CBS is under fire for promoting an exclusive interview on its Evening News program on Tuesday night with embattled Penn State University assistant football coach Mike McQueary -- and then having Mr. McQueary all but decline to comment.
Criticism erupted after Mr. McQueary -- who reportedly told a Pennsylvania grand jury that in 2002 he saw then-assistant Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky rape a boy believed to be about 10 years old in the showers at the school's athletic facility -- appeared on camera for just 25 seconds of a four-minute segment devoted to the ongoing child-abuse sex scandal at the school. Mr. Sandusky last week was charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse.
Longtime respected sportswriter and FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted: "Wow. CBS just embarrassed all TV networks and TV journalists. Just embarrassing. Surprised Armen Keytenian would be part of that ."
CNBC Emmy award-winning business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted: "The FCC should fine CBS for false advertising in the McQueary 'exclusive.'"
The network hyped the interview prior to its Evening News telecast on Tuesday evening, as well as with a red banner on its website proclaiming "BREAKING: Penn State's Mike McQueary speaks for first time since abuse scandal broke." The network also tweeted out the "exclusive" on its CBSNews account ("Penn State asst. coach Mike McQueary speaks publicly for the first time to @CBSNews") and by reporter Armen Keteyian ("Tonight on Evening News Mike McQueary breaks his silence and opens a window for me into his emotions").
But the actual conversation was less than forthcoming as Mr. Keteyian approached Mr. McQueary on the front porch of his home.
Mr. Keteyian: "Do you have any idea when you think you might be ready to talk?"
Mr. McQueary: "This process has to play out. I just don't have anything else to say."
Mr. Keteyian: "Yeah ... OK ... and then just one last thing, just describe your emotions right now."
Mr. McQueary: "All over the place, just kind of , uh, shaken."
Mr. Keteyian: "Crazy?"
Mr. McQueary: "Crazy."
Mr. Keteyian: "And you said what, like a ..."
Mr. McQueary: "Snowglobe."
Mr. Keteyian: "Like a snowglobe."
Mr. McQueary: "Yes sir."
Mr. Keteyian: "All right."
And that was it.
In the ultra-competitive world of TV news, it is like CBS was trying to match NBC's exclusive Monday-night phone interview with Mr. Sandusky.
Emails to media relations staff at CBS were not immediately returned, but the criticism has continued. Matt Yoder, a staff writer at the sports blog AwfulAnnouncing.com, called it a "classic bait and switch."
New York Times college football writer Pete Thamel tweeted, "So much for that McQueary interview. Bad job by CBS promoting it. That was a no comment."
It was noted by many that ABC News also had a "no comment" from Mr. McQueary and did not promote any such story with the coach.
Three hours after the interview aired, Mr. Keteyian himself tweeted: "I didn't 'hype ' anything, exclusive or otherwise. Honest about what we got -- a glimpse into his "shaken" emotions. What? We don't run it?"
This morning, Mr. Keteyian was on sports-talk radio station 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C, and, according to the Washington Post, continued to defend the interview.
"Criticize or whatever you want, but I can tell you that my job is to stay on the story or in front of the story," he said. "And if ABC or NBC or CNN or ESPN had that moment with Mike McQueary, they would have played it just like we played it."