The host of Channel 7’s Interview (which returns tonight at 9pm) has sat down with some of the world’s most interesting people during his long-running TV career, including Bill Clinton, Jerry Seinfeld and Cher.
But it was a question he asked a journalist in a 2003 interview that Denton still feels terrible about to this day.
“There was an extraordinary American journalist called Helen Thomas who was the queen of the White House press corps, and for almost 50 years the president of the United States would ask her the first question (in every press conference),” Denton told news.com.au.
“I went to Washington to interview her, and her husband had died, and she’d nursed him as he died. I don’t remember the explicit question that I asked, but it was a very personal question about that, and she got very upset, and she said, ‘This is what you came for, isn’t it!’
“It was a very uncomfortable exchange and I insisted it all stay in (the final edit) because I wanted people to see something that had gone wrong, if you like.”
Despite the awkward moment, Thomas agreed to have dinner with Denton afterwards where the TV host apologised for upsetting her.
“I said, ‘I’m terribly sorry to have caused you that distress’,” Denton told news.com.au. “I felt terrible about it and even retelling it now I still do.
“She said, ‘Look, it’s not you, it’s me. I’m about politics. I so dislike talking about myself personally’.
“I felt that we really had hit a nerve that we shouldn’t have hit.”
Just as he regrets asking that question in particular, there’s also a question Denton regrets not asking one of his famous interview subjects.
“This sounds like a silly one, but I still deeply regret it,” he told news.com.au. “I interviewed Rod Stewart many years ago, and I never asked him about his obsession with model trains, and I really wish I had (laughs).
“I can’t remember why I didn’t, but I was so annoyed with myself afterwards.”
Tonight’s first episode of season two of Interview features Angry Anderson, whose son Liam was killed last year, having “a powerful discussion on loss, family and finding the path towards joy”.
Denton wouldn’t reveal who else would be sitting down in the blue chair in this season of Interview, but he did tell news.com.au a proposed chat with Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison fell through.
“We approached both ScoMo and Bill, and we were going to match them together in one show with their wives and talk to them not about politics but about them as people,” he said.
“We had a yes from ScoMo and his wife and a yes from Bill but a no from Chloe (Shorten). So make of that what you will.”
Andrew Denton’s Interview premieres tonight at 9pm on Seven. Catch up on 7plus.