- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
- CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News cut away from President Trump’s lengthy coronavirus briefing on Monday night.
- During the briefing, Trump chafed at the idea of continuing the widespread order for people to stay home, saying it was harming the economy. His top infectious-diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had said social-distancing measures would need to be in place for “several weeks.”
- CBS told Insider that it “plans to continue covering briefings whenever possible” but may cut away for other programming. MSNBC told Insider that it “cut away because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health.”
- Critics of the president have called for networks to stop airing the briefings. “All of us should stop broadcasting it, honestly,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said on Friday. “It’s going to cost lives.”
- On Tuesday, KUOW, a Seattle-area NPR station, also announced it would not broadcast the briefings live “due to a pattern of false or misleading information.”
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On Monday night, most of the major television networks, except for Fox News, cut away from President Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus briefing. The next day, KUOW, a Seattle-area NPR station, announced it would no longer broadcast the events live.
Though the briefings often feature a rotating cast of Trump administration health experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, they have also allowed Trump to make inaccurate declarations about the administration’s response and undercut the dire warnings of these professionals that Americans need to stay home to stop the virus from spreading.
As Trump has contradicted experts, provided inaccurate medical information, and engaged in lengthy diatribes against journalists, his critics have questioned how much networks should broadcast them – and whether relaying his words directly is a public benefit.
Several networks cut away from Trump’s briefing on Monday night
Trump’s coronavirus briefing with Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House’s coronavirus task force was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET but didn’t begin until after 6.
Trump quickly undermined his health experts’ guidance that Americans need to stay home for several weeks, claiming that businesses would open “soon.”
Trump implied that the limitations would continue for “a much shorter period of time than I’ve been hearing the news report,” though Fauci had told the “Today” show on Friday that the measures would need to be in place for “several weeks.”
At one point, Trump made Birx, the top health expert on the podium that day, part of a bit aimed at attacking journalists.
The major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – all cut away from Trump’s briefing about 20 minutes in, The Associated Press reported. The cable news networks CNN and MSNBC followed suit after 7 p.m.
A spokesman for CBS News told Insider that the network “plans to continue covering briefings whenever possible, but may cut away for regularly scheduled news broadcasts, which many viewers depend on for delivering objective reporting and context on the developments of the day.”
He said that CBS News’ feed of the briefings was still available to affiliates and that it would incorporate major headlines from the events into the evening news.
MSNBC, on the other hand, “cut away because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health,” a network representative told Insider.
On Twitter, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said the networks’ decisions were “disgraceful” and thanked Fox News for airing the briefing.
Pretty disgraceful that @CNN and @MSNBC have both cut away from this @WhiteHouse briefing with @realDonaldTrump and @Mike_Pence during a global pandemic. Thank you to @FoxNews for keeping Americans informed. #COVID19
— Judd Deere (@JuddPDeere45) March 23, 2020
“If the White House wants to ask for time on the network, they should make an official request. Otherwise we will make our own editorial decisions,” a CNN representative said in a statement relayed by the network’s media reporter Oliver Darcy.
On Tuesday, KUOW followed suit, tweeting, “We will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time.”
However, we will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time. (2)
— KUOW Public Radio (@KUOW) March 24, 2020
Critics say it’s time to stop broadcasting Trump’s briefings
On Tuesday, the Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan declared that “the media must stop live-broadcasting Trump’s dangerous, destructive coronavirus briefings.”
“These White House sessions – ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis – are in fact working against that end,” Sullivan wrote.
James Fallows, a longtime journalist for The Atlantic, also tweeted that “cable outlets should stop covering them live.”
Yes. And cable outlets should stop covering them live. They’re actively *lowering* level of public knowledge by doing so—and repeating the mistake they made w wall-to-wall coverage of rallies in 2015 and 2016.
W/o live coverage, Trump will stop showing up; scientists can speak
— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) March 19, 2020
“If it were up to me – and it’s not – I would stop putting those briefings on live TV,” the MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Friday. “Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape.”
She added: “All of us should stop broadcasting it, honestly. It’s going to cost lives.”
Trump has repeatedly touted a drug called chloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19 over objections from his officials that it has not been approved for that use. A man in Arizona recently died and his wife was hospitalized after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, a version of the chemical that’s used to clean aquariums.
“We saw Trump on TV – every channel – and all of his buddies and that this was safe,” the woman told NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard on Monday. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.”