IOC Chief Angry at CBS After 'Ambush' Interview
Monday, February 16, 1998; Page C08
Since the Olympics are being televised by CBS, International Olympic Committee chief Juan Antonio Samaranch thought he could look forward to a friendly interview when "60 Minutes" came calling.
Instead, in a rare conflict between the IOC and its single biggest source of revenue, Samaranch said he was blindsided when reporter Bob Simon asked him about his role in the fascist regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and some touchy Olympic questions.
"I was really disappointed because I feel like I was in an ambush," said Samaranch.
Samaranch asked Michael Jordan, chairman of CBS parent company Westinghouse Corp., for a chance to redo the interview in Spanish when the two met Friday, explaining that he considers English his fourth language, after Spanish, Catalan and French. As of yesterday, CBS had not agreed to redo the interview.
The segment originally was set to run yesterday, but was pushed back to next Sunday -- the last day of the Games.
Samaranch said he did not ask for a postponement, and CBS said there was "absolutely no connection whatsoever" between Samaranch's complaints and the delay, although CBS gave no reason for the change.
CBS paid $375 million for the U.S. television rights to the Nagano Olympics, more than one-third of the Games' nearly $1 billion budget.
Samaranch said Simon began the Jan. 29 interview by chatting about Spain and bullfighters.
"But in a moment, he began to ask tough questions," he said. "He began attacking some IOC members. . . . I defended them. And then he started to speak of 50 years ago, 40 years ago."
What upset Samaranch were questions about his role in Franco's fascist regime, revealed in a 1992 book, "Lords of the Rings."
"I said I was with Franco. Also, [along with] 40 million Spaniards," he said, noting the international diplomatic posts and honors that have been accorded him since Franco's government fell. "I am very proud of my past and my present, and what I did for my country."
He also defended the awarding of Olympic honors to former Eastern Bloc dictators Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and Erich Honecker of East Germany, as he has in the past, explaining that both helped weaken or stop political boycotts of the Olympics during the Cold War.
"There were many questions like this, and I think it was not fair," he said, "because I was a businessman thinking it was my obligation to be kind to CBS. That's all."
Hockey's Cold War
U.S. forward Sandra Whyte was seen after Saturday's game speaking heatedly to Canada's top scorer, Danielle Goyette, who learned the night before the Olympic opening ceremony that her father had died.
Canadian Coach Shannon Miller told television reporters that a U.S. player -- she didn't say which one -- had said something about Goyette's 77-year-old father, who had been ill with Alzheimer's disease.
"It was uncalled for. I was standing there. I heard it," Miller said.
Whyte refused to comment after the game, which the United States won, 7-4. Yesterday, she denied saying anything about Goyette's father. She admitted speaking harshly, but wouldn't reveal what she had said.
"I see men on ice pummeling each other all the time, so this makes no sense to me," she said. "What was said was in the heat of battle. It happens all the time on the ice."
In a statement, Goyette said the incident wasn't worth any more attention, as the teams prepare to play for the gold medal on Tuesday.
"It's time to turn the page and focus on the biggest game in the history of women's hockey, the Olympic gold medal game," Goyette said. "It is not worth going back to what was said during and after the game."
"We all watched him grow up, and we saw him practice. Now we're here to support our hometown boy," said neighbor Susan Hoehler.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
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