TV executive worries about airing Trump live

President Donald Trump tweeted he will address the nation Tuesday night, claiming a "humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border."

Posted: Jan 8, 2019 5:27 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2019 5:51 PM

President Trump is tapping into one of the powers of the presidency, a televised Oval Office address, for his first time. He will receive wall-to-wall coverage for his pro-wall speech on Tuesday night. And to say that there are mixed feelings about that is an understatement.

While the address may not change anyone's mind, there are very strong feelings both for and against the television networks' decisions to televise it in the first place. The debate isn't just raging on social media -- it is happening inside the networks as well.

At issue: How should a uniquely deceptive president be treated by TV networks that value the truth?

For some, it's a no-brainer: A presidential address from the Oval Office merits live coverage. Period.

For others, it's a no-brainer in the other direction: This particular president is so prone to falsehoods and fear-mongering that his speeches shouldn't be shown live.

The major networks "should refuse to turn over the airwaves to Donald Trump tonight for what they know objectively to be a steady stream of lies," MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Tuesday morning.

But MSNBC and its broadcast network brother, NBC, will carry the address, just like its rivals.

Stephen Colbert, the host of "The Late Show," alluded to the internal tensions in a tweet on Monday night. "My network will be carrying Trump's Wall speech live. So at 9pm Tuesday, tune into CBS to See B.S.," he wrote.

This issue is reflective of all the ongoing arguments about Trump and the media. People who believe Trump is a dire threat to the country think that TV networks should not help spread his propaganda. People who believe Trump is saving the country think this debate is indicative of liberal media bias, and that "anti-Trump" media outlets are the true propagandists.

For network executives, tradition and news judgment — the simple idea that this is "a presidential address from the Oval Office" — outweighed concerns about the content.

There is widespread agreement that anchors and reporters will be under pressure to fact-check and contextualize whatever Trump says.

When the White House officially requested airtime on Monday from the broadcast networks, as is customary in these cases, network executives deliberated about it for a few hours.

A TV executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, observed: "He calls us fake news all the time, but needs access to airwaves and cable pipes to deliver his false narrative."

On Monday evening CBS said yes, it would air the address, and NBC and ABC followed within minutes. The Fox broadcast network and PBS will also carry the address, along with all the major cable news channels, including CNN.

Veteran ABC anchor Ted Koppel, speaking with The New York Times, said Trump deserved the "benefit of the doubt."

Many Democratic political pros and other Trump opponents disagreed.

Trump's narrative about the southern border "really is fiction. That's the problem for putting this on the air," former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said on CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday.

"The networks, I hope, yesterday struggled with the decision to put this on, because he consistently hasn't told the truth. Someone's got to fact-check that," Lockhart said.

Tuesday's prime time speech follows several other on-camera pitches for a border wall in the last week, including a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room and a 90-minute Cabinet meeting that the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler called a "fact-checking nightmare." These recent television appearances have sparked debate about whether networks should air Trump's remarks in real-time.

Seth Meyers, the host of "Late Night" on NBC, took a position about this on his show Monday night.

"Just because Trump wants to address the nation doesn't mean networks should air it. Otherwise, they're just passing on his lies unfiltered," Meyers said.

Then came his joke: "They should either reject him outright, or if he insists on speaking in prime time, make him do it as a contestant on 'The Masked Singer,'" referencing the new singing competition show on Fox.

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer released a joint statement on Monday evening calling for equal air 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 wrote.

As of Tuesday morning, all the major cable and broadcast networks have confirmed that they will carry the Democratic speech.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 34211

Reported Deaths: 2125
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9761576
Lake3573186
Allen160069
Cass15877
St. Joseph126634
Elkhart126228
Hendricks116671
Hamilton115493
Johnson1097108
Madison58659
Porter53428
Bartholomew50834
Clark49741
LaPorte43023
Howard40428
Tippecanoe3933
Delaware38536
Jackson3821
Shelby37122
Hancock33127
Floyd31839
Boone31635
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2662
Montgomery23817
White2338
Noble22821
Clinton2271
Decatur22431
Grant21022
Dubois1993
Harrison19422
Henry17211
Greene16924
Vigo1688
Dearborn16821
Monroe16712
Warrick16628
Lawrence15924
Miami1401
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Kosciusko1271
Orange12622
Scott1193
Franklin1108
Ripley1086
Marshall1021
Carroll932
Daviess8516
Steuben832
Wayne785
Fayette777
Newton7710
Wabash772
LaGrange762
Jasper661
Washington521
Clay511
Jay500
Fulton491
Randolph473
Rush462
Pulaski460
Jefferson451
Whitley413
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan351
Owen341
Brown331
Perry320
Wells310
Benton300
Knox280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Blackford252
Crawford240
Fountain212
Switzerland200
Spencer201
Parke170
Adams171
Posey160
Gibson152
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0167

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 118917

Reported Deaths: 5330
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook771193603
Lake8238288
DuPage7620368
Kane6259176
Will5510273
Winnebago220955
McHenry153972
St. Clair112180
Kankakee90045
Kendall77819
Rock Island65124
Champaign6277
Madison57259
Boone44117
DeKalb3994
Sangamon34829
Jackson28210
Randolph2694
Peoria2218
McLean21813
Ogle2033
Stephenson2012
Macon19419
Clinton18617
Union15510
LaSalle15013
Whiteside13912
Iroquois1314
Coles12615
Out of IL1181
Warren1150
Jefferson10116
Grundy982
Knox980
Monroe9511
McDonough8711
Lee811
Unassigned800
Cass730
Tazewell725
Henry690
Williamson661
Pulaski560
Marion500
Jasper457
Macoupin452
Adams441
Perry420
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan361
Christian354
Livingston342
Jo Daviess320
Douglas270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Menard200
Woodford192
Mason180
Washington180
Hancock170
Mercer170
Carroll162
Shelby161
Bureau151
Schuyler130
Bond121
Franklin120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Moultrie110
Piatt110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson80
Effingham71
Massac70
Saline70
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 57°
Robinson
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 57°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
60° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 60°
Rockville
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Casey
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 59°
Brazil
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 57°
Marshall
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 57°
A calm evening is expected
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events