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Fox News Carries Live Video of Suicide

Common Dreams staff

Network was showing Arizona chase on tape-delay but failed to cut the feed before man shot himself in the head.

On Friday afternoon, after following a car chase outside of Phoenix, Arizona for several hours, Fox news mistakenly allowed their video stream to show the man who was being chased by police stop his car, get out, and then commit suicide with a handgun.

As is usual in such circumstances, the Fox video feed had a five-second delay, but the footage of the man's final moments were shown anyway.

Fox's Shepherd Smith, the anchor who was overseeing the coverage at the time, issued a subsequent apology for the incident, saying, "We really messed up, and we're all very sorry. That didn't belong on television. We took every precaution ... I personally apologize to you that that happened."

"It's not time appropriate, it's not sensitive: it's just wrong," he continued. "That won't happen again on my watch, and I'm terribly sorry."

The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt adds:

The incident raised questions about the fascination of US news networks with car chases, as well as the lengths to which popular websites will go to attract an audience.

For much of Friday afternoon, Fox News had been streaming helicopter footage, with a voiceover commentary from host Shepard Smith, of a car chase near Phoenix, Arizona. For part of the time, police were pursuing the Dodge through the state. By mid-afternoon, police had stopped following the car, but it continued to be tracked by media helicopters.

Just before 3.30pm the vehicle had slowed to a crawl; the driver turned off the road and onto a dirt track. The driver's door was slightly ajar as the car advanced through the field, before coming to a halt after around 15 seconds. A man wearing a dark sports shirt stepped out of the car, and appeared to reach back inside before walking away.

The man looked around him before stumbling down the dirt track and then into long grass. He stopped, raised what appeared to be a gun to his head, and fell to the ground.

Fox News went back to the studio, where Smith was seen looking off camera and shouting: "Get off it, get off it." The network swiftly cut to a commercial break.

Despite the obvious shock of the incident and subsequent outrage and apologies, Ellen Gray, the television critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, said the real question should be this: "What's the most-watched cable news operation doing running high-speed chases with no apparent national implications, anyway?"

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