The anchors and pundits of cable news vamped on Friday, filling the long hours of airtime with questions and speculation. And then — shortly after 5 p.m. — they finally had something headline worthy.
That was when the major networks and cable news outlets reported that the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — who had worked in a seemingly leakproof cone during the nearly two years that he and his team investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — had submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr.
On CNN, Wolf Blitzer read aloud from a sheet of a paper that was a copy of what Mr. Barr had sent to Congress. On CBS, the anchor Jeff Glor interrupted the network’s coverage of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. On NBC, the veteran justice reporter Pete Williams said it was not clear what exactly would be released to the public.
On Fox News, the highest-rated cable news station, the anchor Juan Williams reported the news during the daily episode of “The Five.” “We’ve just been told that the Mueller report has been delivered to the Justice Department,” he said.
Not long after those words were out of his mouth, the “Five” member Jesse Watters seemed to undercut the import of the breaking story, saying, “I honestly don’t think the rest of the country, outside the swamp and the Mueller partisans, cares about the Mueller report.”
After mentioning a few things that, in his view, typical citizens actually do care about, like Netflix and college basketball, Mr. Watters added, “If there was real collusion, it would have leaked by now.”
Another “Five” panelist, Dana Perino, took the mic next and offered less charged commentary, saying, “Setting aside what it says or doesn’t say about how Russia tried to get involved, I think this report could actually be quite instructive about what we need to do to protect our elections going forward.”
The news followed a day filled with low-calorie cable fare that teased the development the networks were counting on.
“It’s Friday, but is it Mueller Friday?” the CNN anchor John King said at the start of his noon-hour show, “Inside Politics. Around the same time, the CNN reporter Laura Jarrett noted on Twitter that the Justice Department reporters at the network had hunkered down: “Breaking — DOJ beat reporters ordering pizza,” she wrote.
What seemed like a relatively slow news days seemed to decelerate further when Fox News took a moment to declare that the 94-year-old Jimmy Carter had become the oldest former living United States president in history, surpassing the first President George Bush.
At a little after 2 p.m., the CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin came through with some facts and figures during a portion of the cable news day that had been light on both: “Six hundred and seventy-five days since Mueller has been on the job,” Ms. Baldwin said. “And, yes, we are counting.”
And then came the news.
Mr. Mueller has driven countless hours of onscreen discussion without having set foot in a television studio since he started work on the inquiry some 22 months ago. In keeping with his understated, media-shirking style, he did not face the cameras when his work was done.