How the media covered the aftermath of Trump's conviction — and his remarks the following morning

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Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, 2024, in New York. A day after a New York jury found Donald Trump guilty of 34 felony charges, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee addressed the conviction and likely attempt to cast his campaign in a new light. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

NEW YORK – CNN and MSNBC both cut away from former President Donald Trump as he spoke live on Friday less than 24 hours after being convicted in his New York hush money trial.

The decisions, along with coverage of the trial's aftermath in general, spoke to how the nation's divisions are reflected in the media and the way journalists continue to wrestle with how best to deal with Trump as he's well into his third run for the presidency.

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In what was billed as a news conference, the former president hit familiar themes with his anger about the case, criticism of some figures involved and campaign-style attacks against his anticipated opponent, President Joe Biden. Trump walked off after about 40 minutes without taking any questions.

“Clearly, without a teleprompter, he's raging against almost everything,” CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said. The network pulled away from Trump about halfway through his talk, followed shortly by MSNBC. Fox News Channel and Newsmax, networks more popular with Trump fans, carried the speech in full. Broadcast networks did not carry it.

Both CNN and MSNBC immediately told viewers that some of what Trump had said was misleading or flat-out false. That's been a concern for years among some networks about carrying Trump's remarks live, as illustrated when Trump spoke almost daily after his trial sessions; MSNBC was most likely to skip those entirely.

FACT-CHECKING AND ANALYSIS STEP IN

Blitzer called on CNN's fact-checker, Daniel Dale, to note that there's “not a shred of evidence” to indicate that Biden had anything to do with Trump's prosecution. He also questioned Trump statements about who was allowed to testify for his defense, and crime statistics in New York City.

An onscreen headline at MSNBC read, “Trump's Remarks Riddled with Falsehoods and Attacks.”

An MSNBC analyst, Catherine Christian, said she believed that Trump violated a gag order still in place from his trial by talking about a witness, his former “fixer” Michael Cohen, even though Cohen wasn't identified by name. Trump called him a “sleazebag.”

Cohen, on a victory tour of sorts with post-verdict appearances on MSNBC and ABC's “Good Morning America,” sent a profane response that CNN's Kasie Hunt read on the air. He called Trump's remarks, in part, “broken-brain word manure.”

While Trump was still talking, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson said the speech was “a real blown opportunity for him and a reminder of how much he's aged.” On MSNBC, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was surprised that Trump and his team didn't craft remarks more carefully, knowing more eyes would be upon him following the conviction. The former president appeared to be speaking without a script.

Onscreen headlines on Fox News captured some of the former president's remarks: “Trump: We're Dealing with a Corrupt Government,” “Trump: We're Fighting for our Constitution” and “Trump: This is Bigger Than my Presidency.”

“I think what you saw in this is an encapsulation of how he's going to deal with this in his campaign going forward,” Fox News' Bret Baier said.

DIVERGING FRONT-PAGE HEADLINES

The morning after Trump's guilty verdict on all 34 counts he was charged with, New York residents could pass by newsstands with front-page headlines that spoke to differences in coverage. “GUILTY,” read a banner in The New York Times, same as the front of the Daily News. The New York Post's headline was “INJUSTICE.”

Shortly after Trump was finished speaking on Friday, commentators on Newsmax were criticizing CNN and MSNBC for cutting away from remarks by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. CNN said in a statement that it's unprecedented and newsworthy when a former president is convicted of 34 felonies and speaks about it.

"When carrying the former president's comments live no longer held news value for our audience, we moved on to other programming including relevant fact checking of the remarks while continuing to monitor them for news value,” the network said.

MSNBC didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment on its decision.

The differences in approach raise questions about how networks that don't specifically seek Trump viewers will handle live appearances in the upcoming campaign. Will fairness compel all networks to air both candidates' nomination acceptance speeches in full, a traditional part of campaign summers? How will the decisions be made?

Meanwhile, some networks reported strong viewership numbers for coverage of Thursday's verdict: 4.4 million for Fox News Channel, 3.4 million for MSNBC and 2.4 million for CNN, the Nielsen company said. Broadcast numbers weren't immediately available.

MSNBC, which has covered the Trump case exhaustively for its left-leaning audience, scored a victory over traditional leader Fox in prime-time, averaging 3.2 million viewers for its second biggest night of the year behind Biden's State of the Union address. Fox had 3 million viewers and CNN 1.2 million.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.


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