Monday, April 23, 2007

Exploiting A Tragedy

CNN's Reliable Sources, April 22, 2007:

KURTZ: Joining us now here in Washington, Bill Press, columnist and host of "The Bill Press Show" on Sirius Satellite Radio. In Philadelphia, Gail Shister, television writer for "The Philadelphia Inquirer". And in Irvine, California, radio talk show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt, author of the new book "A Mormon in the White House: Ten Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney".


Hugh Hewitt, you've told the world that you were appalled by NBC's decision to air part of this videotape. Why?

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Howard, a number of reasons.

First of all, it was torture to the victims and survivors. Parents who had lost children, children who had lost fathers, spouses who had lost husbands and their extended families saw the man who took them to the next world in -- as he wanted to be seen. And I thought, along with most psychiatrists, it was just abuse and torture. I also think in the words of Mickey Kaus, NBC is now the go-to network for mass murderers. And mass murderers have been affected by this.

KURTZ: But you know, I was on your radio show...

HEWITT: Yes, you were.

KURTZ: ... a half hour before those images hit NBC, and you were complaining, why were they holding it? Why wasn't -- were they trying to get a ratings bonanza for "NBC Nightly News"? It turns out -- it turns out they were holding it at the request of the Virginia State Police authorities.

HEWITT: No, I wanted them to release his written redacted statement. But I agreed with you that I would be very angry if they showed the images.

I think it was you, Howard, who said, if they show one photograph, you could understand that. But I think that what has followed has been the incentivizing of mass murder, and NBC will have blood on its hands the next time someone sends a video to their network of their mayhem.

KURTZ: Well, that's a pretty strong statement.


KURTZ: Hugh Hewitt, now ABC, NBC, FOX say they're not airing this video anymore at all, CNN says not airing it except with limited exceptions. But in the first 24 hours, wasn't part of the problem not just NBC, but that every network on the planet, with the exception of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, I found out, was running this footage until it became video wallpaper?

HEWITT: Howard, it is part of the problem. But not every network. My show in 100 cities did not air a second of his audio, because it would be reprehensible to do so. And it isn't a close call.

Instantly, even before it was released, your reaction on my show was the same as the reaction -- I spent three days covering this from left, right and center, from various psychiatric experts, that this was a horrible thing to do. Dr. Michael Welner, an ABC News consultant, likened it to the release of a toxic cloud.

It has consequences. Yes, the copycat networks went out and did a terrible thing, but it goes back to NBC. And I would like to ask Steve Capus at some point, did they ask one serious forensic psychiatrist what the impact of this video would be on other unstable people?

If they had, they would not have done this. There were alternatives. They could have put it under a password-protected site, they could have released it three years from now on the Internet only.

What they did was astonishingly stupid and irresponsible. And until they apologize, the public will not let up on them.

SHISTER: Could I jump in here, Howie?

Do you think that any other network would have reacted any differently?

HEWITT: I don't know. I hope so. I hope that some of them would have taken at least 24 hours to talk to a psychiatrist, because it's like asking the media to treat unstable people.

They were having an impact on these individuals who will be killers in the future, because that which gets rewarded gets repeated.


HEWITT: Howard, can I jump in? Because you were right. You were right on that day before they aired it.

I asked you on the air -- it's posted at, and you said, "Don't do it. You will give the killer exactly what he wants." That's not Monday morning quarterbacking, and it's what any serious analyst would have come to the conclusion had they been asked by NBC.

It's not just any publicity whore who can plug his book, radio show, website and fellow Republican hack in a 10 minute segment on a mass murderer's killing spree. And pretend to be aghast at someone else exploiting the tragedy for ratings and profit.

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