News networks ridiculed for airing Trump’s post-impeachment rant in its entirety

Donald Trump news networks

Citation Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business all aired President Donald Trump’s rambling post-impeachment “celebration” speech in its entirety.

It also aired on many broadcast networks:

There was widespread outrage at the networks for being so irresponsible:

This echoed the pattern of news coverage in 2016, when networks were so obsessed with giving Trump airtime that they even focused endlessly on his empty lectern.

Carlos Maza explained this phenomenon perfectly in March of 2016:

Much of Trump's dominance of the news cycle is a result of news networks' willingness to air many of his stump speeches and press conferences live, unedited, and without commercial breaks. Veteran campaign reporter Walter Shapiro called the airing of Trump's speeches by networks unprecedented, adding “No one has ever gotten to have all of their campaign speeches broadcast unedited.”

His speeches make for good television -- he calls Ted Cruz a "pussy," imitates Marco Rubio, botches Bible verses, pulls bizarre supporters on stage. But beyond sheer entertainment value, there's rarely a good journalistic reason to give Trump's speeches so much attention.

News networks' inability to look away from the Trump circus means Trump can rely on the media to deliver his campaign messages, unfiltered, to millions more voters than would otherwise hear them. And that special treatment means Trump's opponents in both parties are forced to compete in a news environment that gives Trump millions of dollars in free advertising and exposure.

Recently, CNN and MSNBC have been better about not covering Trump’s rallies. But it’s clear that when given even a fig leaf of justification beyond explicit electoral politics, networks will continue to give Trump all the time he wants -- no matter the consequences for democracy.