CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all carried a live news conference by former President Donald J. Trump on Thursday on the final day of his civil fraud trial, a stark reminder that the former president’s legal troubles provide him with a uniquely outsize media platform as he pursues the Republican nomination.
His appearance lasted only a few minutes, but viewers were treated to an unfiltered fusillade of incendiary and misleading comments, with Mr. Trump assailing President Biden as a “crooked” politician who “could not string two sentences together.”
Fraud charges against a former president are undoubtedly newsworthy, but Mr. Trump has seized on the legal proceedings as a chance to hog the media spotlight — a notable advantage over rivals like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Nikki Haley, who struggle for similar airtime.
The episode also highlighted the tough choices facing television journalists as the 2024 campaign kicks off in earnest on Monday with the Iowa caucuses: how to handle live coverage of Mr. Trump given his predilection for making baseless claims.
“We just have to fact-check a lot — and brace yourself, because this is going to take a moment,” Brianna Keilar, the CNN host, said on Thursday after her network carried Mr. Trump’s remarks in full. She and a co-anchor, Boris Sanchez, spent several minutes refuting several of Mr. Trump’s assertions at the news conference, which Mr. Sanchez described as “largely false.”
In the years after Mr. Trump left the White House, TV producers have found it easier to justify not carrying his comments live, given he was out of power. Even Fox News, which once helped cement Mr. Trump’s status with the American right, declined to air live interviews with the former president for nearly two years.
With Mr. Trump now ahead in many polls for the Republican nomination, networks may become more flexible in allowing him to appear live on air. Fox News held a live town hall with Mr. Trump on Wednesday night in Iowa.
On Thursday, Fox News carried Mr. Trump’s Manhattan news conference as it happened. The anchor John Roberts took the opportunity to reminisce about Mr. Trump’s lengthy and freewheeling news conferences during his presidency, saying that the Thursday appearance “may be a harbinger of things to come.”
His co-anchor, Sandra Smith, reminded viewers that Mr. Trump had been ordered to pay $5 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll in a sexual abuse and defamation case — despite Mr. Trump’s assertion at the news conference that “I have no idea who this woman is.”
MSNBC took a more wary approach. The cable channel, which is popular with liberals, tuned in only midway through Mr. Trump’s news conference as he began fielding questions from reporters. The network aired his comments for about two minutes before cutting away.