'See you soon': How America's transfer of power is playing out on TV

US President Donald Trump speaks next to first lady Melania Trump as he departs from the Joint Base Andrews,on Jan 20, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - America's division was in sharp relief on cable TV on Wednesday (Jan 20) morning as US President Donald Trump addressed the nation before flying to his post-White House home in Florida.

Networks favourable to the outgoing president lamented his departure, focusing on how he delivered a populist message and led the development of the Covid-19 vaccines, while glossing over the 400,000 American deaths from the pandemic. Networks viewed as the opposition to Trump, including CNN and MSNBC, continued their criticism of a president now facing his second impeachment trial.

On Fox Corp's Fox News, host Bill Hemmer reflected on the video address the president released Tuesday, and the Jan 6 storming of the US Capitol by rioters Mr Trump incited.

"What if you could rewind the hands of time, and what if … he could've delivered that same message (as his farewell speech) on the week of Nov 9?" Mr Hemmer asked.

"What could have been if that moment (the storming of the US Capitol) did not take place in Washington?"

A host on left-leaning MSNBC, owned by Comcast Corp , said of Wednesday's transfer of power: "This is a day that many Democrats and progressives thought would never come."

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough recounted Mr Trump's rise in stark terms.

"This is the former reality TV host who spoke of running for president since the late 1980s," Mr Scarborough said.

"He was friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton and made contributions to Democrats, but he saw an opening with a racist conspiracy theory called 'birtherism' and targeted a party that was more vulnerable than expected."

AT&T Inc-owned CNN, a frequent Trump target, showed a split screen of the South Lawn helicopter and Blair House, where President-elect Joe Biden and his family stayed.

On conservative cable news channel Newsmax and smaller conservative rival One America News Network (OAN), which Mr Trump has promoted after ramping up his criticism of Fox News, hosts spoke of Mr Trump's detractors and his political future.

"The president has a tremendous personality," said a Newsmax anchor before Mr Trump departed the White House.

"It's gotten him a long way. It got him all the way to the Oval Office. It seems like the establishment, in many respects, many in DC, many in the elite, the media elite so to speak, they ultimately just couldn't square with that and they just didn't like him."

As the president's helicopter landed at Joint Base Andrews, an OAN anchor said: "This is a very monumental moment for the first lady and for the president. This is their last ride aboard Marine One - for now, as the president is considering a political future again."

Before boarding Air Force One en route to Florida, Mr Trump teased a return: "So, have a good life. We will see you soon."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.