''24'' ads are caught in the crossfire of real sniper drama. Fox network yanks sharpshooter-themed pop-ups, a day after sister company 20th Century Fox has pulled its movie ''Phone Booth'' from its scheduled release
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Kiefer Sutherland
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For the second time in two days, the Washington, D.C., sniper has claimed a media casualty. This time it’s Fox’s ”24,” which has been running sharpshooter-themed pop-up ads on the Web. While the real-life sniper, who has killed nine people so far, remains at large, sensitivities are running high, and MSNBC.com reports that the network has received complaints about the ads, which depict a rifle sight’s cross hairs. ”We’re pulling the ads,” a Fox spokeswoman told MSNBC on Wednesday, noting that they had been designed weeks ago, before the real-life sniper killings began. ”Once we were made aware of the situation, we immediately decided to do the responsible thing.”

It’s been an unlucky week for both the News Corporation and for ”24” star Kiefer Sutherland, who stars as assassin-foiling agent Jack Bauer on the series. The News Corp., which owns the Fox network, also owns movie studio 20th Century Fox, which on Tuesday decided to pull Sutherland’s movie ”Phone Booth” from its scheduled release date of Nov. 15. The studio has postponed the release of the film until early 2003, in which Sutherland plays a sniper who pins down random target Colin Farrell in a sidewalk booth. As for ”24,” whose airplane-bombing debut episode last year had to be altered in the wake of Sept. 11, its new season is set to premiere on Oct. 29. Let’s hope police catch the real sniper by then.

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