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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

MSNBC Takes Imus Off the Air; Interview With Al Franken; Charges Against Duke Lacrosse Players Dismissed

Aired April 11, 2007 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST (voice over): Tonight, breaking news. Don Imus's TV simulcast canceled on MSNBC. With his sponsors leaving him in droves over racial remarks, some say fire him. Some say forgive him.

We've got the latest news and debate raging from both sides.

And then an exclusive.

AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: They are afraid of the truth.

KING: What does Al Franken think of the all of the Imus outrage? I will ask the former radio host in a prime-time interview since announcing his race for the U.S. race in Minnesota. And why does he want to go from covering politicians to being one?

Plus, more breaking news. They are innocent. All charges dropped against three Duke lacrosse players accused of rape more than a year ago.

READE SELIGMANN, FMR. DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER ACCUSED OF RAPE: This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed.

KING: And now attorneys for all three talk to me in their first interview together since the charges were dropped earlier today.

What a day for news. What an hour ahead next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: What a day.

In our first segment, we are joined by Al Sharpton. He's in New York, the activist civil rights leader. He's going to be in front of CBS tomorrow, protesting the continuation of Don Imus' radio show on that network.

In Washington is Howard Kurtz, "The Washington Post" media reporter and the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES".

And in Fargo, North Dakota, the radio talk show host Ed Schultz. I will say that I spoke to Don Imus about an hour ago, and he said that he's continuing his plans to meet with the Rutgers basketball team. They have yet to set the time and place. All of that is in the works. But he will be meeting with them.

Howard, are you surprised at MSNBC's decision?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES: I'm surprised, Larry, because just a couple days ago MSNBC said a two-week suspension was enough, we'll give him a chance to clean up his act. I think what happened is an extraordinary television moment, when we met the Rutgers coach and those young women, the players on the basketball team there, the whole conversation about this seemed to change.

I think Imus has done a lot of things in his career, including raising tens of millions of dollars for kids with cancer, of all races, by the way. But this ugly and incendiary remark about the team made him radioactive. And once the advertisers started to bolt and once the pressure from within NBC, as well as the outside criticism began to build, NBC decided it didn't want to tarnish its brand by continuing its association with Imus.

KING: Here's what MSNBC said: "Effective immediately, MSNBC will no longer simulcast the 'Imus in the Morning' radio program. The decision comes as a result of an ongoing review process, which initially included the announcement of a suspension. It also takes into account many conversations with our own employees."

"What matters to us most is that the men and women of the NBC Universal company have confidence in the values we have set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible. Once again, we apologize to the women of the Rutgers basketball team. And to our viewers, we deeply regret the pain the incidence has cause."

Now, tomorrow, Al Sharpton, you're going to lead a protest in front of the CBS building about the continuation of the radio show. Why do you -- why do you want it all?

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, it's not a question of all. The thing that we called for in the beginning was the termination of his show, radio and TV. Just two days ago, the TV people said, we are giving him two weeks. Then after that, CBS said we are giving him two weeks. Suspension in both cases.

Now, after reviewing this, and I think in large part because of the advertisers backing up, which is where I told you last night a lot of us were putting a lot of our efforts toward, they made a different decision. I would hope CBS does the same thing.

This is not about Imus being a good person or bad person. No one is saying he hasn't done good work. It's about there must be accountability on the airwaves.

This is a man, Larry, that people -- Joe Biden just announced his presidential campaign on his show. Senators, anchormen go on his show. To use that platform to make some blatant sexist and racist remarks that he's apologized before, we think that it's just way over the line and they have a responsibility to the public airwaves of this country to not continue that. And I think that is what led to NBC's decision, and it was the right decision.

KING: Major criticism continues to pour in. Wolf Blitzer asked Barack Obama about Imus today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that NBC should not be having hosted like Don Imus, who are making derogatory statements towards women and minorities. I have got two young daughters who I hope will be athletes. And, you know, the notion that somehow they would be degraded and assaulted and that that would pass as humor, and that NBC would be running that over the public airwaves I think is atrocious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ed Schultz, you're out in Fargo. What are they saying in the heartland about this? Are they talking about it?

ED SCHULTZ, TALK RADIO HOST: They certainly have, Larry. It has dominated my show for two and a half days. I can't get callers to talk about anything else. This has really evolved into the biggest cultural discussion that we've had in this country on talk radio in a long time.

I think NBC bears a great deal of responsibility here. Their front office was asleep at the switch. What's wrong with their crisis team? How could they have not seen that this was going to evolve into something that was going to result in the public backlash, the constant conversation, the intense media conversation, the loss of sponsors?

And I think Mr. Sharpton is right, that it wasn't until the sponsors made a move on this that it really changed them in the front office to make a decision. But really, it took the women's basketball team and that program to step forward in front of the American people, before NBC realized the severity of this issue.

KING: Howard, do you think CBS will follow suit?

KURTZ: I think it will be harder for CBS Radio to drop Imus, Larry. There's been a longer association there. There's kind of a more free-willing atmosphere on the radio.

There's a lot of bile uttered on the radio these days. And the thing about Imus is, when he wasn't interviewing politicians and journalists and having these sort of high-tone discussions, you know, part of the appeal of his show is that he did a lot of locker room humor. Sometimes it went close to the edge, sometimes it went over the edge, and sometimes, as in this ugly crack about the Rutgers team, it obliterated it.

And it's a shame, I think, that he has kind of blown up his television career in this fashion, but the fact is that words matter. Words can wound. And instead of picking on or ridiculing or mocking somebody important, somebody in a position of power, somebody in the administration or in the Congress, he picked on a bunch of kids, kids who had done nothing to ask for this controversy, who had simply worked hard, studied hard, and played for the national basketball championship in college.

And I think that -- he now recognizes what a terrible mistake that was.

KING: Al, do you think you'll be successful at CBS?

SHARPTON: I think it's not even a matter of success. I think it's really shameful that we even have to deal with this kind of discussion in 2007. A lot of us had thought those days were gone.

I do agree with Mr. Kurtz, though, that I think that when we saw these young ladies, who are really heroes -- these are young ladies that have worked hard, achieved academically, and athletically. And if you can just call them some "nappy-headed hos," I think America said, wait a minute, that is a little bit too far, and you're not going to do it with my money.

I mean, when we started contacting advertisers and others, I think that people started saying, wait a minute, we are not going to subsidize this. This is everything we want our children to be. And to break those girls' hearts in a sexist, racist manner was unpardonable.

And I think that it was a signal that had to be sent. I hope it gives a chilling effect to others that do that. All of us have said things we regret, but you've got to be accountable if you do it on the public airwaves as a host.

KING: Thanks, guys.

Should Imus be fired by CBS or forgiven? A heated debate when return.

As we go to break, Imus this morning, did he have a sense that this could have been his last day as MSNBC?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON IMUS, RADIO HOST: I don't need this job. But they need to understand -- they need to understand -- I don't want -- I don't want this to be the final thing I do in what has been a remarkable career. And I'm a good and decent person and I don't have to, for example -- I don't need a "come to Jesus" moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome in New York, Bruce Gordon, CBS board member. CBS Radio -- formally Westwood One Radio, by the way -- owns WFAN, the Imus flagship station. He's a former president of the NAACP. And also in New York is Bo Dietl, chairman of Bo Dietl and Associates, a major security firm, a frequent guest on the Imus show.

CBS Radio released this statement today, Bruce -- "Don Imus has been suspended without pay for two weeks beginning on Monday, April 16th. During that time, CBS Radio will continue to speak with all concerned parties and monitor the situation closely."

Do you think they will follow suit with MSNBC, Bruce?

BRUCE GORDON, CBS BOARD MEMBER: Larry, I don't know whether they will follow suit. I hope that that will be the decision of management, because I think that it would be the right decision.

I must admit that I think that management has a responsibility to think through all the issues, to cover all the facts, and to make an informed, well-rationalized decision. But as you listen to the three people who came in to your program at the beginning of the segment, you had a diverse group there who, across the board, reached the conclusion that Don Imus did the wrong thing and his behavior deserved the consequence that MSNBC has chosen to establish.

KING: Bruce...

GORDON: And I think that CBS will probably go in the same direction, but I don't know that. That's up to Les.

KING: You're a -- Les Moonves, you mean. You're a board member. Do you have input?

GORDON: I certainly have input. The decisions that are made about content, about programming, about talent are decisions that are made by management. But as a director of CBS, I have an obligation to make very clear to management my perspective on any issue, not just this issue, but any issue.

And on this particular one, the Imus behavior was so across the line, that I had to raise my voice both with management and publicly.

KING: Yes.

Bo Dietl, you've been a friend of his for years, on the program a lot. I know you spent some time with Don yesterday a couple of hours at his apartment.

What do you make of all of this?

BO DIETL, FREQUENT IMUS GUEST: Well, first of all, I don't sit here tonight and condone anything that was said with those two horrible words. I have a 17-year-old daughter, and believe me, I don't think Imus knew what he was saying when those words came out of his mouth. But saying that, he said it.

But all I bring out is that I thought that NBC could give him the opportunity to meet with the victims, these young ladies who reached the epitome of the national championship. Why can't we have these ladies talk with him and their parents, and talk. And when they finish talking to him, if they decide they want them out, let them make that decision.

Or why can't we make them inspiration for other youths, other children that go to children and do sports and become really great at these sports and activities? Why can't Imus talking to them?

Maybe it's possible something that Imus wants to do, like possibly setting up a scholarship and let this terrible thing that was said become something good. I'm about building, I'm not about ripping apart.

He had a lot of influence building that hospital in San Antonio. Autism -- bringing up from $15,000 a year to $500,000 for our soldiers coming back who were killed, for their families. He's done a lot of good things.

KING: Yes.

DIETL: I don't sit here, Mr. Gordon, and condone. All I ask you to do is give him an opportunity on CBS.

And Mr. Moonves, give him an opportunity to talk to the victims. The victims are these beautiful young ladies that reached their epitome.

And you know what? Them words didn't come out of Don Imus's mouth. They're heard all over, in every school yard in America, in elementary schools, in high schools.

These kids talk like this regular, and they think it's acceptable. All this nonsense music that my daughter listens to, I have to listen to these words.

KING: All right.

Bruce...

DIETL: We should ban together, Mr. Gordon. And what we should do is build on this...

KING: Let him respond, Bo.

All right.

Bruce, does he have a good point?

GORDON: I understand his point, but don't accept it. I don't know Don Imus, but from I understand, he's done some good things in his life and I appreciate that.

KING: He sure has.

GORDON: But, having said that, I think that cooperations have to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to racial discrimination. When an employee, particularly one of Don Imus's stature, who has the power of the media behind him, abuses that power -- and he abused his power and directed it at young women who didn't deserve it. And when that kind of abuse takes place, I believe there has to be a consequence.

It may be painful to him, I'm sorry about that. But CBS and MSNBC have an obligation to carry out their policies and to have a zero tolerance approach to such.

DIETL: Well, in our society, Mr. Gordon, people say -- he said two words. Should two words be the ruination of this man's whole life of doing good things?

I do agree they were horrible words. But why can't we try to build on this and make relationships between everybody become better, instead of pulling apart? And I think that's exactly what we do.

Let's see what Don Imus has to stay to the families. Let's get -- make these young ladies the inspiration for other children going into college, that they now are recognized as fighting for the national champion, Rutgers College.

Let's make a scholarship fund for inner city ladies to go to that school. Let's build it up. And I'll be part of that.

KING: Bo...

DIETL: And I know Imus would be there for that.

KING: Bo, how badly is he taking all of this, Bo?

DIETL: Well, I want to say it right to Mr. Gordon. You know, everybody can think that he's a callous person. Mr. Imus I have been around.

When he came from his ranch a week and a half ago, when he was there for the children with cancer, he was supposed to go directly back to New York. But you know what he did? He made the plane go to Atlanta and pick up a 6-year-old child, a 6-year-old child with cancer in his eye, which they call him the fallen angels when they fly them.

And this 6-year-old child with cancer in his eye, you know what he was? He was African-American.

That's Don Imus. And before you start condemning my friend and a friend of a lot of people, we should let him have an opportunity.

This is America. Give him an opportunity. If you want to slice him up after that, you do what you want to do, but give him the opportunity, Mr. Gordon.

KING: Bruce, maybe should they have waited until he spoke with the team, Bruce?

GORDON: I don't think so. I think that NBC had to do what NBC did. CBS has chosen to take a slower course, a more methodical course to gather all the facts, to consider all of the issues. And I applaud management for doing that. But I need to say two things.

One, this particular outburst by Don Imus is not his first. His radio personality has been established over the years, and his insulting approach to many segments of our society is not new, one.

Secondly, we need to keep in mind that the media has been disrespectful of the African-American community for years. And we've tolerated that. We have allowed those kinds of disrespects to occur over and over again.

And finally, this really dramatic incident has put a spotlight on bad behavior on the part of the media, and it's unfortunate that it ends up on the lap of one guy. But he brought it on himself and he has got to accept that accountability.

KING: We'll be doing a lot more on this.

Thanks, Bruce Gordon and Bo Dietl.

By the way, tomorrow night, Elizabeth Edwards, the vice president's -- the former vice presidential candidate's wife, and the subject of breast cancer.

Up next, outspoken liberal comedian and now Senate candidate Al Franken. What does this former talk radio host make of the Imus story?

Find out when LARRY KING LIVE returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: But I think I can do more, and so I'm going to run for the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now joining us in Minneapolis is Al Franken candidate for the Democratic former labor party nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. Comedian, of course, actor, famed star of "Saturday Night Live," ""New York Times" best-selling author who hosted a talk radio show on Air America.

Before we get to the campaign and anything else, what's your read on the Imus thing?

FRANKEN: Well, you know, I came here to do my first prime-time interview, as you say, and now we're in the Imus thing. This is a great thing to step into.

KING: What's the story? FRANKEN: Well, the best thing to come out of this was the women from -- from the Rutgers team. I thought they were eloquent. I thought they were dignified. I thought it was -- I especially loved what one of them said about two -- or three of her teammates.

She said, so and so is the big sister I never heard. So and so is the funniest person in the world. And so and so is going to make a great attorney. This guy doesn't know anything about us.

And I think that just underlined it so well, that this was totally inappropriate, totally wrong. He didn't know anything about them. And I hope gets the chance to talk to them, and I hope at least something good comes out of this.

You know, I -- Ed Schultz was saying that everyone's talking about this. I was up in Minnesota today with a group of seniors from seven counties. This wasn't a senior home. This was seniors who were caring about policy. And they are debating global warming and health care, and they were -- they weren't talking about this at all.

It obviously is an important thing, it's a big thing, but they were talking about things...

KING: Let's stay -- I'll get to that. But let's stay with I-Man for a couple of minutes.

FRANKEN: OK. Sure.

KING: Is it forgivable? Should CBS let him stay on?

FRANKEN: You know, it's -- it's their choice. I think -- I think NBC made the right decision. I think cable news is cable news. And he has that position.

I have heard a lot of talk radio -- now, I will give you an example. CNN has Glenn Beck on. Glenn Beck asked my congressman, Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, you know, I just want to ask you, how do I know that you're not working with the enemy?

And he said that -- I think he said it on CNN. But he certainly is -- he's on CNN. I don't know why that wasn't grounds for CNN thinking, well, maybe Glenn Beck shouldn't be on. I mean, how dare he say that to a congressman who has just been elected?

And I hear this kind of thing a lot of time. I monitored a lot of right-wing radio when I was doing my show and before it. And I've heard Rush Limbaugh say things that are worse than this.

And so, I don't know.

KING: Does that make thing then forgivable since others are doing it? You know, if you go, 40, 50 miles an hour, it's not an excuse if other people do it and they stop you. But should he be at least given some rope? FRANKEN: I don't know if I buy the analogy, but I'm not glad I'm making this decision. This is up to CBS' management. Let's put it that way.

KING: You wouldn't want to be in the position to have to make it?

FRANKEN: Well, if I were, I would make it, but that's not my decision, thank you. That's the answer.

KING: With a lot of it going on, are you calling for other dismissals?

FRANKEN: No, I'm not. Just Glenn Beck on your network.

KING: Just Glenn Beck.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: He's on "HEADLINE NEWS," right?

FRANKEN: Well, "HEADLINE NEWS" is part of CNN. And...

KING: Have you been on the Imus show?

FRANKEN: I have. I have been on a couple of times over the years. And, you know, after he did the White House -- or no, it wasn't White House correspondent -- it was the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner.

KING: Yes.

FRANKEN: I criticized him then, so we were on the outs. And, you know, one of the worst parts about this, I think, is that he used the defense it was a joke.

Now, Larry, I know that you loved Lenny Bruce. And Lenny Bruce offended people all the time. But there was always an actual point behind it, right?

KING: Correct. Correct.

FRANKEN: There was a joke. The joke meant something. It was about societal hypocrisy. Whatever it was about.

This was -- I don't get this joke. And I don't get the idea of having -- you k now, as someone who has had a radio show, of having a kind of racist sidekick. Which I guess is what it is.

I don't listen to Imus enough. But isn't it -- was that the concept of a show, I'm going to have a vaguely racist sidekick?

KING: I don't think that's the concept of the show. It covers everything.

FRANKEN: OK. KING: It has major political figures, as you know.

FRANKEN: Yes, I know. I know, and that's -- he's sort of trying to be a shock jock and be Tim Russert. And that's a needle you have to thread, and I think it's threadable. And I guess he just didn't do it.

He hasn't done it.

KING: Up next...

FRANKEN: It's a terrible thing.

KING: Let's take a break.

Up next, Al Franken will cover politicians. He makes fun of them, he yells at them. Now he wants to be one.

He will tell us why right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

AL FRANKEN, COMEDIAN: I don't have to be the most powerful man in the world.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have to be the most powerful man in the world.

FRANKEN: I don't have to be able to bomb a country any time I want.

GORE: Look, would I never arbitrarily bomb...

FRANKEN: OK, OK, I'm sorry. All I have to do is be the best Al I can be.

GORE: All I have to do is be the best Al I can be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the hysterical Al Franken, of course, on "Saturday Night Live."

Now why do you want to give all of this up to be one of 100?

FRANKEN: I'll tell you why and I talked a little earlier about going up to Minnesota to talking to seniors from seven counties. And at one point we were talking about universal health care. They were. And there was registered nurse, Kathy Kowala (ph) from Cambridge, Minnesota and she stood up and she said, "I work in the intensive care unit in Cambridge. And there are people that come in to the hospital because they can't afford their prescription drugs or they cut them in half or they don't buy them at all and they end up in the hospital." And I hear this all the time. I want to go to the Senate, so we can go to universal health care.

KING: Do you think, though, you'll always be Al Franken, the funny man even let's say you're in the Senate. Al Franken stands up to speak, he's funny.

FRANKEN: Well, I'm not going to not be myself. That's who I am. I became a comedian for a reason because my family loved comedy and I've always had the gift of making people laugh like I'm making you now laugh. See, it was a little one.

KING: You do. You go.

FRANKEN: But I, over the last several years, have looked at the direction of this country is going and I'm concerned and I don't like it. And this has been part of my evolution and I think it's time that we held our government accountable. I think it has not been accountable in the last six years. I thank God that the Congress has gone democratic and finally you're seeing some oversight.

But I think we have some basic problems that we need to address. They talked today about global warming. God bless them. These are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. At one point a guy stood up and said, "Look, we're not going to see the worst effects of global warming, any of us in the room." But I got a word for everybody, "grandkids." And he's right. It's a moral issue.

And you know there's great opportunity with renewable energy. We can reinvigorate our manufacturing base. Here in Minnesota, there's a Ford plant closing. We should be making wind turbines there. And we can have -- this is windy state.

KING: Yes.

FRANKEN: And Denmark gets 20 percent of its energy from wind. And there's biofuels. There are all kinds of great things we can do to create jobs.

And you know one of the dumbest things this president said -- and that's a high bar, Larry -- is that if we abided by Kyoto, it would ruin our economy. Well, the opposite was true. And we can do this and it's a great opportunity to create jobs. It's win, win, win, win.

KING: We'll have more with Al Franken, an announced candidate for the democratic for the Senate in Minnesota. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is here to see you.

What about the weapons of mass destruction?

FRANKEN: The weapons of mass destruction! Are they in Samarra? Maybe! In Kirkuk? Could be, maybe yes, maybe no.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FRANKEN: I could go on all day.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: I know you could. We are supposed to be on here for 15 minutes. This idiot goes 35, OK. He tries to make me...

FRANKEN: No, no, no, no...

O'REILLY: Hey, shut up!

FRANKEN: Shut up! Shut up!

You know, my dad always told me to stand up to bullies and Bill O'Reilly is kind of a bully and he's the kind of kid who hits other kids on the playground. And when you hit him, he runs to the teacher and says, "Teacher, sue him." So they sued me, and they were literally laughed out of court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Last night, we asked you can a comedian make it in politics? Seventy-six percent of you voted yes.

And a quick note, we'll be resuming our text voting after next week's 50-year celebration.

Does that poll result surprise you, Al?

FRANKEN: No, it doesn't. This really hasn't seemed to have been any kind of problem at all. The response I have gotten from people all over Minnesota has been terrific. It seems to be something that journalists ask but I don't get it from the people at the grassroots.

KING: Assuming you get the nomination, what's the chief issue against Senator Coleman?

FRANKEN: Well, I think that it is that he did not fulfill his oversight responsibilities and was really doing the work of the special interests and of the president. You know about six months after Paul Wellstone died, he said that I'm a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone and he had to apologize. And he said, what I meant was, I'm a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone in terms of supporting this White House. And that's what he's done.

And he had the job during this war of being the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Remember Truman was that during World War II. Truman did 458 hearings on the contracting during World War II. He said war profiteering is treason and I believe it is. And Norm Coleman did zero hearings on it.

And Norm Coleman was a cheerleader for this president during this war. And whenever anyone was critical of the war, Coleman would lash out at them. Jack Murtha in May of 2004 said we need to send more troops and we need to armor them better. And Norm Coleman said of Murtha, who won a silver star in Vietnam, he said he's hurting the morale of the troops and emboldening the enemy by saying that. And Jack Murtha was right. And we lost this war, really, I believe, in the first year of this war.

KING: And he praised it?

FRANKEN: Yes, he praised it. Go ahead, Larry.

KING: We're limited in time. Thank you, Al.

FRANKEN: Yes.

KING: You've raised, I think, $1.5 million. How much is it going to take?

FRANKEN: We raised in the first quarter it was about a half of a quarter, about $1.35. And it's going to take like 15 or $20 million. He's getting money, you know, from big insurance and big pharmaceuticals and big oil because he voted for them. And I'm going to get money from big Minnesota. And we had over 10,000 contributors in our first quarter. I'm getting some money from big comedy. Big comedy likes me.

KING: Speaking of big comedy, let's watch Al Franken and Arianna Huffington on "Politically Incorrect" from Comedy Central back when Arianna was a conservative.

FRANKEN: Yes.

KING: Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT": Arianna Huffington and Al Franken in "Strange Bedfellows."

FRANKEN: I'm here in bed with the beautiful but evil Arianna Huffington.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: You're pretty cocky for a man who campaigned for Mike Dukakis.

FRANKEN: We've run out of time. I'll see you in Chicago, Arianna. Good night, Arianna.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those were the days, Al.

FRANKEN: You're making it so easy for me to make this transition.

KING: Are you predicting victory? FRANKEN: Yes. I mean, listen, it'll be a tough race but I think that people in Minnesota are as sick and tired of what they've been seeing as I am and they showed it last November. But, you know, Norm Coleman is what you call an agile politician, so this will be a good race. KING: Good seeing you, Al. We'll have you on a lot.

FRANKEN: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Al Franken, a candidate for the Democratic Farm Labor Party nomination for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

KING: Up next, all charges have been dropped against three former Duke lacrosse players accused of rape a year ago. Will they ever really be free of that legal cloud? Their attorneys join me when we come back.

Coming up next week, we're celebrating my 50 years in broadcasting, kicking off Monday when the incomparable Oprah Winfrey joins me for the hour. Tuesday Katie Couric turns the tables and interviews me. Wednesday, a "CNN PRESENTS" special, 50 years of pop culture through my eyes. Thursday, former President Bill Clinton's first interview since his wife Hillary Clinton announced for presidency. And Friday, an all-star toast hosted by Bill Maher. What a 50 years it's been. What a week it's going to be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE all in Raleigh, North Carolina: Jim Cooney, the attorney for Reade Seligmann, one of the three former Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of sexual assault; Wade Smith, the attorney for Collin Finnerty, another one of those falsely accused; and Joe Cheshire, an attorney for David Evans, the third of the trio.

Let's hear from the North Carolina attorney general, Roy Cooper, as he made this extraordinary announcement today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jim Cooney, did you expect such a strong pronouncement?

JIM COONEY, ATTORNEY FOR CLEARED FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER READE SELIGMANN: We had an inkling that was coming. We had a very close working relationship with the special prosecutors, Jim Coleman and Mary Winsted. We shared a great deal of information with them. We answered a great number of questions. We gave them things we didn't need to give them and had an open dialogue. So I think we all suspected -- we knew they believed it didn't happen. And we suspected they would tell the world it didn't happen in order to try to give these kids their good names back.

KING: Wade Smith, what was the reaction today of your clients?

WADE SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR CLEARED FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER COLLIN FINNERTY: Well, gratitude that this ordeal is over. You can't celebrate. It's a train wreck. You can't celebrate something because it's not a victory. You just have to go on and begin to get your life back together, But, yes, great relief and gratitude and thankfulness.

KING: Joe Cheshire, there was a report today that you intend to ask Duke University to pay the legal fees. Is that true?

JOE CHESHIRE, ATTORNEY FOR CLEARED DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER DAVID EVANS: You know we were asked that at the press conference, Larry. And I think it was in some Baltimore paper. I don't know where that comes from. There have been no such communications as it relates to that with Duke University.

KING: Jim, how do you explain this to yourself, this whole case? Why was it brought?

COONEY: Well, it's hard for me to get in Mr. Nifong's mind and, frankly, I stopped trying to do it several months ago. But I think it was a combination of things. He had an election to win. He was afraid of losing his job if he didn't win the election. I think he got way out in front of his evidence. He never bothered really to talk a hard look at his evidence.

And then one the case started falling part on him for some reason he had a complete inability to admit the possibility he was on the wrong track and so kept piling on, kept hiding things, kept making mistake after mistake until it just snowballed into something that just was a horrendous miscarriage of justice.

KING: We, by the way, heard from the former lacrosse players at Duke after the charges were dropped. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID EVANS, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER ACCUSED OF RAPE: From the very beginning, many of the men sitting in this room, including myself, Reade and Collin, have said that we were innocent. And we are just as innocent today as we were back then. Nothing has changed. Facts don't change. And we have never wavered in our story.

COLLIN FINNERTY, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER ACCUSED OF RAPE: Knowing I had the truth on my side was really the most comforting thing of all throughout the past year. There are many ups and downs and points where it seemed like it would never end. But with the help of all of our supporters each day, it seemed to get a little bit better. Today is the day we've all been waiting for.

READE SELIGMANN, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER ACCUSED OF RAPE: Today marks the end of a year-long nightmare that has emotionally devastating for all of our families. This dark cloud of injustice that's hung above our heads has finally cleared, and now we can look forward to moving on with our lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Wade Smith, did you expect stronger sanctions, if at all, against the prosecutor?

SMITH: Well, that remains to be seen. The prosecutor is before the North Carolina State Bar. You can tell it's just in the air; the state bar is extraordinarily serious about this and intends to see this through. And so I suspect some strong sanctions. It's hard to guess for sure about that but I think that there will be some strong sanctions.

KING: We, of course, are not revealing her name, but Joe Cheshire, what do you make of the accuser?

CHESHIRE: Larry, I, of course don't mind revealing her name but I won't do it. I think she's a pathetic person. I think she has a streak of significant meanness about her. And I think that in some ways she was used by Mr. Nifong as a pawn in what we described as what his personal agenda was.

But you know I don't think can you minimize the hurt that this woman has caused to these people. And she has to know on some level what she did, and she had to have done it voluntarily. So I don't have a lot of sympathy for her, I must say.

KING: We'll be back with our attorneys in a moment.

We're in the middle our suspenders sweepstakes. You can a pair of my autographed suspenders if you guess the mystery guest from one of my classic interviews. Take a look at last night's question and then we'll give you the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Things have always fascinated us, that famous picture that you must have seen 7 zillion times, the little boy. Do you remember that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Next week, CNN is kicking off a week long celebration of my 50 years in broadcasting. And this week, you get a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to see my show live and an autographed pair of my suspenders in "Larry King's Suspenders Sweepstakes." How? Each night, we'll run a clip from one of my most memorable shows. I ask the question, you figure out who the question is for. And then you go to CNN.com/LarryKing50. Correctly identify the guest and you have a shot at winning the trip and the suspenders. You have until tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern to enter, so let's roll tonight's clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why did that show work because it was about nothing. It really wasn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you want to see it again? Here you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why did that show work because it was about nothing? It really wasn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Think you know who the guest was? Go to CNN.com/LarryKing50 and enter now and good luck.

And last night's correct answer was John F. Kennedy Jr. Congratulations to you winners.

We're with Jim Cooney, Wade Smith and Joe Cheshire.

When did you know, Jim Cooney, that your client didn't do it?

COONEY: Really after I talked to Joe Cheshire on the telephone when he recruited me into the case and that was just confirmed to me when I went and met this kid. He really -- as a father of daughters, he's the kind of young man you want your daughters to bring home. And there was no way that I knew he could participate in a gang rape, particularly the one that this woman described.

KING: Wade, did you have any doubts about Collin?

SMITH: Never, never a minute. You could spend 10 minutes with Collin Finnerty and you know he's not capable of anything like this. But you know we continued to pursue the truth and were delighted at every turn. His story held up and we had absolutely no doubt whatsoever. There's not a chance that did he this or any of these boys did it.

KING: Do you think, Joe, that they are in some way still tarnished?

CHESHIRE: Yes, you know, Larry, I think they are. We live in this crazy Google world where if you type in the name "Dave Evans," you get over a million hit. He's had a hard time getting a condo in New York because -- or a co-op in New York because people will type his name in. They'll associate him with this case.

I think one of the great things the attorney general did today and really one of the wonderful things he did was say what he said to try to help these young men. But years from now when they are our age, people will point across the room and say, those were the guys in the Duke case. It's one of the horrors what of has been done to them. But these are great kids. They really are. And they'll take this and make us all proud, I guarantee you that.

KING: Jim, the accuser is reportedly very unhappy with the attorney general and said she may even -- some people think she may even believe the story she's telling. Do you buy that, Jim?

COONEY: I don't know what she believes or doesn't believe. I know publicly it's been reveal she has a long history of a severe mental illness diagnosis. I can tell you there are about 2,000 pages under seal in the court file which answer a lot of those questions. If she is truly interested in the truth, then I would call on her to left that seal and let the public really see what she's like and what her problems are.

KING: Wade, what is Collin going to do now?

SMITH: Larry, it's a great moment for him because with this cloud lifted, he can devote himself to that idea. He loves and loved Duke. That is not out of the question. But he wants to go somewhere -- to a university and continue his education and play lacrosse.

KING: And what does David want to do, Joe?

COONEY: Dave's got a great job waiting for him, just waiting for this over in New York in the financial industry.

KING: Oh, good.

COONEY: Some people dumped him but other people picked him up. And I'm awfully proud of that company and they'll be known one day.

KING: And Jim, quickly, how about Reade?

CHESHIRE: Well, Reade is weighing his options the same way Collin is. He wants to be a college student again but as I told him, his life is never going to be the way it was on March 12, 2006. It's always going to be different. And his real task now is to make it better.

KING: Yes, thank you all very much: Jim Cooney, Wade Smith and Joe Cheshire, the very successful attorneys.

A quick note, Reverend Al Sharpton said earlier tonight that Senator Joe Biden announced his White House big on Don Imus' show. In fact, it was Senator Chris Dodd who announced on Imus.

And tomorrow night, our special guest is Elizabeth Edwards. That's tomorrow night, Elizabeth Edwards on LARRY KING LIVE.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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