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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interviews With John Warner, Mitch McConnell, Howard Baker, George Mitchell, Bob Jones

Aired December 20, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive. Trent Lott steps down as Senate majority leader. With us to discuss this and more, conservative Christian leader Dr. Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University. His name was brought back into the news by the whole Trent Lott controversy. It was on this very show that he lifted his school's ban on interracial dating, and he'll take your phone calls.
But first, on the breaking news of the day, Trent Lott's fellow Republican senators John Warner of Virginia and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Plus, two former Senate majority leaders. We'll meet Howard Baker of Tennessee and George Mitchell of Maine. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're having some satellite problems via Tennessee and Atlanta and here in Los Angeles, so we're not connecting with Howard Baker yet. As soon as we're ready, we'll go to him, but let's start with Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia.

What's your overview of this whole resignation thing?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: First, I think the Republican conference, 51 senators, recognized the buck stops on our desks, and it's our responsibility. And I commend how we are going about it. We also commend Trent Lott. He handled his resignation with dignity, and we accept him back to work among us. And we're going to go on about our business. And we now have presumably a new leader on Monday, when we hold a telephone conference around 2:00 on Monday, and I anticipate that we'll unanimously elect Senator Bill Frist.

KING: Do you share those views, Senator McConnell?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I do, indeed. And I think it's appropriate tonight to remember that Senator Lott did an outstanding job of leading the Senate Republicans for six years. And he handled this crisis, it seems to me, very well. I think today he took the step he needed to take for the sake of our conference and for our party and for the country. And I commend Senator Lott for the decision that he made this morning.

KING: Senator Mitchell, Senate historian Don Richie (ph) said that Trent Lott is the first Senate leader forced to step down because of a controversy. Your thoughts? You were a Senate leader. GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I was. And I accept the historian's recollection that I think was mine as well. I have a mixture of emotions. I think that for the Republicans, the incident will be harmful in the short term, but the election of Bill Frist as leader will be helpful in the longer term.

KING: Even though Senator Frist's voting record was very similar to Senator Lott's in areas of civil rights?

MITCHELL: Yes, I do think over the long term it will be more helpful, because, of course, he didn't make the kind of statement that Senator Lott did, and, therefore, I don't think we'll be subject to the tremendous criticism which Senator Lott has received in the media and in other areas.

KING: Senator Warner, everyone is saying -- everyone -- insiders are saying that Bill Frist is the president's man. Is the president dictating to the Republican senators?

WARNER: Oh, I'm quite sure that's not the case, Larry. As a matter of fact, I was with Bill Frist yesterday and again today, and in a privately and in his office, and I raised this question, knowing that I was going to be on television tonight. And he told me that he has not talked to the White House in three weeks' time.

Now, he did, in a very heroic way, lead our Republican team to a majority, because he was in charge, basically, of the campaigns. Trent Lott pitched in. And our president did, in a magnificent way, I think unprecedented amount of appearances on behalf of Republican candidates. So we all worked closely as a team. And in the course of that, I think the president and the staff of the White House had a high regard for Bill Frist. But in no way are they trying to influence, in my judgment. Certainly they haven't called this senator, the right of 51 Republican senators to step up, accept the challenge, act reasonably swiftly and make our decision.

KING: Would you say, Senator Mitchell, though, the White House is happy with the choice?

MITCHELL: Oh, I think that's quite clear. There have been enough statements on background, sort of on and off the record, to make it clear that the White House will be very happy with these developments.

KING: Senator McConnell, do you agree?

MCCONNELL: Larry, I saw no evidence that the White House was involved in this. We had great admiration for Bill. As John pointed out, he led us from one seat down to one seat up. We're excited to be back in the new majority. We think he's going to be an exciting leader. The American people are going to learn the extraordinary talents of Bill Frist. This is a man who's done everything from heart transplantation surgery to flying his own plane, to operating on poor people in Africa, to running marathons. And I told him that I thought the ability to run a marathon would stand him in good stead, being the majority leader, because he's going to need a high energy level. KING: Senator Mitchell, what's the role of the majority leader? Is it to press for and try to get past the president's program?

MITCHELL: Yes, of course that's a part of it, when the majority leader is of the party of the president. But basically it's to ask senators to do what they should be doing without having to be asked. There aren't any sticks and there are very few carrots. So it's really kind of a supplicant's job. You ask people to do things...

KING: I remember history, Senator Lyndon Johnson was majority leader. Eisenhower was president. And Eisenhower credited Johnson with helping to get a lot of his legislation passed.

MITCHELL: He did, of course, when he believed it to be correct. And I had that experience myself. I worked very closely with the first President Bush and his administration in passage of the historic Clean Air Act of 1990. There was cooperation on both sides, and there was opposition on both sides. So there will be many instances in which a majority leader will help a president of the other party that it's much more likely when the two share the same party that they'll be cooperating.

KING: Now, Mitch McConnell, you're going to be Senate majority whip. What's the relationship of the whip to the leader?

MCCONNELL: Well, I'm number two in the Senate. Bill and I have had discussions about how we intended to divide the work load. I'll be principally on the floor, sort of trying to move the legislation forward. And of course, the traditional role of the whip is to try to win votes. And you can win votes, obviously, on your side of the aisle and on the other side of the aisle. And we expect to have help from southern and western Democrats on various issues in order to advance the president's agenda.

KING: Senator Warner, Trent Lott's role, is he -- isn't it going to be very hard for him to just be another senator?

WARNER: No. Trent is a team player. And you talk about legislation. I heard my old friend George Mitchell just mention some of the things he did. I saw Trent really at his finest hour in getting the Homeland Defense Department established, through a divided Republican caucus and certainly with difficulty on the other side of the aisle for a while.

But back to your main question. He will come back, accept responsibilities, work very hard, and I anticipate rehabilitate himself to the extent damage has been done.

But let's look at the future. Bill Frist is an extraordinary man. And the team of Frist and Mitch McConnell is going to be a superb one. We all admired Mitch. He's a quiet, hard-working individual, and he's a master of the floor rules. And that's something I think, as Bill and I talked about today, that his experience is in other areas, and Mitch will plug in where he feels he needs help, because Frist wants to provide a national health program. He really wants to help the people in America, particularly the uninsured.

So I'm not talking about national medical control, it's just to put a new health program in America. That's one of the main goals.

KING: Let me get a break and then Howard Baker will join us. We'll include some phone calls as well. And then Dr. Bob Jones of Bob Jones University. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our satellite's now connecting to Huntsville, Tennessee, where Howard Baker joins us. The Republican of Tennessee was former Senate majority leader, 1981-85, and minority leader, 77-81. Former White House Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan as well.

What do you make of this whole episode in American politics, Senator Baker?

HOWARD BAKER (R-TN), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it was a brutal thing and I personally feel sorry for Trent because it's not the way he wanted to end his leadership in the Senate. But these things happen and, you know, I think it's a tribute to Trent that he recognized the situation and withdrew his name from further consideration.

We're also lucky, though, to have somebody like Bill Frist who can step in and restore unity and confidence in the Republican caucus and go forward.

KING: Why, Senator Baker -- and then we can all get into discussion on this -- why does race never seem to go away from the American political scene? Why haven't we solved this dilemma?

BAKER: Well, it's a very good question, Larry. I'm currently reading and have just about finished the last book about Ulysses Grant, General Grant. And you can trace the present, acute nature of the race issue back to, I guess, Reconstruction and before that. But it's too bad because it has a distorting effect on politics in America and usually has very little to do with the real merits of the controversy, at least not since the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act shortly thereafter.

But you're right. It is -- it just never goes away. And that's too bad, because it's not good for American politics. It lends itself to demogoguary and it ought to be put to bed.

KING: Senator McConnell, why does it linger? Why do we still have this?

MCCONNELL: Well, it's America's original sin and we're still trying to get it right. It was the one way in which the founders of our country were inconsistent by not applying these principles to every American. And so we're a work in progress. America is continuing to improve.

We've made enormous strides over the last 30 to 40 years, enormous strides, but we're still not there and we're still working on it.

KING: Senator Mitchell, do you think we'll ever really -- are we turning the corner? Have we turned the corner?

MITCHELL: I think this incident will, in the long run, help, Larry, because it's a warning crosses everyone's political bound. It's the most divisive issue in American history, for the obvious reason that African-Americans are the only group of Americans who came here involuntarily and who were oppressed and kept in slavery and kept down for a very long time.

And tragically the reality is that both political parties have exploited race for political gain. For nearly 100 years after the Civil War, it was the Democrats. Overtly, often brutally, but finally Hubert Humphrey and then Lyndon Johnson led them away from it. And when Lyndon Johnson signed into law two of the most important laws in our country's history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he said, This will drive the South to the Republican party for a generation or more. And of course, he was right.

Those who could not accept equality went to the only place they could go, to the Republican party, which in the past half century was not the brutality of the Democrats, much more subtly, have used the issue in a political way, trying to kind of have it both ways, which politicians have done historically.

I think this makes clear that it can't be both ways in America. We have to be a country dedicated to equality of all citizens.

KING: I'm going to have Senator Warner comment. But I understand we have a call that expressly for Senator Warner.

Glendora, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi.

First, Mr. King, I like to tell you that I really like your show...

KING: Thank you. What's the question?

CALLER: I'd like to ask Senator John Warner, Does he think that Trent Lott's resignation and stepping down is going to help President Bush in his going for re-election and...

KING: What effect do you think it will have?

WARNER: I think Senator Lott recognized and took the initiative because he saw that there was going to be a handicap should he remain as leader to get the Republican program of the president through the Congress. and that he, quite probably, for a period of time, could not stand before the nation and urge the adoption of this program.

So, yes, that is correct. And -- but we're going to go forward. We've got a strong leader now. And I only wish to add to that very interesting rendition of history by George Mitchell that those civil rights laws were passed with the strong support of a very significant number of Republican senators. I think George would recognize that.

KING: Would you, George?

MITCHELL: Oh, yes, of course.

The fact is, of course, that even in its darkest days not all Democrats exploited the issue and I certainly don't mean to suggest all Republicans have. But there can be no doubt, Larry, that there has been on both ways.

KING: Well, there was a Southern strategy?

MITCHELL: Sure. Of course there's a Southern strategy. It was overt and everyone was aware of it. It wasn't brutal, but it was with winks and nods. Now people understand that you're for equality or you're not. I don't think it's possible to have it both ways any more.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

WARNER: If I could...

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Senator Warner is with Trent Lott stepping down, Does he feel that this might actually enable to Republican Party to draw more black voters in considering they've actually made the move now to make change when it comes to Trent Lott?

WARNER: You know, I'm privileged to represent Virginia today only because I have received support from people of color in five campaigns, my fifth just being completed. And I have worked hard, perhaps a little harder than most, to earn their trust and confidence and respect.

And, yes, I think it will. And I anticipate Republican Party has been reaching out, I think, very sincerely and indeed Bill Frist, in his leadership of the campaign did exactly that in many areas.

So we will carry on with our leadership perhaps with a little more vigor than we had before. I hope so.

KING: Rome, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Yes. I have got a question for George Mitchell.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Senator Mitchell, why don't you -- why do you believe that President Bush did not come to the defense of Trent Lott more, please? MITCHELL: That I don't know. The president made a strong statement deploring it and I accept that he believed that it was a deplorable statement and I think others have suggested that the president's statement really was a decisive point in the departure of Trent Lott.

KING: In a sense, Senator Baker, it was not defensible, was it?

BAKER: No, it really wasn't and it's too bad because Trent knows better and The Republican party need not be saddled with that sort of statement. And I think that's why Trent withdrew. He recognized that was a major burden for a party that was already burdened with the civil rights issue.

I think the Republican Party has done a great job in moving forward on racial issues. There's work yet to be done. But I think Bill Frist is exactly the right man to lead us that direction and to reinforce the direction of movement of the Republican Party on racial issues.

KING: Senator McConnell, how effective will he and you be in getting Democrats to -- wing Democrats to swing with you when needed?

MCCONELL: Well, we'll find out. Both of us will be new to our jobs come the first of the year. But we're optimistic because of the president's popularity. And I think it's all important to remember that the president is the image of the Republican Party in America today. Not this episode, which had a duration of about two weeks. President's overwhelmingly popular.

He was largely credited, correctly credited, with the success in the recent election. I think there are many Southern and Western Democrats who are going to feel that the right place to be politically and otherwise is behind the president on at least some of, if not a significant part, of his legislative agenda, which we'll be pursuing with great vigor come January 7.

KING: We thank you all very much, Senators John Warner and Mitch McConnell and former Senators Howard Baker and George Mitchell.

When we come back, Dr. Bob Jones III, president of bob Jones University. They been involved in a lot of this talk as well. We'll pick up on that and include calls for Dr. Jones. Always good to see him. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: He is no stranger to controversy. He's Dr. Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, joining us from Frisco, Colorado. It was in March of 2000 that Bob flew up to Washington, came on this program and announced that the school had dropped its ban on interracial dating.

Before we get right into it, Bob Jones' name came up today at a White House press briefing. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: What should black and white voters, who are now focused on the issue of race and the Republican Party and this president, draw from Mr. Bush's visit to Bob Jones University and his silence while there on that very offensive policy of banning interracial dating?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Let me describe to you what the president has done about civil rights in America and the president's position on some of these issues.

When you take a look at some of the things that help people of all walks of life in America, the president's programs on education, for example, are some of the best ways to help Americans from all walks of life to have a better future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bob Jones, what's your first overall view of this Trent Lott matter?

DR. BOB JONES III, PRES., BOB JONES UNIV.: Well I think like most Americans probably, I'm just very glad it's over. My son Bob and I were praying just two days ago that he would resign even before this program. I think everybody's just glad it's over with.

The feeding frenzy is over. Life can go on. The Republican Party is going to be breathing a big sigh of relief. The president as well, and the Senators we just heard from all sound quite relieved. And I believe everybody in the general public is relieved. This thing has lingered too long, I think.

KING: What did you think when you heard the statement and the ruckus that followed it?

JONES: I was surprised that a man who had arrived at such a position of leadership would, in a careless moment, I don't know how else to describe it, make a statement like that. I cannot believe the man is a racist.

Just today in the paper, for instance, some who are polls apart politically, like Walter Mondale and John Lewis, congressman who is a civil rights activist, Senator Daschle have all said they feel rather sorry for him and that in an off-handed moment something was said that has created this kind of furor.

Maybe in saner times, more reasonable times in America this wouldn't have happened. I don't know. But it's too bad. I don't believe he's a racist. I don't believe most Americans believe he's a racist. I know his own peers in the Senate don't believe he's a racist. They never would have elected him to this position of leadership had he had a whiff of racism about him.

The whole thing, I believe, has been milked for all it was worth by that wing of the media that looks upon the Republican Party as perhaps the devil himself. And even today, Hillary Clinton stepped in to the limelight and made the statement that the Republican Party was a party of racism or words to that effect. This is uncalled for. There was no justification for a statement like that from her. There's no evidence of it. If she believes this is true, let her come forth...

KING: Her husband yesterday said that the Republicans, for example, look the other way in your own state of South Carolina when it came to taking down the Confederate flag. That's a bad sign to blacks that the Republicans seem to quasi support the Confederate flag hanging on a public building in South Carolina. What else would they think?

JONES: For generations the flag was there. The flag was there for a long, long time. Until recently, no one ever thought of it as a sign of racism.

I happen to be one of the first ones in the state to say the flag needs to come down. If it's a divisive thing, it doesn't have to be there. It shouldn't be over the Capitol that represents all the people. I was when glad it came down. I went into print asking that it come down. I was happy.

KING: But a lot of Republicans didn't say that. So it was logical that blacks would fell that the Republicans didn't have their best interest of heart or were playing to the interest of white South who wanted it to stay up.

JONES: Well, Larry, for all I know there may have been a lot of Democrats who didn't say that either in the state.

KING: You think -- by the way, were you -- weren't you once a segregationist?

JONES: Was I a segregationist?

KING: Yes.

JONES: I've never been a segregationist, Larry.

KING: But you grew up in a segregation society? Right? The society you grew up in, that your grandfather and father grew up in was a segregationist society?

JONES: Well, at one time the entire South was segregated. If you're going to say I'm a segregationist that because I grew up in a segregationist society, you're going to have to say that about everybody in the South.

KING: I'm only saying it because Trent Lott said it. He said this is the society that he grew up in. He voted against integration his fraternity.

Did that rub off on you at all? It's safe to ask any Southerner. Things rubbed off on my growing up in Brooklyn. JONES: I suppose when we live in any part of the world, something in that part of our culture rubs off on us. But it doesn't have to stay on us.

Whatever Trent Lott was or any Southerner was 30 years, 40, 50, 60 years ago, that is unjustly to be held against him today if there is no sign that he is that way today. People grow, people change, the nation grows, the nation changes.

And it's unfair to say that a person who was whatever he was a long time ago -- I was once a sinner, but now I'm saved by grace. I went to the Lord's goodness that I am not what I was.

KING: I think the question was asked in a frame of reference, as we discussed -- I'm going to pick up on this when we come back -- is why the issue of race continues to be such a terrible hold on America. Why doesn't seem to go away.

We'll pick up with Dr. Bob Jones III. We'll include phone calls for Dr. Jones. He's president of Bob Jones University. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dr. Bob Jones. A pretty good guest. Always good to have him with us. Always interested in his thoughts. What do you -- why do you think race has been such a -- as Mitch McConnell called it, "America's original sin?"

JONES: Well, the truth is that our founding fathers all owned slaves, which is a great tragedy. And none of us today would condone that. It is a black mark. But they were the people of their times, and I'm sure if they were alive today, they would be the first to offer apology and the first to turn away from the tragedy of slave ownership. It is inexcusable in anybody's structure.

You asked the question a while ago, why won't race go away. Well, I don't know the answer to that. I know that human nature is human nature, but I think more than this, I think the Democrats don't want it to go away. I think a lot of the media doesn't want it to go away. I think the fact that, you know, two whole weeks of television given to very little else, apart from Iraq, part of the reason it won't go away. You know, I think that what we talk about is what we think about. And I think that a lot of it is manufactured, to be honest with you. And ...

KING: But if it wasn't there, the media couldn't -- if it wasn't there, if race relations were all hunky dory in America and everything was fine and blacks loved whites and everybody got along, then the media couldn't do anything with it. There has to be something there for something to happen.

JONES: Well, there is something there, Larry. And it's the fallen human nature that you mentioned a while -- that I mentioned a while ago. It's man's sin nature that takes advantage of other men and abuses other men and seeks advantage by putting other people down. It is the sin, flawed human nature that is at the root of all of this.

And you know, at, for instance Bob Jones University, we have the most harmonious racial relationship in the student body and the faculty that I would dare you to find anything better anywhere in America. The reason is that here are blood-washed, redeemed, born again Christian people who love each other and the Lord. And there is none of this strife. There's none of this bickery. There's none of this racial agitation. We respect everybody tremendously, because we are one in Christ.

And you know, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes the heart of man would change the social issues. The reason is, man fights, he strives, he seeks ascendancy over others. He seeks prominence, and he does whatever he has to do to find it, and that's part of the fall of human nature.

KING: By the way, how has your school done lifting the ban?

JONES: It's done great.

KING: I mean, there's been interracial dating and incidents, no problems?

JONES: Not at all, Larry. And I would challenge anybody to set foot on the campus and see for yourself the kindness, the love, the harmony, the respect that is there among all people. This whole thing -- this whole perception is a media-manufactured perception. It just doesn't exist. It doesn't exist.

KING: What is the perception do you think the media has made Bob Jones to be?

JONES: I think they have made it to be a whipping boy. I think they've made it to be, again, part of this keeping the pot stirred. They've got to find somebody to say something against. They've got to have an issue. It makes headlines, it makes news. It brings in money. And it is the most unjustified thing in the world that the university should be continually back in the news, continually mentioned in the context of all of these things.

You know, Trent Lott was scathed initially because he was a friend of the court when the university was before the Supreme Court in 1983. Well, the inference was that somehow he was a racist because he was a friend of the court. He made it very clear it had nothing to do with race. It had to do totally with freedom of religion. And he was concerned that the Constitution was going to be violated. There were many others -- the American Baptists, the Mormons, the National Jewish Conference on Law and Public Affairs.

KING: In that brief for you, he did say, quote, "racial discrimination does not always violate public policy." Don't you think it should?

JONES: I think racial discrimination should violate public policy. But the issue in our case was, does federal public policy take precedence over First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion? That was the issue that the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Mormons, the Amish, the Mennonite, so many of those who signed as friends of the court. They were not there because they were racist; they were concerned about their First Amendment rights of guaranteed freedom of religion. That's why they signed on. That's why Trent Lott signed on. It had nothing to do with race.

KING: But they were making you subject to tax because of your ban on interracial dating. That was the reason that they were trying to subject you to taxation, and Senator Lott was defending your right to ban interracial dating, which you agreed later was wrong.

JONES: He was not defending our position. He was not identifying with our beliefs any more than the others who were friends of the court were identifying with our beliefs. In fact, we don't identify with most of their beliefs. So there was no commonality of belief in this whole thing. It was that there is an issue here that has to do with religious freedom. If the government can say certain beliefs are onerous and odious and therefore should be taxed and penalized because we don't like them, whoever we is, then government defines religion, government establishes religion, and that's clearly against the founding fathers' provisions and the Declaration and the Constitution.

And so that's what this was all about. But that's passed us, Larry. There's really no need to even discuss those things. That's ancient history.

KING: But things are well now; that's the most important thing.

JONES: Absolutely, Larry. And let's get on with life, and just like one of the senators just said, let's look to the future. The future is bright. We don't have to keep making it cloudy and ugly by dragging in history that might be something that is ugly.

KING: We'll take some calls in a moment. I'll bet you knew, though, as soon as the Trent Lott controversy erupted, someone was going to mention Bob Jones.

JONES: I did. That's just the way the media does things. I had no doubt it would happen.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with phone calls for Dr. Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University. Tomorrow night on "LARRY KING WEEKEND," Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dr. Bob Jones. Before we take our first call for Dr. Jones, Trent Lott did say in his interview on BET TV, that he supports affirmative action. I was wondering your thoughts on that concept.

JONES: I think it's a two-edged sword, Larry. I'm not an expert on the subject. And there are a lot of other things that I feel a lot more capable of talking about. I think ti has both its good and bad aspects.

KING: OK. Tyler, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I've got a question.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Well, I cannot understand why South Carolina, where the population is 90 percent black, I would say, or a lot black, how they could vote Senator Thurmond into office for so many years if they felt like that he was so racial or he was against blacks.

KING: I don't think it's 90 percent but go ahead, Dr. Jones.

CALLER: No, it's not 90 percent.

But Senator Thurmond was recognized by all people of South Carolina as a sterling representative of all the people of the state. And the fact that he was returned for all of those years is evidence of it. He's a dear friend. He's a great patriot. He's going to be greatly missed in the Senate and he's much loved by blacks and whites in South Carolina.

KING: And he did change markedly did he not?

JONES: He did change. He did change, as Trent Lott changed, as a lot of us have changed, as most everybody who is now in the Senate from the South changed. I say let's look at what people are today, not what they were in the context of their former life.

KING: Arlington, Virginia.

CALLER: Good evening.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Dr. Jones, how do you explain Senator Lott's comment endorsing a segregationist platform as anything but racist and, in addition, could you please explain his record from wanting to bar blacks from his fraternity, to his voting against the Martin Luther King holiday and against the Voting Rights Act in the early '90s?

JONES: You know, I'm neither a defender nor detractor of Trent Lott. I don't know the man. I have never talked to the man. I would like to just say again, to this dear lady who called, every senator of any age at all in the current U.S. Senate at one time or another was in some way a different man in regard to race than he is today. And Trent Lott would have never been elected as leader of the Republican Senate by his peers if he had had a taint of racism on him today.

I don't know what the man was in the past. Evidently he was a different man than he is today. That doesn't have anything to do with the present circumstance. What he was 30 or 40 years ago has nothing to do with the present circumstance. Everybody knows what he has said today. Judge him for what he is.

You know, this whole Trent Lott thing is over. It's done with. There's no need to even shake it like a dog with a bone any more.

KING: Athens, West Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Yes.

For Dr. Jones, since Christianity and Judaism and Islam were all more or less descended from the same religion from Armana, Egypt, and since the -- would the university ever encourage diversity and consider putting back social justice as a theme that was more or less obliterated during the Middle Ages back into the university?

KING: Did you understand that?

JONES: I'm not sure I understand that. No, I really didn't, Larry, I'm sorry.

KING: Well he says, If all -- I guess he was saying, Do you plan to introduce more concepts of social justice in the university system, away from just concentration on the Christian end? I gather that. I'm trying to.

JONES: OK. Well, I will go along with your definition, there, Larry.

KING: I'm trying to help -- OK. OK. Why not more emphasis on social issues?

JONES: Yes. I think that it's impossible to be a Bible believing Christian and not be concerned about social issues. A man who loves Christ loves those that Christ loves. And the Bible makes it very clear that helping the widows and orphan in their affliction is a major part of what the redeemed Christian life is all about.

You can't love Christ without loving those Christ loves and he loves all people. And I consider that a Bible believing Christian, more than anybody in all the Earth, is legitimately driven to be concerned about the social issues. And I believe that Bible-believing church has a wonderful record of that -- of feeding those who are hungry, of clothing those who are naked. The Lord said to do these things.

The Lord was concerned about these things when he was on Earth. He had great compassion for those who were poor and those who were ill and those who were needy and downtrodden.

The religion of his day didn't have any concern for those things -- the Pharisees, they had no concern. But the Lord had concern. It was his compassion more than anything else that drew people to him.

KING: Do you have to be Christian to go to Bob -- could a Muslim go to Bob Jones University? JONES: Bob Jones University is a Christian University. We're there for those who love Jesus Christ and who want to serve Jesus Christ. Those who are outside of...

KING: So a Muslim would not be comfortable there?

JONES: No. He certainly would not. He would not. He would be uncomfortable because we have chapel four times a week. We open every class with prayer. We love and serve Jesus Christ. People who don't love Jesus Christ would not be comfortable at the university.

KING: We'll be back with more questions for Dr. Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dr. Jones.

Cadwell, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: My question is the answer to the question you asked previously. When you asked why won't the racism go away. I believe it's because white people still look at black people as inferior.

And my question to Dr. Jones is, does he believe that white people in the South look at black people as equal?

JONES: I certainly can't speak for all of the Southerners or all of the Northerners. This problem is a human nature problem, it's not a regional problem. Racism exists in the North, East, South, West, everywhere.

I would hope that there are very few who would not look at black people as equal. I certainly do. I love black people. We just took a $30,000 offering at our Thanksgiving pray service at the university for three black pastors in Haiti and sent that back down there with them for their churches and for their poor needy folks who have unbelievable dire social needs.

And my heart is -- my heart loves black people. I don't understand...

KING: As a Christian isn't it -- as a Christian, a devout Christian, isn't it unexplainable to you how anybody could treat anybody differently because of a simple thing as color of a skin? That's pigment.

JONES: It is, Larry. I totally agree with you. I totally agree, Larry. It absolutely is.

KING: It boggles me.

Kansas City, Missouri, hello. CALLER: Yes. I have a comment to make. I'm a black man. I don't believe Trent Lott is a racist. I think the people who are in government who feel this way, those are the people I am more afraid of than Trent Lott himself.

I think he has a right to speak what he wants to speak. It's those people who represent us in the United States and the government who feel this way that don't bring out their views.

And also to the gentleman, Mr. Jones. You keep bring up Christian people and that you love black people. That's wonderful and all. But your university at one point didn't like interracial dating at all.

To me, I think as an equal, as an American, we all should be able to date whoever we want to date and not feel like we are under some pressure or we're going to be lynched or anything like that. And I just wan to...

KING: Do you want to comment Dr. Jones?

JONES: Well, of course I think an American should be free to do whatever he wants. That's the beauty of this country. I'm glad we had Christian forefathers who understood the virtue of liberty.

I totally agree with what he said. I also believe that anybody should have any right to draw any barriers in any lines that they want to draw. And freedom is a two-edged sword. Freedom is for all people.

KING: Why are conservative Christians so outspokenly in support of Israel?

JONES: Well, the Bible, both Old and New Testament, Larry, make it very clear that God has chosen the land of Israel as his land. He said, "I have chosen Jerusalem to put my name there." That's recorded for us in Chronicles II, Chapter 6.

Then He said to his people of Israel -- He said, "I have planted you here, but I will pluck you up. I will root you out if you turn away from my commandments, if you worship and serve other Gods." And they did that in 586 BC, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as God's servant came and took them away in captivity. They've been captivity ever since.

God has promises, many promises in his word to fulfill with his people of Israel. And one day they are going to be regathered. And the Bible says -- God says, "I'll take them from the East and the West. I'll plant them in Jerusalem. They'll be my people, I'll be their God." God says, "I will reign over all the Earth. The Lord Jesus will rule and reign, and his people, Israel, will reign with him, the redeemed people of God, the born-again believers will rule with Him."

And He will rule from Jerusalem, the temple, the Jewish temple, will be rebuilt on Mount (UNINTELLIGIBLE), on the temple site where the Mosque of Omar, the third most Holy site of Islam now stands. So there's some interesting days ahead for this world. The focus of the world is on Israel. And the Bible's focus is on Israel.

KING: Do you have an affinity for the plight of the Palestinians?

JONES: Yes. You can't help but have. You can't help but have.

And the Zionist government that is there now is not necessarily God's plan. Theodore Herschel in 1897 called his Council for Zionism and it was established at that council in Bosell (ph), Switzerland. It was a nationalistic thing, trying to blend Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. And this is the government that is driving the engine of everything there and now.

But one day Jerusalem will be a peaceful place and the Lord will rule there with a rod of iron. It will be peaceful. But right now the conflict is great, and you can't help but feel sorry for the people who are of offended on all sides.

KING: Dr. Jones, it's always nice having you with us. We look forward to our next visit. Thank you so much.

JONES: Thank you, Larry, for letting me be here.

KING: Dr. Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University, coming to us from Frisco, Colorado.

When we come back, we'll tell you about what's ahead this weekend right after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night on "LARRY KING WEEKEND," Nicole KING: dman and Julianne Moore. They star in a terrific new movie called "The Hours" which opens next week.

Sunday night we'll repeat our interview with Al and Tipper Gore and also bring the children and wife into that episode. You may remember it.

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Baker, George Mitchell, Bob Jones>

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