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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Katie Couric

Aired March 4, 2004 - 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, Katie Couric. She's back from NBC's top rated "Today Show." The queen of morning television has landed a big interview. She'll tell us all about it. And about working to turn her own personal tragedy, the devastating loss of her husband into a force for good. Katie Couric for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Great pleasure to welcome Katie Couric. Always a pleasure to welcome her. As we are in New York with Katie Couric tonight. She will have the first extended interview with ex "New York Times" reporter Jason Blair. It will air tomorrow night on "Dateline NBC." She will then do a live interview Monday morning on the "Today Show." And then he'll do his first primetime interview with phone calls next Tuesday night, March 9 right here on LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be in Los Angeles for that.

Why the interest in this admitted liar?

KATIE COURIC, "TODAY SHOW": I think that people are interested in how he was able to pull this off on the greatest newspaper, I think, in this country. And I think any time someone commits these kinds of transgressions, it's interesting to find out a little bit more about their character, or lack thereof. What motivated them?

I mean, I think why is a very basic question that people want to know the answer to. And while much has been written about the whole ordeal and the "New York Times" has certainly done a lot to try to figure out how this happened and to investigate the whole scandal, we've never really heard from Jason Blair himself, in terms of how he went down this road and why he went down this road.

So, I think like many sinners, so to speak, or less than noble people with whom we speak, he's another example of somebody who is interesting to talk to and fascinating to hear his side of the story.

KING: In the battle in the world of getting guests, we were fortunate enough to get the first live interview and we knew NBC would get -- you would get the first taped and then live on the "Today Show." We have the first primetime. How did you get it?

COURIC: Well, you know, I wasn't all that involved in getting this interview. I wasn't. I have to give credit to an incredible staff of people who work day in and day out pursuing these things. We had been communicating with Jason Blair when the scandal first broke long before he got a book deal and had been talking with him through e-mails. And then when, you know, he just happened to be available, because he did write a book and is doing promotion for that book. So I think the fact that we had been pursuing him for some time and, hopefully, he thinks that we're fair-minded and thorough enough to do a good job telling his story.

And it's not just his story we're telling, by the way. It's really a story that is important for journalism. It's the story of the "New York Times." It's a story of why there weren't more safeguards at this paper that is so respected. And we have a lot of voices in this piece that we did. And we really worked hard, because we didn't want to just give Jason Blair a platform.

And by the way, when I interviewed Jason Blair, I was extremely challenging and he knew that I would be and seemed to be okay with that.

KING: Not defensive?

COURIC: You know, he wasn't. I think he knows full well that he has done something that is terribly wrong and terribly amoral. And I think he does express contrition. Whether or not that's genuine, you know, as they say, that's for him and his god to decide.

KING: So you taped that and then you do a live interview Monday.

COURIC: Monday on the "Today Show." And actually, I think Matt will be doing that interview, because I'll be traveling on assignment that day. I think that will be good to give someone else a crack at the story. Because I think I have spent about three hours interviewing him. And after that, you sort of run out of things to say and it is nice to get a fresh perspective.

KING: Do you like him?

COURIC: Did I like him? I thought he was charming and engaging. I find what he did absolutely repugnant.

KING: Rogues can be charming.

COURIC: Yes, yes. And I think that was part of -- there was a method to his madness, if you will. He says he was diagnosed as bipolar. But I think he's very charmingly manipulative. You know, I think he has a certain cockiness about him and a certain savoir faire, it that's not overreaching that enabled him to kind of move around the news room and charm his way into various positions without getting busted.

KING: What about those in the print media? And we're both going to feel this. Who object to us doing this? That we're giving a voice to a guy who shamed journalism.

COURIC: I think that -- I mean, I understand their perspective. I also think there's something to be learned from people who do the wrong things as well as the right thing. If we had to limit our interviews to everybody who was doing good and contributing to society, I'm afraid that might be an awfully short list.

I mean, I have interviewed a lot of people who I don't put on a pedestal and have done things that are not particularly impressive or, you know, laudable, Tammy Faye Baker and Jim Baker, for example. CBS, "60 Minutes" interviewed Stephen Glass of "The New Republic." He wrote a book and they interviewed him.

So I think people don't want individuals to profit from bad behavior, and I can see that. But I also think that to have him available and do a very challenging interview and learn why he did what he did is an important exercise for all of us.

I mean people would say Robert McNamara lied during Vietnam.

KING: He did.

COURIC: He wrote a book, people talked with him. So I think it's a judgment call. I have to say I felt comfortable doing the story the way we did it, in a very thorough way, talking to a lot of people, talking about changes that have happened in the months since at the "New York Times."

KING: We know it's important to us and we talk about it. How important do you think it is to Des Moines? Will this book sell?

COURIC: I'm not sure the book will sell. I'm not sure how many people are going to be interested in Jason Blair's story. I hope people will be interested in the big picture. You know, sort of hearing about the story from all perspectives.

"The New York Times" didn't participate in our interviews, but we did talk to Lou Bacardi who was head of the Associated Press for a number of years who is a very respected journalist. He was on the Segal Committee which investigated how this happened. And he did participate.

So I hope that people will be interested in the larger issue of journalism today. How could this happen?

You know, there's a certain amount of -- if somebody is going to take advantage of people, trusting people, and betray that trust, there's only so much you can do. Especially if they're really good at it. And he was sort of a master con artist. I think it will happen -- it could happen in a corporation. Could happen in a newspaper. It could happen at a television network.

Certainly all of us -- there have been mistakes made. And while I think it's uncomfortable and not particularly flattering to be in the eye of the storm, just as NBC was during the "Dateline" debacle back in the early '90s, I do think some positive change and a better understanding can come from it.

KING: You'll see the interview tomorrow night. You'll see Matt interview Blair on Monday morning. He'll be with us Tuesday night on LARRY KING LIVE. And as we go to break, here's a clip of Katie Couric and Jason Blair. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: From here on out, the name Jason Blair will represent one of the ugliest and most embarrassing chapters in the history of the "New York Times."

JASON BLAIR, FRM. WRITER FOR "NEW YORK TIMES": Correct. It's not what I ever intended. It's not what I wanted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COURIC: Why should anyone believe what you have written in this book?

BLAIR: You know, I am done lying. Obscuring the truth is no longer something I have any interest in doing. I want it all to come out, the good, the bad, the ugly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We're with Katie Couric. By the book will be reviewed, it'll be interesting, next Sunday the 14th in "The New York Times" book review. A week from Sunday.

COURIC: That will be interesting.

KING: I'm sure they gave it to an independent person.

COURIC: Jacques Steinberg who covers media for "The Times" did do a piece about the book coming out. So, you know, I think they're handling it the way they see fit.

KING: Is there a larger story here? This touches more bases than just one guy doing something wrong and lying, right? Affirmative action...

COURIC: Well, I think there are a lot -- it's a very layered story. It's not only about the anatomy of a liar and what prompts someone to behave in such an unethical fashion. It's also about corporate organizations and how they work. Apparently one of the things the Siegal Committee found was that department heads didn't really talk to each other about Jason Blair and his track record. He was, you know, having problems with some of his pieces many corrections would have to be made, sometimes over a two-day period, and yet he got moved from department to department without any interaction, or not enough interaction and sort of review by one department head to another.

And then there is the affirmative action issue. A lot of people said well this is because of affirmative action that he was promoted so quickly. He, Jason Blair himself, bristles at that notion. And many people thought Gerald Boyd, the number two person at "The New York Times" somehow wanted to push him forward and perhaps others under Gerald Boyd felt pressure to do so. But apparently a lot of that was perceived by people and wasn't necessarily reality.

So, you know, it's quite interesting. I hope that people will be interested in the story. You know, as a journalist, I was fascinated by it.

KING: Sure.

COURIC: It's everybody's worst nightmare. 99.9 percent of people out there, even though the public may not believe this, but so many journalists are trying their hardest to do a good job and to be accurate and fair, thorough. And yet, of course, it's the people who aren't, they're the ones who often get the attention. And we hear, seems like every day lately we're hearing about a journalist who got fired, who is under investigation. And, you know, the amount -- the copious amount of material that has to be put out every day from outlets all across the country and the world sometimes these people just get through the cracks.

KING: Is it easier to get away with it, do you think, in print than in television, where -- he couldn't say he was in San Antonio if he was a reporter for NBC or CNN. He'd have to be in San Antonio.

COURIC: Yes. I think because television is a more collaborative enterprise and we just screened this hour on Jason Blair over at NBC this morning and there were about 15 people in the room, people from standards, people from legal -- the legal department. We just had a host of individuals, questioning things, asking this, saying should we really include this? Is this the right decision? Is this germane (ph)?

But sometimes with newspapers, there's such a tremendous output. Deep in mind this all happened primarily after September 11th, after the anthrax scare. Hal Raines was telling his reporters to plug the zone. They were putting out a tremendous amount of material. It was a very high-pressured time. And I think that, you know, it was a very, very tough situation and a tough time for "The New York Times," and slowly but surely they realized that this guy was a bad seed, they just didn't realize early enough in the process.

KING: Let's enlarge it a little. You've dealt with -- we've all dealt with -- anyone in the public eye dealt liars. WWD that's "Women's Word Daily" claimed that you had grown bangs to hide the fact that you were getting a indoscopic (ph) -- I have no idea what this is, indoscopic brow lift from plastic surgeon Craig Foster.

Is that false?

COURIC: Completely and utterly false. We told them. It's frustrating, you know, but part of it is you know I think gossipy publications and celebrity publications and people who spend a lot of time talking about people in the public eye, I think that the line has been blurred between that and the mainstream media. "Women's Wear Daily," which I don't read, but I thought was a respected publication. And I know it's read by a lot of people in the fashion industry. I didn't even see the item but it was a gossip column. They called me -- they called Lauren Cap who does publicity for "The Today Show," and she called me. And of course we got a big laugh. I said wow, I'm flattered they think I'm so ingenious. I never heard of the procedure. It sounds disgusting because they put hooks in your forehead or something. And we told them this isn't true. The plastic surgeon that was mentioned lives around the corner from me and I know him socially, I have been to his house for a Christmas party. And he told them it wasn't true, and yet they printed it anyway. I'm sure they think, oh, he's protecting her privacy. But it's just complete and utter...

KING: They still stand by it?

COURIC: The reporter, or whoever -- I don't know if you can call him a reporter -- said, I stand by my story. I talked to him and said, dude, I don't know who your source is, but I hope you're not using them for anyone else because it's simply completely false. And if you care about that at all, I want you to know that. And if I ever said something that was patently untrue about you on television, I would want you to let me know so I wouldn't do it again or I could even correct it. But I think you don't want facts to get in the way of good gossip and you just have to laugh about it and move on, because otherwise you make a big deal about it, and people will be like, oh, she's hiding something. So you're sort of in a no-win situation.

KING: Do you accept the nature that it goes with the territory?

COURIC: I do. I do. On the other hand, I do expect, you know, some newspapers this is their stock and trade. They make things up out of whole cloth. I've learned that from my career at "The Today Show." But there are other newspapers that you expect to have some standards. And, you know, they don't -- sometimes if it's not true, it's not a story. And they need to fill pages.

KING: And -- I know, you did a -- your own colonoscopy on TV.

COURIC: I did.

KING: I guess if you had -- ever would do plastic surgery, you'd do it on television?

COURIC: Well, I don't know about that. I don't know if I would, a, do plastic surgery or if I would do it on television. Certainly it couldn't be any grosser than seeing my colon. But I had a clean colon.

KING: Thank god. How disprove a negative by the way. How can you say, I didn't have it?

You know, your face looks great, Katie. You really look good.

COURIC: Thank you. I don't know where my forehead would go if I had that done.

(CROSSTALK)

COURIC: I should wear my hair like this. (CROSSTALK)

COURIC: You know what, I am so dizzy and I just have so much to do work-wise and with my children that I don't have time to get my nickers in a total twist about this. So, you know, it's annoying but, you know, life goes on.

KING: We're going to cover other bases. Nickers in a total twist.

COURIC: I cleaned it up, Larry.

KING: OK. Differently. We'll be right back with Katie Couric. Don't forget her special tomorrow night on "Dateline" NBC Friday night.

We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's see some of your stuff. Here, I'll show you what you do.

COURIC: OK. You are entrusting me with this. I'm not sure you should.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just relax. Let it go through your hand.

COURIC: Careful. Careful. I don't want to be responsible for mutilating you in any way, shape or form.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There, yes, yes.

COURIC: Did I get it there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfect, yes, just relax the wrist. Exactly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: You say one of the first things I noticed about Bill Clinton was the shape of his hand. His wrists are narrow and elegant and his long fingers deft like those of a pianist or a surgeon. When we first met in law school, I loved just watching him turn the pages of a book. Whoa. So what else attracted you to him other than watching him turn the pages of a book?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Nearly everything. That's what I could put into the book. You know, I had an immediate attraction to him. He's like a force of nature. There isn't anyone I have ever met like him. And we started a conversation all those years ago that continues up until today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Katie Couric. Don't forget Jason Blair tomorrow night with her on "Dateline" NBC and with Matt on Monday morning, with us on Tuesday night. Let's touch some of the bases. What did you think of Barbara Walters leaving "20/20?"

COURIC: I have so much affection, admiration and respect for Barbara Walters. You know, she is, I think, the hardest working woman in television. She is relentless. She is aggressive. I really think she's sets the standard for everyone. And when I say she really did pave the way and is a pioneer for women, I'm not just giving her lip service. It's totally and completely true. I'm happy for whatever she -- whatever choices she makes. If she wants to slow down and do -- fewer shows, boy, I salute her. I can't believe that she's been at it as long as she has and as seriously as she has. She has not slacked off at all.

I think Barbara's idea of cutting back is like our equivalent of working 24/7. So I'm not sure, frankly, if she's going to do that much less. Because I know that she loves a good story and loves a good interview and does a fabulous job. When it comes around, I don't think she's going to say, I don't think so. So we'll see. But I do, I think the world of her. She's been so sweet and generous and gracious to me. I think she sees me as a protege. I'm very flattered by that. Except for sometimes she'll say in magazine articles, Katie and I, we're not that glamorous. I'm like, wait a minute!

KING: Speak for yourself.

COURIC: Yes. She's pretty glamorous by the way.

KING: I talked to her about this, a couple a weeks ago, I want to know your thoughts on this quid pro quo journalism, where the -- you will give us -- Michael Jackson. If you give this interview, we'll give you your special.

COURIC: Well, obviously it's a very slippery slope and extremely dangerous enterprise. It's no secret that the world of television has gotten increasingly complicated because of the corporate ownership and because of entertainment divisions blending into news divisions. I think it's complicating and it's difficult and it's dangerous. And, you know, I think that sometimes news has lost its purity, that's for sure, and we're influenced and...

KING: Nature of the beast though?

COURIC: I think that sometimes you just say no, as Nancy Reagan would say, and say, I don't feel comfortable doing that. I'm not doing this interview because it's going to -- I mean, it's hard because, frankly, we do stories on "The Apprentice" and we do have synergy but I think there's a fine line between synergy and news that may be feeding one arm of an organization and on its own doesn't have news value. I guess the best way to kind of navigate these waters is to look at the story in its purest form, and say is this attracting a lot of attention? Is it part of pop culture? Are enough people watching the show that they're interested in behind the scenes? Or are we just strictly doing this to promote something or to help another corporation?

KING: It answers it itself, right?

COURIC: Pardon?

KING: It answers itself? If it's worthy, it's worthy.

COURIC: I think we are all at fault sometimes doing things that really, frankly, are not necessarily newsworthy or appropriate. But I think you -- the fact of the matter is, you have to just keep on questioning. When a movie company says, we won't do your show unless you do ten parts on our movie, including the dog, who's the extra in the second scene. Sometimes you say you know what? We don't feel comfortable with this. Because I think it's gotten so competitive that the interviewees are often calling the shots rather than the programs and using sound editorial judgment in placing interviews. So I think, as I said, it's something you have to keep re-examining.

KING: The guest becomes more important than what the guest says?

COURIC: That's even a different issue, right?

KING: Sure.

COURIC: I mean, sometimes be careful what you wish for. When you should be doing maybe more substantive stories and everybody is freaking out over Paris Hilton, frankly, maybe you need to sit back and say, is this really the kind of journalism I want to do or would my time be better used covering an important issue that affects far more people?

KING: Do you ever hit a point where you reach a plateau like you've reached where getting a better guest tomorrow than "Good Morning America" doesn't become that big a deal anymore or is it always every day, what are they doing, what are we doing?

COURIC: You know, I'm more competitive with ourselves, if that makes any sense. I just want our program to be as good as we possibly can. Frankly, I think we have such high standards that competing against those standards is the best thing we can do. You know, I don't really compare ourselves to other shows. If other shows get a really big interview, you know, I feel bad about that because I'm very competitive.

On the other hand, I just like to see our content, you know -- I just want it to be really strong and really good and really thoughtful and creative. And so oftentimes we do that within our organization, within the "Today" show rather than comparing ourselves to other people. Because, frankly, I think ours is the strongest show editorially, and I don't want to say, I want to be more like them because I'm happy where we are and the goals that we set for ourselves. If that makes any sense.

KING: In other words, you're comfortable in your own setting?

COURIC: Yes. yes. And being the best we can be, having nothing to do with what other shows might be doing or engaged in or focused on.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Katie Couric, the co- anchor of NBC's "Today Show," contributing anchor for "Dateline NBC." Tomorrow night's the big "Dateline" show with Jason Blair. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Has this changed you in any way? I know people say you are always a sensitive, compassionate, very strong girl. Do you think you've changed?

ELIZABETH SMART, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: No. I mean, I think, like, there's something different about me, but I think I'm still pretty much the same person.

COURIC: Has it...

SMART: I mean, it's not like I was all happy and now I come back and I'm not. I'm still happy. It's the same. It's like it never happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Katie Couric. We all know of this tragic death of your husband. One of the great guys.

COURIC: Oh, thank, Larry.

KING: He died of colon cancer. You got very involved. Isn't that history? Why do you stay so involved?

COURIC: Well, I'm sort of like a nagging fish wife with the rolling pin.

KING: Here she comes again.

COURIC: I know. People are so over me when it comes to this. But I believe so strongly in the importance of early detection, because this is one cancer that can be cured. It has a better than 90 percent cure rate, Larry, when it's detected early.

KING: You got me to do it. Your husband's death got me to go.

COURIC: I think that sort of emphasizing awareness has prompted a lot of people to go get screened. I know I get a lot of incredibly moving letters from people who say, you know, because of you I was screened and my life was saved. I can't tell you how meaningful that is.

KING: That is the best thing you've done, right?

COURIC: It is. Other than my great girls, my daughters, it is certainly the most important and fulfilling thing I know I will ever do in my life. And I stay involved because I think, still, not enough people are getting screened. And there are not enough treatments for metastatic colon cancer. When Jay was diagnosed, he was stage 4 and there were very few treatment alternatives.

KING: There are now?

COURIC: Now, well Avastin just got approved by the FDA. That is an anti-angiogenesis drug where they cut off the tumor's blood supply, which is a whole new approach to cancer treatment. Which I think is the wave of the future. Much better than chemotherapy which is a scorched earth, or scorched body policy. You kill all the cells and hope the good ones regenerate and the bad ones don't.

So, it's just something I feel so strongly about, Larry, because, you know, if I had had the information and Jay and I knew more about colon cancer, I'm not sure if he would have gotten screened, because Jay was just 42 years-old when he died and 41 when he was diagnosed. But I just want people to be aware of this disease because it can be stopped in its tracks.

KING: Don't you think that the test is going to be terrible when this test is like a big joke. It's a nothing.

COURIC: I always say the prep is worse than the procedure.

KING: Prep ain't that terrible. The procedure is nothing.

COURIC: I think people just feel uncomfortable talking about that part of their anatomy, colons, rectums. Causes people to giggle nervously. But that was the case even a decade ago when people talk about breast cancer. They'd say the word breast. That wasn't discussed in polite conversation.

And the bottom line, so to speak, is that this is part of our bodies. We have to pay attention to this, because if you don't it can be lethal. It's the second leading cancer killer in this country, second only to lung cancer.

KING: If you catch it late, you're in big trouble.

COURIC: Well, it's very, very difficult.

KING: Tell me about the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health opening this month at Cornell Weill.

COURIC: Well, I established a National Colorectal Research Alliance a number of years ago and we raised $18 million for awareness, research and better prevention tools and diagnostic techniques. But one of the things that Jay and I faced when he was diagnosed, it's a terribly traumatic thing, as anyone can imagine, as so many people already know in this country to be diagnosed with cancer or any other life threatening disease. KING: It's the word you can hear, you have cancer.

COURIC: Well, you know, not always. And there's a lot of hope for people out there with different cancers, so I don't want to say that because lot of people have been able to beat it thanks to modern medicine. But Jay and I would go from place to place. You know, he needed to get chemo one place, radiation another place. He needed to get his eyes checked because it -- he had some brain tumors ultimately.

And it was so difficult and so traumatic, I think is the best word, that a wonderful gastroentorologist, named Mark Pochapin, who I think his picture should be in the dictionary when it comes to bedside manner and a compassionate doctor and someone who gave us hope when there was very little.

We talked about, after Jay's death, building a place where people could go and feel embraced and nurtured and have compassionate comprehensive seamless care and have a whole host of medical experts from surgeons to oncologists to nutritionist to genetic counselors to psychiatric social workers to help families, because obviously cancer affects an entire family. And so we decided in Jay's honor and memory to have a center called the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health which will not only deal with colorectal cancer and bladder cancer and esophageal cancer, which is the fastest growing cancer in this country, pancreatic cancer. And my sister Emily died of pancreatic cancer.

KING: That's the killer that once you have it, it's hard to...

COURIC: Well, it's very difficult. Although there is the Whipple procedure (ph). And some candidates are eligible for that.

KING: You learned an awful lot about cancer.

COURIC: I think there is nothing that is more motivating than desperation, fear and love. When jay was diagnosed, I really wanted to educate myself and become a very active partner in his care. So I was reading "Lancet" and "Oncology Today." I was talking to all different kinds of companies, pharma...

KING: pharmacological.

COURIC: Thank you. Pharmacological companies.

KING: Once I say it once, I can't say it again.

COURIC: And finding out the latest in treatment options. But I really did educate myself, because it's a whole new world and a whole new language for people. And that's one of the things that we hope to do with this center, Larry, is to bring people in and say, okay, here are your options, here are clinical trials going on in different places. We can help you through this, because it is so incredibly overwhelming.

KING: Even if you can't afford it? COURIC: Yes, yes. That's right. We're going to have programs for people who can't afford it and certainly help people even if they can't pay the fee. They're still working all those particulars out, but that's something that is very important. Because it shouldn't just be for wealthy people who can afford the treatment.

KING: A great poet once said, "people die as he lived." Did he die with class?

COURIC: Oh god, that's such a hard question. Yes, of course. Jay was incredibly -- had incredible grace and dignity and humor. And, you know, I'm just glad that out of this terrible thing that we built a legacy really for our daughters.

Because -- you know, Ellie and Carrie will say to me, or Ellie more recently, mom, I'm so proud of the work you're doing with colon cancer. I mean, completely unprompted and unsolicited. And I think it's an important example for them.

I was talking to Melanie Bloom recently, David Bloom's widow, who is really a wonderful lovely person. I was telling her some of the things that she's able to do, if she can muster the courage and do it. It's such a wonderful example for their daughters and so they won't always associate their dad's death with something negative. That they can associate his courage and her courage moving forward and feel really proud. And those feelings can replace the feelings of loss, or at least be in addition to the feelings of loss.

KING: Back with more with Katie Couric right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: "The Today Show" is basically a news show, as you all know, so you have to dress appropriately. I try to dress in a very business-like fashion, but tonight, I thought this would be a chance for me to wear something a little more fun, little sexier, so -- what do you think?

And for all you people from L.A. who have never seen them before, these are actually real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you have second thoughts about that?

That's a new Couric.

COURIC: No, no. I had so much fun doing it. The staff of "The Tonight Show" were so great. Those writers -- that is a tough job. You know a lot of comedians. But to be funny night after night after night, and I think they got my sensibility right away. They sort of tailor-made some jokes for me. And you know, my parents weren't too pleased with my performance. My dad told me, you know, stick with your day job, but I thought that I could be a little teeny bit more daring in that venue.

KING: Let me give you a chance to respond. There's a new book out I haven't seen it, but I'm told -- this is what I'm told, "Spin Sisters" by Myrna Blyth. Didn't she used to work at "Ladies Home Journal."

COURIC: Yes, I think she was the editor I believe.

KING: She accuses you of sharing securities about your husband's death to enhance your own image. The book "Spin Sisters" subtitle, "How the Women of Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America."

How do you react to that?

COURIC: I loved Jay too much and feel too proud of the work I have done and the lives that have been saved to even dignify something that creepy with a comment.

So I'd rather not get into it.

KING: One you can comment on because our executive producer and mutual friend Wendy Whitworth, says she knows this is untrue. The book says that you may spend $7,500 a week on a personal trainer and Wendy's quote "is you wouldn't spend $7,500 a week on anything, much less a personal trainer."

COURIC: Wendy thinks I'm a little frugal.

KING: That's right a little frugal.

COURIC: But she says that my presents have gotten much better since I started working on "The Today Show."

KING: You wouldn't buy a $75 treadmill.

Where did that come from?

COURIC: Well, you know, that's another example of how gossipy stuff gets repeated and gets in the main stream. I work out with a great women who I adore named, High Voltage. That's not her real name by the way, High Voltage. She's wonderful, and has a heart of gold. And I think when she takes people away for a week at a time to a spa, I think that's what she charges. I've never gone away with her and, believe me, that is a completely bogus and ridiculous figure. But again, you know, it gets repeated. They did an "E! True Hollywood Story." I have to say they did a really nice story. So, thank you, E!, I never got a chance to call them and thank them.

KING: They interviewed me for that.

COURIC: That's right. Thank you, Larry, for doing that. But they put that in there, and again, it's completely, patently untrue.

KING: What is it like to read something that's totally wrong?

Sometimes there are half truths, you know, but what about when...

COURIC: Distortions. That's what really happened.

KING: Totally wrong?

COURIC: You now, it bugs you. I'm sure it bugs you. I think, unfortunately, and I hate to say it in certain publications it happens with such frequency, you have to kind of laugh about it, because what else are you going to do?

But you do -- it does make you look at certain publications very differently. Now when I read things about people, I know that it could very well be a distortion, that it's being written so the writer can be snarky about something, or that it's just completely false and somebody had an agenda or whatever. So, it doesn't bug me as much as it used to. It used to really bug me, like in the early days. I'd be like, what are they talking about? Now I'm like, whatever.

KING: You have been inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.

COURIC: Why, thank you very much, Larry.

KING: Along with Dan Rather, Bob Barker, Art Carney and Brandon Tartikoff, the late Brandon Tartikoff, and Charles Cappelman. And to your credit, you are the youngest inductee.

COURIC: I know. I know. I guess I'm flattered.

KING: All these people could be your father.

COURIC: Well, believe me, to even be in that company, I don't know about you, Larry, if you still feel this way, but I feel...

KING: I've gotten into a few halls of fame, there's nothing like it.

COURIC: Well, I just feel so -- I think it's just unbelievable. And I feel so privileged that I, you know, that I'm able to be mentioned in the same breath as those people.

KING: You're going host the Peabody Awards. We've both gotten those. There's nothing like getting an award from your peers.

COURIC: That was a very proud moment for me and a very emotional one because it was for my series on "The Today Show" when I did get the colonoscopy. I felt so grateful that they recognized that. I mean it was really wonderful.

KING: Some other bases.

COURIC: Yes.

KING: Martha Stewart.

COURIC: Yes. KING: What do you make of this whole thing?

COURIC: I don't know. I have such mixed feelings about it. I feel any time someone is publicly humiliated and has to go through what Martha Stewart has gone through, I feel really bad. I do get the sense that perhaps she's been unfairly targeted. But I don't know. I really -- I try to kind of just stay down the middle, because I have to cover it every day, and I have to hear both pros and con cons. You know, I don't know. I think I can be convinced to think both ways about the situation, you know?

KING: Completely understandable.

COURIC: I can see the prosecutor's point of view and I can see the defense attorneys. I would be a very bad juror, I think.

KING: Or maybe a very good one. Except you'd hold up the trial for four weeks.

COURIC: What do you mean by that?

KING: Because they pay $11 a day. Only kidding. See, that's a little joke. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Couric, don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COURIC: Hi, guys. Thank you so much. Thank you. Nice to see you guys again. My motto, don't leave home without them.

JAY LENO, HOST "THE TONIGHT SHOW." Let me fix this. There you go.

COURIC: Oh, you've added a little something, this is nice. Before they go for old time sake can Stero (ph) do the peck dance? Allen (ph) can you get him?

LENO: Now, can you do that?

COURIC: No, I can't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...Halloween into a song and dance opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katie Couric on Broadway.

(CROSSTALK)

COURIC: Hello, fellows. Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about this set. Unbelievable. This set is great. Can you put that down for a second?

COURIC: Oh, yes. Do you know what? I do have my talking umbrella. You don't have to have it up. See, it talks.

TALKING UMBRELLA: Hey there good looking, what you got cooking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: Oh, boy.

KING: You know the great part. We can do serious journalism and we can have laughs.

COURIC: I'm just like a good example of how hard-hitting I am, right?

KING: You'll never get to be the anchor of the NBC nightly news.

COURIC: I'll never be covering the State Department, I guess.

KING: OK, you co-host -- we're going to see a clip of this -- with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the first Hollywood Hits Broadway was held in November. It's coming again April 24. I'm going to be there. Let's watch a clip and then ask her about this. Watch.

KING: You got Bobby De Niro to do that.

COURIC: He was so great.

KING: That's for the cancer...

COURIC: That's right. That's for the NCCRA and also the Jay Monahan (ph) Center. We decided to try a fund-raiser a year ago this past November, and we -- I really modeled it after an event in Los Angeles that Lori Burrows (ph) started for Alzheimer's disease. And you get a different entertainer and you do a whole musical score or different songs from a period. And this year we're having our event on the Queen Mary II while it's docked here in New York. I'm so excited about it.

Of course, it's this fabulous new cruise ship. We're doing the music of Richard Rodgers and it's called "Some Enchanted Evening." And we've already lined up some terrific talent. I think it's going to be so much fun. As I said, the proceeds all go to a great cause. So far Harry Connick Jr. is going to sing, Jon Bon Jovi, Nick (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Jessica Simpson, Danny Devito and the guys from "The Sopranos," the guys from "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy." We really -- Brian Stokes Mitchell (ph), the Broadway star, Kristine Ebbersaw (ph) who is just amazing. And we've got a lot of other people I can't tell you because it's partly a surprise and partly because they're not 100 percent confirmed.

KING: You got De Niro you got to get Pacino to sing and then you can (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you host it?

COURIC: I basically just welcome people. But, you know, I love music and I love musical theater and so we did the score of "Westside Story" obviously last time. And Beyonce sang "Somewhere" and Bette Midler, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and Rita Moreno sang "America." Whoopi Goldberg and Heather Headley sang -- it was just so much fun. And...

KING: How do people get to go?

COURIC: They buy tickets.

KING: They're sold on Tickettron?

COURIC: Not, not Tickettron. Basically I guess people could contact me at the "Today Show." No, don't.

KING: Call the "Today Show" offices and they'll tell you.

COURIC: We sold a huge number of tickets already.

KING: How many does it hold?

COURIC: About 1,100 people. And I'm so happy you're coming.

KING: I'm coming.

COURIC: And Wendy, too.

KING: I'll drag her. April 24. Get Wendy to sing.

COURIC: I don't know. The two of us. We used to imitate the Sweeny (ph) sisters from "Saturday Night Live" when she and I lived together. Wendy is Larry's executive producer and one of my closest friends.

KING: And your former roommate.

COURIC: My former roommate in Georgetown. When I was a total mess, she used to call me pig pen. She had her sweaters organized by stripes and colors. I would come into her room and mess everything up. She'd get so upset.

KING: Was CNN the one who said you would never make it?

COURIC: The list is long, Larry, of people who said I didn't have much talent. And who had miraculously discovered me since.

KING: Are you going to stay on the morning a long time?

COURIC: I'm still having such a great time.

KING: You don't like waking up when it's dark?

COURIC: I don't like that but I love the show and once I get a few cups of coffee in me, I'm good to go.

KING: You're a doll.

COURIC: Thanks, Larry, for having me. KING: Katie Couric. Don't forget, tomorrow night, "Dateline NBC" with Jason Blair and then he'll be on the "Today Show" Monday morning. We'll be with us Tuesday night and I'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURIC: And we've got some live greeting from Prince Sultan Airbase here in Saudi Arabia. Your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Johnson from Arkansas.

COURIC: And you wanted to say hi to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say hi to all my family down in Arkansas, and my wife Antina (ph), I love you, baby.

COURIC: Oh, that's sweet. And your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Heather from Tucson, Arizona. I'd like to say hi to all my family in Tucson. I love you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night, Andrew Morton (ph) and a panel will discuss Princess Di and some extraordinary tapes which NBC aired a few of last night or will air tonight and will air again next Thursday. Andrew Morton, tomorrow night. Thanks very much for joining us. Stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT" next. Don't go away.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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