NEW YORK — President Bush has granted an exclusive set of 9/11-related interviews to “60 Minutes II” correspondent Scott Pelley. The discussion will appear on the CBS newsmagazine on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Pelley said the White House didn’t set down any parameters for the conversations, which will also include senior members of the administration.
“There are no ground rules and or understandings about how the interview will be conducted,” said Pelley, the net’s former chief White House correspondent during the Clinton administration. One interview will take place on Air Force One, the other in the Oval Office.
The announcement comes after a nine-month effort by Pelley to persuade the White House to participate in the doc project.
Pelley recalled two conversations in which he conversed briefly with fellow Texan Bush, whom he last interviewed when Bush was president-elect. “He pretty much said ‘sounds great, sounds like the kind of thing we want to do.’ ”
During primetime, special versions of “60 Minutes” and “60 Minutes II” will run against ABC’s set of docs that will feature a reconstruction of events surrounding the terrorists attack, an examination of national security and a look at post-traumatic stress disorder.
NBC’s primetime will feature “Concert for America,” a Sept. 9 event that first lady Laura Bush will attend. While the net says it can’t confirm the president’s schedule that night, the president is likely to attend.
In what seems like a counter-programming move, the deliberately lighter, Tom Brokaw-hosted event will come at the end of what will be an emotionally draining day.
With coverage beginning on the morning of Sept. 8, the Eye will have an hourlong version of “Face the Nation” and later that day will repeat the doc “9/11,” seen by 39 million viewers when it aired last March. NBC also will begin its coverage early with a two-hour version of “Dateline” on the eve of the 11th.
While the president’s choice of CBS may seem biased, the Bush White House has been dividing access equitably among the three nets, with interviews granted to NBC’s Brokaw and ABC’s Barbara Walters and Claire Shipman.
But it was only a few months ago that Bush was photographed carrying a copy of the Bernard Goldberg book “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.” In the bestseller, the author takes aim at nets for what he perceives as their liberal slant.
“I was in Afghanistan last December and saw that photo on the cover on the International Herald-Tribune,” recalled Pelley, who was in the midst of lobbying the White House for access back then. “I thought, oh, no. This going to sink our proposal. As it turns out the president was more evenhanded than that.”