NEW YORK – NBC's "Today" show (search) was embarrassed Thursday when it aired Katie Couric (search) batting a badminton shuttlecock while its rivals showed the first footage of Saddam Hussein's court appearance.
"We made a mistake," said executive producer Tom Touchet. "In retrospect, I'd do it completely differently."
The first footage of Iraq's former leader since his capture by the U.S. seven months ago came into newsrooms shortly after 8:30 a.m. EDT. ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS' "The Early Show" and the cable news networks all showed the pictures immediately.
NBC (search) stuck with feature stories on a Robert Redford movie and badminton, showing Saddam at the 9 a.m. newscast that opens the third hour of "Today."
Touchet gave no further explanation of the error. "Today" changed the West Coast feed of the broadcast to lead with the Saddam pictures.
Meanwhile, ABC scored a coup when anchor Peter Jennings attended Saddam's court hearing. CBS' Dan Rather reported on the appearance from an outside location.
NBC's Tom Brokaw, who had traveled to Iraq for this week's handover of sovereignty, left Iraq for the United States before the hearing because he was told only a pool reporter would be allowed in, NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust said.
If Brokaw was allowed — like Jennings — "maybe we would have done it differently," she said.
ABC said Jennings was permitted in by Salem Chalabi, director of the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Jennings had specifically asked for permission in an interview with Chalabi earlier this week, a spokeswoman said.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour was also in the court hearing. Like Jennings, she received permission from Chalabi, the network said.
John Burns of The New York Times was the pool reporter, in charge of reporting details from the inside to fellow journalists who are not allowed in.
It was a good week for Jennings and Amanpour: both also attended Monday's surprise ceremony where Iraq reclaimed sovereignty.
Sadiq Rahim, working for the widely circulated Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, was called a day before to attend the trial but was refused entry minutes before the start of the hearing, said Ahmed Abdul-Majeed, the paper's editor in chief.
"It is a surprising situation which pleads a logical interpretation," Abdul-Majeed said.
British television stations gave heavy coverage to Saddam's court appearance. Most used it as their lead story, and some conducted an analysis with linguists and body language experts to examine Saddam's words and demeanor.