Last year I questioned whether or not NBC had begun to take things too far with their ‘Dateline’ special, “To Catch A Predator’ in my weekly Clicker column. It looks as though I may have been on the right track. It appears NBC is being sued by the sister of a county prosecutor who killed himself after being targeted by the television show.
Loyal fans of the ‘Dateline’ special, who enjoy watching Chris Hansen interrogate suspected pedophiles in some random sunny suburban kitchen will probably not be able to find any compassion for Louis William Conradt, who killed himself after NBC tried to accuse him of pedophilic intentions. NBC said Conradt was in contact with a person he thought was a 13-year-old boy. It turned out he was really chatting with one of the volunteers at “Perverted Justice,” the group that works with NBC’s ‘Dateline’ on their “To Catch A Predator” specials. Conradt was invited by the decoy to a house in Murphy, Texas but he never showed up.
Reuters reports that when Conradt failed to show up at the decoy’s house, camera crews from the show, accompanied by police, took the show to his house. Reuters states that according to the lawsuit filed by the late Conradt’s sister:
“Police and members of the Dateline crew traveled to Conradt's house "with neither a search warrant nor an arrest warrant" that met legal standards….
They were met by (Conradt). He told them 'I'm not gonna hurt anyone' and shot himself. Then a police officer said to a Dateline producer, 'That'll make good TV.' Death was an hour later.”
Conradt’s sister is suing NBC Universal for $105 million. According to Reuters, the lawsuit said, “The stigma of suicide irrevocably has spread its dark shadow over his good name and reputation.”
The fact that ‘Dateline’ went to Conradt’s house in an attempt to call him out and humiliate him has once again caused me to question whether or not the show has gone too far. While it’s possible that Conradt considered the idea of engaging in some kind of illegal sexual act with an underage kid, he did not act on it; yet the show sought to publicly expose him anyway. Once again, I am in no way condoning pedophilia nor do I think grown adults should be chatting online with kids and discussing sexual acts but I also don’t believe NBC or any other television network should be showing up at people’s houses with the intention of defaming them on national television.
According to Reuters, the 24 “predators” that did show up at the decoy house in Murphy, Texas were arrested but not charged with anything.
This is not the only lawsuit the network is facing related to the ‘Dateline’ special. According to The Smoking Gun, in May, former NBC producer, Marsha Bartel was fired from the network after she complained that the show was violating “numerous journalistic ethical standards.” The lawsuit states that the targets are “led into additional acts of humiliation (such as being encouraged to remove their clothes) in order to enhance the comedic effect of the public exposure of these persons.” Bartel makes a number of additional claims in the lawsuit which include the financial incentives offered to “Perverted Justice, the validity of the chat transcripts used to call out the targets and the behavior of the police officers who are on the scene to arrest the predators.