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Larry King Live

Is Tonya Harding Skating on Thin Ice Again?

Aired June 6, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Tonya Harding, skating on thin ice, again? Tonya is here for an exclusive interview, and we'll take your call, and she's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

She's with us in her town of Portland, Oregon. She's Tonya Harding, the famed ice skater, who's latest problems dealt with a guilty plea and a sentence in May for an altercation with her boyfriend. We're going to deal with all of that and lots of things, and take your phone calls.

Tonya, do you think there's, for want of a better term, a kind of dark cloud following you around?

TONYA HARDING, ICE SKATER: Well, I think I go through life, and I have its ups and downs, but it makes me a stronger person.

KING: Do you blame yourself? Do you say things that have happened a lot my fault?

HARDING: I do. I do. I take full responsibility for my actions. And you know, I've been through a lot in my life, but I think it makes me a better person today. If I can help one person out there be able to realize that the things that I've been through they wouldn't want to be going through either.

KING: What would you say, Tonya, since it's become so public, is your biggest problem? Is it anger?


KING: We've had famous stories this week with John Rocker and Bobby Knight, other people in sports, very adept at what they do, who have trouble with anger management.

HARDING: I really don't know how to answer that.

KING: You don't know. Do you anger frequently?

HARDING: No, I don't really have a problem with anger. I'm usually the one who always tries to control everybody else and keep everybody calm. That way there is no problems. And if there is a problem, I always usually either walk away or a find an authority person to be able to help out.

KING: So what happened with Darren on May 18, your boyfriend?

HARDING: Actually, it was on February 22, and...

KING: Oh, you were -- I'm sorry -- sentenced on May 18, but it occurred in February. I'm sorry -- go ahead.

HARDING: Yes. Yes. Well, I was not really in the right state of mind, and I had believed at the time that he had pushed me to the ground, and so I punched him to get away from him. And now I look back on it, and things -- finding out things from my doctor, with the medications that I was on was a very probable cause of why this had happened, but I am very, very sorry to him, and his family and his friends that were involved in this. I know that we all wish that this never would have happened and that we could just go on with our lives.

KING: What medication were you on?

HARDING: Well, I take Zoloft for clinical depression. And when I was in my car accident, I was taking Hydrocodone for back pain, and I had foot surgery also.

KING: Now does Zoloft, which is a major depressant, does that not mix with painkillers?

HARDING: It doesn't mix with painkillers, but also being my own fault and why I take responsibility for my own actions is because I had been drinking alcohol that evening, and I never should have been drinking alcohol, and didn't really even think about it at time because it was several hours later after I had taken it, so I didn't think it would be a problem.

KING: Obviously, those three don't mix?

HARDING: They do not mix at all. And, you know, I just feel really bad about what happened. And from this whole thing, I've lost everything. I have lost my skating. I still teach, but I had an Ice Capades deal that was in the works for a tour, and I had a radio program show that was in the works also, and then I also lost my best friend.

KING: Your boyfriend?

HARDING: I mean, Darren and I were very much in love and had a very good life going for us, and he was my best friend, and I lost him too.

KING: And he asked for no penalty for you, and he asked that you be forgiven, but one of the laws of the court is that you have to stay away from him?

HARDING: No, that was only during the pretrial.

KING: I see. Is there a chance you two might get back together? HARDING: I really don't know. I hope that we can just be friends, and hopefully, you know, if God allows us to be together, it would be between him and I; it is not between anyone else, you know.

KING: I remember when last we spoke, I thought you were going to be with Ice Capades.

HARDING: No, I lost that deal.

KING: Because of this?

HARDING: Well, because of this, but because of "The Globe" article that came out. When "The Globe" came out, it had a photograph -- and I'll show it to you -- and this is what the globe did, and...

KING: Hold it up a little so we can see it.

HARDING: I'm sorry. This is what they said that I did to him, and this is a fraudulent picture, which "The Globe" has now admitted to national television that they did this to me, and it was horrible for me to see this, and I also have the picture that was actually taken by the police department that night here in my hand.

KING: Can we see that?

HARDING: This is actually when I punched him once, and this is what he looked like that night. The police officer took this, and then the next day, the police officer also took this one, and this is what he looked like.

KING: So obviously, that was wrong picture in "The Globe."


KING: But why doesn't Ice Capades then reconsider?

HARDING: They haven't reconsidered that I know of. No one has contacted Linda. Linda is my godparents -- Linda and Greg are my godparents, and also now she is my manager through LGL Public Relations, and we have...

KING: You would think if that was the reason, not the altercation, but that picture, which is certainly a damaging-looking picture -- and "The Globe" admits that that was tampered with and not the true picture -- why don't they consider taking you back?

HARDING: I don't know. I haven't heard anything from them. But I have had some other offers. I have another radio program that's on the Internet with, and I'm actually going to be doing two shows this week, one on Thursday and one on Friday, and it's actually, and it's going to be really fun, I'm really excited about that. and I also am three-quarters of the way through with my book, and Linda Prowse (ph) of Canada, who did Elizabeth Manley's best-seller, and also...

KING: She's writing with you? HARDING: Yes, she's my writer, and we are looking for a publisher at this time.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Tonya Harding.

As we go to break, here's what happened that night in the 911 call she made -- listen.


911 OPERATOR: This is Clark County 911. How can I help you?

HARDING: I need you to come over to my house right now. I punched him in the face because he came after me and put me to the ground.



911 OPERATOR: What's his middle name.

SILVER: Come on over, police.

HARDING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... and you pushed me to the ground.

SILVER: You're a liar. You're a liar. You are a felon, and I have nothing to hide. So come on over, officers.

HARDING: Come on over.



KING: Here's what the judge said when he sentenced Tonya on May 18 -- watch.


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: I'm not at all encouraged that you do community service by means of teaching skating lessons. I don't think you're quite the role model that should be out, you know, working with youth. If you want to do that on your own, that's great. I don't think it should be a court sanction-type thing that you get to do that in lieu of what anybody else does, and anybody else picks up garbage and litter and improves the community around here through that way. So, that's occurred in this community; that's the type of work you're going to do in this community.


KING: Tonya, you got that and three days in jail, 10 days community service on a work crew, and you had to stay away from alcohol while on two years' probation. Was that all fair? HARDING: Well, if that's what the judge thought was fair, then that was fine. I do have to say that the 911 call was not a 911 call. I found out that Darren had called the operator, and asked him -- them to connect him to the police department. It was never a 911 call, nor did I ever call the police myself.

KING: He placed the call, but you got on the phone, then?

HARDING: I went to call Linda and Greg to come get me, because I didn't have a vehicle and I had no way to leave.

KING: You said you were surprised they took you right to jail. Did you think you would have a couple days before having to spend the three days in jail?

HARDING: Well, I didn't expect to go to jail at all. No one did. But, you know, I took my responsibility, and I went to jail for three days, and it was really hard. It was the hardest -- one of the hardest things that I've ever had to go through. And I just want to tell kids out there, you know, stay in school, don't drink and drive, don't do drugs, don't get into trouble, because you don't want to have to going through going into jail. It's not good at all.

KING: Tell us why, Tonya, since it seems to most people that's three days is a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, what was terrible about three days?

HARDING: Well, I was in isolation, which I did want, but I was in a 6x9, 10, 11 room, with no windows and not being able to talk to anyone except when I went to the phone, and I got to do that once a day. It was very hard. I tried to sleep most of the time, and I didn't have my medication, and I had panic disorder in there, I had panic attacks, and you don't get the luxuries that you have outside. I like to drink coffee. Don't have that. Shampoo, conditioner to wash your hair -- you don't get that. You get one towel. You get two sheets. You don't get a pillow, and you drink out of a sink that is connected to a toilet.

KING: You could only imagine, then, what it's like to do a year, or two or three?

HARDING: I'm never going to get into trouble again, never. I will not go through that again. Having myself as having a security zone is my home, and my friends and family, and not having that it was like a nightmare.

KING: Your doctor said, "In my opinion, with the information presented to me by Ms. Harding, it's probable her erratic behavior was caused by a combination of prescription medication, alcohol, reportedly not in excessive amounts, and Aspirin contained in one of her medications." You took Hydrocodone, a pain medication, Zoloft and Anacin. Have they now changed your medication?

HARDING: I am only on Zoloft right now. And I make sure that whenever I take something, whether it's for a headache, whether it's for an upset stomach, I read the labels now, and I make sure that there is no Aspirin in them, and I don't drink any alcohol, nor will I ever drink any alcohol while taking these medications ever again.

KING: And what about the community service part? Have you done that yet?

HARDING: I am working, doing my community service, and the people I work for are absolutely wonderful.

KING: We see you here at cemetery. What are you doing? Just cleaning up?

HARDING: I was working around the hedge stones, getting ready for Memorial Day weekend. And after I was done for that, because the weed thing that I was working was very heavy, and it got really tiring for me, so they had me plant flowers in the baby section, which was very sad, but it was fun to be able to be out there, and work and get things ready for Memorial Day, and now I'm working at different -- two different places, and I'm doing office work.

KING: You think that all works for you, Tonya. I mean, obviously, you said the jail worked; you never want to be in jail again, doing community service, is rather humbling for someone who the top of her game as an ice skater?

HARDING: Well, you know, you go through life on a roller coaster, it has its ups and down, and I'm human, and I'm going to make mistakes and I'm probably continue to make mistakes. But as long as I learn from them, then I think that it makes me a better person, and I definitely know that I am a stronger person now.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Tonya Harding. She's with us for the show, and we'll be taking your phone calls.

Tomorrow night, F. Lee Bailey talks about lie detectors and other things.

We'll be right back.


KING: By the way, this was the first time Tonya Harding was ever in prison. She was spared a prison sentence in the Nancy Kerrigan attack. You'll remember she was -- pled guilty to hindering prosecution. She was allowed to skate in the Olympics. Sometimes it looks -- when we mentioned magnet at the start. There was attack on Nancy and then later Tonya skidded her truck on ice, landed in a ditch, threatened a lawsuit. She's had share of some problem. She's obviously trying to come through it.

Here's an example of those problems.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on before you take it.

HARDING: Move out of my way! Jesus!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to pay a $25 service call.

HARDING: You guys, will you go away, please? Jesus Christ, get out of my way!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step on the other side if you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to skate, Tonya?

HARDING: I'm taking the day off.


HARDING: Don't touch my truck.


KING: Do you think you're hounded, Nancy -- Nancy -- Tonya? Do you think you're a person who they're sort of out after you, the press and the like? Do you think you're a target?

HARDING: I think I am. I mean, my whole entire life that whenever something has gone wrong, even when something goes right, I'm always in the media, and I guess it's just something they have to deal with. You know, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, if it's good, they think it's a publicity stunt; if it's bad they just do not get the facts, and they jump to conclusions, and they go out there and they embellish on non-truths to be able to make people want to watch their show.

KING: I guess fans would just say, you know, you had it all, why didn't you just skate?

HARDING: Well, I tried to just skate.

KING: What was not -- obviously, you had -- you know you have an image as a bad girl, right? You'll admit that that's an image that you have?

HARDING: It's an image that the media has given me as a bad girl, and the only reason they gave me that image is just because of the few things that have gone wrong in my life, and also because I grew up living in a trailer. I moved around 13 different times before I was in fifth grade, not having money, not having a lot of friends. My biological mother made my clothes or bought my clothes from Salvation Army or Goodwill. And so, you know, that's where the bad girl image came from.

KING: Where did you learn -- I mean, in the 1991 nationals where you won the gold medal, you were the first United States woman to do a triple axel in competition. Where did you learn to skate so well with that kind of background?

HARDING: Determination, I guess. I love to skate, and I love to jump. And being as that I have that athletic ability to be able to jump so high, it gives me, you know, a great pleasure to be able to do that, and it's really difficult, and it was challenging for me, and I always liked a challenge.

KING: You also had all the judges, because on style, they called you unladylike, but eventually you won them over, right? But That was your athletic style, was more aggressive than form-fitting?

HARDING: It took me quite a few years, until now, to be able to get my artistic ability down. I've always been able to jump, and I always had a little bit of artistic ability, but nowadays, I think that I'm 50/50 now.

KING: Your ex-agent, or your former agent Michael Rosenberg, called you a tragic figure. Do you agree with that?

HARDING: Well, it depends on what he means.

KING: Well, tragic things have happened to you?

HARDING: Bad things have happened to me in my life, but I believe that everything happens for a reason, and it makes me a stronger person. It makes me...

KING: And you're not shirking your own blame in a lot of the happenings, right? I mean, you were involved in the happenings?

HARDING: I am involved in what I do, and I take full responsibility for my actions.

KING: We're back with Tonya Harding, who keeps on keeping on. We'll be including your phone calls.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan are always going to be linked in the minds of many because of this famous incident before the '94 U.S. figure skating championships.


NANCY KERRIGAN, ICE SKATER: Hard, hard black stick, something really, really hard! Help me!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to get you to the doctor.

KERRIGAN: I can't move. I can't move. I'm so scared. I'm so scared!



KING: And it's already been discussed. But, Tonya, you pled guilty to hindering prosecution, but you were not involved in the planning of that, correct?

HARDING: That's correct.

KING: Let's take a call -- Atlanta, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Larry.

My question for Tonya is, you're still under psychiatric help, you're still under psychiatric doctor, is that correct?

HARDING: No, I'm not.

KING: But you're still taking Zoloft, an antidepressant?

HARDING: Yes, and that is through my family doctor.

CALLER: So you don't receive psychiatric counseling, you know, like someone who is, you know, on medication?

HARDING: No, I went through six years of counseling with a psychologist, and I am now taking my medication, and I do that through my family physician.

KING: You have a follow-up, caller?

CALLER: Yes, I was just asking -- so they just prescribe a medicine, but they don't -- you don't receive any type of counseling for your anger or anything like that. And the reason I'm asking is because I was in a similar situation, to speak very quickly, as far as arrest, for domestic violence, and the judge ordered that we go through, my husband and myself, go through an organization -- won't call the name -- but we're going through counseling once a week. It's really not counseling; it's just something like, you know, anger management, whatever stems from it, your background, because some people grow up in hostile and they bring it into relationships.

HARDING: Right. Right. Well, I'm going to be getting evaluated.

KING: Thank you, caller.

Don't you think, Tonya, I mean, honestly, that you do need some help?

HARDING: Well, that's why I'm on my medication.

KING: I know, but I mean, if it's the family doctor prescribing it -- and Zoloft is a wonderful medication, there's no doubt about that.

HARDING: Well, I've been on Zoloft since 1996.

KING: And it's obviously been a help to you.

HARDING: Yes it has.

KING: So the mistake you made here was mixing it with the wrong medications.

HARDING: Mixing it with the wrong medication and with alcohol, which they should never be mixed at all.

KING: Another problem you are going to have, Tonya, is living this down, right? As you start to rebuild your life, and as hopefully you continue to skate and the like, you're always going to have a tough time knocking this tag off, don't you think?

HARDING: Well, I don't think so. I mean, everyone out in America goes through problems, and they have problems in the households, and as long as you learn from your mistakes and you go on with them, I'll always remember this, because I lost everything from it, including my best friend and the person who I love more than anything in this entire world, and so I have a constant reminder of it. But as long as I learn from my mistakes, then I think I can go on and hopefully put this behind me, along with everyone else.

KING: You still love Darren Silver.

HARDING: Yes I do, very much.

KING: As we go to break, here was Nancy Kerrigan back in '94 commenting on the incident -- watch.


KERRIGAN: When I went through the curtain, for some reason I must have heard something behind me. I turned around, and when I was turning I saw just someone was running by me, and he just, like, whacked me with this long black, like, stick, and it was really hard.



KING: We're back with Tonya Harding.

As part of a postscript to all of this, her boyfriend says he's forgiven her in his heart. The police department says that her supervisors reports she has been exemplary.

We go to Mammoth Lake, California for Tonya Harding.


CALLER: Hello there.



CALLER: Hi, Tonya.

HARDING: Hello. CALLER: My question for you is, well obviously, you've had a lot of pain and controversy and negativity throughout your entire life. I've followed your stories, and I would only think that being in the spotlight would amplify that, and yet you continue to push yourself in the public eye with the books, and the TV deals and the talk shows...


HARDING: Well, I have to tell you, I haven't done any interviews whatsoever except LARRY KING. I stayed out of the media for two and a half years, until I had my car accident, and you know, there's nothing that I can do about keeping the media away from me. No matter what I do, you know, it's there.

KING: All right, let's elaborate on it. Maybe she means, though, instead of writing a book, or doing a television or radio show, teach skating, meet a guy, relax, live a life, play it down.

HARDING: I was doing that. I was doing that. I was very happy. Darren and I had a great life. I was teaching skating, and my agent was Michael Rosenberg, and he had gotten me several deals, because there is so many fans out there who wanted to see me skate again, and because I love to skate. That's what I am good at. And so I went back out and did the comeback at the pro championships, and I guess, you know, doing my book, I have to make a living, I have lost everything, and so I have to make a living somehow. I have one student left after this article came out -- one. So somehow I have to...

KING: Plus what you do is skate, right? Skating is what you do.

HARDING: Skating is what I know, and skating is what I love to do. And doing the book is what I have to do.

KING: For yourself?

HARDING: For myself, yes. It's actually kind of being able to put my whole life behind me, get it out there psychologically, get it out there, and be able to put my bad times and my past behind me and start fresh.

KING: Do you have any thoughts as to why apparently, maybe it seems only of late, so many athletes in all fields of endeavor seem to be having problems off the ice, off the field, off the court?

HARDING: I really don't know.

KING: It seems like a lot more of them, doesn't it?

HARDING: It does. It does. It's sad.

KING: Do you think there are more pressures on athletes?

HARDING: I think there's a lot of pressures on athletes these days. There is more money involved, and that I think has a lot to do with it also, and politics. KING: Canyon Country, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Tonya

HARDING: Hi, how are you?

CALLER: Fine. I have known you for many, many years.

KING: Who are you?

CALLER: I'm a mother of another skater.

KING: Oh, OK. What's your question?

CALLER: I want to find out if Tonya is practicing every day?

HARDING: No, I'm not. I actually haven't skated for myself since -- what was it, Christmas Eve.

KING: Really?

HARDING: Really.

KING: Caller, you're the mother of another skater who has skated against Tonya?

HARDING: No, I'm the mother of a boy skater.

KING: Oh, I see.

CALLER: That Tonya knows.

KING: And what do you think of the whole Tonya situation?

CALLER: Well, I've known Tonya since she was 9 years old, and she's always been a very polite, well-mannered girl around me.

KING: Were you surprised then that all this has happened to her?

CALLER: Yes. I've been very, very sad about the whole thing.

KING: And do you think if you ran Ice Capades, you would hire her back and let her come and skate for you?

CALLER: Tonya is a wonderful skater. She's a wonderful girl. She's had some real hardships, and I think that she should have another chance.

KING: Well, do you hope most people that -- I guess, do you think most people feel that way, Tonya? Do you think people want to give you another chance?

HARDING: Well, from when I get on my Web sites, I've had over three million hits on my Web sites, and there has been so much positive coming in, that people want to see me skate again, and that's the reason why I have wanted to skate, is for my fans. If I don't ever skate again, it would be OK with me; as long as I can teach skating and teach kids how to skate, then that fulfills my dreams.

KING: Do you -- you've met with Nancy Kerrigan, didn't you?

HARDING: Yes, I did.

KING: What happened at that meeting?

HARDING: Well, at least I got to apologize to her face to face, and that meant more to me than doing it through TV, or through interviews or something else, because then it doesn't seem that it's sincere.

KING: What did she say?

HARDING: I really don't remember what she said, but I don't think it was received very well. But at least I apologized to her.

KING: So at least you're satisfied in your mind that you were able to see her and tell her?


KING: Tonya, are you very religious?

HARDING: Yes, I am. I have a very strong faith. And without my strong faith in the lord, through this whole time, since this incident happened with Darren and I, it has made me a lot stronger, and I do believe that the Lord watches over me, and he makes sure that he's never late for anything.

KING: But you must have with things that have happened to you some doubts about him watching over you?

HARDING: No, because I think he puts me through these things to make me a stronger person and to be able to help other people out there.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Tonya Harding and more of your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

F. Lee Bailey tomorrow night. Don't go away.



HARDING: I had no prior knowledge of the planned assault on Nancy Kerrigan. I am responsible, however, for failing -- excuse me -- for failing to report things I learned about the assault when I returned home from nationals. Many of you will be unable to forgive me for that. It will be difficult to forgive myself.


KING: By the way, Tonya is banned from amateur competition, finished second, however, in ESPN's Pro Skating Championships last year. Let's go back to the calls.

Brownwood, Texas, for Tonya Harding, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I would like to know, Tonya, that you say that you were raised in a trailer park and that you had the bad girl image. Did you feel that you had to act that out in any kind of way?

KING: Good question.

HARDING: No, just whenever people always, you know, came out and used me in the media, they always said that, and so I was always portrayed as the bad girl image, and just because I drive a truck, I like to fish, I like to four-wheel drive, I like to drive motorcycles, I mean, I'm kind of like a tomboy, they gave me a bad girl image. I wasn't the ice princess that everyone wanted me to be.

KING: You're not the snow queen.

HARDING: That's right.

KING: Do you have brothers or sisters?

HARDING: No I don't.

KING: What did you -- did you have a good family relationship with mom and dad?

HARDING: Growing up I did not. I was always daddy's little girl growing up, but my mother was an alcoholic and used to beat me all the time, and...

KING: Are they both living now?

HARDING: Yes, they are both living. I speak to my father every once in a while, who -- he lives down by the beach, but I do not speak to my biological mother anymore because of the things that she did to me, even as an adult.

KING: Did your father remarry?

HARDING: No he didn't.

KING: Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Tonya.



CALLER: Tanya, don't you think that your figure skating let you down as early as 1989 when they sent Kristi Yamaguchi to worlds ahead of you, and didn't you feel that that sort of lead to a series of your really trying to overachieve, including being the first American woman and the only one yet to have had a triple axel in competition? KING: Another excellent question, because that was a big dispute at the time. Many thought you should have gone. Do you think that laid the ground for a lot of the problems?



HARDING: It's OK. I mean, I've felt like I've always had to work harder than everybody to achieve my goals, and I think it had a lot to do with because I didn't have money being -- you know, when I was being raised, and I never had the money to have the good costumes, the expensive costumes, and I think that has a lot to do with it, you know. I had to do what I had to do to make it by. I made my own costumes or my mother made my own costumes, you know.

KING: It is safe to say you were not an establishment skater?

HARDING: I don't understand the question?

KING: I mean, like the world powers that be in skating, you were not their kind of skater?

HARDING: No, I guess not. They wanted an ice princess, and I was the young girl from the other side of the tracks, I guess. And I always spoke my mind, always had the music that I wanted, the dresses that I wanted, and it just always seemed that it wasn't good enough for skating society. But I wasn't going to let anyone stop me from doing what I loved to do, which was skate, and being the first woman to do the triple axel in America was the ultimate for me. I mean, I achieved it, and I felt great about it.

KING: Every right to.

San Francisco, hello.


I want to congratulate you, Tonya. I think you are a very strong, terrific woman, and you are a role model, because you show people how to get up when they are way down. What I'd like to know is...

HARDING: Well, thank you.

CALLER: ... who is giving you guidance and direction now, because I think you've been surrounded by a lot of users and exploiters. Who do you seek for guidance, professionally and personally?

HARDING: My godparents, definitely, and the Lord. I have very good people that are around me now, and have been for the last three years, and my godparents are the people that I look up to and ask for advice.

KING: How -- were they your godparents from birth? HARDING: No, since 1995.

KING: How did that work out? How did you get to get godparents as an adult?

HARDING: Well, because, when we were in church on Easter Sunday, we went up to the pastor and asked him to bless me with them as my godparents as an adult, and I'm actually looking forward to being baptized one of these days very soon. I know it may seem silly, but I think that's what I have to do for myself.

KING: Is your father angry at that?

HARDING: No, he's not. He's not at all. We're all very close.

KING: How did you meet the godparents?

HARDING: They are songwriters, and they met my father first, and they sang at my banquet, my fan club banquet, and that's how I met them.

KING: Well, they could be terrific for you, right, I mean, very important for you?

HARDING: They are terrific people. And without them, I probably would not be here today on a couple of my downs where I've hit rock bottom. If it wasn't for them, I probably would not be here.

KING: We'll be back with more of Tonya Harding on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: That was one of the most watched television events in history, when Tonya skate and broke her leg in '94. What was that like, to fall?

HARDING: I'm sorry.

KING: What is it like to fall? I guess it's the skater's worst fear.

HARDING: Actually you just fall down, and you get back up and you keep going, because when you compete and make one mistake, it's not just that one mistake, it's the whole entire program that they judge you on.

KING: You didn't know the lace was going to break, though, right?

HARDING: No, I had no idea my lace was going to break, but when it did, I tried to replace it with one, and it was about 12 inches too short, and so I ended up lacing up my boots as best as I could, leaving eyelets and holes undone, and I went out there, and there was no way that it would hold me.

KING: To Winnipeg, Manitoba, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: I just first of all wanted to make a statement that you made a comment earlier you only had one student left. And I don't think you have the right to teach skating anymore because you're not a role model. I've skated very competitively when the Nancy Kerrigan incident happened, and I lost all respect for you.


CALLER: You say that you're taking full responsibility for your actions.

HARDING: Yes, I do. That's OK; that's your opinion.

CALLER: You say you're taking full responsibility, and yet all you're doing is just saying it's the media's fault and because you were labeled a bad girl skater, and you seem to be placing the blame on everyone else.

HARDING: No, I take full responsibility for my own actions. I said that the always media tends to come in and embellish on non- truths instead of facts. Before they know the facts, they'll go out there and they will have a story, and they'll do anything they can to make that story right. But without the truth...

KING: Let me ask the caller -- can I ask you a question?


KING: Does a teacher of skating, or teacher of baseball or football have to be a role model, or just a good teacher?

CALLER: Well, I think as a teacher, you have to be a little bit of both, and someone like Tonya Harding, when she puts herself in a national limelight or international limelight, I think she then takes on the responsibility of being a role model to all the thousands of young skaters who look up to her. I just don't feel that she's set any sort of example for any of those young skaters that looked up to her at that time.

KING: Tonya, how would you respond?

HARDING: That's her own opinion. But I can tell thought three million people that are on my Web sites that read, call in, you know, and write into me saying they want to see me skate and they want me to teach the kids; the kids really look up to me as a coach, and I think that being one of the world's best skaters in America, even today, entitles me to be able to teach skating.

KING: Are you good coach?

HARDING: Yes, I am. I am. My kids loved me. KING: Great skaters doesn't mean you're a great coach. Usually in other sports, sometimes the best coaches are the ones who are not the best athletes.

HARDING: Right, right. My kids that I was working with absolutely adored me, and I have to say that the reason why I lost my students is, one, two of them were USFSA skaters, which I let them go to another coach, because I can't teach him in the ability that they needed to be able to go to competition for USFSA, and two kids also quit, but I still do have other students that only skate in the summertime.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Tonya Harding, who keeps coming to the battle, right after this.


KING: Oyster Bay, New York for Tonya Harding, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

Tonya, I was wondering if you think that you should re-evaluate your choices in the men that you have relationships with?

HARDING: No. Actually Darren was a very nice man and a wonderful man who believed in me and loved me unconditionally. And if I had that opportunity to be with him again, I would do that, because he made me feel very special.

KING: So why isn't there some hope for that? Since he forgave you, he asked the court not to do anything for you, and obviously since people know all about it, it created interest in it, why isn't there some hope for that relationship getting back together?

HARDING: Well, if there is hope, it's in God's hands and it's going to be between him and I, not between him and I and America.

KING: All right, now what are your goals, now, Tonya? You'd like to -- Ice Capades to reconsider you. You'd like to skate professionally. No one can ban you from skating professionally.

HARDING: I would like to skate eventually, and maybe appearances or things like that, teach skating to young kids and help out the community in any way that I can. I have a CD that's out on our Web sites, and I have music offers, and I'm also possibly doing the radio programs with, which is a radio program on the Internet, and I'm just really looking forward to being able to pick and choose the things that I would really like to be able to do in my life to make a living, and you know, if it's not skating, then that's OK.

KING: You sing?

HARDING: I'm sorry?

KING: You sing?

HARDING: Yes, I do.

KING: What kind of songs are going to be in the CD?

HARDING: Well, I sing contemporary. And when the Oklahoma City tragedy happened, we released a CD the day that it happened.

KING: So you sing gospel, too, religious-type songs as well?

HARDING: Yes, I do. Linda, and Greg, and I and their niece recorded amazing grace, which is also on my CD.

KING: How old are you now?

HARDING: I'm 29.

KING: Do you feel older...

HARDING: I do feel older.

KING: ... with all you've gone through.

HARDING: I do. I do.


KING: How long -- by the way, how long can a good skater -- let's say you were in Ice Capades or something. Is there an age where the skater has to continue stopping -- think about stopping? In most athletes, I guess is the mid to late 30s. Can you skate into your 40s?

HARDING: I really don't know. I think so. Peggy Fleming still skates, I think, and Dorothy skates, and there's a lot of people. I would love to be able to skate as long as I can walk, and maybe a little slower, but I'm also...

KING: Is there any skater, by the way, that you looked up to, that you patterned yourself after when you were a youngster?

HARDING: Well, I always really liked Peggy Fleming. She was a very good role model for me, and I really looked up to her, and also Jo Jo Starbuck. And for the men, I looked up to Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano.

KING: Just saw Scott yesterday. He's doing very well, by the way.

HARDING: Is he? I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad.

KING: And he defeated cancer.

HARDING: Well, Larry, I also have to say congratulation on your little boy Cameron -- Cannon, Cannon.

KING: Yes, he's an ace. His big brother Chance loves him. His big brother is 15 months. HARDING: Oh good, good.

Well, congratulations.

KING: Thank you, Tonya. Good luck.

HARDING: Thank you.

KING: Tonya Harding, and again, this is -- was her first interview since that incident that occurred in February, and the case, and the plea bargaining, and was sentenced on May 18.

Tomorrow night, F. Lee Bailey will be with us. There's much in the news these days over the supposed lie detector test given O.J. Simpson that he stopped. We'll find out that whole story tomorrow night, as well as facing some of his own problems, and lots to talk about with the whole field of lie detection as well.

We invite to you stay tuned now for CNN NEWSSTAND, which follows immediately.

I'm Larry King. For Tonya Harding, our whole crew here in Los Angeles, have a great night. So long.



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