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Larry King Sticks Up for Katie Couric

Count Larry King among Katie Couric’s fans. The venerable CNN host watches the new anchor of the CBS Evening News and thinks her ratings struggles have more to do with gender than with journalism.

“It might still be hard for a woman to anchor the evening news,” King says. “And that’s sad.”

Couric, whom King calls “smart and certainly attractive,” will commandeer the host’s chair on Larry King Live in April to interview King as part of a special week of shows honoring his 50th year in broadcasting.

King also believes Couric suffers from the stigma of representing a network news division that is trailing in the ratings.

“Maybe you just can’t change the way you are branded,” he says. “CBS can’t do well in the morning, either. [The Early Show] is a good show. If they moved Katie to the morning, would it help? Maybe not. They may just be branded [as unsuccessful in the mornings].”

As others have suggested, it may take a major news event to help the former Today host shed her “perky” image, says King: “Hurricane Katrina made Anderson Cooper. It could happen to Katie that way.”

Speaking of Cooper, King says he has no problem with the way CNN has been marketing the anchor and other rising stars at the network.

“I would be promoting Anderson, too,” he says. “He has a bright future. I hope they don’t lose him.”

'House’ Call

David Shore, the creator of Fox’s hit medical drama House, wasn’t really sure what to make of the Jan. 4 episode of NBC’s medical comedy Scrubs.

In the episode, titled “My House,” the gruff Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) adopts a cane and limps about solving outlandish medical mysteries in an apparent homage to the gruff, cane-wielding Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) on Fox.

“It was cool, but I got the feeling it came from a place they thought we were ripping them off,” says Shore, whose show is currently in its third season (Scrubs is in its sixth). “But I think Scrubs is a great show. I’m going to interpret it as paying homage to us.”

Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence confirms it was all in good fun. “I watch House; it’s a good show,” he says. “It’s an acerbic, cynical doctor that hates everybody. Sure, there were definitely some similarities between him and [Scrubs’] Cox, but we didn’t take any shots for real on our show.”

Lawrence does admit to some difficulty in watching Laurie rake in the awards and accolades while McGinley and his show have been largely overlooked during awards season. But he would never accuse House—or anyone else, for that matter—of ripping off Scrubs.

“For me to ever say House ripped us off, I’d have to say we ripped off Wonder Years and M*A*S*H,” he says. “So I can’t say anything.”

Dan’s Digs

When he left CBS News last June after 44 years, Dan Rather leapt right into a new news gig at HDNet and never looked back.

But if the former Evening News anchor was looking to forget about the flawed 2004 report on President Bush’s National Guard service that led to his ignominious departure from the network, he might have picked a different address to set up shop.

“One of the guys [on my team] had located a space,” Rather told B&C in an interview last week. “And he says to me, 'I want to recommend it, but there’s a problem.’

“I’m thinking: What, no high-speed Internet or construction?

“Finally, he spits it out: 'It’s called the Bush Building.’”

The 29-story Gothic tower on 42nd St., just off Times Square, is named for Irving T. Bush, who founded the Bush Terminal Co. and has no known relationship to the president’s family.

Rather acknowledged the irony with good humor and greenlighted the space.

And despite his prior run-ins with the Bush family (remember that heated exchange with Bush 41 back in 1988?), he says it’s too early to rule on W.’s presidency—a subject he recently tackled for Dan Rather Reports on HDNet.

Says Rather, “I’ve been around long enough to know that a lot of presidents are judged better in retrospect than during their time in office.”

With Ben Grossman