Broadcast networks take a pass on Trump campaign announcement

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When Donald Trump announced on Tuesday night that he will mount another run for the White House — a rare case of a former president seeking his old job — the country’s three major broadcast networks opted not to carry his speech live.

ABC, NBC and CBS all decided to stick with previously scheduled entertainment programming — reality show “Bachelor in Paradise” on ABC, science fiction drama “La Brea” on NBC and a fictionalized show about the FBI on CBS.

On cable, Fox News Channel aired most of the speech live while CNN carried the first 25 minutes before switching back to a panel discussion after Trump formally announced his 2024 candidacy. MSNBC, however, chose not to air the speech, choosing instead to stick with Alex Wagner’s 9 pm show.

Former president Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race on Nov. 15 at Mar-a-Lago. (Video: The Washington Post)

Fox’s decision to carry the speech is notable considering that several network commentators expressed a clear on-air preference last week for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to take over as the Republican 2024 standard bearer after the party’s disappointing showing in the midterm elections. Two other properties in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, also signaled last week a preference for DeSantis, with the Post declaring him “DeFUTURE” on the tabloid’s cover and the Journal’s editorial board declaring that “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.”

During the 2016 presidential race, CNN was frequently criticized for giving ample airtime to Trump’s speeches. The network’s new chief, Chris Licht, employees told on Tuesday that coverage decisions about Trump as a candidate would be made on a case-by-case basis.

While ABC, NBC and CBS did not preempt prime time programming to air the speech, the networks all had correspondents stationed at Mar-a-Lago who reported on the announcement earlier in the evening during the nightly newscasts hosted by David Muir, Lester Holt and Norah O’Donnell.

Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Trump, told the conservative channel Real America’s Voice earlier in the evening that such a decision amounted to censorship. “They don’t want the American people to hear directly from the biggest leader of the greatest political movement in our history, so I do suspect they will try to censor and cut away,” she said.

Fox host Sean Hannity, who informally advised the former president during his White House years, said on his prime time show Tuesday that Trump was “laying down a marker” by announcing his 2024 campaign so early. “I’m watching this president at this hour and I’m seeing a guy that looks like he is dead-on focused,” the host told viewers.

Fox News host Pete Hegseth declared during a break in live coverage that Trump was “in as good a form as you have ever seen him,” while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called the speech “pitch-perfect” and Trump unbeatable “if he keeps on like this tonight.”

On CNN, two former Trump aides harshly criticized the speech. Mick Mulvaney, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, called him “the only Republican who could lose” in 2024, while former communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin said Trump is “wholly unfit to ever be in office again.”

Yet neither Fox nor CNN carried the entire speech. As Trump was discussing what he called the “tremendous problem” of transgender athletes, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper had pivoted to coverage of a missile that killed two people in Poland.

Fox also cut away, and concluded by the time Trump’s speech, after a little more than an hour, 10 pm host Laura Ingraham was instead getting commentary from Hoover Institution fellow Victor Davis Hanson.

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