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The Murder of Yale Grad Student Annie Le

Aired September 16, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, murder at Yale -- a beloved grad student, bride to be, found dead and buried in the wall of a campus building on her wedding day. And now police say she was strangled.

Did one of the school's own kill Annie Le?

Police have a person of interest in custody, then they let him go.

And then, President Carter's shocking comments on race.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.


KING: Could he be right?

Racism in 2009 America, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

A couple of things. Next Monday night in New York, live, President Bill Clinton will be our special guest.

You may have noticed the fancy new table and everything here. We are now in H.D. every night.

Good evening.

There are major developments in the murder that has rocked the Yale University campon -- campus, rather.

Let's get right to them with reporter Susan Raff. She's with WFSB-TV in New Haven tonight.

What's the latest in this case, Susan?

SUSAN RAFF, REPORTER, WFSB-TV: Well, what's new in this case is that he is still not considered a suspect, Raymond Clark. But at this point, he is the person of interest. In fact, he's the only person of interest. They had a press conference here today. They talked about going over 250 pieces of evidence, which were not only collected at the crime scene, but also at Raymond Clark's house. And they also tell us they've interviewed more than 150 people.

But at this point, they say the focus of their investigation is on Raymond Clark because they tell us while they've talked to other people, he is definitely their person of interest.

KING: Why did they release him?

RAFF: What is that?

I'm sorry?

KING: Why did they release him?

RAFF: They released him because, at this point, he is not considered a suspect. He's not been charged with anything. So officially, they really can't hold him, although they don't want to just simply let him go.

He was released at about 3:00 this morning from the state crime lab in Meriden. They took him there, actually, in the middle of the night, opened the state crime lab and did all sorts of DNA testing, such as saliva, blood samples. They released him at 3:00 in the morning.

He is staying with family in Cromwell, which is a neighboring town to Middletown. So he is not very far away. And we do know that undercover police detectives are now watching him very carefully because they don't want him to leave the area.

KING: Who is he?

RAFF: Who is Ray Clark?

He is someone, we know he's 24 years old. He went to Branford High School. He was an honor student. He was on several clubs. And when we looked at the yearbook, we saw that he was mentioned as being a member of the Asian Awareness Club. He was also on the baseball team.

But, again, he was an honor student. We're not sure exactly how long he worked at Yale, but he is an employee. He's listed as a lab technician. And basically what he does is he takes care of the mice.

And Annie Le, as you know, was a graduate student. She did research on mice. So Clark's job was actually taking care of the mice that she did research on.

We know that they worked together. He had access to that building. They knew each other. But their relationship, at this point, really has not been determined. Police are not saying if they were having some type of intimate relationship. They're staying away from that. The only thing they will say is that they knew each other and they worked together.

KING: Thanks, Susan.

We'll be calling on Susan Raff again, as we continue to cover this terrible story.

Let's go to Pittsburgh and meet Rocky Tuan. Rocky is a friend and mentor of the late Annie Le during her internships at the National Institutes of Health.

What was she like, Rocky?

ROCKY TUAN, ANNIE LE'S FRIEND AND MENTOR: She was a fantastic student. When she was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, she received this very competitive scholarship from the National Institutes of Health Undergraduate Scholars Program. And as part of that, she got to spend her summers at the NIH.

And because she was very interested in things that have to do with tissue regeneration and development, she chose to come to my laboratory and work on adult stem cells.

And a fantastic student, tremendous stamina, motivated, intelligent, very passionate about her work, just a delight to have in the lab.

KING: Do you know of any problems she might have had with anyone?

TUAN: Absolutely none. She was one of those people that literally got along with everybody else. And -- and she had a very bright personality, always upbeat, a can-do attitude. If something doesn't work out in the laboratory in a particular experiment, she would figure out ways to get around it, get over it, ask for help. And just a delightful person and everybody loved her.

KING: Now, Rocky, you stay with us, because you'll be joining part of our panel in a couple of moments.

We want to spend a couple of moments with Pastor Dennis Smith in New Haven, spokesperson for families of the victim and her fiance, Jonathan Widawsky. He's pastor of the New Haven Seventh Day Adventist Church.

What can you tell us about the deceased?

PASTOR DENNIS SMITH, SPOKESMAN FOR ANNIE LE'S FAMILY: Where I became involved with the families was they asked if I would be willing to read a statement from them on their behalf. And that gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with the family. I -- I did personally know the deceased, but I have had an opportunity to become acquainted with her family and -- and, also, her fiance's family a bit, but primarily Annie's family.

And I must say -- and the reason I'm interested in sharing with the community is -- is the wonderful family that they are. They -- they have been so loving and supportive of one another and very appreciative of what everyone has -- has -- from the Yale University staff administration, from the law enforcement agencies, their professionalism; also, their compassion. So I -- I just -- my purpose is I just want the community to know, again, what a loving family they are and very thankful for what's been done in their behalf.

KING: Do you know the fiance?

SMITH: I have met the fiance, a very lovely young man. But I -- I do not know him personally.

KING: So the family is -- is -- is happy about the way she was treated and the way this story is being treated by everyone involved?

SMITH: Yes. They feel that every agency that's been involved has been very respectful, has -- and, of course, they have kept asking -- and I think this is appropriate -- that their privacy be respected. And -- and I believe, in essence, that has taken place. And that, again, is -- is my role. I want to do as much as I can to help maintain that privacy, but yet communicate with the community, again, their thankfulness and -- and what a wonderful family they are.

KING: Yes.

Thank you, pastor. We'll be calling on you again, too.

Pastor Dennis Smith.

He speaks for both the families of the victim and the victim's fiance.

Bill Clinton Monday night.

Back with our guests after the break.


KING: With us in Pittsburgh, Ricky Tuan, the friend and mentor to Annie Le.

And joining us from New Haven is Thomas Kaplan. He's editor-in- chief of the "Yale Daily News," the newspaper published by the university. He did not know Annie Le personally, but he's done extensive coverage.

Has Yale ever had anything like this, Thomas?

THOMAS KAPLAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "YALE DAILY NEWS": Not in a long time. A Yale student was found murdered about 11 years ago. That was the last time anything reached this magnitude. This is really a campus in shock. I mean, no one here was prepared for -- for something like this, that's for sure.

KING: How does a campus newspaper cover this, with all the attention it's being given by the other media?

KAPLAN: Well, it's -- it's nothing we've ever, ever experienced before. But we do have some advantages covering a story like this. One story we wrote yesterday -- the building where Annie was found on Sunday was actually not cordoned off until the weekend. And we were able to send reporters into the bay -- into the building to look around because they were Yale students and had Yale I.D. cards. So that's the type of thing we can do that most -- most news organizations cannot do.

KING: Rocky Tuan, she was interned at the National Institute of Health.

Rocky, what was her goal?

What did she want to do professionally?

TUAN: Annie's undergraduate degree was in biology. And she was very interested in applying that type of knowledge to gain further training and try to come up with methods to take care of diseases, particularly diseases that require new tissue to form and develop and so forth and so on. So she was always very excited about using biological knowledge to -- to improve health. And so she, as she said to me, as well as to many of her -- her friends and colleagues, particularly Dr. Fay Chen (ph), who was one of my associates who worked very closely with Annie, she wanted -- when she grows up, she said, I want to use these technologies to help people to come up with methods to treat diseases and so on and so forth.

So she was very excited about the potential of all these new biomedical advances. So she wanted to be a professor, in academia and she also talked about coming back to the NIH to be an investigator. So she had a great future ahead of her.


KING: Joining us now from Hamden, Connecticut, Dr. Henry Lee, our old friend, chief emeritus, the Connecticut State Police, founder and professor of the Forensic Science Program at the University of New Haven.

And in Washington is Pat Brown, the well-known criminal profiler, founder and chief executive officer of the Sexual Homicide Exchange. That's SHE.

Dr. Lee, the official cause of death is traumatic asphyxia due to neck compression.

Strangulation, is that the simple way to put it, Doctor?

DR. HENRY LEE, FOUNDER, FORENSIC SCIENCE PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN: Yes. Basically, external force compressed the neck. It could be a strangulation. It could be manual. It could be a ligature. It could be some heavy force or heavy object compressed the neck.

KING: Can marks on the neck, other than fingerprints, help find a suspect?

LEE: Yes. It could be any ligature mark. It could be any object. And, of course, the medical examiner hasn't released any information yet.

I'm sure eventually they're going to compare all different objects and try to determine what's exactly caused the neck compression.

KING: Pat Brown, is it much too early to profile a suspect?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: I don't think so. I think there's actually a lot of good information here. Since we know it's an insider, somebody who worked at the lab, it's likely somebody who had contact with Annie Le and knew her. And the fact that she struggled so hard against him, there's some -- some -- at least this suspect, oh, wait, person of interest, as they're being politically correct about it. But this man that they've picked up, they said they had -- he had scratches on his -- on his chest and some say on his arms.

And we're having a manual strangulation. That means face-to- face. This man has her on the ground. He is strangling her. She's fighting back. And that indicates a great deal of rage, possible rape and obviously he has an interest in this woman in some way, shape or form. My guess is an obsession, that he liked her, she didn't give him the time of day and that made him terribly, terribly angry.

KING: So this is not a random killing?

P. BROWN: Absolutely not. I mean, if it had been in somebody -- you know, a serial killer from the outside, for example, he wouldn't have gone to all the work to hide his clothing and hide the body in there. He would have just run out. No, she -- he knew this girl. He targeted her. Whether -- I don't think it was premeditated. I think he just probably, you know, came up to her quite often. And she, being a friendly, wonderful girl, never realized that he was thinking about her and perhaps getting angry that she wasn't, you know, giving him any -- giving him any interest.

And now she's getting married so I guess she's not interested in me, I'll show her. And I think that's what was going on in his little mind right before the attack happened.

KING: We thank Rocky Tuan for joining us.

Our other guests will remain.

Is an arrest imminent?

We'll talk about it. And we'll hear what the New Haven police chief has to say in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back.

The New Haven police chief answered questions about Annie Le's murder and the person of interest who was released earlier today.

And here's some of what the chief had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF JAMES LEWIS, NEW HAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: And the issue, still, for us is two things. And that is to give justice to Annie Le's family and to bring the person who is responsible for this to justice and hold him accountable.

And we don't want to, in the future, to be accused of tunnel vision and saying that we focused on one person and only one person.

We believe the process of getting an arrest warrant would be a matter of just a couple of hours. And we would expect, particularly if it's someone who we have under surveillance, that the arrest would take place very quickly.


KING: Pat Brown, the person of interest willingly gave his DNA.

Could that clear him?

P. BROWN: Well, it depends. If the DNA doesn't match, it will -- it could clear him, obviously, entirely. But the question is, I'm thinking the DNA they're looking at is underneath of Annie Le's fingernails, because she did scratch -- at least that's the theory. They must have found something. I think they know a lot more than they're telling us.

That's where they're going to find the best evidence of all and, also, possibly on the shirt, because that shirt would have, possibly, her blood on it, if the perpetrator was wearing that shirt. And there's a possibility there's his DNA on that shirt or some kind of hair that would also match the crime.

So I think there -- this is going to be a heavy DNA case. In spite of all the circumstantial evidence, they need that DNA to match. And I think they know it's probably going to come up that way. I think they've got their DNA and they're just looking for their -- their -- their, you know, their exact match to the suspect.

KING: Is the Yale campus secure?

Could that murder have been prevented, next?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That this horrible tragedy happened at all is incomprehensible. But that it happened to her, I think, is infinitely more so.


KING: Joining our panel now is Judge Joe Brown, host of the TV show, "Judge Joe Brown." And Joe was telling me during the break of another interesting angle in this which has not been brought up, which is?

JUDGE JOE BROWN, HOST, "JUDGE JOE BROWN": See, I handle a lot of criminal cases as a defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge. And what's suggested by this evidence that everyone is rushing to blather on about is fuzzy little animals being experimented upon in the cause of medicine. The campus is very open. There's no way to secure this. It looks like an old time downtown area that's going downhill.

KING: You're saying it can be an animal activist?

J. BROWN: Ah, yes, an animal activist. They have been, supposedly, engaging in increasing acts of what Homeland Security calls domestic terrorism.

But supposing somebody walked in on this. Now, the lady that was just on talked about-face-to-face choking, but the medical examiner's report says it's not necessarily by hand. It could be something like a pipe or a heavy object.

Why would you, if you're trying to get away with it and you worked in the lab, known to the person, stuff her body in a wall?

It's going to smell due to decomposition very quickly, so you're not going to get away with it.


J. BROWN: But this is just the type -- maybe she walked in on something unfortunate.

KING: Pat Brown, has he got a point?

P. BROWN: I'm not agreeing with any of it. Absolutely not. I think it's a ludicrous theory, if I ever heard one. First of all, all -- this is a very secure campus. Camp...

J. BROWN: Well, I disagree with the lady.

P. BROWN: Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute.

J. BROWN: I have more (INAUDIBLE)...

P. BROWN: Wait. Let me finish.


KING: Hold on, hold on.

J. BROWN: Plus, we speculate...


KING: Let her...


KING: Judge, Judge...


P. BROWN: Let me finish.

KING: I'll hold you in contempt, Judge. Let her finish.

J. BROWN: Ma'am?

P. BROWN: Thank you.


P. BROWN: This is a secured area, so you have to get in with a card. That's number one.

Number two, the reason the body was hidden there was because this was not a terribly well premeditated crime. In other words, this was a rage crime, possibly with sexual intent to it. And once it's -- he's committed this, he's got a problem. He can't just run out the door because the body is going to be found immediately. He works in that building. He's got to hide the evidence because people are going to see him in his shirt. They're going to find the body and he doesn't want to be around when that happens.

So he did a good job. He hit her. Five days it took. That means he gets to go home, he gets to clean up for five days...

KING: Did your -- Pat...

P. BROWN: ...shower and do all that. He's got time to work with and he's hoping it won't be found.

KING: Pat?

P. BROWN: Yes?

KING: Pat, are you -- are you -- are you convicting this person of interest already?

P. BROWN: No. I'm saying the person who committed this -- the perpetrator worked in the lab. That's all I'm saying. That's all I'm saying.


Could it have been someone who's an -- so it wouldn't have been an animal activist, no chance?

P. BROWN: Absolutely not. No way. This was not an outside crime.

KING: All right (INAUDIBLE)...

P. BROWN: This wasn't some...


P. BROWN: This was -- there's no statement here. An animal activist would want to make a statement that what she was doing was horrible. There's no statement. This is a -- this is basically a sex crime and her body was hidden because of it.

KING: All right. Got it.

Dr. Lee...

P. BROWN: Yes.

KING: Dr. Lee, is this definitely a DNA case?

LEE: Yes. Definite. Well, of course, there are other evidence involved. This case -- usually, we use a four-pronged approach. The first one is our data monitor. Look at all the videotape. There are 750 hours of videotape that are available.

Also, look at those key cards and activity. Whether or not we can find certain time period the person of interest and the victim are together.

The second thing we look at is her activity. We try to see, because on the videotape, 10 after 10:00 she was seen. Then, after that, she goes to the basement to inject the animal and where that person of interest, where is he located?

The third thing is any witness available. The last one is physical evidence. Of course, police report they collect 250 items of evidence, which, I think, that's kind of misleading a little bit. They have 250 items. Not all the items have scientific evidential value.

So the laboratory scientists have to go through those 250 items, try to find the linkage. That's why police chief was correct in this case, it will probably take a little while until the DNA evidence show any connection...

KING: Yes, Tom -- all right.

LEE: ...and try to solve this case.

KING: Thomas -- Thomas Kaplan, you know the university better than anyone.

Could anyone have gotten in to see her?

KAPLAN: Could anyone have gone to see her?

Well, the -- the key thing here is that...

KING: I mean...

KAPLAN: ...this is an ultra modern (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Is it easy access or not easy?

KAPLAN: No, it was not. That's what -- what is important here. This is an ultramodern building and it requires you to swipe an I.D. card to get into almost any room in the building, including the basement. So investigators have a record of who got into the basement last Tuesday, which is around the time when Annie went missing.

KING: So, Joe, I think, your theory's getting knocked down.

J. BROWN: No, it's not. See, when I went to UCLA, we had friends in the engineering department. They'd get schematics and they'd make swiping key cards, laminate them between plastic playing cards.

KING: Don't you think it's a lot of trouble for an animal activist to (INAUDIBLE)?

J. BROWN: I know. But you see, that's the point. We have something that they put out there, they tried to make a great deal about, that's Miss. -- how do you pronounce it, Hromadka?

How do you pronounce that?

KING: I don't what you're talking about.

J. BROWN: Hromadka, that's Clark's girlfriend.


J. BROWN: Fiance. She supposedly put on her MySpace page: "Who are you to judge me? Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect and I don't live to be. But before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean," the 23-year-old wrote.

That may be a message to somebody, typical animal rightist. Before you start talking about how bad I am, what are you doing to counter it?

KING: All right...

J. BROWN: That could be. Now, it's speculation. Really, it's too premature to do that and we should make...

KING: All right. We're talking about...


KING: ...taken into custody, being released, isn't a suspect, what is he?

That's next.


KING: Thomas Kaplan, editor-in-chief, Yale "Daily News," what's the mood on campus over this?

KAPLAN: Well, I mean, this is really a campus in mourning. I think what's so shocking, Larry, is just the idea that a Yale student could be killed in broad daylight in a secure academic building in the middle of the week. I mean that's just something that, you know, no one is prepared to wrap their head around.

KING: Why, Pat Brown, do police announce something as person of interest?

What do -- what does that mean?

BROWN: I think, Larry, that's just become a politically correct term. Somewhere along the way, suspect was too nasty a thing to say about somebody, because it pointed to them as being involved in the crime and really being suspected. But person of interest, oh, we're just curious about him.

Well, let's face it; when you're interested in a person, you're interested in them because they might be the person who did it. So suspect, person of interest, quite frankly, the same thing, just a politically correct, you know, one of those things we say today.

KING: Judge, is there a danger in shows like this and many others of pre-convicting?

J. BROWN: Yes, I think it is. We engage in this talking and hear blather about information we don't have down correctly. The information's not accurate. It's second, third hand, fourth hand. And we start talking about what went on, instead of being patient and waiting. The only reason I threw that example out there is just to contrast it with what everybody wants, which is a dramatic movie.

We don't know enough and it is not our business to speculate. And I think we just need to say, we have the latest release; more when it becomes available.

KING: That's the nature of the beast, these days.

J. BROWN: Right. Ratings matter. I've been exposed to that these days.

KING: Shocked. Dr. Lee, strangulation must be a terrible way to die, isn't it?

LEE: Yes, it's a contracting in the -- air pass through the neck. Actually, there is three different mechanisms, constructions of the blood vessel and limited air. Any traumatic death, it's a tragedy. This particular case, of course, she was going to get married soon. And just, you know, something happened to her. Unfortunately, that happened.

That's why the law enforcement agency in Connecticut worked together, tried to solve that case. Larry, you just mentioned, you know, DNA. DNA, basically, we have to try to find any suspect's DNA on victim's body or victim's body on suspect's -- victim's DNA on suspect's body. Try to cross-link. If we can find a linkage, then this case will be solved.

KING: DNA is more foolproof than fingerprints, isn't it?

LEE: Yes, fingerprints sometimes it's difficult to find. This particular case, you have bloody clothing on the ceiling tile. And that clothing -- first have to establish that's the person's clothing. Second, any of the victim's DNA found on the clothing. And of course, they took the fingernail scraping from the person of interest. Hopefully, find her DNA under his fingernail. Or his DNA under her fingernail.

KING: Well, we'll stay on top of this. And hopefully deal with it more when more facts are in. Judge Joe Brown, Thomas Kaplan, Dr. Henry Lee, and Pat Brown.

We got a great show for you Monday night. President Bill Clinton will be here. We'll talk about health care reform, this year's Global Initiative.

Our next subject, President Jimmy Carter's explosive comments about race. Stick around.


KING: Former President Jimmy Carter stirred up a hornet's nest with his remarks about race yesterday. And about an hour ago had even more to say at a town hall meeting at Emory University in Atlanta. Watch and then we'll introduce you to our guests.


JIMMY CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States of America as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, or when they wave signs in the air that say we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kind of things are beyond the bounds of the way presidents have ever been accepted, even with people who disagree.

And I think people that are guilty of that kind of personal tact against Obama have been influenced, to a major degree, by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African- American. It's a racist attitude.

And my hope is, and my expectation is that in the future, both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.


KING: All right. Our panel here in Los Angeles, Larry Elder, libertarian commentator, best-selling author, in Las Vegas, Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, in New York, the social commentator Nancy Giles, also in New York, SE Cupp, the conservative columnist and author of "Why You're Wrong About The Right."

Based on the way he just explained it, Larry, isn't racism obvious?

LARRY ELDER, LIBERTARIAN COMMENTATOR: I would like to show due respect to the former president, so I will phrase it this way: what former President Jimmy Carter said, Larry, was a crock. In 1993, there was broad opposition on the part of Republicans against the intrusion of government into health care. That intrusion was led by a white man, Bill Clinton. Republicans opposed the intrusion of government and health care for the same reason.

KING: Didn't call him Hitler or talk about monkeys or anybody bring up -- did anyone make a racial incident about Bill Clinton?

ELDER: Do you want to talk about disrespect? You want to talk about what people said about George W. Bush, about signs being held up?

KING: OK. So you're saying there was no racism in any of these protests or any of these people?

ELDER: You're always going to find wing nuts, Larry. The question is is whether or not the opposition to Obama Obama-care is about race and about racism? And it is not.

KING: Do you think it is, Al?

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I think that -- first and foremost, I think we're fortunate we have a president that doesn't play into this. I think that he has said, and I degree, there may be a distinct minority of these that are protesting that are doing it based on race. But this is an issue in terms of health care that affects blacks and whites. I agree. And I know he's probably surprised that, Larry, that the same happened under President Clinton.

I think the issues themselves are beyond race. And I think that we would do a disservice to the debate to make this black/white.

Having said that, I think President Carter's right. There's some racism, clearly, that we still have to deal with this in country. But I don't think we ought to get into a sideshow of black and white when we have an opportunity, I think, better than any time in history of dealing with 50 million Americans with no insurance, others under- insured. And I think this president has tried to, even when the bait was cast, not to go for the bait, and try to keep us on the straight and narrow of dealing with substantive issues.

KING: SE Cupp, would you admit that there certainly is, with a black president, racism and obviously racism involved?

SE CUPP, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: No. No, I don't think so. And I think this speaks to sort of a generational gap. You know, my generation is not always so quick to jump to race. I think the Maureen Dowd's and the Jimmy Carter's tend to go there because that's what was always done. But my generation doesn't see racism in a Joe Wilson or racism at a tea party or a town hall. We're looking at the issues. And to Reverend Sharpton's credit, I think he's right. I think these issues are too important to racialize them, and project this imagined racism on to health care or any other political issue.

KING: How about -- Nancy, how about Joe Wilson, though, the Congressman who has supported keeping the Dixie flag as the flag as South Carolina?

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I wouldn't call that move incredibly inclusive. And I would say that signs held up at the rallies that say things like Cap Congress and Trade Obama Back to Kenya is definitely racial. I mean, and I'm a closer generation to the young lady that just spoke. And I think one of the most important things that happened with what President Carter said is he spoke very specifically about an overwhelming portion of people.

He never made a blanket statement that everybody that objected to Obama's health care -- President Obama's health care plans was racist. That's not what he said. But by people jumping to that, they're totally missing the point that there is, definitely, an element of race in the protests.

I've got to tell you one thing that caught me eye really fast, Larry. I travel a lot and I talk to a lot of people. And everybody I've met, everybody, has a story about how health insurance is either over-charging them or someone in their family or some friend has been screwed by the health insurance industry.

And I was looking at the people that were protesting health insurance reform and thinking, but reforms would even help them. It seemed like there was this underlying anger that had nothing to do with health care or anything.

And I agree. I think it's very courageous, in fact, what Jimmy Carter said. I totally agree, but he's speaking about a portion.

KING: OK, let me -- OK. I'll have Larry Elder pick up from that in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with our guests, talking about race and recent remarks by Jimmy Carter. He also said that heckling President Obama, endured at the joint session of Congress, is just unacceptable. Let's listen.


OBAMA: You wouldn't want to hear one of those members of the British Parliament saying that about the Queen of England, who's the head of state. In our country, it's different. The president is not only the head of a government. He's also head of state. And no matter who he is or how much you disagree with his policies, he ought to be treated with respect in an official forum like a joint session of the US Congress.


KING: Do you think, Larry, think -- we have no way of knowing -- that there are a lot of people who just can't accept the fact that there's a black president?

ELDER: I think there certainly are some people that will not accept that there's a black president. If Hillary Clinton had gotten elected, there would be some people who wouldn't have accepted a female president. But look, Larry, Republicans broadly people oppose Barack Obama's domestic agenda. They oppose the bail outs. They oppose the spending. They oppose Obama-care. They oppose cap and trade.

They support, however, Obama's intention to increase the troop levels in Afghanistan. So Republicans can differentiate between the policies that they support and policies that they don't.

Here in California, overwhelmingly, blacks voted for Obama, like they did everywhere else. Yet there was a measure to change the Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Blacks voted to outlaw same-sex marriage, even though Obama publicly opposed that measure. Blacks differentiated their broad support for Obama versus their opposition to his position on that particular issue.

KING: How does it -- doesn't it grade you when you see some of these signs at these rallies?


ELDER: -- and they were saying that Bush lied, people died. That bothered me. It bothered me when Hillary Clinton called him Alfred E. Newman. It bothered me when Harry Reid called him a loser and a liar. It bothered me when Charlie Rangel said of the then House controlled Republican Congress, they don't say S word, a slur for Hispanics, or N word, a slur for blacks anymore -- except he used the actual words. They just let's cut taxes.

KING: But you are angry at racism? You don't appear angry.

ELDER: Larry, do you want me to be angry?

KING: Yes, I do. I tell you something, somebody's anti-Semitic, I'm angry.

ELDER: My father does not know who his father was. He grew up in the south. He got kicked out of the house by his mom.

KING: Why aren't you angry?

ELDER: He grew up in Jim Crowe south. This is now 2009. We have a black president. We've had back-to-back black secretaries of state. I'm grateful that I live in America. And right now, it's about hard work, accountability and not blaming other people. I'm not going to go there where I don't see racism. You're not going to make me.

KING: I'm not going to make you anything. I'm just telling you me. Someone's anti-Semitic, I hate it. Is it ever OK to heckle a president of the United States? I'll ask after the break.



KING: Reverend Sharpton, do you think this argument is going to go away or continue throughout this administration?

SHARPTON: I think it will continue until we have the mature discussion in this country about race that President Obama said we needed to have as candidate Obama. And let me say this, Larry: I am angry. Larry may not be angry. I'm angry.

But I'm angry enough to want to see something done. And I think it's about enlightened anger. And we cannot be angry to the point where we just become engulfed in other anger, and not try to solve the problems.

Health care is an issue that we need everybody on. The minute a minority of races can make this a black issue, then the millions of whites uninsured think it's not their issue. It's their issue, too.

Yes, there is an element of racism there. Yes, a lot of the hecklers are saying racial things. These are a minority. We cannot let them turn the conversation their way. We have to solve this.

Education -- when I met with the president, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser, brought Newt Gingrich and I together. We are going on the road to talk about education. I think there's a racial disparity in education, but I'm angry enough to work with others to make sure we solve it.

And it's not generational. This generation had health Katrina. This Katrina has a white male that just beat a black woman in South Carolina. It has nothing to do with age. It has something to do with agenda and whether we're going to be mature enough to solve the problem.

KING: Ms. Cupp, here's what Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, had to say on this today. And we'll have you comment.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president does not believe that -- that the criticism comes based on the color of his skin.


KING: Well, the president doesn't believe it and you don't -- I guess you think then President Carter, Ms. Cupp, was totally wrong? CUPP: I think the president realizes that this line of politic is a loser for him. I think it's not politically expedient for him to bring race into this. And I think he found that out the hard way when he injected himself prematurely in the Skip Gates incident. I don't think that did him any favors. And I don't think that Jimmy Carter or Maureen Dowd playing the race card now does him any favors either. I think he knows that.

So I think he's going to sort of push back and back away from this, which I think will do him well in the health care debate.

KING: Maybe we all got carried away. And if I did, I apologize. I don't mean to get carried away. Sometimes we get -- Nancy Giles, do you think this is going to go away?

GILES: No. No, but I think it's a good thing we're talking and this. I want to say two quick things. One is that I totally agree with Reverend Sharpton. There are bigger and more important issues. And by using these racial incidents to distract from big, important issues, like universal health care, single payer health care, options to an industry that's ripping people off, we don't want that.

But I will say that President Carter spoke really from a place of knowledge. He's a white male, a former president, who had a lot of slings and arrows thrown his way. So I don't think what he says can be discounted. Again, I agree with what he said about the portion of people that are especially hysterical about President Obama.

KING: When we come back, we'll play for Larry Elder what Michael Steele, head of the RNC, had to say about this. First this.


KING: Michael Steele, head of the RNC, had this to say when he talked to Wolf Blitzer today.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: The president's interpretation of what racism is is not a reflection of what this is about. And the reality of it is this is about policy, differences in how we approach solving some of these issues that we're confronting on health care and the economy. And the fact that there are citizens around the country -- I don't care what color they are -- that are outraged or confused or concerned or whatever -- however they come to this debate, you know, that has nothing to do with the color of the president's skin.


KING: Agree?

ELDER: Of course I agree. There was a poll taken about 50 years ago, 1958. And they asked white Americans if they would vote for a black president. The majority of them said hell no. Same poll about a year ago or so, asked all Americans how many of you would not vote for somebody because they were black. Only three percent said I would not. That's lower than the number of people who believe that Elvis Presley is still alive.

It is not a significant problem in America anymore.

What I am angry about is the size and scope of government. I'm angry about the fact that government mandates where children go to school, a government school that might be failing. I'm angry about the fact that you can't take your money out your check and put it in an account you control. These are things Republican party wants and the Democrats do not.

I'm angry about the failure of the black family. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty. The number of black children born outside of wedlock was 25 percent. Now it's 70 percent. We are encouraging people to behave irresponsibly. That's the kind of stuff I'm worried about, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: I'm worried about that as well. But I also am worried about this continued racial disparity in this country. And I don't see where the Republicans did a lot about it. But I do not think to distort President Carter's words -- he said it was a distinct minority -- is a responsible thing to do.

He did not say that all people opposed to the president were racist. I think it is naive to say that everyone the opposes President Obama is racist. I think it's just as naive to say that none of them are.

Having said that, we must move this debate forward to say that the Republicans that have had the White House eight years under Bush, and four years under the other Bush, and before that President Reagan, failed to get us the health insurance that we need to guarantee for all Americans.

They fought it under Clinton. They're fighting it under Obama. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians must come together to make sure we get it this time, as we still do with the racism that Jimmy Carter talks about.

But we're not going for the bait. We're not going to be divided. We're going to fight for all Americans, Larry. And we're going to be angry about it. But we're going to be angry together.

KING: We're going to do a lot more on this in the days ahead. A lot more on health care and a lot of other issues. And we'll do a major program on race as well. I thank you all for being here. Larry, always good seeing you. Reverend Sharpton, Nancy Giles, and SE Cupp, whose book, by the way, is "Why You're Wrong About the Right." Great title.

Some breaking and sad news before we go. Mary Travers, the Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary, has died. She was 72, had been battling Leukemia. The group was an early champion of Bob Dylan and made music that was known for its political influence. Mary Travers, sad.

Anderson Cooper is next. "360" right now. Anderson?