Katie Couric defends censoring RBG’s comments on taking the knee as an ‘editorial decision’

Former Today show anchor says she put story in book to be transparent and wishes she had used late justice’s full comments

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 19 October 2021 17:18
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Katie Couric defends censoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg comments
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Katie Couric has defended herself against critics regarding several revelations in her new memoir ahead of its publication next week.

In an interview on the Today show, her former broadcast home, Ms Couric said that some of the content of her “radically transparent” book had been “wildly misrepresented” in coverage.

One of the biggest controversies to emerge from Going There was that an interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was edited or censored by Ms Couric ahead of broadcast.

She was criticised for editing out a segment of the interview when the late Justice Ginsburg made a controversial comment regarding the national debate about athletes taking the knee during the national anthem.

The justice said people who do so “show contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life”.

Ms Ginsburg also reportedly called Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who began the social justice protest movement, “dumb and disrespectful”.

Explaining the decision to remove the comments in the memoir, Ms Couric writes that she believed the then 83-year-old justice “was elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the questions”.

Speaking to Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie on Tuesday, Ms Couric said: “I think what people don’t realise is we make editorial decisions like that all the time. I chose to talk about this and put it in the book for a discussion.”

She continued: “I mentioned that it was a conundrum that I asked Justice Ginsburg about Colin Kaepernick and taking a knee and how she felt about that. And I did include the fact that she said it was dumb and disrespectful, it was stupid and arrogant, and quite a bit of what she said. There was another line that I thought was — I wasn’t sure what she meant exactly, and I thought it was subject to interpretation.”

Ms Couric added: “What I wish I had done is asked a follow up to clarify, or just run it and let her clarify it later, but I think the most pertinent and direct response to the question about Colin Kaepernick I included, and that’s why I raised it because maybe I should have done the other sentence, as well.”

Pressing her further on the subject, Ms Guthrie said that in the book Ms Couric said she wanted to “protect” Justice Ginsburg and asked whether her lack of objectivity on the matter undermined journalism at a time when reporters are under attack for bias.

Ms Couric responded: “The more we can be transparent about the decisions we make, and the more we can say that maybe that wasn’t the right one, the better off we are.

“Ultimately, I think I should have included [the comment], but I also think it’s important to look at what I did include. [Justice Ginsburg] had to make a statement afterward saying that her comments were harsh and dismissive,” said Ms Couric. “I still believe I used the most critically important response, but I think you’re right that it might have illuminated even more if I had included the other response.”

The journalist and former anchor of the Today show also addressed her response to the initial allegations of sexual misconduct against former co-host Matt Lauer, saying that it had taken her a long time to process and the two no longer have any relationship.

Ms Couric also dismissed a further allegation that she had failed to mentor or help other female colleagues.

She said she had never deliberately sabotaged a female colleague, as had been alleged, but wishes she had done more to help and mentor others.

“I wish I had extended myself a bit more but when people are outwardly vying for your job it is hard to be generous,” she said.

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