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Larry King Live
Julius Erving Discusses the Search for His Missing Son; Bob Woodward Talks About Gore and the Continuing Controversy Over Campaign FinanceAired June 23, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, basketball legend Julius Erving in his first primetime interview about every parent's nightmare -- his youngest son, Cory, is missing.
Then, campaign '96 controversy dogs Al Gore's current White House run. Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winner, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post" joins us to discuss that and other aspects of the 2000 presidential race. They're both next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Today is June 23. On May 28, nearly a month ago, Dr. J, Julius Erving's youngest son, Cory, was missing. He went out to buy bread for a cookout and did not come back. Dr. J joins us from Orlando, Florida, his home for the past three years.
How do you live with this every day, Julius?
JULIUS ERVING, SON CORY IS MISSING: Well, Larry, it's tough. Some days are worse than others. As you mentioned, it's a parents' worst nightmare. This is day 26 for us. And since that Sunday afternoon, you know, nobody in the family has heard from or seen Cory. And you know, it's just a totally unacceptable situation, so we're full-time trying to find him and bring him home.
KING: We're showing a picture of him now. By the way, there is a toll-free number for people who have any information concerning this very handsome young man. It's 888-609-2529. That's toll free, 808- 609-2529.
Now Cory is a troubled boy, is he not, Dr. J? You've had problems with him?
ERVING: I think since Cory has been about 15, he's had his troubles. He was a recovering drug and alcohol abuser.
KING: And had been off it how long?
ERVING: He just came out of a program in February of this year.
KING: And so had been clean a very short time then, as they say, right?
ERVING: Well, he went into the program in October, and now, you know, in terms of this investigation, I'm not too sure whether, you know, he was ever totally clean.
KING: You mean your fears are that he may have been using again?
ERVING: Yes, I think so. I think we're pretty much assured of that by the results of the investigation thus far.
KING: In other words, what the police have been able to tell you is what?
ERVING: I just think he was in a relapse situation, but you know, we were somewhat blindsided by it. I think a lot of the signs, you know, that we saw demanding of him by me, you know, was that he get back in school, which he did, that he hold down a job and that he maintain proper conduct around, you know, family, friends and the neighborhood, which we kind of felt that he was doing pretty -- you know, he did a pretty good job, in terms of at least putting on a facade, because there were other things going on.
KING: That you have since learned?
KING: Was he living at home?
ERVING: Yes, Cory was living at home. My wife, Turquoise, Cory and I share a residence here in Orlando.
KING: All right, he went out of the house to buy bread, said he'd be back. You thought nothing of it, right?
ERVING: I wasn't exactly like that. In the morning, my wife and I left for church services, and she asked him to pick up bread for a cookout that we were going to in the afternoon at a neighbor's house. So he didn't really give us a definitive schedule as to what he was going to do during the course of the day. But he called at about, you know, between 1:00 and 1:30 that afternoon and said that he had picked up the bread, he would be back in about 20 minutes. So the other events, you know, the other stops that he made that day, we're not certain, you know, what they were. They weren't a part of the schedule that we created, his schedule.
KING: Was your initial fear foul play?
ERVING: I think initially, when he was missing for a couple days, the initial fear was more along the lines of a relapse, maybe being on a binge. I think that was it, and when we reported -- gave notification to the -- you know, security at the development that we live in and notification to the sheriff's office, it was more or less him as a missing person, not necessarily endangered. It was upgraded to endangered the following week. But initially, it wasn't perceived to be that.
KING: Why did you wait two weeks before coming public?
ERVING: We thought that, you know, in listening to the security in our area, looking ourselves as a family for him, as we had done a couple times before in the previous five-year span, and notifying the sheriff's department and also hiring private investigators were the way to go. And then after a certain period of time, maybe out of frustration and just, you know, desperation, we decided to enlist the support of friends and associates outside of that circle and also the general public, because you know, we didn't want to eliminate any options. We didn't know whether he was in the area or not, even in the country or not. So at that time, because it was a chip that we had and a card that we hard, we were able to play, we decided to do it.
KING: He suffers, I understand, from attention deficit disorder. He also has dyslexia. Is that true?
ERVING: He has attention deficit disorder. This was recognized maybe in second or third grade early, and he was in a special school, as opposed to a mainstream school until after grade 8. And you know, many of the more definitive problems began to occur after he went to a mainstream high school in grade 9.
KING: Is anybody making any best guess about where Cory might be? In other words, I know there's a lot of tips, and they follow through, and we'll run through some of the things the police -- but have they come to any "here's what we think now" idea?
ERVING: I don't think so, Larry. I think, you know, we've kind of hesitated to do that, because you know, it just sort of weakens our position in terms of objectivity, and you know, all the leads are real leads, and unless you know something certain, you can't eliminate anything. I think that the posture for us is this is an all-or- nothing situation. I mean, if we don't have him, then we have nothing.
So I don't think there's a best guess. I think there are, you know, maybe two or three scenarios that's are more likely and stronger possibilities, but to venture to say there's one best guess, I don't have that, and I don't think any law enforcement agencies who are involved in this with us have it either.
KING: There's a $50,000 reward, by the way, for information leading to finding Cory. The toll-free tip-line is 888-609-2529. There have been many sightings around Florida, some around Philadelphia. We'll ask Dr. J about going to Philly next week. After all, he played for years with the 76ers. And Cory's car remains missing, too. And it's a black Volkswagen Passat -- P-A-S-S-A-T is the model number, and the Florida tag is a A76LFE -- black Volkswagen, A76LFE, Florida tag. That car is also missing. We'll be right back.
KING: That car model is a Passat, the Volkswagen Passat.
Dr. J, you are going to go to Philadelphia why?
ERVING: My middle son, Julius III, is the founder and director of a summer pro basketball league in Philadelphia. So last year, we were there for the kickoff of his league, and this year we were scheduled to go, Cory included, for the June 26 kickoff. And you know, it's a big thing for him, just being in support of him and helping him to take the necessary steps to be successful in life, and this is something that he does through his management company, and we decided that we should go and we should be there.
But if we're going to go to Philadelphia, I didn't want to try to sneak in Philadelphia to the event and then leave without saying the proper thank yous to all the people who have been tremendously supportive there -- the mayor's office, the Philadelphia police department, following leads, the 76ers of course, and all of our friends, and relatives and associates there. So we decided that we would have a press conference similar to what we did here at the Seminole County Sheriff's Department on the 13th and say thank you and make an additional plea.
KING: All right, for those of you, by the way, tuning in who may not know who Julius Erving is, not a sports fan, he's one of three pro basketball players ever to score 30,000 points, 16 years a pro -- 11 in the NBA, five in the ABA -- MVP in the NBA once, twice in the ABA, and enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Cory is his youngest child. His others are Cheo, Julius III and Jasmine, and he is making a plea here tonight with a reward. Now some of the things have been said since the missing -- the authorities have said they believe Cory is in danger. He may be abusing crack cocaine. In danger of what? Self-harm?
ERVING: Well, I think in danger, you don't put limit limitations on in danger. If you're missing, you have limited resources. He doesn't have a credit card. You know, we don't know who he's with. Certainly, he has an appetite for drugs. He has a zest for life, but you know, he's somewhat self-destructive in terms of that being a real contradiction, and you know, he's young, he's young, and you know, there are mean streets out there. I got a card, I kind of keep it close to me, a former NBA player who just, you know, divulged to me that he had lost his 20 -- 27-year-old son to the streets, and if he were in that situation, he would go get him, and looking back on it, you know, that's what he wished that he had done. So I'm taking that posture that I have to do everything in my power to go and get him. And I do feel as though he's endangered. I feel as though each day that he's away from his family and people who love him and who he's always communicated with, that he's endangered.
KING: There were reports he was involved in some sort of physical confrontation in a neighborhood north of Orlando known for drug dealing. Reports that in the course of that confrontation, someone smashed a brick through his car window.
Have those reports been confirmed? Are those facts?
ERVING: Yes, those are facts. And that was about a month prior to his disappearance. And I think those leads have pretty much turned up nil in terms of being of total significance here, but they're not ruled out. And you know, that door is still open, that lead is still open, those people are still, you know, suspects in terms of being involved in some way in a misdeed or just in terms of having knowledge, having knowledge out there that they're not divulging in terms of his activity there in the prior weeks, the weeks prior to his disappearance.
KING: To your knowledge, was he ever trying to buy a gun? Was that true?
ERVING: To my knowledge, he wasn't. There were a couple of leads that were followed up on by law enforcement, which you know, indicated that he was inquiring about a gun. But there was nothing that I knew about and no indication to the family that he wanted to buy a gun, needed a gun or could even shoot a gun.
KING: Now the Seminole County Sheriff's Office -- Orlando is there -- says nothing has really panned out, foul play cannot be ruled out. Where do we go from here?
ERVING: Well, I think, you know, they're saying a lot of things on the law enforcement side that are purposeful and consistent with what they have to do. You know, I think the stand for the family and my stand as his father, Cory is a human being. You know, recovering drug and alcohol abuser is a term that's used, but Cory is my son. You know, he's a person whose fun to be around, has a lot of potential as a person, and you know, he's very athletic, he's charming, he's clever, he's kind of kooky at times, and you know, that side of it is what the family thinks about and knows, and you know, wants the public to know. So when we make our public plea, we're not making a public plea to, you know, bring back a person who is in a downward spiral whose down and out. We want the public to help us to bring back a person we love very much, who can make a contribution to the society and who is trying to do, you know, some things to turn his life around, and I think that's the most important thing for us.
KING: The number again -- we'll be repeating it -- is 888 -- that's toll-free -- 888-609-2529, any information. A car missing, the son missing, a $50,000 reward.
Back with Dr. Julius Erving after this.
KING: Let's take some calls for Julius Erving in this very tough time in his life.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Mr. Erving.
I grew up in South Jersey and used to live in Altamonte Springs, and I want you to know that I have a lot of people praying for you and your family.
I wanted to know how your which of and children are doing right now.
ERVING: Well, I'll tell you, you know, they're all doing well under the circumstances. Everybody is trying to contribute by being as cooperative as possible with law enforcement. We really appreciate all the prayers that's have come in. I've been holding dear to my heart scriptures, Luke 15: 11 in particular, the parable about the lost son. And in the end, when it says we all will celebrate because he was, you know, dead and now he's alive, and he was lost and now he's found. And I'm holding that close to my heart, and that keeps me going, and I have to keep the family going.
KING: Yuma, Arizona for Dr. Julius Erving, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Good evening, Mr. Erving.
CALLER: As a recovering alcoholic and addict myself, my prayers and my heart go out to your and your family...
ERVING: Thank you.
CALLER ... and your son Cory. I was wondering, when Cory got out of rehab program, did he continue on with any kind of recovery outside of that?
ERVING: I don't think -- he really didn't get into a lock-down type of recovery in AA. The type of program he was in, you know, which was called Narcana (ph), was designed to set him up for independent living, and, you know, we had set up sort of a period to live with us in which he was to, you know, get his GED, finish his education, become employed, get his, you know, conduct level where it should be, and then, you know, seek further education, maybe a junior college and some sort of individual residential situation where he would be on his own. So you know, that was the plan and that was the discussions.
KING: As a superstar celebrity father, do you think -- you ever have moments where you wonder what did I do wrong?
ERVING: All the time. All the time. You know, just in terms of having to have a life on the road, you know, having the celebrity aspect be a burden for my family, friends and extended family. You know, we always tried to rationalize by saying you take the good, you take the upside, you got to deal with the downside, you've to take the downside. But you know, if you live an affluent lifestyle, there are all types of trappings that are there that you have to be cognizant of, and you've got to try and communicate freely and gain understanding about and then keep moving on, because you know, sometimes lifestyles are chosen for us as opposed to us choosing them.
KING: And you had your share -- I mean, you mean we had a child out of wedlock -- that was tough to live with, come forward. By the way, did any that have an effect on Cory?
ERVING: Well, it's hard to say. You know, the counseling. He was in two programs since that revelation last June, and I'm sure it came up to different counselors, but you know, he seemed to be pretty cool with it. The -- but you know, I can say for sure exactly what's going on inside of his head.
KING: Have you heard from your daughter, Alexandra?
KING: I imagine she is as concerned as well, as is everybody?
ERVING: I would think so, yes.
KING: Let's take another call.
ERVING: You know, this is a great country that we live in, Larry, and there are so many great people from all over the country who have called, and written and sent e-mails, and you know, made cards, and just -- there's been an outpouring, and we can really feel the prayers, and I know hers are in there, too.
KING: You're a beloved figure.
Baltimore, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: Hi. Good evening, Mr. Erving.
CALLER: I wanted to ask if the local church community has been supportive also, via in accessory prayer?
ERVING: Very much so. As a matter of fact, just last night, my mom gave me a call. She had got a call from my deceased dad's sister, who is a minister in Chicago, and they just created a prayer circle, and they just said they felt Cory was still alive, and they've had this prayer circle going since the date that he was acknowledged as missing. And in Orlando, I've gotten letters. You know, the church that I attend, they've been great, they've tremendously supportive, they pray on Wednesday nights and of course Sundays -- and it's there, the prayer is there, and the faith is there.
KING: Did the other three children ever give you problems?
ERVING: Do they ever give me problems? Yes, all the time they're giving me problems. How you think I got this gray hair, Larry?
KING: I mean, of the nature of...
ERVING: I might have given them more problems than they've given me. But you know, we have a very normal family. We've had our ups and downs. You know, we've had our issues, but we've had great cause for celebration. You saw the photos earlier, the one with Cory, and Cheo and Samuel L. Jackson. That was at my daughter's graduation from Spellman College. You know, I have a son who has two businesses going at the same time, a management company. One area is sports. The other is entertainment. And you know, I have a wonderful older son who is a protector of the family, and you know, is probably the most genuine of all of us in terms of, you know, wearing his heart on his sleeve.
So yes, we've had our problems, but we've got so much to be thankful for, and I've been blessed with this family and this life that I've had. So I'm thankful first, and right after that, you know, the plea, and the begging, and the pleading, you know, for Cory's safe return is just something that has to be done.
KING: Let me get a break. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dr. J, whose by the way, his wife, Turquoise, is one heck of a lady as well, and then we'll meet Bob Woodward. Some more moments. We'll repeat the number for you as well when we come back.
Don't go away.
KING: Have a few moments left with Julius Erving. And that number again is 888-609-2529. There is a $50,000 reward -- 888-609- 2529, and we'll take another call.
St. Louis, Missouri, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Hi, Mr. Erving.
CALLER: I was curious to find out when did your son start abusing drugs? And at what point did you intervene with some type of therapy?
ERVING: Well, I think at age 15. You know, as soon as he found out about it, you know, I sent him to John Lucas, former NBA player who has a great rehabilitation center out in Houston, Texas, and I went to visit him while he was there, put him in John's care, and you know, that just kind of started a process of visiting rehab centers, and you know, relapsing, getting well, relapsing, and you know, this is something he has a physical dispensation or psychological dispensation, and it's going to be with him the rest of his life. So you're never really are out of the woods until you decide that you are, by being completely away from it. And it's all or nothing there, too.
KING: John Lucas is a wonderful man...
ERVING: Yes he is.
KING: ... in Houston, who battled it himself.
One more call.
CALLER: Hi, Mr. Erving.
I wanted to give you a word of encouragement.
ERVING: Thank you.
CALLER: I had the exact same situation with my brother. He disappeared for three months. He was so ashamed. I mean, we had the police in on it. They thought the worst. He might be dead. He came home in three months. He was so ashamed that he had gone off the wagon. So there is there hope, because we had already planned his funeral, and there he was so. So God bless you.
ERVING: Thank you.
CALLER: And I'm praying for you.
ERVING: Thank you. That's very encouraging.
KING: That could well be the case.
ERVING: Yes, could well be the case. I've gotten letters from people who have had loved ones who've been missing for 90 days, 120 days, 60 days, and you know, they're all different stories, and ours is unique unto itself, but not unique unto the world.
KING: Thank you so much, Julius, for being with us. We hope someone watching tonight can be of help.
ERVING: Well, we thank you, Larry. Thanks for the time.
And, Cory, if you're out there, we love you unconditionally. We miss you. I know you spent half your time trying to con me. But I want you back, and we need you back, and we love you son.
KING: The number again is 888-609-2529, 888-609-2529. The Florida license plate on the Volkswagen A76LFE.
Bob Woodward is next.
Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, always a great pleasure to have him, the assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward. And we're going to discuss a lot of things, but we're going to center on the controversy and the questions that don't go away about campaign finances and Al Gore. We have another Justice official urging that an independent counsel be appointed. That's two now in the Justice Department recommending it. The attorney general today said it's still an investigation, and she's not going to comment.
What's your read on this? You've been involved in this, writing about it, what's your read on it, Robert? BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, first of all, it's events that occurred five or six years ago, really, or four or five years ago. And the idea that this is still on the national agenda is absurd. And one of the reasons it's still on the agenda is that there was never a full, aggressive investigation. It was the FBI director, Louis Freeh, in one of these memos that have come out recently said -- now this was in the end of 1996, when the whole campaign scandal bubbled up -- he said, we need a junkyard dog investigator here, somebody who's going to get to the bottom of it very quickly.
We never had that. And so in fairness to Gore, I mean, he is paying the price that the Justice Department didn't put it together, that the attorney general didn't say we really have to get to the bottom of this within a reasonable period of time.
I think the other element here is that if you had Gore on the show now, he would be boiling. And if he were really saying what he thinks, he must be enraged that this is still around.
KING: And how damaging do you think to him?
WOODWARD: Well, I mean, it reminds people of what was brought forth years ago. But is best can be told now, and there's no certainty here. There is really no new evidence or information. What is lacking here, what has been lacking in so many of the Clinton scandals is a human witness, somebody to come forward and say, I was there, the motive was corrupt, this is what was done, this is how, this is exactly what was said. And absent that, given the four, five- year lag on this, I mean, I think it's probably over.
KING: But Gore has said as recently as April 18th, "There were no solicitations of money" -- this is at the Buddhist temple -- "I did not see any money or checks change hands. I never heard it discussed nor do I believe it took place."
WOODWARD: Right. Well, and then he said that he knew that it was a finance-related event, and there's lots of suspicion. I mean, this was the Democratic National Committee that sponsored this event. During this period in 1996, the Democratic National Committee was doing one thing when it sponsored events: they were fund raisers.
You can reasonably say that Gore must have at least suspected that, knew it or had it in the back of his mind, but there is no witness or there is -- you know, suppose somebody came forward with a diary that Gore had written in which he said that night, oh, attended a Buddhist temple event. I knew it was a fund raiser. Gee, I hope no one ever finds out.
With that kind of compelling evidence, then you would really be able to say, hey, there's something here. But we haven't seen that kind of evidence.
KING: Now he has -- it's been reported that he's quite mad at you, feeling that you have been unfair to him -- I read this somewhere -- because he didn't cooperate with you on a book you were doing. What's the story vis a vis Gore and Woodward? WOODWARD: I wrote about some of this fund-raising questions in the campaign book I did in '96. I wrote about Gore's phone calls, solicitations. I mean, they were -- we now know all of this is true, and probably what I wrote was significantly understated. If he's mad, I mean, you'd have to ask him.
KING: Is the question here on the public's mind not so much was it a fund raiser, was it an event, is the question truthfulness?
WOODWARD: Yes, exactly. And when do you tell the truth? In other words, when this first surfaced, if Gore had just kind of come out and said, you know, this really got out of hand, this fund raising.
The Watergate reforms were designed to limit campaign contributions. We set up a system so we could get these large soft money contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars from these individuals, these coffees at the White House, there were sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom where the president in his own handwriting, really, put a price tag on these sleepovers. In other words, people who would contribute $50,000 or $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
So if Gore had looked at all of this and said, yes, you know, bad move, we messed up, I think it probably would have gone away. But they spent years defending it in every detail.
KING: You have been writing about, covering, politicians for a long time, uncovered the biggest -- one of the great scandals in American political history. Why, when politicians are faced with an initial dilemma, do they not say, I goofed? It's a one-day story?
WOODWARD: It's not just politicians who make that mistake, everyone makes the mistake. I mean, you had Julius Erving on there, and now that his son is missing and he's frightened and kind of willing to face up to the problems that his son had and talk about them in public, perhaps if he had, you know, done this earlier and made the maximum effort when his son is around, it's quite likely the problem could have been solved. And so I don't think it's just politicians, I think it's human beings.
What's interesting is that the politicians don't learn that you can take something that may bring a career to an end and dispose of it with one embarrassing press conference just to say, here's what happened.
KING: I goofed.
WOODWARD: Yes, I goofed.
KING: We'll be right...
WOODWARD: Hardest thing to say.
KING: We'll be right back with Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post." This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Tomorrow night, an encore interview with Tiger Woods.
And Monday night, the Dali Llama.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have asked my attorney, Jim Neil, to release the entire transcript of the interview that I had with the Justice Department back in April. I have always cooperated fully. I have admitted that I made mistakes in fund raising. But I want the American people to know that I have always told the truth about this matter, I have always cooperated fully, and I want the entire transcript to be out there, and I want people to be able to judge it for themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In all honesty, Bob Woodward, can Janet Reno, now, with a political campaign facing us, conventions weeks away, appoint an independent counsel in this?
WOODWARD: I mean, technically, she would appoint a special prosecutor...
KING: Yes, who would then recommend...
WOODWARD: ... within the Justice Department. The independent counsel law, infamous as it was...
KING: Yes, it's gone.
WOODWARD: ... it's gone. It expired.
KING: OK, can she do that?
WOODWARD: She could, technically, but I think absent the sort of information that would really get people's attention, it's kind of crazy and quite frankly it would be unfair to Gore. Look, he makes the case and people can have their suspicions and doubts, but he has given five interviews. He turned over documents. A couple times he turned over documents that were discovered later in the process that were embarrassing to him, and we are now four years, five years after the events. We are in the middle of a political campaign. I mean, I don't know how you can do this to him. It will be interesting to see if he maintains his composure and can kind of deal with it when the model for this, the disaster model, is Clinton.
Whitewater started, that investigation, in early 1994. Along the way picked up the FBI files, the White House travel office, eventually Monica Lewinsky and impeachment and a trial and acquittal. And anyone who's reported on Clinton knows that it was just tearing his guts out. It diverted energy from his presidency. Some of the things that might have been done in those years were not done. Are we going to put all the politicians through this process of, you know, let's see if we can burn out your stomach before you reach office or before you leave?
KING: Yes, but with the Whitewater and all that, that pre- Lewinsky, he was re-elected.
WOODWARD: Yes, he was re-elected. But look at all of the time that went into it and look at the net result, which was a somewhat isolated president who was not confiding in his lawyers and his wife...
KING: All right, so...
WOODRUFF: and those people who were close to him. I mean, when you string it all together, and those of us who have written books about it have attempted to do it, it is a very sad story.
Now what do we do with Gore in this matter?
WOODWARD: I mean, it just -- I am always interested in getting to the bottom of something, but having looked at cases like this, there is one feature that is common to all of them, and that is you want to start the investigation as soon after the events as possible. The trail gets really cold, really fast. And years after, to try to make a criminal case without some tape recording or a diary or a human witness who is credible is almost impossible.
KING: So what is this -- what does the campaign become like, assuming this hangs in limbo? Is it just up to the public, or does the public say campaign finance reform bores me and it's not a major issue?
WOODWARD: Well, I think, again, if you look back at the history of Whitewater and the Lewinsky investigations that went on for years and years, that the people involved in making decisions on this -- in that case it was Ken Starr, in this case it's Janet Reno -- have what I think could rightly be described as a higher obligation in duty to look at what's happening to the overall here. And the overall here is we're in the middle of a presidential campaign. And is it fair and reasonable? Whatever she's going to do, it would seem to me -- she urged patience today -- that she really ought to do it quickly. And, I mean, like, in a matter of days, and this should not go on for weeks. It really is unfair. Whatever the amendment to the Constitution is that says you can not use cruel and unusual punishment I think really applies in this case.
KING: We'll touch some other bases with one of the best in the business, Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." Take some calls, too, for Bob, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: When it comes to me, I take all the evidence that I have, all the information that I have, I look at the law, I hear from all the people who have expressed opinions or give them an opportunity to be heard from, or read their memorandum, I look at the regs that may govern a particular situation, I try to be as thorough as I possibly can, and then I make the best judgment I can based on the evidence and the law and go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we take a couple calls, on public interest in this, Bob, is it -- you know, McCain made it the big issue in his running, and he isn't around anymore. Bush didn't make it that big an issue, was kind of forced into it. Gore sort of jumped on the McCain bandwagon. Do you think the public's tuned into this?
WOODWARD: Well, I think in a way they understand. I mean, it's so complicated and gets so technical. In a few sentences, what this issue is about, after Watergate, the Congress decided they're going to pass a law and put a protective fence around presidential elections and they're going to keep big money out. And the people who can contribute to presidential candidates can only give $1,000.
What Clinton and Gore and the people who ran his '96 campaign did, they said, now wait a minute. These rules don't apply to the Democratic National Committee. They can raise unlimited amounts of money, and we can run ads that really show what a good guy Clinton is and present his issues. And we can control those through the Clinton- Gore campaign in the White House.
And as Louis Freeh, the FBI director, in his memo on this in 1997 to Reno, saying we should have an independent counsel, said that this was a sham. And that's exactly what it was.
KING: Don't the Republicans do it, too?
WOODWARD: The Republicans did it, too, but not in this kind of coordinated way. And if you put it all together, again, the overall, you see that the they intentionally went around the law. Now, they say they were exploiting a loophole. You can make a case, and Louis Freeh made a rather compelling one, I thought, and a lot of lawyers looking at this, even in Janet Reno's Justice Department, said at least we should have an independent, thorough, aggressive investigation.
KING: Orlando, Florida, call for Bob Woodward -- hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
I'd like to ask Mr. Woodward if he thinks the Democrats are going to chase Bush around until November over the death penalty while the Republicans counter with Gore's fund raising until we reach the election, with neither side addressing the issues that affect the real world of living in this country, as common citizens? Diversionary politics.
KING: Bob, you think so?
WOODWARD: Well, I mean, that -- I think that he is speaking for millions if not tens of millions of people, that these are side issues. They are significant. They are not to be dismissed. But they shouldn't be the center of how we are going to define our next president. That would be tragic.
KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Bob Woodward, get another call or two as well on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Tiger Woods, tomorrow tonight an encore.
The Dalai Lama next Monday.
Don't go away.
KING: Tallahassee, Florida for Bob Woodward -- hello.
CALLER: Yes, hi.
CALLER: My question, Mr. Woodward, is: haven't we learned today the way this story has unfolded -- through Arlen Specter working behind the scenes with this Republican prosecutor who donated to Mr. Helms -- to guess that this was yet another successful Republican attempt to manipulate the political process and generate a media feeding frenzy which the media again has again fallen for?
And I'm also disturbed that Mr. Woodward says that the Republicans don't do it as much as the Democrats. The Center for Public Integrity has well documented that both parties systematically do this sort of thing.
KING: All right, Bob, you want to...
CALLER: And I'm also...
KING: I don't want to -- if we keep going, sir, I'm going to run out of time, so I want to give him a chance to respond to two good questions.
WOODWARD: I mean, they do systematically raise all of the soft money and use it. But when you connect all of the dots it's the Clinton-Gore campaign who really executed a perfect takeoff and landing on this issue. What was the -- I'm sorry, the early part of the question?
KING: That the prosecutor who brought this was in cahoots with Senator Arlen Specter, and he voted for Helms, so it gave money to Helms in North Carolina and that this is a ploy by the party who wants to get in power against the party in power and the media is falling for it.
WOODWARD: I don't -- I don't know whether there's evidence of that. But again, it's Janet Reno's own Justice Department that is doing this. This is a career prosecutor. And it's a story that the media has to report.
But I do agree that the issue here is: what is the quality and newness of the evidence that would cause somebody to change their mind?
KING: I'm going to get one more quick call, Yuma, Arizona for Bob Woodward -- hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
Mr. Woodward, as an American Buddhist, I can't understand or I can't figure out, did the Buddhist community there at the temple, did they do something wrong or unethical? And if so, what did they do wrong?
KING: Good question.
WOODWARD: I don't think so. I mean, what happened is they used some of the Buddhist monks to act as straw donors and give money to the Democratic party, and I think they collected $55,000 or $60,000 this way. But there was no sense, at least collectively, that the temple was in on this scheme. Some individuals might have, and there is a woman who has been convicted of kind of running the scheme.
And -- but you know, the real issue, the idea of going to a temple or a church or any religious group or any religious building and letting it be tainted with political fund raising makes absolutely no sense to me. And you would hope that Gore or Bush or anyone, if they had any inkling that they were actually -- in using straw donors, in taking that kind of money from a Buddhist temple, I mean in a sense, that is what is repelling about all of this.
KING: We have less than a minute, Robert. Are you suspicious, as a good reporter usually is, of these gas price increases only in certain states?
WOODWARD: Well, they've given reasons, but yes. I'm suspicious. And you see those signs, $2.35, $2.50, and you wonder what is going on. And somebody better try to get to the bottom of it.
KING: Robert, it's always great having you with us, and we'll see you a lot, of course, in this presidential year. You get the juices going, don't you?
WOODWARD: Well, we don't know what's going to happen.
KING: That's why we love it.
Bob Woodward, thanks so much. Bob Woodward, and you'll be seeing lots of him here on LARRY KING LIVE -- by the way, that number again, any information on Cory, Julius Erving's son, we want to repeat that: 888-609-2529. There's a $50,000 reward.
We'll have an encore interview with Tiger Woods tomorrow night before he goes to the British Open.
And on Monday night, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We invite to you stay tuned now for CNN "NEWSSTAND." They're going to pick up where we left off with a discussion on politics 2000.
Thanks for joining us, have a great weekend, and good night.
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