On Thursday night, after a series of incendiary tweets over the past 48 hours questioning the validity of the Nov. 3 election results, many of which were flagged by Twitter for their inaccuracy, the president took to the White House shortly after 6:30 p.m. — just in time for the network news programs to carry him live — to declare his own victory in the 2020 presidential election.
No matter that the latest tallies in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada showed Joe Biden closing in on 270 Electoral College votes, with the former vice president having a realistic chance of clinching the presidency by night’s end.
Donald Trump was having none of it. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” the president falsely claimed. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.” Speaking for about 20 minutes in a emotionless monotone, and offering no evidence for his accusations, Trump said “This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen.”
It took the major networks just a few minutes to realize that the president was going off the rails, with all three cutting away from the White House while the speech was still in progress. On NBC, Lester Holt said, “We are watching President Trump speaking live from the White House and we have to interrupt here because the president made a number of false statements including the notion that there has been fraudulent voting. There has been no evidence of that. Allegations by his campaign but his campaign spokespeople unable to provide any evidence. He also has suggested that the polls and many of which were incorrect were somehow the product of election interference.”
On CNN, shortly after the president finished his speech and strode back into the White House without taking any questions, the anchors looked shocked at what they had just witnessed. “What a sad night for the United States of America,” said Jake Tapper, “to hear their president say that, to falsely accuse people of trying to steal the election, to try to attack democracy that way with this feast of falsehoods, lie after lie after lie about the election being stolen. No evidence for what he’s saying, just smears about integrity of vote counting in state after state.” Added Tapper: “We knew the president was not going to lose graciously if he lost. But frankly watching him flail like this is just pathetic.”