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Gamesmanship at 10 over Smadi followup interviews

Shadowy figure: CBS11's Jack Fink interviewed alleged terrorist bomber's estranged wife on Tuesday's 10 p.m. news after WFAA8's Jason Whitely first got to her in daylight hours. Photo: Ed Bark

D-FW's two 10 p.m. news kingpins battled for bragging rights Tuesday via followup interviews with those closest to alleged terrorist bomber Hosam Maher Husein Smadi.

WFAA8 struck first on Tuesday's early evening newscasts, where reporter Jason Whitely made exclusive contact with Rosie Duron, who's separated from Smadi and says she plans to seek a divorce. His report also aired on the 10 p.m. newscast, with Whitely still stationed live in Italy, Texas, where Smadi had lived.

Duron "shied away from the camera, but not the questions," Whitely told viewers. He shielded her from view while the camera had his back.

"I love him. He is everything," she said while WFAA8 also showed printed excerpts on screen. "What he has done is amazing. But it's crazy. I can't believe it."

Smadi is charged with intent to bomb downtown Dallas' Fountain Place after FBI agents supplied him with bogus explosives. Duron told Whitely that he "never ever, ever mentioned anything like this."

They separated after just three months. "Rosie blamed it on long hours at work, and Smadi being too clean," Whitely said without elaboration. "She remembers the split crushed him."

CBS11, beaten on the interview, played catchup at 10 p.m., with Jack Fink reporting live from Smadi's former residence in Italy. He captured Duron in a double silhouette against a brick wall. A bit spooky but certainly eye-catching.

"Rosie didn't want to be seen during our interview, but wanted to be heard," Fink told viewers.

She termed Smadi a "sweet guy. Wouldn't hurt a fly. I mean, wonderful guy."

Duron also denied rumors that Smadi had paid her to marry him in order to avoid deportation.

"Did he offer you $5,000?" Fink asked.

"No sir," she said.

CBS11 has been trailing WFAA8 in post-terrorist arrest scoops, but made a breakthrough on Tuesday's 10 p.m. edition with what it touted as "the first American television interview" with Smadi's father in Jordan.

"CBS11's Jay Gormley joins us now with the exclusive," anchor Karen Borta said. Earlier, in a tease during CBS's 9 p.m. episode of The Good Wife, anchor Doug Dunbar said that Smadi's father would be "telling us his own fears" about his son.

That's not entirely true. Gormley, who narrated the interview from CBS11's Fort Worth studios, never went to Jordan. Nor did he talk to Smadi's father, Maher Smadi, via satellite.

CBS11 is, however, owned and operated by the CBS network. So technically, "us" is more or less an operative word. And CBS11 news director Scott Diener, in a subsequent email response, says that CBS11 took the reins in this case.

"Actually, WE initiated the interview through our bureau resources in Jordan," Diener said, meaning the CBS network news bureau. "The interview was for us exclusively and did not run on the CBS Network, nor was it provided for the CBS News affiliate feed."

WFAA management declined to comment on the veracity of CBS11's claims. Whatever you think of Diener's rationale, Smadi's father had some interesting things to say. And no other station had him on-camera.

"This big change in my son's life truly scared me," Maher Smadi said of his April visit to Italy to see him. "I was about to call the police for the safety of my son."

Smadi also said that his son had "become fanatical in his religious beliefs."

Perhaps you're wondering where Fox4 and NBC5 were during all of this.

Fox4 basically was left in the dust, settling for reporter Shaun Rabb's interview of a friend of Smadi's estranged wife. And NBC5 didn't try at all, offering no followup coverage of Smadi during its Tuesday 10 p.m. edition.