Since the emergence of his presidential candidacy in 2015, it’s clear that whenever Donald Trump speaks, the American public listens. Whether that be to cheer for a man seen as a savior or to condemn his hateful rhetoric, people have been glued to their screens in a way that has not been seen with previous presidents. The COVID-19 pandemic has only furthered citizens’ abilities to engage with the President, as he and his administration have been participating in daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings aired on all major news networks, including CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.
In recent days, as President Trump’s news briefings have descended into what many journalists and members of the public are calling campaign rallies being held under the guise of breaking news, the calls to stop airing these briefings live have intensified. Prominent correspondents such as CNN’s John King have called the briefings “propaganda” and complaints have increasingly been made about the President’s decision to feature guests with no medical expertise, such as prominent Republican donor and CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell. Even some journalists who were previously in favor of showing the President’s briefings, no matter the content, have changed their tune after his promotion of the drug hydroxychloroquine – commonly known as Plaquenil- as a treatment for COVID-19 despite the lack of conclusive research about its effects on the virus.
Despite all of the public outcry against the briefings, I firmly believe it is the major news networks’ duty to report on and provide live coverage of these briefings. While there are clear factual inaccuracies and contradictions spewed by President Trump during almost all of his briefings, the American public has a right to be able to engage with their democratically elected President. This does not mean his lies and falsehoods should go unchecked or uncorrected, as news networks can, and have been, fact checking all of his briefings. CNN and MSNBC have even been keeping analysts on standby during the briefings in order to cut to a fact check if something egregious has been said.
While it is a news network’s job to decide what is newsworthy enough to air, in my personal opinion, there is absolutely no way to make the argument that the President of the United States speaking is not newsworthy. There is a certain level of respect for the office that must be retained, no matter one’s opinion about the current President. This respect includes providing proper news coverage when the President makes a statement. By failing to cover the White House briefings live, major news networks would be forcing their biases against the President onto the American public by policing what news the public does and does not have access to in real time.
Further, by CNN or MSNBC ceasing live coverage of the briefings, more watchers would be pushed to FOX, where there is possibly less stringent fact checking of President Trump’s statements. Ceasing to air the briefings live would not magically make them disappear, as some journalists seem to think it would. Rather, by news networks making the decision to stop airing the briefings, they would be losing the opportunity to provide coverage in a way that they see as appropriate and informative for the American people. In order to protect the mission and the sanctity of journalism, I strongly believe President Trump’s coronavirus briefings must be broadcasted live.