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On TV, a Tense Wait, Then an Emotional Response to Chauvin Verdict


Every major broadcast and cable news network — and even ESPN — broke into regular programming on Tuesday for live coverage of the verdict, ensuring that millions of Americans watched in unison as a Minnesota jury found the former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all charges in the death of George Floyd.

“Justice has been served,” the CNN anchor Don Lemon declared on-air shortly after the verdict, speaking alongside footage of people celebrating — and some crying in relief — outside the Minneapolis courthouse.

Mr. Lemon continued: “I’m sure people who are watching all over this country, watching all over the world, are on their devices getting messages from people, as I am, saying: ‘Thank you, Jesus, thank God. Finally, finally — justice on all counts.’”

That sense of relief was echoed by analysts on several networks, including NBC News, where the political analyst Eugene Robinson told viewers that he had “exhaled for the first time in more than an hour” after learning of the verdict.

“One of my first thoughts was, you know, it shouldn’t have been this hard, right?” Mr. Robinson said. “We haven’t reached our destination on the racial reckoning that we need to have in this country. But I think this will be seen as a step forward, as opposed to what it potentially could have been seen as, which would have been a giant step back.”

On Fox News, the anchor Jeanine Pirro, a former New York State judge, said immediately after the jury found Mr. Chauvin guilty: “Make no mistake, the facts are solid on this verdict. This verdict will be upheld on appeal.” She took pains to frame the outcome of the trial as a sign “that the American justice system works.”

Fox News covered the news on its usual 5 p.m. talk show, “The Five,” where the co-host Juan Williams called the day “very emotional.”

“It would have been so upsetting, it would have been a kick in the stomach,” he told viewers, “if in this most extreme situation, where everybody can see what happened, if the jury had somehow said, ‘Let’s split the verdict.’”

His co-host Greg Gutfeld offered a more disjointed take, claiming it was a “myth” that the trial had divided the nation and saying he was satisfied with the verdict because it might prevent what he characterized as violent protests.

“I’m glad that he was found guilty on all charges even if he might not be guilty of all charges,” Mr. Gutfeld said.

He was quickly interrupted by Ms. Pirro, who had been muttering in disapproving tones as Mr. Gutfeld was speaking. Ms. Pirro scolded Mr. Gutfeld for his views, saying the verdict was a result of clear facts presented by prosecutors. “That courtroom is a place where the evidence is brought in and it is pristine in the way it’s handled,” she said.

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