Couric interview roundly criticized

NEW YORK – After months of whispers that she was too soft for the evening news, now Katie Couric is being criticized for being too tough on John and Elizabeth Edwards during a “60 Minutes” interview.

Can Couric ever win?

It’s a stunning turnabout for Couric, once America’s sweetheart on NBC’s “Today” show and now going through hard times as anchor for a broadcast last in the ratings. Couric’s most high-profile assignment on CBS’ “60 Minutes” suddenly turned into a referendum on her.

In questioning Edwards’ decision to continue his presidential campaign despite the recurrence of his wife’s cancer, Couric pointed out that some people believe that’s a courageous stance, while others think it’s callous, a case of insatiable ambition. What did they think?

“Some people watching this would say, ‘I would put my family first always, and my job second.’ And you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re putting your work first, and your family second,” she said, asking for their response.

Those questions provoked dozens of people to write to the CBS Web site, complaining that Couric was being insensitive. Some even questioned her right to ask them, given that Couric kept doing her “Today” show job, with breaks, when her husband Jay Monahan was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in 1998.

One of the most-viewed clips on YouTube on Tuesday, with more than 126,000 plays, shows a part of the interview with the title, “Katie Couric second-guesses the Edwards family.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said that while he believes in tough questions for presidential candidates, he found Couric’s interview troubling.

“I can’t believe most people watching that with children wouldn’t ask, ‘Why is Katie Couric passing judgment on these people?’” Scarborough said on his show Monday.

Jeff Fager, “60 Minutes” executive producer, said Couric was asking about things that many people were talking about. By agreeing to appear on “60 Minutes” so quickly after the diagnosis, John and Elizabeth Edwards were clearly eager to discuss the issues, he said.

Any other “60 Minutes” correspondent would have handled the interview the same way, he said.

“You’ve got to be good to do that well, and I thought she did it exceptionally well,” Fager said. “It’s what we do here at ‘60 Minutes.’ It’s why after all these years the broadcast does so well. You know you’re going to hear tough questions asked of people, direct questions. I thought she did it in a very tasteful manner.”

The Edwards had no complaints. Elizabeth Edwards called Couric on Monday to thank her for the interview, the campaign said.

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