I could have written this column a month ago. I discussed it with my mates on Fox News Watch two weeks ago.
I don’t know why I waited until now to put my thoughts down on paper, unless I wanted to test the subject, see how long it would stay with me and how strongly I would continue to feel. It’s still there. It’s still strong. Time to write.
Several weeks ago, the parents of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl made some television appearances. On CNN’s Larry King Live, they were asked the following: "You know the feeling of a child gone . . . [Mrs. Pearl,] what was it like for you?" On the syndicated Oprah, they heard this: "How does it make you feel now that videotapes of his . . . murder are circulating on the Internet, and people are pulling it up and trying to see it?"
The Pearls were taken aback by these queries. They were saddened by them, disappointed by them, troubled by them. Said Mrs. Pearl, quoting Winfrey: "’How do you feel about the video?’ And all these questions that are personal and painful. We would like to work on Danny’s legacy and look forward."
In fact, it is precisely because of their son’s legacy that the Pearls agreed to talk to King and Winfrey in the first place. They were not looking for sympathy. They were promoting a foundation that is being established in their son’s name, one whose goal is the promotion of peace through music and journalism, and which has already enlisted Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel as board members.
And they are promoting a book of their son’s collected writings, proceeds of which will help to fund the foundation.
They did not agree to talk to King and Winfrey because they wanted "closure" on their son’s death.
I have heard the two talk show hosts defended on the grounds that they were eliciting important information, and that they did so in the most sensitive manner possible given the circumstances.
Nonsense. The questions cited above are not intended to provide information, important or otherwise. Think about it. The answers to the questions are obvious: What was it like for Mrs. Pearl to lose her son? It was a hell on earth more fiery than any below. How do the Pearls feel about people looking at the video? Aghast. Appalled. Disgusted.
You call that information?
No, what the questions were really intended to do was prompt emotion, and no one in the world has a right to ask the Pearls to make a public display of their grief. Their tears, which are probably still falling, should not be seen by a camera and should not be described for a mass audience.
I have also heard the two talk show hosts defended, less directly, by people who say, in effect: Well, what were King and Winfrey supposed to ask them, if not their feelings about their son’s death?
Here’s what King and Winfrey were supposed to ask them, these questions, and the logical follow-ups, and these questions only: What can you tell us about the Daniel Pearl Foundation? Which stories of your son’s are your favorites, and why?
Of course, King and Winfrey did ask these questions, and the result was information, real information, even to people who might not have cared about the foundation or the book, because what the Pearls were really doing when they talked about these matters was explaining how a man and a woman who have been subjected to ineffable grief and humiliation are trying to cope with it; how two people, intelligent and decent and unfairly victimized, are trying to make of their sorrow a monument to the human spirit, or, more precisely, to the spirit of one particular human, now departed.
That, it seems to me, is enough to fill an hour of anybody’s talk show.
Eric Burns is the host of Fox News Watch which airs Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and Sundays at 1:30 a.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT, 6:30 a.m. ET/3:30 a.m. PT, and 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT .