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Viewers rip Katie Couric's interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 26th 2007 7:39PM
Katie Couric with John and Elizabeth EdwardsKatie Couric can't win, can she? Her version of the CBS Evening News is consistently criticized for being too nice, happy, and morning-show-like. But when Katie gets down to business and does a serious interview with someone, she's knocked for being inappropriately stern.

That's what Couric is facing the day after her 60 Minutes interview with presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. During the interview, Couric asked the couple tough questions about whether it was wise for the Edwardses to continue on the campaign trail now that Elizabeth's cancer has metastasized and become inoperable. Instead of proceeding in her usual warm, smiling manner, Couric decided to be deadly serious, keeping a straight face and pursuing lines of questioning that started with "Some say," like when she said to the couple, "Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this."

After CBSNews.com posted the interview and allowed viewer comments, many took Couric to task for not being understanding enough, especially given her family history (her husband died of colon cancer in 1998).

"Instead of compassion and sensitivity in her questions, we got nothing but hard-nosed cynicism from Katie Couric. Her facial expressions, her body language and her tone of voice all conveyed stern disapproval (under the guise, of course, of "some people say ...")." said one reader. Said another: "Did she leave her job at the Today show to care for her sick husband? Did she leave the job to raise her children after he died? Katie has failed miserably as the head anchor on the CBS news and perhaps this is a desperate attempt to revitalize her failing career."

Many of the 67 pages (and counting) of comments are along these lines (Some comments even called Katie's line of questioning "partisan," which is strange, since she's usually accused of being too liberal). Mixed in are notes of support for Couric, as well as good wishes for Elizabeth Edwards.

I thought Couric's line of questioning was fair. While I was watching the interview, I thought about Couric's experience, and I was actually pretty happy that she didn't involve herself in the interview, something that she has failed to do in the past. But she asked every question an outside observer would be curious to have the couple answer, namely how they can justify spending what may be the last months of Mrs. Edwards' life -- no one is sure how much time she has -- on the grueling campaign trail, much of the time away from their young children.

For their part, the Edwardses answered the questions gracefully, with John only briefly descending into campaign-speak. In fact, he admirably told Couric that anyone who votes for him because they feel badly for their family is making an "enormous mistake."

I used to wonder if a lot of this criticism of Couric came from the fact that she's a woman, but now I'm sure that it's the reason. Viewers just can't accept the fact that a woman is anchoring a major news broadcast, so they pick apart every move she makes. Granted, Couric has always been a lightning rod and more of a "look at me" personality than many of her contemporaries, male or female. But she's no more of a grandstander than Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Diane Sawyer, Mike Wallace or any other person who makes a living reporting the news on TV. Yet, they haven't gotten nearly as much criticism as Couric. And it's because she's invaded the "boy's club" of evening anchors, daring to do something different with a tired format that loses viewers by the day.

Don't get me wrong; despite my defense of her, I'm not a big Couric fan. I think her skills are better suited for more of a newsmagazine or talk format than for an evening newscast. But I'm willing to see if she can grow in the job and become as trusted as Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson. I mean, why not? She's only been at it for seven months. If people gave "Gunga Dan" a chance, they should give Katie a chance.

[via FishbowlNY]

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Mystic

That is how you tell a fake journalist from real journalists. They always use 'Some say', 'Some people would say', 'We got an email from a viewer', etc. They don't ask the tough and biased questions themselves, they pawn it off on an imaginary person. You'll see this a lot on the Faux News Channel.

March 27 2007 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zakk

"Katie had to ask those questions to diffuse the situation" - Does Katie now work for the Edwards camp? I thought she was a serious journalist, just the facts.

"I think that John and Elizabeth wanted those questions thrown at them" - 'wanted' again, does Katie work for them? I'm sure every Presidential canidate would 'want' certain questions thrown at them, but I don't think McCain or Guiliani (sp) will get the same priviledge. It's been well documented that Hillary Clinton gets all her questions pre-ordered, how nice it must be.

And, as far as Rush or Savage, they can say what they want to say. The same as you and me, but you know as well as I do. Edwards was completely off the radar before this happened, now all the sudden he's back in the spot light. I'm sorry Mrs. Edwards and their family is going through this, but it's part of being in the public. They have the opportunity to deal with this in private but they are choosing to do it in public.

Zakk

March 27 2007 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beanspants1

Rick, Katie is a reporter, a middling (at best) 60 Minutes reporter - she should say "Rush Limbaugh says...", "Michael Savage says..."

she should not fire off incredibly stupid but "touching and emotional" conversation points without specific attribution. Like someone else upthread said, nearly everyone in the world has been touched by cancer, and whether or not *most* people quit their jobs to fight it is not a legitimate question - Most people don't because they need the money, so they continue to work.


March 27 2007 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rick cokely

My personal opinion is this: There *are* people out there that are saying those things. People like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage who are clearly trying to spin this into some sort of partisan thing where the Edwardses are simply using the cancer as a jumping ground to get into the spotlight of the campaign. Katie had to ask those questions to diffuse the situation, I think as a journalist she would have been negligent to not ask those types of questions and not bring up the "some people say" comments. What I do think she missed on was she should have named those "some people" rather than just using the company line.

I think that John and Elizabeth wanted those questions thrown at them, they needed them to tell America that it's just not true. It wouldn't make sense to turn it into a fluff piece and not address those issues, because then it really WOULD be about them trying to get into the spotlight. I think both of them did an excellent job at answering the questions truthfully and honestly. Whatever their decisions are, I think they should be left at that. It is THEIR decision to continue, not Rush Limbaugh, not Michael Savage, and not Katie Couric...

March 27 2007 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tool

I didn't have a big problem with the line of questioning by Katie Couric. These were the questions most people probably have or had about this situation.

In communication theory, this is what is called inoculation theory where you basically get answers to all the questions or issues about an issue so that it doesn't dog you forever.

The problem that I did have was that some of the questions about Elizabeth's mothering seemed like that Katie was projecting her values and opinions onto the Edwards.

March 27 2007 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob Stevens

I've been wondering what the point was of continuing on the campaign trail with his wife's cancer reaching a terminal level, and I hate to be insensitive about it, but I think I figured it out ...

If Elizabeth Edwards dies while John is campaigning, he will will the election in a landslide. It was probably her last gift to her husband, and likely even her idea.

March 27 2007 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zakk

One last thing, if I may-
"Hopefully this will bring awareness to the American people about cancer", are you Ffiggin kidding me!!!
Here's a bit of news for ya' Katie with a K, I along with probably about 95% of the planet know someone who has died from cancer. Don't think that Elizabeth Edwards is the first to get it, or the first celeb to get it. Here's a crazy thought, REPORT THE NEWS - KEEP YOUR OPIONS TO YOURSELF. Sorry, I just read that part in the transcript and it got me a little fired up. Awareness...I'm aware that you suck as an anchor. Go back to telling me the perfect way to.........nenvermind.

AAAAggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

March 27 2007 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beanspants1

I thought that interview was one of the dumbest things i've ever heard in my life. no wonder she's tanking in the news race.

"some people say"..."some people say"..."some people say"

MY REENACTMENT:
couric: "some people say that you should hire a puppy dog to climb down mrs edward's throat and eat out all the cancer. how do you respond to that?"

edwards: "that's a fair question. dogs are talented creatures. i have a dog that stands beside me on the plane as i travel from election stop to election stop. he likes kibbles"

March 27 2007 at 10:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Goldman

Because she's a woman???? Puleeez.... She's been criticized for her "serious" interviews due to her lack of knowledge resulting in her willingness to take short cuts such as accepting White House talking points as fact. She's ceratinly likable enough, just not a serious, disciplined journalist. I think she'd be great on "Entertainment Tonight".

March 27 2007 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emily

Good point, Zakk. Charlie Gibson suddenly became Charles Gibson when he took the evening news position with ABC.

Perhaps Ms. Couric is exorcising some of her own personal demons when she suggested that Sen. Edwards should end his campaign in deference to his wife. This attack (for lack of another word) seems very odd coming from the widow of a cancer victim, though. My mother is undergoing chemo for NH Lymphoma now and her doctor stressed not changing her daily routine as much as possible. He believes that a positive mental attitude is critical for her treatment. I have a feeling this is the same advice given to Mrs. Edwards - keep on doing what you normally do and don't give in to the disease.

Also, "some people say" is just plain old bad journalism. That crap wouldn't fly in my high school debate or journalism class, so Ms. Couric should be chastised for it.

March 27 2007 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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