The major television networks will air Donald Trump’s lie-filled partisan rant about immigration Tuesday night. (No, it hasn’t happened yet, but that’s a safe prediction about the content.) Back in 2014, these same networks refused to air President Obama’s address on immigration because “there was agreement among the broadcast networks that [Obama’s speech] was overtly political.” And going back to 2006, networks did air President George W. Bush’s immigration address.
It’s … starting to look like a pattern, there. But not enough to shame the networks away from futilely sucking up to Trump!
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for time for a Democratic response, saying in a statement that, “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.” NBC, CBS, and CNN have announced they’ll broadcast the Democratic response. Good, as far as it goes.
But airing the Democratic response is an inadequate after-the-fact sop for the initial crime of airing Trump’s lies. We’ve been here before: Throughout the 2016 election, every speech and every press conference Donald Trump gave got endless live coverage, hours upon hours of free advertising that elevated his ideas and his racist bile. Now they assure us that they’ll fact-check him—but not until they’ve allowed him to rant unfiltered. Here’s a thought, guys. You could delay it enough to have a running fact-check on the screen (bonus points for a running falsehood count). You could refuse to air it at all—because, again, that’s what you did to Obama. That’s not the media we have, though. We have cowards who come crawling back for more no matter how many times they get kicked, no matter how many lies they’re used to promote.