Byline: ALISON BOSHOFF;ALUN PALMER
HENRY Kissinger has encountered some of the world's most fearsome leaders and built a career on his ability to tame superpowers and presidents.
But, it seems, a bruising encounter with Jeremy Paxman at breakfast time yesterday was a bridge too far for the world's most famous statesman. Dr Kissinger, Secretary of State for President Nixon during the trauma of the Watergate scandal and for his successor Gerald Ford, was plainly taken aback and offended during an ill-tempered encounter on Radio 4's Start The Week, presented by Paxman.
During the interview, in which Dr Kissinger was hoping to promote the third volume of his memoirs, Years of Renewal, Paxman asked him, among other things, if he had not felt 'a fraud' collecting his Nobel Peace Prize, given the disaster of the Vietnam War.
A stunned silence followed as Dr Kissinger struggled to form a reply.
'Felt a what?' whispered the gravel-voiced statesman eventually. 'Felt a FRAUD accepting the Nobel Peace Prize,' bellowed his inquisitor.
More silence. 'I wonder what you do when you do a hostile interview,' Dr Kissinger growled. Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a fellow guest on the live discussion programme, spluttered by way of explanation: 'This is Mr Paxman being very kind.' Paxman, by now clearly embarrassed himself, exclaimed: 'I'm just trying to explore . . .' There was also a furious spat over the bombing of Cambodia, when Dr Kissinger told Paxman his contention that hundreds of thousands had died was 'obviously untrue'.
As Paxman insisted that this was the case, Dr Kissinger went on to chastise him, saying that he should have the 'ability to educate himself'.
The encounter had started amicably enough. Dr Kissinger must have settled comfortably into his seat as he heard Paxman flatteringly detail his achievements.
The presenter reminded younger listeners that his 76-year-old guest was one of the most famous men in the world, was a former Time magazine Man of the Year and had once been voted the man most Bunny girls would like to date.
But things quickly went awry, with Paxman suggesting in his second question that Dr Kissinger had waited 17 years since bringing out the previous volume of his autobiography because he needed the 'distance in order to be able to rewrite history'. …