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Katie Couric Talks About Elizabeth Smart Interview

Katie Couric Talks About Elizabeth Smart Interview

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NEW YORK (AP) -- NBC's Katie Couric says kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart's first television interview was conducted with her parent's consent and included nothing that might traumatize her.

Couric's interview with the 15-year-old Elizabeth, who was snatched at knifepoint from her Utah home and rescued nine months later, will be televised Friday at 10 p.m. EDT.

As part of a media blitz attached to her parents' upcoming book, CBS will air a television movie about the kidnapping next month, less than eight months after Elizabeth was found on March 12 and her alleged captors arrested. And Elizabeth has been seen on television before, playing the harp after her parents were interviewed on John Walsh's syndicated talk show.

But this will be the first time for most Americans to hear her speak. How healthy is national TV exposure for a teenage crime victim?

"Part of her healing process is her ability to make decisions and do what she wants to do, obviously with her parents' consent," Couric told The Associated Press on Monday.

"I guess different parents would make different decisions, but I think Ed and Lois (Smart) have her best interests at heart and I don't think they would exploit their daughter," she said.

NBC would not exploit Elizabeth, either, she said.

"It was a very, sort of, casual conversation and I was careful not to go into subject areas that I thought would be traumatic for her," she said. "It's a fine line and, I'm sure, if given an opportunity everyone is going to criticize everybody else for something, but I think I handled it as sensitively as I possibly could."

Elizabeth -- accompanied by her parents -- was also interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for her syndicated talk show. The Winfrey appearance will air next Monday, the day before the book goes on sale.

Asked by The Associated Press if Couric asked Elizabeth any questions that caused her discomfort, Ed Smart said on Monday, "No. We wouldn't allow it."

When she left for an interview with the Smarts, Couric wasn't sure if she would speak with Elizabeth, she said.

She asked Elizabeth to read a passage she had written for an upcoming book, and she declined. Couric then asked if she would talk a little about how she's doing, and Smart agreed.

NBC released a snippet of their conversation on Monday. Couric asked what were some of the greatest things for Elizabeth about being back with her family and what she had been looking forward to during her months of captivity.

"Um, just being back and not having to be, like, told I'm a horrible, evil, wicked, evil evil girl every 10 seconds," she replied.

Couric said it was not an extended interview, "but we talked about a variety of subjects and I think she was able to give some insight into how she's doing and a little bit about how this experience has changed her."

During their interview, Smart's parents told Couric that Elizabeth insisted upon taking them to the crude campsite near their home where she was first held against her will.

"I said to her, Elizabeth, how does this make you feel coming back here, seeing this squalor that you lived in for so long?"' Lois Smart said. "And she said, she stood up and she said,I feel triumphant."'

The Smart case has provoked a high-stakes game of one-upmanship among television networks. NBC scheduled its interview for two weeks before the Nov. 9 airing of CBS' movie, "The Elizabeth Smart Story."

In response, CBS moved quickly to air "Elizabeth Smart: America's Girl" last Saturday, a one-hour special on the making of the movie that included an interview with Smart's parents. The interview was produced by CBS' entertainment division (Smart's parents were paid for their participation, unlike with Couric's NBC show), not its news division.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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