By: David Bauder, AP Television Writer
(AP) Despite government pleas not to, CBS News on Tuesday aired a portion of a videotape made by captors of slain reporter Daniel Pearl to illustrate how the footage is being used as propaganda.
While CBS said it was careful not to air grisly portions of the video, the late Wall Street Journal reporter’s family called the network’s decision “heartless” and said it played into terrorists’ hands.
The death of Pearl, who disappeared while investigating a story about Islamic militants in Pakistan, was confirmed by a videotape that was delivered to U.S. officials on Feb. 21. The tape reportedly shows Pearl talking, then shows someone cutting his throat while Pearl is unconscious or already dead.
Through a dissident Saudi Arabian journalist, CBS News on Tuesday obtained a copy of a tape being distributed on the Internet that uses images of the video that confirmed Pearl’s death, said Jim Murphy, executive producer of the “CBS Evening News.”
Network executives extensively debated whether to use it, Murphy said. CBS received calls from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s office and the Justice Department urging the network not to air it, he said.
CBS showed the portion where Pearl was forced to say he was Jewish, using less than 30 seconds of the tape.
In an on-air explanation, anchor Dan Rather said the story was aired because CBS News believes it important for Americans to see the impact of the propaganda war being waged against the United States. Graphic scenes were not aired for taste reasons and out of respect for Pearl’s family, he said.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Pearl’s widow, Mariane, and his family, said that while Rather “attempts to rationalize the network’s heartless decision to air this despicable terrorist propaganda video, it is beyond our comprehension that any mother, wife, father or sister should have to relive this horrific tragedy and watch their loved one being repeatedly terrorized.”
“Terrorists have made this video confident that the American media would broadcast it and thereby serve their exact purpose,” the Pearl family said. The family urged other television networks not to follow suit.
Murphy said he believed it was necessary to show a portion of what is being seen in the Arab world in order to illustrate the story.
“I am not happy about doing the story because I know it upset people,” he said. “When I saw the tape, I said to myself, `these people are doing terrible and dangerous things that could affect me and my family.”
He said some government officials who called CBS had heard, incorrectly, that CBS was planning to show the grisly portion of the tape.
“The government called to tell us that what we were doing was helping to spread the terrorists’ word and I don’t think that’s the case,” Murphy said. “The word is already being spread. I don’t think it’s wrong to inform the American people about it.”