Has there been a "live" suicide on American TV?

I remember reading about a FL newswoman killing herself during a broadcast in the introduction to Harlan Ellison’s collection “Strange Wine.” He claims that she said something like:

“In keeping with Channel 11’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and death, here is an actual first: a live suicide.”

I have never heard any confirmation/denial that such a thing occurred other than the Ellison source and I was thinking that someone amongst the Teeming Millions would be able to either verify this for the tragedy that it was or destroy it as the urban legend it is. Thanks.

Yep. See the entry for “Chris Chubbuck” on this Snopes page.

Thanks, Buckner. :slight_smile:

I do recall hearing about an incident in LA where a person was involved with police in a high speed chase. It ended by him taking a shot gun and blowing his head off. All of this was being broadcast on live T.V. IIRC. sorry no cite.

I remember the controversy when Dr. Kervorkian filmed an assisted suicide. See this link:


Towards the end of the 1980s, Pennsylvania state comptroller R. “Budd” Dwyer was facing arrest on embezzlement and other charges. He called a press conference, which was aired live on a number of TV stations across the commonwealth. It was assumed that he would either deny the charges and declare his intention to fight, or confess to the charges and promise to cooperate with authorities.

Dwyer entered the room carrying a piece of paper and a large manilla envelope. He read a brief statement from the paper, more apology than confession, then reached into the envelope and pulled out a gun. With the stunned reporters and cameramen as witnesses, he put the barrel of the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Some stations carried this live, because people were just too shocked to do what was needed to stop it. At least a few stations also decided to broadcast the tape of the incident on a news program later in the day. Public’s right to know and all that :rolleyes:

Q: What’s the difference between Budd Dwyer and a Budweiser?
A: The beer has a head on it.

According to the snopes page that’s referenced above, some TV stations showed the Budd Dwyer suicide later on the news. I’ve checked several websites, and there are inconsistent accounts of whether any station showed the suicide live.

WPVI in Philadelphia and WPXI in Pittsburgh did show the entire suicide, and received a tremendous amount of criticism for it. This site has a copy of the NY Times story on the suicide.

Dwyer’s suicide was also the inspiration for Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot”, the first track on their Short Bus album.

I’ll beg to differ here. His final speech was defiant, not apologetic. I have no idea whether he was guilty of the crimes he was accused of, but he was quite adamant that he was wrongfully accused. I only post it here to set the record straight… he was not apologetic in the least.

Here’s a transcript of the end of R. Budd Dwyer’s last press conference:


I’m including the entire transcript as I don’t believe there are any copyright issues involved. Also, it was shown on various local news outlets, and video of this event can be found on the net. I won’t provide a link, but you can find it if you want. It’s quite sad and very gruesome. It’s even difficult to read, so if you are the least bit squeamish, do not proceed. Anyway…

…and I’m on the last page now, and I don’t have enough to pass out, but Duke, I’ll leave this here and you can make copies, uh, for the people here, and there’s a few extra copies right now…
I thank the Good Lord for giving me 47 years of exciting challenges, stimulating experiences, many happy occasions, and, most of all, the finest wife and children any man could ever desire. Now my life has changed, for no apparent reason. People who call and write are exasperated and feel helpless. They know I’m innocent and want to help. But in this nation, the world’s greatest democracy, there is nothing they can do to prevent me from being punished for a crime they know I did not commit. Some who have called have said that I am a modern-day Job.

Judge Muir is also noted for his medieval sentences - I face a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison and a $300,000 fine for being innocent. Judge Muir has already told the press that he, quote, “felt invigorated” when we were found guilty, and that he plans to imprison me as a deterrent to other public officials. But it wouldn’t be a deterrent because every public official who knows me knows that I am innocent - it wouldn’t be a legitimate punishment because I’ve done nothing wrong. Since I’m a victim of political persecution, my prison would simply be an American Gulag.

I ask those that believe in me to continue to extend friendship and prayer to my family, to work untiringly for the creation of a true justice system here in the United States, and to press on with the efforts to vindicate me, so that my family and their future families are not tainted by this injustice that has been perpetrated on me.

We were confident that right and truth would prevail, and I would be acquitted and we would devote the rest of our lives working to create a justice system here in the United States. The guilty verdict has strengthened that resolve. But as we’ve discussed our plans to expose the warts of our legal system, people have said “why bother”, “no one cares”, “you’ll look foolish”, “60 Minutes, 20/20, the American Civil Liberties Union, Jack Anderson and others have been publicizing cases like yours for years, and it doesn’t bother anyone”.

At this point in time… is Bob Bolstey here? Bob… and where’s Greg… can you come up here? And where’s Don Johnson… can you come up, Don?

Budd begins handing out sealed envelopes…

Greg… where are you… okay, just hang onto that right for the moment… Don, there’s some things for you to do, and there’s a note in here for Joanne…

…he returns to the podium and pulls out a .357 Magnum revolver…

When I… and I…

The crowd begins shouting - “Don’t do it! Budd, no, no!”…

Please leave the room if this will… if this will offend you…

“Budd! Budd, no! Budd, don’t do this!”…

Budd warns them off:

…no, no, don’t, don’t, don’t… this will hurt someone…

…sticks the gun into his mouth, fires, and falls… the room erupts in horror…

…then Duke, Dwyer’s aide, speaks:

All right… settle down. Don’t panic, please… don’t panic… don’t panic. Someone call… someone call the ambulance and a doctor and the police… don’t panic, please… show a little decorum, please… dear god in heaven… all right… all right…

Two priests in my church, one in the 70s and one in the 1990s died while giving the Mass.

IIRC, R Budd was already convicted of the charges. The press conference he called was right before his sentencing, where he believed he would be sent to prison. If you’re really interested, and I know that some of you are, you can get the R Budd Dwyer mpg here:
[Link deleted]

Obviously, not for the faint of heart. Have fun!

[Edited by Chronos on 07-29-2001 at 03:01 PM]

I wrote:

> According to the snopes page that’s referenced above,
> some TV stations showed the Budd Dwyer suicide later on
> the news. I’ve checked several websites, and there are
> inconsistent accounts of whether any station showed the
> suicide live.

headshok wrote:

> WPVI in Philadelphia and WPXI in Pittsburgh did show the
> entire suicide, and received a tremendous amount of
> criticism for it.

That doesn’t really speak to what I wrote. WPVI and WPXI showed the suicide later on the news, but did they show it live (i.e., as it was happening).

[Moderator watch ON]
Chandeleur, zuma was wise enough to refrain from posting a link. You should have followed that example. We do not want links to material of that sort on the Straight Dope Message Board. At most, you could have offered to e-mail the link to interested parties.

This is an official warning. Do not do this again.

I think headshok got it right. There is nothing accessible on the net that would indicate the actual act was transmitted “live” on ony tv station.

btw, ironic name.

Guys, let’s clear this Budd Dwyer thing up right now.

First, he was the Treasurer of the State of Pennsylvania.

Second, he was in fact convicted. The press conference was for his erstwhile resignation.

Third, WHTM-TV out of Harrisburg did, in fact, show his suicide live. I would know, because I was 11 and home due to a snowstorm, so I saw it. I lived only 25 minutes away from Harrisburg at the time. They replayed it on the 6 o’ clock news as well.

That was truly one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. I have never forgotten that day in the 14 years since. If you do choose to look at the tape, be warned. It is truly vile.

I actually witnessed this. The event was caught from a news helicopter. For some reason, the feed from the helicopter was not on a 7-second delay, as was the stations normal practice, but went out ‘as-is’. (It was only broadcast on 1 station, all others had the delay and were able to edit it out). The guy first set his car on fire while still in the front seat. He found this to be too painful and bailed out. He then put the gun(a rifle I think) under his chin and pulled the trigger. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
For the rest of the day and into the next, the station kept apologizing for what it aired.

RE; LA Incident

To make matters worse, this happened during mid- to late afternoon, prime viewing time for kids after school. They even pre-emptied some kids programming to show it.

Wasn’t the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot” by Filter supposed to be about the Budd Dwyer incident? Seems I read that somewhere.

Lyrics to the song are here (scroll down).

Ah, here’s more about the incident and the connection to the Filter song.

I saw it

Channel 2 News (known for their somewhat shady newscasting) were among the ones following the guy as he led a police pursuit. He was all over the place, speeding and slowing, and everyone thought he was off his block. Helicopters could see the shotgun lying in his lap and his dog with him.
Anyway, the guy came onto one of the high overpasses in LA, stopped and got out. He was clearly out of control. I remember him writing something on the road, shooting his dog, setting fire to his truck, then walking into the middle of the road, getting to his knees and suciding. Now 4 and 7 pulled back but the dumbass copter pilot on 2 zooms in and we get to see this guys melon open up like a fliptop and get a healthy look at flyin blood and bone. The copter pilot said later after he was criticized for zooming in that he did not know what was going to happen but it was total bullshit because both 4 and 7 managed to cut away prior. I can vouch that I knew what was gonna happen way before too. The station had to do a on air apology and I heard got royally lambasted by the network and had to pay some heavy fines

Anyway yea it was right at 5 o clock so I am sure a few lil farts got to see their first suicide. Pretty unnerving