NEW YORK – ABC's new "World News Tonight" anchor Charles Gibson said he didn't mean to imply, in a recent magazine interview, that issues in Africa aren't worth covering.
Gibson, who began Monday as ABC's evening news anchor, was asked in a question-and-answer session that appeared in this week's New York magazine about whether he would report from the field as much as NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams.
Williams traveled to several African countries on May 22 and 23 to report about poverty, AIDS and other issues on "Nightly News."
"That's because of Katrina; you saw him going down there," Gibson said in the New York article. "Now he's in Africa. I don't know why you do that. Why the hell do you go to Africa? It's certainly an interesting choice. We'll do travel, when it warrants."
Gibson, in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, said that while talking to New York reporter Joe Hagan he "perhaps foolishly" was quoting from an e-mail he had written to John Reiss, "Nightly News" executive producer, who is an old friend.
Gibson said he is trying to figure out the "new paradigm" for when evening-news anchors travel out of New York to report stories.
"It was a jesting reference and I probably should never have quoted it," Gibson said. "I'm literally puzzled as to what they were doing. It is certainly worth traveling there. There are certainly problems to explore and issues to do. But I was curious as to why they would send Brian with Bono for a number of days for that program."
He wasn't questioning the need to go to Africa, it was why go to Africa with a rock star, he said.
"It may actually be the perfectly proper thing to do," he said. "It may be that you can get attention to problems that you would not otherwise get on the air if you were traveling with someone who is a magnet for people to watch. I don't know."
Gibson said Hagan took some of the words he said and used them in a quote that was not anywhere near what he intended to say.
Serena Torrey, a spokeswoman for Hagan, said the interview appeared in edited form. Hagan's interview was not taped.
"What Mr. Gibson may have meant to say did not come through in his words to Joe Hagan," Torrey said. "We reviewed the raw transcript of the interview and we stand behind what was printed."
Reiss said he wouldn't discuss his private correspondence with Gibson. He said Bono has achieved enormous credibility on issues of interest to Africa and he helped the broadcast shed some light on them.
Gibson replaced Elizabeth Vargas this week as anchor for "World News Tonight," which has been a distant second in the ratings behind NBC.