The major broadcast networks did all manner of juggling to accommodate President Trump on Tuesday evening. In a much-discussed development, the White House requested this interruption of regularly scheduled programming to air a live address on immigration by the president, amid a government shutdown of more than two weeks.
For what, then, did CBS preempt its midseason premiere of “FBI”? For what did Fox delay the broadcast of “The Gifted”? For what did ABC air a repeat of “Ellen’s Game of Games”?
Well, for a rerun of one of the longest-running programs on national television: Trump’s immigration talking points, that is. “Every week 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which flows across our southern border,” said a stern-looking Trump from the Oval Office. In evaluating that contention, the New York Times understated, “This needs context.”
Another context-starved statement related to a crusty Trump argument about how immigrants coming up through the southwestern border are criminals. “In the last two years, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records," said the president. “It should be noted that these criminal convictions covered a range of offenses, including many that were nonviolent. The most common charges were for traffic violations, possessing or selling drugs and immigration offenses like illegal entry," noted the New York Times, labeling the claim "misleading.”
Downright false was Trump’s claim that his beloved wall would be paid for “indirectly” by a trade deal that his administration is negotiating with Mexico. “Even if the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement ends up raising tax revenue, there’s nothing earmarking that money for a wall. Income and corporate taxes are general revenue that would have to be appropriated by Congress,” noted CNN.
And Post fact-checkers dinged Trump for mis-portraying migrant children brought into the United States.
This fact-checking fervor overtook broadcast and cable TV channels as well as other media — just as predicted. Trump faced a choice when it came to his agenda on Tuesday night: Either stick to appropriately contextualized facts, or stir up paranoia about a border crisis. He couldn’t do both at the same time.
Now it’s up to the country’s media to clean up the mess.