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Interviews With Jenny Craig, Tim Robbins, John Stossel

Aired April 3, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, personal insights from weight loss pioneer, Jenny Craig. She's lightened a lot of lives and battled back from a freak accident that could have silenced her forever.
Plus, give him a break, ABC's John Stossel reveals who's really ripping off American consumers and why the media gets the story wrong.

And the multitalented Tim Robbins. He's earned an Oscar for his acting and a lot of attention for his opinions.

And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin tonight with an old friend and a terrific lady, Jenny Craig, the weight loss and weight management pioneer and author of the new book, "The Jenny Craig Story: How One Woman Changed Millions of Lives."

Why did you finally decide to do your bio?

JENNY CRAIG, FOUNDER OF JENNY CRAIG: It didn't start off that way, Larry. It started out as a journal. My grandkids were always saying to me, "Nana, tell me about how it was when you were young."

And of course, when I grew up right after the Great Depression, so there weren't a lot of colorful, exciting stories to tell them. And I think they always felt maybe I was evading my past.

So I just didn't have a lot of fun things to talk about.

KING: But you did keep a journal?

CRAIG: Yes. I started first really telling them all about my -- the early years. It evolved into my business years, and then some of my philosophies about life.

KING: So, how did Wiley come into it? Did you contact them? The publisher?

CRAIG: Well, actually, a new chairman of the board of Jenny Craig Inc. had dealt with Wiley. And he suggested that I ask them to publish it. And as soon as he contacted them, they were all over it.

KING: The last time Jenny was on this show, she explained what happened to her jaw. We'll ask her about that later, but viewers may be tuning in, wondering is there something wrong. Jenny has made an amazing recovering from a terrible incident, I guess, is what we'd call it. CRAIG: Yes, it was. It was a freak accident, and as a result, the trauma that I had created focal dystonia, which is involuntary movement of muscles. So there are, like, 500,000 people throughout the United States that have one -- either one area of their body or more.

KING: Is this commonly called lockjaw?

CRAIG: No. That was the first thing I thought of. But the interesting thing is, it wasn't lockjaw. It was -- I couldn't coordinate my lips, I guess, with my speech.

KING: This happened coming out of a nap, right?


KING: I'll move to that later, but let's get back to...

CRAIG: Sure.

KING: Jenny Craig Incorporated, just celebrated its 20th anniversary. How did you start in the weight loss field?

CRAIG: Well, I -- actually, the weight loss industry kind of chose me, because I had gained over 50 pounds during my second pregnancy. And after Michelle was born, I still was over 30 pounds overweight. So I went to the only thing that was available then, which was a local gym.

And after I lost weight, the manager asked me to go to work. And I thought the job was ideal, because it was three days a week and I had two small children. So I thought, "Well, this is great."

KING: You didn't have to work. Your husband was...

CRAIG: No. He was a good provider. But I've always enjoyed being around people, and it was a people kind of job.

KING: What did they ask you to do at the gym?

CRAIG: Well, I had to instruct exercises. I had to sell the program. And just generally be, like, a cheerleader.

KING: How did that lead to the now famous Jenny Craig?

CRAIG: Well, because I noticed as women -- well, because I only worked with women. It was segregated, most things, they weren't co- ed. So I noticed how their personalities were changing as they lost weight. And it made me realize how closely connected what we see, our physical image, how it affects our self-concept and our self-esteem.

So I began to look into it to see, you know, why? Why is that? What causes it?

And there weren't very many things available then. I mean, everything that I found in the library was written, you know, was not in layman's terms, but in medical terms.

KING: You were the pioneer?

CRAIG: I think so.

KING: How did you decide that it will be Jenny Craig's system? How did that...?

CRAIG: Well, it really -- I didn't decide that in 1959. I went work -- I worked for the original company for five years, and then Sid Craig, who is now my husband, advertised in the paper for a whole new concept, run with machines so you didn't have to really work hard and you could trim your figure.

And I thought, "Well, that sounds intriguing."

So I went to see what it was all about hoping to get a franchise. And so long story short, I ended up working for that company until Sid and I got married, which was in 1979. And in 1982, we sold the company and with it, signed a two-year non-compete.

So we thought we'd retire, but we were 50 and we thought, "We're too young to retire." So we looked around and decided that Australia would be a good place to start a new company, because we had only signed a two-year non-compete in North America. So we were free to go to Australia.

KING: And that's where Jenny Craig started?

CRAIG: Exactly. And...

KING: In Australia?

CRAIG: In Australia. We started in 1983.

KING: Selling what?

CRAIG: The program, the way -- well, basically the way it is now. It certainly is different from...

KING: With weekly visits and food programs?

CRAIG: Yes. People would come twice a week. Once to pick up their food and talk to a consultant one on one. And the second visit would be a behavior education class.

KING: Australian company put the food processing together?

CRAIG: Yes. We had several companies that did our food.

KING: Was it successful in Australia?

CRAIG: Very successful. In fact, we opened 50 centers in one year. And that has to be some kind of record.

KING: You own these? Or franchises? CRAIG: We owned them at that time. Eventually, we franchised 20 percent of the -- the new centers. But the original centers were all ours.

KING: And after two years, you came to the states?

CRAIG: After two years, we came back. We opened 12 in Los Angeles.

KING: Where was the first one, first one. All of them...

CRAIG: We had 12 in L.A. And we thought we'd cover the market. We had...

KING: You were like Starbucks?

CRAIG: Yes. Well, kind of.

KING: You look up one day, and there's a Starbucks.

CRAIG: You're right. That's -- we felt that we had to have good representation because advertising is, you know, naturally is expensive because they charge you by the number of people you reach.

KING: How many Craig centers are there?

CRAIG: Six hundred and fifty now.

KING: All over?

CRAIG: And we're in 4 countries. So...

KING: Are you in almost every state?

CRAIG: I think we're in every state.

KING: So did L.A. take off right away, too?

CRAIG: Well, it didn't take off quite as fast as Australia did, because when we got therem there were like, 7 major competitors, who had been advertising regularly. And no one had heard from us for two years.

And so when we got back, we -- we had to advertise very heavily, and it took us time to build a reputation.

KING: Had to invest a lot.

CRAIG: Exactly.

KING: Was -- was Sid Craig one of the competitors? The Sig Craig system that you left?

CRAIG: Well, what happened, NutriSystem bought the old company.

KING: I didn't know that NutriSystem... CRAIG: So -- And NutriSystem, yes, was a very savvy competitor.

KING: Are they still around?

CRAIG: I -- I don't think so. I never hear anything about them. But perhaps.

KING: Other competitors have come forth. But you controlled the field for a long while.


KING: Our guest is Jenny Craig. The book, an incredible story of fortitude, successful in business and at home as well, the weight loss management pioneer. The book, "The Jenny Craig Story: How One Women Changed Millions of Lives."

Back with more after this.


KING: We're back. Still to come, Tim Robbins and John Stossel. Our guest is Jenny Craig. The book is "The Jenny Craig Story: How One Woman Changed Millions of Lives."

What did you do that the others weren't doing? What made Jenny Craig a hit?

CRAIG: Well, because I think we approached it in a realistic, practical way. We believed we have to treat the food, the body and the mind. We teach people how to change behaviors that are creating problems. It's all about lifestyles.

And you know, Larry, all these so-called miracle things that have come along the pike? The diets, the products, the philosophies. And yet, Americans are turning fatter and fatter.

And the reason is that they're looking for a quick fix. Everyone's looking for that magic pill with no commitment, nothing for them to do, and it's all going to go away.

KING: Jenny Craig is not a magic formula?

CRAIG: No, it isn't. It's about lifestyle change. We help people to change the habits that have created the problems for them to begin with.

KING: Part of the key to the success was you did the commercials, right?

CRAIG: Well, I think that made the brand, it created a face with the brand. But I think the success of the program is really that it works. I mean, we had so -- thousands of people that are testimonials. All of our advertising just now is done with testimonials, because we feel, show people that it does work. And then they'll think, "Well, if it works for that person, maybe it will work for me."

KING: And it obviously worked for you.

And is that still true, 20 percent are franchises and 80 percent are owned?

CRAIG: Well, now I would say it's still just about the same. And you know, we did sell 80 percent of the company in 2002.

KING: Was Weight Watchers your first big competition (ph)?

CRAIG: You mean here in the states?

KING: Yes.

CRAIG: I would say Weight Watchers and NutriSystem then, when we came back. Now I would say Weight Watchers.

KING: It's like the two of you?


KING: And there are others, right?

CRAIG: I think we pretty well dominate the categories that...

KING: What's your -- what's your read on the Atkins phenomena?

CRAIG: Well, you know, we -- we've really looked into this. And studies have shown that people lose no more weight on Atkins than they do on other low calorie diets over the long term.

In fact, usually they fall off after six months, because they're -- the variety is so limiting.

We believe that you can eat all foods and still manage your weight long term. And we've proven that you can. We think a healthy eating plan needs to include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, deserts and snacks in moderation.

KING: What are the foods -- what are the foods you give to your clientele? You don't give them fruits and vegetables do you?

CRAIG: Well, that is included in the program. We don't give it to them. They get it in the store.

KING: But you would -- there are foods you give, right?

CRAIG: The packaged foods that we have, the frozen dinners, all the best vegetables and fruit. But they also -- you know, there are snacks and drinks that they can eat in between meals that they can buy themselves.

KING: And there's personal counseling, right?

CRAIG: Yes. It's one on one. And I think that's critical. Most weight loss experts will tell you that a support system is really critical to long-term success.

KING: You rolled the dice once with Monica Lewinsky as a spokesperson. Was that a mistake?

CRAIG: In retrospect, probably.

KING: Because she didn't lose enough weight?

CRAIG: Well, no, she lost 31 pounds.

KING: She did?

CRAIG: Yes. She did really well on the program. But people focused on who she was, rather than what she accomplished. And you know, with all our testimonials, we always say, you know, Mary Smith lost this much. And people look at the results more than they do the person that's in the ad.

KING: So you don't use famous people any more?

CRAIG: Well, no, we still use people. We have a few celebrities.

KING: You do?

CRAIG: Yes. Since Monica, yes we have.

KING: Is it an ever growing business? Are new franchises opening?

CRAIG: Well, yes. Yes. I think they're expanding prudently. I don't think they're just opening centers to be opening them. I think, you know, if there's a place in the country that needs another center, they'll open it.

KING: Because everyone knows it's not healthy. Why are we overweight?

CRAIG: Because everyone is looking for the quick fix. We don't move our bodies, between TV, the computer or the video games, all these things. It starts out with the children. I mean, now there are so many obese adolescents it's -- it's really frightening. And that translates to obese adults.

So that's the reason it keeps growing, is that the kids who grew up in the fast food era, which we still are in...

KING: Are you saying don't take your child to McDonald's?

CRAIG: Well, let me say I would not take my child to McDonalds.

KING: You would not?


KING: And no French fries? CRAIG: No. No French fries. I think you can serve good tasting food and kids can enjoy it. Anything you want them to get used to.

I grew up in New Orleans. I had all of my mother's cooking.

KING: You had no chance.

CRAIG: You're right. You're right.

KING: We'll be back with more moments with Jenny Craig and then Tim Robbins and John Stossel.


KING: The book is "The Jenny Craig Story: How One Woman Changes Millions of Lives."

You even have home delivery of food now?

CRAIG: Yes, we do. Lots of people who either cannot get into a center or they don't live close enough to one to be able to go.

KING: A lot of personal attention when you visit the center?

CRAIG: Yes. The food is delivered, and they can have weekly consultations by phone.

KING: And now the book tells your remarkable story. Do you get in length about what happened to your jaw?

CRAIG: Yes, I do. I -- I have to. I mean, it...

KING: Of course.

CRAIG: ...has certainly impacted my life.

KING: Did you learn life lessons from it?

CRAIG: I think so.

KING: You couldn't talk for awhile, right?

CRAIG: Yes, right. I was talking, but I wasn't -- you couldn't understand me. And what had happened is that all the muscles in my face were stripped. And I went to 18 different doctors, trying to find out what happened.

KING: Was there surgery involved?

CRAIG: Eventually. But that wasn't an option at the beginning, because the doctors said, "I've never seen anything like this."

KING: You just woke up with it, right?

CRAIG: Well, when I woke up my lower jar snapped open my upper teeth, and I had to pry it down. And what happened -- I mean, it frightened me.

And what happened in the process is that it stripped all the muscles. And so they got weaker and weaker and weaker, and the weaker they got, the more unintelligible my speech was.

KING: Did you ever think of, like, giving up and just...

CRAIG: Never. I don't know how to give up. I'm like a bulldog with a bone.

Sid had said to me a couple of times, you know, accept that you have a speech impediment and let it go. I'll never do that. I will keep going until I find someone that can help me.

KING: How has the family done with it?

CRAIG: The family is wonderful. You know, I have wonderful friends, wonderful family. They are so supportive, and they act like nothing's wrong. And I have to tell you, really, Larry, I have so much to be thankful for.

I saw "Oprah," and talking about the body scan.

KING: Yes.

CRAIG: And I thought, "I'm going to go get one of those." Just be. I went, and I was absolutely thrilled.

The doctor told me, and I had the print out. Zero plaque in my arteries. Zero. My bones' density is 110 percent for a 30-year-old. And my HDL was three times the LDL.

And I mean, he joking said, "You could live to be 100."

KING: You follow your own method?

CRAIG: Well, yes, of course I do. I don't eat Jenny Craig foods every day, because -- not that I wouldn't, but it's not something I have to. But I follow to the letter the lifestyle that we talk about in the centers.

KING: You also talked about life theories in this book, right?


KING: Things you've learned?

CRAIG: Well, I've learned that things aren't important, people are. You know, we go through life, and you're always thinking about, "Gee, if I had a new car. If I had a new house. If I had a pet." But anything new: a watch, a ring, you know.

But to me, it's people that are important. And...

KING: Some people say, though, people who say that are already people who have the things. CRAIG: Well, I can see how someone would say that, but I have always been a people person. I won't tell you there weren't things I wanted in life. Yes. I had goals, and I was thrilled to achieve them.

But the interesting thing is my goals were never related to money. They were related to achievement, because I've always just been an achiever.

KING: Money is by-product of your...

CRAIG: Exactly.

KING: But you were also one of the first enterprising women, right?

CRAIG: Well, there -- there were no role models before -- I mean, there were not -- my only role model was Eleanor Roosevelt. I thought, "I'd love to be like her when I grown up."

KING: So your goals were never mercenary?

CRAIG: Never. Never. I never said -- when I set goals, I didn't say, "When I had this much money or that much money. I would have pictured the things that I wanted to achieve and -- and it would remind me with the specific goals.

KING: Did you use that same concept when you had the jaw thing?

CRAIG: Absolutely.

KING: Like a goal to get better?

CRAIG: Absolutely. I kept telling myself every day, "You're going to find the solution to this. You're going to get better. Things are going to be good." And it may be -- maybe that I -- the things I did were counterproductive. I practiced a lot more speech patterns that my instructor gave me than I should have.

I mean, she'd say, "Do these 20 times," you know, three times a day. Well, I'd practice for three hours straight.

KING: Did you have to learn to speak again?

CRAIG: It was worse than that. I had...

KING: Worse?

CRAIG: Yes, because what happened, during the period where I really couldn't control my speech, your body compensates. So I had developed a whole new set of speech patterns. And I had to unlearn those in order to learn the right way.

And so, as my instructor told me, she said, "This is twice as hard as someone, like, who had had a stroke who just need to learn to speak." I had to unlearn and then learn. KING: Wow.

CRAIG: And it's hard, because in between the new speech patterns, the old ones creep in.

KING: This is a very important book, Jenny. I salute you for writing it.

CRAIG: Well, thank you, Larry.

KING: Thank you.

CRAIG: I do want to mention that all of the proceeds go to charity. And one of the charities is Kids Corps.

KING: The wonderful Kids Corps charity.


KING: In which kids that have a good fortune help kids who have less.

CRAIG: Exactly. It teaches kids volunteerism.

KING: The book is "The Jenny Craig Story: How One Woman Changes Millions of Lives," published by Wiley.

Tim Robbins is next. Don't go away.





ROBBINS: They wasn't dead, but I think maybe there's something beautiful about them. Maybe one day you wake up and you forget what it's like to be human, maybe then, it's OK.


KING: Joining us now from New York on LARRY KING LIVE, great pleasure to welcome him, Tim Robbins, who recently earned an Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance in "Mystic River." He also won the Screen Actors Guild award and the Golden Globe for that same role. The best movie I've seen in years.

He wrote and directed the satirical play "Embedded," now playing at the Public Theater in New York City. He also was nominated as best director for "Dead Man Walking," another one of the great movies I have ever -- are you shocked at how "Mystic River" worked for you?

ROBBINS: I'm so happy that people went -- so many people went to see it, you know? And I feel slightly guilty that I got all the attention. Sean, too, thank God, on the Oscars. But it was such a great ensemble and so many great actors, and actors know better than anyone, you can't do it alone, you can't do it in a vacuum.

And I had Marcia Gay Harden and Kevin Bacon and Lawrence Fishburne and Laura Linney and Sean to work with. And that's like a dream cast. Any day we came to work it was, you know, a different pleasure.

KING: Being a director yourself, do you try to think along with what Eastwood was doing?

ROBBINS: No. When I'm an actor, I let the director do all that kind of thinking. And I -- since I have directed, you know, I know the anxiety and the work that goes into that. You really kind of need the actor to concentrate on their job.

And Clint is so sure-handed and so confident in the way he works that it was -- it was a real easy thing to do. He made it real easy. He made you really believe in what you were doing. And he only does one or two takes, so it was a real learning experience for me in confidence and in how to run a set efficiently and professionally.

KING: You were amazing in it. Amazing.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

KING: Great movie.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

KING: Tell me about "Embedded." What -- "Embedded," are you doing things like the word was used in the war?

ROBBINS: Yes. It's a play about a fictional place called Gomorrah. But essentially it's about our experience over the past year in Iraq. And it's set between October, 2002 and June, 2003. And it tells the story of the build-up. And it tells the story of three soldiers that are involved in the war, based on real life stories.

And also about four journalists. It tells the story about them. And basically all of the reportage in the play came from real life sources.

KING: Why the Public Theater?

ROBBINS: It's a downtown theater in New York. It's a theater I have a professional relationship with. I did a play there in '89. It's a -- they read the play; they loved it and they wanted to support it.

KING: Is it a satire?

ROBBINS: It's a satire, yes. It's a satire that also has some moments that are very moving. It's a satire where we've seen some audiences break down and cry, and we've seen them laugh and roll in the aisles. But it's a real great experience night after night, because each audience is a new -- a new chemistry, a new experience.

KING: Directing for theater different than directing for film?

ROBBINS: Yes. It's more immediate, and what I can do in a theater takes me a lot longer to do in the movies. I -- I wrote this play and had it up on its feet within the course of two months. I didn't have to raise money. I didn't have to -- other than the money it took to do a small production.

I didn't have to ask anyone's permission to do it, and I didn't have to raise a tremendous amount of money to do it. Where usually in a film, you're beholden to financial interests, and you have to look to those interests in order to create a viable, commercial product.

KING: Unlike a film, though, once the curtain opens, this is the actors' play, isn't it?

ROBBINS: Yes, it is. But I keep bothering them. I keep going night after night.

I still have notes. They -- just one or two a night, you know, little things. Little details.

I love going to the show because it teaches me something new about the play every night.

KING: Do you write a lot?

ROBBINS: I wish I wrote more. It's the hardest thing for me to do, of all the disciplines, because it's the most lonely one. And usually, when I'm finished writing something, I don't really want to hear criticism of it. I'm really neurotic about my writing. I only want to hear it's brilliant, you know?

And the great thing about working with the actors gang (ph), though, is that I was able to take a barebones script and have -- hear them read it and then rewrite and rewrite and see what worked in front of an audience, and keep working on it, keep tweaking it.

KING: Tim, you always take risks. You're always taking chances. One of the great films you made was "Bull Durham."

ROBBINS: Thank you.

KING: Do you ever think about doing "Bull Durham 2?"

ROBBINS: Yes, well I have the idea for the first scene. He's -- his rotator cuff has ruined his career and in the first scene he's signing autographs at a memorabilia auction kind of convention. And that's all I've got.

KING: But that -- that could work.

ROBBINS: I have an idea -- I have an idea for the sequel of "Shawshank."

KING: What would that be? Yes.

ROBBINS: "Andy and Red: Girls Gone Wild. D-woc and A-ho (ph)." What do you think?

KING: I keep forgetting how you're not too well, kid.

Anyway, let's move to another area that happened to you. I'll move back to "Embedded" in awhile. The baseball hall of fame, a place I'm particularly close to. In fact, I've got a book coming out called just that, called "Why I Love Baseball." I'm going to do a signing up at Cooperstown the weekend when this year's nominee's go in.

They cancelled you, a 15th anniversary celebration of "Bull Durham" because of your political opinions. Dale Petrofsky, who runs it, later told me he made a mistake. Do you accept that?

ROBBINS: Yes, I accept that. I don't think it was a mistake. I don't think you should really politicize baseball. We had no intention of going up to Cooperstown and doing anything political, you know.

I love the place. I would encourage people to go there. It's a great little town. There's -- there's -- and when it happened, I encouraged people to go. I didn't say boycott it or anything like that.

I love the town. I've been there many times. I love the Hall of Fame. It's a real classy institution. And it's my favorite Hall of Fame, and I've been to most of them now.

And I -- the town itself is a small town, and I didn't want to take whatever there was personally between Mr. Petrofsky and me and turn it into something that would hurt the town economically. So I encourage people to go. It's a great family vacation.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more of Tim Robbins. Won the Oscar for "Mystic River" and has written and directed the play "Embedded." It's now at the Public Theater in New York City.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the Berlin Wall all over again. A staggering event that calls to mind all of the statues of Lenin coming down across the Soviet Union.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, if you don't have goosebumps now, you will never have them in your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite the need of a U.S. tank to help the statue fall, the image has burned a clear metaphorical truth, the symbols power has overtaken the need for hard facts.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you laughing at Sally Bowls (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, nothing, sir!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me make it straight that a tough old colonel like me knows a little bit of show biz?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a little stereotypical there little miss muff dive. I would surprise you to know that I played Riff (ph) is West Side Story in Tikrit (ph). That I stalked the stage as the Wolf in Sun Times Into the Woods (ph) in Stuttgard? And I am not ashamed to admit, I sparkled as Anna in The King and I in Riyadh (ph)!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, that is surprising, sir!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will drop and give me 69 for piece of posing that you know a damn about me, missy!


KING: We're back with Tim Robbins.

Is "Embedded" now your current thing? Are you working on doing another film? Where are we in the Robbins career?

ROBBINS: Well, we...

KING: I mean, there should be a ton of scripts coming, with the Academy Award and everything.

ROBBINS: There are. And I'm reading them, and I'm trying to decide which one. I'm not crazy about any of them, so I'm kind of biding my time right now, looking for something real nice.

KING: When they were about to open the envelope, did you say, "Yes"? Come on. Come on.

ROBBINS: No. I'd convinced myself that there -- that something was going to happen, that I wasn't going to win. That way I wouldn't be so disappointed if it didn't happen.

But you know, certainly a lot of people were telling me I was going to win, but I was -- I kept making people knock wood and, you know, I was really annoying to be around right before it happened.

But it was really exciting. I have to tell you, that was, you know, a great, great experience. And to have my son with me, too, and to have Susan there with me, it was really, really fun. And -- and Clint was so great, you know, throughout the whole experience, too, so it was -- it was a fun night.

KING: Have you always been an activist?

ROBBINS: I've always been interested. I grew up in Greenwich Village in the '60s and early '70s, so I kind of always have been aware of the world around me and always have kind of spoken about stuff. So I -- I figured when I got famous it wasn't -- wouldn't be real smart to try to change things at that point.

KING: Do you have any thoughts as to whether being you has influence?

ROBBINS: Has influence?

KING: Over people? If you support someone, will people vote for them, do you think?

ROBBINS: I don't know. I don't know. I -- I have a feeling that -- that we can bring attention to issues that might be ignored by other entities in the media, for example. So I view it more as -- for something I care about and there's people that need help and need attention, then I can help in that regard.

I would prefer if -- if that weren't the case, that you know, that the media itself covered these issues in a vigorous -- in more of a vigorous way and it wasn't necessary for us to do this kind of stuff.

Last year was very frustrating for a lot of us, because we wanted an opposition party to be creating the debate about the war, and they weren't, except for Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy.

So we kind of felt like we had to fill in the void. And is that our preference? Not really, you know? But it is our -- our kind of obligation when there's urgency involved.

KING: Seeing as Ted Kennedy is our guest Monday night, will -- do you notice people being affected by "Embedded"? Do you think "Embedded" could change opinions about war?

ROBBINS: I think it tries to bring a human face to it in the way we portray the soldiers. I think we've approached them all very sympathetically. I think -- I think it raises questions and that the greatest thing I have experienced with the play is that there's conversation in the lobby.

Not everyone has to agree with the play, to come to it. It's great because it creates discussion, and that's really essentially, I think. Probably the best thing we could hope for in a piece of art, a piece of theater, a movie, is that people leave in some way involved more than they were when they -- when they got there.

I also hope that it creates entertainment.

And what I try to do -- the play is about things. We always approach it from a point of view of that -- how is this going to be entertaining? How is it going to make people laugh? How are we going to ask questions that are intriguing to people? How are we going to move people emotionally?

It's never, for me, about the dogma of it or the philosophy behind it. That's part of it, yes, but for me the essential thing is to involve the people in their -- in that theater for the 90 minutes we have them. And to try to shake things up a little bit.

KING: When you write and direct a play, are you nervous every night about crowd reaction?

ROBBINS: Yes. Yes. I get petrified of the silence, you know?

KING: They're supposed to laugh here.

ROBBINS: Yes, exactly. And that happens some nights, you know, and then there's some nights where people are smiling instead of laughing. And then there's nights when they're just boisterous and really active and yelling and stuff, and that's great, too.

It's really -- it's the great thing about theater. It's always a challenge. Every time the curtain goes up, metaphorically that it could be any kind of experience. And it could be -- it could fall on its face or it could soar.

And that's, you know, that's the discipline that the actors are -- the constantly changing discipline. And it's mysterious in that way, too. Some nights there's that chemistry that is unlike anything you've ever experienced before. And those nights you sail, you soar.

And other nights, you do just as well -- I see the actors doing just as well. But for some reason, the chemistry is different.

KING: I'll be in New York...

ROBBINS: ... play or something like that. I don't know what it is. Not enough drinks with dinner.

KING: I'll be in New York. I'm going to come see it.

ROBBINS: Please do.

KING: Thank you, Tim.

ROBBINS: Thank you.

KING: Tim Robbins, what a guy. What an amazing person. What a performance in "Mystic River." The play is "Embedded," at the Public Theater in New York.

John Stossel of ABC's "20-20" has a new book out. He's next. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's this thing that, called -- what's it called?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Symptom, syndrome -- it's a Stockholm Syndrome (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's where you start to sympathize with your captors. Evidently, it's a pretty common thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's true. Mom, dad, you have to listen to me, it's not the drugs, I am not dreaming it, the Gammorrean soldiers, that did terrible things to me, they left me to die, but the doctor in the hospital helped me. I was scared to hell and I hated him. He helped me, he gave me his own blood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, why wouldn't the army tell us that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was there! I'm telling you the truth!



KING: We now welcome a gentleman who hasn't been on this program in years, but it's good to have him back: John Stossel, the co-anchor of ABC New "20-20" and the author of the new hit book, "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media." There you see its cover.

How does exposing hucksters, cheats and scam artists make the liberal media mad at you? I thought they don't like those people either.

JOHN STOSSEL, AUTHOR, "GIVE ME A BREAK": That didn't. They liked me when I was bashing business and hitting the scam artists. I won lots of awards. I got on your show.

But when I wised up, when I saw I was missing the point, that half the things I believed were wrong, that it wasn't really business ripping people off, it was government and lawyers, then suddenly my peers in the liberal media got mad at me. They said I was no longer objective.

KING: What changed you?

STOSSEL: I saw that all this government regulation that the consumer activists called for wasn't making things better. The people selling the breast enlargers and the burn fat while you sleep pills, they kept getting away with it.

But everybody else was drowning in paperwork. The lawyers were getting richer. The bureaucrats were building empires. It was making us less free. But it wasn't protecting consumers.

KING: But John, you don't want the inmates to run the asylum, do you? STOSSEL: But that's the wonderful part about free markets. The roofless competition keeps the inmates from doing bad stuff. The bad guys, I realized, don't get away with much. Word gets out. They go out of business.

To get really rich under a free market, you have to get people better supermarkets, better cars. Bill Gates gave us software we wanted. That's how you get rich. The regulators trying to perfect that make things worse.

KING: How did you become what you are? How did you become this guy who wants to know why bad things are being done?

STOSSEL: I was bullied as a kid, and I got a job on television. And I had a camera. And so I wanted to go after those business bullies. And I just have been following that instinct.

KING: Do you still include them? If you see an Enron, do you get mad?

STOSSEL: Yes, absolutely. And what happened there was despicable. But what's remarkable in a $10 trillion economy is that that doesn't happen very often. That's the exception.

KING: You write -- You write in the book that "Barbara Walters thinks I'm a little weird, and argues with me about ideas." Do you get along, though?

STOSSEL: Yes. I love Barbara. And she's so smart that she's catching on to a lot of these ideas. I heard her say to another correspondent, "We can't have a law for everything, you know." So maybe I'm bringing her around.

KING: Have you become what is now called conservative? Or is it unfair to label you?

STOSSEL: Well, I think it's fair to label me. And people do label me a conservative. And yet, I think I'm more of a liberal. Tim Robbins and I share a lot of similar beliefs. And yet, because I believe in free markets, they call me a conservative. A real conservative should be insulted.

KING: Yes. You're also a strong believer in the First Amendment, right?

STOSSEL: Yes, and I think we should have the right to burn a flag. I think we should have choice. I think the drug laws and the prostitution laws do more harm than good. I'm a libertarian. It's a terrible word.

KING: No, it's a good word.

STOSSEL: Because people -- but people think it means libertine, when it just means limited government, the founders' idea.

KING: Is it harder, John, to take on government than it was to take on business?


KING: Why?

STOSSEL: Because my colleagues cheered me on when I was taking on business.

KING: So you've actually -- colleagues turned against you?

STOSSEL: Well, some people won't speak to me. I went on CNN to a "RELIABLE SOURCES" journalism program, and when I got there, I found they'd titled it "Objectivity and Journalism: Does John Stossel Practice Either?"

KING: Did you get mad?

STOSSEL: I was so surprised I looked like a deer in the headlights. I got mad later.

KING: You write that you started to wonder if our eager coverage of activists' accusations did more harm than good. Were we distorting the public's understanding of what's really risky? Risk takers built America. Today many of us seem almost paralyzed by fear.

But you don't want them to overrun us, though, do you? You want the Bill Gates, but you don't want them to monopolize us so there can't be another Bill Gates?

STOSSEL: But they can't do that. The competition prevents that. If they started charging too much, monopolizing, then a young competitor who was charging less would clean their clocks.

But the main point, Larry, on these scare stories we were doing -- we were scaring people about everything. And we were just in partnership with these trial lawyers who were using people like me to get rich. And by scaring people about the small stuff, then people can't worry about the big stuff.

KING: But on the other hand, if you -- if you -- if a car hits you, being driven by the Coca-Cola company and it was speeding, you need a trial lawyer. What's your other entrance to court?

STOSSEL: There are a million other remedies. First of all, the Coca-Cola company isn't driving the car. It's an individual driving the car. And if he's behaving recklessly, if he's doing it on purpose, we have all kinds of ways to prosecute him.

But the trail lawyers are looting the country. For every person they help, they hurt five. They say they make us safer, but let me give one example of why they don't. Because the unseen harm that they do tends to be greater than the seen good.

They said they made the vaccines safer. They sued the vaccine makers, saying that they weren't as safe as they could have been. Let's say it was true and they saved a dozen lives a year, which I doubt. It isn't worth it, because when they sued, 20 companies made vaccines in America. Now there are only four. Many got out of the business because they said, "We can't take this kind of liability hit. Let's stick to our pimple cream business or something."

We're not safer with four vaccine makers.

KING: But they are the poor man's road to the courthouse, are they not? Because the average guy who's in couple with a big company, suing that company, you can't say they're all -- let's say he's suing a doctor. You can't say that every doctor does good work. Someone has to represent them. The doctor has an insurance company that could spend all accounts.

We need the trial lawyer who's willing to expend the money to try the case.

STOSSEL: But what kind of road for the poor is this? Most of the money goes to the lawyers. The trial lawyers take a third or 40 percent. Then the defense lawyer takes their cut, and the court costs, most of the money goes to the process. It takes five, 10 or 20 years for people to get their money.

A Harvard study found most of the people who sue for malpractice weren't victims of malpractice. And most of the people who were victims didn't sue. It's a horribly blunt instrument.

KING: What then, John, is the remedy when you've been wronged?

STOSSEL: The remedy when you've been wronged, if they did it on purpose, we have prosecutors to punish those people.

KING: But that doesn't get you any money.

STOSSEL: Well, we have workmen's compensation. We have Medicaid. We have all kinds of government compensation systems that are much more efficient than the lawyers.

And sometimes, the market will punish the bad guy. Companies don't get rich hurting their customers.

KING: Was this a tough book to write?

STOSSEL: In some ways. But no, I was excited. After 20 years of consumer reporting, I saw the light. My eyes were opened, and I wanted to share that with people.

KING: Have you left...

STOSSEL: It was exciting to write.

KING: Have you left consumer reporting?

STOSSEL: No. I still think I'm doing consumer reporting. But I'm focusing on the people really ripping off consumers. And that's big government and lawyers. My favorite chart in "Give Me a Break" is page 131. There's a chart of the size of government. For most of the history of America it was small, less than five percent of the economy.

It's only in the last few years it's going straight up to the 40 percent it is now. That's not healthy for our money or our freedom.

KING: John, we're going to do it again and do more time. And thank you so much.

STOSSEL: Thank you, Larry.

KING: John Stossel, the co-anchor of ABC News "20/20" and the author of the new book, and a bestseller right off the -- right off the rack, is "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media."

I'll be back in a minute, tell you about what's coming.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't forget Monday night. Senator Ted Kennedy is our special guest. Stay tuned now for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.


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