Tuned In

Fox News Apologizes After Airing Live Footage of Suicide

  • Share
  • Read Later

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith apologized to his audience this afternoon after his program inadvertently aired live video of a man killing himself.

The channel had been airing coverage of a high-speed chase in rural Arizona, aerial cameras following the driver as he left his vehicle and ran, seemingly disoriented, into some brush. With Fox’s afternoon audience watching, the pursued man pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head. Smith yelled to the control room, too late, to cut away, and Fox abruptly cut to a commercial.

After the break, a shaken Smith returned to the air and gave a blunt apology, saying the network had the chase on a five-second delay but had somehow failed to cut away from the horrible scene:

We really messed up. And we’re all very sorry. That didn’t belong on TV. We took every precaution we knew how to take to keep that from being on TV. And I personally apologize to you that that happened. We see a lot of things that we see that we don’t get to you because it’s not time-appropriate, it’s insensitive, it’s just wrong. That was wrong. And that won’t happen again on my watch, and I’m sorry.

Immediately after the incident, commenters on Twitter began criticizing websites like Buzzfeed and Mediaite for posting video of the on-air shooting. (Warning: links include the graphic video.) At minimum, the clip would seem to violate violates the terms of YouTube, which state, “Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked or humiliated, don’t post it. YouTube is not a shock site. Don’t post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.” [Update: as of this writing, the video is available on YouTube; whether the clip violates the site’s terms or gets an exception is, obviously, YouTube’s call.]

However unsettling, the fact that a major news channel mistakenly aired live footage of a suicide is news. But that doesn’t mean you have to run the snuff video itself; if you have the means to rip a video clip from TV and embed it on your Web page, you could easily edit out the actual shooting and still show viewers the context of the broadcast and the mistake (as BuzzFeed did with one version of the video it posted).

The bigger question here, though — and one that Fox is hardly alone in facing — is, Why televise live car chases in the first place? They’re not national news (with the extremely rare exception of something like the O.J. Simpson pursuit). They don’t tell us much of anything about anything. They’re on because they excite the audience, because anything could happen — which means, to be blunt, because somebody could die. (And let’s not forget the audience here. I wasn’t watching the chase live, but if you looked on Twitter afterward, you could easily find a record of people’s excitement in live-tweeting the chase turning to horror only after the safety net failed and they watched a man die.)

In a sense, the usual practice with car chases like this, which is to apply a delay while airing footage that’s not newsworthy to begin with, risks making actual dangerous situations into something like a movie: you get the thrills while feeling protected from seeing anything truly terrible happen to someone. Nothing bad could really occur in front of your eyes. It’s TV! They’d never let that happen! But whether someone “lets that happen” or not, it is really happening, somewhere, to a real person, whose self-destructive behavior is being turned into ratings.

Taking precautions to cut away from the actual moment of death is well intended. And good on Shep Smith for giving a straight-up, blunt apology to viewers. But when he says, “That won’t happen again on my watch,” there’s one good way for him, and the rest of TV news, to make sure of it: don’t use car chases as infotainment.

32 comments
darksparck
darksparck

Who watches fox anymore lol. The Chanel has become a joke.

Marina  Afonina
Marina Afonina

In my

opinion, the problem is not in TV programs which show us news, movies or other

telecasts full of violence and cruelty,but it is in people who watch these

programs. All of us have a choice - to watch or not to watch. But

unfortunately, the majority looks for panem et circenses, so people watch

movies about crimes and deaths, read news about violence, make videos about

cruelty and upload them to the Internet. It is the problem of the society which

should be solved...

Zakirova  Indira
Zakirova Indira

This incident isn't surprising. TV channels are ready go far to get high ratings, in this case to air a chase. no doubts, they were aware that anything could happen during the live broadcast.unfortunately, such videos are source of audience's delight and they will remain such ones. The program was primarily supposed to draw people's attention and to stir up their curiosity, so Shephard Smith's apology and promise are ridiculous.The only thing i would like to ask :if it was really unexpected,

planning this program

what were the producers thinking of ?

Кэт
Кэт

Nowadays the world is full of cruelty, violence and indifference. People are out for blood and wait for new crimes, and the Internet and TV help them in satisfying their famine. Some users don't think about unpredictable consequences after putting cruel videous on the public websites and it was surprising for me to read about official apologize from this channel. But of course everyone understands, that this piece of news makes good raitings for the programm - all this is for the benefit of Mass Media. But the main question is "Why people are interested in it?". I think it is a kind of rhetorical question. I hope, that one day we will find the answer. as for me- I don't want to see the resalt of crime, I don't want to see any crime. The life is too difficult, why schould I complicate it more?!

Ksenia  Kiseleva
Ksenia Kiseleva

I'm totally agree with Hank Rodgers and Emilio Lizardo.

Everyday we can see a lot of violence and aggressiveness on TV in movies. How do news differ from films? If we don't see the problem, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. On painting a "perfect world" mass media makes us fools. 

The question is, how will that truth influence on you?

Julia  Bogdanova
Julia Bogdanova

I see what you mean. Our world doesn`t seem to be the perfect place. But it turns out that everything we are interested in is crime, violence and cruelty. Of course, it`s naturally (moreover, proved by scientists) that negative news are easier accepted, exactly that`s why we are chased by such information. Most of us who regularly watch news are grown-ups, we can sort the things out. And what about children who might have seen this piece of news accidentally? I would like them to be protected from this stuff as long as possible. I`m sure, such mistakes shouldn`t  ever occur.

Valeria  Panina
Valeria Panina

 What is news? To me it's just all the rubbish which fills our real life:  robberies, clashes, murders, suicide and so on. There's no way to hide under your quilt , close your eyes and ears attempteng to prevent your weak psyche from the storm of news. It's reality. Another problem is that the society  creates these events , and we see it is circulating in all that it gives and gets. The eternal circle ,isn't it? One can make trouble and doesn't care about it but after watching TV suddenly says that the news's depressing and the whole world 's going mad . So people reap the harvest of their own labour.

Gillian Money After Graduation
Gillian Money After Graduation

It was a terrible mistake, but I think the way the anchor handled it was wonderful and he did it in the best way he could have. It is sad that the video is now making the rounds online, but as film and television are constantly showing extremely violent things, people are obviously curious.

brotherap
brotherap

Be real!  The alleged mistake of showing the video of the suicide boosts ratings at a floundering FOX because it feeds an inherent urge of humans to look at some graphic event.  The Simpson Bronco chase also tapped into other inherent urges found surely in America.  However, the Bronco chase was a misrepresentation by the media since the driver AC Cowlings had already contacted law enforcement an hour earlier and informed them of his whereabouts after leaving OJ's wife's cemetery before networks tuned in.  They were cruising at 35-40 MPH and returning from south of the LA border to LA.  Again, we often inherently allow our minds to be manipulated into believing something that is not what we think it is.  Read "PURSUIT OF EXHIBIT 35 in the OJ Simpson Murder Trial" at Amazon to get the hidden facts about that case and the media's failure of due diligence.

lucelucy
lucelucy

I stun myself because I actually found myself agreeing with some of the comments below about needing to show us the actual results of violence, although I can't imagine anything I'd rather not see.  I'd also rather not see car chases, even in the movies or TV dramas.  I always think of them as time in which the writer doesn't have to make up any good dialog.  When you don't know what's going to happen next, put in a car chase.  Knock over a few fruit stands.  Then have some more entirely foreseeable violent goings on occur and then the soulful wrapup, which any writer worth her/his salt can knock out over a cup of coffee.  Just rearrange some lines from the last one.

I'd also like to take advantage of my time here today to tell you that my two favorite characters on Revolution so far are a couple of thumb drives.  They look cool, and whenever they appear on screen, I decide not to turn off the show because they hold out the promise that something interesting  might happen.  Sometime.  Maybe.

AngelKaKa
AngelKaKa

 Joel said I'm blown away that a single mom can profit $6969 in four weeks on the network. did you look this (Click on menu Home)

scallywag
scallywag

Never mind it's just a mild indiscretion in the pursuit of excellence in journalism....

Isn’t it time you aimed for a career as a tabloid junk journalist too? Fox always knows best...

http://scallywagandvagabond.co... 

Collider
Collider

"it’s insensitive, it’s just wrong"

You're kidding? TV is flooded with scenes of murder, suicides and rapes, that are portrayed realistically, are far more graphic than this suicide  footage. Has anyone seen the film "Drive" recently? There is a great shot of a woman getting her brain blown to bits..

Shokai
Shokai

Fox News should be EXTERMINATED.  The only thing it's been successful at is bringing down the level of journalism in this country.  We used to make fun of the British and the Australians for their tabloid style journalism.  Now, with a news organization run by an Australian, the level of news reporting in this country has gone into the TOILET.  Rupert Murdoch and his acolytes should be dumped into an alley and given a dose of this: http://youtu.be/UOeoiY9X848

anosako
anosako

It belonged on the screen, because we're already a desensitized consumer of information. If it didn't have a label saying it was "live news", someone turning on the screen would have assumed some sort of programme was on the air, nothing out of the ordinary. I think the media dukes need to gather to counsel and really determine what kind of social amp; cultural messages they are trying to enforce. As someone who has lost two teenage cousins to suicide within a year apart from each other, this is no entertaining manner. Honestly, if our media cannot take suicide seriously in the entertainment industry, no wonder the number continue to rise thanks to social stress and cultural confusion.

mtnmn
mtnmn

un approved, i will never watch fox news again, you truely are a communist station, CENSORSHIP at its finest

mtnmn
mtnmn

Don't apologize, hell he saved the tax payers a lot of money, and no one can say the cops did it, now he cant go to prison and come out worse than he was...good job reporting the real news...you should never put the shackles on your freedom of the press...anyone who dosnt want to watch can close their sensative litte eyes or turn the channel...we all have choices...this guy made his...good job Fox News

happyvalleyzoobie
happyvalleyzoobie

I agree, don't blame FOX NEWS, the bad guy is the one to blame, oh oops never-mind. This is life get use to it.

Emilio Lizardo
Emilio Lizardo

"The bigger question here, though — and one that Fox is hardly alone in

facing — is, Why televise live car chases in the first place?"

Because it's news?  Why is it we have to be treated like infants?  Show us life and death as it really is.  It's the truth.  Show it.

When I lived in Russia the main news showed a bus accident where eight passengers got their brains bashed out, it was reality. 

The much bigger question is why all this pretentious moralizing?

When we are cut off from seeing the consequences of death and injury, it doesn't protect us. It makes us lose knowledge of life as it really is.  Instead we're fooled into a Wile E Coyote world view.

yogiIsSickofCreatingNewLogins
yogiIsSickofCreatingNewLogins

Is it really news?  I mean, I get saying its local news for the people in Arizona, or where ever else a car chase is taken place so the local people know why their highway is closed down, but I don't think a good argument that a car chase needs to be broadcast nationally on a channel such as FoxNews, CNN or ESPN (take that nascar!) other than time killing.

Danyz
Danyz

Historian Will Durant once said that the Romans, at a certain point, lost the ability to distinguish entertainment from reality. I think then for today's West, the time to draw a red line between the two is passing. Oh wait, here's  thought. Why not enlist inmates with life sentences to fight to the death on pay TV? Winner gets a pardon plus a new set of wheels. That way, privatized prisions become a booming business and the public get a gladitorial extravaganza...   

Phaerisee
Phaerisee

Man those folks are hurting.   Here is some interesting news that will hit the mainstream on Saturday:

http://www.democracynow.org/20...

Guest
Guest

I would like to thank you so much for the link.  I've been suspecting that 

something  like this is going on for some time now.  I'd started to think that I was becoming some kind of "conspiracy theory" nut, so it's nice to know my thinking hasn't gone off the rails.

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

Maybe all this can be thrown in a Do-It-Yourself type website ?

Seriously, People learn from the mistakes of others and they take great joy in trying to up the Fame and Glory rankings !

Hank Rodgers
Hank Rodgers

There was nothing to apologize for. We see much worse than suicide on TV all the time, torture and murder in various TV and cable shows, and in the movies. This is real life, of course, and it is time that all of us deal with it, instead of pretending that everything is entertainment. There is nothing so terrible about suicide either, in some circumstances.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Oh, PLEASE...

They're NOT sorry.  Not in the LEAST.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Why is that?

Simple: The next time they air a chase, they'll have twice as many viewers.

But I do find it rather ironic that the mouthpiece for the right-wing would air a gun owner using their weapon in the most common form of firearms-related death (suicide) on the air.   Now everyone can SEE how most people use their guns to kill.

One would think they'd prefer it to have been the cops gunning him down.  But as long as there's blood, their advertisers will flock to them.

ipfletch
ipfletch

This has been waiting to happen for a LONG time. I'm just surprised it was Fox instead of just some local news station somewhere. What the heck were they doing following a car chase anyway?

Guest
Guest

It's the 24 hour news cycle.  They have to fill that air space with something to keep viewers engaged. 

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

Everyone loves a good Indy500 road race right ?

David Hall
David Hall

The delusional are the new entertainers.  Fox News loved Eastwood talking to an empty chair.