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Why Liberal group is slamming networks over Obama speech

Posted at 4:30 PM, Nov 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-20 17:17:55-05

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2014. Dr. Frieden updated the President on the recently-diagnosed Ebola case in Dallas, Texas.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A top liberal advocacy group is lambasting ABC, NBC and CBS for deciding to not air President Barack Obama’s primetime address on immigration Thursday despite running a 2006 primetime address by President George W. Bush on the same issue. blasted the networks’ phone numbers and Twitter handles Thursday in an email to supporters, urging them to lobby for a live broadcast. Obama is expected to announce sweeping executive actions to reform the immigration system and shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

“[People] should make the choice whether they want to tune in or not and not have it preempted by network executives,” said Justin Krebs, one of the group’s campaigners who organized Thursday’s push.

And while Obama’s speech will announce policies that will affect millions, Krebs said Bush’s speech was “much less sweeping.”

Bush laid out his vision for immigration reform in a May 2006 Oval Office address that the three networks carried live in primetime. He called for mobilizing 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border and offered a series of proposals that he urged Congress to put into legislation.

“While President Bush’s discussion was important, it was ultimately a pitch,” Krebs said. “This is actually something that’s really directly affecting millions of people.”

Krebs added that he “absolutely” believes’s efforts to mobilize supporters could prompt network executives to change their minds on airing Obama’s speech.

A CBS News spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy not to discuss editorial decisions. ABC and NBC did not respond to requests for comment.

Univision and Telemundo, the two Spanish-language networks, announced they will air the President’s address live.

Administration officials informally indicated to the networks that they would like to get prime airtime for Obama’s roughly 10-minute address. The White House did not make a formal request after the networks appeared unwilling to air the President’s speech live.

While the Bush speech aired on a Monday night in May 2006, Obama’s speech comes at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night — one of the most-watch TV nights of the week.

CBS will be airing the Big Bang Theory, ABC will be airing the Grey’s Anatomy’s mid-season finale and NBC will air The Biggest Loser during Obama’s 8 p.m. speech from the East Room of the White House.

The three primary cable news networks will join Univision and Telemundo in carrying the President’s speech live.