Jewish World Review July 2, 2004 / 13 Tamuz, 5764
Perky Katie: 'Our bad'; Skull & Bones may break him; more
NEW YORK There were red faces all around at NBC's "Today" show Thursday when the top-rated morning program dropped the ball on breaking news about jailed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Our bad," Katie Couric told me simply.
During the 8:30 a.m. segment at the very moment that ABC's "Good Morning America" and CBS' "Early Show" were broadcasting fresh video of the ousted tyrant defending himself at a tribunal in Baghdad "Today" aired a fluffy report on Olympic badminton and an even fluffier interview with Robert Redford.
I hear that news-conscious NBC affiliate stations dumped the fluff in favor of the feed from MSNBC. "GMA" had already broken into its scheduled broadcast at 7:16 a.m. with Peter Jennings's special report via cell phone from Baghdad, and "The Early Show" had followed with Dan Rather's report at 7:45 a.m. But NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was already headed back to the United States.
At 8:30 a.m., ABC and CBS broadcast an edited satellite transmission of the Hussein video taken by CNN inside the makeshift courtroom at Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport. "Today" didn't recover until 9 a.m., when Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel broadcast his live report.
"I felt bad about it. It was not the right call," Couric said. "I was out playing badminton, unfortunately. That's a fairly typical 8:30 thing. Clearly, I would have advised otherwise. We don't like to be remiss in covering breaking news."
Couric added: "I think we tried to give it the thorough treatment it deserved at 9 o'clock with Richard Engel."
The powerful anchor dismissed rumors that as one wag put it Thursday she had "given a colonoscopy" to executive producer Tom Touchet in the aftermath of the screwup.
"That's a good line, but it's not true," Couric said. (I heard elsewhere that Touchet wasn't even in the control room at the time, leaving the decision-making to a deputy.)
"If I had been upset or given anyone a colonoscopy, I would tell you," Couric said. "That's part of the creative process. We're not drinking Kool-Aid here."
SKULL & BONES MAY BREAK HIM
It seems that folks in Skull & Bones the Yale secret society which claims both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as members don't always like what they're reading in this column.
Author and Bones expert Toby Rogers tells me that Manhattan real-estate lawyer David Richards, the Bonesman who "tapped" Yale undergrad George W. Bush into the elite club back in 1967, is taking a lot of heat for his anti-Bush comments that appeared in this column in May.
Last week, Rogers recounts, Richards and several other Bonesmen journeyed to Washington to watch their Bones brother Victor Ashe, the former mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., be sworn in as the United States ambassador to Poland.
At a reception following the ceremony at the Metropolitan Club, according to what Richards has been telling people, a Bonesman nicknamed "Groggy" sidled up to him and complained about his remarks in this column (originally published in Rogers' book "Ambushed") in which Richards insisted that Bush doesn't deserve to be re-elected president.
"I think it's pretty grim, I think he has trashed the economy, and I think he has conducted foreign policy badly, and I think he is a bad president," Richards said. "I don't know what he has done well."
"Groggy" advised Richards: "Keep you're (expletive) mouth shut." Rogers says Richards, who was in Europe and unreachable Wednesday, also has received abusive e-mails from other Bush-supporting Bonesmen.
Meanwhile, according to Rogers, the president recently joked to some visiting Bonesmen, "If you want anything from me, you better ask for it now. I might not be here next year."
Of course, if that's the case, they can still ask President Kerry.
CUBA LIBRE!: With the world's best athletes gearing up for the Summer Olympics in Athens, leave it to Men's Journal to cut to the chase. According to writer Paul Hochman, gold medals should probably be awarded next month not only for the officially sanctioned sporting events, but also for the world-class sexual escapades that the perfect-bodied residents of the Olympic Village quadrennially engage in. Hochman reports that at the last Winter Olympics, "condom machines in the athlete village had to be refilled every two hours. And in Sydney, the organizers' original order of 70,000 condoms went so fast they had to order 20,000 more. . . . For the record, athletes who were in Sydney report that the Cuban delegation was the first to use up its allotment."
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate