Book: Couric felt pressured by NBC to support war
John Byrne
Published: Monday October 8, 2007

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According to Reality Show, a book by Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz which hits bookshelves this week, CBS' Katie Couric felt pressured by NBC to 'lighten up' on her coverage of the war.

"Two months before the 2004 election, when she was still at NBC's "Today" show, Couric had asked Condoleezza Rice whether she agreed with Vice President Cheney's declaration that the country would be at greater risk for terrorist attacks if John Kerry won the White House," Kurtz writes. "Rice sidestepped the question, saying that any president had to fight aggressively against terrorism."

Couric asked the question again. "Would a Kerry victory put America at greater risk?"

Rice ducked.

"Soon afterward, Couric got an e-mail from Robert Wright, the NBC president," Kurtz writes. "He was forwarding a note from an Atlanta woman who complained that Couric had been too confrontational with Rice.

"What was the message here? Couric felt that Wright must be telling her to back off," he continues. "She wrote him a note, saying that she tried to be persistent and elicit good answers in all her interviews, regardless of the political views of her guests. If Wright had a problem with that, she would like to discuss it with him personally. Wright wrote back that such protest letters usually came in batches, but that he had passed along this one because it seemed different.

"Couric felt there was a subtle, insidious pressure to toe the party line, and you bucked that at your peril," he adds. "She wanted to believe that her NBC colleagues were partners in the search for truth, and no longer felt that was the case. She knew that the corporate management viewed her as an out-and-out liberal. When she ran into Jack Welch, the General Electric chairman, he would sometimes say that they had never seen eye to eye politically. If you weren't rah rah rah for the Bush administration, and the war, you were considered unpatriotic, even treasonous.

Despite this, at her new CBS post as anchor she once led with, "With each death, with every passing day, so many of us ask, 'Is there any way out of this nightmare?'"

"The CBS anchor could never quite figure out how Iraq had become Public Enemy No. 1, how the United States had wound up making many of the same mistakes as in Vietnam," Kurtz notes. "She was happy, like most people, when the war initially seemed to be going well. Nobody wanted to see all these young kids getting killed. But the frenzied march to war had been bolstered by a reluctance to question the administration after 9/11."

Kurtz writes more in today's Washington Post.