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‘Discipline’ Saved Lives at Discovery HQ

9/06/2010 5:22 AM Eastern

One day after a gunman
terrorized employees at Discovery
Communications headquarters
in Silver Spring, Md., staffers were welcomed back to work
last Thursday morning (Sept.
2) by CEO David Zaslav, chief
operating officer Peter Ligouri
and founder and chairman John
Hendricks.

They greeted employees returning
to work through the
glass-wal led lobby, the very
place where a gunman, explosives
strapped to his body,
held three employees hostage
for nearly four hours until police
officers shot and killed the
man.

Police swept the building for
additional explosives Wednesday
night, and David Leavy,
Discovery Communications executive
vice president of communicat
ions and corporate
affairs, said the company is reviewing
security procedures.

He said, though, that in this
case “security worked,” as the
gunman did not make it past
guards. The hostages — three
men, including one security
guard — were taken in the building’s
lobby, which is open to the
public.

One of the hostages, Jim McNulty, posted a blog on the
company’s website thanking
Montgomery County police for
“helping to get me and my fellow
hostages out safely.”

“I especially want to thank
Discovery for their support,”
he wrote, adding that he would
not talk about his ordeal in detail
as the police investigation
is ongoing.

Leavy said the company followed
very specific evacuation
procedures and worked with authorities
to ensure that employees
and the children at the day
care center in the building were
quickly and safely evacuated.

“This is a very organized and
disciplined company,” he said.
“And in this situation, that discipline
saved lives.”

Police identified the gunman
as James J. Lee, a radical environmentalist
who had staged at
least one demonstration outside
Discovery headquarters in 2008
for what he believed was the network’s
dearth of programming
about environmental dangers,
including global warming and
overpopulation.

During that protest, he paid
homeless people to carry signs
and threw wads of cash into the
air. News footage of that event —
replayed by ABC affiliate WJLA in
Silver Spring — shows throngs of
people scrambling for the money.
Lee was charged with disorderly
conduct for that incident
and ordered to stay 500 feet away
from Discovery headquarters as
part of his probation, which ended
recently.

In court and on his website, Lee
inveighed against Discovery content
including multiple-birth programs
Kate Plus 8 and 19 Kids and
Counting
, which air on TLC. Lee
wanted the company to air “programs
encouraging human sterilization
and infertility.”


Marisa Guthrie is programming
editor of Broadcasting & Cable.
September