TV Article

Gartner's Greatest Gaffes

The NBC News president has presided over a flurry of broadcast screwups since 1991

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.

Originally posted Feb 26, 1993 Published in issue #159 Feb 26, 1993 Order article reprints
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