Not since Joseph Stalin cut his short-lived deal with the devil Nazis in 1939 has a nonaggression pact provoked so much controversy, not to mention headlines. A defiant Jerry Springer says he has no plans to live up to a promise made late last week by Studios USA brass, under pressure from Chicago-area religious leaders, to “eliminate all physical violence” from his top-rated syndie talkshow (Daily Variety, April 30).
“I’m not going to buckle,” Springer said Friday in a telephone interview on Howard Stern’s nationally syndicated radio show. “I don’t want to tone it down. That’s absurd. … I don’t know why they issued that statement.”
But Springer stopped short of threatening to quit rather than be forced to pull the show’s now-trademark punches.
“I’m not going to leave,” Springer said when Stern asked if he was ready to walk over the issue. Springer conceded that the decision about the show’s future direction will ultimately come down to USA Networks Inc. chairman Barry Diller, who took over the “Jerry Springer Show” with his buyout of Universal’s domestic TV operations earlier this year.
“It’s ultimately going to be (Diller’s) decision … and whoever the people are under him, they’ll decide if they want to have me or not,” he said. Springer has about five years to go on his contract with USA.
Reps for USA Networks Inc. and its Studios USA wing would not comment over the weekend on Springer’s remarks, and Springer could not be reached for further comment.
The peace-offering promise at the heart of the dispute was issued last Thursday after Studios USA chairman Greg Meidel and other USA execs met with religious leaders to defuse the PR crisis that has enveloped the show on its home turf of Chicago. Springer told Stern he wasn’t part of the meeting and never agreed to further restrict the tempers of his often outrageous guests.
In early April, Studios USA execs vowed to “minimize further altercations” among panelists in response to the growing number of critics condemning “Springer” as an “embarrassment” to the TV industry.
But that pledge didn’t quiet the critics, particularly in Chicago, where the ad-hoc “Dump Springer Coalition” of religious and community groups was stepping up efforts to organize advertiser boycotts and other demonstrations.
Sources close to the situation say Springer and his production staff were surprised by last Thursday’s stronger statement from Studios USA about eliminating “all physical violence” from the show.
According to several sources, “Springer” producers have groused that USA brass caved into public pressure before they had a chance to prove their intent to “minimize” the slugfests that have helped drive “Springer” to the top of the talkshow pack over the past nine months.
Meanwhile, more unsavory allegations surfaced last week about “Springer” producer Norm Lubow. Earlier this month, a group of former “Springer” guests accused Lubow of staging their fights and encouraging them to fabricate wild stories.
Last Friday, the New York Post reported that Lubow himself made the tabloid TV rounds in 1995 as a drug dealer who claimed to have sold drugs to O.J. Simpson on the night his ex-wife was murdered. Lubow vehemently denied that he was drug dealer “Ron X,” just as he has denied coaching “Springer” panelists to lie or brawl.
In an effort to combat the allegations of fakery made earlier this month by the ex-“Springer” guests on newsmags “Extra” and “20/20,” lawyers for Studios USA collected notarized affidavits from other “Springer” guests who say they told the truth on the show. Some of those who gave affidavits also claimed that the guests who appeared on “Extra” and “20/20” had conspired to lie about their experiences on “Springer” in the hopes of somehow profiting from their notoriety.
Naturally, a legal rep for those panelists denies the allegations raised in the affidavits.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)