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Rihanna's 'Man Down' video 'inexcusable,' parent group says

By Alan Duke, CNN
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New Rihanna video sparks controversy
  • NEW: Rihanna defends her video in a call to BET
  • NEW: The song "empowers" young females, she says
  • BET says the video meets its standards for broadcast
  • In the video, Rihanna portrays a sexual assault victim who shoots her attacker

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The music video for Rihanna's newest single, "Man Down," is "an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song" that should not be aired on television, according to a group that campaigns against violence on TV.

Rihanna defended her video Thursday, calling it "a song about a girl who has committed a murder that she regrets and is completely remorseful about," but one that "empowers" young females who are sexually abused.

The hip-hop singer, who was herself a victim of a beating by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, portrays a woman who guns down a man who sexually assaulted her.

The video, which premiered on the BET cable channel Tuesday, "gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability," the Parents Television Council said in a news release.

The founder of the council's "Enough is Enough" anti-violence campaign called the video "a clear violation of BET's own programming guidelines."

"I join with the Parents Television Council and Industry Ears in calling on Viacom executives to immediately pull the video from programs that are targeted to youth and teenagers," Pastor Delman Coates wrote in Wednesday's news release.

Rihanna returns fire

Industry Ears describes itself on its website as a "nonpartisan think tank aimed at addressing and finding solutions to disparities in media that negatively impact individuals and communities."

BET, which is a subsidiary of Viacom, issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the video complied with "a comprehensive set of standards and guidelines that are applied to all of our content."

"At the same time, it is clear that the 'Man Down' video has sparked a passionate dialogue and we will continue this conversation with our audience tonight on '106 & Park.'"

Rihanna called into the BET show Thursday night to discuss the controversy.

" 'Man Down' is a song about a girl who has committed a murder that she regrets and is completely remorseful about," she said. "You hear her crying to her mama, saying why she did it. It could have been somebody's son. She didn't mean to hurt him."

She and the producers decided to focus her song and video "on a very serious matter that people are afraid to address," she said.

"Rape is, unfortunately, happening all over the world and right in our own homes," she said, "and we continue to cover it up, pretend it doesn't happen."

Rihanna said her young female fans "are empowered by this."

"This is a story for them," she said. "It's not for the critics."

The artist used Twitter messages Wednesday and Thursday to thank her fans for "the amazing response" and to defend her video.

"I love you guys, and I love that u GOT IT!!!" Rihanna tweeted Wednesday.

"We're strong innocent fun flirtatious vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naive! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us!" she wrote.

She launched a series of tweets again after the controversy spread in media reports Thursday:

"I'm a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What's up with everybody wantin me to be a parent? I'm just a girl, I can only be your/our voice!"

"Cuz we all know how difficult/embarrassing it is to communicate touchy subject matters to anyone especially our parents!"

"And this is why! Cuz we turn the other cheek! U can't hide your kids from society, or they'll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!"

"The music industry isn't exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! Its your job to make sure they dont turn out like US."

The video opens with Rihanna using a small revolver to shoot a man on a street, apparently in her native Barbados. The viewers see a graphic view of the man lying dead in the street with a pool of blood streaming near his head. It then flashes back to the previous day, when the shooter was sexually attacked.

"What started out as a simple altercation turns into a real sticky situation," Rihanna sings.

"Makes me want to cry, because I didn't mean to hurt him, could've been somebody's son," the song says. "Oh, mama, I just shot a man down"

"Why did I pull the trigger?" she sings. "Now I am a criminal."

CNN's Denise Quan contributed to this report.