Former WH Press Secretary’s Advice on Trump’s Address: Fact Check it Live or Don’t Air It

Published on January 7, 2019 by Athena Pallas

“Some advice – demand to see the text in advance and if it is not truthful either don’t air it or fact check it live on lower third. And cut away if he goes off text and starts lying,” tweeted a former White House press secretary today, with that advice pointed at networks contemplating how to handle President Trump’s address, surely likely to be a pitch for his border wall, tomorrow night. Joe Lockhart, who was a former White House press secretary during the Clinton administration and is a CNN political commentator, was the one to give advice, but it echoes many people’s concerns that Trump will almost certainly tell lies in his address in an effort to get the border wall he wants. Networks could even exert the option of not airing the address at all, if they wish. According to CNN:

The big four broadcast networks are deliberating over President Donald Trump’s request to air a Tuesday night prime time address on border security, a network executive told CNN. Trump announced in a tweet that he will deliver his address at 9 p.m. ET. In his tweet, the President characterized the situation on the border as a “national security crisis.”…Trump’s Monday request for networks to air his speech touched on a number of debates that have been raging in journalism since his ascension to the Oval Office. Among them: Should the speech be aired live? How should the networks respond if Trump uses their platforms to deceive their audiences and spread misinformation? What kind of fact-checking methods should networks employ? Recently, there has been debate about whether networks should air Trump’s words in real-time. Several media critics, for instance, told CNN on Friday that networks should not rush to air Trump’s remarks made during pool sprays and briefings.

That Trump is likely to lie in his address is evidenced by the false claims he and members of his administration have already made regarding the border with Mexico. Claims that are demonstrably false, but have been repeated by multiple administration officials, including Trump, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and current White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders include that thousands of would-be terrorists have been intercepted at the border in the last year. Even after such claims have been disproven publicly, administration officials keep on repeating them, likely as part of an effort to drum up fear that they hope might also drum up support for the wall. According to CBS News:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Sunday repeated a false claim put forth by her and other Trump administration officials about the number of suspected terrorists apprehended at the southern border, one that is contradicted by the administration’s own data on the topic. Sanders appeared on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace and was asked about comments made by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last week…Wallace pointed out that special-interest aliens are those hailing from “countries that have ever produced a terrorist. They’re not terrorists themselves.” Wallace cited a State Department report stating there is “no credible evidence” of terrorists crossing the border with Mexico…Wallace interjected on Sunday, saying he had “studied up” on the statistic. “Do you know where those 4,000 people come [from], where they’re captured? Airports,” Wallace said.

Lockhart’s full tweet was, “Sounds like tv networks will get a request soon for airtime for a Presidential address. Some advice—demand to see the text in advance and if it is not truthful either don’t air it or fact check it live on lower third. And cut away if he goes off text and starts lying.”

Trump continues to make claims without offering evidence about immigrants at the southern border, saying they are bringing disease, that they are violent criminals, that they are bringing drugs, that they constitute an “invasion” that thousands of them are would-be terrorists, all without offering evidence. Even if you believe that there are immigration issues that need to addressed, there is no evidence that suggests that a wall would fix those issues. A wall would cost billions of dollars beyond the $5 billion Trump wants now, with some projections of $25 billion or more in total, and many, many people, including Congressional Democrats, think it would be woefully ineffective in reducing immigration infractions as well. Environmentalists say that the wall could be damaging to sensitive ecosystems and the movement of wildlife, including endangered wildlife.

Trump does not listen to evidence, however. His base likes the idea of a wall, and Trump likes his base, caters to his base, seemingly unconcerned about everyone else, including the 800,000 federal workers out of a paycheck due to the partial government shutdown, which was caused by Trump’s refusal to sign appropriations bills unless he gets the funding he wants for his wall, and that alone. Some sort of fact check is indeed woefully necessary nearly every time Trump speaks, as he cannot seem to stay with the truth in any sort of reliable fashion.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.