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Interview With Eric Massa

Aired March 9, 2010 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Eric Massa is here -- his first prime time interview since suddenly resigning from Congress, admitting that he groped a staffer. He's called the leader in his own party a liar and the White House chief of staff, "the son of the devil's spawn."

But Massa says he didn't jump, he was pushed out of office over his opposition to the health care bill.


ERIC MASSA (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: And I was set up for this from the very, very beginning.


KING: Plus, actress Jessica Biel and Neal Hirsch confront the ultimate test...


JESSICA BIEL, ACTRESS: This is -- this is (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) challenging. Yes. This is challenging.


KING: -- punishing their bodies and minds in a dramatic struggle to conquer snow, ice and thin air.


Good evening.

You've just heard some of what makes former Congressman Eric Massa so controversial.

And we welcome him to LARRY KING LIVE.

He's in New York.

We're in Los Angeles.

Congressman, you've given three different reasons for your resignations.

Here's what White House Press secretary, Robert Gibbs, had to say about that today. Watch.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On Wednesday, he announced he would not seek reelection because of a health problem that he said was a recurrence of cancer. On Thursday, he said he wasn't running because -- not because of cancer, but because of his use of salty language. On Friday, he seemed to take some responsibility for his -- his actions at a different event and we learned that the Ethics Committee was looking into his actions relating to sexual harassment.


KING: Congressman, thanks for being with us.

Let's set the record straight, why did you resign -- health, ethics, Democratic leadership, what?

MASSA: All the above, Larry. It would be nice if Mr. Gibbs got it straight.

Listen, I've been incredibly outspoken about my personal feelings and my professional conviction that if we pass this health care bill using reconciliation, which is the same process that the Democratic leaders condemned when it was done with a different party, that it's going to create a schism in this country that's going to take a generation to overcome. And there's no doubt about did, I've been on the record over and over and over again.

By the way, you know, I...

KING: You didn't quit because they're proposing health legislation, did you?

If you're going to vote against it, why quit?

MASSA: Here, because it's all interconnected, Larry. That's why.

I am a cancer survivor. In December, I was told I was facing a reoccurrence of that cancer and we're still awaiting confirmation of that. My wife, my family, my parents, my inner circle said, for the love of God, Eric, don't kill yourself, don't run again.

When I made that announcement, literally, at that moment, within 15 minutes -- maybe 17 -- a Washington, D.C. newspaper dropped an article that said I was under an ethics investigation when no one had told me that -- not a word. That's called the Washington two-step. That's where you get set up, somebody passes information and out you go.

And in the face of facing cancer, fighting the Democratic leadership -- by the way, I'm a proud Democrat. I'm a Democrat in a place where we don't have Democrats. It's not like I'm in New York City. I'm in rural America, where the rubber hits the road. I'm one of the first Democrats to be elected in my Congressional district in -- in human memory.

And there, the people of my district, by the way, overwhelmingly, didn't want me to resign. But I can't...

KING: But you're...

MASSA: I can't stay in the fight at all.

KING: You are leaving because -- quickly, in -- in a sentence, you're leaving because?

MASSA: I am leaving because I have to fight simultaneously a potential recurrence of cancer the Democratic leadership, a health care bill that's going to destroy this country, my opposition to it and a belief that my party has become what it became -- what it campaigned against.


MASSA: It's a very, very clear situation.

KING: You claim that the Democrats helped force you out because of your opposition. But Stony Hoyer -- Steny Hoyer, rather -- said today the reason for your resignation had absolutely nothing to do with your position on health care. He said the suggestion you were forced out by any Democratic leader is absurd.

Hoyer also said today he never talked to you about the ethics violation...

MASSA: Right.

KING: -- but the staff -- his staff talked to your staff.

MASSA: So...

KING: Did any Democrat say to you, you will get out or else?

MASSA: Oh, I've had that said to me a bunch of times. I have said that...


MASSA: -- that has been said to me in many, many ways by rank and file demands. Eric, you're stirring the pot. You know, we're unhappy with you. Leadership doesn't like you. You're taking too visible a position against this bill. Remember, I voted against Cap- and-Trade. I had the same kind of thing happen there.

But the bottom line is it's not about me. It really isn't. I'm collateral damage. I'm road kill. And in 72 hours, nobody is going to remember who I am nor are they going to care.

And if I can do anything as I leave, it's to raise a signal to my fellow Democrats all over this country that we are about to make a huge, irrevocable mistake.

And as soon as I said that, I go on the enemies list. I become the target. It becomes a...

KING: So...

MASSA: -- whisper campaign.

KING: All right...

MASSA: It becomes innuendo.

KING: Just so we under -- let me set it straight.

You're not saying that any -- any particular Democratic leader -- head of a committee, president, vice president, chief of staff -- asked you to leave?

MASSA: Well, I tell you what, my...

KING: Or are you saying that?

MASSA: My very good friend, Rahm Emanuel, made it very clear to me on several occasions that I was, quote, unquote, not a team player; that I was not -- that I didn't not have a future.

I had a -- I actually had a committee chair and I don't even remember which one it was, because I went home and wrote it down.

KING: But isn't it...

MASSA: Come up and say...

KING: -- isn't that fair game in politics...

MASSA: Sure it is...

KING: -- if you vote against your own president, it's -- the chief staff says to you, you're in trouble.

Why wouldn't he say that?


KING: That's logical.

MASSA: I -- I don't argue with it. But here's the issue, Larry. I am in trouble because I'm a Democrat standing up to a horrific mistake we are about to make, period. And -- and you can see over and over again exactly how, once you get on the wrong side of leadership -- and this is something that every single American who watches this understands. You end up bucking your party, you're out. And it's happened over and over and over again and...

KING: But your vote isn't going to...

MASSA: -- I'm just the most recruit example.

KING: Your vote isn't going to change health care, though, is it?

MASSA: Well, according to "Roll" -- this is an interesting point. According to -- this came to me. According to "Roll Call" newspaper, once I'm gone, literally it becomes a 215 vote. And it's going to pass by one, maybe two votes. And when you get that close, where it's that calculated about who gets a pass and who doesn't, you'd better believe it makes a difference.

KING: More with former representative, Eric Massa.

He's still -- you're still a congressman today, right?

MASSA: No. I resigned as of 5:00 p.m. yesterday.


We'll be right back with more.

Don't go away.


KING: Former Congressman Eric Massa of New York is our guest.

The ethics investigation apparently stems from your behavior at a New Year's Eve wedding in which you -- you tousled somebody's hair. And then in an interview earlier today, you acknowledged that at your 50th birthday party, you groped a male staffer.

What is this all about?

MASSA: Well, when -- when four guys jump on you to wrestle you to prove that you're 50 years old, anything can be called anything, Larry. And what it's all about is innuendo. It's all about using language to destroy people. You know, I don't get to know who my accuser is. I don't get to know what the accusation is. I don't get to know any of that.

And, in fact, I never will, because there is no ethics investigation because I'm not a member of Congress anymore. I can't fight...

KING: All right...

MASSA: I can't fight that, represent my district and run for reelection and the health care bill -- and, oh, by the way, I may have cancer. I've got to prioritize my life.

But here's what it's about. I took responsibility for my life because, clearly, somebody -- somebody on my staff thought that I did not deserve to be in Congress. And the code of ethics that we put down that everybody on my staff signed, I have to follow. Here's the issue. Washington, D.C. is not used to someone standing up and holding themselves accountable. When the ship runs aground -- and I spent 24 years in the Navy -- it's not the navigator, it's the captain. And I was the captain of this office. And I messed up, period.

KING: Did you...

MASSA: And I own that.

KING: You were -- you admitted groping -- groping...

MASSA: No, I didn't...

KING: There's no other way to define groping but sexual.

MASSA: I didn't...

KING: Sexual -- groping is sexual.

MASSA: In fact, I never admitted groping. Somebody was sticking a microphone in my face walking on the street. In an interview, that was an hour long, I described in detail the only incident that I know of that could even come close to that -- even come close to it. You've got to remember, my staff, some of them with me for seven years. My closest staff guy, 69, 70 years old, my dearest friend, counselor to my children, a friend of my wife, lived in our house for a year. And all the young people lived in our house. We lived in cars, ate day old pizza.

These were relationships formed over the past two, three, four, five years. And it's not -- it's like a family. And so anybody can take anything out of context.

But if somebody...

KING: All right...

MASSA: -- somewhere said they're uncomfortable, I'm at fault. And I lived up to it...

KING: All right, now...

MASSA: -- and I left.

KING: Let's -- let's comment on what "The Washington Post" writes today. It says: "Former Representative Eric Massa, Democrat of New York, has been under investigation for allegations that he groped -- groped multiple male staffers working in his office, according to three sources familiar with the probe."

Is it true...


KING: -- that you groped male staffers? MASSA: No, it is not true. Period. I don't know how else to answer your question. And...

KING: All right...

MASSA: -- and this is...

KING: According to "The Post," the allegations date back at least a year. "The Post" says your former deputy chief of staff provided the information about the staffers' allegations to the House Ethics Committee three weeks ago.

MASSA: Well, I...

KING: Have you spoken to him?

MASSA: No, I have not. In fact, this is the first time I've heard anyone say that my former deputy chief of staff, a man who lived with my family -- lived with my family for years, in my home, counselor and disciplinarian to my children, one of my wife's best friends, never said a word to me at all, as has no one else.

KING: Why don't you then call him?

Why don't you call him?

MASSA: Because I was told that you can't call somebody while you're, quote, unquote, being investigated. So I haven't called them and I won't call them. There is no investigation...

KING: I know. But since is no inves...

MASSA: I'm not a member of Congress. I'm done.

KING: Aren't you curious enough to ask him...


KING: -- why this came about?

Now that you're not a congressman, why not call them?

MASSA: I'm -- I am more than curious. And someday, perhaps we'll talk. Maybe he'll call me. If he's listening, I hope he does, because I'd sure like to know what is behind this.

But in the meantime, he's...

KING: Then why not call him?

MASSA: Well, if I had his number, I would. I don't have his phone number anymore. That's (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: But he lived in your house. He was your (INAUDIBLE) -- you don't have his number? MASSA: No, I don't, because we all had cell phones and the cell phones have all been changed, so I don't have his number right now, Larry. I don't.

KING: All right, more with Congressman...

MASSA: But he's welcome to call me.

KING: All right. I've got it.

All right, let me get a break and we'll come back with lots more with our special guest, the former congressman, Democrat of New York, Eric Massa.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Congressman Eric -- former Congressman Eric Massa.

All right, on Fox News just a short time ago, you said, quote: "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me."

So you did grope someone, right?

MASSA: So, Larry, when you grab someone and you're wrestling, I don't know how to describe that word. So if that's -- if that's the word that you want to have an entire debate about, then I can't stop you.

KING: No. I'm just asking the question -- you said you groped someone.

MASSA: Yes, I...

KING: A lot of people associate groping with sexual.

MASSA: Well, it wasn't sexual. Period.

KING: OK. Have you ever had...


KING: All right, simply put -- we can put this away.


KING: Have you ever had an inappropriate sexual contact with anybody on your staff, male or female?

MASSA: No. Absolutely not. And in fact, the very first time I heard this had anything to do with my -- with my former deputy chief of staff was just now. This is the first official anybody has said this to me. And don't you find it odd in Washington, DC, where an ethics investigation is supposed to be the most confidential and secret thing that could ever happen, that it gets periodically leaked to the press because I'm standing up and saying that people are railroading me because I've been arguing against this health care bill?

Isn't that kind of an odd thing that is happening?

KING: So...

MASSA: Ethics Committees...

KING: -- are you...

MASSA: -- ethics investigations take years.

KING: Yes.

MASSA: Mine took 18 days. I mean -- I'm sorry, 18 hours. So...

KING: Are you saying, Eric, that when I read to you the quote from "The Washington Post" about the former deputy chief of staff...

MASSA: Yes. That's the first time...

KING: -- that at this minute, tonight, is the first time you've heard that?

MASSA: That is the first time I have heard that. No one from the Ethics Committee...

KING: Does it shock you?

MASSA: It breaks my heart. I mean this is a man who was as close to me as my father. His portfolio was health care. His portfolio was health care. He -- he is one of the foremost experts in national health care policy in the world. And he -- we literally, after four years of campaigning together and -- and four years before that being close friends, he was...

KING: All right...

MASSA: -- one of the first guys I called and said, should I run for Congress?

This is the first time anyone has ever said to me, by title, who it is. And it does more than shock me. Shock me is not it. I mean this -- this is what happens when you trust people. And why did the Ethics

KING: So why not call...

MASSA: I will.

KING: I'm back to that again.

Why don't you just call him and get an answer?

MASSA: Larry -- Larry, now that I got this information, I will. I will call him, if I can find...


MASSA: -- or I asked him to call me.

KING: All right. Here are comments...

MASSA: He knows my number.

KING: Here are comments you made in a radio interview about White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.


KING: It's got lots of attention.

Let's listen then have you comment.


MASSA: They don't have any shower curtains down in the gym. And I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget.

Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?

Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil's spawn. He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.


KING: All right. You're both in -- in a -- in a gym, right?

No women are there.

You were nude, too, right?

MASSA: I was in the shower. That's generally how I am.

KING: No shower curtain. So he's walking around nude. The fact that he's nude is immaterial.

MASSA: Right.

KING: He's the chief of staff. He's angry at you because you're going to vote against his president's bill. That sounds like a tough chief of staff getting angry at one of the members of his own party who's going against him.

MASSA: So why...

KING: Why is it more than that?

MASSA: Why is the chief -- well, I don't know if it's more than that, except for the fact that it's very, as I said in the quote -- and, by the way, I owe Rahm an apology. I went over the top. I don't think he'd strap his children to the front of a locomotive. He'd strap my children to the front of a locomotive.

This -- this is a guy who has -- he has disliked me -- and it's been mutual -- since the first time we met. And -- and, Larry, the problems that we face and the incredible broken system that is Washington, D.C. are so much bigger than Rahm Emanuel and me. I mean we're bit players in what's going to happen to our country.

In -- in 72 hours, I'm gone and who cares?

And I understand that.

KING: But I mean the fact -- the fact that he didn't have clothes on and you were coming out of a shower is immaterial...

MASSA: No, it's just...

KING: -- isn't it?

Why is...

MASSA: Well, it's terribly awkward. I mean it -- it's terribly awkward.

KING: Yes...

MASSA: When was the last time you had a political argument with a naked man?

I mean it just doesn't work well.

KING: Never.

MASSA: Well, and that's my point.

KING: By the way, two White House officials denied to CNN...

MASSA: Of course they did.

KING: -- that this incident ever took place with Rahm Emanuel...

MASSA: Absolutely they will.

KING: They're saying it never happened.

MASSA: Of course they're going to -- they have to say that. That's the Washington two-step. I've got nothing to lose.

I mean how many times can they try to shoot a dead horse? I'm -- I'm...


MASSA: It's -- it's almost humorous. It -- it's as if someone is trying to say that I'm looking to run again, that I'm looking for redemption, that I'm looking to become something other than just go back and be the father to my kids and actually reunite with my wife, who I haven't seen functionally in five years.

I've got nothing to gain by this, other than raising an alert. And here's the alert. Like I said, it's not about Rahm Emanuel. He is a -- he is a tough as nails chief of staff. Trust me, I was a lot tougher when I was an executive officer on a destroyer. No one was tougher than me. I understand that.

But it's not about either one of us. It's about a system in Washington, D.C. that is so functionally paralyzed that every single American that looks to their Capitol for leadership has been disenfranchised and actually is at the point of despair.

And I'm telling you again -- and let me make it very, very clear -- one last statement. If we pass this health care bill using reconciliation, it will so divide this nation that I don't know how you put it back together. I don't...

KING: But it didn't divide it when they -- when they did it over Bush's tax cuts.

MASSA: OK. So here's the argument that the -- that the Democrats throw right back. Just because we screamed it was wrong when they did it, doesn't mean it's right to do it now. And nothing is more personal to the American people than their health care. Nothing.


MASSA: I mean haven't we figured that out so far, after a year of debate?

KING: Let me get a break and we'll have some more moments with Eric Massa.


KING: By the way, LARRY KING LIVE reached out to the White House today, invited Rahm Emanuel or anyone from the White House to appear as a guest to respond to the former congressman's allegations. They declined, but referred us to the on the record statements from Robert Gibbs today.

And for the record, we'd like to extend an invitation to Rahm Emanuel -- I've known Rahm a long time -- to be our guest any time for another side of this story.

Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: And we're back with Congressman Eric -- former Congressman Eric Massa.

It may be silly, but I guess we have to ask it, are your -- are you gay? MASSA: Well, here's that answer, I'm not going to answer that.

In -- in year 2010?

Why don't you ask my wife, ask my friends, ask the 10,000 sailors I served with in the Navy.

KING: Now, all right...

MASSA: I'm not going to answer that. That's -- that is such...

KING: All right, you don't have to. I said...

MASSA: Well, but it's an insulting...


MASSA: Larry -- Larry...

KING: I didn't mean it to insult you.

MASSA: No, no, not me. It insults every gay American, because somewhere it...

KING: No, it doesn't.

MASSA: Yes, it does. It somehow classifies people.

Why would anybody even ask that question in this day and age?

KING: Because you said you groped someone...

MASSA: And -- and here you go back to that. And I...

KING: -- who was a male.

MASSA: And, Larry -- and I explained what that was three times.


MASSA: Come on now.

And, by the way, you also said...

KING: Who was the guy you groped?

MASSA: You also said you understood...

KING: (INAUDIBLE). MASSA: -- that explanation. You did.

KING: I do. I understand it.


KING: But we're just asking to set the record straight.

MASSA: Well...

KING: I'm not offending -- at least I'm not trying to offend -- I certainly would not offend the gay community -- or meaning to.

MASSA: Well...

KING: Elizabeth City, North Carolina, we've got a call.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Representative Massa, just a quick question for you. I saw you in an interview earlier today. And you said that you were leaving because of your own behaviors...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- which you took total responsibility for.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't mention anything about disagreeing with health care...

MASSA: Well...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- about Democratic leadership or anything like that at the time, even though you were being pressed for it.

So my question is why is it that, four-and-a-half hours later, because the -- the interview took place at 5:00 -- are you now saying that your problems with the health care initiative and problems with Democratic leadership are your main reasons for leaving Congress, when earlier today, you would not mention that as a problem?

MASSA: Well, I did and let me...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was your own behaviors.

MASSA: Thank you for your call and I appreciate that. And let me make something very clear. The number one reason that I'm not staying on Congress is that this Wednesday, they're going to read a C.T. scan and tell me if I'm going to be around in six months or not. And then next year, they're going to do it again. That's my number one reason.

Compound that with the fact that I do own my own behavior. Compound that with the fact that, as Larry has pointed out, I've got problems with the leadership of the Democratic Party. And I can't stand this health care bill and I've been very, very outspoken about it. And layer upon layer and pretty soon, I don't have the life's energy to fight everyone all the time.

Ma'am, your point is a very good point, because you can't tell the whole story about why I'm doing what I'm doing in a sound bite. And I appreciate your call. And I hope that clarifies it.

KING: Well asked, well answered.

One other thing, are you going to stay a Democrat?

MASSA: I have been a proud Democrat ever since I -- I got involved in politics. I revere Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. That's one of the reasons I'm standing up, because there are millions of Democrats like myself who don't understand why we are becoming that which we campaigned against.

Remember how everybody hated Karl Rove?

And now, I mean half this interview, Larry, you focused on Rahm Emanuel.

I mean why is it that we have become exactly what we campaigned against?

If it was wrong to pass a bill with reconciliation when the Republicans did it, what makes it right for us to do it?

KING: All right...

MASSA: That's my point.

KING: Thank you.

Eric, I have the feeling we have not heard the last of you.

MASSA: No, Larry, let me be clear about this, I'm going away. I'm not doing any more press. I'm not running for public office. I am a newly unemployed, slightly battered, somewhat used member of Congress.

Do you know anybody that can hire somebody who stands up to authority when authority is messing up, give me a call.

KING: Good luck on the health front.

MASSA: It's -- that's the main issue for me.

KING: Thank you, Eric.

MASSA: God bless you, Larry. Take care.

KING: Former Congressman Eric Massa, Democrat of New York.

We've had a couple of observers watching our interview and we'll get their take on it next.


KING: The Eric Massa story. Joining us in Rancho Mirage, California, our friend Ben Stein, the economist, former presidential speech writer, columnist "Fortune Magazine," and in New York, Marc Lamont Hill, professor Columbia University, and contributor to Ben, your analysis of what you have just witnessed.

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST: It's heart breaking. It's almost unbearably heartbreaking. It's unbearably heart breaking if the Democrats is sliming him over a public policy decision. It's unbearable if the press is sliming him falsely over an allegation that he groped somebody while at a wrestling match at a party. It's unbearable that this man is being torn apart by cancer. It's also unbearable if he really was harassing people and he's making all this up to make it seem like a political thing. The whole thing is just extremely sad.

KING: Marc Hill, what's your read?

MARC LAMONT HILL, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: I agree with Ben that this is extremely sad. I think it's a little bit funny that he's suddenly becoming a hero and a darling to the right. Suddenly, everyone is very sympathetic to his plight.

In reality, this is someone who appears to be dishonest. This is someone who appears to have made several wrong moves, is attempting to use health care as a political football to protect his own legacy. It's a very sad move.

But it also speaks to the Democratic party and some of the problems we have on the let. We continue to have firing squads in a circle. Instead of aiming our attention at the right, and this troublesome policy that's moving around, we're shooting at each other.


STEIN: I'm sorry, Marc, but what was it that makes him appear to be dishonest?

HILL: We're hearing conflicting claims. Some of you may decide to believe Nancy Pelosi. Some may decide to believe him. But at least three different explanations as to why he resigned have come up. I don't feel confident that he's being completely honest with us. It seems a little curious that he would leave based of the health care issue. That doesn't seem to be a thing to do in this --

STEIN: Marc, when you find somebody in Washington or in any city who is completely honest, please call me. When you find someone, Marc, in Los Angeles or New York or Washington, DC who is completely honest, please let me know.

HILL: So, then, we're in agreement.

KING: Help me with something, Ben, and then you, Marc, isn't the chief of staff supposed to be tough?

STEIN: He's supposed to be tough, but he's not supposed to be -- he's not supposed to be -- if he's tough, if he says to him, you're a team player, get your butt on board with us or there are going to be consequences, that's fine. He should be doing that. If he's saying to a congressman, we're going to make up false allegations about you and leak them to the press, that's absolutely unbearably unethical.

I, frankly, can't believe Rahm Emanuel did that. That's just too grim. That's just too ugly. I cannot believe he did that, frankly. I find that very far-fetched.

KING: Marc, why do you think he's leaving Congress?

HILL: Honestly, my gut says where there is smoke, there's fire. There's something to these allegations. What I can tell you for sure, though, is that I don't believe it's about health care.

And like Ben, I hope this isn't due to Rahm Emanuel. I have been a big critic of Rahm Emanuel from the beginning. I think he's a bull in a china shop. I question his politics. I question his motives. But I don't think he would do something like this. And so again, like Ben, I hope it's not true.


KING: Go ahead, finish, Ben.

STEIN: I was going to say, look, we've had on this show many times a wonderful guy, Barney Frank, who is openly gay, who has had lots of gay stories to tell. Why hasn't anyone harassed him? We had a very good excellent Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who had lots of sexual ventures. Nobody forced him to quit. Something weird is going on here that I don't quite follow.

KING: We'll pick up with Marc Hill and more on this in a few minutes.


KING: Marc Hill, someone said that Rush Limbaugh liked Congressman Massa yesterday and doesn't like him today. Do you think he's a darling of the right wing?

HILL: He will be for another few days. Republicans don't have feelings, they have interests, just like Democrats. So they're going to use this very opportunistically. It's true, Ben. They're going to use this very opportunistically. Suddenly, he's going to be a darling. We've seen Joe Wilson, who is a Republican, become a darling, go from being a political third stringer to being on the front of every newspaper for a few weeks. This is what happens in this political season.

Right now, Republicans are committed to obstructing progress. That's all they care about. They'll do anything to make that happen.

KING: Ben, is this incident -- is this damaging, Ben, to Democrats?

STEIN: I think it's damaging to everyone. A guest on your show that you've had a number of times, the very famous author Linda Fairstein, who has a fabulous book out today, "Hell Gate," says -- and she was a sex crimes prosecutor for many, many years, decades in Manhattan, big, big job. She says the great majority of these sex crimes -- not the majority, but a very large number of these sex crime allegations, sexual misconduct allegations, are made up. They're baloney.

Once somebody gets smeared with that, how do you disprove that? One guy says, he touched me inappropriately, how do you disprove that? That's kind of a sad story that that's going to at least have a part in wrecking the career of this man who served his country honorably in the Navy and in the Congress. That's terribly sad.

KING: Don't you think, Marc, that some of these men at the party or the person who was groped, for want of a better term, will have to come forward?

HILL: I think at some point, inevitably, they will come forward and we'll hear more of the story. Ben could be right. This could be something that's untrue. This could be something that is true. But ultimately all the parties have to come forward/ Otherwise it's a travesty that Congressman Massa's career will be ending without full justice coming forward.


STEIN: I think it will -- something is going to get passed. They'll ram it through. And if it's not a success, I think the Republicans will wrap it around the Democrats' neck not just this November, but for a long time.

HILL: First of all, it's not so much about ramming it through. It's finally having the political courage to stand up to a Republican party that has been obstructing progress for the last 12 months on health care. I think the Republicans are going to use the success or the failure of health care as a baton to beat over the heads of the Democratic party for the next two years.


STEIN: Larry, I've said -- since you were a child, Larry, I've been saying that we should have health care for all Americans. But I don't like the idea of screwing up the whole system. I'm an old guy now. I get Medicare. I don't like the idea of taking 500 billion out of seniors' medical care and giving it to other people. I would like to see some system whereby just the poor, the very poor, are given checks to buy health insurance. Let the other people figure it out for themselves.

And I also don't want to see money taken out of doctors' pockets. Doctors work very, very hard to get a lot of training. I don't think they should be punished for taking care of old people.

HILL: Ben, I agree with you that I don't want a system that is screwed up, but the reality is the system is already screwed up and this health care has always been screwed up. The fact that tens of millions of people are deprived of access to health care, quality health care, tells us that the system is screwed up.

I don't want to take anything out of doctors' pockets either. They do work very hard. But the working poor work very hard also, but they don't always have access to health care. I think we need some kind of a system. I think we're on the same page with that. The question is, where do we get this from? You're suggesting supporting --

STEIN: I have an idea. I have an idea. Let's tax people like you and me and Larry --

HILL: You and Larry.

STEIN: -- a tiny bit more, and give it just to the very poor. Just you and me and Larry, and give it to the very poor and have it done that way. Be honest about it, we're going to take money from well-to-do people to help the poor people. Let's not have all these games.

HILL: I have no problem taking money from people like you and Larry and giving it to the poor. But I also think that we don't -- but I think we don't want to reconstruct a system where we only bolster and add 50 billion dollars in new revenue streams for private health care corporations, which is what the current legislation is going to do. Even what you're proposing, Ben, would also bolster these private health care insurance companies.

What we ultimately need is a single payer, universal system. We know that's not going to happen. But we need to at least be moving in that direction. I don't think we're doing that just yet. Again, like you, I'm for taxing the rich.

KING: As Henny Youngman (ph) once said when asked, what do you think of the tax bill; he said, pay it. Ben, thank you as always, Marc. Ben Stein and Marc Lamont Hill. We're breezing along. Now we're going mountain climbing with actors Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch, next.


JESSICA BIEL, ACTRESS: I said to one of the guys, can we go a little faster? And then I got a little bit irritated. Then I started kind of -- going down this little area, kind of pissed off. And then I immediately got nauseous. And the mountain was like -- pull away, pull away, and don't disrespect me. I was like, sorry, mysterious Kili (ph). Sorry. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: What's it like to push your body and mind to the limit, in the ultimate test of endurance? Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch are here to tell us. They climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. The dramatic event is chronicled in an upcoming MTV documentary, "Summit on the Summit" airing Sunday, March 14. They're here with musician Kenna, who put the whole expedition together. Jessica, why did you do this?

BIEL: I wanted to understand more about this water crisis, how serious is it, what are the facts, what's the problems, what areas is it really affecting? And Kenna invited me to be a part of this, along with Emile and a bunch of other incredible people. And it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life physically, mentally. I'm just so pleased I was a part of it.

KING: Kenna, what got you involved in this water problem? And what's the problem?

KENNA, MUSICIAN: Well, actually, my dad came to me about three years ago and explained to me that he had saved about 10,000 dollars to dig a well in Ethiopia, where I'm from. It kind of impacted me because I asked him why he did that, and he said that as a child, he had water borne illnesses and that he lost his brother. And I felt like a bad son because I didn't know that had happened to my own family.

So I started doing research about it and wanted to do something impactful. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro about five years ago, but I didn't reach the top. So I had a little vendetta against the mountain. So I decided that I was going to do something for the cause, learning about a billion people not having clean water.

KING: Why climb a mountain to turn people's attention to water?

KENNA: Well, you know what? Kilimanjaro is the site -- in Tanzania is the site of a lot of climate change and water issues in general. And I think what we wanted to do was to do something extreme to raise awareness. Because I think nobody really knows that water is a problem, that a billion people don't have water, that a child dies every 15 seconds. I think people don't actually know it's a problem because we have it on tap, you know. So it's something that we felt like if we just did something extreme, it would work.

KING: A child dies the cause of water conditions every 15 seconds?

KENNA: Every 15 seconds, yes.

KING: Emile Hirsch, what was his experience like for you? Why did you do this?

EMILE HIRSCH, ACTOR: I kind of was someone who boarded the mission last minute, probably about three weeks before Kenna called me. So I had to kind of cram in the training. But it was a chance that -- to do something that I thought was really exciting, you know, combining something that was, you know, exciting for people to watch, you know, and to follow, Climbing Kilimanjaro, but, at the same time, a chance to educate people about issues that are really important like water.

I'd been to Congo and Zimbabwe with OxFam America about a year ago. And so I had a little bit of an education background on the subject of water. So I knew how important it is. I immediately signed on board. It was daunting, though. You know, 19,340 feet is, you know -- the altitude can kind of get to you. I think we were both hallucinating at one point even. You get a little funny in the head.

KING: Did you get to the top?

HIRSCH: Yeah, 45 people out of the 45 we brought, we all got to the top.

KENNA: It was the largest group.

KING: This wasn't easy for Jessica. Let's take a look at her on Mt. Kilimanjaro.


BIEL: Kind of going in and out a little bit, you know? Nauseous. Stomach upset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any idea about how high we are?

BIEL: Well, I know we're above 17,300. I don't know much other than that? I don't even know if I want to know. You know what I mean? Because I feel like -- like, oh what's going to happen at 18,000? I don't even want to know. But this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) challenging.


KING: We'll pick up with Jessica, Emile, and Kenna right after these words.



BIEL: For a few hours in, I think a lot of people are feeling the altitude, certainly. But the snow is picking up, so we're taking a quick break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's everybody doing?

HIRSCH: We're checking our rain gear. No, snow gear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling?

HIRSCH: I'm good. I'm ready to charge up there. I want to run up there, but I know I'll pass out.


KING: Looks like a terrific documentary. You'll see it Sunday night, march 14th on the MTV documentary "Summit on the Summit." What was the toughest part, Jessica, of climbing the mountain?

BIEL: Well, I think the toughest part of climbing the mountain was probably the altitude. It really affects you in such a strange way, and you don't really know what's going to happen to your body. I think that's why I was saying what I was saying on the clip. I don't know what's going to happen at 18,000 feet. I don't know if I'm going to have a headache. I don't know if I'm going to feel nauseous or if my body's just going to stop working on me.

So the mystery of that was very psychological. And I think that was probably the most difficult part for me.

KING: Kenna, what was the toughest for you?

KENNA: I think, in part, the same thing. I went to our medic, Melissa, and I asked her why I had a headache that was completely surrounding my head. And she said it was because my brain was swelling into my head cavity, which didn't make me happy, and actually made me feel like I was doing something crazy and also bringing all my friends to do it.

But, at the end of the day, I think what we wanted to do -- we set out to do, we actually accomplished, in being able to bring awareness, and have people follow us on our and be able to follow us in the social media sense. And we really kind of raised that awareness that was important. It was difficult to worry about your friends. More than anything, I think I was really concerned that I had put my friends in harm's way. But we all survived; 45 people to the top, you know?

KING: How long did it take to get there, Emile?

HIRSCH: It was five days up and two days down. One of the great things about Kilimanjaro is that the terrain changes at each altitude. So you start pretty much in a rain forest and you go up to a desert. And it gets more and more barren, until it's snowing and it's below freezing. So that was -- it's a really beautiful climb. It's amazing, you know --

KING: Were you ever scared?

HIRSCH: There were a couple moments where I definitely had a little bit of panic. I wouldn't joke around about that. But, you know, I think the difference here, as opposed to some of the other kind of physical challenges I've put myself through, is that we had such a great team of people together. We were all kind of united. And it wasn't just like we were united with, like -- we just wanted to do something fun. We all really felt passionately about doing this for clean water and all getting up the hill to the summit together for that. KENNA: And everybody --

KING: Glad you did it, Jessica?

BIEL: I'm so glad I did it. It is such a huge accomplishment. And you know, it's not even just to say oh, I climbed the mountain, but really because I think what we were trying to experience is -- yes, this was difficult. Yes, this was challenging. But little girls around the world walk six hours a day with 80 pounds on their backs and on their heads, carrying water to their families. So as difficult as it was for us, we experienced almost nothing -- not even close to what some families, some young children experience every day.

KING: Thank you all very much. Can't wait to see this. Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch, Kenna. The dramatic climb documented in an upcoming MTV documentary "Summit on The Summit," Sunday, March 14th.

We want to extend very best wishes for a speedy recovery to an old friend, Former New York Governor Hugh Carey. He's on the mend in New York Presbyterian Weil Cornell Medical Center, where he underwent cardiac bypass surgery. He is 91 years old April 11th. And the surgeon was my old surgeon. And Wayne Eissum (ph) did it again. We knew he'll be up and about and ready to party, because when he came out of surgery, he sang, "New York, New York."

Here's Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."