Julian Goodman, Former President of NBC, Dies at 90

As network chief, he sparred with the Nixon administration, inked a record-setting deal with Johnny Carson and was forced to apologize for "Heidi bowl."

Julian Goodman, who as president of NBC sparred with the Nixon administration, oversaw a record-setting deal to keep Johnny Carson at the network and was forced to apologize for the infamous Heidi cutaway during an NFL game, died Monday at his home in Juno Beach, Fla., of kidney failure, The New York Times reported. He was 90.

Goodman was a former journalist who produced the second Richard Nixon-John F. Kennedy presidential debate before becoming head of NBC in 1965. Four years into his tenure, he found himself at odds with the Nixon administration, including Vice President Spiro Agnew, who said the news media was biased in its coverage of the Vietnam War.

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"Evidently he would prefer a different kind of television reporting -- one that would be subservient to whatever group was in authority at the time," Goodman replied, according to The Times.

Goodman also sparred with Patrick Buchanan, Nixon's speechwriter, after he said the networks should be "decentralized," and again became embroiled in a conflict with the administration when it threatened to pull the networks' broadcast licenses if their news divisions didn't give Nixon more favorable coverage.

Also while heading up NBC, Goodman oversaw a then-record-setting $1 million deal to keep Carson in place as The Tonight Show host, The Times reported.

It also was during Goodman's tenure that NBC famously cut away from a live broadcast of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to air the movie Heidi as scheduled. Viewers missed the end of the game, when the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32-29 Jets lead.

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Viewers were outraged, and Goodman was forced to apologize, calling what came to be known as "Heidi bowl" a "forgivable error."

“I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else,” he said.

Goodman was born May 1, 1922, in Glasgow, Ky., and got his start as a journalist there. After a stint in the Army, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he was hired to replace David Brinkley on the NBC News night news desk. He later produced the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate and went on to replace Robert Kintner as head of NBC after Kintner was fired.

Goodman is survived by his wife, Betty Davis, whom he married in 1946, as well as three sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.