February 5, 2023

Trump just announced an ominous primetime Oval Office address for tomorrow night

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President Trump intends to address the country from inside the Oval Office tomorrow to speak on the “Humanitarian and National Security crisis” that he has invented out of thin air and stoked fear over for months. The imagined “crisis” allows him to incite the worst instincts of his xenophobic base and manufacture justification for his utterly wasteful, utterly asinine border wall.


If past behavior is any indication for what we can expect — and with Trump it always is — tomorrow’s speech will likely be his usual medley of race-baiting and mendacity. Since Democrats now control the House of Representatives and have signaled they will not be funding the wall, Trump has no legitimate way to move forward with his pet project.

Rather than accept this basic truth, he has begun flirting with the idea of declaring a national emergency and using the military to build the wall. He’s also stated that he may use eminent domain to seize land from innocent Americans to secure the land needed for the idiotic barrier. The stunning authoritarianism pulsing beneath the suggestions should be setting off alarms at every level of our constitutional democracy.

Whether Trump will actually follow through on the threats is still unclear, but one can’t rule out the possibility that he may be planning on declaring a state of emergency during tomorrow’s Oval Office address. It would certainly fit with his penchant for treating the presidency like a reality television show. If he does indeed go through with this scheme, it will fall to every patriotic American to contact their elected representatives and demand that they stand up to such an overt abuse of executive power.

The commentary around the speech has an added wrinkle, in that it suggests a quandary for the major news networks. Trump is the president, and an Oval Office address is newsworthy, but at the same time, this is no normal presidency. The networks know that if they run the speech, Trump will exploit the coverage to spew destructive lies and attacks the “fake news media.” At a certain point, giving him carte blanche to shove misinformation down the throats of the American public becomes morally untenable.

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CNN’s Brian Stelter took to Twitter to share some insight into how the networks are approaching this looming problem. A television executive told Stelter that while Trump calls them fake new he’s still dependent on them to get his messaging out.

They realize that giving him airtime will allow him to “deliver a fact-free screed without rebuttal.” At the same time, if they refuse to cover his speech he’ll be able to label them as playing partisan politics.

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“So we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” the executive concluded.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the networks have already caved. Politico’s Michael Calderone reports that CNN, Fox News, and Fox Business have announced they’ll cover the speech.

Most likely the other networks will follow suit and Trump’s propaganda will be blasted directly into living rooms all across the country. The responsibility then falls on the broadcasters to fact-check the speech immediately after it airs. Hopefully, they prove up to the challenge.

Follow Rob Haffey on Twitter.

Robert Haffey

Robert Haffey is a political writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.

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