PIERS MOR­GAN

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

WED­NES­DAY, JULY 11

Tonight, I con­ducted the most ex­tra­or­di­nary, un­pre­dictable, weird and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous in­ter­view of my life. Robert Blake is a scan­dalous Hol­ly­wood fig­ure — a bona fide movie star ( he was bril­liant in the mul­ti­ple Os­car-nom­i­nated In Cold Blood, based on Tru­man Capote’s book), ac­cused of mur­der­ing his wife Bonny Lee Bak­ley in 2001. He was ac­quit­ted af­ter a sen­sa­tional court case but then found li­able for her death in a civil ac­tion brought by her fam­ily.

Bank­rupt and un­em­ploy­able, he dis­ap­peared for the next decade. And this was his first TV in­ter­view since. He ar­rived in my CNN stu­dio, wild-eyed and ag­gres­sive, stared men­ac­ingly at me and snarled: ‘We’re not go­ing to have any prob­lems, right?’ ‘I’ve no idea,’ I laughed. ‘Are we?’ He ig­nored me, in­stead check­ing his face care­fully in the cam­era mon­i­tor. Things started okay but then, af­ter 10 min­utes, he sud­denly ex­ploded when I said I wanted to ‘get to the truth’ about what hap­pened to his wife.

‘Are you call­ing me a LIAR?’ he yel led. ‘ NO­BODY CALLS ME A F***ING LIAR!’

And from then on, it be­came more a glad­i­a­to­rial bat­tle than an in­ter­view. He shouted, be­rated, cursed (46 times, all of which had to be ‘bleeped’ — be­lieved to be an all-time CNN record for one hour of pro­gram­ming), threat­ened and ranted in one of the most spec­tac­u­lar melt­downs I’ve ever wit­nessed from a celebrity.

Bizarrely, he also took to re­peat­edly call­ing me ‘Char­lie Pota­toes’, which I later dis­cov­ered was a line from the 1958 Tony Cur­tis movie The De­fi­ant Ones, about a man who struts around like he’s the rich­est, most suc­cess­ful and pop­u­lar guy in town. (I know, ridicu­lous, right?)

Half­way through his de­mented tirade, Blake the­atri­cally stripped off his jacket, re­veal­ing a leather vest. At which point, four of the CNN se­cu­rity team, who’d been watch­ing out­side with in­creas­ing con­cern, qui­etly slipped inside the stu­dio and stood guard be­hind the cam­eras.

Af­ter the show aired, Twit­ter blew up with re­ac­tion from all over the world.

‘Ah, life is worth liv­ing again,’ sighed one of my favourite authors, Bret Eas­ton El­lis, ‘watch­ing the Robert Blake in­ter­view with Piers Mor­gan.’ Ac­tress Mia Far­row said sim­ply: ‘Robert Blake… Oh­h­h­h­h­hhh.’

The most un­likely com­men­tary came from Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton foot­baller who nearly died on the pitch last sea­son, and who was watch­ing in New York, where he was on hol­i­day.

‘Very good in­ter­view, Sir. He couldn’t han­dle your ques­tions, es­pe­cially about his wife. You just go straight to the point, which is good, but some­times you put peo­ple un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure and they find it hard to re­spond.’

It’s true Blake flipped when I asked him di­rectly if he’d killed his wife. But the strange thing is that for all his crazi­ness I still have no idea if he did or not.

SATUR­DAY, JULY 14

‘ We have to stop this re­cent cul­ture of peo­ple telling us they’re of­fended,’ tweeted Ricky Ger­vais this morn­ing, ‘and ex­pect­ing us to give a f***.’

I chuck­led when I read it, be­cause it’s so true. We’ve be­come a ridicu­lously thin- skinned so­ci­ety — li­able to mouth-foam­ing in­dig­na­tion at the mer­est sug­ges­tion of a half- in­sult. Twit­ter high­lights this cu­ri­ous mod­ern phe­nom­e­non ev­ery day.

For amuse­ment, I retweeted Ricky’s com­ment with the words: ‘That’s so rude.’

And then it started. Hun­dreds of en­raged tweets be­gan to pour in from peo­ple as­sum­ing I was be­ing se­ri­ous. Half an­gry that I was of­fended by Ricky’s call for fewer peo­ple to be of­fended, the other half an­gry at Ricky for be­ing offensive by call­ing for peo­ple to stop be­ing so of­fended.

Af­ter a while, Ricky, see­ing the same re­ac­tion, ap­pealed for calm: ‘Pretty sure Piers was play­ing along, as op­posed to re­ally be­ing of­fended. Keep up twonks.’

‘ No,’ I re­torted, ‘ I’m gen­uinely of­fended — you’ve just gone too far.’ Which, of course, sent Twit­ter into a new frenzy of even more right­eous fury.

‘Take a joke, Mor­gan!’ some­one raged. ‘ Ricky speaks his mind and that’s the way it should be!’

‘You’ve got a cheek crit­i­cis­ing Ricky,’ spat an­other. ‘You’ve made a lot of money of­fend­ing peo­ple on Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent, you hyp­ocrite.’

Oth­ers raced to my de­fence. ‘All that Piers did was speak his mind,’ stated one lady. ‘Ricky was way out of line and Se­na­tor John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in the last US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, spent six years as a pris­oner-ofwar in Viet­nam. He was sys­tem­at­i­cally beaten, abused and tor­tured un­til left a vir­tual bro­ken man.

To­day, I fi­nally got to meet and in­ter­view him, and after­wards he took me into his Wash­ing­ton of­fice and showed me pho­tos and pieces of mem­o­ra­bilia on his walls.

In a far cor­ner was a framed ci­ta­tion. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. He stopped, his cheek­bones tweaked hard , and he said: ‘Some­body sent me this — it’s the orig­i­nal of­fi­cial navy re­port on my ser­vice in Viet­nam.’

I read it care­fully. It de­tailed how McCain, of­ten held in soli­tary con­fine­ment, had been ex­posed to ‘ex­treme men­tal and phys­i­cal cru­el­ties’. But though ‘crip­pled from se­ri­ous and ill- treated in­juries’, he re­fused re­peated of­fers of free­dom un­less pris­on­ers who’d been held longer than him were re­leased too. ‘His self­less ac­tion served as an ex­am­ple to oth­ers,’ read the ci­ta­tion, ‘and his forth­right re­fusal, by giv­ing em­pha­sis to the in­sid­i­ous na­ture of such re­leases, may have pre­vented pos­si­bly chaotic de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in pris­oner dis­ci­pline.’

I turned back to McCain. ‘How on earth did you find the courage to do that?’

‘I had no choice,’ he said, his eyes welling up. ‘These men were my friends.’

That’s not true, of course. He had a choice. He just opted for the one that says all you need to know about the man.

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