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Tiger Woods Has A Scripted Affair

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Tiger Woods Has A Scripted Affair

Tiger Woods Has A Scripted Affair

Tiger Woods Has A Scripted Affair

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Tiger Woods apologized from behind a podium Friday, talking publicly for the first time about the scandal that erupted after an early morning crash outside his Florida home three months ago. Woods confirmed allegations of infidelity, expressed contrition and attempted to control the terms on which he is covered by the press. Host Scott Simon speaks with NPR's David Folkenflik about Woods and the rolling media circus.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Well, its sure look like a press conference when Tiger Woods stood behind that podium yesterday talking about the scandal. The audience included reporters, you could hear the whirr of cameras clicking, and his remarks, of course, were carried live on television and on Internet streaming.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now. David, thanks very much for being with us.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

SIMON: How elaborately scripted was this - forgive the expression affair?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, they had precisely leaked out the news of this announcement earlier, and those carrying it yesterday included not only the cable channels, the cable news channels, ESPN, other sports-related channels, but, you know, the major broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC. CNBC, the financial news channel, carried a countdown clock, ticking off the minutes and seconds until the announcement would take place. The interest was intense.

People at Dow Jones, other markets, suggest that the trading of shares slowed significantly during the half hour in which the press conference or the announcement occurred. There was also sort of a hushed reverence in some of the coverage. I think we have a cut which will give you a sample of some of the coverage that we saw.

(Soundbites of news broadcasts)

Ms. ROBIN ROBERTS (Host, "Good Morning America"): We're interrupting your regular program because, as we've been reporting all morning long...

Unidentified Woman #1: What are people anticipating from Tiger Woods this morning?

Unidentified Man #1: Elin Woods, who's an extraordinary woman...

Unidentified Man #2: Let's just watch this scene for a moment: Tiger hugging his mom.

FOLKENFLIK: So, you know, he gets a certain degree of moral easement from his mother, naturally enough, but this was not a press conference, as you suggest. There were no questions taken. In fact, no questions would be allowed to those few hand-picked journalists allowed to attend. The Golf Writers Association voted not to participate because they thought the journalists would look like props.

SIMON: Now, to recap, if anyone didn't quite follow it, Mr. Woods apologized at length. He said he's the only one to blame for his actions. He quite bluntly admitted his extramarital involvements, but he had some really sharp words about the media too, didn't he?

FOLKENFLIK: That's right. I think he tried to set and define some very clear boundaries, as he has throughout his career. So, not only were there no questions during the press conference, but he tried to circumscribe the coverage that would ensue afterward as well. We have a few cuts here that highlight some of his sorest points.

The first one involves stories that relied on anonymous sources to suggest that Elin Woods had hit her husband on that first night.

Mr. TIGER WOODS (Golfer): It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. People want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. My behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom.

FOLKENFLIK: So, as you hear there, on a number of key points, you know, he's using words like fabrication to describe coverage. He's saying that the question of his marital status is off bounds. He's essentially saying, you know, with whom he had romantic entanglements is not newsworthy for the press to go after. Part of his problem is he's waited almost three months to come forward and really speak in a publicly visible way as opposed to through spokesmen.

And part of his problem also is that this has gotten away from him. You've had, you know, the morning shows, the networks as well as the tabloid press going after these issues.

SIMON: As you rank media events, how does this stand?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's astonishing to see a figure of enormous popularity, but also a little bit of a cipher have to come forward and be as contrite as was and as blunt as he was. He acknowledged that he was unfaithful to his wife. He said that he had had affairs and made clear that it wasn't simply once.

But there wasn't really a back and forth here. He wasn't taking questions. There was nothing beyond the script that he was willing to offer directly. It was almost like a videotaped press release, and yet the press interest was huge. There was not only the coverage that you saw but behind the scenes. Our colleague, NPR's Mike Pesca, was there in the overflow rooms. He said there were at least 200 journalists there and each had been charged $100 apiece for Wi-Fi access just for a few hours from that site.

One last thing I wanted to point out was that Brit Hume of Fox News Channel had, in an unsolicited way, offered advice, notoriously calling upon Woods to turn to faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Well, Tiger Woods, you know, staking out his own course, said he was returning to the Buddhist faith of his youth.

SIMON: I have to tell you, I was a little surprised that he dragged in Buddhism.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, it was an effort for him to talk about having been brought up in a certain faith and a certain tradition. It was an effort for him to invoke his mother, who was sitting there, you know, in a somewhat pained but solicitous expression on her face.

SIMON: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, for her, a very public embarrassment and yet at the end a very public embrace. I think he was indicating, you know, he is a family man, he is somebody brought up with certain values and he intends to embrace them again, suggesting that if his family can re-embrace him why the nation should as well. And I think the real question is whether it will do that.

SIMON: NPR's David Folkenflik, thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: My pleasure.

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