The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that the family of JoDon Romero, the Arizona man whose suicide was shown live on-air by Fox News last September, is suing the cable news network.
The complaint filed by Angela Rodriguez, the mother of JoDon Romero’s three sons, aged 9, 13 and 15, respectively, asserts that the boys have suffered extreme emotional distress after witnessing the online video of their father putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. News Corp., Fox Entertainment Group and Fox News Network are named as plaintiffs in the complaint.
Fox News had been covering the live high-speed chase, in which Romero, 32, fired at squad cars and news helicopters, across multiple programs on the network on September 28, 2012. The coverage came to a head during Studio B With Shepard Smith, as Romero exited his vehicle in the desert near Salome, Arizona, fled down a dirt road, stumbled, and then rose to his feet and shot himself in the head. An audible gasp could be heard in the newsroom in that moment.
Further details via The Hollywood Reporter:
Host Shepard Smith, who had been narrating the coverage, shouted at the control room, “Get off, get off, get off, get off, get off, get off, get off — get off it, get off it, get off it!” A flustered Smith returned after a commercial break to explain that the network had “really messed up and we’re all very sorry.” Fox senior vice president Michael Clemente later released a statement explaining that “severe human error” has failed to censor the footage.
The suit states that the local Fox News affiliate successfully ran the delay, preventing Phoenix viewers from watching the suicide live. But it ran live in most other markets, and was on YouTube within minutes. According to the lawsuit, Romero’s three sons were at school during the pursuit.
The suit goes on to detail the effect of the footage on Romero’s children.
“Rumor of a suicide broadcast on live television generated considerable buzz among the students at the school, particularly with respect to the two older boys.” The suit would go on to say, “After school, the older boys went home and began looking for the suicide on the Internet,” the suit continues. The two boys then searched out the footage on YouTube and “as they watched, they realized in horror that they were watching their father.”
The suit asserts that neither of the older two children have returned to school since viewing the footage on YouTube, citing the analysis of an examining psychologist who diagnosed the children with “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that included flashbacks, repeated thoughts and feelings associated with viewing the video of their father shooting himself in the head, re-experiencing trauma, sleep disturbance, and intrusive thoughts.”
“This psychological trauma is substantial and long-term. It will, upon information and belief, require long-term psychiatric and/or psychological treatment,” say Joel Robbins and Anne Findling, the legal representatives for the Romero family. Intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress are listed as the causes of action. The complaint seeks unspecified damages “to the extent permitted by law.”