Elizabeth Smart's Ordeal as Entertainment

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, October 24, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Elizabeth Smart (search) has been home safe for seven months. Now it's time to start making some money off her story. Two networks and a book publisher are feuding over who gets to tell it first.

Scott Pierce joins me now from Salt Lake City to talk about Elizabeth as entertainment. He is a TV editor of the Deseret Morning News. Scott, that's today's big question. This is a shocking question, but is Elizabeth Smart being exploited?

SCOTT PIERCE, DESERET MORNING NEWS TV EDITOR: Well, if not, it certainly looks that way. I mean, her parents have, I think, rightfully protected her from the media all these months and said that she would not do interviews, and she hasn't. She hasn't talked to the local media. She hasn't talked to the national media.

And suddenly she is on with Katie Couric (search) and she is on with Oprah, and the timing is just before the publication of the book, and just before the TV movie. So whether intentional or not, it looks like she's being put on the air to sell books and to bring viewers to the movie.

GIBSON: Well, neither of us were born yesterday. I think we can take that as a given, but what about the feuding? I mean, first Today show interview, so they move the movie up, which doesn't help the book because the book is coming out too late.

And then NBC hears Oprah has an interview, and they're mad. They're all mad at each other and they are all trying to rush their stuff on the air because they think they got — they're supposed to have first crack at it.

PIERCE: And the one we're leaving out here is the book publisher, because Doubleday has actually played a big part in this. And whether it's coincidental or not, Katie Couric, who got the interview, her publisher for her children's books happens to be Doubleday.

I mean, CBS actually — this is when they scheduled the movie to begin with. NBC played around and scheduled its Jessica Lynch (search) movie opposite it. Some of the stuff that's come out has been — has been kind of just unbelievable.

The Doubleday people saying that CBS agreed not to publicize their movie until the week of and the Smarts are upset about it. But, I mean, that's — on the surface, that just doesn't make any sense. Networks never operate that way, and I don't believe for a minute they made any such promise.

GIBSON: Do you have any idea, Scott, how much money is involved here?

PIERCE: Well, we've heard six figures for how much the networks paid, CBS paid for the rights to the story.

GIBSON: $100,000 is six figures, and so is $900,000. There's a big difference.

PIERCE: What I have heard is just about right in the middle of that, but I don't know that for sure. That has not been confirmed by anybody.

GIBSON: But the point is — let's back up here a second. Do you have any information that any of these Elizabeth Smart tell-alls actually tell all?

PIERCE: No. I don't. Supposedly, what we've been told by NBC anyway, is that the questions that Elizabeth actually answered were ones that she felt comfortable with. It's — and Oprah it was the same sort of thing. We don't know exactly what they're going to say. I mean, they know at NBC, and they know at Oprah.

But I don't — there's no indication that she's going to talk about in any specifics at all as to exactly what happened. And the movie and the book are both the story of what her parents went through more than what she went through. You know, what her parents did during the months of trying to get her back.

GIBSON: Ed Smart, who you see there on the screen, her father, is he a Svengali or protector in this?

PIERCE: I think that he has done his best to protect her. I think that he's putting the best spin on what's happening right now that he can. I think he has gotten some bad advice.

I mean, my opinion and — which I have expressed in the paper, and heard an awful lot back through phone calls and email that there are people who are taken aback by the fact that Elizabeth is suddenly appearing on the air.

And, frankly, I think that whoever offered them the advice that — that they ought to do that, whether it was so to sell the book or whatever, gave them very bad advice.

GIBSON: Scott Pierce from Salt Lake City. We'll see what happens. Scott, thanks for coming on.

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