BURBANK, Calif. (AP) -- The president of Walt Disney Co. on Friday defended ABC's secret pursuit of David Letterman, saying it was an opportunity that required aggressive action.
Robert Iger said he had one regret, though: not apologizing quickly enough to Ted Koppel for a Disney official's anonymous newspaper quote denigrating the relevancy of "Nightline."
"If there were mistakes made, it was in allowing statements like that to live in the public eye without addressing them immediately, and for that I take full responsibility," Iger said.
The Disney-owned ABC network is continuing to court the "Late Show" host, and CBS is trying just as hard to keep him. Letterman has been vacationing on a tropical island this week, and returns to work Monday. His contract with CBS expires this summer.
Word of ABC's bid for Letterman became public a week ago, shocking people at ABC News. If the talk show host switched, it would displace Koppel's "Nightline," an ABC institution at 11:35 p.m. for 22 years.
Koppel and ABC News President David Westin reportedly had no idea Disney was pursuing Letterman until just hours before the news appeared in The New York Times.
Iger said the confidentiality was his decision, and he didn't back down from it.
"We didn't choose the timing," he said. "It was an opportunity that required immediate action. Had we not been aggressive, we would not have been in the game."
Iger said that even before the Letterman possibility came up, Disney had been talking to Koppel about the future of "Nightline" when he retires. Koppel, 62, has recently cut back his hosting duties to three nights a week.
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