As Biden warned of the decline of democracy, television networks were back on the air

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when President Biden has issued a warning to the nation ABC aired a game show called “Press Your Luck” about threats to democracy in a prime-time address Thursday.

NBC aired reruns of “Law & Order” as Biden voiced his objections to former President Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans.” CBS skipped the speech to show reruns of “Young Sheldon.”

The networks’ rejection of Biden’s speech — delivered in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, bathed in dramatic red lights as Marines stood guard — marked an unusual moment in the long relationship between the White House and the nation’s most powerful broadcasters.

Presidents rarely give speeches during prime-time TV viewing, usually only to address national crises or a matter of exceptional urgency. Networks typically carry the president’s speeches when the White House requests time and after previewing the president’s remarks.

However, they sent speeches that were part of campaign rallies or events, or when the subject matter was deemed insufficiently important or newsworthy. Networks, for example, He decided not to conduct the speech Then-President Barack Obama’s immigration reform in November 2014.

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Negotiators in Thursday’s speech said the networks considered Biden’s comments “political” in nature and therefore decided not to televise them. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, cited the speech’s criticism of Trump, Biden’s potential political opponent in 2024, and its timing two months before the midterm elections.

White House officials have previously tried to counter the partisan sentiment, with a statement NBC News It “does not speak of a particular politician or even of a particular political party.”

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In a speech Thursday night, Biden argued that Trump and his supporters “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

Sep. In a fiery speech on the 1st, President Biden explained how radical Republicans threaten American democracy. Here are the highlights. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

Using an acronym for Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, he said, “The forces of MAGA are determined to take this country backwards, backward, to an America that has no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right. Marry whoever you want.” He also referred to riots at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, saying, “We cannot be pro-insurgent and pro-American. They are incompatible.”

Biden’s speech was broadcast live on CNN and MSNBC, but not on Fox News, the most-watched cable-news channel. Fox, a commentary show hosted by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, stuck with its regular 8 p.m. ET slot.

Representatives for the broadcast networks and the White House declined to comment for this story.

The decision for the networks not to carry the speech ensured that Biden’s remarks reached a much smaller audience than the millions who watch presidential speeches live on ABC, CBS and NBC.

Some commentators criticized the networks for declining to broadcast the speech. “Networks refusing to cover Biden’s speech (because it’s going to be critical of Trump and/or because it’s not newsworthy enough) is precisely the problem” democracy faces, Dartmouth University political scientist Brendan Nyhan tweetedIn one of several tweets, the network’s decision was taken into account.

But George Washington University professor Frank Chesno, a former CNN anchor, said in an interview that the speech was “framed in very partisan, political terms, and while it may reflect reality, it’s definitely a close call editorially. The networks should interrupt regular programming and give the White House a 30-minute broadcast.” want

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Sesno added that he personally believes that all Americans should be “concerned about the influence of a people and a party that denies reality.” [and] seeks to undermine elections,” he thinks, adding that networks base their coverage decisions on “the newsworthiness of the speech and whether it is an actual ‘address to the nation’ or primarily political in nature.

Non-coverage stands in contrast to the three End of networks in June Jan. 6, 2021 to block their entertainment programs from airing the first hearing of the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Capitol riots.

That hearing, like Biden’s speech on Thursday, occurred during prime-time viewing and was wrapped up as a news event, with the networks’ top anchors introducing and analyzing the proceedings. Fox News avoided the investigation, choosing instead to air its prime-time opinion programs.

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