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CNN TALKBACK LIVE

Free-for-All Friday

Aired June 14, 2002 - 15:00   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.
ARTHEL NEVILLE, HOST: Hello everybody. Welcome to TALKBACK LIVE. I'm Arthel Neville, and it is free-for-all Friday.

We have so much to cover today, from the bishops' vote in Dallas to the White House being embarrassed by confidential computer files that fell into the wrong hands.

Our guests are ready to race, and you can play by calling 1-800- 310-4cnn, or e-mail TALK BACK at talkback@cnn.com.

Take a deep breath everybody. Come on.

We're ready. This is what we are talking about today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decision day in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the defining moment to put a plan in place, so as to root out a cancer in our church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEVILLE: Also, an accused terrorist says he can't trust his life to anyone else, but is Zacarias Moussaoui his own best defender?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's that belief that caused us to question his mental status.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEVILLE: A White house intern's mistake leaves the GOP exposed and leads to fun and games on Capitol Hill.

And, for your own good, diet watch dogs put hospitals on notice about on-site fast food restaurants. Is food now being targeted like tobacco?

OK. Let's meet today's guests. In Pittsburgh, John McIntire, host of Night Talk with John McIntire on WPXI. Hey, John.

JOHN MCINTIRE, HOST, NIGHT TALK WITH JOHN MCINTIRE, WPXI RADIO: Hey, what's going on, Arthel?

NEVILLE: All right. In Washington, Blanquita Cullum with Radio America. Hello, Blanquita.

BLANQUITA CULLUM, RADIO AMERICA: Arthel, how are you?

NEVILLE: I'm grand. You know why? It's Friday.

CULLUM: Yes.

NEVILLE: OK. Al Rantel, a radio talk show host on KABC in Los Angeles. How about those Lakers?

AL RANTEL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, KABC, LOS ANGELES: Yeah, go ahead. That's what we are doing here.

NEVILLE: All right. Threepeat, baby, threepeat.

OK, and Norm Kent, an attorney and radio talk show host on WFTL in Fort Lauderdale. Hey, how are you doing?

NORM KENT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, WFTL, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Happy Friday to you.

NEVILLE: All right. Welcome to all of you, and I know you're all raring to go, but I want you to hang on for me for a minute, OK?

We're going to start with new developments in the search for 14- year-old Elizabeth Smart. Attention is now focused in Texas, where a man matching the description of Bret Michael Edmunds has apparently been seen. Edmunds is wanted for questioning.

CNN correspondent Michael Okwu is in Salt Lake City, and Michael, welcome to the show, first of all. And tell us about ...

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Arthel, it's good to be with you.

NEVILLE: Oh, good. And tell us more about this Texas connection.

OKWU: Well, you hit it right only the head. I mean, the news out of Salt Lake City right now is actually coming out of Texas and New Mexico, where, as you mention, a man resembling Bret Michael Edmunds was seen in those areas.

Specifically, he was seen in Hereford, Texas, which is in northern Texas. A woman, a clerk at a convenience store there said that a man resembling Edmunds came into the store, tried to buy a bottle of water with a credit card which was declined. And then he sort of got angry and slipped off without paying for the water.

Now, before he actually left the store she mentioned the fact that they had some sort, they actually had some sort of an exchange. He mentioned the fact that he had a ticket for Amarillo, Texas. Now, authorities in the area are also looking into the possibility that he may have stolen a vehicle in the area. Authorities in Salt Lake City meantime say they simply want to question him, that he is not a suspect, that in addition to being near the home very close to the time that Elizabeth Smart was abducted, he was also seen on Sunday at a vigil for Elizabeth Smart, and they want to determine what exactly he was doing there.

In the meantime, the focus is still squarely on the extended members of the Smart family. At least two of those family members have gone under polygraph tests, but the police want to make the point that the family had members have been highly, highly cooperative.

In the meantime today family members made an impassioned plea to the person that they believe to be abductor of Elizabeth Smart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA SMART OWENS, AUNT OF ELIZABETH SMART: I have a message for this perpetrator. God knows where you are. God knows where Elizabeth is, and we are praying with all our hearts to find her.

The satisfaction that you might have dreamed of, of having Elizabeth, cannot possibly be there. And the best you can do is to let her go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: Now, more than 8,000 volunteers have been involved in the search efforts all around the valley here in Salt Lake City. We expect that there will be another press conference later on this afternoon about four o'clock mountain time here, where the family members will announce some sort of new direction for this search. They want to try to deploy some of these people in a way that it will be much more efficient -- Arthel?

NEVILLE: Michael Okwu, thank you very much for that update.

OK. We're going to move on to Dallas, Texas where Catholic bishops are hoping to end the Catholic church's sexual abuse crisis.

A vote on a zero tolerance policy for abusive priests is expected shortly, but it's reported that that may not fly with the Vatican.

And I'm going to start with Al Rantel on my panel and ask you first. Do you think a zero tolerance policy will fly with the Pope, Al?

RANTEL: Well, if it doesn't, there's something wrong with the Pope, because I can't imagine why anything other than zero tolerance can be, can be possibly countenanced by anybody, let alone the church itself.

I mean, what are we saying? That there's one free that you can have? This ought to be clear. Anybody who abuses children -- and there's a whole another issue here that this isn't really isn't pedophilia. This is really errant gay priests chasing boys. But aside from that ...

NEVILLE: We'll get to that later, Al.

RANTEL: ... whether they're chasing ...

NEVILLE: Definitely.

RANTEL: Yeah. Whether they're chasing boys or girls or whatever they're chasing, there should be absolutely zero tolerance for this. They have no place in any place around families, around children, or certainly not representing a church of one of the world's major religions. It's outrageous.

NEVILLE: John, how do you see this?

MCINTIRE: There are many baffling mysteries, Arthel, in this wacky time in which we live. But to me, it's got to be in the top five baffling mysteries.

Why on earth would you even consider not having a zero tolerance policy? What is wrong with the Pope? What is wrong with the Vatican? What am I missing?

As they sit around debating this and they say, well you know, if we didn't -- or if we did have a zero tolerance policy that would be good, because then we'd kick abusive priests out right away.

And the other side says, what does the other side say? What is the other side of the argument?

I do not understand it at all. It amazes me that the Catholic church has taken this long to even have this American bishops conference and possibly pass a zero tolerance policy.

And it's even more amazing that they don't understand that dragging it out this long has severely damaged their credibility. Or if they do understand, they apparently don't care.

I just don't get it.

NEVILLE: Norm, do you get it?

KENT: Maybe they are -- maybe they're afraid of allowing anything other than a second or third chance because of how many of themselves might wind up going to jail.

I've never represented a client that committed a rape, an act of violence that was told you can just transfer to another city and not get prosecuted.

The whole concept that they're even debating this, I agree with the other host, is a bit of an absurdity. NEVILLE: Blanquita.

CULLUM: Well, you know, as a Catholic, I think a lot of Catholics are looking at this as a really terrible time for the church. Like all of us, I think we're appalled at what's happened. And I think, like many people who are catholic and non-Catholic, we're surprised that the church hasn't taken a stronger position faster.

The problem as I see it is this -- a couple of things. One of the things is that the church is going to have to face the worst kind of test of credibility that's going to affect them in the pocket book.

They may be concerned about liability legally, what they're going to have to pay the victims, people who would come up and say they're victims later. But I think it's deeper than that.

I think that the Pope is going to have to take on issues that people have been whispering about in the dark -- the role of lay people, the role of priests that may want to get married. There are ...

NEVILLE: Female priests.

CULLUM: Female priests -- all of those issues.

Now, I would rather see as a Catholic -- I've got to tell you -- 10 good priests, five bishops, one cardinal and one pope, if they're honest, honorable people.

What I am concerned about is that the pope is not in good health. And God between them and harm, some of these cardinals who have covered up are going to be there making decisions on who the next pope is going to be, and some of these bishops we're going to have to review and see, are they going to be held accountable legally as well?

NEVILLE: Let me let Francis from Florida get in on this.

FRANCIS: Hi. I'm a devout Catholic. I have been all my life, and I feel very bad about all that is going on. And all the years that I have been, I have never come across anything like this. It is wrong. It absolutely should be a zero tolerance. There's no reason why one person should have a chance to do it again, and I feel that we have to have them being checked on to make sure they are doing their job. And I think now because of all this media attention, there will be more.

NEVILLE: Francis, do you think the pope is going to go along with this zero tolerance policy?

FRANCIS: I think because of all this going on and knowing that he's up there looking, and I think he's the kind of man that wouldn't tolerate it.

NEVILLE: Let me ask you this, Francis, now, as a devout Catholic, let's say hypothetically speaking that the pope says, you know what, I'm not going to go for the zero policy stuff. How would that affect you?

FRANCIS: Well, I'll be very hurt. I have always felt that what happens in the church, I can't do anything about. But I can practice my faith the way I was taught all my life to practice it, and I'll go to church and I'll come home, but I won't partake in anything.

CULLUM: And it's hard. And Arthel?

NEVILLE: Yes, go ahead.

CULLUM: I think it's very difficult for wonderful Catholic people like this lady who have always held to going to church on Sunday, to taking communion, to knowing that if they got a divorce, they can't go back and receive the commandments again if they get married outside the church, who don't eat meet on Friday, who look at the holy communication as not just a piece of wafer but the body of Christ. And so, when you go and you're praying in confessional and you're saying "bless me father for I have sinned..."

NEVILLE: And he's sitting there.

CULLUM: And it's even worse. They have got to take it upon themselves to understand -- it's not shouldn't be an arrogant thing, it's not a holier than thou thing. It's a thing about good and evil, and if it can creep into the Catholic church at a time when people need to believe more than ever, they must clean it up.

NEVILLE: You know, I've got Sheila here...

KENT: Wait a second.

NEVILLE: Hang on. Is that...

KENT: Norm.

NEVILLE: Norm, hang on for me because I have to take a break. I have got you, I've got Sheila over here, Autumn in the audience. People want to speak out on this. I have to take a break. We're going to go to Dallas when we come back to get an update on the bishops', where they're expected to vote on that new policy we are talking about. And we'll also talk about what if anything homosexual priests have to do with this crisis. TALKBACK LIVE continues after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody. We are talking about the Catholic bishops' vote on what to do with priests who molest, and I have Pat from Louisiana who has something to say.

PAT: As I watched the pictures from Dallas this morning, I saw the people in discussion were all male and all gray-haired males. It looked like a good old boy group, good old boy club, and I feel like their authority is being challenged so that's why they are kind of hesitant to make some decisions they should make. Maybe that's what the pope feels like. I'm the boss. You can't challenge me. NEVILLE: Interesting. Thank you, Pat, for standing up and speaking out.

And you know what, let's go to Dallas right now, because we have CNN's Dallas bureau chief Ed Lavandera who is going to join us now with details on today's vote. Ed, what's going on down there right now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the bishops took a lunch break this afternoon. Now they are back in session here in the downtown Dallas hotel where they have been working out the finer points of this sexual abuse policy.

They are expected to meet for about another three hours, we understand, and a lot of the discussion that's been going on so far has been a lot of technical points as to how this sexual abuse policy has been outlined. But as we have been reporting on CNN throughout the day, one of the main points they have come to agreement on for the sexual abuse policy is that any priest that is guilty of sexual abuse past, present or future will no longer be allowed to remain in the priesthood. So that is one of the articles and one of the points that victims and critics of the church have been pushing for strongly, although up to this point we haven't heard any discussion about how bishops should be held accountable for covering up.

A lot of critics and bishops themselves say that they have been responsible for causing many of the problems in the Catholic Church in the U.S. We haven't heard specific discussion about the bishops on the issue of accountability, but they are saying that there will be a report put out every year as to what the bishops have done to implement this policy. So, essentially, some observers saying that it will be the parishioners and the news media that will be held responsible for keeping these bishops accountable.

NEVILLE: OK, Ed, thank you very much for that update, and we'll check in with you later for the final vote.

In the meantime, Sheila from Louisiana. I would like to hear your thoughts.

SHEILA: Hi. I think they are really struggling with the part of the shortage. I think they are afraid that if they start kicking priests out, there's no one to fill their place. I mean, I'm a Catholic. It's so hard to get a priest in your community, in a small community. So I think that's what they are struggling with, that they know what's going to happen when they start kicking all the bad guys out.

NEVILLE: Yeah, but we don't want the bad guys in there, right?

SHEILA: Right. And I think they should change the rules, that they should be allowed to be married. I think they should make it more accommodating for a person to be a priest.

MCINTIRE: Right.

NEVILLE: Thank you very much. Go ahead, who said right.

MCINTIRE: John in Pittsburgh. Let's bring the Catholic Church into the 21st century. Let's at least have optional celibacy, so that if they want to get married, they can.

The woman in your audience, the first one, in my opinion, is a genius. Let's let women get into the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Why do feminists in this country and Catholic feminists in this country put up with second class treatment? Put up with second class treatment as citizens? I would argue that the enlightened religions of the world have allowed women to move up, and those that are not enlightened have not.

NEVILLE: Hang on, Blanquita, for me because I told Al that I wanted to get into this gay issue. And Al, what's your contention here?

RANTEL: Well, I mean, and I don't say this happily, Arthel, because, as you may know, I happen to be gay myself. I'm openly gay here on the radio in Los Angeles, and have been for many years.

But I have to tell you that, you know, even if you are gay, two and two is still four, and there's this proverbial 3,000-pound elephant sitting in the room that no one wants to talk about. This is not a pedophile issue, although the media called it a pedophile issue, because they don't want to insult the gay community. They don't want to be politically incorrect.

But what you have here are not pedophiles. You have predatory gay men -- and there are some of us, believe me, I don't happen to be one of them but there are some and we should all admit they're there. And these predatory gay men found their way into the Catholic priesthood in inordinately large numbers, you know, it makes the boy scouts look prescient with what they did. And these gay men have gone after young males. And I think it's disgraceful, and I think the media needs to address this. The gay community needs to address this.

NEVILLE: Let me Norm jump in there; I'm running out of time on this, but I want to hear Norm. Go ahead, Norm.

KENT: Well, the fact is I publish "The Express," which is the largest gay and lesbian newspaper in the state of Florida, and we have seen just as there could be excellent women priests, just as there could be excellent married priests, so too, like Reverend Michael Judge in New York City, the gay pastor to the New York City Fire Department in 9-11, there could be excellent gay priests. The issue that could be addressed...

(CROSSTALK)

NEVILLE: ... bell, time to move on. Somewhere in Washington, a White House intern is trying to keep a low, a real low profile today. I'm going to tell you why after this. TALKBACK LIVE continues; don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NEVILLE: Welcome back, everybody. TALKBACK LIVE, free-for-all Friday continues now.

It all started when a White House intern apparently lost a sensitive PowerPoint presentation in Lafayette Park. Oops. Well, someone found the computer disk, and it turned up in the hands of Democrats. Oops again. The big oops. OK. The disk contains detailed political analysis of the outlook for Republican candidates and party strategy in 2002, which was put together by Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, and White House political director Ken Mehlman. Now, the Democrats are expressing outrage and questioning whether the presentation was put together with taxpayer funds.

Well, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer expressed shock, too. But his voice was dripping with sarcasm when he said: "I am shocked, shocked that the director of the White House's Office of Political Affairs would be concerned with any way with political affairs. This is an absolutely shocking development." Well, you know, I had to give it that because that's the way -- I had to interpret it properly.

All right, John, is this disk really a big deal?

MCINTIRE: I don't think it's a big deal, but I think it's hysterical that a White House that has managed to put together its entire energy policy in secret and prides itself on nothing more than secrecy made a big mistake like this. I'm sure the Republicans would argue that at least interns are dropping disks and not their drawers in this administration.

CULLUM: Well, that's true, but the other part of it is don't we remember that this particular administration had a problem with someone who was not loyal during the campaign? I'm not sure -- I'm not sure if I'm so prepared to think that this intern was so innocent. And you know, Karl Rove is a very successful, powerful, brilliant mind in politics. The bigger you are in this town, the more people want to see you hurt. So I'm not prepared to yet accept the fact that there wasn't something mischievous and bad about this.

NEVILLE: Blanquita, we have got Sarah here from Virginia who I think she agrees with you.

SARAH: I do agree with you. I find it almost inconceivable that someone would carry a disk out of a sensitive place and then drop it or lose it.

CULLUM: Absolutely. And what did they really find out? Did they find out that Bob Smith in New Hampshire was compromised...

(CROSSTALK)

CULLUM: But the thing of it, you know what it was? It was to put some embarrassing mark on a political genius like Karl Rove. So, I want to know exactly where this young intern's ties are. And do they have a similar situation like that woman who was convicted in Texas for doing the same kind of thing during the campaign?

RANTEL: Arthel, you know what it really shows? It really shows -- with all due respect here -- that Democrats really have nothing to talk about.

This is amazing. Talk about much ado about nothing. A map that shows areas of concern for Republicans? I could have made up that map. Anybody that knows about politics could have made up that map.

NEVILLE: My little cousin Chantelle (ph) could have made up the doggone map, huh?

CULLUM: Yes, she could have.

RANTEL: Democrats need an issue so badly that...

KENT: No, that's ridiculous, Al.

Democrats have plenty to talk about. And amongst the things they could talk about is, the only way we get a little bit of openness in this administration is when somebody finds some map lying in the street. I don't think there's -- I don't think there's any laughter as rinsing as when the emperor loses his clothes.

(CROSSTALK)

CULLUM: At least they weren't renting out the Lincoln bedroom and using and using the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Al Gore.

MCINTIRE: Well, but wait a minute. They kept saying Al Gore made fund-raising calls from his vice-presidential office. And now the White House logo is on this PowerPoint presentation. They are mixing politics and government business just as much as anybody else did.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTIRE: Also, it's great that Tim Hutchinson in is trouble, because he was one of the big finger-pointers, along with his brother, the House manager, Asa, during the Clinton fest. And then of course he dropped his wife of 29 years and his kids and married his chief of staff.

(CROSSTALK)

NEVILLE: Hang on, guys.

CULLUM: Because the last White House, they all feel so great about what they did politically, and $2 million in the ways they raised funds, selling out to Buddhist temples like Al Gore.

(CROSSTALK)

KENT: The three of you are engaging in a cover-up. The bottom line here is that the public gains and the people are enhanced when the administration is embarrassed and people gain public knowledge. That's the bottom line.

(CROSSTALK)

NEVILLE: All right, Jenna from Georgia is going to speak now.

JENNA: I'm just wondering why in the world a White House official would trust an intern with such a valuable disk?

CULLUM: Good question. Maybe they didn't. Maybe they didn't.

RANTEL: Well, look what Clinton trusted his intern with.

(BELL RINGING)

NEVILLE: Oh, that would be that bell. That would be the bell.

OK, listen, right now, I'm supposed tease and tell you all what is coming up next, but I want let you in on an inside secret here on TALKBACK LIVE. We name our different sections in this audience every day, OK?

Get a shot over here, guys. This is the birthday section.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NEVILLE: Because it's Pam's birthday. OK.

And, Robert, over here, we have the electrifying section.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NEVILLE: Here we have the -- you say it, Jamie.

JAMIE: The identity crisis section.

NEVILLE: And this would be the -- what did I say you guys are? They're the spunky section. OK.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NEVILLE: So, that's what happens sometimes behind the scenes on TALKBACK.

We have more after this break. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEVILLE: Welcome back, everybody, TALKBACK LIVE's "Free-For-All Friday."

Alleged 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has no use for his attorneys, he says. He has fired them. And a federal judge says Moussaoui is sane and can represent himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANK DUNHAM, ATTORNEY FOR ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI: Obviously, we were working as hard for this man as we know how to do as defense attorneys. And as you heard the judge, we put together an experienced team with nationally recognized experts in death penalty litigation. We don't know why Mr. Moussaoui believes the way he does. It's that belief that caused us to question his mental status and ask for the exam. We just don't think that if it was a member of your family, you'd be satisfied with the kind of exam this man got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEVILLE: Zacarias Moussaoui says he will consult with a Muslim lawyer.

OK, panel, should Moussaoui be allowed to represent himself?

Let's see. Norm, what do you think?

KENT: Well, you know, there's a famous American adage: Some people are thought a fool and remain silent. Others speak and remove all doubt.

Moussaoui is about to join the second group. You have heard the other one: A man who represents himself has a fool for a client. And, apparently, that's the path Moussaoui has elected.

NEVILLE: Al, what do you think?

RANTEL: Well, I think what he wants is to grandstand. I think we got a little preview of that. And I'm hoping he does have a fool for a client, by the way. But it will probably just be grounds for appeal.

But he went to court the other day to talk about this issue of representing himself. And he launched into a speech, Arthel, about how he didn't have anything to do with this. He never met with these people. So, I think he wants to make speeches. He wants to grandstand. He wants to probably engage in anti-American rhetoric. And this will be a vehicle for him to do so. And good luck to him. He's lucky he's in America. Only in America would we worry about him having a lawyer.

NEVILLE: I agree with you, Al.

Before I get to the other guests on the panel, Susanna, what do you say about this?

SUSANNA: I think that if Moussaoui really does need a lawyer, then he will get it himself. And it's his loss if he doesn't. But I also think that the reason his defense team is making such a big deal about it is because they want a piece of the bacon by getting their name all over the television.

NEVILLE: Now, you know, I was thinking that very same thing, too, not that I'm on Moussaoui's side at all.

Thank you very much.

Blanquita, what do you think about all of this?

CULLUM: Well, I don't know that they necessarily want a piece of the bacon, but I think, if they have been dismissed, it's important for those attorneys to be able to express that it wasn't a problem with them, that they weren't wrong, they weren't inept, or that they weren't doing a good job for him.

On the other time, I think that he's going to get out there and proselytize. And I think that, clearly, it's going to be a lot easier for people to understand why they can convict him. But, on the other hand, he's going to try to make himself look like he has been a victim of profiling, that he was unfairly targeted. And those groups that might be sympathetic to terrorist acts that are going to get out there and act as his cheerleaders are going to turn this into a circus instead of an issue where the American people are going to be able to get justice against a very evil man.

NEVILLE: John?

MCINTIRE: Oh, I think the lawyers definitely want a piece of the bacon. Everybody wants to be the next Johnnie Cochran.

But aside from that, Zacarias Moussaoui, from his point of view, made a brilliant move. There's no way a judge or a jury is going to let him skate considering the current political atmosphere in this country, so he might as well try to score some propaganda points. That's what terrorists do. They go down in flames, but they think that they make a point. And that's what he's planning on doing in the trial. He knows he's going to lose. He may as well try to rally some of the other folks who are out there somewhere to get behind his cause.

NEVILLE: Let's get Maddox (ph) from Illinois in on this.

MADDOX: Well, you know, some people have a right -- he should have a right to represent himself, if that the way he feels he can do the best job. And, unfortunately, the reality is that some people who have had lawyers have ended up in the electric chair.

CULLUM: But on the other hand, if you have got a guy out there like this guy, who wants to get out there and proselytize -- this is not just like a regular guy that walked in and killed somebody. This is a guy who was involved, allegedly, with terrorist acts that went and killed good people like you and other people in that audience. He was targeting Americans just for the simple reason -- the ultimate profiling is that we were Americans.

So he's out there. If he's going to rally people by something that he's going to say or try to turn this into an issue where he was unfairly targeted, this country and the citizens of the justice system need to call him for what he is: an evil man.

(CROSSTALK)

NEVILLE: Hang on for me. I have got Ben here from Georgia.

BEN: I think it's his own decision if he wants to defend himself. He probably thinks that he's not going to get a fair trial anyway, no matter who defends him. He should have his fair say about what he thinks he did and what happened to him.

(BELL RINGING)

NEVILLE: All right, that's the bell. That means it's time for us to move on.

Up next: Should the place where you go to get your blood pressure checked also sell high-calorie burgers? We'll talk fast food and hospitals when we come back.

Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEVILLE: Welcome back, everybody, TALKBACK LIVE. I'm Arthel Neville.

We are switching gears now to talk about whether fast food belongs in hospitals. Researchers at the University of Michigan are alarmed. They are alarmed. They conducted a study showing 38 percent of the nation's top health institutions have fast-food franchises on hospital grounds. And that includes a children's hospital.

Now, researchers say this is not good, when you consider nearly 18 percent of Americans are labeled obese. They think hospitals should be encouraging healthy diets for their employees as well as their patients.

And before I get to my panel, I have got a lot of people in the audience, starting with Phyllis, who want to speak out.

Go ahead, Phyllis. You're up.

PHYLLIS: I am a nurse. And I find it a problem to talk to a patient about diet when they can walk downstairs and buy at McDonald's. I think that is a big problem.

NEVILLE: Right. OK, but wait. Phyllis, now the patients can't leave the room, right? So, they can't go downstairs to get the McDonald's.

PHYLLIS: Family members get them food from downstairs.

NEVILLE: Oh, so that's...

PHYLLIS: The people who come to visit them go downstairs and get them food. And that's a big problem.

NEVILLE: That's a big problem.

OK, I have got Marty from New Jersey. Stand up, Marty.

MARTY: Well, I think the fast-food companies are really giving what the public wants. And they aren't trying to have more low-fat meals, healthier meals.

But what I'm against is, they also market towards children. And they get them caught early on, on the fast-food products. My niece, for the longest time, all she would eat was McDonald's french fries and nothing else.

NEVILLE: Yes, but kids like fast food. What is wrong with that?

Panel, what do you think? What do you think?

RANTEL: Well, you know what? This sounds, Arthel, like the tobacco argument again.

And I happened to be living in the people's republic of California here, where we have all the food Nazis running around. We just had an attempt in the state legislature to tax soda, because soda is bad for kids, and this and that. Why don't we just let people eat what they want? And, God knows, anybody who has ever eaten hospital food, that food

(CROSSTALK)

KENT: I actually agree with Al Rantel.

RANTEL: Well, how about that?

KENT: I think I should say I actually agree with Al Rantel on that.

I spent six months in a hospital undergoing chemotherapy, dreaming about the fact that somebody might sneak me up a Hebrew National hot dog.

(LAUGHTER)

CULLUM: Yum. Sounds yummy.

NEVILLE: That does sound yummy.

Autumn from Georgia wants to say something.

AUTUMN: OK, I understand what all of you all are saying. But a hospital is a place concerned with people's health. Why should they be feeding them food that is totally unhealthy?

MCINTIRE: That's it. That's it. That's, again, one of the more baffling mysteries of our times. You have an institution dedicated to preserving people's health. You serve them fatty crap on a stick and make them sicker. It doesn't make sense.

CULLUM: It's not even the people that are there being served in the hospital. But look at all the people that go there for one reason or another.

I had a mother who was dying. Some people have babies that are being born. You are sitting there waiting for the person to come out of surgery. You are doing a lot of things. And it's a very high- tense kind of thing. You don't feel like sitting in a cafeteria eating some yogurt. You want to have a bag of potato chips.

NEVILLE: Lays chips. OK, hold on.

CULLUM: Come on. Shouldn't you be able to have what you want?

RANTEL: Exactly.

NEVILLE: All right, Stephanie from Georgia, go ahead.

STEPHANIE: If there's a child out there that has chemotherapy or is doing something, and all he wants is a McDonald's Happy Meal, I'm going to get him a McDonald's Happy Meal. There's no way I wouldn't do that.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTIRE: I agree in that individual instance. I would give an AIDS patient marijuana as well. I understand what you're...

(BELL RINGING)

KENT: Good point.

NEVILLE: I'm sorry. The bell is ringing. I'm so sorry, Ben, Natalie, my boy Pierce back there. We've got to change subjects.

When we come back: It's Father's Day Sunday. It's still not too late to send cards. And we're going to find out who moms picked as the best celebrity dad when we come back. And we'll let you tell us your favorite dad stories.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEVILLE: OK, Father's Day is Sunday. And, just for the fun of it, Parents.com took a survey of American moms and asked them to vote for their favorite celebrity dad. The winner was Mel Gibson, followed by Will Smith, and rounding out the top three, Ozzy Osbourne.

All right, you know what? But what I want Pam from Illinois to -- stand up, first of all, Pam, and tell me your favorite dad story.

PAM: Well, I'm the youngest of three children. I'm the only girl. And so my mom would make sure that I was dressed all the time. And I would leave with my dad to hang out wherever he went. And we would hang out at the auto shop or the garage. And I would have orange crush and peanuts. And I was this little girl hanging out at the garage with the guys.

NEVILLE: All right. Happy birthday.

PAM: Thank you.

NEVILLE: It's her birthday.

(APPLAUSE)

NEVILLE: All right, and, Martha, stand up for me here and tell me your story.

MARTHA: My grandfather is 101 years old. And he lives in Arlington, Virginia, Chancy Allison (ph). And every Sunday, a friend comes and picks him up and takes him to church. And he teaches Sunday school class every Sunday.

(APPLAUSE)

NEVILLE: Oh, that's so wonderful. Thank you very much.

Hey, panel, do you have any kind of good Father's Day stories for me?

CULLUM: I do.

NEVILLE: Blanquita, go ahead.

CULLUM: Well, you know, my dad, Will Walsh, used to own a shrimp plant in Brownsville. And I didn't know -- when I left to move to Washington D.C. -- he died pretty young -- this girl died came up to me that I had known from school and she said, "How's your dad?" I told her that he had passed away. She started crying.

And she said: "You know, I don't know if you ever knew this, but every week -- I lived in an orphanage -- your dad would come over with pounds of shrimp and feed the kids." And I didn't know that. He never told anyone. And I would never have known it unless she told me.

NEVILLE: Oh, that's so sweet.

Florence from Bermuda.

FLORENCE: Yes.

My favorite dad story is, when my second son was a baby, he had colic, which meant that he cried constantly. And I was very upset. And I left him. And my husband took him and fed him gripe water. If you know anything about gripe water, it's supposed to help.

NEVILLE: Running out of time. You've got to get to the point, Florence.

FLORENCE: What happened was that, when I came back into the room, I realized my husband had given him pure alcohol instead of gripe water. But everything went off OK. And he doesn't drink.

(LAUGHTER)

NEVILLE: So, he's the best father. OK.

All right, Al, do you have something?

RANTEL: Well, I just want to say that I think fathers are so undervalued by the popular culture. I think it's delightful to hear any kind of story about favorite dads, even if one of them has to be Ozzy Osbourne. I have some reservations about that. But we need to promote fatherhood more. There's a lot of kids that won't have fathers to have any of these memories for the future. And that's kind of sad.

NEVILLE: You're right.

You know what? Al, John, Blanquita, and Norm, you have been a great panel. And I really appreciate all of you for being here today. And we will have to get you back on again real soon, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

KENT: OK. Have a happy Father's Day.

NEVILLE: Absolutely.

CULLUM: Absolutely.

NEVILLE: Happy Father's Day to you guys there.

Also, listen, people at home, happy Father's Day. All of you here, happy Father's Day.

And to my dad, Art Neville, in New Orleans, happy Father's Day. Dad, love you much.

Back Monday -- no, I'm not going to be here Monday. Somebody else will be here Monday. But I will be here Tuesday. And guess who else will be here? Patti LaBelle. Woohoo! You don't want to miss that, absolutely.

I'm Arthel Neville. Have a great weekend.

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