Media critic

The president tweeted on Monday afternoon:

And the Erik Wemple Blog is displeased to inform you that the president has been Addressing the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border for nearly four years. It began with his slandering of Mexicans as rapists during his campaign kickoff speech in June 2015, continued through his rhetoric on the need for a border wall, and intensified with these remarks in 2018: "We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

It didn’t stop there. On Nov. 1, just days before the midterm elections, President Trump staged a late-afternoon scare-address about immigration. And last week, he hoodwinked a pair of cable-news networks by promising a briefing on the shutdown, only to deliver a rally complete with Border Patrol officials. The importance of the wall was duly affirmed.


A section of reinforced fencing along the U.S-Mexico border in San Diego County, Calif., on Sunday. (Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images)

So just what does Trump have to add on Tuesday night? Is he planning to announce a national emergency to build the border wall? Will he offer a compromise with Democratic congressional leaders? Will he accede to demands that he reopen the government before tackling wall funding?

Those are the questions that the networks are surely trying to answer before committing themselves to forking over their air time to Trump. “The networks would ask: What news are we going to make?" recalled a press aide in the Barack Obama White House. Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs reported that the networks' decision had already been reached:


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However, the Erik Wemple Blog hasn’t received confirmation from any network that they’ll accede to the White House request. An informed source, for example, told this blog that the matter is now being “discussed” at NBC. A source at CBS said the network is “considering” the request; and we are awaiting word on the deliberations at Fox [Broadcasting] and ABC.

Back in 2014, the networks turned down an airtime request from the Obama White House for an address on . . . immigration. There was a feeling among networks' executives that the speech was too political. Consistency, accordingly, would appear to require the same response to Trump. As we’ve written before in this space, the president has nothing new to say on the topic of immigration; he offers only new and equally mendacious ways of saying the same thing. He says those false things in rapid succession, too, meaning the networks have little hope of feasibly correcting the record.

Another consideration: Even if White House aides promise the networks that legitimate news will be made during the president’s address, who’s to say that such an outcome will materialize? Nothing coming from this White House is reliable — including initiatives enunciated by Trump himself.

Dating back to his presidential campaign, Trump has been trained by aides to speak about the dangers of immigration at every turn. As the New York Times reported, the whole subject of the wall was a “mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.”

It worked: Trump has exhausted himself on immigration. And if he really does make news during this address, let him do so either on cable news or on a livestream somewhere. The networks will have time to wind back the tape and update their viewers. They can then organize panel discussions and tally the lies.

Read more:

Carter Eskew: Free airtime for Trump? Not so fast.

Greg Sargent: Trump wants the networks to carry his speech live. They should look at these charts of his lies.

Greg Sargent: Trump’s lies and disinformation require a new kind of media response

The Post’s View: Democrats can use their leverage on the wall for a truly moral purpose