By:
January 6, 2021

It’s supposed to be a quiet afternoon in January.

Typically, on such a day, Americans at home have their televisions on, tuning in to shows such as  “Judge Judy” and “The View” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Instead, we saw horrific images like many have never seen before in this country.

Call them what you will — protestors, rioters, supporters of a coup — storming into the Capitol, one of the most hallowed halls of American democracy.

“We are watching a bloodless coup in the United States.” That’s what CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted out.

“We are witnessing something beyond our comprehension,” Fox News’ Martha MacCallum said. “The images are so stark and so disturbing.”

NBC News’ Lester Holt said, “There have been some elements of a coup attempt.”

CNN called it an “insurrection.”

All the major networks broke into regular programming. As you flipped from one station to another — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, PBS — the same grim lines were repeated over and over again.

“We’ve never seen anything like this.”

“This looks like scenes from another country.”

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

These were just some of the things said across all networks as the incredible scenes played out in front of your disbelieving eyes.

In real time, networks did exemplary work, not only covering these stunning visuals, but quickly tracking down House members and senators for their thoughts.

The networks were already on hand as Congress had just begun the process of certifying the Electoral College results. The process is normally a rubber-stamp, ho-hum procedure, but objections by some GOP lawmakers were expected to draw out the process even if it was going to change the outcome.

Earlier in the day, Trump spoke at an outdoor rally to those who had gathered in Washington to protest the certification of the electoral college. He encouraged them to march to the Capitol.

And that’s when the country, as we have always known it, spiraled out of control.

“It is an embarrassing, dangerous, frightening spectacle that you’re witnessing,” Tapper said.

On ABC, George Stephanopoulos said, “We are not having a peaceful transition of power.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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