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Viewer Sues NBC Over Rat-Eating 'Fear Factor'

Associated Press
Friday, January 7, 2005; Page C04

CLEVELAND -- A viewer is suing NBC for $2.5 million, contending that he threw up because of a "Fear Factor" episode in which contestants ate rats whipped in a blender.

Austin Aitken told the Associated Press that he watches "Fear Factor" often and had no problem with past installments in which the reality show's participants ate worms and insects in pursuit of a $50,000 prize -- but eating rats went "too far."

"It's barbaric, some of the things they ask these individuals to do," Aitken said yesterday.

Aitken's handwritten lawsuit contends that the rat-eating made his blood pressure rise, which in turn made him dizzy and lightheaded, and caused him to vomit. Because he was disoriented, he ran into a doorway, "causing suffering, injury and great pain."

Asked why he didn't shut off his television before the rat-eating segment, Aitken said he couldn't do it quickly enough.

NBC responded with a brief statement: "We believe that the claim is completely without merit."

Aitken, a 49-year-old part-time paralegal, said he wants to send a message to NBC and other networks. He said he isn't concerned with winning a cash judgment in court.

"I just put any figure," he said. "You really think I expect to get $2.5 million?"

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