How TV Networks Treated Trump's Border Speech Differently Than Obama's Immigration Speech

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It doesn't take a policy wonk or hours reading the news every day to tell that Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama are extremely different leaders, politicians, and people. However, what's less obvious is the fact that even though Trump holds the position that Obama once held, the two have received very different coverage in the news — and on TV in particular. In one particularly glaring example, Trump's border speech and an immigration speech of Obama's will end up getting very different TV coverage.

In November 2014, Obama was planning to give a prime-time address to discuss his executive action on immigration. This was his move to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and it was very unpopular with Republicans, as The Washington Post wrote. When the White House presented the idea to the major TV networks, however, none of them decided to run Obama's speech, as The Post reported at the time. This didn't mean his speech didn't appear on TV at all; The Post explained that many local stations decided to play the address, and it was on several cable networks. The major TV networks, though, like ABC, NBC, and CBS, all opted instead to play their Thursday lineup of shows.

At the time, a "network insider" told Politico's Playbook that “there was agreement among the broadcast networks that [Obama's address] was overtly political," and that this consideration — in addition to ratings concerns — led to the decision not to air it.

Fast forward to January 2019, with Donald Trump as the occupant of the Oval Office and the government in its third week of a partial shutdown. On Monday, Trump announced a national address about the border wall, which he said he would give on Tuesday before actually going to the southern border later in the week, as The New York Times reported. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised that he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. With Mexico unwilling to do that, Trump has now turned to Congress to fund the wall. In December, he refused to sign a spending bill that didn't include wall funding, which then caused a partial government shutdown.

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Despite the fact that most Americans oppose the wall, all of the major networks have decided to cover Trump's speech, as CNN reported.

This decision has already received criticism, and many have suggested networks only show the speech if they have real-time fact checkers. Democratic congressional leaders issued a statement saying "Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime" after Trump's speech, because "if his past statements are any indication [it] will be full of malice and misinformation."

As Vox wrote, both speeches are of a political nature, with a president trying to convince the country of the necessity of his actions. The difference, however, is that Trump's discussion of immigration in the past has rested on mountains of disinformation, as Vox wrote. This is also a president who made an average of 15 false claims every day in 2018, according to The Washington Post's count. The major networks will give Trump space to make his claims on Tuesday anyway.