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Racial Firestorm; BP Trying to Buy Off Gulf Scientists?

Aired July 20, 2010 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody.

Tonight: a political and a racial firestorm, after an African- American employee at the Department of Agriculture was forced to quit, all because of what she said on a video that went viral. Was she admitting blatant racism toward a white farmer or was she telling a story of redemption that was twisted to fuel racial tensions? It is a controversy that now involves the White House, the USDA and the NAACP, which is doing some pretty aggressive backpedaling tonight. We will tell you all about it.

Also, is BP trying to buy off scientists in the Gulf? CNN has obtained documents that show offers of cash, money to make sure you don't get to hear the findings of those scientists regarding the oil spill.

And then later tonight, we are going to lighten things up a bit. A TV show featuring the real-life exploits of two brothers that is facing the chopping block, but they are not going down without a fight. You are going to meet the Neistat brothers and hear their creative efforts to avoid being canceled.

But we are going to start with our number-one story tonight, the story that has dominated the news cycle today, a video showing a woman named Shirley Sherrod, who until yesterday worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as its director of rural development in Georgia.

Listen very carefully to what she said. This was at an NAACP event in march. She was describing her experience nearly 25 years ago, while working with farmers facing foreclosure. Listen.


SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA OFFICIAL: I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm.

What he didn't know is, while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.


SHERROD: I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white a person save their land. So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do.

So, I took him to a white lawyer that we -- that had attended some of the training that we had provided. So, I figured, if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.


BROWN: A conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, posted a link to that video, claiming that it clearly showed racism and that the racism was being tolerated by the NAACP.

Sherrod claimed she was effectively fired yesterday after the USDA demanded her resignation. And we just learned President Obama supported the USDA's move.

Joe Johns has been working this story for us. Here's the very latest from Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell. This is of course a story about race and politics and America's history in the South, the story of the personal journey of Shirley Sherrod, a top- ranking Agriculture Department official in the state of Georgia and of a white farmer who came to her for help decades ago, also of Sherrod's boss, the agriculture secretary, who asked for her resignation.

Sherrod's tale is that the excerpt the tape you saw there was taken out of context. She says she's not a racist and that she treated the white farmer and her story fairly.


SHERROD: I did not discriminate against him. And, in fact, I went all out.

I had to frantically look for a lawyer at the last minute because the first lawyer we went to was not doing anything to really help him. In fact, that lawyer suggested they should just let the farm go.

All of that process -- that's why I tell it, because everything that happened in dealing with him -- he was the first white farmer who had come to me for help. Everything that I did working with him helped me to see that it wasn't about race. It's about those who have and those who don't.


JOHNS: As it turns out, the farmer and his wife, Roger and Eloise Spooner, are on Sherrod's side and became good friends with her, telling CNN that Shirley Sherrod was just like she said she was, a big help to them when they were in financial trouble.


ELOISE SPOONER, WIFE OF FARMER: She put us in touch with the lawyer that knew what to do, and he helped us save our farm. ROGER SPOONER, FARMER: She -- she went with us. She went with us in our car. She asked us, did we want her to go? And we -- we...


R. SPOONER: we definitely wanted her to go.

And I don't know what brought up the racist mess.


JOHNS: And perhaps a thing that added gasoline to the fire in this case was Sherrod's assertion that the White House, which is run by, of course, the first black president, was somehow involved in asking her for resignation.

And it's pretty evident that this case could become a political problem for Democrats in an election year if someone hadn't acted decisively to try to put it to rest. When the Department of Agriculture called for her resignation, she said they told her the White House itself wanted it.


SHERROD: They asked me to resign. And, in fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday. I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign.


JOHNS: Now, the secretary of agriculture, however, told us that just wasn't the case, and it didn't matter whether Shirley Sherrod felt she had been taken out of context. What mattered was what she said that was captured on the videotape.


TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: I didn't speak to anybody at the White House. When I saw the statements and the context of the statements, it - I determined that it would make it difficult for her to do her job as a rural development director, and that it would potentially compromise our capacity to close the chapter on civil rights cases.

I didn't want anything to jeopardize her job in terms of getting the job done and getting people to work in Georgia, and I certainly didn't want us to have a controversy making it more difficult to turn the page. So I made this decision. It's my decision. Well, nobody at the White House contacted me about this at all.


JOHNS: And, in fact, a White House official confirmed to CNN that after Vilsack made his decision yesterday, President Obama was briefed on it, fully supported the secretary's demand for Sherrod's resignation. So, at least what we have here is another story about how unforgiving Washington can be to political officeholders and appointees who make personal disclosures that can get blown out of proportion -- Campbell.

BROWN: Or taken out of context here. I'm just curious to know whether these decisions were made before they heard her completed remarks, because it was pretty clear, at least when I heard them all, that she was telling a story to make a point, a broader point, right?

JOHNS: It is pretty clear that they looked at just the excerpts that they saw on the Web site and did not see the completed tape. That's my understanding, Campbell.

In fact, we have been trying to get the whole tape all day and there have been technical problems getting it here. So, I'm not so sure a whole lot of people have seen the wider remarks. But Vilsack said that's not what matters. What matters to the Agriculture Department is what she was caught on tape saying, because the Agriculture Department has had a lot of legal problems relating to discrimination. And they said this was not going to help them turn the corner.

BROWN: Well, that doesn't make sense to me. We will see if they change their tune once they hear the entire context of her remarks, because, as I understand it, Joe, also, we should let people know, the NAACP has just posted all of those remarks.

We are going to -- with -- the entire video, so you can listen to all of it, we are going to put it up on our Web site, which should help clarify this issue for a lot of people. It certainly did for me when I saw the broader context of what she had to say.

As we pointed out, late today, the NAACP did about a 180 after originally backing Sherrod's ouster. President Ben Jealous released a statement later saying in part: "We have come to the conclusion that we were snookered by FOX News and Tea Party Andrew Breitbart into believing that she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias. The tape of Ms. Sherrod's speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited it to create false impression of racial bias and to create a controversy where none existed."

Hilary Shelton from the NAACP is joining me now. He is the senior vice president and director to the NAACP's Washington bureau.

And I just -- in case it's not clear to our viewers, I want to be very clear about what she actually said, because people may have heard just that beginning snippet. And what she was saying was that she had learned from this experience and it had taught her a lot about racism and about how the inequalities were about poverty, rather than race in the end.

But what most people heard and what was posted on most of these Web sites was just the beginning of those comments, just to clarify that. And I want to be clear with you. Mr. Shelton, I understand that you spoke with Ms. Sherrod this afternoon, that Ben jealous did as well. What did you tell you? Did you apologize to her? HILARY SHELTON, DIRECTOR, NAACP WASHINGTON BUREAU: We did apologize to her when we found out in context exactly what is on that videotape.

As you saw in the comments made earlier, this is a tape that was very carefully and insidiously edited to be able to depict Ms. Sherrod as some kind of racist, very well as someone that worked for the Department of Agriculture at the time she made those statements, which was not true and very well someone that would not have given white farmers the same kind of hard work and respect they very well deserve at times of challenge and controversy.

BROWN: But I do have to ask you, since when exactly does the NAACP listen to FOX News and conservative bloggers before trying to verify someone who has spoken at your events, trying to verify whether this information was accurate? Shirley Sherrod said that the NAACP did not reach out to her yesterday to check her story before going out and criticizing her.

SHELTON: The decision was made at midnight last night and very well the information available at that time was all we had to work with.

We continued to dig into the issue, as a matter of fact, reaching back to that unit to find out who had a copy of those statements in full context. Even as we supported the position based on the information we had, we continued to dig.

And in digging, we found that this was two-and-a-half minutes taken from a 45 minute keynote address at an NAACP event in a small town in Georgia. And very well even getting that information, as you heard Mr. Johns say a little earlier, was extremely difficult to do, but we continued to fight to make sure we did.


BROWN: Yes, but let me stop you right there, because you came out and you called her actions, your word, shameful, and you did that without even reviewing her entire speech, because, frankly, you didn't have to listen to that much more of her speech. It was pretty clear the point she was trying to make if you just listened to another minute.

SHELTON: It was done by certain people within the NAACP. They based it on information that was before them. They made a decision, quite frankly, if all she said is what you heard on that tape, you would have agreed that, as the NAACP has always maintained, we have a no-tolerance policy on racial discrimination and racist statements.


BROWN: I get that. But that's not what she was saying.

SHELTON: It was not.

BROWN: And clearly had you done a little -- even the smallest amount of homework, you would have known that.

SHELTON: Once we got the full video and listened to the whole thing in its entirety, it was very clear that not only was she not a racist, but she moved beyond the call of duty to make sure that the Spooners had what they needed to be able to save their homes. She had done that for so many other families and we continued to dig deeper and deeper into it. Indeed, we were snookered by a combination of a very insidious...

BROWN: I have got to stop you there...


BROWN: ... because I don't believe you were snookered. I think you allowed yourself to be snookered and you are the one to blame here, because you had the tape in your possession and you could have easily watched it and known the full context of her remarks.

SHELTON: That is not true.

BROWN: You didn't have to take your information solely from these conservative bloggers that you're now saying snookered you.

SHELTON: The only video that was available was the video that was on the Web site, the video that was actually on YouTube.

We listened to it very carefully. We took from it what it was saying and realized that something more need to be added. We responded to what was in there, but then we end up continuing to dig and actually getting a full copy of the text.


BROWN: I am going to stop you there, because I think that's a lesson learned for everybody who hasn't always figured it out. Not everything you see on the Internet is true.

SHELTON: I know that's right.

BROWN: Yes. So, let's move on here.

Yesterday, you backed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in having her resign. And you -- I guess now, are you in the position of wanting him to reconsider? How are you going to help her try to get her job back? Are you going to try to make up for this in some way?


SHELTON: He clearly needs to reconsider. Based on the information in its full context that we have, this is someone that has given her life to helping not only African-American farmers, but farmers of all races, ethnicities, races and backgrounds, indeed that someone that should have been in the position she was in, someone that they should very well reconsider very carefully.

I think we all have to learn from this. We looked at it. The White House looked at it. The Department of Agriculture looked at it, and we deduced the same things based on the information before us.

It's clear that these elements of what we see as being the Tea Party, those right-wing extremist elements, those racist elements that we very well criticized at our national convention, were using this as a tool to not only get back at us, but also hurt a woman that had been giving her life to these issues in the process.

BROWN: And let me ask you to dig a little deeper on that, because Andrew Breitbart, who originally posted the video clip, was on CNN earlier saying that he was targeting you, he was targeting the NAACP in releasing that video. And he said he wanted to show that you guys tolerate racist behavior.


BROWN: I guess, how much do you believe that she's a victim, not of what they did, but of this war, this -- your battle that you're having with the Tea Party activists right now?

SHELTON: Oh, I think she very well is.

I think that they chose her because they had gotten word about just how effective she has been throughout the South. This is someone whose father had been killed by a white farmer who was a member of the local Klan unit, someone that rose above those circumstances and committed her life -- she could have left the South, but she stayed because she felt so much more needed to be done. They saw this as a way of actually neutralizing her, hurting the NAACP, and embarrassing the administration all in one stroke.

BROWN: But can you take away from this a little bit of people shouldn't jump to conclusions, maybe you shouldn't jump to conclusions about everybody who claims to be a Tea Party activist, and maybe they shouldn't jump to conclusions about what she was trying to say, as you did in this instance?

SHELTON: Well, we did not jump to conclusions on the Tea Party issue.

The information we have on Tea Parties is extremely well researched. As a matter of fact, we have an additional report coming out on that as we move ahead. And, quite frankly, the Tea Party responded by actually kicking out certain elements they knew were very racist in their activities.

In this case, however, we see that they utilized this opportunity to doctor a tape, utilizing the most modern of technologies, putting it on the Internet, and then utilizing FOX News to pressure us to be consistent in our remarks and saying that we don't tolerate racial discrimination, regardless of who's doing it, which of course we don't.

BROWN: All right.

Well, let me just say that, of course, that video was in your possession all along. I recognize it took you guys a while to get the actual entire video, so that we could figure out what was actually said. Glad you did.


BROWN: And I just want to thank you, Mr. Shelton, for your time and also tell our viewers once again that the NAACP has released the entire video of Shirley Sherrod's speech, so you can watch it for yourself on our Web site at

When we come back, we are going to pick this up a little bit more and talk a little bit about what it says about race relations in our country and what the White House may have to do now. We have a powerful panel with us to hash this out after the break. Don't go anywhere.


BROWN: We're back now.

We're talking about the pretty explosive controversy over the forced resignation of a federal agriculture employee because of alleged racism, yet another story that puts the issue of race in this country in the spotlight.

And the story has been changing almost by the minute throughout the day.

And I want to bring in right now CNN political analyst Roland Martin, Tim Wise, an author and expert on race relations, and also with me senior political analyst David Gergen to talk about all of this.

And, Roland, let me want to start with you here, because you were among the voices earlier today agreeing that Sherrod was right to be forced to resign for her comments and comments that clearly now seem to have been taken largely out of context. Did you jump the gun here?


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think looking at in terms of the NAACP releasing the full video and having access to it, then you see the full breadth of it.

But when you look at someone who makes a comment where they said that, yes, I didn't do all that I was supposed to do, as somebody who believes in absolute opportunity, who does not believe in the denial of opportunities for African-Americans, for anybody else, that is going to be the reaction.

And, so, when you have the full record laid out, yes, it does paint a different picture. But, again, I'm not going to sit here and demand accountability of somebody else who targets African-Americans, and then not do the exact same thing for African-Americans.

BROWN: Yes, but should you have given her the benefit of the doubt or at least allowed us time to figure out what was really going on and then hear her side of the story? (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Well, again -- well, first of all, if the Department of Agriculture makes a decision, I initially thought that they had actually done that particular due diligence. They clearly didn't.

And so jumping the gun, absolutely. But I can tell you right now, again, speaking against any form of sort of prejudice in terms of not assisting somebody, that's where I have always been, whether it is race or whether it is sex.

BROWN: David, the -- Sherrod essentially is blaming, I think, the NAACP right now for inflaming this whole mess by denouncing her in that original statement. I just want to play a little bit of what she said earlier on CNN. Take a listen.


SHERROD: The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time, and they are the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that.


BROWN: Does she have a point there, David? Do you think this would have happened, or would it certainly not have perhaps been as big of a story if the NAACP and the Tea Party weren't this week locked in this battle? And does the statement, I guess, help -- them now saying we made a mistake here, make up for the gaffe, or is the damage already done?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Campbell, we're in the theater of the absurd, aren't we?


GERGEN: With all sorts of people dancing around words and not saying what they really believe.

Look, the NAACP blew it here. They went out, they jumped the gun way too fast. At least they have had the courage to say, we were wrong, to apologize, and put out the full tape. Now it's up to the president of the United States to do the same thing.

The president tonight should ask the Department of Agriculture to reopen this case, give it a full and fair hearing, and then, if this woman, as it appears now -- let's hear the whole tape, but if the facts are as they appear, they should reinstate her and apologize to her.

BROWN: And, Tim, let me have you take this a little broader. You have studied the issue of race in America. What do you make of the episode? What does it tell you how skittish I guess we are still as a country when it comes to even talking about this kind of stuff?

TIM WISE, AUTHOR, "WHITE LIKE ME": Well, what it tells me is that the administration and president are getting punked by right-wing fear pimps on the issue of race

And because they are so committed, and I think incorrectly so at this point, to trying to remain above the fray and post-racial, they refuse to call out these overtly race-button-pushing behaviors, not just Breitbart and his video, but the whole really phony New Blank Panther voter intimidation story, Rush Limbaugh saying the president is deliberately trying to destroy the economy to pay white people back for slavery.

At some point -- for two years, they have been doing this -- at some point, if the president and the administration does not call this out and name this behavior for what it is, which is an attempt to Willie Horton this administration, then it's like the kid in the schoolyard who's getting bullied. If you don't fight back, we know what happens to that kid. He ends up on his rear end.

So, it's time for the administration to grow a spine, to push back, to call out the behavior and to call all of us to our better natures to rise to the better angels of our nature, rather than giving in to these racial resentment fears that Breitbart and Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and some of the folks in the Tea Party have been trying to push for two years now.

BROWN: Talk to me, Roland, about the kind of pressure they're feeling right now.


MARTIN: Well, but, first of all, obviously you have pressure there. But you also have a situation where you have John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association sitting here waiting for Congress to act on a billion-dollar settlement based upon years of discrimination against black farmers.

You have women farmers, you have Hispanic farmers who are sitting also trying to get class-action status, where the government hasn't addressed their particular concerns as well. And so when you talk about this whole notion of race, it speaks to you how do you present day pay for the sins of the past? It's no different also when you saw the death of Senator Robert Byrd, where he gave many interviews talking about how he frankly was sorry for his particular past, and you still had folks saying, yes, but I still can't forgive him.

BROWN: Right.

MARTIN: What it says is that, whether we're black or white, we are still grappling with the issue of race because it is so personal and so deeply embedded in our DNA.

BROWN: And David?

GERGEN: Campbell, with all due respect, this is not about the racial sins of the past, of which we have talked forever. This is not about Rush Limbaugh.

This is about a very simple case, a woman who gave a speech that was distorted and twisted on the Internet, as so often happens, and an administration and an NAACP and a lot of other people who jumped the gun in going after her and crucifying her. First, they hung her. And now we're going to get around to a trial.

What needs to be done is to correct what appears to be a deep injustice to this woman. Ms. Sherrod deserves, by all accounts -- this is not about...


BROWN: No, I'm with David on this. I don't think there's any question. Everybody screwed up, and everybody needs to admit they screwed up. End of story.


MARTIN: Campbell asked a broader question to which Tim was speaking to and what I was talking to as well, because here's the deal.

NAACP makes their statement. Let's say they review the Sherrod case. But the reality is, there are still people in the Department of Agriculture who discriminated against folks who still have jobs. The settlement still hasn't been funded by Congress. My point is there still are broader issues in this country we have to contend with.


GERGEN: There is no question there are broader issues. But, tonight, the issue is this woman, who has been apparently a victim.


WISE: Who was attacked by Andrew Breitbart.


MARTIN: ... broader question.

BROWN: All right, gentlemen, we have got to end it there. Many thanks.

Appreciate it, Tim, David, Roland, as always.


BROWN: When we come back, tonight, we have some new allegations that BP is trying to buy the silence of marine scientists. We have an in-depth investigation into what BP is up to.

And these brothers, they didn't start out as experts at reality TV, but they have created enough buzz documenting their lives to land their own HBO show whose future is now in jeopardy. We're going to hear how far they will try to go to try to save their program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Our number-one national story tonight, it is day 92 of the disaster in the Gulf, and BP is strongly denying a report in "The Times of London" this evening that CEO Tony Hayward could step down from his post as soon as next month.

And, in the Gulf, the government and BP are extending the testing of that new well cap for another 24 hours. It has been preventing oil from leaking into the Gulf for the past six days, as experts consider a more permanent solution.

Also, President Obama met today with Britain's prime minister, David Cameron. On his first visit to the U.S., the new prime minister had BP at the top of his agenda.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is BP's role to cap the leak, to clean up the mess, and to pay appropriate compensation.

And I want BP to sort it out. But I do think it's also in Britain's interests and also America's interests and the world's interests that BP remains a strong and stable company, not least so it's able to make those payouts to those fishermen, to those hotel owners, to the business owners who have been hit by the spill.


BROWN: Cameron said that he is in regular touch with the leadership of BP, which is facing hundreds of lawsuits.

The company's lawyers are in the process of lining up expert witnesses, including scientists who get paid for their testimony.

But there are new allegations tonight that BP is trying to silence these Gulf scientists in the process.

CNN's Randi Kaye investigates that.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The contract is short and to the point, just three pages. It's between BP and marine scientists and researchers along the Gulf hired for their expert witness services. (on camera): Sounds pretty harmless, right? Hardly, say the scientists we spoke with, who tell us they've been approached by BP. The way they see it, BP is tying up expert witnesses, witnesses who might otherwise testify for the federal government when the government files its natural resources damage assessment lawsuit. The scientists also say that BP is trying to prevent the scientists' ongoing research and findings about the spill from being made public.

(voice-over): BP's contract states all communication between the scientists and BP attorneys should be considered, quote, "privileged and confidential." It also says scientists have to wait three years after they sign the contract to publish their findings, or at least until the natural resource damage assessment is complete. It is BP's apparent attempt to insulate itself from oil litigation. No matter what the scientists find, good or bad, they can only share it with BP.

Robert Wiygul, a Mississippi environmental lawyer, who has clients with claims against BP, looked over the contract. He says BP is trying to buy silence, by taking key scientists out of circulation.

ROBERT WIYGUL, ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYER: The public is going to need the best science that they can get to make sure that the damage from the spill gets fixed, gets compensated for and then it gets done in the best possible way. And if you lock up the people who know the most about this, who are the scientists and the research institutions down here, the public is not going to get what it ought to out of that process.

KAYE: Texas A&M professor, Norm Guinasso, says he was contacted by BP within days of the spill to be, quote, "part of their legal defense." Professor Guinasso has been studying oil seeping into the gulf for 30 years but refused to agree to BP's restrictions, since they would prohibit him from publishing his research.

VOICE OF: NORMAN GUINASSO, DIRECTOR, GEOCHEMICAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH GROUP, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: They told me that I couldn't work for anybody else, that I could not speak out publicly about the oil spill. And I told them, I probably was not interested. I didn't think it was ethical.

KAYE: The professor says BP called again, asking him to reconsider. But, again, he turned the company down.

(on camera): It seems BP is shopping for experts all along the Gulf Coast. Besides Texas A&M, the University of southern Mississippi told us BP reached out to hire some of their scientists. They all declined. And at the University of Southern Alabama, BP tried to hire 60 experts, including marine scientists and graduate students. The university told the oil giant, no thanks.

VOICE OF: ROBERT SHIPP, CHAIR, DEPT. OF MARINE SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA: We laid out the stipulations that we would require if we entered into such an agreement with them, and I guess the main thing was total transparency, that anything we discovered, you know, would be available to the scientific community.

KAYE (voice-over): Total transparency. Not one of BP's strong suits, since the oil began leaking more than three months ago.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And Randi Kaye is joining me right now from Lafayette, Louisiana. Randi, any idea how much these experts are being offered?

KAYE: Well, we took a look at the contract. And the contract that we have, Campbell, is actually blank. It hasn't been filled out yet. But we do understand that these scientists and experts have reportedly been offered $250 an hour. Now their hours in many cases are limited to about eight to 10 hours a week, but that's still more than $100,000 a year. And if you think about it, BP trying to buy up that entire marine science department at the University of Southern Alabama, 60 people, they're looking to invest some real cash here to try and insulate the company during this litigation.

BROWN: Randi Kaye for us tonight. Randi, thank you.

Coming up, is the Justice Department holding Arizona to a higher standard than other parts of the country when it comes to immigration law. We're going to explore that question with Mary Matalin and Roland Martin. We call it "M2," when we come back.


BROWN: Tonight, you're going to meet a couple of popular filmmakers, whose favorite subject is themselves. And you'll see why, coming up. But first, Joe Johns is here with a look at some of the other stories we are following tonight. Hey, Joe.

JOHNS: Hey, Campbell. Millions of unemployed Americans could soon receive federal help again. Senate Democrats with the help of two Republicans voted to end debate on a bill to extend unemployment benefits through November. The House is expected to approve the extension. Payments would be retroactive to the beginning of June when the benefits last expired.

Elena Kagan is a giant step closer to becoming the fourth woman to join the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination of final confirmation vote by the full Senate as expected before its August recess. Democrats lawmakers say Kagan is a strong legal thinker who would be a fair justice. But many Republicans call her inexperienced with far left ideological beliefs.

And finally for everyone who says they only buy "Playboy" magazines for the articles, here's your chance to prove it. "Playboy" today debuted the It's nudity free, safe for work, and that's what they say about the Web site anyway. The site promises to provide guys with smart and sexy distractions throughout the day, those easy on the sexy stuff. Remember, no nudity. "Playboy"'s original Web site,, will continue to offer visitors nudity as well as those articles that guys always turn to first. Yes, right.


JOHNS: Do they still use that old line?

BROWN: We'll see which one makes more money.


BROWN: I guess they do, Joe. Joe Johns for us tonight. Joe, thank you very much.

Up next, the Justice Department accused of a double standard when it comes to enforcing immigration law. Tonight on "M2," Mary Matalin and Roland Martin square off on whether so-called sanctuary cities are getting a pass. After the break.


BROWN: It's time for "M2." Mary Matalin and Roland Martin face off on some of the most talked about stories of the day. Guys, what have you got?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Campbell, unfortunately we have another instance of Obama Orwellian law enforcement. The top law enforcement officer in the country, Eric Holder, said recently, that it's OK, it's appropriate to go after law abiding Arizonans who just want to enforce the immigration laws that the Feds aren't but it's inappropriate to go after sanctuary cities, which is a flagrant violation of federal law. Not only is it Orwellian law enforcement, it's very dangerous. Sanctuary cities become havens for criminal activities and very dangerous and death- defying ones and death-producing ones at that. Kris Kobach, a law enforcement professor, wrote a really good piece in the "New York Post" today about this. This is just crazy, Roland. It is crazy. The government's first duty is to protect its own citizens.

MARTIN: Under Democratic and Republican presidents, we have this issue as it relates to sanctuary cities. We saw during the years of President George W. Bush, just like under President Barack Obama, that you had mayors in various cities who were defiant in that. You have these political interests that are vying. They also have the whole issue in terms of the people saying, well, the mother of children, how do you break up families. This is why Congress has got to stop dillydallying around and confront this whole notion of immigration in this country. You have to make a decision, what are we going to do? Right now, everything is piecemeal and a band-aid is haphazard. Congress, Republicans and Democrats have got to confront this.

MATALIN: There's a bipartisan piece of legislation ready to go. I know you hate to hear this, the White House is the one playing politics with this.

Bush took a lot of heat, and so did McCain for being for comprehensive immigration reform.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

MATALIN: And Obama, there's legislation there to be done.

MARTIN: I'm simply saying conservative, liberal, independent, I don't care what you are, all of Congress needs to confront this whole issue of immigration reform.

All right, talk about confronting, finally Lindsay Lohan has been confronted with her drama when it comes to, you know, under the influence, refusing to abide by the rules of the court when it comes to substance abuse. Here's -- she went to jail today. Here's what the prosecutor in the case had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANETTE MEYERS, PROSECUTOR: The message to the public is don't drink and drive. It's a serious offense. We don't take it seriously enough. Someone can get killed as a result of it. And hopefully, it has opened a number of eyes, in terms of the public of the severity of the offense. And if you do drink and drive and you are, in fact, punished for it, you should complete your programs.


MARTIN: Say what, Mary, I believe that our jails are filled with people who have drug problems. They really belong in substance abuse centers. But when you actually are handed a sentence and you simply refuse to comply with the rules of the court, I'm sorry, I don't have any sympathy for the youth. Take your butt to jail.

MATALIN: As a mother of two daughters, there's nothing that scares me more than drunks on the road. Drinking and driving laws have to be enforced. And as somebody old enough to be her grandmother, Lindsay, 90 days substance-free enforced is tough love but I think it's what that child needs.

MARTIN: With too many people making excuses about saying, well, she's a celebrity, she did nothing wrong. If it were you or I, or just the average Jane or Joe or poky or Jeannie or La Quita (ph) or Julio, trust me, we would not be getting all of these fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth chances by the court like Lindsay has gotten.

MATALIN: Speaking of mother love, Campbell, we're going to miss you. We're so happy for you that you're going to be able to spend so much more better real-time with those babies. It's such a special time, such a unique time, you cannot get it back. So we're excited about that for you and I loved working with you in the White House. I love working with you here. I'm not going to say I'm going to miss you because you're a sister of New Orleans and we'll see you down here. We love you, Campbell. Best of luck.

MARTIN: Campbell, absolutely, good luck in all that you plan on doing not only professionally but also when it comes to your family. I probably spend more time on the 8:00 hour than, you know, any other show on CNN filling in for you, having a blast, whether in New York or by satellite. So, again, good luck in whatever you do. And as Mary and I both know absolutely, have fun no matter what.

BROWN: Absolutely.

MATALIN: There you go. There you go.

We'll miss you, Campbell.

BROWN: Thanks, guys. That was really sweet, to Roland and Mary tonight.

Coming up, if you thought that home videos couldn't land anywhere but on YouTube or those blooper shows, stick around. You're going to meet a pair of brothers whose daily lives are now the center of a big time TV series, right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. Larry, what do you have tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Michael Lohan is with us, Campbell, on the day that his daughter, Lindsay, went to jail. He's in the courtroom or was in the courtroom when she was taken away. We'll see what he has to say about it and the chances of her turning her life around. Michael Lohan, an exclusive next on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Larry. We'll see you in just a few minutes. When we come back, cult video hits primetime. We'll tell you all about it.


BROWN: Van and Casey Neistat make home movies using handheld cameras like a lot of us. And like most of us, they document what goes on in their lives. But the big difference, they developed a solid, underground following and then they parlayed it into an HBO series. Take a look.


CASEY NEISTAT, FILMMAKER: I just want to let you know that I just got the call and we closed the deal. HBO bought the show.


Yes. Congratulations.

And that was the last we heard of Casey Neistat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I wouldn't say this news fixed any of Van's personal problems, but realizing a life long dream, it certainly didn't hurt.


BROWN: It's a series that's been getting a lot of buzz and will it live to see another season? Earlier, I spoke with Casey Neistat. Take a listen.


BROWN: Casey, welcome to you.


BROWN: So tell me about the show, how you define it. Is it reality TV? Is it a documentary style? How do you describe it?

NEISTAT: We get asked that a lot. That's everyone's first question. The words we use, we kind of invented this way. You know, it's like it's first person filmmaking.

BROWN: Right.

NEISTAT: And kind of what that means, when you have your reality TV, you have your subjects, Kardashians and you've got your producers looking for the sensational aspects of their lives.

BROWN: Right.

NEISTAT: And that's the story that's being told. In our show, because Van and I are producing it and writing it and directing it and editing it --

BROWN: You do everything?

NEISTAT: Yes. We take the stories from our lives that we want to share and we tell them in the most honest way we can.

BROWN: And they are -- I mean, to that point, they really are the stories of your lives. Your, you know, skiing with your brother. You're making French toast with your grandmother. And I know you even filmed yourselves when you had this meeting with the big honchos over at HBO. And I want to show people a little clip.


VAN NEISTAT, FILMMAKER: That's what's called the sigh of relief, as we're descending the stairs from our meeting at HBO. This man says, I know those guys, that's the Neistat brothers. He says, hi. I'm Mike Lombardo, who is the head of this entire world. And, so I think the deal's going to go through. Casey, any thoughts?

CASEY NEISTAT: That was great.

B. NEISTAT: You have great hair.


NEISTAT: He did have great hair.

BROWN: That's your brother, van.

NEISTAT: My brother, Van, who's talking to the camera and then Tom and Christine who produced it. They're behind him. And, you know, I think what's lost in a lot of people is we made this whole show without HBO. We made the show just the two of us and Tom produced it.

BROWN: Right.

NEISTAT: Christine helped us in the end. And then we went out to L.A. where we shopped it and we showed it to people. And nobody wanted to see it because you had to see the whole episode or it didn't make sense.

BROWN: Right. NEISTAT: And HBO saw it.

BROWN: They loved it.

NEISTAT: And that was literally the second we walked out.

BROWN: The moment.

NEISTAT: We had our little --

BROWN: But what made you think that people would want to see a little slice of life of you and your brother doing pretty mundane but interesting kind of things?

NEISTAT: I think it's about storytelling and they --

BROWN: And how you showed this to people.

NEISTAT: Yes, and how you tell the story. Because the stories aren't exceptional. They aren't extraordinary, like it's just us living our lives. And it's the way in which we tell the story and the level of honesty. For us, it's filmmaking but I think it's peering into someone else's life in a way that hasn't really been done yet.

We shot it on $150 cameras. We edit it in I-movie. So there's this -- I think it's going to take some time for people to start to understand it. And there's been this almost freakish following that's been developing, it's just so exciting and it's unbelievable and unexpected.

BROWN: So, talk to me about that. The kind of support you're getting from fans of the show. And I'm a fan, by the way, which is why you're sitting here right now.

NEISTAT: Thank you, Campbell.

BROWN: It's really good. But who -- like who are you hearing from?

NEISTAT: You know, we get like a few hundred e-mails a day, but it's what they're saying more than who's saying it. This woman I think she's in Colorado. I'm going to butcher this, but I think she's in Colorado and she was a teacher. And she decided not to go back to teaching this year to pursue her dreams. So she sent us this whole letter about how our show is the catalyst for that. And like, that was not our ambition, our ambition at all when we made the show but to hear that is like the most touching thing. And I mean, it's unbelievable. And she's not unique, and that we get a lot of stuff like that.

BROWN: You took this sort of your style. You have no formal training. Van has no formal training, right?

NEISTAT: Yes, we took like the I-movie tutorial which is a free software application that comes built in to your computer. I have another term that I coined. BROWN: Yes.

NEISTAT: Minimal resource filmmaking.

BROWN: Minimal --

NEISTAT: You like that one?

BROWN: Yes. Can you be ultra ambitious with minimal resources? Do you want to do something bigger like make a movie?

NEISTAT: I do. I mean, I want -- I'd love to do a big movie some day and I would love to take it all the way. And where this style came from is just it's all Van and I had. You know, we never -- we didn't have money when we first started. We had nothing. We had a camera, we had a computer that you can sort of edit video on. But like you don't need anything more than that to tell a great story.

BROWN: What's next for you? What's next for you and Van? Are you going to stay with this?

NEISTAT: We're staying with this. Yes, there is no question. We're just going to keep making this.

I mean, season one, that's what's on HBO right now is really us figuring this thing out. And by the end, we had figured something out and it's the culmination where we had been headed in the last 10 years, of figuring out how to make movies. And we want to exhaust it. We want to keep going with it and take it as far as we can and we haven't done that yet.

BROWN: Well, it's definitely a different kind of reality TV and certainly worth a look for people. They should definitely tune in. "The Neistat Brothers" and it's on right now, right?

NEISTAT: Yes. On Friday nights on HBO.

BROWN: Awesome. Casey, great to have you hear.

NEISTAT: Campbell, a pleasure.


BROWN: And "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. But up next, tonight's "Punch Line."


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": And over the weekend in Washington, D.C., earthquake. Did you hear about this? There was an earthquake. It was so powerful that the Supreme Court shifted to the left. Really.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Up for a few laughs? It is time for tonight's "Punch Line." Take a look.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Although we've done a lot of jokes about the man, we want to give our best to former Vice President Dick Cheney recovering from heart surgery in the hospital. I understand FOX sent flowers. MSNBC sent a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": I don't know what to make of this. Bristol Palin wants Levi Johnston to wear a camouflage vest at their wedding next month. When she heard that, Sarah Palin was like, that's fine, I wasn't planning on aiming that high, anyway.

CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, "THE LATE, LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON": It is a great day for America but not a great day in the Gulf of Mexico, because there are rumors that the containment cap that they put on is starting to leak. And when asked if the rumors were true, a BP spokesperson said, aren't there any more Mel Gibson tapes?


BROWN: And that's it for us. Have a great night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.