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KNOWING WRIGHT FROM WRONG? CBS ANALYST ADMITS LPGA REMARKS
Published May 15, 1998
Former CBS golf analyst Ben Wright has admitted that he made disparaging remarks about lesbianism on the LPGA Tour, and said he was "stupid, naive and weak" for following CBS's advice in the incident's aftermath, according to Jaime Diaz in SI's "Golf Plus" section. Wright: "I was so bloody stupid; stupid, naive and weak. A day doesn't go by that I don't regret how I reacted." Wright "admits to suffering from bouts of deep depression and a lingering sense of shame" resulting from the three-year-old incident, which resulted in his suspension from CBS. After telling Wilmington News-Journal reporter Valerie Helmbreck, who was covering the '95 LPGA Championship in May of '95, that, "among other things, 'lesbians in the sport hurt women's golf,'" Wright was "summoned" to CBS's offices in New York, where he says the net's lawyers and execs "hammered out a cynical damage-control strategy in which Wright was to deny having made the statement and to discredit Helmbreck." Wright, on his on-air denial of the statements: "Those were not my words; they were written to reflect the strategy of the network. The most stupid thing I did was remain silent. I should have come out and said, 'Hey, I said all these dumb things, and they were wrong.' I think people would have forgiven me for that" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue). CBS RECALLS DIFFERENTLY: While CBS had no comment on Wright's statements in SI, Diaz points out that much of its hierarchy has changed since the incident. However, Douglas Jacobs, who was CBS's General Counsel at the time, said Wright's description of the events surrounding the incident "is completely untrue." Helmbreck, whom Wright recently called to apologize, said she "never imagined CBS would go to those lengths to destroy me. ... I was shocked by the CBS strategy, especially saying that they had done a thorough investigation even though they had never even talked to me." Helmbreck left the newspaper in January '97. Wright, who is under contract with CBS at $400,000 a year through November '99, said that he "wants another shot" at doing TV work (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue). CBS Dir of Communications LeslieAnne Wade, on Wright's comments: "Ben Wright's version of the truth is as distorted as it was in 1995." David Kenin, who was CBS Sports President at the time of the incident: "We never told (Wright) to lie or alter any truth. When we found out he had not told the truth, we had to act on that" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/15). REAX: In Chicago, Michael Hirsley writes that Wright has "put the network and himself under scrutiny." Hirsley: "If substantiated, his charge's impact would reach to executive-level positions. ... If his accusation is not substantiated, Wright has surely jeopardized his professed desire to work on TV again" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15)....In Fort Lauderdale, Michael Mayo, under the header "Wright's Cover-Up Charges Taint CBS," writes that the "only redeeming thing" for CBS is that "most" of the department's top execs have left since the incident (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/15).