CBS Critiques Itself Over "Legitimizing" Woody Allen Interview

A segment on 'CBS Sunday Morning' features criticism of an interview airing on the company's streaming service Paramount+.

Viewers of CBS Sunday Morning this week saw something unusual on the broadcast network: A segment critical of its own work.

The program featured a segment — led by correspondent Erin Moriarty — about so-called "cancel culture," using examples of controversial musicians, comedians and filmmakers like Louis C.K., Michael Jackson, and of course, Woody Allen.

What made the segment notable, however, was that it took aim at an interview with Allen conducted by CBS News, and which is streaming as of today on the Paramount+.

"If someone is there being interviewed, they're given a kind of legitimacy just by the fact that they're being interviewed on a big newscast," art critic Aruna D'Souza says of the Allen interview in the segment broadcast Sunday.

It's worth noting that the Allen interview — which was filmed last summer — never aired on CBS, and is debuting on the streaming service as part of a larger package that includes an interview Gayle King conducted with Dylan Farrow in 2018 as well as the Moriarty segment that ran on CBS Sunday.

The Allen interview raised some eyebrows when it was announced on Saturday. It was Allen's first one-on-one TV interview with a U.S. broadcaster in nearly 30 years (his last interview was with CBS' 60 Minutes in 1992) and came after his memoir was canceled by Hachette (correspondent Lee Cowan, who interviewed Allen, said on the Paramount+  program that the interview was tied to Allen's memoir).

Normally, an exclusive interview of that nature would be a significant booking, given the renewed accusations of abuse by Dylan Farrow. However, CBS ended up letting the interview sit on the shelf, until now.

In a statement, CBS News says that the interview was shelved due to the "active news cycle" last year, with COVID-19 raging, the presidential election and social justice protests across the country. The decision to air it on Paramount+ was due to "renewed interest in the controversy surrounding the filmmaker," given the recent HBO docuseries Allen v. Farrow.

"To be honest, due to the swirling controversy, the storm of opinion, both pro and con, we gave careful consideration whether to do this interview at all," Cowan said at the top of the interview. "But you’re about to see it."

"Whether or not you believe Woody Allen, whether or not you even like him, we hope you’ll at least want to hear what he has to say,” Cowen added.

The interview itself was not particularly newsworthy, with Allen repeating the same denials he has made a number of times over the years, saying “there was no logic" to Farrow's claims, adding that “I believe she thinks it. I don’t believe she’s making it up. She’s not lying. I believe she believes that.”

A CBS News source said they didn't know why the Allen interview was held until now, noting that while it isn't unusual for interviews to be held for a month or longer given the tight packaging of CBS Sunday Morning segments, normally pieces that don't air after a few months of filming never air at all.

However, the package that ultimately ran on the streaming service, with Allen's interview paired with Farrow's critical interview and the segment from Moriarty, suggests that when Allen was back in the news, CBS decided to dust off the tape, but knew that a segment with the filmmaker alone wouldn't cut it.

The streaming special "offers the ability to explore Allen, his career, and the allegations in context and with the depth that this story demands," the CBS statement added.

Meanwhile, viewers of the broadcast network that saw the segment critical of the Allen interview were reminded they would need to subscribe to Paramount+ to actually view it.

Allen did not participate in Allen v Farrow, which concluded March 14 and saw the filmmakers welcoming him to do a follow-up interview.

The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Dylan Farrow for comment concerning the CBS interview.