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The Insider

Dec 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Ergen, Kimmelman history raises eyebrows
Could Gene Kimmelman, the Consumers Union honcho who boggled observers with his conditional endorsement of EchoStar Communications’ acquisition of DirecTV, have a conflict? That’s the question some industry sources raised last week after learning that Mr. Kimmelman and EchoStar chief Charlie Ergen went to high school together in their hometown of Oak Ridge, Tenn. But David Butler, a spokesman for Mr. Kimmelman, denied any personal motivation behind the endorsement, contending that other consumer groups have been saying the “same measured things” about the proposed deal. “It’s not trying to do a favor for an old school chum,” Mr. Butler said.
Bashing Ashleigh
A Fox News spokesman summed up MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield as “the Anna Kournikova of TV news” in a Washington Post piece about the spotlight-loving correspondent who is currently chewing up scenery in Afghanistan as host of “A Region in Conflict.” Fox’s verbal jab at Ms. Banfield was breathtaking enough to become the top headline on Jim Romanesko’s popular MediaNews Web site. It had an added resonance to those who know that on the very day in winter 2000 that Ms. Banfield was offered a job to co-host the now-defunct “Home Page” on MSNBC, she was spotted in the office of Roger Ailes, the man who made Fox News Channel in his brash image.
Rob Zimmerman, who delivered the Kournikova quote to The Post, said Mr. Ailes “talks to a lot of people,” and Ms. Banfield “was hankering to get onto this network” and had asked for the meeting. A spokesman for MSNBC chalked up Fox’s swipes at Ms. Banfield to “Sour grapes. Frankly, she’s too smart for their entertainment news channel.”
Driver packs heat, Geraldo stays close
Laurie (a k a “Honey”) Dhue, who hot-footed it from MSNBC to Fox News last summer, recently coaxed newly hired Geraldo Rivera into a nodding admission that, yes, he is carrying a gun in Afghanistan.
The Insider asked Fox where Mr. Rivera got his gun and who supplies his ammunition.
“It’s not like he’s walking around with a machine gun slung over his back,” said the Fox spokesman, who added that Mr. Rivera’s crew’s driver and guide, both veterans of the Northern Alliance, are the real gun-toters.
“They’re packing five machine guns,” said the Fox spokesman. Mr. Rivera has the firepower there “in case he needs it.”
A new day for `This Week’
Things have come full circle at ABC News, where No. 2 executive Paul Friedman is once again, among his other assignments, overseeing “This Week.” He recently traveled to the Washington bureau to meet with members of the second-ranked Sunday newsmaker show. Mr. Friedman’s previous stewardship began during the show’s heyday, when David Brinkley was the moderator, and continued through early 2000. Since Mr. Brinkley’s retirement in `97, “This Week” has slipped so far behind NBC’s top-ranked “Meet the Press With Tim Russert” that CBS’s Bob Schieffer has reason to think his “Face the Nation” could climb over “This Week” and into second place.
Bill Tush taking his star off CNN’s door
CNN’s once familiar “Showbiz” franchise has been making like Waldo since Sept. 11, so The Insider was not stunned when she heard that “Showbiz This Weekend” anchor and 25-year Turner Broadcasting veteran Bill Tush was negotiating a buyout.
There had been rumors that “Showbiz,” little-seen as weekday cut-ins or weekday half-hours since the terrorist attacks, was doomed to disappear. On Friday, the same day Mr. Tush wrapped up his buyout, cancellation of “Showbiz This Weekend” and “Travel Now” became official. New York-based co-anchor Laurin Sydney, with “Showbiz” since 1984, is expected to leave the network.
CNN executive vice president Sid Bedingfield said in an internal memo Friday that CNN is committing to the weekday and weeknight schedule as it has been in recent weeks and doing away with weekday shows that have been little seen since Sept. 11. “Burden of Proof” and “News Site” have been canceled. “Burden’s” Roger Cossack and “Site’s” Joie Chen are leaving CNN.
Mr. Tush’s exit is a bent nail in the coffin of the era of Ted Turner, the CNN founder who was always said to be amused by the offbeat Mr. Tush, a radio newsman who joined TBS in 1974. He fronted a wee-hours show that had one foot in news and the other in comedy that would morph into “The Bill Tush Show” in 1980. Mr. Tush’s soon-to-be illustrious crew at TBS included sketch writers and performers Bonnie and Terry Turner (“Saturday Night Live,” “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “That `70s Show”) and Jan Hooks (“SNL”). In 1983, Mr. Tush switched to CNN and the “Showbiz” life that would take him to Los Angeles and eventually New York. One of The Insider’s most treasured memories is of Mr. Tush co-anchoring with a big ol’ dog in the middle of the night on TBS. There are still times she thinks news doesn’t get any better than that.