NEW YORK – Dysfunctional marriages? Pressing social issues? Overachiever syndrome in the family? Cheating spouses? Who knows these issues better than former President Bill Clinton?
And what better avenue for the telegenic and controversial politician than a nationally syndicated television talk show?
Though rumors have been repeated and rejected since May, the New York Times on Wednesday confirmed that Clinton very well could get his own daily afternoon talk show, with a salary between $30 million and $50 million a year, the highest ever for a rookie talk-show host.
"You think maybe he could be a force for good," an unnamed NBC executive told the newspaper. "In between playing the sax or singing with Carly Simon or whatever he's going to do, maybe he could do some great things."
Clinton lawyer Robert Barnett was circumspect about offering any details on a potential talk show.
"The president has received an enormous number of offers from broadcast television, cable television, the Internet, print and radio," he told the paper. "We have no immediate plans to make any media deals, and when the time comes a proper announcement will be forthcoming."
That statement took a considerably different tone than comment by Clinton and his spokesmen in May. Back then, Clinton's visits with executives at NBC were merely informal chats with little potential for turning into an ironclad contract.
"I don't think this is going to happen," Clinton said on a National Public Radio interview in June. "I'd be surprised if it did."
About the same time, however, television executives said Clinton had dreams of becoming "the next Oprah Winfrey."
The former president's advisers were split on how seriously Clinton was taking the talk show.
Clinton and NBC were in negotiations for a talk show from May until mid-July, when the deal collapsed. Among the issues cited were what kind of format Clinton's show would take, his hefty salary and the love-him-or-hate-him feelings he engenders in people, which might scare off advertisers.
CBS then picked up the ball and is currently trying to iron out a deal with "The Man from Hope," the paper reported.