Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) called on MTV Wednesday to cancel or reform the stunt skein “Jackass,” saying the cabler is partially to blame for a copycat incident that left a teenage Connecticut boy in critical condition with severe burns.
“The primary responsibility falls on parents. But they need your help in doing that job, which is growing increasingly more difficult in a 500-channel universe,” Lieberman said in a letter to MTV parent Viacom. “Ideally, I would encourage you to either cancel this exploitative and degrading show or eliminate the stunts that could be dangerous if imitated by children.”
Lieberman, who addressed the missive to Viacom prexy Mel Karmazin, said the general disclaimer, which airs at the beginning and end of each episode, is “self-mocking and trivializes the seriousness of the stunts’ potential consequences, which raises real questions about its effectiveness as a deterrent.”
MTV issued a statement indicating that the company will respond directly to Lieberman.
“Jackass,” which airs at 9 p.m. and later with a TVMA rating, features warnings that state: “The following show features stunts performed by professions and/or total idiots under very strict control and supervision. MTV and the producers insist that neither you nor anyone else attempt to re-create or perform anything you have seen on this show.”
Lieberman urged MTV to air the show at a later time period and “to include more explicit and more straightforward warnings about the potential consequences of each stunt.” He said that the show’s rating for mature audiences is undercut by the fact that MTV promotes “Jackass” throughout the rest of its sked when kids may be watching.
“We received Senator Lieberman’s letter yesterday and we share his concerns about young people,” MTV said in a statement. A spokeswoman said no decision had been made on whether or not the cabler will consider moving “Jackass” to a later time period or adding more explicit warnings.
“Jackass” features Johnny Knoxville as the center of radical pranks and dangerous stunts. The Jan. 26 segment featured Knoxville in a fire-resistant suit hung with steaks. He then lay across a barbecue, while other cast members squirted lighter fluid on him.
After watching the show, 13-year-old Jason Lind and several of his friends re-enacted the stunt, with Jason playing Knoxville. Jason suffered serious burns on his legs, and remains in the hospital, Lieberman said. The boy’s father, Eric Lind, asked Lieberman to intervene.