Journalist Connie Chung did not hold back when she was asked recently about her high-profile career working alongside Dan Rather, Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer.
Speaking to Andrew Goldman on The Originals podcast, released on Thursday, Chung first commented on her days at CBS, where she co-anchored CBS Evening News with Rather from 1993 to 1995.
“If I turned my back, I felt like I might be in a scene of Psycho, in the shower,” Chung said.
When asked point-blank about the “most despicable man in news,” she was quick to say, “I’d rather not say.” Twice.
When Chung joined the broadcast, she was only the second woman to co-anchor a national nightly news broadcast. She was thrilled, because she had always admired CBS News alum Walter Cronkite, of whom she spoke highly. But her time at the network wasn’t all she’d hoped, and she said she often found herself being assigned to sensational stories, such as the infamous O.J. Simpson case.
“I think when the O.J. Simpson story came up, and they said, ‘You must go,’ I think Dan Rather was going to Haiti for an interview with the leader,” Chung said. “I wanted to go to Haiti to do an interview… I thought it would be a great one-two punch that we were both doing interviews regarding an international incident. And that’s when, I’m pretty sure, they insisted that I do an O.J. interview. I really do regret doing so many tabloid stories under duress, frankly.”
Chung recalled being assigned the Tonya Harding story, in which the Olympic ice skater was accused of plotting a physical assault on her opponent, Nancy Kerrigan, just before the 1994 Olympics. Other CBS journalists refused to do it.
“When they wanted me to cover the Tonya Harding [story], it was because CBS was carrying the Olympics,” Chung said, “and it was purely because they wanted to build up the story, so they built up this good girl-bad girl fairy tale.”
Chung left from CBS in 1995, after she was removed from the flagship news program, and it got ugly between her and Rather, as they went back in forth in the press about why.
Two years later, Chung moved to ABC, where she was one of several big-name female journalists, alongside both Sawyer and Walters. She had rejoiced at the idea of working with women, but said that was “naive and stupid.”
“I was always playing a game of Whack-a-Mole. I’d pop my head out and one of them would have a hammer and go, ‘Whack!’ and put me down in my little hole,” Chung said of the experience.
(A rep for Walters told TMZ, “Barbara paved the way for every female journalist that came after her. She has been a tremendous supporter for all women.”)
Chung said she was told which stories she had to stay away from, and that she landed one of her biggest — the first interview with U.S. Rep. Gary Condit after the disappearance of Chandra Levy — after Condit’s team insisted they would only talk to her.
The 74-year-old Chung opened up, too, about her cameo in HBO’s much buzzed about series The Undoing. The veteran broadcaster worked on the set filming a scene in which Hugh Grant’s character, a murder suspect, is trying to rehab his image with a high-profile interview, but her voice is most prominent in the final product.
Chung suspects it’s that she left a bad impression on the Bridget Jones’s Diary star or director Susanne Bier. She thinks the problem was that she gave Grant tips on how to gussy up for the faux interview, including how to sit on his jacket, as the anchor does in the movie Broadcast News. (Chung had met Grant before, when she interviewed him for his 1994 movie Four Weddings and Funeral, so she asked him if he remembered her. He said, “No.”) Or maybe it was that she asked and received permission to rewrite the lines that she’d been given, because the ones written by TV veteran David E. Kelley weren’t questions she would have asked a real interview subject. Whatever the reason, Chung was “underwhelmed” when she watched the show, but it had nothing to do with her small role: “It had such great buildup, and then it fell off a cliff and was a nothing ending.”
Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to reps for Grant, Rather, Walters, Sawyer, CBS News and ABC News for comment.
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