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THE NATION

Costas Decides He Needs a Fill-In

The announcer, who has been subbing for Larry King, disapproved of Thursday night's focus: a teen's disappearance in Aruba and BTK.

August 20, 2005|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The cable news fixation on Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba has at least one high-profile dissenter.

Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas declined to fill in as host on CNN's "Larry King Live" Thursday night because of the program's focus that night on the missing Alabama teenager and on Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer.

Costas -- who has been serving as an occasional substitute for King since June -- bowed out of the Thursday show after he could not persuade producers to change the program's lineup, which included an interview with Beth Holloway Twitty, the mother of the high school senior who disappeared in Aruba in late May.

"I didn't think the subject matter of Thursday's show was the kind of broadcast that I should be doing," Costas said in a statement, adding that he "respectfully declined to participate."

"There were no hard feelings at all," he added. "It's not a big deal. I'm sure there are countless topics that will be mutually acceptable in the future."

Senior executive producer Wendy Walker said in a statement that Costas "was not comfortable with the subject matter that we were covering on the show" and called it "a mutual decision" for him not to anchor Thursday's program.

Costas' refusal to participate in a show about the Holloway case comes during a summer in which images of the teenager have become a staple of cable news programs, despite a lack of developments in the case. Fox News, in particular, has devoted a substantial amount of time to the story, dispatching "On the Record" host Greta Van Susteren to Aruba for the better part of two months.

Coverage of the Holloway case has yielded strong ratings, but some people have decried the time cable news has spent reporting the disappearance of yet another young white woman, arguing that the media do not put equal resources into Latinos' or blacks' disappearances.

On Thursday's "Larry King Live," substitute anchor Chris Pixley conducted a lengthy live interview with Twitty, who remains in Aruba looking for her daughter. The show came 81 days after Holloway disappeared.

Later in the program, Pixley interviewed Holloway's uncle, a private investigator working on the case, the Holloway family's attorney and a forensic pathologist.

The hourlong show concluded with an interview of a BTK victim's children. Rader was sentenced Thursday in Wichita, Kan.

Costas -- a well-regarded broadcaster who has spent 25 years at NBC Sports and has anchored the network's Olympics coverage -- called it an honor when he was first asked to fill in for veteran CNN host Larry King.

CNN officials said they expected Costas to continue filling in.

"We love having Bob guest-host the show, and since 'Larry King Live' covers an extremely extensive palette of subjects, there will always be shows that he will enjoy hosting," Walker said in a statement.

The news channel experienced another flap earlier in the month when political commentator Robert Novak uttered a profanity on the air and left the set of "Inside Politics" after needling from commentator James Carville.

CNN apologized for Novak's outburst and asked him to take some time off.

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