I'm no coward, says sacked Scud stud

WEARING a bomber pilot-style leather jacket for his on-camera 'stand-ups', to accentuate his rugged good looks, Arthur Kent, NBC television's correspondent during the Gulf war, became known to millions of viewers as 'the Scud stud'.

From the middle of a war zone, he set hearts throbbing across America as he calmly described seeing Scud missiles from Iraq being shot out of the sky by batteries of Patriot missiles. Everyone thought he was so brave and good-looking they wanted to take him home and cuddle him.

On Friday, however, the brash young foreign correspondent was sacked by his network for refusing to go to any more war zones and then turning down an assignment in Zagreb. To cap it all, Kent incensed NBC by mounting a one-man protest picket outside New York's Rockefeller Centre last week.

The Scud stud's problems began when he wrote to NBC saying that he would not go to war zones any more. He wanted to be the chief European correspondent instead, the eminence grise of the network, like ABC's Pierre Salinger. Then when the network assigned him to Zagreb, which it said was stable, the correspondent refused, saying he would eventually have been asked to continue to Sarajevo. More than 30 journalists have been killed in the Yugoslav conflict so far, the most recent being the American ABC producer David Kaplan, who was shot by a sniper on the way to Sarajevo city centre from the airport.

Kent drew the ire of NBC when he made his complaint public last Monday by faxing a letter to friends in the media outlining his side of the dispute. He accused his employers of impugning him as 'a coward', hardly the kind of reputation a foreign correspondent wants.

Kent, who has been NBC's Rome bureau chief since 1986, was also barred from appearing on the Tonight Show, where he was booked to chat with Jay Leno, who has taken over from Johnny Carson.

'It's like waking up in 1984,' he said after he was ordered off the show.

The feud followed a contract dispute over the types of story Kent would have been expected to file from the former Yugoslavia. The final straw came when the correspondent, who is paid more than dollars 150,000 a year, began handing out photocopied leaflets to the public complaining of 'suffering the indignity of being slandered as a coward and a shirker'.

'I'm trying to clear my name,' he said of his leafleting antics. 'This is not over money, it's over dignity, respect and journalistic integrity.'

The network labelled his one-man picket 'bizarre', and issued a statement portraying him as a troublesome employee. 'His refusal to go to Zagreb was the culmination of a progression of problems . . . including assignments and editorial direction, with Arthur often refusing even to communicate with NBC personnel.'

In a statement on Friday, NBC said: 'It has become apparent that we are unable to reach an amicable resolution of our differences with Arthur Kent.'

(Photograph omitted)