CNN’s Wolf Blitzer talks about reporting on bin Laden’s death
Behind the scenes account from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on covering the breaking news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Full transcript of Blitzer’s report after the jump.
CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer: “I was in the kitchen and I was almost in the exact same spot where I was almost 10 years ago when those planes went into the World Trade Center. And the first thought I had was, it’s a Sundays night, the president would not be making a 10-minute address to the nation from the East Room of the White House unless this was huge. It would have to be very big.”
“So, it was just one of those moments where as a journalist you say to yourself, wow, this is obviously one of the most important stories that I’ve ever covered and it’s very, very — it’s a great honor as a journalist to be covering it, especially in a sensitive moment like this. ”
HIGHLIGHT FROM FULL INTERVIEW
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: A complicated part of the world, Wolf. And one you’ve traveled to many, many times. And you know, I mean, for the past 10 years as reporters, this fight on terror has defined our professional lives. I think none more in particular than you who’ve talked to all these people.
What was your reaction or when did you learn that Osama bin Laden was killed? And what were your personal thoughts?
BLITZER: You know, it was really a weird situation for me last night. I was home. I was watching the Washington Capitals in the third period, Ovechkin had just tied the game 2-2 against Tampa Bay. And as a Washington Capitals fan I was excited, looking forward to the overtime. When I got a call, it was around 9:40 p.m. Eastern from Sam Feist, who’s our political director, our senior executive producer.
They had just received — CNN’s the network pool, and CNN had just received notification from Jay Carney the White House Press Secretary, that the president would be in the East Room of the White House at 10:30 to make about a 10-minute statement.
That was all he said. He didn’t give us any details, what it was involved — what was involved, whether national security, domestic matters. We didn’t know. But Sam said, how long would it take you to get to the bureau? I immediately grabbed a shirt and a tie. I started driving. I was in make-up — there was no make-up artist here, though, so I put a little powder on my forehead. By 10 after 10. By 10:12, 10:13 I was on the set with Don Lemon who was anchoring our coverage.
And on the way in, I was making phone calls to White House officials and others, including something members of Congress who would normally be briefed. When Sam called me at around 9:40, 9:45 whatever time it was, it dawned on me at that moment and it was sort of eerie and it was chilling for me.
I was in my kitchen and I was almost in the exact same spot where I was almost 10 years ago when those planes went into the World Trade Center. And the first thought I had was, it’s a Sundays night, the president would not be making a 10-minute address to the nation from the East Room of the White House unless this was huge. It would have to be very big.
I first suspected, well maybe it had something to do with Gadhafi in Libya. I said to myself, probably not big enough. And then I started making calls and sources were saying it has nothing to do with Gadhafi, nothing to do with Libya. It’s something else. And I said bigger than that, as a question. And my sources were saying way, way bigger than that. And I immediately began to suspect in my own mind bin Laden was dead.
I didn’t report it because you don’t report something like that based on a suspicion, based on just a hunch, based on your journalistic gut instinct. You got to get confirmation. And you can’t just get confirmation from one source. You need at least two really excellent sources who are getting their information from different parts of the — potentially the government.
I waited and eventually, you know, that word came in. Once the White House started making phone calls to a lot of members of Congress telling them what was going on, word got out to their staffs, word got out very quickly to the rest of the world. And then eventually the president, about 11:30, 11:35, an hour after originally scheduled, went into the East Room and made it all official.
So, it was just one of those moments where as a journalist you say to yourself, wow, this is obviously one of the most important stories that I’ve ever covered and it’s very, very — it’s a great honor as a journalist to be covering it, especially in a sensitive moment like this.
So I was just really — really proud of the job that CNN did. I was proud of the job that all of us did here at CNN. This is where CNN really excels. And we were simulcast not only on CNN, but CNN International, as you know, Drew.
And I started getting Tweets, started getting emails from viewers all over the world. If you follow twitter, CNN was trending on Twitter. Wolf Blitzer was even trending — people were watching. And they were so, so happy. Sure, there are some elements who are not happy. But a tiny little fringe element out there who support bin Laden and al Qaeda.
But the whole world was thrilled, especially Americans in New York, here in Washington, Pennsylvania. This was a moment that so many people perhaps thought they would never see or hear. But it did happen. And we’re only now beginning to appreciate the enormity of this historic situation.
GRIFFIN: All right. Wolf Blitzer, so much more to tell on this story as we learn. This is just day two. A lot of details coming up. I’m sure you are going to be having lets of details in “THE SITUATION ROOM” today. 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Wolf Blitzer, live.
Wolf, thanks a lot for joining us. Really appreciate your insight on all of that.
BLITZER: Thank you, Drew.