ABC correspondent Nick Watt conducted a softball interview with the son of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" and he credulously repeated Omar bin Laden's goals of being an "ambassador for peace." Host Diane Sawyer called the idea a "very curious proposal," while Watt announced that the younger bin Laden "wants to meet with President George W. Bush" and labeled the idea "astounding."
Watt expressed no skepticism over the proposed meeting. This, despite the fact that bin Laden lauded his father, responsible for countless thousands of deaths, as a "very kind man" and stated that he would not turn his dad over to American authorities, were he to know the location. Apparently, it didn't occur to Watt that this might not be the kind of person who would be best qualified to be an ambassador for peace or someone that President Bush would meet with. However, the GMA correspondent did find time to notice bin Laden's "glamorous, English wife."
The son of the al Qaeda leader appeared, in one form or another, on all three morning shows. CBS's "Early Show" featured only a brief mention of the story. NBC's "Today" show obtained a full interview. Co-host Matt Lauer, who talked with Omar bin Laden, did show some cynicism about the son's idea. In contrast to ABC, he asked, "But on the other side of that coin, if Osama bin Laden, by some strange chance, were to sit down and say, 'I'm willing to talk,' it wouldn't stop those other people in al Qaeda right now anyway, would it?" Additionally, Lauer mentioned the other acts of murder planned by Osama bin Laden, including the first attack on the World Trade center and the bombings of the USS Cole and the American embassy. Watt never broached these subjects.
Watt couldn't even manage a mildly tough question. (At one point, he lamely queried, "You love your father, but do you condemn what did?") Instead, he elaborated on what must have seemed romantic to the reporter, the love between the son of a terrorist and his future wife. He summarized, "Omar has now married an English woman who he met while horseback riding in sight of the pyramids...He's 26. She's a 52-year-old grandmother. That didn't matter. And neither did Omar's name."
The ABC correspondent closed the segment by sympathetically observing, "Now, the question is, will anybody take Omar seriously as a peacemaker with a name like bin Laden? Well, he hopes so. He hopes to use that name, bin Laden, for some good. To bring the world some good rather than the bad that his father has brought." To reiterate, Watt apparently missed the contradiction of being a "peacemaker" and at the same time saying that you would not turn in the man who murdered over 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:44am on January 22, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And you are going to hear this morning from the son of the world's most wanted most wanted man. Osama bin Laden's son breaks his silence this morning. He's going to speak out. He looks eerily like his dad. He has a very curious proposal. It's a really strange and riveting interview.
SAWYER: And now, after more than six years of silence, guess who is speaking out? Omar bin laden, finally talking about his father, Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man. ABC's Nick Watt joins us live in Cairo with his interview. Nick?
NICK WATT: Good morning, Diane. Well, we came here to Cairo meet Omar and his rather glamorous, English wife. But she was not the biggest surprise. What Omar has to say is astounding. He wants to be an ambassador for peace. First up, he wants to meet with President George Bush to explain to him what his father is all about. The family resemblance is unmistakable. Behinds the braids and designer jeans, Omar bin Laden is his father's son.
OMAR BIN LADEN (Son of Osama bin Laden): My father is a very kind man.
NICK WATT: Very kind man?
BIN LADEN: Yeah. Very kind man. He's very sorry when he does something like 11 September.
WATT: He's very sorry?
BIN LADEN: Very sorry.
WATT: So, why does he do it?
BIN LADEN: Because, he believe if he put this two building down, maybe some people, little, will die, but millions others will save (sic). He believe that.
WATT: Omar decided he didn't believe. You love your father, but do you condemn what did?
BIN LADEN: Yes. I believe he did it wrong.
WATT: His father fought the Russians in Afghanistan. As a teenager, Omar trained there to become an al Qaeda fighter but he left in 2000 to see the world, he says, before deciding whether to flow his father's path. Do you think he's probably in Afghanistan?
BIN LADEN: I think should be in Afghanistan.
WATT: Father and son have not spoken in seven years yet the bond remains.
BIN LADEN: I still love him so much and with all my heart.
WATT: If you wanted to speak to him, can you?
BIN LADEN: I can't, only by this television.
WATT: What do you think when you see him on television?
BIN LADEN: I feel worried.
WATT: If you knew where he was, would you tell the Americans so that he could be caught?
BIN LADEN: Actually, I would hide him.
WATT: You would?
BIN LADEN: Yeah, because he's my father.
WATT: Omar now wants to be an intermediary to bring the world's most warranted terrorist to the negotiating table. You think President Bush should meet your father?
BIN LADEN: Yes, he should go straight away to my father and speak to him.
WATT: Because he believes his father holds the key.
BIN LADEN: He has the power to make war and he has the power to stop it.
WATT: Omar has now married an English woman who he met while horseback riding in sight of the pyramids.
BIN LADEN: The first time I saw her, something tell me, maybe you will marry this woman.
WATT: He's 26. She's a 52-year-old grandmother. That didn't matter. And neither did Omar's name.
ZAINA (OMAR BIN LADEN's WIFE): The bin Laden name didn't bother me at all. The son is not the father.
WATT: The couple is now planning a horse race for peace across North Africa. Omar says he wants to make up for what he calls his father's big mistake. Now, the question is, will anybody take Omar seriously as a peacemaker with a name like bin Laden? Well, he hopes so. He hopes to use that name, bin Laden, for some good. To bring the world some good rather than the bad that his father has brought.
SAWYER: Nick, does he live on bin Laden money, the Osama bin Laden money or how does he make a living?
WATT: Well, he claims that he has his own construction business in Saudi Arabia. That's where he makes his money. The couple plans to move to London And they say they are very worried. Who is going to employ people with the name like bin Laden? Diane?