Interviews

Should Out-of-Control Paparazzi Be Charged with Crimes?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles are talking about filing felony charges against photographers who put Hollywood celebrities at risk with their relentless pursuit of the perfect picture. This comes on the heels of an incident involving actress Lindsay Lohan, whose Mercedes was rammed by a shutterbug on a crowded L.A. street a few weeks ago.

And of course, we all remember what happened to Princess Diana (search) in Paris in 1997 when she was being chased by an overeager photographer.

But is it going too far to make snapping photos a crime?

Joining us now, Peter Howe, author of the book "Paparazzi."

Let's just start off. I mean, to me, it seems awfully difficult to make it a crime. You could certainly have some people who commit criminal activities and go after them. But what they're really trying to do is to argue that to be a paparazzo is to be a member of a criminal conspiracy.

PETER HOWE, AUTHOR, "PAPARAZZI": Well, they're not entirely doing that. What they're saying is that, instead of introducing new laws to control the paparazzi, let's look at the ones that are already on the books.

And I think that certainly, I mean, obviously, nobody is going to justify, under the First Amendment or any other amendment ramming somebody's Mercedes. But I think that for me, the problem with it is, is the conspiracy charges. I mean, these laws, as I understand it, were brought in for combating organized crime.

SNOW: Well, that's why I was making that point.

HOWE: I mean, you know, if you use those laws against another group, whether it's paparazzi or anyone else, then I think that that does bring up some issues of civil liberties.

SNOW: Well, let's talk about the people who've snapped these photos, because if you're a paparazzo, chances are you're not a member of a fraternity where everybody helps each other. As a matter of fact, you're scrambling over the next guy, trying to flatten him, so you get the picture and he doesn't.

HOWE: Well, it's a very tough and very cutthroat profession. That's for sure.

SNOW: You've interview a lot of these — these people. Talk about what they're like? Give me a profile.

HOWE: They're — I mean, they're interesting, inasmuch as they're like most other groups of people. I mean, they range from guys you would be happy to go out and have dinner with to really borderline psychopaths. I mean, there's some real nut jobs in this business. So you know, there are a whole variety.

I think that one of the things there is, though. There — within this group, there are a small number of very smart operators who are making a lot of money. There are also a much bigger number of much dumber operators who are not making very much money at all.

SNOW: So you have to know when to get the shot, but also, in some cases, they set them up, right? They figure out some sort of circumstance where you could maneuver a celebrity in the place where you get the shot.

HOWE: Yes. But what you're looking for more than anything, the valuable shots are the exclusive shots.

SNOW: Right.

HOWE: And one of the things that, you know, with this particular incident with Lindsay Lohan, you know, to be honest with you, a picture of Lindsay Lohan (search) looking distressed because somebody's rammed her car is not a very valuable picture. And also, a lot of other people got it. So you know, it's a really stupid thing to do.

SNOW: It was a stupid thing to do.

Now it's interesting, because the relationship between celebrities and the people who photograph them, celebrities are constantly complaining about it. But it seems to me that the only thing worse for Lindsay Lohan than being chased by a paparazzo is not being chased by one.

HOWE: Well, I'll tell you, I'm sure that now they know she's safe and that she hasn't been injured, her P.R.'s are salivating every hour over this. There's people who, a couple of days ago, may not have even known who Lindsay Lohan was. And now she's a household name. So it works in a — it's a very complex relationship between the two.

SNOW: Is there any acknowledgment on the parts of celebrities that these people in their own bizarre way help them, the celebrities?

HOWE: Some of them do. Not many, but some of them do.

SNOW: Do any of them play up to the paparazzi?

HOWE: Oh, God yes. Absolutely.

SNOW: Who's the best? Who's the best?

HOWE: Well, when you say play up, they don't play up necessarily inasmuch as they won't, like, wave or whatever.

SNOW: Right.

HOWE: But they will manipulate the paparazzi when it's — when it's, you know, advantageous to them.

I mean, if you look at what's happened recently, you know, you've got Brad and Angelina.

SNOW: Yes.

HOWE: Hello, today, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith (search)" is released.

SNOW: Right.

HOWE: You know, you've got Tom Cruise and the lovely Katie. What's happening in a couple weeks' time? You've got "War of the Worlds" being released and "Batman Begins" being released.

SNOW: Right.

HOWE: So you know, this is not coincidental.

SNOW: All right, Mr. Howe. Thanks for joining us.

HOWE: Thank you.

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