Cable News Trump Trial Coverage Interrupted by Man Setting Himself on Fire

By Mark Mwachiro 

Lower Manhattan was the site of a major breaking news incident on Friday afternoon after a man set himself on fire nearby the Manhattan Criminal Court where jury selection in former President Donald Trump‘s hush money trial had recently wrapped up. Cable news cameras captured the disturbing scene and clips quickly proliferated on social media.

CNN’s Laura Coates was in the middle of interviewing jury consultant and attorney Renato Stabile about the forthcoming trial when she had to interrupt the interview and pivot quickly to the shocking and disturbing scene playing out close by. Initially saying there was an active shooter, Coates corrected herself, saying: “We have a man who has set fire to himself.”

Coates continued to provide narration of the unfolding situation as CNN cameras swiveled to capture footage of the flames before switching back to Coates, who was joined by senior justice correspondent Evan Pérez onscreen.


Over on MSNBC, Yasmin Vossoughian was providing updates from the jury selection from outside the courthouse when she noticed the unfolding situation. “There is a man on fire in the middle of a square in front of me where protesters were standing,” she said. “We don’t have cameras trained on this individual, but it is unbelievable to see.” MSNBC did not show any part of the incident and quickly pivoted back to discussing the upcoming trial.

Fox News’ Eric Shawn was also live on-air when the fire started. “We apologize for showing this,” he remarked as the camera crew captured the disturbing footage, even calling for a fire extinguisher. Shawn later reported that the man was seen walking towards pro-Trump protesters and handing them “colorful pieces of paper,” after which he shouted something, threw paper in the air and doused himself in gasoline.

Reflecting on the incident during CNN News Central, Coates described the intense “emotional response” of witnessing history unfold firsthand. “Here we are, knowing that we’re here to document history, but to know about what has just taken place… what an emotional and unbelievably disturbing moment here in Manhattan,” she remarked.

During an afternoon press conference, NYPD officials identified the man as Maxwell Azzarello, and disclosed that he is currently in critical condition at a burn center in Manhattan. Officials also said that Azzarello allegedly distributed conspiracy theory pamphlets prior to setting himself on fire. Four law enforcement officers were treated for minor injuries.