President Donald Trump’s supporters have criticized major television news networks for cutting away from his evening address claiming election fraud, asserting that the public had a right to hear what he had to say as vote counting continues.
Trump spoke from the White House on Thursday evening, timed to preempt national evening news broadcasts.
But MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC all ended up cutting away from the 17-minute speech, saying the president’s claims of election fraud were baseless and dangerous.
MSNBC was the first to drop the feed after just 35 seconds.
Of the cable news networks, Fox News and CNN carried the entire address, in which Trump claimed without proof that the election is being stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams justified the decision to cut away from Trump’s speech, saying: ‘It was not rooted in reality — and at this point, where our country is, it’s dangerous.’
‘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,’ MSNBC’s Brian Williams said
Conservative columnist Jenny Beth Martin criticized the networks for dropping the speech
WATCH: “OK. 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,” Brian Williams says on @MSNBC moments into the president’s statement tonight. pic.twitter.com/2AliTQuSsr
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 6, 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,’ Williams said.
‘There are no illegal votes that we know of, there has been no Trump victory that we know of.’
Trump’s critics praised the networks for cutting off his speech full of dubious assertions, but others blasted the decision as censoring a newsworthy address.
‘It is a disgrace that MSNBC cut away from the President of the United States as he addressed the nation,’ tweeted conservative columnist Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.
‘This was a dereliction of the Press’ obligation to report the news. You don’t get to decide what the American people can & cant see when it comes to the POTUS,’ she added.
The networks that cut away harshly criticized Trump’s assertions in justifying dropping the speech. CNN’s Anderson Cooper said of Trump’s address that he was ‘like an obese turtle flailing in the sun.’
‘That is the President of the United States. That is the most powerful person in the world and we see him like an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun realizing his time is over,’ Cooper said on air.
‘But he just hasn’t accepted it and he wants to take everybody down with him, including this country.’
CNN’s Anderson Cooper said Trump was ‘like an obese turtle flailing in the sun, realizing his time is over’ after the president sensationally claimed the election was being ‘stolen’ from him
Fellow news anchor Lester Holt also cut away from Trump’s speech due to the ‘false statements’ he was making
Cooper’s harsh sentiments were echoed by fellow network personalities who cut away from Trump’s address to sharply criticize him over his angry speech as the election hung in the balance.
‘We have to interrupt here, because the president has made a number of false statements, including the notion that there has been fraudulent voting,’ said NBC’s Lester Holt. ‘There has been no evidence of that.’
CNN’s Jake Tapper called it a ‘sad night’ for Americans who had to hear the president ‘try to attack democracy that way with this feast of falsehoods.’
‘Lie after lie, after lie about the election being stolen. No evidence for what he’s saying, just smears about the integrity,’ he told viewers.
‘When he wins a state it’s legitimate, when he loses it’s because the vote is being stolen from him. It’s not true, it’s frankly pathetic.’
Tapper also blasted Trump for questioning why the majority of mail-in ballots were in favor of Democratic challenger Joe Biden when he had urged his base to not take part in the process.
‘We all know the answer. It’s because the president told his supporters not to vote by mail so Democrats did it overwhelmingly,’ he said.
Mark Ruffalo reacted to the extraordinary statement, calling Trump’s remarks ‘all lies’
Filmmaker Michael Moore also took to Twitter to call the spectacle ‘stunning, unhinged and breathtaking’
After ABC ended its coverage, the network’s White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, also said there was no evidence of illegal votes.
‘What he seems to be frustrated by is … that it takes time to count votes,’ Karl said. ‘It’s always taken time to count votes. But especially in this election.’
USA Today’s editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll issued a statement explaining her decision to pull the livestream of the event.
‘President Trump, without evidence, claimed the presidential election was corrupt and fraudulent. We stopped the livestream of his remarks early and have removed the video from all of our platforms,’ she said.
‘Our job is to spread truth not unfounded conspiracies.’
Protests against Trump’s claims also spread to Hollywood, where a number of actors including Mark Ruffalo slammed the president for his outlandish claims.
‘There is not a single shred of evidence to anything Trump is claiming. It’s all lies and it’s not going to go anywhere with the courts he has lost all but one lawsuit because he has no credible claims,’ Ruffalo tweeted.
Filmmaker and vocal Trump critic Michael Moore also took to Twitter to call the spectacle ‘stunning, unhinged and breathtaking.’
‘Wild accusations. A danger to America & the world, a menace to society. The next time you see him, his name will be Lame Duck. Quack,’ Moore said.
CNN’s Jake Tapper called it a ‘sad night’ for Americans who had to hear the president ‘try to attack democracy that way with this feast of falsehoods’
On Fox News Channel, commentators Bill Bennett and Byron York said that just because Trump did not allege specific instances of irregularities doesn’t mean there haven’t been any. But the president and his lawyers need to present evidence, they said.
‘What we saw tonight is a president who believes that at the end of the day, when all the votes are counted, the election is not going to to go his way, so he’s trying to plan an alternate route to retain the White House,’ said Fox White House correspondent John Roberts.
The New York Post, a prominent Trump media ally, headlined a story on the speech, ‘Donald Trump makes baseless election fraud claims in White House address.’
In his 17-minute tirade Trump claimed he was the victim of ‘big media, big money and big tech’ coming together to commit ‘historic election interference’ to give Joe Biden the presidency.
He claimed that if all ‘legal votes’ were counted he would win the election as he charged Democrats with trying to steal the contest ‘corruptly’ through mail-in ballots in a suddenly-announced White House address delivered as his tiny voting leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia slipped further.
At the podium in the briefing room he read from from a script and listed his grievances at Biden’s campaign, ‘suppression polls’ and ‘fraud.’
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He left without taking a question as CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta shouted: ‘Are you a sore loser?’ – then his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had to scuttle back to the podium because he had forgotten to take his notes with him.
Trump’s condemnation of the entire democratic system and his growing list of enemies was switched off rapidly by TV network after TV network.
Republicans turned on him within minutes with Larry Hogan, the Maryland governor, saying: ‘There is no defense. No person or election is more important than our democracy.’ GOP rep Adam Klinzinger called it ‘insane.’
At the briefing room podium – where the only aide with him was White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnanany – Trump appeared downcast as he listed his enemies and claimed a victory which nobody has handed to him.
‘If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,’ he said during what he called a press conference.
Joe Biden tweeted a rebuke shortly after he finished saying: ‘No one is going to take our democracy away from us.
‘Not now, not ever. America has come too far, fought too many battles, and endured too much to let that happen.’
Trump, whose campaign has launched lawsuits in several battleground states, spoke more about the polls than he did about his own campaign, calling them ‘phony’ and ‘suppression polls,’ claiming that errors by pollsters were a deliberate attempt to keep his supporters at home.
Then he turned on his own party saying that because of him was no ‘blue wave,’ referring to Democrats’ failure to win the Senate and add to their majority in the House.
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That was a coded attack on Republicans’ most senior figures who have refused to come out in support of his claims of fraud. His son Don Jr. railed against Republicans earlier in similar terms – but Mitch McConnell has said that every vote must be counted.
‘We won by historic numbers. And the pollsters got it knowingly wrong, they got it knowingly wrong. We had polls that were so ridiculous and everybody knew it at the time. There was no blue wave that they predicted,’ Trump said.
As of Friday morning, Biden retained a narrow lead in Nevada and Arizona, and had pulled ahead slightly of Trump in the vote counts in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Trump remained ahead in North Carolina.
Biden needs only Pennsylvania to win, taking him to 273 electoral college votes, or Nevada and Arizona, taking him to 270. In contrast Trump would need to secure North Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania to secure 271.
At the time of his Thursday address, Trump had not been seen for more than 36 hours after appearing in the White House East Room at 2.30am on Wednesday morning in front of cheering fans in MAGA hats to claim then that he had ‘won.’
But he spoke after a measured Biden asked Americans to be patient and calm as they waited for the final ballots in the presidential race to be counted – amid mounting anxiety over the long wait for results, and concerns about public order.