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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Paris Hilton Speaks Out

Aired June 27, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, here we go. There is plenty of news today. And, as always, we will be bringing it to you.
But we can't be above the news of the moment either.

So, thanks, Larry.

And good evening, everyone.

We have all been watching TV around here tonight. Probably, you have, too. I think we have heard a couple of you screaming at the screens. But our panel has also been assembled, people who follow these kind of media occasions.

We have got Lisa Bloom of Court TV, public relations consultant and adviser to who's-who of Hollywood Ken Sunshine, professor Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University, and Jess Cagle of "People" magazine, who was with the young heiress and her family right after she got out of jail, all to answer the questions that we have all got: What do we think of what she said tonight? Does she sound like she really has changed? Has she taken any responsibility at all for drunk driving, using the N-word, and generally giving wealth and celebrity a bad name, as if it didn't already have a bad name enough?

Tonight, with her appearance on "LARRY KING LIVE," we're all getting our first chance to find out answers to those questions.

So, we will start things off with a sample of the hotel heiress tonight in her own words.


LARRY KING, HOST: The obvious -- the purpose of jail, prison, jail, confinement, is to teach a lesson.


KING: Or at least that's a big part of it. Did it work with you?

HILTON: It's definitely -- it was a very traumatic experience, but I feel like God does make everything happen for a reason.

And it gave me, you know, a time-out in life to really find out what's important and what I want to do, figure out who I am. And I'm -- even though it was really hard, I took that time just to get to know myself. KING: You think it changed you?

HILTON: Yes, definitely. I have a new outlook on life.

KING: Was there a couple of days -- when did it happen quickly? Or did it happen over a period of time? Or...

HILTON: The beginning was really hard, really hard for me. It's kind of a blur, it was so kind of traumatic.

But, after being there a while, I had to accept that I could either make the best of it or make the worst of it. So, I just went with the motto, don't serve the time; let the time serve you. And I did that, and it really helped.

KING: OK, during this time, Paris, what was your -- what were you afraid of?

HILTON: Just the whole idea of being in jail is really scary. I wasn't -- I hate to be alone. So, that was really, you know, hard for me in the beginning, to be so alone. And I would have nightmares at night that, you know, someone would break into my cell and hurt me, and just scary times like that.

I suffer from claustrophobia my entire life. And, when I first got in that cell, I was having severe panic attacks, anxiety attacks. My claustrophobia was kicking in. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. It was -- the doctors talked to the sheriff, and he could see that it would be better if I just did it on house arrest.

KING: What kind of a jolt was it when they hauled you back into court and sent you back to jail?

HILTON: It was a shock, everything, you know, going from being so happy to be at home with my family. And then I'm told that I'm not supposed to be going to court the next day. The sheriff said, stay at home.

Then, all of a sudden, 10 minutes before the police arrive, I'm yanked out of bed. They're telling me that they're going to handcuff me and then bring me back to the courthouse. I had no idea what was going on. It was -- I was in complete shock. It was unbelievable. I was terrified.

KING: "What's the biggest misconception about you?"

HILTON: Well, a misconception that I always hear is, Paris doesn't work for a living. She just, you know, gets money from her family.

And I completely disagree with that. I have made a name on my own, by myself. I have not taken any money from my family. I work very hard. I run a business. I have had a book on the "New York Times" bestsellers list. I'm on my fifth season of a TV show, done an album, do movies.


COOPER: That was some of Paris Hilton earlier tonight.

Joining me now to talk about what we have all witnessed, public relations consultant Ken Sunshine -- he represents a who's-who of Hollywood -- Marc Lamont Hill, professor of American studies at Temple University, Court TV's Lisa Bloom, and Jess Cagle of "People" magazine, who scored the exclusive print interview with the freed femme fatale at her grandfather's home in Bel Air right after her release from jail.

Jess, you talked to her for "People." Is the person we saw tonight the real Paris Hilton?

JESS CAGLE, "PEOPLE": I think that there is -- there's something that has definitely changed about her.

What you feel when you meet her in person is, she does seem like a much more substantial person than this kind of bubblehead, or what she calls a cartoon character, that she plays on "The Simple Life," and I think kind of has fostered over the years in the media.

I think that she regrets that, to an extent, and is very, very eager to be seen as a more substantial person, a more serious person, as she said over and over to -- to Larry.

COOPER: Well, what does that really mean, though? She's 26 years old. Why hasn't she been substantial up to now? I mean, she's had plenty of time. I know she didn't go to college. I know she got a GED. But she's certainly has had access to newspapers and information. It seems odd for her to suddenly get smart.

CAGLE: Well, what strikes you about her, also, is, she's very sweet. She's very polite.

She does seem rather immature. And that is the thing that strikes you. It was interesting to hear her talk to Larry about how she has been -- how she has behaved rather immaturely in her life.

So, maybe this experience has matured her. I mean, only time will tell. I certainly didn't get the sense that she was being insincere when she said she wanted to do more charity work and all of that, though a lot of people who go to jail say they have found God, and you have to see what happens after that.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Ken, she talks about finding God and working with charities. I found it telling, though, when Larry asked her what personality trait she most wanted to change, it was sort of an opportunity to be self-reflective and say, you know what, I have made some mistakes.

Here's what she said.


HILTON: When I get nervous or shy, my voice gets really high. I have been doing that ever since I was a little girl. And that's something I don't like that I do. I like when I talk in my normal voice. But, sometimes, I go down. And that's something I'm trying to change about myself.


COOPER: Does she seem like somebody who has been changed by this experience? I mean, do you buy this?

KEN SUNSHINE, PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT: No. I think she comes across as relatively normal, a little boring, clearly not very thoughtful.

COOPER: Should she be doing one-hour interviews?


COOPER: Because, I have got to tell you, if part of being a celebrity is creating a mystique about somebody, she's destroying it every time she opens that lip-glossed mouth of hers.

SUNSHINE: You ought to be in P.R.


SUNSHINE: She -- no, she should not do one-hour interviews. In fact, she should do more -- if she does more than sound bites, it's a mistake.

And she's really got to be thoughtful. I mean, if she really spent all that time reflecting, this is the result, there -- there ain't a lot there. But the best part of the interview was when Larry asked her about what her favorite passage of the Bible was, and she kind of forgot.

COOPER: Well, let's -- let's actually play that -- the part of the interview right now. Larry asks about -- because she's been talking about finding God and the importance of religion.

Let's listen.


KING: What's your favorite Bible passage?

HILTON: I don't have a favorite. But...

KING: You read it every day?

HILTON: In jail, I read it a lot.

KING: Going to go to mass?


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Marc, you -- you teach American studies. Sadly, this is part of American culture. What is the lesson from all of this?


But, first, let me just say that I'm a lot more forgiving and a lot more understanding of Paris than I think a lot of people are. I think that she appeared sober, contrite, sincere.

Even when she made the comment about her voice getting really high when she was nervous, I thought she was making, actually, a very deep point about how, in the past, she has responded to media scrutiny by acting like a little girl and by acting immature and by playing the stupid role, whereas now she's going to the mature, savvy businesswoman that she sees herself to be.


COOPER: Professor, you're the only one who is reading subtext into what she's said -- what she's saying.


COOPER: But go ahead.

HILL: She's a deep woman. She's a deep, deep woman.

COOPER: That's your job. I understand. OK.


HILL: Yes. But I think there are -- I think there are a lot of lessons here.

I think this is just another example of how American culture and how American society squanders really important and valuable opportunities to talk about the deeper issues. Instead of talking about Paris Hilton, we could be talking about prison overcrowding. We could be talking about the prison industry. We could be talking about differential sentencing. We could be talking about two-tiered systems of justice for people who have money and those who don't.

But, instead, we're talking about Paris Hilton and her voice and all these other things, which is important, but we could -- we could make this deeper, but, too often, Americans lose interest.

COOPER: Well, let's not pretend this is not important. But, clearly, people are...


HILL: Because it clearly is.

COOPER: ... interested.

Marc, I also just want to play some of what -- she -- she kept a journal while in jail. "Letters From a Birmingham Jail," it is not.


COOPER: But let's listen to some of her writing.


HILTON: "They say when you reach a crossroad or a turning point in life, it really doesn't matter how we got there, but it's what we do next after we got there. Usually, you arrive there by adversity, and then it is then and only then that we find out who we truly are and what we're truly made of."


COOPER: Did she...

HILL: Nobody is...


COOPER: Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: No, I was going to say, nobody is going to confuse her with Toni Morrison. But these are baby steps.

She's only in for 23 days. She had what we call a foxhole conversion. She was in the worst of circumstances. And she found religion. She found poetry. She found the arts. Let's just hope that she sustains it. I think it's possible.


COOPER: Lisa, she also said she thought that, basically, she got a bum rap, that she did too much time. Did she?

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: Well, according to the "L.A. Times" study, which looked at thousands of people just like her, who had a DUI, and then violated their probation afterwards by driving, she did, in fact, serve more time.

The problem is that she wasn't released because of overcrowding. She was released for this medical condition, which now we find out is claustrophobia. And there ain't nobody else who was released because of claustrophobia.


COOPER: Right.

BLOOM: And, so, she did ultimately get special treatment.

I have to say, I was moved by the interview. I have never seen Paris Hilton, I don't think, even talk before. I have seen all the pictures of her. I think she's a beautiful young model. I have been very critical of her on the air for the things she's done that are illegal. But I was moved. I thought this shows her as a more complex person, clearly a very kind person.

She didn't take the bait to attack her friends, for example, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, like a lot of people might have. She was very careful in not doing that, and only saying nice things about other people. And I think she showed some empathy for the other women in jail, who clearly have a much harder life than she does.

COOPER: Ken, does -- does -- where does her celebrity go from here?

SUNSHINE: Nobody knows. I mean, she's clearly not going away. I mean, if she really wanted to stop the media scrutiny, she could move to Montana and get a job in Wal-Mart. And...

COOPER: If she wanted to be stopped being followed by these paparazzi, which she claims is part of the problem, could she?


COOPER: I mean, could she scale back?

SUNSHINE: Yes. I mean, it would mean a major change of lifestyle and probably moving out of L.A. And I don't think she's prepared to do that.

BLOOM: But she wasn't even critical of the paparazzi. Remember what she said. They're just doing their jobs. I don't fault them.

I mean, clearly, it's not pleasant to be followed around 24/7.

COOPER: Well, why would she fault them? She makes money off them, because that means that she gets money to appear.


BLOOM: Because she's a model. Her primary job, as I understand it, is that she's a model. And she wants to be a celebrity. She wants to raise her Q-rating.

But she could nasty things about the celebrities, and didn't take the bait.

SUNSHINE: She's not getting these endorsements because of her talent or because of her acting ability or before -- because of her intelligence. And she's a genius at marketing what she has.

HILL: Absolutely.

SUNSHINE: And I think that's the biggest factor about her success.

COOPER: We have got another sequence of sound from L.A. County number 9818783 on her long days behind bars.

Let's listen.


KING: So, you have now become used to the fact that you have no privacy?

HILTON: Yeah. I think it definitely comes with the territory.

KING: But you have ultimate privacy in jail.

HILTON: Somewhat, you know, but there's always, like, the officers around, so, you don't really have any privacy in jail. But it was nice to be away from all the flashes for a while.

KING: How well were you treated?

HILTON: Everyone at the L.A. County, all the sheriffs were very professional. I was treated like any other inmate, no better, no worse.

KING: You were in confinement 23 hours a day?

HILTON: Yes. It was pretty difficult, just -- the cell was like eight-by-12. So, I was alone the entire time.

KING: Do you have television in the cell?




HILTON: Nothing that ...

KING: Describe what's in the cell.

HILTON: Basically, it's a small room with a metal bunk bed, a toilet right next to the bed connected to the sink, and a little metal desk. So, it's a very small area.

KING: What do you do with the hour you get out?

HILTON: For the hour, I got to shower and call my family. You only have an hour, so tried to make as much...

KING: Eat in the cell?

HILTON: Yes. All the meals are in the cell.

KING: Can you -- is there a commissary? Can you go and buy extra goodies?

HILTON: Every Monday, they bring -- it's called the canteen, and you can order candy and food and stamps and pencils and paper. I was writing a lot while I was there, so ...

(CROSSTALK) KING: ... have visitors?

HILTON: Saturdays and Sundays for a half-an-hour. My family came, some of my friends.

KING: Friends could come to?

Was there a list? Can you give them a list of who can come? How does that work?

HILTON: For inmates and myself, it's the same. Every Saturday and Sunday, for a half-hour, you can have two visitors.


COOPER: Ken, you know, I never believe people have as much money as they say or are portrayed on TV to have. If her family is so rich, I'm not sure why they were allegedly out shopping an interview for a million dollars, which NBC was allegedly going to pay them.

Was it a mistake -- if, in fact, that is what happened, was a mistake to try to get money for a televised interview?

SUNSHINE: Yes, if it's true. I mean, obviously, I don't know that it's true either, but, sure, because it just looks like an exploitation move to get money.

And the one thing that supposedly is true about her is that she's got dough. So, to go and sell the interview, it doesn't help. There was -- if this was a carefully crafted plan to rehabilitate her, it's not doing real well, neither in this interview, nor in the steps before.

COOPER: CNN did not pay for this interview or for use of any pictures.

And, Jess, I know there are rumors on the Internet that "People" magazine paid, for your interview, $300,000. Is that true?

CAGLE: No, it's absolutely not.

I mean, we -- we made it -- we have been approaching them since the time she got in trouble. We wanted to talk to her when she got out of jail. I mean, it's -- it never even -- we don't pay for interviews. So, it was never brought up.

There was -- a couple of weeks ago, there were some discussions that I wasn't having, instead of doing our own photo shoot, we might buy photos through an agency, but that certainly never came to pass. We -- there was absolutely no money that changed hands...


COOPER: So, just -- just to be clear, were there -- did any money change hands? You know, because some news organization will pay for pictures that the family provides. Did the magazine -- did "People" magazine pay for pictures, like, personal photographs?

CAGLE: No, no, not at all.

COOPER: OK. So, no money from "People" magazine, to your knowledge, went to the Hilton family or -- or Paris Hilton -- or Paris to secure this interview?

CAGLE: No, absolutely not.


If -- what -- what surprised you most about her, Jess?

CAGLE: I think that the -- I think that she seems, like I said earlier, rather immature, but also really sophisticated and shrewd, in her way. She seems...

COOPER: How much of it is an act? That whole, you know, appearing like a moron, is that -- how much of that is an act?

CAGLE: I think it's really an act.

She comes by it honestly.


CAGLE: This is a young woman who grew up in Beverly Hills. And we know who all of -- or know who some of her friends are. So, she knows how to put on the act. But it really isn't her.

And, I mean, and she is the first to say, this kind of cartoon character that she plays is not really her. It's not that far off. There's not a huge disconnect between the person you see on the red carpet and the person you talk to, except that, when you're there face to face talking to her you, you do actually like her.

And I think everybody here tonight among us actually sort of did like her during this interview, except for you.


COOPER: Well, that's -- you know, I don't really -- I just don't understand her. I don't understand the appeal. I don't understand what she's done.

But we can talk about that coming up -- showing my own bias here.

We have got more that you might know about Nicky Hilton's big sister, in her own words, but also in dollars and cents.


COOPER (voice-over): How does she make her money, and how much?

MATTHEW MILLER, "FORBES": She can command a fee anywhere between $50,000 and a couple hundred thousand dollars just to show up at a nightclub.

COOPER: That and the alleged family fortune. We will crunch the numbers.

Plus: He runs the jail, and he sent her home.

LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF: The stars are just as capable of being victimized as anybody else.

COOPER: L.A.'s sheriff under fire for his treatment of the heiress, a drunken Mel Gibson and more -- tonight on 360.




HILTON: I have made a name on my own, by myself. I have not taken any money from my family. I work very hard. I run a business. I have had a book on the "New York Times" bestsellers list. I'm on my fifth season of a TV show, done an album, do movies.


COOPER: That's what Paris Hilton told Larry King earlier. The hotel heiress says she makes her own money and is a businesswoman in her own right, and certainly seems to be.

Here's a question: Was it her business savvy that made her seem ready to accept money, a lot of money, for an interview after getting out of jail? We talked about that a little bit earlier. The money never changed hands. The network that allegedly offered it backed off.

But it did get us thinking. How much is the Hilton family really worth?

CNN's Randi Kaye tried to do some digging.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did Paris Hilton really expect to get paid $1 million for her post-big-house interview? The family denied shopping her around. But, if they did, why?

(on camera): Does she need the money?

MATTHEW MILLER, "FORBES": Well, a million dollars is a million dollars. She could buy a big house with a million dollars.

KAYE: She's already got a big house.

MILLER: She's already got a big house. And she's already got plenty of cars and stuff like that. You have to remember that, you know, the rich don't think about just, oh, I'm rich; I don't need to stop working.

An extra million dollars is an extra million dollars.

KAYE (voice-over): Matthew Miller edits the "Forbes" 400 list. Paris is not on it, but her grandfather Barron Hilton is, number 374, with an estimated worth of $1.4 billion. As family patriarch, he's the wealthiest of the Hiltons. Paris' father, Rick, has a successful high-end real estate company in Los Angeles and is reportedly worth hundreds of millions.

(on camera): It's Paris' great grandfather Conrad who they can all thank for their lifestyle, though. He began building the hotel empire back in 1919. When Conrad died in 1979, he left most of his fortune to the Catholic Church. But his son Barron went to court to fight the will and regain control of the empire. And he won.

(voice-over): When he dies, his wealth will be divided among his six children and eight grandchildren. So, how much will this poor little rich girl get? Some estimate $100 million, plus or minus.

(on camera): Does she make enough money to live on, or is she really living off the family money?

MILLER: She certainly makes enough money to live on. There's no doubt about it. She makes millions of dollars a year.

KAYE (voice-over): In fact, Paris, who is famous for being famous, earned at least $7 million last year, about $1 million of that, Miller says, from her TV show, "The Simple Life." Add to that her perfume line, cell phone video games, purses, and appearances.

MILLER: She can command a fee anywhere between $50,000 and a couple hundred thousand dollars just to show up at a nightclub.

KAYE: Hundreds of thousands of dollars just to show up?

MILLER: The difference between Conrad and Barron and Paris is that they were running billion-dollar hotel empires. But what she's doing is not huge pieces of entrepreneurship that's going to shake American capitalism.

KAYE: Miller gives Paris credit for being a savvy entrepreneur, but admits she was born into the right family, which, long before Paris hit the tabloids, was making headlines. Great grandpa Conrad married actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Great uncle Nicky married Elizabeth Taylor. Nicky, by the way, at 26, was arrested for public drunkenness. Think anyone offered him a million to talk?

The more we talk about Paris, Miller says, the richer she will get.

MILLER: You and I are making Paris Hilton's brand more valuable right now, because...

KAYE (on camera): We're making her richer as we speak. MILLER: Right here, because some nightclub in Las Vegas or New York who would usually be paying her $50,000 to show up is now going to pay her $75,000 to show up this weekend.

KAYE (voice-over): Proof it pays to be a Hilton.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Again, we're joined by public relations consultant Ken Sunshine, Marc Lamont Hill, professor of American studies at Temple University, Court TV's Lisa Bloom, and Jess Cagle of "People" magazine, who got an exclusive interview with her.

Jess, what was it like when she got home, you know, inside her family? What is her family dynamic like?

CAGLE: It is actually a very close family. Yesterday, her parents were there. This -- it all took place at her grandfather's house, at Barron Hilton's mansion in Bel Air.

The parents were there. Nicky, her sister, flew in later that night to be with her. It was -- it was sweet. It was like a homecoming. You know, this elegant, gigantic mansion in Bel Air had these kind of cheap paper letters from the grocery store that said "Welcome Home" over the front door.

So, there was a very -- it was a very sweet, sincere homecoming. They were glad to have her back.

COOPER: Marc, Jess raised a good point a while back that maybe I'm being too harsh on her. And maybe I am.

For me, the big question is, you know, that someone who is born into such privilege and given so many opportunities, to not make the most of that and try to use that in a way -- and, I mean, given all -- you know, rather than spend 26 years of your life trying to walk a red carpet and get more attention on yourself, why not try to use some of that attention for something good?

So, she's saying now that she wants to do that. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, where do you think she should go from here?

HILL: Well, I think the first place she should go is Mothers Against Driving Drunk. They have been adamant about the way -- you know, about discussing the way in which her representation in the media has had such a harmful effect. She should start there.

She should pick any charity she wants. I just want to see her engaged in the public in a way that is responsible and redemptive. I don't care, really, where she goes, although MADD is a good place to start. Anywhere is good, though.

COOPER: Ken, do you think that is the next step for her?


You know, usually, the old axiom, you find God in and out of jail or you find a cause in and out of jail -- it's usually something like animals or something that is not, you know, very difficult to be for. You know, she said something vague about that in the interview.

But, frankly, she would be better off if she were serious about it, and made the big announcement tonight, and actually spent time, real time, doing it, and don't -- not doing it in a way that's reflective of "The Simple Life..."


COOPER: She has talked about working with people with multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, also...


BLOOM: Halfway house.

COOPER: Halfway house, also.

She spoke very eloquently about that tonight, about the plight that many women in prison find themselves in after leaving prison. She has also talked about building houses or getting corporations to build houses for kids who are sick.

BLOOM: But she sounds like she's really still grasping around as to what she wants to do to be meaningful.

I think she does genuinely want to do something substantive. She doesn't want to just be the ditzy party girl that she's been. But, after three-and-a-half weeks to reflect on it, to do almost nothing else but reflect on it, she's still not there yet.

COOPER: Hmm. Interesting.

Let's take a look quick at what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."

Here's John Roberts.


JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Anderson, sun, sand and sunscreen, plus bears, sharks and poison ivy, lots of ways that summer fun can turn dangerous.

We met one family taking off in different directions. Kids are off to camp. Parents are hitting the road. We have got the warning signs ahead for them and ways that all of us can stay safe before hitting the road for the holiday.

"AMERICAN MORNING" begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. See you then -- Anderson, back to you.


COOPER: John, thanks. We're going to have more on the heiress ahead, including the big question: Just who is she? And how did she get to be the celebrity that she is?

That's next on 360.


COOPER: That, of course, was her leaving jail yesterday, free after serving 23 days. Some of it kind of looked like a strut down a red carpet at one point. There, that's kind of when the strutting began.

It was a much different scene, of course, two weeks ago, when she reported to jail to begin her sentence. Back then, she left the red carpet behind literally at an MTV Awards ceremony. That's where we pick up with Larry King's exclusive interview tonight.


KING: How about those, they get a little shocked when they know you're going to jail and they see you at the MTV Awards walking the red carpet. Doesn't that look like a contradiction?

HILTON: Actually, I was playing a trick on everyone. Because outside my house, outside the Lynwood facility, there was paparazzi, I heard, from all around the world.

So I thought if I went to the MTV Awards, snuck out during the show, I could get there unnoticed, and that's what we did. No one even saw me going on.

KING: How about friends that weren't right friends to you? Have you gotten rid of them?

HILTON: I've gotten rid of a lot of people. I think, especially being in Los Angeles, there's a lot of people out here that like people for certain reasons. And I don't want people who are not going to be beneficial to my life, because I want positive things in my life. And I had to cut a lot of people out, which I'm happy.

KING: Can you name them?

HILTON: I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling, but they know who they are.

KING: Do you think the judge was unkind?

HILTON: You know, my lawyers even said with this kind of infraction, it wasn't for a DUI, it was for a suspended license that people only -- I was walking in there assuming I was just going to get community service. That's what my lawyer said at the time.

So when he sentenced me to that much time in jail, it was shocking, because that doesn't happen ever. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: As soon as the interview was over, I talked to Larry King about his thoughts on interviewing her. Let's listen.


COOPER: Larry, you've interviewed a lot of people trying to rehabilitate their images. A lot of people have just gotten out of jail. How does she stack up to others you've talked to?

KING: Good question. Too soon to tell. I would say at this point, perplexing, Anderson.

I like her. I don't understand the phenomena that is Paris Hilton.

She spent 23 days in a confining situation. That had to be terrible when you only get out one hour a day and you suffer from a fear of being enclosed. That's a sad situation. But I mean, she didn't do five years or ten years.

She's -- she's in denial about what she did wrong. So it's kind of awkwardly conflicting.

Here's a girl with -- who does a lot of things, comes from a family that extraordinarily successful, and she, on the one hand, thinks she did nothing wrong. She had one drink, was going out to an In and Out Burger.

The suspended license, her lawyer told her it wasn't suspended. She's never taken drugs, is what she's said. Never taken drugs. Never been drunk. Never been drunk. The one drink she wasn't drunk. She tested for it.

But on the other hand, happy about the fact that she's gotten better and she will do better in life. When in fact what did you have to get better about if you didn't do anything wrong? So there are contradictions. And that's the thing that makes it fascinating.

COOPER: She seems -- she seems to be claiming in this interview that you've done that it's a perception problem that she has, not a life problem, not a lifestyle problem.

The problem is not that she's, you know, on a sex tape and on videotape, you know, using the "N" word and going out to parties and being photographed in these, you know, precarious positions. Her position seems to be tonight that it's everybody else's problem, that people just don't see the real her.

KING: Right. And I didn't get into the sex tape aspect. I thought it was a long time ago, and I -- well, I guess I could have gotten into it. But we devoted so much time to the -- to being in jail and the current Paris.

But that's true. She says it's our perception of her. So I tried to take the kind of point of, well, why didn't you do things like this sooner? Why, three years ago, didn't you come forward and say that, "Hey, I'm not -- I don't take drugs. Yes, I like parties, but I'm not that kind of party girl." Why didn't you do that?

Because what she's saying is that -- she wasn't surprised with our web site poll that 63 percent of the voters said the prison -- the prison sentence was correct, she got treated correctly. She was not -- it was fine with her.

COOPER: She also seems to me talking now about God more than I've ever heard her say. I want to play a clip, when you asked her about a passage from the Bible. Let's listen.


KING: What's your favorite Bible passage?

HILTON: I don't have a favorite.

KING: Do you read it every day?

HILTON: In jail I read it a lot.

KING: Going to go to mass?



COOPER: I mean, did you get the sense that she had sort of prepared talking points, that somebody had given her -- and that seemed to be a situation she didn't know any passage from the Bible.

KING: Yes, yes. That could very well be. And I can't make a judgment like that.

Yes, someone should have worked with her. I'm sure she's got people that worked with her. They had two days to think about this.

And there's nothing we can do as interviews. You know that. I don't have a sheet in front of me showing a statement that she's a drug addict. I don't have a prescription tablet.

She says the only prescription she's ever taken is for ADD. She's never taken another one, never taken an illegal drug. So as an interviewer, all you can do is ask and have to accept the answer. And the public will have to believe or disbelieve.

COOPER: All in all, are you glad you did the interview?

KING: Sure.

COOPER: Do you come away with a different perception of her?

KING: I know more about her. I'm more puzzled. I tried to get as much as I could, but she's just come out of jail, and she was very nervous, very nervous.

I'm glad I did it. I'd like to do it again in six months.

COOPER: See where she is.

KING: Yes.

COOPER: Larry King, appreciate it.

You can see Larry's entire interview, of course, coming up at midnight eastern. Tomorrow night, he sits down with former secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Back to the woman in question in a moment. Larry King doesn't quite understand her, he said. Coming up, we'll try to do some dinging ourselves. What do we actually know about her? And how did she become who she's become?



KING: What was that moment like? We saw you hopping down out. That feeling of freedom?

HILTON: It was one of the happiest days of my life. Like -- it's hard to even describe. It was so exciting. Even just being in the fresh air and looking up at the sky and the stars.


COOPER: A sweet taste of freedom.

Her face has been everywhere for years, but it's kind of funny, because people really don't seem to know much about how Paris Hilton has become who she is. Or as Cary Grant famously asked blonde mystery woman in "North By Northwest", how does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?

Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Paris Hilton was born into a life of privilege. She grew up in New York City, the oldest of four children. Her warrants, Rick and Cathy Hilton, clearly thought their daughter was something special and marketable. They nicknamed her Star, and she worked as a child model.

RICK HILTON, PARIS' FATHER: She's very unique and obviously very popular. And I know it's hard to explain, but she's a very sweet girl. And something, that combination that's made her lovable to the world.

COOPER: Lovable? Well, that's not exactly what's at the root of her appeal. Much like Heloise at the Plaza, Paris spent part of her young leaf living at the Waldorf Astoria, which is also a Hilton hotel. She dropped out of high school and ultimately got a GED.

When she was 19, she signed with Donald Trump's modeling agency, T Management. To promote herself, she showed up at parties and premiers, strutting and posing, trying to create a public persona, one she would later say was misleading.

HILTON: I think just because of my last name people may assume that I don't work and I'm spoiled. But in real life, it's not how I am at all.

COOPER: The paparazzi's passion paid off. Hilton's big break came in 2003 when she and her then friend Nicole Richie starred in the reality show, "The Simple Life".

Just before the series aired, a sex video she made with her then boyfriend was leaked to the Internet. The scandal, however, only seemed to heighten her fame.

To build her brand even bigger, she appeared in cameo roles in small movies. In "House of Wax" she won the Best Scream award at the Teen Choice Awards.

She's continued to party prodigiously, and a less pretty side of Hilton has repeatedly surfaced on the Internet. One video shows her spouting sexual and racial epithets.

None of it, however, has seemed to matter. Her name, her brand has only gotten bigger.

Hilton started her own record label, Heiress Records, and in 2006, released her first album called -- what else -- "Paris". The lead single, "Stars are Blind" was a modest hit, peaking at No. 18 on the singles charts.

(on camera) It was in September of 2006 that Hilton was arrested for drunk driving. She pled no contest and was sentenced to three years probation. She violated her probation not once but twice, driving on a suspended license. Her then publicist said he told her it would be OK.

(voice-over) Judge Michael Sauer was not amused and sent Paris to the slammer for 45 days. That's 23 days, Los Angeles time. She started serving her time on June 3, but jail, it's not fun for a celebutant. And the sheriff let her out in three. That's five days, Los Angeles time.

A day later, the angry judge ordered her back to serve the rest of her sentence.

She's now out and free. From the looks of it, her jail time has only created more buzz around the brand she's been creating for years.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Back to our panel. Public relations consultant Ken Sunshine; Professor Marc Lamont Hill, Temple University; Court TV's Lisa Bloom; and Jess Cagle of "People" magazine.

Ken, can -- where does she go? Can she keep this level of celebrity going?

KEN SUNSHINE, PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT: Sure. I mean, she's a genius at marketing, I mean, at best, a limited talent.

COOPER: Because her brand is herself.

SUNSHINE: Her brand is herself. And she strikes a chord in the public of something that's titillating, a little bit outrageous, not totally outrageous. And people love to laugh at the foibles of others, and people love to caricature people.

She'll do something else. I mean, she's very good at this. She'll do something else to bring her in the light. Watch a charity come and a real effort being made.

I mean, she'll get somebody smart to tell her to be serious about something and actually do some good in the world. And that may temper the moronic image that she's successfully portrayed through that show.

But you know, I think the thing about the interview today, though, is just there's not a lot there. And it just, you know, it's tough to get out. Larry gets real credit for pulling that hour out, too. It's tough.

COOPER: When we come back, we're going to talk with Jess Cagle about his thoughts on whether -- how contrite she really has been. We'll also talk with Lisa Bloom about whether or not, if this person was a man, she would be treated the same way in our society.

More from our panel after the break.

And later, the man they call L.A. sheriff to the stars. We'll look into the allegations that he plays favorites and not just with Hilton.



KING: Have you ever been addicted to drugs?


KING: Taken drugs?


KING: Never taken drugs?


COOPER: She obviously is saying that she's never even taken drugs. And has photos of what they say is her getting stoned in Amsterdam. We have no way of knowing for sure that it's marijuana in the pipe in the photograph.

Her P.R. -- that's the photograph from We should say that we called her representatives, who declined to comment on the Smoking Gun pictures until after he saw the interview. We were unable to reach him for additional comments after the interview aired.

From a P.R. standpoint, Ken, does that matter?

SUNSHINE: No. Because I don't think anybody believes that she told the truth there. I mean, she...

COOPER: Why not just tell the truth?

SUNSHINE: I agree. I mean, it's crazy. Does anybody really believe that she's never taken any drugs ever? You have virtually every presidential candidate admitting it, leaders of industry that somebody smoked pot in college or did whatever. I mean, it's not credible, and I think it's her biggest mistake.

COOPER: Jess Cagle, you -- you talked to her after she got out, and you think she has taken responsibility for what she's done?

JESS CAGLE, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Well, to an extent. I asked her about the DUI. I said, you know, that it's a bad thing for a woman who's looked up to by a lot of young women to be busted for DUI. And she seemed to be very aware that that was a bad thing. She regrets it.

I don't know that she really has reason to be contrite regarding the jail sentence. I mean, she was given a 45-day sentence for driving with a suspended license. I mean, that was incredibly harsh.

What I expected from her was a lot of anger about that. I was afraid during the interview all she would do was sound off about the L.A. justice system. But she really didn't. I even said to her at one point, "What do you want to say to Judge Sauer, who you know, put her back in the clink and put her, you know, in the clink again?"

And she simply said, "I think he was not fair."

COOPER: And Marc...

CAGLE: She wouldn't complain about it.

COOPER: ... you give her props for that.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. I mean, it's easy to come in with a prepared statement and say everything I did was wrong. I'm so sorry. I'll never do it again. But she was principled, she was thoughtful. She apologized for the things that she thought that she did wrong. But at the same time, she said the sentence was excessive. I appreciated that.

COOPER: Lisa, you think if she was a man she might have been treated differently?

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Think about the words that are used to describe her: airhead, bimbo, dumb blonde. I mean, in our culture, there's two professions where women consistently make more than men, only two. Modeling, and the other one is prostitution.

Here's a young woman who didn't finish high school, eventually got a GED. Obviously not all that bright. What does she have going for her? She's gorgeous. So she chooses to make a living in modeling.

Why this level of hostility and anger towards her? She's never hurt anybody. She broke the law. She's made some stupid mistakes. She's no role model, clearly. So why are people so filled with hostilities towards her?

COOPER: I mean, I would argue that for someone -- I think people get upset because someone who has the privilege of being born into a wealthy family and opportunities of great schooling...

BLOOM: Right.

COOPER: ... and world knowledge and traveling around the world and seeing the plight of people around the world, for her then to spend, you know, a good bulk of her life going to parties and promoting herself.

BLOOM: But she's promoting herself as a model. Yes, I agree with her, it would have been nice if she had done that. And she's only 26, and maybe she still will. She could have examples, like you, Anderson.

COOPER: But at 26, I've got to tell you, you know, there's a lot -- those soldiers in Iraq are 18 years old.


COOPER: And taking on more responsibility.

BLOOM: She could have done more with her life. But the hatred towards her, because basically, she's a dumb blonde.

COOPER: Good point.

BLOOM: And that's what she's -- culture. It's very much like Anna Nicole. People hate her. Why? She's done that to exploit herself to make a living. As she said, as a model. You have to give her credit that she has earned a legal living as a model.

COOPER: Good point. BLOOM: Probably the best she could have done.

COOPER: Coming up, we'll have more on this story. The sheriff who let her out of jail. What is his back story? We'll look into that.


COOPER: In the jail drama of Conrad Hilton's sister, many people saw Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca as a best supporting actor, supporting being the key word.

Baca, the guy who let Hilton out of jail early, just five days into her sentence. He said he was worried about her medical condition.

The judge in the case sent the heiress back to jail the next day. Yesterday, just hours after Hilton left jail for good, Baca met with county supervisors to defend his decision.

It's not the first time he's been accused of going easy on the famous. "Keeping Them Honest", here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu to the Sunset Strip to the Hollywood Hills, Sheriff Lee Baca's department covers prime celebrity real estate. To critics, he's known as the sheriff to the stars.

If so, did it influence his treatment of inmate number 981873?

The perception that he's ultra-celebrity friendly has been fueled by golf rounds with Michael Douglas. And because in L.A. where the sheriff is elected, he received campaign donations from Sylvester Stallone, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.

His department issued a concealed weapons permit to Ben Affleck, and Sheriff Baca has opened his department for reality TV cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mission here at the training facility is to make each and every one of you post certified law enforcement officers.

SIMON: And despite that backdrop, the sheriff dismisses charges he plays favorites with celebs, a claim he's had to repeat a lot lately. Remember, he angered a judge and outraged the public when he let Paris Hilton out of jail only 72 hours into her stay.

SHERIFF LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: What everyone wants to say about me is, in my opinion, not warranted, because what I believe is everyone is a star in Los Angeles County and ought to be treated with a great degree of respect.

SIMON: But the sheriff's detractors say Hilton was created with greater respect. BACA: Now, what more do you expect me to do?

SIMON: Yesterday, Baca got a grilling. The L.A. County board of supervisors didn't buy his explanation that Hilton's health was a risk and cause for early release.

DON KNABE, L.A. COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: The issue we have, sheriff -- I understand all your numbers and things like this. But, you know, she looked pretty healthy at the MTV Awards on Sunday night prior to going to jail. OK?

SIMON: Baca also maintained she served more time than anyone else with the same offense. Of course, the angry judge won; Hilton went back to jail.

But the sheriff now faces fresh questions over his celebrity relationships.

There was the case of Mel Gibson. Gibson was a generous contributor to the department and appeared in public service announcements. As you'll recall last year, the actor was infamously pulled over and arrested for drunken driving.

An unprovoked Gibson used anti-Semitic language with the deputy. Incredibly, the department's initial report made no mention of it. And at the time a spokesman said the whole arrest happened without incident.

When the real story got leaked, the sheriff got hammered in the press for being too cozy with Gibson. Baca denied any special favors.

Bob Stern is a government watchdog. He says the sheriff has given his critics plenty of ammo.

BOB STERN, CENTER FOR GOVERNMENTAL STUDIES: It's not surprising that the sheriff would try to cater to the stars. It is a constituency, but there are ten million people in Los Angeles that he's supposed to be serving. And he's supposed to be serving them equally.

SIMON (on camera): And he's not?

STERN: Clearly, he's not.

SIMON: In a city obsessed with celebrity, Baca has plenty of supporters. He has a high approval rating and twice has easily won re-election. He's been praised for establishing jail programs to help drug addicts and domestic violence victims.

(voice-over) As for his celebrity connections, Baca's jurisdiction includes Malibu and West Hollywood. So it stands to reason he must deal with celebs.

STERN: He has a reputation of being a solid shooter, a good sheriff. He cares a lot about the community. But we all have our flaws, and he has a few, as well. SIMON: As for Ms. Hilton, they say perception is reality. Despite his accomplishments, it seems Sheriff Lee Baca will be remembered as the one who liberated Paris.

Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Up next on the program, it is the worst flooding many people have ever seen. Eighteen inches of rain today, and more is on the way. We'll have a report coming up.


COOPER: Good evening again and welcome.