Tristani Was Not Amused

Washington-The Federal Communications Commission's Gloria Tristani wrote to CBS Television president Leslie Moonves to express her displeasure over a joke that infamously went awry on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.

On the show, a graphic which read, "Snipers wanted," flashed over images of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican candidate for president. Kilborn later apologized on-air, and CBS and the show's production company issued written statements of apology and regret.

But commissioner Tristani wrote "to advise CBS that many Americans have written to me about the above-referenced appalling broadcast demanding government action. They believe violence suggested on television too easily and too often becomes violence attempted."

Tristani also cited a report which said someone called Howard Stern's radio show and threatened to kill Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the Democrats' vice-presidential candidate.

"After the caller's arrest, the caller's uncle reportedly said it was just a 'joke gone bad.' A joke gone too far is not a joke. The graphic reading, 'snipers wanted,' below the picture of Governor Bush was similarly not a joke," she added.

Callers to Tristani mentioned "the misuse of the public's airwaves to suggest that violence solves problems and the implicit endorsement of vigilante action against those with different opinions."

The commissioner said there might be "no government solution for bad taste or the thoughtless broadcast of misguided humor. However, America's patience with gratuitous violence on her airwaves is perilously thin. Calls for voluntary codes of conduct are changing to calls for enforceable regulatory standards."

Her letter concluded, "I urge CBS to meaningfully respond to these citizens and to use this incident to assess its public-interest obligations."