"Many good people have gone to prison," the domestic diva tells Barbara Walters

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 19, 2004 08:00 AM
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Facing tough questioning from Barbara Walters on Friday – the same day a federal judge sentenced her to five months in prison – a stoic Martha Stewart declared: “Many good people have gone to prison. Look at (South African hero) Nelson Mandela.”

While many critics seized upon comment to blast Stewart, the domestic diva also managed to surprise the generally unflappable Walters during the ABC interview.

“Martha, you are too much,” said Walters after Stewart, who is known for her painstaking attention to detail, admitted that she has done absolutely no research whatsoever into prison life. (Stewart remains free on bail pending the appeal of her case, stemming from a stock sale she made in 2001.)

“I could do it,” Stewart, 62, finally said about serving time. “I’m a really good camper. I can sleep on the ground.”

Stewart balked when Walters brought up the issue of strip searches, telling the journalist: “I don’t think in a minimum security prison there will be strip searches.”

“Oh, yes,” insisted Walters.

“Maybe I’m uninformed,” Stewart said.

By contrast, the domestic diva – who appeared to make light of how difficult it was to accept the fact she’s a convicted felon – smiled and grew positively animated when she started describing details of the upcoming issues of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living.

Several times during the interview, such as when Walters asked Stewart about altering a message in her telephone-log book, Stewart declined to respond, citing the fact that her case is on appeal.

In addition to her five-month prison sentence, Stewart will also get five months of home confinement and two years’ supervised probation.