TV Networks Shift From Coverage of Electoral Tally to Storming of Capitol

Personalities on right-wing media outlets, who have helped fuel a movement built on misinformation and conspiracy theories, were clearly reluctant to fault Mr. Trump for the violent actions of his supporters. On Newsmax, a conservative network that caters to Trump partisans — and whose most popular host, Greg Kelly, has insisted without basis that Mr. Trump can still win the election — commentators tried to cast blame on the mainstream media instead.

Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner and felon who was pardoned by Mr. Trump, asserted on Newsmax that journalists “are acting like it was an armed takeover of the Capitol and that’s nonsense.” He added, despite ample footage of the riot, that “you have six to 10 people who entered the building. OK, deal with it.”

In tranquil times, the congressional certification of the Electoral College vote is the sort of rudimentary government business typically relegated to C-SPAN. Even before the mob headed to the Capitol, the networks were prepared for a marathon day of minute-by-minute Washington coverage, as allies of President Trump in the House and Senate planned a last-ditch effort to subvert the results of the election.

As the joint session of Congress began at 1 p.m., most networks ran an uninterrupted live feed from the House and Senate floors. On CNN, just after 2 p.m., Wolf Blitzer broke in with a report that “protesters are getting assertive” as the mob breached the compound’s outer doors.

Over the next hours, scenes flashed across American televisions that many citizens would never have imagined emanating from the nation’s capital. A bloodied woman carried from the Capitol on a stretcher by paramedics. Law enforcement officers drawing guns inside the House. Rioters running unfettered inside the congressional chambers smashing glass.

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The CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip called the scene “a tragedy”; Van Jones described the actions as “treason.” Chuck Todd on MSNBC called it “a scene from a bad movie.” On CBS, Major Garrett called it “a cleavage, a ripping apart of a sense of what government is, what it’s meant to accomplish and how it is sanctified in every presidential election.”

On Fox News, the anchor Chris Wallace framed the events as “the rule of the mob versus the rule of law and the Constitution,” noting that Mr. Trump spent an hour on Wednesday “filling a crowd with misstatements, with facts that have been absolutely shredded.”


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