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Is the President Doing Enough to Help California Keep the Lights On?

Aired May 29, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, President Bush heads West, as criticism over the California energy crisis heats up. Straight from a crucial meeting with the president, and exclusive interview with California Governor Gray Davis. Is the White House doing enough to help? We'll speak to Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

Also, he may not walk, but disabled golfer Casey Martin wins the right to ride his cart on course. Some say that's bad news for the game. He will join us fresh from his Supreme Court victory.

And later, the man known as "the man with all the answers" -- hasn't kept him out of trouble in tabloids, though. For the first time, "Jeopardy's" Alex Trebek talks about reports of a bitter feud with Regis and his battle against a recent lawsuit.

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: Before Governor Davis met this afternoon with President Bush, here is a quick statement by the president, before going into that meeting. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is no time for harsh rhetoric. It certainly is no time for name-calling. It is time to for leadership. It is time for results. It is time to put politics aside, and focus on the best interests of the people.


KING: All right, Governor, you met with the president today -- by the way, do you know him well from governor's conferences?

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't know him well, but I like him, I think he's a practical man, and I appreciate him coming to California and having a meeting.

KING: You met for about 35 minutes, over at the Century Plaza Hotel.

DAVIS: We did.

KING: Was it straight no, out of the get-go? Did you say, I want this and he said no? How did it work?

DAVIS: Well, it was mostly no. The...

KING: Some yeses.

DAVIS: Some yeses. The bottom line is that he feels strongly that price caps make no sense, I feel we are entitled as a matter of law to price caps because the federal agency has already found that our marketplace is haywire. We paid $7 billion in 1999 for power. We're going to pay $50 billion this year for less power.

KING: Can a president price cap, as an executive order?

DAVIS: No, he doesn't -- he cannot do that. What I want him to do is to send a message to his two new appointees who are taking their seat today on this regulatory body, and say, hey, look seriously about giving California relief.

KING: He said no -- why?

DAVIS: Well, I don't think he understands that there is a law that says when a determination has been made that the marketplace is not competitive, and this agency made that determination, that we are entitled to that relief as matter of law. He is philosophically opposed to it, and he's entitled to be.

KING: Did he say, he didn't know about the law? Did he say he disagreed?

DAVIS: It was sort of like ships through the night in that one, kind of passing without joining one another's arguments. I made the case why we shouldn't have to pay as much as we are paying, and that the part of the problem we can solve ourself we are solving.

Not a plant was built the 12 years before I was governor, but I've authorized 15 -- 10 are under construction, 4 up this summer, 4 next summer. And we are also the most energy efficient state in America, so on supply and conservation, no one could do any more than we can do. But on price, we have no authority, it is totally the federal government's ballpark.

KING: How did it end?

DAVIS: Well, there were positive things. He does think it makes no sense that the price of natural gas -- say, gas coming from Texas to California is like $14. The unit is called a British thermal unit. And only $5 in New York. He says that is not right. Let's see if can do something to fix that, so that was positive.

And his new appointee Pat Wood, he is going to send out to meet with me, the new appointee to this commission, so that was also a good sign.

KING: You like him because?

DAVIS: I think he is practical. He has been a governor. He knows the governor is where the rubber hits the road. And because more times than not, he's a problem solver.

But we just have a fundamental disagreement. He just thinks price caps are wrong, and I think price caps are something we are entitled to as a matter of law. So, I'm probably going to have to go to court to make my point.

KING: Are you going to go to court? I thought you made that statement, you are going to file a suit.

DAVIS: Yes, we have to file some preliminary data, which we have already filed with this federal agency. They need about 30 days. Then we'll go to court. And I told him, Mr. President, if you were in my shoes, I assume you would do everything you could to fight for the people you represent. He said, you are darn right I would.

KING: So, you sue -- who do you sue?

DAVIS: I'd sue this agency. They have had the authority since 1935 to fix markets that are broken. And our market is broken for reasons I won't bore you with.

KING: Is it the kind of lawsuit that can get quick hearing?

DAVIS: Relatively. It goes to a federal court in Washington. You have to give the agency some time to review your papers, so we will give them at least 30 days.

KING: When you're asking for caps, are you saying you are being gouged?

DAVIS: There is no question we are being gouged.

KING: By oil companies.

DAVIS: By energy companies, who bought about half of the power plants our utilities used to own. Our deregulation law passed back in 1996 with every Republican, every Democrat voting for it required half the plants to be sold. They could have been bought by you or I, but they were bought by companies from Texas and the South.

KING: Who did what?

DAVIS: Who charged us for our own electrons, 400 percent more last year. And it looks like the price will double again.

KING: Was it a mistake to sell the plants?

DAVIS: It is a mistake in my judgment to have deregulation, unless you have more power than you need. Alan Greenspan says electricity deregulation does not really work unless you have 15 percent more power than demand.

When I inherited the job, we had 20 percent less power than demand. We'll have more power than demand in two years, but it will be a tough road between now and then.

KING: Do you think this is political?

DAVIS: You know, that is hard for me to say. The reality is, there is money sucked out of this state, like, this is a massive transfer of wealth from good people of this state, to these energy companies, some of which are in Texas, the others in the South. They are not adding value, the electrons are our very own electrons so we used to get for like 11 cents a kilowatt hour, and now we are being charged an arm and a leg.

KING: Are you surprised, Governor, that your ratings via polls are down?

DAVIS: No. Because people want you to solve problems. This is a huge problem. The president's ratings on electricity are not good either. Nobody in this state's ratings on electricity are good. People expect us to us make this problem go away. I'm doing everything in my power to make it go away.

KING: Why should someone watching us now in Boston -- other than being concerned for people who might be friends in California -- care?

DAVIS: Because California has been privileged to lead the nation in economic growth the last five years. We have contributed between 15 to 20 percent to the Gross Domestic Product. If we have to pay 700 percent more for electricity this year, we could well have a recession in this state, could drag down the rest of the country.

Alan Greenspan said -- when California gets a cough, America gets a cold. So, we are big part of the American economy. We want to continue to contribute to its economic growth, we don't want to be dragged down into recession.

KING: A couple quick things: someone, on the other side, said if you cap, you have more brownouts.

DAVIS: See, I think just the opposite. We didn't have a blackout until the price caps were lifted. We had price caps from the beginning of deregulation in 1988, to December 15.

When the Clinton appointees on this agency withdrew the price cap, and we have had four or five blackouts since then.

KING: How bad is the summer going to be?

DAVIS: Well, we are prepared for the worst, but we're hoping for the best. We do have 4,000 megawatts coming on-line, we are number one in conservation, but we are spending $800 million to be even more efficient. We've got all kinds of contingency plans if things go wrong. I just have to ask people: do the best you can. Let's get through the summer with as least disruption as possible, and by all rights, next summer should be less disruptive than this summer.

KING: Optimistic or pessimistic.

DAVIS: I'm optimistic by nature, but we're preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. KING: Thank you, Governor.

DAVIS: Good to see you, Larry.

KING: Governor Gray Davis, the governor of California.

We'll get the other side from Secretary of Commerce Don Evans right after this. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from Washington, Don Evans. Don is the secretary of commerce, also one of the president's oldest and closest friends.

How would you respond to basically the governor's argument, Mr. Secretary?

DON EVANS, U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Well, I -- listen, I enjoy listening to the governor. I was in California a couple months ago. We had a very brief but I thought good, cordial visit where he complimented the president for doing everything he could at the time to help with some of the issues, with the energy crisis that the Californians are dealing with.

You know, it sounded like they had a good, constructive meeting that it was a straight-talk kind of meeting where the president talked straight to the governor as to his position on price controls and price caps, and obviously the governor spoke his mind. And so, you know -- I -- the one thing that is clear -- look, both of these men believe that Californians deserve price relief.

And they just happen to believe that you ought to accomplish it a different way. The governor thinks that price controls and price caps are the right way, and the president happens to think that is exactly the opposite direction you ought to go, and what you ought to do is let the marketplace encourage conservation and let the marketplace encourage supply. And if encourage conservation, encourage supply, then Californians should enjoy some price relief in the years ahead.

KING: How do you react, Mr. Secretary, to his statement that the law should be involved, that he has a legal ground here to cap?

EVANS: Well, you know, Larry, look, that's one that I have not looked at the technicalities of the law, but you know, what I will say is there is no question that the president will uphold the laws of the land. I mean, that is not a question here. He has selected two very able individuals to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission -- I know Pat Wood quite well. I know he is one, obviously, also that will uphold the law of the land.

FERC has been very active, Larry. Not a lot has been said as to how active they have been, but they are moving very aggressively. They have already identified some $124 million worth of possible excess charges. They have gone to the utility companies and said: "You either need to justify these costs, or you need to refund that amount."

So, FERC has been very engaged, and with the appointment of these two new commissioners, they will remain very engaged. I assure you of that.

KING: The governor says he is being gouged. Is that being investigated by either Commerce or any other agency?

EVANS: Well, Larry, it is not being investigated by Commerce. It is not under our jurisdiction, I don't know about the others.

But listen. This is something -- I have been through a number of energy cycles in my life and my career, and wherever prices go up, I mean, there is always that cry, you know, someone is being gouged, and there has been lots of investigations through the years, and I just can't tell you that it has ever resulted in much.

I think what when need to do is really focus on the fundamental issue of supply and demand and conservation, and if we really focus our attention, our energies on trying to find ways to increase the supply -- I know we are working on some power grid transmission line issues in the West right now that might increase the supply in California this summer.

And on the conservation side -- listen, the American people through the years have shown a great propensity to conserve. As I look back from the late 1970s, and look at the conservation we have seen across this land, it's really quite dramatic. If you look from 1978 to today, we have decreased the amount of oil we consume by 20 percent, per capita.

So you know, this is a problem for not just Californians to deal with, quite frankly, Larry. It is a problem all across America and for all Americans, and so I think they all need to hear the message of conservation, loud and clear. That is the message the president has been delivering.

KING: How about the argument, though, made by some that the president's plan long-range may be fine, but that ain't going to help the people in California and some other areas maybe this summer, right now?

EVANS: Well, you know, Larry, the president is taking what steps he could take, this short-term. I mean, first he announced today an additional increase in LIHEAP, which is the low-income housing energy assistance fund, I think another $150 million. Fortunately, the tax bill passed, and that will put $300 back in the hands of a single mom or a single dad, or $600 back in the hands of married couples.

So there are some short-term -- there is some short-term help on the way, but nobody said there is a silver bullet here, Larry, or there is any short-term -- this has been a problem, as Governor Davis said, I mean, they haven't built a power plant in California in 12 years. I mean, you know, this isn't something that happened overnight, and so it's just unrealistic to think that there is any short-term solution to this tough problem. KING: Is this one of these cases where we want it, but we don't want to pay for it? I mean, it's a sense of we are spoiled?

EVANS: Well, listen, Larry, I think that's one of the messages that the president has been sending. This energy crisis is not just in California, but it's across America. And it's real.

Let me just give you some, I think, some sobering kind of numbers. If you look at the world oil consumption in the mid-1980s, the world was consuming about 60 million barrels of oil a day, and we had a 15 million barrel a day surplus in the world, that is about a 25 percent surplus. Today in the world, Larry, we produce about 76 -- we consume about 76 million barrels a day, and we've got a two to four million barrel a day surplus, some -- about a 3 percent surplus.

So listen, I just think it is a very serious problem that the president has focused not only this country on, but the world on. I mean, as he has talked to leaders around the world, he talks about energy. And you are right, I think you make a very good point, Larry, that we have gone through a number of years that we have been -- energy has been relatively inexpensive.

As you look at our -- the disposable income, the percent we spend on energy as a percent of our disposable income, in the late 1970s, we spent about 8 percent of our disposable income on energy, and now we spend just slightly over 4 percent. So you know, as you look at the price of energy and the cost of energy over the last 20 years or so, we have had a bargain. I think you are right.

KING: Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

DAVIS: Well, I'm like Governor Davis and also like President Bush. Look, I'm an optimist. I'm, you know, I like to look at the glass always being half-full. Look, I think it's half-full in this case, primarily because the president took the initiative, as soon as he got in office, and put together a team, and said: "Look, this is a problem that this country is going to face for years to come, and indeed the world, and we need to lead. We need to develop a national comprehensive energy policy."

And that is exactly what we have done. And so, we've got the platform on which to lead America, and lead the world, so we can provide all Americans reliable, affordable energy in the years ahead.

KING: Thank you. It's always good seeing you.

EVANS: Thank you, Larry. Great seeing you, buddy.

KING: Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. When we come back, the man who is all over the news today. Professional golfer Casey Martin uses a golf cart on tour because of a disability -- circulatory disability in his leg, and the Supreme Court, seven to two, said today, he can keep on playing with the cart. We'll be right back with Casey Martin. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We now welcome professional golfer Casey Martin. He is with us from Eugene, Oregon.

A lot of people thought, Casey, that you would lose this today. By the basic conservative nature of the court, they were predicting 5- 4 the other way. Were you surprised?

CASEY MARTIN, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It has been great news and I have just enjoyed the day, kind of with a little more certainty in my future.

KING: Were you surprised though?

MARTIN: Yeah, I was, because when I was back this winter, when I heard the case tried at the Supreme Court, our family -- my family kind of walked out, kind of shaking their heads, going this is going to be a little tougher battle than we thought, just because of some of the questions that at least Justice Scalia was throwing our way. But fortunately, he was -- he was really the only dissent, he and Judge Thomas. Other than that, everyone else said I should ride. So, that's been great news.

KING: Basically, can you briefly explain what your condition is?

MARTIN: Well, briefly I have a syndrome called KT or (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the blood will go down in my leg but it doesn't make it up properly. And I just have a bunch of related problems because of that, circulatory problems, and my tibia in my leg has been affected quite negatively because of that.

KING: So you literally have trouble walking.

MARTIN: Well, I do. If you look at me, I might not look too bad, but when I start walking quite a bit, I really start to go into quite a bit of pain and really suffer quite a bit when I had to walk. And the cart certainly alleviates a lot of that pressure.

KING: Jack Nicklaus had a press conference today to discuss this. He has been opposed to the use of the cart on the tour. Let's just hear a quick portion of what Jack had to say. Watch.


JACK NICKLAUS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: ... certainly honor and welcome Casey as the Supreme Court decision. And we all -- we all as players, it's never been an issue with Casey. It's been an issue with principle. And Casey has won his point, and I think the tour will embrace that. That's what I think about the game of golf. And golf's -- golf, you know, the idea is having a level playing field. That's all that -- that's all the tour has wanted to have, is everybody play under the same rules.


KING: By the way, we invited PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchen to appear tonight and he declined. How do you react to that argument, equal playing field, Casey?

MARTIN: Well, I mean, I admit that's a legitimate concern. But at the same time, if you hold -- held that true across the board, then there would be no reason for ADA. It would have no reason. I mean, the whole -- the impetus behind ADA is to give accommodation to people like myself who have a disability, and so granting me a cart certainly doesn't give me an advantage over other players. I've demonstrated that, unfortunately, that I haven't been out there winning every event. And it just doesn't give me an advantage to play golf. It certainly gives me -- it gives me a right to play golf, but it doesn't give me an advantage over another competitor.

And I know that deep down I'd much rather walk with a healthy leg than ride with my leg. But...

KING: Yeah, and as the ADA says, it's the opportunity that they're enforcing.

MARTIN: Yeah, I mean, I don't think -- yeah, they're not trying to distort the game or distort anything. They're just trying to give someone like myself an opportunity that really wasn't afforded to me. And so I'm grateful that they saw it that way and I just hope to make good on it.

KING: And one of the justices also said it's not an equal playing field. Some people start early in the morning and it doesn't rain, it rains later. That's unfair to the people who play later.

MARTIN: Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, golf is definitely there are a lot of variables in it, and I think they can accommodate quite easily without really fundamentally altering the game. And I'm glad the justices, you know, saw it that way.

KING: Do you understand, Casey, why it upsets so many people?

MARTIN: You know, I did. I mean, certainly this is -- this is new. And it is. I'm the only that got -- that has the right to ride and everyone else has to walk. So certainly, I recognize it and I've tried not to be harsh on people that haven't seen it my way. But I think when you get down to the crux of the issue, it's not that big a deal.

And the tour allowed carts. You know, when I qualified I was given a cart. It had my name on it and I didn't even ask for it. And it wasn't fundamental when they took my money to qualify for the tour. So I don't understand why it's been such a big deal now that I'm there. But it has. But it's been put to rest hopefully for now.

KING: Now, you are currently on the tour, which has the same rules as the PGA, and you play on some regular tour events. Do you want to go back to the full tour?

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's certainly the goal of every professional golfer, to make it, you know, to the tour, and I was there last year, had a great time, but I played poorly, and so I'm back on the and have struggled this year also. But I'm hopeful, Lord willing, my game will come back and I will start to play like I'm capable and kind of put this 3 1/2 year trial behind me and move on hopefully to better things.

KING: Do you think this will do that, make you play better by now that it's over?

MARTIN: I mean, I hope. I hope. I really don't think it has that much to do with my golf game unfortunately. I'd love to have this past, get behind me, and then go win everything, but I really don't see it that way. Golf is a challenging sport. I have trouble regardless of physical ailments. I have mental and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trouble out there, too. So it's tough.

And I'm not saying this is -- I'm going to take off, but it would be great if I did, you know.

KING: When do you play next?

MARTIN: I'm taking a couple of weeks off. I'm here in Oregon. It's been 80 degrees every day. I'm just going to hang out, relax, and then head out to Cleveland in about two weeks for a event.

KING: Thank you, Casey. Good luck.

MARTIN: Thanks for having me on the show. Appreciate it.

KING: Big day for Casey Martin, affirmed today by the Supreme Court 7 to 2.

Alex Trebek, boy, he's all over the news. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) airports, he has lawsuits, he's in tabloids, he's got no mustache. Alex Trebek is next. Don't go away.


KING: He begins his 17th season as host of the show, "Jeopardy." What a success that's been. He's been a frequent guest on this program. Lots of big things to talk about. This is sort of a quick portion, because we've got a quick break coming. So the obvious first question, and then we'll get into other things: Why did you shave it off?

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": Just on a whim. It was our last day of taping. We do five shows in a day, as you know. And before the fifth show, I just walked into the makeup room and I said, "Give me the hair clippers." And I just went zoop, took it right off, just to see what it would look like on camera. I have not been without a mustache in -- I don't know -- 70 years. All my life, I think, I've had a mustache.

KING: How do you feel?

TREBEK: I was telling the makeup lady is that one of the problems when you don't have a moustache is that you tend to perspire on your upper lip if you get nervous, and that bothers me.

KING: What do you get nervous about?

TREBEK: Oh, I don't know. But if I do get nervous, that's what's going to happen.

KING: Have you taped shows without it now?

TREBEK: Taped one program only.

KING: Was the audience shocked? Were the guests shocked?

TREBEK: The audience reacted pretty favorably. When I went home, however, my wife and my two kids -- Emily, who's seven, and Matthew, who is 10 -- did not even notice.

KING: You're kidding?

TREBEK: I talked to them for 10 or 15 minutes, and finally I said: "Hey, guys, do you notice anything different about daddy?" And then Jean looked at me and said, "Oh, my god, you shaved your mustache, I like it." Emily liked it, and Matty started to cry. He said, "Daddy, you've got to grow it back."

KING: Is it staying off?

TREBEK: I don't know. I have no idea.

KING: As for now it's off.

TREBEK: It's off now.

KING: All right, Alex Trebek is going to talk tonight publicly for the first time about a couple of things that he's been in the news about. And we're glad to welcome him to do that, and we'll be right back after this.



ANNOUNCER: This is "Jeopardy"!

ALEX TREBEK: Stylin' Like Larry King?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will take Stylin' Like Larry King for $100, please.

TREBEK: "Try the truffles at Tala's. How about those Mets? This network my show is on should give me a raise, huh?" Rebecca?


TREBEK: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stylin' Like Larry King for $200, please.

TREBEK: "Sinatra's new box set is heaven. The yams at Remy's. Wow! Had dinner with this woman. Clinton's secretary of state." Chris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Madeleine Albright?



KING: Hey! Stylin' -- you're doing my column.

TREBEK: But I can't do you, I mean, I can mimic some...

KING: I thought you were going to do something like that.

TREBEK: But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't get your rhythm, and so your job is safe.

KING: Nice category. All right, legal suit is resolved, case against you dismissed, United Airlines employees sued you for an incident stemming back from a security checkpoint. Give us the story, and I understand we even have some tape on this.

TREBEK: OK, we'll show the tape in a little bit.

KING: What happened?

TREBEK: A little over a year ago, a lawsuit was filed against me by an employee at United Airlines, and her attorney went public immediately, gave a lot of interviews to the press and to television people, saying we are suing Trebek because, he deliberately and violently smashed my client's hand with a metal template at the X-ray machine, and he cursed her out.

In one interview, he said I said, F-you. The other one was F- off. And none of this was true. I kept my mouth shut on the advice of my attorneys.

KING: I don't mean to interrupt, but I thought it wasn't airline employees at the X-ray machines, but they were employees of the security division.

TREBEK: There are security people at the X-ray machines, but this was a United Airlines employee who was in the area as a customer service rep.

KING: I got you. Wow.

TREBEK: I was angered because, first of all, all of this comes out in public, and I had not heard one word from this woman or her attorney. I mean, if that kind of thing had happened in my life, I would expect that the attorney would say, hey, Trebek, you know, you damaged my client's hand in that incident, da-da-da-da-da-da. Can we settle?

KING: Can we settle?

TREBEK: But there was none of that. So from one point of view, I was angry about that. From the other point of view, I said, this is kind of stupid. They lost all leverage. They don't have any leverage. The worst that can happen to me has just happened to me.

It's all over the press, and I'm keeping my mouth shut until I find out what's going on, and, I had been forewarned the year prior, by Alan Smith, a reporter with the "National Enquirer," who had called me about a week after the incident, and he said, what's this I hear about you are going to be sued because you broke a United Airlines attendants two fingers by slamming a metal door on her hand?

OK, so then I forgot about it. Now it took me by surprise, and, a few months passed and we -- my attorney started deposing the lady. They had to to two depositions, because she was pregnant and couldn't do it all in one sitting, and then I got to see what her claim was. Her claim was that Trebek shows up, he is late, he's in a rush, he has one big bag -- it's beige in color, three feet by two feet by one foot.

He tries to stuff it through the thing. It won't go. At first she said, I thought it would go, but then he raised the template, and I knew it wouldn't and I told him you've got go back to counter, and Trebek said, you are just trying to screw me and screw my baggage, F- you, do you know who I am?

And I knew none of this had happened. She said she came up behind me, put her hand on top of the template, while I'm trying lift it, and I made a couple of attempts and one deposition she said, I was using steady pressure to lift it, and the other one, I was doing herky, jerky...

KING: And you'll tell us when you want to go to video tape. There was video taken -- hold on, because he told us that already. OK, go.

TREBEK: So, she says, herky jerky in one deposition, steady on the other. And she has her hand on top, pushing down. Now, in order for me to -- I get frustrated apparently, and I say F-you again, and in order to hurt her hand, she has to take her hand away from the top of that template and put it somewhere down below, where it will be hit by this door. And, I said none of this is true.

KING: None happened.

TREBEK: No. Didn't happen that way at all. So, let's run the tape and you will see.


TREBEK: She said -- that I came rushing up -- there I am -- putting -- first of all, I had two bags, there is no beige bag there.

KING: You are in the jeans.

TREBEK: I'm wearing the jeans. There's my suit bag. She said, I was pressing -- she came up, behind me, she says, I raised the template door because I had been told by another customer service person that I could do that. So she is telling me now, you can't do that, and I say why?

She says I'm supposed to be holding this template door with my hand, but I'm holding the bag in my right hand and talking to her. And we are having our little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) back-and-forth. I'm saying, why can't I do this? What's the purpose of having a door? And then she says, you can't do it, you've got to fold it.

So, I fold the bag and I put it through the way she wanted. She says also there were no other customers in the area at the time. And that this is the last time we had any contact. And when I went through to the other side, I came around behind the security person -- you will see that in a moment, and called her over.

She said she was in pain, she was bleeding from her finger, she did not have any interaction with any other customer until she went to the ladies room to wash the blood off her hand. Now, she is just -- and she says she couldn't use her hand at all, she just used it to pull that -- tape over.

KING: What are you saying to her here?

TREBEK: I'm just saying, would you come over here please? May I have your name? And she pointed to her badge, her ID badge, which was at her waist.

So I'm bending down -- I'm bending down, and I put my glasses on, I took my pen out, I wrote her name down and I said to her, look, I want you to know, you haven't been rude, just unreasonable. And she said, you weren't rude either. And I left. Now, you will see here after the event, she mentioned she couldn't use her hand, as she indicated until she went to the bathroom to wash the blood -- no, could we run it a little longer please?

KING: Do we have more?

TREBEK: Yes, there's just the last couple seconds.

KING: We don't have any more. She used her hand, right?

TREBEK: She used her hand to help somebody else fold their bag. I said, wait a minute, this is a lady who claims that she was in agony, blood dripping down her hand.

KING: This was all to take advantage of a celebrity.

TREBEK: Well, I'm not going to say....

KING: You won the case though, right?

TREBEK: Well, they dropped it. As soon as -- when my deposition time came up, a couple months ago, I did my deposition and my attorney at the end of the deposition handed the attorney for the other side the tape. And he said, I think you ought to look at this.

And two weeks later, we got a letter from the attorney saying they wanted to be released from representing this client. Apparently, they were having difficulties with her. And then a week later, they filed for dismissal of the case.

And I got word today from my attorneys that we have now a judgment against her for the costs involved in this litigation.

KING: Are they -- they tape everything at security windows at airports? Are...

TREBEK: No. They tape everything, and the amazing thing was, that in her deposition -- this may have fooled her attorney, also -- in her deposition, my attorney said, have you seen a video -- a security videotape of the incident? And she said no. They tape over them every 24 hours. Well that didn't sound right to us, so we said let's find out if there is a security videotape. And sure enough, we found it.

KING: How long do they hold them?

TREBEK: I don't know. But was I lucky....

KING: What a break.

TREBEK: Was I lucky that they had that tape. Because otherwise, it is he said, she said, and there are enough people out there who would watch and say, yeah, Trebek could have done that, he's a big shot, he's arrogant, he's pushy. And he just wants to get special treatment.

KING: Alex Trebek, about time they spoke up about it. Why didn't you speak up about it sooner?

TREBEK: I don't speak up about things in litigation, and -- it is just, I don't want to further the debate, until I know what's going on.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Alex Trebek, more news about Alex. Don't go away.


TREBEK: Now the last clue. One nasty flagellate causes African trypanosomiasis, this disease marked by lethargy. Jamie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is sleeping sickness?

TREBEK: Whoop, sorry, yes, that is right. Jamie winds up 3700. Kate and Joseph tied for second place with 2300.




WILL FERRELL, ACTOR (as Alex Trebek): Mr. Connery, why don't you pick?

DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR (as Sean Connery): It looks like this is my lucky day. I will take "the rapists" for 200.

FERRELL: That's "therapists."


FERRELL: That is "therapists," not "the rapists."


KING: Do you have fun with that?

TREBEK: I get a lot of people coming up to me and they say: "Do you mind when they poke fun at you that way?" And I say: "No, I love it. It's great." "Jeopardy" is part of the American cultural scene, so we are fair game.

KING: "National Examiner," May 29, another great historic periodical. "Alex Trebek Attacks Regis: Your Show Stinks!" Did you say that?

TREBEK: No, I did not. And in fact...

KING: What really happened?

TREBEK: Well, I mentioned to you a moment ago that I just heard from my attorneys, that we have a judgment against that lady from United Airlines, and I called them back when I saw the article, and I said: "Would you please do me a favor? Look at this article and find out if we have the basis of a lawsuit against the 'National Examiner' for this, because this is all hogwash."

I'm big fan of Regis'. There is no feud between us. I made some good-natured comments -- and they were reported as good-natured comments -- in Atlanta well over a year ago, and now they are resurrecting stuff and they put a different spin on it.

It sounds to me that they discovered that the ratings for "Millionaire" were sagging a little, and instead of -- it doesn't look as good on the cover saying "Regis' Ratings Are Sagging," or whatever, or "Have Gone Down," so they figured it's better to, let's get that feud going again. There is no feud.

KING: Are you suing?

TREBEK: I'm going to find out from the attorneys if we have the basis for a lawsuit.

KING: Well, are they running a quote that is not a quote? I mean, as you read this -- I didn't read the story -- as you read the story, did they say you said the show stinks?

TREBEK: I think they -- yeah, I think that is what they said. But I never said that.

KING: You never said that.

TREBEK: No. So -- but, you know, they say according to our source. Well, fine, bring your source out, and...

KING: Well, that's one of the favorite things they do, right, "according to a source"?

TREBEK: Yeah. You know, "Alex has been telling anyone who will listen that 'Millionaire' losing viewers in droves because it lost the edge-of-your-seat drama. It had when it first went on the air, says a source."

I never said that. I never said that at all. And I certainly have never said "your show stinks." I mean, I'm a big fan of Regis', and have been since he worked here in Los Angeles.

In fact, I told him that you and Regis are two of the people I admire in our business, because of the ease with which you are able to interact with all of your guests. Regis used to do those interviews with all the celebrities going into the Emmies or the Oscars, and I said: "My God, Regis, I don't know how you do that. I could not do that."

KING: He is wonderful.

TREBEK: That's really tough. And the same with you, all these interviews and stuff. I have been a big fan of his for years. I have...

KING: Maybe they thought it was "Larry Stinks"? We'll see that in a paper.

TREBEK: Oh gosh, yeah, why not.

KING: You say you might sue. Is this a new aggressive tact on the part of Trebek? Some do, some don't.

TREBEK: Well, as I am getting older, I find that I'm getting -- I don't know -- more crotchety? I just -- I no longer the good Christian I would like to think I used to be. And that is, I'm not prepared to turn the other cheek. I'm tired of these tabloids doing this kind of stuff.

One of the other tabloids, before Jeanne and I got married -- or no, just after we got married, printed something that I took them to task for, and I said: "I'm going to sue you," and they retracted. Now, the article, of course, front page, and a full page inside, or half of two pages. The retraction, on page two or three, a little -- two columns wide, one inch high.

But they printed the retraction, and -- but we had to go to great lengths to get them to do that, and I don't see why people in the public eye -- I mean, if I go out, and I injure somebody through drunk driving or I do something stupid or I say something really stupid or malicious, fine, come after me. But don't pick on me just because you want to create headlines and sell more newspapers.

KING: Are you going to press that lady for legal fees? TREBEK: I probably won't. She -- I don't think she has the money. What I told the attorneys, and I will be very candid and honest with you, I said: "Well, let's write her a letter, and use that as leverage to get an apology," but I don't even think we'll get that. It's just there are...

KING: So you are at times, the celebrities at the mercy here?

TREBEK: In many cases, yeah. But as you know, a lot of the celebrities bring this on themselves.

KING: Yeah.

TREBEK: I mean, they do stupid things.

KING: Right, they do. But others have sued, and others say: "If you sue, you just carry it on."

TREBEK: I know, and that is -- that was one of the problems with this thing. They said: "Let's consider settling," and I said no. I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not going to settle. Let's go after them, and if I feel I'm in the right, I want to defend myself. I don't want my kids looking at me saying, "Daddy did something bad." I didn't do anything wrong.

KING: Alex Trebek is the guest. We'll take a couple calls for Alex right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Money slang" for 400, please.

TREBEK: Bank notes that sing before fa-so-la. Larry.

LARRY: What is do, re, mi.


TREBEK: You know, folks, if I hang around long enough, they will get to the correct response. Go again, Larry.




KING: "Ivy league schools" for 400.

TREBEK: It's nicknamed "Old Eli." Larry.

KING: What is Yale.

TREBEK: Yes. KING: "Ivy League schools" for 600.

TREBEK: The answer there, a daily double, one of two in the round, and you and Kareem are tied at 3,900. How much of that are you going to risk on your knowledge of Ivy League schools?

KING: $3,000.

TREBEK: Whoa, all right. Here is the clue for you: in 1896, the College of New Jersey adopted this name.

KING: What is Rutgers -- oh no, I'm sorry.

TREBEK: Sorry, you spoke too quickly. What is Princeton. So, you are down to 900. You've got to start building again, Larry.


KING: It's so painful to lose on that show. I should have known that too.

TREBEK: Tough being in there against Kareem, too. He has been a guest twice on our show.

KING: He is vicious, whoa!

TREBEK: Very quiet, very knowledgeable.

KING: English royalty wiped us out. Colonial Beach, Virginia -- but they gave a nice contribution to our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) foundation -- Colonial Beach, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I love your show, Larry...

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: ... And Alex, I have been watching "Jeopardy" ever since it's been on. I love you, but honey, put your mustache back on.

TREBEK: Really?

CALLER: I was wondering, what do you think you, as celebrity, can do to keep people from doing these horrible things to you celebrities. I just can't understand people doing that.

TREBEK: Well, I don't know if there is anything we can do to prevent that. As I indicated to Larry a few minutes ago, we got lucky because there happened to be security video in that area on that day and we got hold of the tape. Otherwise, hey, it is he-said, she-said, and I'm in trouble. A lot of people would have believed her, rather than me, so...

KING: Deltaville, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, how are you?

KING: Hi, fine.

CALLER: I want to ask Mr. Trebek this. If you could have three historical figures on "Jeopardy" to play, who would they be and why?

TREBEK: Oh, boy. Mark twain, because he is my favorite American author. Ava Gardner,


KING: Just to look at her, right?

TREBEK: Yeah, I don't care if she comes up with any correct responses. And, oh, gosh, maybe Einstein because I think he had a good sense of humor also.

KING: He must have. What about -- you made some changes in the show, right? You go out and do tapes now.

TREBEK: Well, we are in the process of selecting our clue crew: Four individuals -- we have been conducting auditions all over country, and we are going to hire four people for this coming season which will be our 18th and they will go out on the road, and they will record clues in didn't parts of the country, and we will use those clues on the show.

We are trying to diversify that way. We're going to have more videos on the program. We are probably going to change our set this coming year.

KING: Really?

TREBEK: Well, one of the things we noticed about "The Weakest Link" and also "Millionaire," is that they have basically, a 360 degree set.

KING: Correct.

TREBEK: It is in the center, the audience all around. And there is an openness to it that we kind of like. And hey, if it is a good idea we will steal it, we'll use it.

KING: But will there be people behind the board?

TREBEK: There won't be -- we won't have people behind the board...

KING: Semicircle.

TREBEK: ... but we're going to try and open up our set a lot more. Our set, as it stands now, is kind of enclosed and cozy and it looks very formal, and we want to loosen things up a little. But I told them, I said, in addition to all of the changes that the producers are considering for the show, please do not consider changing the host just yet.

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Alex Trebek right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will take, rubbish for 100.

TREBEK: Rubbish, all right. This kitchen device compresses garbage into easily disposed of units -- Stephanie.

STEPHANIE: What is it a trash compactor.

TREBEK: Trash compactor, yes. Do you use one?

STEPHANIE: No, I don't.

TREBEK: No? Neither do I. I just like to stuff the garbage myself by hand. You are in lead, Stephanie. We are going to take a break. That's why I'm vamping right now, so that we can get these commercials ready.



KING: Let's get in one more call for my man Alex. Miami, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Trebek, I have heard you say complicated names, exotic sounding names, and you have never stumbled. Do they give you phonetic spellings or are you just very knowledgeable?

TREBEK: It is somewhere in between. I look them up in the dictionary. Before we tape our five shows I go over all five games, and if there are words that I think are going to give me problems, whether they be foreign words, or regular English words that I'm not familiar with, I look them up in the dictionary and I make dire critical marks on the paper.

But sometimes the game is moving so quickly, I will forget what I had thought of earlier or what I found in the dictionary about the correct pronunciation, and I will screw up. Sometimes they leave them in, sometimes a if it's really bad they will redo it and you don't notice it on the air.

KING: Did you ever call Regis about that article?

TREBEK: Not this one, because this just came out today, but I talked to him when the first (UNINTELLIGIBLE) came out about a year ago. It came out the same week as the lawsuit. Isn't that amazing?


TREBEK: I don't think I need to. Regis knows that I have no grudge against him and, in fact, a year and a half ago or whenever it was when "Millionaire" came on the air, one of the tabloids printed an article saying Regis is out, Trebek's in. Producers are having problems with Regis. They have asked Alex Trebek if he would consider hosting. None of that was true and I called him, I said, Regis, I was not asked, and I wouldn't do it because I think you are doing great job. End of story.

KING: Anyway, Regis, if you are looking in or have friends, he didn't say it.

TREBEK: I didn't say it. Regis knows that I think.

KING: How good a guest would you would be on "Jeopardy"?

TREBEK: I don't -- well, I have told people that I probably wouldn't do too well now because as I have gotten older, my reflexes have slowed down.

KING: That's the big thing about that show. You've got to hit that button, and then when you hit it, your tendency is to want to hit it.


KING: You'd better be right.

TREBEK: And you'd better time it correctly, because as you know, we are dealing in milliseconds here, and if I ring in too soon and lock myself out, you will ring in and you will get it. And then I will...

KING: It's a strategy game. It is a lot about -- that game is no easy poke in park. It is some tough tussle.

TREBEK: But this coming year we are going to make, again influenced by these other shows that are on the air, we are going to run a tournament in which the payoff might be, might be -- I say this now so that I don't put out producers on the hot seat -- might be a million dollars.

KING: It is not Merv Griffin's money any more, is it?

TREBEK: No, no, no. This is Sony, Sony money. Sony has big bucks.

KING: Taken out of petty cash.

TREBEK: You know, it's always so nostalgic appearing on the program with you because you're the person on the air, that I know of, who uses an old RCA 77 microphone, which I grew up with, working at the CBC.

KING: Yes, he's Canadian. Alex Trebek, the host of "Jeopardy." Boy what a fascinating hour this was tonight. Art Linkletter will be with us tomorrow night, one of the great veterans of this game, because kids say the darnedest things. "CNN TONIGHT" is next. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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