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Anchors Promote Joint Campaign Against Cancer, Debate War Coverage

May 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The three broadcast networks’ flagship anchors launched an unprecedented campaign against cancer Wednesday with their joint appearances on all three networks’ morning shows. They were promoting a Sept. 5 simulcast on ABC, CBS and NBC to raise money and consciousness about non-competitive and cutting-edge research.
The cavalcade through Manhattan started with “The Early Show” on CBS, where the trio dealt with the project, “Stand Up to Cancer,” and the hot political news of the day, a scathing indictment of the Bush administration’s march to war in Iraq in a book written by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
A pattern for the traveling anchor summit was set during the first interview with “Early Show” co-anchor Harry Smith, when he mentioned Mr. McClellan’s charge that the press had not done its job during that time:
-“CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric’s position would be that she agreed with Mr. McClellan that the press wasn’t aggressive enough and caved to administration pressure in the lead-up to war.
-“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams would stress that the press was denied crucial access to pre-war developments and information-gathering by nuclear weapons inspectors.
-ABC “World News” anchor Charles Gibson would argue that that the press had done its job and had asked the right questions. “It is not our job to debate [the White House]. It is our job to ask the questions,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show, Ms. Couric’s home for 15 years before becoming the first woman to solo as a flagship network anchor in 2006.
Ms. Couric said that after an interview she did, the White House had voiced its displeasure with “the tone” to the “Today” executive producer. “And we said, ‘Well, tough. We had to ask some of these questions.’ They said, ‘Well, if you keep it up, we’re going to block access to you during the war.’ Those kind of strong-arm tactics were really inappropriate.”
Her former “Today” co-anchor, Matt Lauer, jumped in to say: “We didn’t give in to that.” Ms. Couric agreed they hadn’t and added: “But I think there was insidious pressure that I do think actually affected some of the coverage from some of the media outlets.”
When asked by her “Today” successor, Meredith Vieira if the press had withheld information during that period, Ms. Couric replied: “No, I just think they weren’t aggressive enough.”
Mr. Williams said that when he was reporting back from Kuwait on the buildup, “Yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn’t like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary.”
“I respectfully disagree with the gentle lady from the Columbia Broadcasting System. I think the questions were asked,” said Mr. Gibson, who agreed there had been a “drumbeat” from the administration.
Mr. Gibson had competed with Ms. Couric as co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” He started the long segment that began with a moving, star-studded public service announcement for “Stand Up to Cancer” by joking: “What you didn’t see before we went on, they were going to play that PSA at the end, but Katie took over, directed the whole segment and saId, ‘No, you want to do that PSA at the beginning.’”
“They still listen to her,” Mr. Gibson said.
On “The Early Show,” as a clip from the PSA played, Mr. Couric said, “Every time I watch that I get chills.” When Mr. Smith started to respond, Ms. Couric stilled him by saying, “The payoff’s at the end, Harry.”
“OK, we’ll wait,” Mr. Smith said.
Of all the morning shows, “Today” made the biggest production of the appearance, showing the anchors emerging from their cars outside the studio, with the phalanx of publicists a few paces behind their anchors.
Mr. Lauer noted that it was almost two years to the day from Ms. Couric’s high-profile departure. It was good to be back, said Ms. Couric, dressed in a white suit and eye-catching spike heels. “I get to wear some fun kicks and people get to see them for a change.”
Then it was north to “GMA,” where co-anchor Robin Roberts, who had kept viewers informed of her battle with breast cancer starting last year, conducted the interview without broaching the McClellan book.
It was there that viewers learned that Mr. Gibson had done something the public can also do to contribute and honor those whom they have lost to cancer or those who have survived: He bought a star in Ms. Roberts’ name. (Ms. Couric had said on “The Early Show” that she will do the same for her late husband Jay Monahan, whose death from colon cancer had made her an activist, as well as her late sister Emily.)
On “GMA,” neither was there mention of a topic perhaps even more sensitive than the McClellan charges that Mr. Smith had raised with the roving anchors on “The Early Show”: The three-network Sept. 5 simulcast will follow closely on the heels of the closing night of Jerry Lewis’ traditional Labor Day muscular dystrophy telethon.
“Has anybody called Jerry Lewis?” he asked. “He may not be happy.”
Well, there’s enough generosity to go around, the three anchors chorused.
“We’re not going to do ‘When You Walk Through a Storm,’” Mr. Williams said.
“Actually, I was, Brian” Ms. Couric interjected.
(Editor: Jensen)

7 Comments

  1. It’s a good cause and thank God they did NOT include the farkles at FOX.
    Peter Bright

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