During a discussion on Fox News Tuesday morning about President Donald Trump’s upcoming primetime address to the nation on what he is calling a “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” America’s Newsroom host Bill Hemmer had a question about all the consternation around whether the big three broadcast networks would grant him the air time.
“Why was there even a debate among these networks whether to take this Oval Office address?” Hemmer asked. “He’s never done it before! It would be the first one. Under any other president, there is no debate.”
“Well, actually it was a debate,” one of the show’s guests, former DNC spokesperson Mo Elleithee said, attempting to remind Hemmer that the networks refused to carry an Oval Office address from President Barack Obama on the issue of immigration in 2014.
But Hemmer blew right past him.
“He was six years in, midway through his second term,” Hemmer said of Obama. “This should not have even been a question yesterday.”
It wasn’t until about an hour later that Fox News tried to clean up Hemmer’s mess by inviting media critic Howard Kurtz on the same show to give viewers a heavily caveated history lesson.
After saying he would be “surprised” if the broadcast networks decide to air the planned official response from House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Kurtz argued that “all of this hand wringing by the broadcast networks over whether to air the president’s speech just shows that Donald Trump really is held to a different standard.”
Kurtz acknowledged that other presidents have been “turned down” in the past, but, like Hemmer, dismissed those instances because they came late in their presidencies. “And those who say, ‘Oh, he’s just going to give a political speech,’ every speech by a president is on some level political.”
As for the concerns that Trump will use his platform to spread misinformation, Kurtz said, “It doesn’t help at all for the Democrats to engage in preemptive charges of lying” and criticized the “self-righteous preening” by political pundits who are urging the networks not to air Trump’s speech “because he’ll just get up there and lie.”
One of those commentators he may have been referring to was MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, who said earlier on Morning Joe, “Like they’ve done with other presidents in other times, the networks should refuse to turn over the airwaves to Donald Trump tonight for what they know objectively to be a steady stream of lies. Maybe that will stop him from debasing yet another one of our historic, solemn and cherished presidential traditions.”
“It’s not that the president always tells the truth,” Kurtz added, generously, pointing for example to Trump’s false claim that former presidents support his border wall. But since “this is the most fact-checked president in history,” he felt confident that should Trump say anything untrue, it would be corrected.
“Speaking of fact-checking, might as well take a look back at networks refusing primetime presidential addresses considering there was even a debate over this,” Sandra Smith then added in a direct response to her co-host Hemmer’s previous remarks.
After Smith reviewed the numerous instances in which networks declined airtime to Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, Kurtz admitted that it was hardly “unprecedented” as Hemmer had implied.