CBS refuses White House request to release interview transcript

Tuesday, March 24, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS News turned down an unusual White House request to release a transcript or tape of the full 45-minute interview presidential lawyer Robert Bennett gave to “60 Minutes” in response to accusations made by Kathleen Willey.

Bennett complained March 18 that his interview reacting to Willey’s charges that President Clinton had made unwanted sexual advances was edited to make him look bad.

Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry said at least six reporters had requested a transcript of the full interview.

Releasing outtakes of a broadcast interview would be highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for CBS or any other news organization. CBS spokeswoman Sandra Genelius said it was tantamount to releasing a reporter’s notes.

“We consider it notes and background information,” she said. “The piece that we put on the air is fully representative of the interview.”

McCurry said release of the CBS transcript would allow viewers to determine whether correspondent Ed Bradley was “hostile” in his questioning of Bennett. CBS aired a 3 ½-minute portion of Bennett’s interview on “60 Minutes.”

Bennett complained that CBS intentionally used a portion of the interview where he had looked down and away from the camera.

“I think it was a hit job on the president,” he said of the full ’60 Minutes’ report. “I think it told a one-sided story.”

CBS declined to speculate on White House motives for publicly pushing for release of the Bennett interview.

“It was a strong and responsible interview,” Genelius said. “We wholeheartedly stand by it.”