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Oral Roberts' Son On Spending Scandal/Interview with Jimmy Carter

Aired October 9, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, scandal in the bible belt -- series wrongdoing alleged at Oral Roberts University against the founder's son.
Did Richard Roberts and his wife launder money, misuse funds and retaliate against those who blew the whistle?

Is this a rush to judgment or a case of justified outrage?

Hear firsthand from the couple at the heart of the controversy. Richard and Lindsay Roberts defend themselves tonight. Family patriarch, Oral Roberts, calls in. It's exclusive.

And Jimmy Carter in the killing zone -- he puts himself on the front lines to speak for those who can't. The former U.S. president gets in the face of authorities in volatile Darfur. Direct -- he's defiant and down home. He witnessed the horror firsthand.

Jimmy Carter is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Three former Oral Roberts University professors have filed a lawsuit against Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts and several high ranking university administrators. The professors allege that they were wrongfully separated from the university for voicing concerns about ORU's allegedly inappropriate involvement in a local political campaign and for providing evidence to ORU officials by alleged improprieties by the Roberts family. The lawsuit alleges that Roberts bankrolled a luxurious way of life for himself and his family, members using monies from the university's coffers.

We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Richard Roberts, the president of Oral Roberts University, CEO and chairman of the Evangelist Association, the board of trustees. He's the son of Oral Roberts -- the famed Oral Roberts, who may be calling in.

And Lindsay Roberts, his wife, a member of the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents and executive vice president of the Evangelistic Association.

OK, recently -- that suit hasn't -- the suit has not been filed yet, right?


R. ROBERTS: ...but it hasn't been served on us.

KING: It hasn't been served.


Let's take it point by point, Richard.

The candidate, they claim -- the litigants claim that you asked them to support a political candidate running for mayor of Tulsa. The candidate lost. He said he was ordered -- the people were ordered to take responsibility when the IRS investigated complaints, because as a university, you can't support political candidates.

How do you respond?

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I didn't ask or coerce anybody to do that. That's not true.

KING: Just plain out not true?

R. ROBERTS: It's not true. I didn't do that. Oral Roberts University has had a longstanding policy with our government students to be involved in campaigns. And students have campaigned for Republicans, for Democrats -- I don't know about Independents. But it's sort of a lab experience the government students have. And they do that in most universities. Most government students on university campuses are a part of some type of political campaign to gain experience.

KING: And they can do that...

R. ROBERTS: Yes, they can do that.

KING: That's not in violation of...

R. ROBERTS: That's legal. But it is correct, we don't ever endorse a candidate as a university. However, as an individual, we have a right. But not as an university or an...

KING: Did you ask these professors to do anything?

R. ROBERTS: Absolutely not.

KING: Nothing?

R. ROBERTS: And we've had a longstanding policy of supporting candidates all across the country and helping them with their races.

KING: What do you make of this?

R. ROBERTS: Well, Larry, I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. It's the most unusual thing I've ever witnessed in my life. KING: This a shot out of the blue?

R. ROBERTS: It's a shot out of the blue and I'm -- I'm very concerned over it.

KING: Do you know these professors well?

R. ROBERTS: Of course. I know them very well.

KING: Were they dismissed for any reason?

R. ROBERTS: One was terminated, one's contract was not renewed and one resigned.

KING: But having nothing to do with this?

R. ROBERTS: I don't think so. No.

KING: What do you make of it, Mrs. -- Lindsay?

What do you make of it?

L. ROBERTS: Well, I don't know them, as far as professors. I'm not employed by the university. And I have never been in the government department where they did anything like this. I never had a conversation with them at any time whatsoever about support -- don't support a candidate, endorse this, endorse this. Never, ever one time have I ever done that -- not had a conversation at all with them. None.

KING: Well, this very hard to understand then.

Well, why didn't you call them up?

R. ROBERTS: Pardon?

KING: When they made this lawsuit, why didn't you call them up and say, what are you talking about?

R. ROBERTS: I did. I tried. I tried to call Dr. Swails and he refused to take my call. He said you'll have to talk to my lawyer. I made an effort to call him.

KING: Did your lawyer call his lawyer?

R. ROBERTS: No, I think his lawyer called ours.

KING: And?

R. ROBERTS: And nothing was made of it. They said let us know if there was a lawsuit filed. And there was a letter that was received saying that there is going to be a lawsuit, I've been retained to represent these people and there's going to be a lawsuit.

KING: So you are totally shocked?

R. ROBERTS: I'm extremely shocked.

KING: All right, let's deal with the next item.

The candidate lost -- all right, but that was nothing compared to what the professors say happened next, after the candidate lost. They claim it started with a computer belonging to your sister-in-law.

Would that be your wife's sister?

L. ROBERTS: My sister. Uh huh.

R. ROBERTS: Yes, that's right.

L. ROBERTS: Stephanie.

KING: She loaned the computer to one of the students to use during the campaign. It was while he was in possession of the lone computer that he discovered these files were stored on the hard drive. The contents of the files described in the lawsuit portrays Richard Roberts and his wife as big spenders, using the school's resources for personal luxury and their personal friends. Allegations include using the university jet to send daughter and friends to the Bahamas, remodeling the Roberts' home at university expense 11 times in 14 years and spending $51,000 on clothes and then renovating a spacious home office into a massive walk-in.

R. ROBERTS: Which would you like me to address?

KING: Let's go one by one.

Did you use any funds for private ...?

R. ROBERTS: Larry, my sister-in-law, Stephanie, is my government and community liaison for the Tulsa community and for government affairs throughout the city of Tulsa, the State of Oklahoma and the nation. I asked her some years ago if she would be eyes and years to me and tell me what was going on.

From time to time, she would make notes from things that she heard and she would always write them down. And then she would bring them to me. Three years ago, she brought a number of things to me that she heard via the rumor mill and she put it in writing. And that's what you're referring to.

She showed it to me. I laughed, because they were so preposterous and so untrue. And I said, Stephanie, there's nothing to this.

But she claims that that -- that something happened there with that computer -- with her computer and...

KING: What do you mean?

R. ROBERTS: ...someone has, you know...

L. ROBERTS: The stories that...

KING: Fooled with her computer?

R. ROBERTS: Well...

L. ROBERTS: Well, the story that I knew, because I had heard what she had said and talked to us about it, and the same thing. On Oral Roberts University campus, in the city of Tulsa, all around the universe, you're going to get people that say things. And they have a rumor of this, they talk of this.

But you know what?

It may be political, it may be personal, it may be university, it may be educational. And it's very simple to make very simple notes. She is -- I hope I can tell -- she's dyslexic. We have several members of our family, including me and two of my daughters.

R. ROBERTS: She writes everything down.

L. ROBERTS: And everything is in kind of like a shorthand, little code. And it's very easy to understand what stuff is hers and how she writes. She told us that this was own personal computer, had brought in this young man to upload some of the names for the campaign he was working on.

R. ROBERTS: Which some of the students were working on.

L. ROBERTS: Now, upload is put it in. And then she said to us that it was taken out and from then on the story is goofy. But there was only a handful of little, tiny -- we had seen the little, tiny jots and notes and scribbles and, hey, what about this?

Three years ago, he saw it and he dismissed it so much that I didn't even see it.

KING: You've never had any additions done to your house paid for by the university?

L. ROBERTS: Additions, no. I've had -- we have a problem in Tulsa with black mold. We have really, really black mold in Tulsa. We have had to rip out a floor. We've had to rip out...

R. ROBERTS: Some walls.

L. ROBERTS: ...walls.

KING: Did the university paid for it?

L. ROBERTS: The university paid for that...


L. ROBERTS: Yes. It's a university home. We had hail damage.

R. ROBERTS: It was causing health issues in our family, because of the black mold.

L. ROBERTS: We moved out almost...

KING: The university owns the house?

L. ROBERTS: ...we moved out for three years.

R. ROBERTS: That's correct.


KING: Still to come, former President Carter joins us shortly.

But up next, Richard Roberts' father, the legendary Evangelist, Oral Roberts, calls in to respond to this suit, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


TIM BROOKER, FORMER ORU PROFESSOR: She loaned her computer to one of the students to use during the campaign. And it was while he was in possession of the loaned computer that he discovered these files, which were stored on the hard drive. And the things that were in those files, if untrue, would be so damaging that they could never recover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is God telling you?

JOHN SWAILS, FORMER ORU PROFESSOR: He's telling us that he put us in this position and he's directing us to make this stand.




ORAL ROBERTS: Richard, your mother and I are honored that you're our son. We believe that you're anointed by God, chosen by the Lord to be the second president. As the founder and first president for the first 30 years, I pray that you will have 30 years. And I'm just delighted that the medal is on you and now off of me. Praise the lord.


KING: Richard Roberts and Lindsay Roberts remain with us in answer to these incredible charges.

And we are joined now by phone with Oral Roberts, the famed chancellor and founder of Oral Roberts University.

Can you hear me OK, Oral?


And it's so good to hear your voice.

KING: Good to hear yours. What's your reaction to this lawsuit?


KING: Can you hear me?


O. ROBERTS: Well, like my son says, it was a surprise and a sort of a shock. But we have been through tough experiences in building Oral Roberts University, beginning back in the 1960s. And we have survived them all and have built a university that we believe is for the glory of God.

And when I heard this, I immediately went to the rules that the board of regents and I had set up years ago to handle any kind of allegation that came against the university. And we put those into place immediately. And I'm so proud that Richard and Lindsay have taken the lead. And I'm proud of them now.

KING: What do you make of the suit?

How shocked are you?

What do you make of the charges?

O. ROBERTS: Well, if I had not been experienced for 60 years in the healing ministry, facing certain types of allegations from time to time, I might have been terribly shocked. But I know my family. I know my son and daughter-in-law. I know my university. I know the 41-member board of regents. And I know the high standards we have. And I know, also, that I will be faithful and we will be faithful to the friends and partners who made Oral Roberts University possible.

KING: What counsel are you giving your son and daughter-in-law?

O. ROBERTS: I'm sorry?

I'm giving counsel to my daughter-in-law that the board of regents is going to -- well it has already found an outside firm that's never been a part of Oral Roberts University to look at each allegation separately, to check it out intimately and to report back. And if -- if there is anything out of line, we will bring it into order, like we have always done. That's exactly where I stand.

KING: Lindsay, one of the allegations, your university bankrolled cell phone bills, sometimes at $800 a month, including hundreds of text messages, sent in the middle of the night to underage males who had been provided phones at university expense.

Did you do that?

L. ROBERTS: OK. I have three daughters. At the time, this was written, it was teenagers. We have cell phones that have, I think, an unlimited text. That's what we looked at. We give those cell phones to our kids. They take what I consider to be relatively good care of it. And then if they have friends over and they want their friends to go home and their kids don't have phones, I've given their cell phones. I've called their parents, text messaged. He text messages. We actually use each other's phones. So to say that my daughter didn't pick up my phone and text messaged her boyfriend, that's entirely possible.

Did I text messaged and say, did you guys get home OK?

Did I text messaged -- I had one little girl...

KING: But no -- you're saying nothing improper?

L. ROBERTS: No, sir. No.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, if I might add, Lindsay and I, for years, have had a special ministry to troubled kids -- to kids who had been on alcohol and drugs. It's not something that we publicize, because we don't want to draw attention to those kids. But for years we have reached out to kids who've suffered with drug and alcohol problems. We've helped them when they've been in and out of jail. We've helped them when they've come to our home drunk. And we've brought them and had them spent the night in our home and then gotten our bibles out and counseled them the next morning when they were sober and tried to help them. We've text messaged them. We've taken their phone calls at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That's not something that we talk about, Larry. But we've had a ministry to these kids for years.

KING: Oral, thanks you for being with us. And continued good health.


KING: Good health, Oral.

Oral Roberts joining us.

We'll come back some more moments with his son and daughter-in- law.

And then we'll meet Jimmy Carter.

Don't go away.


R. ROBERTS: Make no mistake, about it, this suit is about money. We thought, maybe this isn't true.

SWAILS: We hope this isn't true.

R. ROBERTS: So we began to pray.

R. ROBERTS: Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person, whether they have a legitimate case or not.

BROOKER: We're interested in truth and mercy and justice. R. ROBERTS: When the real truth is known, there will be no more questions.



KING: We'll get to some e-mails. Another allegation, that Oral Lee's jet was used to take one of your daughters, plus friends, on a senior trip to Florida and the Bahamas, and the cost of the trip was billed to the Oral Roberts ministry as an Evangelistic function of the president.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, my daughter and several others went with me on the trip. It was not a senior trip. It was a preaching trip that I had in Florida and the Bahamas, because the regents who live in that area, who had asked me to come to help recruit students to ORU, and they asked me to bring kids with me. And I had to pay the university back for that. And, by the way, the jet is not owned by the university. It is a leased plane.

KING: All right.

Another allegation, that you personally awarded, Lindsay, 13 non- need-based scholarships to the kids of friends, including two who were academically ineligible.

L. ROBERTS: Well, first of all, the way we do scholarships is I am allowed, as a minister, to put a recommendation on. So if somebody sends me a recommendation, say they send one of these papers in Oral Roberts University minister's recommendation. I fill it out, I send it in and it goes through a committee. I've never seen ACT scores. I don't think that that's privileged information. I think that only can only go in the kids' files.

Now, if I k there's kids and I know something about them and think they're great kids, I'll say you can call the school of admissions, you can go online...

KING: But you don't give the scholarships?

R. ROBERTS: Absolutely not.

L. ROBERTS: We have a committee.

R. ROBERTS: There's a committee that makes that decision.

KING: We have an e-mail from Barbara in Ashburn, Virginia: "It seems to me these recent allegations, whether true or false, beg the most fundamental questions -- why didn't you make every effort to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing? Why did you give your enemy an unnecessary opportunity to attack you?"

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I didn't give my enemy any opportunity. But the enemy is out there. I'm doing everything I know correctly. L. ROBERTS: You know, Larry, I think that this is probably the most important thing that we've ever had to see. When it says -- you say avoid the appearance of evil -- one of the allegations said that my daughter -- no, I think it was me and a male companion went to Branson. My daughter was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. She was 15 years old. It was through a cancer treatment center. They wanted to do surgery the next week. I put her in the car alone, her and me, my daughter and I. We drove to Branson.

But as we were going -- it's a four hour trip and it was a night service. My husband said, you know, Lindsay, let's call security and tell them that you're not going to be home. So we told them, my daughter and I aren't going to be home, don't worry, we're not there.


L. ROBERTS: So we drove to Branson with the security car behind us.

R. ROBERTS: Following them.

L. ROBERTS: Following us.

KING: An e-mail from Danny in Tulsa: "I'm an ORU alumnus. Why do the majority of ORU students and alumni appear to be grieved, but not surprised, by these allegations? Does it concern you that your excesses are so obvious that most people don't appear to be shocked to hear of them?"

R. ROBERTS: Larry, all I know to do is -- is -- and you're talking about the appearance of evil -- avoiding the appearance of evil. All I know is to do exactly as I'm directed by the board of regents. Everything that I do as a president of the university is heavily scrutinized by the audit and compliance committee of the board of regents.

KING: So what you're saying is you have never, to your knowledge, done anything wrong, improperly...

R. ROBERTS: I have not. I have not done anything wrong, Larry.

KING: So somebody is out to get you?

R. ROBERTS: It sure seems that way.

L. ROBERTS: It feels like...

KING: Well, what else could it be?

L. ROBERTS: It's a wrongful termination of an employee of the university. I'm not employed by the university. My daughter is not employed. Some of the allegations deal with my and me, and I'm not even employed there.

R. ROBERTS: And I can't say how much this has hurt my family. You know, it's hurt my wife. It's hurt me. It's hurt our three children. KING: Another e-mail from Paul in San Francisco: "Would you consider stepping aside as president of ORU until the investigation into these allegations is complete? Would you be willing to step down?"

R. ROBERTS: Larry, I think that's an inappropriate question. I have not done anything wrong for which I needed to step aside.

KING: So there's no reason even to step aside, even with the appearance...

R. ROBERTS: And the -- and in yesterday's board of regents meeting, I got an overwhelming response of support from the board.

L. ROBERTS: We didn't talk for about a week because they asked us not to, until they could start looking at things. But some of the things that were in there were so preposterous that there's -- there's no way that we can even find any documentation of it. Some of the things they've said, like remodeling the house 11 times. You knock out a wall and hail damage is not like a huge remodeling. My furniture, I'm very proud to say, was from the chancellor and his wife, and it's still there since they gave is it to us.

KING: I promise you both, we will do more on this.

I'm glad you came here.

R. ROBERTS: Larry, thank you...

L. ROBERTS: Thank you.

R. ROBERTS: ...for this opportunity. And Larry...

L. ROBERTS: Thank you.

R. ROBERTS: the friends and partners of our ministry, thank you for standing with us.

KING: And I'm glad Oral called in.

R. ROBERTS: I'm so glad my dad called in.

L. ROBERTS: I am, too.

R. ROBERTS: He loves you, and so do we.

KING: I like him, too.

Up next, former President Jimmy Carter -- inside his tense standoff with security in war torn Darfur last week and a lot more -- he's got a great new book out -- when LARRY KING LIVE returns.




KING: Joining us now from Washington is old friend, president Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, co-founder of the Carter Center, Nobel Prize peace laureate, "New York Times" best- selling author. His new book, "Beyond The White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope."

He's also the focus of a new, brilliant documentary, "Man From Plains," directed by the Oscar winning director, Jonathan Demme. I saw it this morning. It is terrific. Terrific. You deserve -- great.

You haven't seen the completed yet, huh?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I saw a couple of the early cuts. I don't imagine it's changed very much, especially from the last one. But not the final one.

KING: You will be impressed.

CARTER: I hope so.

KING: Your recent confrontation with Sudanese security officers during a -- service, rather -- during visit to Darfur, what exactly happened, Mr. President?

CARTER: Well, I was there with some other senior citizens like Nelson Mandela's wife and Bishop Tutu to assess the progress of two peace agreements. One is a comprehensive peace agreement between north and south Sudan that ended a 20-year war and the other is the Darfur peace agreement. So we decided to go not only to north and south Sudan but also the Darfur displaced persons camps.

The one in which this particular incident happened was a village that had about 16,000 people to begin with, and it's been inundated with 53,000 more displaced persons who have to share their water and their food and also their firewood.

And they are not in camps. They are mixed all in the village. So we were visiting in the school grounds where the displaced person's kids and others are there. And I decided I wanted see the mayor, whom they call the chief priest, I mean the chief.

And so when I started to go to see him, the security guard, whom we had never met before, said I was forbidden to go there. So I got very angry. I said, I'll go where I please. I said if you doubt my ability to do it, call the president of the nation and he will tell you so. So he went off by himself with a cell phone and talked to someone and came back. So he quickly arranged for me to see the chief, or the mayor, and I had a very good conversation with him.

So I don't like to be constrained when I go to a foreign country, particularly if I'm there as a guest of the government.

KING: Were you frightened?

CARTER: No, I wasn't frightened. I wasn't frightened. As we not trying to intimidate me. He wasn't putting outside arms or things like that. He was just, I think, trying to do his duty. He was afraid if he didn't carry out our orders, that was to keep us on the schedule, that he might be in trouble.

KING: You turned 83 on October 1. Are you at a stage where you're concerned about personal security? Do you take a back seat? Are you ultra careful?

CARTER: Not any more than I have been the last 60 years of my life, I guess. I was in Darfur, as a matter of fact. That's where I celebrated my birthday. And I don't feel ill at ease or in danger.

I think one of the things is people in the country, even of Sudan, the Carter Center has been working there almost 20 years eradicating disease and helping them grow more wheat and trying to arrange peace. So anybody who works for the Carter Center in those countries where we have been so active, we feel like we are their friends and they feel like their friends.

KING: Is your book, Mr. President, the memoirs of the years since you left office?

CARTER: Yeah, it describes pretty thoroughly what I have done the last 25 years, Larry. It's s designed to tell the history of the Carter Center, which has not been highly publicized, except when I got the Nobel Peace Prize. But it also describes a vast array of complicated and very important issues that exist among the poorest people on earth.

We work in 37 countries, 35 of them in Africa. And this book is designed to show not only that the people are desperately in need and those of us who are rich and powerful and have time and money can do to help them and how exciting and adventurous and gratifying it is when we do so. And the other main program or policy or message that goes with the book is that we really underestimate these poverty- stricken people.

They are just as hard working, just as ambitious, they are just as competent. Their family values are just as good as mine. If they are just given a chance, they can greatly improve their lives. That's the real focus of the book.

KING: Are you hopeful about Sudan, by the way?

CARTER: Cautiously hopeful, yeah. The peace agreement, the comprehensive peace agreement was negotiated under the aegis of for President George W. Bush, who was as you know appointed John Danforth, former senator from Missouri to go there. He got this peace agreement after eight years under President Clinton when no attempt was made negotiate a peace agreement. I really am grateful for the bush administration for having done this.

And now it's a fragile peace but the northern and southern leaders are working together. The northern leader is the president and southern leader is the vice president of the whole nation and he's also the president of south Sudan.

And now they are going through a phase of trying to accommodate each other. One of the biggest problems is that along the old accepted border between north and south they found enormous quantities of oil. Now every square foot of that usually, formerly pretty worthless territory, is now a potential oil well. So there is a high competition for it and one reason we went there was to add our voice and our influence and make sure that they resolve these issues peacefully and don't go to war.

KING: Do you still believe, Mr. President, while President Bush is right on Sudan, he remains wrong on Iraq?

CARTER: Yes. I don't have any doubt about that. He did a superb job in Sudan. He's done a horrible job in I think going into and promoting the effort in Iraq.

By the way, it's interesting, there's a footnote to history after the Florida election which was highly contested as you all know, Rose and I decided to go to the inauguration of President Bush. I think we were the only volunteer Democrats on the reverence stand.

And the new president and his wife and his father his father and his mother I think appreciated our company. So afterwards the new president, George W. Bush, asked me if there was anything he could do for me? I said yes, I have come here, Mr. President, so you will help bring peace to Sudan. We have been working on it now 16 years. If you will help, that's all I want. And he agreed to do it and he carried out his promise.

KING: Wow. Never knew that story.

CARTER: It's an important story, too. It's a very important country in Africa. It's the same size as all of the states east of the Mississippi. That's how big it is.

KING: We will take a break. We will be back with more Jimmy Carter. You will see that documentary in a month or so. It's called "The Man from Plains." and the new book is "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope." Don't go away.


CARTER: We will come here and see 16 months later how little work is being done in the New Orleans is very discouraging. They said that the government appropriated $75 billion, and 79,000 people that have put in applications for loans and as of the first of November, only 22 families have gotten loans. And this is a disgrace to our country. And I think we need to make sure everybody knows that not enough is being done.


KING: We're back with President Carter. Concerning Iran, Mr. President, you spent a lot of the last days of your presidency dealing with that hostage crisis. You're asked about in that special documentary, "Man from Plains." Let's watch an excerpt from that documentary, and then ask you about it.


DIANE REHM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: To Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Theo. You're on the air.

CALLER: You know, I believe it was your lack of taking a stronger stand against Iran when they were holding our people hostage for so many days, not only holding those Americans hostage but holding America hostage, if you would have taken a stronger military stance, we would not be possibly into the quagmire we are in today.

CARTER: I don't think the situation would be any better between us and Iran now if I had destroyed a major part of Iran with missiles and bombs.


KING: That's from, as I said, that wonderful documentary, "A Man from Plains." You think we're headed towards war with Iran.

CARTER: I certainly hope not, Larry. It would be a catastrophe for obviously Iran and us as well. What kind of troops would we use for invading Iran, which would be a much more formidable opponent than it was on the hunt of Saddam Hussein and Iraq. We don't have enough soldiers to give them adequate leave to give them time to come home and visit their families between their tours in Iraq. And we are spending I think probably all of the money we can from our government in the Iraqi War. And don't think it's necessary at all to think about bombing Iran even some -- some have conjecture with nuclear weapons, I think, would be a catastrophe.

We would have no support in the rest of the world. What we ought to do is make sure Iranians know that we are not going to attack them because there's a constant series of threats going towards them puts them on edge. And I think we ought to have full communications with Iran as well. We ought to talk to them and consult with them and make sure they understand our intentions towards them are peaceful and if they do persist in their development of a nuclear weapon, we will assert extremely severe economic sanctions against them.

Whereas now we are standing aloof from Iran and letting other people do that for us.

KING: And you believe diplomacy can work?

CARTER: Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, when the shah was overthrown, I had continued as you know full diplomatic relations with Iran. Everybody knows that because I had 75 or so diplomats in Tehran. I had about the same number of Washington when we had communications going on.

I think when we disagree with somebody with a serious confrontation, like we are now building up with Iran, the best thing to do is try to ease the tension by just explaining our position directly to them, let them explain theirs to us and working out a reasonable compromise. That should be done. And that's been the policy of our country almost since the founding of our nation.

KING: Is that your number one worry spot in the world?

CARTER: Well, North Korea still bothers me. Because after we had negotiated with North Korea in 1994, a reasonable end to their nuclear capability and after President Bill Clinton adopted what we had negotiated and put that into effect, it was thrown away when the new administration came in. And after that, North Korea began to purify plutonium and now they have enough for six or seven nuclear weapons.

I think that potentially is much worse to disrupt the region of the world which might involve us than Iran, which now has no capability at all, everybody agrees, for nuclear weapons in the near future.

KING: Of all you have done since your presidency, what are you proudest of?

CARTER: Well, organizing the Carter Center and establishing the capability of alleviating suffering and promoting human rights. Promoting -- I would say, democracy and freedom, we have monitored 68 elections. Every one of them a troubled elections. If there's not trouble, we don't go there.

We have taught 8 million families in Africa how to grow more food grain for themselves so they can feed themselves. We have just about eradicated a terrible disease. We are working on others. So those kind of humane interrelationships with other people, peace and freedom and alleviate suffering through the Carter Center with a lot of people working on it, that's what I'm proudest of.

KING: We will take a break and come back with more from the distinguished American, Jimmy Carter.

Right now another distinguished American joining us is Anderson Cooper, the host of AC 360. What's up tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Larry, Mr. President, a CNN exclusive, new details about the final minutes of Carol Ann Gotbaum's life. Her husband is speaking out. Hear what happened the day she died in police custody at the Phoenix Airport. That's the video you're seeing there.

Plus another dramatic videotaped arrest has caught our attention. The suspect, a 15-year-old girl, pepper sprayed after she bit a police officer. Did the officer go too far? We will be looking at that tonight.

Also Fred Thompson's debate debut. How did he do? Best political team on television weighs in next, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. That's AC 360, 8:00 Eastern, 10:00 Pacific. Right back with more with President Carter right after this.


KING: Back with Jimmy Carter, the author of "Beyond the White House," and the subject of a forthcoming documentary from Jon Demme entitled "The Man From plains." A little politics, Mr. President.


KING: What do you make of the performance so far of Hillary Clinton?

CARTER: Well, I think all of the Democratic candidates have done quite well. It's hard to choose between them. So far I think one of the facts that everybody knows, looks back on history, is that this is too early to predict the outcome of any sort of primary, no matter who is ahead. But I think any one of the top candidates among the Democrats would make outstanding presidents.

KING: Your former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has endorsed Barack Obama. Were you surprised about that?

CARTER: No. Zbig has a mind of his own. He supported me when I was unknown. He was one of the first public officials in Washington. There was no one in Washington that also knew me. He makes his own choices. I don't give him advice and never criticize him when he makes a choice.

KING: How much did your campaign cost?

CARTER: Practically nothing. We didn't have any money. In the general election intelligence Gerald Ford, we both just used public financing. We didn't get outside funding at all. In fact, I had no money when we started our campaign. Our family and all of our workers couldn't even stay in a motel.

If anybody spent the night in the motel, they had to pay their own way. So we would try to find a family in a village or in a town that would let us spend the night with them. By the way, after I was finally elected, the first reception we had at the White House was just for families that let the members of my family stay the night in their house. And we had over 750 of them who came to the White House to let us thank them for it. We didn't have any money.

KING: That could not happen now, could it?

CARTER: No, now it will take $100 million from very interested investors to have a chance to be considered seriously by the Democratic or Republican Party.

KING: And what do those interested investors expect in return?

CARTER: Different things. There's no doubt about the fact that when the major investors give a lot of money, they expect a member of Congress or member of the Senate or the presidents to accommodate their needs and listen to their voice at least. I'm not saying there's anything illegal about it. But it certainly is injected money into our campaigns like it never existed in those ancient days when I was in politics.

Also, a lot of that money is just used in negative advertisements, as you know, just to tear down the character of your opponent. And it seems to work. When I was running against Gerald Ford and later Ronald Reagan, we never referred to each other any way except my distinguished opponent.

And if we had run a negative advertisement that alleged an improper act on our opponent's side, that would have been suicidal for us. Now that's done. And I think the negative thing does to bad events, it divides the members of the Congress from one another in Washington in a manner of almost intense animosity. And secondly, it disillusions American voters. When they listen to the series of negative advertisements, they begin to think well neither one of these candidates is really worthy of my trust and confidence.

KING: Well put. We will be back with more moments with former President Jimmy Carter. His new book is out. The documentary will be out soon. Don't go away.


KING: Mr. President, we have an e-mail question from David in Pleasanton, California -- "Is Islam incompatible with democracy?"

CARTER: No, of course not. As a matter of fact, one of the elections in which the Carter Center has been deeply involved was to change a 50-year totalitarian government, a dictatorship in Indonesia into a really pure and admirable democracy. Overwhelmingly Muslim, Indonesia. In fact, the largest democracy on earth happens to be Hindu, that's in India. The second largest democracy on earth is the United States, mostly Christian. The third largest democracy on earth is Muslim. And that's Indonesia. So I think that shows that's no religion has a lock hold or monopoly on democracy and freedom.

KING: Concerning your previous book, which got a lot of attention -- in fact the tour you made was for that book, the book about Palestine, were you surprised at the strong reaction to it?

CARTER: Yes, I was. I wrote the whole book. It's a very accurate book and very necessary book. It had a beneficial impact I think, in this country, and around the world. I just devised the title very carefully. The first world is "Palestine." Not "Israel" but "Palestine". The second word is peace. And the last two words are "Not Apartheid," but the friends of Israel, some of them in this country, chose the last word, "Apartheid" and they concentrated on it to the exclusion of the text of the book and to the exclusion of the rest of the title.

And I was taken aback by that and it kind of detracted attention from the real thrust of the book, which was to promote peace for Israel and peace between Israel and its neighbors. KING: In the documentary, it rather brilliantly shows, you're getting a little frustrated from some of the questioning around that Herculean book tour.

CARTER: I had to show extraordinary patience as well.

KING: Boy, you did.

CARTER: And it was an exciting adventure, the promotion of that book. And i think the documentary is going to be interesting to a lot of folks.

KING: Was the appearance at Brandeis with all of those young students one of the highlights?

CARTER: That was one of the highlights of my whole life. It was like a love fest -- In fact, as you know, the administrators of Brandeis did everything they possibly could to prevent my coming. But the students insisted, I went. And I would consider it to be a love fest. It was great.

KING: Should they have allowed Alan Dershowitz to debate you or should you have allowed him to debate you?

CARTER: He's a Harvard professor. As I mentioned in the film, I didn't think that Brandeis need aid Harvard professor to come and tell them how to debate or ask me questions.

KING: How do you keep going, Mr. Carter, Mr. President? You're 83? Going to write more books? Going to keep on keeping on?

CARTER: Yeah. I've already written my 25th book. It is going to be published next Mother's Day. It's a biography of my mother and I just got it finished, Larry, it will be going to my publisher this month to start final preparation for the publication.

And so I feel good. I'm staying in pretty good, staying in very good health. Rosalyn takes good care of me. We get along well with each other. She's an expert on nutrition and an excellent cook and we both take a lot of exercise. So, so far, we have been very, very much blessed.

KING: A friend of mine in the mid 80s told me the hardest thing is seeing friends pass away.

CARTER: Well, that's true. A lot of my -- for instance, my classmate in the Naval Academy, I go back every now and then for I think I just went for my 55th anniversary. In fact I think I have to my 60th adversary. I can't remember which. That's a sign of old age. But every time I have made the eulogy speech in the navy chapel, they gave me that honor because I have been president, and it's very sad to think about how many of them have left this world.

KING: Wow. It's an honor as always having you on, Mr. President. Great seeing you.

CARTER: I always enjoy it, Larry. Thanks very much.

KING: Jimmy Carter, the new book "Beyond the White House: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease and Building Hope." And the forthcoming documentary by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme is "Man from Plains."

Before we go, I want to tell you about a new can't put down book called "Sick Girl" by Amy Silverstein. Nineteen years ago at age 24 Amy got a live-saving heart transplant. But that medical miracle is only part of her amazing story. The rest will surprise you. And inspire you and choke you up with tears and laughter. "Sick Girl" by Amy Silverstein. Highly recommended.

And finally, head to our Web site, E-mail tomorrow night's guest, Howard K. Stern. It's his first live interview since Anna Nicole Smith's death. And since he handed her baby girl over to Larry Birkhead.

And later this week, Stephen Colbert and Eric Clapton. Right now we turn it over to Anderson Cooper and AC 360. Anderson?