Smith's accuser to be interviewed for TV program ABC thinks woman will reveal identity

December 17, 1991|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- The woman who accused William Kennedy Smith of rape in the case that ended with Mr. Smith's acquittal last week is to be interviewed for the 10 p.m. Thursday broadcast of the ABC News program "PrimeTime Live."

Diane Sawyer, a co-anchor of the program, is to tape the interview in the next two days.

An ABC News executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that the network is "proceeding with the understanding that this young woman is coming forward and will identify herself."

If the 30-year-old woman decides after the interview to request that her identity not be revealed, "ABC News will have to make a policy judgment on whether or not we will air the interview," the executive said. ABC will make that decision on the basis of whether the woman continues to make charges against Mr. Smith in the interview.

ABC might decide not to broadcast the interview if she does not reveal her identity because it would seem unfair to allow her to maintain anonymity after Mr. Smith had been acquitted, the executive said.

The woman's mother and an ABC spokeswoman said the woman had not made up her mind as of late yesterday. "That's her decision," the mother was quoted as telling Knight-Ridder News Service.

Most news organizations, including ABC News, concealed the woman's name from the time the charge was brought in March through the end of the trial. Her face was electronically blocked during television coverage of the trial itself.

The ABC News policy is to conceal a woman's identity in a rape case if she chooses anonymity, except under extraordinary circumstances, for example if the woman elects to make her name public.

But ABC did decide when the trial ended in acquittal not to reveal the woman's name at that time.

The ABC executive emphasized that the woman has voluntarily agreed to the interview with Ms. Sawyer, with no promises of money or other special treatment.

The woman's lawyers said in a statement yesterday that she agreed to the interview Saturday after meeting with Ms. Sawyer, who had been in contact with her for some time.

The lawyers, David Roth and Douglas Duncan, said in their statement that the woman chose Ms. Sawyer from dozens of requests for interviews because she had been impressed by Ms. Sawyer's work.

The woman has given no face-to-face interviews since accusing Mr. Smith, a 31-year-old nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, of raping her March 30 at his family's Palm Beach estate.

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