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Bush Hug Leaves One King Mad at the Other

March 12, 2001|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — CNN's two Kings, John and Larry, are divided over a hug.

White House correspondent John King said he felt "shame and horror" while watching Larry King hug President Bush at a pre-inaugural party where the talk-show host was serving as host.

CNN now says it was a mistake to let Larry King participate in the event, which was telecast live on CNN Jan. 18.

John King made his comments in an internal e-mail sent to his bosses the day of the event. His message was quoted in Brill's Content magazine and its accuracy was confirmed by CNN late last week.

"I watched in shame and horror as Larry King not only was master of ceremonies at a Bush inaugural event but also as we put him live on the air, first introducing some entertainment, then as he shamelessly rushed on stage to hug the president-elect and entertainer Ricky Martin," John King wrote.

People in the newsroom are grumbling, King wrote, and "people around the town I have to work in every day are laughing."

Tom Johnson, CNN News Group chairman, told the magazine that the decision to let Larry King participate in the event was a "bad call." Management had given him the go-ahead because he was supposed to be introducing entertainment acts.

John King, reached in Fargo, N.D., on Thursday, said he didn't want to talk about the incident.

"The memo was meant for the people it was addressed to and I'm less than thrilled that it has been made available to a wider audience," he said.

A representative for Larry King said the talk-show host would not comment.

"It's unfortunate that it played out publicly," CNN spokeswoman Sue Binford said. "Our journalists are very independent-minded."

CNN badly wants to keep John King, whose contract expires in April. A defection of such a high-profile reporter to another network would be considered quite a blow.

Brill's Content suggests John King is unhappy, quoting from another memo he sent to Sid Bedingfield, CNN's general manager, and other executives in January complaining about mishandling of two of his stories on Bush Cabinet appointees.

King, a former Associated Press reporter, said he doesn't know what he will do when his contract expires.

"People who think I have a future destination mapped out are living in the land of fiction," he said.

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