Gonzales Interview Touches Off Web Debate

Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales' recent visit to Tell Me More sparked a spirited debate among listeners online, including some who say the program was too soft on Gonzales. Also, hear reaction to a recent interview given by President Barack Obama to a foreign media outlet.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for BackTalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the Tell Me More blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me, as always. Hey, Lee. What's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. We've got a lot to cover this week, and a number of our recent guests have folks talking, especially this one.

(Soundbite of NPR's Tell Me More, January 26, 2009)

Former Attorney General ALBERTO GONZALES (George W. Bush Administration): You have to make controversial, tough, hard decisions in these kinds of positions, and you're going to make mistakes. If you think that people don't make mistakes at this level, then you just have no understanding of the responsibilities that exist with this kind of job.

HILL: That's former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Michel, you spoke with him earlier this week about his rocky tenure, which ended dramatically with his resignation in September of 2007.

MARTIN: Lee, it was one of the very few interviews that Mr. Gonzales has given since he left office. I counted four, this being the fourth, only the second broadcast interview. So, our conversation got a lot of attention. In fact, the New York Times published an editorial based on his statements in the interview. You can find a link to the Times piece on our blog.

HILL: And judging by the Web traffic on this story, Gonzales is still a lightning rod for criticism. But Josh thinks Tell Me More handled the discussion pretty well.

JOSH (Listener): Your interview with former Attorney General Gonzales was priceless. I enjoyed how you treated him fairly but didn't cut him any slack, either.

HILL: But not everyone agrees with Josh, and I'll quote another listener who wrote to us: Isn't it nice that NPR has become a safe place for disgraced senior Bush administration officials like Gonzo? They know NPR is a safe place for them to come and publicize their talking points in a safe, fact-free environment where they won't be challenged, end quote. That is from a listener who blogs under the name Grumpy Demo.

MARTIN: Well, you are entitled to your opinion, Grumpy Demo. Moving on, Lee, we had a conversation on yesterday's program about President Barack Obama's interview with the Arab language television network, Al Arabiya.

HILL: And Michel, a lot of people are buzzing about why the president's first interview wasn't granted to a U.S. news outlet. It's a pretty big deal to book the first interview with the president. But anyway, many Obama supporters saw the move as a good way to reach out to the Arab world, which listener Tom says he can understand.

TOM (Listener): I'm very positive about our new president's approach to the Muslim world and specifically, the Arab portion of the Muslim world. I think he touched both sides well, in other words, to unclench the fists of radical Islam and have them to be willing to at least come halfway with the Western world.

MARTIN: Thank you, Tom. Finally, we did a story on the pop-culture frenzy surrounding President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and young daughters Sasha and Malia. But much is also being said about whether the superstar treatment of the Obamas is just a bit too much. Well, Isaac called us. He thinks the hype is a good thing.

ISAAC (Listener): I think he has done a wonderful job so far, and I think that, within itself, will inspire all black families to focus more on taking care of what needs to be done just to build up the family.

MARTIN: Thank you, Isaac, and thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Also, we have an update for you. We reported recently on the Spanish-language television network Univision and the courtroom battle over their programming. They are being sued by Grupo Televisa, which supplies some of their most popular programming, over licensing fees. Well, the two sides did reach a settlement. Univision will need to pay an additional $65 million a year more through the year 2017. And remember, with Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number, again, is 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name and of course, you can also go to the Tell Me More page at npr.org, and blog it out.

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