Osama’s death news leaked before Obama spoke

May 2nd, 2011 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 2 (IANS) The White House announced that Barack Obama would address the nation at 10.30 p.m. Sunday. But before the president took the mike, Twitter and other social networking sites were abuzz with speculation that Osama bin Laden could be dead.

At 9.45 p.m., Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, wrote on Twitter: “POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10.30 p.m. Eastern Time.” Sharing the same message that had just been transmitted to the White House press corps.

According to Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor, some journalists received a three-word e-mail that simply read, “Get to work.”, the New York Times said.

The nation’s television anchors and newspaper editors did not know, at first, that Obama would be announcing the death of bin Laden, but reporters in Washington suspected almost immediately that the announcement could be about the Al Qaeda chief.

Wishful thinking about bin Laden’s death ricocheted across the web - and then at 10.25 p.m., while Obama was writing his speech, one particular tweet seemed to confirm it.

Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, wrote, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

Urbahn quickly added, “Don’t know if it’s true, but let’s pray it is.”

He was credited by many on the web with breaking the news, though he did not have first-hand confirmation.

Within minutes, anonymous sources at the Pentagon and the White House started to tell reporters the same information.

ABC, CBS and NBC interrupted programming across the country at almost the same minute, 10.45 p.m., with the news. “We’re hearing absolute jubilation throughout government,” the ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz reported.

Brian Williams on NBC told viewers, “This story started to leak out in the public domain largely when some Congressional staffers started to make phone calls.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was speaking at a memorial service for a Democratic consultant in California and announced the bin Laden’s death at the conclusion of her remarks. The audience, sitting by a pool in an estate on the beach in Santa Monica, gasped in shock, reports the New York Times.

Obama’s address, initially planned for 10.30 p.m., was delayed repeatedly. CNN reported that he was writing the address himself.

By 11 p.m., he still had not spoken, but the news was spreading virally around the world.

The New York Post’s Web site blared, “We Got Him!” The Huffington Post front page read, “Dead.”

Around the country, Americans gathered around televisions to digest the news. “This ends a chapter in the global war on terrorism which has defined a generation,” the NBC correspondent Richard Engel said.

Obama confirmed bin Laden’s death at 11.35 p.m.

Shortly before midnight, the Al Jazeera English network showed live pictures of a growing crowd outside the White House chanting “USA! USA!”

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