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Under the headline "never dull": On Friday night about 9 p.m. ET, I was in the FOX D.C. bureau's green room getting ready for our live show (just an hour away) when I received a call that John Mark Karr and his lawyer wanted to talk to me... and talk to me immediately! You remember John Mark Karr — he is the man who was picked up in Thailand in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, flown to Boulder, Colorado, not charged, flown to California to answer misdemeanor charges from five years ago and those charges were then dropped and he was released.
I dutifully made the call — while standing in the makeup room — to Karr's lawyer's cell phone only to learn that he was in Vegas with his client (on Saturday I learned — and it was a long story — why they were in Vegas. But the bottom line is that he was flying from New York west and wanted to avoid California… so he got a ticket only so far as Vegas.)
They were calling me because, per the lawyer, they wanted to do an interview, wanted to do it with me and wanted to do it right then. They could not wait. They were not calling to do it Saturday, Sunday or Monday — but rather right then! Yes, this was odd — I have been in this business more than 15 years and this was a first. But, this business seems like a collection of firsts.
Our show was planned for the evening and I was somewhat confused at that point why I was called, why then and why an interview needed to be done right away. I said I would try and set up a taped interview at 11 p.m. ET when I finished our live show. They were agreeable to that and were grateful. I then passed the task of setting it up to a D.C. producer since I was consumed with getting our live show on the air. The task included getting a studio in Vegas where we could do the interview.
My conversation with them was very brief, only because I had to do our show and still had some things to do before 10 p.m. His lawyer was the one who answered the phone when I called as directed, but at some point said, "John wants to talk to you" and John got on the phone. Although I had agreed to try and set something up for 90 minutes later, John wanted to continue to — in my view — sell me on interviewing him. Usually we are trying to persuade the high profile guest and not the other way around. That should have been a bit of red flag to me that this was going to be an unusual interview, but it wasn't since I had my attention on our live show. I needed to get off the phone and work on our show. The clock was ticking....
Since mid-August, I had not done much to pursue an interview with John Mark Karr. I wanted the interview, but was not optimistic I would get it. I like to interview people in the news (and wanted to interview Karr), but from time to time I am practical and if I don't think I will get the interview, I move on. I made a few calls early on but I did not get much traction. I knew that he was being heavily pursued by the broadcast networks.
Some other story may have also distracted me in the early days after his release and may have contributed to my less than enthusiastic pursuit of the interview. Don't get me wrong — I wanted it but just did not go full speed ahead in pursuing. I also knew that FNC did have bookers for other FNC shows trying to get the interview.
So it was a huge surprise on Friday night when I got the call to call Karr and his lawyer right away. It was totally out of the blue and it was a surprise that it was so late on a Friday night and the biggest part of the surprise was that the lawyer and client wanted the interview done immediately. They said they could not wait.
As I was getting ready for our live show, in the back of my mind, I wondered whether we could really pull off this interview on such late notice. I knew my producers would have to jump through hoops to arrange this and I also knew they, too, were busy getting ready for and doing our 10 p.m. show.
I would have preferred some time to do the Karr interview other than right after our live show so that it could be done with more reflection and re-study of the facts. In cable news one covers so many stories that it is easy to forget specific times and dates... although I had a fairly good grasp of this one. I had also covered the JonBenet Ramsey murder back in 1996. Karr said it had to be done ASAP.
So, I then walked to our set, did our live show, said good bye at the end of the show at 11 p.m. and immediately asked my producer in NYC if the interview were all set up with John Mark Karr and his lawyer. I was told yes... and then they both suddenly turned up in my monitor on our camera. I said hello to both of them, counted myself down and began the interview. That's when the interview began! What an unusual interview....
I don't know if we will air the complete interview or not. Some of the interview is repetitive — some just plain odd. I also don't know when we will air it in the show tonight. I need to talk to my producers today, but this was one of those interviews where I walked off the set and thought to myself: What was that? Why did John Mark Karr show up for this? Why did he and his lawyer call me and want to do an interview? If you tune in tonight you will understand why I asked myself those questions.
John Mark Karr is a story that captivated many — although I suspect now many deny it. His saga was on the front page (or in a position of prominence) of major newspapers — New York Times, USA Today, L.A. Times, Washington Post, Associated Press — so even the print media (apparently) thought it was newsworthy. I think we can all agree that it turned out bizarre.
I have mixed feelings about how to air this interview and how much. On the one hand, it was bizarre or at least felt that way to me as I was doing it. But on the other hand, it truly gives you a real view of how we do our work and what we confront from time to time. This interview seems, for lack of better description, like reality news — meaning this is exactly how we can sometimes collect it, this is how people are or can be. It is raw, not polished and yes, never dull. News is not always polished and our interviews are sometimes real discussions, not simply a rote question and answer. Sometimes the news is just watching how people are, how they react in certain instances and seeing the problems they create (and continue to create) for themselves.
As it turned out, and what I later realized, the lawyer and John Mark Karr wanted to get on the air with us and tell the world what Karr says happened when John Mark Karr was interviewed by a television psychiatrist. In short, he claims — emphasis on he claims — that he was hoodwinked by this psychiatrist: that the psychiatrist and his crew duped him with alcohol and then took him in a room, not a studio, and said they were just testing how he looked on camera, etc., and let the cameras roll.
Karr and his lawyer say that broadcast TV is going to show this "duped" interview in full this week and both are seeking to stop it. I have no idea what happened for sure and I would welcome the chance to interview the psychiatrist about it. Apparently the television psychiatrist has been teasing this interview by showing clips on one of the network morning shows and now John Mark Karr and his lawyer were furious. Hence the call I got and my short-sighted impression in that phone call was that John Karr wanted to do an interview minus alcohol fast and before the full interview with the psychiatrist airs. I could understand that strategy and was happy — at least at 9 p.m. — to get the first interview minus alcohol (assuming there was alcohol in the other interview... and that has yet to be proven.)
The interview with me did not go well: tune in tonight and you will see — and yes, this is what can happen in cable news.
More behind the scenes: Sunday afternoon, as news came out of Hawaii of the earthquake, we made tentative plans for me to go. We continued to watch the story closely and decided to wait 24 hours before a decision is made. It looks more and more like I will not go and we will rely on our very able correspondents who are in the area.
Now for some e-mails:
E-mail No. 1 — This next e-mail is an "inside joke" — you have to have read Friday's GretaWire:
Why does it always have to be raining "cats and dogs" (quoting your blog). Why not cows and pigs, or chickens and turkeys, or snakes and worms, or ticks and head lice? Why "cats and dogs?" Now the real question is, have you ever really seen this event occur? If yes, then I'm switching to CBS to watch some shoulders and legs.
E-mail No. 2
Hi there, Greta:
Shame, shame... most of us from "da nord voods of Viskoncin" watching your show know that Mr. Bradley was originally from your home town. BUT, we also know his family was raised in that great Nord Viskoncin town of Antigo, also sometimes referred to as, "Stop" Wis.
As a young teenager, during a visit with relatives in the "big city" of Antigo, my aunt took me downtown to Mr. Bradley's pharmacy. I had the privilege of meeting him and having him autograph the Iwo Jima stamp included in my then fledgling stamp collection.
Anyhow, love your show and very seldom miss it...
(17 miles north of Rhinelander and really in "da voods")
ANSWER: OK, I confess I left Antigo out of the interview. John Bradley was born in Appleton (my home town), raised there, but after the war moved to Antigo.
E-mail No. 3
There is such a big "to do" about Robin Williams' new movie showcasing a comedian as president and previously, the question "can a woman (white I'm sure) be elected president." My question and why is everyone afraid to ask, "Can a black candidate be elected to the presidency?"
Are you afraid?
Gene E. Burgess
E-mail No. 4 — This next e-mail relates to Friday's GretaWire:
My husband assures me that it is not "the shoulders" he is looking at. I vote for "Creep."
E-mail No. 5
I'd be lying if I tried to pretend I don't notice how women journalists on TV look, although they'd better be intelligent and capable for me to keep watching. Klein was foolish to bring up the subject, but he multiplied the stupidity by commenting on Katie Couric's shoulders and legs. He's lucky he didn't say something even cruder, like "nice rack". He's a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. And if he ever is sued, I'll be those words pop up in the trial.
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Greta Van Susteren joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 2002 as the host of the prime-time news and interview program, "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" (7-8 p.m. ET/PT Mondays through Fridays), which launched in February 2002. "On the Record" is the highest rated cable news program in the 10 p.m. timeslot.