Perhaps Don Lemon might want to get an editor himself after this argument. Chris Cuomo might even agree, as the look on his face speaks volumes. Lemon wants networks to tape-delay Trump’s speech so they can edit it to remove “propaganda” (via Twitchy):
UNBELIEVABLE: Don Lemon suggests that Trump's speech be delayed so it can be edited and kept from Americans.
Chris Cuomo (the voice of reason) corrects him and says wanting a border wall isn't immoral or wrong.
Cuomo giving Lemon a "you've lost your mind" stare is CLASSIC. pic.twitter.com/0nwI8BEssP
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) January 8, 2019
Give Cuomo credit for being an honest voice of reason. Cuomo would later call the border-wall standoff a “farce,” so he’s not exactly a fan of the idea, but the proposal isn’t “propaganda,” he says in rebuke to Lemon. A president has a “right” to make the argument, Cuomo points out, even if it’s a bad or easily debunked one:
LEMON: Do you think there should be — I don’t know, a delay of some sort? And then you can — because people believe, the president will say what he has to say, people will believe it whether the facts are true or not. I guess that’s the chance you take with any president —
LEMON: — but this one is different. And then, by the times the rebuttals come on, we’ve already promoted propaganda, possibly, unless he gets up there and tells the truth.
CUOMO: He has his right to make the argument to the American people. And by the way, wanting barriers along the border is not propaganda.
LEMON: No, no, no —
CUOMO: It’s not immoral, it’s not wrong.
Here’s a question that Lemon doesn’t offer. If the media should put a delay on Trump, shouldn’t they also put a delay on the official Democratic response too, to prevent having “promoted propaganda”? After all, Trump’s not the only one in Washington who has trouble with the truth. Would Lemon suggest tape delays if Hillary Clinton was in office, for instance? The magic 8-ball says “Don’t count on it.”
Cuomo might be most astonished at Lemon’s quaint notion that a media network exists to edit public officials. That wasn’t possible in the days before the Internet, but it’s certainly not possible now. For one thing, the networks won’t act in concert, and for another, there are too many ways to send the message directly to people in large numbers now. Trump has 57 million Twitter followers — how many viewers does CNN have in prime time? In fact, Lemon’s suggestion plays right into why people don’t trust the media much any more — the idea that they are only reporting what they want people to hear rather than actual, objective news. This is a perfect example of that criticism.
And this is news, Poynter’s Al Tompkins wrote yesterday, and only eight minutes of it. “Air the speech,” he advised:
There is plenty of partisan noise arising about the TV networks giving President Donald Trump a live primetime audience Tuesday night.
Let me be direct. They should. It’s news. It’s in the public interest. Even if you don’t like what you are about to hear, you need to.
The President of the United States asked TV networks to give him at least eight minutes at 9 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday for an Oval Office address in which he may declare a state of national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.
That leaves plenty of time for the media outlets to parse out Trump’s claims, fact-check them (and hopefully the official response too), and do any record-setting necessary and appropriate. Why does Lemon think that’s not sufficient, when it has proven sufficient for decades of televised presidential addresses?
Perhaps it’s because media credibility to fairly perform those tasks are at an all-time low. Lemon’s suggestion that media outlets should edit the president before allowing him to make an argument doesn’t help matters. But it also may be because Lemon’s worried that Trump’s speech might be effective:
"Jared Kushner, I am told by a source familiar with the matter. is making the case that after the President's speech tonight, and after he goes to the border on Thursday, public support will grow towards the Republican side," reports @mkraju https://t.co/pmu3qBbG44 pic.twitter.com/ckW5dPvPuX
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 8, 2019
I’m actually a little skeptical that a Trump speech would be that much of a game-changer. This issue has festered long enough that the trenches on either side are now well established, and there is almost no incentive to cross no-man’s land to get to the other side or meet in the middle. Clearly, though, others are worried about it.
Update: Rewrote the headline to make it a little more active voice and clear on who does the editing (originally “Don Lemon: The president should be edited before we give him air time”).