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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Replay of Portions of Kathy Griffin and Dan Rather Interviews
Aired September 22, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight -- the most outrageous Emmy winner of them all, Kathy Griffin. What did she say to get her Emmy speech censored and drive Christian entertainers and the Catholic League crazy? What did she make of those other stars getting bleeped at the Emmys?
And O.J.'s arrest, and Britney at the VMAs.
And then, exclusive: news legend Dan Rather in his first TV interview on the $70 million lawsuit that he filed Wednesday against CBS. His four decades there ended in scandal. How does he look back upon his explosive claims that the network scapegoated him by caving to the White House.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: And we begin with one of my favorite people, Kathy Griffin, the Emmy Award winning star of Bravo's hit reality program.
KATHY GRIFFIN, 1ST LIVE PRIMETIME INTERVIEW SINCE CENSORED EMMY ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: Can you say it one more time, Larry?
KING: The Emmy Award winning Kathy Griffin...
GRIFFIN: Oh, I love that story.
KING: She's appearing, by the way, at the Kennedy Center in Washington for three nights starting tomorrow night. She'll be at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on October 12th and she's doing two dates at Madison Square Garden in January, which I understand is already sold out.
KING: Kathy Griffin is hot.
What was it like to win it?
GRIFFIN: I couldn't believe it. I was absolutely floored. I wanted them to say my name over and over. I thought "Extreme Home Makeover" was going to win. So when America Ferrar handed it out and she said, "And the winner is Ka" -- I thought, well, it's not Ka streme (ph) Home Makeover". Maybe I won.
KING: Ah-ha. GRIFFIN: So I was off and running.
KING: And since nothing ever goes easy with you...
KING: ...the acceptance speech you gave when "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" earned the Emmy for outstanding reality program, it caused quite a stir.
We're going to run the unedited version.
KING: And be warned for you people, you may be offended, maybe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM EMMY AWARDS CEREMONY, COURTESY E! ENTERTAINMENT)
GRIFFIN: Now, look, a lot of people come up here and they thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. He didn't help me a bit. If it was up to him, Cesar Millan would be up here with that damn dog. So all I can say is suck it Jesus, this reward is my God now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right.
Are you surprised that...
GRIFFIN: Can you -- can you see the Emmy?
KING: I see it.
KING: Are you...
GRIFFIN: I'm sorry.
KING: Are you surprised at all the fuss?
GRIFFIN: I love it. Larry, I have had the best week of my life. This is fantastic. As a comedian, I live for this stuff. Every...
KING: Did you plan this?
GRIFFIN: Of course, I did, Larry. You know me from the breakfasts. KING: You knew? You knew?
GRIFFIN: I knew. I did the red carpet. I said I'm going to say something. I'm going to offend people tonight. And I had two plans, one if I lost and one if I won.
KING: Well, if you lost, you wouldn't have spoken.
GRIFFIN: No, but guess what I was going to do?
I was going to run up on stage anyway, steal the Emmy and take it back until security took me home or Emmy jail or wherever they take you.
Have you ever been to Emmy jail?
I'll bet it's nice. It's probably green this year.
GRIFFIN: Anyway, so had I something planned if I won and, of course, I planned it all. So this is great. I've been in all the papers.
KING: Are you...
GRIFFIN: Bill O'Reilly called me a pin head. That's a badge of honor.
KING: He did?
GRIFFIN: Yes. Come on. I'm on the Fox shows.
KING: Does Bill thank Jesus for his program?
GRIFFIN: He should, you know what I'm saying?
KING: He should.
GRIFFIN: And a lot of other people.
KING: Are you shocked at a little of the reaction?
A little, at all?
GRIFFIN: I just am loving it. I mean it's just -- it's in newspapers around the world and every article starts with "Emmy winner Kathy Griffin" and then the letters all just blur after that.
KING: All right.
You meant it though, right?
GRIFFIN: Of course. KING: You weren't going to thank Jesus, even though you were raised...
GRIFFIN: Well, what I was making fun of is, I love these award shows, I watch them. I have the gay boys over. We make popcorn, you know?
Ring a bell, Lar?
KING: (LAUGHS) No.
GRIFFIN: And, you know, we enjoy ourselves. And I -- I always think it's funny when the rappers and the starlets and the athletes -- and they get an award and they thank Jesus, as if Jesus doesn't have anything better to do than make sure that someone got their People's Choice Award or whatever. So that's really what I was parodying because I...
KING: Because he also wins football games.
GRIFFIN: Yes. And he also helps if you're trying to get a three pointer from the line. And he helps if your premiere is going to make $10 million this weekend. Yes. Jesus is not busy in Darfur. He's very busy helping Hollywood celebrities win awards.
KING: Sally Field won best actress last night in a dramatic series, in the primetime Emmy show. Fox Network cut part of her anti- war acceptance.
Here's what the TV audience saw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM EMMY AWARDS CEREMONY, COURTESY E! ENTERTAINMENT)
FIELD: I am proud to be one of those women. And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, now let's hear Sally Field uncensored.
And we caution, some may find this offensive.
Here's Sally Field, what she really said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM EMMY AWARDS CEREMONY, COURTESY E! ENTERTAINMENT)
FIELD: I am proud to be one of those women. And let's face it, if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.
Thank you for this.
Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Since Fox is known for its political views, do you think they were...
KING: ...do you think they were editing goddamn or they were editing the war attack?
GRIFFIN: I don't know. But when you're censoring The Flying Nun, that's a good day for me. When Gidget is so shocking that you have to just cut through like a black screen, that's where I come in. I mean it's ridiculous.
KING: You think it was political?
I mean that's a Murdoch thing, right?
I mean, you know, I'm sure it was political and offensive and they're all nervous and all of that stuff. But that's what everyone is talking about today. And, also, Sally Field is a fantastic, amazing actress and people will continue to watch that show.
KING: So, in a sense, when you censor, you build up what you censored?
In other words, there would have been no fuss today if you ran that.
KING: But by censoring it, every network is playing.
GRIFFIN: Then everybody's talking about it. I was sitting here going, "What did she say? What did she say?
I didn't know what she said at first. I thought, well, did she say something -- and then your mind starts to wander. I'm like oh, no.
Did she say this word, that word?
And then I'm thinking that's all she said?
KING: So censors create their own problems by censoring?
GRIFFIN: I try to.
We have an e-mail...
(LAUGHTER). We have an e-mail question from Justin in Los Angeles: "Why give awards out to comedians if they can't be themselves in accepting them?"
GRIFFIN: I agree, Justin, and I'd like you to have -- to have you over for dinner next week, some time when it is convenient for you. I mean that's the thing, you know, when you watch these shows, I think you want a comedian to go in there and shake it up. That's why they all host the shows. That's why they all present, all that stuff. And this show, the Creative Arts Emmys, which I lovingly refer to as the Shmemmys (ph), because, you know, they're not the real -- do you have an Emmy or a Shmemmy?
KING: I have an Emmy.
GRIFFIN: Oh, look at you. A big man.
GRIFFIN: Anyway, this is like the week before. It's -- I'm up against like the key grip from "Two and a Half Men".
GRIFFIN: And so this is a non-televised show. They show clips of it on E!. And so -- oh, Larry, I've got to tell you. I forgot to tell you. I now have my own "E! True Hollywood Story".
KING: What is it?
KING: Oh, there -- the (INAUDIBLE)...
GRIFFIN: It's scandal, Larry. It's scandal.
KING: They're doing -- you're an "E! True Hollywood Story?"
GRIFFIN: Yes. But here's the best part. Before the scandal, it was only going to be a half hour. Now it's an hour.
KING: You're getting bigger.
GRIFFIN: I'm thinking honey, outside the box.
KING: OK. Here's how bad it is. The Christian entertainers say -- and they quote you, where they're leaving out the...
GRIFFIN: Right. Just some asterisks.
KING: One word. The award is my God now (ph) and they say that -- this is in response to comments given by Kathy Griffin that she accepted her Emmy. And: "Dear America, we're actors, singers, dancers, crew and managers of the Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and we're proud to...
GRIFFIN: Hold on.
Did they say dancers and crew?
GRIFFIN: So I'm thinking there's a few of my gays in there somewhere that, you know, maybe need a helping hand. They can come out and enjoy themselves.
KING: And they say, "They love their Lord and savior."
GRIFFIN: And I think they like a lot of things.
But, no, that -- a full-page ad in "USA Today?"
That ad costs over $100,000. I've got to go work for them.
Do you think Bravo is going to take an ad out for me for a hundred grand?
Please. I bought my own billboard for "My Life on the D-List".
KING: We'll be right back with more of the Emmy...
GRIFFIN: I bought my own billboard, Larry.
KING: Just a little later...
GRIFFIN: Mr. King.
KING: Just a little later, Dan Rather, in his first TV interview on suing CBS for $70 million, and what the Bush White House has to do with it.
But when we come back, more with Emmy winner -- that's right, Emmy winner -- Kathy Griffin. As we go to break, comedy as only she can do it, from her Bravo special, "Kathy Griffin: Everyone Can Suck It." Watch.
GRIFFIN: And then in walks Lohan with a boyfriend. Right? In the (bleep) short shorts and little wedgie heels. So I'm such a dork, I think she and I are buddies. Lindsay! Hi, it's Kathy! It's Kathy Griffin! It's Kathy Griffin. Hi! I'm Kathy Griffin! All right.
KING: We'll be discussing it later.
It ain't even a question.
I'm so jealous. I mean the free publicity this guy has gotten.
I'm going to let you in on something. I'm going to commit an armed robbery. I'm going to go to some like not very nice casino. I'm going to steal one of my old "Suddenly Susan" outfits back because I'm sure it will be auctioned off somewhere for tens of dollars. A couple henchmen, some guns. I mean this guy is -- what's wrong with him?
KING: What do you make of it?
GRIFFIN: I don't know.
But why didn't I think of that?
Now I've got to go rob a bank or something to get back in the papers next week, because this thing is going to die down. I've got to go rob the mall or -- memorabilia is a very niche kind of robbery.
KING: But it is -- I'm curious. We'll ask the gentleman who had the memorabilia and then one of the men accused of (INAUDIBLE)...
GRIFFIN: So he demanded his suit back?
Is that it?
GRIFFIN: ...(INAUDIBLE) dry cleaner's?
KING: Why not just go to the police and say these people have my memorabilia?
GRIFFIN: Right. KING: Get it back.
GRIFFIN: And now it's on tape with him with the swearing and where they were brandishing weapons. And I would use just plastic ones. I would just to go like Toys 'R' Us and get fake ones.
The point is I'm going to do it, so be looking for me. I haven't decided where I'm going to rob. Some place -- maybe Sherman Oaks Mall. I don't know. But I...
KING: We'll look for it.
GRIFFIN: I'll be bringing a crew with me.
KING: What did you make of the Emmys last night?
GRIFFIN: I thought they were good. I love that stuff. I loved the Sally Field moment, of course. I didn't love the In The Round. It was a little Cirque du Soleil for me. You know, I thought Ryan Seacrest was just going to have a big beach ball and start speaking French with a French-Canadian accent.
GRIFFIN: I didn't know what he was going to do next, frankly.
KING: In fact, we have an e-mail question in that regard from Lisa in Washington: "What was it like being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest at the Emmys?"
GRIFFIN: Oh, he's such a tool. He is ridiculous.
KING: A nice guy.
GRIFFIN: Larry, what's wrong with you?
How can you like Ryan Seacrest and sleep nights?
He's the devil.
KING: He's the what?
GRIFFIN: He's the devil.
KING: He's the devil?
What -- how could anyone...
GRIFFIN: When the devil comes back, that's what he's going to look like.
KING: How hard -- how could anyone dislike Ryan Seacrest?
GRIFFIN: I just -- it's just fun, to dislike him. What Ryan doesn't understand is that America craves to see someone take him down. And I'm the person for the job, because he admits he doesn't do anything. And last night he was doing nothing in the circle. He was just going round and round in a circle while celebrities said hello to him.
I mean, really, what's the deal here?
And I even wished him luck, against my better judgment.
KING: Your Emmy date was Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.
What's that about?
GRIFFIN: You know, what's great about that, Larry?
He has so much more money than you. It's ridiculous.
GRIFFIN: I mean your money -- what do you have, tens of millions?
Impressive. I mean when you get into that billionaire club, I'll tell you something, it is great.
KING: Are you going with him?
KING: I mean is this for real?
GRIFFIN: He took my dress off at the end of the night.
KING: You had sex with him at the end of the night?
GRIFFIN: Yes, I did. And I had a billion reasons.
KING: Are you in love with (INAUDIBLE)?
GRIFFIN: What do you make, Lar?
You make -- what do you make, like probably like some -- a few million a year?
KING: Are you in love?
GRIFFIN: You know what?
He craps that out for lunch. I mean this guy has so much money it is -- but I love him for his personality.
KING: How did you meet him?
GRIFFIN: Who cares?
He's got a billion dollars.
KING: How did you meet him?
GRIFFIN: He actually came to see a show of mine in Saratoga. And he didn't know who I -- oh, I've got to tell you this. All right, he didn't know who I was, had never seen "The D-List" show. He didn't know I offended everybody. None of it.
He saw me live and he said, "And I heard you on the LARRY KING show."
And I said, "Well, Steve, that's a television show."
And he says, "No. I listen to the pod casts. So he watches no TV. He listens to you...
KING: They invented the pod casts.
GRIFFIN: I -- he kind of invented all of it, actually.
KING: I know.
GRIFFIN: But it was actually really great bringing him as my date because it was great seeing all the Hollywood phonies just not know who he was at all and knowing that he could just buy and sell them all, and -- he did just a little thing called inventing the computer.
How do you...
GRIFFIN: He downloaded my private parts. Ba-da-bub. I have an Emmy. I apologize for that joke. That's how hackey (ph) that joke was.
KING: Do I like -- how do you...
GRIFFIN: Do I like, like him -- or like him?
GRIFFIN: I boy-girl like him.
KING: You boy-girl like him.
GRIFFIN: I like him in a boy-girl way.
KING: So this could lead to somewhere?
GRIFFIN: If he's lucky. If he plays his cards right.
KING: What post-party did you go to?
GRIFFIN: We went to the Governor's Ball and we went to the "People" magazine E.T. Party. KING: Were you a hit?
GRIFFIN: It was -- I was -- I have to tell you, a lot of people came up and said they liked my speech. A lot of people said it was funny, it was a long show, it was fun to wake us up. You know, there weren't -- I will admit there were not a lot of members of the Catholic League at the Emmys, believe it or not.
KING: What did Steve Wozniak think of the speech?
GRIFFIN: He thought I looked very beautiful. No, actually -- oh, what was great is I made him do the red carpet with me for a couple of interviews, because he's actually pretty shy. And -- but I made him do the interview with Fox News Channel.
So they would ask me a question and I would just turn to him and I would say, "Honey?"
And he would answer. Because I thought how can you argue with a genius. He's like Einstein smart.
KING: Yes. One of the guys that are geniuses.
But doesn't that blow you away, though...
KING: ...because he's so much smarter than you, right?
GRIFFIN: It's -- well, who cares, with that kind of cash?
You know what I do?
I lay down and say hello.
You know, I mean what -- what complaints do I possibly have?
KING: Coming up in just a bit, Dan Rather, suing his former network, CBS for $70 million, and explaining why in his first and only TV interview about it.
But a little more time with Kathy Griffin is up next. And, as we go to break, more comedy Kathy-style, from her Bravo special, "Kathy Griffin: Everybody Can Suck It."
GRIFFIN: I'm nervous about the whole velvet rope scene, because like I said, I'm a child of the '70s, and I remember those Studio 54 stories, where there's a guy at the velvet rope saying, you're hot enough to get in and you're not. I know I'm in the not list, and that's not fun for me. Because you know what? When I go to Applebee's, I get a table wherever I want.
KING: We're back with Kathy Griffin.
The last time you were here, you said you had been banned from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show". But you turned up as a guest last week.
GRIFFIN: I got back in.
GRIFFIN: The show called my publicist and they said Ellen saw the "Life on the D-List" show and she thinks it has a lot of heart and she wants to give you a shot. I said perfect. And that's what's great about that show, is people that think I'm mean and horrible watch that show and they go oh, well, she went to Iraq...
KING: But (INAUDIBLE)...
GRIFFIN: ...(INAUDIBLE) the bad guys, you know?
KING: ...and being banned?
GRIFFIN: Was I what?
KING: Did you express -- did you say to her, you know, I was banned from your show?
GRIFFIN: Oh, no. I just kissed her butt and said thank you.
KING: Oh, I see.
GRIFFIN: It's like you.
GRIFFIN: I don't show my true feelings for you, Larry.
KING: You copped out?
GRIFFIN: I just -- yes, I copped out. I sold out as quickly as I could.
KING: We have an e-mail from Pamela in Los Angeles: "If a celebrity is going to be in your audience, do you ever get asked not to make jokes about them or is everybody fair game?"
GRIFFIN: Everybody is fair game, although I usually won't make fun of a celebrity if they're there because it makes the audience uncomfortable.
KING: Oh, really?
You think -- they squirm?
GRIFFIN: Yes. So if you come see me live, I'm going to have to take out my Larry King chunk, is what I call it.
KING: You have a Larry King chunk?
GRIFFIN: And it's about 40 minutes and it's brutal. Ooh, you go down hard, Larry. I'm not going to lie. But that night I probably wouldn't do it. I'd go more into the baby Dannielynn material.
KING: I understand you've read Rosie O'Donnell's new book, "Celebrity Detox".
KING: Is that correct?
GRIFFIN: Yes, I loved it.
KING: How did you get it?
GRIFFIN: She sent it to me. I know all the scandalous people.
What are you looking at?
They're not going to help you. You're alone with me.
KING: Is she...
GRIFFIN: I have an Emmy right here, Larry.
KING: Is she tough on people?
GRIFFIN: I loved it. I think it's like a conversation with her and, you know, I love her and I feel like people try to spin it like she's not popular and beloved, but she is. And she would say things on "The View" and get applause breaks all the time. And she says outrageous things. And, of course, I love that.
But the book is great. And, you know, she's also kind to some people in the book, too. You know, they were saying she's so hard on everybody...
KING: Not -- but not so kind to Barbara Walters.
GRIFFIN: Well, but she's kind to other people and there's some stuff that she left out.
And, you know, it is her experience, you know?
KING: OK. Now we turn to Britney Spears. There are stories...
KING: ...rumors around circulating of a possible death threat on her husband -- ex-husband's life. GRIFFIN: She's going to kill him?
KING: Do you think so?
GRIFFIN: I think she should. I'd kill him if I could. Then I'd be on the full hour, am I right, Mr. King?
GRIFFIN: Thank you. Fine. I will go kill Kevin Federline.
Is that against the law, like saying you're going to kill the president?
KING: What did you -- I don't know.
What did you make of her performance, which you see here?
GRIFFIN: Well, I'll tell you, it was a bad sign when it started with the dirty, greasy hair extensions. I wanted to put her in a shampoo bowl right from that opening shot. And I thought all that money and she can't just wash her hair.
And then we saw the rest -- the sparkly bikini, what have you. But I did enjoy when she was sort of laughing at her own bad performance. Like at one point she was like, I know, I'm terrible. Good night, everybody. I've got to go party with Diddy.
And the reaction shots you couldn't even buy. I mean showing 50 Cent and all these artists in -- and just like in the audience like this. I mean it's a live show. You can't edit it.
KING: What do you think happened, though?
Why would she choose to do that?
GRIFFIN: I -- I don't know. She must enjoy having people talk about her, I guess. I mean I like that part of her. But what I don't get is that night, later on, there's another crotch shot. Now, you'd think after like the 17th one, she would go oh, my skirt is up to my belly button.
I'm slowly getting out of a car in a yoga position. Somebody might see this.
So that -- you don't feel a draft?
You'd think she would feel a draft and go wait a minute, something's familiar. It's that old draft again. And then the lights are there. So, I mean, she's got to know about that stuff.
KING: All right, what do you think of the new "View" -- "The View?"
GRIFFIN: I love Whoopi and Sherri and I think they're doing a fantastic job. So I don't know, I think people might be looking for like a Rosie-Hasselbeck type of fight. I don't think it's going to happen with this group.
KING: Well, Barry Manilow, I understand, says he won't go on because he doesn't want to be interviewed by Hasselbeck.
GRIFFIN: Manilow's edgy?
This is a new Manilow. It's a new day. That is great.
KING: It says he scrapped plans to be a guest because he didn't want to be interviewed by Elisabeth Hasselbeck. He called her "dangerous and offensive."
GRIFFIN: I love it. I now have new respect for Elisabeth Hasselbeck, because if Barry Manilow is coming down hard on you, then, you know, it's time to look inward and find your own Jesus.
KING: How are you?
KING: How are you dealing...
GRIFFIN: Sorry, I was looking for my Jesus.
KING: How are you dealing with your success?
GRIFFIN: Oh, I love it.
KING: I mean you're on a roll.
GRIFFIN: I love -- I love -- you know what's so great?
OK, so I go to the Emmys last night and -- you know, I bring my Emmy with me everywhere, right?
Like I brought -- oh, I've got to say this...
KING: Do you carry your Emmy to the Emmys?
GRIFFIN: Oh, look at you, you're so high and mighty. Yes, I take it to the bathroom when I go to the bathroom...
KING: Well, I just asked. I wasn't high and mighty...
GRIFFIN: No, you said it in a hurtful and accusatory way.
KING: OK. (INAUDIBLE)...
GRIFFIN: All right.
So I -- oh, I've got to tell you this. I brought it to a dinner party on Friday. So I get invited to a dinner party at Sue Manger's house -- who is the legendary agent, right?
GRIFFIN: I know. So I'm in. And because of the scandal, she sends me a letter that says, "I'd be honored to have such a scandalous figure at my house."
So I go. It's a small dinner party. And it's me, Jack Nicholson, Neil Diamond, David Geffen, Angie Dickinson, Natasha Richardson, this crazy crowd, right?
So I bring the Emmy and I go up to Jack Nicholson and I go, "Never had one of these, have you buddy? Take a good hard look. It's got to hurt."
He looks at me like I'm from Mars. He's like, "Who are you and what are you and when are you going to stop talking to me?"
But I got to meet Jack Nicholson at a dinner party.
KING: You really carry it around?
GRIFFIN: Yes. And then -- oh, Tina Fey was there and she hid it in the bathroom, which was very frightening to me. Like it was a prank and I thought someone stole my Emmy. Nicholson, pony up.
KING: You're that...
GRIFFIN: And it was just Tina Fey hiding it in the bathroom.
KING: You're that attached to this.
GRIFFIN: I love it. I love it more than a person. More than anyone in my life in person.
KING: Ah, the key question.
Do you sleep with it?
GRIFFIN: Yes. I make out with it.
(KISSES THE EMMY)
GRIFFIN: Mmmmm, I love you, baby.
KING: When you went to bed with Steven, did you take the Emmy with you?
GRIFFIN: It's a threesome. It was a super kinky threesome. There were wings everywhere, with Golden Globes.
KING: Let's take a call. Cincinnati, hello.
CALLER: Yes, my question is to Kathy Griffin. I was curious why did she say "suck it, Jesus" on the Emmys? GRIFFIN: Because one of my specials is called "Everybody Can Suck It." And so people come to my shows and have T-shirts that say "suck it." And I knew that Jesus would be in really good company.
KING: You didn't think he would be offended?
GRIFFIN: I think he's OK. I think he's pretty busy in other places. So I think he's going to survive this one.
KING: So you've got to fly to Washington right now.
GRIFFIN: Yes, I'm taking a red eye and then Kennedy Center and back on tour in Madison Square Garden. And I'm working all the time, I love it.
KING: You are fantastic.
GRIFFIN: You are fantastic, sir.
KING: I wish you nothing but the best, lady.
GRIFFIN: Aw, thanks, Lar. Oh, my Emmy, don't look at it. It's mine.
KING: The one and only Kathy Griffin.
Now, up next, another one and only, Dan Rather, in his first and only TV interview on why he just sued CBS for $70 million, 16 months after his four decades there ended in scandal.
AWARD PRESENTER: And the Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program goes to "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List."
GRIFFIN: Do you believe this? I guess hell froze over!
KING: Good evening. We begin one of the major stories of the day. It involves Dan Rather, who's had his share of them, covering them and about him, being about him. Why? Why are you suing?
DAN RATHER, FORMER ANCHOR & MANAGING EDITOR OF "CBS EVENING NEWS": Thank you for having me...
KING: Thank you for coming.
RATHER: Thanks for having me on tonight.
Good to see you again.
KING: Same here.
Why are you suing?
RATHER: Two reasons, two core reasons. In no particular order -- although I do think the most important reason is somebody sometime has got to take a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive, with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news.
KING: And how were you interfered with?
What happened with you?
RATHER: Well, this was a case in which -- I think it's one of a number of different kinds of cases that speak to that principle. I'll come back to it in a minute why this case and what happened.
But you said why this suit?
And the other is fair dealing. They had a contract with me. They had obligations under the contract and they didn't fulfill the obligations of that contract.
KING: I thought they met -- I thought they paid you off. I thought you were compensated.
RATHER: No. That there were specific things in the contract that called for a certain number of appearances -- what I would do after I left the anchor chair, be a regular, I say a full-time correspondent in "60 Minutes," in "60 Minutes II" when it was still on the air.
But, you know, I consider this, if you will, the weeds of the story, which is to say, yes, it's an important part of the story and the lawsuit will, I think, demonstrate what you said.
But the most important thing, Larry, and I can't emphasize it too much, is when somebody says why did you bring this lawsuit now, you know, I've had a lot of time to think over this the last year working for Ray Shiette (ph) and doing the "Dan Rather Reports" every Tuesday, and working for Mark Cuban -- who, for whatever else you may think of him, believes in total, complete, absolute independence, backs up his people in the way that Ted Turner did, in the way that William S. Paley did, in the great tradition of CBS News. That's the way it worked.
And I made the mistake of believing that's the way it still worked.
KING: In essence, you are saying that that network got rid of you -- copped out on the report, etc. Because of appealing to the Bush White House?
Is that what you're saying, they were trying to appeal to the Bush White House? RATHER: Yes is the short answer to that. But I think that they and others have been doing it to part of Washington's power structure long before them. And what I'm trying -- look, in my own wee small way -- perhaps, I can't succeed at it, is to say people, whether you're Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative -- big government and big corporations have far too much influence and are intimidating, especially investigative reporting.
You may remember, Larry, after the 2000 election, when all three of the news division presidents went down to Washington and testified. They never should have been there. Big government has no business in the newsroom.
RATHER: And they read scripts prepared for them written on the corporate side.
KING: Now, you were on this show in June 2005, about a year before you left CBS News. We talked about the controversy and how it was affecting you.
Let's watch that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 2005)
KING: You were the focal point and then you had to stand up and say you were wrong.
KING: But emotionally, what was it like for a reporter who devotes his life to this?
RATHER: Well, this is never -- it's never pleasant. But, you know, among the many things that my late father, God rest his soul, taught me, is don't whine, don't complain, don't fall in the trap of saying well, it's bad luck or good luck. Stand up, look them in the eye, tell them what you know tell them what you don't know. And I tried to do that.
I'm not a victim of anything except my own shortcomings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You said you weren't anyone's victim. But in filing a lawsuit, you're saying you're a victim.
RATHER: When was that done, though, Larry?
Do you remember the date of that?
KING: June, 2005.
RATHER: OK. What I've learned since June, 2005 -- I've learned a good deal since that time. A long list of things, some of which are in the lawsuit, things that I didn't know anything about. For example, it's reported that Sumner Redstone...
KING: The president of Viacom.
KING: The head honcho.
RATHER: The head man -- had said for directors that he was he was, you know, he was described as being enraged that a news division -- this story had cost Viacom and CBS in Washington. And he wanted Dan Rather and everybody connected with it out. So that's an example of the kind of thing that a year ago that I didn't know.
KING: Let's refresh people's minds. Back to the starting point.
On September 8th, 2004, "60 Minutes II" broadcast their report, narrated by you, produced by Mary Mapes -- later fired by CBS. The report involves George W. Bush's service as an officer in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Let's take a brief look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES II," SEPTEMBER 8, 2004, COURTESY CBS)
RATHER: Did then Lieutenant Bush fulfill all of his military commitments?
And just how did he land that coveted slot in the Guard in the first place?
Tonight, we have new documents and new information on the president's military service and the first ever interview with the man who says he pulled the strings to get young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Are you sorry about that now?
KING: You think the report was correct?
RATHER: Yes. And I think most people know by now that it was correct. Keep in mind that Colonel Killian's -- he's the deceased commander of George Bush -- his secretary took a look at the document and said everything in here is true. Yes, that's what he thought. Everything outlined in here -- and, by the way, I think there was a lot more in the president's military record we don't know about.
Picture this, Larry. We have a wartime president whom I, among others, have supported and we want to support the troops. We have a wartime president whose own military records are rather mysteriously missing. That's not, you know, that's not at issue in this lawsuit. But it was in the story. And when I see that -- I'm glad you played that because I had forgotten how completely we describe in that story what turns out to be the military records of President Bush. It wasn't -- it wasn't a fraud in -- the facts of the story were true.
KING: Are you saying that CBS, then, copped out?
That they should have backed you -- management?
RATHER: The management -- the ownership and management. And, you know, what they did was they sacrificed support for independent journalism for corporate financial gain. And in so doing, I think they undermined a lot at CBS News (INAUDIBLE).
KING: But there were some erroneous things in the report, right, weren't there?
RATHER: That has not been proven. What -- the one place, the one place that we were vulnerable -- I acknowledged it and wish we hadn't been, was -- I want to make it very clear, nobody to this day has shown that these documents were fraudulent. Nobody has proved that they were fraudulent, much less a forgery, which they're often described that way. The facts of the story, the truth of the story stands up to this day.
And what is journalism? Journalism is trying to get at the truth, trying to separate bull shine from brass tacks. And the brass tacks were in that story. The story was true.
But the lawsuit -- and I want to come back to it -- this is not -- and somebody who has the power of attorney -- an investigative group, a house or somebody -- could look into the story and, I think, get to the end of it pretty quickly. All I can do is try to say what happened inside CBS and why and how.
KING: We have a from the lawsuit when we come back.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Dan Rather.
In talking about the "60 Minutes II" piece, your lawsuit maintains, quote, "Mr. Rather played largely a supervisory role."
Now, what does that mean?
Josh Howard, who resigned as executive producer of "60 Minutes" in the aftermath of the controversy, is quoted as saying this about you in today's Washington Post: "I think he's gone off the deep end. He seems to be saying he was just the narrator. He did every interview. He worked the sources over the phone. He was there in the room with the so-called document experts. He argued over everything in the script. It's laughable."
RATHER: I respect Josh Howard quite a bit. And I'd like to see the full context of it. But I will say this, to the business of, he's off the deep end or something, I've never been clearer in my mind about anything -- I can't recall being clearer -- than this is the right stand at the right time about the right issue.
The business of, we have to somehow get back to integrity in the news and somehow alleviate -- at least alleviate, if not eliminate -- these big corporate and big government pressures.
Now, I was in a supervisory role -- that each story is different. I have 57 years as an American journalist and I invite anybody to check my record, as to whether I'm a reporter or just a, quote, "talking head."
In this particular situation, you had a hurricane, Republican National Convention, President Bill Clinton was having heart surgery and we had this President Bush story. Plus, "60 Minutes" had, at that time, a very good story questioning some of what was being said about why we needed to go to war and have we gone to war. All of this was coming together at one time.
Now, I did the best I can. I did work on this story. But my role in this particular case, as it was in some others, was to have a supervisory capacity. However...
KING: So Josh is wrong is what you're saying?
RATHER: Yes, in the context of that...
KING: He's saying you did everything.
RATHER: I have no desire to get into an argument with him. But I will point out that he made his peace with CBS. He's -- he took the money and he signed a thing and so, you know, God bless him. I have no argument with him.
Our problem started, Larry, when we did Abu Ghraib. We did Abu Ghraib on "60 Minutes II." We broke that story worldwide with a really good team of people.
Right after that, the corporate -- the network wanted to cancel "60 Minutes II".
In sort of what was described to me as a last minute decision, because there was so much publicity about it, they decided to keep it on the air. But they didn't want the program on the air. And when they told me the next year -- this is now in 2004 -- well, we're going to take you out of the anchor chair -- by the way, they did that the morning after the 2004 election. That's when I was told, finally, you're going out of the anchor chair. That you're going to go into "60 Minutes II" and we want you to help keep "60 Minutes II" on the air.
I believe it can be shown when we get people under oath, they didn't intend to keep "60 Minutes II" on the air and they didn't intend for me to be a regular -- anywhere near a full-time correspondent on "60 Minutes".
But here's the point. That's not what they told me.
Now, why would they do that?
Why would they do that when the preceding summer both Les Moonves and Sumner Redstone had praised me for hard work and going to places like Iraq?
Now, suddenly they changed.
Why did they change?
You know the answer and so do I.
KING: When you have a lawsuit like this, there are major -- there's depositions. A lot comes out.
KING: They've got the chance to question you.
Is there anything...
RATHER: I welcome it.
KING: You're not worried about anything?
RATHER: Well, you know, I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm not worried about anything. But I'm the person who stepped forward and said, OK, I'm ready to go under oath.
KING: Yes, you did.
RATHER: I'm ready to be deposed.
The question is, are they?
Because that's the only way you're going to get the truth of what happened at CBS News. And it may not be...
KING: Are you saying you don't want to settle?
RATHER: What I'm saying is...
KING: Because if you settle...
RATHER: I want to find out the truth.
KING: ...we'll never know the truth.
RATHER: Well, no, if they -- if the truth comes out, if they acknowledge the truth...
KING: You mean if they offered you a financial package to settle, never going through that... RATHER: A strictly financial package?
RATHER: Absolutely not. Not. No. Absolutely not.
RATHER: I do want to make a point, Larry, here, that somebody will look at it and say he's suing for $70 million. For me, it's not about the money. It is about this principle of what we're going to do with our democracy.
Now, so if -- if the time comes that there's money as a settlement, a substantial part of that will go to such outfits as the investigative and editors, reporters, Reporters and Investigative Editors Association, The Committee To Protect Journalists, because I would like the legacy of this lawsuit to be not that I made tons of money out of it, but that we kept the little flame, the flickering flame of hard-nose investigative reporting alive.
KING: Former CNN correspondent -- you remember Peter Arnett took a lot of flak over the Tailwind in reporting that.
I think you supported him, am I right?
RATHER: I did. I've supported CNN and I supported him and I supported everybody involved in it.
KING: I mean do you think he got a bad rap in getting fired?
RATHER: I don't feel qualified to say that. Peter Arnett is a great reporter. He was then and he is now. I will say this, that one of the things I didn't do -- and I've been criticized for it and I understand it -- is that I stuck by my people. That is to say Mary Mapes -- for that matter, Josh Howard -- I don't think he was involved in the Abu Ghraib thing. But this was a team of really experienced people. And they had brought the American people the Abu Ghraib story, which the network kept off the air for three weeks. And I understand that they thought they had their reasons for it. In some ways, perhaps, they had did.
But the same group of people who -- management, who stepped in, the president's division, and said listen, this Abu Ghraib thing, I want to be involved in the decision of when it goes on the air and how it goes on the air, did the same thing with the Bush story. Except the Bush story, there was so much blowback from it they said oh, no, you know what?
Dan Rather was the supervisor on this.
Point one, I don't take programs to air. That can only be done by management and with the approval of the corporate side. I don't have a button on my computer that takes "60 Minutes" to air. That belongs to other people -- the executive producer and the president of the division. KING: We'll be back with more of Dan Rather.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Dan Rather.
Dan, on September 20th, 2004, you delivered a public apology for the "60 Minutes II" piece during your "Evening News" broadcast.
Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE CBS EVENING NEWS," SEPTEMBER 20, 2004, COURTESY CBS)
RATHER: At the time, CBS News and this reporter fully believed the documents were genuine. Tonight, after further investigation, we can no longer vouch for their authenticity. The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly fully scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it.
Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Does your lawsuit belie that?
RATHER: No, but it puts it in context.
First of all, note that this was about the documents, not of about the truth of what we reported, and I keep coming back to it, Larry, this is where the corporation didn't back us up. They knew we were under extreme attack from partisan political elements and deeply ideological people. There were other people who genuinely thought we were wrong in doing it.
Where we were vulnerable is that we couldn't demonstrate to everybody's satisfaction that the documents (INAUDIBLE) note in that what we didn't say, what the story reports isn't true, because it was true.
Now, on the apology, did I play team? (ph) I'm accountable for that and I understand when somebody says, well wait a minute, you know, at the time you apologized.
But two things: I played team. I worked at CBS for 44 years. I believe in the tradition, believed in the mystique, believed in the people. And I think for a long time, that was justified. And it was said to me, Dan, if you care about the institution, if you care about the people that you work with and, indeed, if you care about your own reputation, it's time for us to say something about the documents and time for us to say sorry and time for you to say you're sorry.
In the end, it was left up to me and I read it. I think anybody who's worked in a large corporation and had team leadership, responsibility, understands those pressures.
Now the other thing is I didn't know then what I know now. A great deal has come out. It became obvious as time went along that what the management, the ownership, the management of the corporation and the head of the news division, to a degree, wanted to do was make sure that they shifted whatever blame there was going to be for whatever, if anything had happened, away from themselves and put it on me and some other good people in the news division. And they succeeded in doing it. Some of it they did in secret, talking among themselves. But I understand that the apology, I said it, I meant it at the time, I mean it now.
KING: Did you write it?
KING: You did not write it?
RATHER: No. The -- most of it was written, I think, by the corporation. I don't know who, but most of it was written. I was asked to, you know, (INAUDIBLE) I can remember that in my office, the president of the news division was in fairly late working on it. But we were working together at that time because I thought that we were a team.
As it turned out, there was this effort to scapegoat myself and others in the news division. We haven't even talked about this so- called alleged independent commission that investigated it.
KING: You say that was (INAUDIBLE)...
RATHER: They spent months and they spent tens of millions of dollars...
KING: Was there a distinguished lawyer involved in that?
RATHER: A former attorney general of the United States, a good friend of the Bushes and a loyal Republican, Mr. Thornburgh, headed it. I don't have -- it's nothing personal with him. But what this was, and the lawsuit alleges -- and I think it can be shown -- this was, in many ways, a fraud. It was a setup. It was designed...
KING: A fraud?
RATHER: Yes. It was designed to achieve a certain result so that the corporation would be exonerated.
KING: Are you saying Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania, former -- participated in a fraud? RATHER: That's what the record shows. That's what we allege. That's what we allege.
KING: You allege in -- all right. Your lawsuit does...
RATHER: That's right. And I think the record shows that clearly.
Why didn't they go -- they had tens of millions of dollars and a lot of time and they said we didn't even investigate whether the documents were true or not. Now, we now know that an investigator was hired by CBS -- what I call a mystery man -- who wasn't even mentioned in the report, had looked into it.
So what did he say?
What did he say to them?
We don't know.
KING: We have just a couple of -- and Dan will be back for another segment.
The -- here's our disclaimer for CBS. "Dan Rather's lawsuit is against CBS; CBS' former parent company, Viacom; CBS Chairman Les Moonves; Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone; and former CBS News President Andrew Hayward. LARRY KING LIVE sought comments from all the defendants in this suit. From CBS, there was this response: 'These complaints are old news. This lawsuit is without merit.'
When contacted, Mr. Moonves and Mr. Hayward referred us to the official CBS statement.
We also sought an official comment from Viacom and its CEO, Sumner Redstone. That request was declined."
KING: Just a couple more moments left. Here's what Mike Wallace said about all of this, when he was on our show. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE WALLACE, JOURNALIST: Rather is a friend, first of all. Good friend, a man I respect. Brave, courageous, first-rate reporter. When these people who worked so hard with him on that piece, when they were fired, that he -- and I told him so, "Dan, I think you should have -- I think you probably still should, you should have resigned, because if your people were fired because of that piece, then, hell, 'if they go, I go.'"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Should you have left, in retrospect?
RATHER: Well, we don't get to play it in retrospect.
RATHER: No, I'll just let what Mike said stand on its own; he's entitled. Mike had his own troubles over the years. He'll answer for himself -- fogive me if I say that. He shouldn't answer for me.
KING: Were you hurt?
RATHER: I'd rather just let that pass.
KING: Why didn't you just quit?
RATHER: It came about as a sudden -- of a sudden, which is to say one Monday morning, boom. It was done. And that at that time what the network was saying to me, with the management and the corporate side was saying to me, Dan, let's -- we can get through this. Give us a year. At the end of that year, we'll talk about a new contract for you in the same way we were talking about it last spring, go into "60 minutes II," save "60 Minutes II," go in and do great work for "60 Minutes."
And I believed them. And the question was raised, why didn't I walk out the door right then? If it had been done, what difference would it have made? It wouldn't have made any difference. And again, sometimes you talk about how Mike, how he handled his own situation, but each of us has to answer for our own thing.
KING: Again, I want to reiterate, you will only settle if that settlement includes some statements from CBS to your --
RATHER: I won't negotiate a settlement here, but I would say --
KING: But it won't be a financial statement, just. That's what you said, it will not be just a financial statement.
RATHER: If God smiles and we'll be a little lucky, we will be able to make a legacy of the principle that independent journalism is very important to our way of life and our government.
KING: Thank you, Dan, as always.
RATHER: Appreciate you having me.
KING: Our thanks to Dan Rather and to Kathy Griffin, and of course, to you for joining us tonight.
Tomorrow night, a look back at the hectic week in the story of O.J. Simpson, from jail to bail.
And next week, K-Fed's attorney opens up on that nasty custody battle with Britney Spears.
Plus, country superstar Reba McIntire, and chef Gordon Ramsey, and Jenny McCarthy and more.
Right now, stay tuned for more news on CNN, your most trusted name in news.
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