Update (7/5/19): Fox News aired Trump's speech in its entirety, CNN aired almost all of Trump's speech, and MSNBC aired none of it.
President Donald Trump has decided to co-opt Washington, D.C.’s traditional Fourth of July fireworks show to hold a political rally and display of military might. Media outlets shouldn't reward the president by airing it.
The Independence Day celebration will reportedly feature a military parade -- including several tanks and a flyover by Air Force fighter jets and the president’s own Air Force One -- culminating in a Trump speech at the Lincoln Memorial and “a spectacular fireworks display.” The rally will set up an interesting test for how and if news outlets choose to cover the event.
According to Politico’s Michael Calderone, Fox News and CSPAN are planning on covering Trump’s speech live, MSNBC has no plans to do so, and it’s unclear whether CNN will air it. Additionally, “the president’s appearance and portions of the parade will air on ABC’s streaming channel, ABC News Live, while the network will also provide a television feed of the event that may be used by local stations. CBS’ streaming channel, CBSN, will carry the event live, as will NBC's site, NBCNews.com, and streaming platform NBC News NOW.”
Trump has proven time and time again that he will transform the most mundane presidential appearance into a campaign rally. Even at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree, Trump could not resist asking the crowd, “Did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?” and “Do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say?” Tomorrow’s celebration promises to be no different.
Media have failed this test before. When Trump recently decided his 60th rally as president was his official “launch” for the 2020 election, cable networks devoted two and a half hours of coverage to the event before it even began. And an authoritarian-style military parade followed by an hour-long speech on the National Mall is an ideal opportunity for the president to promote his candidacy and the Republican Party.
As noted by the editorial board of The Washington Post:
It was bad enough that Mr. Trump sought to make the holiday about himself with plans to deliver a nationally televised address from the Lincoln Memorial, thus eliminating what many consider the hands-down best spot in Washington for fellowship and fireworks on the Fourth of July. But Mr. Trump now plans to cordon off an area in front of the memorial reserved just for dignitaries, family and friends. Nothing about reserved seating says “We the people.”
The president’s political objective is pretty clear: He hopes to dominate the airwaves with a massive, patriotic show of red, white, and blue as we head into the 2020 election cycle. Networks shouldn’t help.