CNN, NBC air graphic ‘New’ Footage of 9/11 attacks, which ABC and Fox News have had for years

By Alex Weprin 

A graphic video that was said to be never before seen footage of the 9/11 attacks made the rounds on TV and online Monday. Hundreds of websites, along with NBC News and CNN, among other outlets, aired clips from the video captured by the NYPD. Some outlets ran the video in its entirety (See CNN’s report here and NBC’s here).

There is just one problem: the video is not new.

ABC’s Chris Cuomo acquired the complete video in the weeks after the attacks, with clips airing on “Primetime Live” soon thereafter (photo above). Fox News Channel acquired the footage in 2002, and has used portions of it in its 9/11 memorial coverage since.


Cuomo himself tweeted about the video yesterday morning, writing:

New #911 video is real. I was first to get it after attacks. Story archived. We edited carefully to shield families from horror of seeing loved ones die. I don’t know how putting it online is responsible. Do we need a snuff film of innocent americans? Any media saying the #911 tape of NYPD copters at wtc was just released is wrong. I showed PARTS post 911. Putting raw tape out wrong

A source at ABC News tells TVNewser the network declined to run the footage in reports after its initial airing, adding that “an editorial decision was made not to glamorize the death of Americans by showing it on TV.”

A source at Fox News forwarded along the clip’s description from that network’s video vault, which describes the video in part:

Aerials of the terrorist attack of the WORLD TRADE Center (WTC) as seen from police helicopter. Aerials of black billowing smoke emerging from Twin Towers. CHOPPER lands, low angle shot of the Twin Towers on fire. Aerial shot aftermath of Tower collapse. Aerials of white smoke engulfing downtown Manhattan. CHOPPER landed at heliport. Long shot of the second Tower collapsing.

The fact that the video is old and has run many times begs the question, why even show clips from it?

The hook for CNN and NBC was that 2011 will mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks, but the real news angle was that the footage was “never before seen.”

But why did so many organizations believe the clip had never aired publicly, when it had many times?

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) acquired the video as the result of a FOIA request, and put out a release to news organizations Monday. The NIST release said the clip had never been seen publicly before. Even ran an item on it.

ABC and FNC acquired the video while it was still in the hands of the NYPD, through their own sources.

Considering ABC apparently decided the video was too graphic to show after its initial airing, it is curious that all of a sudden so many major media outlets are eager to show it on TV and on their websites. In NBC’s case, Brian Williams told viewers on his newscast Monday, “they can see even more of it” by going to the “Nightly” website.

TVNewser reached out to NBC and CNN, but got no comment.