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CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND

Tribute to Media Legend Katharine Graham

Aired July 22, 2001 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: She once described herself as a doormat wife, but she became a media powerhouse and made editorial decisions that changed American history. We remember Katharine Graham of "The Washington Post" next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. We're paying tribute tonight to a very special lady. Katharine Graham died this past Tuesday; she was 84. As chairman of the Washington Post Group, Mrs. Graham became a journalistic icon, one of the most influential women in the world. As a wife, she suffered unimaginable tragedy. In 1997, she released an autobiography titled "Personal; History." It was a major bestseller, and won her a Pulitzer Prize. Shortly after it came out she joined us to talk about the book.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

KING: The talk in Washington, and people who know you would have been for years, "The last thing in the world you'll get from Kay Graham is an open, honest biography that -- warts and all." Why?

KATHARINE GRAHAM, AUTHOR, "PERSONAL HISTORY": Well, I tend to be open and honest, Larry.

KING: But, no one thought you would ever write a book.

GRAHAM: Well, I wanted to after I stepped down as the chief executive officer of the company. I wanted to tell the story of the development of the paper and the company. And I wanted to tell the story of people, three people who were very important to me: my parents, and Phil Graham, as well as my own, which was one life as a housewife and mother, and then the other life as the very hard-working executive.

KING: But you knew, in reliving it, pain would occur.

GRAHAM: Well, I knew that there were tough sides to the story, as there are of anybody's story. And certainly, there were of mine. But overall, I considered that I have been privileged, that I'd had a wonderful life of variety and wonderful people in it. And I was loved and loved. You know, I had a great time except -- you know, I mean, everybody has ups and downs, don't they?

KING: Yes, but not many people have the suicide of a husband. GRAHAM: No. That was very tough. But everybody -- I think, almost everybody has something very tough to deal with. Maybe not like that, but something tough.

KING: Grew up with strong men around you.

GRAHAM: I did.

KING: Strong father, then a strong husband.

GRAHAM: Right.

KING: Weak women?

GRAHAM: No, strong women.

KING: Your mother was strong.

GRAHAM: My mother was very strong.

KING: But, she kept -- I mean, she didn't speak up, did she? She didn't...

GRAHAM: Well, my mother and father trained us, brought us up very vigorously. We had lessons and everything. The word "money" was never mentioned. We had fewer possessions or clothes than other people. And much was expected of us. At the same time, my mother was so strong. She did an awful lot. She was a role model about being active and intellectually active, and being into a lot of things like art, and literature, and social issues like education and welfare. She did all of those things in her life.

At the same time, she condescended a lot to other people, and especially her children. And so, while she was demanding great things of us, she was also, in a way, undermining our ability to fulfill them.

KING: Would she be a feminist now?

GRAHAM: I am not sure. She was counter, usually, to anything fashionable or anything that a lot of people were...

KING: A lot in our audience, a lot of people in our audience may not know him. Tell us about Phil Graham.

GRAHAM: Phil Graham grew up in the Everglades in Florida. His father was in politics in the state Senate. And Phil campaigned with him, and he loved politics. And he went from there to the University of Florida -- to Miami Public High School, to the University of Florida. Then he went to the Harvard Law School. And there, coming from a background of very little learning and education and quite a lot of fun and drinking and parties, and that continued at Harvard, I have to say. But, he also came out third in his class, the first year. He had a brilliance and a charm, and an extraordinarily ability. And he was just dazzling.

KING: Where did you meet?

GRAHAM: We met in Washington. I'd gone out, and I'd been a reporter in San Francisco a year, and then my father had said, "I thought you were coming back."

He and I both assumed I would always be in journalism. I mean, we always assumed that. Not as a manager, but I would be a journalist.

KING: Women's pages?

GRAHAM: Well, right. So, I came back from San Francisco to work on the "Post," and I left a Republican town that was kind of stuffy. And when I got back, the new deal had come and gone, and it was the pre-war Roosevelt era. And every bright, young man in the country had been drawn into government, and Phil was one of them. And I met him there.

KING: And he was doing what?

GRAHAM: He was a law clerk for Justice Stanley Reed. And the next year -- he was a Frankfurter protege, Felix Frankfurter.

KING: Was he poor?

GRAHAM: He was.

KING: Was it a madcap affair? Was there chemistry?

GRAHAM: I don't think madcap is the right word, but it was certainly very fast.

KING: Quick? How long until marriage?

GRAHAM: The third time we went out together he began discussing marriage. And I said we should be very deliberate. We ought to wait a month.

KING: Your father and mother approved of Phil Graham?

GRAHAM: They did. They disapproved of a lot of my sister's romances, and I was all prepared for them disapproving of Phil.

KING: Especially this wild, unloose...

GRAHAM: Well no, he was not wild or unloose at that time. But, he was a new dealer and he was liberal.

KING: Your father was not.

GRAHAM: My father and mother were both Republicans.

KING: But he gave them what? He invited him into the paper?

GRAHAM: Well, not at first because when we were first married, my husband Phil said we were never going to take any money from him. And he was never going to get in his clutches because he saw him as this rich, powerful kind of man who would get people into positions where he didn't want to be. And so, he said he would never do that. But they, incredibly, interrelated very well. And after a while my father said, "After the Army and the war was over, would Phil go on the paper?"

And since he was just tremendously interested in public issues, Phil said "Yes," he would. And after the war, he went to work on the "Post."

KING: The Graham friendship with John Kennedy began when?

GRAHAM: It really began about '57 when Kennedy was just beginning to know that he was going to run for president in '60.

KING: Did they hit it off right away?

GRAHAM: Yes, we had mutual friends, and so we saw the Kennedys as they were going around Washington. We'd seen him a little before that at parties and never taken him seriously. And then, suddenly, he said that he was running for president.

KING: Phil Graham and he became great friends, right?

GRAHAM: They did.

KING: Confidantes?

GRAHAM: Not -- I would say.

KING: Talk to each other a lot?

GRAHAM: Yes, close friends, not intimate. I mean, he wasn't in the inner circle or anything. But, he was sort of giving him advice. Some of which he took, and some of which he didn't.

One night at dinner, Phil at Joe Walsop's (ph), where occasionally Kennedy went and he enjoyed that. And Phil said, "well, you ought to do this or that, politically." And Kennedy said to Phil, "Phil, when you're elected dog catcher I am going to listen to you about politics."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BRADLEE, VICE PRESIDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": The owner of "The Washington Post" is apt to know the president of the United States. If -- when the -- when her husband was still alive, and when the owner and his wife are about the same age as the president and his wife, there's a natural opportunity for friendship. And I think they became friends. Not close friends -- they never claimed that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

KING: Was it tough to be, for the this girl who was sheltered, to be married to this kind of person?

GRAHAM: It was wonderful, and I learned a lot from him, and I had a wonderful time, and we had four children and we loved them, and we traveled, and I was with him all the time. He really liked me to be with him.

KING: Was it a passionate marriage?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: When he got ill -- he became depressed how -- tell that -- what happened to Phil Graham?

GRAHAM: If you look back on it, there were moments when he was depressed early on, but I didn't recognize it, of course. Neither one of us did. Then he had a gigantic and very hard to deal with depression that started in 1957.

KING: That early, soon after meeting Kennedy?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: And it carried into all sorts of bizarre instances, right?

GRAHAM: Yes, but gradually, not at first. I mean, at first, the cycles were very far apart, and I just thought he'd had a nervous breakdown and gotten over it. And the word manic depression was never attached to what was wrong with him because he had a psychiatrist who didn't believe in it, thought if you put a name on things that it made it worse, and I didn't know it. And I don't know whether Phil knew it. I suspect he didn't.

KING: But during that time he was making some sound business decisions, wasn't he?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. You see, this terrible disease afflicts very gifted, brilliant people mostly. And there were a lot of good things he did until very, very late.

KING: Then he ran off with a woman or something?

GRAHAM: It was the last year, very last year.

KING: Young lady, right?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: You knew about it.

GRAHAM: I learned about it.

KING: And how did you deal with that? GRAHAM: Well, I went to pieces. I mean, it was really hard because it never occurred to me that that could happen. I guess I was sort of dense maybe, but I didn't have any idea anything was going on. I picked up the phone by accident and they were on the phone. I mean, it rang and we both answered it, so I realized what was happening right away. And I went in and said is this true? He said yes, but you know, he wanted to hold the family together and he would send her away. And so I said fine, but it didn't really last very long, and they took up with each other again, and then eventually he left and said he wanted a divorce and everything that was the matter with him was my fault, and that he was going to take the "Post" with him.

KING: Was this a big story?

GRAHAM: No. You know, actually, until the very end when it went public like that, nobody knew and, you know, mental illness, it was so sad. It's still somewhat. People hide it, and in those day you hid it, and we hid it successfully.

KING: He could have been helped today; no doubt he could have been helped because of drugs.

GRAHAM: No doubt.

KING: Then he was hospitalized, right?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: Talked his way out of the hospital.

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: And came home.

GRAHAM: Came home briefly and went to a mental hospital from which he succeeded -- he was so persuasive. He got -- he persuaded everybody that he was really better, and I believed it, too. And he got them to give him a day off, which there was a lot of argument about, a lot of sensitivity about, but finally he got the day off. And we went down to the country, and that's where he killed himself.

KING: You were with him?

GRAHAM: I was in the house with him, but of course, I let him get out of my sight for a minute, and that's when he did it.

KING: Did you discover him?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: How do you ever get through that?

GRAHAM: Well, just because there's no alternative. I mean, you just go ahead finally. But of course, it's the most awful, hideous shock I can imagine.

KING: You didn't have great faith to fall back on, did you?

GRAHAM: No, but -- sort of -- I don't know.

KING: Inner strength?

GRAHAM: Something like that.

KING: Children?

GRAHAM: Yeah, oh, children, wonderful. Wonderful.

KING: They were big for you.

GRAHAM: And my parents. My mother was still alive. My father died. And she was very strong and wonderful.

KING: And no one expected you to take over "The Washington Post," right?

GRAHAM: No.

KING: Wasn't the expectation, Katharine Graham will probably sell this?

GRAHAM: I don't know what people expected, but I never gave it a moment's thought. I loved the paper.

KING: And you wanted to run it?

GRAHAM: No, I didn't want to run it because I didn't think I could. I really knew that I owned the controlling shares and that therefore responsibly I should try to learn about it.

KING: But you were going to keep them. There was no thought of selling.

GRAHAM: I really wanted to hold it in the family. I viewed it as a sort of holding operation until the children grew up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY QUINN, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": When she first took over "The Washington Post," there were very few women in the world -- certainly not very many in this country who had that kind of powerful job.

But the amazing thing about Kay was that she never tried to be like a man. She was extremely feminine. And she liked to flirt with men; she liked men; she liked being around men. And she liked women. I mean, she was always very much one of the girls when you'd get together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEE: She was just as good at first as she was at last. I mean, she was fantastic. Once she made up her mind to hire you -- I'm talking about people in the positions of authority -- she supported you like nothing you've ever seen. And don't -- let me emphasize, good editors are made by good owners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

KING: So the housewife, Kay Graham, becomes the major -- the honcho.

GRAHAM: Gradually.

KING: Did you know you were intrinsically good at this?

GRAHAM: No. I had to learn, and people helped me learn. First, I had a learning curve of about 10 years with a man named Fredrick Bibi (ph) who was already there in the company, and he was our corporate lawyer that Phil had got to come into the company, and I think he really enabled the thing to happen and gave me time to learn about management. And then, just as we'd gone public at the time we were publishing the Pentagon Papers, he died afterwards -- it was really during Watergate, but we'd just gone public. And then I had another difficult learning curve. And at that point, a man who now is well known but then wasn't, Warren Buffett, bought into the company. And he really was so appalled when he found out how little I knew about business that I had another learning curve about business and public shareholders and what you owed them and how to...

KING: But you learned quick.

GRAHAM: Well, Warren was a great teacher.

KING: You bring Ben Bradlee into the "Post"?

GRAHAM: I did.

KING: From "Newsweek," right?

GRAHAM: He was head of the "Newsweek" bureau in Washington. And I thought we needed a little bit of -- I could tell that the city room was sort of static and people sort of let me know in various ways and I looked into it. Then I found Ben over at the bureau.

KING: Not a bad choice.

GRAHAM: No. He turned out to be terrific.

KING: Was Watergate the most traumatic of times? Because that's when you got leveled. The Nixon people leveled you. I remember someone said -- Mitchell said crazy things about you, right? GRAHAM: He did.

KING: Borderline -- anyway, how did you handle all that? You had to stand by them.

GRAHAM: I had to stand by Ben and Howard Simons, the editor and the managing editor, and they were supervising the young men, Woodward and Bernstein, who were doing the story. I used to go down there and say are we being sure we're being fair, we're being accurate? Are we sure we're not being misled so that somebody can cut us off at the knees? And Ben's answers were very good to that. He said we have -- because we have an exclusive and that we had an exclusive for many months, almost -- there were some reporting but not much -- he said the boys have time to check and double check and we tried to two- source of everything. And some of our sources are Republican, and that helped. And then he added, when Woodward's really puzzled, he goes to this source he has that really...

KING: Deep throat. Do you know who it was?

GRAHAM: No. I still don't.

KING: Did you want to know?

GRAHAM: Well, once I did -- I was having lunch with Woodward because I'd decided after quite a while that I'd better really get to know these...

KING: It's your paper.

GRAHAM: Yeah,. And I said to him, you know, who is Deep Throat? And he looked so stricken and I said, don't worry, I don't really want to know; I don't want the responsibility. And I didn't really. And I am mildly curious, but I can hold my -- I am not holding my breath.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": She asked about sources, and then she said, Who is Deep Throat? And I was ready to tell her. But she kind of looked at me and then touched my arm and said, No, I really don't want to know. I don't want to carry that burden around.

But what she really meant was it's not her job to know that. It's the editor's job. And in that lunch it, again, was the balance of, she had questions. She wondered whether the final truth about what Nixon did would ever come out. Now, this is a relief -- '73 and, during the first Watergate trial, when the cover-up was in full force, and it looked to me like the truth would never come out, and I told her so.

And she said, never? And I said, yes. And she said, Don't tell me never.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: I think she will go down in history because of the tremendous courage. It took her years to feel her own power, but there was a point when the Pentagon Papers had to be published, and the paper was not allowed to do that, and she went to court. And they were published, and then beyond that, during Watergate, when her two reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, and Richard Nixon was trying to put her out of business, she stood by her reporters with her wonderful editor Ben Bradlee -- who must be mentioned tonight -- and it did bring about the downfall of Richard Nixon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

KING: Pentagon Papers a tough period?

GRAHAM: Tremendously interesting. It was very brief and very intense. And that was unlike Watergate which we got into gradually, and there was never a moment of choice in my view, but the Watergate -- the Pentagon decision came right up to me and I had to make it.

KING: Do we publish?

GRAHAM: Do we publish. And the lawyers were telling us not to. The business people were very hesitant and the editorial people were desperate to publish, very pressured. And I got on the phone with them from my house and they were at Ben's house, because they wanted to keep it secret that they had the papers.

And the "New York Times" had been enjoined, and had to stop publishing. So, of course, the editors naturally wanted to resume, and they had just gotten the papers that day, and they wanted to publish that night, and the lawyers were saying -- we were in the act of going halfway public and we hadn't sold our stock.

We were very vulnerable. And I asked my colleague Fritz Bediou (ph), who's a lawyer. He said, "I think you have to decide." And I said, "Well, what would you do, Fritz?" And he said, "I guess I would not." But he said it in such a way that I felt that I could say, "I will."

KING: And you did?

GRAHAM: And I did.

KING: And no regrets?

GRAHAM: No. It was very important because it was a question of the government having the ability to put prior restraint on the publication of things in newspapers. So, I think that was a very important issue. KING: Let's get a call in for Kay Graham. Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, hello Mrs. Graham. Question. You obviously deserve a great deal of the credit for the success of the "Washington Post" empire. But, prior to your getting involved there were two powerful men in the picture, your husband and your father. My question, who of the two of them do you think deserves more credit for the creation of the empire, and could either have done it without the other?

GRAHAM: No, that's a really good question, I agree Larry. The fact is that my father bought it in a bankruptcy sale at an auction on the steps of the building, and it was just nothing. It was 50,000 in circulation, and had a mess of a building and an AP franchise, and that's about all he bought. He invested both in times, and he built up the paper. But he was joined by my husband after the war. He did it alone from '33 to '46, when my husband came to work. And from '46 to '54 when they bought the "Times-Herald" it went on being a struggle. So, I wouldn't know how -- I think I suppose my father really started it, and my husband continued with him. And I think together they made a great team.

KING: The great thing was even though they disagreed on things, politically and otherwise, that your father had the faith to want him to come in?

GRAHAM: He did.

KING: And that he broke a code to come in, because he wasn't going to take a job, right? So, both had to bend.

GRAHAM: Not really, because they got along so well. And my father was a very centrist Republican. And Phil was a liberal Democrat when we got married. But the paper and the exigencies of business, I think they drew nearer to each other. But they were compatible, personally, very.

KING: Are you a feminist? Or did Gloria Steinem help you become a feminist?

GRAHAM: I wouldn't say I was a feminist in the sense that I was leading a movement or anything, but I certainly believed in those issues. I was conservative because I was brought up in an era in which we were taught that men were superior, and that we were to get married and have children and make them happy.

KING: You have a great scene where the women retire. Washington parties, the women went out of the room, and the men smoked cigars.

GRAHAM: That's right. You know I did that, too, when I first went to work because I was so used to. And then one night, I was at my friend Joseph Alsop's and this happened. And I realized that I'd been working all day, that we'd had an editorial lunch, that I knew about these issues. And I thought what am I doing here? And I said to Joe, "I hope you won't mind if I just quietly get out of here because if the paper comes early, I can work. I can use this time, I don't want to go into that bedroom with the women." And he said, "You can't do that." And I said, "I can."

So, I did it -- no, I didn't, he didn't let me, because he said, "If you stay, I'll let the women join the men," and it broke up the habit. And it broke it up all over town.

KING: Sylva, North Carolina for Kay Graham. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening Larry and Mrs. Graham. Mrs. Graham, what were some of the ways that the White House tried to intimidate you, and who was doing the intimidating?

GRAHAM: Well, it turned out that they were all doing it, and certainly the president was doing it.

KING: Nixon.

GRAHAM: Nixon. And it was Ziegler, his press secretary used to accuse us of lying and guilt by association, and reporting rumors and he would flail us about every day, and then they had minor ways of harassing us. They would tell people in the White House not to answer our reporter's phone calls. They would give scoops to the competition. They cut our society reporter out of covering their parties. But more seriously, I mean, the most serious challenge of all was that our license renewals in Florida came up for renewal, and they were challenged by associates and people connected with the administration. And that was very serious.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODWARD: Within the newsroom of "The Washington Post," lots of our colleagues were saying, Who are these crazy kids who are taking the newspaper on this roller coaster ride? And Katharine Graham backed Bradlee, who backed us completely. But, again, it was not just, Have at it, boys, and do whatever you want. It was within the environment of, Who are these sources? Where is this coming from? Have you talked to everyone? Here's an angle you might explore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLESS: Johnson and Katharine were buddies, and you know, LBJ was challenged to have everybody like him, and especially when the owner was a woman, that added a little chemistry to everything, and Mrs. Johnson was a particular friend of Kay Graham's, and she adored Mrs. Johnson and she was just overwhelmed by LBJ. He was an overwhelming man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: My husband, Phil, was very close to him. Maybe too close, he advised him in politics. But both of them were Southern, both of them loved the use of power and enjoyed it. And they had a lot in common. KING: How did they treat you when Phil was gone?

GRAHAM: Well, at first, wonderfully. I mean, I saw him a lot, and he invited me over to the White House. He invited me once to the weekend on the ranch, very suddenly, just after he'd been renominated in Atlantic City. And I enjoyed it. But unlike Phil, the paper reported on him independently, and he considered that disloyal, I think.

KING: Really? Phil was more compliant with him?

GRAHAM: Yes, Phil was sympathetic, and to some extent, kind of used the paper to support him.

KING: Did Johnson ever run you down?

GRAHAM: Yes. He cut me off after a while. Not exactly. I remained friends with Lady Bird and I was on her beautification committee, but I no longer had the kind of relationship with him that I did in the beginning.

KING: But he had the kind of personality, when he said you're coming to Texas, you're coming to Texas, right?

GRAHAM: He swept you up.

KING: You liked him?

GRAHAM: Yes, I did. I think Vietnam haunted him. Without Vietnam he would have been a very great president, both on civil rights and the Great Society.

KING: He might have lived longer?

GRAHAM: Probably.

KING: Atlantic Beach, North Carolina with Kay Graham. Hello.

CALLER, ATLANTIC BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA: Hi, Larry, thanks for taking my call. Mrs. Graham I just want you to know that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your book. I just finished it. You make me proud to be a Democrat. My question is what is your assessment, now that you look back, of the Kennedy presidency despite all the things we've heard personally, publicly? How do you assess his presidency compared to today?

KING: Good question.

GRAHAM: Well, you know he revved up the country. He was the first young president, and he was young, and she was even younger, and they were tremendously glamorous. He led the country in a way. He stood for certain things and you knew what he stood for, and that was wonderful. And he really excited the whole world. Now, what did he accomplish is another question, because either he didn't have time or he didn't -- anyway, he didn't get his legislation through Congress before he died, and it's hard to tell what he would have done. Could he have done it later? Would he have turned around on Vietnam? There's no real way of knowing because he died so young.

KING: Did you know about the women?

GRAHAM: You knew, in general, that Kennedy had girls or liked girls and that he had certain girls, but I don't think people knew enough to have ever reported on him.

KING: Today that would have been, right?

GRAHAM: I don't know. He was pretty discreet. Those girls didn't talk, you see.

KING: What was Jackie like?

GRAHAM: Well, she was very independent. She went her own way. If she didn't want to go to a state dinner, she'd go hunting.

KING: Was she a friend to you?

GRAHAM: Yes. Not a close friend, at all, but a nice friend. And I found her incredibly attractive. She was a mimic, she was a whip. And I knew her, of course, long after he died because we both lived on Martha's Vineyard and I didn't see her a great deal, I truly didn't. But whenever we met, I enjoyed her tremendously.

KING: Does the "Post" feel itself very competitive with the "New York Times?" Is the Times your rival or is CNN you rival or the networks? Who's the rival of the "Washington Post?"

GRAHAM: These days everybody. The competition for people's time is what we're all competitive about. Now are we competitors with the "New York Times." Yes, in a way, we're competitive to be the best or to get the first story. But our markets are entirely different, and we aren't competitive financially or economically, and we're partners in the "Herald-Tribune." And I like the Times family.

KING: There's an interlinking. You own cable systems, right? Post-Newsweek has cable systems, so therefore, you're carrying CNN on cable systems. So the rivalry interchanges?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. We're in electronics. We have our own Website.

KING: What do you make of all the mergers going on?

GRAHAM: It concerns me, because things are getting awfully big, and we're a very conspicuous company, but a relatively small one compared to these...

KING: Are you fearful of the takeover, the hostile bid, the whatever?

GRAHAM: Well, we have two sets of shares and the family controls the shares that control the company.

KING: So it couldn't happen? GRAHAM: Not now.

KING: Would you ever want to merge with a giant?

GRAHAM: No.

KING: Don't want to?

GRAHAM: No.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEE: ... Johnson and Katharine were buddies and, you know, LBJ was challenged by -- to have everybody like him, and especially when the owner was a woman, that added a little chemistry to everything. And Mrs. Johnson was a particular friend of Kay Graham's and she adored Mrs. Johnson, and was just overwhelmed by LBJ. He was an overwhelming man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, "FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

GRAHAM: My husband, Phil, was very close to him. Maybe too close, he advised him in politics. But both of them were Southern, both of them loved the use of power and enjoyed it. And they had a lot in common.

KING: How did they treat you when Phil was gone?

GRAHAM: Well, at first, wonderfully. I mean, I saw him a lot, and he invited me over to the White House. He invited me once to the weekend on the ranch, very suddenly, just after he'd been renominated in Atlantic City. And I enjoyed it. But unlike Phil, the paper reported on him independently, and he considered that disloyal, I think.

KING: Really? Phil was more compliant with him?

GRAHAM: Yes, Phil was sympathetic, and to some extent, kind of used the paper to support him.

KING: Did Johnson ever run you down?

GRAHAM: Yes. He cut me off after a while. Not exactly. I remained friends with Lady Bird and I was on her beautification committee, but I no longer had the kind of relationship with him that I did in the beginning.

KING: But he had the kind of personality, when he said you're coming to Texas, you're coming to Texas, right?

GRAHAM: He swept you up.

KING: You liked him? GRAHAM: Yes, I did. I think Vietnam haunted him. Without Vietnam he would have been a very great president, both on civil rights and the Great Society.

KING: He might have lived longer?

GRAHAM: Probably.

KING: Atlantic Beach, North Carolina with Kay Graham. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thanks for taking my call. Mrs. Graham I just want you to know that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your book. I just finished it. You make me proud to be a Democrat. My question is what is your assessment, now that you look back, of the Kennedy presidency despite all the things we've heard personally, publicly? How do you assess his presidency compared to today?

KING: Good question.

GRAHAM: Well, you know he revved up the country. He was the first young president, and he was young, and she was even younger, and they were tremendously glamorous. He led the country in a way. He stood for certain things and you knew what he stood for, and that was wonderful. And he really excited the whole world. Now, what did he accomplish is another question, because either he didn't have time or he didn't -- anyway, he didn't get his legislation through Congress before he died, and it's hard to tell what he would have done. Could he have done it later? Would he have turned around on Vietnam? There's no real way of knowing because he died so young.

KING: Did you know about the women?

GRAHAM: You knew, in general, that Kennedy had girls or liked girls and that he had certain girls, but I don't think people knew enough to have ever reported on him.

KING: Today that would have been, right?

GRAHAM: I don't know. He was pretty discreet. Those girls didn't talk, you see.

KING: What was Jackie like?

GRAHAM: Well, she was very independent. She went her own way. If she didn't want to go to a state dinner, she'd go hunting.

KING: Was she a friend to you?

GRAHAM: Yes. Not a close friend, at all, but a nice friend. And I found her incredibly attractive. She was a mimic, she was a whip. And I knew her, of course, long after he died because we both lived on Martha's Vineyard and I didn't see her a great deal, I truly didn't. But whenever we met, I enjoyed her tremendously.

KING: Does the "Post" feel itself very competitive with the "New York Times?" Is the Times your rival or is CNN you rival or the networks? Who's the rival of the "Washington Post?"

GRAHAM: These days everybody. The competition for people's time is what we're all competitive about. Now are we competitors with the "New York Times." Yes, in a way, we're competitive to be the best or to get the first story. But our markets are entirely different, and we aren't competitive financially or economically, and we're partners in the "Herald-Tribune." And I like the Times family.

KING: There's an interlinking. You own cable systems, right? Post-Newsweek has cable systems, so therefore, you're carrying CNN on cable systems. So the rivalry interchanges?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. We're in electronics. We have our own Web site.

KING: What do you make of all the mergers going on?

GRAHAM: It concerns me, because things are getting awfully big, and we're a very conspicuous company, but a relatively small one compared to these...

KING: Are you fearful of the takeover, the hostile bid, the whatever?

GRAHAM: Well, we have two sets of shares and the family controls the shares that control the company.

KING: So it couldn't happen?

GRAHAM: Not now.

KING: Would you ever want to merge with a giant?

GRAHAM: No.

KING: Don't want to?

GRAHAM: No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE WALLACE, CBS' "60 MINUTES": Her legacy is something that all publishers should understand. You've got to -- you've got to pay attention to the bottom line, you've got to pay attention to the lawyers, you've got to pay attention to the business people, but basically, it's your newspaper or it's your broadcast that is important. And Kay simply was loyal to her -- to the people who worked for her as reporters and editors. And she was fearless about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUINN: There was not a party she would miss. I mean, even if she didn't feel well, she would be there with bells on. She couldn't stand to miss the action. She wanted to know what was going on, and the minute she'd see a group of people all sort of standing around laughing, Kay would head right for it. I mean, she had a nose for news. She could tell when there was something going on, and she made a beeline for -- right for the center of the room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 14, 1997)

KING: For nearly 30 years, Kay Graham was the only woman to head a major American public corporation. She relinquished control in 1993 to her son, Donald. Her title now is chairman of the executive committee. She was, arguably, and maybe still is, the strongest woman in America. In fact, Nancy Reagan sent her best to you. You and she were friends.

GRAHAM: We were.

KING: A lot of people didn't know that. You would meet for lunches.

GRAHAM: We would.

KING: You disagreed politically, but that wasn't part of it.

GRAHAM: No, we were personal friends. We are.

KING: The presidents came to call at the Graham house, did they not?

GRAHAM: No, not all of them. Certain ones. I knew President -- you have to know presidents before they're president, ever, to be really friendly with them. Because once they get in that tremendously powerful position, they don't make many new friends. And I can understand that. The ones I knew and related to were President Kennedy, President Johnson, and the Reagans, because I knew them in California when they were governors.

KING: And the Reagans were unexpected in that the editorial page was so often critical, but the publisher was a friend.

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: Was that difficult? Were there days the Reagans may have been over for dinner, and that day had been lambasted?

GRAHAM: Oh, listen, they didn't come over for dinner, just all like that. We knew them and they did come over for dinners on occasion.

KING: He wasn't the kind that would bring that up, was he?

GRAHAM: No, he wasn't. He was charming, he told stories. He generally didn't discuss issues at dinners.

KING: Winchester, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Mrs. Graham, I would like to ask you a question. What is your opinion of Bill Clinton as a president?

GRAHAM: You know, I try to stay out of that because I'm related to a newspaper that's commenting on it every day. And I really try not to air my own views. I'm sorry, but that's the way I feel. The paper has its views, and I shouldn't have personal views that are separate from the paper's.

KING: Do you like the Clintons, personally?

GRAHAM: Very much. I don't know them well, but I do.

KING: You know the Gores better, don't you?

GRAHAM: Yes, I do.

KING: Kay, you're at this wonderful age now. You look great. Life is complete. No one is going to have to throw a benefit for you. Do you have any goals left?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: And...

GRAHAM: Well, I always want to work. that's the way I was brought up, and that's the way I feel. And so far, the book has kept me busy and my connections with the company. And then I also am very interested in education. And I have a small project going in Anacostia, an early childhood education and working with single mothers in a housing project.

KING: That's the poorer neighborhood in Washington.

GRAHAM: Yes, it is. It is mostly single mothers and mostly, almost totally unemployed. It's very, very difficult. And we haven't made a lot of progress.

But, I want to do something in that field because I think it's the most important area that hasn't really been addressed, to my mind, in the fullest possible way. And I'm not sure what I'd like to do, but I want to do something in that field.

KING: Thank you, Kay.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Larry. I enjoyed being with you very, very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: When we return, Katharine Graham reads some special letters, and later shares time with some journalistic legends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: And we had a mutual friend who would come to me and say, you really should know Kay Graham, you would like her. And he would go to her and say, you should know Nancy Reagan, you would like her. So I walked in to this place in Sun Valley and Kay was standing there in front of the fireplace, and I went over to her, and we both felt as if we had known one another forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back to our tribute to Katharine Graham. Last year Nancy Reagan released a book of love letters that her husband had sent her during their long relationship. We brought together some of the Reagans' closest friends to read them.

Katharine Graham was one of the guests. Joining her, Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes," and entertainer Merv Griffin. I started by asking Kay if she was surprised that Nancy made those very private letters public.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, FEBRUARY 10, 2001)

GRAHAM: No, because I think that she had a very good reason. She said she was -- before she handed them over to the Reagan Library and they just disappeared in the stacks, she wanted to know what he was like and how wonderful he was. And I think it's a really great idea. It's a great book, in my view.

KING: Mike, were you surprised?

WALLACE: I am surprised. I learned more about -- I learned more about Nancy, I think, who is a very private person...

KING: Very...

WALLACE: ... from this book than I had known. And I had known her for -- I don't know -- half-a-century or more. And the book is a good book.

KING: We are going to begin with Katherine Graham -- will read the first letter. This was written Sunday, March 20, 1955. The future president is in Atlanta, on the road. He's a spokesperson for General Electric -- Kay.

GRAHAM: "My darling, here it is, our day. If we were home, we would have a fire and funnies. And we would hate anybody who called or dropped in. As it is, I'm sitting here on the top of the sixth floor, beside a phony fireplace, looking out at a gray, wet sky, and listening to a radio play music not intended for one person alone.

"Nevertheless, I wouldn't trade the way I feel for the loneliness of those days when one place was like another, and it didn't matter how long I stayed away, with all the missing you there is still such a wonderful warmth in this loneliness. Like looking forward to a bright, warm room, no matter how dark and cold it is at the moment, you know the room is there and waiting. I love you so very much. I don't want -- I don't even mind that life made me wait so long to find you.

"The waiting only made the finding sweeter. I love you. Ronnie."

KING: My God. This is poetry.

WALLACE: It is.

KING: I mean, he had -- has a flair. We keep saying had, because we haven't heard him speak in...

WALLACE: And he's funny in some of the letters. And he's open in the letters.

KING: Oh, very open.

WALLACE: And you can see, somehow -- I see Ronald Reagan in these letters.

KING: I don't think the public knows this about President Reagan, does it?

GRAHAM: No. I think both his eloquence and his passion for her, which never dies, no matter where he is or where she is -- sometimes they're in the same room -- he writes these letters, and they are really very moving.

KING: this letter was written Christmas Day, 1980. Mrs. Reagan calls it perhaps the most important turning out in all our lives. The Reagans would soon be leaving California for Washington and the White House, and the letter reads in part -- Kay.

GRAHAM: "My beloved first lady: I'm supposed to be sitting here with my fingers crossed watching you open a package. I, of course, would be hoping it was something you really wanted, something that would show how much I love you. You see, I have this problem. I miss you when you first leave the room; I worry about you when you go out the front door. Now, this isn't good for me, not since my transplant, you into my heart 29 years ago next March. Without you, there would be no sun, no moon, no stars. With you, they are all out at the same time. Merry Christmas, my love. Your husband."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: When we come back, Katharine Graham joins other media icons to talk about journalism, past and present. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN: when we went to Washington, nobody would believe that Kay Graham and I would be close friends. You know, but when we got to Washington, we would have private lunches usually at her house, never told anybody. A deep dark secret, nobody would understand, we felt. Then later on, we kind of enlarged it and we had Meg Greenfield come, then it was the three of us, and...

KING: Wow.

REAGAN: It was -- they were wonderful, wonderful, times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with more of our tribute to the late Kay Graham.

In March of 2000, we invited some of journalism's best to talk about their profession and its future. Joining Kay were Walter Cronkite, "60 Minutes" executive producer Don Hewitt and veteran journalist Hugh Downs.

And I asked them whether it was a good practice to socialize with sources.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, MARCH 31, 2000)

GRAHAM: I can understand why a very good political reporter doesn't want to get close to people. I always did, because I thought it was part of my job as publisher to know them, and they had to understand that I understood that if there was -- that if I had to choose them or the news reporters, I was going to back the news, and if I...

KING: It's tough sometimes.

GRAHAM: Well, sometimes you lose a friend, but that's the decision you have to make, and I think it's a perfectly simple one.

KING: Jack Kennedy was a great friend of your husband's, right?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: But he was able to separate that. Jack Kennedy threw "Newsweek" out of the building one day, right?

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: He did. But that's hard, isn't it, when you're buddies with someone?

GRAHAM: Yes, it is, but I think it's just an inseparable -- it's a rule.

KING: Walter, what in television news has changed the most?

WALTER CRONKITE, FORMER ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": The news.

KING: You mean what is the news?

CRONKITE: The presentation of television news -- it's changed, I am afraid, for my likes, at any rate, for the poorer. There is less real news being delivered on the broadcasts, most of them. You can't paint this all with a broad brush because they differ from time to time, but basically, there's lots more feature material, not nearly, I think enough news , and serious delinquencies in failure to cover foreign news.

KING: The look is better, right? The graphics are better, the way the presentation is better?

CRONKITE: Sure, sure, you'd expect that, for heaven's sakes.

KING: But the content you think is less.

CRONKITE: Content is the important matter, and that is not as good as it was before.

KING: Katharine, what's the biggest change in newspapers?

GRAHAM: Larry, I think that unlike Walter is saying that television is worse, I think the quality newspapers, of which there are many, are better. I think the news is more completely reported. It's reported by people who are professionals, like doctors and lawyers, architects, and I'm very proud of the way the news is being reported.

KING: Same in the magazine field, too? You publish "Newsweek." Magazines are better?

GRAHAM: I agree, it is.

KING: Magazines are better, too?

GRAHAM: I think so.

KING: Is it apples around oranges, Katharine, comparing newspapers and television, since there is...

GRAHAM: They have some relevance to each other, but the thing that we do have 26 pages, and I think that we have as many correspondents abroad, for instance, as we had, whereas television, it's so expensive to keep them around that they have had to cut back on that kind of thing.

KING: Got another call in.

Oberlin, Ohio, hello.

Hello?

CALLER: Hello?

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, with all the sensationalism that seems inherent in the news today, I wonder if the panel thinks there was a better time to be a newsperson? Thank you. KING: Another good question.

CRONKITE: Well, as the world's oldest living journalist apparently, sure.

(LAUGHTER)

CRONKITE: There possibly was a better time, but I don't think we judge it necessarily by the sensational press today, and the fact that some sensationalism has crept into the more conventional press. I think it is -- this is a time because of the nature of the news.

Certainly, in these last -- this last half century, we've never seen the range of incredible news stories -- the scientific, technological developments alone, of course, have been incredible, landing on the moon, incredible, the '60s, the most violent decade in American history, even probably exceeding the 1860s with the Civil War, with civil strife, for heaven's sakes, the Vietnam War, the resignation of a president under the threat of impeachment, the civil rights achievements -- all of these things. It's a -- been an incredible 50 years. I can't think of a better time to have been a journalist.

KING: Katharine?

GRAHAM: I agree. I think that the news business when we were younger was just extraordinary, from Vietnam to civil rights to Watergate, and we were always busy with very hard-to-report news. I think now maybe Kosovo having replaced Vietnam and other stories, I think it's much harder, but much -- equally interesting, and of course, one loves the news business, you know.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Katharine Graham was a great lady, a good friend, a gutsy publisher, and a role model to many, many people. She's going to be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time.

Thanks for joining us, and 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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