ABC to air DiCaprio's interview with Clinton

Conflict: The network decides to air the actor's presidential encounter despite controversy over whether a non-journalist should be given such an assignment.

April 13, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK -- The world will soon get to evaluate actor Leonardo DiCaprio's journalistic skills: ABC News said it will air its Earth Day special -- complete with excerpts of DiCaprio's controversial interview with President Clinton -- at 8 p.m. on April 22.

After screening a raw version of the program, the network decided Tuesday to include portions of the March 31 interview, which had sparked internal dissent among ABC News journalists who said the plum assignment to interview the president shouldn't be ceded to an actor.

ABC News spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the DiCaprio material was included because "we think that, based on what we've seen, it's entirely appropriate that in the end there is a way to do a program like this and include someone like DiCaprio and meet our editorial standards."

ABC News President David Westin, who found himself in the middle of the dispute between the White House, the show's producers and opposing staffers, would not comment.

The controversy grew when ABC executives, who had hoped to lure younger viewers by using DiCaprio in the special, blamed the White House for turning what ABC insisted had been scheduled as a "walking tour" of the Washington landmark's energy-saving features into an "interview.

Westin insisted in an e-mail to his staffers that "all roles of journalists must be played by journalists" at ABC News.

ABC News correspondent Chris Cuomo will be host of the one-hour special on global warming and other environmental issues, dubbed "Planet Earth 2000."

He'll be joined by DiCaprio, a celebrity chairman of this year's 30th annual Earth Day celebration, which is also April 22.

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