Shortly after a rifle-wielding gunman opened fire on two different locations in Maine on Wednesday night, leaving at least 18 people dead, all of the major cable news networks broke into their regular programming and went wall-to-wall with live coverage of the horrific massacre and manhunt for the suspect.
All, that is, except for the far-right channel Newsmax.
Rather than disrupt any of its primetime MAGA lineup on Wednesday, the network stuck with the pretaped broadcasts of Eric Bolling: The Balance, Greg Kelly Reports, and Chris Plante’s The Right Squad.
Making matters worse is that casual viewers of the right-wing network were misleadingly led to believe that they were watching live news broadcasts. An on-air screen graphic blared “LIVE” in the bottom left-hand corner throughout all three of the channel’s primetime shows.
A representative for Newsmax did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Newsmax’s more established and larger cable news competitors completely restructured their Wednesday night programming to focus entirely on the breaking developments in the small Maine town of Lewiston—especially as the scale of the gruesome violence became explicitly clear throughout the evening.
With the suspect still on the loose as of Thursday afternoon, local authorities turned to the media in their efforts to track the alleged gunman down. Broadcast and cable channels plastered the haunting photos of the 40-year-old man aiming an assault-style weapon across their broadcasts, noting that he was still at large and a shelter-in-place order was in effect for local residents.
Over on CNN, for instance, anchor Anderson Cooper—who was in Tel Aviv covering the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict—broke into his live broadcast at 8:40 p.m. ET to inform viewers that “police are investigating what local law enforcement in Maine are calling two active shooter events.”
The network would stick with its coverage of the shooting throughout the evening and early morning. Kaitlan Collins and Abby Phillip anchored their respective primetime hours, repeatedly turning to law enforcement experts for additional analysis. Laura Coates, the 10 p.m. host, meanwhile, stayed on for four hours of live coverage before handing off to CNN International anchor Lynda Kinkade at 2 a.m. ET.
MSNBC first mentioned the shooting at 8:53 p.m. ET, when Chris Hayes noted that he had “some breaking news to report” of “multiple active shootings in Lewiston, Maine.” The channel then quickly went live with coverage of the shooting and manhunt, at times turning to NBC’s Maine affiliate WCHS for additional coverage.
After taking over during her 9 p.m. show, Alex Wagner continued to anchor during The Last Word at 10 p.m., which was set to be guest-hosted by weekend host Jonathan Capehart. The network would remain live with its coverage throughout the night and early morning, with late-night host Stephanie Ruhle sticking around into the early morning hours before handing off to Capehart and fellow weekend anchor Alex Witt.
Fox News primetime host Jesse Watters informed the network’s viewers at 8:57 p.m. ET that there was “an active shooter in Maine” and “the city of Lewiston is on lockdown,” adding that “unconfirmed reports say multiple people were shot in two locations with possible fatal injuries.”
The following hour, Sean Hannity—broadcasting in front of a live studio audience—still delivered his prepared monologue about the House electing a new speaker before throwing it to Fox News host Trace Gallagher, who was on the ground in Israel.
Hannity, after hyping his already scheduled interview with new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) in the first half of the show, pivoted fully to the shooting afterward. The coverage from the conservative star included Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich calling for less restrictive gun laws amid an ongoing active shooter incident, and Hannity touting his martial arts training while discussing the mass shooting.
Following Hannity’s broadcast, Gallagher took over coverage at 10 p.m., preempting Greg Gutfeld’s pre-taped right-wing “comedy” show. Gallagher handled anchoring duties until 1 a.m., handing off to correspondent Kevin Corke and overnight anchor Marianne Rafferty, who stuck around until Fox & Friends First took over live programming at 4 a.m. ET.
Even NewsNation, the self-described “centrist” channel that only recently expanded to a round-the-clock news network, maintained live coverage of the shooting and manhunt past midnight.
NewsNation anchor Chris Cuomo first mentioned the shooting at 8:54 pm ET, noting that “there’s a report of an active shooter in Maine” and people are being told to shelter in place. After a commercial break, Cuomo went into more detail about the shooting and manhunt before telling viewers to “stay open” about the root causes behind the violence.
Dan Abrams Live, revealing that it was clearly not live, kicked off with host Dan Abrams talking about anti-Israel demonstrations on college campuses and independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drawing support from Donald Trump. Eventually, midway through Abrams’ broadcast, anchor Ashleigh Banfield took over for live coverage of the shooting and would remain on the air over the next three hours.
Newsmax, on the other hand, didn’t mention the shooting on its airwaves until 6:31 a.m. ET on Thursday during its morning show Wake Up America. At no point did the channel break into its previous evening’s programming to inform its audience that dozens of people were killed or injured during a mass shooting, and that the suspect was still on the loose and a danger to local residents.
Not only that, the pro-Trump channel led its audience to believe that the programming they were watching on Wednesday night was live, floating a “LIVE” on-air graphic throughout all of its primetime broadcasts.
In his media newsletter Reliable Sources, CNN’s Oliver Darcy blasted the far-right network for ignoring the horrific tragedy on Wednesday night and sticking with prerecorded programming, noting that “Newsmax once again showed that the word ‘news’ doesn’t belong in its name.”
Beyond misleading its viewers into believing the network’s hosts were broadcasting live on the air, Newsmax also gave the impression that its MAGA hosts’ culture war gripes and right-wing talking points took precedence over an ongoing mass casualty event that could impact some of its audience.
For instance, while the rest of cable news had already turned its collective attention to Maine, Newsmax’s 9 p.m. host Greg Kelly was complaining that too many commercials on television featured mixed-race couples. “There’s something going on here that’s kind of unnatural,” he groused.
Even worse, though, was how the network ended its primetime slate that evening. In what can only be described as a twisted moment of irony, panelists Jenn Pellegrino and Mark Morgan made finger gun gestures while signing off from the 10 p.m. roundtable show The Right Squad.
“Just wonderful. They were talking about a lot of shooting during the break,” lead host Chris Plante joked as his colleagues pretended to fire off guns.