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Larry King Live

Is George W. Bush Afraid to Go One-on-One With Al Gore?

Aired September 4, 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: One of TV's most popular talkers has a news job. Leeza Gibbons is in Los Angeles. She'll take your calls.

But first, the debate over the debates: Will Bush and Gore square off on the same stage at the same time? Bush campaign senior adviser Ari Fleischer joins us from Austin -- and in Nashville, Gore campaign senior adviser Ron Klain -- and then perspective on all of this from David Gergen, editor-at-large for "U.S. News and World Report," and a White House adviser to four presidents -- and famed presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

It's all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

One program reminder -- you will be hearing a lot about it all week -- but Friday night on this program, for the full hour, an exclusive interview with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.

We begin with Ari Fleischer, the Bush campaign senior adviser. He's in Austin -- Ron Klain, the Gore campaign senior adviser: He's in Nashville.

Yesterday, Governor Bush came up with idea of three debates: "Meet The Press," with Tim Russert, another one on this program, and then one of the Presidential Commission debates.

What was behind that are, Ari?

ARI FLEISCHER, BUSH CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, it was simple, Larry: We want to debate.

And we thought that, by choosing debates that Al Gore is already on record having said that he accepts -- including yours -- he said that to you on your show, live -- we thought would it be easy: that we could agree with Gore and the debates should be able to begin. That is why we chose them. They'll afford us -- we'll have large prime- time audiences. And we hope that Al Gore will be there.

KING: Now, Ron, I remember when the vice president was here: On many occasions, he was always insisting on debating anywhere. And he always wanted to debate. So what is his difficulty with this concept?

RON KLAIN, GORE CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, his difficulty with this concept is pretty simple, Larry. Governor Bush has said he wants to have debates that the most number of people can watch. We take him at his word on that. The three Presidential Commission debates are on all the networks, available to all the people. What we would like to see is do those three debates, and then, Larry, have Al Gore and George Bush come on this show in addition to those three national debates, not instead of one of those debates, like Governor Bush is proposing.

KING: And is he saying that, if they did all three, he would definitely do this show, and he would do a "Meet the Press," and he would do any of the others? There would be a lot of debates if Bush agreed to three Commission debates?

KLAIN: We would love to see a lot of debates. And we love to see a debate on this show specifically, Larry, in addition to those Commission debates. But I think it's important. Obviously, Larry, this is a wonderful show. And Al Gore had a historic debate with Ross Perot on this show. But even that debate only got about 13 million people to tune in.

The National Commission debates have drawn between 40 and 90 million people. And what the Bush campaign hasn't explained yet is why they want to get rid of those debates to add a LARRY KING debate. Why can't we have the Presidential Commission Debates and a LARRY KING debate on top of it?

KING: Ari, why not the more the merrier?

FLEISCHER: Well, Larry, as you know, the vice president gave his word. He said that he accepted your debate. He accepted Tim Russert's debate. He never announced all these new conditions they have put on there. You know, they just have to disagree with everybody. Even when we agree with them, it is not good enough. All of sudden, they have changed their position.

Now, your show is going to be made available to all the other networks.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That's correct. And so will the "Meet the Press" show.

FLEISCHER: All the debates. We -- your feed, I understand, is going to be made available to all the networks -- same with "Meet The Press." All Al Gore has to do is show up, and we're going to have tens of millions of people watching. It's up to Al Gore. If he meant what he said -- his credibility is on the line. Otherwise, why on Earth did he tell you he accepted?

When he said to you: I accept, Larry, he didn't say what Ron just said. He didn't announce those conditions. This is a new position taken only...

KLAIN: Because, Ari, no one could imagine...

FLEISCHER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Ron. This is a new position taken by the vice president only after Governor Bush called his bluff and accepted the invitation to debate on LARRY KING.

KING: Ron?

KLAIN: Ari, no one could imagine that George Bush was going to do something that no one in the past 12 years has done -- that his father didn't do, that Bob Dole didn't do -- which is run from the Presidential Commission Debates. We wanted to do a LARRY KING debate. We want to do a "Meet the Press." We want to do a lot of debates. But you still have not answered the question, Ari, why

FLEISCHER: Ron, hold on a second. It's...

KLAIN: Ari, let me finish. Let me finish.

KING: Let Ron finish, Ari -- then you go.

FLEISCHER: Go ahead.

KLAIN: Why won't Governor Bush just agree to the three Commission debates? And then let's do LARRY KING in addition, "Meet the Press" in addition, "This Week" in addition, all kinds of shows in addition to those three debates that everyone in America can watch. Why not, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Because I think that when Al Gore said: I accept "Meet the Press," I accept LARRY KING, we took him at his word. And obviously, we are finding his word is a very changeable thing.

KLAIN: Well, well, let's...

FLEISCHER: Well, you just said it's never been --- wait a minute, you just said it's never been done before.

KING: All right.

FLEISCHER: In 1996, the Commission offered three presidential debates. Clinton and Gore accepted only two. So you are the ones who started down this road. You have paved this road. You set the precedent of turning down Commission debates. In fact, the reason you didn't go in 1996 to the St. Louis debate was because the president had a fund raiser instead that he wanted to go to. And the vice president didn't disagree.

The next night, the president went to United Nations. So you turned the Commission down yourselves.

KLAIN: You still haven't explained -- you still haven't explained why you won't take the three Commission debates and add to them. And I'll tell you why: because Governor Bush can't explain his tax plan that doesn't add. He can't explain his prescription-drug plan that has no funding for it. He can't explain all of his positions. So you want to have debates on outlets which the "Washington Post" this morning said had much more limited audiences than the Commission debates.

You can't explain why you want to run from the Commission debates, and have these debates instead of the Commission debates, instead of in addition to the Commission debates.

KING: All right. One of the other sides -- they're not taking a position for us, because I'm out of this. This is at a network level. I'm not involved in any discussions, Ron -- is that when you do have an exchange of people sitting next to each other without formalized rules like: You have one minute. You have 30 seconds to respond...

KLAIN: Sure.

KING: ... you get more meaty, because they can cross-question each other. So if there are direct issues to be brought up -- as we proved in South Carolina, as we proved with Perot-Gore -- you can really get into them in a setting like this, as opposed to a more formalized your-30-seconds-are-up.

Do you agree with that, Ron?

KLAIN: Absolutely. And that is why we are anxious to have a debate on this program and other shows like this one, Larry. The only real difference between our campaign and the Bush campaign is we want to have those debates in addition to the nationally televised, available-to-all-Americans Presidential Commission Debates, not instead of those debates.

And Governor Bush can't explain why he wants to get rid of the Commission debates and put these debates in instead.

FLEISCHER: Larry, what

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right, without getting repetitious, what is going to happen, Ari? Are you going to sit down? The commission has invited everybody this week. Yet Bush said yesterday: That is my final answer. Are there going to be any kind of meetings, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Well, we are going to meet of course with the Commission to discuss the debates in St. Louis that the Governor is going to be there. And if Al Gore keeps his word on that, we expect he will be there, too. But this does come down to: What does it tell the American people when Al Gore gives his word and won't keep it?

He didn't have any of those conditions at the time. He, with a great emphasis -- and was hotdogging it -- bragging to people that he has accepted all these debates -- including yours and including Tim Russert's. Al Gore shouldn't have said it if he didn't mean it. And if Al Gore doesn't mean it when he talks about something as simple as a debate...

KING: All right.

FLEISCHER: He is also not likely to mean what he says about prescription drugs.

KING: Is it...

FLEISCHER: So forget about it right after election -- or marriage penalty relief. When he gives his word, people have to know he means it.

KING: All right. Without...

FLEISCHER: And what you hear from Al Gore is not what you are going to get.

KING: Without getting repetitious, Ron, would it be safe to say that in this kind of format, Gore has excelled?

KLAIN: I think that he does well in this format. I think Governor Bush does well in this format, too. I think it would be very exciting to have the two of them on this program, Larry, and have an exchange of the sort you describe. The person whose word is in question here is Governor Bush. He said he wanted debates to be seen by the maximum number of American people. And now he's running from that, just like he ran from his pledge...

FLEISCHER: And Ron, all Al Gore has to do is show up. Just let him show up and we'll have huge audiences there.

KLAIN: ... just like he ran from pledge -- just like he ran from his pledge, Ari, not to run personal negative ads. On CNN, he made the pledge one day, broke it the next day...

FLEISCHER: Ron, why won't he just show up?

KLAIN: ... just like he ran from his pledge to pay

(CROSSTALK) FLEISCHER: All the vice president has to do is honor his commitment.

KLAIN: No, Ari, the fact of the matter is we have made commitments to this show, to a number of other shows, and to the Commission. And you guys...

FLEISCHER: And then you walked away from them.

KLAIN: No. We're

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: And then you gave your word, and you are not keeping it?

KLAIN: ... all of those commitments. You won't match our commitment to do the nationally televised debates, because you don't want to defend your plan, Ari.

KING: One other -- Ari, any comment on...

FLEISCHER: Larry, we are going to have...

KING: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

FLEISCHER: We're going to have a record-breaking number of debates. Governor Bush has accepted three presidential, two vice presidential, which is more than Clinton and Gore did in 1996. That is our offer. And we think that is a great offer for the American people to hear a fair discussion of the issues.

KING: We will talk about our historians.

FLEISCHER: We want to have it in a variety of formats and settings.

KING: We'll talk about it with our historians later.

But any comment, Ari, on that expletive deleted that Governor Bush had happen to him today with Mr. Cheney on stage in Naperville?

FLEISCHER: Larry, obviously, that was a remark that was intended privately for his running mate. The governor did not mean to have it shared with the public that was gathered in front of an open microphone. That was a private remark intended for his running mate.

KING: OK, on that note, we will discuss that a little more later.

We thank Ari Fleischer and Ron Klain -- a lot to be heard from this.

Thank you for a very lively debate about the debates!

KLAIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Ari Fleischer and Ron Klain.

When we come back, David Gergen and Michael Beschloss.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent said he would debate me any place, any time, anywhere. I said fine, why don't we just show up at NBC with Mr. Russert as a moderator, or why don't we show up at LARRY KING and discuss our differences?

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's needed is to respect the right of the American people to see these debates on all the networks, in prime time, the way it has been done since 1988.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, in Boston, David Gergen, editor at large "U.S. News & World Report," he's professor of public service at the JFK School of Government at Harvard, and was an adviser in the White Houses of Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton; and in Washington, Michael Beschloss, the famed presidential historian, ABC news analyst, as well as commentator for "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer."

I mentioned to Ari that little snip that occurred today with Governor Bush speaking in Illinois, here is what happened, and then I will get the thoughts of our two guests. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's Adam Clymer, a major league (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for "The New York Times."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, gentlemen, they were referring to Mr. Clymer, a reporter for "The New York Times," and you obviously know the word that was expletived -- expletive deleted -- I can't even say it.

David, does it mean anything, or is it a blip in the night?

DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": It's a blip in the night, but never get near a live microphone, Larry, with...

KING: OK, we lost David a little there.

Michael, is it -- yes, I got you now.

Michael, does it mean anything?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It sounds as if David is so afraid of a live microphone that he made sure that his was dead for a moment. But I think it is a hazard for candidates -- you know, even Ronald Reagan in 1984, you remember, when he was about to give a Saturday radio address and he was testing the mike. He made what he thought was a joke and said, "I'm about to sign legislation to outlaw the Soviet Union forever, we begin bombing in five minutes," he thought it was a joke and it went out over loudspeakers, reporters heard it, and it was a blip in that campaign, but like this one, it didn't change many votes.

KING: David, what does -- does this cause any problems at "The Times"?

GERGEN: No, I don't think so. But you know, that -- I don't know why he was sort of going after Adam Clymer. I don't know what the context was. Adam Clymer has been reporting, as you know, on the Nixon story just here a few nights ago, about whether Nixon had been beating his wife and taking drugs.

KING: All right, Michael, what do you make over the debate over the debates? BESCHLOSS: Well, we have never really seen it done this way before, Larry, you know, there is always a negotiation over debates and it almost never happens the way everyone expects at the beginning. Even in 1976 when Gerald Ford challenged Jimmy Carter, renewing the tradition of debates begun in 1960 with Kennedy and Nixon, there was an argument between the two sides particularly over what would be the subject of the first debate. The Carter people did not want that to be foreign policy, they thought that would favor Ford.

But we have never had a situation in which a candidate has proposed that two of the debates be on shows like LARRY KING LIVE and "Meet the Press." If this is his final offer, that is something that's a departure. But the interesting thing is that the commission which we think of as having sort of an official status, that's only been in business for 13 years and it's not particularly licensed.

KING: David, that commission is not official in any way is it?

GERGEN: It is not official, Larry, but it does have a lot of standing. As you know, there were -- for three elections in a row we had informal arrangements with the presidential debates up through the (AUDIO GAP) election.

Then there were two nationally-appointed blue ribbon commissions, looked at what do we do about debates, both of them recommended that there be an independent committee set up, that's what was done, that commission has sponsored the debates for the last three presidential elections -- nonpartisan. The co-chairs are the former chairman of the Republican party, Frank Fahrenkopf, and the former chair of the Democratic Party, Paul Kirk, and it does include several outstanding Republican senators (AUDIO GAP)

KING: But...

GERGEN: ... short list, for example (AUDIO GAP)

KING: Let me interrupt you, David, and we are going to fix David's microphone, it's a little in and out there.

So let's take a break and get David all straightened out, and we'll be right back.

Leeza Gibbons still to come, don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK, Michael Beschloss, how are they -- do you think they are going to resolve this since Bush said yesterday it's his final answer?

BESCHLOSS: Well, if it's his final answer, I think you will have a situation which if Gore feels that it's so much to his advantage to be in debates he may accede to this, or you may have a situation which George W. Bush's mind changes later on.

President Bush, interestingly enough, never liked what the commission suggested either in 1992. As late as the 22nd of September, President Bush had not yet agreed to the commission schedule of debates against Bill Clinton, and actually the first one was supposed to be held in East Lansing, George Bush the elder did not attend, Bill Clinton went and sort of kicked around the empty chairs and said, I'm here, where is my opponent? And that was where this character chicken George which began appearing at George Bush's appearances, said why will you not debate. At that point, Bill Clinton was ahead by 1 point, polled by about 15 points, and the result was finally that George Bush a week later said, let's have four debates in October.

KING: David Gergen, we were part of a history-making thing together with that Perot-Gore debate, a debate that Al Gore suggested -- called me about and then Perot was invited, Clinton agreed, we understand you and others were opposed in the White House. It turned out to be, according to Bill Clinton, the thing that changed NAFTA.

Why wouldn't Gore want to appear -- forget just this show -- in a setting in which he is extremely good?

GERGEN: Well, I happened to before that day, Larry -- actually, the vice president came to (AUDIO GAP) and I said please go do that, and I got very much involved in those negotiations (AUDIO GAP). So it was a terrific setting for Al Gore (AUDIO GAP). I think Al Gore would love to come on this show, as he should. And it would be a terrific place to have a debate. But I do think that the Gore people have a point here about the size of the audience. There is -- here is what I think is going to happen, Larry, basically, I think that George W. Bush (AUDIO GAP) skewered by the press for refusing to go into the presidential debates. Al Gore will stand firm for a while and (AUDIO GAP) see if Bush will blink, and at least accept two presidential debates.

There is a way the commission could also seek a compromise. That is the commission could ask you to be host of one of its debates and put it on, just as Jim Lehrer was a host, and PBS alone didn't carry the debates. All the networks carried the debates when Jim Lehrer was a host. So that you could have an hour-and-a-half debate with Larry King as moderator (AUDIO GAP) which I think everybody could claim victory.

KING: Or Tim Russert and he do this show, one or the other, and then the other...

GERGEN: And Tim Russert -- exactly. So I think that -- I think that right now the governor is -- and I try to be sympathetic with him on a lot of things (AUDIO GAP), but on this one, I think he's going to be skewered for too surprisingly slick. This is un-Bush-like.

KING: How do you think -- Michael, how do you think the public's going to react?

BESCHLOSS: I think -- I guess I disagree a little bit with David, because I think we in Washington see a huge difference between the commission debates and a debate on LARRY KING LIVE or "Meet the Press." I think if there are three debates in different venues, I think the public will feel that George W. Bush did subject himself to debates. They might not be as sensitive to it as we are.

KING: By the way, isn't it, Michael -- a debate like this one or Russert, there are no rules, there's no such thing as you have one minute to speak, you have 30 seconds to respond. Isn't that, in a sense, kind of gutsy to do that?

BESCHLOSS: It is, and it's one of the objections that there have always -- that have always been made against, you know, what we thought of as presidential debates, because to an extent they're joint press conferences. There's a big ability for a candidate to deliver a sound bite. And interestingly, the big departure from that was suggested by Bill Clinton in 1992. He was the one who suggested for the Richmond debate let's have a town meeting where the candidates can walk around.

The Clinton people thought that the Bush people would turn that down flat, because that was not exactly George Bush Sr.'s national venue. But they thought that Bush could do better and they agreed.

KING: And do you think, David, we'll wind up with a little bit of both?

GERGEN: Yes, I do, Larry, and I think that Governor Bush has a point about having a different kind of format. But the Gore people and the presidential debate commission will have a very serious point. As you well know, Larry, CNN will make your program available to (AUDIO GAP) as they should.

KING: Right.

GERGEN: But the networks will not carry it, and they particularly will not carry NBC. Now, ABC is not going to (AUDIO GAP) on their air for an hour and a half (AUDIO GAP). So it's important, if you're going to have this huge national audience (AUDIO GAP) to make this something that all the networks and CNN and public television will be there for. And I think having you as a host would be terrific.

BESCHLOSS: And I might say -- and could I say, Larry, I think if that does happen, I think that might be a compromise that we end up with, and I think David has suggested a very good one.

KING: Thank you both very much. We're sorry. We had a little trouble with David's microphone, but we were able to understand 99 percent of what he said.

(LAUGHTER)

And he got...

BESCHLOSS: Everything that was important.

KING: David Gergen and Michael Beschloss, thank you both very much.

Leeza Gibbons is going to be the new host of "Extra." She starts tomorrow night. She's here tonight. She's next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: She was drifting in television wasteland, host of "The Leeza Gibbons Show." The show gets canceled. Makes one appearance as the host of "LARRY KING LIVE," bam, becomes the managing editor of "Extra." The revamped show debuts tomorrow night.

Congratulations.

LEEZA GIBBONS, HOST, "EXTRA": Thank you, Larry. It was clearly sitting in your seat...

KING: That did it.

GIBBONS: ... that did it.

KING: The "Extra" people watched and went berserk.

GIBBONS: They said, "We want that girl."

KING: The ups and downs of television, very low period when you were dropped, right?

GIBBONS: You know, it was bittersweet clearly. I...

KING: What was the sweet?

GIBBONS: Well, the sweet was I think new beginnings are very exciting. You know, that old age is so true: Every new beginning comes because of some other beginning's end.

This was the end of my time not only at "The Leeza Show" but at Paramount, where I really grew up in broadcasting. I'd been there for 16 years -- 16 years.

"The Leeza Show" was...

KING: A kind of a relief?

GIBBONS: Not a relief. It was time. It was time.

We were very proud of what we did at "The Leeza Show." We had seven seasons. That's unheard of, especially at a time when talk went through a pretty good beating, and sometimes I think a well-deserved beating. And we were protected under the umbrella of NBC.

Once the show went out into syndication, those are shark-infested waters, and we made a choice not to change what we did to be competitive, to maybe get more time. Maybe we couldn't have, but we didn't even want to go down that road.

KING: Were you surprised that it was dropped?

GIBBONS: Not altogether surprised. I think the environment was changing. You know, the television audience is never wrong. That's what I believe. And you know, I think there could have been things we could have done. There could have been more support in certain areas. But I saw this on the wall, for sure.

KING: Was there any thought to go more tabloidish?

GIBBONS: Never.

KING: Never.

GIBBONS: Never.

KING: And you would have refused if that was suggested?

GIBBONS: Well, you know, I have to give credit to everyone involved. That was never even dangled. I mean, it may have been somewhere layers back that, well, we could do better if we did this. You know, good storytelling is good storytelling: The nature of following topical news is that, I mean, you know, it's scandalous enough, it's sensational enough. You don't need to change your approach to have compelling stories.

KING: So what happened? How did "Extra" how did that come along?

GIBBONS: This is a great opportunity for us.

KING: How did it happen?

GIBBONS: Well, it happened I guess the way -- the way all these transitions happen.

KING: You got a call?

GIBBONS: Got a call, and they're a 7-year-old program. They very much wanted to redirect what their format was, to freshen up their look, and believe me, this show is knew from bottom to top. New logo, new graphics, new music, new format. We've divided the newsroom into five units, and the units will be specialists covering things like medical stories in our "Extra" segment, covering relationships in "Sextra." We have...

KING: "Sextra"?

GIBBONS: Yes. I didn't come up with the titles, but you'll remember it now.

KING: Sure will.

GIBBONS: When you see the women from "Sex and the City" on the cover of "Time" magazine, you know that this is something that the American public is very interested in.

We are the first truly interactive news magazine in that we have a -- a van, a gigantic Winnebago, I guess, outfitted with a tracking system where viewers will be able to direct where we go. We have kind of our own action reporter, Steve Santagati, who will be out there. And you know, you can log on and say, "Do this, do that, ask this, stay here."

KING: We'll get into a lot of it. Are you a hired hand or are you part of the production now?

GIBBONS: Well, in television...

KING: You're managing editor. What does that mean?

GIBBONS: I'm certainly one of the voices that is directing this revamp of the show. It would have been uncomfortable for me to be involved at any other level. We are very like-minded, and I'm not -- I'm not the executive producer of the show. We have a really talented team of people, both the creative team and the technical staff.

We were walking through today with what's going to happen on the show tomorrow, and it's very, very exciting.

KING: Who produce "Extra"?

GIBBONS: Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey is overall handling reality programming at Telepictures.

KING: And what company?

GIBBONS: It's a Telepictures show, and my...

KING: How many stations?

GIBBONS: And my production company is based at Telepictures, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do -- to take this assignment as well, to give me opportunities to produce and develop (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: How many stations carry it?

GIBBONS: It's about 90, 95 percent of the country.

KING: Back with more of Leeza Gibbons, starting tomorrow, and her old show is still on in reruns, right?

GIBBONS: We just wrap up. I mean, the dovetailing was unbelievable.

KING: You go off in one, on in the other.

GIBBONS: Exactly.

KING: Should be on starting tomorrow. Most times "Extra" plays is -- what? -- early fringe? Is that what they call it?

GIBBONS: It's access and fringe, right?

KING: Back with more of Leeza Gibbons on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LEEZA") GIBBONS: When they admit that they're guilty, do we have to have like, like Gacey spent -- what? -- 15 years on death row?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

GIBBONS: And why...

(CROSSTALK)

How much did that cost us? He made money while he was in jail. He made $350,000?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gacey wasn't the one who set up the appeals. Gacey didn't set up those appeals. Those appeals were set up by the court, because the courts know that...

GIBBONS: But he -- but a jury said...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that the government's wrong on a regular basis.

GIBBONS: ... we want him put to death. A jury said, we want him put to death.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Leeza, you're pandering.

GIBBONS: It took so many years.

DERSHOWITZ: You're too smart for this.

GIBBONS: I should be a defense attorney.

DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Lest you think Leeza Gibbons is just some really pretty face, she has a bachelor of arts in journalism from the University of South Carolina, reported local news, co-hosted "PM" magazine in Dallas, worked on "Two on the Town" in New York. Eventually co- anchored "Entertainment Tonight," host and co-producer of her on daytime talk show, and now, the new host and managing editor of "Extra." The revamped show debuts tomorrow, of course, the day after this Labor Day.

Are you an anchor on this or do you get to do mixed interviews and stuff which you like doing, or are you just reading?

GIBBONS: It's a solo-anchored show. I very much want to be involved in all the segments. We have a celebrity pop culture segment called "The X Factor." I suspect I'll be living in that segment as well as some consumer reporting as well.

We have an attorney, Mike Bryant (ph). We're doing "Mike Checks," where he goes out and looks into all kinds of consumer- related stories.

KING: This is a daily magazine?

GIBBONS: A daily magazine.

KING: That's what it is. Sounds like a magazine.

GIBBONS: And we'll have a daily radio component as well that I will be doing.

KING: A radio version of it?

GIBBONS: We'll be doing entertainment minutes that come on at the morning, which I've done radio for over a decade now.

KING: And what time each day do you do this?

GIBBONS: We do it -- unless something breaks, the show is put to bed in the early afternoon.

KING: So something being an entertainment kind of story breaking?

GIBBONS: Well...

KING: What does "Extra" cover?

GIBBONS: It covers, you know, like the units that I told you. It...

KING: Would it cover a thing like the debates we just talked about tonight?

GIBBONS: Likely. I'm wanting to look into this notion of: Is Geraldo running for governor or not, for mayor or not, and should we talk to former mayors and see how people feel about it? We may cover politics. We may cover consumer medical, health, fitness, beauty, and certainly pop culture and celebrity will be a portion of it. But it will not be the whole half hour.

KING: All right, what's it like to step into an entity that's already been around seven years? You know, this is not -- I mean, it's new but it's still "Extra."

GIBBONS: Well, I think that the challenge for this for me was to recreate and to reinvent. And I think as women, we understand that totally. This is something that we do every time we have a baby. We understand change. Every month, we understand change. And that is really the thing, I think, that feeds our soul the most. And that was exciting for me.

But also, Larry, to be very honest, you know what it's like to be a working parent. I have three children: 11, 8 and 2. They are my priority. This was a very doable schedule for me.

KING: You can go in and do it every day. GIBBONS: Go in and do it, take them to school, be a hands-on parent with them in the afternoons. And surely, you know, you don't get all of what you want but you do get -- we all get our must list; we don't get our shoulds. This was a must for me.

KING: What does your husband do?

GIBBONS: He is a hyphenate. He is an actor, architect, writer, composer. He does a little bit of everything and does it all quite well.

KING: In Washington, you say something like that, it means a guy out of work when you're doing many things.

GIBBONS: No, no. No, he...

KING: He's not a house husband?

GIBBONS: He's not a house husband, although he has a separate detached office on our property where he does his work and his painting. And he runs a company called Parabounce (ph). They make a one-man helium balloon. I'm telling you, this guy is all over the place.

KING: I can tell, yeah. I know a lot of guys...

GIBBONS: You should do it. Katie Couric did it. Lee Iacocca did it.

KING: What? Go up in a balloon?

GIBBONS: When up in a Parabounce.

KING: Of course, I grew up with a lot of guys. Not one wanted to make helium balloons. None of the guys on the corner in Brooklyn were very interested in...

GIBBONS: They weren't doing that in your neighborhood?

KING: Never came up. Never...

GIBBONS: In the neighborhood?

KING: Yeah, it wasn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let's discuss some things current and then take calls for Leeza Gibbons, the new host of "Extra." Jerry Springer was here a couple of weeks ago and he said, "Hey, I'm just entertaining. That's all I'm doing. Just turn it off if you don't like it. Don't make a fuss." It's all about nothing. It's the First Amendment. You don't like it -- that's all it is.

GIBBONS: It is the First Amendment and I think Jerry has defended himself quite brilliantly on that issue. I do think, however, that we have evolved. The state of our industry has evolved to a place where kind of mean-spiritedness is somehow accepted. And there is a little bit of this notion of a culture of cruelty that we have. It's not created and take responsibility for it, because we're each responsible for what we take. You know, if you put yourself in charge of your own happiness and your own values, you'll be in very good hands. We are each accountable for what we take from the universe, from television. But I do think what's acceptable has changed. And, you know, for me watching it, I can watch it as entertainment. I can think that it's benign.

KING: Do you resent anything Senator Lieberman is saying about your industry?

GIBBONS: Not resent, no. I mean, again, I think that everyone is entitled to have...

KING: Do you fear a government -- too much government involvement?

GIBBONS: Yes. I think most people who, you know, who depend on this business and who believe in its power, you know, there is, I think, that danger.

KING: All right, you're also getting involved in -- you don't just do a show; you testified before Congress on behalf of children, right, child abuse?

GIBBONS: Yes.

KING: What got you into that topic?

GIBBONS: From the time I was in the sixth grade, Larry, I knew that I wanted to be involved in this industry as a storyteller. And also, I grew up with parents who instilled in me the notion that, you know, to really live a life, you have to participate in life. And so I've always thrived on being a bit of an advocate, sometimes and activist. But really, it's very selfish because, you know, if you look at successful people, what they -- one of the qualities of a successful person is feeling like they're part of something bigger, feeling like they can contribute. And it's all the lens that you look at at life through. And so by being involved in that way and feeling that I can be productive and have a meaningful existence, it's just a -- it's a better life.

KING: Of all the abuses -- and there are a lot of abuses in life -- none worse than child abuse. Agreed?

GIBBONS: Agreed.

KING: I couldn't think of one thing worse.

GIBBONS: I can't think of anything more heinous.

KING: Yet the say it is a curable thing and that some people who abuse their children can get better. Have you found that to be true? The University of Texas has done major studies with it.

GIBBONS: I think...

KING: Most abusers were abused. GIBBONS: Exactly. And what I find is that it is at the core of so many of our problems in society: teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropout, delinquency, low self-esteem. A lot of those things, once you begin to research, there is almost always or often, I will say, an incident of sexual abuse. And clearly, those kinds of people who are victimized by their parents, they aren't all going to grow up to be pedophiles, absolutely not. But if we continue to not support children who tell or not arm children with information to know where to go, to know where the boundaries are, those children don't know -- those people become adults, they don't know where the boundaries are. I think we're letting a lot of kids down.

KING: Leeza Gibbons is our guest. We're going to include your phone calls. And starting tomorrow, you'll see her as the new co -- the host and managing editor -- I was going to say co-host. Leeza shares with no one. Host and managing editor of "Extra."

Wednesday night, Dr. Laura will be here. On Thursday night, Mike Wallace and Merv Griffin. We're going to talk about a new book that Nancy Reagan is releasing on letters to and from her husband. And then Friday night, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. We'll be right back with Leeza Gibbons. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBONS: Don't we roll the dice every day? For instance, I've had all the tests done...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GIBBONS: ... on my baby so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Why do you have the tests done?

GIBBONS: And like you, my husband and I had controversy within our family over this. He said, "Well, what if we find out the baby does have Down's?" And it meant a different thing to me than it meant for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you have the test?

GIBBONS: Because I wanted to be prepared for what might happen, what I might need to supply that baby with. If you have a baby with a learning disability or with a physical challenge, then you need to parent that child differently.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to educate yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

GIBBONS: To educate yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Calls in a moment for Leeza, who, by the way, was on the syndicated show business show, "Entertainment Tonight," for 10 years. Here's a sample of her "E.T." anchor work. And check out the hair.

GIBBONS: Oh-oh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBONS: The ingredient that you mentioned are top talent and a good script. And that's what everybody is touting, really. I think though the real story of "Steel Magnolias" took place behind the scenes. It's the story of some famous women who got along famously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBONS: Oh, no. And how about the Southern accent?

KING: Where was that? Was that the style? That was your voice, right?

GIBBONS: Who knows. It could have been just that I, you know, arrived into town, this redneck. And I use the term very affectionately because I'm still recovering.

KING: You're from South Carolina.

GIBBONS: From South Carolina. And I remember hitting town and they said, "You know, maybe we'll just sent you to a little bit of a, you know, wardrobe consultant and kind of a, you know, a fashion and beauty consultant." I -- first of all, it was the style. And you girls have to admit it, we all had our hair very close to God. But, oh, my gosh, I went the extreme.

KING: What did Mary Hart say?

GIBBONS: She had it, too.

KING: East Patchogue, New York, as we go to calls for Leeza Gibbons. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Leeza.

GIBBONS: Hi.

CALLER: I would just like to say, Leeza, that I think you would have been wonderful -- a wonderful co-host with Regis.

GIBBONS: Oh.

CALLER: I really do. I think you would have been great. I've been saying it all along. You're just wonderful.

GIBBONS: Oh, well...

KING: Was there any inquiries made along those lines?

GIBBONS: Oh, that's a lovely compliment. You know what? I -- first of all, the lucky person who gets to sit opposite from Regis, what a great gig. And I was able to fill in for Kathie Lee a time or two and I know what a wonderful shop that is and they're all terrific there. My life is here and my family is here, and it was never something that made sense for me just...

KING: In other words, even if offered, you wouldn't have moved to New York?

GIBBONS: No, I'm based here right now.

KING: Is it a kind of thing, just in thinking about, you'd like?

GIBBONS: Oh, love, love. I mean, you know, he's exciting to me. He evolves.

KING: Great guy.

GIBBONS: He continues to reinvent. The show is brilliantly produced. I mean, it's a great gig for somebody.

KING: San Diego for Leeza Gibbons. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Leeza. I used to watch you a lot on "Entertainment Tonight." Is there any chance you'll be going back on "Entertainment Tonight," because I really, really loved you on that show?

GIBBONS: Oh, thank you. Well, not now.

KING: She's a competitor now in a sense.

GIBBONS: Not now.

KING: Do you consider that competition?

GIBBONS: Well, in the sense that in many markets, we're on at the same time period. We're going to...

KING: Different shows, though.

GIBBONS: Such an entirely different show, especially now that we've reinvented. But I'm very close with people at "E.T." where I worked for over a decade. And, you know, they're just down the street.

KING: That's the longest running -- what has made that show successful?

GIBBONS: It hit at a time when it was truly innovative. The technology was brand new. No one had ever seen anything like it. They understood the format, they knew what they were doing. And it grew at a time right when MTV was happening, "E.T." was happening. And our culture was ravenous for all things celebrity. And it became the brand.

KING: Let's talking about something a little difficult. Your mother has Alzheimer's.

GIBBONS: She has been diagnosed for about a year. She's at the -- she's at probably the end of the first stage, as I understand.

KING: Which is? What's the first thing that happens?

GIBBONS: Well, mom actually is one of those remarkably strong women, and she is the one who kind of shook all of us in the family into paying attention and getting out of denial, which so often happens.

KING: She knew something was wrong?

GIBBONS: She ran that house, and she had paid the house -- the bills like two or three times the same one that month. And so she said to my father, "You know what? Something's going on here."

KING: Where do they live?

GIBBONS: They live in South Carolina. And...

KING: So she paid the same bills over and over?

GIBBONS: So she knew. In fact, it must be unbelievably frightening. Her mom is still alive and has dealt with this as well.

KING: Really?

GIBBONS: So I suppose for mom, it must just be terrifying in those moments of quiet solitude to fast forward and think what might be coming for her. But I'll tell you, first of all, the science is remarkable and the research is very helpful. And mom has taken control of this and has emerged -- both of them. I mean, it's such a beautiful love story. I look at the Reagans and I think of my parents, because it's just -- the gender has switched in terms of who's the caregiver.

KING: Is it getting worse and worse? I mean, it is degenerative.

GIBBONS: It's degenerative, yes. She right now is very, very steady with it. She's doing all the right things. She clearly still has awareness of everybody in our family. And if we have anything to do with it, she will stay at that...

KING: And there is new drugs, right?

GIBBONS: Wonderful drugs. And they're learning so much more about, you know, why it happens. And we're just very optimistic.

KING: Why did it go public?

GIBBONS: You know, my mother has always taken charge of her life and she's not one to hide. And we really took her lead on it. I wanted to do an episode of the Leeza show about it and I called and I said, "Mommy, you know, how do you feel about if I mention this?" And she was: "Well, not only that, but I would like to contribute." She marched herself down to the studio in South Carolina. She did a direct to camera. My mother's a -- I mean, broadcasting to her -- speaking to a camera can be very unnerving for people. And she was -- I went through that show in tears out of respect and awe for my mom.

KING: How old is she?

GIBBONS: She's a young woman. She's 64, which she'll die because she always tried to keep it a secret. Tell you anything but her age. It was always a secret. Mom, you're 64, honey. You look beautiful.

KING: We'll be back with more of Leeza Gibbons. She hosts "Extra" starting tomorrow. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We proudly welcome to the Hollywood Walk of Fame Leeza Gibbons.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tons of people going to be watching tomorrow when Leeza Gibbons takes over as the host and managing editor of the revamped "Extra."

London, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, Leeza.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question is, Leeza, being an election year, do you think the government should pose any type of regulation on types of shows on television, or do you think it should be up to the individual to turn it off and watch what they want to?

GIBBONS: I don't -- I'm not in favor of the government regulating but I am in favor of the government informing us about the content of programs so that we can make choices and take back the power in our own households. And we've tried and we've had this chip and that thing and, you know, this labeling and that labeling. We haven't quite gotten the information that we need that parents can decipher and that's actually useful for parents who -- where both are working and where, you know, they need to understand what's available. I mean, my gosh, you know, how many programs are available? Hundreds of programs. We just need better support. We don't need the government to step in and fix it; we need the government to help us fix it. KING: Any movie -- I mean, you play yourself in movies. I do that, movie cameo hits. You ever been offered a part as a part not Leeza?

GIBBONS: I have.

KING: And?

GIBBONS: And it's too scary for me. I...

KING: You don't want to do it?

GIBBONS: There may be a chance where it would be the right kind of thing. I value what actors do. I am not an actor. You know, but there may be something that would be interesting or that would be...

KING: You'd have to be throughout the movie, though, because if you're on just once, it ain't going to work. You have to be Leeza. To be believe you, you'd have to be on in a part that is not just one scene.

GIBBONS: Well, maybe...

KING: They're not going to believe you're someone else.

GIBBONS: Yeah. Maybe I would need the total makeover for that, then.

KING: Do you fear aging?

GIBBONS: Fear, no. I...

KING: Do you worry?

GIBBONS: I respect it. I think there's nothing more attractive than someone who emotionally accepts that our beauty, our youth, our vibrancy is a temporary gift. Appreciate when you have it, treasure it, and women in particular. It's very unattractive to me to hear women always negating their looks or -- and as a mother of a daughter, I know how destructive that can be. But I don't fear it as long as, you know, I can be productive, as long as I can...

KING: Would you be anti-plastic surgery? See, this is to said to women and not to men, part of the unfairness of society.

GIBBONS: Are you anti-plastic surgery?

KING: I'm scared to death of it.

GIBBONS: Why?

KING: Because (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Rather have heart surgery than someone cut my face.

GIBBONS: I'm claustrophobic, and if they told me they could do this and I -- my big fear is: Oh, my gosh, what if I would have to get my eyes done and I'd have to have patches over my eyes? I can't get facial because I can't -- I'm so claustrophobic.

KING: So you can't do this.

GIBBONS: Well, if I get to the point where things are really, you know, fried, died, lay to the side and sagging, I'll go get therapy for the claustrophobia.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with -- always got a cure -- back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBBONS: I'm Leeza Gibbons sharing your weekend. Hope you're having a good one. Jerry Seinfeld lends a helping hand. We'll tell you why. Stand by for that. Right now, Carlos Santana, Rob Thomas, their hit, "Smooth," to start out the top 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Get in one more call for Leeza. Seattle, hello. Seattle.

CALLER: Yes. This is Julie Paulette and I want to ask Leeza what she thinks of tabloid reporting. And when she covers celebrities, will she be engaged in some of this herself?

GIBBONS: Oh, my gosh, thank you very much for the question. No. I know where the line is. And I take very seriously the fact that celebrities would consent to allowing us into their lives. I mean, clearly, there are situations were celebrities make news. And we will on "Extra," as I have throughout my career, report on whatever news the celebrities are making. But when it comes to asking permission for an interview and being invited on a set, I can't imagine taking advantage of that opportunity and somehow manipulating it just to make a better story.

KING: Someone from "Survivor" is a regular on your show?

GIBBONS: Yes, we have a survivor on "Extra." Dr. Sean is going to be reporting medical news. And he...

KING: Come on, Leeza, this is a...

GIBBONS: He's an authority.

KING: Good grab here, Leeza, go.

GIBBONS: It's a good grab, isn't it?

KING: Yes.

GIBBONS: But he's very interested in telling stories about health and fitness and medical cures: Is it real? Is it not? And he's taking it very seriously as are we. You know, it's an unproven thing as with many of the opportunities that the survivors are having.

KING: Good idea, though. What did you make of that show?

GIBBONS: Oh, man, it was -- it just had so many lessons to teach us. It was an incredible mirror of society.

KING: You believe that? Even though there were cameras right there and they knew the cameras were there?

GIBBONS: Well, it's more about what the audience -- about how the audience responded. I don't think anyone predicted that the audience would get what it needed out of this show, which is what we got. And then the afterlife for these people...

KING: Amazing.

GIBBONS: ... all the opportunities.

KING: And why isn't "Big Brother" working?

GIBBONS: I guess you could make arguments that the house guests aren't as compelling. Or you could make arguments that it's too much of it. Who knows? Who knows?

KING: What do you make of reality television, period? There's going to be more coming.

GIBBONS: Well, as a producer of reality television, I'm thrilled.

KING: Is "Extra" regarded as reality television? I regard it as magazine...

GIBBONS: It's -- that's a news magazine. But at my company, we produce reality TV. In fact, well, these don't really come in that category but we just finished up a show with Delta Burke for "Lifetime." We're calling it an untalk show talk show. She's fabulous to work with. And we did a program for MTV called "Teen Court." But I'm really excited about it and hope we get a chance to produce...

KING: Using real-life people in real-life situations.

GIBBONS: This is putting a camera in the deliberation room. This is a program that really exists in L.A. County.

KING: And she'll be here Wednesday. How's Dr. Laura going to do?

GIBBONS: You know, they say that they sent out tapes to stations and that there was a -- you know, if you believed what you read in the trade, that there was good response to Dr. Laura. She certainly has a large following within her radio community. Who knows how long? But, you know, it's always interesting to bash a show before they've ever rolled off any tape, but you know, she certainly needs to be accountable for a lot of what she's said, I think. KING: Thank you, Leeza. Good luck.

GIBBONS: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Not that -- you don't need it.

GIBBONS: Well, always good to have it.

KING: Leeza Gibbons. She takes over tomorrow night as managing editor and host of "Extra." I love saying this. Check your newspapers for time and station. Goes back a way, but it takes us back.

CNN "NEWSSTAND" is next. Thanks for joining us. I'm Larry King. For Leeza and the whole crew, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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