On Wednesday night, NewsNation producers placed a curious graphic in the bottom right corner of the screen: a timer counting down the hours before passengers trapped in the OceanGate submersible ran out of oxygen.
The timer first appeared during the 10:00 p.m. ET show Banfield, at which point it estimated just under seven hours remained for the trapped passengers. Host Ashleigh Banfield announced: “For the next six hours and 52 minutes, there’s a countdown clock on your screen right now. And that is the estimate of how much oxygen is left for these five people. People.”
Banfield, for her part, was visibly upset on behalf of the five individuals aboard the sub. Moments before announcing the countdown clock, she tore into the U.S. government for not organizing a rescue effort sooner:
We have multiple sources familiar with the rescue effort who have confirmed to us that the 2:00 a.m. banging was picked up by sonar buoys. Why didn’t U.S. government and the Navy mobilize then? Why not? Why didn’t the massive mobilization happen then? It’s a great question, and I think we’re gonna wait to get those answers. We’re in the emergency now though; we still need the rescue, not the recovery, right?
Coast Guard said nothing. Eleven hours after those sounds were heard, the Coast Guard said nothing to us. They held a news conference yesterday, said nothing. Instead, 21 hours after the banging and the tapping was heard, they confirmed that they’d heard something. That happened today.
Given the tone of Banfield’s monologue, it’s possible the timer was meant to shame officials for their slow response time. Liberal cable networks like CNN tried a similar stunt during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, running a “death counter” graphic as a passive jab at then-President Trump’s handling of the crisis.
However, as with CNN’s death counter, NewsNation’s countdown timer instead came off as grim sensationalism. Whatever statement the producers might have been trying to make with this graphic, there were surely better, less ugly ways to go about it.