues Brooklyn Bowl and the Capitol Theatre as well as  the Lockn’ Music Festival, Relix Magazine, The Rock & Roll Playhouse and Garcia’s, has been named Chair of the Board of Directors of HeadCount, a non-profit which facilitates voter registration at thousands of live music events each [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content