Did the Networks Get Played by Trump’s Address? Either Way, They Failed.
DONALD TRUMP’S FIRST OVAL OFFICE ADDRESS to the nation last night was, as many predicted in advance, driven by false and misleading claims. It was also, as many predicted in advance, dull and repetitious. The president did not declare a national emergency; rather, he cycled through his deck of familiar anti-immigration talking points, doubled down on his border-wall plans, and moved the needle not a jot on his deadlocked negotiations with congressional Democrats. As Adam Sneed, an editor at CityLab, tweeted, the address was “The national political equivalent of a meeting that could’ve been an email.”
Commentators who argued that the networks shouldn’t carry the address in the first place claimed its anticlimactic nature vindicated them. “The networks interrupted their entertainment fare for the lamest rerun on national television: Trump’s immigration talking points,” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple tweeted. “Shame on you, networks,” CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis added, “Shame on you.” And Pod Save America’s Dan Pfeiffer channeled many on the left when he said, “The networks got played.” Proponents of airing, including network bosses, don’t agree—the decision to go live, as the Post’s Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi report, was less a bet on the likely content of the speech than a reflection of its newsworthy timing on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown. As with its message on immigration, when it comes to the debate over airing Trump’s lies, it’s unlikely the address changed too many minds last night.
Jon Allsop, writing for Columbia Journalism Review, takes a close (and critical) look at the networks’ decision to carry President Donald J. Trump’s Oval Office address.