NEW YORK (AP) - August 27, 2010
It was the sixth time that Johnston, the father of the former Alaska governor's grandson, has appeared on the show over the past two years. He spoke with correspondent Betty Nguyen about his second broken engagement with Palin's daughter Bristol and plans to run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and film a reality TV show.
The morning show's interest in Johnston amounts to an "obsession," according to a conservative media critic, who said he wondered whether CBS was out to embarrass Palin and her family.
"The Early Show," as the third-rated morning show behind NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America," can use the juice of a newsmaking interview. Johnston's words carried beyond CBS, with excerpts of his interview included in a story by The Associated Press among other news outlets.
In 2009, Maggie Rodriguez interviewed Johnston for segments that aired April 8 and Oct. 28 and 29. The show also did stories on interviews Johnston had given to Vanity Fair and the syndicated show "The Insider." Earlier this month, "The Early Show" reported on Johnston's reality show plans. In July, the show's Erica Hill said in an on-air discussion that Johnston's apology to Palin for telling lies about her had been "underreported."
It was that apology that Johnston essentially recanted in Friday's interview, saying he wished he hadn't said it because he "never lied about anything."
Rich Noyes, research director at the Media Research Center, said on Friday that CBS has "shown a particular fetish for publicizing Johnston's antics, especially his slams of Sarah Palin."
"My guess is if he was saying good things about the Palins, their interest would have died down a lot earlier," he said.
Palin, a Republican, has described CBS evening news anchor Katie Couric as "badgering" and biased. A 2008 presidential campaign interview with Couric was widely regarded as disastrous for Palin, who was running with Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, and left the impression of an ill-informed candidate unsuited for the job.
The CBS show's executive producer, David Friedman, wasn't available for comment Friday, spokeswoman Kelli Raftery said. The network had no comment on the Johnston booking, she said.
At least one of the other morning shows declined an offer to book a Johnston interview this past week.
Longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman noted that there was enough interest in Johnston, though, that he had a reality show in the works.
"People tune in to watch him," he said. "People don't want to tune in to the morning shows to watch about housing. Having Levi Johnston is more fun than having on the head of the Federal Reserve."