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60 Minutes producer provides the story behind the story4 December 2008
You can say what you want about the 60 Minutes piece that ran Sunday night about the cheating scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet -- and almost everyone in the online poker community has. But the man who produced the segment says the venerable television news magazine show accomplished exactly what it set out to do when it began investigating the story eight months ago.
"From the people I have talked to, we've gotten a very positive response," longtime TV producer Ira Rosen told Casino City on Thursday. "We feel strongly that it was fair and accurate. The fact that some people might feel otherwise isn't really a concern because that's the nature of the beast."
One person in particular who clearly stated he wasn't expecting a fair and balanced portrayal of the industry was Paul Leggett, the COO of the parent company that owns Absolute Poker and UltimateBet. In fact, Leggett declined to conduct an on camera interview with 60 Minutes and criticized the story before it aired.
In anticipation of the airing of the story, Leggett allegedly sent out a lengthy memo to his employees that week that was titled "Re: 60 Minutes Television Program." In the memo, which ran more than 1,000 words and has since been circulated throughout the Internet, Leggett stated that, "we have every reason to believe that the 60 Minutes producers are intent on portraying the online poker industry and our companies in a negative light, and we do not expect that the program will be either fair or balanced."
When we read this statement to Rosen, the producer said that he had heard about the memo, but didn't put much credence into what it was saying.
"We gave him every opportunity to come on camera to have his say and in the end for some reason he declined," said Rosen, who was been a 60 Minutes producer off and on for the last 28 years. "We talked to him for months and months about it. I even flew up to Montreal and met with him personally to see if we could get it done. Leggett told me personally that he had nothing to hide, but the KGC (Kahnawake Gaming Commission) wasn't letting him do any interviews. Then I pick up a cigar magazine (Cigar Aficionado) and I see an interview with him. Then I hear that he did an interview on a couple of podcasts. In my mind, that doesn't say much for Mr. Leggett's credibility."
On Thursday, Leggett posted an item on his personal blog titled "60 MINUTES STORY – Did I make the right decision?" In the posting, he asks whether or not he made the right decision to decline to go on camera for the story.
"After talking at length with the two gentlemen (Rosen and Washington Post reporter Gil Gaul) it became very obvious to me that they had no interest in telling a fair story," Leggett wrote in the post. "They were only interested in getting me on camera to try and make me and my company look bad. Basically, it came down to them wanting to produce a sexy story about the 'dark underbelly' of online poker and embellish it with details of the cheating scandal. Knowing this, I decided not to grant the on-camera interview and instead just provide them with a written statement."
Responded Rosen, "He's just doing what he thinks he needs to do. But I'm not going to sit here and get in a back-and-forth with Paul Leggett. All I'll say is that we pursued the UltimateBet side of the story very aggressively. We went above and beyond what we needed to do to get him on camera. But all of a sudden Leggett and their press people stopped responding. In the end I was disappointed in him. I thought he would eventually step up to the plate."
Another main character in the story that never went on camera was Russ Hamilton, the former World Series of Poker Main Event champ who the KGC identified as the "main person responsible" for the cheating scandal. In the 60 Minutes piece, reporter Steve Croft is shown placing a call to Hamilton's home in Las Vegas. Croft says on air that "we were told by a woman that answered the phone that he would be back in a little while. We left a message, but he hasn't returned the call."
According to Rosen, the attempts to track down Hamilton were much more than simply one phone call.
"We're always very thorough when it comes to tracking down sources," he said. "[Hamilton] just never responded."
Rosen said the reaction from the story is typical to what always seems to happen. And in the end, that's a major reason why the negative criticism doesn't bother him.
"You can't satisfy everyone when you do a piece like this, especially when it's on an industry as big as poker," Rosen said. "But we're very proud of how it came out. I know as far as our end is concerned we did our due diligence. It's just that you can't always make everybody happy."
60 Minutes producer provides the story behind the story is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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