New Unauthorized Biography Takes Aim at Katie Couric

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 28, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GREGG JARRETT, "BIG STORY" GUEST HOST: The "Big Buzz" surrounding a new unauthorized biography of long time "Today" show co-host and now "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric. The book presents a rather scathing portrait of the woman known around the world as "America's Sweetheart," insinuating that Couric slept her way to the top, that she's a shrewd and calculating businesswoman, ambitious to a fault, who routinely put her career ahead of her marriage to the late attorney Jay Monahan. Critics are calling the book a hatchet job, but fans say it does a good job of unmasking Couric for who she really is.

Joining me now is Edward Klein, author of the new book "Katie: The Real Story." Thanks for being with us.


JARRETT: I almost finished it. You portray her, I think it's fair to say, as domineering, manipulative, calculating, prima donna, and I'll give an example or two in just a moment. But I kept thinking as I read this that if a man had done what she had done we would be applauding him as strong and clever and driven, perfectionist. So, in a way, are you kind of drawing a sexist double standard?

KLEIN: I hope not. I like writing about women because I think women are more interesting than men, more multi-dimensional. But in Katie's case, I don't think it's because she's a woman that I described her in the terms that you just did but because from an early age she had this single vision of achieving a goal and everything was secondary to it.

JARRETT: But we applaud men for being like that.

KLEIN: I don't unapplaud her for this.

JARRETT: All right. Well, it's not complimentary the way you do it. For example, Chapter 17, opening line on page 139: "Katie had never hesitated to make use of men who could advance her career." You repeat the line almost verbatim then on page 153. Look, I mean, my point is, don't men do that and doesn't everybody do that? It's called networking, positioning. It's smart business.

KLEIN: Yeah, well the fact of the matter is that Katie, as a young woman starting off in the business, in fact did sleep with a married guy who was in a position to help her get ahead.

JARRETT: Now there are some who deny that, that he was already divorced at the time.

KLEIN: He wasn't divorced at the time. I spoke to his wife at the time. I spoke to his colleagues at the time. You know, he had married this woman just about a month before Katie moved down to Atlanta. And, in fact, they were only married for a month when she did and he was already having an affair with her before he married this woman.

JARRETT: A director who helped put together her audition tape and helped her get a job advanced her career.

KLEIN: That's right. And I'm not saying that this is something that she should be burned at the stake for.

JARRETT: Right. Probably the most scathing line, page 112, when her husband Jay Monahan — I knew him pretty well — died of colon cancer in January of 1998. A wonderful guy.

KLEIN: Very popular guy.

JARRETT: He was. People in the office immediately started betting on how long it would take Katie to capitalize on Jay's death, said an NBC reporter. You don't name his name. Some said 72 hours, others just 24 hours. Shouldn't you have almost in the next breath or at least nearby said: You know, the truth is Katie didn't launch her public campaign against colon cancer until two years later. And by the way, it has probably saved a lot of lives.

KLEIN: I did say that it saved a lot of lives.

JARRETT: Not right there.

KLEIN: Well not at that moment, but in the book I do say that. In fact, she has to be applauded for doing that. But you know Liz Smith, the gossip columnist, and a lot of other people have pointed out that Katie's marriage to Jay was on the rocks just before he died. That she did not show up at the hospital while he was ill.

JARRETT: Do you think she tried to capitalize on his death?

KLEIN: I do indeed.

JARRETT: Really?

KLEIN: Yes. I wouldn't have written that.

JARRETT: But maybe in a good way. Let's make some good out of a horrible tragedy.

KLEIN: I think she was guilty about the way she and Jay had ended their relationship.

JARRETT: All right. I had so many more questions, too. By the way, I just want to say there's nothing wrong with dating somebody 17 years your junior.

KLEIN: No, look at Walter Cronkite. He's dating somebody who's 24 years his junior right now.

JARRETT: You seem to suggest there is something wrong with that. But Ed Klein, it's quite a book, "Katie: The Real Story." Thanks very much.

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