Critic On Fox’ Airing Man Shooting Himself: It Was Bound to Happen


After Fox News inadvertently aired live video of a man in Phoenix shooting himself after a car chase, Fox said, “We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident.” That is clearly not so, says the Poynter Institute’s Al Tomkins. One precaution the network could have tried: Not to air the chase at all. Or Fox could have recorded the footage and waited until the chase ended to air portions of it. Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan said, “This is the ethical problem: a car chase contains a high potential for mayhem, without any inherent news value otherwise. It is simply mayhem porn. And it will always be impossible to predict when something awful and wretched and bloody will happen in one of these situations.”

Fox anchor Shepard Smith has a long love affair with car chases. In 2009, he said, “I have been watching and, quite frankly, enjoying car chases for many, many years. We've seen truck chases that end up, you know, hitting the side of a mountain. We've seen it all, I thought.” The FBI says 300 people a year die in these chases, including bystanders, police, and other drivers. In 2010, a USA Today review found that that in one-third of chase-related fatalities, the victims are bystanders. The odds are that that if a TV station stays with a chase long enough, it will air a horrific scene.

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