Broadcast news networks have vocally opposed the President’s border wall since he first discussed the idea during the 2016 election. While the proposed wall has returned to the spotlight thanks to the ongoing government shutdown, the media’s hostility towards it is nothing new.
To see the network media’s years-long crusade against a border wall, watch the video below:
At the outset of the Trump Presidency, reporters were quick to trot out any constituency who might not be thrilled about a wall. On January 25, 2017, NBC’s Gadi Schwartz lamented that some families living on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border “wish[ed] they could hug without metal bars.” He noted that “many” were “asking why Mexicans should have to pay for a wall they don’t want.”
The following night on CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley protested: “But some who live along the Rio Grande, the natural border with Mexico, don’t want a wall.” That news segment featured sound bytes from Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Trump campaign fundraiser Dennis Nixon, both of whom opposed the wall.
Meanwhile, ABC quickly fixated on the President’s claim that Mexico would pay for the wall. In a three-minute World News Tonight segment on January 25, 2017, White House correspondent Jonathan Karl repeatedly reminded viewers that Mexico’s then-President insisted his nation would not be funding the project. Anchor David Muir continued to harp on the issue, asking on multiple occasions in both 2017 and 2018: “What happened to Mexico paying for the wall?”
On February 5, 2017, NBC’s Kate Snow inquired thoughtfully: “Do walls work?” to tease a segment about Palestinians who were unhappy with Israel’s border fence.
CBS Evening News stand-in host Jericka Duncan posed that same leading question a year later on January 1, 2018, leading into a report on the Berlin Wall. Narrator Mark Phillips spent the majority of the segment offering unsubtle comparisons between the historic wall and the U.S.-Mexico border, sagely reminding viewers: “Critics will tell you that when governments build walls, it’s a sign that something else isn’t working.”
That same month, CBS's web site aired a special titled, “The Wall - A Nation Divided” which focused on the plight of an indigenous tribe whose tribal lands stretched across the southern border into Mexico. At one point in the mini-documentary, CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal challenged a Customs and Border Protection agent: “There are a lot of people on the [reservation] that don’t want a border wall. How do you wrestle with that?”