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News Orgs: Think Twice About Covering Trump’s Premature Victory Speech

Cutting to a premature Trump “victory” speech would hurt democracy and pave the way for an election crisis.

By Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen


Dear Broadcast News Directors and Editors,

As you know, the president is preparing to declare victory on election night based on a partial count that he believes will skew in his favor. He has also stated that he doesn’t think votes should be counted after November 3 – even though he and his allies have worked to prevent election officials from preparing for a rapid count of mail and early votes.

This isn’t democracy. This is cheating. And it risks setting the nation on a path of widespread civil unrest.

The media has to call this what it is. It’s not about favoring Trump or Biden. It’s about favoring truth and democratic functioning.

The narratives that media organizations put forth will help shape what comes next. They should: avoid premature election calls; explain that election tallies have never been completed on election night and will inevitably run longer than usual this year because of the high number of mail and early votes; refuse to provide video coverage of premature “victory” speeches and ensure that any reporting on premature victory proclamations focuses on why the victory call is not justified; and reiterate that in a democracy, every vote counts and every vote must be counted.

Headlines matter. TV matters. Even with reporters trying to provide context, cutting to a premature Trump “victory” speech would hurt democracy and pave the way for an election crisis.

We know you have been thinking deeply about election night and post-election scenarios. As you face game-time decisions, we implore you to recognize that Trump has made a career out of being a master media manipulator. Please, don’t fall for it on Election Night. We urge you to commit to blacking out any premature victory proclamations and counteracting Trump claims that routine vote-counting after Election Day is anything other than a normal part of a working democracy.


Robert Weissman

President, Public Citizen