NEW YORK — In an unusual piece of live television, news crews swarmed into the home of the alleged attackers in the San Bernardino shooting.
Anchors and law enforcement veterans were clearly taken aback during their on-air comments as they watched reporters crammed into the house, picking up documents, squeezing into closets, and filming forms of identification.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper called the scene “bizarre.”
And law enforcement analyst Harry Houck told CNN, “I’m having chills down my spine” while watching the crush of press inside the apartment.
“This apartment clearly is full of evidence,” he said.
The press entered the building where Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik lived after the landlord invited them inside and police on the scene did not object.
FBI spokeswoman Lourdes Arocho told CNN, “The search is over at that location.”
At a news conference later, Assistant FBI Director David Bowditch said, “Once we boarded up anyone who goes in there, that’s got nothing to do with us.”
NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, whose crew was the first to go live from inside the building, rummaged through belongings found inside the California apartment.
Andrea Mitchell, who was anchoring the MSNBC broadcast, assured viewers that the FBI had “cleared all of their useful evidence” from the premises, and made clear that the building’s landlord permitted the the media to enter “en masse.”
Sanders said that he wasn’t “touching things I shouldn’t be touching.” He found “two books that appear to be the Koran” and a Social Security card. He held up a California drivers license to the camera.
At one point, Mitchell clearly grew uncomfortable when Sanders held up a photo of a child.
“Let’s not show the child, Kerry,” Mitchell said. “Let’s cut away from that.”
Fox News also went inside.
The press were joined by a woman off the street who entered with her dog, CNN reported.
From a journalistic perspective there were all sorts of questions about the appropriateness of the live coverage, including broadcasting photos of unidentified individuals.
MSNBC did not immediately respond for comment, but CNN issued a statement.
“CNN, like many other news organizations, was granted access to the home by the landlord. We made a conscious editorial decision not to show close-up footage of any material that could be considered sensitive or identifiable, such as photos or ID cards.”
The surreal nature of the scene was not lost on the broadcasters.
Mitchell eventually cut away from the apartment to interview Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, who said he was “astonished they are letting people go through the apartment.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Graham said.
“Neither have I,” Mitchell replied.