A Thoughtful Journalist

Richard Nixon, David Frost

Richard Nixon, David Frost
I remember there was a TV show which came to the United States from England in 1962, before the world changed, called That Was The Week That Was (TW3), which was a political satire news show. Essentially, each Friday night,  the panelists took news events and delivered them with a sense of humor. David Frost, the world renowned and respected journalist who made his bones on this show, passed away on Saturday while on holiday in the Mediterranean. He was 74.Davis Frost was famous for being able to secure the “hard to get” interview, Muhammad Ali, Adam Clayton Powell, Prince Charles, the Beatles, Vladimir Putin. But the most famous and most prestigious interview he ever had was the one with former President Richard Nixon.This interview, known as the Frost/Nixon Interview, was a series of four 90 minute sessions where President Nixon spoke mostly of his accomplishments during the first three but was finally forced, based on their contract, to talk about the Watergate break in, the ensuing coverup and his role in the affair in the fourth. In  this session, Nixon revealed one of his darkest, most sordid values when he said, “that when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Once Frost had established a rapport with Nixon, he appealed to Nixon’s sense of history and remorse, telling the President that unless he acknowledged his abuses, “you’re going to be haunted for the rest of your life.”Finally, Nixon admitted: “I let the American people down.”About five years ago, HBO made a docudrama of the Frost/Nixon interviews, with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the lead roles, which I felt kept to the honesty and credibility of the actual events and characters.

Whether you liked David Frost or not, he was a tough and fair interviewer, who allowed the interviewee an opportunity to make his case, but held the person’s feet to the fire when he felt the guest was dissembling. The Nixon interview was a prime example of this.

Certainly, accolades and tributes from many people, more famous than I, will be reported and discussed over the next days and weeks about David Frost. But I want to say that in spite of his reputation as a jet-setting celebrity, I believe he never forgot that his guest was the subject of his interview, not himself. This trait is sorely missing in today’s media.

So, good-bye, David. The likes of you will never be seen again.

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