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The President's Preemptive Strike

NBC is hurting on Thursdays now that "Friends" is gone, but it's still a major night for the network.

"Solidarity" was the word of the day at the three networks.

But six networks just weren't enough for the president's program. So the White House started in with the "Sopranos" stuff, as that network suit described it.

First NBC, which, according to TV industry sources, said it would consider carrying the president's chit-chat with reporters if it started at 8 so the network didn't have to preempt both its 8-9 p.m. sitcom block and "The Apprentice."

The White House agreed, and soon the cable news networks were reporting: "Just moments ago we learned that the press conference was moved from 8:30 to 8 due to complications of network programming," as Suzanne Malveaux told Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

Thus can it be said that Donald Trump forced the president of the United States to reschedule an address to the nation. Way to go, Donald!

Fox caved around 4 p.m., leaving CBS, which went down around 6.

We called the White House press office to ask why they changed the show start to 8 p.m.

Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "We were in touch with some networks and starting on the hour was more accommodating, so we decided to move to 8."

We told McClellan that we thought it was extremely brave of the White House to risk incurring the wrath of "Survivor," "C.S.I." and "The Apprentice" fans, not to mention "The O.C." fans," to hold a news conference that's an attempt to increase the president's approval rating. McClellan laughed and said he didn't know what shows were on, but he also said, "We want to reach the largest audience."

"We have caved," one network suit reported sorrowfully late yesterday, referring to the broadcasters collectively.

And if the White House is hoping this news conference will win Bush back some fans, don't count on fans of the preempted shows.

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