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‘Why are we still playing this game?’: Cable news employees rebelling against carrying Trump’s daily meltdowns

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According to a report from the Daily Beast, employees at the major news networks are becoming vocal in their opposition over having to carry Donald Trump’s daily press conferences that are light on details about how the government is dealing with the coronavirus epidemic and long on invective and blame-shifting by the president.

Based upon interviews with cable news staffers, the tipping point for many of them was Monday’s meltdown by the president that also featured what has been called a “propaganda” video that was nothing less than a free advertisement for the president’s re-election.

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“Shortly after taking the White House podium, the president introduced a series of video and audio clips that began with a white screen captioned ‘the media minimized the risk from the start,'” the report states. “What followed was several minutes of TV news clips showing various pundits dismissing the threat of the coronavirus early on (no mention, of course, of the president’s weeks-long campaign last month to downplay concerns over the pandemic as a new partisan ‘hoax’), and several governors praising Trump’s handling of the crisis.” 

According to one NBC News employee, ” It was like a Super Bowl-level ad buy, but for free,” and that the president was taking advantage of networks that have continued to cover his self-promoting appearances on an almost daily basis.

With a Fox News insider stating, “It’s a national emergency and Trump is the President of the United States,” as a defense of covering the president, employees at other networks are no longer buying it.

“‘This is absurd,’ said one cable-news staffer, who recalled screaming at his television as the attack ad ran on his network. The source suggested the video looked like something the president’s confidant and unofficial adviser Sean Hannity would’ve aired on his primetime Fox News show,” the report states, with another NBC employee stating, ““Which taxpayer-funded government staff employee spent the entire day editing misleading excerpts of three-month-old press clips to make the president look better? Whose job is that, when viewers are tuning in to learn what the government and CDC guidelines are, and what we should do so that we don’t die?” 

According to the Beast, several employees at NBC/MSNBC are pointing the finger at news executives like network chief Phil Griffin and his boss, NBC News President Andy Lack.

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“Per one network insider, top MSNBC hosts have appealed directly to Griffin to argue against carrying the briefings live. But the network has continued to do so, often only cutting back to its anchors when Trump gets off-track—a threshold that is increasingly difficult to determine, seeing as the president’s default posturing is one of constant meltdown,” the report states, adding that another staffer complained, “Why are we still playing this game? On the one hand, we have a duty to show the news, so we always just wait to see [what he says before cutting away]. But when has this ever been anything other than a reality television show?”

MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough has also made a public point on his show criticizing his bosses for airing Trump.

“The networks would never give Barack Obama this much free time to ramble on about what a great job he was doing regardless of the crisis,” he said on Twitter during the Monday presidential meltdown. “Network leaders would be freaked out by conservative criticism and buckle under pressure. This nonstop coverage is just preposterous.”

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According to one cable news staffer, “It’s harder and harder to see where the medical information is,” before confiding, “We have a president who completely turns news events into political events, and people shouldn’t carry them if he’s going to handle it like this. [On Monday] he lied about almost every single program he brought up to make himself look good—and you can’t counter that. It was literally a campaign speech and it wasn’t true.”

Of even greater concern by some employees is that the continuing coverage is being driven by ratings-hungry network executives worried about declining advertising revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“A former network news executive told The Daily Beast that the pressers—much like Trump’s campaign rallies—had become a ratings boon but said journalists they had spoken to were alarmed at audiences becoming ‘conditioned’ to the nightly press conferences that have lasted for up to three hours,” the report states.

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