A fierce debate about the role of journalism has emerged on the internet, after multiple media outlets cut away from a live address in which US President Donald Trump leveled allegations of voter fraud.
In an unprecedented move, MSNBC, NBC News, CNBC, CBS News, ABC News, and even publicly funded NPR, cut their feed from the White House as Trump began to speak about alleged voting irregularities during the 2020 contest. Among the major broadcasters, only Fox and CNN chose to air the full speech. A CNN chyron shown during his speech read: “Without any evidence, Trump says he’s being cheated.”
During his Thursday night address, Trump pointed at alleged “election interference from Big Media, Big Money and Big Tech,” and claimed that “we were winning in all the key locations by a lot” and that only later “our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away in secret.”
Outlets defended pulling the plug on Trump’s provocative remarks, arguing that they didn’t want to spread unsubstantiated claims about the election.
MSNBC immediately cuts off Trump when he moves to undermine the integrity of US election system. “Here we are again in the unusual position of not only interrupting the President of the United States but correcting the President of the United States…” pic.twitter.com/IwVshBmosK
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) November 5, 2020
“Here we are again in the unusual position of not only interrupting the president of the United States but correcting the president of the United States,” said MSNBC host Brian Williams as his network cut away from Trump. Anchors at other networks made similar remarks.
USA Today’s editor-in-chief said that it ended its livestream of the address because the outlet’s job is to “spread truth – not unfounded conspiracies.”
“We’re not going to allow it to keep going, because it’s not true,” stated CNBC’s Shep Smith on air.
Many argued that such incendiary allegations from the US president were inherently newsworthy and merited live coverage. Twitter users further pointed out there was no way for networks to know with certainty that Trump was lying or spreading misinformation, noting that their job should simply be to relay, without bias, what Trump had said.
How do you really know? Really know???? Are you on the streets? is anyone researching these accusations, or just putting their hand out like my daughter and saying “I don’t want to hear it”. Integrity of our country is at hand.
— Chuck (@Cph1091) November 6, 2020
Wow! this is the worst journalism I’ve ever seen. Even if @realDonaldTrump was wrong it’s not your job to counter his argument with your opinion. The unbiased business focused @CNBC I used to love is gone!
— D3xt3rla₿ (@d3xt3rlab) November 6, 2020
Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader was particularly incensed that NPR refused to cover Trump’s full remarks, pointing out that Americans should be able to rely on the public broadcaster when commercial stations fall short.
Trump is speaking now before the media. NPR cut off him off for a fact check. Unacceptable decision. I then scrolled through all the many commercial radio stations. They were not carrying Trump’s remarks. Misusing our public airwaves, free.
— Ralph Nader (@RalphNader) November 6, 2020
“Demand explanations from NPR and commercial stations. Factual checks can come later,” he tweeted.
The editorial decision also received plenty of applause on social media, with many adopting the view that news organizations waited too long to start blacklisting the president’s live addresses.
Masterful. This is how you deal with disinformation.
— Adeptus Antifascistes⚪️🔴⚪️ (@SKozakMedia) November 6, 2020
The Trump campaign claims that there are irregularities and fraud connected to mail-in ballots that either arrived late or did not receive the necessary scrutiny from observers, who were allegedly prevented from overseeing the vote count in several key battleground states.
His team has filed suit in Nevada, where they say they have evidence that thousands of non-residents illegally voted in the state. Legal cases have also been brought in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan. Trump has already requested a recount in Wisconsin, where the margin of victory was less than one point.