ABC's Walters jilts Hiltons on interview

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NEW YORK -- The saga of which network would get Paris Hilton's first post-jail sit-down took another turn Friday when Barbara Walters turned down the potential interview despite a personal appeal from Hilton.

Walters and her producer, David Sloan, made the decision Friday morning following a back-and-forth with the Hilton family that heated up Thursday night and stretched into the early morning hours Friday. It followed Thursday's rumor that NBC had offered the Hilton camp $1 million for an exclusive interview with Meredith Vieira for "Today" and "Dateline NBC." NBC denied that it was even in the market for an interview with Hilton.

Hilton's mother Kathy Hilton reached out to Walters on Thursday night, and Walters received a phone call at 2 a.m. Eastern time Friday from Paris Hilton, who was calling from jail to say that she only wanted to do the interview with ABC. Sources familiar with the situation said Paris Hilton apologized for the situation.

Walters also received a message from her father, Rick Hilton, on Friday asking if ABC wanted the exclusive. Sloan and Walters made the decision that they weren't going to do an interview with her, and they informed Rick Hilton around 2:30 p.m. EDT, sources said.

Before the NBC bombshell, it looked like Walters would be the front-runner to interview the jailed heiress. Kathy Hilton and Walters are friends, and Paris Hilton had called Walters from a jail pay phone two weeks ago to talk about her incarceration.

But that all went out the door Wednesday when ABC received word that it potentially had been outbid by NBC, though NBC News denied Thursday that it had made a bid and that it would ever pay for news. ABC News would have been willing to offer $50,000-$100,000 for licensing fees but was shocked to learn that the going rate was said to be 10 times the upper end of the figure. No ABC bid was made.

The Hilton family released a statement Thursday night saying that it would not accept money for Paris Hilton interviews, and then reached out to ABC and Walters again.
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