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Clinton Talks TV

Former president Bill Clinton met with NBC executives this week about the possibility of hosting a talk show. The negotiations took place at the Los Angeles offices of his old friend, TV producer Harry Thomason.

Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, longtime Clinton friends who produced the hit sitcom "Designing Women", are helping the former president navigate in the discussions.

There was some disagreement over who called the meeting. Clinton's spokeswoman Julia Payne confirmed that it took place but said the ex-president was listening to proposals, not demanding his own show.

The Los Angeles Times quoted TV industry sources as saying Clinton wanted $50 million a year to host a talk show and had aspirations "of becoming the next Oprah Winfrey."

For her part, Winfrey makes more than $100 million per year.

Thomason issued a brief statement: "Yes, President Clinton, as he has over the years, visited our offices (Wednesday), and we were glad to let him use them for a meeting with several of his acquaintances from NBC."

Payne said, "Yesterday's informal meeting was one of many meetings President Clinton has had with many people over the past year."

And a terse NBC statement said a "range of ideas was discussed, which included the opportunity of working together." The network also referred to the talks as an "informal meeting."

Television industry sources cited by the Times said they doubted Clinton would actually commit to doing a talk show once he understands the demands of such a job, which typically involve daily weekday tapings for 39 weeks out of the year.

Talk show host Maury Povich said he would relish the opportunity to compete against Clinton, but doubts it will happen.

"I think it's folly," Povich said. "It's a bunch of NBC guys who want to be able to tell their friends they sat down with the president. The president could just be jacking up his speaking fees."

In December 2000, his last month in the White House, NBC officials acknowledged approaching Clinton through Thomason with the idea of the president hosting a weekly talk show after he left office. At the time, the White House dismissed the idea, saying Clinton "had no plans to do such a show."

A television program hosted by a former president would be unprecedented. Ex-occupants of the Oval Office typically have kept a relatively low profile as elder statesmen, devoting themselves mainly to philanthropic pursuits, speeches and the organization of their libraries.

Clinton reportedly has been earning as much as $15 million a year on the lecture circuit since leaving office, in addition to a $12 million publishing deal with Alfred A. Knopf that is believed to be the largest advance in history.