On Thursday night, after a series of incendiary tweets 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 an emotionless monotone and offering no evidence for his accusations, Trump said that the Democrats were “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.”
Responded Dana Bash, his co-anchor, “I’m not an emotional person, but I’m having a hard time keeping it together.” She then added that she had reached out to senior Republicans “to ask when the intervention was going to happen, because this isn’t just partisan. It’s nonsensical; it’s illogical.” The other panelists, including Van Jones, Gloria Borger, David Axelrod and even Rick Santorum, a frequent Trump apologist, all struggled to contain their composure and even their anger over what they had just heard.
I will never forget how shook Dana Bash looked after watching Trump’s lies. I’ve never really seen a veteran correspondent look like that on live tv.
— CardinalKevin (@CardFan4Life) November 6, 2020
David Axelrod & Van Jones pointing out the specific cities Trump is calling out. pic.twitter.com/SsP98EvwTA
— Ⓜ️arcusD ▶️ (@_MarcusD3_) November 6, 2020
In all my years of watching David Axelrod on CNN, I don't think I've ever seen him get that worked up. That really says a lot to me. WOW.
— W for Westwood (@WForWestwood) November 6, 2020
But no one quite equalled Anderson Cooper when it came to articulating the perfect reaction to the president’s unprecedented comments. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this from the president of the United States and I think, as Jake said, it’s sad and it is truly pathetic and, of course, it’ll go through the courts,” said Cooper. “But you’ll notice the president did not have any evidence presented at all, nothing, no real actual evidence of any kind of fraud.”
He continued, in an analogy that was quickly shared by dozens of Twitter accounts, “That was the president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, and we see him, like an obese turtle on his back, flailing in the hot sun, realizing his time is over.”
Put Anderson Cooper in the hall of fame for this one 🐢 pic.twitter.com/wfM1QSXEif
— Mike Tague (@rhymeswithbeg) November 6, 2020