ABC Wins Interview With Jessica Lynch

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September 15, 2003

For the first time, Jessica Lynch will speak of her time in Iraq and her experience as a prisoner of war in an interview with ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer. ABC News' Diane Sawyer was chosen Monday for the first television news interview with Jessica Lynch, considered the year's most highly sought-after broadcast "get."

Sawyer's interview with the former prisoner of war will air on a special 90 minute edition of Primetime, Tuesday NOV. 11th @ 9:30pm, Veteran's Day and the day Lynch's book is scheduled to be published.

It's also in the middle of the November ratings "sweeps," when ratings are watched closely to set ad rates.

Many of the network news stars, including Sawyer and NBC's Katie Couric, had sought the interview - even though there's some question about what Lynch remembers about her capture and rescue in Iraq this spring.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this," said Paul Bogaards, publicity director for Lynch's publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. "It was like blood sport, the competition for this story."

CBS News was embarrassed in June when it was revealed the Viacom-owned network had hinted at publishing and MTV deals in its pitch for a Lynch interview. The network had no comment about Lynch's decision.

ABC's news division made the pitch for the interview, with no entertainment shows involved, ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.

ABC's ability to draw big ratings for newsmaking interviews tied to book projects - with Sen. Hillary Clinton and actors Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve, for example - played a part in granting Sawyer the exclusive, Bogaards said.

Lynch, from West Virginia, also liked Sawyer's Kentucky background and "her familiarity with the routine and pace of life in a small town," he said.

Knopf has set up a complete media strategy for Lynch that also includes an interview with Couric for "Today" to air starting Nov. 12. That's a hollow victory since Sawyer, host of "Good Morning America," is likely to begin airing excerpts of her talk in the morning a day earlier.

"From the moment her unit took a fateful turn and was ambushed in the city of Nasiriyah on March 23, through her capture and rescue, to herRead Diane Sawyer's Biography from ABCNEWS recovery from grievous wounds, Lynch's ordeal became a central story of the war," said Diane Sawyer, co-anchor of Primetime.

"Jessica's story a source of both pride and controversy remains one of the great untold chapters of the War in Iraq. Like most Americans, I look forward to hearing Jessica Lynch's account of her life leading up to her enlistment in the Army, the extraordinary and harrowing events that transpired in Iraq and what the future holds for this young woman."

A 15-page Army report on the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq says fatigue, bad communications and other difficulties arising in "the fog of war" all factored into the incident that killed 11 and injured several others, including Lynch.

Lynch was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on August 27.