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The TV Networks Are Going All In For The Brett Kavanaugh Hearing

The major networks are planning to give Thursday’s hearing the kind of attention they gave James Comey’s testimony.

Posted on September 26, 2018, at 4:51 p.m. ET

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Major television networks are preparing for what promises to be one of the most watched — and perhaps most fraught — moments of the Trump presidency thus far: the Senate testimonies of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.

The three major cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News — will cover the 10 a.m. ET testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday live, unsurprisingly, with additional analysis from their cast of reporters and contributors. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper will anchor from Washington, while Fox News’ coverage will be led by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, and MSNBC’s early coverage by Stephanie Ruhle and Brian Williams (with Williams then anchoring coverage throughout the day).

The big broadcast networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, will also interrupt their regular daytime programming — or “pre-empt” in TV parlance — for special reports carrying the hearing.

Ford, a professor in California, has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh during a party decades ago while in high school — allegations that the Supreme Court nominee has denied. After a weeklong negotiation, Ford agreed to testify. Two more women have since come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

For viewers, the event may look and feel different from previous open hearings. Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley agreed to a set of terms from Ford’s attorneys, including allowing a representative “pool camera” and the limitation of wider press access. The hearing is also due to be held in a smaller room. Republican senators have selected Rachel Mitchell, a leading sex crimes prosecutor from Arizona, to conduct questioning on their behalf.

Networks’ wall-to-wall coverage could make for a particularly relentless news day. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Thursday to talk about “recent news stories,” days after rampant speculation and reporting that Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe, would be leaving his job.

TV networks are preparing for Thursday as they did the last time a huge daytime programming event halted the wild news cycle: the testimony of former FBI director James Comey before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June of last year. About 19.5 million viewers tuned in to watch that spectacle, with more streaming online and watching at viewing parties.

On ABC, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos will lead the network’s coverage from New York, with World News Tonight anchor David Muir taking over from Capitol Hill.

On CBS, anchors from CBS This Morning — Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, and John Dickerson will be joined by CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor to lead the “gavel to gavel” coverage. Glor will broadcast his nightly news show Thursday evening from the network’s Washington bureau. On NBC, Nightly News anchor Lester Holt will be joined by Today coanchor Savannah Guthrie, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and Megyn Kelly.

Many viewers will, of course, instead stream the hearings online through various platforms, through networks’ livestreams or other platforms (CNN, for instance, said it would make its stream available without the usual requirement of a cable log-in).

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.