Hostage Situation at Discovery Communications HQ

By Alex Weprin 

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The big three cable news channels as well as CNBC and FBN are all covering an apparent hostage situation at the Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters of Discovery Communications.

Update: Multiple Updates after the jump.

Among the networks owned by the company is Investigation Discovery, which airs a number of news programs including “On the Case with Paula Zahn.” It also owns TLC, which will air the series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” this Fall.

Update: Discovery’s CEO, David Zaslav, was a longtime executive at NBC, where he oversaw the company’s cable operations and domestic distribution.

MSNBC’s Pete Williams reported at 2:34 PM that the gunman is James Jay Lee. Lee was previously arrested for protesting outside of the Discovery building in 2008. He also has a website with a number of outlandish “demands” for Discovery. CNN and FNC followed suit, and as of 2:55 were also reporting that lee is the suspect.

Tom Costello is on the scene for MSNBC, Fox News and CNN have helicopter shots from their respective affiliates WTTG and WJLA.

Costello is the only network correspondent on the ground at the moment, curious, since Silver Spring is only eight miles from Washington DC… and the DC bureaus of the news channels.

FNC is now airing an interview its affiliate WTTG conducted with witnesses.

2:55 PM CNN and FNC have been showing some compelling video footage, apparently of employees from Discovery’s daycare facility moving babies and small children to another location, specifically, CNN reports that they have been moved to a nearby McDonalds:

3:08 PMOn the web side, CNN is offering streams from ABC affiliate WJLA and CBS affiliate WUSA. ABC and Fox News are offering aerial footage, CBS is offering a stream from WUSA.

There is a news conference set for 3:15 PM.

3:09 PM Our sister blog GalleyCat has more on the author that Lee cites in his demands, Thomas Malthus.

FNC now has homeland security correspondent Catherine Herridge on the scene, who is reporting via phone.

3:11 PM NBC’s Pete Williams is the first to have a good photo and detailed background information about Lee at 3:11 PM. CNN followed suit with a different image at 3:13 PM

3:15 PM All three cablers plus CNBC and FBN are now taking the press conference with Montgomery County police chief J. Thomas Manger

3:25PM Rick Sanchez just said on-air (we are paraphrasing) that as a network, CNN does not want to give crazy people like Lee the megaphone to spread their views. However, because lots of people have, we will show excerpts from his screed.

3:31 PM CNN has a photo of Lee protesting outside of the Discovery building, apparently from a few years ago. FNC now has the same photo.

3:35 PM CNN now is speaking to producer Paul Courson from the scene.

3:37 PM On FNC, Shepard Smith is now reading excerpts from Lee’s MySpace account, including the fact that Lee idolizes Captain James T. Kirk.

3:41 PM CNN is using a touchscreen and Google Earth to present a 3D image of the Discovery building… an image which includes the inflatable shark that adorns the building during “Shark Week”:

3:43 PM Herridge is now appearing on-camera on FNC.

3:58 PM CNN has now gone to a commercial, FNC and MSNBC still going with live coverage.

4:00 PM On FNC, Smith has thrown to Neil Cavuto, who is continuing the coverage.

4:02 PM The networks are now carrying another press conference from Montgomery police captain Paul Starks.

4:06 PM FNC now speaking to Lee’s brother-in-law, Thomas Leonard, over the phone.

Lee apparently is an aspiring media mogul, and produced this video to pitch his idea of the sort of programming Discovery should air (Via Variety):

4:59 PM Police chief Manger is giving another press conference, and has revealed that police have shot Lee, apparently setting off one of the devices he had strapped to himself. Lee is now in police custody, and the three hostages he took are safe.

MSNBC’s feed cut out in the middle of the presser, was restored about 30 seconds later.

5:02 PM FNC the first network to break away from the hostage situation. Cuts to Glenn Beck, talking about “economic terrorism.”

5:21 PM MSNBC is now reporting that the suspect, James Lee, is dead. FNC had Shep Smith cut into Beck with an update on the shooting and Hurricane Earl, but did not report that Lee had been killed.