After inadvertently airing live coverage of a car chase that ended with a man's suicide, Shepard Smith of Fox News has issued an apology to viewers of his show. The incident occurred as the cable network carried a live feed of a man fleeing police on the interstate west of Phoenix.
In the footage, the man abandoned his vehicle and began running across a field, before pulling out a gun and shooting himself in the head. Despite being filmed from a helicopter hovering above the scene, the footage was graphic enough to prompt immediate yelling in the Fox News studio.
The scene led anchor Shepard Smith, who had been speaking over the video and describing the man's actions, to yell "Get off it, get off it" several times to his studio crew. The broadcast abruptly cut to a commercial.
"We really messed up," Smith said when the program resumed shortly after the break. "And we're all very sorry. That didn't belong on TV."
Smith explained that the five-second time-delay that would normally keep such an event from being seen by viewers somehow didn't keep the suicide from being televised Friday.
The event spurred several people to upload video of the chase scenes from Studio B with Shepard Smith to YouTube Friday; others expressed their amazement and/or horror on Twitter.
There had been little indication that events would take such a dramatic turn earlier in the broadcast, as Smith spoke over live footage showing the man, who was suspected in a car-jacking, trying to elude police in a red SUV near Tonopah, Ariz.
After pulling off the highway and onto a dirt road, the man got out of the driver's seat and appeared to take some items from the car. Then he set off running down the road, and eventually onto a grassy area, where he turned a weapon on himself — just after the camera zoomed in on him.
"I personally apologize to you that that happened," Smith said when his program returned. "That was wrong. And that won't happen again on my watch. And I'm sorry."
He then promised to give an update on the story and the video later tonight, before repeating, "I'm sorry."
Update at 11:30 a.m. ET, Oct. 1. Fox Cites "Severe Human Error."
In a statement sent to reporters, Fox executive vice president of News Editorial Michael Clemente says:
"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."