The execution of captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may be one of the most shocking acts of terrorism in recent history. The 26-year-old was burned alive by ISIS militants, allegedly in January, and his gruesome death was recorded and uploaded on terrorist-run social media sites around the globe. At the request of his family, many news outlets chose not to show the video nor still images of al-Kasasbeh's death, but Fox News seemed to overstep some journalistic boundaries this week — and the network is not feeling too apologetic for it.
Fox News first aired graphic still images from the video on Bret Baier's Special Report Tuesday afternoon. The conservative news outlet then uploaded the raw video on its website early Wednesday morning, boldly showing it on the homepage via a Fox News online video player with the caption: "Warning, Extremely Graphic Video: ISIS burns hostage alive." Yes, the full, unedited 22-minute-long version, including the moments al-Kasasbeh was set on fire while he waited in a large cage, surrounded by ISIS militants.
The unedited video is still on the Fox News website, and is currently linked to on the homepage. It seems like Fox News has no intentions of removing the video, even though it's the only major news outlet to feature it both online and on television.
Here's a screenshot of the execution video in Fox News' online video player.
The news outlet claims its not participating in stirring ISIS propaganda by showing al-Kasasbeh's execution in full, but providing a must-see look into the barbarity of ISIS terrorism. Fox News executive vice president John Moody issued a statement on Wednesday defending the network's decision:
After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FoxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video. Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content.
Baier, too, preemptively defended his decision to air the still images, which showed al-Kasasbeh doused in petrol as he's waiting for the trail of fire to reach him, and then his body on fire. The anchor told viewers on Tuesday night:
We feel you need to see it. The images are brutal. They are graphic. They are upsetting. You may want to turn away. You may want to have the children leave the room right now.
Following Tuesday's broadcast, Baier took to Twitter asking for thoughts on his most recent show. He didn't elaborate too much on his decision to show the ISIS execution video, simply stating that the "editorial decision" was made that afternoon.
But many viewers, media members and terror experts alike quickly criticized the network, arguing that Fox News is playing into ISIS propaganda, which is exactly what the terrorist group wants. Others have said that the decision is just tasteless and serves no point.
Rick Nelson, a senior associate in homeland security and terrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Guardian that Fox News just gave ISIS a major platform for its terrorism and brutal crimes:
They’re a terror organization. They seek to strike terror in the hearts and minds of people globally, and by perpetuating these videos and putting them out there into the internet, it certainly expands the audience and potential effects.
Another security expert, Malcolm Nance of the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideology thinktank, added to The Guardian that Fox News is now serving as "al-Qaeda and Isis’s media arm."
Even Fox News host are divided over the broadcast of the video. Greta van Susteren continues to defend her network, believing that not showing al-Kasasbeh's execution would not be truthful to "the facts" of the militant's group shocking terrorist acts. Van Susteren wrote in a blog post that not only did Fox News do the "right thing," but the network wouldn't be criticized if it were CNN, ABC or MSNBC:
Watching this video was 100% choice. It was not as though you were watching Andy of Mayberry and suddenly up pops the most grotesque and evil video.
Frankly, I think our leaders should watch it start to finish. I don’t think world events should be sugar coated so that our leaders don’t face them. I don’t know what our leaders should do or not do to address this growing crisis — this is not an easy problem — but leaders should start with the facts, nothing sugar coated, but the facts. You get the facts with first hand knowledge.
"And... yes, it was and is news," Sustren added. However, Fox News never posted the full, unedited execution videos of Americans James Foley and Steve Sotloff, nor the recent beheading of Japanese national Kenji Goto, raising more questions of why al-Kasasbeh's had to be shown.
Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz disagreed with network executives, telling Megyn Kelly in an interview Wednesday that "many of us in the media are helping ISIS spread its propaganda using its fear tactics."
However, Kelly seemed to be on the side of her employer, comparing the video to images of concentration camps from World War II:
The reason we as a show decided to do that was, it's as if we're in World War II and there was a chance to see inside the concentration camp and inside the gas chamber as the horror was happening. Don't we need to be reminded of what it is we face?
Of course, Kelly forgets that most of the images of concentration camps came after World War II.
Images: Getty Images, FoxNews.com