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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

From "SNL" To "Late Night"; O.J.'s Wild Ride 20 Years Later

Aired June 10, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to The Lead. The Politics Lead now. The bus, the book, the bungled answers, the subsequent morning show appearance, the backtrack. Hillary Clinton's campaign by any other name continued this morning. The former secretary of state stopping by "Good Morning America" to clean up - let's call them not ideal - answers. Not gaffes. Not ideal answers on Benghazi and her and the former president's financial struggles when they left the White House.

So will voters buy that the Clintons were dead broke? Here now to talk about it all, CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar and associate editor for "The Washington Post" and Bill Clinton biographer, among the other 10 books he's written, David Maraniss.

Thank you so much for being here, guys. So here's the box headline: only a rich person could go as broke as Hillary Clinton. Do you think her mess-up was as bad as everyone else in the Republican Party seems to think it is? Here's how she tried to clean up the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We were something like $12 million in debt. And that was something that we really had to work hard.

We've been blessed in the last 14 years, but I want to use the talents and resources that I have to make sure people get the same chances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now Brianna, as you pointed out in your piece yesterday, 55 percent of the American people still think she understands the problems of people like them. So the Republicans have a lot more work to do to paint her as out of touch. But what did you think about her answers? What did you think about her clean-up?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's -- I don't think it's excellent clean-up. And that's because when you're talking about -- we reported that we knew she was $5 million - or they were $5 million in debt. Twelve million dollars in debt, but now also we know that they were out of debt by 2004 because of her congressional disclosures. So I think a lot of Americans don't connect with that, the real facts of that. That you can be that far in debt and that you could then get out of it. But I think at the same time, I do think Americans feel that the

Clintons and Hillary Clinton are in this for the right reasons. But she really needs to avoid doing things like this. She had a statement a few months ago that she hadn't driven a car in a couple of months. These are things that if she continues to do them are going to be a problem.

TAPPER: What did you make of it all?

DAVID MARANISS, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, she said she had to work hard to get out of debt. Flying to Las Vegas, blabbing for 40 minutes to get a few hundred thousand dollars is not what the average person would describe as working hard.

This might put her in trouble if someone was opposing her from the left. But for the Republicans to try to make ham out of this is preposterous. What are they going to do, have the Koch - the billion dollar Koch brothers run ads calling Hillary Clinton part of the elite? It's not going to wash that way.

TAPPER: I wonder -- I was talking to Ben Smith about this yesterday. He said, look, this is the authentic Hillary Clinton. She's not programmed; we all complain when she's programmed and gives answers as if there's no news and there's nothing there. Here she's speaking more loosely, and we're all jumping on it. But I do wonder, David, do you think she's ready to run as -- if she decides to run, is she getting bad advice there? What is going on?

MARANISS: No, I think that Ben Smith is right about that. I think she's a little looser than she has been in a long time. The book doesn't necessarily reveal that. The book is very controlled. But there's a point in the book where she says that she's just ready to speak her mind, and I think that "dead broke" is a phrase that I have heard Hillary use. It's natural; it wasn't contrived in any way. And I think that - that she's willing to take those lumps for being - not saying the exact perfect thing. Better that than being considered too programmed, which was the problem with her last time.

TAPPER: Although - and one of the problems in explaining this, Brianna, of course -- is they were $10 million in debt because of all of the legal bills.

KEILER: So then it's just an even bigger hole that she kind of digs.

TAPPER: Yes, you don't want to remind people of why they had $10 million in legal bills.

KEILAR: Exactly. Exactly. And they did, as we understand it, take care of some former staffers' legal bills because it wasn't just them. But the other thing -- I think if you watched the entire interview last night with Diane Sawyer, there were some really -- parts that I thought served Hillary Clinton very well.

TAPPER: Like what?

KEILAR: When she was talking about women, she sort of laughed off the Putin comment which was sexist, but I think also probably just naturally annoys a lot of women. When she was talking about Monica Lewinsky, I found that really interesting that she could say I wish her well with balancing that. I don't really want to talk about it anymore.

She talked about forgiveness. I mean, I thought it was pretty fascinating if she is trying to connect with women. But the problem for her is that then the next day -- let's say you didn't watch that entire interview last night, then what you're hearing is this mess-up with the houses, plural, and that might be your takeaway from it.

TAPPER: What do you make of her interview, and what do you make of the rollout so far?

MARANISS: Well, I make more of the rollout than of the interview. I mean, what we have here is, this looks like a book. You know, it's 596 pages of text.

TAPPER: Fair enough.

MARANISS: It reads sort of like a book. Three professional writers helped her write it. But it doesn't quack like a book because it's not really a book. What it really is a sales-- it's a package. It's a sales package and a political package. In that sense, those two converge pretty well for her.

TAPPER: On Benghazi, she kind of threw up her hands the first time when she's talking to Diane, talking about how she couldn't look at blueprints and determine where blast walls were supposed to be in Benghazi. Here's what she had to say this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I've obviously thought about this long and hard, and the security issues around this attack or the attacks we had when my husband was president or when President Reagan was in office, you learn from them. You can't always predict. You can't always sit in an office in Washington and say, well, we think this, this, and this will happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: David, good enough?

MARANISS: I don't know that she'll ever have an answer that's good enough for the people who are obsessed with Benghazi. But the question is, what is their obsession leading to? What do they want? Do they want answers or do they want just to injure her? So it seems like an endless process of Benghazi, and I don't think she could have given an answer that would have satisfied the people who that are not going to be satisfied.

TAPPER: Brianna Keilar, David Maraniss, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

And start sending in your questions because one week from today, Hillary Clinton will join our own Christiane Amanpour live for a special CNN town hall. That's Tuesday, June 17 at 5 p.m. Eastern. Make sure to tune in, and send us your questions.

Coming up, he has a new late-night gig, and Seth Meyers admits to me it's better than his old job on Saturday Night Live, at least for now, for who he is now. Why he's happy he moved on, next.

Plus, it might be the slowest and strangest police chase in history. O.J. Simpson on the run in a white Bronco. So what was it like inside the getaway car? The driver, A.C. Cowlings, is opening up 20 years later. That's ahead. Old school.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. This is just in. An update to our top story about that deadly school shooting inside a Portland, Oregon area high school. Multiple law enforcement officials now say that the shooter was, indeed, a student. Our sources add the suspect appears to have died from a self-inflicted wound. Police say the gunman killed another student, wounded a teacher at Reynolds High School. We, of course, will continue to update you with more information as it becomes available.

Now it's time for our Pop Culture Lead, when Seth Meyers took over the late night desk from Jimmy Fallon back in February, he knew what he had to work on crafting his monologue delivery and polishing up his interview techniques since he would now be interviewing a-list actors instead of "Saturday Night Live's" drunk uncle, but I doubt any of work prepared him to debate the existence of mermaids with Demi Lovato.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMI LOVATO, ACTRESS: There's this like really extremely convincing documentary that came out.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC'S "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": The little mermaid?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's part of the job, making the guests feel comfortable, being able to go on scripted and apparently telling the audience you don't think mermaids are underwater aliens. But Meyers told me that that interview with Lovato was maybe the most fun he's had on the show so far, which is a testament to Meyers' real skill, listening to his guests.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): A desk job is nothing new for Seth Meyers.

MEYERS: Here is tonight's top stories.

TAPPER: For seven "Saturday Night Live" seasons, his weekend update seat provided the perfect platform for jokes about current events. MEYERS: Remember my campaign slogan? Yes, I can't do that.

TAPPER: And some big name guests. Meyers is now using that experience to fill a new chair as host of NBC's "Late Night." The job comes with more than a million viewers a night, five nights a week.

MEYERS: Good evening.

TAPPER: Fellow "SNL" alum, Jimmy Fallon, left that time slot in February to take over for Jay Leno.

MEYER: Obviously, we just want to go out and do a good show every night and if you do that, people will hopefully come. If you don't, hopefully it's a good night anyways.

TAPPER: I met Meyers at his office in "30 Rock" nine floors down from his old office to talk about the new gig.

MEYERS: Over the first few weeks, if there was any course correction on my part, it was that realization that you tell a joke differently when you're standing than you do when you're sitting behind a desk. There are times in that monologue. That's the one part of the show that is so 100 percent yourself. There's no real help there.

TAPPER (on camera): What about fainting interest in what the guest is saying?

MEYERS: We've been pretty lucky so far. I feel like I'm very well aware when I'm fainting and I feel like it's only happened like five or six times that I fully faint. It's more important and I think, you know this as well, but part of our job is finding the thing we'd be interested in.

TAPPER: So far, Meyers' debut season has been full of familiar faces blurring the line between his old show and his new solo endeavour.

MEYERS: I didn't know it was a better gig until I started doing it. "SNL" is a young man's game.

TAPPER: Are you 40?

MEYERS: I'm 40 now. I'm also married and this is a way better job for being a married person because you get home at night.

TAPPER: And you have the weekends off?

MEYERS: I have the weekends off.

TAPPER (voice-over): Meyers is part of a new late-night generation with Jay Leno and David Letterman exiting making way for Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert. He will host the Emmys this August.

(on camera): The late, late wars are not as competitive as the late wars, but it's all very competitive.

MEYERS: Lauren Michaels has always said like the real competition is at that hour because you try to do something that would make people stay away for a few minutes that's the best approach.

TAPPER (voice-over): With that as his goal, the late night team is not afraid to take some risks. You've been able to start this new franchise called the second chance theatre?

MEYERS: Yes.

TAPPER (on camera): It's old skits that did not make final cut?

MEYERS: Right. And I think we're proving that maybe there is some like logic behind why they didn't make the first cut, but that is why second chance theatre exists. I want to give a safe space for people to make their argument towards the American people. Please welcome Jake Tapper.

TAPPER (voice-over): Speaking of giving questionable material a chance, last night Meyers welcomed me to his show.

MEYERS: Look at that hair. It's not like I had a doctor say that I'd get off the table.

TAPPER: I attempted a sketch comedy of my own. His advice before the show proved invaluable.

(on camera): No advice, nothing?

MEYERS: Do one voice. I try it out with the audience.

TAPPER: I do one with Obama.

MEYERS: I think this is the perfect place to do that.

TAPPER: Right here where I can actually put it on --

MEYERS: Yes. Perfect.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer is here with the preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, Donald Sterling suddenly saying no --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You're a good drawer, too.

TAPPER: You know, I am thankful of --

BLITZER: We've been on flights sitting next to each other. You're very good at that.

TAPPER: I've almost perfected the beard.

BLITZER: Very impressive. We got the lawyer for Donald Sterling, Max Blecher is going to joins us live during the 5:00 hour --

TAPPER: They are rejecting a $2 billion deal?

BLITZER: He's apparently want to sue the NBA for $1 billion so we are going to talk about that.

TAPPER: When we come back -- "THE SITUATION ROOM" in 10 minutes.

When we come back, it was reality TV before there was reality TV. O.J. Simpson on the run from police in a white Bronco and a nearly 100 million people tuned in to watch it unfold, live. Coming up next, what you didn't know about that wild car chase 20 years later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Take a walk down memory lane with me in our Buried Lead. Twenty years ago he was a well-liked former NFL star with a sideline in Hertz rental car commercials, "Naked Gun" movies, but then on June 12th, 1994, his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, were murdered with O.J. Simpson, the prime suspect.

O.J. was supposed to turn himself in, but what happened instead with all due respect to NASCAR, it turned into the most famous auto race in American history. Our Kyra Phillips looks back at 20 years later in a CNN special report "O.J.'s Wild Ride."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a lot better tomorrow. Believe me. Please. We'll let you go up to the house but we need you to throw it out the window.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While O.J. is mowing over what to do, thousands of fans and spectators stop everything, including driving, just to get a front row seat to O.J.'s Bronco drama.

BRIAN CHERKAS, BRONCO CHASE EYEWITNESS: People were jamming on their brakes, jumping out of their cars, sometimes in the middle of the freeway to run over to the side to cheer O.J. on.

PHILLIPS: Airline pilot, Brian Cherkas was visiting his parents in L.A. when he learned the juice was on the run and coming his way.

CHERKAS: All the media networks showed this in a pretty much play-by- play action. I knew O.J. was traveling the Bronco, was traveling north up the 405 and I realized I'm only two blocks away from him so I realized I should go down there and see it for myself.

PHILLIPS: Cherkas also an aspiring photographer made sure to bring his camera to the scene. He took these photos, capturing the riveting spectacle.

CHERKAS: It was about 6:00 p.m. on the Palms overpass and people were just meeting in droves on the overpass. There were people holding signs up, "Go O.J." signs and other people were spray painting signs impromptu on the highway itself. It was a frenzy. It was a circus- like atmosphere.

PHILLIPS: But those brief moments of frenzied energy would soon change as the Bronco passes them by.

CHERKAS: People were jumping up and down, they were all shouting, screaming and then all of a sudden it got quiet and I noticed some people were actually crying at the time. I think just the gravity of the whole event hit them, that this is a guy charged with a double murder trying to escape police and he's obviously not going to be able to do it and I think that's when it hit them that this is really a sad situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: What a bizarre little slice of memory there.

PHILLIPS: Can you believe it's been two decades?

TAPPER: I can't. Kyra Phillips joins us now. Kyra, you actually spoke to the guy driving the Bronco, A.C. Cowlings?

PHILLIPS: Well, here's what's interesting, right? So many of these people because celebrities, analysts, they wrote books, they made money, reality TV shows, I mean, you saw the cast of characters, right?

TAPPER: We had a couple of them on the show during the Zimmerman trial.

PHILLIPS: There you go. All right, the one person that everyone has wanted to talk to since 20 years ago when I was covering this whole case, A.C. Cowlings, the man driving that Bronco, the man with $9,000 in his pocket and a bag, a mustache, a goatee, adhesive, a loaded gun. He's trying to keep O.J. from killing himself, right? I go back to my source from 20 years ago and I said, do you by chance still have a phone number?

Try this, don't tell him where you got it. I dial him up, he answered the phone. Riveting. He did throw a few cuss words at me. He was not happy that I called. Kyra, I'm not going to talk to you. I told you back then. I'm telling you now. He gave it to me, Jake. But at the same time, he wanted to vent.

I felt like he wanted to talk, but he just -- he is that one individual who will still to this day not answer questions and he said, Kyra, can you just leave me alone? Can you all of you leave me alone? I am an old man. I have nothing to say. That's the one man who was in that car for hours with O.J. Simpson. He knows a lot, but he's still not talking.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Just watching the people on the overpass and, go, O.J., they are not --

PHILLIPS: There are no supporters of O.J. Simpson any longer. It's going to be hard to find them.

TAPPER: What time is that tonight?

PHILLIPS: At 9:00 tonight. TAPPER: At 9:00 tonight, Kyra Phillips, thanks. Don't miss Kyra's CNN special report, "O.J.'s Wild Ride 20 Years After The Chase" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

That's it for THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Jake, thanks very much.