Imagine, if you will, that the President of the United States addressed the American people, but all major television networks decided not to air his remarks.
Cue “Twilight Zone” theme.
That nearly happened. On Monday, President Trump announced that he would deliver a 9 p.m. address Tuesday from the Oval Office. For hours, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and CNN had internal debates on whether to air the address to the nation.
But on Tuesday, all major networks agreed to air Trump’s remarks live. That news prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to demand equal air time to respond — something that is only done during State of the Union addresses from presidents.
“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,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
The top two Democrats in Congress went on to say, “The facts are clear: President Trump has the power to stop hurting the country by re-opening the government and ending the Trump Shutdown.” The federal government partially shut down on December 22 when Senate Democrats refused to support a House-passed bill that set aside $5.7 billion for security on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans in Congress have repeatedly urged the President and Leader McConnell to end the Trump Shutdown and re-open the government while Congress debates the President’s expensive and ineffective wall,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, President Trump keeps rejecting the bipartisan House-passed bills, which have already received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, to re-open the government. Instead, he is still demanding that American taxpayers pay at least $5.7 billion for his wall, which can’t pass either chamber of Congress and of course Mexico is not paying for.
“On Day One of the new Congress, the House passed bipartisan legislation that honors our responsibility to protect the American people with funding for smart, effective border security solutions — just not the President’s wasteful and ineffective wall.”
It’s unclear if any of the networks will give Democrats “equal time” after Trump makes his address. If they do, it would be a highly unusual move — Republicans never received equal time after former President Barack Obama’s numerous addresses to the nation.
But Tuesday morning, Pelosi and Schumer announced that they would “deliver a response to President Trump’s 9:00 p.m. E.T. address Tuesday evening following the conclusion of his remarks.” Liberal cable networks like CNN and MSNBC will no doubt cover the remarks, but it’s unknown if the major networks will follow suit.
This will be Trump’s first Oval Office speech, and on Thursday he will travel to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter that he will use the visit to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”
Trump has offered concessions, agreeing to build the barrier with steel rather than concrete. They “don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,” he said. But Democrats say the wall is “immoral” and refuse to compromise.
“Maybe he thinks he can bully us. But I’m from Brooklyn. You let a bully succeed, you’ll be bullied again worse,” Schumer said at a Tuesday breakfast with the Association for a Better New York.