November 30, 1997
I'm Sorry, Bobby Shriver

Well, the tabloid television world has its pitfalls, and I pitfell in to one of them this week.

I screwed a Kennedy.

Thatís not exactly true, of course, but I do feel as though I somehow let down a man who trusted in me (and the television show I work for) to do better.

A little background:

Last week, Caroline Kennedy turned 40. This was seen as a major news event by the powers that be at "Extra," the show where Iím a freelance producer. Caroline wasnít doing any interviews about her private birthday party, but gossip columns reported that Julie Andrews was there, along with JFK Jr. and Ted Kennedy among other family members.

"Extra" contacted Bobby Shriver (or Bobby contacted us; it was never clear to me) and asked about the party. Bobby is the executive producer of a very worthwhile series of record albums called "A Very Special Christmas," all featuring big shot superstars doing seasonal music, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics. Bobby was very interested in promoting this yearís album, "A Very Special Christmas 3." Bobby was not at all interested in talking about Carolineís birthday party. But, the powers that be at "Extra" realized this was as close to the Kennedyís as we were going to get. (Bobby is the son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Carolineís first cousin.) So we agreed to do a story (which we probably would have anyway) on the charity album, if Bobby wouldnít mind answering a few questions about Carolineís birthday party.

Bobby was clearly unhappy with this, but eager to push the album, so he agreed.

"Extraís" Phil Shuman did the interview (I was there to assist) and it was very tasteful. Ten minutes about the album, a question about the Kennedy - Shriver tradition of service to community, then, "Hey, Caroline had a birthday recently. Can you tell us about the party?" Bobby was much quieter during this segment of the interview, giving supportive and nice answers "Sheís concentrated on family," he said, and when asked why JFK Jr. seemed to get all the press, said "you guys in the media decided that he (JFK Jr.) sells magazines and TV shows." Fine answers, nothing really controversial, all supportive of his cousin, and nothing that really blew the roof off the joint.

Well, seems Bobby had a change of heart. See, Bobbyís "people" called up the next day and said, "Listen, Bobby really shouldnít have said anything about Caroline. Donít use that stuff, okay?"

No, thatís not okay. The interview was given. The terms were known. If he didnít want to talk about Caroline, he should have smiled and said, "no comment" when we asked about her. He didnít do that, so we used his (trust me) harmless, innocuous comments in our piece about Carolineís birthday.

Apparently, that didnít go over too well with the Kennedy camp. Thereís a message on my machine now from Phil, the reporter, saying the Kennedy/Shriverís are very, very upset.

Is this really my problem? To me, this is an "intra-Kennedy" squabble. I mean, you canít "take back" an on-the-record, camera-rolling, you-know-what-the-questions-are-going-to-be-about interview. You just canít! Itís too late.

Of course, the problem wasnít so much with my story, which I thought was very fair. It was the promotion that was a bit misleading, and understandably upsetting. (It was all along the lines of "Breaking the Kennedy Code of silence Ė only "Extra" has the inside story from Carolineís birthday party Ö" stuff like that.)

So, here, to all the world, let me say, "Iím sorry, Bobby Shriver." I wish it worked in the tabloid world so that you could "take back" comments you later regretted, but believe me, you said nothing bad, and nothing that was taken out of context. All things considered, I thought the whole piece on Caroline was fine, and youíll still get your promotion for the album.

And to all of you, go out and buy a copy of the manís album. Youíll be supporting a good cause, and helping to assuage this tabloid producerís guilt, too.

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Colin Campbell - jenolen@earthlink.net
Last updated November 30, 1997