All the major television networks in America will air President Donald Trump’s address on the border wall live on Tuesday after the White House requested they carve out space in their prime-time lineups.
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC all confirmed Monday they would carry the president’s speech at 9 p.m. Eastern time after Trump said he planned to address the country “on the humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border.” Some cable networks, including CNN and MSNBC, which cater to smaller audiences, said they plan to air the speech as well.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, also said Trump would travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday.
Shortly after the network confirmations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released a joint statement calling for Democrats to be given “equal airtime” to address the country.
“Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” the pair said.
The major networks ― ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC ― all committed on Tuesday to airing the Democrats’ response, to be delivered by Pelosi and Schumer.
The networks’ decision is likely to be a costly one, as advertising spots in prime-time hours can cost millions of dollars in total. The New York Times notes that such addresses have grown increasingly rare and are usually reserved for moments of significant national importance, like President Barack Obama’s announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Some requests have been denied, with addresses aired on a tape delay, including a 2014 Obama speech on immigration.
Some questioned why major networks wouldn’t use tape delay for Trump’s address in order to counter his persistent falsehoods about the border. CBS, the first network to announce it would air the speech, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about its plans.
The address comes in the midst of an ongoing partial government shutdown, during which Trump and Senate Republicans have refused to pass funding measures that don’t include more than $5.6 billion for the wall. The shutdown has stretched into its third week, with no end in sight.
The president has continued to tout his border wall, even as his definition of it has changed. Last weekend, he said he would be happy to build a steel barrier on the border rather than one made out of concrete, saying such a structure would “look beautiful and it’s actually strong.” The White House has also released “Game of Thrones”–style posters featuring a mock-up of the wall with Trump’s image hovering above it.
Trump has also lied about support for the structure, falsely claiming that some of his predecessors had told him they supported a border fence. All four living former presidents have denied saying as much.
This story has been updated with comment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, along with an update on the Democrats’ air time.