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If Winfrey runs, CBS News faces potential conflict

If Winfrey runs, CBS News faces potential conflict

January 10th, 2018 by Associated Press in National News

This image released by NBC shows Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — In an odd twist, fellow hosts of "CBS This Morning" turned to their colleague Gayle King — famous friend of Oprah Winfrey — for an interview Tuesday about whether her pal would run for president.

If a Winfrey candidacy moves beyond idle chatter, one of the leading figures on a CBS News show that prides itself on hard-nosed journalism would have a conflict of interest on a major story.

King attended the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday and said on "CBS This Morning" she spent several hours with Winfrey after the speech that fueled political speculation. King said her friend is intrigued by the idea of a candidacy, but didn't think she was actively considering it.

CBS' Norah O'Donnell and Jeff Glor considered King's close relationship with Winfrey such common knowledge that they didn't even explain it before asking questions on Tuesday's show. The two women have been good friends since they both worked at a Baltimore television station in their early 20s.

Watching the interview was weird, CNN's Dana Bash said on the network about an hour later.

If the candidacy becomes real, "Gayle's gotta leave," responded CNN's morning host, Chris Cuomo.

Then, perhaps remembering his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has been mentioned as a 2020 presidential candidate, Cuomo quickly switched gears.

"I have the right to change my opinion," he said. "Does she have to leave? Maybe she does. I guess they could do the coverage in a way where she never handles it. But it would raise questions with people."

CBS will address the issue if and when it becomes one, CBS News President David Rhodes said. The network has always been transparent in letting viewers know Winfrey and King are friends, he said. Winfrey also works for CBS News; she does occasional stories for "60 Minutes."

Rhodes praised King for how she handled the on-air discussion with O'Donnell and Glor.

"It's difficult to be part of the news when you cover the news and she helped people understand what was going on with the story," Rhodes said.

King's insight is useful as long as chatter about Winfrey's candidacy is a parlor game and not reality, said Al Tompkins, an instructor in broadcast journalism for the Poynter Institute.

"The relationship between King and Winfrey is well known and viewers can filter what they hear from Gayle through that filter," Tompkins said. "If Oprah did run, it would be a tougher relationship to navigate Today, with so many people being so skeptical or cynical of what they see, hear and read in journalism, the cleaner we can keep the lines between journalists and politicians the better."