NEW YORK – The A&E television network said it was emphasizing the positive by naming Mayor Rudolph Giuliani its "Biography of the Year."
All of A&E's top 10 personalities of the year were connected to the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftermath, but Osama bin Laden, accused of masterminding the attacks and provoking a war, did no better than fifth.
President Bush was second on the list, which was released in a special that aired Monday night.
"The way we wanted to focus our show is to really talk about the people who stepped up and shone in the face of this," said Carol Anne Dolan, executive producer of the cable network's Biography series.
Characterizing bin Laden's significance is a delicate question at media outlets that sum up the year's people and events. The most prominent selection may be Time magazine's annual Person of the Year, to be announced on CNN on Dec. 23.
Time has given its distinction to villainous characters in the past, notably Adolf Hitler in 1938. When Time named Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, thousands of people canceled their subscriptions, said magazine spokeswoman Debra Richman.
"It's safe to assume that our choices will in some way be related to the tragedy of Sept. 11," Richman said. "Out of that there are a lot of possibilities, and Osama bin Laden is certainly one of them."
Dolan said fear of alienating viewers was not a factor in deciding against bin Laden. The Biography show's producers, who decide the winner, argued, but mostly about whether to name Giuliani or Bush, she said.
The others on A&E's list: the uniformed heroes of Sept. 11; the civilian heroes; Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf; U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; and Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who made up one entry.
To be considered for "Biography of the Year," a person must have had a significant impact on America and the lives of its people, Dolan said. The person must also be well-known, with an interesting life story.
It's the seventh year the network has made such a choice. Probably its most controversial was O.J. Simpson, in 1995, Dolan said. Last year, the distinction went to Francis Collins and Craig Venter, who were in charge of deciphering the human genome.