NBC & ABC Kick Saudi Sand at Each Other
By Lloyd Grove
Washington Post - January 14, 2003; Page C03
Who knew that Crown Prince Abdullah, the acting ruler of Saudi Arabia, was such a fabulous "get"? So fabulous a journalistic coup, apparently, that yesterday two major networks -- NBC and ABC -- traded brickbats over the bragging rights to the "first American television interview ever" with the Arabic-speaking royal.
Shortly after the "Today" show's Katie Couric, on location yesterday in the desert kingdom, touted her Abdullah sit-down as a sand-breaking TV moment, "Good Morning America" publicist Lisa Finkel contacted us to dispute the NBC News queen's claim.
"In fact, ABC News's Jim Sciutto interviewed the Crown Prince on October 8, 2002, portions of which aired on 'World News Tonight' on Wednesday, October 9," Finkel e-mailed. Three months ago, ABC anchor Peter Jennings teased Sciutto's encounter -- during a visit to one of Abdullah's weekly audiences with Saudi subjects -- "as the first interview that he has given to American television."
But "Today" spokeswoman Lauren Kapp sniffed: "Throwing out one question in a crowd of 500 people during a weekly public audience is hardly an interview."
Finkel swung back hard: "Jim Sciutto sat down with the crown prince for a 10-minute interview after the public audience and questioned him on a number of topics," she said. "It was an interview. We were surprised that 'Today' made such a big deal."