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CNN TALKBACK LIVE

Free-for-All Friday

Aired January 11, 2002 - 15:04   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.
MAUREEN O'BOYLE, HOST: It's free-for-all Friday.

Today, shaved, chained, and possibly drugged. How far can the military go to control Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in an unprecedented area in terms of the laws of war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BOYLE: Also, are you ready for a 9-11 made-for-TV movie? How about the gay TV channel? It's your chance to chat up the duchess of York, and Ben Stein without his money. Arianna Huffington and Kate Clinton, on TALKBACK LIVE'S free-for-all Friday.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: Wow! Thank you. What an incredible crowd we have here today at TALKBACK LIVE, "America Speaks Out". I'm Maureen O'Boyle.

It is free-for-all Friday, where we tackle the week's most talked about news. I'm very excited about today's celebrity panel. Finally I get to meet Sarah Ferguson, duchess of York. She's with us. We are really thrilled to have you. And I think you are part of the reason why we have such a great turnout today.

SARAH FERGUSON, DUCHESS OF YORK: I don't know. You have done a good job. They are very nice.

O'BOYLE: Very, very happy to have you with us.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

O'BOYLE: Even more beautiful in person than we expected. And we have to, before we go anywhere else, we have got to point out the duchess's belt buckle. And you told me that's vintage? That you got that somewhere in Los Angeles?

FERGUSON: In Los Angeles. But I got it special.

O'BOYLE: The American and the British flag.

FERGUSON: I got this specially for the solidarity between the two countries, you know. I think it's very important.

O'BOYLE: Well, we are happy to have your perspective here today on free-for-all Friday.

Also with us, we have -- as you know, the duchess is the spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, and she's also promoting a new book called "Energy Breakthrough," and the charity that she works with, Children in Crisis, has been doing some amazing work aiding the underground education of girls in Afghanistan. So we'll be happy to hear your perspective on so many of the stories this week.

Also, Arianna Huffington, syndicated columnist, author and chairwoman of the Center for Effective Compassion. Hi, Arianna, nice to see you.

Ben Stein, actor and comedian, the man many of us have laughed at. He's also a prolific writer. He teaches law at Pepperdine University, and is the host of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money."

Also with us, Kate Clinton, a gay political comedienne and author of "Don't Get Me Started."

Well, we are going to get all of you started. Our topic one. They are Taliban, they are al Qaeda and they are U.S. prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Shaved, chained, possibly tranquilized and housed in six by eight cages. Does anybody have a problem with this? Anybody? I heard today on a press conference that we are actually going to be making them meals that are Afghanistan's like favorite meals. Do you have a problem with that, Kate?

KATE CLINTON, POLITICAL COMEDIENNE: No. Not at all. I think that what we are seeing is militarized compassion. You know, what I'm excited about is that we have kind of removed these detainees from the site of war. I think it just must be incredible to keep it organized and keep it humane.

O'BOYLE: But what about the idea of them being chained, that being chained and possibly tranquilized? Is that fair to these people in your opinion?

CLINTON: You know, I can't imagine trying to deal with them. I think that a good seatbelt is good. And if you have had the vegetarian platter on American Airlines, that is enough of a sedation, let me tell you.

O'BOYLE: Ben, what are your feelings about these detainees and how they are being treated?

BEN STEIN, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: These people are international terrorists and murderers, and I think that it's -- they have shown they are very, very dangerous. They pulled a prison revolt that killed an American CIA agent a couple of weeks ago. They are extremely dangerous in any circumstance. They have shown that they like to kill civilians whenever possible. I think by all means tranquilize them and drug them and keep them in chains. I think they are being treated incredibly well, not just to be put up against a wall and shot, considering their behavior.

O'BOYLE: Arianna, why should we care how these people are treated?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you know, I'm particularly amazed by the fact that we seem to care so much that they were tranquilized or sedated. Because we don't seem to care about the fact that six million American children are given Ritalin and Prozac and all sorts of drug to control their behavior, but we care more about the fact that al Qaeda terrorists are on drugs.

O'BOYLE: Well, we could debate the whole issue of Ritalin and all the drugs that are given to teenagers for five shows here at TALKBACK LIVE. But what -- you don't have a problem with them drugging these detainees?

HUFFINGTON: No. I don't have a problem with them being drugged, especially after the behavior at the jail in Afghanistan, when they revolted and killed a CIA agent.

STEIN: I don't think you are going to find that much sympathy for these people. I mean, they really are not very nice people. It's not like they are drugging Lassie. It's not like they are drugging a cute little cocker spaniel. These people are very bad people.

O'BOYLE: Ben, I think the duchess has something to say.

STEIN: I beg your pardon.

FERGUSON: Oh, it's OK. I just think that, are we talking about detainees or prisoners of war?

O'BOYLE: Well, at this point they really are only classified as detainees from the battlefield, really not prisoners of war yet. So the Geneva Convention...

FERGUSON: Yeah, but I think there is something to be said for the Geneva Convention, in 1949. And I think it must be upheld, it really do, even if they are detainees not prisoners of war, I think that they are in captivity, but I know that they have done appalling atrocities, but I still think we ought to uphold the Geneva Convention of 1949.

O'BOYLE: Kate, what do you think about this whole notion of putting them in cages? Is that pushing it too far?

CLINTON: Well, I think that we are expecting a number of detainees, and what's happening at Guantanamo right now is that they are building a larger facility. You know, I think that right now they're keeping them in cages, they're six by eight cages -- you know, I think it's very -- you know, I hope that it's something they are just doing as a temporary measure. The problem for me is that we have not allowed the press to come in, the press has been told to leave. They can't tape. They can't actually watch what is going on, which raises a lot of suspicions.

FERGUSON: Sorry, but then surely if the press aren't allowed in, how do you know they are being detained in these cages?

O'BOYLE: She brings up a very good point. The Red Cross says they are going to be watching out what happens to the treatment of these detainees. How do we in fact know, if the press can't be there, to watch over it and report it to us? Should we be concerned about that at all, Ben?

STEIN: I don't understand why we have any concern about these people at all. I mean, these people are major league scum bag killers. The problem in the world history in the last 40 years has hardly been U.S. mistreatment of prisoners. It's been mistreatment of U.S. prisoners by people with whom the U.S. was engaged in conflict. And we have no doubt that if these people captured our men, they would torture them and kill them.

We are tranquilizing them, free of any kind of prescription charge, and putting them in warm cells and giving them a good three squares a day. I don't think they have much to complain about. And by the way, the Geneva Convention does not apply to captured terrorists. It applies to people captured in uniform in battlefield conditions, who lay down their arms under specified conditions. It doesn't apply to terrorists.

O'BOYLE: Ben, somebody was saying in our meeting that these guys should be grateful because the weather in Cuba is so much better than the weather in Afghanistan right now, so it's not so bad.

We're going to talk more about this...

STEIN: I think the real comparison -- the real comparison is that the weather in hell, which is where they are going.

O'BOYLE: On that note, we'll talk about more about this when TALKBACK LIVE continues after this.

Up next, the Justice Department round-up of illegal immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three hundred and fourteen thousand aliens are in the United States today, having overstayed their visas. They are here illegally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BOYLE: Which ones would you deport first?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BOYLE: Welcome back to our free-for-all Friday. We have an audience member who has something to say about the Taliban and al Qaeda detainees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ben, how would you like if you were treated the way that we are treating those people, violating their divine rights and their rights as human beings? How would you feel if you had been treated that way?

O'BOYLE: David from Georgia is not the only one. Amnesty International says the same thing, that the way they are being treated is inhumane.

STEIN: Well, I tell you what, if I had been part of a group that carried out the bombing of the World Trade Center, killed about 6,000 -- about 3,000 people, left about 10,000 children without parents and I then celebrated and jumped up and down with glee about it, and then the relatives of those people who got killed caught me, I would expect to be shot right away. I wouldn't expect much mercy from them.

I think we are giving them a heck of a lot of mercy, a lot more mercy than they ever gave us, and I think we have very little to be criticized for. And Amnesty International -- Amnesty International...

HUFFINGTON: There are a lot of assumptions. Ben, you are making an awful lot of assumptions. I don't know how you know whether they were part of the September 11 attack. I don't think anybody knows. And if you have some inside information, you should share it with us.

Number two, there's no question that the press should be allowed to be there. I think this problem, not just in terms of the detainees in Cuba but generally, the restriction of the amount of information given to the press is very troubling. That is what happened in Vietnam. And a lot went on behind the scenes that the American public did not know.

And the third point is that if we really treat them inhumanely, and I don't include sedating them as inhumane treatment, but if we really treat them inhumanely, it would be very hard for us to complain when China or other countries that detain American prisoners treat them inhumanely.

O'BOYLE: I think Arianna brings up a good point. How can we really know what is happening to these people, if in fact we don't have the press there to report on what is going on?

STEIN: Well, the press is often not there in military situations. The press is often barred from high security and military operation. And as to whether or not these people were involved in terrorism, I mean, they are detained as members of al Qaeda, the organization that proudly claimed responsibility for blowing up the World Trade Center. So...

O'BOYLE: Do you think these people are guilty until proven innocent, to some degree?

STEIN: It's possible -- I mean, it's possible -- no, I think it's possible that they were captured by mistake. They just happened to be wearing al Qaeda outfits and carrying machine guns, and happened to be with other al Qaeda people in bunkers. I mean, it's possible. I mean, it's possible that Snoopy wandered in there by mistake and they caught him. But it seems very unlikely, and I have a high degree of trust in Mr. Rumsfeld and the people in the military. Maybe it's an excessively high degree of trust, but I have a high degree of trust.

And it's not treating them inhumanely to put them on an airplane and fly them to a prison when they are captured on the field of battle trying to kill Americans. That's not inhumane treatment. Inhumane treatment would be doing to them what they did to the Americans in World Trade Center.

O'BOYLE: I have got a comment from Colby (ph) from Georgia.

COLBY: Yes, I believe that the first and foremost consideration should be the safety of those transporting the prisoners. We have to think of that before we think of the rights of these people.

However, at the same time, the reason that we believe as Americans that we stand out in the face of these people is that we respect the civil rights and liberties of people that we disagree with and even despise. And while I agree with Ben Stein that I don't really have much compassion for these people, I think if we stand out as Americans and say, we are trying to protect peoples' civil rights and liberties, even when they have performed such atrocities, then I think that's also something that we should be striving for.

Maureen: Duchess, how do you respond to that?

FERGUSON: Well, I think after September 11 terrible tragedy I think it actually sort of caused world's unity, where people got together and started communication and talking. I mean, before that, to talk about Afghanistan in this country was very difficult because no one realized really A, where Afghanistan was; and B, that women were walking around with sack cloths on called burkahs and girls weren't educated. And now, suddenly Afghanistan is on the map. So, I...

O'BOYLE: And you believe in some ways this is a blessing in disguise, that there is some sort of silver lining in this awful cloud?

FERGUSON: I think it's very important to see the positive of a very serious negative. Yes, I agree. But I do think -- I believe -- I agree with Colby (ph) completely -- and what's her name? David. I think that people have a right to be listened to.

CLINTON: I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to really show the compassionate conservatism that we have been hearing about. You know, I think that for 2,000 years the violence has escalated, and this is another opportunity for us to show the world, as your viewer there in the audience said, that we have certain standards. And I think we should bring the press in. I think we are lacking lots of basic information.

O'BOYLE: Arianna, do you think that should happen?

HUFFINGTON: Oh, absolutely. I think that very often, if you watch the press conference at the Pentagon, questions that are very serious are being brushed off. I mean, Don Rumsfeld is incredibly charming. He really knows how to play the press and he's become the heartthrob of America. And that's all well and good and he's done a great job in Afghanistan, but that does not give the Pentagon and the defense secretary immunity from investigating what is happening. And the rights of the press and the freedom of the press is one of the fundamental freedoms that we are fighting for.

O'BOYLE: Chris?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Claudine (ph) from Georgia -- Claudine.

CLAUDINE: Yes. I think that by taking some of these extraordinary measures for bringing them out of Afghanistan down to Guantanamo Bay, we may be actually saving some of their lives. These people have no respect for human life, so one of them, if we don't take these measures, may decide to take the plane down and kill everybody. And by taking these measures, we could actually be saving some of their lives, which is the ultimate humanitarian...

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: What is the ratio of people protecting the prisoners to the prisoners? Does anybody know?

O'BOYLE: Well, that's a very good question. I know that the last number of detainees shipped was 20, if anybody up in the booth can tell me if I'm wrong about that. I think...

CLINTON: Right. And how many people are watching them?

O'BOYLE: It's more than two to one, Kate. That's what our researchers upstairs are saying.

CLINTON: Well, I mean, it seems like that, you know -- two large Marines should be able to watch over somebody on a plane. You know, I think that, again, we don't have the press information. We are not allowed in. And I think it's time to open the doors. And I'm very happy that they are taken out from an insane theater of war where nobody knows who belongs to what tribe, if you are a Pashtun. And I think it's important that we are isolating them to talk to them, but there's no reason to stop human compassion.

O'BOYLE: Well, on that note, we're going to take a break from that subject and go to a commercial break and be right back with more of our free-for-all TALKBACK LIVE.

(APPLAUSE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Still ahead, you watched every aching moment unfold before your very eyes. Are you ready for the Hollywood version?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: We have all been asking the question this week: What makes a 15-year-old honor student fly a plane into a building and commit suicide? It was a very strange and tragic story out of Tampa, Florida this week. Was Charles Bishop just a copy cat looking for attention? Investigators are doing what they call a psychological autopsy on Bishop. And they have learned the boy's parents once entered a failed suicide pact when they were just teenagers. His father left when he was a baby. And he had a prescription for Accutane.

But in looking for the different reasons, are we really looking for excuses? We are going to put that question to our free-for-all Friday panel. Arianna, what do you think?

HUFFINGTON: Well, it's very legitimate to be looking at all the complex elements that went into the boy making that terrible decision. But at the same time, it brings up a larger point, which is after September 11, we heard a lot from the president that seemed to divide the world into the evil ones who lived abroad in Afghanistan or the Middle East and the good ones who lived in America.

And we are increasingly seeing that there's a lot of evil and a lot of craziness here at home too. In fact, it's not just the suicide pilot that we are talking about. It's also, you know, the people who sent anthrax through the mail that we now assume are domestic terrorists, and we haven't found them yet. So it really makes us think a little more broadly and a little more realistically about the presence of evil and madness in our midst.

O'BOYLE: But, Arianna, just days after this boy commits suicide, come reports out of a Florida newspaper about his parents entering this suicide pact and planning to kill themselves because they couldn't get their marriage license. Ben, does that really matter? Should we care about what happened in his family history?

STEIN: I think what we should care about is comments like the ones I have been hearing in the last few minutes which are endlessly blaming America and trying to shift the focus away from the fact that we had a massive, historically unique act of terrorism directed against America by foreign people, and somehow making it change to say, well is America treating these people right now after it captures them? That's one thing. I'm really sick of blaming the victim, especially when the victim is America. Second, it is...

HUFFINGTON: It is not really blaming the victim.

STEIN: Well, could I talk, Arianna? I have heard you talk an awful lot and you can talk after I talk.

(LAUGHTER)

There's a -- it's a commonplace of psychology that people who live in families that are suicidal will become suicidal themselves. So I think that's what has happened here. And obviously, it's very sad for the child. I'm a father of a teenage child, and God knows they act out in very whacky ways. It's very sad for them and I think it's a perfectly legitimate quest to find out what were the motivations of this child.

O'BOYLE: Duchess, you are a parent. What do you think about this?

FERGUSON: Maureen, I think that it's very important for parents to really understand when they are bringing up children just that they must be good role models and work really hard to understand what they do on a daily basis, like, you know, whether they are shouting in front of the children or whatever they might be doing. And I as a parent have to be very careful everyday to make sure that I'm bringing my girls up the way that I think is guiding them in the right way.

But I don't think we can blame parents. I mean, it's too easy to blame parents. But I do think it's important that we should really look at how we are bringing up our children.

O'BOYLE: Kate, do you think as a society...

(APPLAUSE)

You make a very good point.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

O'BOYLE: Kate, do you think as a society, that we are to blame for not noticing these kids who are either out of control or desperately needy?

CLINTON: Well, I guess we can't blame anybody. No victims or anything. But, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

O'BOYLE: But, to Ben, we can.

CLINTON: No blaming, please. But I think, you know, -- what it says to me is a lot, sort of, what Arianna says and that is that we are very, very tender psyches right now. You know, I think that my heart goes out to the parents, to the poor child. He sounded like such a loner. Nobody was talking to him. He sounded like the only person he talked to -- he talked to his dog.

You know, and I think that we are -- we have to watch our children. We have to take care of each other because we have suffered a real blow and I think that we can -- you know, here we are at the fourth anniversary, the fourth month. But, you know, there's a lot of really psychic damage that's gone to people. And we have to be good to each other. We have to listen to each other. We have to look out for people who look like they are loners or are having a difficult time.

My heart goes out to them. I just think there are very fragile children in this country anyway. And this kind -- of the war rhetoric, the whole talk that has been going on, it's very difficult for them.

O'BOYLE: Kate, I have got Daniel on the phone from New Jersey.

Daniel?

CALLER: Yes, I'm getting a little bit sick about people saying that we should feel for Charles Bishop or his family. Look, the kid stole an airplane, crashed it into a building with a note praising Osama bin Laden. He's a terrorist, plain and simple.

CLINTON: And you are going down to Guantanamo Bay and do your work down there, take care of them. Yes.

O'BOYLE: Did you hear that, Daniel? I think Kate does not agree with you. You think this is radical, though? He does bring up a point. He did steal a plane. And he was saying that he in some way sympathized, I believe, with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda.

CLINTON: But if he is very -- at all unhinged by an upset, difficult childhood -- all this information that's been pouring out of people. It just makes them snap. My heart goes out to him. I will feel compassion for him.

We have got Amber from Georgia.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BOYLE: One second, Arianna.

Yes.

AMBER: Well, I think the parents may have contributed, because kids, they learn everything from their parents. Even if they don't like the way their parents are in some ways, it still gets picked up because they are with them so much. And I'm not saying that you should blame them at all, because it's such a tragic loss for them. But, still, you know, they should see that they have done something in their past that was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: Well, we really don't know what the parents have or have not done in this case. They have not come forward to talk about it, obviously. But your perspective is, is that the parents have a huge influence on teenagers.

AMBER: Yes.

O'BOYLE: Do you have kids in your school that are looked at as loners? And are those kids, now people look at them even more because of incidents like this?

AMBER: I'm not quite sure.

O'BOYLE: I think, after Columbine -- I did lots of interview with teenagers who said, now the loners are even looked at more, because they stand out, because suddenly we have got these loners who caused such a tragedy.

AMBER: Yes, definitely.

O'BOYLE: Definitely.

OK, Kate, do you have any response to that?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I think that we, in fact, all of us should be on a heightened state of alert, not only about our security, but about being aware of people in our communities, people in our families, people in our churches.

And, again, I'm not blaming people. But I think that we do have to be more aware that this was a really incredible national psychic blow. And some people are going to snap. And we have to be watching for them.

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON: But, Kate, people were snapping before September 11. It's not as if September 11 has caused that psychic damage. And, also, we should be able to hold two contradictory thoughts in our head, at least all out of us except for Ben Stein, who seems to be only able to hold one thought.

But we should be able at one and the same time...

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: Oh, my goodness.

HUFFINGTON: No excuses for Charles and for what he did, and, at the same time, be able to try and understand what brought him to that point. These two things are not impossible to hold at the same time.

O'BOYLE: Duchess, do you have something to say?

FERGUSON: Great role model, Ben.

O'BOYLE: Yes, really. Hello.

STEIN: I can't believe that. I don't think I want to -- why should I be here and be criticized by Arianna? I think my credentials for commenting on this are at least equivalent to hers. And I didn't say anything even slightly as belittling as what she said.

What's the point of a conversation in which there's just belittling, slurring of one another?

(APPLAUSE)

STEIN: If you want to just have a group of dogs barking at each other, just go to the pound and put your microphone there and you'll have a group of dogs barking at each other.

FERGUSON: I just wanted to say... (CROSSTALK)

O'BOYLE: Yes, let's go back to the argument that we are talking about.

FERGUSON: Can I just go back to one thing which I think is very important, is six years ago, children were jumping off the roof of an orphanage in Kabul because they didn't want to live in it. And they had nowhere to go. And it's really important that we get back down to basics. We have got to give children a healthy, happy lifestyle and a way ahead. And we've got to be good role models and we have got to communicate.

And I think that -- I think we are beginning to understand that after September 11.

O'BOYLE: Chris, I think you have somebody in the audience that has a response?

STAFF: Yes, I do, Maureen. This is Robin from Wyoming -- Robin?

ROBIN: I believe that any parent who was to lose a child, that would be the most tragic, terrible, terrible news to ever get. And my heart goes out to his parents and to his school friends and mates. I believe he was just a very confused young man who had an opportunity to make a very dramatic statement in running the plane into the building. And I just feel really bad for him.

I don't know that there's anything we could have done to have prevented him from doing that.

O'BOYLE: It certainly is a tragic story for all of the people involved directly. It's very sad.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: On that note, we are going to take a break. Time to move on to a new subject. Coming up: all gay, all the time, the 24- hour gay channel.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BOYLE: As you know if you have been watching, we have been having a very lively "Free-For-All Friday" today here on TALKBACK LIVE. Ben Stein decided to leave. And we are now moving on.

It has only been four months. And the question is: Are you ready for the 9/11 made-for-TV movie? Hollywood thinks so. And CBS is planning a made-for-TV movie that explores what happened on United Airlines Flight 93, the one that went down in Pennsylvania.

So what is so outrageous to that, to do that movie? Personally, I think it's too early.

Duchess, do you have any feelings about a made-for-TV movie about 9/11?

FERGUSON: Well, if they do do it, I hope the creators keep to very high standards, because the public and the media are going to judge them big time, firstly.

And, secondly, I think that they can maybe, a long way ahead, they can start doing these movies like "The Great Escape" was after World War II or "The Bridge Over the River Kwai," but certainly not now. I think it's very inappropriate. I really do.

O'BOYLE: Having been in the eye of the media, and people writing books and such, do you think they could do ever do it justice and really capture the essence of what happened for those families?

FERGUSON: I think it's outrageous to even think about it. That's my point.

O'BOYLE: What do you think about it, Kate?

CLINTON: Well, in an odd way, I suppose it's the return to normal that we have all been urged to have. You know, Hollywood sees an opportunity to make a movie and they do it. The movie itself will probably be out in 14 months. So there might be a time in between this. But they have to be thinking about it now.

But in an odd, odd way, I really do think that it's like a sign that we are making a comeback. I don't know if I particularly like this project.

O'BOYLE: A comeback? What do you mean a comeback?

CLINTON: Yes.

No, I think from, as we were talking about the psychic damage that we have had -- and I think that the fact that Hollywood...

O'BOYLE: I don't quite get your -- so, by doing this movie, it means we have kind of recovered from the grief and we are moving on?

CLINTON: I think it has always been a way that we deal with information, a way that we transform information and try to understand it. And the arts have been very important in that. And I think that this is an opportunity. And who knows if it's maybe from the Jack Valenti, Hollywood-is-going-to-do-their-part-for-the war thing, but I think it is, again, a sign that we are returning to the way we used to operate. I don't think it's a bad thing.

O'BOYLE: Chris, you've got somebody in the audience.

STAFF: Yes, Maureen. This is Maria, who is from Washington, D.C.

MARIA: I work three miles from the Pentagon. My sister watched the plane go into the Pentagon. It took me six weeks before I could drive by the Pentagon. I'm not ready to watch Hollywood depict it at all. O'BOYLE: How do you guys feel in the audience?

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: Wow.

Arianna?

HUFFINGTON: I think it all depends on the execution. It all depends on how it is done, on the kind of quality that is brought to it. My understanding is that Larry Schiller wants to make that movie for CBS from the point of view of the people on the ground, not in terms of what happened on the airplane, but what happened in the way people on the ground reacted.

So I don't think we should rush to judgment, because it could be a work of art that is very powerful that brings people together, that helps us understand and express our feelings more. Or it could be something in terrible bad taste that should be boycotted. We really don't know.

O'BOYLE: Duchess?

FERGUSON: Well, yes, that's why I say the creators have got to keep to high standards. But I also think that -- my office went down. It was on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center with Cantor Fitzgerald. And I just think -- I really support Maria and her views, that there's a time and a place. Why push it now, you know?

O'BOYLE: I wasn't aware that your office went down.

FERGUSON: We were Chances for Children, our charitable organization.

O'BOYLE: Did you lose people that you...

FERGUSON: We were part of Cantor. So, you know

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: We are all family together.

O'BOYLE: So sorry to hear about that. So many people have been touched by this.

FERGUSON: So that is why I just think you have got to be very sensitive. Yes, like, "Titanic" was a huge success, but that was a disaster at the time. And so I just think we need to wait.

O'BOYLE: Maybe we need maybe a little more time.

We have got someone on the phone.

Caller? Jeremy in California?

CALLER: Yes. Hi. O'BOYLE: Hi. What do you have to say?

CALLER: Well, in regards to the movie, I think definitely it's too early for the movie. But I do have to say that maybe a movie will bring closure to this. I think, again, don't take this the wrong way for those out there listening, because this isn't meant to come across the way. I think that it's time to move on. I think that there are other...

O'BOYLE: Maria is shaking her head in the audience, saying it is not time to move on.

CALLER: I see that.

I think definitely it is, because give these families time to be by themselves. Let them be with their families. Let them have this moment. There's more important things. A perfect example of that is, I was actually -- I'm a big person for helping.

O'BOYLE: Oh, you're saying move on from the subject and not do the movie. Sorry, I missed that.

CALLER: Exactly. Right. And give the family -- give the family time to just have their moment by themselves.

O'BOYLE: Oh, certainly.

CALLER: A movie, I think, is definitely -- it is going to cause too much turmoil. It is going to bring everyone back to the issue. And it's going to keep CNN, it is going to keep all the other news channels turned on to something that we need to turn off. Let's move on here. Give the families -- they're had their time. Let them be with their family. Let everyone try to bring their lives back together.

By bringing the issue up over and over and over again, that does nothing.

O'BOYLE: Many aspects of 9/11 are still unfolding, as we all know. The story is far from over.

But, go ahead, Jamie.

JAMIE: I was going to say the same thing. The way with history, you don't really know what exactly has happened until much later anyway. To do a movie at this point in time, we don't even know all the facts yet. It would be completely -- it's not time. It's not ready. People aren't ready for it. And the facts aren't even all put together.

O'BOYLE: I think Arianna brought up a good point that Lawrence Schiller mentioned earlier this week, that he wants it to be timeline. He doesn't want it to be sort of what happened on the plane. It's more how they responded on the ground prior to.

We have got a comment up there with Chris. STAFF: Yes, this is Noel from Florida -- Noel.

NOEL: Right.

I feel that the families of these victims, we are still going through memorials. They haven't even grieved, the people, of the horrific losses. And I feel there's no way that they could do justice and keep -- to do this properly and to show the respect that needs to be shown for a very long time.

O'BOYLE: Kate, you are one of the only people who has said that you think this is OK. How can we guarantee that this is going to be done with respect?

CLINTON: Well, I think, the fact of the matter is that it could take years to do. But the fact that it's begun, that they have begun to talk about it, and perhaps to make really careful plans about how they are going to shoot it is important.

And, again, in the past, the arts have really -- when it's done well -- has really helped people to cope with their grief. And, again, if people don't want to watch it, they don't have to watch it. That's one of the beautiful things about our democracy. You can choose what you are going to watch and not watch.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BOYLE: We have Seth hot on the line.

Seth?

CALLER: Yes?

O'BOYLE: Go ahead, please.

CALLER: Yes. I'm calling because I wanted to say I think movies are mainly for entertainment, and there's nothing really entertaining about this. We can watch movies to learn about history and to learn about all sorts of things that have happened in our lifetimes. But this isn't really something that we can learn anything from yet. We are still in the midst of all of this. And it would be on one person's perspective, which is not, you know, for any broad audience of any type.

O'BOYLE: The writer has said he wants this to be educational. But my question to our audience is: Do you think that there's anything that we can really learn from this movie? Do you guys think? No? Yes?

OK, Colby, you say yes.

COLBY: When the attacks of September 11 happened, I was out of the country. I was in Turkey at the time. And it was really hard for me to get a lot of the stories that came out about what happened in America, some of the heroes, things that happened on the airline that crashed, the firefighters. And I actually managed to get ahold of a "Newsweek" magazine. And I spent hours crying as I was reading that, learning the stories of things that had happened to people, what had gone on, the heroes that had emerged from it. And I think that, if done in taste -- and that is, as Duchess Ferguson said, the most important aspect -- if it is done in good taste, then some of these stories could be brought out to the general public that might have missed them during the news coverage.

And if people aren't ready to watch it, they don't have to watch it. They can watch it down the line if they want to. But some people are ready for that now.

O'BOYLE: I have a question for Arianna.

Do you think that the producers of this should share -- thank you for that comment, Colby -- should share any of the profits that they make on this movie with the victims or the families of the victims?

HUFFINGTON: I think that would be great.

O'BOYLE: People in the audience are saying all of the profits.

HUFFINGTON: I certainly hope they would do that. I think that would be great. Then there would be absolutely no accusation that anybody was profiting from the disaster. And if they do that, then they could really concentrate, without any fear that they will be condemned, on the stories of the people on the ground.

I think those are some very important stories. "The New York Times" has been doing these profiles of the people who lost their lives and their families. And it has been one of the most moving things that has happened since September 11.

O'BOYLE: Yes, incredible.

HUFFINGTON: So, in that same way, to learn about the people left behind, not just the heroes on the airplane, could be beautifully done. And, as Kate has been saying, art has always been used to help with the process of grieving, not to replace it, but to assist us in it. And if the element of profit is taken away, that will be even more helpful.

O'BOYLE: What do you think about the concept of the element of profit being taken away? Should the producers just kind of surrender the money they make on this and give it...

FERGUSON: Well, Maureen, I'm sorry. I'm sticking to my original views. It's too early, too soon. And if they do do it, definitely the money should go to support the victims. I'm just not going to budge on that, I'm afraid.

O'BOYLE: David?

DAVID: Yes. They make movies for profit. And if the movie is in bad taste, don't go see it. They will learn their lesson. And next time, they won't make movies like that.

O'BOYLE: Stand up. We have got Kala (ph) here.

KALA: I think that they should do a movie, but not this early. Like "Pearl Harbor, it was a good movie. But I don't think they should do it right now -- maybe later.

O'BOYLE: Yes, I think that's the general feel of this audience, certainly.

Arianna, you wanted to say something?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I think we may all be surprised. After all, Larry Schiller is an Emmy award-winning producer. He's done a lot of really good things. So let's at least reserve judgment, especially since, because of the freedoms that exist in this country, there's nothing we can do about it. We cannot stop Larry Schiller, mercifully, from making his movie.

O'BOYLE: Kate said earlier that if you don't want to watch it, you can just click. I'm curious with audience members.

Cathy, do you think you would watch a movie about this any time soon?

CATHY: No, I'm not going to watch it.

O'BOYLE: You're not going to watch it?

CATHY: No. No way.

O'BOYLE: So many times people have said that in the past about many of these made-for-TV movies. And they in fact garner really high ratings. And I wonder if we say that now, but then...

CATHY: I'm not going to.

O'BOYLE: Give me a round of applause if you are not going to watch this movie.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: Yes, we do have all kinds of freedom in this country, including using our clicker to turn something off.

Thank you very much for that comment, Arianna. When we come back -- we're going to take a break and we're going to talk about a different kind of story about the media. We are going to talk about an all-gay channel and whether or not you think it should exist right here in America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BOYLE: Welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE. Is there room on your TV remote for an all-gay, all-the-time entertainment channel? MTV and Showtime think that the time is ripe. A joint venture is in the works.

Kate, you are gay. What do you think?

I go right to you because you are the gay lady, right?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BOYLE: What do you think?

CLINTON: We can't go to Ben.

I am -- just on a historic perspective, that this is even being discussed, that it is a possibility is very exciting to me. We have done a lot of political work. We have done a lot of cultural work. And the fact that we would even be talking about MTV and Showtime backing a gay channel is extraordinary progress for a gay American like myself, a gay taxpaying American who loves her country.

O'BOYLE: Arianna, what do you think? Should we have a gay channel? Does it matter? Do we need it?

HUFFINGTON: Well, here is one instance where, truly, unless you want to watch it, you will not subscribe. Remember, it is going to be a subscription service like HBO or Showtime. It would be cheaper. Apparently, it would be about $5 to $6.

But, nevertheless, it's not just a matter of clicking or not clicking on your remote. You actually have to pay money and become a subscriber. So, truly, it's a nonissue.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BOYLE: Kids aren't going to just turn it on and suddenly stumble upon a gay channel, if that's an argument from parents.

HUFFINGTON: Exactly. You really have to subscribe.

And, on top of it, you have the fact that, I believe, it's not just going to be about gay issues, because gay people care about everything. They don't just care about gay issues, in the same way when you have Oxygen, which is a channel dedicated to women, you don't just talk about women's issues. You talk about everything. So when we talk about a channel that is addressing itself to a particular niche audience, we must remember that that audience is also human beings who care about everything.

CLINTON: And I am available for the late night talk show. I just want to put there out there.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BOYLE: You want to go ahead put in your resume.

CLINTON: I want to do it. And I want to call it "Satellite Dish." It would be fun.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BOYLE: Go ahead, Samantha.

SAMANTHA: I don't really see a problem with it. Everybody has their own freedom of expression. And it's your choice whether you want to put it on the channel and watch it.

O'BOYLE: Well, certainly, yes. If you are going to have to pay, it's not going to be just a regular cable channel. It will actually be a pay-per-view.

I have a question for you, Duchess. In England, there's the show "Queer As Folk" that was sort of the -- it has been here I don't know how many years. Does any know how many years that has been on?

CLINTON: Second year. It's in the second year.

O'BOYLE: It's in the second year. Very popular over there.

Do you think that would fly in England if there was an all-gay channel?

FERGUSON: Well, I think they are beginning to wake up a bit and following the American lead. Britain are coming fast behind America on this. I think that Britain needs to talk more about these sort of issues, like emotions. Normally, the word sex and all that sort of thing is not mentioned. But I think it's kind of creeping up now.

But I think it's very important what Kate said in the last break, when she said the beautiful thing about America is its democracy and its freedom to be able to put on what you need to put on. And I think this is very important if there should be a 24-hour gay network.

O'BOYLE: And we have the freedom to disagree.

Don, you are in New York and you disagree, I understand.

CALLER: Yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BOYLE: What is it?

CALLER: I think it's just a little bit out of control. I don't think it should be promoted. I think it's doing a lot more damage than we are really thinking about. And I don't believe -- I think we are carrying the freedom thing a little bit too far. That's why we got into this, this situation.

O'BOYLE: Now, why do you think it's carrying it too far? If we have all sorts of heterosexual storylines on soap operas and prime- time soap operas, what's the problem with a gay romantic storyline of some sort?

CALLER: I just don't believe that this whole thing is going with the gay community is -- I think it's getting a little out of control. I think it's causing more damage than...

O'BOYLE: Kate, I have to say. Kate, in some way, are we segregating gay people by giving them their own channel? I would imagine that you would almost want to fight for gay programming on regular channels.

CLINTON: Well, we have been fighting for gay programming on regular channels. And there have been wonderful shows, but they're very underfunded. The fact that Showtime and MTV would want to put money in it is wonderful.

I think that one of the incredible effects of September 11 was actually that we got to see how gay people fought to take down one of the hijackers, how they were incredible -- they are incredible firefighters. I think what we see is that gay people are in lives.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: What? Is somebody talking? Hello?

O'BOYLE: Yes, who is -- were you saying -- oh, go ahead, Duchess.

FERGUSON: No, it just was interesting as to why it's so extraordinary that gay -- it should be astounding to everyone that gay people would take down hijackers and think that. What's the difference between gay people and anybody else?

(APPLAUSE)

O'BOYLE: When a heterosexual firefighter or rescuer does something, do we mention in the story, "Oh, by the way, he was a heterosexual firefighter"? Does it matter what he does after he's a firefighter?

FERGUSON: For heaven's sake, just get on with it. We haven't got much time in our lives. Life is important. Today is important. Why are we making -- why are we putting such a big thing onto it?

O'BOYLE: Thank you so much for that comment. But, you know what, Kate, I know you have something that you want to say. Kate, you had something else you wanted to say, off the gay-TV channel topic.

CLINTON: No, I can't even remember anymore.

O'BOYLE: I thought had you a comment that you wanted to make to the duchess over your Weight Watchers weight loss.

CLINTON: Oh my gosh, I have lost 15 pounds in counting points. I love you so much. Thank you.

FERGUSON: Oh, Kate. Maybe we should do a show together.

CLINTON: I would love to.

O'BOYLE: That's a good idea. You can have her as your first guest on your gay talk show.

FERGUSON: I would be delighted. Thank you.

O'BOYLE: Everybody, thank you so much for coming. This has been a fabulous week for me. The "Free-For-All" today was especially fun.

Thank you to the duchess of York. Thank you to Kate, Arianna, and to all of you at home -- especially my thanks to the staff here at TALKBACK LIVE at CNN. They were so much fun to work with. And I made a lot of new friends. And I really appreciate this time here.

We will be back here on Monday, of course, at 3:00.

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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