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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Steve Mort

Aired July 17, 2003 - 19:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: British papers are outraged over new revelations about Princess Diana and are printing them all over. That's how outraged they are. Former lover James -- Princess Diana's former lover, James Hewitt, is now telling people what a great lover the late princess was, and he's sharing letters she wrote to him during his service in the first Iraq war.
One says, and I quote, "Boy oh boy, does the earth shake when I get a letter from my desert friend, screams of delight, tears, you name it, demented female on the loose. That's for sure," end quote.

The revelations come in a new documentary, "James Hewitt: Confessions of a Cad," that's what it's called.

Joining me now from Washington to talk about all this, help us try to figure out why it's become such a big story, Steve Mort, a correspondent for Britain's Feature Story News.

Steve, thanks for being with us.

STEVE MORT, FEATURE STORY NEWS: Sure.

COOPER: James Hewitt certainly not a liked man in Great Britain. Why is he coming forward with these new revelations now?

MORT: Well, I think, Anderson, the world "reviled" is probably a better way to describe James Hewitt. I think he's coming forward now because I feel that he doesn't have anything to lose. He's already a pretty hated man, and he's got these letters, which, up until now, he's had a limited amount of success in trying to offload for quite a lot of money.

This documentary opportunity appears to have come along. It follows him around the United States earlier this year when he was trying to sell these letters for what's reported to be $16 million. That's...

COOPER: And he wasn't able, he wasn't able to sell those letters, right?

MORT: That's right. It got an awful lot of bad press, both in the United States and in the U.K. as well. Now this documentary opportunity has come along, and I think that he feels, really, he doesn't have anything to lose by coming out with this information.

COOPER: Just to get a sense of the vitriol against this man in Great Britain, I want to show you a quote. This is from Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell. He said, quote, "No amount of derogatory words do him justice. Cad. Rat. Slimeball. Snake. Disgrace. All those tags have been used before but come nowhere near to summing up this disgusting creature."

I mean, is it all just about the money for this guy?

MORT: Well, it seems to be. Certainly if you read the tabloids, it seems to be about the money. But in your introduction, you really pointed out the hypocrisy here, where all the newspapers in Britain, which love a good, salacious story, have roundly attacked James Hewitt.

But really, they are all cashing in in their own way on these revelations, these salacious details. They do sell papers. And no matter what the outrage is in Great Britain, there is a great deal of interest.

It's not only "The Daily Mirror" you quote there, Paul Burrell from an interview, also other newspapers like "The Sun," which puts him on the front page showing him in a rat's costume, saying there he's getting a taste of his own medicine.

"The Daily Mail," which is one of the most popular newspapers in Britain, describing Hewitt as "overweight, seedy, and reduced to playing a gigolo with older women."

So you can really see the kind of vitriol that the newspapers in Britain are taking to James Hewitt. But at the same time, I think many editors will be kind of glad he's done this (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: Right, and we'll also, you know, they're still...

MORT: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: ... publishing some of the revelations. I mean, I could ask you about the details of the revelations. I really just don't want to do that. I guess -- I mean, have we heard anything from the palace, anything from Diana's sons, about their reaction?

MORT: Well, we have heard that Princes William and Harry are said to be very angry about this. We haven't had any formal announcement from the palace about reaction to this. They don't tend to react to this kind of publicity.

They did react, however, to the whole case earlier this year regarding Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former butler. He's not particularly well liked in Britain either, despite his criticism of James Hewitt. He came out with a lot of criticism of the queen. He accused the royal family of stabbing Princess Diana in the back, in so many words.

The palace did in the end...

COOPER: Right. MORT: ... because of the amount of publicity that case got, was forced to come out and make a statement. But I don't think we can expect any formal announcements or any formal statement...

COOPER: Understood.

MORT: ... from the palace regarding what James Hewitt is saying now.

COOPER: All right, Steve Mort, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

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