Immediately after Watts' speech, the coverage switched back to show the family of slaying victim Ronald Goldman leaving the courthouse in Santa Monica, Calif.
Throughout the evening, there was drama over how to cover the dramas.
Television executives waited, then made their decisions. The networks all announced that they would stick with the President even if the verdict came in before he finished speaking.
Instead of pre-speech analysis, they offered pre-verdict analysis. And CBS, in the words of anchorman Dan Rather, ``canned'' its plans for an instant poll on the speech.
The networks all announced plans, which proved unnecessary, to flash the verdict at the bottom of the screen while Clinton was speaking. But they said they would stick with the picture and sound of the President.
At ABC, anchorman Peter Jennings sounded almost apologetic about the decision to stay with the President, telling viewers, ``Our bosses made the decision.'' He explained it by nodding at the Capitol dome behind him and noting that ``what's going on there is what's important to the future of the nation.''
NBC at first was not sure how it would handle what anchorman Tom Brokaw called ``an exceptional evening . . . a confluence of some very important events.'' He suggested that it might do some split-screen coverage.
A few moments later, he told viewers that the network would continue to cover the President and the Republican response. Viewers who wanted to see Simpson could turn to MSNBC, the network's cable service. He encouraged viewers to ``flip back and forth, depending on what your interests are.''
Still, the network could not resist showing an overhead shot of Simpson's car headed for the courthouse. When coverage switched back to Clinton entering the chambers, Brokaw said: ``Who would have thought that the President would be entering at the same time O.J. Simpson is headed for the courthouse?''
At CNN, there was never any doubt of what to do, said its Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno.
``If it comes down to it, we go with the President,'' Sesno said before the speech and verdict. ``We don't interrupt the President of the United States. . . . It's big news, we're not going to dispute that, but we're not going to step on the President of the United States.''
CNN also had the luxury of a second network, with CNN Headline News occasionally interrupting the speech with advance analysis of the verdict.
Was the President worried that a verdict would interrupt coverage of his carefully prepared moment?
``The President is giving a State of the Union address, and the Constitution requires it. The President is fulfilling his obligations,'' said White House spokesman Michael McCurry. ``It's news organizations that make judgments [on what is newsworthy], so the ball is back in your court.''
As the President made his way into the Capitol, Jennings announced, with some relief, that sheriff's deputies had informed ABC that it would take at least 45 minutes more for the Simpson jury to be seated in the courtroom.
Former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos suggested that Clinton might speed up his delivery to ensure that he was finished before the verdict.
With confidence that the President would finish his speech before the verdict, a relieved Jennings was able to say, ``Let us turn now, quite emphatically, to the affairs of the nation.''