With a choice of having Anthony Weiner, Lady Gaga or Bashar al-Assad on his morning show, CBS News president David Rhodes will take door number 3 any day.
“If we wanted a more stark demonstration of the differences in these shows, I think this morning is a perfect example,” Rhodes tells TVNewser. “We have done more Syria on this morning show than anyone,” says Rhodes. “And we’ve been rewarded for it by viewers.”
That “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose got the interview should not come as a surprise. He’d interviewed Assad before, and has been working for months to secure this interview as the Syrian civil war intensified. “He’s had a track record on this story for a long time,” says Rhodes. The entirety of the interview will air tonight on Rose’s PBS program.
Rhodes’ boss, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager put on another hat this weekend: as Rose’s producer. “When you have a situation like this, you don’t know what you’re going to find when you get there,” says Rhodes. “There’s no substitute to having people there with the experience and confidence to confront that. That Jeff was able to go, is great”
Rose and Fager spent Saturday night in Damascus, before heading to the presidential palace Sunday morning. Hours later Rose was in Lebanon phoning into CBS’s Bob Schieffer breaking the news of his interview. That’s also around the time the White House first learned about it.
Which means it came as news to Rhodes’ younger brother, Ben Rhodes, who is the White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication.
The younger Rhodes has been front and center on cable news channels defending the president’s position. This morning, on CNN’s “New Day,” Ben Rhodes was forced to respond to parts of the Assad interview which had just aired on CBS.
The brothers haven’t spoken in weeks. In fact, David Rhodes says, “In times likes these, we’re less likely to communicate.”
For his next act, you just might see Charlie Rose sit down with Russian president Vladimir Putin. “I wouldn’t put it past him,” says Rhodes with a laugh. “I don’t know what else he has up his sleeve. He did mention how he hoped to talk to other leaders in the region about what Assad would have to say.”
And if those interviews find their way to the surging “CBS This Morning,” while competitors spend time with showy pop stars and twice-disgraced politicians, that’s just fine by Rhodes.