While fans around the world mourn the tragic death of Robin Williams, Fox News has come out and called the comic genius a “coward” for his apparent suicide.
Robin Williams had spoken publicly about his long struggle with addiction and depression -- these issues or any number of other reasons could have led to Williams' death. We just don’t know.
Whatever Williams’ reasons are, it is inappropriate for Fox News’ staff to air their insensitive opinions. It is offensive to Williams' loved ones -- and the loved ones of the millions of others who've lost their lives to suicide. I know, because my own partner killed himself a year and a half ago -- and if someone had called him a coward for what he did, it would have cut me to the quick.
Even more importantly, Fox is perpetuating dangerous and completely wrongheaded views of mental illness. Depression is a disease, and belittling its millions of victims could even make them less likely to seek help.
Call on Fox News to fire presenter Shep Smith for his insensitive comments, and immediately educate staff about mental illness and suicide.
Robin Williams himself said that “suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems”, but it’s hard for those battling with mental illness to realize that fact on their own.
Fox News knows it is in the wrong after public outcry. The Rupert Murdoch-owned US news channel right wing channel forced its anchor to apologize, but it’s not enough.
But by labelling suicide as “cowardly” and essentially leaving its presenter off with a slap on the wrist, Fox News is intentionally perpetuating the attitude that mental illness is something to be ashamed of -- in spite of the fact that one in four of us will struggle with mental illness at some point in our lives.
And Fox is a repeat offender on the air -- forcing its own presenter to apologize is yet another case of the company covering its tracks when there is public outcry over an insensitive on-air comment. But apologies aren't enough this time.
Fox News: immediately fire presenter Shep Smith and ensure the rest of your staff are adequately trained on how to speak about mental illness and suicide on air.
This one's personal for me. My partner Aaron killed himself exactly 20 months to the day before Williams did. Like Williams' family, I may never know exactly why. But I know this: He was no coward.
Thank you for all that you do,
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Founder of SumOfUs.org
For more information:
Fox News’ Shep Smith: Robin Williams was “such a coward”, Salon, August 12, 2014