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Larry King Live

Morley Safer Discusses His Career in Journalism

Aired February 5, 2001 - 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, he put in more than 30 years on "60 Minutes" and he is still making every second count. Morley Safer of CBS News, for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Always great to have him with us, Morley Safer from "60 Minutes" -- just a quick reminder, tomorrow is Ronald Reagan's 90th birthday. Nancy Reagan will be the special guest tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.

And we have a very special guest Wednesday night; we will let you know about that tomorrow.

We begin, and spend the hour tonight with Morley Safer, the co- editor of "60 Minutes," in his 31st year. He is 69. You joined them when you were a kid.

MORLEY SAFER, CBS "60 MINUTES": A baby.

KING: 38 years old.

SAFER: 38 years old, and, Mike was probably about 75 then.

KING: Do you feel like the young man around there or do you...

SAFER: I'm not the young man. That's Croft and Leslie Stahl.

KING: You are the middle guy.

SAFER: I'm, yes, but, I think the average age on the broadcast, if you count Don Hewitt in the mix.

KING: We have to count him.

SAFER: And Phil Scheffler, the senior producer, is, around 65.

KING: Social Security show.

SAFER: Totally, totally.

KING: Everyone asks this, so we will ask your opinion. The reason for its enduring?

SAFER: I think the reason for its endurance is, quite simply, from the beginning, we always went the extra mile on a story. We did not mess around with the bells and whistles, and goofy stuff that often happens in magazines -- other magazines, which will go named. We only rarely went for might be called the cheap shot. We have made mistakes over the years for sure.

But generally speaking, I think people could turn to us, in much the same way as when you and I were much younger -- we would turn to "Life Magazine," something that came to the mailbox, once a week, it was a little -- station of relief, and I think that is what happened.

KING: And the public also allows you coverage of international stories which they don't allow other magazines. You can go and do a story on somebody in Peru.

SAFER: And we all -- all the correspondents do. I have heard other magazines, say oh, you guys can get away with that. And I don't know what they mean by that.

KING: I think somebody said, you are on Sunday night. You are in a unique niche there at 7:00. It is a place we will accept Sunday night is different than Tuesday or Wednesday night.

SAFER: Is it? You really think it is?

KING: I don't know.

SAFER: I mean, we are on Sunday night because that is where they put us 30-odd years ago. I don't think any more was looking for particular -- special niche or anything like that. I think we became a habit. Which is...

KING: That is what habit watching.

SAFER: And an interesting phenomenon, but, a habit, that is much more difficult to break than the habit of, say, watching a sitcom. Sitcoms seem to, I mean, entertainment television seems to have the seeds of death in their life, that they have an arc that...

KING: In that vein, what do you make of reality television? What do you make of -- on your own network?

SAFER: It has nothing to do with reality, as we know.

KING: You don't buy "Survivor."

SAFER: What has it got to do with reality? It is beyond unreality; there is nothing real about it. I have only seen "Survivor" once, and I suspect, I understand that on -- this current edition there are alligators -- I'm rooting for the alligators. I find it appalling television.

KING: Appalling?

SAFER: Appalling television.

KING: Because?

SAFER: This or on the other one on Fox, or...

KING: Where they're setting up someone to cheat on a mate.

SAFER: Whatever. It is sleazy, I think, in a certain way, it is manipulative...

KING: Why do so many people watch it?

SAFER: Because they are sleazy and manipulative.

KING: Your never afraid to say what you think. It is your own network.

SAFER: I wish we didn't do it. I really do. I think -- I don't view I mean, indeed, I'm sure it covers us with profit but not with a lot of pride.

KING: Is it momentary or will it be around a while?

SAFER: It is as momentary as anything in popular culture.

KING: You can't predict it.

SAFER: Don't think it is going to be around as long as "60 Minutes". Who knows? I mean, they may it -- it is kind of thing where you have to keep upping the ante. And you call it reality; I think it is the world's worst misnomer; we shouldn't be calling it reality.

KING: Because there are cameras there.

SAFER: Because it has nothing to do with reality. It is, a map -- manipulative fantasy totally created.

KING: Manipulated situation. We put people in a manipulated situation, we are seeing a little of it now. People in...

SAFER: I always do that on the weekend, don't you? For money...

KING: Somebody takes home a million dollars.

KING: Not going to sell Morley! You were described by Don Hewitt -- as, you are our stylist, he says, "he has his eye on the offbeat, he writes like a dream." You are not interested so much in doing the president. Or doing the movie star. Right? You sort of like a slant off.

SAFER: You are right. I really don't care what movie stars have to say about life, unless -- there is a rule. I think. That -- that I apply, I think we should apply, is the person has to be more interesting, more compelling than what they do. That is rare in life among any of us. And every once in a while, you meet someone like that, and Jackie Gleason, to me, was one of those guys, brilliant as he was. He was this wonderful, over the top, hyperthyroid character that we don't see many of. KING: Great man. Morley Safer is our guest, the co-editor, "60 Minutes" -- here for the full hour -- we'll be taking your calls later. We'll be talking about current items in the news, we'll talk about his experience as a Vietnam correspondent; don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you like that one, pal?

SAFER: Tell me something. The great one, where did that come from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Orson Welles called me the great one first, and then Lucy started to call me that. And I'm really not offended by it.

SAFER: Did you ever really believe it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just saw me play pool, didn't you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What did you think of her?

SAFER: She is a remarkable, is a remarkable woman. She is like -- she is like a taught wire.

KING: Don't pull it too hard.

SAFER: And utterly focused. You didn't ask stupid questions, you don't ask stupid questions or even silly questions, or even casual questions. She -- when I did that interview with her, the only ground rule was, you did not discuss Spencer Tracy. Spencer Tracy's widow is still alive and she respected that.

But upstairs in the house, on the east side of New York, there was a study in the library that were just filled with memorabilia of that family -- that unofficial family.

KING: Morley Safer is the guest. Let's get to some things in the news. How is President Bush doing?

SAFER: I think he is doing remarkably well, although, I have heard people say the Republicans wish Clinton would go away, I think as long as Clinton stays around, Bush will continue to do extremely well. He has been very, very clever by not commenting on any of these allegations of sleaze et cetera, that we have all heard. And what's interesting to me is that, with possibly a few controversial exceptions, the Cabinet -- the Bush Cabinet is quite interesting, there are no flashy people in there. No stars. No -- they all seem quite focused and serious and knowledgeable about the areas to which they have been appointed.

KING: Gone over to the Democratic meetings, and...

SAFER: I think he is reflecting what the -- the election result or non-result, however you look at it. And it is very clever. How effective it is going to be, I don't know. But it is always disarming to treat with the enemy, so to speak, and I think the Democrats don't know quite how to deal with it. They will. They will.

KING: You didn't work election night.

SAFER: No. Not my thing.

KING: What did you think of it?

SAFER: What did I think of the coverage or...

KING: Coverage.

SAFER: I think everybody learned a lesson, of about rushing to judgment. I think there is -- it doesn't matter a damn to me whether CNN gives it in 11:01, and CBS at 10:59; who really cares? How important is that? I mean, it is something only important if making a book, I suppose, I don't know. But, I never really understood that. I can understand the difference of an hour, but minutes or seconds? Come on! Does it make Dan Rather any better or Tom Brokaw any worse if one slips past the other?

KING: Do you think the public cares?

SAFER: Of course not. Besides, we only watch one station at a time.

KING: Usually, yes. We don't know. What do you make of this whole Clinton thing? First, of the pardon.

SAFER: I -- this, I think, possibly, the worst gaffe a man can make as he left on fairly high ground. And I think it has sullied his presidency -- I think it has genuinely sullied his presidency, and it strikes me that, as brilliant a politician as Bill Clinton is, as magnetic a personality as he can be, there is one little screw loose somewhere in the sense of the decorous or indecorous thing to do. He is lacking one little sensibility somewhere.

It strikes me. To not have asked that question -- I mean, Marc Rich, he didn't do a day of time -- he bought his way into citizenships. Is this the kind of man we want to pardon? Let's take another look at the list. I think that the fact that his own lawyer was making the entreaty for the pardon should have been another red flag for him. You know, sorry Mr. Quinn, I can't consider this, simply because you are representing him.

KING: Our guest is Morley Safer, this is LARRY KING LIVE, tomorrow night, Nancy Reagan, we'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CBS EVENING NEWS)

SAFER: We seemed to be pinned down by snipers; one, possibly two armed personnel carriers, that preceded us in here, have been blown, behind us is a good trooper in it -- APC seems to be out of commission, around here -- over to the right, a knocked out tank, and knocked out -- U.S. Air Force rescue helicopter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A few more things on politics, your reminiscing, and your phone calls, an hour with Morley Safer tonight from "60 Minutes."

What do you make on the other side of the Clinton thing -- the gift things and the listings by Senator Clinton and the returning.

SAFER: Again, that seems so that -- that sensibility that is missing, I mean, within that family, I suppose, where -- as you and your wife may be sitting over the breakfast table may be planning to do something, or, whatever, and one of you is going to say, you know, maybe we shouldn't.

KING: Usually, it's my wife. Constantly, you really want to do that?

SAFER: Exactly, and some -- and somehow, that seems to be missing. And, I don't know if I'd call it a character flaw -- I guess I would call it a character flaw.

KING: We always ask questions, why do smart people do stupid things? You don't think it is that simplified; right? Just a smart person doing a stupid thing; you think there is an arrogance about it?

SAFER: I think there is a certain entitlement for people who, as Maureen Dowd say they have been living in public housing all their lives, I think there is there is a kind of entitlement, an arrogance.

KING: But Bill Clinton -- finances are not his thing. Accumulation of wealth is not his bag, is it? I mean, he has never been a -- it's often been said, he wouldn't know his net worth.

SAFER: For -- well, let me give you a small example. One would think, given the trials, some of the less attractive moments in his presidency, and particularly in his leaving of it, one would have thought that perhaps the first public appearance he would make might have been at a Harvard or a Princeton, and perhaps the second one would be at some good-works gala for a charity. And the third one would be a bunch bankers for real dough. One would have thought that would be, as I said, the decorous kind of transition to the private sector.

He went right for the money.

KING: Can you be a good person and have those flaws? I mean, can you be a good president and have those flaws?

SAFER: Oh, you can be a great president and be ridden with flaws. Of course we know that. And I think Bill Clinton will probably be remembered as a great president in terms, particularly in terms of political savvy, redefining, restructuring his own party, making it no longer a party of even the middle left, but the middle leaning right -- interesting.

The Republicans learned well from Bill Clinton in this last election.

So I think he was a brilliant strategist, there's no question -- is a brilliant strategist. But...

KING: There's a but.

SAFER: ... a man riddled with flaws, with flaws writ very large, by the way, as we see.

KING: More with Morley Safer on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER (voice-over): Chefs have the stature of quarterbacks. But their preparations would send the American Heart Association into cardiac arrest. Butter, goose fat, lard, double cream are the staples of a decent day's cooking.

(on camera): There has been for years the belief by doctors in many countries that alcohol -- in particular, red wine -- reduces the risk of heart disease. Now it's been all but confirmed. So the answer to the riddle, the explanation of the paradox, may lie in this inviting glass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER: ... in jail, no question about that. The question is what happened, what put him there.

(on camera): Did you ever hold up anyone?

LENELL GETER: No, sir. I never held up anybody.

SAFER: Did you ever steal anything?

GETER: No, sir.

SAFER: What did you do with your time off, when you weren't working?

GETER: Well, I was in the library (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Greenville. I was on the softball team.

SAFER (voice-over): Dallas County prosecutors Ken Carden (ph) and Randy Eisenberg (ph) say they are convinced he is guilty. They told a jury that Geter was an outlaw, known to the police.

Those people who knew Geter, his business associates at E- Systems, do not believe he could have done something like this. They insist he is innocent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Three days after that broadcast, that young man, Lenell Geter, was freed. He was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in Texas prison. How did you feel?

SAFER: Wonderful. We went into that story with a lot of questions about his conviction and a lot of questions about the severity of the -- the sentence, which was a life sentence for I think it was an alleged $50 holdup at a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint. And the more we dug into it, the more evidence we found that neither the prosecution nor the defense even bothered with it, the more it became clear it was -- there was no way he could have done it. There was absolutely no way he could have done it.

And with great anger, with great reluctance, the state of Texas saw the light -- well, the attorney general of Texas saw the light a couple days after...

KING: Do you think there are a lot of boys like that in prison tonight?

SAFER: A lot? I don't know.

KING: Got to be some.

SAFER: Some, for sure. And one of the real tragic moments of that was when I -- tragedy averted, of course, was when you looked at the defense that his lawyer put up. It was appalling. Because his lawyer -- his lawyer wanted to plea bargain. You know, you're a black guy, you probably held it up, let's -- let's cop a plea. No way he would.

He was a bright young engineer working at E-Systems in Texas.

The great thing about that story -- I am not in this business as a calling, Larry. I mean, I don't do what I do to right any wrongs. Having said that, the feeling of having changed a life, of having been a part of changing a life, saving a life in a certain way...

KING: Can't beat that.

SAFER: You cannot beat it.

KING: Our guest is Morley Safer. Tomorrow night, Nancy Reagan. A very special guest on Wednesday night; we'll announce tomorrow morning on CNN.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Great to have Morley with us. We'll be back. We'll talk about covering war, and we'll take your phone calls as well.

LARRY KING LIVE is aired every night, and now we have LARRY KING WEEKEND on Saturday and Sunday nights. They're taped highlight programs, and they air at the same time. We'll be right back. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... say 2 million.

SAFER (voice-over): This one, a canvass of scrawls done with the wrong end of a paintbrush, bears the imaginative title of "Untitled." It's by Cy Twobley (ph) and was sold for $2,145,000. And that's dollars, not Twobleys (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a $20,000 to start this. Now $20,000.

SAFER: There were bargains. Rat repeated three times reached 30,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sold at 30,000. Yours, sir.

SAFER: And Green Grass -- the words, not the plant -- went for 13,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAFER: This is what the war in Vietnam is all about. The old and the very young. The Marines have burned this old couple's cottage because fire was coming from here.

Seen any action like this before, Marine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not like this I haven't.

SAFER: Did you set fire to these houses here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we were just off to the left of it when it was burning.

SAFER: Were you getting fire from them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhat. Not too much. Just a little sniper fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Morley Safer with some brilliant reportage in Vietnam. You were there how long?

SAFER: I did three tours. I guess a total of about almost two years.

KING: Some people like war corresponding. They like it. They hope there's some action they can go to. Were you one of those?

SAFER: I think when you're in the middle of it, there is a certain rush of getting a great story, of being in combat, of the adrenaline: that wonderful feeling of still being alive afterwards.

But I must confess I grew -- after four or five different wars, I grew weary of that work, partly because in an open war, open to coverage, as Vietnam was, it's not that difficult really. It really isn't.

KING: Not hard to cover a war.

SAFER: Physically it can be very, very demanding. Your ingenuity is sometimes taxed, because you have the story, now how do you get it out. That's not an issue anymore (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the world we live in.

But beyond that, there is -- it has massive limitations if you're intellectually curious, if you're interested in a lot of things.

KING: How about being around killing?

SAFER: Killing is the payoff of war.

KING: I know, but being around it.

SAFER: Being around it is -- I have seen enough to satisfy more than...

KING: You've seen men killed?

SAFER: Yes. One feels terrible for the obvious reasons, but even more so because of the voyeuristic nature of that's what you're there for. To...

KING: Cover the killing.

SAFER: To watch it.

KING: Wouldn't want to do it again? Forget age.

SAFER: What age.

KING: Well, you're 69. They wouldn't send a 69-year-old to...

SAFER: It was a pretty good story. I think I would. Sure. Why not?

I mean, those -- those instincts are still alive and well, thank you very much.

KING: Let's include some phone calls for Morley Safer. Evansville, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Larry, I enjoy your show. You've got a great professional. My question is the legacy of Bill Clinton: What will historians say, let's say, 50 years from now? And I'm asking him this question, what will they say about the legacy of Bill Clinton? Was it good, was it bad, or a combination?

KING: Hardest thing to predict. If you had been asked about Truman in '52, they would have said terrible.

SAFER: I think the legacy will largely be in changing nature of the particularly, in changing the focus of the party, in changing the ideology of the party. In fact, getting rid of ideology all together, which is more or less what's happened. And it happened here. Then it happened in Britain in much the same way in terms of left-of-center parties.

I think that he probably will be considered, you know, a great architect of the party, a superb politician, no question, but a man with clear and obvious faults.

KING: So what we know now, in 50 years it ain't going to change?

SAFER: No, I don't think in 50 years it will change much. I don't think there will be anymore revelations -- but who knows? -- in terms of the character issues.

KING: What could come? What do you expect, by the way, in Israel tomorrow?

SAFER: I expect that Sharon will win and that will make an awful lot -- there is something going on there that he just didn't fit. When you think about Shimon Peres, who's perhaps one of the smartest men in the country, would have had the same kind of lead over Sharon that Sharon has over Barak.

KING: So why isn't he running?

SAFER: So why isn't he running and why are the Israelis turning to Sharon? I suspect that he'll win, but not the kind of lead that the pollsters have been suggesting. And I suspect that in terms on the Palestinian side, the people who are running things, who are in the street -- not in Arafat's office -- are pleased with Sharon himself, because he keeps the issue sharp, in the sharp kind of focus that they want to maintain.

KING: What story are you working on now?

SAFER: I just finished a story in Belgium which is really quite interesting on -- on how mental patients are treated in Belgium.

KING: What led you to cover -- I mean, "60 Minutes" -- Don Hewitt fascinates me. I've got an idea for a story. Let's do a story on how mental patients are treated in Belgium. And let's send Safer...

SAFER: Not quite how it works. Not quite how it works.

KING: Someone says to you...

SAFER: I say to -- I say to Don Hewitt there's this town in Belgium that has a really interesting way and...

KING: You hear about it?

SAFER: And then Don may yawn at the idea, which he often does, but the great thing about Don, he has confidence in me and Mike and Ed and Leslie and Steve, that we're not going go out and do stories that will put people to sleep.

KING: Can I ask you just basically what they do in Belgium that they don't do anywhere else?

SAFER: It's a foster care system. You don't see any homeless people in this area where we did the story. People have -- have, and for generations, have been taking mental patients in.

KING: Into their home?

SAFER: Not dangerous people, not pedophiles, not that kind of thing. As almost -- and they become members of the family. And it's a remarkable thing to see.

KING: And they've been doing this for generations?

SAFER: For generations. For centuries actually in this...

KING: In how big...

SAFER: ... in this area. And it's now spread to other towns. It's a town called Guy (ph), which is a pokey little town.

KING: So people are raised in a culture, this is what we do?

SAFER: That's right. And when someone's in the family, with the family, the people who took that patient in get old and die, the children of those people then assume the responsibility for that patient or those patients.

KING: You've got a good job. We'll be back with more of Morley Safer, more of your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I play you a song?

SAFER (on camera): Of course you may.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Listen here, boys, I'm telling you now...

SAFER (voice-over): What does it say about us that these people who are considered defective are instinctively caring and compassionate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I'm a 60-minute man.

SAFER: Despite the disability, so positive, and in Michael's case, capable of a cunning dash of wit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): ... 60-minute man.

SAFER (on camera): That was great, Michael. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Morley Safer of "60 Minutes." Sayville, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Safer. My question is in light of the advent of all the TV magazine shows, has the competition led "60 Minutes" to do less newsy, more glitzy stories?

SAFER: I don't think so. I think if you look at our work over the last five, six years, 10 years, since this competition has increased, I think what we, all of us, realize that what the competition does is maintain -- it keeps our distinction. It makes us obviously different from "20/20" or "Dateline."

KING: The more tabloidish they get, the better off you are?

SAFER: Well, yes. I think the more reason for people to come back to us if they ever left. I don't know.

There's no question. I think that we are distinct in that respect in the fact that we don't have the bells and whistles, and we don't have the news of the week, don't have the...

KING: But you did a lot of running down the street with microphones chasing people.

SAFER: Mr. Wallace's specialty, please, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: The chaser.

SAFER: I did a few of those. There was that brief period.

KING: You never did an O.J. Simpson story, right?

SAFER: No, we didn't. Steve did one about a juror...

KING: After.

SAFER: Afterwards, yes. No, we didn't. And there is some, I guess, some feeling in the broadcast by some about the importance of these so-called "gets," which...

KING: Gets... SAFER: ... a word I detest.

KING: But it's a good word, isn't it? There are people you want to get.

SAFER: But once you get, what you've got?

KING: Once you get the get...

SAFER: What've you got?

KING: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SAFER: What've you got?

KING: Then you've got to think of who's the next get to get.

SAFER: And the only thing you have is that you have them, and they generally turn out to be not that interesting or compelling. There are plenty I'm sure, I know, who are. But for the most part, so what.

KING: Ashville, North Carolina for Morley Safer, hello

CALLER: Morley, how do you compare Clinton's controversial pardon to Ford's pardon of Nixon and Bush's pardon of the Iran-Contra participants?

KING: Caspar Weinberger and others.

SAFER: I think -- I think in many ways when Jerry Ford pardoned Nixon, he, in a certain way, he did speak for the country. And...

KING: Our long national nightmare...

SAFER: The long national nightmare, and I think an awful lot of people, even Ford's political enemies, said it's time to get on.

I think the Bush pardon of Iran-Contra was defensible in a certain sense, to the extent that there is that, whatever you want to call it, bond within an administration.

Clinton's pardoning of Marc Rich was off-the-wall. I mean, I think to many, many people, it seemed off the wall.

A man who had not done any time, who had the resources to defy the American legal system and the FBI and the local police here in New York and the...

(CROSSTALK)

... and had the resources to become a citizen of practically wherever he wanted to become a citizen of, to pardon someone like that just seems beyond rationality.

KING: Well-said. We'll be back with more of Morley Safer, and Nancy Reagan tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

SAFER (on camera): I'm standing in a place called "The Terrace of the Clouds," about 40 miles from Peking, and behind me, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Great Wall was built (UNINTELLIGIBLE) years ago.

SAFER (voice-over): This is a standard dance they do in Chinese schools. The boy with the sword and the olive branch represents Lyndon Johnson. Peace in one hand, they say, war in the other.

"All the world," these children are singing, "will soon discover that Johnson is the big robber and the big liar, and they will put him down."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Albuquerque, New Mexico for Morley Safer, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Safer. My question is, have you -- have you ever...

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: ... have you ever been pressured to not run a story?

SAFER: Have I or the -- I have not. And as far as the broadcast is concerned...

KING: Must have been attempts?

SAFER: There was the tobacco issue, which I wasn't a part of and I'm not going to get into that story.

KING: The famous...

SAFER: But -- but no. And whenever it's suggested that somehow our sponsors have some kind of influence or control of what we do cover or what we don't cover in some kind of censorship through financial pressure is rubbish, because that's never happened. And a lot of sponsors over the years have left us. They've all come back. But they chose to leave us for a while because of stories we have done about them or their products or their friend's products or whatever.

So there never has been this kind of pressure, and all of us who work in the broadcast are really quite proud of it.

As I say, there was this lapse, but that that wasn't so much a sponsor -- that was not at all a sponsor. There were other issues involved.

KING: Akron, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Safer. My question is, what is your worse interview and your best interview?

KING: Do you have a worst?

SAFER: Probably a pocketful of worst. I -- this interview I did with someone who was very important in British intelligence in World War II and I'd just gotten of the plane and he was a very tedious man and I fell asleep.

(LAUGHTER)

SAFER: I feel asleep in the interview and the cameraman, who was a very good friend of mine, John Tiffen (ph), and the camera was over this shoulder and this guy, and at one point, my head went against the lens. John reached around and grabbed me by the hair, and just...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: That's a great story.

SAFER: He was a tedious man.

KING: Yes, how did the guests react?

SAFER: Guests didn't notice.

KING: That's tedious.

SAFER: He was so in love with what he was saying, and he insisted that I have whiskey with him before we sat down to the interview and I had just gotten off the plane and I was jet-lagged. So, that didn't help.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the wonderful Morley Safer of CBS. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAFER: It's almost time to leave now.

(voice-over): Who knows who will be on board? A couple of spies, for sure. At least one grand duke; a few beautiful woman, no doubt very rich and very troubled, and before our journey is done, there will be at least one murder. For anything can happen and usually does on the Orient Express.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Morley Safer still uses a manual typewriter.

Des Moines, Iowa. Hello. CALLER: Hello there. When you're report on a controversial issue for which you have very strong feelings, how did you keep your feelings out of the reporting or do you?

SAFER: Well, that's what you do for a living and I think one does keep one's feelings out of it. To lose at least some degree of your -- some degree...

KING: You can't be 100 percent...

SAFER: It makes no sense, no one is. But I think that when you do it long enough you know how to do it. Some people that you sit and talk to you have to grit your teeth in order to stay in the same room as them, but you get on and ask the questions you assume most of the people watching want to ask.

KING: We had a great night here when we had the whole cast of you on never. Who could even forget that with Andy and Don and whole group. Do you get along that well as it appeared that night? Is it a very convivial group.

SAFER: It's pretty good now. Back in the old days, 20 odd years ago, Mike and I were occasionally like scorpions in a bottle.

KING: Really?

SAFER: Oh, yes, but I think those days are gone forever, although you never know with Wallace.

KING: Is this a maturity or...

SAFER: Mike, mature? Forget it.

KING: What is Mike's story? He takes Dick Clark pills; right?

SAFER: He's remarkable. I maintain -- what's interesting, about -- -- Mike is the herald of what's to come, in terms -- the country has to start thinking about of a workforce into 60s, 70s, 80s or even 90s and by the middle of the century, that's going to be the case and what are you going do with these old people who are still at the height of their strength? It's going to be interesting. Society's not ready for it.

KING: And he doesn't lose an inch. I mean...

SAFER: It's unfortunate...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: I don't mean in -- Safer, I don't want to go where you mind is. He doesn't -- I mean -- his faculties...

SAFER: No, he's got it. He has.

KING: Even the voice. There's no diminish... SAFER: No. He really is. I mean, Mike is, as I say, the herald, the model of what society should be thinking about in terms of how do you do with a society in which a good part of your workforce refuses to retire or die.

KING: You're not hinting that?

SAFER: No, no, no, no.

KING: Thank you, Morley. It's always great. Morley Safer, co- editor of "60 Minutes," CBS News correspondent. Sit while I say good night. Look, he's jumping off the set. Only been in the business 73 years and he's looking around like, what is there a monitor?

Bill Hemmer hosts "CNN TONIGHT" and he next. Tomorrow night on this program, don't forget Nancy Reagan will be the special guest. It's our 90th birthday tribute to President Reagan. He'll be 90 tomorrow, February 6th. On Wednesday night, February 7th, a very special guest. It'll be announced tomorrow morning on CNN.

And don't forget, if you want to send us e-mail -- I have no idea how that works -- and check out my new Web site, which I have no idea what that is either, cnn.com/larryking. Now there you see my Web site see it?

SAFER: How many hits did you get?

KING: I don't know how many hits. And by the way, if you know how to get to it, get to it because I don't know how to get to it. Thanks for joining us and good night.

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