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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown

Interview with Michael Graham; Pat Robertson Apologizes for On Air Remarks; Tropical Storm Katrina Continues To Strengthen

Aired August 24, 2005 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. In Florida tonight, a familiar drill is underway as Tropical Storm Katrina bears down on the state's southeast corner. Schools, offices closed tomorrow. Florida Power and Light warning of possible flooding and outages. And it's now activated its emergency center in Miami. In short, a state that has seen more than its share of hurricanes this early in the year is bracing for another on the anniversary of the worst hurricane to ever blow through it.
We begin tonight with CNN's Jacqui Jeras.


JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Andrew went down in history as the most destructive U.S. hurricane on record after blasting its 165 mile per hour winds through South Florida 13 years ago.

Katrina isn't expected to go down in the record books, but it's growth in less than a day from a tropical depression to a storm makes it a growing concern. And it's forecast to become a hurricane in less than two days. Also, the storm is approaching a unique area of the Atlantic, that could turn minimal hurricanes into monsters in a matter of hours.

RICHARD PASCH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The potential intensity is much higher in this area, significantly, because you have very warm waters. But the atmospheric conditions also need to be just right. So, you kind of -- you've got the fuel there, but you need something to trigger it.

JERAS: Those conditions include light winds. And the winds are light. But it's too early to tell whether Katrina will continue its rapid growth, current models suggest it will keep growing, but more slowly.

Storms that develop quickly near the United States are difficult to predict, and offer less warning before landfall.

Damage from Andrew looked like this from the fierce winds. But the aftermath of Katrina is expected to look more like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the threat we're really highlighting is heavy rainfall. This is a slow-moving system. Historically, slow moving systems have dumped tremendous amounts of rain over Florida. We're looking at. We could see amounts as high as 20 inches, locally, in some areas.

JERAS (on camera): Hurricane Andrew was the first and worst storm of 1992. This year, we're on record pace, already on the 11th named storm. In fact, we've surpassed the average number of storms for an entire year.

Jacqui Jeras, CNN, Atlanta.


BROWN: Max Mayfield is following this storm closely at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Florida. And we talked with him a short time ago.


BROWN: Max, tell me where we are right now and where we're headed.

MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, right now we have a mediocre tropical storm that is centered here just over the Northwestern Bahamas, moving very slowly towards the west/northwest. We currently have a hurricane watch in effect from Vero Beach down to Florida City. We are very likely going to upgrade that to a hurricane warning, at least a portion of that watch area, later tonight.

The big concern is with the rainfall, No. 1. And then No. 2, we're concerned that it does have a very good chance to strengthen into a hurricane before we get to the coastline.

BROWN: Compared to the hurricanes we saw -- quite early actually in the summer, more than a month ago, month ago, how does this one compare?

MAYFIELD: Well, this is just a tropical storm right now. And that's part of the problem we're having here. You know, with Dennis and Emily, they were both category four hurricanes, well away from the United States, very easily get everybody's attention. This one is a little harder to get people to focus on. There's no well-defined eye yet. The winds are only 45 miles per hour. But, we still think it has a very good chance to strengthen. People need to take it very seriously.

BROWN: What are the forces out there in the ocean right now that will shape the next 48 hours, will shape this tropical storm one way or another?

MAYFIELD: well, the high pressure ridge to the northwest of the hurricane should -- of the storm, I should say -- should continue the general motion onto the South Florida peninsula here by late tomorrow night.

After that, that high pressure to the north weakens quite a bit. We think it will turn up to the north. And once it crosses over the southern part of the peninsula, it should turn back, up to the north towards the, unfortunately, Florida panhandle or northwest Florida, over even over in Alabama. That whole area needs to pay attention to the storm.

BROWN: Are you at all surprised that there's been this lull, if you will, between the early storms and where we are right now?

MAYFIELD: A little bit. You know, we're in the peak of the season, but the peak really goes from the middle of August to the middle or the end of October. So, we're now in the beginning of that peak. And I don't think there's -- we better enjoy this while we can, because we've still got a long way to go.

BROWN: We'll enjoy it while we can in that case. We'll keep an eye on it with you. Thanks for your time. It's always good to talk to you.

MAYFIELD: Thank you, sir.

BROWN: Thank you.


BROWN: Max Mayfield with NOAA.

When hurricanes make landfall, they make landfall by definition at the beach, making the beach a lousy place to build, that's a fact. The other fact is people build there anyhow. Rich people build there. The land's expensive. And when heavy weather comes, who pays? In so many words, you do. From Topsail Island, North Carolina, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDY KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a beachgoer's dream, Topsail Island on the North Carolina coast. But this tiny barrier island is also a magnet for mother nature, a bulls eye for storms. This was Topsail Island as Hurricane Fran came ashore.

ORRIN PILKEY, COASTAL SCIENTIST: Topsail Island is a big target. It's in a high hurricane-prone zone. And the chances are very high that it's going to occur again and again and again.

KAYE: Back-to-back hurricanes Bertha and Fran packed a one-two punch back in 1996. In all, six major hurricanes hit Topsail Island in the last decade. After Fran, one out of every three hours on the northern tip of the island was uninhabitable.

Still, residents of Topsail vowed to rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The roof's gone, no deck. Goodness. Well, we'll just have to rebuild.

KAYE: This was Topsail Island after Fran. This is the island today. The Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $55 million to help rebuild topsail. $55 million, your tax dollars.

PILKEY: It's madness. I mean, it's just crazy to build on such a dangerous site.

KAYE: Orrin Pilkey is a coastal geologist with Duke University. Pikley has visited every barrier island in the United States and says Topsail Island is the most vulnerable to hurricanes.

Topsail is just 26 miles long. In some areas, just 50 yards wide. A virtual shifting sandbar that sits too low to defend itself against hurricanes.

PILKEY: This continual cycle of property damage is going to eventually cost the taxpayers a lot of money, and the individuals who live there as well.

KAYE: Money that was never even supposed to be spent here.

(on camera): Back in 1982 Congress passed the Coastal Area Resources Act. The law was designed to discourage people from building along the coast. It makes hurricane-prone areas off limits to federal aid, aid like federally subsidized flood insurance and money to help rebuild beaches and infrastructure.

(voice-over): Most of the northern part of the island falls under this act. But not even the threat of losing federal dollars could keep developers away. And in the wake of Hurricane Fran, there was so much damage, FEMA waved the usually rules and used your tax dollars to clean up anyway, saying safety was at stake.

$4.6 million for sand dune repair, $10 million for debris removal, millions more to fix the sewer system. Once forbidden funds made this sleepy town even more attractive to developers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just within the last year we have million dollar homes built right in the sight of the former inlet.

KAYE: At Duke university, Andy Coburn has made the study of North Carolina's beaches. During our tour of Topsail Beach, he pointed out the danger zones.

(on camera): So what will happen here, is it's a low lying area, you'll get a lot of water, and that water will then flood these homes?

ANDY COBURN, DUKE UNIVERSITY: That's correct. Chances are it will flood in the sounds. And when the storm passes through and the wind changes direction, the water will be funneled back through here. And I would not want to own one of these properties at that time.

KAYE: But plenty of people do, even North Topsail Beach mayor Rodney Knowles built a home on the water's edge.

MAYOR RODNEY KNOWLES, TOPSAIL ISLAND, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, I guess I'm just a river rat. I like water.

KAYE: After Fran flooded Mayor Knowles home, he moved it back another 120 feet from the ocean and raised it seven feet. He paid for that, but because the mayor's home is in a zone that qualifies for federal flood insurance subsidy, guess who paid for a big chunk of his repairs? That's right, you.

KNOWLES: With any type of insurance, you have a pool of money goes in anywhere. And with the federal flood insurance, the money we pay here may go to the mountains of North Carolina.

KAYE (on camera): So this must be a popular area because of the beautiful beach, but...


KAYE: But there are a lot of for sale signs in the area.

DABNEY: You know what, a lot of people have just made investments and they're looking to cash in on their investment.

KAYE (voice-over): Real estate broker Pam Dabney has seen property values here increase 500 percent in just the last five years. She sold this home a few months ago for nearly $1.5 million. Seems Dabney's selling real life sand castles faster than kids can build them on a beach. And geologists say both could be washed away in an instance.

But paradise is rapidly eroding, the shoreline retreating. These massive sandbags serve as temporary protection for homeowners. But at what cost to the beaches and the environment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not the houses themselves and the building themselves that are causing that many problems, it's what we're doing to try to protect them.

KAYE: Then why are million dollar homes being repaired and rebuilt again and again?

ORRIN PILKEY, COASTAL SCIENTIST: People are not concerned with coastal hazards, in part because they feel that the federal government will take care of them.

KAYE: And, like it or not, we will all pay the bill. Randi Kaye, CNN, Topsail Island, North Carolina.


BROWN: In other news tonight, in Peru, the flight data recorders have been recovered from the Boeing-737 that crashed yesterday in the jungle, 98 people on board. At least 31 died, including three Americans. Tonight ten people remain unaccounted for. While relatives wait for word on their loved ones, 57 survivors are left to ponder why they made it.

Here's CNN's Harris Whitbeck.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me, it was like a shocking present. Like, I was so scared. But at least I came through and this present gave me, like, a lot of bravery now, a lot of -- to me, like to worship actually to God. Like I now really trust that and I still believe that God still exists.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Lima, Peruvian Air Force planes land at a military base, carrying 11 survivors. The survivors on stretchers are immediately taken to area hospitals.

Inez Revado (ph) and her husband sat outside the Air Force base Wednesday afternoon, waiting to find out if family members were alive. Their infant nephew, 9-year-old niece and three other family members were passengers on the TANS airliner that crashed into the jungle of northern Peru Tuesday afternoon.

Inez was able to talk to a doctor at the crash site, who told her the two children and their mother survived. But they still have no information on the fate of the children's grandparents. Inez says she first heard of the crash on the local news on Tuesday evening. At first, she says, she refused to believe her family was on board the plane.

"At first I thought it couldn't be true," she says. Now she refuses to lose hope.

Even with the arrival of the first group of survivors, the uncertainty is palpable. Family members say they have received little news from either the airline or from Peruvian officials, and weather conditions at the site have made recovery efforts difficult.

(on camera): Many survivors have decided to stay near the crash site to try to retrieve luggage and personal items, first steps towards piecing together lives that were shattered in the jungle crash.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Lima, Peru.


BROWN: For better or worse, but usually for better, air travel makes the world smaller. So for that young girl you saw a moment ago in Peru, there is someone a world away waiting to wrap their arms around her.

With that end of the story tonight, here's CNN's Alina Cho.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of miles from the crash site in Brooklyn, New York, Sandra Vivas got a call from a friend who told her to sit down, then told her six of her family members were on that flight.

SANDRA VIVAS, RELATIVES OF PASSENGERS: And then she broke the news to me that there was something wrong with the flight and it crashed.

CHO: On board, two of her brothers, Jose and Gabriel, Gabriel's wife Diana and Jose's three young daughters. The Vivas family had traveled to Peru for Jose's eldest daughter's 15th birthday.

VIVAS: They were going to have a party at my father's house to celebrate her birthday there with my family in Pulcalpa (ph).

CHO: When word of the crash came...

VIVAS: I started crying. And then I started praying.

CHO: Exactly one hour, 15 minutes later, Sandra got through to her father's house. On the line, her brother Jose.

VIVAS: Jose had just got there, so I was able to speak to him. And he told me that everybody was OK.

CHO: Jose Vivas says his family was lucky because they were seated in the back rows. The middle of the plane was on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pushed the girls out quickly, out the doors, and get to the safe side.

CHO: The family now has two reasons to celebrate. In Spanish, "vivas" means to live.

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


BROWN: In a moment, if you were expecting science to settle the bitter debate over abortion, get ready for a discovery that's just the opposite.

But first, in about quarter past the hour, time for some of the other stories that made news on this day. Erica Hill joins us in Atlanta tonight. Good evening, Ms. Hill.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good evening to you, Mr. Brown.

We start off tonight, actually, in Europe, where heavy rains and flooding have killed at least 34 people this week. Rivers of water and mud surged through the alpine valleys of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, while floods cut off roads, isolated villages, and trapped people in their homes and shopping malls. Helicopters went into evacuate some 250 people trapped in the Swiss capital of Bern. They also plucked tourists from villages in Austria.

New marching orders for two battalions of the 82nd Airborne. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 1,500 Airborne troops will head off to Iraq later this month for a 120-day tour in Iraq where they're bolster security for voting, which is scheduled in October and December.

Meantime, a federal panel on base closing has saved two major naval bases. The panel knocking down Pentagon plans to close the historic Groton, Connecticut, submarine base, and the Portsmouth shipyard in Maine. Congress, though, and the president get the final say. And one of Canada's famed Snowbird flying team of jets has crashed at an air show in Thunder Bay, Ontario. A witness reports the pilot ejected safely, with smoke pouring out of the plane, Aaron. So hopefully all those reports will turn out that he did eject safely.

BROWN: Thank you very much. I hope you're right. Still ahead on the program tonight, more on Pat Robertson.


BROWN: What he said...

PAT ROBERTSON, "700 CLUB": But it seems like the whole world is talking about my comments about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

BROWN: What he said about it.

ROBERTSON: I didn't say assassination, I said...

BROWN: And what he's saying now.

Also tonight, he called Islam a terrorist organization, all of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's free to hold whatever bigoted views he'd like to.

BROWN: And paid for it with his job. We'll talk about speech, sensitivity and common sense with Michael Graham.

Lance Armstrong. Seven victories in the Tour de France, one allegation that won't fade at the finish: Did he cheat?

And later, get this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're trying to do is create the ultimate funeral experience.

BROWN: You can have your say from beyond the grave. We're digging it because everyone's a director, even funeral directors.

And this is NEWSNIGHT.



BROWN: The city looks pretty tonight. Cooled down a bit. Here in New York and across much of the Midwest and Northeast as well. This is a story about science and politics and the fierce debate over what sounds like a simple question, when is a fetus able to feel pain? Researchers at the University of San Francisco -- University of California in San Francisco say they have an answer, after reviewing dozens of studies and medical reports. They say fetuses are incapable of feeling pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy. That answer has set off a fire storm. Here's CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even in adults pain is a difficult thing to measure. Sure, someone might say ouch. Or they might have an increase in blood pressure or heart rate. But in a fetus, it's pretty near impossible.

DR. DAVID GRIMES, OB/GYN: One cannot directly measure pain in a fetus. Hence it's really an unknowable question.

GUPTA: But Dr. David Grimes, professor of obstetrics, who used to work with the study's authors, says it has proven one essential point to him -- not so much whether you can measure pain in a fetus, but whether they could ever feel it in the first place.

GRIMES: The fetus cannot feel pain or unpleasant stimuli, because the neural networks, that is, the telephone lines that would carry the message, aren't connected until week 26.

GUPTA: Simply put, if the nerves aren't there to transmit the feeling of pain back to the brain, then for a fetus, pain doesn't exist.

GRIMES: Fetal perception of pain, we can say that this potential does not exist. So the question becomes moot.

GUPTA: Backwards thinking, says pain doctor and my namesake Sanjay Gupta. In a written statement, Gupta, the founder of the American Pain Association, reminds us of this. Until about 1987, the medical community thought newborns do not feel pain. We were doing circumcisions and even heart surgeries without anesthesia.

Dr. K. S. Anand, a pediatrician at university of Arkansas, told "The New York Times" that there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that pain occurs in the fetus. He says that premature babies only 23 or 24 weeks old cry, when their heels are pricked for blood tests. Diametrically opposing views with the very issue of abortion sitting smack dab in the middle of it all.

GRIMES: We can say categorically that a fetus undergoing abortion in the United States cannot feel pain.

GUPTA: The researchers decided to look into this because of pressure from lawmakers to create a bill requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions that at 20 weeks of gestation a fetus can feel pain. Similar laws have been recently passed in three states and are under consideration in 19 others.

GRIMES: Legislation currently being considered and enacted, in both state legislatures and in the Congress, is politically motivated and is not medically motivated.

GUPTA: But to be clear, it's worth noting that Dr. Grimes currently delivers babies and performs abortions. Also, one of the study authors, who claims pain cannot be felt by a fetus, is an administrator of a women's clinic, which provided abortions, and another worked for the pro-choice group Naral.

Consider this, when a sharp instrument is used to prod a fetus, they move away. Reflexively, or because of pain? Truth is, because none of us will ever remember being in the womb the question may never be answered. But that's not going to keep doctors, politicians, or activists from trying. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


BROWN: It almost seems like there's nothing Lance Armstrong can't do, but not even Lance Armstrong can prove a negative. He came back literally from deaths door with cancer to an incredible seven consecutive wins in the toughest race in the world, the Tour de France. That's more than 15 thousand miles pedalling the bicycle up and down the mountains in France.

He has never failed a drug test, but it looks like he'll have to keep on repeating that he never took drugs to help his performance. On the other hand, the Tour de France was started more than 100 years ago to sell newspapers. It's still doing that.


BROWN: To the victor goes the spoils, but rest assured, someone is always eager to spoil the victory. This has been the lot of Lance Armstrong, champion of champions and proud possessor of one of sports greatest come back stories. To proud maybe, even arrogant at times, certainly unwilling to concede those anything to those who assume he must have been using something to push past cancer and the best cyclists in the world seven straight times.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: I'm sorry for you. I'm sorry you can't dream big. And I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles.

BROWN: Yesterday a French sporting newspaper claimed right out and claimed it, The Armstrong Lie. Claiming that during the 1999 Tour de France, the soon to be first time champion tested positive for EPO, a performance-boosting drug. The director of the Tour de France, Jean-Marie Leblanc, wasted no time in adding his two cents or two euros, if you will. For the first time there is, quote, compelling scientific evidence that we were all fooled, he said. Not so simple, it turns out.

Testing for EPO wasn't even begun until the 2001 tour two years after the urine samples in question were collected. And the samples were marked with numbers, not names. There are questions as to how easy it would be to match Armstrong's name with his number. Miguel Indurain of Spain, a five time winner of the tour himself, raised the issue of French resentment towards the American star. They have been out to get him in France for a number of years. And Eddie Merckx, of Belgium, he won five times, also said if I had to take a journalist's word or Armstrong's, I'd take Lance's.

So, as it turns out, would American officials.

GERARD BISCEGLIA, CEO, USA CYCLING: The fact that this man's won seven Tour de3 Frances, and he has been tested every day, practically, that he's been in the Tour de France, every day he's been in a yellow jersey. And nobody's come forward with any anomalies as it relates to those tests.

BROWN: Why, Bisceglia wonders, are hundreds of negative tests suddenly less compelling than allegations about a few positive ones from seven years ago.

BISCEGLIA: The evidence that I have in front of me says that I'm dealing with a clean athlete. And so somebody went far enough back in the archives, uncovered what they considered to be a salacious story that they don't have to substantiate.

BROWN: As for Lance Armstrong, his response was as inevitable as his victories. "I will simply restate what I've had said many times," he said, "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs." He calls it a witch hunt and the likelihood is that the suspicion of sorcery will always ride beside him.


BROWN: As you heard at the top of the program, Lance Armstrong, exclusive guest with Larry King tomorrow night here on CNN. Just ahead, how Pat Robertson unsaid what he did say about assassinating a foreign leader.

And later, the terrorists who came to call and was sent away at the airport. We'll take a break first from around the world. This is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: Outrage is to talk radio, what nature shows are to PBS. But even modern talk radio has its limits. Last month, conservative talk radio host Michael Graham called Islam a terrorist organization: all of it. He said so 23 times during his July 25th program. He also said this, "the problem is not extremism, the problem is Islam." And he added this, moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews.

Mr. Graham's employer, WMAL in the Washington area was deluged with complaints and a letter writing campaign by a leading Muslim group.. Mr. Graham was canned.


BROWN (voice-over): In the sometimes over the top world of talk radio, Michael Graham is neither the best known nor the most outrageous. Yet when he called the entire religion of Islam a terrorist organization, he moved well up the charts.

CAIR, the Islamic advocacy group, demanded an apology or Graham's head. And said this on its web site. "While WMAL the radio station initially stood behind Graham, it changed it's position after hundreds of people responded to the groups action alerts by contacting the station and its sponsors." Michael Graham blames CAIR for his firing. But WMAL, an ABC station owned by Disney says otherwise. Chris Perry, the station's general manager denied it lost advertisers over the issue, and said Graham was fired because he refused to back off his remarks in any way.

I asked Michael for an on air acknowledgment that some of his remarks were overly broad. He said and inexplicably, he refused.

Had Michael Graham apologized, CAIR says it would have been satisfied.

ARSALAN ISTAKHAR, NATIONAL LEGAL DIR. CAIR: CAIR and the American Muslim community would have accepted his apology and retraction if he had decided to do so. And that's what the radio station asked him numerous times to do. Unfortunately, he stood by his remarks and the radio station felt then that it was in their best business interest not to have Mr. Graham bigotry on their airwaves.


BROWN: He still stands by his words. We talked to Mr. Graham earlier tonight.


BROWN: Look, I don't believe that I'm going to get you to apologize here, but I do want to try and get a context for some of this. If -- within the Christian community there are a few hundred anti-semites, no one would say that Christianity is an antisemitic organization. And if there are a few pedophile priests, no one would say that Catholicism is a pedophile organization. Why is Islam a terrorist organization?

MICHAEL GRAHAM, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: Well, let me start off by saying if I had said any of those previous things you mentioned about Christians and Catholicism, I'd still have my job and nobody would mind. And that's the interesting about this story, about who it is you are allowed to have these tough, honest conversations about.

But the reason that Islam as it's constituted today is a terrorist organization is because the theology feeds the terrorism. Rightly or wrongly, I'm not an expert, the organization of Islam is such that no matter how violent and vile your views are, you apparently cannot be removed from the religion. And because poll after poll after poll show not 100 people Aaron, not 1000 people, but tens of millions of Muslims say that violence against innocence in the name of their faith is acceptable.

You put those things together, and it hurts me to say it, it's a tragedy, but Islam is a terrorist organization. The good news is, it doesn't have to stay that way because the majority of Muslims are people of goodwill. But they have to confront the people and stop following the lead of CAIR in denying the problem.

BROWN: Well, let's set CAIR aside for a second and let's just focus on the problem. First of all, very few religions that I'm aware of, short of Catholicism, which has this clear hierarchy organization, allows you to be thrown out. You can't be thrown out of Christianity. It's something you believe in.

GRAHAM: Actually, that's not true.

BROWN: You can't be thrown out of Judaism, it's something you are or your believe in. So, who is going to do the throwing here? Who should be throwing them?

GRAHAM: For example, if they -- let's say a group of Lutherans started a series of churches across the middle part of the United States advocating murder and violence, the Lutheran synod would throw them out, the same with the Baptist convention, et cetera, et cetera.

Inside Islam, when you tell me, as happened the week after the London bombing attacks, a group of moderate British Muslim clerics said they could not condemn murder bombing in every case, because sometimes it was OK.

And they were asked -- this guy Botti (ph), this radical Muslim, why don't you throw him out? And they said, well we can't. That's not a solution. That's not an answer. That's an excuse. And as long as you leave Islam governed this way, you're allowing terrorists to operate with impunity.

Why not reform the faith? Why not change the rules? It's your faith. But ignoring the problem and simply saying well, I'm not that kind of Muslim, that doesn't save anyone.

BROWN: Well, I'm not sure that painting all Muslims with a broad brush accomplishes much anyway. But let's set that aside for a second. You get fired. And do you appreciate -- I assume you do at this point, that your bosses have every right to fire you if they find your behavior unacceptable or offensive.

GRAHAM: Absolutely, of course. And I engaged in this behavior with a conversation about Islam as a terrorist organization on a Thursday, the Thursday of the second London bombing. They had no comment. Friday, same conversation, same words, management had no comment. Monday, the same topic. Tuesday, I did it for three hours my entire show with management's instructions. Great topic, keep up the great work.

It was only after the Council of American Islamic Relations objected that suddenly my words transformed in the minds of management from completely acceptable to a firing offense. And that's what scares me, a group like CAIR exerting that kind of pressure on free speech and open discourse in the United States.

BROWN: Well -- I'm -- not to wrestle on this one. This isn't a free speech question, it's not. You have every right to say whatever you want. You have absolutely zero right, as do I, frankly, to say anything on television or radio. That's somebody else's right, but it's not ours.

GRAHAM: Sure. But do you think...

BROWN: Let me ask you the question here. I appreciate the change in roles for you CAIR has every right to defend its position. That's what it exists for, to try to eliminate bigotry as it defines it.

GRAHAM: Sure, of course. And CAIR can call for my punishment. And they did. And ABC Radio caved and suspended me. CAIR can then promptly call for my firing, which they did. And ABC Radio can cave and fire me. And the listeners can judge whether or not the station and ABC Radio did the right thing.

But I'll tell you, talk show hosts across America have been talking the last 48 hour, are terrified that a large company like ABC Radio would give in to a group like CAIR with its well-documented connections to terrorism and terrorist organizations. How the heck do they get to set the standard for acceptable speech?

BROWN: Nice to meet you. Good luck to you.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

BROWN: Thank you, Michael.


BROWN: Michael Graham still looking for a gig tonight.

Private life has many advantages, but when you say something loopy or just plain dumb, it does takes certain excuses off the table. Nobody, for example, ever tells their spouse after spouting off at a cocktail party, you know, honey, I didn't say that. The Gordons took it completely out of context.

Pat Robertson, on the other hand, isn't a nobody. He's a somebody who called for the assassination of another somebody, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.


PAT ROBERTSON, 700 CLUB: I don't know about this doctrine of assassination (ph).

BROWN (voice-over): That is what he said. He said it on Monday.

ROBERTSON: But if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we ought to go ahead and do it.

BROWN: On his program today, this is what he said, he said.

ROBERTSON: I didn't say assassination. I said our special forces should, quote, take him out, and take him out could be a number of things, including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP. But that happens all the time. BROWN: This, of course, is the variation of I was misquoted, or my words taken out of context excuse favored by embarrassed public people everywhere, except he wasn't misquoted and wasn't taken out of context.

ROBERTSON: We really ought to go ahead and do it.

BROWN: So facing criticism and perhaps more significantly, facing simple facts, Mr. Robertson issued the following statement on paper a short time later.

ROBERTSON: "Is it right to call for assassination? No," he wrote, "and I apologize for that statement." He went on to compare Mr. Chavez to Adolph Hitler and himself to a martyr who was killed by the Nazis.

ROBERTSON: August is a slow news day, but it seems like the whole world is calling about my comments about Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

BROWN: On that, at least, he'll get no argument.


BROWN: Still to come on the program tonight, the ultimate swan song coming soon to a funeral parlor near you.

And in the missing alligator story, a capture, though not an alligator. This is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: On this Security Watch tonight, a question of what might have been, a big one, because along with the might have been was a really was. The might have been might have happened in the U.S. What really was happened, horribly so, in Iraq. Here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At least 127 people die when a suicide bomber blows himself up outside a health clinic in Hillah, Iraq, last February. The accused bomber, this Jordanian, Ra'ed Mansour al-Banna.

Al-Banna lived in the U.S. off and on beginning in May of 2001, even visiting the World Trade Center. On June 14, 2003, al-Banna tried to re-enter the U.S. at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, but was stopped by customs and border protection agents. U.S. officials are investigating why he was trying to enter the U.S. Customs and U.S. Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner this week wrote in a high level memo that it was not clear that al-Banna was a suicidal jihadist.

But al-Banna had been flagged for secondary inspection before his flight from Amsterdam arrived at O'Hare. Officials say he was trying to reuse an outdated visa and agents suspected he wanted to work in the U.S. illegally. The next day he was sent out of the country.

Twenty months later the clinic in Hillah went up in flames. Iraqis protested after reports that some Jordanians celebrated al- Banna's alleged involvement in the attack. U.S. officials say Jordan denies al-Banna had any role at Hillah, claiming he died in another suicide bombing elsewhere in Iraq.

(on camera): Homeland security officials say that al-Banna was clearly connected with terrorist bombing efforts, and they are patting themselves on the back for keeping him out of the country. Though it appears they did not recognize him as a potential terrorist. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: Still to come tonight, why everyone is a director. Even a funeral directors are directors. A break first. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.


BROWN: In a moment, the funeral business and show business. Not Six Feet Under, for real. But first, at about a quarter till the hour, once time once again to check on the headlines of the day. Erica Hill joins us in Atlanta. Ms. Hill, did you have a snack just now?

HILL: I had a lot of snacks. Did you hear me crunching? My celery and my cucumbers. I'll get you to the news now, though. And this is a pretty serious story to start off with.

Government tests confirming big problems with Zylon based bullet proof vests. In fact, more than half the vests turned out not to be bullet proof. In Justice Department tests with six shots from a .9- millimeter pistol, at least one bullet penetrated 60 out of 103 used Zylon vests. Those vests came from law enforcement agencies across the country.

In Baltimore somebody vandalized a Northwest Airlines 757 by deflating a pair of tires. The damage was discovered during a preflight inspection. Now whether it was done by striking mechanics or someone else, is now the subject of a federal investigation.

A man-sized alligator is still on the loose in Los Angeles Lake, but police have arrested two man-sized men for placing the alligator into Lake Machado. That's near Harbor City in Los Angeles. Park rangers and professional gator wranglers are still trying to catch the beast.

And finally, a miracle in Rio, two baby male monkeys born just after their mother was ran over by a car. Vets at a near by zoo are feeding the tiny monkeys is to grab a doll filled with a hot water bottle. That stuffed monkey has been provided as a stand-in mother. Seems to be working.

BROWN: Well, my goodness. That just leaves me completely speechless. Thank you. It wasn't celery, either, it was those cheap vending machine crackers.

It used to be you could be certain of two things in life. Now it's three, death, taxes and videotape. Here's CNN's Allan Chernoff.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A very personal family video tribute for Maureen McGhee who died last month. This video played at the funeral, and now is available to anyone over the worldwide web.

DON MCGHEE, MAUREEN MCGHEE'S SON: I love it. the images and the way they put it together. It's nice that it's still with us and on the internet, that's fine.

CHERNOFF: Those who pass on from this life can live on in cyber space. You can even watch funerals online. Video production companies were the first to push media memorials, but now hundreds of funeral directors are directing short films about their clients. Video tributes, coming soon to a memorial chapel near you.

ROBERT VANDENBERGH, KAUL FUNERAL HOMES: Funeral directors are realizing that it's an important service we can offer. And we're happy to offer it.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The cemetery has always been sacred, a place for remembrance and reflection. Yet even here, technology may bring change. A new company has developed flat screen video monitors that can be embedded right into the tombstones to play memorial videos. Talk about thinking out of the box.

(voice-over): The monitor is solar powered. There is no speaker, only a jack to plug in headphones.

Entrepreneur Joe Joachim he wants to be the Walt Disney of the funeral business.

JOSEPH JOACHIM, FUNERALONE PRESIDENT: What we're trying to do is create the ultimate funeral experience.

CHERNOFF: Joachim and his partners plan to unveil the vid-stone in October, at the annual funeral directors convention. Some cemeteries are open to the idea, but others say not on our plots.

MICHAEL CHILCOTE, MT. ELLIOT CEMETERY ASSOCIATION: It could be offensive to some. I don't think it's appropriate or it's been tried enough on the grounds.

CHERNOFF: Nothing is more certain than death, but the funeral business is in need of revival because more families are turning to cremation, which is relatively inexpensive. Now, thanks to computerized video technology, the generation that grew up on television will be able to take it to the grave, spending eternity resting in peace under a personal plasma video screen.

Alan Chernoff, Clinton Township, Michigan. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: See, if we did those questions of the day, that would be my question of the day. Is that how you want to go? Morning papers after break.


BROWN: Okie doke. Time to check morning papers from around the country and around the world. There is no theme. This is -- so it's kind of heavy lifting today. I like when there's a theme. It makes it easier. At the end of the program, you like to be easy.

"The Washington Post," Bush, we will stay, we will fight. Faced with rising criticism, he says goals are being met. New poll coming out tomorrow in "The Wall Street Journal" shows confidence in the president on Iraq is down again.

I just love stories like this. Career minor leaguer is defying the law of averages. A young man playing Minor League, his whole life is still down there, it's still dreaming. I like stories about dreamers.

"The Dallas Morning News," nice story, difficult story. For slain troops' kin, a symbolic struggle. This is the battle over the crosses at -- outside Camp Casey, where Ms. Sheehan is.

I -- this just makes me uncomfortable, OK? "The Examiner" in Washington -- police cameras cut speed dramatically. They're still snooping on people. So don't do that. Weather tomorrow in Chicago, if you're in Chicago, if you care about Chicago, phenomenal. Wrap it up with a "Picture of the Day" in a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): She was the American architect who became queen and symbol of Arab/Western relations. For Queen Noor of Jordan, the first homecoming in 1980 was also her first state visit to the United States. It would be the first of many, as her husband, King Hussein, brokered peace in the Middle East.

Their whirlwind courtship and marriage may have raised eyebrows when she gave up her American citizenship and converted to Islam. As queen, she defied convention as an outspoken activist to ban landmines and pioneered programs for women and children that are being modeled throughout the Arab world.

But there was a personal battle that was fought out of the public eye: her husband's declining health. In 1999, at age 63 King Hussein died from lymphatic cancer. Now at age 54, Queen Noor splits her time between her homes in Jordan and the United States. With her four children in college, she continues her humanitarian work.

In her book "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of An Unexpected Life," she describes her devotion to the man who named her Noor, meaning "light of Hussein," as magic.

QUEEN NOOR: You don't look for that. It finds you. And it found me through him. And I'm very blessed for it.


BROWN: Quickly now, here is your "Picture of the Day." It is the hip-hop star Bimbo protesting high gas prices. I don't get the connection, either.

See you tomorrow, 10:00 Eastern. Until then, goodnight for all of us.