The network that brought us shameless spectacles like Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? and World's Scariest Police Shootouts has come under fire for yet another show--this one claiming to give viewers a live first glimpse inside two Egyptian tombs.
According to TV newsmagazine Inside Edition, the special, Opening the Lost Tombs: Live From Egypt, duped viewers into thinking they were witnessing a live exploration, when in fact it was already known what was inside the tombs.
The Fox show, broadcast in March 1999, featured archaeologist Zahi Hawass unearthing a mummy, skeletons and pottery believed to be 5,000 years old. But when asked whether he discovered the mummy live on national TV, Hawass told Inside Edition, "No, that burial chamber belonged to a tomb that I found a month before the show."
He then added: "If you are a good archaeologist, you never open something live. If you open sarcophagus like this live, you ruin the whole thing. I have to show it live to you the public for the first time, but for me, it cannot be the first time."
The special drew some 30 million viewers when it aired, and was popular enough that it spawned a sequel last May, Opening of the Tombs of the Golden Mummies: Live!. Such reality specials have remained a staple of Fox's lineup, but the network has been criticized ever since its Multi-Millionaire debacle last February, when it turned out groom Rick Rockwell had a restraining order against him.
Fox, meanwhile, has responded to Inside Edition's report in a statement, saying "The Government of the Republic of Egypt maintained control over the archaeological digs, and Dr. Hawass and his team were responsible for the excavation and preparation of all finds featured on the special."
One network source insists the most important aspect of the special was that it marked the first time the tombs were being shown to the public. "Nothing was fake. It's not like we put a statue in there and covered it up with sand."
Inside Edition investigative producer Mike Corn told the Associated Press they focused on the Fox special because "it had some huge, obvious problems."
For example, he said one of the show's "discoveries" included the tomb of a pharaoh queen, which was actually discovered in the 1800s. Corn said the special was "playing up to the audience...But anybody with a library card could tell what they were going to find."
Maury Povich, who hosted the special, told the newsmagazine he was surprised that the tombs had already been explored.
"I have never in my life misled the public knowingly," he said. "I'm disappointed I wasn't told."
The Inside Edition report is set to air Tuesday in most cities, and Wednesday in New York and Washington, D.C.