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Interview With Neil Bush; Interview With Magic Johnson

Aired September 26, 2002 - 20:00   ET


CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Connie Chung.
Tonight: How can a boy be expelled from school for a note he kept in his own bedroom?

ANNOUNCER: A chilling note written at home by an angry 14-year- old boy. His personal threats got him expelled from school for the words no one was ever supposed to see.

Are schools putting kids on mind-altering drugs?


LISA MARIE PRESLEY, MOTHER: We're turning them into drug addicts at a very young age.


ANNOUNCER: Now concerned parents, like Lisa Marie Presley, say school officials pressure them into medicating their children. We'll talk to a powerful ally in their corner the president's brother, Neil Bush.

The body and the dictator: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura spends some quality time with Fidel.


GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: For me to tell Cuba what they should do, I would tell them that capitalism is great.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: The gov's visit gets body-slammed by anti- Castro Americans.

Pro basketball icon, entrepreneur, survivor, and soon to be Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, honored for his accomplishments on the court and a lifetime of inspiration. Tonight, Connie goes one-on-one with Magic.

This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York: Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening.

It is all about the graphic writings of a 14-year-old boy who had broken up with his girlfriend. And the four-page note, which I'm holding right here, was enough to get him tossed out of school. A federal court agreed his school was legally within its rights to keep him out. The words -- get this -- were not written in school. They were written out of school when he was on summer vacation.

He wrote it and kept it in the privacy of his own bedroom. OK. So what is this highly controversial note? It is a threat to kill, a barely coherent rant against an ex-girlfriend. It is violent, almost mindlessly repetitive, and uses a great deal of obscene graphic language.

He says to his girlfriend -- quote -- "Do not go to sleep, because I'm in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) house or under your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bed with a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) knife, ready to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) kill you." He also threatened to rape and sodomize the 13- year-old girl.

A friend of the boy told her about the note, stole it, and showed it to her. School officials saw the note and expelled the boy. The parents and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that it was protected speech because he had never intended it to leave his bedroom. The school and the court disagreed.

Joining us now is Pulaski County, Arkansas, school district attorney Greg Jones.

Mr. Jones, thank you for being with us.


CHUNG: How did this letter surface in the first place?

JONES: Well, the letter surfaced originally over the phone, actually. The boy had some conversations with this little girl, where he alluded to it and provided a little bit of information with each phone call. So word sort of got out as to its existence before the actual paper got in the girl's hands.

CHUNG: And when it did get into her hands, how seriously did she take it?

JONES: She was at school when it was given to her. She was in the gymnasium with several of her friends. She started crying. She really couldn't be consoled very well. The resource officer for the school was summoned. And she went to the office.

CHUNG: So did the school officials take it seriously, believe that it was credible?

JONES: Well, the problem is, you never really know. You never really know if it is going to be done or not. But they had to take it seriously. It happened on school grounds, of course.

CHUNG: You mean the letter was on school grounds, but he wrote it in his home.

JONES: He wrote it in his home. Yes, ma'am, that's correct.

CHUNG: Had the boy had any previous violent record?

JONES: As far as the school was concerned, his -- he had not had a significant violent record at school.

CHUNG: Now, as disturbing as the letter is -- and I do agree that it is terribly disturbing -- his parents and perhaps the ACLU as well would say: "Well, he did write it in the privacy of his home. He never intended for her to receive it. He never intended for it to be public. And it should be the parents who would deal with him, not the school."

JONES: Well, that is pretty much their position. The problem is, it wasn't kept private. The boy disclosed its existence by calling her on the phone. He disclosed its existence by talking to other people, mutual friends. And, as he conceded at the trial, he knew that this word would get back to her. So...

CHUNG: Did anyone evaluate the boy? Did a counselor, a psychiatrist or psychologist, evaluate the boy to find out if he really did intend to carry out a threat?

JONES: There was none of that done. The school did -- before it voted to expel him, recommended and offered to have the child sent to an alternative school, where he would be more likely to get some sort of counseling for that. But the parents rejected that.

CHUNG: Now, if this boy is simply expelled, my fear would be that he would end up in a different school. If he didn't take this alternative school that you all were proposing, he would end up in a different school. So that's really not a solution.

JONES: Well, I think the question you come down to is this. Did he have a right to stay in that school, or did that child, that little girl, have the right to stay in the school? And she couldn't continue in that school at that time. She had to go home that day. She wasn't able to go the next day.

I think, for several nights, she slept with a light on. This is a 13-year-old sleeping with a night light on, because she thought this guy could do it.

CHUNG: Now, some people would say, how different is this from gangsta lyrics, lyrics that say -- that are awful? But, nonetheless, how different is it?

JONES: Well, in my view, the difference is this.

When you hear rap music, for example, or some violent rap music, most of the time, the target is not specified. This, however, was extremely personal. It named her. It gave her address. It talked about her. And it not only said, "I'm going to do bad things to you." It said: "I'm going to do it this way. I'm going to use this weapon. I'm going to be in your home, under your bed. Don't try to sleep, because I'm going to do this to you." So, as opposed to, say, your normal rap music, where the target may be a little bit vague or what they're going to do may be a little bit vague, this was extraordinarily specific...

CHUNG: All right, and very...

JONES: ... and chilling.

CHUNG: Sorry.

Very quickly, the boy is still -- is now in high school, correct?

JONES: Yes, ma'am.

CHUNG: Is he at the same school that the girl is?

JONES: Well, they have moved on to a different school at this stage.

CHUNG: The same school?

JONES: I don't know that. I don't know that. But they have moved on to a different school.

CHUNG: All right, Greg Jones, thank you so much. We appreciate your being with us.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

CHUNG: The boy in this case has so far been identified only as J.M. His family has not spoken publicly about the case.

But to give us some perspective now, we're joined by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, this is just terribly naughty, but I actually have no problem with saying I think this boy should have been expelled.


I went back -- this case was decided by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the full court on Wednesday. Fourteen federal judges in the past couple of years have dealt with this case. Seven have thought the boy was right. Seven have thought the school district was right. It's a very close case; 6-4 the full Court of Appeals ruled for the school district. But it is a hard one here.

And I think the key issue in the boy's -- from the boy's perspective, J.M.'s perspective, is that this is a note that he wrote in his bedroom. And the only reason it got out is that it was stolen by his so-called friend. That really raises the question of what you have the right to do in your own diary.

CHUNG: But, nonetheless, you've read it.

TOOBIN: I sure have. CHUNG: When you read it, it is horrible.

TOOBIN: It is horrible.

CHUNG: It's really horrible, and even if he didn't mean for it to get out there, you know?

TOOBIN: Well, but the question is, do you have the right to write horrible things in your own bedroom?

And, look, I have a daughter. If this were written about my daughter, I probably would react just the way the parents here did. Chilling to me, it has her phone number in it. That is something...

CHUNG: Yes, and her address.

TOOBIN: And her address.

But you can also see it is written in such a sort of silly, goofy way that it does have a little bit of the feeling of kind of a rap, the repetitive use of certain words, certain ideas, if you can call them that. You can see why a kid who is not especially talented or smart might think this was like a rap, not really a threatening letter.

CHUNG: I don't know. I could not possibly take it that way.

TOOBIN: You're not persuaded. I can tell.

CHUNG: No, no. I don't even find it silly. I find it terribly serious. Well, the ACLU actually is defending this boy and may take it to a higher level.

TOOBIN: They may. And given how close the court has been so far, you can see why they might be tempted.

The court did something interesting. And I think the shadow of Columbine hangs very carefully over this case. I think the court really wanted to protect the girl, above all. But they said the standard is a reasonable-person test: How would a reasonable person interpret this letter?

But they said not: How would a reasonable sender interpret it? How would a reasonable recipient? What if you got this? And I think that's why they ruled for the girl, because, if you got this, you would be terrified. And I think that is why the case came out the way it did.

CHUNG: And, by the way, we did ask the ACLU lawyers to come on and talk to us, but they didn't.

TOOBIN: Sort of a surprise? They're usually very outspoken, but...

CHUNG: Exactly. So why not? I don't know. I don't know the reason. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

TOOBIN: See you, Connie.

CHUNG: This case is not just a legal case. It is also about how to distinguish genuine threats in school. So, earlier, I spoke with a clinical psychologist with two decades of experience talking to boys like this one. And he served as a consultant to the Secret Service Safe Schools Initiative.


CHUNG: Joining me now is William Pollack, clinical psychologist, director of the National Violence Prevention and Study Center.

Thank you for being with us.

First question: This letter is so disturbing. What do you make of it?

DR. WILLIAM POLLACK, DIRECTOR, NATL. VIOLENCE PREVENTION & STUDY CENTER: Well, it is a very disturbing letter, Connie.

But there is no way to tell whether this is a boy in extreme pain who is depressed and this is the way he's expressing his depression, or whether he was about to do a violent act. There needs to be an assessment done by a credible adult who knows how to assess threats and understands mental health issues.

And that has to be done in a safe way. So you might come and provide safety in the home. You might bring him to a safe space. And then, based on that, you make decisions. Should he stay in a safe space? Is it possible that he's just angry for the moment? You gather data. And then you make an assessment about how dangerous that child is.

Many kids, especially boys, who make threats do not pose threats. And, unfortunately, many kids who pose threats do not make threats. So you don't just push him out, where he won't be seen. You get him help. And you try to understand things. And you try and make things safe for everyone, including the potentially violent perpetrator.

CHUNG: For me, as a parent, if my child had written that letter or if that letter were directed at my child, I would say immediately I have a troubled child and I need to take this child to counseling.

POLLACK: Oh, absolutely. There's no question that this letter says that this boy is in pain.

Now, whether he's in immediate pain over the moment of a breakup, whether he's in more significant pain over a longer period of time, he needs help. He needs assessment. Whether he needs a locked facility, whether he just needs psychotherapy, whether he needs a chat and being watched over for a period of time, you cannot tell until you meet with the boy. So, in seeing such a letter, you would want to do something. An adult would want to do something, but not necessarily a knee-jerk reaction and not necessarily a punitive one.

CHUNG: Well, then, if this child is indeed as angry as I think he is, what are the signs that that anger could turn into violence?

POLLACK: Well, the signs that the anger could turn into violence is if the boy particularly becomes more removed, is less likely to talk about what is happening, except maybe to a small group of people, or refuses to talk about his pain and won't go to anyone to ask for help.

Many kids who write these kinds of letters are so depressed, they're suicidal, not homicidal. But there is no one profile. And there is no clear prediction. And that's why assessment by a licensed mental health professional, by a school counselor, by an assessment team is essential to understand whether it is something of the moment, whether it is an emotional problem, or whether it's a violence problem.

CHUNG: How should a school handle such a potential threat, if indeed it is a threat?

POLLACK: Well, first of all, even before the potential threat, if indeed a threat exists, every school across this nation should have a threat-assessment and safe-school-climate program.

And what that means is, they should have a system in which they know who the adults are who are going to be involved, who are going to do the assessment. They should have connection to law enforcement, to mental health and to parents, so when something like this comes across someone's desk, they can pick up the phone and call someone. And a team can go out to the house, including law enforcement, including mental health people, talk to the parents, talk to the child, if necessary bring him to a local mental health center and make an assessment.

It's too late to wait until afterwards. And, certainly, just expelling or suspending a child actually puts them at more risk, not less risk.

CHUNG: Thank you, William Pollack.

POLLACK: Thank you.


CHUNG: And still ahead: 24 hours before his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, I'll talk with Magic Johnson.

So don't go away.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, the president's brother, Neil Bush, tells his story on medication in schools -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUNG: If your child acts up in school, do you want drugs to be the solution? More and more schools turn to behavior-modifying drugs to get kids to behave the way they want. And that has some powerful people concerned, among them the president's brother, Neil Bush, whom you'll meet in a moment.

But Congress is also concerned and heard testimony today from those including, Lisa Marie Presley, who have experience with misdiagnosed children.


PRESLEY: We are relying on a chemical to change the mood of a child. At least one of these drugs is more potent than cocaine. And we are turning them into drug addicts at a very young age.

My hope is that the committee will recommend legislation that prevents school personnel from coercing parents into placing their children onto mind-altering drugs. They become dependent on them and it leads to further drug addiction, which then leads to crime, which leads to all the other terrible things that we always have to deal with in life.


CHUNG: We're talking tonight with Neil Bush because of his experiences with his own son Pierce seven years ago. This is Pierce more recently during the 2000 campaign.


LARRY KING, HOST: What about your Uncle George?

PIERCE BUSH, SON OF NEIL BUSH: Oh, he's a great man. He's going to reform politics. He's a reformer with results.

KING: Is he a good uncle?

P. BUSH: He's a great uncle.

KING: Yes? Good to you?

P. BUSH: Oh, very good. He's going restore dignity in the office of the presidency by far.

Do you want me to talk about Dick Cheney?


P. BUSH: He was an incredible choice. At first, I had a little doubts about him.


KING: We all were a little concerned.

P. BUSH: But I didn't really know him. I thought he was going to pick one of the big names, Tom Ridge, one of those guys. But he was a great choice. He's got the float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.



CHUNG: Pierce's dad, Neil Bush, joins me now from Houston.

Forget about it. I don't want to talk to you. I want to talk to Pierce.


CHUNG: Well, what a precocious guy. How old he is now?

N. BUSH: He's 16. And he's a junior in high school. He's doing extraordinarily well. As you can see, there is a light on in that kid's head.

CHUNG: Absolutely.

N. BUSH: And it is kind of hard to follow that act.


N. BUSH: But thank you for having me.

CHUNG: All right, well, delighted.

Well, let's go back, then. It was in middle school when Pierce -- Pierce did just fine in elementary school. But in middle school, his principal and his counselors diagnosed him and -- I mean, recommended that he go on Ritalin. So what did you think?

N. BUSH: Well, we were typical parents, like millions of households around the United States.

We were concerned about Pierce. He sailed through elementary school and started doing more poorly. And you want to do what you can to help your son. And so we were going to go along with it. He refused to take Ritalin. And so it forced us to go an extra step of assessment. And we found that, rather than the label of ADD, that they did a very thorough test and came up with the assessment that he was gifted in so many different ways, that he was a genius in different ways, that all kids have a genius.

CHUNG: So, essentially, you took it into your own hands. And Pierce did, too, because he didn't want to be diagnosed by people who were not medical experts at all.

N. BUSH: Well, and that's true. The principal had no medical background to make that kind of diagnosis. The counselors had seen hundreds of children before Pierce. You know, we have a knee-jerk reaction in this education system where, if the kid doesn't perform well, then the reaction is to try to assign a label. The label is followed by a drug. The drug allows the kid to sit cooperatively, to pay attention, to focus in school.

I ask the simple -- I had a mother come up to me last week of an 8-year-old son. And she said: "What should I do? The principal of this school is suggesting my kid go on Ritalin."

And I said: "Well, look at your child's behavior outside of school, when he's playing with friends or Nintendo or watching a movie or you're reading a book to him. Is your son showing signs of inattention disorder or chaos in his life?" The answer is no. And so you have to look at the school. What are we going to fix, the kid or the school? Kids are being bored to death in school.

And so what we need to do is change that 19th century system of education and upgrade it to the 21st century, where these children are.

CHUNG: Now, your son is a straight-A student, isn't he?

N. BUSH: Well, he's not a straight-A. I think he's doing very well this year, though. He's applied himself and he's doing very well.

There is no doubt that he is incredibly intelligent. He expresses that in many, many different ways. He's got a keen interest -- it might surprise you, Connie -- in politics and world affairs. And it is pretty incredible. Last year -- he was an intern this summer on Capitol Hill. And he's a remarkable kid.

But I contend that all kids have this gift.

CHUNG: Yes, I agree.

And, now, you have two daughters. And one of your daughters is on the cover of magazines. What do you think about having your little girl on the cover of magazines?

N. BUSH: I'm very, very proud of Lauren. Lauren has had an incredible career as a model. She's not only, though, beautiful on the outside. She's one of the most kind and balanced and gentle women you'll ever meet on the inside. And we're just extremely proud of how well she's turned out. She's off to college and doing well. She's also got a beautiful little sister, Ashley, who is in eighth grade.

And we're just blessed. We have three beautiful kids. And they're just well-balanced. And I just -- I have such a remarkable kind of feeling about kids and the power they have for learning.

CHUNG: I agree with you.

I can't let you go without asking you about a couple of your brothers.

N. BUSH: Yes. Fire away.

CHUNG: All right, thank you. I appreciate that.


N. BUSH: It doesn't mean I'm going answer, but go ahead.


CHUNG: I know. See, you're a politician, even though you don't come out very often.

N. BUSH: A little bit of my mother in me.

CHUNG: Oh, good for you. She's the right one, right, that you -- you want to take after your mother.

Now, your brother Jeb is struggling with personal problems of his own. His daughter Noelle has drug problems. How he is holding up?

N. BUSH: I think he's doing very well. Every parent struggles in those kinds of matters. And he and Columba have asked that this matter be handled in the privacy of their family. And so I'm sure they respect the fact that you care enough to ask, but also that you would be respectful of that privacy.

But Jeb is doing very well. He's in the middle of a reelection campaign. He's done a great job as governor. He's going to be reelected governor, because he serves his people with great passion. And I'm very, very proud of Jeb.

CHUNG: Well, you know, I spoke with Senator George McGovern, who had a daughter who had an alcohol problem. And he said Jeb Bush is just handling it perfectly, because he is very up front, completely honest, and straightforward.

All right, another brother -- you happen to have another brother who is in Washington. He's dealing with, of course, the whole question of whether or not to invade Iraq. Do you believe it is not a question of if, but when?

N. BUSH: You know what? I don't really have an opinion on that that I would like to state for you tonight.

I have a lot of confidence in my brother George. I think the president has shown incredible leadership. I think he's rallied the nation. And, like most Americans, I support him. And I know, at the end, he's going to choose to do what is in the nation's best interests. He's shown great leadership. And I'm extraordinarily proud of my brother.

CHUNG: All right, Neil, would you make sure that you bring Pierce back next time?

N. BUSH: Pierce would die to be on your show, Connie. Thank you for asking him.



N. BUSH: No, I'm serious. He's just an incredible kid.

But if anybody is interested in learning more about this, they can e-mail me at or go to and learn some more about my concerns and solutions for education.

CHUNG: Terrific, Neil. And my best to your mother and the president.

N. BUSH: Thank you. Thank you, Connie.

CHUNG: Coming up: Governor Jesse Ventura side by side with Fidel Castro?

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: They didn't call him Magic for nothing. Now they call him Hall of Famer. And tonight, Magic Johnson talks about his newest role: movie mogul.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT tonight continues in 60 seconds.



ANNOUNCER: President Bill Clinton's half-brother Roger was, to many observers, something of a flashback to presidential brother Billy Carter. Roger Clinton's career as a rock musician and his battles with substance abuse, including a stay in federal prison after a sting operation authorized by his brother, made him an easy punchline.

ROGER CLINTON, BROTHER OF BILL CLINTON: Sometimes I'll say, hey, I'm not the president. What the heck is this scrutiny coming down like this for? But then, on the other hand, it is a good check-and- balance for me. It has been. Scrutiny has been good for me.

ANNOUNCER: Despite that claim, it's hard to imagine he considered it good news when Congress began looking into his role in President Clinton's pardons.

What did Congress find and what surprising ally came to his aid? The answers when we return.




ANNOUNCER: What did Congress learn about Roger Clinton's role in his brother's presidential pardons? The House committee, led by Republicans, found that Clinton made hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the White House, not just for pardons.

Clinton himself suggested that sometimes the money he got for singing overseas was actually intended to get him to sing someone's praises at the White House.


CLINTON: All I have is the truth. That's all I have.

KING: But you're not telling it.


ANNOUNCER: He denied any wrongdoing. And no one he lobbied for received a pardon.

Investigators are still looking into the matter. But they have been thwarted recently by President Bush. The new White House says thousands of pages of documents should not be released because they are privileged and to protect Roger Clinton's privacy.


CHUNG: We will continue in a moment.


CHUNG: Still ahead: why some very angry folks have a beef with Jesse Ventura.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: On the eve of his Hall of Fame induction, legend Earvin Johnson on life after basketball.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns in a moment.


CHUNG: Tomorrow, Magic Johnson will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I guess the surprise would have been if he were not going to receive this honor. I'll talk with him in just a moment about anything we want to talk about.

But first CNN's Steve Overmyer on Magic's career and his three careers now off the basketball court.


STEVE OVERMYER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During his first 12 years in the league, Earvin Magic Johnson led the Lakers to nine NBA finals and won five championships.

In addition to being named the league MVP three times, the 11- time All-Star was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He's also given credit, along with former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, for almost single-handedly reviving the popularity of the NBA during the 1980s.

But Johnson's success on the court came to a screeching halt on November 7, 1991, when he announced to the world that he was retiring from basketball because he was HIV-positive. With the stigma of having the virus that causes AIDS, Johnson returned to the court in the summer of 1992. And amid much controversy, he was picked to play for the United States in the Barcelona Summer Olympics.

Labeled as the Dream Team, the USA easily won the gold medal. Buoyed by that experience, Johnson announced his return to the NBA. But his comeback lasted a mere 34 days, because the controversy surrounding his return made basketball no longer fun. Johnson briefly tried his hand at coaching in 1994 and attempted one last comeback as a player in January of 1996, before finally calling it quits. He left the game as the all-time leader in assists.

With his playing career now over, Johnson turned his energies towards the world of business and entertainment. He his hand as a television talk show host, which lasted less than two months.

But Johnson continues to have far greater success in business. In addition to owning a 5 percent interest in the Lakers, Johnson has stakes in movie theaters, restaurants, shopping plazas, Starbucks, and a bank, an empire estimated to be worth about $500 million. He is also embarking on a new enterprise as the executive producer of a soon-to-be-released movie.

And tomorrow, when he takes the stage at the Hall of Fame, it will cap off his legendary basketball career.

I'm Steve Overmyer.


CHUNG: And Magic Johnson joins us now from Springfield, Massachusetts.

Hi, Magic. I'm so happy to see you.


CHUNG: Good.

JOHNSON: It's good to see you. And we go way back.

My mike in my earplug just came out.

But it's -- we go way back to Los Angeles, when we both were there. And it is great to hear from you and know that you're doing well, too, as well.

CHUNG: Magic, I miss you so much, you know? I miss talking to you every day, every night, every week, or whatever.

JOHNSON: Yes, it was great seeing you as an anchor there.

CHUNG: Great.

You know what? I have a very important question to ask you, all right? Very important. Is Maurice's Snack 'N Shack still open?

JOHNSON: No. They shut it down.

CHUNG: Really?

JOHNSON: That was one of our favorite places.


JOHNSON: We enjoyed some great meals there.

CHUNG: Absolutely.

JOHNSON: As a matter of fact, the last time I took Cookie, right after that, they closed down.

CHUNG: That's too bad.


CHUNG: All right, let's get to the business at hand.

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to be crying. You are going to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Are you going to be crying?

JOHNSON: Well, for sure I'm going to be crying, especially when I get the opportunity to have my father and mother be there, and all my brothers and sisters, my nine brothers and sisters, as well as their kids. And to have my wife and my three kids there, all my former coaches, it's going to be an emotional day, an emotional evening.

And I think that I'm just blessed by God to be able to be here 10 years later to accept the award of going into the Hall of Fame.

CHUNG: That's wonderful.

And do you keep in touch with Larry Bird, because he's actually presenting it to you, isn't he?


You can choose anybody that you want, as far as -- a person has to be in the Hall of Fame. So my choice was Larry Bird. And I'm excited that he accepted. I keep in touch with him, because we have some business interests together. We're going to come out with a coffee table book, hopefully, this Christmas together.

CHUNG: Really?

JOHNSON: So it's -- yes.

CHUNG: A coffee table book about what?

JOHNSON: Some pictures of Larry and I that -- huh?

CHUNG: Sorry, Magic. A coffee table book about what?

JOHNSON: Pictures of Larry and I that people haven't seen and also like an interview with both of us, talking about the rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers, as well as about both of our individual careers. So it is going to be great because it's the first time we've ever done something like this.

CHUNG: Great.

Magic, Michael Jordan announced today that he's going to come back for another season playing for the Wizards. How about you? There is nobody who can take a ball and get it around the back and around and pass it off. There's nobody better than you. I want to see it again.


JOHNSON: Oh, no. I'm too old to come back.

CHUNG: Oh, please.

JOHNSON: Cookie would kill me anyway.

CHUNG: Oh, yes, that she would do.

JOHNSON: She said -- I think Cookie -- well, take that back. Cookie might like that I go back to the NBA, because she says I'm busier now than when I was playing in the NBA.

But I'm happy for Michael, because, if Michael wants to do it, he's healthy. You know he can still play, that he's going to be one of the top 10 players coming back. I think now the only thing he has to got to get used to is not being able to win as often as he used to with the Chicago Bulls.

So I'm going to be excited. I can't wait to see him play. And he has a better team now with the addition of Jerry Stackhouse. And I think that is going to take a lot of pressure off him. So he's really going to -- I bet you he's excited, because...

CHUNG: Oh, he's got to be.

JOHNSON: I think this year, they'll be able to make the playoffs.

CHUNG: You think so?

JOHNSON: Yes. I think, with the addition of Jerry Stackhouse, it gives them another scorer that can score 25 points a night. Michael now, all the focus doesn't have to be on him. He knows now that he can play a different type of game, having Jerry there.

CHUNG: Now, Magic, tell me how you are. Tell me, how is your health?

JOHNSON: My health is wonderful. I just had a physical about a week ago, passed it with flying colors. So I'm doing great. The medicine has been doing its part. I've been doing my part. And, definitely, God has been doing his part. So we're all three of us working together. I got a clean bill of health.

CHUNG: And you have shown no symptoms, correct, all these years, 11 years or so?

JOHNSON: Exactly, no symptoms. Also, the virus is laying asleep in my body. So it is not any -- running in my blood system. So, everything is just going great right now. And I think it's just that it's been a blessing. And I'm just happy that, again, it is going well for me.

CHUNG: Isn't that incredible?

You know, there was news today in the world of AIDS about people who are nonprogressors. And they must believe that you're one of those, one of the tiny percentage of 1 or 2 percent who do not progress.

JOHNSON: Yes, the virus acts different in everybody's body. A lot of people -- 10 people can get it and it is going to act different in all 10 of those people. It is just your body makeup, how you respond to the medicine, what is your workout routine, because, you know, I work out five days a week. And all those things come into play.

So, I don't know. It's just maybe because I was an athlete, maybe because I was already in shape. That maybe played in my favor. And the medicine has really done its part as far as in my body. There is not a lot of -- well, there is not any side-effects. So all those things come into play here when you talk about it.

CHUNG: Well, that's great. I'm so happy to hear that, Magic.

Now, I'm going to have to say goodbye, but I want to see you at a Knicks game, OK?

JOHNSON: Oh, you got it. You know I'm going to see you and your husband at the Knick game, because I know you're a big Knick fan.

CHUNG: Right. That's when I see you.

JOHNSON: Exactly.


JOHNSON: That's for sure.

And love and kisses to you. And you know I love you from way, way back.

And Cookie is now saying hello over here to the side. CHUNG: Oh good. I'm so glad.

JOHNSON: She's OK. She's being shy, though.

CHUNG: Yes. Will you tell Cookie love her and the kids, too?


CHUNG: And always you know -- you know I'm always yours. You know that.

JOHNSON: I know. I know. We go too far back.


CHUNG: That's right. All right.

JOHNSON: Take care.

CHUNG: Thank you, Magic.

JOHNSON: All right.

CHUNG: We'll be back.

JOHNSON: All right, bye-bye.

CHUNG: We'll be back.

ANNOUNCER: Next: why some people are so angry about this man's trip to Cuba.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT will be right back.


CHUNG: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has been drafted into the ongoing battle over America's 40-year embargo against Cuba. Because the embargo allows for food exemptions, Ventura is in Havana right now trying to drum up business for Minnesota food products. But his drumming up business has some politicians beating the war drums here in the states.

CNN Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman reports on the trip and the turmoil.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and President Fidel Castro were the stars of the American food show.

VENTURA: We trade with China, we trade with Vietnam, and the last time I recollect, 58,000 of my generation were killed in Vietnam. And yet that doesn't seem to be an obstacle.

NEWMAN: President Fidel Castro even played along, feeding a baby buffalo from a farm in Ventura's home state.

The products exhibited here come from 33 states of the United States, including Florida. In fact, there are more companies here from the home state of Governor Jeb Bush, who opposes trade with Cuba, than any other.

Everyone here eager to sign contracts with the Cuban government.

MICHAEL MAURICIO, FLORIDA PRODUCE: You see intermingling between Cuban buyers and American companies, and it's pretty. It's a pretty thing.

NEWMAN: Not so for Washington's top diplomat in Havana, who told exhibitors the fair was more bull than beef.

JAMES CASSON: U.S. INTEREST SECTION: This is a "Jurassic Park" economy that's no great market for the United States.

NEWMAN: Since December, Cuba has bought more than $120 million worth of U.S. food and agricultural products, an exception to the U.S. economic embargo.

But only if Cuba pays in cash.

Washington argues Cuba will never repay its creditors if U.S. financial restrictions are lifted. President Castro's response to Washington's man in Havana.

FIDEL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): His language is prehistoric. Jurassic, I'd say. I challenge him to a bet. I'll pay him $100 million dollars, and if we don't pay up, he can have it.

NEWMAN: For the 247 American companies here, from grains giant ADM, to smaller, family businesses accessing this market, off limits for the past four decades, is the real issue.


NEWMAN: Connie, for the Cuban government, though, this is much less of a trade show than a political showcase to further really its main objective, which is the easing of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The hope is that these American businessmen, with freshly signed contracts in their hand, will return home to push for just that -- Connie.

CHUNG: Lucia Newman, thank you so much, our bureau chief in Havana.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose Miami district includes Little Havana and who takes a decidedly different view of this than Governor Ventura does.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Thank you. CHUNG: Now, a number of your constituents who are Cuban exiles and have been away from Cuba for as many as 40 years are very upset with Jesse Ventura. And yet Jesse Ventura says -- and I quote -- "I don't set foreign policy. So what's wrong with my being here?"

Your response?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think it's immorally wrong. I think it's ethically wrong. And I think it's financially wrong.

Castro is a deadbeat dictator. Even if we take away why he's a bad investment, why he is a bad risk economically -- because the American taxpayers will end up paying the bill -- let's not forget what brought this country together. Our founding fathers came not to make an almighty dollar. They came for freedom of expression, for elections, for freedom of thought and expression.

What happened to those ideals? Have now we become a country that is only out for the dollar? Let's remember that Castro went to Iran in May of last year and said Iran and Cuba together can bring the United States to its knees. He's an enemy, a sworn enemy of the United States. He's one of only seven countries worldwide who is listed on the state sponsor list of terrorism.

And I think it's shameful to overlook his egregious human rights record. He's been condemned by the United Nations Human Rights Commission time and time again. In fact, for the first time this year, that report was issued by a Latin American country. And every other country has been trading with Castro for 42 years. How has that brought the Cuban people any closer to democracy? He owes so many countries money that it's incredible. U.S. taxpayers will end up paying the bills.

CHUNG: Let me jump in a little bit here. I know you feel very strongly about your views.

But it is not just Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. There are some 33 exhibitors at this trade conference. And Florida actually is included among the states. In fact, Florida has the most.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I know. And it's shameful. I'm not very proud of that.

I think it doesn't speak well for our state that we're willing to overlook what is the situation in Cuba, that there haven't been free elections in 42 years. I wish that Jesse Ventura and those exhibitors would take time to visit the political opposition leaders. And there is opposition to Fidel Castro in Cuba.

I wish they would take time, instead of feeding the Buffaloes, to visit the prisoners of conscience in jail. I wish they would go to the homes of the brave leaders who are facing persecution just because they have independent libraries in their homes. Is that not important to us at all?

CHUNG: Will you forgive me for interrupting you? You know what? I want to get one more quick thing. We're going to be interviewing Jesse Ventura tomorrow. Would you like to say something to him? And we'll play it for him.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I would like for him to visit those opposition leaders. And I would also like for him to talk to the economists worldwide who have broken off relations with Fidel Castro because he does not pay his debt.

And let me give you some examples. The European Union is owed $11 billion.

CHUNG: Oh, you know what? Congresswoman, I am so sorry that we have run out of time.


CHUNG: But, you know, I will pass along what you have said. And you can watch and look, see if...

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, tell him to visit the prisoners and tell him that the taxpayer doesn't want to foot the bill.

CHUNG: Perfect.

Thank you so much for being with us.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

CHUNG: And, tomorrow, we will have Jesse Ventura on live from Havana.

Back in a moment with more on tomorrow night's program.


CHUNG: Tomorrow: an adoption story you'll love.

And "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Don't miss it.

Thank you for joining us. And for all of us at CNN, good night. We'll see you tomorrow.


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