NEW YORK - With a backlash developing against the media for airing sickening pictures from Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui, Fox News Channel said Thursday it would stop and other networks said they would severely limit their use. NBC News was the recipient Wednesday of Cho's package of rambling, hate-filled video and written messages, with several pictures of him posing with a gun. Contents began airing on "Nightly News," and its rivals quickly used them, too.
Family members of victims canceled plans to appear on NBC's "Today" show Thursday because they "were very upset" with the network for showing the pictures, "Today" host Meredith Vieira said.
NBC and its MSNBC cable outlet will "severely limit" use of these pictures going forward, "Today" host Matt Lauer said, a restriction echoed by ABC News. At both CBS News and CNN, producers will need explicit approval from their bosses to use them going forward.
Fox News announced on the air late Thursday morning that it would no longer air Cho's material, saying "sometimes you change your mind."
NBC News said it had no indication why Cho chose it for his message. A Postal Service time stamp shows it was mailed at 9:01 a.m. Monday, during the two hours between his first shooting at a Virginia Tech dorm and his massacre at a classroom building.
The killer: Who was he?
DORM MATES AT TECH RECALL GUNMAN: 'HE DIDN'T REALLY TALK TO ANYBODY'
BLACKSBURG -- An orange paper fish stuck outside the door to Room 2121 of Harper Hall bears the names "Joe" and "Seung-Ho," a bright, promising note to a new school year.
It went up in August when Joseph E. Aust and Cho Seung-Hui moved in. Cho barely said a word after that. On Monday, he took his guns and -- still silent, witnesses say -- killed 32 students and faculty.
His roommate, appearing tired and overwhelmed yesterday, has no idea why.
"I didn't really know him at all," Aust said. "I tried to make conversation with him in August or so, and he would just give one-word answers and not try to carry on a conversation."
Aust didn't learn Cho was an English major -- one whose creative writing features talk of rape and pedophilia and angry desires to kill -- until yesterday.
Aust, 19, of Maryland, is a sophomore and an electrical engineering major. He said Cho, 23 and a senior, "was always really, really quiet. . . . He didn't really talk to anybody."
"I would notice a lot of times, like, I would come in the room and he'd be just kind of like sitting at his desk, just staring at nothing. It seemed a little odd, but I would pass it . . . off like he was just weird," said Aust.
A native of South Korea, Cho lived with his parents in Centreville and was a 2003 graduate of Westfield High School in Fairfax County.
At Tech, Aust and Cho lived in one of three, two-person rooms that, along with a small bathroom, make up each suite at the dorm. The suite looks lived-in but fairly clean. There are plastic bottles of hand soap on the sink and a can of spray disinfectant below.
News of what Cho did shocked and surprised many who came into contact with him during the past year.
Like Aust, they have no explanation for what happened Monday morning.
"I didn't really see him," Aust said. "I was sleeping at the time. I could hear him get up, and I looked at my clock and noticed what time he was waking up'cause he makes a lot of noise, usually." "It was like, 5:30 or 6." Aust said he went back to sleep.
He said Cho seemed to go through his normal morning routine: went to the bathroom, dressed and took his medicine. Aust said Cho had prescription medication, but he did not know what it was. Cho also wore contacts and used eyedrops.
Aust said that Cho did not keep normal student hours. He went to bed relatively early, about 9 p.m., and arose around 7 a.m. However, Aust said that in the past couple of weeks, "he'd been getting up earlier and earlier -- about like, 5:30, 6."
Neither Aust nor Grewal ever saw Cho with a friend of either sex. "I never saw him with anybody. . . . He seemed like a guy who didn't have a lot of friends," Grewal said. "He didn't speak to any of us, his roommates."
He did listen to all kinds of music, including rock, rap and classical. Aust and Grewal said Cho frequently worked out with weights at a campus gymnasium.
Neither knew what reason he would have to be at either building where the shootings took place. And they never saw him with firearms or ammunition.
Grewal returned to his room and was asleep during the shootings. "I just woke up about 9:30 when I heard the sirens."
Cho's recent writings were unsettling, some who read them say.
One play, called "Richard McBeef" features violence and profanity, with a teenager protagonist chanting "Must kill. Must kill," referring to his stepfather. In the play, the teen attempts to suffocate the stepfather.
A fellow student in his playwriting class, Susan Derry, told The Collegiate Times his plays "were really morbid and grotesque."
She said Cho never spoke in class and would only shrug if asked to talk about his work.
Ed Falco, who teaches the playwriting class, said he couldn't talk about Cho or his work. He said the university's lawyers asked staff not to talk about Cho as long as the investigation continues.
Those living with Cho at Harper Hall, however, were not aware of those restrictions.
Grewal said he and Aust were surprised when they learned Cho was the killer.
"I actually didn't believe it," he said. "I would have gone as far as telling the cops that he did not seem capable of anything like this," he said. "He was a pretty small kid. . . . I just thought he was a quiet guy." Last August, "I said, 'Hi,' to him twice. He never replied, he just shied away," Grewal said.
Cho Seung Hui was a fan of violent video games.
Several Korean youths who knew Cho Seung Hui from his high school days said he was a fan of violent video games, particularly Battlefield 2 and Counterstrike, both hugely popular online games, in which players join military groups and try to shoot each other using all types of guns. The name "Ishmael Ax" was found scrawled in red ink on the killer's arm, apparently a reference to his Xbox Live gamer tag "Ishmael Ax".