The O.J. Way On ‘Today’

Tongues have been wagging at rival networks that the “Today” show has become the house organ for the O.J. Simpson defense team. Observers point to exclusive multipart interviews the ayem chatshow has run with Simpson attorneys Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey. Underlying the exclusives and the alleged pro-defense stance, competitors charge, is NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer’s friendship with O. Tongues have been wagging at rival networks that the “Today” show has become the house organ for the O.J . Simpson defense team. Observers point to exclusive multipart interviews the ayem chatshow has run with Simpson attorneys Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey. Underlying the exclusives and the alleged pro-defense stance, competitors charge, is NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer’s friendship with O.J.

According to “Today” topper Jeff Zucker, the charges couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Don Ohlmeyer had nothing to do with us getting those exclusives; if anything, his friendship with Simpson makes us extra careful that we’re being balanced,” says Zucker.

“Cochran and Bailey agreed to go on ‘Today’ because we’re the No. 1 morning show,” he continues. “Ask any of our competition if they would have turned down the opportunity for those interviews. Well, maybe ‘GMA’ wouldn’t take them because they have no news judgment at all. As far as us having any bias, that’s plain crazy. The prosecution team in the Simpson case has an open invitation to come on ‘Today.’ And I think if you look at the analysts we have on, they’ve been consistent in saying the prosecution has been doing a better job than the defense. If our competition is trying to make this case against us that we have a pro-Simpson bias, it’s simply a sign that we have them on the ropes.”

Meanwhile, pro or con, “Today” has been giving much more airtime to the Simpson trial than its competition. In the first eight weeks of the year, “Today” devoted 343 minutes to the trial, compared to “Good Morning America’s” 216 minutes and “CBS This Morning’s” 169 minutes, according to ADT Research, publisher of the Tyndall Report, which monitors network newscasts.

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