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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Could New Tape Clear Michael Jackson?; Revolutionary New Treatment For Spinal Cord Injuries

Aired November 26, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: A new tape may have surfaced that could help clear Michael Jackson. If he does survive the latest scandal, can he revive his career? We'll talk with an image-maker who specializes in creating top superstars and keeping them at the top of the charts.
We investigate a revolutionary treatment that may actually regenerate damaged spinal cords.

And in broadcast journalism, scoring the most coveted interviews has become as competitive as pro sports. Now an online bookmaker is taking odds on who can land the big gets.

Good evening and welcome. I'm Soledad O'Brien, in for Paula Zahn tonight.

Also ahead, a report that the U.S. has paid $1.5 million to Iraqis for wrongful deaths and other claims during the war.

And, as 31 million Americans take to the roads over the holiday, we look at whether U.S. highways have become more deadly since speed limits went up.

Plus, we'll tell you about one big city's bold drive to win a surprising new slice of the tourism market.

And more on the Michael Jackson case. The lawyer who wants his children taken from him, I'll ask her why that should happen even before Jackson is formerly charged, let alone convicted.

First, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

CNN is looking into reports that pop star Michael Jackson's 12- year-old accuser and the boy's mother declared in February that Jackson had never abused him.

Let's get the latest now from national correspondent Frank Buckley in Los Angeles.

Frank, good evening.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Soledad.

Those declarations come on an audiotape and an affidavit provided by a source close to the defense. Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, CNN's legal contributor, has had a chance to listen to the tape. She describes a voice that sounds like the mother's voice -- or it's been told to us as the mother's voice describing Michael Jackson as a father figure to the alleged victim in this case.

According to this defense source, they both -- both the mother and the alleged victim also signed an affidavit saying that Jackson never abused the boy. And this could, potentially -- if it gets into court, could be potentially damaging to the prosecution of Michael Jackson -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, Michael Jackson's attorneys have long said that this is a financially motivated prosecution. Do you think there's anything in that to back that up?

BUCKLEY: Well, we can say right now that there's no lawsuit. The district attorney in Santa Barbara has said that there is no lawsuit pending.

Having said that, a source close to the family tells me that the family did, in fact, retain the services of Larry Feldman. He is the attorney who represented the boy in the 1993 allegations against Michael Jackson, where there was a multimillion-dollar settlement. We also uncovered in court today, through court records, that this family of the alleged victim has sued for money in the past. In 1999, just four years ago, there was a dispute over an alleged shoplifting incident at a J.C. Penney store in West Covina that was ultimately settled for $137,000 for the family.

So the money has -- the family has sued for money in the past. But, again, there's no lawsuit that's pending -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Frank Buckley for us this evening -- Frank, thanks.

So is this audiotape the smoking gun that Jackson's defense lawyers have been waiting for? "In Focus": now, the credibility of Jackson's accusers and what it might mean for the prosecution.

Joining us from Los Angeles this evening is defense attorney Steve Cron. Joining us in our studio is regular contributor and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Gentlemen, good evening to both of you. Thanks for joining me.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hi.

O'BRIEN: Steve, let's begin with you. Weigh in for me on this audiotape. How devastating do you think this is for the prosecution?

STEVE CRON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, potentially, it could just wipe them out.

Without knowing all the details -- I haven't heard it. I haven't seen what's on there. But if there is no other corroboration, if this was given freely, if there's no coercion, if it took place after the time when the allegation supposedly occurred, you could stick a fork in this case and say it's done. But if that tape is what it's supposed to be, this could be devastating to the prosecutor.

O'BRIEN: Steve, I got to tell you, I think you used "if" about eight times in those sentences there.

Jeff Toobin, do you agree? Do you think that this is devastating for the prosecution?

TOOBIN: Oh, it's as bad as you can get, if -- I would like to repeat those eight "if"s that Steve has used.

The timing and the context matters a lot, and I think particularly the timing, because, obviously, there was some relationship between Michael Jackson and this boy. There's no doubt about that. And there was, presumably, some considerable period of time when the relationship was not sexual. The question is, was that tape recording taken at a time when the prosecution alleges that the improper conduct had already begun?

O'BRIEN: So you're saying, at the end of the day, it's all about the date, to some degree?

TOOBIN: Well, and also the context and what precisely is said.

O'BRIEN: Steve, this could be, of course, a boon for the defense. Give me a sense how you think the defense would use a tape like this, if all of your "if"s are resolved, that it turns out that it is valid?

CRON: Well, if I'm Mark Geragos, I want the world to see this. There is no gag order at the present time. I would make it available to anybody and anyone in the world that wants to see it, because even if there are some problems in some of the "if"s that I suggested, you're still worrying about the court of public opinion.

And he certainly has an iffy image. Some love him. Some despise him. But if you can go forward and present that tape to the world and let everybody see what this kid said, it certainly is going to take away a lot from the people in the camp that want to send him away, because they're going to have take back a step and think, gee, is there something more to this?

And those jurors are going to be -- those people will be the ultimate jurors on this case deciding his fate.

TOOBIN: But what's so peculiar about this tape, if it in fact is as exculpatory as we're suggesting it is, is, why didn't he use it already? The goal...

O'BRIEN: You're basically saying, why would Geragos, Mark Geragos, want his client arrested if he knew the tape existed?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Exactly.

The goal for a defense lawyer is never to win after a long, ugly trial. The win, the real win is never to get your client charged in the first place. And if -- that's why I think we have to be especially suspicious about what this tape says, because, if this was a Jackson investigator, obviously, Mark Geragos would know about it.

And I think any reasonable defense attorney with great evidence doesn't wait to spring it after the arrest. He walks into the prosecutor and says, don't bring this case. You can't win. Here's why.

O'BRIEN: So it's unclear if the prosecutor or the defense knew of the existence of this tape in either way.

Also, Steve, I'm curious to know. It's not inconceivable to me -- and I would imagine to other people as well -- that a child could be coerced -- or maybe not even coerced in the terms that we know it -- but could be lying, essentially, when they're making an audiotape. It just seems that a court would look at that, maybe give it more leeway than they would if an adult were to, say, change their story after a certain date.

Am I fair in saying that?

CRON: Yes, Soledad, you're absolutely fair and correct in that.

Some of the other stuff the we've learned recently is that there was a recent lawsuit involving the mother in which she sued a security company for injuries at a mall. There were some problems with her divorce from her husband. So you start to get a picture. Maybe this is a litigious mom. Maybe the mom is trying to push this kid.

We have this tape, but we don't know what was said before the tape. We don't know what was said afterwards. It could have been edited. And, again, as Jeff said, we don't know what the timing is. If this occurred before the allegations supposedly occurred and then he has a horrible experience, well, then the tape doesn't mean a whole lot.

O'BRIEN: We just don't know.

CRON: We don't know.

O'BRIEN: Steve, we're out of time. That is going to have to be the final word. Steve Cron and Jeff Toobin, as always, you guys, thanks very much.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And, of course, I feel like, today, we have raised even more questions than we've answered each and every day in this case. Thank you.

The child making the allegations against Jackson was a regular visitor to the singer's Neverland Ranch. In fact, many children and their families have been guests at Jackson's estate. Who are they and why do they go there?

Here's Charles Feldman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Jackson surrounds himself with children. Says Jackson biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli:

J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, JACKSON BIOGRAPHER: He's a child trapped in a man's body.

FELDMAN: An informed source with knowledge of the 1993 investigation into allegations that Jackson molested a young boy, which did not result in criminal charges against the pop star, says the children invited to Jackson's Neverland Ranch usually ranged in age from 11 to 13.

The source tells CNN, most of the children investigated at that time were children with various illnesses and children who had rocky relations with their own families. Says the source, Neverland is a magnet for children. Randy Taraborrelli extensively researched the 1993 allegations against Jackson and says there is a pattern to how children come to Jackson's attention.

TARABORRELLI: What has happened here over and over again is that, in order to entertainment young sick children sometimes or other disadvantaged children, the parents get in touch with Michael Jackson's office or the teachers get in touch with Michael Jackson's office.

FELDMAN: The then 12-year-old boy who is now claiming that Jackson molested him apparently first came to Jackson's attention through a local television news report.

Jackson, CNN has been told, was alerted to the report almost three years ago of a young cancer victim in need of O-negative blood and his desire to meet Michael Jackson. From 1990 until 1993, Robert Wegner was head of security for Jackson at Neverland and has written a book about his experiences. He claims that, while most children who visited Neverland came in large groups and only spent a day, Jackson invited some children to spend the night with him in bed. And, claims Wegner, he personally observed Jackson touching children in what, in his opinion, was an inappropriate way.

ROBERT WEGNER, FORMER NEVERLAND SECURITY CHIEF: Well, when he'd get on the electric cart to take the boy down to the park or the theater or the zoo, he would make sure his leg was touching the boy on the cart and his hand would be laying gently on his side. The seat is wide enough that the bodies didn't have to touch. Now, this happened every time he would get on the cart with one, not just the one time.

FELDMAN (on camera): Wegner says Jackson claims he was a disgruntled employee, but Wegner insists he left his position because of an injury. Jackson's attorney did not return calls for comment.

Charles Feldman, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: More ahead tonight on Michael Jackson. We'll examine what it would take to revive his image and his career and we'll talk with a lawyer who is fighting to have Jackson's children taken from him.

AAA says that 31 million Americans will be on the road over the holiday. And if last year is any indication, nearly 500 will die in car accidents. Part of that might have to do with speed. A new study says states that have raised their speed limits to 70 miles an hour or more have seen a big jump in traffic deaths. But not everybody agrees.

Joining us this evening, Stephen Moore, who is the president of the Club For Growth. I'm also joined by Joan Claybrook. She's the president of Public Citizen. She's also the former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Administration.

Good evening to both of you. Thanks for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Stephen, let's begin with you.

The study says that 1,880 more people died in traffic accidents in the states that increased their speed limits to 70 miles an hour or more between the years of 1996 and 1999. You say you completely disagree with the study. Why?

STEPHEN MOORE, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Well, there's an old saying that, if you torture data enough, you can make it confess. And I think that's what happened with this insurance industry study.

But the fact is, if you look at the data that just came out last month on traffic fatalities, 2001 was the safest year in American history on the highways. In fact, every year since we increased the speed limits after 1995, traffic fatalities and injuries on America's highways has declined. And so there's absolutely no truth that the higher speed limits have led to any increase in death.

And, in fact, even in the states that raised their speed limits to over 70 miles per hour, death rates have fallen by 10 to 15 percent in virtually every one of those states.

O'BRIEN: The study seems very clear between those years.

Joan, I'm curious to know if you think that the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety massaged the data. It almost sounds like, to some degree, that you're saying they made up the numbers, Stephen.

Joan, what's your comment?

JOAN CLAYBROOK, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Well, I completely disagree. Obviously, speed is a danger. It always has been. The Department of Transportation says that one-third of all fatal crashes involve speeding. That's some 13,000 who die each year. The cost is about $40 billion a year, or $150 for every man, woman and child in the United States. The studies that have been done -- and there have been several of them -- about the increase in deaths as a result of raising the speed limit all come out the same way. And wishing doesn't make it the opposite.

O'BRIEN: Why is it not a simple equation? If you go faster, you're more likely to die if there's an accident.

MOORE: Sure. Sure.

Let me just correct one thing that Joan Claybrook said. When you look at the traffic deaths per mile traveled on the highways, 2001 was the safest year in American history, much safer than even when we had low speed limits. So when Joan Claybrook said, 10 years ago, that we would have 6,000 more deaths on the highways, I think she was simply making up those numbers.

But the reason -- it does seem to make sense that if people drive faster on the highways that there would be more deaths. The reason there hasn't been an increase in deaths is because people were already driving at these high speeds. The 55-mile-per-hour speed limit was probably the most disobeyed law in American history. People weren't driving at that speed.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes, but when the speed limit goes up to 80, everyone know everybody goes 90, right?

MOORE: Well, no.

But, in fact, what you find is that the speeds on the highways have increased by a few miles per hour. And, in fact, that's a good thing because it means that people can get where they're going faster. We estimate that raising the speed limits have saved Americans about $6 billion a year. The real thing that causes death on highways is reckless driving, driving while drunk, and big variabilities in speed.

It is the speeder and it's the person who is going very low speed, not keeping up with the pace of traffic, that makes the highways unsafe.

O'BRIEN: Obviously, two very different sides of the story. I thank you both for joining us this evening, Stephen Moore and Joan Claybrook. Thanks for your time.

CLAYBROOK: Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Likewise to both of you. Coming up, we're going to ask our regular contributor and former Pentagon spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, about a report that the U.S. has paid more than $1 million to Iraqis for wrongful death and other claims.

And remarkable new research on regenerating severed spinal cords.

Also, we'll talk to two celebrity image-makers on whether Michael Jackson's career can be revived.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Is the Pentagon compensation families of Iraqi civilians killed by American soldiers? The British newspaper "The Guardian" says the U.S. military has paid $1.5 million to settle 10,000 wrongful death and other civil claims brought against U.S. troops. A human rights group blasts the practice for creating an atmosphere that allows soldiers to kill with impunity.

Joining me this evening from Washington is our regular contributor and former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke.

Nice to see you, Torie. Good evening.

VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening.

O'BRIEN: Are claims like this, wrongful death claims and other property damage claims, unusual in combat situations?

CLARKE: Not at all. It's gone on for quite some time.

And, actually, most people commend the United States for going out of its way, one, to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties and deaths, and then to do what it can to compensate people when something has gone wrong. It has gone on for some time.

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of how it works. Is there a group that oversees these disbursements?

CLARKE: Oh, there are broad guidelines and policies that are issued. But then a lot of digression is left up to a commander at the low level, if you will, to decide if something is appropriate.

For instance, a fellow who worked for me during Persian Gulf I said that he spent a lot of money and a lot of his discretionary fund to reimburse people for their livestock that had been killed. So, sometimes, it is damages to houses. Sometimes, it is because of death or injury. But it's a practice that has been going on for some time. And it goes to the compassionate nature of our forces.

O'BRIEN: If the commander can settle the claims based on any own discretion, isn't there a risk, if no kind of liability is admitted, that there could be some kind of abuse of the system?

CLARKE: Well, I think you just look at the facts and see, not only is there not abuse of the system, but there's an extraordinary commitment to it.

There's a very, very high code of conduct, an ethical conduct, among U.S. forces. And if somebody's not living up to or adhering to those standards, then, generally, it's their own people that call them to task on it. Just recently, we all read about and heard about the instance in which a U.S. soldier fired off a gun near a prisoner of war that was being interrogated. And he is under a great deal of heat right now.

Just recently, three or four members of the U.S. military were charged for improper treatment of a POW that resulted in the POW's death. So, the people who hold our U.S. military to the highest standards are the U.S. military themselves.

O'BRIEN: Why are the civilian deaths not tracked? Human Rights Watch, as you know, is an organization that has issued a 56-page report that says they have credible evidence that something like 94 civilian deaths were caused by the U.S. military on the dates of May 1 through September 30. Why are no statistics kept on this kind of thing?

CLARKE: Well, actually, you try very, very hard, first and foremost, to avoid any civilian casualties. When they do occur and it's possible to do an investigation, they are done.

I myself stood at that podium at the Pentagon and talked about when things had gone wrong, for instance, a bomb that went through the roof of a house in Afghanistan and a woman tragically was killed. So they do try to track it. It is very hard in times of war, it is very hard in certain systems, given customs such as burying people very quickly, it's very hard to have any kind of accurate numbers.

O'BRIEN: Torie Clarke, joining us this evening -- nice to see you, Torie.

CLARKE: You, too.

O'BRIEN: Happy Thanksgiving to you. Thanks for joining us.

CLARKE: Right back at you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, we're going to show you some groundbreaking research that may offer new hope to patients with spinal cord injuries, experiments with some striking results.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROF. MICHAL SCHWARTZ, WEIZMANN INSTITUTE: When we learned, one month after she was treated that she is recovering, the sensation, I was shocked to death, really shocked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Friday, Paula Zahn spends an hour with Christopher Reeve. It is his first full interview without a ventilator. Reeve is on a quest to walk again, more than eight years after a horse-riding accident that paralyzed him. He recently traveled to Israel, where pioneering research on spinal cord injuries is being conducted, research that has won Food and Drug Administration approval for clinical trials to begin in the United States.

As CNN's Sheila MacVicar reports, the treatment offers new hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There, did you get that on the foot?

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There have been 16 patients so far. And Melissa Holly, an 18-year-old from Colorado, was the first.

MELISSA HOLLY, CLINICAL TRIAL PATIENT: I had no feeling. I had no movement and was basically told that a type of injury that I had, a doctor had not seen it recover.

MACVICAR: Within days of being paralyzed in a car accident, Holly was flown to Israel for a revolutionary treatment, a treatment which has helped her spinal cord begin to regenerate, something never seen before. Now she can feel her body and has some movement.

HOLLY: It's just the little things, the feeling, being able to feel when I touch my knee or when someone tries to get my attention. That, to me, is a huge blessing.

MACVICAR: Professor Michal Schwartz, an Israeli neuroimmunologist, pioneered Holly's therapy, winning praise from Christopher Reeve. Even she was astonished by what happened to Holly.

SCHWARTZ: When we learned, one month after she was treated, that she is recovering, the sensation, I was shocked to death, really shocked.

MACVICAR: Professor Schwartz theorized, the human immune system, our blood cells, might be able to help the central nervous system and the spinal cord recover, a theory that defied medical teaching.

SCHWARTZ: The dogma was that immune cells should not be in the brain or the spinal cord.

MACVICAR: Her revolutionary idea was to use a patient's own white blood cells, from them extract cells called microphages, incubate them with peripheral cells from the skin which can regenerate, and create a single patient-customized injection.

Neurosurgeon Nachshon Knoller has performed the trials in Israel. No one has been made worse. Most some showed some benefits. And, for three, the results were remarkable.

DR. NACHSHON KNOLLER, NEUROSURGEON: One was a quadriplegic. He had a cervical injury. And now he can step or stand on his toes. SCHWARTZ: It doesn't mean to say that I'm sure that it's tomorrow where all the spinal cord injury patients will recover. But I'm sure about the concept.

MACVICAR: And because Professor Schwartz is sure, because there are more clinical trials about to start, because more researchers and doctors are following her work, there is more hope for more patients like Melissa Holly.

Sheila MacVicar, CNN, Rehovot, Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Friday on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," an hour with Christopher Reeve, his first entire interview without the use of a ventilator.

Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: How have you worked through the dark days, when you've really had to confront the sense of loss in your life?

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: Well, fortunately, those days are long behind me. And you know what? I still -- and this is 8 1/2 years post-injury -- never once had a dream in which I'm disabled.

ZAHN: What do you dream about?

REEVE: I don't know. This is a family show, right?

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I think -- well, we're in prime time.

REEVE: We're on at 8:00. The kids are still up.

ZAHN: Yes. We're on the edge there.

REEVE: I dream about all the things that normal, healthy 51- year-old American males dream about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: You can see Paula Zahn's hour with Christopher Reeve on Friday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Can Michael Jackson's career be saved? We're going to ask his former publicist and the star-marker who launched the careers of the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.

Also, competition for interviews with Jackson and other celebrities in trouble is fierce, so fierce you can even bet on who will get the big get. We'll tell you about that.

And tomorrow, spend Thanksgiving evening with Paula Zahn and the internationally renowned Sejong Soloists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If Michael Jackson is cleared of child molestation allegations, he will still face another battle -- reviving his career. But after so many years of declining album sales and so much bad press, how can he do it? Joining us this evening from Los Angeles is Michael Levine. He's a former publicist for Jackson. I'm also joined from Orlando by Lou Pearlman. He is the man who's best known for managing those boy bands like 'N SYNC and the Backstreet Boys. Good evening, gentlemen, nice to see you both, thanks for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm well, thank you. And you're welcome. Two scenarios that I see, either Michael Jackson -- those charges prove unfounded and he's out of his legal problems, or the charges are proven and actually he ends up going to prison or some kind of punishment. Michael, let's start with you. Either way, do you think that his career is over at this point?

MICHAEL LEVINE, PR CONSULTANT: Well, I've -- it's a subject I have given a lot of thought to. And I cannot envision a scenario in which Michael Jackson's career is restored to anything that's recognizable.

O'BRIEN: In your opinion, Michael, is it because there is such a stigma when you talk about child molestation, unlike some other celebrities that have had to go to prison for drug problems or have had to go to -- had legal problems because of shoplifting, let's say. Child molestation to some degree is just a completely different ball game. Is that why you think he will not be able to recover?

LEVINE: Well, that alone would be bad enough, and of course this is the second time -- the second bite at the apple on that charge, but I think the deeper issue, of course, is that Michael's whole persona has moved away from his great talent in the musical area. Over the last 10 years, it seems that he has had a deep militancy to refuse reality at all costs. And it's cost him terribly in terms of perception, in my mind.

O'BRIEN: Lou, can you envision a scenario where we can see Michael Jackson's career be revived? And we have to keep in mind that his career even before these allegations was flagging, so maybe it's unfair to say back to 1982 and the release of "Thriller," but certainly back before these allegations?

LOU PEARLMAN, RECORD PRODUCER/MANAGER: I think at this point we have to see what is going to happen. I think right now if Michael goes through his defense, see how it turns out. Hopefully everything works out to his best, and it's no problem, he'll just move forward.

And again, like we were just talking about, is that it is something he's going to have to restore more, get back to the music, get less political, out there, with people critiquing Michael Jackson personally. (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It sounds like -- forgive me for interrupting -- go ahead, go ahead, Lou.

LEVINE: But Lou, can you imagine any scenario, even the most outrageous fantasy scenario in which Michael Jackson is restored to his former heights? Even if he's found not guilty, don't you think that he has been so deeply damaged in terms of image and persona?

PEARLMAN: You know, there's no question that he's been tainted, but, the fact of the matter is, what I'm saying is, ignore that personal side of it, and he should go after the business side of it and his creative side of it, because he's never going to go ahead and eradicate good, bad or indifferent what's been happening in the media. Let's talk about the king of pop. Let's talk about how he dances, great songs. That's where he's got to go after he's done. He'll never eradicate what happened.

O'BRIEN: But do you think, Lou, that the media's going to be willing -- and, frankly, the audience -- is going to be willing to listen to talking about creativity and the king of pop and what amazing dancing, when you're talking about these serious allegations, regardless if they end up being proven or if he ends up being cleared of all charges, it's a pretty nasty stigma. What would you do if you took him on as a client? What would be your first step?

PEARLMAN: I would totally say to Michael, let's not even go there with these allegations and personal side. Let's talk about going out and making a record, you know, again, like he had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Quincy Jones. He did do "Thriller," he's a great performer. That's where he should go for. I think people will forgive and forget, assuming that it works out that's he's innocent. Now, if it proves otherwise, that's a problem.

LEVINE: Lou, with all respect to you and your extraordinary past, I don't see any way on God's Earth that the media is going to forget about the kind of outrageous things that he has participated in. The dangling of the baby. I just don't see it, Lou, and I don't think you even believe what you're saying.

O'BRIEN: Michael, I'm going to give the final word, you know, we're running out of time and I want to give you each just a final word, which is, Michael, would you take him on as a client again?

LEVINE: I would not. I have said publicly that I'd rather stick a hot butter knife in my eye than go through this kind of thing. I don't think it's viable. Now, that's not to say that I believe Michael Jackson is guilty. I don't know any more than you do. But I am saying that he is guilty of outrageously inappropriate remarks on international television, when he said that he would like to -- thinks sleeping with children is appropriate behavior.

O'BRIEN: Lou, would you take him on as a client?

PEARLMAN: Absolutely, if he's innocent. O'BRIEN: You'd have to wait to see. Michael Levine, Lou Pearlman, thanks for joining us, you guys. I really appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

PEARLMAN: Happy Thanksgiving.

LEVINE: Thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: As Michael Jackson fights these allegations, the behind-the-scene competition for interviews with him and other stars in hot water is intense. It's even spawned an online betting site. We're going to show you that.

Plus:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF GUARACINO, PHILADELPHIA TOURISM MARKETING CORPORATION: New York has Chelsea. San Francisco has the Castro. Philadelphia has the Gayborhood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: A bid to bring gay tourists to the City of Brotherly Love.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If you're down on your luck in your office football pool, maybe you ought to place a bet on the get. You can go online and wager on who will score the huge exclusive interview du jour with somebody like Michael Jackson or Kobe Bryant. You can do it at beverlyhillsbookie.com.

And I am joined now from Los Angeles by its spokesman, Kevin Mortesen.

Nice to see you, Kevin. Good evening to you.

KEVIN MORTESEN, BEVERLYHILLSBOOKIE.COM: Good evening to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: OK, the get of the moment obviously is Michael Jackson. Not official numbers yet, but you certainly have odds on who you think is going to land this interview.

Let's go through the list. First, you have Oprah Winfrey at minus-200. That's the most likely person. Going downwards, Katie Couric. After that, Barbara Walters. After that, Diane Sawyer. You have me at even odds with Michael Jackson. So I appreciate that. I'm going to put a call into him right after the show to see if I can move my way up the list.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of how you calculate these odds. MORTESEN: Well, the odds are really calculated on a couple of different fronts. No. 1, it would be the history of the journalist and the show and the type of exclusives that they've landed in the past. But, secondly, you really kind of have to look at the idea of, what is the interview subject trying to achieve? Obviously, these gets are based on people that are not doing a lot of media.

So, if they're going to do an interview, more than likely, they are going to want to achieve some goals of their own. So you look at the audience. You look at the sympathies, so to speak. Some of these issues are better addressed by women than by men. So those things all play into it.

O'BRIEN: Often, in fact, your list includes lots of women.

Let's take look at some of the odds for some other big gets. For example, the journalist who you think is going to be the first person to land the Kobe Bryant exclusive interview, you say Bob Costas is leading that list there. Barbara Walters is tied with him, then Larry King of CNN, Matt Lauer after that, tied with Larry King, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer, is your list.

Where do you get that list from?

MORTESEN: Well, again, the -- Bob Costas, he has a history with the NBA. He also has a history as a little more of a hard-hitting journalist than a lot of sports reporters are.

He also has a cable format now, which might be a little bit different, where they can get into some other things. So that's why he is high on that list. And, again, these odds can change based on what the public thinks. If somebody comes in and puts down a huge bet on Barbara Walters, that is going to fluctuate the odds, just like it would on a point spread on an NFL game on Sunday.

O'BRIEN: So, who is your -- who is betting on these? Who is going on your Web site? Is it just people in the media, so it is sort of a very inside-baseball kind of thing?

MORTESEN: I don't think so.

We don't really have a great demographic study on it. It hasn't been in existence for too long. I don't think it's the regular football, baseball, basketball player that's often visiting Beverly Hills Bookie. But I do think what it does is expand horizons. This is a little more cultural in nature. And part of Beverly Hills Bookie's mission, as a more entertaining site than some of the pure gaming sites, is to integrate itself into the culture.

So we're looking to bring people in who maybe don't have an interest in sports, but might have an interest in the media. And certainly, as you're aware and all your producers there are aware, this is fierce competition, as much or more so than happens on Sundays.

O'BRIEN: Got to give a quick question to what happened with Diane Sawyer landing Jessica Lynch. You guys were way off on that one. You had her, I guess, down six on the list.

MORTESEN: I think she was -- if I remember correctly, I think she was fourth. She was a favorite. She was at minus-odds. So I think she was at minus-165, if I remember correctly.

Certainly, that situation played our rather aggressively with the media and you and your colleagues. As you know, I think she did four or five interviews with several of the people who were on the list. So, it's definitely not an exact science.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Kevin Mortesen, nice to see you. Thanks for joining us this evening. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

MORTESEN: To you, too. Thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

The City of Brotherly Love and its bid to be the next big gay travel mecca.

And should Michael Jackson lose custody of his children? We're going to talk to the high-profile lawyer who wants that to happen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Philadelphia is courting gay and lesbian tourists. It's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a campy campaign, in the hope of tapping into a very lucrative market.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Historic Philadelphia, a cradle of American patriotism, from the crack in the Liberty Bell to the rainbow stripes in Betsy Ross' flag? Rainbow stripes? And what is the story with Ben Franklin's kite? The City of Brotherly Love is going after a different kind of brother, gay tourists.

GUARACINO: The gay and lesbian consumer is spending $54 billion a year in travel. Why not choose it and spend of some of it in Philadelphia?

HINOJOSA: Philadelphia is putting up $1 million on a three-year international ad campaign: Get your history straight and your nightlife gay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the 1950s, he founded an underground movement that provided a support network for homosexuals.

HINOJOSA: Forget coming for the cheese steaks. How about pride marches and gay and lesbian bingo or the gay angle to Liberty bell? PHIL SHERIDAN, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: This is a place whose buildings and symbols have been adopted by many, from the abolitionists who named the Liberty Bell, to the gay and lesbian rights activists who campaigned here and demonstrated here in the mid- '60s.

HINOJOSA: In fact, the first gay rights march was in front of Independence Hall in 1965. And Philadelphia published the first gay newspaper in 1976.

Even straight tourists are intrigued.

(on camera): Ben Franklin flying a rainbow kite?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know he was that type.

(LAUGHTER)

GUARACINO: New York has Chelsea. San Francisco has the Castro. Philadelphia has the Gayborhood.

HINOJOSA: The Gayborhood.

GUARACINO: Gayborhood.

HINOJOSA (voice-over): With what they say is the world's largest gay mural. Don't forget the bars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Philadelphia gets kind of a bum rap, because we're stuck between D.C. and Manhattan. So, here in Philly, it's good to be gay. It's so gay-friendly. That's what surprising about it.

HINOJOSA: Business owners welcome any new revenue.

KEVIN MALLOY, WYNDHAM HOTEL: Business travel is down or at least stagnant at the time. This is an emerging market.

HINOJOSA: And what of those founding fathers in knee-high tights and the powdered wigs, what would they think? Mum's the word.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Michael Jackson hasn't been formerly charged and certainly not convicted. So why is a high-profile lawyer fighting to take his children from him? We'll ask Gloria Allred.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

It is a somber Thanksgiving eve for presidential candidate Howard Dean. He was at a Air Force base in Hawaii today as the remains believed to be those of his long-lost brother arrived from Laos. Charles Dean was a civilian killed while traveling in Southeast Asia in 1974.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My brother was an extraordinary person. He was a person of deep principle, who lived his life the way he believed it ought to be lived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Sarah Brady is asking a court not to grant John Hinckley Jr. unsupervised trips away from a mental hospital. Brady's husband, James, was wounded in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981. She says her family would fear for their safety if Hinckley is allowed to leave the hospital without an escort.

One of the world's oldest and stateliest newspapers is going tabloid. "The London Times" today began following the "Independent"'s lead, putting out a tabloid edition, alongside its venerated broadsheet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: One of the side stories in the Michael Jackson case is the status of his own three children. Attorney Gloria Allred has asked California authorities to take custody of the children while the case against Jackson proceeds.

Allred joins me now to talk about that, as well as her client in the Scott Peterson case, Amber Frey.

Nice to see you. Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: You, too, Soledad. Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Someone said recently to me on the morning show that I do, if you only watch TV, you would think there are only two attorneys in this world, Mark Geragos and Gloria Allred. Why are you involved in this case? Who are you representing?

ALLRED: In Michael Jackson?

Well, I briefly represented the child in the 1993 incident in which it was alleged that Mr. Jackson committed an act of sexual misconduct against a then, I think, 12-year-old child. I did not represent the child at the time of the settlement. Then, last November, I, along with millions of other people, saw Michael Jackson dangling his baby over the fourth-four balcony in Germany.

I thought that was an act that endangered that baby. And, certainly, none of us would want to give our babies to Mr. Jackson to dangle over the balcony. (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: But the courts didn't take his children at the time.

ALLRED: So I filed a complaint with the Santa Barbara County Department of Child Welfare Services, asking them to investigate that incident, because of the endangerment issue.

In addition, in February of this year, Soledad, Mr. Jackson admitted in an interview on television with Martin Bashir that, in fact, he slept in a bed with young children.

O'BRIEN: But that's not illegal, right? You can sleep in a bed with children. It's weird. I think everyone would say, that's really odd, but it's not illegal. And it certainly shouldn't be grounds for taking away someone's children, until they're proven guilty of a crime, correct?

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED: Well, I felt that it should be investigated.

And in my complaint and my letter to child welfare services at the time, I said that I felt that they should interview the child who was also in the Martin Bashir interview who also admitted to sleeping in Mr. Jackson's bedroom in his bed, although Mr. Jackson said he slept on the floor at the time of that particular situation.

But I felt that, in the context of the 1993 allegations and then, again, the balcony-dangling incident, which, I think, endangered the child, that at least there should be an investigation. Now, of course, we have the current criminal case pending against Mr. Jackson.

O'BRIEN: Pending, but he's not charged.

I want to ask you two quick questions, and we don't have a ton of time. First, do you think Mark Geragos, his attorney, is busy? Obviously, he's representing Scott Peterson as well. Two very high- profile cases, can he manage it?

ALLRED: It's going to be a high-wire act. And, of course, a double-murder capital case, which Scott Peterson is, Laci and Connor Peterson -- may they rest in peace -- case. It's a very time- intensive case.

And even though the preliminary hearing has concluded, it would require almost daily attention from the attorney. Now, even if he has associates and others working on it, which I'm sure he does, still, he is going to be personally responsible. So -- and then there is going to be a question of, is there going to be cross-contamination of the juries? Is the jury in the Michael Jackson case, if it gets to a jury, going to have any negative feelings toward him because he represents Scott Peterson, who is accused of murdering his pregnant wife and son, and vice versa?

O'BRIEN: We only have a few seconds left. You're very busy yourself. Amber Frey, we didn't see her in the preliminary hearing. Why not?

ALLRED: Well, the prosecution chose not to call her. They felt they had enough evidence to argue to the judge that Mr. Peterson should be held for trial.

And the defense, no matter what they said -- and Geragos suggested he might call her -- decided not to as well. We will, I think, see her testify at the trial, because her testimony cannot come in through the detective, as it did in the preliminary hearing. And I think people will have as much respect and admiration for her after they hear her testify as I do.

O'BRIEN: Gloria Allred, nice to have you this evening. Thanks for joining us.

ALLRED: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is up next, everybody.

Thanks for being with us. Have a great night.

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