Time Warner Inc. agreed Tuesday to stop distributing the controversial Ice-T song "Cop Killer" at the request of the Los Angeles rapper.
Ice-T said he wants to prove that he is not seeking to profit financially from "Cop Killer," which has been condemned by everyone from President Bush to the country's leading police organizations, who say it advocates the murder of police. But the move did not immediately appease protesters, who continued to call for a boycott of Time Warner, which owns the record label that distributes "Cop Killer."
Speaking at a news conference, Ice-T said he would offer free copies of the song to anyone still interested in hearing it. The rapper, whose real name is Tracy Marrow, said: "I'll bring it back to South-Central and give it away free at concerts."
Ice-T's announcement apparently caught Time Warner's Warner Bros. record label by surprise. Warner Bros. said revised copies of "Body Count," the album containing "Cop Killer," will be shipped to stores within four weeks. In a statement, the record company said it "understands and respects Ice-T's decision" to withdraw the song from the market.
"In response to the artist's request, we will--effective immediately--cease manufacturing and distribution of the 'Body Count' album as it now stands and will replace it with a new version, minus 'Cop Killer' with amended artwork to reflect this change," the statement said.
Time Warner officials also said that retailers had been notified to return all unsold "Body Count" CDs and cassettes to the company for full credit. But critics, who recently picketed Time Warner's annual shareholders meeting in Beverly Hills, demanded an apology.
Oliver North, the former National Security Council aide and Iran-Contra figure, said Tuesday that his Freedom Alliance group will continue to call upon the nation's 50 governors to bring criminal proceedings against Time Warner for marketing "Cop Killer" in violation of sedition and anti-anarchy statutes.
"This is like Charles Manson promising to never go back to the La Bianca home again to commit a killing," said North, who says investigations by prosecutors are being conducted in two states. "It's too little, too late! . . . We are going to pursue Time Warner to the full extent of the law in as many jurisdictions as we can."
Ron DeLord, president of the Combined Law Enforcement Assn. of Texas (CLEAT), which initiated the call for a Time Warner boycott last month, echoed North's threats.
"We're not finished with them yet," DeLord said. "Police organizations put in a wake-up call to Time Warner last month and we still expect an attitude change. The song isn't just the only issue. What bothered us was that this company was willing to exploit the advocation of the murder of police to earn a buck. We're not going to be happy until Time Warner admits that they made a mistake."
Record executives were at a loss to explain Ice-T's motives for pulling the song. Warner officials declined to comment on speculation that the move was a publicity stunt to generate sales, as suggested by various music industry insiders. "Body Count," which has sold 315,000 copies since it was released four months ago, has been slipping down the charts in recent weeks.
Last week the album ranked No. 77 on the nation's pop charts after selling only 14,000 copies in the United States, according to SoundScan, the New York firm that tracks sales.
At the hastily arranged news conference in West Hollywood, Ice-T said concern for the well-being of the staffs of Warner Bros. Records and Sire Records, who he said had received death threats from police officers as a result of distributing the song, also motivated him to pull "Cop Killer." He said a caller also threatened "The Arsenio Hall Show" when he appeared on the program last week.
"At the moment, the cops are in a criminal mode," Ice-T said. "They've raised a lot of death threats against Warner Bros. Records. I don't want nothing to happen to them."
Hall's spokeswoman, Dana Freedman, confirmed the threat. Warner Bros. Records spokesman Bob Merlis also said a police bomb squad has been sent to company offices twice.
The furor over "Cop Killer" erupted June 10 when the Combined Law Enforcement Assn. of Texas called for a boycott of Time Warner, demanding that the $12-billion conglomerate disassociate itself from the song and apologize to officers nationwide.
Sixty members of Congress sent a letter to Time Warner denouncing the company's affiliation with "Cop Killer." California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren sent letters printed on government stationery to the chief executives of 18 record store chains in the state urging them to stop selling the record.
Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle condemned Time Warner for being "irresponsible." Unnerved by the controversy, at least 1,400 record outlets pulled the album from their shelves.
The protest peaked July 16 when about 100 protesters, representing officers from several police groups--including the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Fraternal Order of Police--descended on Time Warner's annual shareholders' meeting. Citing constitutional free speech protection, officials at Time Warner refused to budge on the issue.
Ice-T has consistently held that the song was misunderstood: "('Cop Killer') is not a call to murder police," he said at the news conference. "This song is about anger and the community and how people get that way."