In what media critics, journalists, and progressive lawmakers described as capitulation to a president who lies constantly to advance his xenophobic aims, all of America's major television networks have opted to grant Donald Trump a primetime slot Tuesday night to deliver an immigration address that analysts predicted will almost certainly be filled with hysteria and devoid of facts.
"Why on earth are the networks carrying Trump's speech? He is trying to make policy by shutting down the government. That is unacceptable."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
"You are willingly helping Trump spread disinformation," the Washington Post's Greg Sargent wrote in response to news late Monday that ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox will all run Trump's speech at 9:00 pm ET.
"The networks are capitulating to Trump," Sargent added. "The only way for them to redeem this is to break major new ground rebutting his lies. It's as if the last two years of disinformation, abuse of journalists and efforts to destroy the media's institutional role didn't happen."
Memo to the networks:
Let me share two charts with you.
The first details Trump's lies about immigration broken down by week.
The second details Trump's lies about immigration broken down by day.
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) January 8, 2019
MoveOn.org is circulating a petition calling on the networks to reverse their decision. In part, it reads:
Networks refused to air President Obama's 2014 speech on immigration. Trump's speech, if it follows his track record, will be full of lies and attacks, all about shoring up right-wing political support.
Networks can send a clear message to a man who has attacked immigrants and Muslims, abused the free press, shuttered our government, and threatens democracy: Refuse to air his hateful lies.
Corporate television networks have long been accused of giving Trump a free platform to spew vicious lies and propaganda with zero pushback. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump was handed billions of dollars in free media, which he exploited to peddle racist fear-mongering and ultimately win the White House.
Following the networks' decision Monday night, social media users began calling for boycotts of the address and urging people to voice their outrage at the outlets that decided to air it.
Trump's primetime stunt is a campaign dog-whistle to his base, NOT a legitimate policy speech about a genuine crisis. Shame on every TV station that airs it. #BoycottTrumpsAddress
— Effective while at the same time beautiful Hope (@hopedellon) January 8, 2019
4 years ago ABC CBS FOX CNN and NBC declined to air a prime time address on Immigration from Obama cuz its content was too “overtly political”. However, they will air the “address” tonight..
Shame on them #BoycottTrumpsAddress
— Sarah (@sblaufus) January 8, 2019
"Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading claims over 649 days," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) declared on Twitter, citing Washington Post figures. "Immigration is an area where he simply cannot tell truth. He isn't entitled to primetime coverage to essentially make the case for his campaign pledge."
Why on earth are the networks carrying Trump's speech tomorrow? He will continue his lies when the only truth is that this is all b/c of his vanity wall. He is trying to make policy by shutting down the government. That is unacceptable. #DontAirTrumpLive
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 8, 2019
Georgetown University professor Don Moynihan argued that even if the networks decide to fact-check the president's speech in real-time, they are still "endorsing and enabling Trump's false narrative that there is a national emergency going on by treating it like a national emergency."
"This is no different from Trump co-opting the media into presenting the caravan as a national threat prior to the midterm. He is running the same play, everyone knows it, and they go along anyway."
—Don Moynihan, Georgetown University
"This is no different from Trump co-opting the media into presenting the caravan as a national threat prior to the midterm," Moynihan added. "He is running the same play, everyone knows it, and they go along anyway."
After it became clear that the major broadcast networks would carry Trump's speech despite significant pushback and boycott calls, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a joint statement Monday night demanding equal airtime to counter the president's remarks.
"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," Pelosi and Schumer declared.
The Democratic congressional leaders also called on the president to "stop hurting the country by re-opening the government and ending the Trump shutdown."
"Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans in Congress have repeatedly urged the president and [Senate Majority] Leader [Mitch] McConnell to end the Trump Shutdown and re-open the government while Congress debates the president's expensive and ineffective wall," the Democratic leaders said. "Unfortunately, President Trump keeps rejecting the bipartisan House-passed bills, which have already received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, to re-open the government."
Trump's address will come as the partial government shutdown over his demand for over $5 billion in border wall funding continues into its third week with agreement in sight.
As CNN's Harry Enten notes, polls show that 55 percent of Americans blame either Trump or congressional Republicans for the prolonged and deeply harmful shutdown, and most of the public has "also consistently been opposed to his idea of a border wall with Mexico."