The Trump administration has requested airtime on major networks for President Trump’s prime-time message regarding immigration. The major broadcast and cable news networks CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNN have all agreed to carry the message.

In this article by The New York Times, it is stated that such messages are rare.

In the recent past, White House requests to interrupt prime-time programming on the nation’s broadcast networks were rare and usually reserved for moments of national import, like the death of Osama bin Laden, and networks usually granted the requests. There have been instances, however, where such requests were rejected by producers as insufficiently newsworthy.

Excluding joint addresses to Congress (e.g. SOTU), just, exactly, how rare are prime time presidential addresses in the past, especially those that are given airtime on the major broadcast networks1? Is there a list of such prime time presidential messages?

1Major networks include CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNN.

  • Here's a list of the first six years of Obama's term. It has 9 (including the then-imminent one), of which it appears two were shutdown related. This article may list ones prior to 1999, but I'm not sure because only the first page is available without signing up. I couldn't find a unified list.
    – Bobson
    Jan 8, 2019 at 22:29
  • 2
    Some of the earliest ones were by FDR known as the "Fireside Chats" by radio. Before then, for technological reasons, the number was zero. The Wikipedia list of Oval Office addresses in deleted entry, while overinclusive, does appear to include all of them, greatly narrowing the inquiry. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oval_Office_address
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 8, 2019 at 23:09
  • Well, Hoover, not FDR was actually the first.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 8, 2019 at 23:27
  • 1
    @ohwilleke: I'm not sure if the Fireside Chats are recorded in the Oval Office, but the President's Weekly Radio Address (followed by the opposition party's rebuttle) is an actual thing that can be found online and airs around Noon, EST, on Saturdays so long as the radio station chooses to carry it (Talk radio tends to be best format for finding this).
    – hszmv
    Jan 10, 2019 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


I have not found a recent list that distinguishes between primetime and ordinary Oval Office addresses. This list is for all Oval Office addresses, whether televised in primetime or not: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oval_Office_address

Another article I found (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.voanews.com/amp/3091700.html) the following numbers of prime time addresses for other recent Presidents:

  • Obama: 3 (only up to 2015)
  • W. Bush: 6
  • Clinton: 13
  • H. W. Bush: 11
  • Reagan: 16

I believe this still puts Trump on the lower end of the scale.


There is no standard schedule. It's completely up to the President. It is traditional for there to be addresses when important changes or problems come up. But Trump has broken with many traditions including: releasing tax returns; holding press conferences; speaking respectfully about public servants; showing respect for the FBI; showing respect for the CIA; learning deeply about politics, diplomacy, and history; and many other areas.

  • 5
    Of course it’s up to the President, but that doesn’t address the question of “how often do they want to do so?” Also, the rest of this answer is just an opinionated rant against Trump that has no relation to the original question.
    – Bobson
    Feb 17, 2019 at 20:04
  • While it is true that there is no set schedule, the rest of your answer is irrelevant.
    – Joe
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:32
  • @Bobson The OP question was not "how often do they want to"? It was "how often do they occur?" Also, there is no "opinionated rant" in my answer. Confuting "facts" and "opinions" is one of the ways that people distort truth. Everything I mentioned about Trump is a documented historical fact, not my opinion. I believe that Trump supporters downvoted the answer because they (and he) want to suppress the facts of his life and his actions.
    – ElHombre55
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:00
  • @Joe , It is very relevant to the question of how often they will occur in the future. Clearly this is what the question is about, since the past is already known.
    – ElHombre55
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:00
  • 1
    @ElHombre55 - I am very much not a Trump supporter, but a list of traditions he's broken has no relevance whatsoever to answering "How often does this thing occur historically?" So I downvoted.
    – Bobson
    Feb 20, 2019 at 15:01

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