In the end, the State of the Union was the story of the night on television, not rogue LA cop Christopher Dorner. Despite reporting on the story of the Big Bear gun battle standoff between Dorner and police up until the last minute, none of the broadcast nor cable news networks ended up using a split screen to show President Obama’s speech and the Dorner case. The only time the Dorner story appeared on screen during the State of the Union was around 6:56 PM, when local LA station KABC put on a crawl announcing a body had been found that was believed to be that of Dorner. Up for barely a minute, the Breaking News crawl told viewers to go to the station’s website for more information or wait for a news special after the State of the Union. CNN‘s sister station HLN remained on the Dorner story throughout the State of the Union with coverage from CNN’s Anderson Cooper and HLN host Nancy Grace. At 6:59 PM, HLN announced that Dorner’s body had been found in a burned-out cabin though LAPD and other police have not confirmed. Obama spoke for just over an hour tonight in the first State of the Union of his second term.
For a while it looked like tonight’s speech would mirror Bill Clinton’s 1997 State of the Union when the President was split-screened with the O.J. Simpson civil verdict. Just minutes before Obama was scheduled to give his address before Congress at 6 PM, local news was still centering on the fatal end of the Dorner drama. On Fox News Channel, The O’Reilly Factor split screened between a lead-up to the President’s speech and helicopter shots of the then-burning cabin where Dorner was allegedly holed up. Around 5:30 PM, CNN’s Cooper said the network would be cutting away from the Dorner story to its scheduled political panel before Obama’s speech. However, CNN was still covering the Dorner story at 5:50 PM on its main network in split screen conjunction with the State of the Union lead-up. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was centering on the Dorner story, with the channel showing chopper footage of the burning cabin. However, once the President entered the Congressional chamber, the networks all cut to the State of the Union exclusively. Non-main network local stations KTLA and KCAL remained on the Dorner story.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.