CNN anchor Don Lemon said President Trump's first prime-time address from the Oval Office should have a delay due to his concern that Trump will promote "propaganda."
Trump announced Monday that he would speak from the White House on the crisis at the southern border, something all the major networks have decided to broadcast live after much deliberation. Later in the day, Lemon told his CNN colleague Chris Cuomo that network execs “have to wonder” whether or not Trump’s address should be aired live or if coverage should include a live “fact-check” component.
“How do you handle this? Because you’re giving the president of the United States, which he should be given the bully pulpit, he owns it -- but you’re giving him the opportunity to speak to the United States unfettered – to speak to the people of the United States – and this president has a problem with the truth, so what do you do?” Lemon asked.
“You let him speak and then you hold him to account,” Cuomo responded.
“Listen, I’m not saying we should do it but do you think there should be, I don’t know, a delay of some sort? Because people will believe it, the president will say what he has to say, people will believe it whether the facts are true are not — I guess that’s a chance you take with any president, but this one is different,” Lemon elaborated. “And by the time the rebuttals come on, we’ve already promoted propaganda, possibly, unless he gets up there and tells the truth.”
Cuomo told Lemon that Trump “has his right” to make his argument to the American people and that “wanting barriers along the border is not propaganda.” Lemon agreed but stressed that the “facts” about the barriers can be propaganda.
“Shockingly, Cuomo was the voice of reason,” NewsBusters’ Nicholas Fondacaro wrote, while comedian Tim Young tweeted that Cuomo gave his colleague a "’you've lost your mind’ stare.”
“And that’s our job,” Cuomo said. “I believe that fears of people saying that, you know, ‘you should limit the exposure of this president to the American people,’ I dismiss that notion entirely.”
“I just think you have to be more strategic and more responsible to the viewer with this administration… we always say ‘doesn’t matter who’s first, it matters who’s accurate,’ right? If we get it right. I think we should apply the same parameters that we do with that,” Lemon said. “We want to be accurate. We don’t have to be first. We can monitor what the president is saying or monitor what’s being said in the briefing room and if it’s newsworthy or they’re taking questions about a topic that’s important, then we can get to that topic and we can go there.”
The CNN host added, “But if it’s a political stunt, why do we even have to do it and, I don’t know, just expose the viewer and the American people to propaganda?”
ABC, CBS and NBC all agreed to carry Trump’s comments live after hours of speculation on Monday that the major networks would pass on the Oval Office remarks.
Last week, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter and "Reliable Sources" newsletter author floated an idea -- which he said was sent by a viewer -- of using a “10 minute delay” whenever Trump speaks, in order for the network to pick and choose what is aired.
Stelter did not respond when asked by Fox News if he feels CNN should air the president live, or if he feels points he has made recently contributed to networks not immediately agreeing to air the speech. However, he continued to promote similar arguments on social media and in his newsletter.
“My social media feeds have been full of commenters saying that TV networks should not an air an address that's likely to be filled with falsehoods and fear-mongering,” Stelter wrote in Monday’s edition of "Reliable Sources.”
It is common journalism practice for any significant public speaker to be fact-checked by news organizations, especially the president. But when the skeptical Stelter tweeted the news that NBC, ABC and CBS decided to carry the address, he added that it will “hopefully” be “surrounded by fact-checking.”
CNN is airing the speech live, but a network spokesperson did not immediately respond when asked if it would cut into the president’s comments for real-time fact-checking.