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At 11:06 a.m. ET Wednesday, Fox News showed a split screen of the Capitol building in Washington and Donald Trump having disembarked from Air Force One in Florida.
That was the last substantial mention or image of the now-former president as the major news networks focused on Joe Biden assuming the presidency and Kamala Harris becoming the first woman (and the first Black and Asian person) to serve as vice president.
Anchors and commentators appeared to take cues from Biden in terms of tone, highlighting the optimism of Biden’s inaugural speech. Mostly.
Prior to Harris and Biden arriving on the Capitol steps, however, networks noted that outgoing Vice President Mike Pence was attending the inauguration while Trump did not (becoming the first president in more than 150 years not to attend his successor’s inauguration).
“Pence’s desire to smooth things over is only about two weeks old,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said. On CBS, Major Garrett noted that “Mike Pence is the last, most visible victim of that which President Trump has brought to politics — a loyalty that moves in one direction, and one direction only.”
As Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman arrived to escort Harris to the podium, Tapper praised him as “an American hero” for his actions in directing a mob away from the Senate chamber during the Jan. 6 riot. Across the dial, anchors and commentators noted the history-making swearing-in of Harris.
“It’s emotional. It’s breaking ground,” Juan Williams said on Fox News. “I think back in my mind, as someone who’s done some work on Black history, you think back to women who participated in the civil rights movement, people like Ella Baker, coming forward to some names that you might remember from the Congress: Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan.”
Several also noted the plainspokenness of Biden’s speech and his pledge to, as he put it, “always level with you.”
“He talked about democracy being tested, America has been tested,” said NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “And we have prevailed. Democracy and justice have prevailed. He confronted that reality — he was not hiding from it.”
Fox News’ Chris Wallace called Biden’s speech “the best inaugural address I have ever heard,” while on ABC, Byron Pitts said that in addition to taking on the role of commander-in-chief, Biden was also “the papa in chief” for his talk of the nation coming together to face its challenges.
There were also a few lighter moments. As former baseball star Alex Rodriguez — there with his fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, who would sing “America the Beautiful” — appeared onscreen, MSNBC’s Brian Williams deadpanned, “So there’s A-Rod.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar welcomed former presidents, other dignitaries “and a whole bunch of Bidens” at the start of the ceremonies.
As the crowd began to disperse after the inauguration, The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke on MSNBC about the significance of the day, and also managed to comment on national anthem singer Lady Gaga’s fashion choices. “I want you to get an outfit like Lady Gaga wore for Joy,” he joked with anchors Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid.
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