CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Diane Sawyer
Aired February 26, 2002 - 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, Diane Sawyer of ABC News. How far will she go to get a story? How about all the way to Afghanistan. That and more, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Later on, our panel will assemble to discuss last night's very interesting hour with Congressman Gary Condit. But we'll spend the bulk of the first half of this program with Diane Sawyer, the co- anchor of ABC News "Good Morning America." Sawyer has done a special report on Afghanistan that it will air Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "Primetime Thursday." It follows up the one she filed in 1996, during which she traveled to Kabul looking at women's lives under Taliban rule. Give me a little history, here, what took you there in the first place?
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Well, we went there just months after the Taliban came in. And we simply wanted to get a sense of the place which seemed so anarchic at the time. When we got there, several things happened, we were able to -- I think -- be among the first to go in and chart what was happening to the women; being shut out of the schools, the women doctors being taken out of the hospital. In fact, the finest surgeon in the country would only let us film her hands.
And believe it or not, we found those hands. We went back and found those hands again. But the real, for me, the drama in our story was a group of women who came in and said, we don't care that the Taliban are threatening our lives, we're going to take off our veils for you, because we want everybody in America to hear us say, you've got to help us. You've got to save us. You've got to do something for us. They did it, they put the veils back down. They went back into the darkness and we had no idea what had happened to them.
And every time I saw one of those pictures of a woman being beaten I thought, is that one of our women? Well, we went back and sure enough, we started tracking them down. And we were able to find them, all of them. And tell you what happened in their lives and the price they paid for bravery.
KING: Back to '96. Were you surprised at what you saw?
SAWYER: I was stunned. I was stunned, first of all, to see all these young guys coming in from the countryside in what had once been a very cosmopolitan place, Kabul. And they came in and there they were, uneducated, menacing, threatening every woman they saw. Pulling my scarf down, threatening me, not sure who I was, but sure that something was dangerous here, with their shoulder-carried missiles. And you had a sense of danger around every corner. And of course, they'd just been -- they just carried the dead body of the former president through the streets after hanging him with malicious glee.
So anything could happen around any corner. And I was most of all shocked how quickly they moved to put a cage down around all of these women who had once -- well, they were 40 percent of the workers in the government. And suddenly they were swept aside and put in darkness.
KING: Were you a little amazed that they do this under the guise of religious beliefs?
SAWYER: Well, yes, particularly since as we know, a number of people who do study the Koran say there's no basis in the Koran for what they were doing. But at the time I interviewed one of the Taliban, the spokesman for the Taliban, he was so contemptuous. He was so bored by my little questions about women, and whether women should be educated or not. And you just see this dripping with disregard that he had for women. And there you saw that it was some eerie combination of, I think, an attempt to control, an absolute attempt to control, and something that had little to do with the real Muslim world at all.
KING: Tell me what we'll see Thursday night. First, what was it like to go back?
SAWYER: Well, it was simultaneously worrying, because as we know the warlords are once again rattling their sabers out in the country. And it's going to take a massive amount of wisdom in order to keep this country stable through all of this. But for me, tracing the women, searching for them, looking for them, going back to the places I went to before. I went into the marketplace where suddenly there was laughter again, there was music again. I was able to go to a school where these little girls had come -- school isn't even open and they had walked a mile in the snow in their little thin sweaters, they had no covering at all. In order to take out tattered pages, they didn't even have books, because they wanted to get there early, just in case there was someone there to teach them.
And I think the funniest thing of all, I saw a picture of Kate Winslet up on the wall, a poster of Kate Winslet. I went up to these guys, and I said, you don't know who this is. Who are you kidding here? They all said "Titanic," my heart will go on, my heart will go on. And it turns out they'd been hiding this video, some of them in animal pens and some in food storage areas in order to take it out and sneak it around. So "Titanic" lives over there.
But we found the women and some of our worst fears were confirmed. Some of them were beaten, some of them had to flee the country. And I think the most moving of all, and you'll see him Thursday night, is the driver. This is a man with six children, no money. They pulled him in and for 21 days beat him to try to get the names of the women who had talked to me. And he would not give them up. And that kind of, I guess, honor was amazing.
KING: When you saw the documentary "Beneath the Veil," your original was called "Behind the Veil," right?
SAWYER: I think it was, yes. Our first title was "Behind the Veil."
KING: And then they did "Beneath the Veil." And now this is just "Primetime Thursday," right? Doesn't have a name or does it?
SAWYER: This is "Back to the Land Where the Veil Once Ruled," yes.
KING: So nothing I guess in "Beneath the Veil" shocked you?
SAWYER: No. We had seen it. We had known it was coming. The women told us already and this was just months into the Taliban rule that every place they walked, women were being beaten. And the clubs would come out and they'd whack their knees, and that the slightest infraction actually risked death. So we knew it was coming.
KING: In a minute we'll talk to Diane about how she found these people. Lots of other things to talk to. She's with us during the first half of this program. And this is LARRY KING LIVE. And we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAWYER (voice-over): Five and a half years ago, I saw life from under the burqa, taking my camera to film secretly wherever I went. Certainly, impossible to work here, according to women we've talked to. But this time:
(on camera): So it is really is an amazingly different place. I can't get over just the vitality of this marketplace alone.
KING: All this airs on ABC's "Primetime Thursday," Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. You found the moral, how did you do that?
SAWYER: Oh, it was a process of asking, asking, asking. One of them had fled to Europe and we had to track her down there. And it was just getting the trust of each person who would give us the next name, and then the next name. You know, I was looking at myself in that clip of the burqa again. And, of course, I thought I was so cool. I thought, you're an investigative reporter, operating in Afghanistan. And in fact I didn't know it was against the law to do what I was doing.
What you don't see is how many times I walked into walls in the burqa. So I think I'm the perfect Afghan woman, nobody can spot me, and meanwhile I'm banging my head on posts and walking into walls and falling off of curbs. Those are really, really dangerous things.
KING: Did Mike Nichols offer any thoughts on your not going?
SAWYER: Mike Nichols was a little anxious. He was a little anxious.
But you know, I -- I don't know -- I'm flattered when he is. I sort of like it when he is.
KING: Is reporting reporting, or is this kind of reporting, as -- the Daniel Pearls are the classic example -- different?
SAWYER: Oh, we know this is different. This is different. Everybody knows when you are talking about life and death matters.
And we looked at the pictures of the women being beaten and we said, well, that's somebody else's mother, that's a foreigner, right? That's somebody else's sister or wife.
But when you know that these are women who actually did something brave for you and you can't find them, you can't go to them because even to attempt might put them in greater danger, everything changes. And you remember that this is what we were born to do. And I think it's what people want from us.
We have all this power in that we're television. We have this immense power, and all of this money in network television. And what is it for, if not to use it for purposes like that?
KING: By the way, Diane, where were you on the morning of the 11th? Were you on the air?
SAWYER: I was on the air, yes. I was on the air. We were getting ready to sign off, Charlie and I. And in our ear, they say those words, "hold on a second." And then the next thing they say, it appears a plane may have crashed into the World Trade Center.
And we did exactly what everybody in the country did, I think, watching it. You entered this state of sort of consecutive denials. And you think, well, it must have been a tragic accident by an amateur pilot. And then you see the next plane coming, and you think, well, that must be a fire retardant plane. No, no, that must be a plane coming to help.
And it takes a long time to compute that this is the thing we have never seen before. And we had a wonderful reporter, Don Dahler on the air from the scene itself. And he said, this is the sound of shrieking like a missile. This is like a plane being used as a missile.
And we knew; we knew.
KING: What was it doing to you, Diane, internally?
SAWYER: I think in that instance, as everybody in the country felt, you reorder everything in the world. You see that you're standing at a place where history was there, and this is who we will be now. And this is the job we now have to do.
And then I went down to Ground Zero, and -- almost immediately in the afternoon and broadcast through the night from down at Ground Zero. And hiking in, making my way in to Ground Zero, where you still had the plumes of fire coming up and people falling down in holes because you couldn't see where you were. It was completely white and dust-covered.
And seeing all these papers -- and I'll never forget it -- all of these papers that had flown out of the building, and picking them up. And I think I even said on the air once, these must have been so important to somebody yesterday.
And that's the consequence that changes everything.
KING: And it changed us forever, didn't it?
SAWYER: I think it did in -- probably not in the ways that we thought initially it would. I think for a while we actually all thought that maybe some laughter had died. I think we thought for a minute, well, this is going to mute this irrepressible American spirit that we all have.
I think we now know that the irrepressible American spirit and the laughter can still thrive, while we all still remember that there are forces in the world that are enormous and dangerous and, because of who we are, they are in large measure ours to deal with.
KING: Do you live with a kind of fear, or has that died down?
SAWYER: You know, I don't. And the people who have a right to that are the people whose lives were directly affected, who lost loved ones.
And I know you interviewed Lisa Beamer, and so did I. And I look at her and I think, just watch her with those children, telling those children that life is still good. That's what she's going to tell them every single day.
KING: She's amazing.
SAWYER: Yes. They're the ones who have a right to that. Ours is simply to make sure that we're doing the most we can.
KING: What's your read on the Daniel Pearl story?
SAWYER: Just like you: absolute horror. Complete horror. And the more we hear...
KING: You've been over there; what are they attempting to prove? I mean, what is -- what do you think their thinking is?
SAWYER: I think one of the most frightening things is we don't know. We don't know. And part of this new world of completely improvisational terrorism is that to the extent that there were codes of war, the Lord Mountbatten kind of codes of war that disintegrated in the face of terrorism.
Even within terrorism we now discover that there are factions who operate at a level of savagery where you can't even begin to understand it. And maybe they don't even care if you understand it, or understand them and their purpose. And it does seem, to that extent, a kind of pure evil.
KING: We'll take another break and come back with more of Diane Sawyer. Here's another scene from what you'll be seeing Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on "Primetime Thursday."
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAWYER (voice-over): And we wondered about the women who had haunted us so long. For five years hearing nothing. After months of searching for them, trying to find them, and after the fall of the Taliban, once again, our cameras in position, and the door opened.
Five and a half years later, they walked into the room like prisoners seeing light again.
(on camera): We are so glad to find you. We wondered, we worried, we had no idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is going to be an extraordinary special on Thursday night. Going back, right Diane -- what a feeling that must be.
SAWYER: It was. It was. Flying in, same mountains, same terrain, same beautiful people, and the completely -- well, hope changes everything, doesn't it?
All right, let's touch some other bases, media and otherwise. A lot of talk last week -- I'm interested to hear from you, you do an interview with Rosie O'Donnell, apparently her first interview about her book. Now I understand it's part of a two-hour special, it's not just an interview with her. And Barbara Walters goes on the view the next day to say that Rosie has -- pretty much saying Rosie is gay, et cetera. Was that an inner fight between -- give me the story, Diane.
SAWYER: Let's see, Larry. You actually waited -- how many minutes did you wait for this?
KING: Well, you're here to talk about the special, but I would be -- you would ask me if I were bopping heads with, you know, whoever.
SAWYER: I know, I'm just laughing at you because the last time I was on, we did this too. And you're not here, I can't throw anything at you.
Would somebody throw something at this man, please?
KING: You did hit me with something. What did you -- you threw something. SAWYER: I think -- yes, I recall what it was. As I recall, it was toilet tissue because you had given it to me.
KING: Correct. Toilet tissue.
SAWYER: Right, because I asked for a Kleenex and it was the only thing you had in house at this fine establishment, as I recall.
KING: OK, what's the story?
SAWYER: Look, every now and then, as we know, we bump into each other, Barbara and I do, on something just because she's talking on "The View" and I'm doing another interview. And as everybody knows and everybody has read about, she apologized and she said this is not the axis of evil, OK? And we keep saying, we work like 20 feet from each other, 20 feet from each other. We see each other every day, practically all the time. And we laugh and we have a great time and that's all this is, honest to goodness.
KING: Were you ticked that she mentioned it? Did it bother you or nothing?
SAWYER: No. You know, there is a policy at ABC News and we all try to follow the policy and sometimes things happen. And the first thing she did was apologize to me. And God knows I understand. And I think what we're going to be doing with this two hours is so important, so important and I hope it will be provocative and really thoughtful, really thoughtful, because we want to make it as smart as we can possibly make it so that people at home can really consider a lot of issues with us. And that stands on its own. And Barbara is so respectful of it and I am of her.
KING: And that airs on March 14?
SAWYER: March 14, right.
KING: And Rosie is one of the guests. So, it's not just a promotion for her book?
SAWYER: No, no, no. In fact, I'm going to be talking to her later on about the book. This is something else altogether and I want her to be able to talk to you for the first time. I'm not going to tell you what she's going to say. I think she has a right to say this for the first time.
KING: How do you deal with it on those moments when two high profile people are chasing the same person? How does the company deal with it? I guess every major company deals with this. They don't just have one talent. How do you deal with it if you're both going after the same person?
SAWYER: Have you ever seen the World Wrestling Federation?
(LAUGHTER) Does Smackdown mean anything to you? No, really, I can't say this enough and Barbara and I are sort of worn out from saying it because every single time anything comes up, we end up having to chase this, chase this, chase this. We really like each other. We really laugh a lot.
KING: No, I mean, how do you do it, modus -- all right, I'll give you an example out of thin blue air. You call Prince Charles. She calls Prince Charles. And he says I'm going to do one interview in America. No, I'm going to do two. I'm going to do Larry King on cable and I'm going to do a network interview with either Diane or Barbara, right? And you're both pitching him. What's the rule?
SAWYER: The rule is if he says, I'd like to do Diane, I'd like to do Barbara, the other one says, hey, he says he wants to do you or he just said he wants to do me. And then the other one says great, great, more power to you and goes on to something else. That's our rule. And it really works well, no kidding. It really works well. For instance, if you and Connie, let's say, Larry, are going after the same thing.
KING: I assume that will be worked out, yes.
SAWYER: Right, you will have the similar kind of thing.
KING: Did you have it with her, too?
SAWYER: We have this policy at ABC News and it really does work well. It is great because we don't want to be -- we each make calls, but neither of us wants to be up there in some sort of contest with the other one. We're on the same team.
KING: Are you in a -- are we back now into tabloidism again? We left it for a long while after September 11. Is it back? Are we going to have the Ramseys on again?
SAWYER: You know, I feel that it's still a very different world and that the proportions, it seems to me, and we all hope they hold, but that the proportions now are so much more, I guess, just so much more appropriate for the material than they once were. Where you might have something that was just sort of wall-to-wall carpeting on all the cable shows and all of the networks, I don't feel that yet anymore. And I don't know if you do, but I sure don't. I still feel that we're discussing whether on cable shows or on individual shows a lot of issues and far more in proportion to their importance to people than we used to.
KING: Is it harder for you when the story hits home? I know how friendly you were with the JFK group when he died. Was that the toughest kind of thing?
SAWYER: Well, yes. It's extremely tough, but again that makes it about me. I think -- I think the toughest kind of thing is when you see somebody in mortal pain and you can't do anything about it. And, yes, I mean, does it mean you have to go on the air? And you know as well as I do that you go on the air and you want your -- you want to say exactly what you want to say in the tone of voice you want to say it, but you're not sure you're in control of your tone of voice sometimes and you're not sure whether you're reaching people at the level at which they're thinking about something or at the level at which your heart is hurting. And...
KING: It ain't easy.
SAWYER: ... you sort of want to make sure you know the difference.
KING: We have one more segment left with Diane Sawyer. As we go to break, here is a scene from, and then we'll ask her why this show is doing so much better. Here is a clip from "Good Morning America". Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? I feel very romantic right now...
CHARLES GIBSON, CO-HOST: I do too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... in my shirt.
GIBSON: I sort of feel it come over me. There is something.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if it's the fabric.
GIBSON: Of course, Mike's shirts are a little gamy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he was directing in this one, I think.
SAWYER: I don't know. I feel different about the two of you. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I just want to say even while I was tracking that piece that's recording, that piece this morning, Tony Perkins is standing where I could see him going...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As we return with Diane Sawyer, we see her carrying the Olympic torch in her home state of Kentucky. I had the honor of doing the same in my adopted state of California. Isn't that one of the big thrills?
SAWYER: It is. It is. You try not to look so goofy and giddy because you are so thrilled to be there.
KING: Did you save your torch? Did you buy your torch?
SAWYER: Yes, I sure did. But we all have a similar expression, right, sophisticates that we are. And we all look like, I can't believe I'm doing this.
KING: It's a great moment. Why is "Good Morning America" -- well, we could say -- can you take a step back. Why are you doing so much better?
SAWYER: Well, we're having a great time. Who knows how to read the great mind of America, but we hope that people are tuning in because they think we're thoughtful and we're fun. And we really are having a great time morning after morning. You know, the team -- it does sometimes take a little while for a team simply to know everything everybody else on the team is thinking. And we've been there for a long time. And I think it's showing, hope so.
KING: I remember when you came back, you were on this program and the guess was max a year. Max? You were stepping in to help out the network.
KING: Max, the maximum amount of time...
SAWYER: Oh, maximum.
KING: Like not you and Max. We never broke that story.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE). How long has it been now? How long have you been back?
SAWYER: It's been three years. It's been three years. Yes, don't invite us over to spend the night ever, because we may never leave.
KING: Are you staying?
SAWYER: Yes. We're staying, we're having a great time. We don't even talk about it anymore. We really don't. We have so many exciting stories to do.
We just got back from England, where we did the queen's jubilee. We got to launch the queen's jubilee ourselves. We've got the Oscars coming up. We're going to be going out and doing that. And in the meantime we also have some great reporting going on. You know, we have this truly muscular team of reporters on "GMA."
So no, we love it. We're having an awfully good time. And we don't sit around every -- believe it or not -- every afternoon and say, OK, tomorrow are we still here? We just don't. We're here.
KING: What about the early hour of getting up? That doesn't get to you at all?
SAWYER: It doesn't get to me. I'm not tired. I don't know what it is. I suppose I'm going to have to submit myself to the Smithsonian for experiments or something.
I'm not tired. And every day, on the days you come in and you feel -- you know, you feel like you need about six jolts of caffeine to get going, you open that folder and here's a hilarious story -- we had it on the other day -- of the 9-year-old kid who delivers his mother's baby with the 911 call on the other end of the phone.
And the 911 operator says to him, now clean out the stuff in the baby's mouth. And he says, "Will she bite?" And all you need are one or two of those. This hilarious, sweet kid; and you're just so glad you got up in the morning.
KING: All right. Thursday night at 10:00 when we see "Primetime Thursday," we should come away feeling what?
SAWYER: I hope you'll come away thinking, my goodness, these people who stand nothing to gain from it put their whole lives at risk to try to plead for help. And what they went through and what they suffered kind of ennobles us all. I hope you'll think that.
KING: Was it emotionally uplifting for you?
SAWYER: It really was. And you know, I left six years ago, as I say, with them in their burqas receding into the darkness. This time I left and one of them said to me, do you have an e-mail address? Let me give you mine. And then she said, we've been waiting for you. Come back.
Hey, love my job.
KING: How the world has changed.
Couple of other things: What's your husband's next film or project?
SAWYER: He's doing "Angels in America" for HBO. Six parts for HBO.
KING: The play?
SAWYER: Yes, he is. So that's foreseeable future here.
KING: Now, there's a strong play about gay Americans.
SAWYER: It is. It is. It's a great play. And as we know, it really -- it rocked Broadway. It really brought people into the theater who had never come before. It's such a strong and important play.
KING: Has our whole attitude, do you think -- is it changing toward gays?
SAWYER: You know, I think it certainly does. I don't know how much is trackable by polls exactly, because I'm not sure people are ever completely comfortable sometimes telling pollsters what they do and don't think. And I think it's in some measure generational, as we see it.
But I think it is. And I think you certainly see it sometimes when you talk to young people about some of these issues and they look at you and go, huh? That's an issue?
So you realize there have been some shifts in this country. And one of the things we're going to be talking about in the two hours, the laws in this country about adoption and foster care are so various and state-to-state-to-state-to-state. And as we know, there are more than 100,000 kids who are eligible for adoption in the foster care system.
And the question is, who is a parent? Who is a fit parent? Who is a right parent? Who would the kids say is a parent they would like to have? And we hope to be very provocative.
KING: A couple of other quick things. Will that show take a stand?
SAWYER: No. I'm not in that business. I'm in the business of asking the toughest questions I can possibly ask, and of all sides, of both sides, and letting the people listening make up their minds we hope, based on fact, based on weight of argument. And also, I think, just based not on prejudice or not in any direction, but simply on standing back and taking a look at this and saying, well, if I were that child, if I were that parent, if I were that person, what would I do and what would I want done?
I think those are always the best broadcasts.
KING: And finally: Do you treat the Academy Awards as fun or reportage?
SAWYER: I treat them as sheer fun in all possible directions. I am your dishiest Academy Awards reporter. Don't come to me if you want lofty thoughts, OK. I'm going for the clothes, I'm going for how Russell Crowe looked at me.
KING: Stop that.
SAWYER: Yes, behave. I'll behave.
KING: Diane, Diane, Diane. Well, you got nothing to throw at me. Thanks very much.
KING: Always good seeing you, dear.
SAWYER: Yes, hope to see you in the person.
KING: Yes, next time in the person.
And don't forget, Thursday night on "Primetime Thursday" Diane Sawyer goes back to Afghanistan.
And before we meet our panel to talk about Gary Condit, here is a clip, again, from that show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAWYER (voice-over): As we begin the search for our women from long ago, we drop in on another woman you saw back in Washington, seated in a place of honor near First Lady Laura Bush during the president's State of the Union address.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sima Samar.
SAWYER: A proud symbol at the Capitol. But there's a reality back home. Six weeks into the new regime, Sima Samar, the high-level government minister for women, still has no office and no staff. And a towering task: giving women back hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The No. 1 topic on talk radio today in America was Gary Condit's appearance on this program last night. We're going to talk about it now with: In New York, Nancy Grace, the anchor for "Trial Heat" on Court TV and former prosecutor.
In Washington, D.C., Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, as well, and a regular commentator on the judicial scene on CNN.
In Washington is Julian Epstein, the former chief Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee.
And also in Washington, Michael Zeldin, former federal prosecutor, former independent counsel.
First, overview. Nancy, what did you make of the Condit interview?
NANCY GRACE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, it looked like the Connie Chung interview, except that he smiled the whole way through it. And also I noticed that he kept breaking into stuttering and stammering.
But Larry, one thing I noticed when you were asking him a particular issue, he evaded it throughout, and he seemed to blame everyone but himself. It was the media's fault, it was the Levys' fault, it was the aunt's fault, it was Ann Marie Smith's fault.
Everybody is at fault but him. And I think the voters are going to hold him at fault.
KING: And what was your view, Julian? Did you expect more, less, or what?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER JUDICIARY COMMITTEE COUNSEL: Well, surprisingly it wasn't too much different from Nancy's. I think, as one commentator said, this was like a Hail Mary pass for him. The entire Democratic political establishment has abandoned him. Both Democratic senators in California have endorsed his opponent. And I think what he was attempting to do was to take on the victimization role and to play that card.
And I think the problem with the interview, and I think he came across in about the best light that he's ever come across on your show, Larry, but I think the problem with the interview was that is he failed to acknowledge, even when you asked him what did he do wrong, he failed to acknowledge I think the number of things that he did wrong during the course of the interview, having the staff lie, taking two or three interviews before he told the police what the nature of the relationship was, the denying of the affair during Connie Chung's interview with Ann Marie Smith. This was an episode that could have been very survivable for him if he had, in June or July, said, look, I made a mistake, I panicked at first because I was worried about the implications for my marriage, but here's the deal. And I will do everything I can to cooperate with the police. I'll meet with the family who had asked to meet with him on a number of occasions, and he should have done it on their terms. I think the victimization role that he played just doesn't quite wash.
KING: By the way, Cynthia, does it cause people, do you think, to think that he may be more involved than we know?
CYNTHIA ALSKNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I think most people at this point have made up their mind. I mean, they have thought about this over the summer because of the play that it got. The thing about this interview is I don't think it changed anybody's mind. Either you believed that he was continuing to evade or you believed that perhaps he was being treated unfairly, although it did take an incredible amount of chutzpah, no matter where your thoughts fall, for him to say, I should be re-elected because if you re-elect me, I'll keep the case alive and it'll be the in the Levys' interest if I'm re-elected. That to me was a new low.
KING: And, Michael Zeldin, a former prosecutor and an independent counsel as well, how did you read it?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I didn't understand at all why he was on your show, no offense to you and your show, but I didn't understand what objective he was trying to accomplish. Mark Geragos, his present counsel, criticized Abbie Lowell (ph) roundly for putting him on Connie Chung when he was unable and unwilling to answer questions about the nature of their relationship, the nature of why he disposed of watch boxes, et cetera. And here, he comes on the show with his new star lawyer and does the exact same thing. I thought this was the Connie Chung interview. If it weren't you, Larry, sitting there, he added nothing. And I don't understand what the strategy here was.
And so, I watched it almost from a media event, on the one hand, which I thought was a disaster for him. And then as a legal strategy, a resurrection of him, and it did nothing. And he in fact said, look, I'm not the easiest client and I don't know whose idea it was to put him on, but it wasn't a good move as far as I was concerned.
EPSTEIN: I think the point is, Larry, that this was not a legal strategy on his part. And I think if you looked at how he answered your questions about Ann Marie Smith, his relationship with Chandra Levy, the watch box, I think he was very careful not to say very much probably because that's the advice that he was getting from his attorney. But this was a political strategy for him. And this was, and as some people, as I say, call it a Hail Mary pass.
GRACE: Well, Julian...
EPSTEIN: I think we may have been witnessing an autopsy yesterday because I don't think that he has very much left.
GRACE: Julian, how can you come on LARRY KING LIVE and not answer questions? It's just so defeatist. And every time you would ask him about that particular question, did he have a relationship with Chandra Levy, he said, well look, I always answer the question. You may not like the answer, but I always answer. Excuse me, but saying, I'm not going to answer that question is not an answer. It's political doubletalk and you can smell it a mile away.
ZELDIN: The reason I say, Larry, though there was a legal aspect to this is that to my knowledge, the grand jury investigation of this matter is not over. He remains, I suspect, a suspect in this investigation and so every time he speaks in public, any time he speaks at all, it is part of what is considered with respect to his status as a subject in this investigation. So you can't divorce that from his appearance on the show. And it didn't make any sense to me why he was there.
KING: Cynthia, why do you think he denies the apparent obvious, that they had a relationship? Not denies it, just won't -- why not do a mea culpa there?
ALKSNE: I think he's just stubborn and he's dug his heels in and he's decided -- he drew the line in the sand there and he is just -- nobody is going to make him do anything differently.
You know, I disagree with Julian. I don't think it was an autopsy. He didn't really hurt himself that much. He did smile. He didn't -- the whole creep factor was much lower. He's got this primary coming up next week. There are five Democrats in the field. That bodes well for him. There's probably going to be low voter turnout because there's no governors' race, there's no ballot issues.
This guy may survive. And we're going to have that and then coupled with the fact we have to face the reality, this is probably a murder case that is never going to be solved.
EPSTEIN: Right. But, Cynthia, let me just remind you...
KING: One at a time.
EPSTEIN: Let me just remind you if I could that I think it was June and July we were on this program. And you said a number of times, put a fork in him, he's done. Now, actually, I have begun to be converted to your view, although you may have been converted to what my view was then. But I think that he may win the primary because there are five candidates and he's a couple of points behind now the frontrunner, but I don't think that he can win the primary. There was one other thing...
KING: You mean the election?
EPSTEIN: The general election, I beg your pardon.
There was one other thing that I just wanted to correct for the record because I think that this was an example of his playing it just a little bit too cute by half. When you asked him repeatedly, Larry, whether he voted for the articles of impeachment. And he was correct when he said he didn't vote for the articles of impeachment, but what he did vote for on October 8 of 1998 is the resolution to begin the inquiry. He voted with the Republicans to move that entire process forward.
So and I think the fact that he didn't quite clarify that on your program is again another example of just playing it a little bit too cute by half here. Now having said all this, I think that you can say that there are others. I mean, I think that the media, to some extent, acted irresponsibly during some of this investigation. Remember, the "Washington Post" putting out stories that it later had to recant. And I don't think the Washington, D.C. police look like, you know, a shining city on the Hill right now in terms of law enforcement. I think they made their share of mistakes as well. I think there's some blame to go around here.
GRACE: Larry, what Julian just said about Condit looking a little too cute, I happen, as a victims' rights advocate, to have resented the joke he kept making about, hey, I don't have to take the trash out anymore when you were asking him about that watch box. This is not a good look for a guy that's about to be summoned to a grand jury as a witness. That grand jury is not through yet.
KING: So what do you make of it? He's a veteran Congressman. I mean, he's not -- what do you make of it, Nancy? I mean, what is your read into it? Why does he act this way?
GRACE: I put a lot of people on the stand and crossexamined them and really put the heat to them. They may be very comfortable in their own environment. I think Cynthia will back me up on this. But when you get somebody on the skillet and you are crossing them about their own private lives, they can't hide behind their staff. They can't behind the walls of Congress anymore. They go down.
KING: Let me get a break guys. We'll be right back with some more moments with Grace, Epstein, Alksne and Zeldin on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Dr. Phil tomorrow night. Monica Lewinsky on Thursday. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 25, 2001)
Did you have a relationship with Chandra Levy?
REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: You know, we're not going to go into that. I mean, you know, I'm not going to talk about Chandra Levy and I'm not going to say anything that would -- do anything to hurt or...
KING: Why not say no?
CONDIT: I'm just not going to get into it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Nancy Grace, Julian Epstein, Cynthia Alksne and Michael Zeldin. There are, as pointed out before, I want to move to another subject. There are five people in that race. Julian, did you say you would give him a chance to win?
EPSTEIN: I would give him a chance to win the primary because he's only a couple of points behind. I don't give him a chance to win the general election, which is why I think the Democratic Party has abandoned him.
And again, I just go back to what Cynthia and Nancy say. I mean, I think that he has dug his heels in on why he's denying the relationship. His theory is: It isn't the public's business so long as he's cooperating with the media.
I think that's a little bit of a hard wash at this point, given all of his other conduct. But again, this is not a legal strategy. Geragos is an excellent lawyer. I think he's going to circumscribe his comments so that he really doesn't run too much risk as far as the grand jury, although we could debate whether it was sensible for him to come on or not, given the grand jury being out there.
But this is a political strategy. He's playing the victimization role, which is: Everyone's been unfair to me; I've done everything I have to. And that's what he's trying to get out, but I don't think it's going to work.
KING: Michael, were you surprised that he said that he told Nancy Pelosi not to endorse him?
ZELDIN: No -- I don't know. I mean, and I don't even know whether it's true or not. But I honestly think that if he has a political strategy, if this is all about his resurrection, then he should have stayed in his district and tried to resurrect himself there.
I don't think putting himself into the national spotlight again is what's in his political interests, because it raises all the exact same questions that Nancy has been asking, which is: Why don't you answer these questions?
So yes, if you're right, Julian, that this is a political strategy with no legal implications to it, my response to it is: Whoever is advising you is giving you bad advice because this is a local matter.
KING: Guys, I want to cover something else.
Nancy, your read on this Danielle van Dam case, called now a murder. They don't have to find a body, do they?
GRACE: Absolutely not. And I have been involved in cases before where the body is gone. Believe me, prosecutors are not going to give him bonus points because he expertly and successfully got rid of the body.
DNA doesn't lie. And I understand there are additional charges of child pornography. Case closed if the DNA matches that child.
KING: You mean the pornography will convict him even though it may be a misdemeanor in some states?
GRACE: If it's charged together, as it may be -- the defense will try to sever it at trial. In other words, have the pornography charges tried or handled separately. They may win on that. The jury may never know about that.
I still say, though, the DNA will carry the day if it is correct.
KING: Cynthia, why was he at his arraignment, apparently behind bars? He wasn't in front of the judge, he was behind glass; looked like a bar to me.
ALKSNE: They have sort of a -- in San Diego, which is my hometown, they have a system where they bring people in almost into the jury box as they do the arraignments. And it's just their system. There's no jury, and so it doesn't really matter.
I have a different take on this porn charge. I think the porn charge is important because it provides the motive in the murder case, which is important when you don't have a body. Although I absolutely agree with Nancy that a body is not necessary when have you the DNA, especially when the child is this young, so there's no other real logical explanation.
GRACE: And Cynthia, the location of the DNA, too. The location...
ALKSNE: Right, of course. The location here is important. It's on a jacket that he took to the cleaners to be cleaned the day after the murder, and also in his RV that he admits he was driving around the day after the murder.
But let me tell you something, Larry...
GRACE: And he could tell us where the body is, too, but he's not doing that. He's letting that family go without being able to bury that child.
ALKSNE: Well, I think that's an important point. And I think that's why we don't have a murder charge yet. One of the things that prosecutors and defense attorneys do, and they don't really admit to it, and they don't talk about it, certainly, on the record is that when you have a case of a missing child, it may be that the prosecutor and the defense are negotiating over a plea which includes the return of the child's body to the family for closure.
Not something you might do in a regular case. But in a case where there's a child, my guess is that's what's going on. And I hope that plays out for them.
KING: Let's get the gentlemen's thoughts. Michael, what are your thoughts? And then we'll get Julian's.
ZELDIN: Well, I agree with both the comments we've already heard.
I think her blood in his environment is unexplainable. And it will be, if positively tested for DNA, almost impossible for him to overcome. You need an O.J. Simpson-like jury for him to overcome the presence of that.
I think that the DNA coupled with the child pornography, if it can stay in the similar indictment, will prove to be a motive and then cause. So I don't see much happening for him in this trial at the moment that's very good.
KING: Julian, is he up against it, the defendant?
EPSTEIN: Yes, I think so. And I think Cynthia's point is exactly right. We spoke the other night on the program, Larry, about Andrea Yates and why the prosecutors were going for the death penalty. I think they were trying to get the defense to cop a plea in that case.
And I think that's exactly probably what's going on here. We were just talking about this off-camera, in fact, with Cynthia. I think the notion this -- the murder charge is going to be dangled out there kind of like a sword of Damocles on this defendant, with the hope that they will produce the body.
And I think always with these very high-profile dramas and even the less high-profile dramas, there's so much more that's going on behind the scenes than what we see out of the newspapers and on television. I think that's exactly what's going on.
GRACE: Julian, they may not need him to find the body, though, because remember, if I'm correct, he got his van stuck in the desert sand somewhere the day the child went missing. Obviously she's out there.
EPSTEIN: That's true. But we still don't have a body. And I think what they want is they want to get his cooperation, because obviously that's what the family wants at this point if, in fact, this is a murder.
ALKSNE: Let me tell you what the good news about this case is: The DA in San Diego, who I know, is a real star. When I first started in the Brooklyn district attorney's office, his name is Paul Pfingst, he was a legend in the office. Later moved to San Diego and was a legend there also in murder cases.
So I have great confidence that this will be a case that, in the end, turns out to be a conviction.
EPSTEIN: The other reason why the pornography is important is because you have things, at least in the federal system -- and many jurisdictions have these, known as felony murder. So if you're engaged in some violation of the law, some felony, and it's connected to some murder, then that can increase the charge. That's why the pornography charge actually becomes very important.
ALKSNE: You know, out there are also cell phone records, Larry. I understand there are cell phone records. And you can track cell phone records not only just by the number that you call, but also as you move from these repeating stations.
So there's a lot of information and DNA out there that will come in the next two or three weeks.
GRACE: Well another thing, they may be able to find from the body -- God rest her soul. But when you start talking about a child's body as evidence, it's enough to turn your stomach over. We've all been there in that courtroom.
But if they can find the body, they may be able to link, for instance, sperm or his DNA to the child and add counts.
KING: All right, thank you all very much.
Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We thank our guests and Diane Sawyer for being with us earlier.
Tomorrow night Dr. Phil returns. He's famous on the "Oprah" show. He's also got the No. 1 book in America. Part two. We've done an hour with him previously.
And on Thursday night, Monica Lewinsky. You may have heard of her.
Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown in New York. Good night.
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