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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Hip-Hop Fueling Wave of Gay-Bashing?; Hollywood and Minorities; Black and White Oscars; The New Leadership

Aired February 23, 2007 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
It is the end of an extraordinary week. And we are still breaking new ground in our dialogue: Is hip-hop art of poison?

Out in the open tonight: the exaggerated emphasis on male power, male greed, and, always, male dominance over women.

I'm going to ask one of the few openly gay rappers, is hip-hop fueling a wave of gay-bashing?

Also out in the open: the secret shame caused by the most common eating disorder in the country. And it may not be what you're thinking.

Of course, you have seen this before: a warning. The subjects, words, and pictures in our first few segments are provocative. You may find them offensive. All week long, we have been exploring the issue of hip-hop. Is it art or poison?

We find ourselves going back again to an eye-opening documentary by filmmaker Byron Hurt. It's called "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes" -- tonight, a look at how Byron Hurt brings the reasons behind hip- hop's hypermasculinity right out into the open.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like I was in the middle of a real live music video.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Byron's Hurt journey began in Daytona Beach, where he met some aspiring rappers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): When it's time to go to war, I come equipped with the gauge and the tech, infect flesh like a syphilis plague.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Keep talking about your guns, how you kill dudes for practice, lying. Only thing you ever popped was aspirin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The rhymes from these men were all about violent, hypermasculine images. So, Byron set out to ask veteran rappers about those images they have created.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hard-core pose, homey.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gun position and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.

FAT JOE, RAPPER: Everybody wants to be hard. And this is one of the things I told you, one of the floors in -- in, like, being from the hood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It encourages you to assert yourself. You know what I'm saying? And, as a man, especially a black man, in this society, you have to know how to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like, you can't let nobody just -- there got to be a limit. You have got to let niggers know like, yo, I'm no puss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every black man that goes in the studio, he's always got two people in his head, him in terms of who he really is, and the thug that he feels he has to project. It's a prison for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The documentary claims, this hypermasculine image is distinctly American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The violent man using the gun to defend his family, his kith and kin, becomes the suitable metaphor for the notion of manhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's a whole lineage of black men wanting to deny their own frailty. And, so, in some ways, you have to do that, you know, like a psychic armor, in order to walk out into the world every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: That hypermasculinity also shows up in the demeaning treatment of women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have any problems with, like, rappers calling women bitches and hoes and stuff like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because, tell you the truth, some women is bitches, see? You got to realize that. You got the sisters and then the bitches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you all feel about images of women in rap music videos?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, if it's not -- it's not really directed toward you personally. It's just what they're saying. Sex sells.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Byron Hurt challenges the industry to take a critical look at the violent images in much of mainstream hip-hop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could walk up to you right now and say, yo, could have been a doctor or I could have been a pops. Wonder what would have happened had I would have been a cop? But nobody want to hear that right now. They don't accept that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's they? Who's they? Who's they?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The industry.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't give us deals when we speak righteously and things of that nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When "Self Destruction" by KRS-One came out, we was all pumping it and loving it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): We got ourselves together, so that you could unite and fight for what's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now you can't go to a label with "Self Destruction." Why? Because you're going to self-destruct. The label's not going to put you out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When 50 comes and he's killing (INAUDIBLE) he's selling out the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Lord, I don't cry no more, don't...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Fight the powers that be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're going to go from "Fight the Power" to "Gin and Juice."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Gin and juice. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Laid back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): With my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: As I mentioned before, many of the images and interviews we have just seen came from Byron Hurt's documentary, "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes." He's gotten an awful lot of acclaim for this.

And he joins me now right here in New York, along with Bakari Kitwana, the co-founder of the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention and the author of "The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture."

Good to have you both of with us.

BYRON HURT, DIRECTOR, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES": Thank you.

ZAHN: So, Byron, what I found so fascinating about this documentary was, when you actually sat down to talk with some of these rappers, they didn't even seem to be aware of the fact that they were demeaning women and humiliating gays.

Where does that lack of conscience come from?

HURT: Well, I think it's become so normalized in the culture, you know, and I think that young boys and men have learned to associate maleness with violence, you know, maleness with hyperaggression.

And I think it's part of the socialization process that a lot of us go through, myself included. You know, I grew up as a football player. For a long time, you know, I was indoctrinated with this whole idea that, in order to be a man, you have to be strong; you have to be tough; you have to be powerful.

And I think those -- those messages translate, you know, very easily to hip-hop and other areas of male life, where, you know, we have these expectations about who we're supposed to be as men. And, so, we perform a certain kind of hypermasculinity to our male friends, to our peers, to women, to whomever.

So, Bakari, if you buy into the notion, as so many people do, that this music glorifies violence, glorifies the degradation of women, until there's some sort of shift in this hypermasculine mind- set, is anything going to change?

BAKARI KITWANA, AUTHOR, "THE HIP-HOP GENERATION: YOUNG BLACKS AND THE CRISIS IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE": Well, I think that Byron has done a great job with the film and has jump-started a very important conversation. I think a lot can change. I think the industry has to change. I think that artists have to take responsibility. And I think parents have to take responsibility. And, once everyone bears their weight, I believe that we can see some changes.

ZAHN: Do you believe it's the rappers' responsibilities or the record promoters'? Or do the consumers -- and we're talking about parental responsibility here, but...

KITWANA: Right.

ZAHN: ... this is a multibillion-dollar industry.

(CROSSTALK)

KITWANA: I think the artists -- the artists have a responsibility, absolutely.

I think the record labels have a responsibility. I think the government has a responsibility. The FCC has a responsibility to enforce the laws that are already on the books that aren't being enforced, in terms of when the music is being heard. That's a big part of the problem.

ZAHN: And, Byron, I mean, there's not a tremendous amount of political pressure right now to -- to mandate when you can air this, and in -- in what time frame.

Are...

HURT: Well...

ZAHN: Are you at all optimistic that any of the changes that you have pushed for will happen?

HURT: Well, you know, I have been showing this film all over the country at colleges and universities and high schools. And the feeling that I'm getting is that this film is tapping into a lot of people's feelings, right, a lot of people's sensibilities right now that hip-hop is -- is really very limited, and has been reduced by corporate media.

And I think that people...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Or -- or hijacked by gangsta rap.

HURT: Well, but I -- but I think -- I think that the -- the hip- hop industry is sort of is -- it only leaves us a very small window of opportunity for young men to express the full range of their masculinity through hip-hop. You know what I mean? There's only a handful of guys that we can sort of, you know, talk about openly that -- that feel comfortable being all of what they are, as opposed to, you know, just being reduced to this gangsta, thug, pimp, playa image. And I think -- you know, I think corporate media is responsible for that. I think the socialization that guys receive is a very big part of that. I think we really need to educate young boys and men about expressing a more healthy brand of masculinity.

That means, you know, being exactly who you are, being comfortable in your skin, not feeling like you have to be inside of that box, you know, that male -- that man box.

ZAHN: And maybe teach white young men, who are the primary consumers of this medium, that it isn't OK...

HURT: No, I'm talking about all men. Yes, I'm talking about all men.

ZAHN: ... to degrade and humiliate women.

HURT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is that is not something limited to black and Latino men. This is a male issue, a male problem.

ZAHN: Byron Hurt, thank you very much for educating all of us.

Bakari Kitwana, thank you for your time as well.

It in a minute, our "Out in the Open" panel tackles male dominance in hip-hop.

Also, an openly gay rapper, and hip-hop's dirty F-word -- gay- bashing out in the open.

A little bit later on: Oscar weekend brings Hollywood's treatment of minorities out in the open.

And laugh at what this guy says, but not at who he is. You will meet him tonight.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: hip-hop's drumbeat of male dominance, is it art or poison?

On my "Out in the Open" panel tonight: Amy Holmes, a Republican political strategist, Joe Madison, a talk show host at Washington's WOL Radio, and radio talk show host and NewsMax.com columnist Steve Malzberg.

Welcome back.

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.

STEVE MALZBERG, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Good to be here.

ZAHN: I want to start off by reading some of the e-mails from our audience, who have been glued to this coverage on hip-hop over the last couple of nights.

And our first one comes from Kimberly in California. She says: "Visit any high school with a large black population and see the dress, the language, the behavior, the extreme sexualization of male and female students. Music is corrupting their collective sense worth and value. My black daughter is harassed for not 'sexing' guys, cutting class, smoking dope, using the B- or N-word. You can't be black in high school, apparently, if you don't mirror hip-hop gangsta rap images. How racist. How sexist. These videos do influence. And, as a high school teacher myself, I see it every day."

Steve.

MALZBERG: Well, I mean, it -- this gangsta culture is outrageous. And the excuses I was hearing before, that this is the way that guys are brought up, to express their masculinity, and it's the only way they know to express their masculinity, it's a cultural thing, he played football, and -- look, I was raised -- I'm going to be 48 years old -- I was raised in this country.

I was raised, I would like to think, in a masculine way. I played sports. I played everything. I never heard of B's or hoes or treating women like that in my life when I was a kid, not until this gangsta rap culture started appearing out of nowhere.

ZAHN: What about that? He doesn't look a day past 42.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MADISON: No, he doesn't. No.

And you don't look a day past 21.

ZAHN: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MADISON: But -- but I -- as -- as one who had a daughter that went through this in high school, I think the thing that we have to understand is that, often young African-American girls try to find love and affection wherever they can find it, especially if they don't have a father in the home.

I have a fond saying on my show. And that is, ponies don't lead herds. Stallions do. It is up to the men and the women, the mothers and the fathers, to lead their families, to lead their communities, not young people, who still have a life of learning ahead of them. And that's where I think part of the downfall is.

We have to speak up. And that's what we did in our household.

ZAHN: Amy, I want you to tackle this next one.

"Hip-hop is truth, whether good or bad. How can you take a kid who grew up around drugs, violence, and police brutality and get him to rap about sunflowers and honeybees? You may not like it, but hip- hop is the real news of what's going on in our society. Rappers are often the voices of those who society does not want to hear from or see."

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there's some truth to that, but hip-hop is not the content. It's the form.

And I grew up -- I remember growing up with A Tribe Called Quest, Run-D.M.C. I remember when L.L. Cool J. rapped about: I just want an around-the-way girl.

So, there is obviously an element of urban culture that is, you know, violence and hopelessness. But that isn't the whole story about the black community. And hip-hop is just a vehicle, a way of expressing oneself. I don't like this cop-out that, because it's hip- hop, it has to be violent.

MALZBERG: Right.

And -- and -- I was going to say, and this is not what's happening in our society. This is what's happening in a very small section of our society. You want to talk about black society? All over the country, blacks are succeeding. They're middle class. They're upper middle class.

But these people who say, this is our culture, this is where we came, this is what it's all about, we have to talk about it like this, they're holding themselves back.

ZAHN: Finally, this one from Linda in Texas: "I am an African- American woman. I grew up listening to hip-hop. I used to think it was cool to know all the lyrics to a rap song. But I was not thinking about what those lyrics meant to me and what type of an effect it has on me as a woman and a black woman. Hip-hop is definitely poisoning our black women -- American youth. I blame myself for continuing to purchase their music."

Well, let's talk about that.

MADISON: Look, let's do this. Look..

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Eighty percent of the consumers are white.

MADISON: Look, look -- well...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: And I know you don't find that surprising.

MADISON: Well, look, Cathy Hughes, Lorraine Miller, who's just been the clerk of the House of Representatives, Maxine Waters, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Rice -- here's what I'm telling young people. Put the guns down. Put the foolishness down, and pick up the books, because that's a big part of our society, too. That's why we study black history, because there's too little emphasis put on the success and the intelligence.

Ben Carson, here's a guy who was a gang member. But what did he do? He put away childish behavior, became a man, and he saved lives.

ZAHN: Well, hopefully, someone out there is listening to you...

MADISON: Values.

ZAHN: ... as they're sliding a credit card across the naked rear end of a woman in a video.

MADISON: Oh, that person should just go away.

ZAHN: I know. It's disgusting.

MADISON: Just go away.

ZAHN: All right.

Stay with me, panel. We have lots more to talk about tonight.

Listen to rap music, and you will heard a dirty word for gays, and a very offensive one at that. Coming up next, I'm going to ask a gay rapper, is it only slang or intentional gay-bashing?

Out in the open: Despite some high-profile nominees, does Hollywood cheat minorities at Oscar time?

We will be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: This week, we have focused on hip-hop culture and whether it's art or poison. And one of the reports in our hour-long special on Wednesday really touched some pretty raw nerves.

Ted Rowlands looked into the disturbing strain of gay-bashing in the hip-hop world. And his story became one of the most watched videos on CNN.com all this week.

Here's what got so many people talking.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Since the early days of hip-hop, gay bashing has been a theme in the music of some of the industry's most successful artists.

(MUSIC)

KANYE WEST, HIP-HOP ARTIST: Everybody in hip-hop discriminates against gay people. ROWLANDS: Kanye West is one artist who opposes hip-hop homophobia, but he told MTV it's rampant.

WEST: To me, like, that's one of the standards of hip-hop, is to be like, You, you're a fag, you're gay. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite word of hip-hop I think is gay.

ROWLANDS: Some experts believe hip-hop's celebration of violent and manliness is a reaction to historic African-American powerlessness, and its tough-guy masculinity doesn't allow for homosexuality.

50 Cent, who sold millions of hip-hop albums, uses anti-gay language but says he isn't homophobic.

50 CENT, HIP-HOP ARTIST: Absolutely. I will say faggot all day. I will say all gay, all different comments. I put it in the music all day. You know what I'm saying?

But it's not a direct -- I don't mean it as a direct thing against someone when I'm saying it. I'm just using it as slang. Like, in the neighborhood, they're like, Oh, man, you're a faggot. That don't mean it's bad.

ROWLANDS: Los Angeles hip-hop artist Deadlee disagrees.

DEADLEE, GAY HIP-HOP ARTIST: They don't know the power in the word. I mean, that word is thrown around. So on the playgrounds, little kids are being called faggot . They're getting beat up because they might be -- you know, think they're a little sissy or whatever. And I don't think they really understand the power in those words.

ROWLANDS: Deadlee is gay and sings about it.

DEADLEE: It's so easy for people to say, I hate gays. It's like it's the one -- one group of people that it's still OK to hate on.

ROWLANDS: Hip-hop artist Eminem used anti-gay lyrics on his 2001 Grammy-winning album, "Marshall Mathers." Protesters were outside the Grammys that year. Inside, Eminem accepted the award, saying that he thought people were taking the issue too seriously.

EMINEM, HIP-HOP ARTIST: I want to thank everybody who could look past the controversy, or whatever, and see the album for what it was, and also for what it isn't.

ROWLANDS: 50 Cent argues that the aggression and slang in his hip-hop songs should not be considered anti-gay, pointing out that he actually sings about his mother kissing another woman.

50 CENT: My mom did like women. You know what I mean? So how could I hate gay people? You know what I mean? It would be hating your mother.

ROWLANDS: While some artists like Kanye West want the music to change, others believe that homophobia will be in hip-hop as long as it's in society.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And my next guest has some thoughts about the verbal assaults against gays in hip-hop culture. He is a hip-hop artist and producer, and he also happens to be gay. He is Tori Fixx. And he has a brand-new C.D. out called "Marry Me."

Thanks so much for joining me tonight, Tori.

TORI FIXX, HIP-HOP ARTIST: Thank you, Paula. Good evening.

ZAHN: Good evening.

So, how often do you come face to face with homophobia when you're performing?

FIXX: It really depends on the venue that we perform in.

I haven't personally experienced a ton of it, because, generally, I play with a lot of mixed audiences. But we have been -- a lot of people that I perform with, we have been turned down for performing in predominantly straight venues. That just really isn't accepted.

So, it really depends if you get into a certain venue. That's -- that's pretty much where more...

ZAHN: All right.

FIXX: ... of the homophobic acts occur.

ZAHN: Yes.

And -- and let's talk about the more specific venue of hip-hop culture in particular. How piercing is it when you hear rappers like 50 Cent using the F-word? How offensive is that?

FIXX: It -- for me, I grew up -- I come from the streets, so I kind of have a different perspective than a lot of people, you know, may have.

I know the difference between when someone is using the F-word, say, like in battle rhymes -- that is just to belittle each other -- and as opposed to saying: I hate gays, you, blah, blah, blah.

There's a big difference there. I think that a lot of people kind of get misconstrued. So, it really depends on the context. You -- we saw the clip of Eminem, when he says something like, "If you ask if I hate gays, the answer is yes," that's piercing to me.

ZAHN: All right, Tori Fixx, thank you for better -- helping us better understand what you're up against. Really appreciate your time tonight.

And...

FIXX: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... we're going to move on to the big weekend ahead, Sunday, of course -- I think you probably know this -- Oscar night.

Check this out, outside the Kodak Theatre, believe it or not, there are actually people starting to line up, folks that will camp outside the perimeter of this theater, so they can catch all the stars and the parade hours and hours before the Oscars actually get under way on TV.

And the question tonight is: Guess what color most of the winners will be? Next: Is Hollywood cheating minorities?

Then, a little bitter on -- a little bit later on, that is...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... why a comedian is also a leader of tomorrow.

And how many thousands of calories are you sneaking? We're going to bring America's most common eating disorder right out in the open. It turns out you have got a lot of company.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Coming up in this half-hour, we celebrate Black History Month with a few laughs, thanks to one of America's leaders of tomorrow.

And a little bit later on: the shocking number of Americans who are cramming calories by the thousands, in some cases, over 10,000. We bring America's most common, but most secret eating disorder out in the open.

Coming up at the top of the hour, CNN prime-time exclusive: Anna Nicole Smith's mother is among the guests on "LARRY KING LIVE."

We are, of course, about 40 hours away from the Oscars. Already this year, the Academy Awards have made history and also stirred up some controversy. We're bringing that out in the open tonight, because, this year, five of the 20 nominees in the acting categories happen to be black.

But critics say don't be fooled by that diversity, because, behind the scenes, they say it is a completely different picture in Hollywood.

Let's turn to entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson, who's standing by at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. She joins me live.

Any sense of, first of all, the -- the drama that will unfold later this weekend?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, the excitement is building right now. You say, you know, of course we are less than 48 hours away. The red carpet has been laid already, Paula, although it's covered with plastic to protect it.

Gold Oscar statuettes have been -- well, actually, they're gold- plated. But they've been erected.

Fans are already here lining up to watch media outlets do rehearsals or do live reports, and wait to see if they can catch a glimpse of stars. So, you know, 39 million people watched the Academy Awards last year. Many more millions across the world. So it's a big night not only for the nominees, but also for all the fans who enjoy the show as well.

ZAHN: It's always fun to be a spectator in the confines of your own home.

Let's take a look now at some of the actors who have been nominated. Almost a record list.

ANDERSON: Right.

ZAHN: Five American -- African-American actors.

Is anybody expecting real history to be made this weekend?

ANDERSON: Actually, yes, Paula. It is a historic year at the Academy Awards. Five black actors have been nominated in acting categories.

You've got Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Djimon Jounsou, Eddie Murphy, and also Jennifer Hudson. Now, three of those actors are expected to take home Oscar gold -- Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, and also Forest Whitaker.

If that trifecta does happen, that will be a record. That will definitely make history, because in the past we've had two actors win in a single year. We had Denzel Washington and Halle Berry. Also another year we had Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman. But never the acting trifecta.

So history could be made here on Sunday night. You're right.

ZAHN: And in spite of that expectation, you've got Jesse Jackson out there saying what we really should be focusing in on are the disparities behind the camera and the lack of opportunities for black directors, black writers.

What's the consensus out there and the reaction to that?

ANDERSON: Well, there are the critics, including Jesse Jackson, who say it's just a handful of high-profile black actors and movies that are getting such huge success, and that there are countless other black actors toiling away in obscurity. But you have those who are optimistic as well, such as Forest Whitaker, who this is his first Oscar nomination, and he says there are more powerhouse black talents behind the camera making those decisions. But I do want to say, Paula, that a recent study by a UCLA law professor stated that only up to 8 percent of all roles are written specifically for black actors. And in terms of people behind the camera, the Directors Guild of America, of the more than 13,000 members only 4.3 percent are black.

So the numbers at times do tell a different story than those who are optimistic about what is happening. So you see progress being made here at the Oscars, but then there are those who are concerned that a lot more work still needs to be done behind the camera and at the grassroots level, absolutely.

ZAHN: Sure, but one simply can't ignore the astonishing success of "Dreamgirls". And I'm not just saying that because it had a black cast. I mean, it's an astonishing performance for any film with any color cast.

Is this going to open up more doors, do you think, for black casts, or is this a one-hit wonder?

ANDERSON: Well, possibly, it could. You know, "Dreamgirls" leads all nominees with eight nominations, although it did not receive a best picture nod. But you have to remember, this is a story about Motown.

This is a story loosely based on the Supremes. So it's a story about black people. There you have the black actors.

Now, the real change is going to occur when you have roles that are not designated for a black person or a white person in particular, and those roles start to go more to black actors. That UCLA study also stated that of the 46.5 percent of roles that do not designate race or ethnicity, those are understood to go to white people.

Think about a romantic comedy, for instance. A lot of times we see maybe a Matthew McConaughey, a Kate Hudson, or a Cameron Diaz and a Jude Law. Well, coming up there's a romantic comedy called "I Think I Love My Wife." It stars Chris Rock and Kerry Washington.

But listen to this, Paula. Chris Rock also directed and wrote that movie.

So you've got to be a big name. You've got to be a powerhouse. You've got to have the funds. And you've got to be well respected and established.

So as I said, a lot of work to be done, but some people are indeed optimistic by what we see at the Oscars.

ZAHN: Thanks, Brooke. Have a really good time this weekend. I'm kind of jealous.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

ZAHN: When I worked in L.A., that was one of my favorite assignments. I was one of those pathetic ones that started... ANDERSON: Come on out this weekend, Paula.

ZAHN: ... camping out on Friday night to chart the path of all those folks that are -- had their pop tents out there and their sleeping bags.

Have fun.

ANDERSON: It's too cold for that tonight. Thank you, though.

ZAHN: Yes. Well, that still doesn't discourage them from going out there.

Now back to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel -- Amy Holmes, Joe Madison, Steve Malzberg.

Are we making too big a deal of race here?

HOLMES: You know, I think we're making too big a deal of Hollywood. We're talking about La La Land.

To have a successful career in Hollywood is to win the lottery. And I don't think any serious civil rights activist would advocate buying lottery tickets for progress.

If Jesse Jackson is serious about blacks being behind the camera, he should be talking about education, education, education. Most movie directors go to film school. That requires going to college and it requires further study.

Most movie executives have -- have business degrees. There are a lot of Harvard MBAs and Stanford MBAs out there. So...

ZAHN: So you're basically saying Jesse Jackson is playing the race card. Is this a copout?

HOLMES: Well, I mean, he makes this pilgrimage every year to protest at Hollywood parties, rubbing elbows with Hollywood celebrities.

MADISON: Well, he continues to make that because -- let me tell you. First of all, he does talk about education.

You know, he may not -- it may not make the newsreel, but he does talk about education. So let's then say -- secondly, of course we should talk about Hollywood. It is a multibillion-dollar industry.

ZAHN: And an influential industry.

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: How influential can it be? And so it's like the Super Bowl. All you want is a level playing field. And give everybody an opportunity to succeed. Now, that's -- that's what it is.

MALZBERG: I'm glad you said the Super Bowl. MADISON: I heard your comments about the Super Bowl when you were here the last time.

MALZBERG: Because -- yes, I was here the last time. We were talking about two black coaches.

MADISON: Yes.

MALZBERG: You know what Tony Dungy said after he won the Super Bowl? He said, "More important than me being a black coach, I'm a Christian."

MADISON: No, no, no.

MALZBERG: So it ways bigger deal to the media -- that's exactly what he said, Joe.

MADISON: Oh.

MALZBERG: Deny it. Deny it.

MADISON: And I will also tell you what he said, too. No, I'm not going to have to deny it, because he said it. But he also said -- and why don't you repeat this -- that he wasn't the first good black coach who should have had an opportunity.

(CROSSTALK)

MALZBERG: I want to go -- I want to go further.

MADISON: You didn't say that, did you?

MALZBERG: Black wasn't the most important thing.

MADISON: Oh, to you it may not be.

MALZBERG: And not to Tony Dungy either.

MADISON: Oh, how do you know that?

MALZBERG: Because he said that. I just told you what he said.

MADISON: Oh, so that was more important than anything else?

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: ... made you 21 and in power of what black people are thinking?

MALZBERG: I just told you what Dungy said. And you admitted he said it.

ZAHN: But I don't care about what Dungy said. I care about what's happening in Hollywood.

MALZBERG: Where are the blacks who are on line that want to be directors? Where are the whites turning them down? Where are the line of black applicants for the Directors Guild and people -- whites saying, no, no, no? Do they exist?

MADISON: They're on the West Coast.

MALZBERG: Come on.

HOLMES: But to be...

MADISON: They're on the West Coast.

HOLMES: A fair -- a fair playing field in Hollywood? I mean, there are thousands of blondes for every Cameron Diaz who are toiling in obscurity who will never get that chance because Hollywood is fickle. It is an industry that loves formula. It's an industry that is not a risk taker. So that's why we have...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But you're not going to tell me then that -- that blonde women in Hollywood are having a harder time than black women in Hollywood are having with getting in movies?

HOLMES: Well, no, certainly not. But we're asking something of Hollywood that Hollywood is not built to deliver.

MALZBERG: You're saying...

HOLMES: Look at Asian-American women who are always relegated to the role of sidekick or, you know, an ethnic character. They complain too that they're not leading ladies.

MALZBERG: You're saying why are all these black actors in obscurity when there's these high-profile ones? I think you're making the point. The same for white actors. How many are toiling in obscurity behind the stars? I mean, it's an obvious fact.

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: Excuse me, do we have percentages here? I mean, are we talking percentages here? Good god.

ZAHN: Do you think there is any pressure for these academy members to...

MADISON: No. No. There isn't any pressure. No.

ZAHN: ... be rooting for the black actors to make a political statement?

MADISON: No. Their vote is in secret.

MALZBERG: Well, they're a local (ph) organization, obviously.

ZAHN: Of course they are. MALZBERG: So to make themselves look good, since they were the last to acknowledge blacks in giving them the Academy Award when other industries opened up way before this ultraliberal organization. So maybe there is.

MADISON: What other industries opened up before Hollywood?

HOLMES: The academy is only 6,000 people. It's totally secretive. These people will be making their votes based on their personal preference.

MADISON: Wait a minute. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

ZAHN: And Mr. Radioman, you need to take a cue. Thirty seconds is all we've got.

MADISON: What other industries opened up before Hollywood?

MALZBERG: Every industry before Hollywood...

MADISON: Give one. Give me one.

MALZBERG: ... that gave the Academy Award for best actor or best actress to an African-American.

MADISON: What industry? Radio?

MALZBERG: Every industry.

MADISON: TV?

MALZBERG: Every industry.

MADISON: Cable? All white, all night, all day.

MALZBERG: Because the academy had zero black actors or actresses.

MADISON: And how many black people -- and how many black people host cable news shows?

MALZBERG: On BET, all of them.

MADISON: BET?

He owns it.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this, Joe -- first of all, pet peeve of mine, how many women, period, anchor cable shows after 4:00 in the afternoon?

MADISON: Absolutely right. That's why we should get together, Paula.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I think Diana Ross should have gotten it for "Lady Sings the Blues."

ZAHN: All right. We've got to leave it there.

Joe Madison, Amy Holmes, Steve Malzberg, I'd love to have the three of you over for dinners some night.

MALZBERG: Maybe back tomorrow night.

ZAHN: I'd be thrown out of my apartment building. They'd never let me have this trio back again.

This week we're introducing you to the future leaders of the new black America. Get ready to laugh next. One of them is a comedian. He has a lot to say.

And how much are you eating when no one's watching? Stay with us. We're bringing America's most common eating disorder "Out in the Open."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As we mark Black History Month, CNN is taking a month-long look at the issues affecting minorities. We call it "Uncovering America." And this week we're focusing on black America's new leaders, like D.L. Hughley.

He laughed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice over): He's a cutting-edge comedian who successfully crossed over into TV and film after getting his big break in the megahit "Original Kings of Comedy." He created his own sitcom, "The Hughleys," and is currently starring in NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

His brand of comedy is smart, irreverent, and topical, and he's never one to shy away from controversy. He's a husband and father of three who's been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

He is D.L. Hughley, a future leader for the new black America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: I can't believe I messed up your name in that. That is so bad.

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: No, but as long as they spell is it right on the check I'll live.

ZAHN: That's good. Hughley. I really apologize for that.

HUGHLEY: Yes.

ZAHN: So you kind of laughed when you heard me describe you as a new black leader. What was so fun by about that? HUGHLEY: Because I think that any grown man or a grown woman that needs a leader has a lot more problems than I can deal with on the show. I think that that's -- I'm a guy who tries to look at the irony in any situation I see, and I try to be as truthful as I can and never forget I'm there to entertain people.

ZAHN: All right. So what is it that white people don't get about black people?

HUGHLEY: I think that white people tend to -- like I listened to your panelists. I think that even the word "tolerate"...

ZAHN: There was only like one white guy there, right?

HUGHLEY: Yes, but look at the...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And a white girl. I was there. I think I'm white.

HUGHLEY: But I think that the only people that aren't concerned about race are people that it doesn't affect, and it generally doesn't affect white men. I think that -- you know, like, for instance, if his wife goes to get nude pantyhose, she can wear them. If my wife goes to get nude pantyhose, it looks like she hasn't put lotion on for a week.

So I think that race is a component that you deal with all the time, and only the people who don't have to deal with it are oblivious to it.

ZAHN: What did you make of that whole controversy and fallout after Joe Biden started talking about Barack Obama being articulate and clean and...

HUGHLEY: Well, I think that we can't be so sensitive. I mean...

ZAHN: Did you think it was a -- I mean, did you understand the outrage?

HUGHLEY: Well, in Michael Richards -- no, I don't, because I think it's -- I think that Barack Obama wasn't even offended until two hours after the fact. So I think that people can find any number of reasons to be offended.

I think that Michael Richards said some offensive stuff. You know, Joe Biden said something that was offensive. You can't say the N-word. You can't say "articulate". What can you call us?

ZAHN: What can I call you?

HUGHLEY: Equal. Call us equal.

ZAHN: Can I say equal? Can I say you're articulate? Can I say you're fast on your feet? HUGHLEY: I think that "articulate" is a word that people use, you know, when they don't quite know -- I mean, it is -- it certainly isn't offensive. And I watched the tape. And I've followed Biden for a long time. I certainly don't think he meant it in an offensive way.

I find it interesting that President Bush used the same sentence and in the same kind of context and nobody raised a fuss about that. I think we look for reasons to be -- we can't be that sensitive.

And I think we pretend to be -- like, for instance, when Michael Richards said what he said, sales of "Seinfeld" went up 75 percent.

ZAHN: And what does that tell you?

HUGHLEY: That tells us that we don't care anything about the things we pretend to.

ZAHN: And why do we pretend to care about them? The politically correct environment that we live in?

HUGHLEY: You ask Tim Hardaway a question, he answers you honestly, and we get mad at the answer. Don't ask a question if you -- the problem with I think us as a society is we want only to hear what we want to hear.

ZAHN: Of course. And everybody sees stuff through their prism...

HUGHLEY: That's right. So people will watch this news station or -- everybody -- nobody wants -- there's no search for truth. There's only a search for my truth or your truth.

And so I think that it's disingenuous to pretend like we're trying to get anywhere when we don't try to understand the basis of the problem is we don't ever walk a mile in somebody else's shoes. We never look at somebody else's situation.

ZAHN: We spent a lot of time this week talking about hip-hop and we posed the question, art or poison?

HUGHLEY: Right.

ZAHN: What do you think, art or poison?

HUGHLEY: I think that it's art to some people and poison to some people.

ZAHN: What is it to you?

HUGHLEY: I found -- I think that I've found some artists who are authentic. When an artist is speaking about his experiences and he is a legitimate voice for his own experiences, that's authentic and poetic. When he's not, it's trash.

I think -- I think that you have artists talking about how they're gangsters but they grew up in the suburbs. That's not an authentic experience.

If you're keeping it real and you're a millionaire, it ain't the same. You know?

So I think the first time you use a tea bag it's great, and the second time it gets weaker and weaker. And I think when somebody does something original in any art form, then there are people who are innovators and there are people who kind of take (INAUDIBLE).

ZAHN: What do you find funny about white people?

HUGHLEY: I think almost...

ZAHN: Almost everything?

HUGHLEY: I think that their sheer obliviousness, their sheer -- like they can't understand why -- you know, like he -- the gentleman here was talking about how, you know, the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy and Lovey Smith. Do you know that the first time a black person ever spoke from the well of the center (ph) floor was during the Clinton confirmation? The first time a black man ever hosted a major sporting event was the Super Bowl, and that was Greg Gumbel.

So, as advanced as we think we are, we're not that far. We're not that far.

ZAHN: Well, it has been such a delight to see you, D.L.

HUGHLEY: Likewise. Likewise.

ZAHN: A pleasure. Continued good luck to you.

HUGHLEY: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: Hughley. I will never make that mistake again. I'll be kicking myself all weekend long.

You'll forgive me, right?

HUGHLEY: Oh, indeed.

ZAHN: It's Friday, the end of a very, very long week.

Again, best of luck to you.

America's new leader.

HUGHLEY: Oh, yeah.

ZAHN: Oh, yeah. He's feeling it. I made him laugh when I said that.

HUGHLEY: Yes, I'm going home right now before somebody...

ZAHN: Take it seriously. Take it to the bank.

All right. We're going to take a quick "BizBreak" right now.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" next, gobs of food, thousands of calories, and a shocking secret. Perhaps it might be your secret, too. Ten thousand calories a day? Wait until you see what these folks eat in silence.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, the nation's number one eating disorder. It's not anorexia. It's not bulimia.

If a new Harvard study is right, close to six million Americans go on massive eating binges, eating enormous amounts of food, all at one time. Until now, it has been so shameful, so secretive, that most people wouldn't even talk about it.

Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen brings binge eating "Out in the Open" in tonight's "Vital Signs."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Until just a few months ago, Natalie would go on wild food binges, eating ice cream, potato chips, cookies.

NATALIE, RECOVERING BINGE EATER: A sleeve of Ritz Crackers with peanut butter, Triscuits. You know, some cheese from the refrigerator, maybe some cream cheese straight out of the carton. Maybe some mayonnaise right out of the jar.

COHEN: For more than 10 years, Natalie lived in shame.

NATALIE: And I would buy foods from, you know, different stores and stop in different places so that nobody would -- you know, know that I was getting -- no one could really track me. I really needed to be anonymous in my eating.

COHEN: She binged in private. Her family and friends never guessing her secret.

NATALIE: They've never seen me bingeing because I've hidden it.

COHEN: Secrecy, a hallmark of binge eating, helps explain why few people realize that binge eating has become America's most common eating disorder, more common than anorexia or bulimia. That's according to a new Harvard study, which finds that one in 35 Americans suffers from regular binge eating.

We all overeat at times. How is binge eating different?

Experts say binge eaters eat as if in a trance. Thousands of calories in just a few hours. So much that sometimes they just pass out, like Natalie says she did nearly every day for several years.

NATALIE: It's almost like a feeling of being drunk. I felt some kind of -- some kind of high sometimes out of eating like this. But afterwards I felt really terrible about myself.

COHEN: Unlike bulimics, binge eaters don't purge. Some become obese, but others like Natalie figure out a way to keep their weight under control to hide their secret.

NATALIE: I would take walks up and down the entire island of Manhattan. I would walk the length of Manhattan.

COHEN: As binge eating is starting to come out in the open, therapists are beginning to learn why people do this to themselves.

DR. LINDA CRAIGHEAD, PSYCHOLOGIST: The person is eating, in a sense, to distract from or numb their feelings. It is a very -- it's a form of emotional eating.

COHEN: Dr. Linda Craighead treats binge eaters and wrote a book on binge eating. She says we live in a culture that makes it easy to eat junk.

CRAIGHEAD: We have what we call a toxic food environment. We have huge amounts of high fat, very tasty, inexpensive, easily available food.

COHEN: She says the key to recovery is identifying the emotional reasons for bingeing.

Natalie realized she ate to cope with stress at school. With the help of a support group, she says she hasn't gone on a binge in seven months.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Just another thing to add about binge eating. The Harvard study says people struggle with it an average of eight years, much longer than even anorexia or bulimia.

Just minutes away from the top of the hour and a "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive. He's got Anna Nicole Smith's mother and the bodyguard who desperately tried to save Smith's life.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Thank you so much for joining us.

As we head into the weekend, tomorrow night at 10:00, a quick programming note for you. Our own Rick Sanchez takes to the question of whether hip-hop is art or poison. You've been hearing all week long some people think it is the truth of what urban life is in a lot of American cities. Other folks saying that is a total copout.

Hear what high school students think, and hear from female rapper MC Lyte, who has started a Take Back the Music campaign. That's coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Guess what else is coming up tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Happy Birthday, Paula!

ZAHN: Thank you.

Have a good night, everybody, a great weekend.

See you Monday.

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