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Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Clinton interceded with CBS

February 28, 2001

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— While still president, Bill Clinton talked to the chief executive of CBS on behalf of two Hollywood friends involved in a billing dispute with the network.

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves confirmed the discussion Tuesday but denied that Clinton's intercession on behalf of TV producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason played a role in the dispute's resolution.

"I've had numerous chats with President Clinton over the past few years," Moonves said. "He is a friend of mine. No business decision has ever been made on the basis of a conversation with him." Moonves said he and Clinton had talked about several subjects, one of which was Thomason. He said Clinton told him something like, "Harry's our friend, be nice."

"That was the extent of it," Moonves said.

The former president has been dogged by controversy since he left office over his presidential pardons and the way friends and relatives sought to influence him on behalf of cases.

The Thomasons, known best for the 1980s comedy "Designing Women," have had a long relationship with the Clintons and produced a video about the Arkansas native, "The Man From Hope," that was shown at the 1992 Democratic convention.

Thomason, co-owner with his wife of Mozark Productions, declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying Clinton placed the call to Moonves. The former president, who spoke to media executives Tuesday, did not take questions on the subject.

The Thomasons had been seeking a penalty fee of more than $1 million from CBS for canceling "The Good Life," a series about single women in New York, before it was broadcast. CBS was trying to defer payment of the penalty while it sought another idea from the couple.

The Journal reported that soon after Clinton and Moonves spoke while Clinton was still president CBS paid the Thomasons around $1 million. Neither Moonves nor the newspaper specified when the call was made. In addition to getting a penalty fee, the Thomasons were freed to make deals with other networks for programs.

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