“I Am Not Reporting Anything to You”

How Fox News, CNN handled the initial Bin Laden news

In the event that you were not watching cable news last night, rest assured that Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer handled the breaking Bin Laden news (specifically, the hour or so before the president actually announced that “justice has been done”) exactly as you imagined they would.

During the longer-than-expected wait between the announcement of President Obama’s live televised address and the address itself, Fox News’s Rivera and his in-studio analyst, Gen. Thomas McInerney, speculated freely about what the President would say.


RIVERA: Ladies and gentlemen in the viewing audience, we are intensely following everything, every whisper coming out of the White House or Pentagon. We are as prepared as we could possibly be on such short notices for the president’s address to the nation…

GEN. McINERNEY: You normally do not do this unless it’s something very serious that could involve chemical nuclear biological or some threat of a pending attack as a result of the attack on Qaddafi’s family that, we don’t know, we are speculating….

RIVERA: …We have no concrete evidence as to what he is going to address… It comes within 24-hours after a deadly attack on the Qaddafi family compound…. we don’t know if the president’s remarks will address that situation or not…


RIVERA: Hold it. Ladies and gentlemen, something I just thought of. And Craig brought in a message from the newsroom. What if it’s Osama bin Laden? Can you imagine, General? Wouldn’t that make our weekend? That son of a bitch has wrecked our lives…Ladies and gentlemen, please do not, this is the reporter relying on experience telling you what my surmise is. These are options. These are not facts. I am not reporting anything to you. I am just saying that General Thomas McInerney and I will be high-fiving and tears will be flowing if the news is that good. We should be that lucky…


RIVERA: We think, we think…What do we think? [Looks off-camera]. Bin Laden? No, I will not report, but I will say that it is possible that …Osama bin Laden… something may have happened with him…

….Maybe [bin Laden] has gone on. Wouldn’t that be nice. And again, this is not a fact. I am not reporting it as a fact but wouldn’t it be nice if it were that.

Moments later, Rivera announced that it was “that,” wasted no time making it about himself (“This is the best night of my career!”) and awkwardly high-fived (high-hand-gripped?) Gen. McInerney while urging the camera to get “a wide shot” of the celebratory hand gesture.

You can watch Rivera’s call (“Can it be, ladies and gentlemen? Could it be?….Bin laden is dead. Bin Laden is dead. Confirmed. Urgent confirmed. Bin Laden is dead. Multiple sources. Osama bin Laden is dead…Happy days. Happy days, everybody!”) here:

Meanwhile, on CNN, Wolf Blitzer was careful. Very careful. So very careful that he was ultimately scooped by his colleague, John King. Here’s how it went down:


BLITZER: I’m told by sources, it is a national security issue. It is not, repeat, not an issue involving Libya. It’s an issue involving another important part of the world, critically important for the United States…We could only speculate on what that might be. I have my own gut instincts on what it might be, but I’ll wait to hear from the president unless sources come forward and tell me in advance….

Please? Sources? Helloooo?

Well, Blitzer’s sources did tell Blitzer how much they appreciated him keeping his “gut instincts” to himself.


BLITZER: I’ve just been told by a senior White House official that we at CNN have been very responsible in our reporting so far. They deeply appreciate the restraint that we have, that we’re showing right now, that we’re not speculating. Other news organizations are wildly speculating right now.


BLITZER: I’m guessing within the next eight or nine minutes, the president will address the nation from the east room of the White House and let us know precisely what has happened. And we’ll hear it from the president directly.

DON LEMON: Yeah. And you said, Wolf, that because of this, because of the importance of what the president is going to announce, that they want to have everything in order.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, this is something, and without sharing what I suspect, and I say I suspect because I don’t know for 100%, but what I suspect he is going to announce, this is something that’s been in the works for obviously a long, long time. And it’s something that the American people and indeed the world will want to hear directly from the president of the United States. So I don’t want to speculate too much about what probably the president is getting ready to announce. But it’s a very, very important development right now. And it’s something that will generate a lot, a lot of reaction, understandably so.

LEMON: And Wolf, I know you’re working your sources. I’m sure your Blackberry is going crazy there. So we’re going to let you work your sources for a little bit…. I want to bring in CNN’s John King…What do you know?

KING: Don, CNN is told by several sources now that the President of the United States will announce in just moments that the United States has the body of Osama bin Laden. That Osama bin Laden has been killed…We don’t know the details of how that happened. But that is the dramatic announcement the president will make.

CNN’s chyron, soon after 10:45PM, read: “3 U.S. sources tell CNN that Osama bin Laden is dead.”

Blitzer, looking none too pleased in the ensuing split-screen with King, chimed in that “we’ve suspected that for the past hour or so, but we wanted to be very, very precise.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR. Tags: , , , , ,