Discovery hostages recall their ordeal for Oprah Winfrey

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, September 17, 2010

A Discovery Communications employee held hostage by an armed trespasser at company headquarters this month told Oprah Winfrey on Thursday that the gunman asked him why he chose to have children and demanded that they be sterilized.

Jim McNulty told Oprah on her syndicated show that when he walked into the lobby and saw a man holding a gun to the security guard behind the desk, "I started thinking, 'Are we doing a [TV] production here? Why would somebody be showing a gun?' " Then assailant James J. Lee ordered McNulty to lie down on the floor.

Even then, McNulty said, he did not fully realize what was happening.

"At first I'm thinking, 'Why is somebody wanting to rob the lobby of Discovery? We don't keep any money here!' Then [Lee] starts going off about all [Discovery] had to do was save the world and you start realizing, 'Oh, okay . . . ' " "This is a crazy person," Oprah said, finishing his thought.

McNulty, who appeared on the show with co-worker and fellow hostage Chris Wood, said he lied to Lee about what he did for a living. Oprah wondered why.

"As a producer for TLC, just the way he was talking about the networks, I just decided it would be safer if . . . I wasn't a factor. So I told him I was in scheduling," he said.

Lee was angry with the company over its programming and had been arrested in 2008 at the same headquarters while protesting some of the shows on the various networks.

Among his complaints, he wanted Discovery to stop "encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants" and instead run programs encouraging "human sterilization," according to a rant on a Web site attributed to him, on which was also posted: "NO MORE BABIES! Population growth is a real crisis."

Discovery's TLC cable network has enjoyed ratings success cloning the big-family genre. Among its programs: "Jon & Kate Plus 8" (now "Kate Plus 8"), as well as the Duggar family's "19 Kids and Counting" and "Table for 12." More recently, TLC has launched "Quints by Surprise" and "Sextuplets Take New York."

McNulty is a senior writer and producer for TLC.

When McNulty informed him that he had two children, Lee began to shout, "Who told you to have children? . . . Nobody loved you? You had to make somebody to love you? . . . What's so good about your filthy children? . . . You're gonna have them sterilized, right?"

After nearly four hours, Wood said, a "mixture of signals" caused him to get up and run for the doors.

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