Twelve unshaven American hostages, their body language telegraphing controlled anger and fatigue, appeared yesterday on a videotape made available to U.S. television networks by their Amal militia captors.
Eight of the hostages spoke on the tape, mostly in similar terse phrases that sounded as if the wording might have been decided in advance.
The footage, shown on four U.S. networks after 6:30 p.m. EDT by agreement with the Amal in Beirut, reportedly was recorded four or five days ago somewhere in Lebanon and edited.
In a statement, CBS News said the tape was made Friday for the European television news organization Visnews and provided to American networks after discussions with Visnews. An unconfirmed report said the tape was made a day earlier.
Its grim tone contrasted with that of interviews with five other hostages Thursday at a televised news conference staged by the captors at the Beirut airport. The first five were considerably more outspoken and their posture more energetic.
"You can look into these people's eyes, and you can see the fear that's within these people," said Steve Traugott of Boston, brother of hostage Ralf Traugott, 32, a specialty-car dealer.
Many of their anxious relatives found the sight of the 12 men heartening, nevertheless.
"He looked a little tired, and I had never seen him with a beard," said Marsha Willett, 33, of Louisiana, after seeing her husband, Steve. "But he still looked like my husband." She added that, "in a situation like this, I guess, they always look a little pressured."
Willett, 36, sales manager for a sugar manufacturer, was shown on the tape leafing through last Wednesday's issue of USA Today. "I feel okay. I feel fine . . . I'd like to see my family and friends soon."
Others who spoke were the Rev. James W. McLoughlin, 45, of Geneva, Ill.; Grant Elliott, 27, of Algonquin, Ill.; James Walter Hoskins, 22, of Indianapolis; Robert Peel Jr., 33, of Hutchinson, Kan.; Blake Synnestvedt, 24, of Bryn Athyn, Pa., and Claude Whitmoyer of Severn, Md.
"I'm glad to see he's alive," Synnestvedt's father, Ray, said. "He's thinner. But he seems to be hanging in there . . . . I think it's getting to all of them some."
On the tape, Synnestvedt was asked by an unnamed questioner, one of the captors, if he wanted to say anything to family members at home. He replied, "No message."
Bishop Lewis King of Bryn Athyn, Synnestvedt's uncle, told CBS News, "He was given the opportunity to say 'no comment' or else make some phony statement how well he is doing . . . and I think he's too honest to do that."
Esther (Lou) Peel of Hutchinson, Kan., mother of hostage Peel, said her son looked as though "he hasn't lost his personality . . . . When he waved, I sensed that he was saying, 'Mom, I'm okay. I'm going to make it.' "
Shirley Elliott of Marengo, Ill., mother of hostage Elliott, said, "I thought he looked very good. I'd never seen him in a beard . . . . He looked healthy, and we all hope he'll be freed safely soon . . . . Those are men living in fear."
Gerald Darsch, 31, of Braintree, Mass., said of his brother Stuart, 30, who appeared but did not speak, "He still has that affable grin that he's famous for, and to me that shows that he's at least psychologically and physically . . . . He did look pretty good."
Sandy Balicki, aunt of Victor Amburgy, 31, a San Francisco mail carrier, said, "we're just so happy to see him well and alive . . . . " Amburgy was one of four who did not speak on the tape.
Others who did not speak were Raymond Johnson, 63, of Aurora, Ill., and Jack McCarty of San Francisco.