U.S. news outlets scrambled to cover the nation’s attack on a top Iran military official by shaking up normal programming schedules, even as they had to work around the holiday vacation schedules of some of their best known correspondents.
MSNBC brought Rachel Maddow back to its schedule at midnight eastern on Friday, assigning her an extra hour after her regular 9 p.m. hour had already broadcast. Maddow, who typically spends hours researching and writing her segments, moved to breaking-news mode for her second effort. At Fox News, Sean Hannity, the network’s most-watched host, phoned in to his own program, which was being guest-hosted by former U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz. CNN’s Anderson Cooper found his on-air tenure extended, as his regular 8 p.m. show, “Anderson Cooper 360,” took up two hours rather than its usual one.
The assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds military Force, took all news outlets by surprise. Most news outlets, initially relying on little information, spent their first minutes of coverage simply telling viewers an attack had taken place, with most of them noting that reporters were trying to get statements from the White House or Pentagon. His death was first reported by Iranian TV, but the Pentagon later confirmed that that the missile strike that killed him was instigated at the command of President Donald Trump.
CBS News broke into regularly scheduled programming at 8:55 p.m., with a report that was anchored by Margaret Brennan, CBS News’ senior foreign affairs correspondent and “Face the Nation”moderator.” She was assisted by national security correspondent David Martin.
Many of the news outlets had to contend with the fact that many of their best known correspondents were on vacation, owing to the proximity to the New Year’s and Christmas holidays. On Friday morning, for example, Lester Holt filled in for Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today,” while Poppy Harlow took Alisyn Camerota’s chair on CNN’s “New Day.”