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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

All Broadcast News That's Fit to Print

May 23, 1997|LARRY STEWART

Sports broadcasting may be a crazy business, but this is ridiculous.

First, a tabloid, the Globe, late last week came out with 10 black-and-white pictures taken from a videotape of ABC's Frank Gifford, 66, in an apparent tryst with a 46-year-old former flight attendant in a $400-a-night suite at New York's Regency Hotel on April 30 and May 1.

Then on Tuesday came the indictment of NBC's Marv Albert, 53, on charges that he assaulted a 41-year-old woman and forced her to commit sex acts, including sodomy, after inviting her to his Ritz Carlton Hotel room in Arlington, Va., for a late-night encounter Feb. 11. Earlier that night, he had called a New

York Knick-Washington Bullet game for the Madison Square Garden network.

The sodomy charge, a felony in Virginia, carries a maximum sentence of five years to life.

Because the Albert incident involves a possible crime, it would seem to be the more serious of the two. But NBC said Thursday that because Albert was never afforded the opportunity to defend himself on the charges to police and prosecutors, he will be allowed to continue to work the Chicago-Miami NBA playoff series. Also, in a televised news conference Thursday, Albert vehemently denied all charges.

"In light of the substance and source of the allegations that have surfaced in the last 48 hours, I would like to reassert my innocence and reiterate that all the charges against me are false and will be proven false in a court of law," a brief statement read by Albert said.

Meanwhile, ABC is standing behind Gifford, saying the incident will not affect his job.

"It's a non-issue," ABC spokesman Mark Mandel said. "It's a personal matter."

Still, the Gifford incident has provided plenty of fodder for comedians and radio talk-show hosts, and his wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, also has become a target.

Responsible journalists are treading cautiously in dealing with both stories.

Entrapment may be involved in the Gifford incident; Albert has been charged, not convicted.

But that didn't keep XTRA 1150's Vic "the Brick" Jacobs from doing a tasteless skit regarding the Albert case Wednesday. Many in sports-talk radio seem to always be striving for a new low.

THE GIFFORD INCIDENT

The Washington Post reported that the Globe paid former flight attendant Suzen Johnson at least $75,000 to entice Gifford to her Manhattan hotel suite, and that the tabloid orchestrated the liaison between the former USC and New York Giant football star and a woman he had not previously been intimate with.

A detective told the New York Daily News that the Globe tried to hire him to install a camera in a hotel room. The detective said a Globe editor told him, "We have a client, a woman, who is going to call us. She knows it's going to be a setup. She's bringing a big star; his wife is also a star."

The detective said he told the Globe he wouldn't do it, that the publication would need to find someone "with a different work ethic."

Steve Coz, editor of the National Enquirer, told the Post, "There's a difference between reporting the news and creating the news. It's one thing to catch a celebrity cheating and another to induce or entrap them. . . .

"I'm in the tabloid industry, and this is way over the top."

The New York Daily News reported that Johnson and her husband, Harold Johnson, 69, live in a brick duplex in a run-down neighborhood in Delray, Fla., and that they had not been seen at their home in weeks. While a News reporter waited at the house, a bill collector from a local cable TV company showed up and disconnected the cable service.

Globe editor Tony Frost told the Daily News that Gifford was not entrapped, that he was in the suite of his own will. "It is abundantly clear from their conversation that she did not entice him," Frost said.

Frost would not confirm that Johnson was paid $75,000, but he did say the Globe pays for "accurate information." He said the story "was 100% solid."

Gifford, who canceled an appearance at last Saturday's USC Hall of Fame banquet, made a network appearance at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Monday but left early. Friends say he'd like to "fight back" but for now is declining all interview requests.

Although the Gifford incident has been a hot topic in some circles the past week, it, like the recent Eddie Murphy scandal, probably will soon fade from public consciousness.

THE ALBERT INCIDENT

Albert, a father of four, was divorced from his first wife five years ago. He is engaged to a free-lance television producer. He is due to appear in court in Arlington on Tuesday. The unidentified woman, a hotel desk clerk and the mother of two teenagers, lives in Vienna, Va. NBC's Washington affiliate reported Wednesday that she faces a charge that she threatened to kill her former boyfriend a month after the alleged Albert incident.

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