Facing pressure, networks fact-check Trump speech

NEW YORK (AP) — Television pundits moved swiftly to correct or challenge President Donald Trump following Tuesday’s Oval Office speech on the proposed border wall, after their networks were the target of an unusual debate over whether they should show him at all.

“Just because you say it’s a crisis doesn’t necessarily make it one,” ABC White House correspondent Cecilia Vega said following the president’s address.

Some network critics had essentially made the same point in arguing for a television boycott, along with saying the president couldn’t be trusted with the truth. It’s rare, but not unprecedented, for networks to say no to a presidential request for airtime.

But refusing to air Trump’s first Oval Office address as president, in the midst of a government shutdown over the funding fight, would have been seen as a provocative act in itself. So the four major broadcasters and cable news networks showed him, while also airing rebuttals from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and making provisions for misstatements.

CNN brought on Daniel Dale, a White House correspondent for the Toronto Star, who has become known for cataloguing Trump misstatements, and he said the president falsely asserted it was the Democrats who had advanced the idea of a steel barrier instead of a wall. NBC’s Chuck Todd made the same point.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos disputed Trump’s claim that the U.S.-Mexico free trade agreement will essentially result in that country paying for the wall. “It has not been approved by Congress and even if it is, there’s no provision there to make Mexico pay for the wall,” Stephanopoulos said.

Shepard Smith conducted a rapid-fire rebuttal of some of the president’s claims during his coverage on the Fox broadcast network. After Trump talked about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, Smith said, “government statistics show there is less violent crime committed by the undocumented immigrant population than by the general population.”

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