Broadcast Networks Break in With Syria Airstrikes Coverage

Screengrab/CNN

NBC, CBS and ABC as well as the cable news networks CNN, MSNBC and Fox News went wall-to-wall as the U.S. airforce escalated its activities in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

Broadcast networks and cable news went wall-to-wall with coverage after it was reported that the United States fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria on Thursday night in retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Donald Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president.

CBS News' Scott Pelley anchored live coverage of the missile strike in Syria, with a CBS News Special Report breaking into normal broadcasting at 9:15 p.m. ET live across the board on the CBS television network. Pelley was joined by David Martin at the Pentagon; Margaret Brennan in Palm Beach; and former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell in Washington.

NBC cut into a scheduled broadcast of Chicago Med, going live to Lester Holt who is anchoring a special report with Richard Engel. And on MSNBC Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams are double-teaming the network's wall-to-wall coverage. CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with Marco Rubio directly after the strike. 

The surprise strike marked a marked reversal for Trump, who warned as a candidate against the U.S. getting pulled into the Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year. But the president appeared moved by the photos of children killed in the chemical attack, calling it a "disgrace to humanity" that crossed "a lot of lines."

Trump gave a brief statement Thursday shortly after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.

Trump said "peace and harmony will prevail" so long as the U.S. continues to stand for justice and the strike was in the nation's "vital national security interest." He added that the United States must "prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons." 

In a brief press conference Thursday night, Trump explained the air strike. "No child of God should ever suffer such horror. Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched."

"Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."

About 60 U.S. Tomahawk missiles, fired from warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeted an air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that American officials believe Syrian government aircraft launched with a nerve agent, possibly Sarin.

The president did not announce the attacks in advance, though he and other national security officials ratcheted up their warnings to the Syrian government throughout the day Thursday.

"I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and shouldn't have happened and it shouldn't be allowed to happen," Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida, where he was holding a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The strike came as Trump was hosting Xi in meetings focused in part on another pressing U.S. security dilemma: North Korea's nuclear program. Trump's actions in Syria could signal to China that the new president isn't afraid of unilateral military steps, even if key nations like China are standing in the way. 

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