Fox TV broadcasts are usually sent with a 5-second delay, but they were caught off-guard Friday as viewers witnessed a suicide live on the air as they were watching helicopter footage of a carjacking suspect in Arizona.
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith was visibly upset and tried to pull away before the suicide. The network was using a live five-second delay, but it didn’t work. Viewers saw Smith repeating “get off it,” after the gunshot, indicating he was watching the video on a delay.
Fox went right into a commercial immediately after the incident. Smith says the network was using the delay, but the video was not stopped in time, he later apologized for airing the incident, saying “That didn’t belong on TV,” he said in part. “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… I’m sorry.”
“We took every precaution to avoid any such live incident by putting the helicopter pictures on a five second delay. Unfortunately, this mistake was the result of a severe human error and we apologize for what viewers ultimately saw on the screen,” Michael Clemente, EVP, Fox News Editorial.
The man was declared dead from the suicide at the scene, according to news reports. Smith gave another on-air apology three hours later during the Fox Report.
TV broadcasts usually provide a warning when they intend to broadcast images that viewers might find objectionable.
The Phoenix incident unfolded over several minutes and was tracked by a helicopter owned by a local Fox station. After evading authorities on an interstate highway after an alleged carjacking, the suspect parked a red SUV on a dirt path and emerged from the vehicle about 3:30 p.m. EST. He looked around nervously and began running from the car, falling at one point.
Fox captured footage of the man running into a grassy area where he pointed a gun at his head and fired.