In an unusual piece of live television, news crews swarmed into the home of the San Bernardino shooters Friday.
Anchors and law enforcement veterans were clearly taken aback during their on-air comments as they watched reporters crammed into the house, picking up documents, squeezing into closets, and filming forms of identification.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper called the scene “bizarre.”
And law enforcement analyst Harry Houck told CNN, “I’m having chills down my spine” while watching the crush of press inside the apartment.
“This apartment clearly is full of evidence,” he said.
The press entered the building where Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik lived after the landlord invited them inside and police on the scene did not object.
FBI spokeswoman Lourdes Arocho told CNN, “The search is over at that location.”
At a news conference later, Assistant FBI Director David Bowdich said, “Once we boarded up anyone who goes in there, that’s got nothing to do with us.”
NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, whose crew was the first to go live, rummaged through belongings found inside the California apartment.
Andrea Mitchell, who was anchoring the MSNBC broadcast, assured viewers that the FBI had “cleared all of their useful evidence” from the premises, and made clear that the building’s landlord permitted the the media to enter “en masse.”
Sanders said that he wasn’t “touching things I shouldn’t be touching.” He found “two books that appear to be the Koran” and a Social Security card. He held up a California drivers license to the camera.
At one point, Mitchell clearly grew uncomfortable when Sanders held up a photo of a child.
“Let’s not show the child, Kerry,” Mitchell said. “Let’s cut away from that.”
“I’m sorry, Andrea, this is sort of unfolding live as we’re doing this,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure what the next picture is going to be until I pull them open.”
The broadcast provided a window into the sausage-making of news gathering, a process that typically isn’t shown in real time on television.
And it raised questions about the appropriateness of the live coverage, including broadcasting photos of unidentified individuals.
As Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple put it, “MSNBC encountered editorial situations faster than it could process them.”
Fox News also went inside. The press crowd was joined by a woman off the street who entered with her dog, CNN reported.
MSNBC later expressed “regret” about airing some details.
“MSNBC and other news organizations were invited into the home by the landlord after law enforcement officials had finished examining the site and returned control to the landlord. Although MSNBC was not the first crew to enter the home, we did have the first live shots from inside. We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review.”
CNN also issued a statement: “CNN, like many other news organizations, was granted access to the home by the landlord. We made a conscious editorial decision not to show close-up footage of any material that could be considered sensitive or identifiable, such as photos or ID cards.”
The surreal nature of the scene was not lost on the broadcasters.
Mitchell eventually cut away from the apartment to interview Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, who said he was “astonished they are letting people go through the apartment.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Graham said.
“Neither have I,” Mitchell replied.
–CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers contributed to this report.