ABC gives Lewinsky 2 hours to tell her side

February 23, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Saying that Barbara Walters' interview with Monica Lewinsky was "so compelling, interesting and educational" that it couldn't be done in the normal "20/20" newsmagazine format, ABC News president David Westin announced yesterday that the interview would air as a two-hour special March 3.

The total interview, which took place at ABC studios in New York City Saturday, amounted to 190 minutes of tape, Westin and Walters said in a teleconference yesterday. About 100 minutes, after you subtract commercials and introduction, will be shown from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the last night of the February "sweeps" ratings period.

"There are elements of drama and there are elements of history here that, frankly, I found surprising and remarkable," Westin said.

Asked why, if it was so historic and remarkable, ABC News planned to withhold the interview for more than a week, Westin said, "We need to make sure we get it right. And we believe we will need that much time [in editing]."

Westin said no decision had been made about showing advance excerpts.

Not to be outdone by Westin in promoting the telecast, Walters described Lewinsky in the interview as "open, expressive, very touching and extremely articulate." Walters said the interview will offer viewers a "history of the relationship from Day 1 of that famous thong," a reference to the thong underwear Lewinsky testified to wearing on the day her relationship with Clinton began.

Walters said that, because of her immunity deal, the only questions Lewinsky couldn't answer involved Kenneth Starr and his investigation. She claims Lewinsky answered all the others, including the ones Walters says everyone wants to know: "What about the dress? And how does she feel about him [Clinton]?"

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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