“I would go to one place and one place alone,” says a veteran news producer: Oprah. Howard Bragman, founder of PR firm Fifteen Minutes, agrees: “She understands prejudice in a way other people don't. ... I frankly think he'll get a better reception.”
It all depends on whether or not Oprah forgives Mel. (Ask James Frey.) Says PR godfather Howard Rubenstein, a one-on-one setting is a must: “You're apt to find, with a studio audience, they'd cheer him or jeer him, and it becomes more of a circus.” (Rubenstein likes Charlie Rose.)
Barbara Walters (ABC)
She's not only the Supreme Confessor, she's Jewish and has already denounced Gibson on the air, making a penitent chat all the more compelling. “It would show that he is not gun-shy and is sincere about answering the hard questions,” says Jonathan Bock, president of Grace Hill Media.
Since ABC promptly disowned his planned miniseries set during the Holocaust, Gibson may not be inclined to overlook the snub when he's ready to go on camera. Says one PR chief, “He can't go back to ABC.”
Diane Sawyer (ABC)
Given that ABC parent Disney is releasing his forthcoming film, Apocalypto, Gibson may overlook the slight with his miniseries and play ball. Also, he chatted at length with Sawyer for a 2004 Primetime Live special when The Passion of the Christ was released.
Of course, when Sawyer pressed him then about his father's denialist views of the Holocaust, Gibson warned, “Don't go there, Diane.”
Larry King (CNN)
A mandatory stop on any apology tour, King's show is also live—a must for Gibson, given the risk of his appearance seeming canned or, worse, badly edited. “He'd get a real opportunity to say how he feels,” says Howard Rubenstein. And if Dick Cheney will go on Larry King Live, rest assured it's a safe harbor.
Which is exactly what Gibson should avoid. “He should do whatever the hardest interview is to establish his credibility,” says Jonathan Bock. Another PR chief suggested that a “soft follow-up” on King after a big-network appearance might work but alone wouldn't do the trick.
Matt Lauer (NBC)
With Dateline in prime and replays on morning leader Today, Matt Lauer arguably offers the most prominent platform for Gibson.
It's likely Gibson has seen Lauer's contentious 2005 interview with Tom Cruise and thus knows of his tendency to be “glib.” (Cruise has not yet recovered.)
Katie Couric (CBS)
She's still America's Sweetheart and knows how to draw a crowd. With Couric's arrival at CBS and real estate on 60 Minutes, a Sunday evening sit-down would guarantee Gibson a massive audience for his pain.
A “horrible, horrible, horrible mistake,” says a veteran news producer—someone in Couric's position would be under too much pressure to do “a news interview.” And Couric can't afford to backslide into celebrity fluff. “Katie would be surgical with him,” says Howard Bragman. Without anesthesia, could be painful.
Jay Leno (NBC)
Can Gibson laugh his troubles away on Leno? Worked for Hugh Grant. And Gibson's 2004 Tonight Show appearance after The Passion's phenomenal opening reminded viewers how charming and funny he can be.
Caught dallying with a hooker—funny. Unleashed a drunken tirade against Jews—not so funny.
Bill O'Reilly (Fox News)
Ever since Gibson first lashed out at critics of The Passion in an early 2003 visit to the “No Spin Zone,” O'Reilly has been a staunch Gibson defender. O'Reilly's own brush with scandal, over a quickly settled 2004 sexual harassment claim, makes him a sympathetic fellow traveller.
All too sympathetic. O'Reilly's disdain for personal attacks in the press (and his volatile temperament) could turn the interview into an orgy of outrage. Also, Gibson's Icon Productions has the film option on O'Reilly's newsman-turned-serial-killer novel Those Who Trespass—a little too cozy.
Kazakhstan's leading journalist from the state-run TV network is a fervent anti-Semite.
He is only a fictional character created by British actor Sacha Baron Cohen—and Gibson is probably in on the joke.