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Virginia Tech Shooting Leads to Debate About Violence; Did Don Imus` Firing Send The Wrong Message?

Aired April 16, 2007 - 23:00:00   ET


Byline: A.J. Hammer, Brooke Anderson Guest: Howard Kurtz, John Stire, Roland Martin, Curtis Sliwa, Melissa Caldwell, Jane Velez-Mitchell High: Virginia Tech Shooting Leads to Debate About Violence; Did Don Imus` Firing Send The Wrong Message
A.J. HAMMER, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT ANCHOR: Why Richard Gere is being burned in effigy? And Madonna Returns to Malawi. Is another adoption in the works. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now.

On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the shocking shootings at Virginia Tech, the deadliest campus shootings ever. Tonight the startling video, first sent in by citizen journalists. Tonight, how the gripping story played out on TV, as a stunned nation watched.

Plus, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks, does all the fake violence we watch on TV make us terribly desensitized, or have we been jolted back to reality?

Tonight, will the firing of Don Imus make people paranoid on the airwaves, afraid to open their mouths. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the heated debate on the provocative question: will Imus` firing lead to rampant self- censorship?

Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. Tonight, America is in shock after the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history. A lone gunman slaughtering dozens of people at Virginia Tech. We all watched as this tragedy unfolded on television today. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT tracked this dramatic, heart-breaking story minute by minute.

Tonight we have continuing coverage, including a hard look at whether violence on TV, in the movies movies, even video games is desensitizing us to the horrific images that we see. But first, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the tragedy in Virginia.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is indeed the deadliest shooting incident in the history of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senseless and incomprehensible heinous act.

GEORGE W BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today our nation grieves with those who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech.

HAMMER (voice-over): An unspeakable tragedy unfolding before our very eyes on national TV, dozens of people gunned down in a horrifying shooting spree at the campus of Virginia Tech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can`t believe it happened here.

HAMMER: All day, Americans stayed glued to their TVs in shocked disbelief, as what began this report as a report about a mysterious single shooting --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a report of a gunman on the campus of Virginia Tech.

HAMMER: -- mushroomed into a realtime account of the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history. A drama captured most vividly not with the professional TV news crew, but with this cell phone video. TV viewers experienced the massacre, gunshot after horrifying gunshot, in this shockingly raw video made by a student. Mere hours after this video was posted on, it was viewed more than a million times online and shown repeatedly on news casts.

HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA CRITIC: Ten years ago, the networks would have had no footage of these horrible shootings.

HAMMER: "Washington Post" media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT it`s the age in which we live, where anybody with a cell phone camera can document a national tragedy.

KURTZ: A journalist can`t be everywhere. So this new breed of citizen journalists really are performing a valuable function by getting the pictures right away to a mass audience.

HAMMER: And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you the Virginia Tech shooting will be the story of the week as we learn more about what led to this rampage and see how the nation responds to it.

KURTZ: Unfortunately, we`ve been through this a decade ago at Columbine.

HAMMER: Almost eight years ago to the day, the images of Columbine are still fresh. That 1999 high school shooting, which left 15 people dead, had a profound effect. "The View`s" Rosie O`Donnell revealed that Columbine sent her into a crippling depression.

ROSIE O`DONNELL, "THE VIEW": Columbine happened, and, like you, I could not stop crying. I knew it wasn`t happening to me, and those were not my children, but it felt as if it was.

HAMMER: And the Virginia Tech shooting is sure to revive a national debate about the role of violence in our popular entertainment, such as violent video games or the TV show "24." But for now, the focus is on Virginia Tech and the vulnerability, the fear and the sorrow we all feel when such a tragic story hits so close to home.


HAMMER: And as we know, the images of this massacre are going to be played out on television for weeks and months to come. It`s the kind of violence we see all the time on television, as well as in the movies, even in video games. Joining me tonight from Washington, DC, Howard Kurtz, host of CNN`s "Reliable Sources," and from San Francisco, Jim Stire. He`s the CEO of Common Sense Media, which is the leading non-profit kids and family media organization. Howard, Jim, thank you both for being here.

KURTZ: Good to be here.

HAMMER: So Howard, those TV shows that I`m talking about, the movies, the video games, they really do tend to desensitize us. I don`t think there`s any denying that to all the realities of violence. But does this kind of a tragedy, which just came out of nowhere today, just sort of jolt people back into reality?

KURTZ: Well, it seems to me that people can distinguish between some guy shooting up a hole bar room full of people in a movie and this awful, horrifying, gripping tragedy we`ve seen play out on the television screens today at Virginia Tech. And the fact that cell phone video is available and we can hear the gunshots makes it all too real for those who have any kids in college, to those whose hearts go out to the victims and their families.

HAMMER: What do you think, Jim? We see this come on today, a major reality check.

JIM STIRE, COMMON SENSE MEDIA: It is a major reality check. I agree with Howard that this kind of image, real-life image is far more searing than a movie or a TV show, which is more made-up violence. But there`s no question to your original premise that we are somewhat desensitized as a society. But an incident like we just saw today at Virginia Tech does jolt us back to reality. It is a big deal for all kids and families across the country.

HAMMER: And in terms of how videos and video games and movies and TV shows can impact things, Howard, is it fair to compare fictional violence at all to something of this magnitude, that somehow there could be a connection, in that it can plant ideas in some people`s minds?

KURTZ: I think that`s pure speculation at this point. We haven`t even had the gunman identified. We don`t know what his motivation may have been. I think it`s awfully quick for us to leap to the conclusion that if we live in a culture that didn`t depict violence as frequently and as starkly and graphically as it does, that this wouldn`t happen. We simply don`t know.

HAMMER: Absolutely specific to what happened to, but in terms of the reality, Howard, that it can in fact -- we`ve certainly seen copy cat cases in life and on TV before?

KURTZ: But, of course, others will make the argument that the availability of guns in our society is to blame. And I`m sure we`re going to have this debate about gun control. And could this have been prevented if it was harder to get guns. And how did this guy get a couple of guns.

And so I think the people with political agendas, who are either opposed to violent entertainment or think there should be more gun control, are going to descend on this story with a vengeance, but I think first we need to get more of the facts.

HAMMER: I think no one would argue with that statement. What`s wild though, Jim, remarkably, last week, the plot of CBS` show "The Unit" was about the unit being called in to help out with the local SWAT team when a prominent school in Virginia gets taken over in a shooting. It is hard to ignore it. Of course we`re not saying one has anything to do with the other. But it is, perhaps, art imitating life, the other way around.

Does that kind of thing happen often enough that we should be troubled and take a harder look at it?

SPIRE: Well it does happen. Howard is absolutely correct though, A.J., that right now we really don`t know what the facts are. We have no idea what motivated the shooter in this instance. And it is truly a searing tragedy. But the one thing that we do know about real-life violence, about the kinds of violence that the Virginia Tech shooting or the Columbine massacre eight years ago do is that occasionally they can lead to copycat violence or to acts of suicide, actually.

But Howard`s absolutely right that there`s no clear description of what`s gone on here. We don`t know. And he`s right that people of all political sides will probably jump on it. But at the end of the day, the exposure to this kind of media violence really does have a huge impact on all of us, on the audience. We care mostly about the impact on kids. But there`s no question that it really presents the media industry with a new sense of responsibility, because what do producers show? What kind of cell phone images do we put in front of a viewing audience that`s likely to include young people?

It raises all sorts of interesting issues for the media today.

HAMMER: Yes, and Howard, you were touching on that a moment earlier, how the coverage we saw when CNN was first reporting this story today was coming from cell phone video that was captured by a Virginia Tech student, which is remarkable, and really does show us that the way news gets to us has forever been changed.

KURTZ: Journalists can`t be everywhere, but people with cell phones certainly can, and it`s becoming more and more common for somebody`s blurry pictures from a cell phone camera to make it to CNN or other news organizations, get posted online, be viewed a million times, be seen on television. And I have to say one more thing, cable television, cable news often gets criticized by people like me, among others, for sensationalizing or hyping small stories into major soap operas or tragedies.

Here`s a case where you have a genuine national tragedy, no question about it. I think the coverage has been restrained, careful, cautious. Nobody`s tried to sensationalize it. You don`t have to. The story itself is so gripping and compelling, and, of course, depressing. I think it served a real purpose, almost as kind of a video wire service, for people wanting to know the facts about what happened at Virginia Tech.

HAMMER: It is remarkable video to see. Howard Kurtz, Jim Sire, thank you both so much for joining us tonight.

So the question is how will Hollywood react to today`s terrible news? Should TV shows and movies be toning down the violence, or will it be business as usual? We`ll be getting into that at 31 past the hour.

Also, will the firing of Don Imus make people paranoid on the airwaves. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has the heated debate on the provocative question, will Imus` firing lead to rampant self-censorship? We`ll also have this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some celebrities are smart to keep their relationships under cover, because they know that as soon as they`re on the front page, as soon as they declare, we`re a couple, they`re under the spotlight.


HAMMER: Stars who keep their relationships secret, from J-Lo to Beyonce to Julia Roberts, we`re taking a look at why some celebrities are so hush-hush about romance. That is coming up and SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. This is TV`s most provocative entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. Tonight, the outrage after Imus after his racial insult and the disturbing question, will his firing start leading to censorship on the airwaves? The shock jock has been fired from his radio and TV shows. But it does have some wondering if firing him is going to cause people to now be paranoid about what they say.

This morning on ABC`s "The View," that was the hot topic.


BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": Do you now feel concerned about what you say? Do you feel concerned?


O`DONNELL: I will tell you this, I think we`re in dangerous territory when people like Tom Delay, a man of high moral standards, wants me to be fired for my political opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the point too is that there`s a no PH test, and everyone will then, from this point forward, be judged on what they say, if it`s offensive or not, on this new PH scale of what`s politically correct, what`s offensive, what`s not. You have Don Imus over here, probably Al Sharpton and some of the things he said over there as well, and everyone else will fall somewhere in that line.


Joining me tonight in New York, CNN contributor and radio talk show host on WVON in Chicago, Roland Martin, and also in New York, Curtis Sliwa. Curtis is the host of "Curtis and Kuby," the radio show on WABC in New York in the morning. Curtis has competed against Imus every single day up until, well, now, Curtis.

And let me start with you, because I think what a lot of people don`t realize about what you do for a living, and what a lot of people do on the radio for a living is you`re not working with a script. You don`t have the words written down in front of you to tell you what you`re going to say, unless maybe you`re doing a commercial. And you don`t necessarily plan exactly what words you`re going to use when you`re making a point.

So with what happened to Imus, is that possibly going to cause you or maybe other people who do what you do to sort of over think everything that you`re going to say on the radio before you say it?

CURTIS SLIWA, "CURTIS AND KUBY": If you`ve been in talk radio for any length of time, you`ve said things that later on you either were forced to apologize for by management or you decided to sort of interrupt yourself at that moment, to sort of stem the flow of what could be a retaliatory attack, either on your sponsors, on the station, or just by your enemies.

And we`re not politicians. You want a politician to do a talk radio program, well, we`ve already had them, Mario Cuomo, the great orator. But he speaks with a seven-second sound delay, as politicians often do, because they`re afraid of offending anyone. So look, Don Imus has offended so many over the years, and now finally he`s given a pink slip for this. This is mild compared to some of the things he`s said.

And I think you take them as you come up. If you say something offensive, you apologize, you should be given a pass. If you don`t apologize, then obviously then, management should think of sacking you or if your ratings are low, or you`re not bringing in the advertising dollars -- it`s a business, then obviously they`re going to show you the front door.

HAMMER: Roland, you`re on the radio every day. You see something happen like what happened to Don Imus. Does it give you pause? Do you think for a moment, wait a minute, I better focus a little harder before these words start rolling out of my mouth?

ROLAND MARTIN, RADIO SHOW HOST: No, it doesn`t give me pause, because you naturally do that anyway. We all know the seven words you cannot say on radio. And so we all do censorship. It`s not like this is any surprise. The difference is it`s smart to not go on the radio and call somebody a ho. This is kind of smart. You don`t do that.

That`s where Imus messed up. I mean, you can be critical on radio. You can go after people on radio. But we all know something on the inside, there`s a line you do not cross. And so he didn`t understand that. And the other piece is, the reason they went after him, again, is because he was operating on a different scale. His standard is also different. If you are a shock jock, and people know that you`re acting like a 12-year-old over there in the corner, they`re not going to pay attention to you.

But when you have prominent people on your show -- I have lots of politicians. I have Senator Barack Obama on. I have Senator Clinton on. There`s things I cannot say because of the kind of people I have on my show. That`s also a significant difference.

HAMMER: What frightens me though is the ease with which the words rolled off his tongue, which speaks to much bigger things, I think. But Curtis, are we really dealing with a matter of censorship here, or is it really, as Al Sharpton has, I think tried to point out so many times, whether or not you would agree with him on the whole principle, it`s a matter of what you can say on public airwaves? Not talking about cable or satellite, but public airwaves. They`re owned by the public. Those are the airwaves you work on, Curtis.

SLIWA: Wait a second, let me get this straight, AM, which is normally talk radio, that`s active minded. You can`t say those things. But FC, where you`re a freaking moron, feeble minded, fornicating madly, forever smoking marijuana, that`s OK that you can constantly use the word ho, the B-word, every other words, particularly if you`re doing a rap or hip-hop show.

And don`t tell me that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson haven`t appeared on hip hop and rap networks. They have. And they`ve used that forum to go towards their constituents to try to bring out a Democratic vote. So there`s a complete double standard here. Now if you`re telling me there is a Maginaux Line, that you can be a freaking moron and an FM veg-head on FM, but AM has to play by a different set of standards and rules, where is that written by the FCC?

MARTIN: Curtis, you know better. The reality is there is a different standard. For instance, when it came to Don Imus, Don Imus was on MSNBC. He was competing against CNN "AMERICAN MORNING," Fox News Channel, "Fox and Friends," ABC "Good Morning America," NBC "Today Show," CBS "The Early Show." That`s who he was competing against. That`s a different standard.

Again, people understand what they`re listening to. I`m not saying you can say the B word, h word, the N word, things along those lines. What I am saying is people are judging you based upon the kind of show. Howard Stern said all kind of crazy stuff. They said he`s a lunatic, he`s a nut. OK, the FCC fined him, but people did not view him in the same prism as they did Imus.

SLIWA: Excuse me. He had presidential candidates come on his show.

MARTIN: Who did that?

SLIWA: Howard Stern.

MARTIN: Oh, please.

SLIWA: Oh, yes, he did. Yo, you better get into a retrospective here, because politicians were fighting to get on the airwaves with Howard Stern, because he had a ten share. Ten out of every 100 radios were tuned to Howard Stern.

MARTIN: I understand that. But again, it`s all about the platform, A.J. It`s the standard. And again, I don`t think you`re going to see a significance difference. Rosie O`Donnell says, oh, I need to watch it. Look, you`ve got people criticizing political viewpoints every day. Folks call into my show and say Roland, I disagreed with what you said today and I`ll agree with you tomorrow.

A political statement and opinion is different than when you criticize and are sexist on the air. There is a difference.

SLIWA: Would you agree that hip-hop and rap stations get away with this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year?

MARTIN: Curtis, you`re talking to the wrong guy. I`ve used my radio show, television, my column to denigrate that. But, at the same time, what I do find to be interesting is that we have all of this criticism right now on specific rappers, but you have not heard the CEO of Warner Music, Universal Music Group, EMI or Sony BMG say anything.

So I think we should also take them to task, because they`re making money off this same type of music.

SLIWA: The number one supporter of our your man, Barack Obama, is Interscope Records owner David Geffin.

HAMMER: Gentlemen, I`ve got to wrap it up there. I could have just taken a little vacation there. I actually stepped outside. But I do appreciate your feedback.

MARTIN: That`s the way it is on radio, A.J.

HAMMER: We have got to revisit this issue. Curtis, Roland, thank you. The Imus controversy does have everybody talking, include Oprah Winfrey, who`s holding a town hall meeting, and we`ll show you which part of that debate got everyone really fired up. That`s coming up next.

Plus, everyone is talking about Hollywood and violence now. What will Hollywood`s reaction be to today`s deadly shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech? Should TV and movies tone down the violence?

And why are people burning Richard Gere in effigy? We`ll tell you what the actor did that got everyone so riled up.


HAMMER: The Don Imus controversy has opened up a major dialogue about racism and sexism, perhaps one of the good things to come out of this. Oprah Winfrey tackling the debate head on. Today`s "Oprah Show" was a town hall meeting, where black leaders and student spoke passionately about the issues raised by Imus` firing.

Things got especially heated when the conversation turned to hip-hop and the way women are depicted by a lot of rappers. I want you to take a look at what the former editor-in-chief of "Essence Magazine" had to say about that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people should lose their jobs. I think they should their contracts. Just like Imus lost his job, I think we have to go to the record company. They have to know that it`s not acceptable. If you keep doing this kind of music, the contract is off. I think Snoop should lose his contract.

I don`t think he should be on Jay Leno`s show. These guys are all really embraced by the mainstream. It has to be unacceptable.


HAMMER: There is so much more to come on Oprah about this topic. Tomorrow`s show is going to focus significantly on the role of hip-hop in this whole debate.

Well, on Friday we asked you to vote in our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day; Imus gets canned, was it the right decision? Thirty seven percent of you said yes, 63 percent said no.

Among the e-mails, one from Dee in Ohio, who writes, "I think Imus got screwed big time. What happened to free speech?"

We also heard from Juanita. She`s in Virginia and wrote, "Perhaps Mr. Imus` firing will be a wake up call for a lot of other celebrities who somehow think they are above having to behave and speak in a respectable manner."

Tonight, Hollywood and violence. What will Hollywood`s reaction be to today`s deadly shootings on the campus at Virginia Tech? Should TV and movies tone down the violence. That`s next.

And why are people burning Richard Gere in effigy? We`ll tell you exactly what the actor did that got so many people so riled up. That`s still to come. We also have this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some celebrities are smart to keep their relationships under cover, because they know that as soon as they`re on the front page, as soon as they declare, we`re a couple, they`re under the spotlight.


HAMMER: Stars who keep their relationships secrets, from Jennifer Lopez to Beyonce, to Julia Roberts. We`re taking a look at why some celebrities are so hush-hush about romance. That`s coming up. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT for Monday coming right back.



HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. This is TV`s most provocative entertainment news show.

Tonight, the absolutely horrible shooting at Virginia Tech University - the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. More than 30 people killed. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT asks: is there a Hollywood connection? Does all of the make-believe that we see on TV, in the movies, all make us terribly desensitized to this awful stuff? A very heated debate is on the way.

Also, outrage over violent movies.


JIM STEYER, COMMON SENSE MEDIA: There`s no question that there`s a burgeoning market for horror films out there, and many of these films are actually targeted at kids, even if they`re rated `R.`


HAMMER: Tonight, Hollywood and horror flicks. Why some people are more angry about the way these movies are marketed - talking about the ads - than the movies themselves. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson will investigate.

Well, we have some remarkable video to show you tonight, captured on a cell phone by a Virginia Tech students as this awful tragedy was unfolding.

Take a look for yourself.





HAMMER: Just absolutely stunning and remarkable. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is asking, is there a Hollywood connection? How much does Hollywood desensitize us to this kind of violence?

Joining me tonight from Washington, D.C., Melissa Caldwell. She is senior director for programs for the Parents Television Council.

And in Hollywood, investigative journalist Jane Velez Mitchell, author of the upcoming book, "Secrets Can Be Murder."

Jane, Melissa, I appreciate you both being with us.


HAMMER: Now let`s talk about the Hollywood reaction here, Jane. Because whenever a terrible tragedy occurs, whether it`s Hollywood reacting to Columbine, or after the Amish school shootings, and of course after 9/11, certain television shows, certain episodes get pulled from the lineup. So you imagine the same thing is going to be happening now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, we will probably see a temporary hiatus of gun violence on some TV shows. But what we need is a permanent reduction of violence on television in general. Unfortunately, we`re not likely to get that, and the reason is that violence sells and sells big, in terms of box office and ratings. And that is what TV and filmmakers look at. They may say otherwise, but that is really what counts.

So ultimately, this is a consumer issue. As long as people go to the box office and make these violent movies hits, as long as they give high ratings to these violent TV shows, you`re going to see them over and over again. And it`s progressive. We`re going to need more and more violence to get the same kind of shock.

So it`s going to worse and worse.

HAMMER: Yes, it - it only seems that type of entertainment is getting more and more valuable.

And Melissa, the - the key word that Jane used there, "temporary." You know, when Hollywood reacts to events that unfolded today - these horrible, horrible events - the reaction from Hollywood is usually short-term, because they`re - they`re sensitive in the moment. A couple of shows get pulled back. And then we`re back to business as usual.

And I imagine you expect that`s going to happen here as well.

MELISSA CALDWELL, PARENTS TELEVISION COUNCIL: Yes, and it`s - it`s - it`s a pattern we`ve seen time and time again. You know, after the school shootings at Columbine - I don`t know how many people remember this, but Les Moonves, president of CBS, actually stood up and said, `Anybody who looks at what`s going on and think the media have nothing to do with it is an idiot.` And yet you look at CBS` primetime lineup, and it includes "CSI," "CSI New York," "CSI Miami," "Criminal Minds," a whole spate of violent, graphic, gory crime series that glorify violence.

HAMMER: Jane, would you agree with Les Moonves? I mean, you look at all of the shows in the lineup in primetime these days, from the "CSI"s to "24," "The Sopranos" - graphic violence is entertainment we love in this country.

So do you think we`re becoming more desensitized, not just as individuals, but as a society in general.


We are a nation addicted to violence. And like any addict, just like a drug addict needs more and more of the same drug to get the equivalent high, we are demanding more and more violence to get the same shock. What shocked us back in the `50s is laughable today. We wouldn`t be shocked or horrified at all.

So they have to keep upping the ante. And we are really creating a nation of young men that are hooked on violence, particularly sexually charged violence. Often, it`s a man armed with a gun chasing after a terrified woman. And so we are literally conditioning them like Pavlov`s dogs to be turned on by sexually charged violence. And then we wonder why we have this violence in real life.

HAMMER: And just added to the marketplace, a new movie from actor David Arquette. He happened to drop by SHOWBIZ TONIGHT studios today. His new movie is called "Tripper." It`s all about a serial killer who goes on a rampage at a concert. It is violent. There is blood. There is gore.

I - I asked David if he felt that Hollywood does desensitize us to violence. And take a listen to what he said.


DAVID ARQUETTE, ACTOR: I`m not a scientist about stuff like that, nor a therapist or psychologist. So I`m not sure. I mean, I`m sure it does have an effect.

But to me, you know, when our world leaders are allowing us to have war be our final option - you know, to me movies are movies, and - and there - there could be an element of that. But, you know, I think if you start looking at some gun control and you start looking at, you know, some behavioral classes perhaps in - in school and - and things like that, that`s the way to address it.


HAMMER: So David not able to squarely place blame on - on Hollywood. That`s not what he was doing there. But he does suggest that education is the problem; he does suggest parental involvement is the problem.

What do you think, Melissa? Is it that, or is that we just see so much of this stuff on TV and in the movies that it is part of the problem?

CALDWELL: Well, I think there`s plenty of culpability to go around. Certainly parents who allow their children to consume violent entertainment products do share some of the responsibility.

But let`s not let Hollywood off the hook. Obviously, they know that people are influenced by what they see on TV. I mean, the whole television commercial industry is based on that premise, the fact that if you see a 30-second ad for - for a product, you`re more likely to go out and buy it.

So I - I don`t understand how they - they can rationally think that that argument applies only to commercial, but it doesn`t apply to media violence. If they are selling media violence, and people are consuming it, it - it only - I - I think it`s very safe to conclude that people are going to be influence - behave violently based on what they`re seeing on TV.

HAMMER: And what they`re participating in when you look at video games. It is remarkable, the role-playing that goes on in video games. You get to play maniacal killers going on shooting sprees and murdering people.

Jane, how can that "but" contribute to the level of violence and aggression we see in our country these days?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course it does.

We are in a vortex of violence in this country. Violence being used as a solution, on the local, national or international levels; violence being used as entertainment, whether it`s reality, reality TV or fiction. Violence is all around us; we can`t escape from it. And the first thing we have to do is be honest about our own participation. Are we watching these TV shows? Are we going to these movies? Are we allowing our kids to play these video games? And it`s time for everybody to look in the mirror, and say, `Enough is enough. I`m going to change my ways.`

HAMMER: Today`s events at Virginia Tech certainly horrific, and nobody here is making a direct connection, of course. But certainly, hopefully, it will provide for dialogue and a wake-up call in the weeks to come.

Melissa Caldwell, Jane Velez-Mitchell, I thank you both.

Much more on the possible Hollywood connection to today`s tragic and horrific shootings at Virginia Tech University. Coming up next, violent movies that show graphic death scenes: why some are outraged over the way these films are advertised, even more than the movies themselves.

Also, outrage over Richard Gere. Why a kiss from him sent these angry mobs into the streets. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT in India tonight for that.

We`ve also got this:


JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Some celebrities to keep their relationships undercover because they know that as soon as they`re on the front page, as soon as they declare, `We`re a couple,` they`re under the spotlight.


HAMMER: Secret star relationships. You know, some celebs just love to show off their boyfriends, their girlfriends, their wives. But why do some others like to keep their hookups hush-hush? It`s a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Special Report" coming up next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A.J. to desk with tracking (ph) for the E-Block. Master, roll your break, and Tip (ph), effect black.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I am A.J. in New York.

And tonight, we`ve been talking about the shocking, horrible shootings at Virginia Tech University. More than 30 killed - the deadliest in U.S. history. And that has a lot of people asking, is there a Hollywood connection to all of this?

Well, these days, gory, gruesome horror movies are dominating the box office. "Disturbia," all about a suburban serial killer, No. 1 with the help of some startling ads. And tonight, there`s outrage over the way some of these horror movies are marketed to kids.

Here`s SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Extreme violence, blood, gore. Springtime fare at the movies. Graphic entertainment meant for adults, but in the eyes of child, images that can, parent Noe Martinez says, make lasting impressions. Especially when those images show up online and outdoors.

NOE MARTINEZ, PARENT: It`s actually kind of scary.

ANDERSON: This promotional campaign from After Dark films, for their movie "Captivity," featuring four stages of torment, abduction, confinement, torture and termination, sparked a public outcry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things sticking out of a female`s nose is not really appropriate, especially when it`s moms and kids driving by.

ANDERSON: Fourteen hundred ads were placed on top New York taxi cabs, and 30 billboards went up in Los Angeles - some near schools, where grisly images like these were in plain view of young children.

MARTINEZ: As a parent, we have to watch out what our - what our kids see, because these things kind of - these things do affect them in the long run.

ANDERSON (on camera): The original "Captivity" campaign was rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America as too graphic. But After Dark put the billboards up anyway - by mistake, according to the company`s cofounder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said that the billboards were in poor taste. We moved as our small, new company could to get all those billboards down.

ANDERSON (voice-over): But that wasn`t good enough for the MPAA. They`ve imposed penalties that could delay "Captivity"`s May 18 release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we`re being used as an example. I mean, we`re the only company that`s every received sanctions like this. We`ve accepted that.

ANDERSON: The MPAA may have quibbled with the original "Captivity" campaign, but it did approve this ad for the upcoming thriller "Fracture," emblazoned with the words, "I Shot My Wife." And these ads for horror flick "The Reaping," posted near schools in Los Angeles - also in view of kids.

Joel Silver, who produced "The Reaping," defends the marketing of his film.

JOEL SILVER, PRODUCER, "THE REAPING": I don`t market them for schools. I mean, they`re for `R` - they`re `R`-rated movies. I`m proud that they`re `R`-rated movies. This movie is not for kids.

ANDERSON: Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media says Hollywood knows full well who`s paying to see their scary movies.

STEYER: There`s no question that there`s a burgeoning market for horror films out there, and many of these films are actually targeted at kids, even if they`re rated `R.`

ANDERSON: And those young fans can also get a preview of Hollywood`s graphic offerings online, thanks to promotional deals between the studios and Web sites. The `R`-rated films "Dead Silence" and "The Reaping" advertise on the Web site and are easily accessible to minors with the simple click of a mouse if parents don`t intercede.

PAUL DEGARABEDIAN, PRESIDENT, MEDIA BY NUMBERS: And there`s a lot of horror fan sites devoted to these types of films that have very intense images, graphic images, things that younger children should definitely not see. I think ultimately it`s up to the parents to somehow put in place these parental controls on the computer.

ANDERSON: Halle Berry, who stars in the upcoming `R`-rated thriller "Perfect Stranger" agrees, parents must be the ultimately gatekeeper between kids and terrifying movies.

HALLE BERRY, ACTRESS: I`m not worried about children. I - I`m assuming parents will, you know, sort of police their children and allow them to see what they should and should not see.


HAMMER: That was SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Brooke Anderson reporting.

Well, pick up a copy of any celebrity weekly magazine these days, and you can bet there`s going to be some juicy story of some hot new celebrity couple who`s secretly dating. This week, for example, these guys, all over the place: Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal. But whether they`re actually a couple or not, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT wants to know why some of these couples are fine with flaunting their relationships, and others - well, they just like to keep things hush-hush.


HAMMER (voice-over): For some megastar couples, public displays of affection are no big deal. Come on, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, do it again!

But for other star couples, PDAs are a big no-no.

Julia Roberts has never walked the red carpet with her husband, David Moder. Beyonce and Jay-Z rarely pose in public either. In fact, when SHOWBIZ TONIGHT recently sat down with Beyonce, she told me she`s never talked about her relationship because to her, mystery is important.

BEYONCE, ENTERTAINER: Any of my personal business, I just felt like, you know, my family and my friends knew, but I just was uncomfortable with talking about it - too much information. Because I feel like mystery is important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jennifer! Jennifer!

HAMMER: So what gives? Why are some stars undercover lovers, keeping their relationships under wraps?

DAVID CAPLAN, "STAR" MAGAZINE: In general, many celebrities keep their relationships under wraps because either they`ve had a really tumultuous past in the tabloid that their new relationship is - is either coming off the heels of a split, a really public split, or they think to themselves sort of more an actor, and not necessarily a quote - unquote "celebrity."

HAMMER: And since the stars are our expertise, let SHOWBIZ TONIGHT tell you why the celebrities have gone undercover.

Reason number one: burned by the public romance.

We`re kicking it off with actress and music diva Jennifer Lopez. Two very high-profile romances: one with Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, and the other with music mogul P Diddy. Two very public breakups.

CAPLAN: Jennifer Lopez and her relationship with P Diddy was all over the New York City tabloids, and really across the country.

HAMMER: High profile, indeed. Lopez was with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in 1999 when gunfire erupted in a New York City nightclub. The spotlight on his high-profile trial proved too much; their relationship soon fizzled.

KURIANSKY: Some celebrities are smart to keep their relationships undercover, because they know that as soon as they`re on the front page, as soon as they declare, `We`re a couple,` they`re under the spotlight.

HAMMER: And declare she did, with Ben Affleck. You couldn`t open a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing them together. Soon after their engagement, the relationship imploded. She blamed the media.

CAPLAN: So now, with Jennifer and Marc Anthony, it`s complete, 180 degrees. We really see them; she rarely talks about the relationship. And it`s just - they`re this mysterious Hollywood couple now.

HAMMER: As for Affleck, he, too, learned his lesson. His marriage to Jen Garner is kept under wraps.

CAPLAN: They live this very quiet life, and he doesn`t want anything to do with scoring himself a headline in tabloids or in the TV shows.

HAMMER: And another actress you don`t see going out as much as before: Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts. That`s because she got burned by reason number two: the public split. She was the runaway bride, publicly splitting from Kiefer Sutherland, and later marrying and divorcing Lyle Lovett.

But this time around, hiding from Hollywood and keeping it quiet is what the love doctor ordered.

KURIANSKY: She`s happily married to Danny Moder. She`s got her two terrifically adorable little twins, a new baby on the way. And she cares about family first. So Hollywood doesn`t matter to her anymore.

HAMMER: Yes, Hollywood, where it`s all about being the best and making it big. And to be the best, stars stay private to be taken seriously - reason number three.

Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon endured a very public split from her husband Ryan Philippe. She`s now said to be dating Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. These two actors take their craft very seriously. So SHOWBIZ TONIGHT bets there`s a good chance their every move will be out of the spotlight.

CAPLAN: If in fact Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal are dating, you can guarantee this will be one of Hollywood`s most undercover romances.


HAMMER: Well, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT did reach out to both Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal. Haven`t heard back from them as show time arrived. Oh well.

Richard Gere kisses someone, and a lot of people flip out - like burning-him-in-effigy flipping out. Apparently, a kiss is not just a kiss sometimes in some places. That`s coming up next.

Also, Madonna back in Malawi. I`m going to let you know if she`s adopting again. That is coming up next.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT will be right back.


HAMMER: Richard Gere kisses a pretty woman - I`m not talking about Julia Roberts. After he smooched this India superstar at an AIDS awareness event, all hell broke lose. I want you to watch this.




HAMMER: Well, there you go; that`s the smooch. Doesn`t really seem like that big of a deal, right?

But apparently it is. Public displays of affection in India a big no- no. Protest broke out. That is Gere we see burning in effigy. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT got in touch with Gere`s publicist, no comment from him. But a word of caution to you: do not kiss anyone in public in India.

Madonna back in Africa. But do not be expecting her to be picking up another baby. She`s in Malawi, and she brought along David. That`s the 1- year-old that she is in the process of adopting from the country. Now according to Madonna`s publicist, this is a charity trip. Madonna is overseeing the building of a children`s health center.

There have been all kinds of rumors flying around that she`s going to adopt another kid. Not happening. Madonna and her husband, Guy Richie, are being evaluated by Malawi as parents. But they were allowed to take David back to London for now.

Let`s now take a look at what is coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Tomorrow, will Paris Hilton be checking into jail? That`s right; "The Simple Life" star could be heading for the prison life. While she`ll be - why she`ll be fighting in court tomorrow not be thrown in the slammer. And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is right there.

Also tomorrow, stars and depression. Halle Berry, Rosie O`Donnell, Marie Osmond, all very open about their battles with depression and mental illness. Do their startling stories help others come forward? Is there something about stardom that contributes to depression? That`s tomorrow.

And that is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks a lot for watching. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

"GLENN BECK" coming up next, right after the very latest from CNN Headline News.


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