The networks’ rejection of Biden’s speech — delivered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which was bathed in a dramatic red light while the Marines stood on guard — was an unusual moment in the long relationship between the White House and the country’s most powerful broadcaster.
Presidents rarely give speeches during major television hours, usually only to address a national crisis or an exceptionally urgent matter. The networks, in turn, usually carry presidential speeches when the White House requests the time and after reviewing the president’s remarks.
However, they conveyed speeches that were part of electoral rallies or events, or when the topic was deemed unimportant or newsworthy. networks, for example, I decided not to give a speech on immigration reform by President Barack Obama in November 2014.
People involved in the negotiations for Thursday’s speech said the networks considered Biden’s comments “political” in nature, and therefore decided not to broadcast them on television. Those people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, cited the speech’s criticism of Trump – who could run in the Republican primary in 2024 – and its timing two months before the midterm elections.
White House officials earlier tried to counter the partisan impression, with one saying NBC News It “was not a discourse about a particular politician or even a particular political party.”
In a speech Thursday night, Biden said Trump and his supporters “represent an extremism that threatens the foundations of our republic.”
Using an acronym for Trump’s Make America Great Again, he said, “MAGA forces are determined to take this country back, back to an America where there is no right to choice, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry a Love “. He also referred to the January 6, 2021 riots in the Capitol, saying, “We cannot be pro-insurgency and America. They are incompatible.”
Biden’s speech was broadcast live on CNN and MSNBC, but not on Fox News, the most watched news channel. Fox stuck to its regular show at 8 p.m. ET, a demo hosted by conservative expert Tucker Carlson.
Broadcasters as well as the White House declined to comment on this story.
The networks’ decision not to broadcast the speech ensured that Biden’s remarks reached an audience much smaller than the millions of viewers who normally watch live presidential speeches on ABC, CBS, and NBC.
Some commentators criticized the networks for refusing to broadcast the speech. “Networks refusing to cover Biden’s speech (likely because he would have criticized Trump and/or wouldn’t have enough news value) is exactly the problem” that democracy faces, Dartmouth University political scientist Brendan Nyhan tweetedin one of several tweets drew attention to the networks’ decision.
But George Washington University professor Frank Cisno, a former CNN anchor, said in an interview that the speech was “framed in very partisan political terms, and while that may reflect reality, in a strictly editorial sense it makes this a close call on Whether the networks should cut back on regular programming and provide the White House with 30 minutes of broadcasting.”
Cisno added that while he personally believes all Americans should worry about “the influence of the people and the party denying reality,” [and] It seeks to undermine elections, and “also believes that networks should make their own coverage decisions” based on the newsworthiness of the speech and whether it is a “real headline for the nation” or primarily political in character. “
Lack of coverage stands in contrast to the three Networking decision in June To pre-empt their entertainment programming to broadcast the first hearing of the House Select Committee’s investigation into the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol.
This hearing took place during prime viewing hours, just as it did in Biden’s speech on Thursday, and was covered as a news event, with network presenters presenting and analyzing the proceedings. Fox News skipped the hearing, opting to broadcast prime-time opinion programming instead.