At the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, television networks left the mute button unused.
They covered Trump’s farewell address at Joint Base Andrews, the opening event of a most unusual Inauguration Day, from beginning to end without pulling away — a possibility that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough raised as the outgoing president began to talk.
“We’re going to dip into this for as long as the president manages to tell the truth,” Scarborough said.
His network, along with ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, did not pull away. Trump talked about his election vote totals but dropped the persistent claim that he had really won. He wished the new administration well but did not mention successor Joe Biden by name.
It was “a very gracious speech,” Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum said. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, meanwhile, called it “totally inappropriate” and said it was “pretty repulsive” that Trump didn’t cite Biden.
There will be many jarring media juxtapositions on the day of ceremony. Air Force One, carrying Trump to Florida without him attending the inauguration, taxied on the runway as the loudspeaker played “My Way.” Television cameras then switched to Biden and his family at church.
The inauguration was to come with the backdrop of a small audience and extraordinary security, due both to the coronavirus pandemic and the Capitol riot by Trump supporters two weeks earlier.
Setting up the day, Americans with different points of view had clear choices of media outlets that would reflect how they felt.
“There are so many people who voted for Trump that have a hole in their heart this morning,” said “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt. Her Fox News colleague Dana Perino, while noting that Biden had received more votes, said she hoped the outgoing Trump administration “can feel some measure of success and hold their heads high.”
“Fox & Friends” pivoted to talking about an interview with Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi where the issue of Russian collusion was brought up.
“Talk about the ultimate sore losers,” said K.T. McFarland, former deputy national security adviser.
The New York Times marked Trump’s exit with a project documenting every person or entity he had disparaged on Twitter before his account’s suspension on Jan. 8. The Washington Post updated its count of untruths and misstatements by Trump: 30,534 heading into his last day as president.
Over on CNN, Dana Bash watched Trump leave the White House for the final time as president and walk to the Marine One helicopter.
“He looks small,” she said. “He just looks like a small man.”
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