TV networks cut away from the White House coronavirus briefing as Trump contradicted his health experts

trump coronavirus white house press briefing social distancing

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

US President Donald Trump stands with members of his administration's coronavirus task force including Vice President Mike Pence, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ambassador Debbie Birx and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams as he addresses the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2020.

  • CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News cut away from President Trump's lengthy coronavirus briefing on Monday night.
  • During the briefing, Trump chafed at the idea of continuing the widespread order for people to stay home, which is harming the economy,  even though his own top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci had said that social distancing measures would need to be in place for "several weeks."
  • CBS said in a statement to Insider that they would "continue to cover the briefings whenever possible" but may need to cut away for evening programming. But MSNBC told Insider, "We cut away because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health."
  • Critics of the president have called for networks to stop airing the briefings in their entirety. "All of us should stop broadcasting it, honestly," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow said Friday. "It's going to cost lives."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Monday night, most of the major television networks, with the exception of Fox News, cut away from President Donald Trump's daily coronavirus briefing.

Though the briefings often feature a rotating cast of administration health experts like Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, more often than not, they have allowed Trump to make inaccurate declarations about the administration's response and undercut the dire warnings of these professionals that Americans need to stay home to stop the virus from spreading.

With Trump contradicting experts, providing inaccurate medical information, and engaging in lengthy diatribes against journalists, critics of the president have begun to question how much networks should broadcast them - and whether relaying his words directly was actually a public benefit.

Several networks cut away from Trump's briefing on Monday night

On Monday night, Trump's coronavirus briefing with Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET. The briefing didn't actually begin until after 6 p.m.

Trump quickly began to undermine his health experts' warnings that Americans would need to stay home for several weeks, claiming that businesses would open "soon."

Trump implied that the limitations would continue for "a much shorter period of time than I've been hearing the news report," even though Fauci had told the "TODAY Show" on Friday that the measures would need to be in place for "several weeks."

At one point Trump made Dr. Birx, the top health expert on the podium that day, part of a bit aimed at attacking the media.

The major broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, and NBC -  all cut away from Trump's Monday night press conference about 20 minutes in, the Associated Press reported. Cable news networks CNN and MSNBC followed suit after 7 p.m.

A spokesman for CBS News told Insider that the network "plans to continue covering briefings whenever possible, but may cut away for regularly scheduled news broadcasts, which many viewers depend on for delivering objective reporting and context on the developments of the day."

He noted that CBS News' feed of the briefings was still available to affiliates, and that they would incorporate major headlines from the events into the Evening News.

MSNBC, on the other hand, "cut away because the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health," a network spokesperson told Insider.

On Twitter, White House spokesman Judd Deere said the networks' decision was "disgraceful" and thanked Fox News for airing it.

"If the White House wants to ask for time on the network, they should make an official request. Otherwise we will make our own editorial decisions," a CNN spokesman said in a statement relayed by the network's media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Critics of Trump's briefings say its time to stop broadcasting them

On Tuesday, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan declared, "The media must stop live-broadcasting Trump's dangerous, destructive coronavirus briefings."

"These White House sessions - ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis - are in fact working against that end," Sullivan wrote.

James Fallows, a longtime journalist for The Atlantic, also tweeted that "cable outlets should stop covering them live."


"If it were up to me and it's not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV," MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Friday. "Not out of spite, but because it's misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true you can run it as tape."

"All of us should stop broadcasting it, honestly," Maddow said. "It's going to cost lives."

On Monday, a man in Arizona died and his wife was hospitalized from ingesting chloroquine phosphate, after Trump repeatedly used his pulpit to tout chloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19 over objections from his own officials that the drug had not yet been approved for this use.

"We saw Trump on TV - every channel - and all of his buddies and that this was safe," the woman told NBC News' Vaughn Hillyard. "Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure."

Read more: Trump claims if stopping coronavirus 'were up to the doctors' the world would be shut down 'for a couple of years'

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Get the latest coronavirus analysis and research from Business Insider Intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

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