Magazine article Newsweek

Now, Back to You, Leo: ABC's 'DiCaprio-Clinton Interview' Provokes a Flap

Magazine article Newsweek

Now, Back to You, Leo: ABC's 'DiCaprio-Clinton Interview' Provokes a Flap

Article excerpt

Last Thursday night the president strode to the podium at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' dinner amid the thundering swells of the theme music from "Titanic." Grinning, the president said, "Haunting, isn't it?" He appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself. And why not? Hundreds of TV and radio news executives were there, and one of their number, ABC News, seemed to have just plowed into a journalistic iceberg.

The trouble started when Clinton gave a rare 20-minute sit-down interview about global warming to a "reporter" dispatched by the network. The guy with the notebook: Leonardo DiCaprio. ABC's Washington bureau and media critics howled about more blurring of the line between entertainment and news. ABC News president David Westin sent out an e-mail response, which promptly leaked, in which he insisted that DiCaprio was not sent to do an interview, but only a "walk-through... All roles of journalists must be played by journalists (duh!)," said the e-mail. (The "duh" is Westin's.)

When both White House officials and DiCaprio's people contradicted him, it looked as though Westin was dodging and weaving. Joked Clinton: "It isn't the mistake that kills you--it's the cover-up." Leogate started with plans for a one-hour news special on the environment tied to Earth Day. Network news programs have a difficult time attracting younger viewers. DiCaprio cares about the environment and had been shopping around the idea of a prime-time special for a year and a half. …

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