Who was more uncomfortable during the exchange Tuesday between CNN senior United Nations reporter Richard Roth and actor George Clooney?

Clooney and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, were participating in the U.N. roundtable on the Syrian refugee crisis convened by President Obama. Roth was doing his usual beat coverage of high-level international issues and interviewing the star for CNN. But the biggest news of the day — no, not Syrian airstrikes, but the divorce of Clooney’s old pals Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — dictated that their interview take a tabloid-y turn.

“Don’t shoot me on this last question,” Roth says to the actor in a clip of the exchange that CNN posted (having, it seems, cut the more substantive conversation that preceded it). He doesn’t sound sheepish, exactly, but the preface indicates that he’s about to divert from the serious issues at hand and he’s not exactly thrilled about it. “It’s a big story,” he adds by way of justification. “You’re friends with both of them.”

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Then it’s Clooney’s turn to look uneasy — when it becomes clear that he hasn’t yet heard the news, and Roth is breaking it to him. “I didn’t know that — wow.” The typically unflappable Oscar-winner looks like he might need a moment. “I feel very sorry for them,” Clooney finally says. “That’s a sad story and unfortunate for a family. It’s an unfortunate story about a family. I feel very sorry to hear that.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Roth, a veteran journalist who is the network’s second longest-serving employee, said he thought the divorce was a legitimate news story, and not beneath him— especially given that Jolie has been involved in U.N. refugee efforts, too. “I know what news is… and I still think both stories [refugees and the divorce] are news in this multi-media world,” he said. He described the interview, which took place in a crowded hallway, where Clooney recognized him from previous interviews and stopped to talk. He held onto the Brangelina question for last, he said, because, it simply best fit the “flow” of the conversation.

Flexibility to shift from to hard news to slightly softer fare is clearly something Roth has learned in his years in the business:  “You never know what will happen at U.N. General Assembly week. ”

Copyright: Washington Post

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