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Katie Couric's Bad Air Day
July 6, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

To paraphrase a quip of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, if Edward R. Murrow were alive today he'd be turning over in his grave.

What brings the twirling words to mind you ask? Well, it seems that on July 1, 2004, NBC's reigning A.M. princess Katie Couric was bringing in the Independence Day weekend with a couple of members of the U.S. Badminton Team. She talked to the two about the game and then took up a racquet and played for a spell with co-anchor Matt Lauer and sidekick Al Roker.

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Katie asked some birdie batting questions like, "What took the Olympics so long to recognize badminton?" and "How did the Olympic sport differ from just a casual game of badminton?" to which she tacked on the comment, "I mean, it's serious business, obviously."

Meanwhile, Couric's competitors, Peter Jennings of ABC News and Christiane Amanpour of CNN, had managed to get inside the courtroom of a Baghdad tribunal, where Iraq's former dictator was making his first appearance since his capture seven months prior.

The only other Western journalist present was New York Times' John Burns, who reported that Saddam had said, "Everyone knows that this is a theatrical comedy by Bush, the criminal, in an attempt to win the election." Speculation was that the dictator may have hired Michael Moore to pen his material.

While Couric and friends were busy frolicking, their ratings rivals were showing the first images of Hussein on the witness stand.

With the exception of NBC, all major broadcast and cable news networks had interrupted their regularly scheduled programming and switched over to Saddam coverage. NBC News did eventually insert the footage into its West Coast feed.

Regarding the tribunal coverage, Couric explained that she would have made a different decision. "Clearly, I would have advised otherwise. We don't like to be remiss in covering breaking news," Couric told Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News.

She had to dismiss rumors that, as one source had described, she had "given a colonoscopy" to executive producer Tom Touche.

"That's a good line, but it's not true," Couric maintained, assuring Grove that "If I had been upset or given anyone a colonoscopy, I would tell you."

During the badminton segment, Lauer had made an offhand comment on the quality of the "Today" team's game, saying, "Oh, that was bad, that was bad."

Roker agreed and added a qualifier to the mix with the words "our bad."

Funny, but as she appeared to give a summary of the whole NBC News miscue, Katie used the same two words. She acknowledged, "Our bad."

I have a feeling the viewing public could say it in a single word.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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