A great intereview he held with GHW and Barbara Bush
Sir David Frost: his five best interviews
From Richard Nixon to Muhammad Ali, Sir David Frost talked to some of the biggest names of the 20th century. Chris Harvey picks five of his best interviews.
By Chris Harvey
2:36PM BST 01 Sep 2013
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969
Things got quite heated on The David Frost Show in 1969 when Frost interviewed John Lennon, resplendent in a pink suit and tie, and Yoko Ono, all in black, at the height of their peacenik phase. The early phases of the interview included some gentle sparring about Lennon's recent musical output before Frost asked the couple what else they wanted to do. “Make peace, and sell it,” replied Lennon. “Is it too simple a truth?” asked Frost of the couple’s one-word doctrine. “What is too simple about me not killing you now?” responded Lennon. Frost kept his nerve. “Well I think that’s a good idea, on the whole,” he replied.
Muhammad Ali, 1974
Frost joined Muhammad Ali at his Deer Lake training camp in Pennsylvania as he prepared to face the formidable unbeaten heavyweight champion George Foreman in a fight that many believed would end the 32-year-old Ali’s career. Frost conducted the interview in the centre of a boxing ring, where he questioned Ali on his Muslim beliefs, and why he thought he could beat a fighter who had defeated so many of his contemporaries. Ali showed prescient knowledge about one of Frost's future encounters: “Listen David, when I meet this man, if you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait till I whip Foreman’s behind.” Ali, of course, went on to win the fight.
Richard Nixon, 1977
Frost’s series of interviews with the former President, three years after his resignation, were not only a milestone in television history and a landmark in political accountability, but remarkably they were conducted at a time when Frost’s own talk show had been cancelled. In almost 29 hours of interviews (later the subject of the play and film Frost/Nixon) Frost worried away at Nixon’s recollections of the events of the Watergate scandal, catching him off guard with his knowledge of a previously unknown conversation. The interview famously brought a retort from the disgraced former President about the legality of his actions: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” And the astonishing mea culpa: “I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let the American people down. And I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life.”
Henry Kissinger, 1979
Frost put his friendship with Henry Kissinger to one side when he interviewed the former US Secretary of State for an NBC TV special in 1979, and the ensuing exchanges were so tense that Frost later said that Kissinger didn't speak to him for 20 years. He challenged Kissinger on America’s secret bombing campaign in Cambodia in 1969 when he was in office, and President Nixon’s claim in a speech in 1970 that the US had never moved against Cambodia. “Why did he say that when it wasn’t true?” pressed Frost. Kissinger replied that Nixon was given to hyperbole. “In that case, why did you say exactly the same thing in your press briefing 30 minutes later?” Frost asked, bringing the admission from Kissinger: “That was a mistake.”George Bush Snr, 1989
Frost himself picked this as his finest interview moment. It was filmed in a wood cabin at George Bush Snr’s home in Maine, following his inauguration in 1989. Bush opened up to the veteran interviewer about his family life, and his feelings about the loss of his daughter to leukaemia, in a way that revealed a different side of the new President to the American public. Frost remained an admirer of George H W Bush in later life, and interviewed him on a number of occasions, describing him as wise, cautious and very effective. After the Gulf War, he and the President recorded a nearly five hour interview putting on record his thoughts about the war.