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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with First Lady Michelle Obama; Bill Cosby Speaks Out Against Unhealthy Schools

Aired February 9, 2010 - 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, a prime time exclusive -- Michelle Obama is here, on the day America's first lady confronts a crisis that could be killing our kids -- obesity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to provide parents with the information and the tools that they need to make better decisions. But we also need to significantly change the quality of food that kids are getting at school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: She'll let us in on what the cameras don't see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: I try to make our home sort of a stress-free, work-free zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The toll the presidency is taking on her husband and how she deals privately with public criticism of him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: Democracy is about critique and the president is not immune to criticism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And why she worries about their two daughters.

And then Bill Cosby has got a message about life and -- and maybe his own death and turning our children from food addicts into fitness fanatics.

Next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

It is a delight to welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE -- a return visit -- now she is the first of the United States, Michelle Obama. The last time she was -- well, you weren't even a candidate. You were...

M. OBAMA: I wasn't. I was just hanging out and... KING: How do you -- do you like the job?

M. OBAMA: I really do. I'm enjoying myself.

KING: It's not paid.

M. OBAMA: It -- it isn't, but it's paid in so many ways other than money. You know, I -- I get to do what -- you know, we talked about this when I was here before. When you like people, having a job where you get to interact with folks on a day-to-day basis and you get to do things that make a difference -- and, you know, I still control my own schedule to -- to some extent.

So it's not a bad gig.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: All right. What -- this -- the childhood obesity thing, why -- why is this your priority?

M. OBAMA: Yes, well, you know, in the first year, I -- I focused on a number of things that I will continue to focus on -- support for military spouses; national service, which is something I've already -- always cared about. But as you know, this year I planted this wonderful garden...

KING: Yes.

M. OBAMA: -- the first ever White House garden. And that was to begin the conversation about nutrition. And we engaged local kids in the D.C. area in that effort and got a feel for how they react a more substantive conversation.

But on a personal note, you know, I come to this issue as -- as a mother. You know, before coming to the White House, especially when my husband was on the campaign trail, we were living the lives of average families -- way too busy, rushing...

KING: Fast food.

M. OBAMA: Fast food, you know, deserts too much, probably not monitoring TV. I was fortunate enough to have a pediatrician who worked in an urban environment in the African-American community. And he was tracking BMI. And he saw a little up tick in the kids' BMI and he kind of pulled me aside.

KING: BMI means?

M. OBAMA: Body mass index, which is, you know, a measure of sort of where people fall on -- on the weight scale. It's one of the first indicators of...

KING: And it was getting alarming?

M. OBAMA: It was getting to the point where he raised a red flag. And he probably was more cautious than -- than most people, because of what he had been seeing in his own practice.

KING: How did you react?

M. OBAMA: You know, I was shocked at first, because I didn't -- I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. And I hadn't noticed any changes in my -- my kids. So it was a little bit shocking and a little disorienting because I -- I wasn't sure what to do.

But I went home and it was kind of a wake-up call. And we made some changes, even with busy schedules. And they were minor changes, but I thought, well, we have to do something, so.

KING: But did the kids go for it?

M. OBAMA: You know, they did. And that was the...

KING: They went to broccoli from French fries?

M. OBAMA: You know, because -- well, it was portion sizes. It was a few more cooked meals. You know, we had no absolutes except no deserts during the week. Took -- took sugary drinks out of the lunch -- lunch boxes and put in water and had more milk, had more fresh squeezed juices, things like that.

We talked about processed foods and -- you know, so they caught on pretty quickly once, you know, they understood the point of it all. And they became stricter monitors in our household than either me or their father, so.

KING: You put the kids in the army.

M. OBAMA: The -- right. That's right.

KING: How do you react -- there were some who criticize, not many, but some who criticized you for personalizing it -- discussing it about your children.

M. OBAMA: I -- that's the only way I can describe it, because that's how I relate to it. And I know that if struggled with it in that way, you know, a person with means and information and access to, you know, everything that I needed, then what on earth is going on in families and communities around the nation where people don't have the information?

So I thought -- I thought it was important to share not just my story, but the success. And the point is that small changes made a difference. It wasn't a whole scale upheaval of our lives to see the outcomes.

KING: I don't want to get too statistical at the beginning tonight. We're going to cover other bases.

M. OBAMA: Yes.

KING: But according to a 2007 "New England Journal of Medicine," the number of overweight children ages 6 to 19 has tripled in the last 30 years -- 40 years. Twenty-five million kids are considered obese or overweight. That is a crisis.

M. OBAMA: One in three kids. And it's one in two for the African- American and Hispanic community.

KING: Does that lead, then, to adult diabetes, heart trouble?

M. OBAMA: Well, we're already seeing -- you talk to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because they're on board with this initiative. And they're seeing high cholesterol in young kids, high blood pressure, asthma that is preventable...

KING: Asthma?

M. OBAMA: -- and Type 2 Diabetes, which is the most sort of troubling, because Type 2 Diabetes was only an adult disease and now it's -- it's becoming more prevalent among kids.

So, you know, one thing that I -- I try to emphasize is that this isn't about weight and it's not about looks. It's not -- it's not a physical issue. It's really about the quality of life of our kids. Because, you know, teachers are seeing, you know, the challenges that kids with weight issues are having -- not being able to participate in gym, feeling a little more sluggish. This is a quality of life issue. And it's not about weight and diet. It's about fitness and it's about overall nutrition that we really have to be emphasizing here.

KING: Do you really think you can make a headway?

M. OBAMA: You know...

KING: You've got a task force formed today, right?

M. OBAMA: Absolutely. The president signed the first ever federal memorandum that establishes a federal task force on childhood obesity.

So do I think I can make some inroads?

KING: Yes.

M. OBAMA: I think that working with the rest of the country, with parents and business leaders and industry leaders and entertainment and sports leagues and parents and doctors and everyone, yes, I think that we can -- can make a difference.

KING: Now how do you handle it -- kids don't want to be told, you're overweight.

M. OBAMA: That's right.

KING: Certainly you don't want to say, you're fat.

M. OBAMA: Right. That's right.

KING: Isn't this is delicate?

M. OBAMA: It's an... KING: This is a delicate balance.

M. OBAMA: It's an absolute -- I -- with my kids -- again, all I -- I have is my story -- is I never talked about weight. I never discussed what the doctor said. I said, you know what, we need to change how we eat and let's think of some ways we can do it.

So you can have these conversations without having the conversation. And I think it's very important that we don't unintentionally make kids more paranoid or more self-conscious. At the same time, I think that it's not useful to point fingers at anyone, at kids or parents.

KING: Do you still drop into Burger King or McDonald's?

M. OBAMA: We don't do as much fast food, but I -- we eat burgers and fries when -- when...

KING: You can't eliminate it, though.

M. OBAMA: And you don't have to. I mean, that's really the point here. It's really balance. What I tell my kids is if they're eating right, you know, 70 percent of the time, then when they go to a birthday party or it's a Saturday and they're out and, you know, they can stop for ice cream and somebody wants to grab pizza or they have pancakes with chocolate chips in it, it's not a big deal.

Because that's how kids live...

KING: Of course.

M. OBAMA: -- and that's how, you know, they -- they wouldn't go for it if it were absolutes. And I think that's one of the messages for parents.

KING: But not daily.

M. OBAMA: Not -- well, not -- you know, not daily and not every meal every day, you know?

KING: According to "CNN Fact Check," the cost of obesity is as high as

$147 billion annually.

We'll be back with the first lady right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity and make kids healthier. Thank you.

(END CLIP) KING: Nice.

M. OBAMA: It's a -- it's a nice shout out.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: We have an iReport question for you...

M. OBAMA: Yes.

KING: -- that's sent in by a viewer.

Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can a healthy, five component lunch be provided for just $0.90 food cost?

How can we make children's health a true priority with the funding to back it up?

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: Well, that's one of the components of the Let's Move initiative, which is the nationwide initiative that we kicked off today. We've got to provide parents with the information and the tools that they need to make better decisions.

But we also need to significantly change the quality of food that kids are getting at school, because more than 30 million kids get half of their daily calories from the foods that they eat in school. And we don't want to set up a situation where we've got parents doing all the right things at home and then all that stuff gets undone.

So the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is -- is -- is in -- in line for discussion this year. We're proposing a $10 billion increase -- that's $1 billion a year for 10 years -- to really implement this legislation.

And we need to focus on the quality of schools in the lunches. I mean it's one thing when you pack your own lunch. But so many families rely on what they're being served in schools that...

KING: You would think schools would be hip to things that...

M. OBAMA: Yes. Well and many are. The -- the Department of Agriculture has an initiative called the U.S. Healthy Schools Challenge, where it recognizes schools that are already makings these differences. And there...

KING: What do you...

M. OBAMA: -- are hundreds of them. KING: I want to touch some other bases then come back to this.

M. OBAMA: Sure.

KING: The loss of Ted Kennedy.

M. OBAMA: Um-hmm.

KING: You went to the funeral, didn't you?

M. OBAMA: Oh, yes. Yes.

KING: And then the loss of the Senate seat.

How has that affected your husband?

And do you think this whole question of -- of the health bill...

M. OBAMA: Well, we were all saddened by the loss of -- of Senator Kennedy. He was the consummate statesman. He was the grandfather of so much important legislation. And attending the funeral reminded us just the extent of the -- the impact that he's had on the lives of all of us, not just here in this country, but around the world.

So it was a -- a deep loss. But you know, we -- we have an opportunity to continue that legacy and -- and we have to.

KING: Do you think you will?

Do you think you'll get a health bill?

M. OBAMA: I think we don't have a choice. When we look at these statistics, we're spending billions of dollars on preventable diseases. And new health care legislation could go a long way to improving prevention, first and foremost. Health care reform -- people have to have a pediatrician in order to get good information from their pediatricians. People have to be able to take their kids to well doctor's visits to have all this information tracked.

So we have to get this done. And I'm hopeful that Congress will come together, that the American people will recognize that doing nothing is absolutely not an option and that we'll fulfill this legacy.

So we have to stay vigilant. We need to get something done.

KING: Does he get down easy, your husband?

M. OBAMA: You know, he doesn't get down easily. He gets very focused and very serious when he -- when he's facing a challenge. But, you know, the thing about Barak is that he stays humble and keeps things in perspective. I mean the challenges that he faces or has faced over this year are not what irk him. It's -- it's really, you know, our inability to solve basic fundamental problems facing the American people. -- improving the jobless rate, getting people back to work, ensuring that our kids are getting the absolute best education in the world that prepares them for the future, that we have health care, that we're really pushing to fix our environment so that we have a -- a world to live in.

When he doesn't get those problems solved, that's what irks him.

KING: More with the first lady of the United States.

You like hearing that, huh?

M. OBAMA: It's OK.

KING: Sarah Palin is one of the president's biggest critics. We'll ask Michelle Obama about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK. It's obvious that we don't have to elaborate.

What's your read on the former governor of Alaska?

M. OBAMA: You know, I -- you know, I don't have a read. I mean, I try not to make or -- or set opinions about people that I haven't had any, you know, substantive interaction with. I mean, I know what you see on TV and when you're in the...

KING: Does it irk you when she criticizes what (INAUDIBLE)...

M. OBAMA: You know, democracy is about critique and the president is not immune to criticism. I think he's doing a phenomenal job. You know, we have to think of where we were when he took office. We were on the brink -- the brink of a depression worse than anyone really ever imagined. And I don't think the country ever really knew how bad things were. And because of some important steps, quick thinking, smart, strategic thinking, we're not even talking about that.

We've got to do more on jobs. We need to get health care done. There's a lot of work to be -- to be done. And -- and we need to do more to improve the civility in Washington. And I think if -- if there's a disappointment, Barack wishes that we had -- we'd come -- or that we'd come farther in that -- in that effort.

KING: Is she -- is she a phenomenon to you?

M. OBAMA: Again, I mean, I think she -- I think it's wonderful to have strong female voices out there, but I don't know her.

KING: What did you think of the Tea Party?

M. OBAMA: You know, I'm -- I'm focused on what's in front of me. And right now, that's ending childhood obesity in a generation -- getting this done. And I think when you're staying focused on solutions, trying to bring folks together -- governors, mayors and doctors and educators and athletes together around an issue that has no political party, you know, has no base in liberalism or conservatism, but it's about our kids and making sure they have the best life possible, then, you know, I -- it's hard for me...

KING: (INAUDIBLE). M. OBAMA: -- to get distracted...

KING: But you have to think about other things. You read the papers, you watch the television. You -- I mean you're all -- you're very smart and very aware.

M. OBAMA: I'm very smart but I -- I try to limit my intake to things that I can control. Because in this position, you know, it is my responsibility to work with all Americans. And I want to stay focused on the work...

KING: Right.

M. OBAMA: -- rather than, you know...

KING: Other things.

M. OBAMA: Other things.

KING: Does he counsel with you?

M. OBAMA: We talk all the time. I mean we talk as we've done our entire marriage. But it's more everyday talk. It's -- it's -- you know, I try to make our home sort of a stress-free, work-free zone for him, because it's necessary. When he works above the store, it's important to -- that when he or I or our kids walk in the door of the residence, that there's, you know, there's a release.

So our attention and conversation is still focused mainly around our girls and our family, our plans for the future. We do talk about health care. I want to know how his day is going. I'm -- I'm a citizen concerned about this country, too, so, you know, checking the -- the temperature is important for me.

We talked about this initiative and, you know, that's one of the reasons why he signed this memorandum, because he knows the importance of tackling the childhood obesity...

KING: But you also have to think, how does Haiti strike you?

What about these 100 Americans -- these 10 Americans that may have taken children?

We don't know, of course, what the answer is.

M. OBAMA: Right. Right.

KING: Do you expect America to be involved in this?

M. OBAMA: Well, I think that, first of all, the crisis in Haiti is -- you know, it's devastating. For a country that poor -- for any country, for that matter, to experience an earthquake of that magnitude, it's going to take decades for them to recover.

With regard to kids, the kids there, I think that, you know, as the State Department and the U.N. Has said and expert agencies on the ground have said, you know, we want to make sure that we keep families together. And in a crisis like that, kids get separated. Families wind up putting their kids in orphanages with the thought that it's temporary until they can get back on this -- their feet. And one of the things that we don't want to do is unintentionally separate families from -- from their kids. None of us wants that.

So I think, you know, as -- as folks here said, you know, we've got to take it slow, get the kids out who we know have homes to go to and make sure that we're very careful about getting the kids who we don't have clear status on out.

KING: Are you satisfied that Haiti will handle this well?

M. OBAMA: I think Haiti, along with the non-profit organizations on the ground -- the folks who, you know, do this -- I think right now, the Haitian government needs support from -- from all sectors. There -- there -- there will come a point when they'll get settled and, you know, things will start building and they'll be able to tackle everything. But right now Haiti needs our help on all these issues.

KING: We'll be back with Michelle Obama after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States.

Do -- do poll numbers bother you?

I mean you're in that interesting influx of yours are up and your husband's are down.

M. OBAMA: Um-hmm.

KING: Does that affect dinner?

M. OBAMA: No. No.

(LAUGHTER)

M. OBAMA: No, it doesn't.

KING: That was funny?

M. OBAMA: Yes. That was good -- it was a good one.

No, I mean it's -- it's, you know, when you've been on this path in a campaign, I mean you see how poll numbers, they go up, they go down. And sometimes you can pinpoint why, sometimes you can't.

I am -- I'm -- I'm very flattered that the American people today feel like I'm doing a very good job in representing them. And my husband is proud of that, as well. So it doesn't cause any tension at the dinner table.

KING: Just looking at him and observing him over these few years, does he ever get mad, mad?

M. OBAMA: Oh, yes.

KING: Angry, angry?

M. OBAMA: Oh absolutely. But...

KING: Ticked off?

M. OBAMA: Oh, yes. Yes, he's human. You know, if you prick him, he'll bleed.

KING: He never shows it.

M. OBAMA: You know, I think that his view of main -- maintaining a constructive approach -- you know, he's always about finding the solution. And he knows if you go too far emotionally, if you get too angry or you -- if you become too complacent, sometimes you miss the answer in between. And that's, I think, one of the strengths of him as a leader.

You know, we -- we talked about wanting a stable, consistent leader. We have that in him. That doesn't mean he doesn't show emotion. It's just that he shows it at appropriate times. He'll come home. He'll talk to his cabinet. He'll, you know, he'll converse with his advisers. There are appropriate times to show anger and frustration. But the American people don't care about the president's anger or frustration. They want to -- they want to know he's solving some problems.

KING: We know how important fatherhood is to him, motherhood is to you. I remember him telling me taking the kids to school was a big priority to him.

M. OBAMA: Yes.

KING: He hated campaigning when he had to be away from it.

He can't take them to school now, right?

M. OBAMA: Yes, well, it's a big old hassle.

KING: So raising kids in the White House is hard, right?

M. OBAMA: It's different. But it's easier in so many ways...

KING: How does he deal with that?

M. OBAMA: Well, you know, there are some things he can't do, but there are many things he can do. He gets up every morning. He sees his kids before they leave -- not something he did two years ago, could do two, three years ago. He comes home at a certain time. He can have dinner. He can read to the kids at night, tuck them into bed.

We have much more quality time. We can't go out, necessarily, but he still goes to the parent-teacher conferences. He still goes to the...

KING: He goes to the school?

M. OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. He goes to every performance and play. He goes to basketball games and soccer games. He can't go to every single one of them because some -- on Saturdays, oftentimes, he's working. But, you know, he is as involved as he has been, it's just, for example, he can't take the kids to school every day.

Quite frankly, they don't want him to. They think his motorcade is a complete embarrassment.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What's it like for them growing up?

That's -- one of the Roosevelt kids told me years ago that it's -- it's

-- at best, it's strange to grow up in that house.

M. OBAMA: Yes. It is. But, you know, I think you know what you know. And, you know, I'll be interested to see what they say when they're 20 and 30. But right now, they -- they take it in stride.

I mean the White House is a strange place to live, but it's surprisingly pleasant, because the people who work there really care about every single family that comes through. They're good with kids and they try to adapt to their idiosyncrasies and create a sense of normalcy.

So that's what they feel. It's like living in a big hotel with a whole bunch of fun people that you can work with. But then when -- when the doors close, it's -- it's like home.

KING: Do they have play dates?

M. OBAMA: They have play dates. They just...

KING: Kids come over?

M. OBAMA: A friend just left the house because it's a snow day. We're all snowed in, so they're getting stir crazy and driving us nuts. Had kids -- some friends sleep over the night before last. They go over to other kid's homes. They do...

KING: They do that, that's a problem for the Secret Service, isn't it, when they go to other people's --

OBAMA: The Secret Service is very accommodating. And we don't -- try not to talk too much about what they do, but, you know, the kids do --

KING: But you tell them they're going over to Henry's house?

OBAMA: The kids lead normal lives. And it's because of the Secret Service that they can. KING: Good for you.

OBAMA: Yes.

KING: Some more issues and more about childhood obesity with the first lady, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Michelle Obama.

By the way, tomorrow night, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, will be here.

And still to come, some moments tonight with Bill Cosby.

Not bad so far.

OBAMA: One of my favorite -- favorite people.

KING: Both of them, right?

OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. The --

KING: Don't leave Jo out.

OBAMA: Jo and Bill, absolutely.

KING: All right, probably the biggest single problem -- hyphenated with health care -- is jobs, right?

OBAMA: Um-hmm.

KING: You mentioned it briefly. There's so many people out of work. His critics say your husband should be doing more, he promised more.

OBAMA: Um-hmm.

KING: How do you react?

OBAMA: Yes. Until the unemployment numbers go down, I don't think my husband is satisfied. And more is -- is coming. You know, a lot was saved with the stimulus. And again, you know, it's -- it's hard to tell people who are hurting that things could have been worse if we hadn't done what we've done.

So, you know, there's no point in pointing back. There's a lot more to be done and he's not going to be satisfied and he's -- until he sees those unemployment figures go down.

KING: How is the -- it was so bitter -- well, rather bitter in the campaign with Hillary, when they were going at each other.

OBAMA: Yes, it seems so long ago.

KING: Yes. How are they doing now together?

OBAMA: They're great. Hillary Clinton is an amazing secretary of State. I mean she would have been an amazing president. She was an amazing attorney. She's a phenomenal professional. And she's proven to be a tremendous asset in -- in so many ways.

So the relationship is -- is -- is strong. They share the same views in terms of international policy and approach. And we're seeing the outcome of that on the international stage. I think, you know, we can say pretty clearly that the United States -- the -- the view of this nation around the world has changed. People are enthusiastic about the potential.

Things aren't perfect. We're still a nation fighting two wars. But when we travel around the country, the excitement and the possibility are palpable. And I think that's because of the president, but I think it's also because of our secretary of State.

KING: How tough is it for you when a man or a woman is lost in battle?

OBAMA: Oh, it's the hardest thing. You know, I think one of the hardest things that the president said he had to do this year was to greet the caskets of fallen soldiers that evening to, you know, sit down with parents who have buried their child. When we went to Fort Hood, you know, meeting with the families --

KING: Oh.

OBAMA: -- of the survivors of -- of that tragedy, I mean, you know --

KING: How do you train for that?

OBAMA: You don't, you know?

What helps me is that I -- I see how strong they are. You know, just how --

KING: They help you?

OBAMA: They help me. That's -- you know, that's one of the -- the reasons why the issue of military families is so important to me. Maybe it's selfish because they give me strength. You know, and the same thing is true for the president. When we look around and you think of the minor irritations that go along with being the president, you think about the real sacrifice of -- of our troops and you want to make sure that they have the resources they need when they're in the battlefield and that they have the resources and support when they come home and that their families are well taken care of.

And we have to work hard for that. That's, you know, that's not just a given.

KING: Some more moments with the first lady, her highness -- ah --

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Well, we got rid of that years ago, right?

OBAMA: Yes. Yes.

KING: Michelle Obama, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Michelle Obama.

Fighting obesity -- how about the image problem of children?

OBAMA: Um-hmm.

KING: They have a certain self-image. This could hurt them to hear things like this, couldn't it?

Again, we've discussed delicate balance.

OBAMA: Right. Right. And I get --

KING: We tread water here.

OBAMA: Well, you -- and you have to continue to tread water. Approaching this, we have to look at it from a whole range of -- of pillars as we -- information to parents, improving school lunches, improving accessibility and affordability, which means eliminating food deserts. Areas in this country where there are no supermarkets so that families do have access to food. And then the last important pillar is really physical education. And that seems to be one of the more important ones for me. Because if kids are able to raise their level of activity, it frees them up to not have to worry about, you know, every little thing that they eat, because their activity level tends to be that of a normal kid.

The president's fitness challenge is going to play an important role really modernizing that challenge to make sure that it just doesn't focus on athleticism. Which it has in the past -- how many push ups or sit ups you can do. And not every kid is an athlete. But you don't have to be an athlete to be physically fit. You just have to move.

KING: What are you asking Joe and Martha Citizen to do? OBAMA: Well --

KING: A couple is watching tonight. They got two kids at home. What do you ask them to do?

OBAMA: Yes. I'm say -- first of all be cognizant. You know, be honest. Look around and say, you know, "Are things where they should be?" You know? Are my kids good? Are they getting the level of physical activity? Are they eating right? Do they have the energy level?

If the answers are no, talk to your pediatrician. Get a real assessment of what's going on. And then work with them to structure some solutions. And they can be pretty small, you know? I'd say turn off the T.V. Eat dinner together as a family. There was a study that showed that structure in children's lives whether they're eating meals as a family on a regular basis, they have a regular bed time -- all that structure really decreases the -- the likelihood that a child will be obese.

KING: You can make changes.

OBAMA: Cut down portion sizes. And even if you're not in a safe neighborhood, find ways to be more active with your kids. And it could be turning on the radio and dancing until you sweat for a half an hour. If you live on the top floor, walk up and down the stairs. Walk to school if you can.

KING: Yes.

OBAMA: Find those small ways as a family to --

KING: Simple.

OBAMA: Yes. You know, and that's what I would tell the average viewer -- simple.

KING: Yes.

OBAMA: You know, it's not a whole scale change. Small changes.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- go to quick (ph) things.

OBAMA: Yes.

KING: Just a few days till Valentines.

OBAMA: Yes.

KING: What do you expect? Roses? Chocolates?

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Oh, I expect the moon the stars and the sun, honey.

KING: What do you usually get?

OBAMA: I usually get dinner, and a gift of some sort.

KING: Then you're going to go out for Valentines?

OBAMA: I don't know.

KING: It's a Sunday.

OBAMA: I don't know. Because we might be traveling. We might spend some time at Camp David. So if -- but I'm not sure yet. We haven't finalized the plans.

KING: Does he get a gift federally (ph)?

OBAMA: A nice card.

KING: Thanks.

OBAMA: Thank you.

KING: First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. And her friend, Bill Cosby is next. More about childhood obesity, and other things with Mr. C right after this.

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KING: Bill Cosby is now with us, the co-author of "Come On, People." He's here, as he says, rebutting Internet rumors that he died in a car accident over the weekend. He's here. We also welcome back Dr. Alvin Poussaint, who co-authored "Come On, people." He's a psychiatrist at the Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Bill, let's establish it quickly. You are indeed alive?

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: Yes, I am. I have rebutted that.

KING: We just talked to Michelle Obama about childhood obesity. Bill, how serious a topic is this for you?

COSBY: It's very, very serious because there's some things happening with the school system I don't understand and I don't like. Whatever happened to recess? OK, so you put the teachers' cars in the yard, so the kids can't run around anymore. All right, what else is left?

If you have a three-story school, then all you have to do is pretend that you have a track team. Take time out. You walk the children down three flights. You walk them up three flights. You walk them down three flights. You walk them up three flights. You do that three times and then let's go back into the classroom. Twice a day.

KING: Why do schools -- Doctor Poussaint, you can get in on this, too. Why would schools have not used the food programs? That seems contradictory to the purpose of being in school?

DR. ALVIN POUSSAINT, PSYCHIATRIST: That's one of the problems. They serve poor food sometimes. Some are doing better. But they're not serving the right food, and often they give big portions. That's one of the big proposals in this initiative that Michelle Obama is proposing, to go after the food in the schools. But also they have vending machines in the school that frequently are filled with candy and sugary sodas. And something has to be done about that as well.

I think one of the biggest problems, in my mind, is the intense marketing of food, high-fat food, to children. From a very early age, before one, they're watching television and seeing all of these ads. And they're very sophisticated with toys tie ins. They say, you buy this hamburger at my place and you can get a free toy. You go into the supermarket and there are children's cartoon characters all over the packages and candy bars to attract them to eating high-fat goods.

I think that's a serious problem in this whole initiative. And I think industry leaders in the food industry have to get together to really talk about turning that around in some way, and not just worrying about the bottom line.

KING: You write in the book, "Come On, People," it's simple advice, don't eat fast food all the time; eat fruits and vegetables; have a healthy breakfast. Isn't, though, it hard to convince people truly to make a change? Isn't change the hardest thing?

COSBY: Yeah. But, you know, if you love your child -- if you understand -- and I think Alvin will agree -- that basic illnesses, colds, things wrong with different organs in the body, these things can be attributed to what you're eating. And if you're eating the wrong food, if your diet is off -- if your kid is having a soda and a bag of something salty, that all turns into a carb and sugar. Your pancreas is catching holy hell. It can't balance the insulin with all that sugar attacking it.

KING: Also, as Mrs. Obama mentioned, Dr. Poussaint, don't overlook the family dinner. You know, you kind of forget that when running out. You do this, you do that, families; they don't have dinner together anymore.

POUSSAINT: Well, that's true because you have couples each with a job, if there are jobs available. But you also have many more single mothers than ever before, who are rushing around, trying to keep things in order. And frequently the best or quickest thing for them to do is to get fast food or takeout and junk food, and not prepare dinner, and not have a sit-down dinner, because they're so very busy.

But it is true, if you have dinner and there's cooking going on, you prepare meals, less calorie loaded, and children are less likely to be obese. So I think it's important that the parents still are role models.

KING: The book is "Come On, People." Hold on, we'll come right back. We'll be right back, Bill. Learn more about obesity and kids. Go to our blog at CNN.com/LarryKing. By the way, "American Idol's" Ryan Seacrest has written an exclusive for us about fitness, fat and children, and you won't see it anywhere else. Right back with the Cos and Dr. Poussaint. Don't go away.

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COSBY: We're back with the co-authors of "Come On, People," Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint. Do you think it can work, Bill? Do you think the first lady and people like yourself, in books -- do you think we can change society?

COSBY: Yes, if we fire the nutritionists that put the food out for the kids in the public schools. And if we get honest nutritionists, if we get honest people who get the contracts to put the food in the cafeteria, so that they are not skimming money off, just getting cheap food -- we need food that's nutritional. We need food that's just not for the mouth. You need food that children will like the taste of, but there's nutrition coming into the body.

KING: They're not going to change overnight. Dr. Poussaint, frankly, are you optimistic about this?

POUSSAINT: Well, I -- I think it's going to take a lot. And she's pulled together an enormous coalition of people and institutions to work on this. So it has the best chance of anything I've ever seen.

But it's not likely to just take a generation. I think it's very hard to change people's food habits, what they eat, what they like to eat. And that's going to be a stumbling block. But I think the fact of the effort is being made that, yes, maybe we'll all be very surprised, and the epidemic will really diminish in a very serious way, and children and the country will be much better off because of it.

KING: Bill, do kids in lower income neighborhoods have access to healthy, fresh foods?

COSBY: I don't know. I know there used to be a Fed-Co, that was deliberately put in the lower economic neighborhoods to serve the people. Maybe not. I don't know.

POUSSAINT: No, they don't have many -- much fresh food in low economic neighborhoods at all. That's one of the problems. And so people are trying to push fresh food markets in those neighborhoods, as well as more supermarkets and grocery stores that sell produce, because many of those neighborhoods don't have supermarkets, not to mention farm markets.

KING: What's a simple thing, Bill? What would you tell someone watching right now? What can you do today with regard to making your family healthy?

POUSSAINT: Larry, what I would say --

COSBY: Well, if you can't --

KING: One at a time. Bill, you go first.

POUSSAINT: Go ahead.

COSBY: Well, what I would say is, first of all, your children and their health -- what you put in their mouth, sooner or later. is going to show up in whether or not they're healthy or not. So if you're going to have things that just taste good, and that people just put things -- fries and there's no balance, nutrition, then you're not helping your child.

Think about how much you love your child, how healthy you want your child to be. So on your way to work, you may stop off and pick up something. And teach your kid. Negotiate with the kid. They love to be negotiated.

KING: Dr. Poussaint, what would you say? One thing to do?

POUSSAINT: Well, one thing to do that I think every parent can do is serve smaller portions to their children, and have them have smaller portions if they go out to eat anywhere. That will make an enormous difference because we have a phenomenon in America called the "Clean Plate Club." We tell children, finish everything on your plate; children are starving in Africa and Asia and so on. And so sometimes --

KING: Good idea.

POUSSAINT: Sometimes kids are pushed to eat a lot because their parents are pushing them to eat a lot, because they think it's wrong to waste food.

KING: The book is "Come On, People." Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Bill Cosby. Bill, how did you learn you were dead?

COSBY: I read about it on the Internet, and I was very, very surprised. And so that's why I said to my wife, am I dead? She said, yes.

KING: Thanks, guys.

POUSSAINT: I was surprised too, Bill, because your wife didn't call me. I think she would've called me if you were dead.

KING: We're out of time. Big day tomorrow. Tomorrow night, Vice President Joe Biden will be here. We'll be joined by Senator John Kerry and his wife, Theresa Hines Kerry. Big night tomorrow night. Big night now, "AC 360," Anderson Cooper.