Were the news channels' graphic images of Muammar Gaddafi's body too much?


Image Credit: Amr Nabil/AP Images

In the wake of today’s news that deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is presumed dead, images surfaced of Gaddafi’s corpse. Though U.S. officials are still confirming Gaddafi’s death, Stateside 24-hour networks had a tough call to make as to whether they should broadcast the cell phone footage originally obtained by Al Jazeera. Many of them (CBS, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC) decided to go ahead and air the images with a disclaimer that they were graphic and disturbing. But was it too far?

The FCC is currently not commenting on whether or not it has received any complaints, but EW obtained a statement from MSNBC parent NBC News about their controversial decision. Said a spokesperson, “We are reviewing everything that’s coming in and are not putting anything on the air that hasn’t been carefully screened. We want to give our audience the most accurate reports possible without crossing a line into offensive or unnecessarily graphic material. We feel the footage that has aired meets those boundaries, and we’re constantly in touch with producers about what is and is not acceptable.”

A still from the cell phone video can be seen here. What do you think? Was the decision to air the footage correct? Do viewers have a right to see this kind of imagery, or should they be shielded from the atrocities of conflict? Do news organizations have a responsibility to accuracy as NBC News suggests, or does this decision represent a breach of taste and ethics?

Read more:
How will — or should — ‘Saturday Night Live’ handle Muammar Gaddafi’s reported death?


Comments (55 total) Add your comment
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  • Christian

    Normally I would object to showing such graphic imagery, but the fact of the matter is that when it’s a personage as reknowned as Qaddafi you’ve got to show it simply as proof of death. Transparency is necessary, otherwise the door is left open for doubt, paranoia, and accusations of conspiracy.

    • Ames

      clearly, Doc Brown got tired of running, and decided to turn, and fight.

    • WooTee

      RIP funny man. SNL was,never the same after he left!

  • harry

    in this case people need proof othrewise there could be speculation of conspiracy(Osama bin laden).

  • idviceroy

    It’s hard to tell WHO it is, or even it’s a prop, let alone a dead man. I know that doesn’t answer the question about whether or not it’s in poor taste. But I agree with Christian, this needs to be seen for proof of death.

    • kahuna

      I could tell right away it was him. I was watching MSNBC (morning Joe) when the news broke. When MSNBC first showed the cell phone photo, I said, Yep! That’s him, alright.

  • outside agitator

    yes. CNN and MSNBC are now willing to show anything for ratings. esp grievous was the plane crash at the air show and then last weekend the race track wreck. CNN and MSNBC looped the crashes and ran them over and over without shame and they’re doing the same thing with Ghaddafi. maybe sales of Viagra, Cialis and Lipitor all go up when news channels sink that low but I hope not. (drug companies own news channels) Have some dignity CNN and MSNBC.

  • Bill Tetley

    An innocent man died today, we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Steve Jobs, Dan Wheldon, and now Mo’. Are there any hero’s left?

    • Ames

      B I L L T, E T L E YYYYYY Bill Tetly!

    • Stevex

      At best, tasteless and nowhere near funny. At worst, a scary kind of crazy.

    • 1ceman

      Bill Tetley…your a loser

  • Annie

    Yes, Ghaddafi dead body was on the cover page of my newspaper’s (The Chicago Sun Times) website, especially when I just wanted to check the day’s weather forecast and read some editorials. Children have access to this site and his dead body should not be the first image they see on that page.

  • AN

    It was absolutely too much! I was shocked when I went to check the top stories and there it was. Several years ago, I made the decision to watch the hanging of Hussein and I still regret that decision to this day. I never would have clicked to see that image of Ghaddafi, nor would I have click to see an image of bin Laden, if it had been availble.

    • AN

      Also, thank you, EW, for not showing it here.

  • Souvien

    “WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!”…good gawd we have become a tissue soft country…get a grip!

    • Cat

      Totally agree. Children shouldn’t have access to everything. If they see it perhaps explain what happened?

    • A. Scalia

      I miss the good old days when public executions were considered family entertainment.

  • Dean

    Oh please. What a nation of wimps we’ve become. This is a historic event. Revolution is rarely pretty. This guy was a monster. Do some research into the atrocities he’s responsible for. This video (which isn’t really as graphic as it’s being portrayed as) is neccessary viewing. It’s ok if something shocks or disturbs you. There is a lot of ugliness in this world abd informed citizens shouldn’t shy away from facing up to that and acknowledging that.

    • Michael

      So is it ok for his family to come here and KILL our president then

      • Ban

        This makes no sense, why would his family do that? This guys death didn’t happen at the hands of the US. What are you talking about? Your analogy sucks.

    • ellenbuddle

      It’s no different to the graphic images of Nikolai Ceacescu of Romania after him and his wife were executed. It’s a horrible image to see but it brings home the reality of what is happening there and of the passions and intensity involves. The Libyan haven’t been shielded from that daily violence. Why should we be?

      • ellenbuddle

        Sorry, that’s “intensity involved” and “the Libyan people”

  • RK

    There were clearer pics/video on Spanish web sites, where you could actually tell who he was.

  • Michael

    American was a country founded by Bullys and No blood killer so it does not shock me that we would do something these evil after all is it killing people who are different these us what american does best

    All these does is show the world that we are the NEW romain empire and that we will kill anyone who stand in our way

    • Michael

      *cold blood killer

    • Christian

      I don’t even what is

    • Vanessa

      Speak English much?

    • Templar

      You, Michael, are a moron. The U.S. didn’t kill him. His own people did.

      • He deserved to be treated like crap

        gaddafi was a horrible, evil thug. He was responsible for blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie Scotland. He was evil to his people and they shot him down like the madman he was. Showing pictures of his dead body is like showing pictures of mussollni hanging upside down after Italians shot him to death. They did not show film of him being shot, just his dead body. Also to bashar al-assad in syria; to quote Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers: You’re Next! You’re Next!

  • den

    I think it would be proper to show the body after it has been readied (cleaned up) for burial/cremation. I don’t think it’s necessary for any of us to see gory photos of dead leaders, no matter who they are leading. Perhaps a little decency might go a long way in this regard?

    • Christian

      I don’t think the Libyans are going to be having a wake for him.

  • Noodley

    Showing it one time is one thing, but they showed it over and over and over and sometimes left it on the screen for 10+ seconds. On the channel I watched, they had a disclaimer before showing the video, but never when they showed the image. They just kept throwing it on the screen and I always had to look away. I can sort of understand their rationale, but I disagree with them continuously showing it.

    • outside agitator

      if it bleeds, it leads. if there’s sex, it’s next. the relentless looping of gruesome footage is the rancid meat that feeds the 24 hours news cycle. turn it off and/or fast forward through the commercials.

  • Jack Napier

    You were a viscous bastard Gaddafi. And I’m glad you’re dead! Hahahaha! I’m glad you’re dead!

  • Luna

    There were no warnings as I went over to the BBC website this morning to check out the news. I was assaulted by the horrifically graphic image as it was displayed at the top of the page. Unlike the warnings before the pictures of the 45 slaughtered wild animals in Ohio. Warnings do need to be placed before these pictures, they are very gruesome. Although maybe now a few people out there might not glorify death so much after they see that picture.

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