CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Don Imus on the Events After September 11
Aired November 17, 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: For the first time since the attack on America, a very special hour with the one-and-only I-man, Don Imus on the war against terrorism, the spirit of America and a lot more. All next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
We have a very special guest for you tonight on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. He's one of my favorite people, and he's one of the great broadcast personalities ever. He's Don Imus, the host of "Imus in the Morning," which is simulcast on a wide variety of radio stations, and on MSNBC. And he comes to us from his now-famous ranch in Ribera, New Mexico.
We have lots to talk about. And of course we're going to concentrate on what happened since September 11.
Don, where were you that morning?
DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I was on the air on the radio, and on TV.
KING: And what happened -- How did they break in? How did you learn?
IMUS: You know the sportscaster Warner Wolf?
KING: Sure, very well.
IMUS: He works on our show, too.
KING: I know, I watch him all the time.
IMUS: OK. Well, he lives about two or three or four blocks from where the World Trade Center was. And he called and he told us what had happened; that his wife had seen the first plane go into the first building. And so by that time there were television pictures available of it, and so I had a monitor right in front of me. So I saw the first building on fire, and -- but we already knew. And we had a suspicion, just based on a report from Warner Wolf, that it was a plane that -- you know, a lot of people thought it was an explosion. A number of people thought it was a fire.
My voice is kind of rough today, Larry.
Anyway, so we didn't know really what it was. We thought it was, you know -- it's not that we doubted Warner's word, but I mean, you couldn't conceive -- I know his wife heard this airplane, and it was flying pretty low over that part of Manhattan, but she didn't actually see it fly into the building.
So I guess in those initial moments, you know, Charles McCord, who I work with, we thought -- and we had the monitor on and we thought it was a fire, and we reported it as such. And then, however many more minutes it was later, the horror of -- and you know, we actually saw it live -- a plane flying into the building. I mean, it was -- you couldn't put -- I can't put it into words now.
KING: Did you know right away this is obviously an -- with the second plane -- an attacks on us?
IMUS: Well, you know, no, I mean, no I didn't. I mean, I don't know what I thought. I was just -- I was horrified. I didn't know what I thought. I knew it -- I mean, it couldn't be two planes flying into those buildings and be an accident. A moron could figure that out. But I didn't know what I thought.
KING: So how did you describe it to the radio? I guess television must have cut away at this point to cover as news. How did you describe it to the radio listener?
IMUS: Well we let Warner do a lot of it because he was really an eyewitness, right there, and the could see more, actually, than what television was showing. But I mean, I described it as what it was, you know: An airplane had flown into the building. And we didn't know -- I didn't speculate as to whether it was, you know, Mideast terrorists or anything else; or didn't speculate that it was an accident. We said we didn't know.
But then we began to get reports and so on. But boy, Warner was -- man, he was remarkable because he was on -- well, we stayed on the air on the radio until 2:00 that afternoon because the station that I work at in New York is -- the home base station is primarily a sports station. So I stayed on until 2:00 that afternoon. And we simply reported the news, you know. And of course as you know, as the morning wore on and the day wore on, we all learned more and more about it.
KING: In your wildest dreams, or in the past when you've done interviews with so many people, as you've done, did you ever think of this kind of scenario?
IMUS: No. I mean, I had thought that the possibility existed of an accident, but never a deliberate, you know, attempt to fly or -- you know, never deliberately flying an airplane into the World Trade Center. I mean, you just couldn't conceive of that. I mean, I guess Tom Clancy or some of these other people -- Stephen Cannell or somebody.
KING: And you're a -- New York is an adopted city to you. How did that make you will feel about where you live?
IMUS: Well, you know, I mean, I live right in Manhattan and... KING: I know.
IMUS: And we also have a place in Connecticut. And on the 11th we couldn't -- because as I said, I stayed on the air until 2:00 that afternoon. But my wife thought it was because of just -- we didn't know, thought it might not be a horrible idea to go to Connecticut. And so for a while you couldn't get out of the city, you know. So later on that afternoon, later in the evening, we did go up to Connecticut. And we stayed there, and I continued to work, you know, and commuted for about a week.
And then we got to thinking about, and we thought hey, you know, we're New Yorkers. And we've been there -- I mean, I've been there 30 years, and my wife was raised in Connecticut and lived in New York for 10 years, you know. And we thought, we're New Yorkers, we should live in New York. I mean, we have an apartment in New York, we should be in it.
And so we went back to the apartment, and we've been there ever since. I mean, we go to Connecticut on the weekends, but...
KING: Now I know that your boy Wyatt -- he's what? 3 now, or over three?
IMUS: About 3 1/2.
KING: He doesn't watch television.
IMUS: No -- he watches the news.
KING: So he knows about this?
KING: How have you explained to it him?
IMUS: Well, just that, you know. These idiots -- these terrorists flew an airplane into the World Trade Center, killed 6,000 people.
KING: How has it affected him?
IMUS: Well, he's 3 1/2, he doesn't really have a concept of what death means or what all of that means. But, I mean, we don't talk to him like he's a baby, so I didn't say, you know, a bad man got into an airplane and threw it into it. We don't talk to him like that.
So, I mean, I told him what happened. So, he walks in and he says, what's George Bush going to about it? I said, a lot, you know.
KING: Do you worry about yourself and your family -- anthrax, other related things, living in the city you live in, personal worry?
IMUS: Oh, absolutely. You know, it's just -- but I don't know what you can do about it. You know, you can -- you know, we live right across the street from Central Park. I mean, you can go over there at 10:00 at night -- well, not so much anymore, with Giuliani the mayor -- but, I mean, you used to walk across the street over there, you get -- I guess you could still get mugged in Central Park. But I mean -- you know, you're a New Yorker, it's dangerous anyplace.
I mean, I'm out here in New Mexico, there's bears on the ranch. I mean, you know -- I mean it's just dangerous every place. But, I mean it's more dangerous, obviously, and you feel it more in New York City, particularly since half the cab drivers are wearing turbans.
KING: How do you react when the government officials say, as they constantly do, be on guard, watch out, be normal?
IMUS: Well, I mean it's -- I know they're just covering their ass, I mean, that's stupid. I mean, it's not stupid, but I mean, I guess they got to tell us. But, I mean we have the worst intelligence community on the planet. And you know, they -- I mean you know how the CIA knew the Berlin Wall came down? They saw it on CNN.
I mean, so you know -- but I understand why they're doing it. And I like John Ashcroft and some of the -- and Ridge and some of those other folks. But, what do you mean...
KING: If your faith in intelligence is so low, that would -- would one think that you're very, very pessimistic?
IMUS: Well, I don't know. You know, I talk to everybody, as you have. But I tell you who I think is probably right about all of this is Tom Friedman from the "New York Times" who perhaps knows more about the Mideast than anybody. And I suspect -- he suspects that this is probably a group of nuts from a few crazy countries, maybe a couple, and that, you know, once we demonstrate to people like Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network and a few others, I think it will go a long way toward, you know, making it a society or a civilization that not only will exist, but we can function in, you know.
KING: Our guest is Don Imus, the host of "Imus in the Morning." This is LARRY KING WEEKEND; don't go away.
KING: We're back with the I-man. He's coming to us from his ranch in Ribera, New Mexico; the ranch that helps so many kids afflicted with cancer and other diseases as well. And he's been on this program many times from there to talk about it.
Your show, of course, has a great deal of humor in addition to a lot of serious stuff, with very important people. Have you reduced the humor factor?
IMUS: Well, we did for the first month, yes. I mean, nobody thought -- nobody wanted to hear -- I mean I just based it on how I felt about things, and discussed it with Bernard and Charles and the people that work on the program. And it was just our sense that, particularly when what we do is topical humor -- what we think is topical humor -- and you know, we make fun of -- I mean, it was the same thing that the people on "Saturday Night Live" went through, trying to make a decision about whether to make fun of George Bush or whatever.
By the way, I thought that first show that "Saturday Night Live" did when they came back, particularly their news segment with Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon was one of the best television programs I've ever seen in my life, in terms of what Lorne Michaels -- I don't know him, and there's no reason for me to patronize him -- but I thought the way they handled that in terms of having to deal with humor in that kind of a program, and it's 90 minutes and having to sound and look funny, I thought that was remarkable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR (impersonating George W. Bush): Good evening, America. I'd like to address my remarks tonight to Mr. Osama bin Laden.
Buddy, you screwed up big time.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FERRELL: Guess what amigo? I'm coming to get you. I'm not alone either. The American people are right behind me. You see, you made a big mistake; if you had any brains you would have challenged me to a game of Scrabble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IMUS: And I -- and that was kind of a benchmark for us to, you know, that show of "Saturday Night Live" -- to start to get into, you know, doing political humor again. And people will sort of -- people kind of let you know if they're ready for it and so on, you know.
KING: Couldn't agree with you more, by the way, about that "Saturday Night Live."
Do you -- how do you make decisions on touching other bases, when this story is so overwhelming on two fronts, domestic and international?
IMUS: What do you mean exactly?
KING: It's like you're doing a program; do you leave the subject much?
IMUS: Well, probably not a lot, no. I mean, we do a little bit, you know. It's -- we try to keep it in some sort of perspective. I mean -- now, we're simulcast on MSNBC, which is -- they're obsessed with -- as I guess all the other cable news networks -- with this 24 coverage...
IMUS: ... of this situation, which is what people who watch those cable news networks want to see. And so it's a constant battle -- it's not a battle between us and them, but I have 100 radio stations I have to deal with, and you do get the feeling -- I do, that a lot of these radio stations, particularly if they're not in New York City, don't want to be overwhelmed with constant coverage of every minute detail about what's going on with this war on terrorism. I mean, I just don't think it is.
KING: We're going to touch a lot of other bases with the I-man. What's your read on the progress of the war itself? Are you surprised at, apparently, this lightning pace?
IMUS: Well, I mean, I'm certainly not qualified to make any observations about any of that. I guess -- I mean, I talked to Norman Schwarzkopf this morning, and he was more interested in -- because I had said that the difference between Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks was that the reason we didn't kill Saddam Hussein was because Norman Schwarzkopf was too busy making book deals and doing interviews.
And so Norman -- so General Schwarzkopf called to discuss that with me. But he seemed to think it was going -- he seemed to think -- Schwarzkopf seemed to thing they were handling -- they were doing it perfectly. And, you know, the administration and General Franks and these other people had to endure some criticism, not just from liberal columnists, but from people even from like John McCain and others who were whining after three or four weeks that they ought to have ground troops in there when, in fact, apparently they knew what they were doing.
You know, either that or they lucked out. But I'm only surprised at what happened based on what we were led to believe was going to happen by people who were pessimistic about our efforts, you know.
KING: Do you have any thoughts about fighting during a holiday like Ramadan, which is not, of course, a holiday celebrated in the Christian world, but is the major holiday in that world?
IMUS: Well, there's a whole history of them fighting during Ramadan and, you know, attacks on Israel during -- no, I don't have any -- you know, they shouldn't have started this. They're worried about -- we should drop more bombs during this rama-lama-ding-dong or whatever it is.
KING: Don, it's not a rama-lama-ding-dong!
IMUS: Well whatever it's called. My position is, I mean, I know it sounds awful, but we should kill them all.
IMUS: We should kill all of them. And the problem is -- you know, when I see people on television like Phil Donahue or some of these other people, and they have a noble idea; and that is it would be great if everybody in the world could love one another and we could all get along. And no sane person would disagree with that goal, or that philosophy.
But the truth is, that's not going to happen with these people. They already killed 6,000 of us, they want to kill the other 300 million. There's no way to reason with them. You can't reason with them. You're not going to be able to sit down and have some bigelow (ph) tea or whatever they drink and reason with them. It's just not going happen. So the next best thing to do is kill them.
KING: But what do you do though, Don, with -- you know, they have children over there, and those children are innocent, and civilians not involved in this are innocent. And we've got a lot of power. Isn't that -- you know, there's a lot of responsibility goes with being strong.
IMUS: Well, you know, nobody wants to see children and women get killed. I mean, so -- it would be -- ideally, we would like to just kill the people responsible for this. So when I say kill them all, that's what I mean; I don't mean kill the women and children. Nobody wants to kill women and children. But I mean, it's a war.
KING: Do you fear the biological attacks or do you think, in a sense, that they are thus far the work of an American kook?
IMUS: Boy, I don't know. I mean, I think -- just my own gut instinct, just-- and I wouldn't know. I obviously have no basis for having any idea, or any facts, but it sounds like some Unabomber-type nut, you know. Remember, it took 18 years to catch him, by the way...
KING: I know.
IMUS: ... because the effort wasn't what it was -- what it is in this particular instance.
But yes, I'm worried about it a lot because I don't think they're prepared. I mean, by their own admission the government is not prepared for all this. And you know, I'm not confident -- and Sharon (ph) says -- from somebody like Tommy Thompson, who really wanted to be the secretary of transportation. And you know -- I mean it was clear that was just some kind of political payoff. And they figured, well, we'll put Tommy over at -- where can we put Tommy? He wants to be transportation? No, we can't he do that, had his license suspended, or whatever the reason was. So they put him over at HHS, and now look what happened. You'll notice you don't hear much from him anymore, because it's a nightmare zone.
Well now we have Governor Ridge, who's a little better. You know, but -- you even had the guy from the Centers for Disease Control saying, well, you know, when this anthrax thing first broke he said, we -- the people at the post office, that was a disgrace unto itself. But the people at the post office, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) died from this down in Washington. He said, well -- and this is the guy from the Centers for Disease Control -- he said, well, we didn't think you'd have to open the envelope. Well, I mean, they're supposed to think of that kind of stuff. It's the Centers for Disease Control. I mean, you know, if you just thought about anthrax at all -- we've got a rock group named anthrax been around for 10 years. I mean, somebody's heard about anthrax.
KING: By the way, do you open your mail?
IMUS: Yes. You mean the mail that comes to the radio station?
IMUS: No, we have a separate room, and we have a regular procedure now that CBS -- part of Viacom, actually, that we instituted to open our mail.
But what I did in my office, even before Tom Brokaw got the letter, before any of these people got a letter, I had the people in my office go out and get rubber gloves and those little face masks to open the mail because it just seemed to me that that was a potential. So, before anything had happened.
KING: We'll be right back with more of the I-man. He's coming from his ranch. He's the only guest tonight.
By the way, the president of American Airlines will be our guest on Monday night. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with one of my favorite people, the I-man. He's coming to us from Ribera, New Mexico, the home of the I-man Ranch. We'll talk a little about that later on.
We've got a new airline security bill. Does that give you some comfort, even though I know you fly private.
IMUS: We fly out of Teterboro in New York City. And -- which is essentially a corporate jet aircraft facility. And the security there is like nothing I've ever seen anywhere. You used to be able to drive in in your car and pull right up to the plane and get on the plane.
KING: You can't do that now.
IMUS: Now, thank God what they do, they have it all blocked off. You pull in there, they unload your car and they go through everything, and then you put it in a van. They make you -- and they know me as well as they know people who work there, and they still make you show your ID which is, by the way, fine with me.
So my only thinking is that rather than -- I mean Teterboro instituted this security system themselves, and people like Richard Santulli and those folks at Executive Jet also. But my thinking was that they shouldn't worry so much about people on corporate aircraft, people flying private jets. They should worry about the public flying on commercial airliners out of these commercial airports. It's disgraceful the way that they -- that the security is handled, not just because of September 11, but the way it's been handled for years.
And the way -- obviously you're going to have the president of American Airlines on Monday night. You ought to jump ugly with him because they were -- they've been hassling commercial passengers for years and treating them awful and, you know, canceling their seats and making them wait hours for no reason. You know, so people didn't have a great deal of confidence in the airlines anyway. So on top of this -- and then it's entirely the airlines -- entirely the airlines' fault for hiring unqualified people, paying them no money and not being willing to either take the time or to incur the expense to look at the bags (UNINTELLIGIBLE) putting on these airliners, and to look at the people.
I mean we had -- the other day we had that moron there in Chicago, gets on a plane with seven knives and a stun gun, a rocket launcher in his briefcase and a handful of grenades, whatever it was, it's crazy.
KING: Do you feel better now that most airports will be under federal control?
IMUS: Well when, though?
KING: I guess they've got to phase it in.
IMUS: Yes, not for this Thanksgiving, not for Christmas. No, I mean, it's going to take a year or two. So -- I mean, I guess it may get a little bit better in the next, I don't know, in the next few months. But I mean, I cannot -- it's not going get better this weekend, for sure.
KING: You do not fly commercial, so you don't face this. Would you fly commercial?
IMUS: You know, I guess I would, yes. I mean, I would certainly -- yes, I'd fly commercial, yes.
KING: But you're not happy, certainly, with the way things have been. By the way, the airlines' answer has been: We shouldn't have to pay for this, the government should have to pay for this security. They've set up the security, we're having a tough time making profits, how can we pay for all this?
IMUS: Well, I mean, I don't know enough about that to discuss it intelligently, but -- or to discuss anything else intelligently, as you may noticed...
KING: But you do have opinions.
IMUS: But I got stop whining, you know.
They got treat people better and stop whining. And, you know, one of the things that we have thought about is that we fly kids, a lot of them from back East. All summer we fly them out to the ranch and back to New York from the ranch. So -- and it's -- you know, I mean, it's not all about us, but I do wonder if a lot of these parents who are reluctant to let kids who already have cancer or some blood disorder or whatever I mean, a lot of them don't like the idea, or are nervous about letting them come out to a cattle ranch in New Mexico with mountain lions.
As I demonstrated, you can get hurt getting bucked off a horse. So they were nervous about that to start with, before September 11, and we have no idea how they're going to feel about putting kids on airplanes. Maybe things will be better; maybe the security will be better by this summer.
KING: It's a cause for concern, though...
IMUS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you put a kid on an airplane you don't know -- they've already got cancer; they're already going through a situation. It's not a camp where they're just going to play soccer and, you know, listen to -- whatever else they do.
KING: How about the city of New York and this incredible spirit? I emceed the dinner for Rudi Giuliani the other night, and the crowd is just enormously buoyed and up. Are you surprised at that -- at the grit of the city?
IMUS: No. I've lived here for 30 years, as I said. And you perhaps know this, Larry, you were born there in Brooklyn, and raised.
No, it's a great city, and I'm not surprised at all. So -- and I always thought -- you know, people, it's always fashionable not to like New Yorkers because they're arrogant, and not to like the Yankees, for example -- talking about baseball because of -- well, I guess because they won so much, except this last time. But I wasn't surprised at all, you know.
KING: What's your assessment of how President Bush has handled himself, and are you surprised?
IMUS: Well, I think he's been remarkable. But in talking to people like, you know, Michael Beschloss and Doris Kearns Goodwin and other people who study the lives of all of our presidents, you know our history is replete with examples of, you know -- Harry Truman, you could just start there and go back -- good presidents who have risen to the occasion. And in other instances as well.
So, you know, he doesn't have a great facility to read a teleprompter. I mean, I've talked about this before. But half the people who work on CNN and MSNBC can't read a teleprompter either, you know. So -- I mean, but it is held against him, you know. And he -- I mean -- and he doesn't have -- you know, he doesn't have a great command of the language. But a lot of people don't, including me.
So I'm not -- and, you know, I have a lot of friends who are either from Texas or live in Texas, and so they all -- nobody ever thought he was a moron you know, but I think he's been remarkable. And as to whether I'm surprised, not really, no.
KING: Our guest is Imus; Don Imus. Still more to come, and lots to talk about with the king of morning radio, simulcast as well as on MSNBC. This is LARRY KING WEEKEND. We will be right back.
KING: We are back on LARRY KING WEEKEND with Don Imus. What's your assessment of a figure now known the world over, Rudy Giuliani? IMUS: Well, I mean, I don't ever knew -- I don't know that if any of us in New York City knew that he had the ability to -- to articulate the problem that we all faced on September 11 as well as he did, and to manage the potential for hysteria as well as he did, just by -- just by his rhetoric, you know. I think it's almost a genetic thing. For a while, I thought they had stuck my kid in here, Larry, so.
KING: I remember the last time he was stuck.
IMUS: He was naked the last time.
KING: I remember that, yes.
IMUS: But I -- you know, I actually I talked to him about it and we had him on the program -- I don't know him very well at all other than having him on the program -- but I really do think it's just a genetic thing with this guy. I mean, he's obviously a smart guy and he knows -- and he what to say, but I do think it's his manner. I think another person could say almost the same thing, and we either wouldn't believe them or it wouldn't sound the same, or -- but, you know, I think he's just uniquely suited for this time and almost as much as the president is, you know.
KING: In other words, whatever it is, he has it?
IMUS: I think so. Do you want to come here, honey? Want to come sit on daddy's lap? No? You don't? What's the matter? You don't want to be on TV?
KING: What does he want?
IMUS: Well, you don't have to.
KING: Back to attention, attention forward. Don, the show.
IMUS: I'm here.
KING: OK. The media has come under some scrutiny about network's decision to comply with a White House request to not air Taliban statements in their entirety. Do you want to hear fully from Osama bin Laden? Do you think he should be edited, not carried at all? What are your thoughts?
IMUS: Well, I don't know. I think -- I think part of that was probably a mistake, and I think it was an overreaction, but then I don't know enough about it. I mean, maybe our intelligence community, maybe Rumsfeld or somebody maybe they know that there's some kind of signal being -- that he's sending by these appearances, and that this was the only way that they could -- well, they did say that, but this was the only way that they could -- so I don't know. But I mean, I always think it's better just to see something than not see it, so.
KING: There's other things to talk about, and we will get to them right after this.
KING: We're back with the I-man from his ranch in Ribera, New Mexico. And speaking of that, Don, I know the current edition of "Architectural Digest" has a major spread on the ranch and of you and everybody involved with it, and I must ask you because I was pained last week when I read that Howard Stern had said on the air and it was printed in the "New York Post" that somehow you had used the money given by others to build your own house, and we always like to give you the chance when anybody is attacked that way to respond internationally. So what are your comments?
IMUS: It's all true. I knew they would catch us and I knew it was a horrible mistake, and I tried to tell Dierdre and Fred, I said, don't let "Architectural Digest" come out here, because they are going to take pictures of this house and then they will see, and they're not going to take pictures of this other estate that we built with our money up in Westport, so we are just going get into all this trouble, so.
KING: So you're confessing? All right. What's the real story, Don? What happened?
IMUS: Well, I don't know what -- I think he was kidding, Larry. I don't think. I mean.
KING: The paper didn't treat it that way.
IMUS: Well, we built what I said we were going to build. We built the main ranch house. I think there was some misunderstanding on his part. That's where the kids live. That's when they come out here, that's where they live, you know, so.
KING: Were you shocked when you heard it and read it?
IMUS: No. Of course not. I think, I mean -- I think he should use it as instructional and try to get his dirtbag listeners to give him $25 or $30 million and he can build his own ranch, and could, I don't know, they could spank lesbians, they could humiliate drunken dwarfs, they could have strippers.
KING: Because I've known you a long time, and I don't know anyone -- I've said this personally with you and away from you, more generous than you, more giving than you. I've never heard you ever do anything in a way that one would question your -- just the way you are. And so, I was personally hurt as a friend.
IMUS: Well, that's nice of you, but I wasn't hurt. We did what we said we were going to do, and everybody knows that. I mean, it's been on television for a few years. We built a Bonanza-like ranch house for all of the kids to live in, which is where they live when they come out here, and their bedroom is right next to our bedroom. And is it nice? Of course, it's nice, but I mean, I spent $50 million building an estate in Westport, Connecticut, which is about what the buildings cost to build here, so you can -- you can build some pretty nice stuff at New Mexico prices. But I mean, the whole idea, and particularly for my wife who designed and decorated the entire ranch, the idea was to make it as nice as we possibly could, you know. An enormous amount of the stuff, beginning with the Steinway pianos and all that stuff was donated, but we wanted to create for these dying children a beautiful place for them to come, to work, to learn how to be little cowboys and cowgirls. And you know, I could have taken people's money and built crummy cabins for the kids to live in, but that's not what I did.
You know, we built -- but the main house is constructed as almost like a dormitory. I mean it houses all of the kids, the child life specialists, me and my wife Dierdre, and occasionally doctors and nurses if they're not living down here in the town, so, you know, it is a community kitchen, it's a community living room.
KING: So it just rolled off your back. Was Dierdre bothered by it?
IMUS: No, she thought it was amusing. I mean, I'm still not quite clear. Was the accusation that Stern thought that I had built the house for myself?
KING: Yeah, he said that pretty much -- and the kids were working it pretty much basically for you.
IMUS: Well, I mean, you can't take that kind of stuff seriously.
KING: But they printed it seriously, and that's why I reacted. I don't listen to him, so I didn't hear him say it.
IMUS: Yeah, I know. It's in the "New York Post," I mean, you can't -- I mean, it's still, you know, it's not a big deal. It doesn't mean much. It doesn't mean anything so, it's a world class facility that is changing the lives of, you know, about 100 kids a year, and over the years it will wind up being thousands of kids, and I mean it's a remarkable facility.
KING: And you ought to be proud to be in "Architectural Digest."
IMUS: Why would I -- why would I -- I mean, why would I allow "Architectural Digest" to come out and photograph this place and put it on the cover of their magazine if we hadn't done what we said we were going to do? So I mean, he just wasn't aware of what we were doing, and so I think he was kind of shocked that it turned out.
I think when people heard that I was going to build a ranch, people didn't pay much attention. Some people probably thought, you know, it was going to be, you know, an old crummy-looking ranch house with a couple log cabins, but it's not that, you know. It's a gorgeous, world class place.
KING: Did you think of maybe writing him to correct him?
IMUS: No. No.
KING: You wouldn't want to like set the record straight? IMUS: Well, why would I have to do that?
KING: I don't know, I'm just asking.
IMUS: No, of course not. It's -- no, it's a silly criticism. I mean, you're making way too much of it, Larry.
KING: I'm just telling you, it hurt me.
IMUS: Well, get over it. Suck it up. It's Howard Stern. I mean, nobody cares.
KING: OK. Back to -- how has all of this affected, or if it has affected, or changed you personally, September 11 and since?
IMUS: Well, you know, I've asked everybody who I've talked to -- not everybody but a lot of people that I questioned -- and I've never thought about, you know, nobody has ever asked me until now, and I don't know that I've thought about it a lot, other than the profound sadness for the hideously unnecessary deaths of all of these innocent people, particularly those folks -- well, not particularly -- but all of the people in the World Trade Center, the people in those airplanes, people in the Pentagon.
I mean, it's just the horror of what all of those people went through, and the remarkable courage and bravery of, well, first of all, the people on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, but also the people who were working there at the World Trade Center who were -- who were above where the planes had gone in, and who knew that they weren't going to make it out of there, some of those telephone calls that they made to their wives, loved ones and the like were remarkable displays of courage.
And the, just the unfairness of all of it. I mean, you understand when people -- I guess you understand when people die in accidents, you understand when people die in wars. You understand, sort of, when people die of natural tragedies, whether it's fires or tornadoes or hurricanes or whatever. But in this, it's inexplicable in this particular obviously premeditated act of terror, and where people are purposefully murdered.
Just trying to sort of deal with that is -- but then, you know, I'm so much not part of the story, other than just living in New York, so the people who you really have empathy and sympathy and compassion for are the people who were directly affected by it.
KING: How about the thought that we will all never be the same, that a plane accident becomes the fear of terrorism, if a train, God forbid, derailed tomorrow, the first thing we are going think is terrorism. It's changed this?
IMUS: Oh, it's changed civilization. And I think that's absolutely right. I don't think people will be the same. I know none of us will. And when the American Airlines airbus crashed in Rockaway, in Queens the other day, I mean, I was -- by the way, I was on the air talking with Tom Ridge, the director of homeland security, at the time the news broke. In fact, I told him what had happened, and he got off the phone. I said, "maybe you ought to get off -- maybe you should get off the phone," which he obviously wanted to do and go to check this out. And so he did, and I haven't talked to him since.
But that's what we all thought. And many of us I think still think that the potential exists there was some sort of -- I mean, I guess they sort of ruled out terror, I mean, I'm not sure.
KING: Do you worry about the world Wyatt is going to grow up in?
IMUS: Well, it's not going to be the world we grew up.
IMUS: I don't know if worry is the right word, but I certainly am concerned. I do think that, as I said earlier, I mean, I'm not confident that this -- that there are these organized terrorists at the level of apparently al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden spread throughout the world. I think there are nutty people in a lot of countries throughout the world who would do awful things, and we've seen that demonstrated for, well, thousands of years, but I think that.
Are there people who are capable of funding and organizing and carrying out the kind of act that was carried out on September 11, I sort of subscribe to what I said earlier about Tom Friedman I think -- I think I probably believe there are those people like Osama bin Laden and that group, and housed in a few -- couple, two or three crazy countries, and I think once we deal with them, that it will go a long way toward curtailing the possibility of it happening again.
But I think it will always be the potential. But I mean, look at the people in much of Europe and in the Mideast and in Israel who have been living with the threat of terrorism for years. So, Israel has since the time of its existence, so you know, and I think, you know, this is the first time obviously it happened to us on our soil, so we are going to live like much of the rest of the world now, looking over our shoulder.
KING: We will be back with our remaining moments with Don Imus on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND right after this.
KING: We're back with the I-man. We've asked about Wyatt and you. How has Dierdre dealt with all this?
IMUS: Well, actually pretty well. You know, she just formed a center over at the Hackensack University Hospital, a pediatric center to study environmental oncology, and so she's, you know, up to speed on elements of the environment with respect to how they contribute to various cancers, which they contribute -- incidentally, in the 90 percent of the cancers that people contract.
But she was concerned early on, and I remember even on the 11th, she was concerned about whether there -- whether -- for some sort of chemical attack, and whether they had loaded chemicals on those airplanes. So that's her primary concern, but I mean, she's not a -- you know, she's not a sissy, so -- but I -- but she's -- but she's dramatically concerned about the threat of, you know, either more anthrax or some sort of smallpox outbreak. But, you know, we really all don't know that much about it.
KING: And does that frustrate you that we don't seem to get the answers we'd like? That we don't seem to know enough?
IMUS: Well, I think, I think, you know, it's hideous to describe it as such, so I won't. But I do think that on September 11 that everybody became much more serious about what needs to be done in and out of the government, and so -- and so I think, you know, from that standpoint, I'm not frustrated -- am I frustrated that we don't know more? Well, sure, everybody is, I think, but I do think there will be a more concentrated serious effort made to get answers, you know.
KING: Does it bother you that we, all of us, the collective media neglected things like discussions on terrorism or discussions about things that didn't happen on our soil that we were involved in -- Lewinsky and Condit -- and neglected items with much greater priority?
IMUS: Well, it was -- we were just coming off 10 years of, you know, a booming stock market, a booming economy, you know, a playboy in the White House, you know, and I don't think you can blame anybody, really. But you know, it was a frivolous period in our history, and so I mean -- we've all -- I mean, the study that Warren Rudman did. I mean, I'm sure you talked about it.
KING: Of course.
IMUS: I mean, you know, it wasn't that we all hadn't been warned about -- I mean, Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a book back in 1995. I talked to him, you know, and so I mean, we've all known about it.
KING: So why didn't we listen?
IMUS: Well, I guess you'd have to ask the heads of these news organizations. I mean, it just wasn't sexy, it wasn't interesting, people weren't interested in it, and nobody I guess -- few people took it that seriously, and you know, so, I mean, I don't have any answers, Larry. You're asking me hard questions.
KING: There may be no more important writer in America than Thomas Friedman in the "New York Times," and you never heard him discussed much prior to September 11.
KING: I mean, he'd written a successful book, but basically Thomas Friedman was not as known a name as he is now, and people are talking more in discussion groups, did you read Thomas Friedman today.
IMUS: Well, I don't know. I mean, I don't even know how important it is to determine who did what or why. I mean, I think we all learned a great lesson. I think particularly people of enormous influence like Tom Friedman and others in and out of government learned an important lesson, and one would hope they don't make the same mistake, you know, and we don't get comfortable when things settle down if they do.
The dust settles, you know, and they kill enough of these people to put a stop to some of this, why, you know, I was concerned about this new airline security bill that in two or three years, or whatever it is, they'll give the airports, the airlines the options of going back to hiring, you know, private security forces and paying them $6 an hour, or whatever, which is a huge mistake, so.
KING: A couple of other things. The I-man's own future. You're 60 years old now. You just signed a new contract, right?
KING: For how long?
IMUS: Five years.
KING: Are you thinking about down the read of leaving broadcasting?
IMUS: Well, before we thought of this ranch, the ranch then just changed the real course of our lives, you know, because it requires such an enormous amount of time -- and because it's a working cattle ranch, it requires year-round attention. You know, you have the cattle here, the horses are here, the sheep are here, the buffalo are here. There are 30 horses here that have to be taken care of all year, have to be trained, have to be ridden, so it's a full-time responsibility.
And what I find amusing sometimes is people talk about my building as a retirement home, when the retirement home we built was up in Westport, and we had to build that because we bought that property and started that process about a month before we all thought of the idea for this ranch. So I have thought about coming out here. It would make it easier just to...
KING: Live there.
IMUS: To live here and run the ranch, but you know, then we have an apartment in New York City, we have this huge estate in Westport. I mean, what do you do with that?
KING: Hey, Don, best of luck to you. Continued good fortune. You're a terrific person.
IMUS: Happy birthday, by the way.
KING: Thank you. Monday, yes.
The I-man, Don Imus, from New Mexico, we thank you very much.
Times like this tend to bring people together. Tonight's closing music number is "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers. It's from Columbia Records "God Bless America" album. A substantial portion of the proceeds, by the way, from the sale of that album go to the Twin Towers Fund. Listen to this. Watch what we play with it. Thanks for watching the show, and good night from New York.
(MUSIC, "LEAN ON ME")
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