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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Anthrax Scare: Interview With Dan Rather

Aired October 18, 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, Dan Rather joins us after a very tough day. His personal assistant has tested positive for skin anthrax. Dan talks about this dramatic development and whether Americans can ever really feel safe again.

We'll take your calls, too. And you can start calling in now. Dan Rather is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A great guy, a great journalist: Dan Rather -- he has been with this program many times, never on such a case like this. He's our special guest for the hour.

At the end of the hour, we will have our -- you know we do an end-of-the-show musical uplift every night. And the wonderful Reba McEntire will be here at the end of the show to lead us in a special song.

And we'll be taking calls for Dan throughout the program. And our phone numbers are 1-800-676-2100. That is 1-800-676-2100.

Dan, thank you very much.

When did you first learn about this terrible thing that had happened to your assistant?

DAN RATHER, CBS ANCHOR: Very late last night, Larry, the results of the biopsy came from the great Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And as soon as they were returned to the city health officials here in New York, they called her and she called me.

KING: Did you know she had been tested?

RATHER: Yes. She had been tested several times, as a matter of fact.

But it was important to get the biopsy. There is a blood test. There is a so-called swab test. But the most reliable -- in fact, the only really definitive test is a biopsy. And they took a small -- a very tiny piece of skin from her cheek, which was an area that had been infected for several weeks and was the suspect area. And they took a small piece of that. And that is what provided the evidence for the biopsy.

KING: Were you fearing the worst? RATHER: I was fearing the worst, but I was hoping for the best. You always hope for the best. But I must say that, after the case at ABC, where the infant had been brought there for a birthday party or something, once that case became clear, I did say to myself and the staff, including this young woman, we pretty much said to ourselves: You know, sooner or later, they are bound to come in this direction.

KING: Any reason we are not giving out her name?

RATHER: Yes, it is a matter of personal privacy for her, Larry. I think that the name is already out and will be out. But I just feel so strongly about trying to protect her privacy. And I know you will understand that I just don't want to use her name.

KING: Sure.

And you're broadcasting -- you're with us from the CBS broadcast center. It is not on your set. Is your set closed or open now?

RATHER: Oh, no. Our set is open. It has been all day. We did the "CBS Evening News" from the set. The reason we are doing this broadcast here, it was just frankly a matter of convenience and staffing. This is part of our CBS news room. It is an alternate set. But it has nothing to do with the anthrax problems of today. Just, as I say, it was convenient for scheduling and staff.

KING: Does she know how she got infected?

RATHER: No, she does not. And I'm glad you asked that question, Larry, because, while the working theory is -- and it's one with which I agree -- that this probably came in some manner through the mail, we don't, in fact, know that, that she -- and she is a very intelligent young woman, in addition to being a terrific athlete, very strong of body, mind and spirit.

She is very intelligent. She doesn't remember anything in the mail that raised her suspicions in the slightest. So, as of right now, I would say, while we believe that this came some way, somehow through mail, we don't know that for a fact.

KING: Have you been tested?

RATHER: No.

KING: Do you want to? Do you think you should be tested?

RATHER: No. This is an hour-by-hour, day-by-day decision. I have no symptoms. I have had no difficulty whatsoever. I have talked to the city doctors for the city health department and to my own private physician. And I'm comfortable, up to and including now, with not being tested. If any symptoms develop, if I have any reason to think that there is a need to be tested, why, certainly I will do so.

KING: Is there some awkwardness for a man who has covered stories all his life to be the subject of a story? RATHER: Of course it is. It is always -- it is also always awkward when you are in the news. When you do this kind of work -- that is, when you are the anchor for a major television network -- you know that, sooner or later, you are going to be in the news. You always hope it will be some sweetheart profile of you in a great magazine. But you know that is not the way life is.

This is particularly awkward and uncomfortable, because it is so serious, and not to put too fine a point on it but, this young woman became a part of a target for an assassin. It doesn't get much more serious than that.

KING: And you also know that the target is you. I mean let's be logical. The target isn't a woman who a terrorist wouldn't know. The target is you.

RATHER: Well, again, no assumptions, but that is a high probability. I understand that. But I can't emphasize too much, Larry, that we are alert. We try not to do anything foolish. Indeed we want to be smart and wise about this. We are also resolute. We are determined to go about our work. And this network, CBS, myself, everybody else, if we are targets -- I know some would say since we are targets -- then we want to behave with bravery and courage as much as we can muster.

We know that bravery, courage, valor they aren't the absence of fear. They are the mastery of fear. It is overcoming fear. I would be less than candid if I didn't say to you that we have had our moments, of course, of being afraid. But we hope at "CBS News" that we always run a classy news operation, and class never runs scared. And we are absolutely determined that we are not going to run scared. We are going to go in and do our work. And that is what we did today and I can't tell you how proud I am of every man and woman at "CBS News."

You would have been so pleased to be here today, that -- you know, one never knew what to expect once the word got out early this morning, but the people around here really behaved as -- in the form of our own band of brothers and sisters and I'm unspeakable proud of them.

KING: Hemingway described class as grace under pressure.

RATHER: Well, a lot of people around here today had that.

KING: Now Tom Brokaw, when it happened at NBC, was very angry, outspokenly angry, expressed that anger. How would you describe your feelings about this person or persons who did this?

RATHER: Certainly I'm saddened by it. I'm disappointed at it. My first thought on an hour by hour basis, most of my thoughts in a personal way, are about this young woman who has not only been a loyal and respected colleague, but also a beloved friend of mine.

But you know, you keep going. And our attitude has been, we just keep on keeping on. KING: Our guest is Dan Rather. We will be taking calls for Dan. He is with us all the way tonight on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We have been with you seven nights a week. He has been working seven days, everyone has. We will be back with more. Dan called, it was a historic press conference between him and his boss, Mr. Heyward. Here is a portion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: We are resolute. We will not flinch. We will not bend. We will not swerve. We will get out a first class evening news broadcast this evening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back with Dan Rather. Dan, it is logical, is it not, there were no stories about anthrax before September 11. All the stories have been since September 11. Is this like, it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it is a duck?

RATHER: Certainly, to use that metaphor, that is apt. But there is at least a part of me, Larry, that says, let's don't jump to conclusions. While it is certainly increasingly appears that this is in some way connected with the events of September 11 and in terms of terrorists at the very minimum, trying to kill or make seriously ill some people, by way of instilling fears as part of psychological warfare, there is still the possibility, depending who you are, when I say a small, thin possibility at the very least, that this is the work of an opportunist kind of, if you will, Unabomber-style working with anthrax.

So I just don't want to jump to any conclusions. And Larry, if you'll forgive me, I got slightly distracted just before the commercial by this transcontinental television flash up here. You had asked me about anger, and if you would allow me, I do want to say that of course I think I share the feelings of so many Americans, if not nearly all Americans that at any given time we are a mixture of sadness and grief about what's happened, at the same time anger, even outrage, about what's happened.

But we know that especially in times of war, one of the rules of war is don't lose your temper. It is the of the law jungle, as Kipling wrote it, and it is the rule of war. And I'm looking very hard, trying very hard to keep those natural feelings as much out of my work as I can, but also not to succumb to them in a personal way. But no person should be mistaken that I respect this woman who worked with me in giving me such loyalty, love her, and I do have anger about it, but anger is not going to get in the way if I can possibly help it, of dealing with this in a smart, wise way.

KING: Also it is anger at something you don't know, right? I mean there is no person to be angry at.

RATHER: That is true. We have our suspicions. But it is also true that there is a cobra, I think a number of cobras, in our home. Our home being the United States. And we are going to eradicate them. It may take time. But it will also require our, insofar as is humanly possible, not losing our temper, and be measured in what our responses are and be thoughtful about those response.

KING: We are going include phone calls a lot for Dan tonight. The first one is from Punta Gorda, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry, I have a question for you, hello.

KING: Go ahead, question -- question for Dan, go ahead.

CALLER: Question for Dan, and also for you. I would like to know in as much as it seems like whoever is responsible for all of this stuff is particularly taking the news media, what kind of precautions are being taken for you since you haven't been so far attacked in any way?

KING: I have a lot of security around me, people. Dan, do you have increased security since all of this?

RATHER: Our security is mostly a heightened alert, and the realization that the -- anthrax is not the major danger here. Fear is the major danger and we understand that. But of course we have taken what I consider to be prudent steps, particularly with our mail operation, and other parts of our security.

KING: What do you make of the House closing down?

RATHER: To tell you the truth, Larry, I was afraid you were going to ask me that. Personal opinion, I think that many House members if they had to it do over again, wouldn't do it, or they wouldn't do it in the way they did. Because the headline, "House Members Flee" unfortunately was accurate. Some others may want to write the headline in a slightly different way, but it is wartime.

None of us can be expected to act perfectly on every single thing. And so I'm not going to be too critical of it. In news stories there were a lot of people who were critical and we reported that, and I understand it.

KING: All right, now to coverage. There is lots of areas to talk about because I want to talk to you about Afghanistan, where you have been. Are we, I mean there had been what, six cases of anthrax now, right?

RATHER: Right.

KING: There is like thousands of cases of flu. Six known cases -- are we over-reporting it?

RATHER: Larry, I think we are. It is always a judgment call and I wouldn't argue with anybody who had a different view. But I am concerned about so much attention being paid to the media and press problems and cases involving the media. Frankly, I do think it has been at least somewhat over-reported at a very minimum, in this sense: We have 13,000 -- about 13,000 dead, missing and wounded and countless other tens of thousands of family members and others who are suffering. It is very easy to forget that, not far from this building down in lower Manhattan, the grim work goes on down there on what they call the site.

I don't want to forget that. And I think the coverage has moved a little too far away from that. And we certainly don't want to forget the young men and women who are fighting abroad. And I would say -- I tried to say today that I appreciate the concern about those of us at CBS News and the anthrax case that has happened here. And I talked to the young woman who was the victim, and she feels this way, too. We are OK. And we appreciate the concern. But anybody who has concerns and wants to offer prayers, please direct them toward the dead, missing, the wounded, their families and our men and women overseas. We are doing just fine.

KING: On the other side, it is a big story, if you've got this kind of fear going around. I mean, perception is reality. If I'm afraid, I'm afraid.

RATHER: Well, exactly.

But, also, you know, it's in the American character to recognize we can be afraid, but we have to get past that and beyond that. I do agree with you that it is a story. Anthrax mailed with the intent to kill, or at the very least, maim, is a story. And it is part of the war. We know wars are savage. They are beastly.

And psychological warfare is a very important part of anybody's campaign to break the enemy will to resist. So all of that is certainly in the picture. But it is just -- my sense is that this has been a bit over-reported in the last few days.

KING: North Augusta, South Carolina for Dan Rather, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Rather.

Do you think this anthrax thing could be just -- could be done as a distraction for bigger things that they are planning later?

RATHER: Entirely possible. It is speculative, but, yes. Do I think it could be? Entirely possible.

But we have said to ourselves, this is going to be a long, tough war. Sometimes I think we say it and don't really absorb what that means. But we had better. I would be very surprised if there aren't more casualties here at home in this clearly two-front war. We have the front abroad and the front at home.

For the first time in our history, we are fighting foreign opponents, foreign enemies who have struck on our home soil. That makes it a unique situation, a new situation for us. We can't expect that the events of September 11, or even these most recent anthrax cases, if they are directly connected, to be the last of it. There is high probability that we are going to be struck again. There is no joy in saying that, but it would be unrealistic to say anything else

KING: You are so well traveled in hot spots. And you've been in Israel and Britain and Northern Ireland and all the rest. What can we learn from the way they handle this, people who live with it every day?

RATHER: Well, I think the first thing that we can learn is something we have touched on before, but it can't be stated too often, Larry.

And that is that fear can very quickly fuel panic. And that is very detrimental to a sustained effort to reduce violence, to defeat your enemies, and particularly when it comes to fighting terror, because one of the terrorists' favorite weapons is to instill so much fear in people, in a people, that they will crack.

We are not going to crack. It is not in the American character to do so. But what we learned, whether it is the Middle East, Ireland, Vietnam, Kosovo, Bosnia, the Gulf War, you name it, that willpower and sustained willpower is a very important ingredient in staving off the worst of terrorism, and, for that matter, staving off a more traditional war opponent.

KING: In another area of journalism, CNN has been invited by some representative of bin Laden to submit questions. And CNN apparently has submitted those questions and will decide, based on the answers, what to run. What do you make of that?

RATHER: Well, I have every reason to believe this was a tough decision for CNN to make this. And it is their decision. We will see how it plays itself out. I do think that there is already beginning to be a little debate among American journalists -- and it's probably a healthy debate -- as to whether, under these circumstances, questions should be submitted in advance. At CBS News, the policy is -- and I know this is the policy at a number of other American networks -- for all I know, it's the standard policy of CNN in most cases -- that an interview subject says, "Well, could I have the questions in advance?" And you say: "No, I'm sorry. Our policy doesn't allow us to do that."

So, in effect -- for many news organizations, this appears an exception may have been made for Osama bin Laden. Now, this, having said -- this is a unique situation, a brand new kind of war. Perhaps CNN is justified in making this decision. I think, before I make any final judgment on that decision, I want to see how it plays itself out.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Dan Rather and more of your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our special guest tonight is Dan Rather. We'll take another call. Union, Kentucky, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Mr. Rather, could your assistant have gotten this germ other than at CBS?

RATHER: First of all, good evening to you.

Certainly, she could have gotten it in some other way, which is the reason I emphasized from the beginning that we make no assumptions about how she got it. The prevailing working theory is that it probably came through the mail.

If you begin to think about, "Well, how else could she have gotten it?" you go into infinity that -- there are so many ways. But I would have to say, quite candidly, that I think it probably did come through mail. But I can't be sure of that.

KING: Gilbert, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Good evening.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I have a question for Dan.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: The question I have is about the possibility of whoever is sending the anthrax through the mail, could it -- I'm thinking of the possible extremists right here in United States who think of the media as ultra-liberal. Has anything like that come across?

KING: Does that enter realm of possibility: that American wackos or Timothy McVeigh types could be just jumping on this?

RATHER: It's certainly a possibility. I know -- beware of certitude -- but I know that one of the working theories of the FBI is that it could be something like that. We just have to know more. But the straight answer to your question, ma'am, is that, certainly, that is a possibility. And it is being actively investigated, along with the possibility of some kind of direct or indirect links to the same terrorist cells that did the horrible things of September 11.

KING: Condoleezza Rice has expressed concern about putting the al Qaeda, any messages they have on American media, as they might be sending signals to others in the country. Do you buy any of that?

RATHER: I listen carefully and take it into account. I thought Howell Raines, the editor of "The New York Times," had it just right when he said: You know, we are committed to giving the maximum amount of information to our readers -- in our case, to our viewers and listeners -- but any time anybody high in the government, such as Dr. Rice, wants to talk to us about national security matters, we certainly will listen and listen very carefully and take it under careful advisement.

KING: But not necessarily acquiesce.

RATHER: No. We are independent. One definition of patriotic journalism is to keep your skepticism -- never cynicism -- but skepticism healthy and be strongly -- sometimes when required, fiercely -- independent. And we intend to do that here at CBS News.

KING: I would guess very few viewers -- maybe much more watching overseas -- but very few American viewers have ever been in Afghanistan. You have. Give us an overview. What's it like?

RATHER: It's an extremely rugged, mountainous, mostly barren terrain. There are certain places of that it are green. I'm thinking of the Kunar Valley, which is not far from Jalalabad. It has its green places. It's also a land of glaciers, which I think many Americans don't know.

It is hard to imagine, Larry, a more difficult place to fight a war. Vietnam was a green jungle hell. Afghanistan has been in the past, and can be for anyone who comes in from the outside, a brown mountain hell. And I say that not to be dramatic about it. It is just, when you are in there, that is what you keep saying to yourself. It's what I kept saying to myself: What a place to fight a war.

Now, the decision has been made by our commander in chief that we need to fight there. So fight we must. Fight we will. But no American should kid his or herself that when we put anything approaching large-unit ground troops in there, if we do, there will be casualties, in my judgment. And there may be a lot of casualties. And we must be prepared for that.

KING: What about the people. Did you like them?

RATHER: I did. It may be unpopular to say so now.

But the Afghan people are overwhelmingly a peasant people. Many of them do not have electricity at all. Many of them have never heard of radio.

I remember, Larry, once, one resistance -- resistance to the Soviet Union at the time -- fighter sending one of his people on a 30- mile run-and-walk to listen to a radio so they could pick up the BBC broadcast. So it is almost an unimaginably past-centuries kind of place. And the people there, they are -- by and large, they are wonderfully hospitable people. They are hardened by a hard life. They know virtually nothing of the next valley over, much less other countries.

I think this is the one reason that President Bush has gone out of his way to emphasize, time and again, that our argument, our determination to make war is not directed to the Afghan people. They are, by and large, a wonderful people. They have had just a terrible past for many centuries. KING: Well said.

Alymer, Quebec for Dan Rather, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

On behalf of Canadians, Mr. Rather, I would like to say that we were sorry to hear about your assistant.

My question is: Now that New York strain and the Florida strain have been connected, what's to say that -- very badly -- but maybe your assistant or somebody else could not get the inhaled form, because these strains are now proving to be the same?

RATHER: I'm not sure I understood question. What's to say that they couldn't what, please?

CALLER: Because the New York City and the Florida strains have proven to be the same, what is to say that this inhaled version of anthrax couldn't happen to the people in New York or Washington as well?

RATHER: Oh, I think there is nothing to say that it could not.

KING: It could.

RATHER: It certainly could. That isn't to say that it will, but we have to acknowledge that it could.

KING: We've had a Northwest Airlines plane heading for Vermont. They're testing now, right? They found powder on that.

RATHER: It will be interesting to see how that turns out. There has been so many hoaxes that you hold off until something is confirmed.

KING: Do you get up now in the morning, saying, what today?

RATHER: Honestly, no. Larry, I get up in the morning saying to myself, boy, I really intensely want to do good journalism today. I don't find myself saying, it is going to be some terrible event happening today. There is this realization, I hope we all have, that something else could happen at any time. But it is not an hour by hour concern of mine.

KING: Yet we lived through -- one of the most -- the most cataclysmic event in American history was September 11, 2001, right?

RATHER: I think that is correct, yes.

KING: Therefore it will stay with us until we die.

RATHER: Yes.

KING: That moment, that day. RATHER: No question about it. The only reason I paused about the greatest calamity on our soil, our Civil War in the 1860s was a tremendous calamity, but for a one day event, certainly the greatest catastrophe in the history of our country.

KING: So, therefore, do you get -- does that affect the way we cover things? If it is changing society, it is changing airports, it is changing when we look around side to side, has it changed the way we do news?

RATHER: Yes, it has, Larry, and for the better.

KING: Better?

RATHER: For the better. The second that the first airplane hit the World Trade Towers, from that moment up to and including this moment, I think has been one of the great periods for American journalism. Take myself, take CBS news out of it.

But I can't remember a time when there has been so much consistently high quality journalism. The question is whether we can and will sustain it.

KING: As we go to break here is Dan Rather 21 years ago, reporting in Afghanistan. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: I'm standing on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a border that is now closed to most everyone except refugees fleeing the Soviet invasion. These Afghan clothes I'm wearing were part of an operation to sneak me and a CBS News film crew into Afghanistan. The operation succeeded. So far as we can tell we are the only full television crew to get inside Afghanistan in recent months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back with Dan Rather. How long, Dan, they keep saying years, months, they expect this to broaden, expect this to go to Iraq?

What does your news gut tell you from an expectation standpoint?

RATHER: Right now the focus is in and around Afghanistan. I expect that to last quite a while. We know, Larry, that there has been, and I think it continues, a debate within the Bush Administration, that some advisers to President Bush believe that it should be inevitable that we turn to Iraq and finish, as they would put it, what we failed to finish with the Gulf War.

And then there is the other side of that argument which, one side of the argument allegedly supposedly reportedly led by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and assistant Mr. Wolfowitz. The other by Colin Powell. Now whether the cast of characters has been correctly described or not, that debate has gone on.

One side of the debate is, listen, you better confine this, because if you start going into other places, other places that we know -- we don't guess -- that we know have sponsored terrorism, such places as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, and parts of Bekaa Valley, so goes the argument on one side, so many things will be set in motion that we can't possibly be expected to control it, and we don't know where it is going to go, and it is too dangerous.

The other side of the argument is that if you don't move against state sponsored terrorism, if you don't broaden out well beyond Afghanistan, you are kidding yourself about dealing any significant blow to terrorism. So that is where the argument stands. It will be up to President Bush to decide. I don't think he has actually decided yet.

KING: And you can make a good stand for each side, couldn't you?

RATHER: You could make a very strong argument for each side.

KING: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question is for Dan -- well first let me say that both of you have -- are real calm in this storm. And it is very comforting to see you both.

KING: Thank you.

RATHER: Thank you.

CALLER: My question for Dan, do you believe that the media reports entirely too much about our weaknesses, whether it is out military or infrastructure, or anything else that could give our enemies further ammunition to use against us, and anything create more of these hoaxes and different things?

KING: The dilemma of a democracy, Dan.

RATHER: The straight answer, ma'am, is no. I don't believe that. But let me say as a preface to this, that I never want in any way to place in danger a single American life, and work very hard and would do almost anything to prevent that from happening. But the answer to your question is that the -- if we -- if the press, when the press exposes weaknesses, by and large these are weaknesses that our enemies already know.

If reporters and press outfits can run around and find our weaknesses, then you have to believe that those who wish us ill and evil, even know about them, or will find out about them. And bringing the weakness into the sunlight, pouring sunlight to them, brings them to the front where we, the people of the United States, can say, you know, we need to shore that up.

I recognize a lot of people have a different view of it and honest people, decent intending people can differ. But that is my view. And furthermore, even if you took the view that what we shouldn't talk about weaknesses that our country has, that the truth comes out. In a society such as ours, it is not realistic to think, well we can keep all these things from people who wish us evil.

So in a society such as ours, for better or for worse, I happen to think it is for the better. The more we bring things out in the open and discuss them, the better it is for us. Now, things such as troop movements and what are clearly national security matters need to be kept secret. And I don't know of a journalist who isn't prepared to deal to that in a very responsible and patriotic way.

KING: The traditional Al Smith dinner is taking place right now in New York and Dick Cheney is the principal speaker with the president out of the country. Let's hear a little.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... communities throughout the city and New Yorkers have all faith, stepping forward to offer any help that is needed. On his program the other day Tim Russert told America the story of the fire department chaplain, Father Michael Judge, who was killed while giving the last rites...

(APPLAUSE)

... while giving the last rites to a dying rescue worker.

Firefighters carried his body to Hook and Ladder Company 24, where they wrapped him in sheets and sang the prayer from Saint Francis. All Americans have come to see this city as place of bravery, of generosity and grace. America loves New York.

(APPLAUSE)

Time will pass. But our nation will never forget that morning when thousands of innocent unsuspecting human beings were murdered. I doubt there is a man or woman in this room tonight who did not experience a personal loss in the events of September 11. I know there is not a man or woman in this room who does not wait on the day that justice is delivered as it will be...

(APPLAUSE)

KING: That was a moment of Dick Cheney speaking at the traditional Al Smith dinner in New York City.

How is New York doing, Dan? You are a former Texan, current New Yorker.

RATHER: Well, never a former Texan, but I'm a New Yorker, and very proudly so.

New York is doing fine, just fine. I think that is a direct quote from Mayor Giuliani. And it is true. We have problems in New York. We are wounded and we are bleeding. But we are coming back. It will be a long road back. Every New Yorker knows that. But I do think this has brought out the best of New York, certainly the bravest of New York.

And for the first time in my lifetime, Larry, I get a sense that the rest of the country understands that, that for so long, there were efforts made to alienate New Yorkers from the rest of the country. And probably the New Yorkers helped that in no small part. But there has been a new way of thinking about New York, I think, based primarily on the bravery of those firefighters and policemen, to which the vice president -- to whom the vice president just referred.

But New Yorkers are doing just fine. We are going to be all right. We need some help, but we're coming back. And we are going to keep on coming.

KING: This is rather simple. You have traveled extensively abroad. Why, in so many parts of the world, is the United States hated? Eric Hoffer, the famous philosopher, the philosopher who worked in the docks, wrote that: You can't write history of America; in the first paragraph, you have to include the word kindness.

RATHER: Well, I think de Tocqueville also wrote that any person who comes to the United States of America and does not remark on the kindness of its people has missed something very significant about the country.

But to your question. First of all, I think it is important that we understand, Larry, that overwhelmingly around the world, people do admire the United States. And here is the proof, that -- I haven't checked it lately, but until very recently -- and I believe it is still to be true -- there are more people from around the world trying to get into the United States to live here than are trying to get in all other countries combined.

So we need to have some perspective here that a lot of people really respect and admire the United States and they want to come here. Now, for those who hate the country, there a myriad of reasons. But one of them is, they hate us because they are losers. They see us as winners. And those who see themselves as losers sometimes develop a deep and abiding hatred for those they see who are winners.

There is a lot of -- there is some envy from around the world. And, frankly, there are just evil people in some places. And evil can't be explained.

KING: We will go to break, come back with more of Dan Rather, more phone calls.

As we go to break, here's more of the proceedings at the Al Smith dinner in New York, with the vice president at the podium.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHENEY: We have no alternative but to meet the enemy where he dwells. Sometimes...

(APPLAUSE)

CHENEY: Sometimes, that means doing business with people you would not like to have as your next door neighbor. We must and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure the freedom and security of the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have about six minutes remaining with Dan Rather. Let's take another call.

Cleveland, Tennessee, hello. Cleveland, Tennessee, are you there?

CALLER: Yes, sir.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Mr. King...

KING: Yes.

CALLER: ... Mr. Rather, a very good evening to you both.

KING: Hi.

RATHER: Good evening.

CALLER: Mr. Rather, I was wondering what your response is to the way the government has handled the press and the information being dispensed by the government. Are you happy with it? And the second question is: Mr. Cronkite has talked recently about reporters traveling and covering the war in Afghanistan. What are your suggestions on that?

And I will say God bless you and God bless CBS News.

RATHER: Thank you very much.

Well, as to the first, I'm OK with the flow of information so far. But I that say with a smile. You know, no reporter is ever going to be happy, completely happy with the flow of information of the government. And let me say, this reporter is never going to be completely happy about it.

We are in the early stages of this war. And I would say, so far so good. There are any number of things that I wish the government had done differently, particularly when it comes to access to information, the flow of information. A specific example would be, I still don't understand why, when we had what we thought was pretty reliable intelligence on where Mohammed Omar was at the very start of the war, the leader of the Taliban, frankly, why they didn't pull the trigger on him. Now, they have been sort of dancing around that. And I still don't understand it. I wish I knew more about that.

But, it is inevitable that, in a society such as ours, that the press is going to go through some unpopular moments, because, if we are to keep our skepticism, our healthy skepticism intact, and if we are to maintain our independence, we are going to come flesh up against what we always come up against, is that someone will try to stem the flow of information not for reasons of national security, but to cover their backside or for reasons of some partisan, political or ideological agenda.

Now, just as one voice and one who has covered some combat, that what works the best is where the government, from the very top, and the military, adopt an attitude of maximum information consistent with military security. I would like to underscore military security and national security, not someone's partisan, political, or ideological security. That is the best policy.

Now, Walter was talking about -- and I did hear him -- and any time Walter Cronkite speaks, I listen very intently and carefully -- that he has in mind that perhaps we could adopt some of what we had during World War II. I'm not sure that that is practical in the 21st century. But it is certainly worth considering.

KING: And to those people covering the war in Afghanistan, any recommendations?

RATHER: No, they don't need any recommendations from me, Larry. Most of them are a whole lot better than I have ever been or ever will be. They don't...

KING: They are a unique breed, foreign correspondents, are they not?

RATHER: Well, they are. And you take someone -- I'll just pick a name at random: Allen Pizzey. He works for CBS News -- or Christiane Amanpour, who works with CNN. I'm not sure people fully appreciate what a difficult line of work it is that they do, and also a very dangerous line of work.

I would be less than honest to say, in many ways, I wish I were there tonight. But you can't be everywhere at once. And my job right now is to anchor. So I have to take a deep breath and say: Well, maybe later.

KING: We've got about two minutes left, Dan.

This girl -- this assistant comes to work every day, this lady, does she not?

RATHER: She does. And she has been with us (CROSSTALK)

KING: You will see her tomorrow, right?

RATHER: Yes, she has worked every day. She worked today and she will work tomorrow. She has really had a heroic attitude about this, Larry, you know, not heroic on the level of our firemen, policemen and our military people. But her own kind of personal heroism has inspired me, I'll tell you.

KING: This has been a very long day for you. Can you sum it up in a minute-and-a-half; give us your random thoughts?

RATHER: Well, I'm not capable of summing it up. Among the thoughts in my mind are, one, the people who are most afraid are the people in the most danger. And I keep reminding myself of that. Anthrax is not the major danger to us. Fear is.

And I keep reminding myself and I gently want to remind other people that this figures to be a long war. And it may yet be a particularly tough and costly war. We have had it good for a while. We have had it pretty soft for a while. And those who are admonishing us to harden up, toughen up, I think we need to listen to that. And it is true that we need unity. But that is not to say that we shouldn't debate in that very healthy democratic way, what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we are doing it, and to hold people accountable as we go through this war.

KING: Dan may I say it is an honor to know you and to have you as a friend.

KING: Larry, thank you very much. Coming right back at you, pal.

KING: Dan Rather, hope you enjoyed that. Quite a guy. And Reba McEntire is still to come. But, take this moment, we have a sad note to report tonight. Emily Couric, sister of this show's good friend, NBC's Katie Couric died today of pancreatic cancer. She was only 54, a writer- turned- politician, Emily Couric was one of the rising stars of Virginia politics.

She was elected to the state Senate in 1995 and became -- had to drop her bid to be lieutenant governor after being diagnosed with cancer in July of last year. I was lucky enough to meet her several times, spend time at her home as well. She was a terrific lady with a great future. She leaves her husband, renowned cardiologist Dr. George Beller, who has been a guest on this program, and her terrific boys, Ray and Jeff. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the Couric family. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, to close out our show tonight, we have a musical performance each night, the wonderful Reba McEntire, who has a special thought, must have about New York. You wowed them in "Anne Get You Gun." What are feelings about that city now?

REBA MCENTIRE, COUNTRY SINGER: Larry, it broke my heart when I heard the news about the tragedy, because New York City embraced me. And I had such a wonderful time there the six months I was in New York City. And I loved it. It is the warmest, nicest city. And for them to be singled out like this along with Washington, D.C., it just broke my heart.

KING: They loved you in New York.

MCENTIRE: I love them back.

KING: You were in L.A. the morning this happened, September 11?

MCENTIRE: Yes, yes.

KING: Did you watch it on TV?

MCENTIRE: I did. I saw the second airplane hit the building.

KING: You never get it out of you, right?

MCENTIRE: No.

KING: Tell me about this song, "I will be."

MCENTIRE: This song "I'll be" is a song about everyone can understand and feel, especially at this time, what is going on.

KING: Go get 'em, baby.

MCENTIRE: Thanks.

(singing): When darkness falls upon your heart and soul, I'll be the light that shines for you. When you forget how beautiful you are, I'll be there to remind you. When you can't find your way, I will find my way to you. When trouble comes around, I will come to you. I'll be your shoulder when you need someone to lean on, be your shelter when you need someone.

I will be there to carry you, I'll be there, I'll be the rock that will be strong for you, the one that will hold on to you when you feel that rain falling down. And when there is nobody else around, I'll be, I'll be the sun when your heart (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with rain, I'll be the one to chase the rain away.

I'll be your shoulder when you need someone to lean on, be your shelter when you need someone to see you through, I will be there to carry you. I'll be there. I'll be the rock that will be strong for you, the one that will hold on to you when you feel that rain falling down, and when there is nobody else around I'll be, I'll be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE we will have major members of the United States Senate discussing anthrax and other things. And by the way, Saturday Night on "LARRY KING WEEKEND" we are going to have a major discussion about Osama bin Laden featuring journalists who have met him.

When Dan Rather was with us a little earlier, he said the coverage since September 11 has been way above par. The journalism has taken a mighty step forward. One of the reasons for that step is Aaron Brown. He is next with his special report.

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