ABCs titanic headache
David Westin's discomfort continues in DiCaprio brouhaha
By Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/9/2000 8:00:00 PM
ABC complained last week that far too much attention has been paid to Leonardo DiCaprio's alleged foray into celebrity journalism on the network's behalf.
And that was before the President of the United States raised the issue in a Washington ballroom full of reporters. "Don't you people ever learn," said Bill Clinton, who took the podium at the Radio & Television Correspondents'Association dinner Thursday night to the theme from DiCaprio megahit Titanic instead of "Hail to the Chief," "that it isn't the mistake that kills you, but the coverup?"
ABC was criticized for an interview DiCaprio had with the president as part of a global warming special airing later this month.
ABC spent much of last week defending itself from criticism from the outside and within its own ranks of news staff and management over whether it sent a heartthrob to do a journalist's job. "ABC doesn't know whether Leo and I had an interview, a walk-through or a drive-by," said the President, referring to ABC's explanation of the event. "But I don't know if all their damage control is worth the effort. It's a little like rearranging the deck chairs on the set of This Week With Sam and Cokie."
ABC said last week it was working with actor DiCaprio "in an appropriate role" in an attempt to reach younger viewers, that judgment on the program should be reserved until it airs-with all of ABC's normal standards intact-and that the White House and the network had different impressions of what happened.
Of course, conflicting reports are nothing new for the current White House, but Clintonian semantics are becoming increasingly common at ABC, which only a week before similarly downgraded Diane Sawyer's interview with the subject of an international tug-of-war, 6-year-old Elián Gonzáles, to a "visit."
Still, the President had some words of encouragement for the embattled if not embarrassed ABC news chief David Westin, complete with references to rival NBC's slogan and a defining film moment for ABC's newest environmental expert: "I've been in a lot of these tough spots. Don't let this get you down. You may not be America's news leader, but you are the king of the world!"
Now here's Britney Spears with an update on gas prices.
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