Why Twitter Users Demand That News Networks Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
As the global coronavirus pandemic continues to wear on, Trump has taken the outbreak as an opportunity to host near-daily White House briefings that experts say are rife with misinformation. The televised appearances have drawn criticism for all the usual reasons Trump’s public addresses are prone to scrutiny: according to experts, the president's addresses are considered pompous, often riddled with deflections, full of factual inaccuracies, and outright attacks on the media.
Now, Twitter users are calling on major news networks to stop airing President Donald Trump's White House news briefings. The argument to remove Trump’s press briefings from the air altogether is gaining momentum, thanks to a Twitter hashtag premised on a new opinion column from Charles Blow in the New York Times. In the column, entitled "Stop Airing Trump's Briefings!," Blow recalls the early days of the 2016 presidential election, when Trump consistently ranked highest of any candidate in “earned” media coverage — taking advantage of positive, neutral, and negative press mentions in order to ensure that his campaign was always newsworthy.
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The argument gained traction online on Monday, when “Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings!” began trending on Twitter, with several of Trump’s prominent opponents coopting the hashtag to argue that continuing to air White House press briefings where the president is freely speaking against expert opinion is essentially irresponsible.
“I have been shouting this for weeks!” feminist activist Amy Siskind wrote in a tweet. “Shame on our media! Trump has completely politicized this pandemic and the briefings have become a tool of that politicization. He is standing on top of nearly 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract.”
The column was also shared by other prominent figures in politics and the media, with journalist Katie Couric and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile both tweeting out the link, signaling tacit agreement. Shortly after, thousands of Twitter users began demanding networks take action — which some networks have already began to consider.
During one particular appearance on April 13, both CNN and MSNBC abruptly cut away mid-briefing after Trump used the moment to air clips from FOX News praising his leadership during the pandemic. “We are going to avoid airing any more of this White House briefing until it returns to what it was supposed to be, which was the Coronavirus Task Force briefing providing medical information,” said MSNBC host Ari Melber, who called the video that had aired “some kind of backward looking edited video propaganda.” CNN anchor John King said, “To play a propaganda video at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room is a new — you can insert your favorite word here in this administration.”
In an election year, the briefings also take on the sinister cast of being de facto political ads, which is why Twitter users have put out a grassroots call-to-arms in order to get networks to stop giving space for free airtime. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are also in the middle of a presidential campaign, and I shudder to think how much 'earned media' the media is simply shoveling Trump’s way by airing these briefings,” Blow writes in the column.
“Let me be clear,” he continues. “Under no circumstance should these briefings be carried live. Doing so is a mistake bordering on journalistic malpractice. Everything a president does or says should be documented but airing all of it, unfiltered, is lazy and irresponsible.”

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