No Surprise Here! Networks Express Disgust with Trump Speech; Refuse to Condemn Dems

In perhaps the least surprising thing to happen thus far in 2019, President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night address was not well received by the broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC (and particularly the first and third ones). Anchors, hosts, and correspondents panned it as inaccurate, full of fear-mongering, and then offered little to no criticism of the Democratic response by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

NBC was the most hostile to the Oval Office address. Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd told host Lester Holt that “what was intriguing to me is how much it lacked any new information” and instead came across as “a more formalized version of the stump speech” before the midterms when “he was trying to use the fear of crime.” Yes, Chuck, the fear of actual crimes that have taken place by illegal immigrants. The nerve of him!

 

 

After the Democratic response, congressional correspondent Kasie Hunt admitted that the speeches “just escalate[d] this standoff” with Trump “clearly digging in” and “Democrats have no incentive to give him what he wants.” 

This prompted Holt to offer this swarmy quote trashing Trump: “He didn't seem to offer anything that would bring comfort to those 800,000 workers who will likely miss a check this Friday.”

To his credit, correspondent Gabe Gutierrez admitted while reporting from the border that “it is important to point out from speaking with people here at the border, the President does have many supporters here who do thank him for taking a stand when it comes to this wall” while “many others, advocates” believe “this is a manufactured crisis.”

Holt went back to Todd for the wrap-up, again laying into Trump: “Chuck, I'm scratching my head here trying to figure out who the intended audience was that the President really wanted to reach today.”

Todd told him that “it was congressional Republicans” and that Trump failed to “reassure these wavering Republicans” because “I didn't hear anything that in my mind should reassure wobbly Republicans that they should stick by him on this.”

Going to ABC, the hostility was evident immediately afterward with chief anchor George Stephanopoulos and senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega (click “expand”):

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the word crisis. The President used that word several times in the speech, but the overall numbers of the immigrants coming across the border far down from its peak. 

VEGA: Just because you say it's a crisis, George, doesn't necessarily make it one. So, let's go over a few facts here. Apprehensions of illegal crossings as you say have been on the decline for decades. They have, however, been picking up in the last year and recent months and that is what this administration likes to hammer down hard on and repeatedly use in their talking points. He also used the number of drugs that are used in coming across the border and I have to say virtually all heroin, many fact-checks have shown, comes through legal points of entry. We are hearing the President make the case to declare a national emergency. That seems to be what's happening here, but I've got to say, George, behind the scenes up until late today these White House lawyers here were still trying to figure out whether this is something he can actually do. 

Later, here was Stephanopoulos with congressional correspondent Mary Bruce before the Democratic response seeking to discredit Trump’s attempt at a compromise (click “expand”):

STEPHANOPOULOS: The President saying there that only the Democrats can solve this right now. They’re adamantly opposed to funding the wall, but he also added this claim that he has — he has changed the calls for the wall to a steel barrier at the request of Democrats, he says. 

BRUCE: Yeah and I am told that's simply not true. Look, Democrats up here on the Hill say it doesn't matter what this is made of, whether it's steel slats or the concrete wall that the President long promised, Democrats simply are not going to spend $5.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to build this wall. The White House continues to insist this was a concession that the President put on the table. That simply is not how Democrats see it and no matter what it's made of it will not be enough to get Democrats to cave or budge here whatsoever, George. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: At least not yet.

After the Democrats, there was zero analysis as Stephanopoulos immediately signed off. So much for holding the other side accountable.

CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor went to Mireya Villarreal in McAllen, Texas and she had a few interesting notes, first among them being her admission from the start that this border town “is a fairly blue area” as “they have not elected a Republican person here in this area for over a hundred years” and thus reactions there “skews towards the Democrats.” 

Even then, she observed that “they do see and feel a need for border security here in the Rio Grande Valley and there's no doubt I think that everybody supports that, but what you're going to see is big divisiveness” with elected officials not supporting a wall.

She also noted that some of the opposition could be not because they disagree with the President but because Democrats don’t feel like giving him a win on something (click “expand”):

But what we are hearing from people that just watched the President's speak is that they — that they want to see more support, more unity between the two different parties here. I think that there is a feeling that while, you know, a few years ago when we had President Obama asking for money for border security, for a border wall there was a lot of support there that we have President Trump in office there's just not support for him as a person, not necessarily him as a Republican or him as the President of the United States. The one day between now and obviously President trump's potential trip here to the Rio grande valley there's still that one day. There is hope there will somebody sort of discussions between the two sides in the next 24 hours. 

In signing off, Glor concluded that “there is some nuance to some of these arguments that, unfortunately, at times, I think, gets lost.”

To see the relevant transcripts from the three network special reports on January 8, click “expand.”

NBC News Special Report
January 8, 2019
9:12 p.m. Eastern

CHUCK TODD: Well, what was intriguing to me is how much it lacked any new information. In some ways it actually reminded me, he gave a more formalized version of the stump speech he used in the last month of the campaign when he was trying to make the case there was a crisis at the border, when he was trying to use the fear of crime. He used various phrases like he did tonight, you know, how much more blood has to be shed. He really would try to put it in very visual stark terms. And as we now know, it had no impact. So, I am a bit surprised that this speech is just essentially a rewritten version of that stump speech, but without the, you know, without the fiery rhetoric and then I would say he made a lot of dubious claims. One of the more dubious on the political front was the claim that he made when he said, and finally I want a physical barrier and at the request of the Democrats, it's no longer a concrete wall, it's steel. I don't know how many Democrats who would line up and say, sure, have your wall as long as it's steel and not concrete. Some of this back and forth, Lester, is about semantics. Some of this is about the irony here is what the president outlined. Democrats would support 90 percent of what he outlined. It's simply the physical barrier point that is the sticking point and I think that’s where we’re stuck on semantics.

(....)

9:20 p.m. Eastern

KASIE HUNT: But the reality is there probably aren't enough of them to make a veto-proof majority to override this President. That's simply not something that seems realistic, according to all of my sources that I've talked to on Capitol Hill and the reality from listening to both of these addresses tonight, the view from here, this seems to just escalate this standoff. There's really no end in sight to it. The President clearly digging in. Democrats have no incentive to give him what he wants. The government has been funded several times since this President has been in office without this wall. He has decided that this is going to be his last stand. Tonight, it doesn't seem as if we are any closer to a resolution. 

HOLT: He didn't seem to offer anything that would bring comfort to those 800,000 workers who will likely miss a check this Friday. 

(....)

9:22 p.m. Eastern

GABE GUTIERREZ: Now, it is important to point out from speaking with people here at the border, the President does have many supporters here who do thank him for taking a stand when it comes to this wall. However, we spoke with many others, advocates, who say this is a manufactured crisis. Now, the question will be is how — you know — what becomes of this here on the border? We’ve spoken with several agents here as well as federal employees, including one I just spoke with who says this government shutdown is really causing a huge problem for the federal employees here at the border and while Customs and Border Protection agents do want better security here at the border, it should not be done on the backs of federal workers. Now, Lester, 400,000 apprehensions were made on the southwest border during the last fiscal year, but that is dramatically less than the 1.6 million that were made back in the year 2000. 

HOLT: Gabe Gutierrez on the southern border for us tonight. Let me bring back Chuck Todd very quickly. Chuck, I'm scratching my head here trying to figure out who the intended audience was that the President really wanted to reach today.

TODD: Well, look, it's pretty clear and as you know, he hosted a bunch of us here in Washington for an off the record conversation about previewing tonight's speech. It was pretty clear for me coming away from that, without violating the off the record, that tonight was about — the audience was one group of folks and it was congressional Republicans. They were looking for the air cover. They were looking for the support. They're the ones that believe the President has mismanaged the messaging on this. Tonight was an attempt to try to get back on top of this, try to reassure these wavering Republicans on Capitol Hill that Kasie was talking to you about from bailing on him. He's going to have a meeting tomorrow and those Senate Republicans, but I’ve got to tell you I didn't hear anything that in my mind should reassure wobbly Republicans that they should stick by him on this tomorrow. We’ll see if he has any better luck.

HOLT: In the few seconds we have left, any indication that he would stick to this idea of declaring an emergency on going alone? 

TODD: I think he may always keep it out there and he may even attempt to do it if he has to, quote, cave and open the government without getting his wall. He can still hold that out there and maybe even fight it in the courts. Declare it, fight it in the courts, but then politically that might help keep his base. I think it's still his final exit ramp out of this political mess he's put himself in. 

 

ABC News Special Report
January 8, 2019
9:11 p.m. Eastern

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the word crisis. The President used that word several times in the speech, but the overall numbers of the immigrants coming across the border far down from its peak. 

CECILIA VEGA: Just because you say it's a crisis, George, doesn't necessarily make it one. So, let's go over a few facts here. Apprehensions of illegal crossings as you say have been on the decline for decades. They have, however, been picking up in the last year and recent months and that is what this administration likes to hammer down hard on and repeatedly use in their talking points. He also used the number of drugs that are used in coming across the border and I have to say virtually all heroin, many fact-checks have shown, comes through legal points of entry. We are hearing the President make the case to declare a national emergency. That seems to be what's happening here, but I've got to say, George, behind the scenes up until late today these White House lawyers here were still trying to figure out whether this is something he can actually do. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah and he has not — he did not declare that in the speech. I want to bring in our chief White House correspondent Jon Karl as well. Jon, we did have a mention from the President that Mexico would pay for the wall. He repeated this claim to somehow this new U.S.-Mexico free trade agreement will make Mexico pay for the wall. Number one, the agreement has not been approved by congress and even if it is, there's no — there’s no provision there to make Mexico pay for the wall. 

JONATHAN KARL: George, there is no provision in that trade deal that would have Mexico pay for the wall. It is a relatively minor reworking of NAFTA, some changes, but not changes that bring in additional revenue from Mexico to pay for this wall and remember, that promise made by the President some 200 times during the campaign was a very direct one. It said Mexico would pay for the it didn't say indirectly through a trade deal. It said Mexico would pay for the wall and that is not happening. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I also want to bring in our senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce there on Capitol Hill. Mary, we’re about to hear from the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer. The President saying there that only the Democrats can solve this right now. They’re adamantly opposed to funding the wall, but he also added this claim that he has — he has changed the calls for the wall to a steel barrier at the request of Democrats, he says. 

MARY BRUCE: Yeah and I am told that's simply not true. Look, Democrats up here on the Hill say it doesn't matter what this is made of, whether it's steel slats or the concrete wall that the President long promised, Democrats simply are not going to spend $5.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to build this wall. The White House continues to insist this was a concession that the President put on the table. That simply is not how Democrats see it and no matter what it's made of it will not be enough to get Democrats to cave or budge here whatsoever, George. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: At least not yet.

(....)

9:19 p.m. Eastern

STEPHANOPOULOS: So there you have it. We’ve heard from the President. We’ve heard from the Democrats. It sure does not sound like we will get a compromise any time soon. 

 

CBS News Special Report
January 8, 2019
9:19 p.m. Eastern

JEFF GLOR: I don't think I heard anything tonight to indicate we're any closer to a solution. 

ED O’KEEFE: Not at all. Look, we heard from a President held in low regard by most Americans touting a policy proposal held in low regard by most Americans and tonight, based on what we've just heard is all about posturing. I heard nothing specific from either side on some kind of compromise that could potentially break this logjam starting tomorrow. Part of the problem is that they can't agree on the facts. Now, we can spend hours going over the facts that are shared by either side, but we should call out some of them. The president tonight, for example, saying that 20,000 children were found crossing the border illegally last month. Not quite. According to the Customs and Border protection 4,982 unaccompanied minors were apprehended in October. About 5,200 in November and family units is how Customs and Border Protection defines it about 23,115. So, he talks about children in fact it's members of families who cross the border it's that kind of tweaking of facts that is aggravating Democrats and making it very difficult for them come to some kind of agreement with the president. 

GLOR: The numbers are important.

(....)

9:26 p.m. Eastern

MIREYA VILLARREAL: Well, you know, Jeff, as of right now, what you're really looking at is the idea that — that — this is a fairly blue area, okay? Listen, I was just told right now that you have — that they have not elected a Republican person here in this area for over a hundred years. So clearly, this skews towards the Democrats but as we listened in to the President's speech, talked to the people here I think what is very clear is they do see and feel a need for border security here in the Rio Grande Valley and there's no doubt I think that everybody supports that, but what you're going to see is big divisiveness between law enforcement, between elected officials. A lot of elected officials here, over a dozen different cities have said that they will not support a border wall but will support border security. So, clearly they feel they need funds here to continue to support the influx of migrants that’s coming across the border. They continue to need the money to continue to support law enforcement. But what we are hearing from people that just watched the President's speak is that they — that they want to see more support, more unity between the two different parties here. I think that there is a feeling that while, you know, a few years ago when we had President Obama asking for money for border security, for a border wall there was a lot of support there that we have President Trump in office there's just not support for him as a person, not necessarily him as a Republican or him as the President of the United States. The one day between now and obviously President trump's potential trip here to the Rio grande valley there's still that one day. There is hope there will somebody sort of discussions between the two sides in the next 24 hours. 

GLOR: Alright, Mireya, thank you very much from McAllen, Texas. Nancy Cordes, when the sides were talking, was there any consensus about a potential number between zero and $5.7 billion on how much they might possibly agree on, if at all? 

CORDES: Well, that was part of the problem. Democrats say that the number kept changing, that the Vice President, for example, would float 2.5 billion and then the President would say, no, he actually wants 5.7 billion and then day later he would say, actually he wants even more money for additional border security. That's the reason Democrats say they don't think that these negotiations are going anywhere and beyond that, they believe that there's a tactical consideration here as well. That if they treat this like a normal negotiation and continue to work with the president that this will only encourage him to use this approach the next time the funding is on the line. 

GLOR: Okay. Nancy Cordes, thanks very much. Ed O’Keefe, quickly, final thoughts. 

O’KEEFE: We'll see how that goes tomorrow, but there’s really no sign of resolution. Vicente Gonzalez is the Congressman for the area where Mireya is. He told us a little ago while on CBSN he considers this a fourth century solution to a 20th century problem and in the sign of out little, the White House hasn’t even invited him to tag along on Thursday to his home district. 

GLOR: But you talked to some of the people as Mireya noted in some of these — there is some nuance to some of these arguments that, unfortunately, at times, I think, gets lost.


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