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A critic responds to the John and Patsy Ramsey interviews

The couple’s talks with Barbara and Katie are nauseating but instructive, says Ken Tucker

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A critic responds to the John and Patsy Ramsey interviews

The spectacle of watching network ”reporters” like ABC’s Barbara Walters and NBC’s Katie Couric ”interview” John and Patsy Ramsey about the 1996 death of their 6-year-old daughter JonBenet is, as always with this sort of pseudo-news event, a nauseating and instructive process. The Ramseys appeared on ”20/20” this past Friday, and started appearing on ”The Today Show” for the first of five guest spots on Monday, all simultaneous with the release of their new book, ”The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet’s Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth.”

For the Ramseys to get huffy about the exploitation of their daughter after making these TV appearances is little short of obscene. On both ”20/20” and ”Today,” they sit side by side, dutifully going over the details of finding JonBenet’s body, responding to the promptings of Walters and Couric with tears (grief) and rage (at the Boulder, Colo., police investigation). Am I alone in thinking that the best way for the Ramseys to serve their daughter is to help any and all law-enforcement investigations of the murder and to maintain the child’s dignity by clamming up when the celebrity press comes calling?

Since it is by no means clear, as Walters pointed out, whether the Ramseys should be ruled out as suspects in the murder, isn’t it outrageous that the couple should be accorded the fawning, smiling, gentle handling they are receiving by Walters and Couric? After a commercial for her Oscar-night celebrity special, Walters managed to ask the Ramseys one of her patented, celebrity-style softball questions — ”Do you dream about JonBenet?” Shortly after this, there was another ad, this one promoting Walters’ ”first live interview with Princess Diana’s bodyguard” on an upcoming ”Good Morning America.”

Oh, goody — ANOTHER death to exploit for ratings.