A shaken Shep Smith apologized to Fox News viewers after the network failed to cut away from live video of a carjacker shooting himself in the head in an apparent suicide.
Throughout Smith's 3:00 p.m. show, the network cut to and from a chase near Phoenix, Arizona. The carjacker eventually stepped out of his car and began running. Smith narrated the man's exit from vehicle and on-the-ground movements, until suddenly, viewers watched the man pull out a gun and shoot himself. The camera cut to Smith yelling to his control room, "Get off it. Get off it. Get off it!" The show abruptly cut to a commercial, but it was already too late.
When the program returned from commercial, Smith, clearly distressed, explained what had happened:
While we were taking that car chase and showing it to you live, when the guy pulled over and got out of the vehicle, we went on delay.
So, that's why I didn't talk for about 10 seconds. We created a five second delay as if you were to bleep back your DVR five seconds, that's what we did with the picture we were showing you, so that we could see in the studio five seconds before you did, so if anything went horribly wrong, we would be able to cut away from it without subjecting you to it.
And 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.
Sometimes we see a lot of things that we don't let get to you, because it's not time appropriate, it's insensitive, it's just wrong. And that was wrong. And that won't happen again on my watch. And I'm sorry
We'll update you on what happened with that guy and how that went down tonight on the "Fox Report."
Fox News' executive vice president of news editorial, Michael Clemente, released a statement about the incident to TVNewser:
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.
Fox News, and Smith in particular, is known for frequently cutting to car chases happening around the country. This chase was actually the second the network had featured during the day. (The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reported that CNN and MSNBC never contemplated airing the chase.) The horrific ending to the chase will no doubt call Fox News' predilection for the coverage — and the rest of the world's interest in it — into question.