Diane Sawyer knows much of the country’s attention has been on a particular story this week, but she has someone else’s to help tell.
The veteran, much-honored journalist and weeknight “ABC World News” anchor spends two hours of the network’s primetime Sunday (July 10) on Jaycee Dugard, abducted at age 11 in Tahoe, Calif., in June 1991 and held prisoner — and abused — over the next 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who were given life sentences last month for the kidnapping and sexual assault of Dugard.
“I want to make sure that I let her speak straight,” Sawyer tells Zap2it of the first interview with the now 31-year-old Dugard. “I let her speak to the camera and let her reach everyone. She doesn’t need my help. When she comes on the screen and talks, she’s the one you’ll remember. She’s the one with the rich, multidimensional lesson to teach.
“She can teach us so much about surviving what is unimaginable to survive. She has so much to teach about how you recover when you leave a life like the one she led … and she also wants everyone to stare in the face what it means when you have a registered sex offender who is not monitored.”
Another big part of the lesson, Sawyer believes, regards law enforcement’s response to Dugard’s situation. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof: “Sixty times, the parole officers came to that house. And she was there, and they didn’t see her, find her or look hard enough. Or ask enough questions in order to save her. Chris Cuomo has been doing that investigation for the program, and he’s looking into all parts of it.”
Now the mother of two daughters born while she was a captive, and who reside with her and her mother (who also is interviewed in the special), Dugard impressed Sawyer greatly over the course of their exclusive conversation.
“I have talked to people in related situations,” Sawyer reflects, “including children, and you never know whether you will find someone who has shut down and can’t — or can’t bring themselves to — remember. She has this big, beautiful smile, and she’s funny and so intelligent and open. ‘Fearless’ is the word that comes to mind when you begin to talk to her.”
Dugard’s memoir “A Stolen Life” will be released Tuesday (July 12). Sawyer got an early look at it, and she says, “Some of it is very detailed, and some of it is unflinching. I asked her about that, and she said, ‘It’s about him (Phillip Garrido), it’s not about me. It’s his life, not my life.’ She believes that you have to look at what really happened, in order to understand why we all have to work together to care and do something for these [missing] children and their families.”
Still putting the finishing touches on the Dugard special, Sawyer was doing so Thursday morning (July 7) when Casey Anthony was sentenced on four counts of lying to police then probing the disappearance of Anthony’s later-found-dead daughter Caylee.
“I know everyone in the newsroom has been following it attentively,” Sawyer says as she also prepares for the evening’s “ABC World News” broadcast. “We have a big team covering it.”