Several news networks have agreed to Democratic demands that they be given equal air time to respond to the President's White House address on immigration.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on January 9, 2019

NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox have all agreed to show the response to the contentious address. Cable networks MSNBC, CNN and Fox Business will also broadcast the reply.

The initial decision of major networks to broadcast Trump’s speech has been heavily criticised in the US media, with many pointing out that when Barack Obama made a similar request in 2014, it was rejected for being too partisan.

Pelosi and Schumer will respond to Trump’s address

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement on 7 January.

Once the networks agreed to air their response, Schumer and Pelosi later announced they would be the ones to respond on behalf of the Democrats.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, technically an independent, will also make his own response to Trump’s comments. Sanders’ response will be broadcast on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Many commentators had argued that Trump’s extensive history of making false statements meant it would be unconscionable to broadcast his speech without any fact checking or additional context. Per The Washington Post, Trump has made 7,645 false public statements in his 710 days as President.

Writing in USA Today, columnist Kurt Bardella wrote that the networks should not air Trump’s speech live as doing so would be irresponsible journalism. Instead, Bardella suggested networks could air it on a delay to allow for fact-checking his comments. Bardella also said another alternative would be to only air selected newsworthy sound bites from the speech rather than the entire address.

Veteran journalist Ted Koppel took the opposite view, arguing that “When the president of the United States asks for airtime, you’ve got to do it,” and that Trump should receive the benefit of the doubt. “If what he has to say is clearly just in his self-interest and does not address the greater national interest, then the next time the White House comes around, I might not be inclined to offer it,” Koppel added.

Trump has said he will address the “National Secuirty crisis” in his speech

Trump confirmed the speech was going ahead on Twitter on 7 January, “I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.”

News outlets such as Slate have said Trump’s characterisation of the situation with Mexico as a national security crisis as extremely misleading, while The New York Times has said that any crisis is self-created.

The speech is expected to last for around eight minutes. Trump is then expected to travel to the US-Mexico border on Thursday.

The ongoing debate over immigration is playing out as the US government shutdown drags on into its third week. Democrats have continued to refuse to agree to the additional funding Trump needs to construct a wall along the border. Trump is still seeking US$5.7 billion for the border wall.

Header image credit: Gage Skidmore