Tuned In

Couric and Edwards: The Griller Gets Grilled

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God help me, I actually find myself defending Katie Couric for the second time in a week. Couric’s 60 Minutes interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards (see it here, read the transcript here) has been criticized–at Swampland, among other places–as an insensitive hit job.

Watching the entire interview (rather than the excerpts that Drudge has been flogging), it seems to me Couric was simply bluntly asking natural questions of a national candidate in an unusual situation. If I have one criticism of Couric’s line of questioning, it was that she focused too much on the personal effects of the decision to stay in the race on their family, rather than the practical question of whether and how the illness might, or might not, affect Edwards as President. But contra Couric’s critics, I think those questions, if anything, helped the Edwardses, by allowing them to make the sympathetic argument that going on with their work did not mean taking anything away from their family.

(Some of Couric’s critics have noted, by the way, that she didn’t quit her job when her own husband died of cancer. True enough, although [1] she wasn’t elected Today show host and [2] whether a question is hypocritical doesn’t make it any less relevant or legitimate.)

Then there’s the argument that Couric couched criticisms of the Edwards’ decision in the “Some say that…” format, which Robert Greenwald famously spotlighted in Outfoxed, his critique of Fox News. The fact is, though, some people do say it–I don’t see the problem with mentioning actual criticisms that other people have made. (And to be fair, Couric also couched praise for the Edwardses in the same “Some say…” formulation.)

More important, I wonder: if you didn’t like the way Couric handled the interview, how should she have done it? I don’t mean that in some argumentative, I’d-like-to-see-you-do-it-better way–it’s a serious question. Would it be better for her (and the rest of the press) not to interview the Edwardses on the subject at all? (I’m not sure the Edwardses would want that. As Elizabeth Edwards said to Couric, the interview was a chance to clear up misconceptions and show herself living with cancer, rather than dying from it.) Was the problem the substance of Couric’s questions, the tone, the questions she omitted or the fact that she was asking them at all?

If you have a second to comment, I’d like to know what some say about it.