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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Tomb of Jesus Discovered?; Interview With Al Sharpton; Acting Too White?
Aired February 26, 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: And good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us.
Out in the open tonight: A sorority kicks out women who just happen to be minorities or overweight.
And, if you think women bosses are less competent than men, unfortunately, you have got a lot of company. We will explain why.
And a startling claim that Jesus' tomb has been found and there are bones to prove it.
Out in the open first tonight: a crushing reality of college life, rejection, humiliation, even hints of racism. It is inside elite world of sororities.
Keith Oppenheim has found some women at DePauw University who insist they were kicked out of their sorority house just because of the way they look.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Near the heart of DePauw University stands a sorority called Delta Zeta. Last fall, the women who lived behind the stately columns thought of themselves as accomplished, but knew, on campus, they had a different reputation and a mean nickname.
KIM LEE, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: The doghouse.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): The doghouse?
JOANNA KIESCHNICK, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: Yes.
RACHEL PAPPAS, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: Yes, that's the biggest one.
OPPENHEIM: That you're -- that you're a bunch of ugly women?
OPPENHEIM: Rachel Pappas, Kim Lee, and Joanna Kieschnick are former members of Delta Zeta. They said, for some time, leaders from their national office had been concerned membership at the DePauw chapter was too low.
Last August, the students said those leaders suggested the way to recruit was to change their image, with appearance, with drinking, and with sex.
KIESCHNICK: Her whole idea is, basically, that you need to be more sexually appealing. You need to make the guys want you. You need to, I don't know, to get sloshed, and then have them, you know, whatever, just be more attractive. Get the men to like you. Get them to want you.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): By late November, some of the Delta Zeta began to believe that their national leaders were so consumed with image, that their ultimate goal was to get rid of most of the girls in the sorority.
Some of the former members told me that, when national leaders held an open house for freshman women, only the more attractive students were asked to stay downstairs as hosts.
KIM LEE, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: Those of us who were not chosen to give tours were asked to not come downstairs unless we were -- and, if we were, that we needed to dress really cute, make sure we had on makeup, or that we were put together, but, otherwise, they would prefer that we stayed upstairs.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): In early December, just before exams, the bombshell: The national chapter sent a letter to 23 members, two- thirds of the sisters living at Delta Zeta, stating they had failed to meet standards for recruitment, so their status was changed from active to alumna. That meant they had to move out of the sorority house by the end of January.
The former members say, included in the 23 were all of the overweight students and three of the four minorities in the house. They say the, ones who were not told to move were generally pretty and slender.
For some, it was a blow to self-esteem.
LEE: I have done everything I was supposed to do. I'm a good student. I'm involved. And -- but, you know, in your heart, you take that really hard.
PAPPAS: Image is the new racism, of sorts. You know, image is the be-all and end-all of everything. And sorority life is just where it appears the most.
OPPENHEIM: DePauw University says, they're not sure if the Delta Zetas who got ousted were kicked out for being bad recruiters or for not fitting a stereotype. But they still sent a letter of reprimand to the national chapter.
University officials say they're investigating, and it's possible that it could be the entire sorority chapter that will be asked to depart from this campus.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Greencastle, Indiana.
ZAHN: The letters asking those Delta Zeta sisters to leave the sorority came from its national office.
With me now is Delta Zeta's executive director, Cindy Menges.
We did not get the name of the sorority right the first time.
Welcome. Glad to have you with us.
CINDY MENGES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DELTA ZETA SORORITY: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: You have heard how outraged these women were who were thrown out. And they say they were only thrown out because of the color of their skin, the way they look, potentially because they happen to be overweight.
Are you going to tell me tonight their appearance had nothing to do with their being thrown out?
MENGES: Paula, Delta Zeta does not discriminate. It's in our constitution. And every member in our organization abides by that -- by that rule.
I would like to make four points. One, in August of 2006, the entire chapter, the women in the chapter, voted to close the chapter. In September of -- of 2006, myself and another national representative, on behalf of the national organization, met with the university to formalize the closure that the women voted to -- to undertake.
ZAHN: So, are you saying these 23 women were thrown out as a result...
ZAHN: ... of this decision to -- to weed down the house?
MENGES: The -- the women, in August, all voted to close the chapter. It was a chapter vote to close the chapter. And we...
ZAHN: But the chapter is still open. You still have how many members today?
MENGES: The chapter is on active status now, because, in -- in September, we met with the university, and the university -- university said that we could not close and return to campus. We had asked for a time to close and return at a later date.
ZAHN: Are there any minorities left in -- in the -- in the active part of the chapter? MENGES: We -- Delta Zeta does not discriminate, and we do not categorize our members by -- by -- by anything, other than members in the sorority.
ZAHN: But student after student told Keith Oppenheim in that piece that there are no minorities left. You may not characterize them...
ZAHN: ... any which way, but they say it is -- it's -- it is the truth, that the women left standing...
MENGES: The women who...
ZAHN: ... are white.
MENGES: The women -- all -- all women are members in our sorority. Everyone has their membership.
They -- they are either alumna membership or collegiate based on their personal decision. In a conversation that we had with each woman, I personally participated in those conversations, looked these women in the eye, and said, do you commit to the recruitment plan to remain active since we are not closing, or do you prefer to remain on an inactive status, where you can enjoy, continue to enjoy the privileges of membership, but not have to be active and actively recruit?
The decision was based on -- on the -- the women's decision on commitment.
ZAHN: Why did woman after woman in that piece say that the house was referred to as a doghouse, and they felt they were social outcasts, that they weren't popular enough, that they weren't deemed attractive enough to remain active members of the chapter?
MENGES: Delta Zeta, we made a choice -- we -- we made a mistake when we communicated with the women at the conclusion of our conversations with them. We made a mistake after months of continued personal communication with our women, our members. We made a mistake by not communicating with them personally and giving them a letter.
We regret that. We are sorry for that. And we want to continue that dialogue with the university, with our women, both...
ZAHN: But they're saying this has nothing to do with the letter. This is the fact that they feel absolutely humiliated they were thrown out, and they are absolutely convinced...
MENGES: These women are...
ZAHN: ... it had something to do with the way they looked, and if they had... (CROSSTALK)
ZAHN: ... been, in society's words, more attractive, or looked like they belong on -- you know, on the cover of a magazine, they would probably be one of the five active members today.
MENGES: Paula, these women made their choice in August to close the chapter and not continue in an active status.
It is by their choice, which we also offered them, if they disagreed with the alumnae status or collegiate status, if they wanted to come back and commit to the recruitment plan, which is a very aggressive plan and takes a lot of time. These women are very networked, very involved on their campus.
And to commit to this type of plan takes a significant amount of time. And we respect their decision.
ZAHN: Would you take any of those women back?
MENGES: If these -- if these women want to make the choice to commit to the recruitment plan. That was the basis of their decision. It was their choice.
ZAHN: We have got to leave it there. Cindy Menges, thank you for your time tonight.
MENGES: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Just a few days ago, the president of DePauw University sent a letter of protest to the national president of the society.
Part of it says: "The members of Delta Zeta learned of the outcome of the membership review one week before final exams began. Many women spoke of their inability to focus on year-end assignments, papers and exams because of their feelings of where they would be living in coming months."
Now let's bring in tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, John Aravosis, blogger for AmericaBlog.com, Danyel Smith, editor in chief for "Vibe" and "Vibe Vixen" magazine, and Niger Innis, political consultant and national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.
What -- what do you think of what you just heard from Ms. Menges?
DANYEL SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "VIBE" AND "VIBE VIXEN": Well, from what I remember about college -- colleges, sororities are supposed to be a party place, but they're also supposed a place for sort of, I don't know, giving back to your community, and -- and sort of having a good time.
And I can't imagine that these girls were just asked to leave. You're supposed to go to college to learn more about other kinds of people and expand your horizons. And these girls are being asked to leave based on their looks? I think it's pitiful.
ZAHN: Let me read to you a letter from the editor of the school paper from a woman who was a member of that sorority, graduated back in 2005.
She said: "Being a Delta Zeta was difficult, especially during rush. Rumors spread that we were not cute, not partyers, not popular. Every year, we fought to combat those stereotypes. I understand national's decision. In order for them to contend as a popular option on DePauw's campus, a drastic change needed to be made. Look at the women who were asked to remain and those who were asked to leave. You will see how national's made their choice."
JOHN ARAVOSIS, AMERICABLOG.COM: I went to University of Illinois undergrad. We had one of the largest -- probably still do -- fraternity and sorority organizations in the -- in the country, as far as the numbers of frats and sororities we have.
Clearly, a large number of them really like to get the pretty girls or the pretty guys in there. And you knew it. And you knew there was the football frat, and you knew there was the pretty guy frat. But you also knew there was the Jewish frat or African-American students.
So, you -- you -- you had a lot of selectivity. But some of it wasn't -- I don't have a problem with a Jewish fraternity. I have a little more issues with saying the pretty girl fraternity. And then, when you get into disabilities or somebody who can't come in because they're black, then you have got a problem.
ZAHN: What about someone who is simply overweight?
ARAVOSIS: This is where it gets interesting, because it -- I'm totally confused, after hearing your guest. I have no idea what is going on now.
I mean, she's trying to say that they opted -- what was interesting to me was what your guest said was when you said would you be willing to have these women back, and she said, if they commit to the recruitment plan, they can come back.
That's good. I still don't know what the hell is going to...
NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: ... depends on...
INNIS: ... what the recruitment plan is.
ARAVOSIS: ... lose 50 pounds.
INNIS: At least 20 pounds, exactly.
ZAHN: As I understand it, there...
ZAHN: ... there was an expectation that -- that the active members of the sorority would actively solicit membership for the next rush.
ARAVOSIS: For next year's class.
INNIS: And it's obvious. Whether she's going to say it or not, it's obvious that they didn't -- they -- they felt shackled by that image of being the geek fraternity for women, and they want to change that image.
ZAHN: Geek? They referred to themselves as -- or to hearing other people call them...
ZAHN: ... the doghouse.
INNIS: That's right.
And they want to flip that image, if you will. Look, the world of fraternities and sororities, be they predominantly white or black, which were established because of a long pattern of discrimination in sororities and fraternities, white fraternities and sororities -- but, even within the black fraternities and sororities, there became a very subjective selectivity, sometimes, even on race or color, if you would. Degradation of -- of skin tones within the black race, you know, was -- was often -- but it's a different...
INNIS: I was a member of the IMF fraternity. That's independent M.F. fraternity.
SMITH: I remember that one. I'm -- I'm a member of that one myself.
SMITH: Why would the sorority let the geek girls in to begin with, only to ask them to leave later?
ARAVOSIS: Well, I think the local -- well, the local chapter apparently had -- that house itself had a history, apparently, of having women with disabilities, minorities. They were very diverse.
INNIS: Outstanding achieve...
ARAVOSIS: The national is the issue.
INNIS: Outstanding academics.
INNIS: It was for smart girls.
ZAHN: There was an idea that it was being dubbed as a -- a -- social awkwardness, and that was hurting the recruitment.
INNIS: I think it's important to distinguish this situation than from a general case of discrimination. Fraternities and sororities are weird worlds.
ZAHN: Almost like country clubs, right?
INNIS: That's exactly right. That's exactly right.
ARAVOSIS: Almost like high school, I would say.
ZAHN: Yes. Well, yes.
ZAHN: That, too.
All of you stay with me. There's a lot more to talk about with our panel tonight.
Out in the open next: startling revelations about a civil rights leader. Guess who may have owned Al Sharpton's ancestors?
Plus: why minority kids grabbing for the American dream are being called racial sellouts and acting too white.
ZAHN: A controversy of biblical proportion is out in the open tonight. Coming up: what it means for Christians if, in fact, Jesus' bones have been discovered.
First: a stunning discovery out in the open tonight. Who would ever have thought there is a link between civil rights activist Al Sharpton and one of the South's most vocal segregationists, the late Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina?
Well, we have now learned that genealogists have found that Coleman Sharpton, Al Sharpton's great-grandfather, was a slave owned by Julia Thurmond. She was an ancestor of Senator Thurmond, who, generations later, would become a champion of Jim Crow laws separating whites and blacks.
The Reverend Al Sharpton joins me tonight.
Always good to see you, Reverend.
Is this your worst nightmare?
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, I don't -- I don't know if it's my worst nightmare.
I think it is certainly a nightmare, in many senses. One, I think, when all of us -- this is much larger than just me -- have to -- to face the reality that someone that we, in fact, are directly related to -- it's no longer just general and abstract, but personal -- was in fact, property, that there was a time in this country people were allowed to own what was your great-grandparents. That's bad enough.
And then to add on top of that that they were the ancestors of one that fought against everything that you lived for, I think it's quite an ordeal.
The good news is, though, that there were people that fought against slavery and people that fought for civil rights and continue to fight today that afforded me at least a better life than my great- grandfather, which makes me responsible to continue that fight for my children and my great-grandchildren.
ZAHN: And, even though you try to focus on the more positive aspect of this, let me read to you something that Senator Strom Thurmond said back to -- way back in 1948, where he said, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our eating places, our schools, our churches, our swimming pools, and our theaters."
Knowing what you know now, what kind of a chill does that send down your spine?
SHARPTON: Oh, it sends a tremendous chill, particularly -- and this came out in "The New York Daily News" yesterday. They had a picture of the cemetery behind the church there in Edgefield, South Carolina, where Strom Thurmond also happens to be buried in that town. And the cemetery behind this church were full of Thurmonds and Sharptons, because they, in fact, were intermarried, interrelated.
And the Sharptons were the people who owned my great grandfather. So, to think that this ancestry produced a Strom Thurmond that continued that tradition is very chilling.
The way that I feel, from a position as a minister, God's mercy is that these slaves produced people like me that would fight for freedom. So, I must look at all sides of it, and continue to fight and continue to struggle.
But America has to deal with the shame of slavery. They have got to deal with the validity of the movement that stopped it. But they have also got to deal with the fact that, because there were people that struggled and suffered, that they were able to make this stain begin to be removed. But we have a long way to go.
ZAHN: You have just had a couple of days to digest the -- the stain of this shocking news. Have you gotten any information about the kind of life your great-grandfather led as a slave?
SHARPTON: All I know from the documents -- because I wanted evidence when the newspaper and the genealogists came to me. I didn't go to them. They came to me.
And all I have been able to get from the documents is that he was a slave in Edgefield, South Carolina, that he was owned by a Jefferson Sharpton. When Jefferson Sharpton died young and in debt, he was married to Anita (ph) Thurmond.
And Jefferson Sharpton's father, Alexander Sharpton, sent them to Florida to work as indentured servants on loan, because they owned them. And they would work and get the money to pay off Jefferson Sharpton's debts.
That's why my grandfather, who I knew, and my father were from Florida. I never knew, until last Thursday, why my family was in Florida. I never knew I had a South Carolinian connection. I never knew any of that.
And that's as much as I have been able to learn to this point.
ZAHN: Yes. Talk about waking up and having to reanalyze your whole life. You got it and then some.
Al Sharpton, thanks so much for your time tonight. Appreciate it, Reverend. SHARPTON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: My pleasure.
Out in the open next: Is getting good grades acting too white? Smart students face taunts of selling out, simply acting too white because they're achievers.
And, later: what could be the most stunning find in Christian history.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Out in the open tonight; children being called racial sellouts and having to prove their racial solidarity. You might find this hard to believe, but many black and Hispanic kids are finding that good grades and a strong work ethic may not bring praise, but intolerance and accusations that they're simply acting too white. So, what does that mean?
Well, we sent Carol Costello to find out.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jose Mena is smart as the proverbial whip, winning a scholarship to an exclusive New York City high school. He is on his way to achieving the American dream, a kid escaping his poor neighborhood through an upscale education.
JOSE MENA, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: What's the name of this triangle?
COSTELLO: What he didn't expect were the cruel taunts, not from his new white friends, but his black and Hispanic buddies back in the Bronx.
(on camera): What kinds of names have people called you?
MENA: It's always been like the wannabe white kid. It's always revolved around trying to be too white.
COSTELLO (voice-over): The labels are painful: white boy and sellout.
(on camera): So, really, it's more than just about getting a good education. It's really about talking in a certain way, dressing in a certain way.
MENA: It's almost like fulfilling the stereotypes that -- that minorities face. And the only way to be a -- be a distinct individual within society is to kind of fall into those stereotypes.
COSTELLO involve And it's not just names that hurt him. Two boys with ski masks once jumped him as he got off the bus.
MENA: Well, it's -- it's hard to assume that they would know that I'm one -- that I'm one of the kids who, you know, strives to be a successful person and -- and that kind of thing, and they would be envious of that. But my -- my mother told me that, look, I -- that she thinks the reason for that was basically envy.
COSTELLO: Dr. Angela-Neal Barnett is a psychologist studying how students are affected when their racial identity is called into question. She's conducting a study with hundreds of students about their experiences, to determine what those effects might be.
DR. ANGELA NEAL-BARNETT, PSYCHOLOGIST: The accusation of acting white has nothing to do with people wanting to be white, and everything to do with what it means to be black.
COSTELLO: To black kids at schools like Warren Harding High in Ohio, the taunts can make students feel isolated.
(on camera): How does that make them feel inside?
JASMINE STRINGER, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I think it makes them feel lonely, because they don't have friends that accept them for their selves.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Barnett also studied non-white students at Kent State, and found that they risked fall into a -- quote -- "acting-white trap" their entire lives, being forced to be more black or white, whatever that means, to address social pressure.
(on camera): So, you purposely got bad grades to fit in?
BRITTANY MAYTI, KENT STATE STUDENT: I became lazy. And, I mean, I know it was wrong. And, as I look back on it, I wish I wouldn't have done that. But I didn't care anymore.
BRANDI DAVIS, KENT STATE STUDENT: I was really stressed. There was times where I didn't want to go to work, because I heard terms like I was selling out and I'm not being who I was supposed to be.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Such experiences confuse and anger these kids, making them targets of double discrimination by both their black and white peers.
NEAL-BARNETT: For adolescents who enter what we call the "acting-white trap," which is, OK, I'm going to think about what it means to be black, and maybe -- like the young ladies were saying, maybe I will change the way I talk, or I will change the way I dress.
And some of that is really actually very helpful, because you're exploring your racial identity. You're exploring, what does it mean to be black?
COSTELLO: For Jose, getting out of that trap means staying true to who he really is and graduating. So, it's Jose Mena who succeeds, not the kids who taunt him. Carol Costello, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Time to turn this over to our "Out in the Open" panel, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Danyel Smith, editor in chief of "Vibe" magazine, and Niger Innis, political consultant and spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality.
ZAHN: What does this mean, that blacks are telling other black students who have achieved that they're acting too white, and they need to act black?
ZAHN: And you heard these kids saying...
INNIS: It's outrageous.
ZAHN: ... they intentionally did badly in school...
INNIS: It's outrageous.
ZAHN: ... so they wouldn't be accused of that.
INNIS: It is the most clear and present danger to the progress of black people today culturally. There's no question about it.
It's more dangerous than the Klan. More dangerous than neo- Nazis, more dangerous than the end of affirmative action is this self- imposed cultural manifestation that came out of the '60s, that, somehow, if you're a high achiever, if you talk proper English, if you dress properly, if you have goals to be in mainstream society, that you're somehow acting white, and, even more dangerous, Paula, conversely, that, to be black, you have got to be thug, you have got to have baggy pants.
And, of course, you know, the -- the -- the domination of the hip-hop industry culturally has accentuated that phenomenon.
You know, before the civil rights revolution, there was a term that we used in the black community: You have to be a credit to your race.
And being a credit to your race was not being a ghetto fabulous thug. Being a credit to your race was being academically more competitive, being a decent human being, and being mainstream America.
ZAHN: Do you buy into, Danyel, what Niger is saying, that this is self-imposed? Or is this something beyond the black culture, that...
SMITH: I think...
ZAHN: ... that this victimization is feeding off of something else?
SMITH: I think it has been going on for so, so long. I think it goes all the way back to slave times.
If you were the type of slave that wanted to work in the big house, you were the house N-word, there was always this association, like, if you're white, you're better.
I really don't put a value system on it. I don't think it's...
ZAHN: Are you embarrassed by this, to see these kids talking about...
SMITH: I'm not embarrassed by it.
ZAHN: .. failing classes because they don't want to be accused of being too white?
SMITH: I mean, I agree. I think it's tragic. I think it's terrible.
And I just wonder, though, where are these kids' parents? These are good, smart students in good schools. Where are their parents? My mother was there to tell me. My father was there to tell me. I'm wondering, where are people to tell them, this is not necessary?
There's no such thing as acting white. There's being a good student. There's being a good person. There's no such thing as acting white. And being black doesn't mean you are lazy or you have to be thugged out or anything like that.
I do take issue a little bit that hip-hop has exacerbated it. But I just feel like you can be a kid...
INNIS: You have got to -- you have got to agree that the worst elements in hip-hop have. I mean, there are more...
SMITH: Possibly. But I do believe that, just because you wear baggy pants and you have your hair cut a certain way does not mean that you are a thug and does not mean that you can't excel in high school or college.
ZAHN: What kind of white trap is this for black kids?
ARAVOSIS: What kind of white trap?
ZAHN: Yes. I mean, you know, the -- the...
(CROSSTALK) ARAVOSIS: Let me tell you, Paula...
INNIS: It's the man. It's the man that is responsible.
SMITH: He has to defend his whole race.
ARAVOSIS: ... me as the representative...
ZAHN: There are two of us here.
ARAVOSIS: ... as the representative of the white...
ZAHN: No, there are two of us.
ARAVOSIS: ... of the white race at the table, yes.
ZAHN: Last time I looked, I thought I was white, too.
ARAVOSIS: Well, no, there you...
ARAVOSIS: What I was going to say, if I can answer a different question, was, what is interesting to me is this doesn't just happen in the black community. I mean, I have seen it happen in the gay community in terms of some people concerned that some gay people want to get too married. Are they trying to be straight? Like they're trying to buy in to the straight culture?
And in the deaf community, some kids are able to speak, or partially speak. Are they selling out by actually speaking and different than using sound (ph)?
Growing up -- my family Greek-American. My grandfather wouldn't speak a lick of English to me. I thought the guy didn't speak English. I thought that after he died -- he's fluent in English, wanted to learn Greek. My grandmother on the other side wouldn't speak Greek to me even after I learned Greek because she wanted the kids and my father to be American.
SMITH: To be American.
INNIS: And that's counterintuitive -- your grandfather was counterintuitive to the immigrant experience. The immigrant experience in this country is that the parents wouldn't speak a lick of English when they come here, but they would make sure that their children went to school and become good Americans.
ARAVOSIS: The Latino community, too. The debate over English as a second language, or should we have English required as the language and...
INNIS: That's a negative aspect of the radicalization of the civil rights era.
ZAHN: Quickly, quickly.
SMITH: I don't think so. I think you can speak both. I think you can speak black English and you can speak plain (ph) English. I don't...
INNIS: Just like English at home, when you go to school, speak proper English.
SMITH: That's who I was raised, but I don't put a value on either.
ZAHN: All right.
ZAHN: Another night for that. That controversy.
INNIS: Another night.
ZAHN: Don't move, any of you. We've got a lot more business to move on to.
"Out in the Open" next, a hidden tomb whose secrets could change almost everything Christians believe about Jesus.
And a little bit later on, a shocking look at the bad things people automatically assume about women bosses.
Danyel, you're not going to like this one. This one is scary.
SMITH: Wow. Wow.
ZAHN: Right now we're going to bring "Out in the Open" a new claim that if true could shatter the faith of millions. Are you ready for this?
Well, some experts say that Jesus' tomb has been found and his bones were inside. Not only his bones, but those of people that anyone familiar with the bible will recognize.
ZAHN (voice over): Could these two stone boxes once have held the Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene. People associated with a controversial new book and documentary say maybe. The stone boxes are from a tomb uncovered at a Jerusalem construction site in 1980. At first glance, the names carved on six of the boxes are stunning. SIMCHA JACOBOVICI, DOCUMENTARIAN: Jesus, son of Joseph. Two Marys. A Matthew. A Joseph, or a specific nickname of Joseph, Josy (ph), which as recorded in Mark, the earliest gospel, one of the four brothers of Jesus. And a Judah, son of Jesus.
ZAHN: The boxes no longer contain the actual bones. They were reburied in Jerusalem. And the boxes were stored away, believed to be unimportant because the names written on them were common in the first century.
JAMES CAMERON, FILM DIRECTOR: These are like finding a John, Paul and a George. And you're not obviously going to leap to the obvious conclusion that that's the Beatles unless you found a Ringo.
ZAHN: So who might be the Ringo here? Movie director James Cameron and his collaborators say it's the way the name Mary is carved on this box. It says, Mary-Ahm'-Nay.
CAMERON: Mary-Ahm'-Nay is, according to certain Christian texts, the Acts of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mary-Ahm'-Nay is the name of Mary Magdalene.
ZAHN: Skeptics point out that neither the Acts of Philip nor the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is in the bible. A biblical anthropologist who excavated the original tomb says the documentary has it all wrong.
JOE ZIAS, BIBLICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST: Because the family buried there is middle class Jerusalemite family, and we don't know about the family Jesus as being such.
ZAHN: The documentary producers say a DNA test on residues from the Jesus and Mary-Ahm'-Nay boxes show the people they once contained were not blood relatives. Conceivably, they could be husband and wife. To assume they were the real Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and that they were married and had a son, requires a considerable leap of faith.
ZAHN: What could these claims do to Christianity if they are proved true?
Our faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher, is here, along with Catholic League president, William Donohue, and paleontologist Charles Pellegrino, co-author of the book at the center of this controversy, "The Jesus Family Tomb."
It is all your fault.
So, I know the Bill Donohue thinks that this is one giant hoax.
If you think it is, then why are you so outraged by it? Why is this such a big deal if you don't buy into it at all?
BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I am very skeptical of the skeptics. If they want to make their case, let them make it. I want to see empirical evidence and not more speculation.
Quite frankly, Paula, every year at Lent -- we've tracked it at the Catholic League about the last 12 years -- we find somebody coming out saying Jesus wasn't really divine, Jesus was just a prophet, a good guy, there was no resurrection. Last year NBC did a "Dateline" thing on that, the same kind of story.
You know, after a while, I am entitled to be skeptical of these skeptics. After all, if they had any traction -- are they trying to say that the over 500 witnesses of the resurrection, they're all wrong?
I don't think James Cameron has anything like this. It sounds like a Titanic fraud.
ZAHN: Dr. Pellegrino, you were skeptical at first.
CHARLES PELLEGRINO, CO-AUTHOR, "THE JESUS FAMILY TOMB": Right.
ZAHN: And as you immersed yourself in this research, did you really think you had found empirical evidence that these boxes, one of them, at least, was holding Jesus?
PELLEGRINO: I came as a doubter. My role was as a doubting Thomas. And to first with the mathematics, tried to explain this away as, is it just another family that has the same names? Very briefly, when you get into the mathematics -- I'll just use the word "population dynamics" -- but to have this combination of names come up just once...
ZAHN: Mathematically, about 600 to one in your research?
PELLEGRINO: ... would have required -- no, that's whether you get into whether you're 99 percent or 99.9. This is when you get into the populations and the number of people that would have the names. You would need about eight Jerusalems, each of them living for 100 years, to come up with this combination of names by accident just once.
So that got my attention.
ZAHN: So you have no doubts at all? Oh, in science there's always doubt. I mean, once every 30,000 years, if I drop a pen from this table there will be a tornado touching down for about five seconds and it may fall up instead of down.
ZAHN: But your book...
PELLEGRINO: Science is based on doubt.
ZAHN: Right. But you're relatively sure that what was found in this box is Jesus' bones?
PELLEGRINO: That this is the historical Jesus.
Now, most archaeologists that I know of thought, well, historical Jesus, it went back to the myth of Dionysus or something. He never even had to live.
So, as a scientist, maybe some of us are getting closer to what people in faith believe by baby steps. It's like, I believe that this very, very probably was the true historical Jesus and the -- the holy family. And this says nothing against -- there's nothing in anything that Jim or Simcha or I or any of our group have said that says the resurrection did not take place.
ZAHN: OK. Let me ask you about that.
PELLEGRINO: We are not getting anywhere that.
ZAHN: But, in fact, you are whether you like it or not.
So, for Christianity, if this is true, what does it mean?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Well, there would be huge implications if Jesus' bones were found or remnants of Jesus' body...
ZAHN: Because that affects the resurrection.
GALLAGHER: ... because Christians believe, and it's the central tenet of Christianity, that there was a bodily resurrection. That, you know, Jesus died, he was buried, he rose again, and he ascended bodily into heaven.
So it is problematic for the central Christian claim to say that there are any sorts of parts of Jesus still buried anywhere. And so I think that's why sort of unanimously the Christian scholars that I've been speaking to today have said, you know, A, we question the scholars, because they say these (INAUDIBLE) have been discovered since 1980, and a lot of the other scholars that have looked into it have not found the claims credible. And they question the motivations as well.
So I think, you know, the Christian community recognizes that there's some -- there's some problems with some of the claims.
ZAHN: And the motivation or alleged motivation is what concerns you most.
ZAHN: You think Christianity is under assault in this Discovery Channel documentary.
DONOHUE: Well, how else do you explain that for about the last 12 years we have somebody always dropping one more seed of doubt? Why is it that it's always Christianity and it's always at Lent that these seeds of doubt are planted there?
And as I say, if there's any traction to this, let's see it. Let's see the scientific evidence.
Professor Cloner (ph) from Israel was the one who looked at this and had the investigation in 1980. He says -- not saying about you, Charlie -- but he says, talking about Cameron, he's in it for the money. That's what this is. It's an impossible thesis and it's all nonsense.
How do you respond to that?
PELLEGRINO: In it for the money, all James Cameron would have ever had to do if he was in it for money was go make a sequel to "Titanic." He's in it...
ZAHN: You're talking about a $3.5 million documentary.
PELLEGRINO: The thing he loves is exploration.
DONOHUE: And power.
PELLEGRINO: And he's not in this trying to explain away -- if you read -- if you see the film, if you read the book, you'll see that we have been looking at this very reverently. We do not deny the resurrection. We are just looking at what is tangible.
I mean, I'm a doubting Thomas. I need to look at (INAUDIBLE). I need to look at the chemistry, the bacterial history of the tomb. And so...
ZAHN: And I need to move on because I've got to hit a commercial break.
PELLEGRINO: There are many other things we could have done to make money without worrying about who is going to be really yelling at us a lot.
ZAHN: Thank you all. Got to leave it there.
Delia Gallagher, William Donohue, Charles Pellegrino.
Much more about this on "LARRY KING LIVE," coming up at the top of the hour. In the meantime, we move on.
"Out in the Open" next, an eye-opening new study shows why so many companies may think it's too risky to promote women.
Oh, just Delia frowned when she heard that one. It makes us all sick to hear the conclusions of this report.
We'll explain why when we come back.
ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, a really disturbing new study that shows why it is so tough for women to become CEOs at major corporations. And it points to subtle but long-held biases that leave women struggling to make their way in corporate America.
Here's Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A sobering reality for women trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder.
SUSAN CABRERA, CORNELL RESEARCHER: You're assumed to be less competent, less committed, less credible, less of a fit in the organization.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Is that disturbing?
PROF. MELISSA THOMAS HUNT, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: It is disturbing.
CABRERA: It's certainly discouraging.
LOTHIAN (voice over): Two researchers at Cornell's The Johnson School uncovered bias against female executives in a study they're calling "Risky Business."
HUNT: There's a perception that women are considered to be riskier candidates, although there's no evidence that they actually are.
CABRERA: I don't think people are purposely trying to discriminate. I think they believe quite genuinely that they aren't using bias, but extensive research has demonstrated that there are subtle biases.
LOTHIAN: Or perhaps not so subtle, like women being held to a higher standard than men when it comes to hiring and promotion, or considered less committed if they respond to family obligations. And their successes are sometimes chalked up on luck.
Or worse yet...
HUNT: Frequently they're actually not given credit for those successes. So the attribution is actually given to someone else.
CHRIS COLE, EXECUTIVE HEADHUNTER: It's a very male-dominated society. And so a woman in the boardroom just doesn't have the same gravitas that a man does.
LOTHIAN: While every corporation will publicly deny gender bias, executive headhunter Chris Cole says in reality it does happen.
COLE: There's a lot of old boy networks out there.
LOTHIAN: But some women executives say the business world has been welcoming.
JOANNE JAXIMER, SVP, MELLON FINANCIAL CORP.: I would have to say that if there is a glass ceiling, and I'm not sure there is, there's a huge crack in it.
HUNT: And we're talking about, you know, ways of opening those cracks wider and getting to the other side.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Women have been making progress in business over the past few decades. They're sitting in boardrooms, running Fortune 500 companies, and getting the respect of Wall Street.
(voice over): Pepsico recently named Indra Nooyi as CEO. And there's eBay's long-time chief executive, Meg Whitman. "Fortune" magazine trumpeted female titans, and in Boston, the Chamber of Commerce awarded women at the top.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think women are starting to find a real foothold at all levels of business world government.
COLE: The female voice is very, very important. It's just not -- we're just not there yet. And I hope we get there, but we're not there yet.
LOTHIAN: The Cornell researchers recognize women are making strides, but say what is still below the surface is disturbing.
CABRERA: These are the built-in assumptions that are part of your society that frankly aren't going to change overnight.
LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Ithaca, New York.
ZAHN: We're going back to our "Out in the Open" panel -- John Aravosis, Danyel Smith, and Niger Innis.
Let's take a look at the statistics. This I find absolutely shocking.
In 2007, just 2 percent of chief executives at Fortune 500 companies are women.
What is it going to take for us finally to break this glass ceiling?
SMITH: Combat boots?
ZAHN: Well, we already have those on. And we've been wearing those -- I don't know -- I've been wearing them for 31 years working in this business. And there are only three women in primetime television in cable after 4:00 in the afternoon. So...
SMITH: It's bad. It's bad.
I think that men have been in the power positions for a long time and they are not ready to give them up. And I think that women actually work much harder than men do. I truly believe that.
I think we are overcompensators (ph). I think that we have to work twice as hard to get half as far, and we -- those 2 percent, that 2 percent of CEOs, it's because they -- I believe so much of it is because they have overcompensated their way to the top. ZAHN: Why do you think that number is so shockingly low?
ARAVOSIS: Because it takes a long time to make change.
ARAVOSIS: And I don't mean that -- no, as somebody who fights for civil rights -- I mean, I'm sort of a civil rights activist in one of my other jobs. But it takes a long time.
I was talking to a friend the other day who was telling me that he's got a number of black friends who are ready to just give up because they said it's been -- since 1964 we've had the Civil Rights Act. Things still -- not enough has changed, and it's -- you feel it in the gay community, you feel it with women.
It takes decades for cultures to change. And it means you have to keep fighting even harder. But I'm -- I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised.
ZAHN: You heard of the study, among some of the demerits women get, that somehow they are far more committed to their families. Well, clearly, we bear the children and we have to take nine months, you know, to have the pregnancy.
But the truth is, I have had a number of jobs where men openly said, "We're going to the pediatrician right now." And the rest of the women on the staff would have to schedule it after we were off the clock at 4:00 because we were too embarrassed to admit that we were tending -- I mean, it's ridiculous that that kind of pressure is on working men, or women, for that matter.
INNIS: Working men or working women with children. I'm glad you raised the question of children, because that's the one thing that I think until you raised it, has not been raised. And of course...
ZAHN: We still have them, right?
INNIS: We still have them.
INNIS: And even though we have gone through a dramatic cultural revolution like my colleague made mention of -- and the country -- the world is changing -- the country is changing dramatically -- there's still a presumption in our society that women are the primary caregivers. So the obvious assumption that I think men and women in corporate America are going to make is that if you're a woman, there is a chance that you're going to want to have children. And if you have a family.
And a lot of these jobs, we're a very competitive society in a more and more competitive world. We work 20 percent more hours than Europeans do. OK?
We have higher GDP. We are a very competitive society. It means overtime, it means weekends. And there is a balancing act. I've seen your kid here.
ZAHN: I have three of them. And they've all been in and out of here. They make a lot of noise.
INNIS: But it's a balancing act, but I think the culture is changing.
ZAHN: All right.
INNIS: There are more women in college today than men.
ZAHN: That may be true, but we don't ask the same thing of men. They have their hubbies, they have their families, they have their jobs, right?
ARAVOSIS: And who says women can't balance? I mean, if you had your kids here, you know, Paula, you do a pretty good job.
ARAVOSIS: But the evidence is out there. I would agree with you.
I think it's bad, but I think it's a matter of there aren't enough men who -- there aren't enough women who are in senior positions. And they have to get there to get there, to then be able to hire more women, because the women may not have the same hang-ups as men do about hiring women.
ZAHN: All right.
ZAHN: I've got to leave it there while you're perfectly defending women.
We love that, John.
John Aravosis, Danyel Smith, Niger Innis, we'll be right back.
ZAHN: And right now we're back with a quick "BizBreak".
ZAHN: Meanwhile, we're just a couple minutes away from "LARRY KING LIVE". Tonight, his guest, first lady Laura Bush. She'll talk to Larry about her work to save America's women from their number one killer. That would be heart disease.
The first lady coming up at the top of the hour.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Have a good rest of the night. Hope you'll be back with us again tomorrow.
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