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PAULA ZAHN NOW

United States to Engage in Direct Talks With Iran; Is America Ready For Mormon President?; Interview With Al Sharpton

Aired May 14, 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. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Here are some of the stories we are bringing out in the open.

Tonight: talking with the enemy. What do the U.S. and Iran have to say one another? And will it help one war and avoid another?

Plus, we're bringing another racist party out in the open. Won't college kids ever learn?

And these pictures are absolutely disgusting. If you look closely, it ends up that the man getting beaten up is 91 years old. So, why didn't anyone try to stop it, as they looked on?

The first story we're brining out in the open, whether the U.S. should be engaging in direct talks with Iran. For the last five years, the White House has said Iran is part of an axis of evil, desperate to get nuclear weapons. And we don't negotiate with terrorists, they said.

And both sides have just announced they will indeed send ambassadors to Baghdad for face-to-face meetings about the disastrous security situation in Iraq.

So, what led to this drastic shift in U.S. foreign policy?

State Department correspondent Zain Verjee found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American diplomats agreed to meet with their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad -- at issue, how to stop the bloodshed in Iraq and move the political process forward, with Iran's help.

TOM CASEY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: They continue to say that they wish to be a positive force.

VERJEE: Direct talks on Iraq, a major turnaround for the Bush administration, which labeled Iran part of an axis of evil.

Washington accuses Iran of fueling sectarian warfare, supporting militias, and supplying insurgents with explosives that kill U.S. troops. The two sides have been flirting with the idea of a face-to- face sit-down. It was nailed down earlier this month in Egypt, where the two sides had a quick chat at Iraq's neighbors conference.

But, on her way to Moscow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, it's time to talk.

CASEY: We want to see whether the Iranians are willing to make any kind of change in their behavior.

VERJEE: Even as both sides reach out, fiery rhetoric from hard- liners continues.

While in the region, Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at Iran.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

VERJEE: And he reminded Tehran about two U.S. carriers standing guard in the Persian Gulf.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, punched back, hosting an anti-American rally in Dubai, and saying, if the U.S. attacks Iran, there will be severe retaliation, and the U.S. would repent.

On the campaign trail, Iran is a hot issue. Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain warns, talking to Iran could raise its prestige.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember, this is the world's largest sponsor of terror, state sponsor of terrorism.

VERJEE: In spite of tensions, it's Iraqi leaders who are pushing both sides to the table, hoping it could ease sectarian tensions.

AFSHIN MOLAVI, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: This could potentially be an important channel of dialogue. I don't see it as a channel that leads to a breakthrough that may lead to widespread -- you know, wide-ranging Iran-U.S. rapprochement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Zain, it seems pretty obvious both sides are coming at this with a different agenda, although Iraq is supposed to be the only thing on the table. So, are they really going to accomplish anything?

VERJEE: Well, that is the question. I mean, expectations are pretty low from analysts and experts of Iran that we have talked to.

What they do is, is, they point to 2001. And, after the invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. and Iran sat down and they talked. But it didn't really lead anywhere. There are also different goals and competing agendas.

And the question is, is Iran really willing to help when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of things? One expert said, look, there is a bigger picture here. Iran wants to talk nuclear issue, and the U.S. is saying, it is only there to talk about Iraq. Some one else also added that Iran also sees Iraq as part of a greater proxy war in the region for influence and to compete with the United States.

ZAHN: So, as many divisions as you see there between the Iranians and the United States, you see within the administration. Is the vice president now on the same page as the secretary of state?

VERJEE: That has been one of the questions, Paula. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice really has been pushing the diplomatic card. Vice President Cheney has been a lot more weary and a lot more suspicious of Iran, and has not wanted to engage in direct talks.

But it does seem as they are, this time around, on the same page -- the reasons, also, that they both are OK with just talking about Iraq, and that's the only issue on the table. And, also, it, it is a response to the administration's critics, saying, you're not engaging enough directly with Iran, and Iran could help with the situation in Iraq.

And it also shows that the administration is serious about stabilizing Iraq by engaging Iran.

ZAHN: Zain Verjee, thanks so much for the update. Appreciate it.

So, is it a good idea for the U.S. to start talking to its enemy? And could Iranian help be Iraq's best hope for a political solution?

Here to discuss that, former Army Green Beret and Gulf War veteran Major Bob Bevelacqua, and Jed Babbin, who was a deputy undersecretary of defense under the first President Bush. He's now the editor of "Human Events."

Good to see both of you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Major Bob, I want to start with you this evening, and have you analyze this poll with us, showing how the majority of the American public considers Iran either unfriendly or an enemy of the United States.

What is to be gained from direct talks with a regime that so many Americans consider out-and-outright hostile?

MAJOR BOB BEVELACQUA (RET.), FORMER ARMY GREEN BERET: Paula, one of the things that law enforcement agencies do quite well is, they negotiate with a hostage-taker.

And the reason they do that is so that their snipers can maneuver to take a shot. And that is the approach that we should have in discussions with Iran. They're not going to give anything up. We have got to strategize and we have to play chess with them. And, in order to do that, we have to sit at the table with the chess game in front of us.

We have to maneuver, have a discussion with them, so that we can maneuver to take a shot. ZAHN: I see you looking in disgust, Jed Babbin. What is to be lost from doing that? How does that hurt anything?

JED BABBIN, FORMER DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think it only hurts, Paula, insofar as we are now entering a negotiation from a position of tremendous weakness.

I don't substantially disagree with what Bob is saying. I don't object in principle to negotiating with Iran. The problem is, right now, things are falling apart in Iraq. We have the Congress of the United States trying to surrender in Iraq. And we have an administration, greatly weakened by both of those factors, now trying to negotiate with our principal enemy.

You can't possibly get something good out of this without increasing America's leverage before you go into negotiation.

ZAHN: But, Major Bob, you think you have got to start somewhere. But the fact remains that it is highly likely that the president of Iran is going to use anything that comes out of this as a propaganda tool, isn't he?

BEVELACQUA: He probably is, Paula. And I agree with Jed's comments.

But, you know, I have got to tell you -- and I have said this before -- you and I have talked about this before -- if we sit down with them and we go, OK, guys, here are the facts -- and these are some leverageable items -- here are the IEDs that you are currently manufacturing. Here are the locations where you are manufacturing them at.

And, oh, by the way, working inside of your embassy is Imad Mughniyah, who is the former bombmaker for Hezbollah that actually blew up the Marine barracks, inside the Iranian Embassy, working in Iraq right now. He's not there making chocolate bars. He is assisting, aiding, advising the IED networks that are making IEDs.

You roll all that out on the table. You go public with them, and you let them start to repudiate that. And we go on the offensive. That's what I mean by positioning in order to take a shot.

ZAHN: What's wrong with creating that kind of position, Jed?

BABBIN: Well, I don't think there is much, if anything, wrong with it, Paula. The problem is, we're not going to do it.

We have the secretary of state saying, well, you know, maybe they have some interest in helping stabilize Iraq. That is facile. That is futile. It's silly. If they had an interest in trying to stabilize Iraq, if Iran did, they wouldn't be doing 99 percent of what they're doing in Iraq.

So, we have to set things up. Bob is precisely right. We have to set things up, so a negotiation can benefit us. Right now, we are not in a position to do that. So, I don't see why we could possibly do this and expect anything good to come out of it.

ZAHN: Major Bob, real quick final answer.

If they broaden the agenda and move beyond Iraq, might that make it easier to move forward on all of this?

BEVELACQUA: Not really, Paula.

And the reason I say that is because all they're going to talk about is the nuclear issue. And Iran is not going to budge on that. We're not going to budge on that. They have to talk -- they have to talk about Iraq.

And, really, this is all about Iraq. It's about the destabilization of the region. Iran knows that. This is the Lebanese model of occupation that both Syria and Iran did quite well in Lebanon. And they want to do just that in Iraq.

ZAHN: Major Bob Bevelacqua, thank you so much.

Jed Babbin, appreciate your time as well.

BABBIN: Thank you.

BEVELACQUA: Thank you.

ZAHN: Moving on to another contentious issue tonight, is the U.S. ready for a Mormon president whose great-great-grandfather was a polygamist?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a Mormon, I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and a woman, and a woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Yes, well, that was just a joke, but out in the open next, serious questions about Mitt Romney and religious intolerance.

And a little bit later on: What should happen to some college kids who ought to know better than dressing up for a party that made fun of Latinos.

Plus: what a shock. Finally, what a couple of radio shock jocks said, it was actually bad enough to get them fired, after many, many weeks of controversy. But some of the worst offenders are still on the air. So, who should be the next to go? We will talk about that with the Reverend Al Sharpton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: These shock jocks just got fired for making fun of Asian- Americans. I will ask the Reverend Al Sharpton why he wasn't leading the charge against them. But, first, there are a couple of things you are not supposed to talk about in polite company: religion and politics. It's all right. Just about everyone in this country is breaking that rule these days, especially when it comes to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He is Mormon, of course. Why is that making so many people uncomfortable? Is the country ready for a Mormon president?

Tonight, we're bringing those questions out in the open.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Like any good Mormon, Mitt Romney doesn't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. But what people really want to know is whether his religion will directly affect his decisions, if elected president.

ROMNEY: We have a separation of church and state. It's served us well in this country.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MODERATOR: OK.

ROMNEY: This is a nation, after all, that wants a leader that's a person of faith, but we don't choose our leader based on which church they go to.

ZAHN: John F. Kennedy confronted the same questions back in 1960 on his way to becoming the first Roman Catholic elected to be president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not speak for my church on public matters. And the church does not speak for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Romney now finds history repeating itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

ROMNEY: My religion's theology may be different than that of other faiths, but my religion is like other religions. It has its own unusual beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Among the beliefs non-Mormons would find unusual, that Jesus taught in North America after his resurrection, and that an angel helped Mormon prophet and founder Joseph Smith in the early 1800s.

Smith's followers eventually settled in Utah, where they practiced polygamy. Romney, who is still married to his first wife, used to joke about it.

ROMNEY: As a Mormon, I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman and a woman and a woman.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: But, on CBS' "60 Minutes" last night, polygamy was no longer a laughing matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")

ROMNEY: Polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me. I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Many of Romney's fellow Republicans can. And they're troubled because he supported abortion rights until just a few years ago, when Romney says he simply changed his mind.

In South Carolina, where Romney is debating the other Republican presidential candidates this week, some voters have received an anonymous eight-page letter questioning whether the Mormon religion is politically dangerous and referring to Mormon texts as hoaxes.

Romney's name isn't mentioned in the mailing, but religious intolerance is clearly back in American politics and out in the open.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Mitt Romney is on the cover of this week's "TIME" magazine. He is the subject of two articles.

Editor at large Nancy Gibbs is the author of the one that looks at Romney and the religion test. And her piece quotes Slate.com editor Jacob Weisberg, who openly challenges many Mormon beliefs.

And my Headline News colleague Glenn Beck has more than a passing interest in this issue. He is Mormon.

Good to have all of you with us.

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Jacob, I wanted to start tonight and put up on the screen something you said about the founder of the Mormon religion, Joseph Smith.

"He was an obvious con man. Romney has every right to believe in con men, but I want to know if he does. And, if so, I don't want him running the country."

So, what is it that you think would happen to the country if Mitt Romney were elected?

JACOB WEISBERG, EDITOR, SLATE.COM: If he believed literally in the theology and the tenets of Mormonism, the same way I would feel about an Orthodox Jew who believed that the Bible was literally true, or a fundamentalist Christian who believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old, and didn't believe in evolution for -- for that reason.

I think it's relevant what someone believes. I think we ask in a presidential campaign about every aspect of somebody's personal and financial life, about their philosophy. But, somehow, when it gets to their religious beliefs, i.e., what they believe about God, morality and the origin of the universe, it's -- a lot of people say, oh, that's off-limits. Don't go near it.

Well, I think it is relevant. I want to understand.

ZAHN: A lot of people would say, then, it should be an open field here. We ask every political candidate that defines himself as a Christian whether they believe in the immaculate conception.

BECK: I think faith is a matter of faith. I think you believe what you believe. Just because you believe in Joseph Smith or just because you believe in the immaculate conception or that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, or wasn't the messiah, or whatever you believe, it is a matter of your own value system and your own faith.

Why -- why does my faith come into play when we are talking about being president of the United States?

ZAHN: A third of all evangelicals are so uncomfortable with his Mormonism, they say they are not going to vote for him. What did you find in your piece? How much is a turnoff is his religion to the American voter?

(CROSSTALK)

NANCY GIBBS, EDITOR AT LARGE: With -- certainly, with a lot of fundamentalist Christian who have been taught growing up that Mormons are not Christians, that they are -- that the faith was founded as a sort of rebuke to traditional Christianity, they're very uncomfortable with what they know about Mormonism.

And, so, the question, then, is whether there is anything Mitt Romney can say that might change that. However, even saying that suggests that, is he being held to a different standard than the other candidates, who aren't being asked to conduct a kind of public theology lesson in order to make voters more comfortable with them?

ZAHN: Should these -- all these issues be fair game with all of these candidates?

WEISBERG: Well, obviously, I don't come at it from the angle of evangelical Christians.

What I'm saying is that there is some difference to Mormonism, because of how recent the hoax is -- and I'm sorry to use that term, and I use it without any prejudice or bigotry. But the...

(LAUGHTER)

WEISBERG: The fact is that Joseph Smith did not find the Book of Mormon in a field. It was not written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. And he did not read it through magical glasses. And, because it is...

(CROSSTALK)

WEISBERG: Because the hoax is so recent and so transparent, it is more like Scientology than it is like Catholicism.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Do you accept the Joseph Smith story literally?

BECK: Absolutely do.

ZAHN: You believe...

BECK: Did not seven years ago.

But I did what I think Jacob did. But all your facts that you are saying that you are repudiating are -- I mean, I have never even heard some of them, the way you are phrasing them.

I went. And I thought I was going to tear it apart and disprove it. What you need to do is, you start -- you stop going to people at Slate and you start reading Mormon doctrine.

ZAHN: The bottom line, Nancy, is that a lot of people out there have misconceptions about this religion. In the end, will the issues of Iraq and the economy trump Mitt Romney's religious beliefs? Is that more important to voters?

GIBBS: Probably, with a majority of voters, there are a great many things that are much more important.

But there is -- every poll has suggested that there is -- there is a certain segment of the country -- and a lot of them include Republican primary voters, which is why this conversation is taking place -- that have said, no matter what, under no circumstances would I vote for a Mormon candidate.

And that suggests no matter what the positions are or who he is running against. And that is the reason why you have a lot of analysis going on over whether that is true and whether that can be changed, or whether there's anything Romney can do or say.

ZAHN: Jacob Weisberg, Nancy Gibbs, Glenn Beck, thank you all.

And one of our top priorities is bringing racial intolerance out in the open. And we have noticed a disturbing trend at college after college.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not mean it to be malicious at all. I care. I really do care about this issue. You know...

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: All right. So, if that's true, then why were these kids dressing up as racial stereotypes for a party this month? And what should happen to them now?

Then, a little bit later on, two radio shock jocks get fired for jokes that went way over the line. But there are still guys on the air that are saying things much worse than they did. When are they going to lose their jobs? Al Sharpton will be joining us coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Racism and college students out in the open again tonight -- we have been following an ugly trend this year. Crass parties thrown by college students playing on hateful racial stereotypes, they're happening all over the country.

And, by now, you might be wondering just how many racists there are on America's college campuses.

Tonight, Allan Chernoff has found another racist party, this one in Delaware -- and their target, Latinos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Cinco de Mayo south-of-the-border party off campus at University of Delaware -- students dressed as landscapers, with Pedro and Jose name tags on their work shirts -- written on the back, "Spic 'n Span Gardeners."

JISELLE MARTINEZ, CAMPUS ALLIANCE DE LA RAZA: I was disgusted. I was surprised, shocked.

CHERNOFF: All three of the students photographed are members of a campus honor fraternity, a fact that outraged the university's Latino students, after pictures of the party were posted on Facebook.com.

MARTINEZ: To know that my own peers have looked down upon the Latino community, and see us in this manner, and have called us derogatory terms it was just shocking.

CHERNOFF: Other party-goers wore Mexico T-shirts, the back of one said "Full of Tequila."

MATT STIEGLITZ, CAMPUS ALLIANCE DE LA RAZA: No matter how far we think that we are going, it seems like people are doing the same things over and over.

CHERNOFF: In recent months, students have been throwing racially themed parties across the nation.

At California's Santa Clara University, white students dressed as Latino janitors, gardeners and pregnant teens at a similar south-of- the-border party last February. At Clemson and University of Connecticut, so-called gangsta parties parody African-Americans. (on camera): Why does this keep happening? Latino students here at the University of Delaware comprise just 4 percent of undergraduate enrollment. And, as is the case at many schools, there tends to be a division between minorities and the majority white student body.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see groups of, like, Latinos are friends, and, then, like, groups of white kids are friends.

CHERNOFF: Segregation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of. But I don't think it's anything that's been sort of done on purpose. I think it's just how it naturally sort of evolved.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): But university president David Roselle says there is no excuse for offending Latino classmates, even if such behavior is protected by the First Amendment.

DAVID ROSELLE, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: We certainly can't condone it. It is a question to the extent to which we can punish it.

CHERNOFF: The Phi Sigma Pi Honor Fraternity did exact punishment, expelling these three students for a year. And Latino students sponsored a campus town hall, where one of the partygoers publicly apologized.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not mean it to be malicious at all. I really do care about this issue. You know, I did make a mistake. But I do care about what is going on.

CHERNOFF: Other students issued a written apology. More important than retribution, Latino student leaders say, is the fact that their classmates have had an important lesson on the danger of stereotyping.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Newark, Delaware.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: With me now, Miguel Perez, syndicated columnist and a journalism professor at New York's Lehman College, also here, conservative commentator and constitutional lawyer Mark Smith.

Welcome back.

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Thank you.

ZAHN: All right.

We just heard what one of the students had to say. She didn't mean to be malicious. She was sorry. Is she a racist? Or is she just stupid?

PEREZ: I think it is a lack of education. I think it is -- a lot of it is based on ignorance. It's very unfortunate, Paula, to see this happening on a college campus. This display of ignorance happening on a college campus, it's outrageous. But I take her at her word. I believe that she just didn't know. I think some of these students did not mean to be offensive. I think some of them did mean it and did know what they were doing.

ZAHN: Has anybody ever called you a "spic" before?

PEREZ: Yes.

ZAHN: And how did that make you feel?

PEREZ: Very -- terrible, absolutely terrible. It's a very derogatory remark.

And, you know -- do you know where the term comes from? It's come from, you know: I don't speak English very well.

So, when Latinos got to this country, the word spic -- they started calling Latinos spic. It's the S-word, as opposed to the W- word, which you treated on the program recently.

ZAHN: Exactly.

PEREZ: The S-word was more common on the East Coast. But it's very, very, you know, offensive.

ZAHN: So, the words are offensive, degrading, humiliating. How can it be that these kids are so darn oblivious?

MARK SMITH, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR & CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Well, let's keep in mind that what we are talking about are dumb college kids doing what dumb college kids do, which is always looking for an excuse to run out there, have a drink.

Whether they're dressing in a toga or a sombrero or Oxford shirts, the fact is, they're just out there...

ZAHN: But isn't that letting them off the hook? You can't just blame it on drinking and being dumb.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTINEZ: No, I don't think that...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Don't you think that there has got to be some inner racism -- racist in them that would provoke them to behave that way?

SMITH: No, I don't necessarily think that is the case.

I think they're just doing what dumb young college kids do, which is act dumb and inexperienced and silly. Bear in mind, Paula, I think the entire debate here misses the focus. The focus should not be on grievances. It should be on achievements.

What we should be talking about is, how do we have all Americans, including Hispanics, get ahead, not talk about slights. I mean, I'm a lawyer. Do you know how many jokes....

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Oh, gee, that would make a great party, Mark. Can you imagine? Oh, let's go to the Hispanic achievement party tonight.

SMITH: But, still, think about it. I am an attorney. Do you know how many attorney jokes that I have to hear every day? It doesn't hold me back.

ZAHN: Yes, well, you deserve it.

SMITH: I do. There aren't enough of them.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: But the point is, it doesn't hold me back, because the best revenge is living well.

And what the Hispanic community and people who are offended by this kind of conduct should be focused on is living well and succeeding, not worrying about complaining and whining and the like.

ZAHN: All right.

That's same argument used about blacks, that you...

PEREZ: It's not about whining.

ZAHN: ... are trapped in this chronic -- this cycle of victimization.

PEREZ: It is about the level of racism in the country.

Look, you know, you don't see black, African-Americans, or Latinos throwing white-people parties. And, if we did, what would we do?

ZAHN: Well, that would be boring. There are too many of us, right?

SMITH: Are you telling me that, if you had people who go as Tony Soprano to a Halloween party...

PEREZ: Offensive.

SMITH: ... that's offensive to Italians?

PEREZ: Offensive to Italian-Americans. I'm sure it is.

(CROSSTALK) PEREZ: If you throw an Italian party, and everybody comes dressed as a mafioso, it is offensive to Italian-Americans. I'm sure many of them would tell you so.

ZAHN: What I want to play something for you. Something that Carlos Mencia, a very famous comedian, uses in his act. I want you to get a reaction to this. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my job to a Mexican who could barely speak English.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my job to a Mexican who could barely speak English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a Mexican who barely speak English. And I have five jobs.

CARLOS MENCIA, COMEDIAN: White people, are you tired of losing your jobs to wetbacks who talk like him?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So is this just being able to not take yourself seriously or self-loathing behavior that is damaging to the Hispanic community?

PEREZ: It is damaging. It should not be used. A lot of minority comedians began this way. African-American comedians, Latino comedians. They begin by putting down their own people. This is the way they think they can get attention. It's not funny.

ZAHN: Did you think it was funny?

SMITH: Of course, humor is humor. Come on. Let's go. You know, it is OK, Miguel to laugh. It is okay. Don't play into the grievance victimology game. Move ahead. Everybody. There's always, we can always be made fun of in some way. The question is how to react to it. And I say the best revenge is living well, Miguel.

PEREZ: There is nothing wrong with ethnic comedy. I used to love what Jackie Mason used to do with ethnic comedy. But when it becomes offensive, when it is used this way to aggravate people then it is wrong.

ZAHN: By the way, I was kidding about the attorney jokes, Mark. He is a friend. Didn't mean to beat you up. Miguel Perez, Mark Smith, thank you both.

Right after Don Imus got fired a couple of other shock jocks starting making jokes about Asian Americans. Now they are out of work too. So is this just the beginning of the cleaning up of the radio acts out there? Well, not necessarily. Wait till you hear what else some folks have been saying lately. I will ask the Reverend Al Sharpton to weigh in on that. And a little bit later on, absolutely appalling pictures, did you guys see this? This is a 91-year-old man, savagely being beaten for his car. And you know what? No one tried to stop this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight two more radio shock jocks are off the air, fired for vile, racist attempts at comedy. The controversy over shock jocks is still out in the open, a month after Don Imus destroyed his own career with sexist and racist remarks. Entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a very nice Chinese man. Probably can't drive for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) but who cares.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These offensive remarks first put radio shock jocks J.B. and Elvis into the doghouse which also happened to be the name of their show. Now they're off the air altogether. CBS fired the two hosts, Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay whose antics can be seen on YouTube. This comes after a nearly three week long suspension following this prank phone call to a Chinese restaurant that aired on their program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need shrimp flied lice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Large order or small?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very large shrimp flied lice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

ANDERSON: Rife ethnic and sexual slurs the six minute call was broadcast on CBS owned New York radio station WFNY.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have very good kung fu skills.

ANDERSON: It first aired in early April. The day after Don Imus made his controversial remarks. Then it was aired again a week after Imus was fired.

VICKI SHU SMOLIN, ORG. OF CHINESE AMERICANS: It was a slap in the face. A slap in the face to the Asian community that they felt that this was aired the first time. Ha-ha-ha. Let's do it again. We'll get even more laughs and see what happens. It was very offensive they kept perpetuating these type of stereotypes.

ANDERSON: The Asian American community was outraged and publicly called for their dismissal.

SMOLIN: We're getting some where here so definitely we're happy. We're very happy.

ANDERSON: But some are angered by the firings and view the punishment as censorship. DEBBIE WOLF, PEOPLE AGAINST CENSORSHIP: To have somebody fired from the airwaves when they made what essentially comes out to a peepee joke every second grader in the country is making is absolutely absurd. People need to get a thicker skin.

ANDERSON: So, the so-called second grade humor gets these guys fired. But the shock jocks behind this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Condoleezza Rice? I'd love to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

ANDERSON: Are still on the air. Less than a week ago XM Satellite Radio's Opie and Anthony spoke on air with a guest they call Homeless Charlie, about violent sexual acts against Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush, later posted on line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And George Bush's wife, I'll (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to death.

ANDERSON: Opie and Anthony have since publicly apologized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We apologize to the public officials for comments that were made on the XM show.

ANDERSON: Still they lost two sponsors. An XM spokesman told them that the company deplores the comments but didn't say whether any disciplinary action is planned.

SARAH MCBRIDE, REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Do we want to live in a society where everybody has to think through whether everything they're going to say might offend somebody somewhere. I'm not sure if that would really make for entertaining radio.

ANDERSON: Entertaining or not, radio shock jocks are now it seems subject to closer scrutiny than ever before. Brooke Anderson. CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Reverend Al Sharpton was one of the first to demand Don Imus be fired last month. Reverend Sharpton is here tonight. You have got to admit what "Opie and Anthony" said about the first lady and Condoleezza Rice, we're talking about forced sex, was disgusting. So why aren't you leading demonstrations asking them to be fired?

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We are. First of all, it just happened Thursday. It was Thursday.

ZAHN: You're fleet footed.

SHARPTON: It took two days for us to go on Imus. National Associating of Black Journalists started that. Today we have -- we have called both XM and those that they want to merge with and, Sirius and said we demand a meeting on this. They definitely should be fired in my opinion.

ZAHN: And what happens if they aren't?

SHARPTON: Then I think you have got to deal with the fact that those two entities are talking about merging. And you can go to government and say though it is pay radio if they merge they will control 100 percent of the market are we going to give 100 percent of paid radio market to people who have no standards where women can be raped?

ZAHN: So are you making a commitment to go to Washington to do just that? To try to undo this merger?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. National Action Network and I have made the commitment. Because this is not free speech. This is an actual violent act against women on the air. I think people should have the right to free speech. But certain standards have to be upheld.

ZAHN: But you've got critics out there like Reverend Lee Peterson saying this. "Where is the outrage from Al Sharpton on this attack of a black woman? Does his selective defense of black women only apply to non-conservative women?" He thinks you should have been out in front of that faster.

SHARPTON: First of all it happened two days ago. Took us two days to deal with Imus. I think he should join us. It's interesting to me. One minute they say why is Al Sharpton, the National Action Network out there on Imus, then they say why are we not on something else? Either way you are going to get criticized. I'm not worried about the critics. I think the standards - I think that you cannot have people do what they do on the air to women.

ZAHN: I want to move on to another issue that has gotten you in the spotlight. That is some comments that you made about Mormonism, that people have perceived as totally bigoted. Do you think that Mormons are real Christians?

SHARPTON: Yes, I said that to you when we talked about it last week.

ZAHN: But people seem to think you don't really believe that.

SHARPTON: People, Mr. Romney, has decided to make this political. Mr. Hitchens, who you talked with, told you that he brought it up. Isn't it interesting Mr. Romney did not attack Hitchens. He wants it political. I am a well known Democrat. I ran for president. He wants a political fight. If he was really fighting for Mormons he would be attacking the guy that attacked Mormons, Hitchens, not me.

ZAHN: But a lot of people don't see this as political. They see this as an attack on religion. You said Mormons don't believe in God the way I do.

SHARPTON: When did I say that?

ZAHN: ... definition they believe in God. SHARPTON: Right. I think you just had several guests that said including a Mormon who said we don't all believe in God the same way. How come when I say it is anti-Mormonism. Read the quote. I said they don't believe the way I do but they believe in God. Many denominations of Christianity that I preach at don't believe in God the way I do.

ZAHN: You are not saying my God is better than your God.

SHARPTON: I'm saying we look at God differently. And I think that people are not bigoted to say that.

ZAHN: Would you rather have us worship your God than whatever the God is ...

SHARPTON: Everybody would rather have you worship God the way you worship. That's why you have conversions, that's why ministers call on converts. Does it make them bigots? We went through last year. Keith Ellison had to say I wasn't this kind of Muslim. This year, Obama with his pastor.

And all of the sudden when it comes to Mormons you are bigoted? There's always been this debate. It's not based on bigotry. It's based on differences. And I think that is something dangerous when you make it possible to talk about some religions and not others.

ZAHN: Reverend Al Sharpton. Always good to see you. Thank you for dropping by.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

Tonight. Pictures came in, actually earlier today. That are absolutely sickening. Watch this. What I find so hard to believe, Reverend Sharpton, you can look at this.

SHARPTON: Inexcusable.

ZAHN: Is why so many people are standing around they did absolutely nothing to stop this guy.

SHARPTON: Despicable.

ZAHN: What does that say about society.

SHARPTON: The community ought to be in my judgment, totally, totally attacked for standing by and watching that.

ZAHN: We are going to debate that next. Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight an appalling act of brutality, and it deference (ph) out in the open (ph) it is a carjacking caught on tape in Detroit earlier this month. I want you to look at the surveillance video. It is just sickening.

A 91-year-old man brutally beaten, punched over and over again by a carjacker. And while it is happening, five other people are in the parking lot just a few feet away standing around casually apparently doing nothing.

Someone did eventually call 911 and 91-year-old Leonard Sims survived the attack. Police also have a suspect in custody at this hour. If he is convicted of carjacking he could get life in prison. But should anything happen to the people who were there while this played out? Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins me now.

Should they be charged? They did absolutely nothing to stop ...

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You can't be human and watch that and think those people are appalling. But in fact the criminal justice system ever punished that kind of behavior. And I don't think they are going to punish this either.

ZAHN: So there is absolutely no legal obligation on the part of any of us as we are watching something like this happening to try to stop it?

TOOBIN: There really isn't. The law has tried in various way to get at ...

ZAHN: You have Good Samaritan laws.

TOOBIN: All Good Samaritan laws they would -- they say you can't be sued if you go to someone's, if you try to help someone and you, and wind up making a situation worse. In terms of criminal law it has never been, the law doesn't want to encourage vigilantism, so the law doesn't want to create obligation on the part of bystanders to jump into the middle of the fight.

Sure some one should have called 911. But in the middle of a carjacking where there may be weapons involved do we want to create an obligation to have people get in the middle of it. It could make bad situations worse.

ZAHN: That's what a lot of people told me today. As disgusting as this video is to watch. You don't know if the guy conducting a carjacking was armed or if you were going to end up getting hurt?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. That is the risk bystanders take. A lot of people probably remember the movie "The Accused" with Jodie Foster, she won an Academy Award. And the whole concept of the movie was based on a true story about a woman who got raped in New Bedford. And in the movie they prosecuted the bystanders for watching. And cheering them on.

But in fact the real story of that case is -- no there was no prosecution of the bystanders for looking. They were prosecuted for the rape. And the only two people who were not participants in the rape, they were acquitted.

The law has just never managed to be able to capture the, the obligations of -- of bystanders in any way that, that sort of works.

ZAHN: I don't know. You look at that video.

TOOBIN: I wish I could say there was something you could do. But you know.

ZAHN: I wish there were.

TOOBIN: The legal system. People's consciences can help.

ZAHN: The way it is supposed to work isn't it, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Not everything is answered by the legal system.

ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

So when you pay money at the tollbooth -- is it going to an overseas company? Why should you care if that happens? Well we'll explain why. And out in the open next, a deal that has a lot of people outraged.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Moving up on the top of the hour. That means LARRY KING LIVE is coming up just a few minutes. Hi, Larry, who is joining you tonight?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Hi, Paula. We are going to discuss should voting for president be an act of faith. We're going to get into religion, politics, a passionate debate. One of America's leading evangelicals, former White House faith based official who is very critical now of the Bush administration and a lot more. Phone calls and e-mails too. All at the top of the hour on LARRY KING LIVE, Paula.

ZAHN: I guess you will get pretty heated opinions on the phone lines tonight, Larry.

KING: You bet.

ZAHN: We'll be listening. Have a good show.

KING: Thank you.

ZAHN: See you at 9:00.

Remember the old joke about selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, it's not so far-fetched anymore. Out in the open tonight, the growing number of highways, bridges, even airports that are being run by private companies. They pay the upkeep and they collect your toll money. It is a worldwide trend. It is having a big impact on the Midwest as we hear now from Keith Oppenheim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When I go to work there are two roads I always take, the Indiana Toll Road and that big bridge between Indiana and Chicago, the Skyway.

So for years when I plunked 50 cents into a basket to ride in Indiana or pay $2 to ride over the skyway, that money went to the State of Indiana and the City of Chicago respectively, not anymore.

Now the Skyway and the toll road have been leased, the tolls aren't going to government. They're going to a private company called Cintra Maquarrie (ph). Cintra Maquarrie is not American, it's a consortium of two foreign companies from Spain and Australia. In 2005, Mayor Daley and Cintra Maquarrie inked a deal that gave Chicago $1.8 billion to lease the bridge. In return the company collects every cent of every toll for the next 99 years. And becomes responsible for the bridge's maintenance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something is going on in Indiana.

OPPENHEIM: Then in 2006, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels followed suit and leased Indiana's 170 mile toll road to the same firm, the terms, $3.8 billion for 75 years.

GOVERNOR MITCH DANIELS, (R) IN: We were $3 to $4 billion short, no prospect of finding that money, you couldn't triple the gas tax, you couldn't borrow that kind of money. So we were just out to solve a problem. One that is very common in America.

OPPENHEIM: State representative Pat Bauer believes the toll road deal is a bad deal. Structured to give too much profit to the company not enough to the state.

PATRICK BAUER, (D) INDIANA STATE REP.: So they get it every which way and the people of the state of Indiana are the losers.

OPPENHEIM: With some truckers, the Indiana toll road lease has not been popular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just see, you know -- the toll rates going up so I don't really see the benefit.

OPPENHEIM: For the record, rate increases on the toll road are regulated. Essentially tied to the rate of inflation. On Chicago's Skyway, the limits on toll increases end after 15 years, and after that, the company can charge whatever it wants.

There is also an escape clause -- if Cintra Maquarrie fails to maintain roads as stated in the contract, the company gets fired, government keeps the money. It is enticing enough that across the U.S., politicians are interested in similar deals for their states.

ROBERT PUENTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They get to receive a lot of cash in hand without having to raise taxes, without having to raise tolls. It's very attractive to a lot of legislators.

OPPENHEIM: So now, if some one tries to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, don't assume it is a scam. It might just be the next long- term lease coming down the road. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Leasing public roads and airports is already common in other parts of the world. Major airports in London, Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, Australia all are run by private firms. And in Chicago, Midway Airport could become the first major U.S. airport to be privately run by sometime next year. Right now we're going to take a quick biz break. The Dow closed 20 points higher. The NASDAQ lost 15. The S&P lost two.

And Daimler Chrysler finally has a buyer for Chrysler. Cerberus Capital Management has agreed to a $7 billion deal. Because of the way it is structured. Daimler could end up paying the company $650 million. The deal gets Daimler off the hook for $19 billion in health care costs for Chrysler retirees.

President Bush ordering regulators to find ways to drastically cut the amount of gas burned by American cars. The president announced the order today. But only after a Supreme Court ruling last month forced his hand. Meanwhile, the price of gas hit a new all-time high today.

The government says the national average is now at about $3.10 a gallon. Ouch. LARRY KING LIVE just ahead tonight. Religion and politics on the road to the White House. 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. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Hope you join us then. Until then, have a great night. LARRY KING LIVE starts right now. Please stay with our network.

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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