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Is America Ready For Female President?; Interview With Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; '24' Reinforcing Negative Stereotypes?

Aired January 22, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.
Across America, racism and intolerance lurk just below the surface. Every night, we're finding and talking about these hidden secrets, bringing them right out into the open.

Tonight: first lady. Other women, of course, have run for the White House, but Senator Hillary Clinton is the first one who could win. Is the country really ready for a woman president?

Then on to mean street -- I'm going to ask the mayor of Los Angeles what he is doing about a deadly dividing line between his city's blacks and Latinos.

And the "24" factor -- on one of the prime-time's biggest hits, the bad guys are Muslims. Is that entertainment or intolerance?

We're starting with something that's never happened before here. For the first time ever, American voters may be willing to elect a woman president. A bunch of new polls, including our own show, show that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has a serious chance.

Whether she wins or not, when it comes to women in politics, has this country permanently moved from intolerance to inclusion?

Here's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Hillary Clinton hopes to make history. But is America ready for a female commander-in-chief?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was asked a question, do we think a woman could be elected president?

The answer is yes.

SNOW: Sixty percent of people surveyed in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll said America is ready for a woman president.

This New York Democratic leader supporting Hillary Clinton isn't sure. HERMAN "DENNY" FARRELL JR., FORMER NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: Her biggest challenge, of course, is to get past the issue of being a woman. I mean, no one is going to say it. And maybe I shouldn't even be saying it now.

SNOW: Political analysts say, Senator Clinton also faces an image challenge.

DEBBIE WALSH, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN WOMEN AND POLITICS: She doesn't connect to me. She's not warm. She's -- you know, she's not -- she's not like me. And I think she's trying to, you know, sit down, reach out, and talk directly to the American public.

SNOW: That effort to reach out in a more personal way was evident in the cozy living-room setting of Hillary Clinton's weekend announcement, a far cry from some past attempts at communicating, which came across as cold or brittle.

Flash back to her husband's 1992 presidential campaign -- Hillary Clinton defending her career...


HILLARY CLINTON, WIFE OF DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BILL CLINTON: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. But I -- what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.


SNOW: ... and these famous words on "60 Minutes," when her husband faced questions of infidelity.


CLINTON: You know, I'm not sitting here, some little woman, standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette. I'm sitting here because I love him.


SNOW: But then came questions, mostly from women, when she did stay with President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. While she came under scrutiny, the scandal added to her tough-as-nails reputation, a reputation that a candidate needs to become commander in chief.

The delicate task for Hillary Clinton, according to experts, will be finding the right balance with her softer side.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Democratic Senator Barack Obama is also considering a run for the presidency. And, even this early, somebody is trying to use fear to derail his campaign.

We are bringing out in the open now a false rumor that's been spreading that Obama is a secret Muslim and went to a Muslim religious school in Indonesia.

To get to the bottom of this story, CNN conducted an exclusive firsthand investigation in Indonesia.

And, tonight, CNN contributor Howard Kurtz, who covers the media for "The Washington Post," sorts out the rumors from the facts for us.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: As many of you know...

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): From the moment Barack Obama began talking about running for president, he's drawn an increasingly loud drumbeat of positive coverage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama, the rising rock star.



BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's about Barack Obama, the rock star.



TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: His rock star popularity...



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Barack Obama greeted like a rock star.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huge crowds, literally. They would make a rock star envious.


KURTZ: But, in recent days, the Illinois senator has had to cope with a rumor pushed by a little-known conservative magazine and amplified by an echo chamber on the right. And the unsubstantiated article tries to blame the whole thing on Hillary Clinton. "Insight" magazine, which is owned by the conservative "Washington Times," says, Obama went to a madrassa, the type of Muslim religious school often associated with teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam. The article also accused him of supposedly hiding that he was raised as Muslim.

An Obama spokesman calls the story, based entirely on unnamed sources, trash and completely false.

And it is false. In fact, a CNN correspondent confirmed that the elementary school in Indonesia is a public school, not a madrassa, that happens to offer some classes in Islam for its mostly Muslim students. And this isn't even news. Obama has already revealed in his two autobiographies that he spent two years at a predominantly Muslim school -- this, by the way, when he was just 6 years old.

The senator today is a Christian who belongs to a Chicago church.

"Insight" also claims the madrassa allegation has been spread by researchers -- quote -- "connected to Senator Clinton," again, without a single named source or document. A Clinton spokesman calls the piece an obvious right-wing hit job.

The allegations got a big boost from Rupert Murdoch's media empire, with "The New York Post:" running this headline: "'Osama' Mud Flies at Obama." And Murdoch's FOX News Channel touted the claims on two programs.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The gloves are off -- Hillary Clinton reported to be already digging up the dirt on Barack Obama. The New York senator has reportedly outed Obama's madrassa past.


KURTZ: But, as we now know, there is no madrassa past. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, who called FOX's broadcasting of the madrassa tale appallingly irresponsible, says he didn't think much of a clarification carried this morning on the program "FOX & Friends."

FOX News executive Bill Shine says, some of the network's hosts were simply expressing their opinions and repeatedly cited "Insight" as the source of the allegations.

(on camera): This, unfortunately, is how the media food chain works. A bogus charge appears in some magazine or on some Web site, and works its way up to bigger news outlet, all based on little or no evidence.

What makes the madrassa story unusual is that the false allegations are about a candidate's elementary school, nearly 40 years ago, and the attempt to blame this rumor-mongering on the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Howard Kurtz, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And let's go straight to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, Rabiah Ahmed, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, otherwise known as CAIR, and syndicated columnist Miguel Perez, who is also a journalism professor at New York's Lehman College.

Good to have all of you with us tonight.


ZAHN: Do you think Senator Obama has any obligation to respond to any of this speculation, when he talked about where he went to school in his two autobiographies?



INNIS: ... and his own fans to -- to -- to...

ZAHN: But his campaign has spoken out and said, this is nonsense.


INNIS: To nip it in the bud very quickly, to express who he is.

Look, Obama has gotten pretty much -- Senator Obama has gotten pretty much a free ride. I mean, he's being treated like a rock star. He's being treated like a celebrity, like he belongs in Hollywood more than Washington, D.C., very positive media influence.

But, having said that, now it's -- we're in the season of politics being a full-contact sport. And this is just the beginning. So, for him, I think it's very important that he or his operatives come out, if it's not true, if there's no there there...

ZAHN: If it's not true. You're not convinced that it's not true at this point?

INNIS: I want to...

ZAHN: We sent someone to Indonesia to do our own exclusive reporting.


ZAHN: Give us a break.

INNIS: As much as I trust the journalists of CNN, and -- and watch on regular basis, I would prefer to hear from the candidate himself. Let him come out and address this head on. ZAHN: He has already said in two books: I went to two predominantly Muslim schools, one of them when I was 6 years old.

INNIS: But this is a new charge, and it's a new charge that says that he's been -- he went to a madrassa for five years, and in a pretty formative point in his life. So, that's a pretty important issue that you want to address, particularly at this time for our country.

ZAHN: Rabiah, I see you rolling your eyes.


ZAHN: When -- when Niger makes this point...



ZAHN: ... that this is a formative period of someone's life, what does that say to you about how people look at Muslims today in America?

This man doesn't even describe himself as a Muslim.


ZAHN: He describes himself as a Christian.

AHMED: Absolutely.

I think anything that is associated to Islam is now associated in a negative way, and it reflects with to -- it reflects the anti-Muslim bigotry that's prevalent in our society.

ZAHN: So, are you accusing him of being an anti-Muslim bigot?


INNIS: Thank you.


AHMED: No, no, no, I'm not calling you bigoted. But I do think...

INNIS: I think my secretary would have a real problem with that.


AHMED: No, no, no.


AHMED: I do think that, though, the person behind the source of the smear is exploiting anti-Muslim sentiment and the growing -- the growing tide of Islamophobia in society.

ZAHN: Is that what is at work here, or someone is getting a twofer; they're trying to slam Barack Obama at the same time they're trying to slam Hillary Clinton?


MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think, Paula, the only obligation the senator has is to laugh at this whole thing.

I think this is clearly a smear tactic that's going to backfire on the people who are using it. You know, you see all these conservatives, extremists trying to blame Hillary. And they keep repeating the same thing over and over again. And, then, at the same time, they are saying, well, maybe it came from Hillary's camp.


PEREZ: I mean, it is so obvious.


ZAHN: If the motivation is fear, what is -- what is it that is trying to be accomplished here?

PEREZ: They're trying to smear him. It's very obvious.

ZAHN: It is as simple as that?


PEREZ: Simple as that.

INNIS: But the reality is -- I mean, you talk about right-wing extremists -- the reality is, Obama's first opponent in the campaign season is Hillary Clinton. The fact is that the first person that has it within their interests to undermine the senator's free ride, as of...


ZAHN: Hang on, though.

INNIS: ... is Senator Hillary Clinton.

ZAHN: But there is absolutely no evidence linking...


ZAHN: ... anybody in Hillary Clinton's new campaign to this smear.

PEREZ: Absolutely.

INNIS: I don't think there's any evidence linking it any particular place right now. I don't -- I don't think there's any particular track.

ZAHN: What about "Insight" magazine?


ZAHN: Everybody is crediting them with this reporting, which our...

INNIS: But...

ZAHN: ... our reporter turned upside down.

INNIS: That could very well be true, but somebody could very well have leaked it to "Insight" magazine. Somebody could very well be sending out that information.

Look, politics is a full-contact sports. This is just the beginning. We're not even in the primary season.

ZAHN: All right.

INNIS: OK? This is just the beginning, so he should get used to it.

ZAHN: And -- and, in the beginning, we found Hillary...


ZAHN: ... and her announcement in her cozy living room, with -- propped up on the the -- the flowered Chintz pillows, and the artistically arranged frames.

Is the American audience, particularly the -- the 54 percent of the voting public that happens to be women, going to buy into this -- the softer image that's being sold?

AHMED: I don't see anything wrong with it. I think it's -- it's perfectly fine to show a softer side.

If women politicians -- if men politicians have done this, why can't women? Why do we have to have a double standard for men and women in politics?

ZAHN: Will it work?

PEREZ: It's -- it's very hypocritical. No, it won't work. Hillary is very rough at the edges. We have all known that. She's very hard. She's very cold. And...

ZAHN: Would that make her a bad president?

PEREZ: ... she doesn't stay home to make cookies.


ZAHN: But -- but do we have to be warm and -- to -- to be a good president?

PEREZ: No, no, no, no. But there's a difference.

You either -- you can be a very strong leader and still -- still be a woman. And she has to be able to separate the two. She has to be soft on one side and strong in terms of international...


INNIS: Let's keep in mind...

ZAHN: ... women have -- are being held to a much different standard. And won't she be?

INNIS: Well, she...

ZAHN: Quick closing thought.

INNIS: She's actually been very effective. Remember, she ran for the United States Senate from New York on a listening tour. That's where it started. and it proved to be successful.

I -- I disagree with my colleagues. I actually think this is going to be a very successful tactic.

ZAHN: We will be watching. We only have two years to have to observe this.


ZAHN: Could be a long election season.

Niger Innis, Rabiah Ahmed, Miguel Perez, stay there. We have a lot more to talk with all three of you about.

Coming up in just a minute, we're going to take you to the front line in the war of intolerance. It is a street separating L.A.'s black and Latino neighborhoods and its gangs. And now the mayor is calling in the FBI for help. Find out why.

And, a little bit later on, a disturbing look at whether everyday intolerance is breeding Muslim extremism right here in the U.S.

We're going to take a short break. We will be right back.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

Black against Latino gang warfare is out in the open tonight in L.A.

That city has just launched a major offensive against the racial violence. It comes just weeks after the killing of a 14-year-old black girl, allegedly by Latino gang members.

Ted Rowlands brings us the very latest on that tonight.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Los Angeles street is a deadly symbol of a racial divide between blacks and Latinos.

DARREN BROWN, RESIDENT OF LOS ANGELES: I have been here for 11 years, and I ain't never really crossed the -- crossed the 206 Street.

ROWLANDS: Two Hundred and Sixth Street is a dividing line. Darren Brown, who lives on 208th, says he and other African-Americans stay on one sigh. Latinos are on the other. And, if you cross, there can be trouble.

BROWN: If you do, you have got a death wish, because they are going -- they are going to take you out. They are going to kill you.

ROWLANDS: Fourteen-year-old Cheryl Green was recently murdered along the 206th Street Border. The suspects, both Latinos, are facing hate crime charges.

A week before Cheryl Green, it was 34-year-old Arturo Mercado, who was shot in his front yard. Police haven't made an arrest in that case, but Latinos are blaming blacks, who they claim started this war by moving into the neighborhood about 15 years ago.


ROWLANDS: L.A. Assistant Police Chief Charles Beck blames much of the tension on a Latino gang called 204. He says the gang is motivated by hatred of blacks, to the point that the gang's mission, according to the police, is to get African-Americans to leave the neighborhood.

These police photos show some of the gang's recent hate graffiti. This message says, "Move," followed by the N-word.

BECK: This gang, in a very small area, with a very small membership, has managed to put itself at the very top of our enforcement priority, because they target people based on race.

ROWLANDS: So, why do these Latino gang members hate blacks?

We talked to a 43-year-old Hispanic man who was questioned by police about the Cheryl Green murder. We can't show his face, but listen to some of the things he says about African-Americans in his neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wish they would just leave, and go wherever they got to go, and just leave us the way we were. And everything will be cool. We had a nice little -- nice little community here. And it's not nice anymore, because of them.

ROWLANDS (on camera): What did they bring? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ghettoism. They brought lowlife -- just, they're dirty, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys know, man.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Black-brown tension isn't confined to gangs or this neighborhood. It's a problem in many cities, prisons, and even some schools, where fights like this one last year in Southern California have broken out between black and Latino students.

In Los Angeles itself, the tension has spilled into places, like Watts and Compton, where competition for jobs and housing often pit the two ethnic groups against each other.

But 206th Street and its obvious climate of racial hate is the symbolic center of what some believe is a worsening problem. L.A.'s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, and other community leaders recently held a peace rally in the neighborhood of 206th Street, getting both sides together for a few hours to talk. Those in attendance seemed eager for peace.

But, unless there's significant change in the level of racial hatred, blacks and Latinos will, most likely, continue to stay on their own side of the street.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.



ZAHN: And joining me now is the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir. Appreciate it.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Paula, thank you for inviting me to be with you tonight.

ZAHN: Our pleasure.

So, you have come off another weekend where you saw another violent attack, this time a black man attacked by a Latino near that 206th Street line.

Is Los Angeles in the middle of a race war?

VILLARAIGOSA: No, we're not in the middle of a race war. But, yes, crime between the races, between blacks and Latinos primarily, is up. We are targeting gangs that are engaged in racial violence in the Valley and in South Los Angeles and throughout the city.

ZAHN: How bad have things gotten that you so desperately need the help of federal law enforcement to tamp down this tension between blacks and Latinos?

VILLARAIGOSA: It's bad enough that we believe we need to get a handle on it now.

This approach has to be a comprehensive, multi-agency approach. I -- about a couple of weeks ago, I met with Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, talked to him about the gang problem in Los Angeles. I spoke and met with the FBI director, Mr. Mueller, where we talked about providing more federal, FBI assets in our fight against gangs. And I have also met with and spoken with Governor Schwarzenegger.

ZAHN: You were elected, in part, because you were perceived as a man who could be a peacemaker between all these minority groups. Being Hispanic yourself, how much does it personally trouble you to see this kind of violence going on between blacks and Latinos?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it pains me.

The idea that a young girl, a 14-year-old girl, could be standing on the street and shot because of the color of her skin, or a Latino sitting at a bus stop shot because of his ethnicity, it's unacceptable, that kind of violence. It -- it pains me deeply. And it pains me because I think most people in this city don't engage in that kind of activity.

And most of us are appalled when we see hate-motivated violence. And, so, that's why we're taking such a tough stance. We live side by side, the many different ethnicities, races here in Los Angeles. And we will get behind this. Make no mistake about that.

ZAHN: Mayor Villaraigosa, thank you so much your time. Good luck.


ZAHN: And we are going to get back to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Niger Innis, Rabiah Ahmed, Miguel Perez.

Welcome back.

We just all winced as we heard a -- I believe it was a Latino man describing why he hated blacks.

How common do you think that attitude is?

PEREZ: Obviously, it's a lot -- it's very common in Los Angeles, because of all the killing that's been going on. Hopefully, it's not that common around the rest of the country. And I hope it -- it doesn't expand to the rest of the country.

ZAHN: What have Latinos told you about why they hate some of these blacks who come into their neighborhood?


PEREZ: I don't know too many Latinos going around saying that they hate blacks.

In fact, I teach journalism at -- in the Bronx, New York. Most of my students are African-Americans and Latinos. They get along wonderful.


ZAHN: But that's not what's happening in Los Angeles.

PEREZ: And, in fact, my African-American students, when they write about immigration, they are so conscientious, they are so compassionate about illegal immigrants, that it would surprise you, Paula, how well they do get along here in New York. So, I hope...


ZAHN: Well, it would be nice if that attitude was exported to Los Angeles...

PEREZ: Yes, we should take it..


ZAHN: ... because they are dealing with some...

PEREZ: We should take it there.

ZAHN: ... very heightened racial tensions.

INNIS: But I think it's really important, as we analyze this truthfully, that we don't elevate crime and criminals to the level of there being some type of ethnic conflict. What you have here, I mean...

ZAHN: But -- but you have to concede that we're not just talking about the economics and people fighting over the crumbs here.

INNIS: Right.

ZAHN: We are talking about crimes, hate crimes.

INNIS: True.

But do you know that, if every black moved out of that community, that the 204th Street gang would find another group to prey upon?

The fact of the matter is, there are two groups here, but the groups aren't Latinos vs. blacks. It's decent people of all colors vs. criminals of all colors.


PEREZ: Absolutely.

INNIS: And that's how the mayor needs to approach this, and -- and needs to deal with this, comprehensively. ZAHN: What is the mayor getting wrong here?

AHMED: I think...


ZAHN: He's talked about this multipronged approach that you have to attack this from.

AHMED: I think you have to examine the issue, like Niger said, on all levels. It is an economy issue. It is an education issue. And it is a job employment issue. And it can't be a Band-Aid approach.

And -- and there are people who are in L.A. who are working to try to bring truce and to bring -- alleviate the situation in L.A.

PEREZ: It's also a leadership issue.

INNIS: Oh, yeah.

PEREZ: I think Hispanic leaders should be talking tough to these gangs, should be telling them: We're ashamed of you. We're ashamed of the image you're projecting about our entire community. And you should cut this out, or you should go back to where you came from.

ZAHN: Why isn't that happening? Are they intimidated by these gangs?


PEREZ: I don't know. I think more Latinos should stand up now.

They are intimidated by these gangs, obviously. But I think more Latinos, especially when they're illegal immigrants, they come here -- I mean, there are a lot of illegal immigrants who are hardworking, honest people, who deserve a break.

They -- these people are the bad apples who are ruining it for the whole gang. And it's terrible. It's terrible, what is happening. And it should -- we should put a stop to it by -- by talking about it, by speaking out against them.

ZAHN: Well, you have got the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, calling this, basically, what -- what we're talking about, ground zero in gang warfare.

INNIS: That's right.

ZAHN: Do you have any confidence that the federal involvement in this will make any difference at all...

INNIS: I think...

ZAHN: ... as far as law enforcement is concerned? INNIS: I think it could. I think, if various agencies cooperate and share intelligence and share information, it could be very helpful.

I think, though, I wish there were more leaders -- it's going to have to start at the ground -- more leaders, black leaders that condemn black gang violence, and Latino leaders, like Miguel so eloquently said, that condemn, and say that these guys don't represent the Latino quickly.

There may be legitimate grievances between the different communities. It has nothing to do with these thuggish gangs.

ZAHN: So, you are really saying tonight that there is nothing natural nor common about blacks and Latinos hating each other? You're talking about small pockets...


INNIS: There is ethnic strife that is -- it existed in New York City at the turn of the century. We saw it in the movie "Gangs of New York" between Irish, Jews, Italians. That's common, OK? And that's natural.


INNIS: What -- what is unnatural is for us to elevate the level of gang violence into something more than what it is.

ZAHN: Niger Innis, Rabiah Ahmed, Miguel Perez, coming back to you in a couple more minutes.

From coast to coast, intolerance against Muslims is just below the surface, or maybe even not.

In a minute, we're going to look at whether that is turning this country's young Muslims into secret extremists.

Plus: the so-called "24" factor. Are critics right to complain that the hit show "24" is reinforcing stereotypes and promoting intolerance?


ZAHN: Out in the open tonight, a growing sense that intolerance is pushing many young American Muslims towards extremists. And that has some experts concerned that that could lead to terrorism grown here at home.

Here's justice correspondent Kelli Arena.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The alarm is growing throughout the American Muslim community...

JIHAD MUHAISEN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: We are breeding extremism. We are breeding resentment. And we are breeding isolation.

ARENA: ... and throughout the nation's security agencies.

PHILIP MUDD, ASSOCIATE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI NATIONAL SECURITY BRANCH: Now we see in this country, on the East Coast, on the West Coast, in the center of this country, kids who have no contact with al Qaeda, but who are radicalized by the ideology.

ARENA: For years, security experts assumed the violent extremism that's taken root in Europe and in the Far East would not find a home in the United States, that the approximately six million Muslims who live here are too integrated, and community leaders too moderate. But that rosy view is changing.

Just listen to these young Muslims.

NARMEEN JABHUR, 21 YEARS OLD: I was going to the bathroom. And some -- you know, a bunch of girls were standing there, and they looked at me, and they pushed me as I walked in. And they -- they called me names, "You terrorist."

FEDAA SAFI, 17 YEARS OLD: If this is what is going to keep happening, then, yes, everybody's going to go crazy.

ARENA (on camera): So, you could see something happening in America?

ASMAA MOHAMED, 20 YEARS OLD: Why not? I mean, maybe, because, I mean, if you -- I mean, put yourself in my position. You're being blamed for no reason. It's definitely hard to live with it.

ARENA (voice-over): Some experts fear, the ground is being laid for the possibility of homegrown violence, something the U.S. has not yet experienced.

Geneive Abdo is the author of "Mecca and Main Street."

GENEIVE ABDO, AUTHOR, "MECCA AND MAIN STREET: MUSLIM LIFE IN AMERICA AFTER 9/11": There are discriminatory practices already being applied here in the United States against Muslims, particularly by the U.S. government.

ARENA: Government watch lists, airport checks, FBI interviews, all breed resentment.

ABDO: You'll create a population that says no matter what we do here, we're always going to be viewed as terrorists or we're always going to be viewed as militants.

ARENA: It's the little things, too, racial slurs, suspicious stares, even TV shows that picture Muslims as terrorists. Former FBI agent Foria Younis worries about the next generation.

FORIA YOUNIS, FMR FBI AGENT: (INAUDIBLE) Can people generally try to minimize that negative effect on children? I think they can, Kelli. It's hard. ARENA: Audrey Zahra Williams is tackling that difficult job. She's the principal of the Islamic Foundation School in Chicago.

AUDREY ZAHRA WILLIAMS, ISLAMIC FOUNDATION SCHOOL: I think the only way that our kids will survive and not get caught up in those cliques and groups is really being exposed to tolerating other, you know, human beings, no matter what race, color, creed.

ARENA: Her students are getting the message.

USMAN ATHER, 12th GRADE: Hate never fails to destroy the one who hates others. It's pretty destructive when you're going to basically destroy yourself that way.

ARENA: But with all of the forces feeding Muslim resentment, that kind of self-control is becoming more difficult.

ABDO: We're at a very critical period now and if this hostility and skepticism towards this faith continues at the rate that we see now, there could be serious problems.

ARENA: Kelli Arena, CNN, Chicago.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PAULA ZAHN NOW: And critics say this country's bias against Muslims is so pervasive that it even shows up on primetime TV. Coming up next, we take a close look at complaints that the hit show "24" is reinforcing the perception that Muslims are always terrorists.

Then later on, allegations that gay people who are black have become very specific targets of hate crimes.


ZAHN: Today al Qaeda's number two man appeared in a new videotape threatening the U.S. and blasting the president's plan to send even more troops to Iraq. With that continuing threat from radical Muslim terrorists, how can Americans avoid demonizing all Muslims? That is the question out in the open tonight after the premiere of the new season of one of this country's most popular TV shows. Entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas has our report tonight.


FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX: We have to go.

Not until we find Bauer.

We're not here to kill one American. We're here to kill thousands.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terrorists killing American civilians on American soil.

FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX: He has a gun.

I won't hurt any of you, but I will unless you do exactly what I say.

(INAUDIBLE) was right, you are a terrorist.

VARGAS: That is the scenario offered up in Fox's dramatic series, "24," (INAUDIBLE) fictional Arab terrorists have gotten the attention of some real life American Muslim groups, including the Council for American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Antidiscrimination Committee who say the show casts all Muslims in negative light.

TONY KUTAYLI, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTIDISCRIMINATION COUNCIL: We're upset with the show, because this is the second or third time they have come to, you know, blame and have Arab villains on the show, and now they've done the most despicable thing possible in the first four hours of this season.

VARGAS: More than 15 million people tuned in to watch the destructive climax of last week's four-hour season premiere, as the Arab terrorists detonated a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles.

KUTAYLI: Look, these four hours aired, and these four hours, there's some really egregious stereotypes that were played out.

VARGAS: This isn't the first time that Fox has come under fire from American Muslims. After the series featured Muslim extremists plotting to attack nuclear power plants in 2005, series star Kiefer Sutherland took to the air to remind viewers that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorist.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: It's not like Muslims are always terrorists on every season of "24." The terrorists have actually been in a number of different nationalities.

VARGAS: That's exactly what Fox claims. In a statement, the network said, over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy American businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists and even the Anglo-American president of the United States. No ethnic groups singled out for persecution were blamed. In three of the show's six seasons, Muslims have been cast as the bad guys in one form or another and Arab- American groups feel they have become an easy target for Hollywood screenwriters.

KUTAYLI: It seems easy to vilify Arabs these days, obviously given what's happening around the world and what the United States is facing in Iraq and with the Middle East crisis in general.

VARGAS: But it's still early in season six and fans can expect many twists and turns before 24 hours ends and the real villains are exposed.

WALLENSTEIN: Who is to say that a Muslim terrorist in one episode doesn't emerge as a hero in the next? VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.


ZAHN: We're going to go straight back to tonight's out in the open panel, Niger Innis, Rabia Ahmed, Miguel Perez. We mentioned at the top of the show that you were a member of the Council of American- Islamic Relations and last week, you were quoted as say that after watching the show, I was afraid to even go to the grocery store, because I wasn't sure the person next to me would be able to differentiate between fiction and reality. What are you afraid of?

RABIAH AHMED, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: We can't underestimate the power of images in shaping public perceptions of Islam and I'm afraid that somebody out there can't distinguish between fact and fiction and they will actually act on those attitudes and engage in a backlash against innocent Muslims. It's not - it's a reality. It's a backlash and it's something that the Arab Muslim community has faced in the post-9/11 climate.

ZAHN: And we know that four out of 10 Americans in a Gallup poll show that they feel some prejudice directed at Muslims. You have your head covered. Do you think that that in and of itself is intimidating to people? Have you sometimes felt in public that people are staring at you, that they think you have a weapon hidden under that or whatever?

AHMED: Absolutely, every time I fly and travel and that's indicative of the work that we need to do. If attitudes towards Islam and Muslims are so negative and there's such a prevailing misunderstanding of our religion, images like Muslims as terrorists in the absence of any positive or neutral images of Muslims, really doesn't do anything good for our interfaith relations or the future of (INAUDIBLE).

ZAHN: That may be true, but let's talk about who has actually been accused of committing some of the most vicious terrorist attacks. 9/11, the Madrid bombings, aren't those Muslim extremists? The last time I looked, they were.

AHMED: The reality of the situation is that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists.


AHMED: So it's unfair to be so imbalanced in your portrayal of Muslims. If the only way that they're being portrayed are as terrorists (INAUDIBLE) .

ZAHN: But you understand why that perception has taken root? You may not agree with it.

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, CREATORS SYND: Yes I do, and it goes back to the same argument we were having earlier about blacks and Latinos. It's a question of image. It's a question of leadership. It's a question of Muslim leaders condemning terrorism in much stronger terms than they have. That is the problem that we're having here.

AHMED: And they have, and they have.

PEREZ: It's credibility and I don't think Muslim leaders in this country have the credibility to be able to clear their names because they're not condemning terrorism in very strong terms.

AHMED: I disagree. Our organization, the leading advocacy group for American Muslims has consistently and regularly condemned terrorism. If you visit our website at, you can see a list of condemnations and I think it's unfair.

ZAHN: People have been critical of your organization because they said, yeah, that you will condemn the actions of the terrorists, but that you won't make a strong condemnation against Hezbollah.

AHMED: That's absolutely false. It's clear. Judge us by our actions and our work. Visit our website, see all the condemnations. We have unequivocally condemned all forms of terrorism, whether it's done by states, individuals or groups and I'm using the opportunity to reiterate that point.

INNIS: And that's a good thing and more and more of that needs to be done. Miguel hit the nail right on the head. The fact is is that communities, ethnic groups, as opposed to circling the wagons around what leaders do, which is tend to circle the wagons or apologize misbehavior, need to come out and condemn. If care has been as forthright in condemning terrorism and Islamic extremism, then bless them. They're doing good work and it's a good thing. It's important for the community.

ZAHN: But let's be realistic here for a moment. What obligation does some television show have to balance its characters in a fictional TV program?

INNIS: I'm a little bit biased, because I'm a huge fan and have been for several years of "24." And if you are a watcher of "24," you not only realize that there's a diversity in terms of how different ethnic groups or characters within the show...

ZAHN: So you're saying they spread the bad guys out?

INNIS: There are all kinds of bad guys. There are black bad guys. There are white bad guys. You ought to watch. The president of the United States that essentially was a traitor and undermining his own country.

ZAHN: But you don't have four in 10 Americans looking at black guys as potential terrorists. Isn't that a fundamental difference here?

INNIS: Look, "The Sopranos" is not made up of a bunch of east Indians. It's made up of Italians.

PEREZ: ... other side of the argument, I think "24" could do a lot more, instead of a disclaimer. ZAHN: It's a fictional television program Miguel and what impact does it really have do you think on reinforcing prejudices?


ZAHN: Do you watch it?

PEREZ: Sometimes. You have to have positive characters, positive role models, Muslims -

ZAHN: And that's going to make people look at Rabiah in public (INAUDIBLE)

PEREZ: That Muslim leader we were talking about earlier condemning should be part of the show, instead of a disclaimer, when you go to commercials.

AHMED: If you're going to say that the show is based on reality, the reality is that the majority of Muslims are lawyers. They're doctors. They're teachers. They're mothers like myself and they condemn terrorism. All that we're saying is, look, Fox has the right to do whatever it wants. It can portray Muslims as they choose, but we're appealing to their social responsibility to portray Muslims in a neutral or positive, in a realistic light to show the reality.

INNIS: It is a show about terrorism. If you're going to -- I mentioned "The Sopranos" before. If you're going to have something on the mafia, you're not going to be talking about east Indians. You're going to be talking about a particular ethnic group. If you're talking about terrorism, unfortunately in this day and age, you often (ph) are going to be talking about..


ZAHN: Quickly, I have to move on --

AHMED: It's not fair to compare that because in the post-9/11 climate, the American-Muslim community is the one that's facing the backlash, not the Italians and while it's wrong to vilify any...

INNIS: Keep speaking out, I think that's the solution.

ZAHN: We'll let you all continue to speak out. Niger Innis, Rabiah Ahmed and Miguel Perez, thank you all.

In some cities across the U.S., there is a hidden, thriving subculture, young people who are black and gay, and in a minute, a city where the secret is out in the open and the resulting intolerance is making life very dangerous. We'll explain why when we come back.


ZAHN: Tonight we are bringing out in the open a brazen attack that's causing a lot of controversy in Chicago's African-American community. Two gunmen burst into a crowded house party hosted by gay men and opened fire leaving six people wounded. As Jonathan Freed found out, the shooting has revealed a disturbing level of intolerance simmering just below the surface.


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are parties on Chicago's south side, where black boys and girls vamp and vogue, where the drag ball documentary "Paris is Burning" springs to life and dancers worship Madonna. Out African-American teens call this life the ballroom community, a place where they can live and love on the margin of the margins of society and feel safe.

REV. KEVIN TINDELL, YOUTH COUNSELOR: In New York you had the Village. In a number -- in LA, you have west Hollywood. We live in our own communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody started running and screaming.

FREED: But on New Year's Day, their safe haven in the black community turned from safe to sorry. Police say two armed masked men stormed a house party hosted by gay black teens and opened fire. Six members of this self made family were wounded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was scary, it was like -- it was just -- we didn't even know what to do.

FREED: A crime of hate or a beef between kids? The police don't yet know. In either case, the shooting unearthed this gay black underground culture in the ugliest way.

ERNEST HITE, YOUTH COUNSELOR, BEHIV: In the black community, to be gay is paramount to being a female. It's an anathema. It's frowned upon and what those two brothers were saying virtually is that you're a punk, you're a sissy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were also saying you're not black.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like a regular normal neighborhood for straight people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're saying gay people don't belong here?


FREED: Since 19-year-old Quintin came out as gay a year ago, the ballroom community and parties like these are the only places where he's felt safe. Is it difficult to be African-American and gay on the south side of Chicago?

QUINTIN KEYS, CHICAGO RESIDENT: Yes, it is. When they picture gay, they don't picture a black male being gay. They picture a white male.

FREED: Some neighbors of the party house didn't like the noisy boys inside the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just need to move around because the way people are talking about them is just, man, something was going to happen to them.

FREED: No one knows what happened, but Quintin got caught in the crossfire. You didn't realize at the time that you were shot.


FREED: The bullets not only landed him in the hospital, they wounded his pride. Would you go back to one of these parties again?

KEYS: No, I wouldn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me it seems like attempted murder and that is the issue.

FREED: There has been outrage at community meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to organize ourselves. They don't have any answers.

FREED: From teens who say they have already been rejected by their families, are sometimes homeless or living with HIV, they say they won't tolerate harassment within their own black community.

CHARLES NELSON, SOUTHSIDE HELP CENTER: They have a safe haven and an enclosed environment where they can be themselves and that safe haven has been taken away from them.

TINDELL: It is a hate crime. It's black on black crime.

FREED: Police have civil rights officers helping with the investigation, but they're not certain yet if hate was the motivator.

MONIQUE BOND, SPOKESWOMAN, CHICAGO POLICE DEPT: We have offenders who have violated their space.

GREG NORELS, YOUTH COUNSELOR: We haven't had this type of violence to hit our community in the magnitude in which it did.

FREED: But the community has never been this visible either and these black kids say they don't want to live in a gay white ghetto where they might feel safer. They want a life that's safe and happy within their own black community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might think that we're soft and anything, but we're actually not. We're strong and we just keeping on moving, doing what we do.

FREED: Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.


ZAHN: Just last week, a 14 years old was charged with a hate crime for using antigay slurs during a robbery on Chicago's south side as well as three counts of armed robbery.

Countdown to the state of the union speech is on. That's up just a little less than 24 hours from now. Let's check in with Larry King, who will be doing a preview for us tonight. Hey Larry. How are you doing?

LARRY KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm fine, Paula. That I will. We're going to have the best political team in television. All of them are going to be with us, plus the thoughts of the man on the street, plus Howard Wilson, the senior adviser to Senator Hillary Clinton and Elliott Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, who has thrown his hat into the presidential ring. All that ahead with phone calls, mails right at the top of the hour immediately following the lovely and talented Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Why thank you. Hey, Larry, I got a question for you. How did you get your suspenders to match the set behind you? Did they custom make those for you?

KING: Tonight is the eclipse awards. That's those big awards in horse racing they give out to the best horse, best jockey and I'm one of the guys saying "the winner is," and so I'm in my tuxedo and this is a nice bright, but it does match, doesn't it?

ZAHN: Yeah it does. It looks great.

KING: You can't see the tie.

ZAHN: No, I can't see that, but the suspenders are (INAUDIBLE) Have a good show tonight.

KING: That's hip.

ZAHN: Thanks Larry. See you in a couple minutes.

tomorrow I will be down in Washington, too, for our special coverage of the president's state of the union address. It starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. Wolf Blitzer and I will be joining each other for an expanded edition of "The Situation Room," and we'll look ahead to the president's speech and go in depth on issues. Please join us tomorrow starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. And we're going to take a short break. I'll be right back.


ZAHN: Welcome back, time for a quick biz break right now. Wall Street took a hit today. The Dow tumbled 88 points. The Nasdaq dropped 20 and the S&P slipped seven points.

Massive job cuts at Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker. Pfizer announced plans today to cut 10,000 jobs and close five factories and research facilities. Pfizer is looking to save some $2 billion.

Despite cooler temperatures, oil prices fell again. A continuing sell-off has knocked oil prices down 16 percent since the beginning of the year. Oil has plummeted 35 percent since last summer when it was close to $80 per barrel and falling oil prices have helped pull gas prices down some 14 cents in the last two weeks. We're just minutes away from the top of the hour. Larry King live tonight, Larry will be joined by members of the best political team on TV, as we all count down to the president's state of the union address tomorrow night. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Please join me tomorrow night along with Wolf Blitzer for special coverage of the president's state of the union speech. We will go a full two hours, going in depth on some of the subjects the president we know is expected to bring up. Some of them will be very controversial. Of course, there's the war in Iraq. But we are also getting reports that the president will propose taxing millions of Americans' health insurance premiums in an effort to expand health care for poor people, certainly a lot to talk about tonight. And of course we will be hearing from the Democrats who will be blasting the president even before he makes the speech. We will hear from his supporters as well. Please join Wolf Blitzer and me starting at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night. Until then, have a great night.


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