By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 1, 2006
ABC News suspended the executive producer of the weekend edition of "Good Morning America" yesterday over a pair of leaked e-mails in which he used inflammatory language to slam President Bush and Madeleine Albright.
John Green, whose unpaid suspension will last one month, apologized to the White House in a call to communications director Nicolle Wallace, while two ABC executives called the former secretary of state to apologize.
"No one is sorrier than John for the embarrassment that these albeit private e-mails caused to his colleagues and to the people who were the subjects of those comments," said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. "John would be the first to say this has been a real lesson to him. John is abjectly sorry for all the comments that have come to light, and that's appropriate."
In one of the e-mails, written during the first presidential debate in 2004 and leaked to the Drudge Report, Green wrote to a colleague on his BlackBerry: "Are you watching this? Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."
Green, who was not made available for comment yesterday, wrote his colleagues after that leak to say "how much I regret the embarrassment that this story causes ABC. It was an inappropriate thing to say, and I'm deeply sorry."
Wallace said yesterday that she "appreciated the call and the apology."
The second leaked e-mail surfaced Thursday on the New York Post's gossipy Page Six. In that note, Green wrote that Albright should not be booked on the show because "Albright has Jew shame."
Albright, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, acknowledged her Jewish heritage in 1997 after it was discovered by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs in the course of researching a book.
Green wrote in that note that "she hates us anyway because she says we promised her five minutes and only gave her two . . . I do not like her." An ABC insider said Green was reacting to a heated dispute between Albright and a network producer.
The Albright Group, a global strategy firm founded by the former Clinton cabinet member, took the diplomatic route. "Secretary Albright has always had an excellent relationship with 'GMA' and with ABC and she still does," her office said in a statement. "In fact, she looks forward to appearing on 'GMA' on May 2 in connection with the release of her book on U.S. foreign policy and the importance of religious tolerance."
Both e-mails were disclosed at a time when public distrust of news organizations and their ability to be fair are at or near an all-time high.
The suspension was ordered by Kerry Marash, senior vice president for editorial standards, and approved by ABC News President David Westin.
Green, who got his job in 2004 as the Saturday and Sunday editions of the morning show were being launched, has worked for ABC for 12 years. He is highly regarded by many of his colleagues, and the show is in second place on Saturdays, trailing NBC's "Weekend Today," but is in third place on Sundays, when "CBS Sunday Morning" is No. 1.
It is widely believed at ABC News that the e-mails were leaked by a former employee who has a vendetta against Green.
"Everyone who works at ABC News is unhappy with the situation because it reflects on all of us," Schneider said. But, he said, "I don't think the e-mails tell us anything about the show John Green was putting on the air every Saturday and Sunday, which is fair and balanced and down the middle."