''I have done nothing wrong, Barbara. I am innocent,'' So says Martha Stewart, talking to Barbara Walters in an interview airing on Friday's ''20/20.'' During the ABC sitdown, Stewart's first TV talk in the 17 months since her stock-trading scandal broke, the gracious-living guru says she's being held to a sexist double standard, both by prosecutors and by critics rattled by her drive and perfectionism.
''I don't know why people don't like me. I'm not perfect,'' she tells Walters. ''The perception that I am perfect I think got kind of mixed up with the idea that what we're trying to teach is the best possible standard out there. So, if we're going to make a cake, Barbara, my cake can't be a flop. People won't watch my show if I make a flop. I'm not a comedy show. I'm a how-to show.''
Stewart admits she can display a temper when underlings don't ''strive for perfection'' as she does. ''I think that sometimes I may be insensitive, but I have a job to do... and I may sometimes really think that others should work as hard as I work or concentrate as much as I concentrate. But those traits and that behavior, if it were applied to a man, would be admirable. Applied to a woman, you know, she's a 'beetch.'''
Stewart faces federal charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, stemming from her sale of ImClone stock in Dec. 2001, a day before the price plummeted on news that a new cancer drug manufactured by the company (run by Stewart pal Sam Waksal) had been rejected by federal regulators. She is due to stand trial in January, but she has a motion before the court seeking to have the charges against her dismissed. ''What I did was not against the rules,'' the former stockbroker tells Walters.
The domestic diva has continued to produce her syndicated daytime programs, but she hasn't appeared on network TV since quitting her regular gig on CBS' ''The Early Show'' in June 2002, when she told host Jane Clayson, ''I want to focus on my salad,'' and hacked a cabbage rather than answer questions about the then-breaking stock scandal. ''To tell you the truth,'' Stewart tells Walters, ''I have not been able to chop a cabbage since. No more coleslaw for me.''