ABC’s Primetime placed cameras in the homes of two “dysfunctional families” at the end of 2002 and taped a “father hitting his adolescent daughter.” Three psychologists saw the tapes in 2004, but by then the dad was heading to Iraq.
“An ABC News spokeswoman could not immediately answer whether the network alerted any authorities about the incident before it was aired,” the AP says. But it seems apparent that they did not. “As far as I know, (Friday’s program) was the first we became aware of the situation,” Capt. Bob LaFountain of the New York State Police, told the AP.
“There needs to be some monitoring,” Beth Savino, a former child protective service investigator said on The O’Reilly Factor last night. “It would have been easy for them to have a plan that said, we’re going to review these tapes say every week or every month. And if we see incidents of abuse, we’re going to have told the parents beforehand, if you do something inappropriate or possibly abusive in the course of this taping, we’re going to automatically refer it to family services.” (Click continued for the full Factor transcript.)
“At the very least, this was an example of poor journalism,” an e-mailer says. “If they didn’t monitor the tapes, that was wrong. If they did monitor the tapes and didn’t report it, that was wrong too.”
O’REILLY: Back of the book segment tonight. A viewer warming, we are about to show you some very disturbing videotape. Last Friday, ABC News did an investigation of dysfunctional stepfamilies on the program “Prime Time.” As part of the story, a videotape recorder was installed in the Nelson home and recorded Joe Nelson confronting his 15-year-old daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bull crap. Oh, oh!
JOE NELSON: I never [beep] lied to you. Never have I lied to you, you little bitch! Call me a liar? You little bitch! I’ve never [bleeping] lied to you never!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: After the tape was shown, some viewers called ABC questioning whether the news organization should have reported Mr. Nelson to the authorities before they ran the story. ABC News says it did not consider the girl’s situation dangerous because she was not living in the home any longer. She was removed from the home. Apparently her grandparents are taking care of her. Joining us now from Atlanta is Beth Savino, a former child protective service investigator.
I always put myself in this position. I know the ABC News people are good people. This happened a couple of years ago. Subsequently, the girl as we said, moved out of the house and they felt that they didn’t want to damage the family by reporting them to the authorities. Apparently the father is in counseling now and the family is trying to put itself back together. Is that good enough?
BETH SAVINO, FORMER CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES INVESTIGATOR: Not in my opinion.
O’REILLY: Well, tell me what you think.
SAVINO: I just feel that when a news agency puts cameras into a home that they know is volatile — that’s why they chose these families because they were volatile and they were having difficulties and they were crying out for help. I think that there’s a responsibility as an organization that’s going to be filming the insides of a family to intervene with that family in a timely manner, to just videotape them and then I don’t know what happened to the tape all these years but my understanding is the filming occurred back in 2002.
O’REILLY: Yeah. Obviously, it was a troubling situation and the network sat on the tape for quite some time and then showed it in a way that was reporting on dysfunctional families and that when you have broken families, because the story was they were married before and they tried to merge the families and they weren’t doing well. But it’s very troubling and obviously, when you see something like that. But I have to believe ABC News when they say that they did monitor it closely and that once the girl left the family, there was no need to bring in the authorities because when you bring in the authorities, then you’re going to have, you know, obviously felony charges probably all kinds of other things, not to say they should not have done. I probably would have because that’s me, but I don’t think I’m going to condemn ABC.
SAVINO: Well, I guess I mean I wouldn’t condemn ABC, but I think that maybe somebody could learn a lesson from this in the future when you’re setting up cameras in households and you have the potential in any household to be recording an incident of abuse, you need to have a plan beforehand of how you’re going to handle that.
O’REILLY: That’s a very good point.
SAVINO: There needs to be some monitoring.
O’REILLY: That’s a very good point.
SAVINO: It would have been easy for them to have a plan that said, we’re going to review these tapes say every week or every month. And if we see incidents of abuse, we’re going to have told the parents beforehand, if you do something inappropriate or possibly abusive in the course of this taping, we’re going to automatically refer it to family services. And then everybody knows that.
O’REILLY: Yeah. But the problem there is, if you did tell the Nelson family that, they never would have allowed you to have the cameras in. This was a lack of impulse control by the father. He probably didn’t even remember the camera was there. He just snapped because the daughter was disrespectful.
O’REILLY: No family in their right mind would allow you to put a camera in there and then you say to them, if you do anything, we’re going to go to the cops. But I ABC News internally should have had a plan, should have known if something disastrous happened that they would take it out to the authorities. But again, I want to be very fair to ABC News. They’ve been fair to us. They say they monitored it closely. The girl was removed from the home, out of danger. The man went into therapy and they felt that the authorities wasn’t necessary. I’ll give you the last word.
SAVINO: It’s just that when it comes to reporting abuse, most people don’t understand that their job is to just report it. It’s the authorities’ job to determine what to do about it and people don’t have the training to determine how much risk a child is at. That’s up to the authorities.
O’REILLY: I absolutely agree with you 100 percent Ms. Savino. I think anybody who sees a child being abused in this society has an obligation morally to report it to the authorities. Thank you very much for appearing this evening.
Next we’ll wrap things up with the most ridiculous item and some of your e-mail.
LOAD-DATE: April 25, 2006