FOX MISLEADS VIEWERS IN PRIMETIME, TOO
By STEVE WILSON
While Fox TV fights a legal battle that threatens to expose how profits come before the truth in its local news broadcasts, another investigation has uncovered the network's widespread deception in its primetime programming, too.
Newsmagazine Inside Edition revealed last night (May 3, 1999) that the "World's Wildest Police Videos" and other Fox reality shows are, in fact, not what they pretend to be. While viewers are told what they see on the shows are "real cops, real crooks, real cases," many of the scenes are actually recreations staged for the cameras with off-duty cops playing the roles of law enforcers and crooks alike. Special sound and visual effects are added to enhance the show.
One segment of the program shows a dramatic boat chase in which two cops with drawn guns scream at suspected drug runners to "Get on the deck of the boat! Face down!" The host of the show then narrates how the "suspects" are "in custody" and a load of drugs they tossed overboard has been found. In fact, officers staged the whole scene for Fox cameras and viewers were none the wiser.
Another boat chase featured on Fox's "Wildest Police Video's" ended with an officer shouting "Freeze!" and tackling the "suspect" on a beach while the narrator says "He and his pal are going to see the inside of a jail cell." Not likely. The drug running "suspect" was actually a firefighter acting the role. When the show was over, fire Capt. Chris Chambers who starred in the scene said he got calls from friends wondering how and why he'd come to be arrested.
"They…gave us a script and told us that this is what happened and to reenact it as best we could," Chambers said in an interview on Inside Edition.
Former Oregon Sheriff John Bunnell who hosted the show and several like it apologized for any viewer misunderstanding. "It's nothing we try to bamboozle the public with," he said. Before the boat chase scene, Bunnell made a quick reference to "special training" needed by marine police but there was no other disclosure that what viewers saw was not the "real cops, real crooks" they were told they were watching.
Bunnell said future shows will include "an appropriate disclaimer" and future simulations will be labeled to make it clear the scenes are not real. "Perhaps we didn't clarify it enough," he added.
Bunnell has hosted similar Fox shows such as "World's Scariest Police Shootouts," and "Surviving the Moment of Impact". Fox also airs specials such as "World's Most Shocking Moments," "When Good Pets Go Bad," and "When Animals Attack."
Mike Darnell, an executive vice president at Fox, said the network loves the genre and will "milk it until it dies" in viewer popularity. "We're not trying to deceive anyone," Darnell told The Washington Post, "It wasn't as clear as it should have been." What he didn't mention: Darnell himself is said to have been in on the production planning of the shows in questions.
While claiming such staging is "extremely rare" on Fox reality shows, Inside Edition found evidence to the contrary.
A 1996 elephant attack on author Peter Beard was blatantly recreated, the report said. After the narrator mentions "remarkable home video" of the attack, viewers see close-up footage of a crazed elephant attacking a bloody man on the ground. Viewers may have been led to believe the victim was Beard but the close-up scenes were actually spliced in to the real footage. What viewers really saw was a stunt man or actor portraying Beard under attack.
Editors note: see The Washington Post account of Fox deception at