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Interview With the Cast of `Good Morning America'

Aired June 18, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: The gang from ABC's "GMA," battling "Today" in the morning show wars.

And with us, Charlie Gibson -- as we figured out, it's his first visit to this program, but his second time as co-anchor of "Good Morning America."

His hosting partner, a good friend of this show, maybe a regular, Diane Sawyer.

Plus, "GMA's" news anchor, our own Robin Roberts. We love her.

And it's weatherperson Tony Perkins.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

What a bubbly group we have with us tonight, the cast of "Good Morning America." They're just jumping and hopping.

By the way...

CHARLES GIBSON, CO-ANCHOR, GOOD MORNING AMERICA: By the way, you've got a war. With whom am I going to war with?

KING: We can't take calls tonight because we taped this earlier in the day. Had we been doing this live, we would have had a cast of sleeping people, right?


KING: So this is 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. It's great to have them with us.

We think this is Charlie Gibson's first -- we're not sure, we're checking the records.

You may have been on this show.

GIBSON: You pay for this show? Because you never sent me a check for anything. Probably is the first time.

KING: Anyway, welcome all aboard.

By the way, the good news is, in the last year you've, according to the Nielsens, you're up 11 percent in viewers. "GMA's" May sweeps were the show's most watched since 1995. What's doing it?

GIBSON: Gibson.



DIANE SAWYER, CO-ANCHOR, GOOD MORNING AMERICA: You know what I think it is? I think it's that we each have our specialties. You know, Tony, Tony is the music maven, really, he knows everything about it. I do sports, basically. I think it's, sort of, settled in, don't you feel?


GIBSON: I do fashion.

ROBIN ROBERTS, GOOD MORNING AMERICA NEWS ANCHOR: Charlie does fashion, that's right.

KING: Like the tie. What do you think it is, what's happening in the morning world?

SAWYER: You know, you never know. It's mysterious. We like to think it's because we have a combination of good information and some real analysis in the morning that helps people, but also, a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, some surprises during the day. And Charlie's always said the best thing you could do is just have a great conversation in the morning.

KING: What do you think, Charlie?

GIBSON: I don't know, Larry. It's a -- you know, it's a very gradual process with these programs. You can't simply put a bunch of people together and instantly come up to speed. It's a very gradual thing. Winning an audience takes a long time. Changes in morning television are glacial.

KING: Hardest habit to change, they say, in radio is the morning man.

GIBSON: Yes. And I think it's true in television as well, because you live your life habitually in the morning. You do everything at the same time. You go to the same part of the icebox, you shave at the same time, the kids are off to school at the same time, and you tend to turn on the same television show at the same time. And we only have them for a few minutes, you know, and we always wonder if we have their attention totally focused on us, or are they, sort of, listening with one ear, watching with one eye, and doing something else.

KING: And Robin, you've always contributed, now you're regular. First of all, did you like leaving sports?

ROBERTS: It was difficult to leave sports, because sports is like breathing to me. When we came in here today, we were all talking...

KING: The open.



ROBERTS: But I'm very comfortable with sports, but it was time. And they had been very kind, and I mean that sincerely, in allowing me a venue and to be so accepted.

And the audience has been terrific about that. I haven't received any mail or e-mail from people going, "Well, you know, you're really a sports person."

I think it's a compliment to these three; anyone sitting in that chair would feel that way, because they are so comfortable with their roles, and who they are, and they don't have an ego among them, that it's very easy to come in.

And so it was a tough decision, but it was also -- it's been a lot of fun for me. I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would.

KING: Are you still going to do stuff for ESPN; it's the same management?

ROBERTS: Well, I'll remain a contributor to some extent. I won't be at the ball games. It's, kind of, tough to be seen at the ball game and then, you know, in Afghanistan. To make that transition is unfair for the viewers. But it would be hard to leave completely. But my home is here at "Good Morning America."

KING: Tony, why you think it's doing it better?

PERKINS: Larry, as the glue that holds this show together, I...


GIBSON: Connective tissue, right?

PERKINS: That's right, that's right.

I think it's a couple of things. I like to think that we put on a smart show every morning. I mean, there are many times when I'm watching the show when I'm not involved in something where I think, "Oh, I didn't know that," or "That's a good twist on that, that's some new information."

I also think that people really can pick up on the fact that we get along and we like each other. It's a very genuine thing.

GIBSON: Really?


KING: About the rivalry, Diane. Is there... SAWYER: Between Charlie and me?

KING: No. Is there bad blood between you and "The Today Show"? Is that -- is that -- is there -- is this an intense kind of thing where Coke and Pepsi don't mention each other?

SAWYER: No, not at all. Not at all. And we have these head-to- head programs, so it's very inviting to assume that it is a daily...

KING: Fight over guests.

SAWYER: Yes. There is some of that, there is some of that. We all want the best guests in the morning. You want the best guests. We're fighting with you some of the time, too.

But it's not this, sort of, dug-in trench warfare because we do have a lot of variety in our programs, and we are different. We have our identity. And we get to do what we care about.

And in a funny way, if anything, I think has also been working for us recently is that we are doing things that we care about. I did get to go to Afghanistan and do what I wanted to...

KING: And be here to talk about it.

SAWYER: Charlie was over in the Middle East during key moments there. So that we get to do both those things, and have a good time in the mornings.

So we don't see that we're really -- that we're mirror images and that everybody's got a price...

KING: So you don't go running in during breaks saying, "What are they doing?"

SAWYER: No. Sometimes at the end of the show in the morning, we'll say, you know, "Did they do anything we're interested in thinking about?" and we talk about it. But it's not -- it's really not trench warfare.

KING: Charlie, do you feel a rivalry?



GIBSON: I really don't. Interestingly enough, you know, there's only really three of these shows. There's, sort of, six people who know what we do, and I feel a kinship to them, as opposed to a rivalry. We both do the same thing, and when I see Katie, we, sort of, instantly have stuff to talk about because we understand the problems that each of us go through, and the frustrations, and the highs, as well.

So no, I think it's more of a kinship than a rivalry. Would we love to beat them? You bet you. Are we competitive animals? You have to hold her down sometimes. But, yes, so sure, we want to beat them, and they want to beat us, but it's a very friendly rivalry.

KING: Is morning different, Robin?

ROBERTS: Totally. The energy is different. Covering some sports, you're nocturnal. I'm heading to the ballpark at 8:00, I'm not heading to bed at 8:00.

KING: The broadcasting field is different in the morning?

ROBERTS: Journalism is journalism. It doesn't matter...

SAWYER: Can I say something, too? You're still too cheerful.


SAWYER: She just -- you should see her.

GIBSON: Do you know how obnoxious a giggle is at 5:30 in the morning?

KING: The worst.

ROBERTS: Do you see what I have to be -- have to put -- do you want to co-host? Can I come here for tonight?

It's different, though. It is, but journalism is journalism. The approach is the same. That part of it does not change at all. But the subject matter, of course, is different.

But it's kind of like what Diane and Charlie and Tony were saying, it's the variety, I do like that. In sports, you become one- dimensional. Love that dimension, all of us do involved in sports, but involved in a morning show like this, I feel -- we talk about the World Cup, it's a hot story. I mean, if there's a hot sports story, it's still going to be on "Good Morning America," but to be able to do other things as well.

KING: Do you match weather for weather, Tony?

PERKINS: In terms of the other guys?

KING: Do you say, "They missed that thunderstorm in Chicago; I had it."

PERKINS: Yes, I actually have a big chart on my bedroom wall...

KING: I was wondering.

PERKINS: No, no, not really. Because I think that, as Charlie was saying, we all know each other. When I first came to the show just a little over three years ago, I talked to Al Roker, I talked to Mark McEwen, they were very kind and, kind of, welcoming me to the fold. And we -- you know, gave me some tips and that type of thing on handling the national exposure and all of that.

So, you know, we're all friends. Yes, we're competitors, but you know, it's just because they're NBC, we're ABC, we all know each other and we support each other.

KING: Press makes more of that, press loves it.

PERKINS: Absolutely.

KING: We'll talk about that and a lot of other things. We'll be right back with Gibson, Sawyer, Roberts and Perkins -- sounds like a law firm -- the cast of "Good Morning America."


KING: Don't go away, we'll be right back.


SAWYER: Good Morning America, I'm Diane Sawyer. Good Morning, Alicia Keys.

GIBSON: Well you just made it.

SAWYER: And here we are in Bryant Park. This is great. As you know, she's not just a singer, she's not just a star, this is a rocket that actually flew to the top of the charts. She can do everything, and we're so happy to be here with Alicia Keys in Bryant Park this morning.

GIBSON: Good morning everyone, good to have you with us. Nice to have all of you folks here.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is for a light-skinned dog, here.

SAWYER: Not a color-treated dog, right?


SAWYER: No blondes?




KING: As you can tell, they have a lot of fun on "Good Morning America."

I want to get serious for a couple of minutes. We'll have -- we'll go both routes.

But the water cooler story of the month is the tragic story in Utah. How big is this? How much do you cover it, Diane?

SAWYER: I think it's as big as every parent's heart. That's it. We're all waiting to exhale...

KING: There's nothing more human than this.

SAWYER: Nothing more human. Nothing that strikes fear more quickly and more readily. You look at the neighborhood, you look at that house, you look at this family, and it's almost too painful for them. You know, I know that the neighborhood has rallied around them, everybody has tried to be there for them, and you say, "What on Earth could anybody do in a situation like this?"

Charlie -- as I recall, the first time the parents came out that morning, Charlie interviewed them; the very first words I heard from them, ever, and all I can say is, I was so grateful it was you. I'm not trying...

KING: Those are the toughest stories to do?

GIBSON: Well, it was written in her face what had happened, and how -- in Elizabeth Smart's mother's face. There's a great poem, "Is it so clearly in my visage shown, which way the whips and scorns of wind have blown?" And you could see the whips and scorns just on her face. I mean, she was -- boy, that was just dejection, it was torment, it was everything.

And Diane's right, it's just what every parent most fears in the world.

KING: How long does this story stay at this impact level?

GIBSON: I don't know about you. I find myself literally checking the wires every couple of hours when I'm not in the office to see if there's something new on this case. Over the past weekend, when they had this fellow spotted they thought down in Texas, and then it got into New Mexico, I was going to the wires all during the weekend. You want this guy caught, and you want -- you desperately want, to believe this girl is alive.

KING: Is it because, Diane, you feel like the mother would feel, or imagine how you would...


KING: Yes.

SAWYER: And you try to bring yourself to ask the questions that you have to ask, and you seek it -- you actually control yourself to do it the way you should do it, when all you want to do is just say, "Let's put all this aside and let us all rock each other."

And as Charlie is saying, you don't want to think about anything except that she's alive and she's coming home. You don't want those thoughts that creep crowding in.

KING: Robin, why is this bigger than the missing person from Greenwich three weeks ago?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it's as Diane put it. It's because of the neighborhood, because she was in bed with her sister. You know, she's sleeping next to her sister and she's taken from her. Because it was it was in the middle of the night, because we have an idea of what the suspect looks like. Being in an affluent neighborhood, you've met the many aunts and uncles, and you know, she's one of six children.

I think the manner in which it was done, because I think our heart goes out as much to her sister; to know that she -- you know, she was right there and what she must be going through. And then the anguish in the parents' faces.

GIBSON: But you make an interesting point. You know, there's some randomness to all this. I mean, you know, the attention of the media tends to focus sometimes, and you don't know quite where it'll land...

KING: And you can't predict where it'll end, either, can you? I mean, you can't say, "This is not a story tomorrow." When does it become -- you can't keep going at this pace, can you, Tony?

PERKINS: Well, I mean, I think there has to be some type of resolution. I mean, you know, we're all looking for -- and we're looking a positive resolution.

Do you cover it the same way every day for a year, two years, if God forbid it went on for that long? Probably not. But it certainly would be in the news again when there is some type of resolution.

I think what Robin was saying was right, though, because for all of us, whether you have children or not, you're -- it strikes people because you feel like you are so safe -- and maybe, you know, obviously this is not always the case -- you're so safe in your own home, at night, in bed, asleep, the two girls together. And for that to be violated, I think that's what it's...

KING: What would you do with a dilemma, Diane, like a big story out of the Mideast. Colin Powell goes over and they sign a peace treaty, or Israel does something nutty in retaliation for what the Palestinians done, and that same day, a big story breaks about this young girl, either they find her alive or they capture the suspect? What do you lead with?

SAWYER: You do them both. I mean, this morning, we led with the suicide bombing. We led with what had just happened, and we led with the awful, repetitive, enraging, enraging death toll that continues to go on from that over there. You know, if they both break equally, it's always a judgment call, isn't it?

KING: What was your judgment?

SAWYER: My judgment? If it's really definitive news, I might lead with Elizabeth Smart, I might.

KING: Charlie?

GIBSON: It's a domestic story. It would have to depend on what the development was in the Middle East. But there is a -- all things being equal, you lead with the domestic story, almost always.

KING: Robin?

ROBERTS: I concur.

KING: Who makes that decision at "GMA"?

ROBERTS: Well, I mean, it's great that the four of us are out here, but there are so many people -- I'm glad you brought that up -- there are so many people involved with a program like this.

Our executive producer, Shelly Roth (ph) -- now I'll get more time on the newscast because I'm the first one to bring up her name -- you notice that new kid on the block do that.


ROBERTS: But I think that we all have -- we have a really good gauge. I really feel that way. When we go into morning meetings, what we're talking about tends to be what's at the top of the program.

GIBSON: It's a very collegial process.

SAWYER: It is, it's 5:30...

KING: Are you involved...


PERKINS: I tend to go into the morning meetings thinking that weather should lead every day, no matter what: sunny days, rainy days.

No. I -- there are times where if I need to be involved, if there's a big weather story, if I'm doing some other story on the show that warrants it, I'll be in the meeting. But, generally speaking, no.

KING: Right back with more of the cast of "Good Morning America." They're on again tomorrow morning.

We're going to ask what they think about cable competition in this area. So many other things to discuss as we go to break.

GIBSON: Cable?

PERKINS: Cable is never going to fly.

KING: Where you're sitting now, Charlie. Think about it.


KING: Geez. And now I know why he hasn't been on. We show Diane Sawyer interviewing a guest on this program as well, Queen Rania of Jordan.


SAWYER: You've said that Yasser Arafat is important because he's so important to the people on the ground and in the camps. At the same time, Ariel Sharon is arriving today -- said there's 103 documents that are going to show that he is inextricably tied financially to the terrorist acts, not just by a sense, but actually tied to them directly.

Americans hear this, and think that he cannot both say he wants peace and be tied to terrorism.

QUEEN RANIA AL-ABDULLAH OF JORDAN: I have seen a lot of criticism leveled at Yasser Arafat in an attempt to sideline him. I don't know about these documents, and I haven't seen them, and I don't know about their authenticity.

But I do believe that the people, the Palestinians themselves, have the right to choose their leader.




GIBSON: (OFF-MIKE) that'll be close enough. Our thanks to the secretary of the Navy, Admiral Morgan. Thank you very much for letting us come onboard.

Captain Winnipeld (ph), thank you very much.

And, Merc (ph), some of the planes have already arrived in Norfolk, you'll be pleased to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad to hear it.

GIBSON: They are down. Captain of the airwing (ph), Captain Dave Mercury (ph). So thank...


GIBSON: The Enterprise, they're home tomorrow.


KING: All right Charlie, it's an interesting -- is that journalism or fun?

GIBSON: A little of both. That actually was significant, because the Enterprise was coming home from the war region in Central Asia, and...

KING: But some would say that "journalists" -- I'll give quotes -- doesn't wave goodbye, and welcome home guys.

GIBSON: Oh, listen -- I went over to "World News" once and Peter Jennings said to me, "Are you comfortable on this set; there's no kitchen?"


GIBSON: But morning television is a different animal. It is so many different things. And that kind of thing, you know, when it's the chances for the wives back home to see their loved ones on the boat or whatever...

KING: You've got to be in it.

GIBSON: There's an element of journalism in that.

You know, newspapers are as inclusive, really, as our program is -- you know, newspaper reporters sometimes say to me, "You know, did you feel comfortable when you left news?"

And I say, "Hey, look, you know, you've got lots of section of your newspaper, the same way we do with our broadcast." So it's not dissimilar in any respect.

KING: Truth, Tony, please tell me do you root for something bad in the weather? Local weatherman root for hurricanes.


KING: They get on in primetime.

PERKINS: No. Yes -- but this is something...

KING: Do you want every day to be partly cloudy...

PERKINS: Well, now, because then I would have no job.


KING: In Honolulu.

PERKINS: No. But you respond to -- I mean, obviously if there is a story, I mean, I will go out and cover a hurricane, I will go out and cover an F-5 tornado that has ripped through Oklahoma City, for example. But do you hope for that? No.

I would -- hey, my favorite days are the days where the weather load is light, and I can have a little more fun and, you know, do that personality thing a little bit more.

SAWYER: Our favorite days are when Tony has to show up in one of his weather outfits.

PERKINS: They love me in the rain and soaking wet.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Where's the weatherman folly?


KING: Where's your weather outfit?


PERKINS: No, but I mean -- I think that there is a degree of, you know, if we're dealing with the rain and the wind, then we want to someone out in it; and, you know, I'm the guy. It's not going to be Charlie. He's not going to get his hair messed up.

KING: When you announced, you and Charlie, that you were coming to do this -- help out "Good Morning America" -- you were going to be on six months a year.

SAWYER: How long has it been?

KING: How long have you been now?

GIBSON: I think it's been six weeks on Tuesday.

KING: No, no, no: How long have you been doing this?

GIBSON: It's three years.

SAWYER: It flies so much when you're having fun.


SAWYER: What happened, Charlie?

GIBSON: I don't know. Every month -- this a true story. About every two months, I'll either wander into her office and sit down, or she'll wander into mine and sit down, and she'll say, "We're still here." And I'll say, "Yeah." And we'll look at each other, sort of, shake our heads, and then that person gets up and wanders out, and that's kind of it.

SAWYER: That's it. That's our entire discussion.

KING: So, why? So the interloper now asks: Why?

SAWYER: Because it's great. It's great. It's great to be with these people. We have a great team getting stronger and stronger all the time.

KING: So you like -- when the alarm goes, you like...

SAWYER: I love it.

GIBSON: And there's another part of it, to be honest with you too. Morning television is more and more important all the time. You know, when I started, and when Diane started, because she first did it at CBS, back when Warren Harding was president, and a good one he was...


GIBSON: She interviewed that mistress for "Primetime" every other Tuesday. I remember the show.

But no, in those days, morning television was, kind of, a -- you know, the network needed something to fill the time, and it's, kind of, quaint, and the news departments of the networks didn't pay a lot of attention to it. But people are getting up earlier, morning television has a larger and larger audience, cable is beginning to worry about the morning hours.

SAWYER: And some of it is happening overnight.

GIBSON: That's right. And now we've, sort of, set the news agenda in many respects...

KING: Cable's more in the morning game.

GIBSON: That's right. Well, it was very interesting, CNN goes and gets Paula to do a morning show, and certainly...

KING: For a while they stayed away...


GIBSON: You know, I saw a group of television critics on Charlie Rose's show, and Karen James (ph) from the -- I think the "New York Times" said, "You know, `The Today Show' is the most important show in television right now because they rule the mornings, and because they make so much money for NBC."

And I think that's probably true. I hadn't thought about that before; it's probably true. And when we beat them, we'll be the most important show on television.

KING: And you'll make a lot of money for ABC. This is some -- CBS makes money in the morning. They don't lose, they just don't make as much as you people, right?

GIBSON: Right.

KING: It's not a losing proposition.

GIBSON: So it's a very, very important part of the day, now. And as we sense its greater importance, we get more juiced about it.

KING: Robin, do you ever want sports to lead? Do you want, like -- like Monday mornings, do you want Tiger Woods to be the lead?

ROBERTS: You know, sometimes I will be a little vocal about certain sports stories.

KING: Certain guys go beyond sports, don't they? ROBERTS: Oh, they transcend sport. I mean, I do remember when -- and it was the only time that Diane kind of fussed at me -- no, no, no, no, it was in a good way. It was when Tiger was vying for the Masters. And I had taken a little time off, and they really want me to be there...

KING: In Augusta.

ROBERTS: In Augusta. And I had family in, and I just couldn't do it. And she sent the sweetest e-mail, and it started, "Dear One," and she said "you really missed an opportunity here because of the social significance of the moment."

And I really appreciated that she did that, and she got it.

So yes, there are many times when sport transcends. And I think that there will be times that we see sports leading.

But do I want it to? No, I just -- you know, whatever is the hot topic, it doesn't really matter to me so much about what story goes first, as long as we get them all in there and we talk about them.

But I'm not really that much concerned about which story goes first.

KING: But Mike Tyson is always the lead story, isn't he? Win or lose?

PERKINS: Not anymore.

ROBERTS: Not after what happened in Memphis, not after that.

KING: We'll go to break, and when we come back, more with Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts and Tony Perkins of "Good Morning America."

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE: Dominick Dunne and Dear Abby -- could be a joke there.


KING: We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Charlie Gibson, who returned as co-anchor of "Good Morning America" in 1999, in January. Previously had co- anchored the show. They keep bringing him back for more.

Diane Sawyer was named co-anchor of ABC News "Good Morning America" also in January of '99. She is also co-anchor of "Primetime Thursday," "Midday Wednesday," "Hello Friday" and "See Ya Saturday."


(CROSSTALK) KING: Robin Roberts was named news anchor for "Good Morning America" in April of 2002; has been a contributor since '95. In addition to working for ABC News, does ESPN as well.

And Tony Perkins, the national weatherperson for "Good Morning America" since March '99.

Getting real serious for a moment. What was 9/10 like for you that morning? You were all on the air, right?

SAWYER: Yes, we were on the other...

KING: 9/11.

SAWYER: Yes. I think you were still there, you were still there. We had just finished the weather, hadn't we?

PERKINS: Yes. I had done...

KING: Now, Robin, you weren't with the show then.


KING: Where were you that morning?

ROBERTS: I was at home in Connecticut watching...

KING: "Good Morning America."

ROBERTS: ... watching and wanting to get in. And by the time I found out what was going -- you couldn't get into New York at that point.

GIBSON: We were in a commercial break and Stu Shorts (ph), one of our...

KING: About...

GIBSON: Yes. One of our producers said, "Something's happened at the World Trade Center." We were just discussing, because we had about a minute to kill when we came on. And the producer said in our ear, "Something's happened at the World Trade Center. We have one of the WABC traffic cams pointed at the World Trade Center. You're on. Go."

And that's all the preparation we had. And it was -- we experienced it right along with the audience.

And Don Daylor (ph), who works for our program, lives about four blocks from there, he called in right away, and he had heard a whining sound, a high whine, and he was guessing that it was a shoulder- mounted missile. He'd thought that's what it sounded like. And that made sense. You know, if there's a terrorist attack, that was a possibility that we'd all talked about. But this looked too big for that. And then we were simply talking between, you know, ourselves and trying to figure out what this could be. KING: No commercial breaks.

GIBSON: Well, no, at that point we were just -- we just suddenly realized we're going to be on the air for quite some time.

And then you saw that plane fly in from the side, and I remember thinking, one, is that a traffic, you know, helicopter from some station? And then I thought, and I don't know where the thought came from, maybe it's like one of those things they use for wildfires, you know, they got a plane with a bucket underneath it that, you know...

SAWYER: Fire retardant.

GIBSON: Fire retardant chemicals. I don't know where I thought they would have gotten one in New York City, but it occurred to me. And then you saw it hit.

And to the day I die, I will wish that I had the reaction that Diane did, which was, "Oh, my God." It was the human reaction, suddenly realizing what we were seeing. And my reaction was, "Now we know what's happening. We're under attack." And it was a much more impersonal reaction. And it was just a sobering moment that you knew the whole world was changed.

KING: In broadcasting history we remember the famous recording of the man watching the Hindenburg blow up in front of his eyes and people burning alive dropping off. What was it like, Diane, to be a part of a tragedy and yet at the same time have to broadcast it?

SAWYER: I actually think in that moment we became, in some ways, different people, different journalists, different perceivers of the world. And as somebody said that day, it wasn't that our security was shattered, our illusion of security was shattered. And in that moment, where your illusion of security forces you to rearrange so many things at once. I think our first thought was, "Be responsible, be responsible, be responsible, let people come here and hear fact, let people who have family in that building come here and know that we are family too." And that's what we cared about most.

PERKINS: These two did such an extraordinary job. And you mention I was done with the weather. There's no way I would have been able to handle what they were handling...

KING: You had just finished the weather.

PERKINS: I had finished the weather, and it just so happened that my wife was on a Delta shuttle plane that had taken off from LaGuardia at 8:30 that morning.

KING: To Washington?

PERKINS: To Washington. So for about 30 minutes I was pretty frantic. I was a mess not knowing what planes were involved and what had happened.

And actually Charlie -- I don't know if you remember this -- you had left the set at one point, and in the office area you came to me and you told me it was an American Airlines jet or a United Airlines jet.

KING: Did she land in Washington? Because they closed airports...

PERKINS: Yes. The plane actually had never taken off. I'd been told the plane had taken off, so that's why I was frantic.

KING: But it hadn't.

PERKINS: It had never taken off.

GIBSON: But, you know, the interesting thing, Larry, for something after that day, and I remember the next morning when we were preparing for the show on the 12th, it suddenly occurred to me, and I think it just went through all of our mind, that the information we convey -- which is, of course, what you concentrate all the time on when you're in journalism -- information was vitally important, yes, but all of a sudden you thought the tone of this broadcast and the manner that we adopt and how we react to all this may be as important as the information that we're conveying this morning, because how people reacted, I thought, was vitally important.

Honestly, I think, to their credit, what Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather did over the next three or four days, and people...

KING: And Aaron Brown here.

GIBSON: ... in cable operations as well, we tend to think of the commercial networks, but you're absolutely right, it was incredibly important. And I think they all did a really a really amazing...

KING: You must have felt frustrated.

ROBERTS: Oh, it's the worst feeling. Selfishly, you feel good that you're safe, but as a journalist it's the biggest story unfolding before you and you want to be there.

But I wanted to share a story, because I think Charlie's selling himself a little bit short about his role with Diane. Several months after 9/11 I was taking a flight, and a flight attendant came to me, and she was working that morning, and she said that her family didn't know -- like a lot of flight attendants' families, they didn't know what plane. And this was a family that grew up watching "Good Morning America," and especially Charlie, since he's been on the show the longest.

And her children are teenage, and so they're frantic and they don't know what's going on. And she says to me, her children sat down, turned on "Good Morning America," they heard Charlie, and they knew everything was going to be OK. And I think that's really telling about how people feel about what we do.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the group of "Good Morning America." Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As fire crews are descending on this area, it does not appear that there is any kind of an effort up there yet. Now remember -- oh my God!

SAWYER: Oh my God...

GIBSON: That looks like a second plane.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: ... see a plane go in. That just exploded.

GIBSON: We just saw another plane coming in from the side.


GIBSON: Yes, and that's the second explosion. You could see the plane come in just from the right-hand side of the screen.

So this looks like it is some sort of a concerted effort to attack the World Trade Center that is underway in downtown New York.




SAWYER: Dan Sweeven (ph) of Los Angeles said, "Go to Nise Polonaise (ph) Room, because all the kids are going there. The kids are going there. It's a hip spot" he said, "where cool Midwest 20- somethings hang out."

And we went in and landed in the land of, as we say, extreme polka.

Take a look at this.

GIBSON: Diane is quick to the dance floor, I must say.


GIBSON: It's kind of a one-two-three step, one-two-three, starting with a different foot each time.

SAWYER: Right. And my thanks to Roger (ph), who taught me with great patience there.

It's not just stepping, but it's stepping and hopping. And then...

GIBSON: I was dancing with Tony for a while. We were trying to get into this. It really is very energetic.


SAWYER: You take your life in your hands.

KING: Wild times in the morning.


PERKINS: I have not lived that down.


KING: The cast of "Good Morning America."


GIBSON: ... the lead.


KING: Things in the news: What do you make of Stephanopoulos coming to host Sunday morning alone?

GIBSON: Wow. The announcement has just been made. George will take over the program. I'm a great friend of Sam and Cokie's. I think they -- Sam and Cokie have helped build that show. And I feel a little bit for them, because this played out so much in the press.

But I think George is a real -- George knows Washington backwards and forwards. He doesn't just know the Democrats in that town, he knows the Republicans as well -- very well. I think it's going to be very interesting to watch, because George is very new to the broadcasting medium, but he's an old seasoned hand in Washington, and it'll be very interesting to see him develop in the show. I think it's going to be terrific to watch.

KING: Diane, what did you make of the Koppel-Letterman fiasco?

SAWYER: Well, these are...


SAWYER: Robin would like to interject some wonderful things about management right here again, wouldn't you, Robin?

KING: You got the job, Diane.

SAWYER: Oh, I know that everybody -- there were so many bruises to go around in that situation, and the main thing is that, coming out of it, you know, there's a reinforced support for Ted, and we all felt the same way.

We love "Nightline." We really believe in its worth. And Ted wrote himself there are exigencies in broadcasting. But as we proceed down this road together, everybody just wants to make sure that it's done with some sense of collective progress.

KING: Robin...

ROBERTS: What you got? What you got? What you got?


KING: ... what do you make of Gumbel leaving, and what is CBS' problem, if you can call it that, in the morning?

SAWYER: Well, I don't know if they really have a problem.

GIBSON: Oh yes, they do. Yes they do.

ROBERTS: I'm still young, Charlie. I don't know where else I might end up -- what other networks I might end up at.

KING: It's a historic morning problem. There's never cured their morning problem.

GIBSON: Yes. Ever since Diane Sawyer and Bill Curtis did the CBS morning program which -- and that was very successful when they were doing it.

KING: That was a good show.

GIBSON: So much has -- I'm sorry I'm interrupting you -- so much is...


GIBSON: You know, they had Paula and Harry Smith there, and they were making some progress, because I was competing with them.

KING: And then what? What happened?

GIBSON: And then they -- why did they stop that? It was a perfectly decent show.


ROBERTS: Well, see, don't try and help them. You know, I know what's wrong, but I don't want to say it, because I don't want to correct the problem. I like the fact that they have a problem.


ROBERTS: Bryant's terrific. And he is somebody that I looked up to because a lot of people, young people, don't realize he started off in sports, many, many years in sports, made a very successful transition to the morning show with "The Today Show," and then with the CBS show.

I think, you know, he just had it. He likes to play golf. He had his...

KING: Got a new personal life.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. And why not enjoy himself?

PERKINS: I have to admit, I was surprised. I actually thought with Steve Friedman there and Bryant Gumbel, when he came on board, that it would make a difference. I don't know why it didn't.

GIBSON: Bryant is a great broadcaster.

PERKINS: Oh, absolutely.

SAWYER: Do you think race matters in any way at all ever, ever, ever anymore?

PERKINS: In that role?

SAWYER: No, I mean in these television roles.


PERKINS: I mean, you know, there may be some minority -- pardon the expression here -- but there may be some minority that it matters to. But I think overall no, no.

I mean, Bryant was successful in that position for so long at "The Today Show."

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

KING: Charlie, what do you think it is that they have never really -- well, you're right, they've made some changes.

GIBSON: Because they've never stuck with anything, Larry. I think they have to make a decision, get the best people they can in there, and then let it go, let it develop. They're not going to give the time back to the affiliates, it's very valuable time. As we were talking about earlier, morning is becoming more and more important to the networks. But they've never left anything in place. If they had just left Diane there since 1927, when she started, you know, it would have been fine.

SAWYER: You know, the main problem is, I think, that they've been depressed ever since Larry King turned them down -- what was it? -- eight years ago.

GIBSON: Ten years ago. They wanted King, you know.

KING: They asked if I would be interested in hosting...

GIBSON: And why didn't you do that, Larry?

KING: I thought I was, in my 50s -- a little aged. A little old to get up that early and go into...



KING: Also, I had a great gig here. I had a great gig at CNN. You know, why leave a great gig for what -- it would have been a challenge to host it. And it was a feeler, you know. They discussed it. But it was very nice.

ROBERTS: Good answer. Good answer.

GIBSON: You would have only been out of a job for eight years now if you had...



KING: Why this job-swap thing.


KING: Why do you do that?

PERKINS: Why do I do it? I like to do it. I mean, literally. I get to go out and assume the jobs of other people. And they really, they come to New York and they do my job.

KING: What's the weirdest job you've had?

PERKINS: The weirdest job? I will tell you what the most difficult job I've had was, and you may be surprised: short order cook in a diner in Connecticut. It was mind boggling to try to keep up with the orders. I did not do a very good job of it.

The scariest job swap that I had was atop a -- I was steeplejack atop a church in New England somewhere, 90 feet up. I have a fear of heights, so that was very difficult for me.

But being the trooper that I am...

KING: Speaking of that, as we go to break, and we'll be back with our remaining moments, here is Mr. Perkins as a short order cook.


PERKINS: The story here is this whole neighborhood really has been reborn after suffering through the riots in 1968. Great things happening here, which is absolutely fantastic. This U Street area used to be known as Black Broadway because of the theaters and the clubs that were here.

Can I get a plate? Can I get a plate? And we've got some flapjacks coming up. All right. There we go. Flapjacks coming up. Put that down somewhere there.

There you go, sir. Your flapjacks. Would you like some breakfast?


PERKINS: No. Would you like the pancakes I've prepared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather have somebody else cook that.

PERKINS: Rather have somebody else cook it. All right. Well, that's the end of that. I don't think I've got a career here working at Ben's (ph). I'm going to have to come back home to you.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please give a warm, Texas-sized welcome to the hosts of "Good Morning America," Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

GIBSON: All right, so I had a chance to throw my pitch. It's amazing how my arm has atrophied over the years. I bounced it into the plate. When you get there and you're actually faced with it, it's a long way. You just get scared and intimidated.

SAWYER: I had such dreams of glory. I had dreams of not making a girly pitch -- I did, I did, and packing heat. Instead, I packed room temperature very much.

GIBSON: I told Diane, "Make sure you throw if overhand, not underhand."

SAWYER: I know. It was so girly. It was so pathetic.

I'll tell you what, when I looked up and saw Brad Asmus (ph) there, my knees buckled.


KING: I think she threw it farther than you.


GIBSON: Hers was not over the plate.


GIBSON: Mine may have a smudge, but it crossed the plate.

KING: Like stickball. It counts.

GIBSON: And these days, with the umpires' strike zone, it might have been called a strike.

KING: OK. Rat-a-tat-a-tatting around, in about five minutes left. Jennings leaves; would you take that job?

GIBSON: Peter Jennings is not leaving. KING: If he left?

GIBSON: But it's a hypothetical.

KING: That's why I asked it.

GIBSON: Peter is going to stay there.

Sure, those are the great jobs in television. But Peter's not going...

KING: Anything you'd leave "GMA" for?

SAWYER: You'd leave me?


SAWYER: Oh. All right.

GIBSON: Peter's not going anywhere.

KING: Anything you would leave "GMA" for?

SAWYER: The stretcher.


ROBERTS: They're going to have to take her out on a stretcher. That's the only way she's going to leave.

KING: Do you have goals beyond this?

ROBERTS: You know, I didn't have a goal to do this. I'm a goal- oriented person. I'm very, very blessed. I'm very fortunate to be working -- these are three people that even if I didn't work with, I'd want to hang out with. And I think you don't get that a lot in this industry.

So I had a great time at ESPN, very, very good to me. But I'm having a blast.

KING: If you were doing this in 10 years, would that be fine?

PERKINS: Sure. I mean, if it was with the right group of people and we were still having fun doing it. You know, most of my jobs have lasted eight, nine years. I don't just, kind of, you know...

GIBSON: Except for short order cook.

PERKINS: Yes, that one was one day.

KING: Charlie, Mr. Lauer has changed his hair. Do you have any plans?



GIBSON: But I only have six, so there's only so much you can do with them.

KING: You're close to that buzzsaw anyway, aren't you? I mean, you're close cropped.

GIBSON: But it's not a buzz cut...

KING: It's not a buzz cut...

GIBSON: What did he do to his hair? Everybody says he's changed his hair...


KING: ... buzz cut it. Oh, that's right, how would you know?

GIBSON: I don't see it. I don't know what he did.

ROBERTS: You're eternally hip, you don't worry about a thing. Don't change your hair for us.

GIBSON: Bless your heart.

KING: You two have a special thing for each other, Diane? I'm not implying anything, but the touching -- I go into her office, you come to my office, where would I go without you?


KING: When I asked him about replacing Jennings if he left, the pain in your eyes...

ROBERTS: It was just palpable, it really was.

KING: So what is it, and should Mike worry?

SAWYER: I think the answer -- We both know we see each other more -- we see each other more than Mike and Arlene (ph) probably in an average week.

GIBSON: I think so. We're joined at the hip.

SAWYER: I said it's really true. I never had a brother, and I always wanted to have one to put frogs in the shoes of, and he's it.

KING: He's it.

SAWYER: And he's it. I just -- I don't know, he makes me laugh.

KING: And what does she mean to you?

GIBSON: Oh, it is -- you know, I don't want to wax -- I don't want to be nice to her here on...

KING: You can't invent chemistry.

GIBSON: No, you can't, which is interesting. And we had, because we're within about 10 years of the same age -- she's much younger. But we had sort of worked in parallel ways at many times, but we'd never worked together.

And when they came to me and said, "Would you go back to the show?" I said, "No, I don't want to go `Good Morning America'; it's time to leave." It was time for me to go. And they said, "Would you do it if Diane Sawyer came?" And I said, "Yes."

I mean, it was instantaneous. If she was going to commit to do it, I would do it in a minute.

And so I went into her office on Christmas Eve, 1998, and I said, "Are we going to wake up in the morning and say to ourselves, `Did we do yesterday what I think we did?'"

SAWYER: We weren't asleep. I just have -- and you're seeing how close are we...


GIBSON: And it was totally, sort of, "Yes, sure, let's try it." And you can't develop chemistry, and yet it is -- I've said a number of times, I'm always fascinated to hear what she's got to say every morning, because I'm always surprised at what she has to say.

KING: Which is why she's such a good broadcaster.


ROBERTS: It's like Charlie knows he's got the best date at the prom. That's how he acts every morning. I mean, it's like he knows really, like he -- you know, he has fun. And what's so great about these two, as serious as they are, they can laugh at each other and they can laugh with us, because they're...


KING: Please come back. This was a wonderful hour. Please come back.

What job would you like?

PERKINS: What job would I like? When you're done...

KING: When you swap jobs. You want to swap this?

PERKINS: Yes, sure.

KING: All right. I do the weather, you do this.

PERKINS: Yes. It's a deal. Come do it.

KING: OK. I'm not kidding. I do the weather, he does this. PERKINS: We shook hands on this.

KING: I can do the weather right now for the whole world: partly cloudy, chance of showers.


The cast of "Good Morning America."

Aaron Brown, a former ABCer, is next as the host of NEWSNIGHT.

Tomorrow night, Dominick Dunne and Dear Abby. That won't be dull.

Thanks for joining us and good night.




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