It was a Saturday full of international news as the networks scrambled to cover the breaking news that the international military community was launching air strikes in Libya, keep up with the nuclear radiation threats in Japan, and oh yeah, wasn’t Egypt still in the aftermath of a revolution just a few weeks ago?
CNN/U.S. and CNN International ran with a live simulcast at 11 a.m. eastern time after French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced, “we are intervening in Libya.” The other cable news nets, MSNBC and Fox News jumped in with live coverage of the breaking news from Libya throughout the afternoon as well, with Fox touting an exclusive scoop that the U.S. was also planning to intervene (MSNBC confirmed the news from the Pentagon later).
But it was planned remarks from President Obama that seemed to catch CNN off guard. All of the cable news nets had been teasing the expected address from Obama, who was traveling in Brazil (CNN’s Ed Henry was among the journalists in the pool). But when Obama did finally speak around 4 p.m. eastern, Fox News and MSNBC both had the live audio-only feed – and CNN went to commercial.
Even when CNN returned from the break it didn’t pick up the audio, and only after Obama had finished his remarks, and MSNBC already had Chuck Todd analyzing them, did CNN put Henry on the air to summarize what was said. How bad does it look for a network that prides itself on its breaking news coverage to be on commercial when the President of the United States is announcing U.S. military action against another Muslim country? Pretty darn bad.
A CNN spokesperson reached for comment Saturday could not say what happened with their units at press time. But apparently the President’s statement was done on short notice, which is why none of the networks carried live video feed. A tweet from White House press officer Dan Pfeiffer to New York Times reporter Brian Stelter said, “this was not the nets fault. We did the statement on short notice so the pool didn’t have sat capacity.”
CNN’s Henry did say on-air that they would have video footage of Obama’s statement at a later time.