By: DAVID BAUDER
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK – CBS turned down an interview with Tiger Woods after being told the network would be limited to five minutes of questions.
The troubled golf star answered questions from reporters at ESPN and The Golf Channel for the first time since the beginning of the sex scandal that has sidelined him. Both aired on Sunday, and both networks said the only restriction placed on them was a five-minute time limit.
CBS said no. “Depending on the specifics, we are interested in an extended interview without any restrictions on CBS,” said CBS Sports spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade. The network is airing much of the Masters golf tournament next month, where Woods is making his return to the game.
Woods, in the interviews, took responsibility for his actions and admitted he’s a little nervous about how fans will react to him when he returns.
The interviews appeared days after one of Woods’ alleged mistresses released a number of salacious text messages she said the golfer sent her.
Woods’ representatives offered the interview to ESPN on Thursday, in response to a long-standing request for a one-on-one, said Vince Doria, the network’s senior vice president and director of news. The network said the chance to get Woods on the record answering questions for the first time was more important than a five-minute time limit.
ESPN was allowed to choose its own reporter for the interview, and sent golf reporter Tom Rinaldi. The network made no agreement on what could or could not be asked, he said.
Due to the time frame, Rinaldi told Woods before the interview that he may have to interrupt to move the interview along.
“We wanted to avoid a filibuster,” Doria said. “The things we were most concerned with was that there were no restrictions on questions, and there were not.”
Golf Channel spokesman Dan Higgins also said the network felt getting the chance to talk to Woods trumped the time limit. Woods’ representatives approached the network on Friday about the interview, which was conducted by reporter Kelly Tilghman.
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Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, did not immediately return e-mail and phone messages seeking comment.
Meanwhile, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledged in an e-mail to the AP that he had been working for Woods and had decided to withdraw.
Wade said the network would have no other comment about its decision, made by Sean McManus, who runs both the networks’ news and sports departments.
McManus, in an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this month, said that Woods’ first tournament back would be the biggest media event other than President Barack Obama’s inauguration over the past 10 or 15 years. McManus also told the magazine that “if the opportunity came up for an interview with Tiger for ‘60 Minutes,’ I would not turn down that opportunity down.”
ESPN conducted its interview with Woods around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Doria said. He said he presumed Woods’ people wanted to do something before the Masters.
“We went over the questions, the last 48 hours with Tom, knowing we were going to be somewhat constrained. … We were able to ask every question we wanted. His answers were short.”
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