Stahl on Sarko: “There Was A Lot of Tension In The Room”

By Chris Ariens 

The president of France owes Lesley Stahl 40 minutes. The veteran 60 Minutes correspondent was five minutes into what she was promised would be a 45-minute sit-down with Nicolas Sarkozy. By the third question, which was about the state of his marriage, the French president abruptly got up and walked out. C’est Finis!

“We’d spent days coming up with the questions,” Stahl tells TVNewser. “There were many issues that I’ve been concerned about,” Iran being one of them. “That was going to be one of my first questions.”

“We didn’t want that moment to overtake the story. The story is still how [Sarkozy] is changing French policy, trying to improve U.S.-French relations” and doing it “very courageously.”

The interview didn’t begin well either. As Sarkozy was being wired up, with the CBS cameras already recording, he openly berated his press secretary, calling him an imbecile. “We were all sitting there in stunned silence.”

“We were anxious,” says Stahl. “There was a lot of tension in the room.”

A 16-year veteran of the broadcast, Stahl says only once before has someone walked out on one of her interviews: “Ross Perot. But he came back,” she adds.

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