WASHINGTON — NBC, Fox, ABC and CBS confirmed that they will air a Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s primetime address on border security on Tuesday evening, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer requested the time.
Cable news networks, including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, also will show the response, amid concerns that Trump would use the bully pulpit to make unsubstantiated claims and would need to be extensively fact checked. The White House has told networks that the president’s speech would be no longer than eight minutes, and after they agreed to air the address, Pelosi and Schumer asked for equal time. They will speak from the Capitol after Trump’s remarks.
The commercial broadcast networks deliberated for several hours on Monday after the White House requested the time, and have drawn criticism from pundits and media watchdogs, as well as lawmakers on the left. On NBC on Monday night, Seth Meyers said on “Late Night” that in airing his speech, the networks were “just passing on his lies unfiltered.”
“They should either reject him outright, or if he insists on speaking in primetime, make him do it as a contestant on ‘The Masked Singer,’” Meyers said during his show’s segment called “A Closer Look.”
On “Morning Joe,” co-host Joe Scarborough questioned the decision to run Trump’s speech “when they know that he is going to be spreading lies and falsehoods.” He noted that the networks declined to air past presidents’ addresses, including one from former president Barack Obama.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski said the networks should refuse to run the speech.
“Done right, a nighttime Oval Office address can unite the country in trying times. It can inspire the better angels in ourselves. But all the signs here indicate that is not what Donald Trump has in mind, and the networks have a decision to make,” she said. “Do they want to run the promise of more lies, more misleading statistics, more twisting of reality, mindless confrontation, all for the sake of defending Trump’s dark twisted fantasy and a wall on the Mexican border?”
The White House said that the speech will be about a humanitarian and national security crisis at the border, something that Vice President Mike Pence echoed in interviews on network morning shows on Tuesday. He told CBS News’ Major Garrett that the number of families and unaccompanied children showing up at the border is “overwhelming” the ability of “our customs and border patrol to deal with it. Add to that human trafficking and narcotics. The apprehension in the last year of 17,000 people at our border with previously criminal history.”
But Pence also made clear that he was pressing Congress to “do its job and come to the table,” as the impasse with Democrats over funding of Trump’s proposed border wall has led to a partial government shutdown.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday about record numbers of families “streaming into the United States,” but the story also raised questions about the effectiveness of a concrete wall or steel barrier in managing the inflow.
Networks also are under pressure to fact-check Trump’s speech, including claims of a flow of suspected terrorists across the southern order. NBC News reported on Monday that U.S. border protection officials stopped only six immigrants in the first half of 2018 whose names were on a list of suspected terrorists, in contrast to White House claims that the number was in the thousands.
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