CBS lands interview with President Bush for Sept. 11 coverage

Friday, July 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ CBS ''60 Minutes II'' correspondent Scott Pelley landed a big exclusive when President Bush agreed to an interview about the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The interview will be shown during the network's Sept. 11 prime-time coverage, and the White House says it's the only interview the president is giving to mark the anniversary.

Pelley, who will interview Bush in the Oval Office and in Air Force One, aims to produce a video version of a series done by The Washington Post reconstructing the administration's response in the hours and days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked.

``It would have been attractive under any circumstance,'' Pelley said Friday. ``But the fact that this is going to be an exclusive interview with the president ... raises the stakes of this enormously and raises the profile of this broadcast enormously.''

Pelley lobbied White House officials relentlessly over nine months for the access, including speaking to the president about it three times, before getting his answer.

The White House saw it as an opportunity for reflection in a serious broadcast, while spreading access around (since the president spoke earlier this year to NBC's Tom Brokaw and ABC's Claire Shipman).

CBS and ABC are devoting all of their prime-time air Sept. 11 to news coverage of the anniversary. NBC is offering a mixture of news and a Kennedy Center concert that will feature an appearance by first lady Laura Bush.

Pelley said CBS hoped to make its broadcast the definitive video record of that historic day. He'll also have access to other top administration officials to reflect on the events of a year earlier.

``I'd like to think that students ... in the year 2050 will be watching this,'' he said.