When Sarah Palin met LL Cool J (or at least that's what she wants you to think)
Friday 02 April 2010
Her favourite pastimes involve snowmobiles and salmon fishing, rather than hip-hop and urban culture. So when Sarah Palin announced that her debut as a TV presenter would feature an in-depth interview with James Todd Smith, the musician better known as LL Cool J, fans feared that she might be stepping too far out of her folksy comfort zone.
They weren't wrong. Hours after unveiling the line-up for last night's premiere of Ms Palin's Real American Stories, the broadcaster Fox News was forced to axe a segment featuring LL Cool J discussing his life and times, after the musician complained that he'd never met Alaska's most famous patriot, and still less agreed to feature in her programme.
The channel had apparently repackaged an old interview with the rap artist, which was recorded as part of a different project for its internet site two years ago, and decided to air it during a segment of Ms Palin's show entitled "In their own words". By the standards of the TV industry, that sort of practice is hardly uncommon. Neither, as Fox has stressed, did broadcasting the old interview break any legal restrictions placed on its distribution. But Ms Palin, who also has an eight-part documentary about her home state of Alaska in the works, is a polarising figure, and a noisy public controversy duly ensued.
LL Cool J kicked things off by announcing his displeasure in the most immediate way possible: to his 650,000 followers on Twitter. "Fox lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palin's Show," he declared. "WOW."
A spokesman then explained that he'd been particularly upset to see the interview feature on press releases announcing the one-hour show, which Ms Palin has described as a sort of star-spangled version of That's Life, in which "real people from all walks of life share their stories" and help viewers "find out a little more about what it means to be an American".
LL Cool J wished to correct the implication that he was collaborating with Ms Palin, said his spokesman, Rhett Usry, on Wednesday. "Contrary to what was reported, LL Cool J was never scheduled to be a guest... The show had planned to use an interview from 2008 that was being re-purposed without LL's permission."
LL Cool J, who these days is an actor and musician, isn't the only performer whose interviews were co-opted for the show without permission. Country singer Toby Keith was also surprised that an interview he'd recorded last year was to feature.
In a statement, the right-leaning Fox declined to apologise for the affair, but said it would remove LL Cool J's interview from the show. Toby Keith, whose politics are more in line with those of Ms Palin, was due to remain as part of the line-up.
"Real American Stories features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr Smith's interview fits that criteria," said the channel. "However, as it appears that Mr Smith does not want to be associated with a programme that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career."
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