The president plans to deliver a prime-time address Tuesday, with the expectation that the broadcast television networks will break into their regular programming to air it. But those networks have no legal obligation to give President Trump free airtime to speak about his border wall. Indeed, they have a journalistic responsibility not to do so.
We already know what the president will say, because he’s been saying it for weeks, and some cases, for years: There is a crisis at the border; thousands of terrorists are trying to enter our country; drugs are pouring through a porous southern border.
We face a national emergency in that the president is willing to shut down the government until he gets the money for his wall or fence. There is likely to be nothing newsworthy in his speech to the nation. If there were, he likely couldn’t contain himself until Tuesday, and if there is something newsworthy, the networks, and every other outlet, would disseminate it immediately.
If the networks have offered Trump free time, they should put two conditions on it immediately. First, he should be questioned by a pool of anchors, say three: a broadcast anchor, one from Fox News and one from Telemundo. Second, the networks should give a Democrat equal time in the same format (just as most networks air a response to the State of the Union from a member of the opposite party).
The networks, even Fox News, have begun to question Trump’s policy on the wall and the shut-down much more vigorously, pointing out the many inconsistencies and outright falsehoods. Now is no time to back down.