How Fox Morning Show Sensationalized the Halo-in-Church Issue

October 19, 2007 -
Earlier this week GamePolitics was highly critical of an appearance by Dr. Susan Bartell on Fox's The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet.

Bartell, a psychologist and author, ripped violent video games in general and Halo 3 in particular. Putting it mildly, we took issue with her comments. (see: Who is This Person & Why is She Saying These Awful Things About Halo 3?)

Apparently, GamePolitics readers flooded Dr. Bartell's e-mail with protests following our coverage. A dialogue of sorts developed between the good doctor and longtime GP reader Hayabusa75. Eventually, this led to my own correspondence with the psychologist.

Dr. Bartell was gracious, especially considering the cirumstances. I learned that she does quite a bit of TV. Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC - she's been on all of them multiple times. She's written four books and does a good bit of public speaking.

That being said, I was fascinated - and concerned - by what she told me about how the Halo-in-church discussion went down. If you haven't seen it, watch the clip:

Here are some excerpts from e-mails between myself and Dr. Bartell:
GP:  One thing I found especially concerning... was [an e-mail] comment that you only saw the [Indiana University] brain scan pix five minutes before air [of The Morning Show]. That being the case, do you think it appropriate to go on and offer a professional opinion based on the scans to the audience?

Dr. Bartell: That's the way it is with TV -- it's just not a black and white thing. I am genuinely sorry that it caused such a sense that I was being so disrespectful [to gamers]. The scans aside I stand by my opinion that violent games should not be played by teens... As to whether I should have responded to the scans -- my intent was going on air to discuss whether the church should be holding Halo nights, clearly that was derailed.

GP: In all honesty, I’m having difficulty reconciling “that’s the way it is with TV” to responsible professionalism. It smacks of sensationalism. Just being candid here.

Dr. Bartell: I can understand how you feel... there is an element of sensationalism to it I suppose, but no less, IMO than all the hoopla created by the GP posters in response to my appearance. I appreciate candor -- it will always help me grow as a person and as a professional. I couldn't -- five minutes before going on air -- say, sorry I won't do it, I don't have enough background information about this brain scan! I'm just not that much of a purist...

Nice person, Dr. Bartell. But that aside, I can't condone allowing herself to be portrayed to the audience as a subject matter expert, yet in actuality trying to explain a study she'd never seen until a Morning Show producer handed it to her just before air time.

And while I don't doubt that some gamers were nasty in their e-mails, I'm not sure that's relevant. Flame e-mails don't help the gaming image, of course. But who's got the greater responsibilty here?

I'd submit that it's Dr. Bartell, who made these remarks on national TV because... why? The show must go on?



No matter what your opinions or the opinions of others on religion the basic fact is that you have shown without doubt your hatred for religion in this thread, and made a clear attack on it that was not aimed at any particular basis in the story, you can play your 'christian morals' schtick but it wont fly.

You have preached hatred simply said, and I fail to see the christians in the thread returning with their own hatred.

The point is its out of line, clearly biased and verging on bannable, so in future stick on topic because youre schtick is as old as jacks by now, just like your bias and hatred is as clear as his.

Unprofessionalism on a FOX affiliate? You don't say...


They're all Quacks.

Oh, can I have a link for Adam Vs. Jack? Missed that one too.

I'm kind of struck by how the standards of being an 'expert' on TV seem nonexistant and you can basically claim to be an expert on whatever you want if you have a couple of degrees. I'm studying for my EIT (engineering licensing exam) and one of the important ethics issues is that you don't talk about what you don't know - if you do you risk being thrown in front of an ethics board and having your license revoked. We have exacting standards for claiming to be an expert in court cases and other legal things, but TV seems to have no such standards at all.
Not that I'm knocking Dr. Bartell - I'm sure she's smart and all, and if it was improper of her to act the expert on TV it was more improper of Fox to put her in that position.

I mean I'm gonna give her the benefit of the doubt, I understand if the show producer go "comment on this" 5 minutes before you go on, you kind of would want to just go "alright fine." I feel like the main thrust of the argument wasn't observing a study, it was interviewing an expert, whether or not you agree with her, I sure as hell don't, she certainly knows a thing or two about psychology and that would qualify her as such. Now the show itself was insanely biased, I find that to be a much larger problem than this woman they got on, she was just doing her job and giving her opinion. The fact is the show should have had a counterpoint to her claims, that would've sure as hell kept her from commenting on a study she wasn't familiar with and it would have forced her to be more prepared and less sensationalist or she would have looked like an idiot in front of everybody.

@ Raziel3024

True she is not. Nor apparently as clueless.

As for JBT.... He has a long history of turning on those that at one time supported him then were no longer of use. So I doubt she is any worse off now with her partial retraction then she would have been later.

Much like believing that something is true because you want it to be true, be it a brain scan proving games are bad or that the laws of God somehow don't apply, doesn't make it true. You have to come up with some kind of evidence for either.

As for that analogy, it's off the mark by about everything. To make it the same you would have to, after the dream from God saying adultary was bad, turn around an enact a law that says everyone should commit adultury.

The only reason that the Bible is worse than video games is that there is a contingent of people out there who don't see the Bible as a work of fiction. That is the one defense that video games have. They are fiction and everyone knows it. Well, almost everyone. But far more people have trouble seperating the fiction in the Bible than the fiction of GTA. That and nobody looks to Rockstar as an infaliable source.


Oh, and there are a LOT more verses in the bible than what you quote to support your viewpoint. Don't be like Bill O'Reilly; don't be a cherry picker.


This is inevitable. There will always be extremist (from both sides). Pandralisk, however brands every Christian as bible thumpers.

A lot of religious persons will never change their point of view (sometimes, it's because they grew too comfortable with it), but that doesn't mean that everyone are that stubborn. A concept that Pandralisk and Thompson seems unable to accept.

"I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan! I’m just not that much of a purist…"

Wow... wow...


Funny, Numbers is primarily a book of Law. Deuteronomy is primarily a sermon given by Moses, and Revelations is primarily a description of the End Times, which in the rest of the Bible, is defined as every moment since the ascension of Christ (Revelations is also horribly misinterpreted by the mainstream Christian movements, what some here may call "Evangelicals")

The Old Testament *primarily* is focused on pointing toward Christ, a specific group of people given the opportunity for material wealth, if they followed the laws they were given precisely -- and they couldn't. It really shows just how much humanity on a whole, cannot follow the rules, and how laws cannot save, only condemn. When Christ walked the earth, the Old Testament laws were declared to no longer be required. The entire *point* of the New Testament (like, maybe check out the book of Hebrews, if you are *so* self-assured that you are right) is that the Old Testament laws no longer apply, and there is one, and only one way to be saved (through belief in Christ).

Now, I will agree, there have been *many* people who have misinterpreted or exploited the words of the Bible for their own ends, through history (the Crusades, etc.) -- but that has all been mostly a deliberate misuse of what is written. The Book of Revelation now is often pointed to any a number of people, but the interpretations are.... bizarre. The only interpretation that I'd trust, is one which the only thing used to interpret that book is the rest of the Bible -- no human bible scholars digging through it for some "hidden meanings", just using the original Greek words, finding the same original Greek words (or phrases), how they were used, in the rest of the Bible (particularly the New Testament), in order to get an understanding of what is said. The English translations fail, return to the original Greek, or find interpretations of Revelations which do *just that*, and you'd find that the so-called "Evangelical" movement's ideas on it (like found in the whole "Left Behind" series of books) is rather incorrect. Heck, that particular interpretation makes no logical sense to begin with.

Now please, do pay attention to the difference between what people have done in the name of a religion, and what the religion actually professes. There is a huge difference.

"…or endorsed by the God and explicitly contained in the religious text. I think the entire books of numbers, deut, and revelations amount to little more than a divine list of God raping, pillaging, threatening, and destroying just about everything in sight."

Isn't taking things out of context fun? You know who else are murderers? Those police, going around and shooting people. Mind you lets ignore the justification for said shooting.

Hehe I think I drew him out.

Seriously, Jack, have you noticed that neither Dr Bartell or Dave Grossman or any of the other people you fiercely cling to are posting here? Maybe they have better things to do. I should think you'd also have better things to do if you're on a crusade to save the world, but doing a piss-poor job of something requires little prep time, I guess. Anyway, I predict you'll quickly alienate your comrade-in-arms doctor with your childish antics, possibly even before you're disbarred. Really, man, do you ever look yourself in the mirror and realize what a complete loser you are? Have you actually accomplished ANYTHING? All bluster and hubris aside, do you really believe you're going to accomplish anything? Does it bother you in the slightest that even your own son probably sees you as the buffoon that you are? I know it's not within you to admit mistakes, so I'm not expecting you to back down or anything, but I'd like to think that, at some level, you'd have to acknowledge that you really are a ridiculous and increasingly irrelevent old man. Maybe that irrational anger you thrive on is just inwardly directed shame. You can get treatment for that, but I wouldn't recommend the quack you went to for your preemptive examination.

I being a teen who likes halo am happy to see this... and hate jack thompson
also what the hell is that crap about churches "using" halo to promote religion?!!!
these retards know nothing about halo then! "halo" does not refer to the crown of an angel but a giant space ring that can kill a whole galaxy!!!
that sounds like they made up that fact just to catch some extra interest

Well, it makes sense that she hadn't seen it until the morning of the show.

As per usual, FOX had done a set-up.

More of a Fox affiliate actually. Something that's been pointed out,repeatedly, by others.

That being said I think the good doctor maybe SHOULD have been that much of a purist. It seems like she was more concerned with how she would look walking out on a show than be honest.

Yeah, she has no guts. How many serious professionals will act knowledgable in a subject that they were only introduced to five minutes prior to speaking on it? None that's how many. She was merely concerned about securing a client so that she could be invited back again and gain more "credibility".

Look, I doubt she had much to go on. She was handed the study five minutes before she was on the air.

I doubt anyone can do better. Infact, I invite them to do so.

I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan! I’m just not that much of a purist…

But then, YOU'RE supposed to be the expert, come to tell Fox about these studies, not the producer... By just regurgitating whatever the show tells you to, you lose all credibility for being there. Heck, even a "I just found out about this study..." preamble would at least have let people know that YOU YOURSELF are recently aware of this, and so would assume that you are not 100% familiar with it, but perhaps familiar enough to comment. Instead they got the impression that you came after fully researching the issue (including the study they just happened to have a screenshot of...)

Instead you get labeled as a mouthpiece for the station, essentially a trained monkey handed some talking points.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Blackice, Leftie

I don't think anyone was asking her to make a better judgment. The thing to do would be to not pass judgment. If you don't have the information to give intelligent commentary on a scientific study, don't comment.

I can't believe she admitted she didn't know what she was talking about. I doubt she would say that on Fox News!

Why is this surprising? First of all, Fox isn't a news station anymore and secondly it has an established anti-game and anti-gamer agenda. Remember, anything Murdoch says is gospel on Fox and that old fool is probably not a fan of games.

They're also going to pander to their religous right audience in the worst way, so of course they'll ambush someone who agrees with their POV with an uncontextualized excerpt from a study that could questionably be percieved as supporting their agenda.

Hmm So she is human and with her own mind? She just said those things the other day because? Well l suppose we all need to be paid. Point of contension would be that she will never actually admit that she was wrong in the format she used to bash games without a clue.

Also I noticed in discussion with Dennis that she is still says:

"The scans aside I stand by my opinion that violent games should not be played by teens…"

The rating arguement again it seems. Most here agree that the "violent games" should not be played by children (say under 13) but for teens? Oh well.

Still it is better for Her not to be an ally to JT. He has this tendency of turning on, betraying and eventually sueing his "allies". Just look at Alabama where he had "Won" not long ago.

Considering that the whole show seemed to be distinctly set up to give a slanted point of view I'm not at all surprised that the material was handed over a few minutes before she went on air.

Any legitimate professional in psychological, medical, biological, etc. fields do a great disservice to the respect, trust, and legitimacy of the field as a whole whenever they do something like this, especially for those reasons.

She should have at the very least said something to the effect of "now I only just saw this study, however in my professional opinion I feel this way" etc. Made it be known she's not entirely familiar with the study in question but still be able to give her opinion as a psychologist on the matter. The study was more of a backdrop, her opinions as a psychologist were more important anyway so it really wouldn't have taken away from her message while still giving more of a fair and honest context to the audience.

You know, working for a book store kinda puts me in a position to help my customer. They ask me what books do I think so and so should read, or if this author is any good. I know most of the people who come into my store, and I know they like to believe their authors are true to their words and brave enough to stand up and correct faults if they've made them.

Though it's small, I'm not recommending her to any of my customers.

The hostess even began with comments about "shooting and death," the person the steered the conversation back to the church groups and Halo was Bartell. The whole thing was just meant to be a "oh nos!" segment, not any kind of real discussion.

She responded to an email I sent as well, and we had a short back and forth. While I'll agree that I can't stand what she said on the program, at least she responded at all, and in a polite manner. All the media critics and politicians I've mailed or emailed never gave me the time of day.

"I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan! I’m just not that much of a purist…"

Nor a professional interested in The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth.

I know I sound like a broken record, but that's what it comes down to.

NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

So, Doc Bartell's defense is "well you guys on GP sensationalized it too!".

Not to diminish Dennis's work, but really, this is not the kind of argument on which you set high standards. Otherwise, they may as well have had random bloggers on the show (which, actually, they do whenever they need to dangle them like a curiosity, "lookit the widdle citizen journalist and his widdle opionions, awww!")

Look, TV news shows are entertainment first AND last, any actual professional journalistic value you're perceiving in it is PURELY the result of overt manipulation, and any facts you receive are simply by accident. You may as well be analyzing the arguments on WrestleMania.

Marlowe, except that would derail the idea of her being an expert. Everyone who tuned in assumed that she had brought this material with her, which lent her more credibility that she had. Remove that illussion and the possibility of more uninformed people saying, "Hey, you mean she isn't familar with the stuff she is talking about?" and would set in some lingering doubt, not to mention make her look bad on national TV.

"I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan!"

so... you admit to not being a professional?

a professional is someone who does not lie about things they do not know.

Oh, so basically she admitted, she isn't a professional, she's a *cough*mediawhore*

At least she got to be on TV.

Anyone who watches this kind of thing and believes this stuff has other reasons to be worrisome beyond gaming.

The only thing that concerns me about this is the fact that some of my gamer brethren behaved badly by flaming someone who is in a position to speak very publically about us. I think we owe ourselves more than that.

"I appreciate candor — it will always help me grow as a person and as a professional. I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan! I’m just not that much of a purist"

so you admit to lying about an issue you have no clue about?

I don't know about you, but for me, I don't promote something unless I have details.

"I’d submit that it’s Dr. Bartell, who made these remarks on national TV because… why? The show must go on?"

So said Floyd.

@ Meggie

Simple fact, Jack Thompson will not get involved in an honest debate after the devastating loss he had to Adam Sessler on G4 tv. He knows that 'we' the games will win everytime on a level playing field, so he makes sure the odds are stacked in his favor.

"I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan!"

What a freaking cop out. She should most definitely be ashamed of herself for saying this. No professionalism whatsoever.

Dr. Bartell more like DR.Belitle facts and current logic of the psychologist assations or what not all call her a flake on this subject, do please try again.

bayushisan ni san *pounce cuddles* how uu been?? ^^

@ Dennis

While I agree with your asessment (sp?) of said doctor and the interview, would you not agree it is tough to back down from a national TV appearance? Everyone wants exposure for various reasons (career, fame, etc) and it must be quite tough to avoid the temptation.

I know I'm not the only one who would have done the same thing in her shoes...

GP: I suppose it can be tough. But let me tell you a story. In 2005 GP gained quite a bit of notoriety due to our coverage of Hot Coffee. Right on the heels of that, you may recall, came a brief tempest in a teacup over a nude mod for The Sims 2, showed the blurred-out bits when The Sims went at it... Jack Thompson got involved (actually, I believe he was duped into it by a gamer... a gamer who frequents here, in fact)

Anyway, I got a call from Good Morning America. The correspondent (I believe it was Jake Tapper but it's been a while) wanted me to come on and talk about what a danger The Sims were, relating the nude mod to the hidden content of Hot Coffee. Would have been a big break for me at the time, but I just wouldn't do it because it was nonsense.

You've got to be able to look yourself in the mirror after the networks have milked you for whatever purpose they have in mind for the moment.

(adding this in as I think back).... been trying to recall that ABC thing. I believe it was a producer for ABC News trying to line up guests for Tapper's piece, not Tapper himself. The producer was actually pretty cool about it. They were looking for someone to trash The Sims, I said I couldn't (I love the damned Sims and the story was a non-issue), he was okay with that, advised me not to let anyone pressure me into it if I didn't believe in it. Wish I could remember his name.

Pretty interesting though, they would have done the spot from my home, would have brought all of this camera and sound equipment in...

At least she admitted she didn't know what she was talking about... in a way that makes her less of a douche than JT. Then, I guess, in another way, more of one.

I just gained some respect for Dr. Bartell. At least she realizes that misrepresenting facts is wrong, even though she did it anyway. Sure, it's unprofessional to claim youself as an expert on a subject of which you know very little, but at least she fessed up to it.

That said, perhaps professional ethics should be a required course in college, because clearly many "professionals" have no idea how much responsibilty comes with carrying that title.

After all this, in my opinion, she is far better than JT. Not only did she actually respond to criticism, whereas JT won't even give an opponent the time of day[backing out of debates anyone?] but from what I see she was very respectful about, as opposed to JT's one or two sentences spewing insults at well written counterpoint emails.

@ Luke JJ

She is more of one. She went in with no knowledge and feigned knowledge knowing full well that she is going against here professional experience. Jack is just a jerk and does not care.

" will always help me grow as a person and as a professional. I couldn’t — five minutes before going on air — say, sorry I won’t do it, I don’t have enough background information about this brain scan!"

Call me crazy... but commenting on something that you had no prior information about and no chance to research while pretending to be knowledgeable about it? That's probably not going to contribute towards personal or professional growth.

This is why I prefer "my side" to "their side". My side admits that there is violence in games, insists that if you're going to bash on a game that you at least have the correct information, asks for actual proof that the violence in the games causes violence in the real world on the scale "they" claim it does, refuses to accept propaganda as legitimate reporting, admits that we do have many on our side who have an unfortunate tendency to flame people when angered...

Almost smells like... integrity.

Their side, on the other hand, does whatever it takes to get on television and stay there regardless of how it may compromise their credibility. I agree that Dr. Bartell's responses seem to be much more reasonable and pleasant than those we see from many others. She has pleasantly admitted to a rather appalling lack of personal and professional ethics, unfortunately.

The true test will be if she is willing to do it again. Right now she shows some symblance of remorse, but is that enough to prevent that from happening again?

"You’ve got to be able to look yourself in the mirror after the networks have milked you for whatever purpose they have in mind for the moment."

Thank you Dennis. I respect you for that comment, and believe you mean it 100%.

The whole thing in a nut shell she did what they asked to gain more noteriety and get paid for her time. Any true professional would of stated I can not comment on that because it is the first time I saw it and even if it is true I need to investigate it further. Instead, She just did what they told her to do. I as a R>N. would call her a quack

It is this kind of thing that makes me want to back off from my dreams of becoming a journalist.

Her panicked and crazed rants on that segment pretty much show how much she understands the issue beyond her personal opinion, it is sad that most people still think that if it is on TV it must be true.


I am amazed by the fact that you turned down a opportunity to go on national TV so you could maintain your personal integrity...that is a amazing thing and the reason I look up to you as a journalist.


I would not go on TV to play into a hack job...there are many people in this world who still hold integrity higher than money or fame.

This "expert" has no excuse at all...I don't care how nice she is as a person...she still is helping to perpetuate a view that has little or no merit in todays society.

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