Fox News Channel today was showing live coverage of an Arizona police chase that ended when the suspect fled the scene, pulled out a handgun and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head — before Fox News could stop the helicopter footage from hitting the air. Fox News cut away from the local station feed immediately after, showing anchor Shepard Smith telling the control booth to “get off, get off, get off”, and went to commercial break. When it returned, Smith apologized on-air (see the video below), saying the feed was on a delay but the network failed in cutting it off in time. It’s clear from Smith’s white-faced explanation that the cable news channel has a protocol for such instances, but this time it didn’t work as intended. (UPDATE: Fox News’ EVP of News Editorial later said in a statement: “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.”)
Veterans of local Los Angeles news already know the risks of media outlets following car chases too closely, and some TV stations here have guidelines for pulling camera shots away after a chase comes to an end just in case something goes wrong. Others don’t air the chases at all. Here’s Smith’s apology:
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