Tuesday, June 25, 2013
You might remember this story from last September, when a Phoenix-area man's post-police-chase suicide was caught on camera by KSAZ, the local Fox affiliate, and broadcast nationally by Fox News.
Now, the three children of the suspect-turned-suicide are suing Fox News for emotional distress from watching their dad commit suicide.
In a lawsuit filed in Phoenix, Ariz., earlier this month, the three children of JoDon Romero, ages 9, 13, and 15, claim they have suffered emotional distress after watching a clip of the video posted to the internet.
The two older children claim that since watching the video, they have been unable to attend school and suffer flashbacks, "sleep disturbance and obtrusive thoughts," according to the lawsuit.
Romero, 32, is alleged to have carjacked a vehicle and led police on high speed chase in which he shot at squad cars and the television helicopter that pursued him. Fox broadcast the chase live, without a delay, on Sept 28, 2012 during "Studio B with Shepard Smith," including the dramatic final moments in which Romero exited his vehicle, drew a gun, and shot himself in the head.
According to the suit, rumors that an unnamed man could be seen killing himself began circulating in the schools of Romero's two older children, high school student JoDon Jr, and his middle school brother Frank.
"After school, the older boys went home and began looking for the suicide on the internet," according to the suit.
They found the video on YouTube and "as they watched, they realized in horror that they were watching their father."
Now, I'm not sure what the biggest problem here is: that Fox News accidentally showed the death of a man of live television in search of car-chase-footage ratings; or that these kids happened to find footage of their father shooting himself in the head as they looked for footage of a man shooting himself in the head.
Fox News screwed up — they admitted as much immediately after the fact, having apparently put the wrong video feed on a five-second delay — and they claim to have taken steps to never do that again. Time will tell, as there's bound to be another person shooting themselves on camera at some point in the future.
But what bothers me the most is that these kids are suing Fox News for putting up coverage that they themselves searched out on the Internet.
It's true that we, as a society, need to protect our children — but at the risk of sounding heartless, I'm not certain that Fox News should be held liable for covering a news event simply because these children searched for ripped footage of a man killing himself after a dangerous, high-speed car chase and found their father.