You think Warren Littlefield has had a rough term as NBC Entertainment president — sinking into third place, losing Cosby, Cheers, and Letterman? Try wearing the trademark bow tie of NBC News president Michael Gartner. He presided over Today’s Jane Pauley-Deborah Norville imbroglio in 1989, and the screwups just keep on coming.
APRIL 1991: NBC Nightly News comes under fire after Gartner decides to broadcast the name and photo of William Kennedy Smith rape-case plaintiff Patricia Bowman without her consent. Less than a year later, NBC also names Desiree Washington, the victim in the Mike Tyson rape case.
DECEMBER 1991: The family of USS Iowa crew member Clayton Hartwig files a $10 million lawsuit against NBC News for a report based on Navy leaks that portrayed the late sailor as a suicidal homosexual who caused the fatal 1989 explosion aboard the Iowa.
DECEMBER 1991: NBC is the only major network whose news division fails to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor with a prime-time special. Instead, the network reruns the 1978 ABC miniseries Pearl, starring Angie Dickinson.
AUGUST 1992: Embroiled in a contract dispute, Arthur Kent refuses to go to war-torn Croatia and calls his bosses ”s—heads.” He’s later fired.
SEPTEMBER 1992: The critically reviled I Witness Video — produced by NBC News — joins the network’s prime-time lineup. ”I’m proud of the show,” Gartner says of the series, which specializes in sordid footage of violent crimes and disasters.
DECEMBER 1992: Dateline NBC scores its best ratings ever with an exclusive Amy Fisher interview just days before the TV movie Amy Fisher: My Story airs on the network. NBC News says the scheduling was just a coincidence.
JANUARY 1993: NBC Nightly News airs a graphic video of a murder in a Florida cemetery, which the other networks decline.