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Gumbel confesses to ‘Early’ guilt

Ex-anchor comments on ayemcast in Walters interview

Former “Early Show” anchor Bryant Gumbel will get almost confessional with Barbara Walters this evening.

When asked by the “20/20” host if he felt responsible for the CBS breakfastcast’s lack of success, the Emmy winner admits that he did, but with a qualifier: “I’ve got terrible Catholic guilt about everything.”

He then adds, “To try to come in and set up a burger chain between McDonald’s and Burger King and make it a successful franchise in 2½ years I think was — is — a little unrealistic.”

Despite some modest aud growth in recent months, his skein was locked in third place behind his alma mater, NBC’s “Today Show,” and ABC’s Good Morning America.”

Gumbelelliptically discusses the circumstances surrounding his departure. “I told CBS early on that this was it. This was done,” he says. Walters asks if the job was shopped around without his knowledge; he responds that Walters would have to ask CBS.

There is a little more candor, however, when it comes to discussing former co-anchors and being a news anchor. He says the job was “something that never personally appealed to me. And I don’t necessarily believe that I’d be good at it.”

The purported tension in his relationship with Katie Couric — with whom he used to co-anchor “The Today Show” — also comes up. “We never exchanged a bad word,” he says. “We were two different people. We saw things in different ways.”

The interview also marks his television debut with fiancee Hilary Quinlan, who seems to have received some form of massage during the chat.

“Will you stop rubbing her neck,” requests Walters. “I can’t concentrate.”