Diane Sawyer: I'd Like to Interview Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-il

May 4th, 2007 6:08 AM

Diane Sawyer granted an interview for the May issue of Reader’s Digest. In it, Sawyer said she is eager to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and would jump at the chance to interview Osama bin Laden. The interviewer, Sara Davidson, did not press Sawyer on the question of whether she was too soft or light in her interviews with anti-American heads of state (as with asking Syrian dictator Bashar Assad whether he has Shania Twain on his iPod). But Sawyer did use the words "fanatic extremists" and "horrific terrorists," which doesn’t always emerge first in journalistic conversations.

RD: Who else are you most eager to interview?
Sawyer: Kim Jong-il. I think he is unlike anyone else in a leadership position in the world right now, and North Korea is such an intriguing country.


RD: Have you tried to speak with terrorist leaders?
Sawyer: Would I speak with Osama bin Laden? Yes, I'd go. I spoke with the Taliban. I am going back to Afghanistan soon for the same purpose.

RD: Do you ever come away from an interview disliking the person?
Sawyer: I have some visceral reactions, just like everybody else. Like with Saddam [in 1990]. He seemed contemptuous of reality and badly informed about the world. To feel his insularity and know that he was aggressive and uninformed was a truly frightening combination.

Asking about the greatest danger to America earned an anti-terrorism answer from Sawyer. It’s perhaps sad that denouncing terrorists is a bit surprising from American journalists, but it’s still surprising:

RD: Who or what country do you think is the greatest danger to America now?
Sawyer: I don't think it's a country. It is a ferocity unleashed, an anger, an ungovernable determination to blame America on the part of fanatic extremists. Countries, however menacing, are at least quantifiable. This other threat -- terrorists and the shadowy intersections with nuclear capability -- is not quantifiable.

RD: Do you feel as pessimistic as many Americans do about resolving our problems with terrorism?
Sawyer: I don't. I'm not talking, obviously, about people in war zones who are taken captive by these horrific terrorists. But if you travel and talk to people, even those who hate you, there is such a strong common humanity in most of the world, and that has to prevail in the end.

It's nice to hear optimism (so rare on television), if not vigilance.