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Larry King Live

Dr. Laura Discusses Her New Television Show

Aired September 6, 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, whether you love her or hate her, you've got to listen. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, about to kick off her own television show, is here for the hour, and she'll take your calls, and she's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

One of the hot stars in American radio comes to American television this Monday with the premiere of Paramount's "Dr. Laura." Our guest is Dr. Laura Schlessinger. We'll spend a couple of moments later with her co-executive producer as well as Laura breaks into this new media. You excited?

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, HOST, "DR. LAURA": I'm so tired it's a little hard to be excited. Yes, it's kind of a stunning thrill.

KING: Well, you've taped three weeks of shows already. So it's not like you have a debut show Monday, right?

SCHLESSINGER: Right.

KING: There's a show already in the can that's going to go on.

SCHLESSINGER: Right. We're all -- we're all ready to rock'n'roll.

KING: All right. Now, we can learn something. What's the format of "Dr. Laura"?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, there sort of isn't one. We have a unique set every day. It'll look different. That's what's...

KING: What happens on...

SCHLESSINGER: We broke the concept of format, which is usually, you know, there's the table and there's the host and there's the people there, and then you have the expert here and you stand there and you run up and down. And that's been the typical format, and we just completely broke that.

First of all, we're in the round.

KING: You're in the round?

SCHLESSINGER: You look like something out of the movie "Gladiator." It's... KING: So there's an audience all around?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: OK. You don't run into the audience?

SCHLESSINGER: I walk up sometimes.

KING: If you feel like?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, if the spirit moves me.

KING: The guests -- are there guests?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, the guests are the people mostly. Every now and then, there's an expert if we need some information in a particular area that I'm not that familiar with so we can tap into that. But mostly, it's real people, and we're discussing what's right and wrong, and moral values and ethics and principles and what's the right thing to do. And that in itself is unique.

KING: Is there a topic of the day?

SCHLESSINGER: Sometimes. Sometimes there's several topics. One of the things that's going to play next week is what we call "the moral marathon" where we go from moral question to moral question to moral question, and people will deal with it and it'll be on the Internet. There will be somebody in the audience. There will be somebody on the -- I don't know all the fancy television terms -- but on a satellite thing, man on the street. But we'll go from moral issue to moral issue, and that will be the whole day, and the next day it will look like something else.

So it's very free-floating, but the basic concept of dealing with right and wrong.

KING: That's the concept, what's right and what's wrong?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: There's a column every Sunday in "The New York Times" called "The Ethicist" in which ethical dilemmas are presented to this writer, who then responds. Is that similar to this? You will present an ethical dilemma, "I have this job, should I report on my friend who's doing something wrong?"

SCHLESSINGER: Well, sometimes that would be one question we would handle in a constellation of other things, like when it is right to speak that which is true. I mean, just because something is true doesn't mean it should be spoken, and what are the conditions under which you should speak or you should snitch or you should turn in your kid. So it will be a broad issue with a lot of individual dilemmas that people at home can recognize.

KING: Is there conflict on the show? Can you have a moral opinion... SCHLESSINGER: Sure.

KING: ... that someone in the third row doesn't agree with?

SCHLESSINGER: Sure. That's part of the fun.

KING: That's allowed.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: How do we -- is there a definition of morality?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, yes.

KING: Which is?

SCHLESSINGER: The Commandments.

KING: That's it.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: Do unto others -- could that be one?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, that's -- that's -- that's not one of the Commandments per se, but that sort of sums up. That which is horrific to you, you should not do to somebody else.

KING: That's a pretty good moral equation.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: Is this exactly as you wanted it?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. You know, and isn't that a stunner?

KING: I mean, the producers -- the producers didn't say this is it, this is a happy...

SCHLESSINGER: Oh no. Well, I'm the co-executive producer. So I nag them, they nag me, and it's a collaborative effort. They'll come up with ideas, I'll look at that, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe twist it a little bit, so that by the time we finally do it it's been honed by all of us.

KING: When you were last on this show, you said you wanted it to be called...

SCHLESSINGER: "Schlessinger."

KING: "Schlessinger."

SCHLESSINGER: Like Donahue.

KING: But no. SCHLESSINGER: No. You know, they were cheap. Realize how many letters, S-C-H-L-E-S-S -- they weren't going to put all those letters up there.

KING: So, doctor -- it became "Dr. Laura"?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: And it'll mostly be seen in what time period?

SCHLESSINGER: Think about 3:00 in the afternoon. There are some cities 10:00 in the morning. I'm not too familiar with all the times slots.

KING: And how well sold is it? Syndicated?

SCHLESSINGER: It's a little over 98 percent of the country. But we're also in Canada, so it's an international show.

KING: How are you getting along with Paramount? They had to take a lot of flak.

SCHLESSINGER: I've got to tell you, I have had so many rotten, terrible, miserable, disappointing, infuriating experiences in television trying to get some things started that I was very cynical about even thinking about doing this again. And Velma Cato, whom you will meet in a few minutes, just kept pushing me. And she said, let's meet the people at Paramount. Uh, OK, I will. It's the president. OK, well, that's all right.

So we sit around at the table, and he and I, Frank Kelly, just started talking about our sons, same age. For about 20 minutes, we're just going on about parenting. Everybody else is sitting at the table going, "Are they going to be done very soon?" And I knew then that this was the place. They had the right attitude. If the man at the top is that family-oriented and so concerned about the welfare of children in general, I mean, this was the place because that's my primary concern.

KING: Do you look at it as radio with pictures?

SCHLESSINGER: No. The radio experience is very different. Dark, small room, microphone, all my papers piled up that I can use on the air, and it's just the person calling and me, hassling out something that I hope will help them make their lives better.

This is a broader spectrum where I'm not necessarily -- I mean, there are certain cases where I'm hopefully assisting somebody in getting reoriented in their thinking and their behaviors. But generally speaking, it's more ideas and philosophical, and it's more spread out to engage the entire audience in that broader way.

So it feels very different, but I like the expansive of that and I like the privacy of the radio program.

KING: Do you like the kinetic approach of television? You know, that it certainly has a different job than radio?

SCHLESSINGER: No, I'm kind of a hyperactive kid. I think if I were in school now they'd definitely have me on Ritalin. So I kind of like being able to bounce around. I go very quickly through ideas, through questions, through challenges.

To me, it's very exciting, because it's high-paced.

KING: Dr. Laura Schlessinger is the guest. The program debuts Monday. Check your newspapers for time and station in your area. We'll be including your phone calls. We'll spend a few moments with co-executive producer as well.

We'll be back with more of Dr. Laura, and we don't need Schlessinger. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

SCHLESSINGER: You know, I don't care what most of the so-called "experts" say; the reality is we know what our kids need, we know what they want. They want more time with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Dr. Laura Schlessinger is our guest. The program debuts on Monday. The ads for the new show call it a 911 call to your conscience.

SCHLESSINGER: Isn't that cute?

KING: Good idea. Did you come up with that?

SCHLESSINGER: No. I wish I had.

KING: Now, we just saw the way it looks and that is unique. Is that studio right on the Paramount lot?

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, no, no. They built a studio close to my home, because we -- you know, we had an understanding early on: This was not going to interfere with my family life. And my son leaves for school at about 6:30 in the morning, and I don't leave the house until 7:00. I drive 15 minutes at the most if there's traffic to the studio that they built near my home so that time would not be an issue.

I work on the show until 11:00. I leave. I go do my radio show noon to 3:00. I'm home at 4:00. Kid walks in at 5:30. As far as he knows, I've been hanging out.

KING: You don't tape a bunch of TV shows in one day then, as many syndicated shows do?

SCHLESSINGER: No, it's too complex. We have to keep changing the set, I'm in different places. It's too complex to do it, and aside from which I frankly don't think I could maintain the quality of what I'm doing and what we're offering if we're just cranking them out.

So we really put a lot of time and effort into each show. I wouldn't even dream of trying to do that.

KING: Now, from the clip we showed, it looked like that was the day where you had a subject for the day. Children, right?

SCHLESSINGER: Right, right.

KING: Something dealing with children. Is that pretty much it opens every day with you talking about something, or we might we see something completely different on day three?

SCHLESSINGER: You'll see something completely different. I kind of open it up with some smart-alecky or some real poignancy or -- it's just different every day. And that's what I like. They trusted me that we could divert from the norm, do something very unusual and take that risk.

You know, TV people are not necessarily known for risk-taking.

KING: No, not the suits.

SCHLESSINGER: We have one judge show, let's have 42.

KING: Are you -- you're pretty smart. Is this show going to be controversial?

SCHLESSINGER: It seems like I can't move my lips without being called controversial.

KING: I mean, you know that many things you've said have hit people the wrong way and you anger people. Will the television show do that, do you think?

SCHLESSINGER: Sure, because my -- quote -- "traditional values" in this day and age in and of themselves be controversial.

I was interviewed for my book tour for "Parenthood by Proxy," which you were kind enough to have me do here also.

KING: You were on this -- that was a terrific book.

SCHLESSINGER: Thank you. And I saw the clip later, because I don't get to see how they introduce me. It's on satellite. And here's this nice young thing going, "And she believes parents should be married before they have children" -- this very, very controversial issues. And I'm looking at this guy, I'm on another planet -- that that which nourishes and protects and supports a child the best is now controversial. So yes, I guess I me.

KING: Now, the book was very good, very well-written, but it can be disagreed with. I mean, you're there to prompt discussion. People can say that -- that it's possible a one-parent family might be a lot better off than a two-parent family in which the parents aren't always in concert with each other. SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, I don't know that that's true. I don't know that they have to be in concert with each other. If there's violence going on...

KING: I mean, that's arguable?

SCHLESSINGER: But it's not a reasonable argument, and I'll tell you why. We know that something is optimum. If people trying to do the optimum fall short, it's still in the right place. If there's an evil aspect to it, then that doesn't even count.

So to say that there are two-parent families and one could be a homicidal parent, yes, sure, and that kid would be better off with one parent. But as a general rule, we should strive for what is in a child's best interest. And it ain't deciding one day, uh, my clock has run out, I guess I'll get a baby.

KING: We all want the optimum, right? There's nothing wrong with searching for the optimum?

SCHLESSINGER: I'm not sure we all want it. I think mostly we want what we want: what's going to convenience, what's going to make us feel good. Unfortunately, I think these days we want that more than we want what's right.

KING: Why is that these days? Why didn't people want what they wanted in 1802?

SCHLESSINGER: I think they did. I think human beings always have. I think what was different then people were more imbued with a sense of values and honor and virtue, and it mattered what they did. It mattered to the community, which used to be small.

I think that's very different. I mean, look at the uproar with Senator Lieberman saying we should bring God into our homes, and suddenly there's a huge uproar, you know. Look from what side. But there's a huge uproar about God in your home as though that, too, were controversial.

KING: Isn't the uproar about mixing God and politics every day?

SCHLESSINGER: I don't see how we're...

KING: I mean, do you think God has a position on school vouchers?

SCHLESSINGER: We -- well -- if you look through Torah, there probably is some understanding about that. That's not my expertise. You'd have to bring in my rabbi. He's...

KING: No. But I mean, one of the critics of politicians, left and right, who bring in God a lot is that it's kind of like, what does God have to do with school vouchers?

SCHLESSINGER: I'm not sure that Mr. Lieberman has ever made a direct connection between the two. You'd have to show me that he did, because I'm not familiar with that. But I think that when you focus in on what is sublime and what is transcendent and what is ultimately important that I think, I believe -- at least this is what I do and I try to help other people do -- I think it helps you focus in on what is more correct than what is expedient.

KING: Could you be a moral atheist?

SCHLESSINGER: Certainly.

KING: Therefore, could a good atheist, a good moral atheist be a good president? Do you think a president has to believe in God?

SCHLESSINGER: You know, I guess not, but I would say, in general, because you can't have absolutes here, because there are rotten so-called "religious people," although to me that doesn't work together. If they're rotten, they're not religious. They're just spouting it, which is...

KING: A lot of hypocrisy in religion?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes. Well, there's a lot of hypocrisy in politics.

KING: But is someone...

SCHLESSINGER: There's a lot hypocrisy on radio. There's a lot of it on television.

KING: Radio? Not talk radio?

SCHLESSINGER: Do you know any place there isn't?

KING: But you can be a moral atheist?

SCHLESSINGER: I think you're more likely to focus in on the better principles that help you direct yourself in a more positive way if your expert is above you.

KING: In other words, you've got a pretty good guy at the top, is what you're saying?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, because, you know, you, I, every day we go, "Gee, I'd like to be able to do that, but I know I can't."

KING: How do you deal with yourself when you fail?

SCHLESSINGER: When I fail?

KING: Yes. You don't reach optimum every day. No one does.

SCHLESSINGER: Really?

KING: I'm sorry. I got the wrong guest. I forgot.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I'll tell you what I've done -- what -- there's a good part to being 53. I am so glad I'm not 30. First of all, I couldn't do the job I'm doing now because I wasn't mature enough and experienced enough and just grown up enough. But the other part of it is I have come to understand that while I want to go right there, the best of my ability is going to be some place in here moving around, dependent upon a whole lot of things.

And so I have come to forgive myself, my humanness. And this -- I am so grateful for this, because I used to tear myself up when I was younger, something bad, and I can enjoy what I do much more. I know that as long as I do my best, I should get off my back.

KING: So no guilt?

SCHLESSINGER: Guilt? Only if I do something wrong.

KING: Back with more of Dr. Laura on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be including your phone calls, and her TV show, "Dr. Laura," debuts Monday. It might do pretty good. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

SCHLESSINGER: I think you clearly have a mature and special young lady here as a daughter. You need to reinforce that yes, there are some people who are going to say something because you're black, because you're tall, because you're short, because you're this, because you're Asian, because you're whatever, because you have freckles -- although I love them. And by the way, at your age, I was plump. It's baby fat, you know, and then I started playing basketball and it disappeared and I never found it back.

So you have to understand that God made you unique and you have something to offer, and I don't want to hear a moment's obsession about anything than being fit and being your best self. Do you promise me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SCHLESSINGER: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: When the controversy was raging, Dr. Laura, seriously, and gays were protesting and they were hitting sponsors, how were you dealing with that emotionally?

SCHLESSINGER: Emotionally, personally?

KING: Yes.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, I was buoyed up by a number of elements. One, the hundreds of gays and lesbians who wrote me because they know my heart and they respect my beliefs. My family, my friends, my colleagues, my rabbi. My kid mostly. KING: Your son?

SCHLESSINGER: Gosh, is he wonderful, because I said to him, you know, if this is hurting you -- and I meant this -- I said, if any of this is hurting you, I will walk away. And he said, no mother of mine is going to wimp out of anything -- I didn't say, wimp out. I said, if this is hurting you, you know. So my kid is very strong at a younger age than I was.

KING: Economic boycott is American. I'm entitled not to participate in a sponsor of something I don't like and telling that sponsor something. That's fine, right? There's no complaint in that, is there?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, we're not talking about...

KING: It's OK to tell a sponsor, I don't like your...

SCHLESSINGER: This is not about an economic boycott. These were extortion level threats. These were shutting down businesses...

KING: Oh really?

SCHLESSINGER: ... Web sites. This is different than trying to...

KING: I won't buy your coffee.

SCHLESSINGER: ... influence -- yes. This is different than trying to influence a point of view or educate somebody into seeing that, you know, something is not fair or something is not right. This is threatening to shut down businesses. And you know, I understand a business is a business and not too many businesses can tolerate that. So it's not so much that businesses were influenced to see me in any way in a negative light, but they were in survival mode.

KING: Did Paramount ever buckle?

SCHLESSINGER: Not a bit.

KING: There wasn't a day when you thought they might say, let's think this again?

SCHLESSINGER: Not a blink. Larry, they made it clear to me that if they had to use their kids' lunch money, they were going to put the show on the air.

KING: That's good. Now, were you saying -- let's clear it up. Were you saying the behavior is deviant or they're deviants?

SCHLESSINGER: You and I have talked about this a number of times. But you know...

KING: But it's...

SCHLESSINGER: ... the behavior -- and I've said nothing different than Jewish tradition, Islam, Christianity, Catholicism. I mean, there are some standard precepts about morality and sexual expression. I'm saying nothing any different than that. But you know, it's not about any two words. It's really come to the point in our society -- and I think this is of great concern, and I do think people ought to listen up -- that any kind of difference of opinion is now taken as some kind of discriminatory hate mongering. So one is not allowed dissent. One will be shut down.

We had a McCarthy era when that was there, and it's interesting that the same side which cried blood then is sort of standing by and clucking now. The attack on religious traditions, our institutions, our schools, the Boy Scouts -- it's very interesting that in daily "Variety," just day before yesterday I think it was, a representative of this activist group that's trying to, quote, "shut me down" said they don't care what I will or will not say on my show. They just will try to stop it.

So this is a mentality I don't think a country can afford. It's very un-American.

KING: We'll be back with Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and we'll spend some moments with the lady who's the co-executive producer. That means they're in charge. Velma -- trust me -- Velma Cato will join us. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens when you take away the rights of a whole school because of a few kids? I think that's wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What right is that?

SCHLESSINGER: Wait a minute. Let me ask...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is no discrimination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The right to do what you want outside of school. You know, going to school high and getting caught, that's fine. The parents should be notified, but...

(CROSSTALK)

... once you're outside of school, I believe that you should be able to do whatever want and make your own choices.

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, but wait a minute. The school is not following you down to the candy store and taking a urine test there. This has to do with how you are at school, whether you're...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what you do outside of school does affect the drug test when you take it at school...

SCHLESSINGER: No, because the point -- that's the point she was making. When you use drugs, they're in your head and in your body, and affecting how you behave in school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now is the co-executive produce of "Dr. Laura," Velma Cato. I'm going to spend a few moments with her.

How long have you and Laura known each other?

VELMA CATO, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "DR. LAURA": Well, about five years or more.

KING: And you've been involved in the radio show, too?

CATO: Oh, no.

KING: No?

CATO: Other than listening to it.

KING: What were you doing before this?

CATO: Well, I've done all kinds of things: documentaries. I did news for 18 years. And we met five years ago, and she tried to kick me out of her studio.

KING: Because?

CATO: Well, I came to see her about doing a pilot for a show at the time with another studio, and she was convinced that she wasn't going to do it, but I wouldn't go away.

KING: And finally...

CATO: Well, after about only a couple of hours, but she came in initially ranting and raving -- actually ranting -- that she wasn't going to do television, and you know, it wasn't going to happen and people in TV, and this and that and the other, and for about 20 minutes.

SCHLESSINGER: You're saying I was opinionated about this?

KING: We've seen the way the show looks. How much of that is you, your ideas?

CATO: All of it. No, no.

KING: In the round...

SCHLESSINGER: I barely need to show up.

CATO: No, it was actually a collaboration with Paramount, with Dr. Laura, myself, and we had a fabulous set designer who just did a great job of sort of taking the concepts and turning it into reality.

KING: Now, as a co-executive producer how did you handle that furor that occurred even before the show went on? CATO: Well, to be quite honest it didn't affect me obviously as much as Laura, other than, you know, sort of trying to be there for her. I tried to focus as much as possible on doing a good show, and sometimes that was difficult. But you know, for the most part, I had lots to do. So it wasn't that difficult, because there was a lot of work to be done.

KING: How do you think, Velma -- you've been around -- it's going to be received?

CATO: Well, I'm going to tell you I'm always optimistic that the best of people will show up, although I must say I worked in news for a long time and I know that there's a tendency to want controversy, to sort of even help to create controversy.

So I assume that there will be some people who will not necessarily judge the show on its merits, but I think people will, and eventually, as I have seen that happens in the media when the people sort of speak out...

KING: And they're the best judge.

CATO: Right.

KING: A good show can be controversial.

CATO: Oh, yes.

SCHLESSINGER: They're the ultimate judge.

KING: Why do you like Laura?

CATO: Wow. Let me think.

Well, one of the regions reasons I like here is that we're similar in this respect -- I mean, you know, like sort of gravitate to each other -- that we have similar values. I think that was sort of the basis of our relationship, to be quite honest. But I like her because she's a strong woman, that she speaks her mind, that believe it or not, she doesn't mind strong people.

SCHLESSINGER: That's right.

KING: A lot of strong people don't like strong people.

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, I live for -- a strong woman is really...

CATO: Well, I think true strong people do.

KING: So you can go over to Laura and say I don't like -- I don't like this, let's try it this way?

SCHLESSINGER: And you know what I do when she tries to do that?

KING: What?

SCHLESSINGER: Everybody, this is Velma Cato, she's the...

KING: Oh...

CATO: Well, she knows that I don't -- I like being behind the scenes, so she runs me away by, you know, introducing me to people.

SCHLESSINGER: The thing that I appreciate so much is that Velma really trusts me. If she comes out and says, you know, what do you think about, and I go I just have a feeling about this, just trust me, she will. So we work together well. I trust her intelligence. She trusts my instinct. And we're just a well-oiled machine, and we're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) together.

KING: I wish you every luck with this.

CATO: Well, thank you very much.

KING: You must be excited.

CATO: I am excited.

KING: You're pretty cool, though. I mean, for someone excited...

SCHLESSINGER: She is. No, she is.

CATO: This is...

SCHLESSINGER: This a lot of emotion.

(LAUGHTER)

CATO: Thanks, Velma. We'll be seeing a lot of you.

Velma Cato, she is the co-executive producer. We'll be back with Laura and calls for Laura, some more questions as well. The show debuts Monday. It's called not Schlessinger, "Dr. Laura." Something Velma wanted.

SCHLESSINGER: That's right. She won that one.

KING: Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

SCHLESSINGER: It ought to be clear to you that relationships outside of marriage whether by use of the Internet or some other means of spending time together are improper and a form of adultery. The ultimate deterrent to all of this is a strong set of moral values, rules and standards. These keep you from even taking the first step, because for sure if you don't take the first step, you won't be there to take that final fatal step.

Now, go do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Since -- we're back with Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The show debuts on Monday. She continues her radio career, right? You're not going to give one up?

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, yes. Oh, I could never give up radio. You know, you've got it in your blood.

KING: It is.

SCHLESSINGER: It's in your blood, like malaria. It never quite goes away.

KING: Yes, there's something about it. Will you deal with gay issues on the TV show?

SCHLESSINGER: If something relevant that comes up that's useful for the community to deal with, sure.

KING: You mean it has to be relevant, I mean, don't you think...

SCHLESSINGER: Everything I do is relevant.

KING: I mean, you're not going to avoid the issue, because it was so much of a source of controversy before you...

SCHLESSINGER: Larry, I don't avoid anything. My father didn't raise any cowards.

KING: OK. And one thing on that area, and we'll start to go to calls. Are you saying if someone has the feeling of desire for the same sex and can't explain it, but has it -- we don't know where it comes from. Certainly, no one chooses -- why would you sit down and choose it? What do you do with it? What are you saying is the moral thing to do?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, I am not saying...

KING: You have a desire.

SCHLESSINGER: ... the moral thing to do. It's been clearly laid out for us what is the moral outlet for our sexuality, and if -- are you saying if somebody or if I, or what are you saying?

KING: Well, if you had a desire for a woman...

SCHLESSINGER: OK.

KING: All right. And that was your desire -- you had no desire for a man...

SCHLESSINGER: Well, the letters I get from people who have such feelings and who are very religious is that they have friendships but they don't act out on it because they have in their hearts accepted what they believe is God's law for them. KING: So in other words, they don't give into that feeling?

SCHLESSINGER: That's what they write me.

KING: Without -- what about explaining the feeling? Isn't the thought a sin?

SCHLESSINGER: I'm Jewish. We have a little more leeway, remember?

KING: But many religions do believe...

SCHLESSINGER: We're not supposed to sit with the thoughts very long, but the thoughts are not a sin. It's acting out.

If I think about doing something bad to you, that's not nearly as bad to you as if I do it.

KING: So if you're less fortunate, biblically, to be born with the desire for the same sex, don't act on it?

SCHLESSINGER: You know, in general, all human beings have some sort of challenge. We each have challenges. That's not the only challenge human beings have. We have all kinds of challenges in our strengths, in our courage, in our intellect. We have many, many different challenges. In our bodies -- some people are not born with the same bodies, and they want to have and be and do certain things. And it is that -- that's the part of our humanity that is spectacular, that with the challenges each of us has, we can find a way to transcend and enjoy life, be special, and do what seems to be right.

KING: But what on Earth is wrong with two people...

SCHLESSINGER: Are you obsessed about this, Larry?

KING: No, no. No, absolutely not. What is wrong...

SCHLESSINGER: Larry, I didn't make the rules. Don't nag. Call your rabbi.

KING: What's -- but I'm dealing in a state. The rabbi doesn't run the state. What's wrong with two people loving each other?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, the rabbi conveys to the people -- the rabbi is a teacher, as you know.

KING: His interpretation.

SCHLESSINGER: No, not his interpretation. The rabbi -- no, not his interpretation. The rabbi explains to the people what Jewish law, what God's law is. It's sort of the messenger. You must never shoot the messenger.

KING: No, I'm just asking. It's a simple question. What's wrong with two people who love each other?

SCHLESSINGER: It's not mine to decide.

KING: What do you think is wrong with two people loving? Why do you think God didn't like it? You can have an opinion. Why didn't God like...

SCHLESSINGER: You know, I just don't second-guess God. Might get me in trouble.

KING: Don't at all?

SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I respect that there are so many things about life and so many things about God's laws that I don't necessarily understand, but in faith I respect.

KING: Did the God of the Old Testament do anything you didn't like?

SCHLESSINGER: What's the Old Testament?

KING: The testament we both grew up reading.

SCHLESSINGER: You mean the Torah?

KING: Is that what it's called? I called it the Old Testament, the Torah.

Yes, I was bar mitvahed. I know the scene.

SCHLESSINGER: OK. Do you remember your...

KING: But he did things -- he did...

SCHLESSINGER: Do you remember your portion?

KING: Some of it. I had a long haftarah.

SCHLESSINGER: Really? Two pages?

KING: Three pages.

SCHLESSINGER: Three pages.

KING: In Hebrew.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, with no vowels, right?

KING: But I do remember he did things that bothered me.

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: Abraham, sacrifice your kid. I was only kidding.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, it wasn't an only kidding.

KING: I just wanted to see how far you'd go. SCHLESSINGER: I'm not a rabbi, so I'm not sure I'm the best person to explain the interpretations. But as you know, at Sinai not only did we get the Torah, but we got the oral law, which helped us explain and understand and interpret many things. But it takes sages smarter to me to be able to express that.

KING: Is your show religious?

SCHLESSINGER: I invoke the name of God. I'm not proselytizing. I'm not trying to make anybody convert to something or be something or anything, but just to embrace that level of values.

KING: Los Angeles. We go calls for Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Now, this is new for her taking calls, so go easy.

CALLER: Hey, Larry.

KING: A little joke there. Hello.

SCHLESSINGER: I need the microphone.

KING: Go ahead. Hi.

CALLER: I have a question for Dr. Laura.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: I was married, had three children and got a divorce about three years ago, and have since recently remarried. And my question is my husband now is very emotionally abusive, and I found that I didn't know when I had a good thing. And I was wondering, would it be correct for me to go back and try to make amends with my first husband and get out of this relationship, or do I need to try to work this relationship out no matter how bad it is?

SCHLESSINGER: Ooh, did you ever hear of good money after bad? If you know you made a mistake, you repair it.

KING: Isn't this a very complicated situation?

SCHLESSINGER: No, it's not. Because you know what? You know what?

KING: You don't know what attracted her to this next husband, you don't know what caused the divorce.

SCHLESSINGER: Wait a minute. A lot of people divorce for all kinds of, these days, very frivolous reasons more often than not. That's different than in the past. But when they divorce they have these illusions that something is just going to automatically be better -- some new guy, some new gal, some new situation -- and for the most part, the studies I have read that for the most part people regret their divorce, because it isn't all pink and cushy. But truly if somebody is hurting you or your children on any level, you must remove your children, because your primary -- and that means with you -- your primary responsibility in life is these children. And if you realize you made a mistake, I'm all for repairing moves.

KING: So whether you go back to your first husband is immaterial to the answer. What is material is don't stay with an abusive person.

SCHLESSINGER: If you're in a bad place, you've got to get out. You don't stay just because you're there and you look stupid and you don't want to send the wedding presents back, because I get those calls.

KING: Really?

SCHLESSINGER: I don't want to look stupid. Look stupid. It's better than getting hit.

KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Her show, "Dr. Laura," debuts Monday.

Tomorrow night on this program, the love letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, discussed by three great friends of both: Kay Graham, Merv Griffin and Mike Wallace. And then on Friday night, our exclusive interview with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. We'll be back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I used to say that police did not racial profile until I actually interviewed police officers who happened to be white, and they said: How can we not? It's our instinct: If 90 percent of the crimes are committed by young black people, then nine times out of 10 you're going to suspect that the culprit is black. There's no way of denying that.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, then, why are come of the leaders saying that that's a perfect example of racism when it just seems like...

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they're trying to answer the question as to why there are so many black Americans disproportionately in county and federal jails. And I always have a simple answer for them: It's because they did, plain and simple.

SCHLESSINGER: They did a crime.

WILLIAMS: And I agree.

SCHLESSINGER: OK. Why are so many...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did it.

SCHLESSINGER: ... many black men doing a crime?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: The television show, "Dr. Laura," maybe the most controversial new television show in years -- we can say that -- coming on with more controversy.

SCHLESSINGER: Let's just say I don't think any other show has launched with so much free publicity -- free.

KING: That's correct. Ah.

Oakville, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hi Larry.

My question for Laura is: You seem very confident and strong in your convictions and opinions. Is this because you have had some very negative or painful experiences in your life that you have learned from?

SCHLESSINGER: I'm human. That's where part of my learning has come from. But gosh darn I'm not old enough to have had every possible painful experience there is. I try to learn from the wisdom of others.

KING: There were days when you did not believe?

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, yes, I was not even an atheist. I didn't even give it that much thought. You have to give it thought to be an atheist.

KING: What changed you? Was it an event?

SCHLESSINGER: I think I -- you know, it wasn't an event. It was a process. When we had Derek, that was just an incredible experience -- I mean, creating life. That was -- that amazed me. And I remember one day, Derek was about five. It was a Saturday. But you see, we were watching television, because we weren't really Jews then.

And we were watching television. I'm going through channels. And I here Elizabeth Taylor's voice-over on Nazi footage: naked mothers holding babies being shot into the pits. And I'm frozen like that. And Derek says: "What is that?"

And I said: "These are Nazis?"

"What are they doing?"

"They're killing these mothers and their children."

"Why?"

You know, this is like a conversation you have no brilliant answers for. And I said: "Because they're evil."

"Well, who are the people?"

This was the stunning point for me. I said: "They're our people. They are Jews."

And he said: "What's a Jew?"

I said: "That is a very good question, and I'm going to find out."

And that's when I started reading, going to Synagogue, getting books. and starting my first conversation. I have two. I'm very hyperconverted. And -- because my father was Jewish, so I needed to convert.

KING: You mean your mother was not Jewish?

SCHLESSINGER: Right, she was a nice Catholic-Italian girl.

KING: If the mother is Jewish, you don't have to convert, is that it?

SCHLESSINGER: Right. You're -- automatic past. I had to work hard at this.

KING: So you had to go through -- go through a conversion?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, but I'm glad I did, because it put me in a position of really having to learn and study and not be flip or superficial, but to really understand it in depth. And as a family, we grew. My husband got very, very interested. And he started to read. He converted. And my proudest moment was when Derek got through his Bar mitzvah piece.

KING: As an Orthodox Jew, do you have conflict with your friends of the conservative and reform element, as many Orthodox do?

SCHLESSINGER: People seem to have conflict with me. I'm conflict-free.

KING: But I mean, many Orthodox -- many Orthodox Jews don't like the concept of reform.

SCHLESSINGER: You know, I'm not sure that's -- don't like it.

KING: Well, they don't like people driving to synagogues, wearing yarmulkes, and

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLESSINGER: The problem is calling something what it isn't to them, OK? That there's Jewish law.

KING: Right.

SCHLESSINGER: And that if it is thrown aside, I mean, it's very painful and it's hurtful. Quite frankly, the only direction I've seen the hurtfulness in is toward Orthodoxy, not from it.

KING: Do you get lots of questions about abortion? SCHLESSINGER: Oh, yes.

KING: Women contemplating?

SCHLESSINGER: Ohhh.

KING: Has there ever been a time you said: Do it?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, before I was correct in my thinking.

KING: And now, you're saying it's absolutely wrong in all cases.

SCHLESSINGER: Just to save the life of the mother.

KING: Just that?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: So rape wouldn't be a reason?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, if -- you know how many calls I get from women who have kept their babies after a rape? They didn't take it out on the baby?

KING: You know, if it's still a fetus, if you believe that...

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, it's a human being, right. And their feeling was that they either gave the child for adoption to a two-parent family, or raised the child themselves. And I would get the phone call, it's like: What do I tell this kid about the dad? Certainly not the truth, because what child...

KING: Not the truth.

SCHLESSINGER: What child needs to hear that you are the product of a violent, vicious act? I mean, I think that's...

KING: So what do you tell them happened?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, people come up with clever things.

KING: Like?

SCHLESSINGER: I think the last lady told me she was just going to say she made a mistake, that she had an oopsie with a guy she shouldn't have, and let it go, that she would rather have her daughter think she lost her mind for a minute and lost her values and got them back together, than for her child to wear the burden.

See, that's what I admire about so many people who call my show: that they're willing to take the burden on themselves and not hurt others, and least likely, a child.

KING: Augusta, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Larry, this is -- talked for -- for a question for Laura, although it's a great privilege to speak to both of you.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: The 10 Commandments that Laura bases her lifestyle and her worldview on is shared by conservative Christians and conservative Jews -- I mean a small "c" conservative, not Orthodox or whatever.

And there is a lot of people in this country at this time. And we have an election coming up. And we have service being given to this kind of basis of 10 Commandments on both the Republican and Democrat. My question is this: Dr. Laura, who do you think, the Gore-Lieberman ticket or the Bush-Cheney ticket, will do the most toward advancing and supporting and reinforcing this kind of worldview and lifestyle in our country for the next few years?

SCHLESSINGER: Do I have to answer this?

KING: No.

SCHLESSINGER: Do I have to tell the truth. OK. See, I'm a little uncomfortable. It's a little hard.

KING: That would be nice, you don't have to. But you can. One would guess that you might be conservative in your thinking...

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: ... so you would lean towards Bush.

SCHLESSINGER: One could guess that.

KING: One might also guess, though, that you might have a great affection for Mr. Lieberman, who shares so many of your views and beliefs.

SCHLESSINGER: Well, there's a difference between...

KING: That tie would not be strange.

SCHLESSINGER: I'm not going to support somebody just because they're a female. I'm not going to support somebody just because he's a Jew. It's the constellation of what is going to happen if somebody gets into office and what are the kind of bills and mentality that is going to go forward.

KING: So you are for Mr. Bush, then?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes, probably.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What did you make of his use of that word? Even though he thought the mike was off, he still said it.

SCHLESSINGER: I think -- just like in the O.J. trial -- there is probably not a person on the face of the Earth who hasn't said that word -- unless they don't speak English.

KING: It's not against the 10 Commandments?

SCHLESSINGER: It's rude and inappropriate behavior. But, you know, it's -- he doesn't corner the market on having done that.

KING: We will be back with more of Dr. Laura Schlessinger right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DR. LAURA")

SCHLESSINGER: You work in child care...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

SCHLESSINGER: ... and special ed, and you feel that there's an opportunity to help kids with certain issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can identify these problems early on. Many times, parents are in some sense of denial and they don't see it in their own children. So when they are in a daycare center, this is a great opportunity to identify this problem.

SCHLESSINGER: And this dear lady is your mother?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; This is my mother.

SCHLESSINGER: And you're not in denial? She's wonderful, right? OK. We'll be right back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: With Dr. Laura, Bel Air, California, hello.

CALLER: Oh, this is such a privilege to talk to you guys.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Larry, I have one question to you. If two people love each other, can an adopted son all of a sudden have a relationship with his mother?

KING: I don't know. Do you have a question for Laura? I don't take questions. Laura does. Go ahead.

CALLER: I understand that, but that's the...

KING: What's the question for Laura? Hello? Don't hang up. Where is he? No, where did me go?

SCHLESSINGER: I think he was pointing out that...

KING: What?

SCHLESSINGER: ... affection between two people...

KING: No, let me hang up on people.

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Geez.

Palm City, California, hello.

Palm City, Florida, hello -- I'm sorry, sir.

CALLER: Oh.

KING: I did not hang up on you.

CALLER: Oh.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: What I wanted to know: Dr. Laura, you have a very successful radio show -- very successful. Why do you want to be on TV? I don't know of too many people that have been on radio that have switched over to TV and have been successful, and I cite a recent Rush Limbaugh, who was very successful on the radio, but his TV show bombed and he was canceled, and now he's back on the radio.

SCHLESSINGER: You know, what I never do is measure one person by another person's experience. It just never occurs to me to do that, so I don't know how better to answer that question.

KING: Buffalo, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura. I'm a big fan of yours. I'm -- the criticism against you tends to be particularly nasty, and I was wondering if you think that being female, that affects the type of criticism that you get?

SCHLESSINGER: You know, my chief of staff is going to love how I'm going to answer this. She and I used to have fights and I was going, you know, there's isn't any of this sexism, don't give me any of this garbage. It is really clear that being female is part of the problem in that there's a lot less allowance for strength and conviction and confidence, so I've been humbled by reality, which is good. You should be humbled my good things.

KING: Dr. Laura debuts Monday. We will be back with our remaining moments with this never-dull lady. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Los Angeles, with Dr. Laura, hello.

CALLER: Yes. My question has to do with the boycott that people are encouraging for Dr. Laura's show, and wanted her to contrast perhaps the Southern Baptist effort against the Walt Disney Corporation, its subsidiary and sponsors, and how there's a difference in the approaches and ultimately what they are trying to accomplish.

KING: Yes, they protested.

SCHLESSINGER: As I said, a boycott, you know, getting 5,000 people together and saying you're not going to buy rabbit ears or something for your kids is one thing.

KING: And fair, right?

SCHLESSINGER: Yes.

KING: You don't like it, you're allowed to say don't go.

SCHLESSINGER: Right. Exactly. Specific threats to shut down businesses is -- sort of reminds me when I was a kid, used to see these movies about the black hand -- do you remember that? You know, you get that black hand there and it meant you better do what they tell you or they're going to shut you down. It's more like that.

KING: So if I block the entrance to Disney because I disagree with the policy, that's wrong?

SCHLESSINGER: That's correct.

KING: If I don't go there...

SCHLESSINGER: Right.

KING: ... or tell other people not to go there, that's fair?

SCHLESSINGER: Right.

KING: So you would have no problem if someone said, don't buy the coffee that's advertised on the show?

SCHLESSINGER: No. This is more of a direct attempt to shut down businesses.

KING: Were you surprised at how mean spirited it was, frankly?

SCHLESSINGER: The mean spirited, yes, I really was, but that's because I was a little naive about how conspiratorial and how invasive this kind of activism was, and how ferocious it was getting to go shut down dissent. What I am concerned about as an American is any attempt to shut down a voice because you don't like what the voice is saying, that is -- I'll say it again. That is un-American. I find that scary.

KING: But they may have found you mean spirited?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, you know, then I guess so is the pope, and I don't see the pope -- the pope is telling people exactly what I said. You're a human being. You have value. You're made in God's image. God loves you. There are certain rules we're all supposed to live by. We have rules, I have rules, you have rules, we all have rules. And to respect the limits is ultimately to make ourselves more magnificent as human beings. That certain behaviors are unacceptable by Scripture is just a fact, it's not, you know, like something I thought in the morning, you know, what I'm going to do today.

KING: What did you think of the Al Gore-Tipper kiss?

SCHLESSINGER: Maybe I'm too cynical to answer that question.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You didn't mind it, or -- I would imagine you would say that is wonderful.

SCHLESSINGER: I don't know what's in their hearts. But I don't know what's in anybody's heart.

KING: Well, but why assume anything but what's in their heart is their love?

SCHLESSINGER: Because it's part of politics, you see, and that puts me in a different place, because I have some awareness that in the political realm...

KING: But you preach parental love, people should love each other, stay together, be happy?

SCHLESSINGER: Right, right, right. It doesn't mean in the middle of a political venue to give an impression which hopefully will counter in people's minds the last eight years.

KING: How is it different from mentioning God in a political venue?

SCHLESSINGER: How is it different from mentioning God?

KING: Yes. What's kissing different from God?

SCHLESSINGER: Well, to me -- well, let's take it away from them.

KING: OK.

SCHLESSINGER: Displays like that to me are exploitative and manipulative. I...

KING: But mentioning God is not?

SCHLESSINGER: No, not if it's sincere. And if that was a sincere kiss...

KING: What if that was sincere?

SCHLESSINGER: ... it should not have been done in public.

KING: You mean you judge how they love each other?

SCHLESSINGER: Modesty is very important.

KING: But it's...

SCHLESSINGER: I judge how they love each other, I hope they love each other to pieces.

KING: It's not in the Ten Commandments.

SCHLESSINGER: There are 613. Give me a break here.

KING: Modesty is in the Ten Commandments?

SCHLESSINGER: Modesty is in Torah.

KING: So Al should now be condemned because he kissed his wife?

SCHLESSINGER: I don't condemn anybody. I'm not in charge of condemnations.

KING: No?

SCHLESSINGER: We are just in charge of the buttons.

KING: But you've condemned behavior?

SCHLESSINGER: I haven't condemned behavior. I'm not...

KING: God.

SCHLESSINGER: Gosh darn. You're giving me much too much credit and power.

KING: You've become a messenger, Dr. Laura.

SCHLESSINGER: Oh, don't go there.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Thank you. It's always good.

SCHLESSINGER: Thank you very much.

KING: Dr. Laura Schlessinger, has never given us a one bad minute. Her national TV show debuts Monday, "Dr. Laura," you'll have to check your newspaper for times and station. I'm sure you're going to see a lot of promos too.

Tomorrow night, Kay Graham, Merv Griffin and Mike Wallace on the love letters of Ronald Reagan. And Friday night, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin will join us.

Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND," exclusive interview with the president of Colombia with Christiane Amanpour. 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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