May Be Tough Timing for Anthony in Interview
NEW YORK (AP) — Casey Anthony, acquitted for murdering her daughter Caylee, will likely face a choice when she decides to grant an interview: Should she take the best chance for rehabilitating her image or the best chance for a payday?
Her consideration comes at a time when broadcast network executives are particularly skittish about the impression of paying subjects to talk. At the same time, networks wonder about sitting down with someone so deeply unpopular.
ABC, CBS and NBC have all publicly pledged not to pay Anthony to license photos or other materials if she agrees to an interview. Making such payments has been a way of getting around news division policies not to pay interview subjects; ABC paid Anthony a reported $200,000 to use some of her photos of Caylee in 2008.
"It's a terrible practice," said CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager. "For our organization, it goes against what we believe in."
After receiving bad publicity for the Anthony payment during her trial and other instances, ABC News President Ben Sherwood said recently that ABC will no longer agree to such licensing deals. The network reasoned it was doing real damage to its reputation, with viewers and critics suspicious that ABC had taken out its checkbook every time it had a newsworthy interview.
Following a social media uprising, NBC issued its own statement: "NBC News has not and will not offer money for a Casey Anthony interview," including "no licensing or other arrangements."
Tommy Joseph, a Pennsylvania man who had followed the trial and was angry about the verdict, said he tried through Facebook to organize a protest outside of NBC's "Today" show studios after reading unsubstantiated stories that Matt Lauer was the frontrunner to interview Anthony and that NBC would spend to get it done. He said he had hundreds of people lined up to join him but called the protest off after NBC contacted him to assure him no interview was set and the network wasn't paying.
Joseph said he doesn't want to see Anthony profit from her time in the spotlight and suggested an interview could be accompanied by a wave of public disgust.
"Any network that does have an interview with her will have a lot of backlash, will have a lot of boycotters," he said. "With social media the way it is, it's just going to take off."
Still, Joseph admitted, "I kind of do want to hear her."
"Everyone would watch it," said Connie Chung, who has chased after big interviews as a newswoman and wrote an abstract about the process at Harvard University. "The ratings would be through the roof. But I think the general public would be very anti-Casey Anthony, as they seem to be. ... They would denigrate the person who did the interview."
Backlash or not, it's hard to imagine a network turning down an opportunity to interview Anthony. Viewership increases for interviews with hot news subjects. Almost 15 million people saw ABC's Diane Sawyer interview Jaycee Dugard, the California woman held captive for 18 years, making it one of the most popular programs of the summer.
None of the networks that said they won't pay for an Anthony interview said they'd turn down the chance for an interview on their terms.
Since Anthony didn't testify in her trial, a network could frame the interview as "the chance to ask the questions that America wants answers to and she never had the chance to give," said Beth Knobel, a former CBS News reporter who teaches journalism at Fordham University.
Submitting to an interview with a respected journalist offers Anthony the best chance to tell her story and begin the process of moving on with her life, Knobel said. She likened it to Monica Lewinsky's 1999 interview with Barbara Walters about Lewinsky's affair with President Clinton.
The opportunities Anthony undoubtedly will have to cash in might not do much for her image, she said.
"If she decides to cash in, it's just going to make people who hate her hate her even more," Knobel said. "And, let's face it she doesn't have a lot of credibility to start with."
Independent producers, either from overseas or in the entertainment world, wouldn't be bound by the same ethical rules as American news divisions. In 1977, former President Richard Nixon was paid $600,000 for interviews with David Frost, who stitched together his own network to show them.
A pay-per-view event is also possible, said Chung's husband, talk show host Maury Povich. While a large segment of the public that is convinced of Anthony's guilt might find that stomach-turning, it could work with a well-known, respected interviewer, he said.
Syndicated talk shows offer another alternative, although Povich said his show wouldn't pay for an interview and new shows coming on board with Anderson Cooper and Rosie O'Donnell have not expressed interest.
A freelance producer, Al Taylor, told HLN that he had offered Anthony's representatives $1 million for an interview that he predicted he could sell widely all around the world, even if U.S. television outlets are reluctant.
Anthony's lawyer, Jose Baez, did not respond to a request to talk about interview discussions. He issued a statement late last month: "Contrary to recent published reports, I am not negotiating any paid interviews with anyone."
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore in Beverly Hills, Calif., contributed to this report.