Caught on tape

I'm sure you saw on the news the last few days this incredible story," Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said last week, "about this group of teenagers who basically drove a car to essentially run over one of their friends. And they said it was inspired by the MTV program Jackass."

The popular MTV entry is also becoming its nightmare. The stunt fiasco, performed by three teen-aged Kentucky daredevils, was the fourth Jackass incident since January; a fourth juvenile, on the sidelines, caught the stunt on video. Lieberman, foe of violent and insensitive television fare, has written Viacom COO Mel Karmazin complaining about the program.

The willing Kentucky victim suffered a broken leg and ankle. Although the tape has not made it to Viacom's MTV, it was shown repeatedly on news after release to media by local police and prosecutors. Pat Casey, news director at WXIX-TV Cincinnati, says his station broke the story after receiving a tip, then getting the tape from police. "There was a mad scramble for the tape as soon as we aired it," said Casey.

By the end of the week, a lawyer for the injured 16-year-old boy's family was denying that the incident was related to Jackass. "This young man has watched the MTV show but claims, despite alleged other evidence or witnesses, none of this was to imitate the show," said attorney Eric Deters, who noted other stunts the youth has performed.

Police told local media they saw and heard a different story when they interviewed the suspects and victim, who were charged with wanton endangerment. Sgt. Tony Lucas told WXIX-TV that the youths said the stunt was for the show and that the tape that police took was labeled "Jackass."

The cable network refused responsibility for the incident. "There has never been a segment on MTV's Jackass like the one described in the press release issued by the Independence, Ky., police department," the network said, in a statement. "Jackass specifically states in every episode, as well as on the Web site, that no tapes from members of the public will be accepted for consideration to air on the show."

MTV also cited the show's disclaimer, stating that the show's stunts are "performed either by professionals or under the supervision of professionals. Accordingly, MTV and the producers must insist that no one attempt to recreate or reenact any stunt or activity on the show." Since previous incidents, MTV has moved the show to a later hour and strengthened its warning.

Meanwhile, Reebok last week pulled a commercial in which the NBA's Steve Francis leaps—via the magic of computer technology—over an oncoming car. The company said the move was in response to the Kentucky incident.