The news of the indictment of former President Trump immediately took over cable news channels and the country’s main broadcast networks on Thursday.
On Fox News, the host Sandra Smith interrupted the network’s roundtable show “The Five” around 5:30 p.m. with the breaking news, eliciting gasps from her fellow co-hosts: “We have just gotten word: Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a grand jury in New York.”
On CNN, the news broke during Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room” program. CNN quickly convened a rotating cast of analysts.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber pressed the gravity of the news on his audience, saying after the judicial process played out, the former president “could literally be incarcerated.”
NBC, ABC and CBS broke into regular programming to report the news, with some cameras pointing at the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and his plane at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach.
Much of the coverage focused on questions about the exact nature of the charges, which are not yet known, and when Mr. Trump would be arraigned, as well as security preparations underway in New York City. Mr. Blitzer of CNN told viewers it was “historic” news — the first time a former president had been indicted on criminal charges.
But on Fox, which has long been friendly to Mr. Trump, at least until recent months, there was a lot of speculation and commentary about the political motivations behind the indictment, with many of the hosts defending Mr. Trump.
“It’s the stupid thing I’ve ever seen,” said Jesse Watters, one of the hosts. “And I feel bad for the guy. He didn’t really have to be president. He had a lot of money, he had a great life.
“Now they’re trying to nickel and dime him for a private agreement he made with a woman, what, eight years ago?”
Mr. Watters added: “I’m angry about it. I don’t like it. The country is not going to stand for it. And people better be careful. And that’s all I’ll say about that.”
The host Greg Gutfeld described the news as “the third act of the movie.”
“Alvin Bragg is the MAGA Republican of the year; he just got Trump’s nomination,” Mr. Gutfeld said, referring to the Manhattan district attorney.
Later on Fox News, Bret Baier, the chief political anchor, asked Mr. Trump to call in to the network to share his reaction to the indictment.
“I’d like to put in the call right now: If the former president would like to phone in, we’d love to have his reaction to this news tonight,” he said.