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Disaster in the Gulf Day 85; Tea Party vs. NAACP
Aired July 13, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody.
A major political battle brewing tonight, the NAACP vs. the Tea Party. The nation's largest civil rights organization just overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning what they call racists in the Tea Party.
Party loyalists call that divisive and a lie. So, is this about racism or politics? We are going to talk about that tonight.
Also, on day 85 of the disaster in the Gulf, we have a new reason to keep a very close eye on this live underwater camera. Any moment, we could find out whether the newest cap on the well has passed a critical test, a test that will tell us whether BP can finally shut off the flow of oil once and for all.
And later, our special investigation, the drug scourge that is killing more Americans every year, and they're not street drugs. They are prescription drugs, shockingly easy to get. We have got a lot of ground to cover tonight, but we are going to begin with that number- one story, NAACP vs. the Tea Party. And now it's getting personal.
Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, blasted Sarah Palin by name the other day, and she fired right back. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NAACP points to the racial epithets allegedly hurled at black members of Congress by Tea Party members during the health care debate and to the racist signs that critics say they have spotted at Tea Party events to support its conclusion that the Tea Party movement is a threat to the pursuit of human rights, justice and equality for all.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Sarah Palin says let's party like it's 1776. My white daddy would say, be careful what you wish for, because the 18th century, Sarah, wasn't good for nobody, even folks like you.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: It's very unfortunate that they're taking this tactic, because it's a false accusation that Tea Party Americans are racists. Any good American hates racism. We don't stand for it. It is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The NAACP says it wild hold an anti-Tea Party rally march on Washington in the fall.
And a lot to talk about in regard to this, so let's bring in CNN political analyst Roland Martin and CNN senior political analyst Ed Rollins here with me in New York. Welcome to both of you.
BROWN: Roland, let me start with you here.
The NAACP says that the Tea Party has to take responsibility for racism within the movement. Tea Party members have publicly condemned racism on this show and elsewhere. What is the NAACP after, do you think, ultimately by passing this resolution?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, the resolution condemned the racist elements that they say are there in the Tea Party.
I talked to Ben Jealous. I wanted to be specific as to exactly what was in the resolution. But, also, I remember debating Mark Williams, a Tea Party organizer, right here on CNN a few months ago. And I asked him, if somebody brought a racist sign to one of his rallies, would he tell them to take it down?
And he said, no, because I wouldn't want to infringe on their First Amendment rights.
I think the Tea Party folks -- look, I understand you not wanting to be labeled a racist. I totally get that. I think they're make a mistake. What they should be saying is, the instances where people actually made comments or brought signs, we threw them out. The examples are there. But there are examples of folks that have people made racist comments or had signs at rallies.
BROWN: So, Ed, to the other point about this, Sarah Palin says with regard to the resolution that the president and the first lady should denounce it. The first lady was speaking to the NAACP. She was focusing on childhood obesity.
ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: All Americans should denounce racism, whether it's...
BROWN: A resolution passed by the NAACP, she said they should denounce.
ROLLINS: Well, it's not the president's place to do that.
I think the president's place is to basically lead this country and lead this country effectively. The big issue here is that people don't -- and you see this now in the polls -- don't approve of his policies.
It is not because he's a black man or because he's the first black American ever to be elected president, which many Americans are very proud of that. I think the bottom line here is the tone of this, both by the Tea Party and by Sarah Palin and by the other side is getting very accelerated with 3.5 months to go. And it's only going to get worse.
BROWN: So, let me try to get from you, Roland, the White House viewpoint on this. Do you think they welcome a debate involving racism with the Tea Party right now?
MARTIN: Don't know. I haven't actually run this particular issue by anybody at the White House. So, I can't speak for them on this.
Clearly, this White House has not really wanted to focus on issues dealing with race. We saw what happened, the blowback that took place when the president offered his own personal feelings with regards to the arrest of Dr. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr.
And I would say to the NAACP and the people who do oppose the Tea Party, when you see that 25 percent of the Tea Party, according to the CBS poll, believe the president has done more for black people, this is what I say. If you don't like the Tea Party, you defeat them at the polls.
If you don't like the people coming out there and protesting, well, then you counter that and you beat them at the ballot box. And if there is anybody in the Tea Party who is a racist, they probably didn't like the fact that black folks got the right to vote. That's how you beat them back, not necessarily a resolution.
BROWN: So, let me ask you both to comment on this. Sarah Palin says this racism charge is a way to undermine the growing political power of the Tea Party.
And let me play what she had to say. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: So, to be called a racist, yes, those over there on the left who are opposing that good message of Tea Party Americans are using this racism accusation in order to keep people away from not only the movement, but keeping a wall built between what the message actually is and the American public that is today receiving that message very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: What do you think, Ed?
ROLLINS: Well, any group that has millions of people that are undisciplined, you are going to have some people in there that aren't good people.
MARTIN: That's right.
ROLLINS: The vast majority of them are good people. There are some people in that NAACP group that probably have a little racism in their background too. That's not good. The bottom line here is people are unhappy about the policies of the Democratic Party. And if it was Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, they would be every bit as unhappy about it. And it has nothing to do with color or racism.
MARTIN: And, of course, Campbell, I'm still waiting for Sarah Palin to look at the same people who are on the right who are using race to be divisive.
And when it comes to the New Black Panther Party, in terms of trying to say whether the Obama administration, they are ignoring the issue of race by not targeting them, when you hear all the chatter on FOX News, when you look at Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and all these people, don't sit here and act as if race is somehow used only when it comes on the left.
You see people on the right as well. At the end of the day, it's about policies and issues. And that's really what the whole focus should be on. And so I don't have a problem with Tea Party people organizing. I have no issue with that.
BROWN: Let me get you to comment, though, Roland, on the point that Ed made a second ago about this being bigger than the Tea Party. The Tea Party, there's obviously a lot of anger there, a lot of anger directed at the president.
BROWN: But the feelings about the president, his unpopularity, at least, are well beyond the Tea Party.
BROWN: A significant amount of the country feels that way.
There's a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that shows six in 10 voters lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country right now.
What does that say to you, that you have got a majority who don't trust his judgment right now?
MARTIN: Well, what it says is that you look at the president, the positions that they have taken, they have been unpopular in some quarters. And also at the end of the day, this White House has to explain itself when it comes to what they are doing.
But, also, what is at stake in America right now is the economic angst. That is the most important thing. And when Americans are looking at that unemployment number, that's what they are seeing. The White House says, hey, we have stemmed the tide of losing half-a- million jobs a month and we're seeing some small growth. What the average person is saying, I still don't feel it. That's what you're actually seeing right now, economic angst. That's what is driving this whole narrative.
BROWN: Let me give you the last word.
ROLLINS: You know, black and white Americans both are unemployed. And I think Roland is absolutely correct on that. Until we get people back to work again, until we...
MARTIN: But black much higher, but yes.
ROLLINS: Well, until we get Americans back to work again. That's what they care about.
Unfortunately for this president, he's got a tough sled ahead of him. His party is going to get clobbered in this midterm election. And I think there's going to be a lot of unhealthy dialogue going on, as we saw today. And that's not good for America, not good for any of us.
BROWN: We're going to end it there.
Roland Martin and Ed Rollins, thanks to both of you. Appreciate you being with us.
BROWN: We should mention Roland will be back in just a few minutes with tonight's "M Squared."
But coming up next, developing news. Everyone on the Gulf Coast symbolically holding their breath right now as testing begins to see if the new spill cap is going to hold up. We're going to take you live to the Gulf in just a moment.
BROWN: Our number-one national story tonight, the disaster in the Gulf. Along with the rest of the country, we're awaiting word tonight on whether this cap will work and BP can finally turn off the flow of oil into Gulf waters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: BP will determine the condition of the well by slowly closing all the valves on the new cap, stopping the flow of oil, and taking pressure readings. High pressure indicates the well is intact. Low pressure means the well could be leaking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tell us it's 30-feet high, which would take us to the top floor of this house behind us. It gives you an idea of the height of this thing. And the weight, 160,000 bounds, and we did the math late this afternoon. That would be the equivalent of about 30 of these military Humvees just sitting on top of that well tonight.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question a lot of people are asking, now that this containment cap is on, why did it take so long to make this particular move?
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Because we had to make the containment cap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: BP engineers need up to 48 hours of testing to prove the well's structure is sound. But they will know within six hours if the news is bad and this leak will go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans for us again tonight with the very latest on the containment effort.
Ed, what do we know right now?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're watching closely that video feed that we're getting in.
As you take a look at it, you will see that there is oil coming out of the top of it. That is expected. And right underneath that oil, there's a valve there. And we will really start getting a sense of when this testing begins, because they will slowly, slowly start closing that off.
And for a period of time, it will probably look as if the thing has been shut off and that there's no oil flowing. But until we get that official word, we really should not take that next step, because during this testing, that will be shut down. And that's when they start doing those tests of that pressure to make sure the pressure is where it needs to be and to make sure that this containment cap is working the way they hope it does.
BROWN: And, Ed, I think at one point last night when we were watching that underwater cam, it did look like the oil had actually stopped and then started flowing again. What was going on there?
LAVANDERA: Well, it was kind of hard to say exactly what was going on there. But that is part of what we will see happen here as they start closing off that valve. It's going to look as if things have stopped and it's come to a conclusion. But that's really when they are going to start doing that testing and what they call the integrity testing of this well.
And that is to kind of determine whether or not this containment cap will work, because if there's damage anywhere along the line, it will not provide the pressure, and that would mean that there is oil escaping from other parts. And they have been very frank about if there is that situation, they don't really know where it is escaping to at this point. BROWN: All right, Ed Lavandera for us tonight -- Ed, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Coming up: a startling look at the growing abuse of prescription drugs. We're going to show you a big city street market that is turning one giant -- turned into, rather, one giant illegal pharmacy.
And then later, another round of recordings tonight allegedly capturing Mel Gibson making even more vile, racist comments while threatening his ex-girlfriend.
BROWN: Abuse of prescription drugs now kills more Americans than all other illegal drugs combined.
For months, CNN's Amber Lyon has been looking at the epidemic across our country. And, tonight, in a special investigation, she takes us to Baltimore, where a city landmark has turned into a street pharmacy for prescription drug addicts.
Take a look.
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in the center of downtown Baltimore, because we got a tip that there's a huge problem with the street trade of illegal prescription drugs.
LYON: We're pulling up on it right now. This is where we're headed this morning. It's the Lexington Market. It's a historic landmark here in Baltimore, but, unfortunately, lately, it's just become overrun with prescription drug abusers, dealers.
Up and down these streets, everyone is trafficking pills. We found OxyContin, Xanax.
(voice-over): All over America, in places where the drug trade flourishes, prescription drugs have replaced or supplemented better- known street drugs, like meth, crack, heroin.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is having a difficult time getting a grasp on the pill trade. So, they start from the bottom, busting individuals, hoping that will lead them to correct doctors and pharmacies.
AVA COOPER-DAVIS, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: We are going to try to pull them out of the market, hopefully, and get them to do the buy outside.
LYON (on camera): OK. So, where are we going to ride? Kind of in the back?
COOPER-DAVIS: The issue is, in the mind of many, prescription drugs is not as bad and it's not as dangerous. And, in reality, it really is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lexington Market.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to be parking right -- right around there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the agents up there on the corner with their jackets on. They're taking them down if you guys want to hop out here.
LYON: You guys just busted how many people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was two.
LYON: Two people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LYON: And what were they selling you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is suboxone, which is...
LYON (voice-over): Suboxone is an opiate blocker used to treat heroin addiction. It's also hard to abuse. So, anyone buying it and selling it isn't trying to get high. They're just trying to fight the pain of withdrawal. But even out here, pills like suboxone have become a valuable commodity, like an ATM in a bottle.
COOPER-DAVIS: Even though this prescription and these type of pills is meant for someone who has a problem, yet, again, they are going out on the street and they're selling it for -- making $100, $200 more than what the actual cost of that prescription was to get it filled. The bottom line to move in prescription drugs is profit. It's about making money.
LYON (on camera): We're hear at DEA headquarters, and we're headed to talk with a guy who was just busted in Lexington Market.
Let's see if he will talk with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as I'm not identified.
LYON: You're not identified. We won't give your name. And we're not showing your face. So, you agree to talk with us? We're with CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LYON: Why are people selling their prescription medications in Lexington Market?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason people sell their prescriptions down there is because a lot of them don't have no jobs. A lot of them don't know where they going to get their next meal from.
Let's say your son come up to you this morning and say, I need $25, $30. You ain't got that $25 or $30. You have got them pills on you. You know you can get that $25. Would you go sell them for -- to get your son that $25, so he can be in that play or something?
LYON (voice-over): Baltimore already has a huge heroin and crack problem. They have been struggling with those drugs for decades. So, the last thing this city needs is a new enemy, like the prescription drugs being peddled in Lexington Market.
BROWN: CNN's Amber Lyon reporting for us tonight.
And coming up: an already dangerous doctor shortage in this country about to get a lot worse. The new health care law will soon send millions of new patients looking for primary care doctors. Will there be any in the house? We are going to have that story when we come back.
BROWN: Even though the health care debate in this country is largely over, there's still plenty of disagreement over whether we're headed in the right direction.
But the one point virtually everyone agrees on is that there are not enough primary care doctors to meet current needs. And that is before nearly 50 million more people will be thrown into the mix with the new health care law now in place.
I talked about the looming crisis with Dr. Andrew Singer, an internist and founder of Primary Care Progress, a group of health care professionals committed to trying to reform the system, and Dr. Somava Stout, what is president of the medical staff of Cambridge Health Alliance.
Take a listen.
BROWN: Dr. Andrew Singer and Dr. Somava Stout, welcome to both of you.
DR. SOMAVA STOUT, CAMBRIDGE HEALTH ALLIANCE: Thank you.
DR. ANDREW SINGER, FOUNDER, PRIMARY CARE PROGRESS: Thank you.
BROWN: Somava, let me start with you.
We talked about this a lot during the health care debate in this country, that this influx of newly insured people was going to put more pressure on the system, where there's always a shortage of primary care doctors. Talk to me about the problem. How big of a crisis is this really? STOUT: So, Campbell, unfortunately, what we're facing in primary care right now is what I could only call a perfect storm.
First of all, medical students and residents just don't want to go into primary care anymore, because when they look at see their mentors in primary care, they see that the job is completely unsustainable, largely because of a payment system that doesn't really reward or value what primary care providers do.
BROWN: If the system, the payment system, is so dysfunctional, explain why, why doctors get paid this way and why we aren't compensating primary care doctors better.
SINGER: First of all, we actually don't pay for a lot of the really valuable services that they do provide.
For instance, coordinating care, all those behind-the-scenes activities that your provider is doing so you don't fall through the cracks, those aren't paid for.
SINGER: The only thing that really gets paid for in our system are those face-to-face visits, when a patient is meeting their provider one on one. But the payments are really inadequate right now. And then medical students who are rotating through these practices are watching this and saying, I don't know if I want to do this.
So, the payment system is not working for patients. It's making providers crazy. And it's kind of discouraging some of the medical students from going into primary care services.
BROWN: So, Somava, how do we fix it?
STOUT: Well, there's -- that's a great question, and maybe the billion-dollar question that we face.
I think that part of what we need to do is fix some of the disparities. So, the average medical student with $250,000 debt looks at going into primary care and sees that they are going to make $3 million less during their professional career and says, why am I going to work this hard to make this much less?
The other half, though, is I think we need to figure out how to make primary care meaningful and rewarding for people who are doing it, so that the medical student or resident, like -- as Andrew was recently, looks at their preceptor and says that's the kind of job that's so meaningful that I want to do it.
And the really exciting thing is that, increasingly, across the country, there are hundreds of experiments going on that are looking at paying primary care providers differently. BROWN: So, let's talk about that, these new models of care, because we hear a lot about it. And to the average person, the average patient, we don't understand what you're really talking about.
SINGER: Well, one of these things that we have found in these new models is that sometimes it doesn't make total sense to make a patient take a half-day off work just to come in to have a simple question answered, right, about a medication or a rash that hasn't gone away in a few weeks.
Sometimes, it makes a lot more sense to have access to the provider via e-mail or telephone, and patients love it, because they don't have to take time off work. They don't have to go park and then walk to the office. And they feel like they have much better contact with their providers. And that's one example.
BROWN: And, finally, I know you guys care very passionate -- or are very passionate about this. You care a lot about it.
You have been working very closely with Harvard on brainstorming on all of this, I know.
And you, Andrew, have formed an organization to try to put a lot of these issues on people's radars.
BROWN: Really, the next step in health care reform is what we're talking about. Tell me about it.
So, what we did is, we formed this group called primary care progress. And one of the things that we're trying to do is really ensure that all Americans understand why primary health care is so important. We think one of the problems is that people just haven't really appreciated to date why this is such a critical thing for our medical system.
And we're engaging patients and providers in sort of identifying, what does really valuable primary care look like? Because we know we have some ideas. But we think patients and providers are going to have some of the best ideas. And so we have established a Web site where we are actually asking people to come by and tell us what they think.
And we are also working to engage this next generation of primary care providers in this process of transforming care and transforming the way we train, because we actually think that they have skills and experiences that they are going to bring to bear that are only going to make patient care better.
Well, best of luck to both of you, because we are certainly in this country in a very transitional phase right now are going to need all the help we can get in terms of getting people ready for this transition.
Dr. Andrew Singer and Dr. Somava Stout, good to have you here. Appreciate it.
STOUT: Thank you so much.
SINGER: Thanks for having us, Campbell.
BROWN: Well, it's a pleasure.
BROWN: And coming up tonight: another day, another new profanity-laced, racist rant by a man who sounds an awful lot like Mel Gibson. We are going to have details when we come back.
BROWN: Coming up, the life of a sports giant, both loved and despised, who helped create one of the greatest baseball empires in history, remembering George Steinbrenner. But first, Joe Johns is here with a look at some of the other stories we're following tonight.
JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Campbell.
Today the Justice Department indicted six New Orleans police officers in a series of fatal shootings just days after Hurricane Katrina. The shootings took place on Danziger Bridge and left two people dead. At the time police say they fired at the civilians in self-defense. But there were no weapons found on the victim's body.
The "barefoot bandit," who is accused of stealing airplanes, landed in Miami tonight, this time accompanied by the FBI. Earlier today in the Bahamas, 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally landing a plane there. Tomorrow afternoon, Harris-Moore will appear before a federal judge. The former fugitive faces several charges, including theft of an aircraft and burglary.
A federal appeals court today struck down what we affectionately call the "Bono F-bomb rule." It was created by the FCC after the U2 singer let the four-letter word slip out during the 2003 Golden Globes. After that the agency decided whenever a swear word gets out on live television, the broadcaster faces a hefty fine. But today the court ruled the zero tolerance policy, as it's called, is unconstitutionally vague and creates a chilling effect.
And speaking of filthy language, yet another recording has surfaced of a bitter exchange purportedly between Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend. Once again, Radar Online gets the scoop. On the latest tape, you can hear a man who sounds a lot like Mel Gibson laying into his ex using an ethnic slur to describe a Latina employee. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MAN: I'll report her to the (expletive deleted) people that take (expletive deleted) money from the (slur deleted), OK?
WOMAN: You're telling me that you take away whatever pennies that you've just given to me. I don't have anything, because I've given you my life, three years now.
MAN: I gave you everything, don't you dare (expletive deleted) complain to me. You don't (expletive deleted) count. You're a (expletive deleted) using (expletive deleted)! Go look after my child!
WOMAN: She's my child too.
MAN: Yes, I know, unfortunately, you (expletive deleted). I hope she doesn't turn out like you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JOHNS: The couple has been feuding over the custody of their daughter. They are scheduled to appear in court next week. Gibson is currently under a restraining order. Yikes!
All of that audiotape can't be real good, Campbell.
BROWN: Yes, I'm getting a little tired of this whole Mel Gibson saga. All right. Joe Johns for us tonight. Joe, thank you very much.
Coming up next, love him or hate him, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was larger than life and more famous than some of the biggest players in all of sports. We're going to remember the boss when we come back.
BROWN: George Steinbrenner, the controversial over-the-top owner of the New York Yankees, died this morning at the age of 80 from a massive heart attack. He was both despised and admired. No one denies though he built an extraordinary baseball dynasty and changed the face of his sport. Richard Roth now looks back at the man they called "The Boss."
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For pinstripe fans and players, whether you loved him or hated him, he was "The Boss."
JOHNNY DAMON, THEN-NEW YORK YANKEE: The legacy is an owner you want on your side. You know, the fans love him because he always goes out and gets the best players.
ROTH: George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees for over 30 years, was known for his controlling style, drive to win, and larger-than-life personality. More than any player, he was the face of his team. GEORGE STEINBRENNER, THEN-OWNER, NEW YORK YANKEES: I'm a hands- on, involved owner, let's put it that way. I always have been. You have to believe, you do it "My Way," like Sinatra says.
ROTH: born on the Fourth of July, 1930, in Rocky River, Ohio, Steinbrenner worked for his father's ship-building business before his move to the Major Leagues. New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass has known Steinbrenner since 1973, when he led a group of investors to buy the Yankees for $8.7 million. The team would eventually become a billion dollar empire.
MURRAY CHASS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: In a relationship, or meeting somebody, he could be very charming. He could be very good to young people, put a lot of kids through college. But to the people who worked for him, he was awful, he was a tyrant. He supposedly fired a secretary once for getting him the wrong sandwich for lunch.
If you didn't work for him, he was fine. If you worked for him, it was just the kind of thing that no employee would want to be subjected to by his boss.
ROTH: The uniformed staff had to follow "The Boss" too, or else be shipped to the minors. Steinbrenner imposed strict rules on both his managers and players, requiring short haircuts for players and no facial hair below the lip.
CHASS: From his first game as owner, he made that clear. He sat in his box seat, when the players were called out to the foul line before the game for introductions, and he saw some players whose hair was longer than he thought it should have been.
ROTH: In the dugout, he could also run hot and cold. "The Boss" had over 20 managers in 23 seasons. One of his most bizarre relationships was with manager and former player Billy Martin, who Steinbrenner hired and fired five times.
STEINBRENNER: Now if you don't like it, you're fired!
ROTH: Steinbrenner was banned from baseball twice for illegal contributions made to President Richard Nixon's 1972 campaign fund, and in 1990 for paying a gambler to collect information on Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield.
Under Steinbrenner, the Yankees's payroll reached record numbers, over $200 million in 2006, the highest in Major League Baseball history. In the 1970s, no other owner had as much success with the free agent player market as much as Steinbrenner.
But the strategy of acquiring big names didn't always produce a title. Overall, though, with Steinbrenner in the owner's box, the Yankees won seven World Series championships.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Yankees are champions of baseball!
JASON GIAMBI, THEN-NEW YORK YANKEE: I think one of the best owners ever in sports, to take an organization from where the Yankees -- I know they were great before he got here, but then he turned it around.
ROTH: Steinbrenner enjoyed the limelight. starring in several commercials, often spoofing himself.
STEINBRENNER: You are our starting shortstop, how can you possibly afford to spend two nights dancing, two nights eating out, and three nights just carousing with your friends?
(NEW YORK YANKEE DEREK JETER SHOWS VISA CARD)
ROTH: And lampooned on the long-running "Seinfeld" TV series, such as the day he encountered character George Costanza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SEINFELD")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Steinbrenner, sir, there is someone here I'd like you to meet.
JASON ALEXANDER, "GEORGE COSTANZA": I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past 20 years, you have caused myself and the city of New York a good deal of distress as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego!
"GEORGE STEINBRENNER": Hire this man.
ROTH: His relationship with the press at times, contentious.
STEINBRENNER: I have no comment. That's so ridiculous.
CHASS: If a person wrote something he didn't like, he could cross that person off his list. I went one full season in the '70s where he didn't talk to me, because he didn't like something I had written.
ROTH: Steinbrenner was once an assistant college football coach. He also owned race horses, but loved baseball.
STEINBRENNER: It's still the grand old game. There's no game that you go out in the middle of Indiana. some little town, like Culver, Indiana, in the middle of the winter, and they'll be sitting around the restaurant talking about baseball trades. No other sport has that going for it.
ROTH: In his final years, Steinbrenner retreated from the public eye and became less accessible to the media. He appeared frail at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Yankee Stadium.
STEINBRENNER: I'm very happy for everybody that we're all here today to celebrate the new Yankee Stadium. It's a pleasure to give it to you people. Enjoy the new stadium. I hope it's wonderful. ROTH: The Yankee owner was featured in an all-star gala sendoff for the old stadium in 2008.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And welcome "The Boss," Mr. George Steinbrenner.
ROTH: Steinbrenner was driven around the field and congratulated by some of his players who ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. "The Boss" called the night one of the greatest experiences in his life.
Richard Roth, CNN, New York.
BROWN: And for more on the life and times of George Steinbrenner, I want to bring in CNN contributor, Max Kellerman.
And, Max, you have called him the most famous owner in sports. Talk to me about not just his impact on the team, but on the game itself.
MAX KELLERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: George Steinbrenner was the Michael Jordan of owners in American team sports. And like Michael Jordan, he was that way because he had a defectively competitive personality. And in order to...
KELLERMAN: Defectively competitive. Yes. That's how I would describe it. It's one of the reasons he and Billy Martin got along on a certain level. They clashed, of course. But they were made for each other because Billy Martin was also that kind of defectively driven, competitive person.
BROWN: And explain kind of how that manifested itself in many ways.
ROTH: Well, he -- the greatest manifestation is what happened to the Yankees. The Yankees in 1920 acquired Babe Ruth. And from 1920 through the mid '60s, the brand -- the Yankee brand was synonymous with excellence. I mean, there was a string of 45 years where, if they weren't the best team in baseball that year, they were one of the very best. Without a break, and that's 45 straight years.
And then the team took a bad turn. CBS took it over, ran it into the ground. When George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973, he paid less than was paid for the Seattle Pilots, who later became the Milwaukee Brewers, the year before.
So he put a bet on -- everyone says, well, of course, all of the resources of New York. George Steinbrenner put a bet on New York City, at a time where it looked like the city was heading for bankruptcy. It was a dying city. The bet on Seattle was more expensive bet to make. But he took his money. He reinvested in the team. And he brought the Yankees back, not only in the '70s, to a place where they had a little mini-dynasty and they were once again one of the best teams in baseball, but especially starting in 1995, George Steinbrenner created -- recreated the franchise in a way that seemed impossible.
He -- they were not just good intermittently, or as good as another team, he, once again, turned the Yankees -- because since 1995 now, 15-16 years, they are the best team in baseball. They are not the very best, they are one of the very best. And he recreated this brand that means excellence again in a way that no one thought was possible.
BROWN: He said he was -- once said, apparently, he was 95 percent Mr. Rogers, 5 percent Oscar the Grouch. I mean, he did have this softer side, right?
KELLERMAN: He -- there is -- you can look it up online and in the papers today. It's all over the place, the stories about him putting kids through college, as Richard Roth points out -- pointed out in his piece. And all kinds of charitable work that he tried to keep under the radar. And, of course, it's very much on the radar now as many are paying homage to him in the press.
But he did -- he was also a visionary in many ways in terms of his business. He not only reinvested money in the team, but did things like created huge deals from local TV networks to help fund the Yankees. And it led to an explosion in their payroll and therefore they got to be a better team.
He then created his own regional network, which is now not only the envy of the rest of professional sports, but has been largely imitated by other owners, the Yes Network. And as the Yankees themselves are valued at about a billion-and-a-half, some think that the Yes Network is as valuable or more valuable than the Yankees.
BROWN: Than the Yankees. His health, though, had been failing for a few years and his sons have basically taken over for quite some time. Had -- now that he's gone and now that he is gone and it really is over, what does this mean for the future of the team? I mean, does the brand still maintain sort of that sense of excellency we're talking about?
KELLERMAN: Yankees fans should be nervous, because his sons, Hank and Hal, have done a yeoman's job in essentially improving upon what George Steinbrenner did, not quite as meddling, still really competitive and aggressively reinvesting in the team.
But the rumors have always been that once George Steinbrenner passed away, several years later the team would be sold, because there's so many billions to be made. And that should make the Yankees fans nervous. Because corporate ownership is just not the same as family ownership. That kind of irrational sense of competitiveness doesn't apply the same way.
BROWN: It's not a personal passion that people feel about a team they love.
KELLERMAN: Sure, of course.
BROWN: Max Kellerman, it's going to have you here to lend your perspective to all of this, appreciate it.
BROWN: Coming up, the debate over burqas. France takes another step toward banning any veils that completely cover the face. Is it victory for women's rights or a violation of religious freedom? Take that issue on next.
BROWN: Right now, it's time for "M-Squared." Mary Matalin and Roland Martin join us with their takes on politics, religion, even sports.
Guys, what do you have tonight?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Campbell, thanks a bunch. Democrats in D.C. are still fuming after comments made by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that Republicans could very will win the House. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Mary, not too particularly happy, saying, absolutely not, Democrats are going to maintain control.
It kind of makes sense, but House Dems still a little ticked off with the White House press secretary.
MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, they are. But what the White House press secretary is doing is, he doesn't work them, he works for his man, the president, who is reduced to a strategy of stimulating his very flaccid base by scaring them with the prospects of Republicans taking over. Because his own policies won't crank them up.
But, you know, he has put the Democrats on the Hill in a pincer move, and I don't -- Steny Hoyer is right to be angry about that.
MARTIN: And, of course, Mary, look, I mean, you understand politics, and, you know, you worked in the White House. And there's no doubt that if Republicans were in control of the House and the Senate, and a Republican press secretary came out and made this kind of comment, saying, hey, Dems could very well be in charge, nobody will be happy, because it affects fund-raising on the other side.
MATALIN: Bingo, bingo. Follow the money. And that's what the Republicans did. They went running down to K Street. So it was a strategic move. I don't -- they don't have very many good moves left to them. But that they are fighting with their own people on the Hill is not a good one.
MARTIN: I'll tell you what, Mary, I am told that folks inside the White House recognize it was a blunder by Robert Gibbs. And he can try to defend it, but he kind of realized that he messed up by not anticipating that question and having a solid answer.
MATALIN: So after a year-and-a-half, a third of way into the term, he has never blundered, but he blundered on something that just happened to dovetail with the president's strategy, OK, nice try, Roland. No, I've been...
MARTIN: No, seriously.
MATALIN: Oh, well, yes, that and it -- yes, OK.
MARTIN: I'm telling you, he kind of screwed up. He screwed up.
MATALIN: No, he doesn't screw up. He is -- the administration screwed up, but he doesn't screw up. Now listen, I've been -- I missed you. I just got back from Paris. I wish you could take me shopping, you have such better taste than I do.
One of the raging debates was over there while I was there was over the parliament's decision whether or not to ban full-face burqas. That vote has come down, and here's the latest on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The law that got passed does not specifically ban the burqa or niqab per se, but it accomplishes the same thing by banning any article of clothing which attempts to dissimulate or disguise the face. For that, the penalty is up to 150 euro fine and perhaps a citizenship class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATALIN: You know what, the vote was 336 to 1 in the lower house of the parliament, and it's a good vote. The assimilation there of Muslims who are the largest percentage in European countries are in France. Assimilation is tough when you have a full-face burqa. And it's also oppressive to women. No woman chooses to wear that full- face burqa. So I say to France, tres bien, good vote.
MARTIN: And I will say this, I mean, you do have to understand the cultural issues there. I think what this really says though is about freedom for women, in terms of French saying, look, they perceive that as being oppressive to women. And then if you want to operate in this country, this is how we are going to operate here. And so I understand that.
But I do think we have to be careful to recognize that there are cultural things that happen, more different cultures we also have to respect.
MATALIN: That is -- I completely agree with that. The veil is a beautiful thing. All of my Muslim girlfriends say it's great. It's not only respectful and mindful of their religion, it's great for bad hair days. So we get that. But the full-face burqa, nyet.
MARTIN: Right, absolutely.
MATALIN: Tres bien, Francois.
MARTIN: Now, one person who should wear a full-face burqa, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he made these incendiary, stupid, paternalistic comments about LeBron James, when he left. Now NBA Commissioner David Stern has slapped him with a $100,000 fine.
Stern, take it away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID STERN, NBC COMMISSIONER: ... though understandable, were ill-advised and imprudent. And I have notified Cleveland that they will be fined $100,000 for those remarks under my power as commissioner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Mary, should it be more?
MATALIN: Well, you know, I thought the guy -- well, LeBron won my heart when he said that he made up his mind after his mother said, honey, you've got to do what feels right to you, what makes you feel good.
MARTIN: That's right.
MATALIN: So I love him for listening to his momma. And I think the other incendiary guy in this whole thing was the Reverend Jackson. Where does he get in? Why is everything -- you know, I listen to you on these points, Roland. Why did he make that -- all of those references to slaves and plantations and...
MARTIN: Well, actually, first of all, Bill Rhoden has a great book called "Forty Million Dollar Slaves," where he talks about athletes and owners as well.
Here's what bothers me, Gilbert was so paternalistic in his comments, he sounded like, you know, he somehow owned LeBron, when the guy is a free agent, had free will to make his own choice. If you're upset he's leaving, fine. But you know what, Mary? LeBron increased the value of Gilbert's franchise by $100 million.
So I think Dan Gilbert, shut up. You made your money, the guy is gone, now find your new team to win on the court.
MATALIN: I love when we agree. And, Campbell, we all love when people make their decisions based on their mother's advice. Back to you, Campbell.
BROWN: We should all strive to. Mary Matalin and Roland Martin, guys, thanks very much. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes, but up next, a special edition of tonight's "Punch Line," right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Now for a special edition of tonight's "Punch Line." Respectfully we are letting the late George Steinbrenner have the last laugh. The Yankee owner was often the butt of gags, as memorably on "Seinfeld," but sometimes the real boss even got in on the act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SEINFELD")
STEINBRENNER: We got to look to the future, we have got to tear down the past. Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man with little girl legs.
STEINBRENNER: And here's something I just found out recently, he wasn't really a sultan.
STEINBRENNER: Huh? What do you make of that? You want me to say it again? I'll say it again, I haven't had a pimple since I was 18, and I don't care if you believe me or not. And how is this, you're fired.
"STEINBRENNER": OK. You're not. I'm just a little hungry, I'm sorry.
Now if you two would excuse me, I'm not going to the game today. I'm going to go outside and scalp some tickets. Owner's box, that has got to bring in $40 no problem.
Now let me ask you something. Is it "FeBRUary, or "FeBUary,"? Because I prefer "Uary," and what is this rule?
STEINBRENNER: Wait a minute, young lady, what's this about singles tables? I don't sit at singles tables. Singles tables are for losers. The Yankees have won 33 pennants and 22 world championships. We are winners. We don't sit with losers.
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, "ELAINE BENES": Well...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: George Steinbrenner and his doppelganger. That's all for tonight. Thanks for joining us, everybody. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.