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Encore Presentaion: Interview With Peter Jennings

Aired April 4, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Peter Jennings of ABC News. He's got a lot to say about Jesus' times and teachings and about Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ." Plus, atrocities in Iraq, investigating 9/11, presidential politics and a lot more. Peter Jennings next on LARRY KING LIVE.
This Monday night, Peter Jennings will have a three hour prime- time special that's got rave advanced reviews called "Peter Jennings Reporting: Jesus and Paul, the Word and the Witness." We'll be showing clips from it. And later tonight, he has a special edition of ABC's "Prime Time Thursday," Peter Jennings reporting on "Ecstasy Rising."

The man is a busy man. Before we move to those concepts and the Jesus, well, let's get right to the current news of day. On Wednesday, Peter, four U.S. contractors ambushed, killed, burned and hung in Fallujah, 15 miles away from where five U.S. soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb ripped through their armed personnel carrier. We're going to show some edited material from that.

You've spent a lot of time in the Middle East. Are you surprised by this?

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: To be perfectly honest, I'm not. I came back from Iraq only about 10 days, two weeks ago. And one of the things you cannot help but notice in the country today is first of all, the deep passion on the one hand, against Americans, and on the other hand, for Americans to stay until the situation stabilizes itself.

But there is a sort of second army of Americans out there now in the form of security personnel, who can be seen almost anywhere in the country. There is a member of the coalition doing something. And they struck me as being very high profile targets. They're armed to the teeth. A lot of them look like they come out of a Sylvester Stallone movie. And so, and they move around the country. And I think that the insurgents, whomever they are, have picked up on them and may be tracking them. So when it happened in Fallujah, as bad as it was, I must say I wasn't deeply surprised.

KING: Do you think it would be better if people who work, other than soldiers, came from neighboring states?

JENNINGS: Oh, that's a hard question to answer. If you came from Jordan, or if you came from Syria, or you came from Egypt or anywhere North Africa, you'd of course look more like the local population. But one of the things we have found in Iraq recently is the people working with the coalition forces, particularly with American forces. If they're Iraqi, are vulnerable now to attack by the insurgents.

And attacks on American soldiers have actually gone down in recent months. And attacks on Iraqi civilians have gone up. The people who work for us, for example, the Iraqis are not very happy and don't go out of their way to advertise it. They're working with an American news agency.

KING: Is the turnover going to be hectic, Peter?

JENNINGS: Well, the turnover is hectic in some respects. I went up to Tikrit, you know, Saddam Hussein's hometown where the Fourth Infantry Division was handing over to the First Infantry Division. And you could feel -- first of all, a lot of things are happening in Tikrit. And a lot of progress has been made by the coalition and U.S. forces generally on the ground, but you could feel the tension in the air, because the guys with a year's experience were on their way out. And the guys without much experience were on their way in. And you sensed that the insurgents really wanted to test the new guys before they got their feet on the ground.

And they did. We drove back to Baghdad from Tikrit one night. And there on a main superhighway, all the traffic held up because one of these homemade bombs at the side of the road had gone off and destroyed a bomb detection vehicle that the U.S. was using. So it is everywhere. And yet it's not everywhere at the same time.

KING: Some other news items and then we'll discuss this whole fantastic sudden re-interest in Jesus Christ. What do you make of the whole Rice, Clarke thing? And now she's going to testify next Thursday?

JENNINGS: It was interesting because I watched some of it actually from overseas, including a little bit of Dick Clarke's testimony. And it seemed to me a matter of time before the president was going to change his mind and permit Condoleezza Rice to testify. She's going to do it a week today on Thursday.

And I -- you know, there's a clear desire in the political environment here to try to get the stories of Mr. Clarke and Dr. Rice squared. So I'm actually not surprised that it is going to happen.

It's a little hard to tell, I think here in Washington today how easy and relaxed the administration is about this. I think the administration's been under a lot of pressure. And for someone like Richard Clarke, you know, who isn't easily defined as the enemy in political terms, to testify as he did about the president's interest in international terrorism before 9/11, I think there's been great pressure on him.

KING: Does early -- since you've been on this show, which was September of last year, we've seen the rise of Howard Dean, the fall of Howard Dean, the rise of John Kerry. What was your read on the whole Democratic primary situation?

JENNINGS: Well, it was a -- you're asking me from a reporter's point of view, I tell you it was a terrific primary season. I mean, Howard Dean set a pace that for a while was so blazing there, that no other Democratic candidate seemed able to keep up with him. And then it completely collapsed and turned around. I'm one of those, I confess, who I think -- who believes that Dr. Dean got some heavy handed treatment from the -- I do think there was some people in the press corps who believed that Dr. Dean was an angry man. Maybe I should call him Governor Dean. Governor Dean was an angry man.

And so on that occasion after Iowa, where he -- you know, what's now become called the scream, seemed to fit into the storyline that journalism sometimes prefers when it's covering politics. I was really happy when Diane Sawyer came to us on "World News Tonight," and said listen, we use those sound suppression microphones that Dr. Dean used that day. Let me do a piece for you on what it sounded like in the room and what it sounded like on television.

It was one of the most revealing pieces I've seen in a long time. I think he got a rough ride. But hey, that's politics.

KING: Is this going to be a really rough campaign?

JENNINGS: I think the early -- the early signs are that it's going to be very rough and very tough and very close. And if you look at -- if at the most recent polls, we've seen in the last few days, it does look as if the Republicans advertising about John Kerry, some of it deeply negative advertising, are going some distance to defining the senator from Massachusetts at the same time he's trying very hard to define himself and to get a leg up on George W. Bush.

So at the moment, I think we see all the signs of a very tough and very close race that will last hour by hour until the very end.

KING: Which of course, we love.

JENNINGS: Yes, but I don't want people to think that we are only in this for a blood sport. Yes, I love politics. And I think all reporters who cover politics love it because it is the country at work sometimes in the worst ways and sometimes in the best ways. But it is the country at work politically. And coming just back from Iraq or having spent as much of my career as I did in places where politics were not very freely practiced, it is always for me at least a really invigorating example of American democracy at work.

KING: All right later tonight, you're going to do "Ecstasy Rising," a special report on this. What have you learned most about this drug, which is I guess new to most of us?

JENNINGS: Well, you know, it's not a new drug at all. And that was the very first thing I learned. We got into this business of Ecstasy because we began to have some sense this was a very difficult for the government's drug controllers to deal with. You know, it's right up there now with cocaine and heroin as one of the big three drugs of choice.

And to watch the government try to deal with it is a fascinating exercise. Then of course you realize that Ecstasy's been around since the early part of the century and has been used before in the 1950s and 1960s by psychotherapists in California as a drug treatment for people with depression and mental difficulties, which they found very productive.

Then it became wildly popular in Texas in the 1980s. And then it was criminalized by the government. So this learning the history about Ecstasy has been fascinating.

But I think in many ways, the most interesting thing that we've learned is what happens when the government relies on bad science to try to convince people that they shouldn't take it, because then what becomes at stake is not just this whole question of freedom of choice, whether or not you should be allowed to take drugs or not, but the whole question of government credibility in trying to convince people not take Ecstasy.

So that, I think, has been the most interesting part.

KING: Before we go to break and we'll show a clip from it, are you saying it's not as bad as its image?

JENNINGS: Well, I'm saying that the information the government used to tell people that it was going to cause serious brain damage, it was going to cause Parkinson's Disease on basically one recreational dose, which they used for very long time, had up on their Web site for a very long time, turned out under more serious study much of it -- some of it we drew attention to, has turned out not to be the case.

It is only today that the National Institute of Drug Abuse has put up again on its Web site its information about ecstasy, which pretty much matches with our broadcast tonight. But it has not been that way for a very long time.

KING: We'll go to break. We'll show you a scene from "Ecstasy Rising," the Peter Jennings report later tonight on ABC. And we'll concentrate on the three hour special coming Monday, "Jesus and Paul." Here's a scene from "Ecstasy Rising." We'll be right back.


JENNINGS: In the early 1980s, Dallas, Texas was Ecstasy country. Michael Clegg (ph) saw to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just gave it away. We gave it away for years. We never charged for it. And then it started getting prohibitively expensive. I couldn't afford to just give it away. So we started selling it. And the race was on.

JENNINGS: And there was plenty of money to chase in Dallas. Oil money, real estate money, technology money. It was a boomtown and ecstasy was there to fuel the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like an atom bomb exploded with this thing. It just overnight, in a matter of a year, people were talking about it everywhere.




JENNINGS: This letter to the Galatians has made Paul a favorite saint of the worst Christians in history. From the monks of the Spanish inquisition to the people who carried out the 20th Century Holocaust against the Jews in Europe, all those including Hitler who have claimed that Christian theology made it imperative to destroy Jews and Judaism but does Paul deserve the blame? Every expert we talked with said he does not.


KING: This coming Monday night, a three-hour special on ABC. That's the whole night of prime time. It's titled "Jesus and Paul." It's a Peter Jennings reporting special "The Word and the Witness."

Was this the result of the Gibson movie that you did this or did you plan this before?

JENNINGS: No, no. We were actually finished before "The Passion of the Christ" I think was actually finished. I was very pleased that someone like Mel Gibson actually wanted to see our program.

This grows out of a long history we have at ABC News of doing programs about religion. In my own case, we first did a film about my many years' visits "Off Again to Jerusalem" which got people interested and then we did Jesus and Jesus did very well in terms of audiences. People were very interested.

So we decided to do Paul who is an absolutely fascinating creature and I must say, thanks to ABC, it's pretty unusual for a reporter to be given three hours of prime time to discuss the birth of Christianity but it's been very exciting.

KING: What did you think of the movie first?

JENNINGS: Well, I -- a little bit of me doesn't want to say what I thought of the movie because I don't want people to think that my point of view about the movie is brought to bear necessarily in the program on Monday night.

I was deeply moved as I think anybody who saw the movie and saw the reaction to the movie was about how people reacted to it in different ways, how some people found it to be much too excessively violent but other people, particularly evangelical Christians who were deeply moved by the notion of Jesus suffering to this extent in the name of mankind.

I wasn't -- I wasn't really surprised to see how well the film did because this is one of the great subjects of all time. It's a subject on which people are quite dramatically divided in many ways and I think the whole conversation about Christianity and especially as it emerged out of the first century is really stunning.

KING: All right, Peter, who was Paul? To the boy like myself who grows up Jewish, he's taught it was a man who was named Saul who was a fanatic. That's the way the Jews teach. They teach Christ as a great rabbi and Paul as some sort of guy way out there. Who was Paul?

JENNINGS: Well, Paul was a persecutor of the early Jesus movement. Paul was indeed Jewish. Everybody, of course, in this story is Jewish in the first century and Paul was indeed a persecutor of the fledgling Jewish movement.

And then, as the Bible has it, on the road to Damascus to further persecute the members of the early Christian movement, of the Jesus movement, he was blinded and heard God and became an absolute convert to Jesus' life and times and message, particularly to the idea that the embodiment of all this is the crucifixion and the resurrection and he became one of the great apostles of the Jesus movement.

And what makes Paul really interesting, at least to me, I want to say very quickly I'm a reporter. I'm not a scholar and we set out to find out what we could learn about Paul in the first century and we're helped immeasurably by his writings because after Jesus, you know, the New Testament of the Bible is just hugely about Paul.

He is the person who really carried Jesus' message, Jesus the Son of God's message, the kingdom of heaven on earth to the non-Jewish community and he had a great -- there was a great rupture in the Jewish community between him and the other apostles in Jerusalem as a result of this.

But I think it's fair to say, though scholars will argue with each other about everything, I think it's fair to say that without Paul carrying the message, first around the shores of the Mediterranean and then on beyond that to the early communities that were being established, we might not have Christianity as we practice it today.

And we understand through Paul's letters, I think, and Paul's teachings and his communication with all of these communities how different early Christianity in the first century was.

And so, he's really, I've heard him called more than once as the great salesman of Christianity. I've heard him called a lot of other things as well but he clearly, without Paul I think we probably wouldn't have Christianity today as we know it.

KING: Why did the name change Saul to Paul?

JENNINGS: Well, you know, it was a question of going from the local language into Greek and beyond that and there is not any particular significance.

KING: Somewhere in the translation.

JENNINGS: There's not any particular significance to the fact that it went from Saul to Paul. You would notice it much more today.

KING: What was the relationship of Paul and Christ?

JENNINGS: They didn't know each other according to most historians. Now there are people who actually believe that it was possible that Paul and Jesus actually did know each other.

So, here's a point of controversy. If I say I don't believe that Paul and Jesus knew one another, someone in the evangelical community particularly will take exception to that.

So I'm a little careful here but most people would say that Paul did not know Jesus but that he was responsive to Jesus' teachings without any doubt but that what he was particularly moved by -- remember that in the first century Jews believed that the apocalypse was coming and they believed that the end of the world was coming.

So, Paul is a man whose entire attitude about behavior and about Christian -- about Jewish law and about Jewish doctrine and about saving people is somewhat contingent upon the fact that he thought the world was going to end very quickly and that people had to prepare for the end of the world.

And but what is central to his teaching, I think everybody would accept, is the notion of the kingdom of heaven on earth and that the crucifixion and Jesus' resurrection are central to the belief.

KING: Back with more of Peter Jennings. This special will air Monday night. We'll tell him about some of the reaction to it right after this.


JENNINGS: Paul says in his own writings that he supported himself on his missions by working with his hands. The book of Acts says that Paul was a tent maker. In those days, making leather tents for merchant caravans was a pretty good business. So, historians think that Paul probably got a foothold in cities like this by setting up shop and talking to his customers.

How does Paul get around convincing his audience that Jesus wasn't just a criminal executed by the Roman authorities who, by the way, I as a gentile worship their Gods?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a little bit tough.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure that I might be more part of the culture that they kind of looked askance upon.

JENNINGS: What do you think would have put you off? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a cult. Who is this weird-looking guy running around talking about this other guy that some God raised from the dead? And I've never seen this guy that, you know, this guy says God raised from the dead. Where is he now?


KING: Peter Jennings is our guest. The special airs Monday night, all of prime-time, the full three hours. If you're not sure if they knew each other, and the general consensus is they didn't, why the title, "Jesus and Paul?"

JENNINGS: Because, first of all, aside from the fact that they're two principle characters in the New Testament, I think that Paul is responsible, I may get my figures wrong here, 13 out of the 27 books of the New Testament. But to repeat it, maybe I didn't make it very clear in the first place, because I think it is widely believed, in fact I know it is widely believed, that without Paul, Christianity may not have survived. Christianity as we now call it might not have survived beyond the small cult that it was regarded to be in the 1st century on the eastern side of the Mediterranean.

You know, the Jesus movement, as historians will tell you much more eloquently than I'm able to, was one of many cults, and at least one of our quite conservative historians makes the point that there were any number of preachers in what was basically Palestine in the 1st century, believing that they had the answer in terms of the end of the world, and were going around preaching the end of the world. Jesus was one of them. Jesus is this -- Jesus connection to God, as profound as it was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, might not, now people will take exception to this in some cases, but might not have gone beyond those boundaries had it not been for Paul taking the message to and supporting the communities and nurturing the communities all the way to Rome.

KING: Why is he...

JENNINGS: It is Paul -- it is Paul, you know, principally, who take Christianity to Romans, and what's stunning about all this -- again, some people will tell you it's not stunning at all, it is absolutely the truth -- is that 200 to 300 years later, Christianity is the official religion of the Roman Empire that had so profoundly persecuted the Jews in Palestine in the first place.

KING: And he is so associated with Catholicism, right?

JENNINGS: Not so much with...

KING: Isn't he more...


KING: Catholics than among other sects?

JENNINGS: I can't answer that question, to be perfectly honest. I don't know whether he is quoted more in Catholicism. You know, it is -- it is part of Catholic doctrine that Paul, you know, lost his life just as where a small church is now settled, on the outside of Rome, and he died as a result of the persecution by Nero, of the Christians in Rome at the time. But he is held, just by virtue of his place in the Bible, the New Testament, by every what you call sect or Christian persuasion.

KING: Was he a good writer?

JENNINGS: Well, it's a little hard to tell, isn't it, because we're reading an English language translation of the Bible today, but I think -- but I think -- I haven't the vaguest idea whether the translation was good. But what you can say about Paul's writings is that they are in many ways astonishingly relevant to the 21st -- in the 21st century, because we are arguing today about some of the things that they were arguing about then that Paul was concerned about. He was concerned about sex. He was concerned about homosexuality. He was concerned about the treatment of women. He spoke and wrote to all of these various communities and preached, and he preached and he argued about Jewish law. It is the issue of circumcision and the Jewish dietary laws on which Paul the Jew separates from the other Jews in the early Jesus movement.

And this business of taking -- of believing that you didn't have to be a Jew, didn't have to be a strictly observant Jew, therefore you didn't have to be circumcised, in order to follow Jesus, in order to get the Jesus, to embrace the Jesus message, is what caused the rupture in the early Jesus movement, which was of course Jewish and led in part, to much of the accusation that over the years Paul is somehow responsible for the early seeds of anti-Semitism.

KING: Did Paul officially, or ever give up his Judaism?

JENNINGS: I can't -- I can't answer that question either, because the movement we're talking about in the 1st century, as best I understand it, is a Jewish movement. And certainly in the terms of our broadcast, in terms of following Paul's life as he travels and he preaches and he wrestles with these ideas until the time of his death or disappearance -- because some people believe he didn't die, of course, at the hands of the Romans, but may have disappeared into Spain. The record is in the view of some historians unclear.

You notice how hesitant I am at times, because every time I think of one thing I realize there's someone who has a different point of view about this.

KING: Scholars will disagree. We'll pick up on that and other things with Peter Jennings. The book is -- the book -- he writes books too. Peter Jennings reporting, "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness." It airs Monday night all through prime-time, and a special later tonight, ABC's "Prime Time Thursday" is Peter Jennings reporting on "Ecstasy Rising." Back with Peter right after this.


JENNINGS: Here amid the artifacts of Roman power, we get some sense of how extraordinary it was that ultimately Christianity will prevail and even become the official religion of the Roman Empire.

So where are we?



JENNINGS: Gianni Ponti (ph) is an archaeologist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to go right under it onto...

JENNINGS: Back into the 1st century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back into the 1st century on a sacred way.

JENNINGS: Ponti (ph) is part of a team that is trying to reconstruct what Rome looked like in Paul's day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The forums are surrounded by temples, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) buildings known as basilicas, and honorary buildings, to honor victorious generals.




JENNINGS: It was not at all unusual for a boy in Jesus' time to think something has really got to be done here, and possibly I'm the one to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something has got to be done; maybe I'll be the one to do it.

JENNINGS: And maybe I'm the Messiah?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect that half of the Jewish mothers in Galilee at the time hoped that their son was going to be the Messiah.


KING: We're back with Peter Jennings. A discussion of his special, "Jesus and Paul," which airs on Monday night. The criticism has been...


KING: Yeah?

JENNINGS: I'll tell you something, I would really feel remiss. I was watching that shot of walking down with Ponti (ph) through the old city of Rome, and it's really important for audiences to know how these programs are made. We worked on all this series from Jerusalem all the way through "Jesus and Paul" with a cameraman named Ben McCoy (ph) from Denver, and Steve Lederer (ph), who is the sound recordist, and my producer, Gina Recondon (ph), without whom this program would never get made. She's become a truly serious, quite brilliant Biblical scholar and they don't get enough credit, so hope you don't mind me mentioning them.

KING: Not at all. In fact, just looking at that one scene tells you you want to watch the whole three hours.

JENNINGS: It's one of the great -- it's one of the great shots, and I remember seeing how Ben had managed to follow us down sort of astonishing walk that we were taking. This was an archaeologist taking me through Rome and through Nero's palace and showing me where the fire was burned and where Peter and Paul may have perished. It was really quite stunning.

KING: Walking into yesterday. John Leonard (ph) gave you a rave in "New York" magazine, absolutely loved it, liked it better than the movie. He did, however, have one criticism which others have said. They've said, "too much of the music," he said, "is contemporary Christian rock. Even, God help us, Christian rap." Did you select the music and what's your response?

JENNINGS: Well, I am fascinated, because I didn't anticipate early on in the Jesus (UNINTELLIGIBLE) program and also now the reaction that a certain -- members of a certain generation would have to Christian pop and to rock, and in the case of this program, even Christian rap. We are talking about one of the great music growth industries in the country. And in this program, I and Gina Recondon (ph) are very aware that we're talking to more than one generation. And so I want to talk to young people as well as to old fogeys like myself, and so -- as well as the traditional sacred music, which is in much of the program. There is indeed Christian pop and rock and rap, because it is in that music that many young people hear Christianity speaking to them today. Not always your taste or mine, but I think it has to be there.

KING: Paul, you said, relates to today, and he spoke about homosexuality, and now we have gay marriage. What did he say about it?

JENNINGS: Well, you know, he believed that women should keep their place. He didn't believe people should marry or should bother to marry at the end. He was not in favor of marriage at the end, because the end of the world was coming and he believed that people should not, you know, waste their time with such matters. He was on the one hand a very, very stern disciplinarian. These small communities that were establishing themselves around the Mediterranean and then ultimately in Western Europe were sometimes very difficult to manage and were sometimes under huge pressure from Roman occupation, people who've celebrated the pagan gods or the imperial gods of the Roman Empire, other aspects of the Jewish movement. He was always struggling to repair his relations with people.

And you see this. I grew up, as you didn't, but as many Christians did, I grew up sitting in the pews of a church on Sunday, where I always thought that they were reading an excerpt of Paul's letter to somebody, the Romans, the Ephesians, or somebody, in order to remind me that I was doing something bad. But when you read about him and understand him as a man struggling in many cases for much of his life, it becomes a whole, fascinating, different exercise.

KING: But Peter, if his perspective was on a world coming to an end, why are his thoughts important? If you think that's going to end tomorrow, how is that relevant, since that's not the predominant thinking today?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, Paul's thoughts are very important on a great many subjects, including, I might add, love, as well as marriage and the role of women and the Jewish dietary laws.

Look, if you are a true believer in the literal word of the gospels today, it comes as no surprise to you that this tiny little sect from the first century has survived now, because it is the truth, it is the word, it is inevitable. But I think for other people in the world today it is, in some respects, astonishing that this tiny sect, one among many in this strange remote corner of the Roman Empire should have survived as it has done for 2,000 years. Survived and thrived beyond anybody's imagination.

And I think it is widely and accurately held that without Paul that might not have been the case. That Paul carried the central message of resurrection to the non-Jewish world. Had great division in the Jewish world in the process of doing so. Because he was -- I'm a little nervous about this phrase, but I think this is why people refer to him as the great salesperson, the great salesman for Christianity.

Some people think he preempted Jesus' message. Some people would argue he started another religion in Jesus' name. The scholars disagree on so much. But without him, the message might not have traveled as effectively as it did.

KING: Looking at the problem today, the war on terrorism, some see it as Christianity against Islam. Do you?

JENNINGS: I think we're in danger at the moment of getting ourselves into a conflict between the West and Islam. And I think we in America would all -- I don't mean to sound pompous -- at least I hope I don't sound too pompous about this -- we'd all be better served if we took Islam really seriously and focused not only on extremist Islam. Islam is, in some ways, I think, at war with itself in terms of its root and its modernity.

I think Islam struggles under the weight, to some extent, of the governments in the Middle East who are most autocratic, some of whom are our allies. I think we would all be better off if we learned more about Christianity, more about Islam, more about Judaism, and the relationship between the three.

KING: This is going to be a fantastic special, Monday night, throughout "Primetime." Peter Jennings reporting, "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness."

When we come back, we'll talk more about "Ecstasy," a special he's doing later tonight, and some other items in the news in our remaining moments with Peter. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Christian community has had a lot to offer you very tangibally. They took care of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord, we pray for him. We pray for his wife. We pray for his children.

JENNINGS: Paul says this idea came directly from Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You kind of knew that if you got old and sick, that there was going to be somebody there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ, our lord.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something totally new and something totally different. We actually had to educate ourselves and educate our managers and supervisors.

JENNINGS: Drug controllers had never seen anything like Ecstasy. Positive word of mouth pushed the drug far beyond the confines of the rave scene. In the late 1990s, illegal traffic in the drug exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first started prosecuting Ecstasy cases, 10,000 pills was considered to be a huge amount of that drug, of the Ecstasy drug. Now, well, it's a drop in the bucket. Couriers bringing 30,000 pills at a time; organizations bring in hundreds of thousands of pills.

The leaders of these organizations are charged with smuggling millions of pills. And it almost seems like each one outdoes the next.


KING: Our guest is Peter Jennings. That "Ecstasy" special airs tonight. On yesterday, Peter...

JENNINGS: I was just thinking -- you caught me off guard there for a moment going from "The Passion" to "Ecstasy."

KING: Yesterday, authorities announced the smashing of U.S.- Canadian drug ring believed responsible for 15 percent of all Ecstasy smuggled into the United States. Arrests, criminal charges against 170 people.

Your report characterizes the rise of Ecstasy as a major event in drug history. And if current trends continue, 1.8 million Americans are going to try it for the first time this year.

First, what's the Canadian connection? And, second, what does Ecstasy do to you?

JENNINGS: The Canadian connection is an easy question to answer because much of the Ecstasy trade, much of the illegal Ecstasy trade has been coming out of Europe, particularly out of Holland, and being handled in many cases by Israelis. But there's been a connection clearly made between the Europeans and some factories in Toronto, where Ecstasy powder, if you will, or Ecstasy compound has been sent to be made into pills.

Primarily in those labs in Toronto they busted, they were making the pills which were then being smuggled in gas tanks here to a variety of points in the United States by Asians, Vietnamese and Chinese, at least allegedly so, who were arrested yesterday. It was a very big bust yesterday. But more than anything else, I think it's a reminder of how huge the trade is in Ecstasy, as you hear there from thousands to hundreds of thousands to now many, many millions of pills.

KING: And what does it do?

JENNINGS: Well, quite frankly, that's in many respects at the very heart of our program tonight, because for a very long period of time the drug controllers -- the government's drug controllers -- were advancing the notion based on science, which we and others are reporting tonight to be faulty science, that your brain on Ecstasy, you know, looked like Swiss cheese and it really would fry your brain. And the difficulty has been that the science on which the government has been relying has not been convincing to people who have been using Ecstasy over the years.

And so word of mouth about Ecstasy -- and I'm talking about pure Ecstasy now, not Ecstasy that's been cut by some other compound that has made it even more dangerous -- but pure Ecstasy has had a very good press down over the years. It has been called the "love drug." It's been a drug which some people have said they'd be perfectly happy to take with their parents.

And when the government criminalized this in the mid 1980s, after it had taken off in a huge way in Dallas, the message just wasn't very convincing to people. And so it has been a very, very, very, very difficult drug for the government to contend with. And that really is our story tonight, whether or not government has risked its credibility by advancing bad science.

They took their Web site down about Ecstasy for a long time. They only put it back up today, their Ecstasy information back up today, on the day that our program goes on the air. And what they've now put up on the drug site today is pretty much what is in our program tonight. But it wasn't that way for a very long period of time.

KING: When you say "love drug," was it a drug that it was said that men would secretly give to women and they would succumb to their sexual advances?

JENNINGS: No, no, no. Not that I'm aware of. Somebody may have done it. But it was really a drug that enabled people, so they so -- this is anecdotal; I've never tried it. It's illegal. Don't intend to try it -- that brought people out of themselves.

And this is what was discovered in California during these early stages of psychotherapy. Some psychotherapists said it was -- giving someone Ecstasy was equivalent to penetrating deeply into their psyche that would take weeks and months, in some cases years. Other people who have taken this has said that it's enabled them to come out of their selves and feel deeply, warmly committed to other people, and converse and talk in other ways.

Now, we don't know how dangerous Ecstasy is, at the same time. We don't really know. We may wake up years from now and find out that the long-term effects of reducing the serotonin in the brain, which is what Ecstasy does, to some extent, may turn out to contribute to brain damage in ways we do not yet understand.

But some of the studies that have been done, particularly studies -- the big studies done in Germany, showed that when serotonin in the brain is reduced it's also replenished. And so there's this great conflict -- again, this is largely what the program is about -- as to whether government has told us the truth about Ecstasy.

And if you don't tell young people the truth, then they're suspicion of government can be deep-seeded for their entire lifetime. And that's part of trying to educate people about drugs and warn them about the ill effects of drugs.

KING: We have a couple of moments left with Peter Jennings. We'll touch some other bases, including Iraq, one other question on Iraq, and then a couple of other things. Another reminder about his upcoming shows.

Don't go away.


JENNINGS: General Ray Odierno of the 4th gave us his last command briefing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's on 11 major offensive operations.

JENNINGS: He is proud that his troops have killed more than 1,000 enemies and obtained maybe 10,000 who he says were a threat. The enemy, he says, is significantly weaker than it was six months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I think we're going to need a significant force here 10 years from now? No, I don't think so. What I do know is 12 months from now we'll need a lot less forces than we have now.



KING: Peter, how big an issue will Iraq be in the campaign?

JENNINGS: Oh, I think a very big issue in the campaign. It already is a big issue in the campaign. I'm not sure it's going to be the ultimate defining issue. But as we see in this whole argument between the White House and Richard Clarke, the former chief of counterterrorism in the White House, how serious the administration took terrorism, whether terrorism is what we're looking at in Iraq, or whether the administration took the country to war for reasons that hadn't been purveyed to the country.

I think it's going to be a big issue. And I think, also, to some extent, it depends on how much progress is made in the months ahead.

One of the really strong impressions I had, having been there for only 10 days, is this strange ambiguity, because life is improving for people in Iraq in many, many ways. And the U.S. influence in Iraq is having in many ways a very significant influence.

Our focus on the loss of American soldiers and now civilians on a sometimes almost daily basis, it gets so intense, somewhat I think overshadows what has been happening in more general terms in restructuring or structuring the country. But we saw it in this poll that we did for the first anniversary, so many Iraqis want the U.S. to leave Iraq because they're very strong nationalists.

At the same time, they don't want us to leave in a hurry because I think they fear generally, no matter who they are, whether they're Sunnis or Shiites or middle class or northerners or Kurds, they feel that without a U.S. military presence now the country is in danger of reverting -- sorry, not reverting -- of going in the direction of civil war. And so there's this ambiguity about the U.S. presence.

And I don't think the U.S. yet has a handle on who these insurgents are. We don't know whether they're outside terrorists or they're members of the former Ba'ath or there's tribal connections out in Fallujah. Very complicated.

KING: A couple of other things. Ted Koppel isn't going. How much coverage is ABC going to give to the convention? Is it going to block three hours every night?

JENNINGS: I can't remember whether Ted went last time, to be perfectly honest.

KING: I think he did.

JENNINGS: The fact that Ted -- in fact, I don't know why Ted isn't going to the convention. I don't think he has to. But because Ted isn't going doesn't mean ABC News isn't going.

KING: I think...

JENNINGS: Of course, ABC News...

KING: ... he told us because he thinks there's no drama that nothing -- we know the outcome before we go. It's...

JENNINGS: Well, I think -- well, listen, I think over the years that these conventions have become infomercials, to some extent, for the political parties. But they're also a target of opportunity for members of the respective political parties and certainly for the press to examine the party in a pretty -- in a pretty intimate way for the period of time. I don't think we're going to do gabble-to-gabble (ph) coverage again in the history of politics.

But I'm old fashioned in this respect. I would hate to miss a convention. I've never gone to a convention and not found some piece of news to arrest our attention.

KING: Maybe Ted is changing his mind and he's going. What do you make of Barbara Walters leaving "20/20?"

JENNINGS: I think Barbara Walters leaving anything is a loss. You know, Barbara is one of the hardest working -- if you asked me to sum up Barbara -- many people do it in different ways -- I sum up Barbara as one of the hardest working people I have ever met who, how ever much she has done on television, is always relentlessly determined to get whatever story it is she is going to get.

KING: Yes.

JENNINGS: And I have -- I don't think -- she and Diane Sawyer both, they are two of the hardest working people I have ever known.

KING: Yes. How much longer do you want to be doing what you do?

JENNINGS: You mean sitting here in a dark room talking to you rather than seeing you in person?

KING: Anchoring the news, doing specials, traveling the world?

JENNINGS: Oh, well I think I'll never stop traveling the world. You know, I love it. I love it. I love it. You know that well.

There comes a time when doing a daily broadcast is perhaps not as rewarding as it is to me now. You can see by my excitement that I love doing these specials and I'm deeply grateful to ABC that I'm one of the few people who has the opportunity to do them. And I don't think that will end whether I'm working on ABC or anywhere else.

But I love the fact that ABC supports them. And so I'd have to say, at the moment, I'm a pretty happy fellow.

KING: Do you ever envision yourself working somewhere else? I mean, you're so identified with that network.

JENNINGS: Well, yes, of course one always thinks -- I think what one thinks about oneself is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) working. I've had a long and greatly satisfying career at ABC. I've -- a couple of times in the course of the last 30-some odd years that I've thought about going somewhere else I've never been able to do it. But if I were to leave ABC News or ABC News were to leave me, I'd hate to think that I was going to stop working.

KING: Peter, it's always a pleasure having you on. I wish I were with you, but...

JENNINGS: I do too.

KING: Thanks so much...


JENNINGS: I do too, Larry. You're very nice to say so. Thanks a lot.

KING: Peter Jennings, anchor and senior editor of "ABC News World Tonight," and "World News Tonight," and on Monday, the three- hour prime-time special, Peter Jennings reporting, "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness." And tonight, the special edition of "Prime Time Thursday," Peter Jennings reporting, "Ecstasy Rising."

I'll be in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. That Peter Jennings special on Jesus will air on Monday. The special on the drug problem, Ecstasy, already aired earlier this week.

This is a repeat highlight broadcast from the past week. We hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for news -- now news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN, good night.


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