- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The left called foul when every major TV network decided to give President Trump airtime for an address Tuesday on the border crisis — a courtesy the networks once denied to President Obama.

Liberal groups fumed at the TV executives for bowing to Mr. Trump after daring to refuse to carry Mr. Obama’s prime-time address on immigration in 2014, which the networks claimed was “overtly political.”

“If you’re as outraged by this decision as I am, please call the networks now and demand that they refuse to air Trump’s propaganda unchallenged,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, wrote in a blast email for Democracy for America.

Ms. Jayapal, Washington Democrat, argued that if Mr. Obama’s speech was political, then surely Mr. Trump’s was the same if not more so.

The squabble over airtime included Democratic leaders demanding — and getting — equal time to respond to what they viewed as Mr. Trump’s baseless pitch for a border wall that’s the key issue in the government shutdown.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer gave themselves the job of providing on-air pushback to Mr. Trump. They will deliver remarks together from the Capitol, with all the major networks agreeing to broadcast it live.

The urge to respond to Mr. Trump included Sen. Bernard Sanders, the far-left independent from Vermont whose 2016 presidential run made him a luminary of the Democratic Party’s socialist wing.

Mr. Sanders announced that his response to Mr. Trump would stream live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter following the Democratic response.

Still, a grass-roots uprising against the networks did not materialize. ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX did not report a significant uptick in calls or email about the president’s address.

“I’m not aware of any reaction, pro or con,” said Richard Horrmann, vice president for communications at ABC.

The networks’ decision should have been a no-brainer, said Christina Bellantoni, director of the Annenberg Media Center at the University of Southern California.

Trump is the president of the United States and when he speaks, it is news, period. Remarks should get covered and formal White House addresses should be broadcast. The same should have applied to Obama,” she said.

She scoffed at complaints about giving Mr. Trump free rein.

“If the networks want to absolve themselves for giving Trump too much of a platform when he might tell lies or ramble in a screed, they will need to go back in time and not cover all of Trump’s pre-presidential nomination campaign rallies wall to wall,” said Ms. Bellantoni.

Ms. Jayapal claimed Mr. Trump made 6,420 false or misleading claims over the past 649 days.

“Immigration is an area in which he simply CANNOT tell the truth,” she wrote. “He isn’t entitled to prime time coverage to essentially make the case for his campaign pledge — and to continue to spread dangerous lies to appease his right-wing base.”

President George W. Bush in 2006 also made a prime-time address on immigration that was carried by all the major TV networks.

Mr. Obama is the only one who ran into trouble with the network executives.

ABC, NBC and CBS all took a pass on airing Mr. Obama’s immigration speech.

PBS and most cable news channels carried the address, which was delivered from Cross Hall in the White House.

The bright spot for the Obama White House was that the address was aired live and interpreted in real time by Univision, the largest Spanish-language channel in the U.S.

In his speech, Mr. Obama laid out a three-pronged approach to fixing what he called the “broken immigration system.”

His three-step plan consisted of more resources for border agents, a streamlined approval process for high-skilled immigrants and an end to deportations for otherwise law-abiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Mr. Obama stressed that hitting the pause button on deportation was not amnesty, as critics contended.

“It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive — only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you,” he said in the address.

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