NEW YORK | The storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump played out on national television and social media in searing fashion Wednesday.
The pictures were stunning: security officials with guns drawn on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, people fighting with police in the Capitol Rotunda, rioters smashing windows and streaming into the building where the nation’s leaders had gathered to count votes sealing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Reporters and anchors described scenes of bedlam and fear, questioning how security and the nation’s leaders did not anticipate it.
“This is so, so embarrassing for the United States of America,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said.
Television networks had gathered to watch congressional debate over the election but their cameras quickly turned to ominous scenes outside the building as a crowd that had listened to an angry speech by Trump marched to the building.
As demonstrators climbed steps and penetrated the Capitol, it quickly flew out of control.
“The mob has overtaken the process of trying to certify the electoral college,” said Fox News Channel reporter Chad Pergram. “Security here at the U.S. Capitol has failed.”
“How were you not prepared for this?” NBC News’ Katy Tur said.
“That is not Ukraine, that is not Belarus,” ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos said as images of people banging on the U.S. Capitol door played.
Some anchors were quick to assign blame: CNN’s Jake Tapper said it was violence incited by Trump, his supporters and leaders of the congressional effort to challenge the electoral college vote, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
“It’s an absolutely disgraceful moment in United States history and there are specific villains,” Tapper said.
CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell conducted an extraordinary interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pressing him on whether he has urged Trump to do something to stop his supporters and confronting him on whether the false claims of widespread electoral fraud had led to it.
“Why have you all run from the Capitol?” O’Donnell asked him.
Earlier in the day, the nation’s deep divisions were apparent in the media. Fox News Channel, Newsmax and One America News Network all carried the president’s speech outside the Capitol live, even as the debate within the Capitol was beginning.
CNN and MSNBC, meanwhile, ignored Trump’s words.