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Sen. Kennedy collapse at Obama luncheon leads networks to chase new story

January 20, 2009 | 12:22 pm

The collapse of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy forced the networks to switch gears quickly during the post-inauguration coverage today.

Fox News' Shepard Smith said Kennedy, who has been treated for a brain tumor, had "some sort of seizure" and was carried away for medical treatment. Reporter Carl Cameron told viewers that the Massachusetts Democrat had a series of convulsions even "as he was being removed" from a lunch at the Capitol.

"It is one of the very few blemishes in what has been an extraordinary day," said Fox anchor Chris Wallace.

ABC News reported that Kennedy had been sitting at a table with Sen. John F. Kerry and former Vice President Walter F. Mondale and their families when he began having a seizure toward the end of the lunch. CNN reported that Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, tried to help the stricken senator. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the longest-serving member of the Senate, was so distraught by the scene that he needed to be removed in a wheelchair, which led to some initial confusion among reporters about who exactly had taken ill.

Just after noon Pacific time, Fox began carrying video of what Smith said was Kennedy's stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. A gaggle of reporters waylaid Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to quiz him about Kennedy. "I really don't have any specific information," Cornyn said, who added that his colleague has "obviously been ill."    

— Scott Collins 

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