Ethics Quote of the Day: Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith

 “…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, and it’s just wrong. And that was wrong. And that won’t happen again on my watch and I’m sorry.”

—-Shepard Smith, Fox New Anchor, in his immediate apology to viewers after a live police chase Fox News had been showing to viewers ended with the pursued car’s driver suddenly committing suicide with a pistol shot to the head.  Apparently the network had gone to a 5 second delay in the eventuality of such a development, but technicians still failed to stop the feed in time.


Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Those of us who saw the twin towers fall saw 3000 souls die as it happened. I understand Smith apologizing pro forma for an unexpected moment of violence, but the statement,

“Sometimes we see a lot of things that we don’t let get to you…”

…is troubling. I don’t trust Fox News or any other network to decide what is too horrible or disturbing for me to see. How is a high-speed care chase likely to end? If a viewer fears graphic violence, that viewer should avoid live news events. I’m sure a re-run of “NCIS” or “Criminal Minds” was on TNT or A&E for those who couldn’t handle the real thing. (On Wednesday, an arrested suspect blew his brains out on “Criminal Minds.”) Smith’s comment smacks of paternalism, and bad journalism too. The news media’s job is to report and observe, not protect us from the harshness of life, or more ominously, from things those in power think it inconvenient for us to see.


Facts: Media Bistro

Graphic: Exiled on line

4 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Day: Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith

    • Jack I am not sure on this one so I will just start with 3 impressions and see if I can’t develop it into something more substantial. Tell me where I am failing to evaluate this correctly. My very first impression was that the immediate and sincere apology was notable and sincere. The second was that they were covering a developing live story which would likely have a negative result. I know some don’t like the live coverage of police chases but what made this more newsworthy was that he fired on the police and in my book that elevates this coverage. The third relates to the objection you raise, I think the intent of the comment was not that they shouldn’t have reported it but that they shouldn’t have shown it live. I think that is responsible journalism, I believe it is responsible to safe guard against the visual impact of the scene especially if his children/family/friends may have been watching. I don’t know if there was a “graphic” warning before as the video I saw started later in the event but I think that is also a responsible action and if there was not then that would require an apology. As for your example equating it to CSI that just doesn’t hold water as you go into watching it knowing that it is fake. As someone who is knowledgeable of the arts you must see how a production can have a truly emotional impact on people, and they know it is not real, so how do you think a real event playing out on TV could affect someone? I know the news is often graphic and may often be witnessed by a family member but it should be tempered with warnings and there should be a standard set as to what should be presented and how, that does not mean that the event is not covered or reported on just how it is done. That standard should be one set by that organization. I believe that is the case here and that standard was violated and he took immediate and proper action. I see this as an ethical reaction, especially considering that all this was happening on the fly.

      • 1. The apology was sincere. I just don’t think it was necessary.
        2. Yes, it was live, and anyone with half a brain should have known that it could end messily.
        3. If children are watching a live car chase, it is not Fox’s problem. Ditto grandma.A news channel has one proper function…to inform, not to filter.
        4. I don’t think a news channel should bleep out profanity, either.
        5, The idea of drama is to make it feel as real as possible. For a long time, TV would never show real blood or real violence. Warnings for TV shows are all right, but live news events should not have to carry warnings. How dumb should the media have to assume people are?
        6. I still don’t understand the logic. The ugliest thing I’ve ever seen on TV was the 1968 Chicago riots at the Democratic National Convention. If you didn’t see it, then you didn’t understand it. How about the Challenger? That was more horrifying than a single suicide, in my book. The tsunami, 9/11, as I said. Again—who is Fox to decide what we can “handle”?

  1. I tend to agree with Jack that Smith went too far. That said, he was in a better position than the rest of us to know the range of reactions his employer faces from various sources – some probably sincere and some likely not so much – thus being the guy on the spot should be given a little leeway. I thought it was more about upholding “good taste” standards of his employer’s brand rather than “protecting public sensitivities”, though admittedly the two can run hand-in-hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.