A petition calling on news stations to stop airing live White House broadcasts on the coronavirus illustrates the deep political divisions that still exist amid a national health emergency and reminds us we are still in a presidential election year.
The petition published on MoveOn.org asks ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC and NPR to consider not livestreaming the COVID-19 press conferences in full, accusing President Donald Trump of using the briefings as a “live campaign rally.”
“It is wrong and dangerous to provide so much unfettered airtime to someone who is happily, shamelessly spreading terrible, damaging misinformation that is already costing fellow Americans their lives,” the petition claims.
KUOW, an NPR station in Seattle, said earlier this week it will stop airing the daily briefings live, citing “a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time.” The MoveOn.org petition, launched just days ago and which already has more than 214,000 signatures, says cutting out Trump’s comments would “leave the president’s insults, false braggadocio and outright lies on the editing room floor, where they belong.”
While the petition’s developer says she doesn’t want to censor the president, removing the live updates from the homes of millions of Americans would do just that.
The petition fails to recognize that with the presidency comes the bully pulpit, live and unfiltered. White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said Americans want to hear from the president and top health experts, and he’s right. The ratings speak for themselves. The coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, the New York Times reports, and the numbers are continuing to rise. On March 23, nearly 12.2 million people watched Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
Given the intense interest in the pandemic, there is no justification for preventing Americans from hearing directly from the president. And while this is likely falling on deaf ears, it would behoove Trump to honor this crisis by steering clear of politics and petty fights and sticking to the scientific facts.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.