On CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, guest host Brian Stelter – TV reporter for The New York Times – brought on CNN personality Piers Morgan to eulogize his old friend David Frost.
Morgan praised Frost’s post-presidential Richard Nixon interviews in 1977,w hich the networks wouldn’t air because he paid Nixon and it was “checkbook journalism.” Morgan praised the five 90-minute interviews as “a real piece of bold, risk-taking, innovative journalism and television broadcasting, the like of which I don't think has been done before or since.” Morgan paid tribute by calling Frost “the charming assassin” the “James Bond” of interviewers:
MORGAN: I think he had a beguiling charm. I always called him the charming assassin because he would be so seductively friendly and nice and polite, and then he would ask the most brutal questions with this lovely smile on his face, and get out the most extraordinary revelations. That was David Frost. He was the quintessential British gentleman and he used all that. He was kind of a James Bond of interviewers, if you like, where before you knew it, he gunned you down.
Morgan loved Frost’s ability to let the guest speak: “It was the silences in that interview which teased out a lot of the confessional material from Nixon. He also said that you could never over assert for an interview. With Nixon, he did 28 hours of tape with Richard Nixon. And the amount of preparation that David Frost had to do, he told me weeks and weeks and weeks of really immaculate preparation.”
As for the Nixon interviews, “He couldn't sell it to the American networks because it was deemed checkbook journalism because he was paying Richard Nixon for that interview. So, yes, he raised, he told me, over $2 million back in the '70s to go and sell it virtually station by station around America, getting his own sponsors at each individual state and territory. In the end, he was able to pay Nixon himself I think $600,000. David Frost made a small fortune himself and the rest is history. But that was a real piece of bold, risk-taking, innovative journalism and television broadcasting, the like of which I don't think has been done before or since.”