Katie Couric: Here to Stay.

That’s what they say at CBS News, four of whose leading lights spoke to the critics in Beverly Hills this morning via satellite from New York.

The rumor that she’s leaving the ratings-challenged CBS Evening News after the presidential election, or the inauguration, at the latest?


“It’s not true,” said CBS News and Sports boss Sean McManus.

“I can echo that,” said la Couric herself. “We have no plans to part company anytime soon.”

She said the rumors were just that, “speculative pieces that got spun completely out of control. I’m very committed to the people here, very committed to the product.”

“I can’t control what media writers write. It’s almost like an echo chamber because they’re more fascinated about these things than anybody in the real world. It’s befuddling to me.”

The CBS quartet, which also included Political Guru Jeff Greenfield and Wise Old Man Bob Schieffer, strongly defended the decision by all the Big Three nets to send their news anchors to the Middle East next week with Barack Obama, “on what amounts to a political trip,” as one critic characterized it.

“Here is a candidate who has been questioned about his stance and expertise on foreign policy,” said McManus. “I can’t imagine any network not saying that would be the biggest news story of the week.”

“We’ve never had a nominee this close to the nomination” take a foreign trip, “particularly in a war zone,” said Greenfield. “It’s not as though this is going to be North Korean television covering Kim Jung Il.”

“We’re not going to be asking him, ‘How do you like the weather in Jordan, Mr. Senator?’<TH>” chimed in Couric.

Citing the Obama campaign invitation to the anchors as a “very deft” move, she said anchors probably would have gone along with John McCain to the Middle East last spring, if they had gotten a similar invite and promise of extensive interview time.

They all defended the Evening News, of course, which, even if it is a distant third in the ratings, draws more viewers every night than ever watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox News at one time.

“Some days you get the bear,” said Schieffer. “Some days the bears get you. But on a long-term basis, this is a very good newscast.”