KNOWING WRIGHT FROM WRONG? CBS ANALYST ADMITS LPGA REMARKS
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).