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Campbell Brown

Rush Limbaugh's NFL Controversy; The Brain That Heals Itself

Aired October 12, 2009 - 20:00   ET



CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, here are the questions we want answered?

Will star NFL players boycott football games if Rush Limbaugh becomes part owner of the Saint Louis Rams?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see him as much as a racist. I see him more as a bigot.

STEPHEN A. SMITH, "PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER": I'm here on national television telling you they're lying through their stinking teeth.

BROWN: Reverend Al Sharpton pressures the NFL to step in.

Will President Obama finally end don't ask, don't tell?



BROWN: Or is he just paying lip service to the gay community?

LADY GAGA, MUSICIAN: Obama, I know you're listening. Are you listening? We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality. We need change now.

BROWN: Also, meet a woman born with half-a-brain who's turning medical science upside down. How she functions could save lives. Our special series, "The Brain That Heals Itself."

And caught on tape, a bar brawl that turns into a shoot-out. This isn't Hollywood, people. This was for real.


ANNOUNCER: This is your only source for news. CNN prime time begins now. Here's Campbell Brown.

BROWN: Hey there, everybody.

We start tonight, as always, with the "Mash-Up" -- our look at all the stories making an impact right now, the moments you may have missed. We are watching it all, so you don't have to. And we begin with political football, literally. The Reverend Al Sharpton is asking the NFL tonight to block Rush Limbaugh's bid to become part owner of the Saint Louis Rams. He's asking the commissioner for a meeting, saying he's disturbed by the news. And you may remember Limbaugh once said the NFL -- quote -- "too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips."

And a number of star players now saying they won't play for the team if the talk show host buys it.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Many African-American football players, in fact, are coming out today and they're saying that they believe that he is racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Limbaugh has been part of the NFL's past. At least he was a commentator on ESPN. In 2003, he lost his job when he claimed that the Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was getting attention he didn't deserve because the media wanted a black quarterback to do well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Limbaugh himself has said he's not racist. Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith says players may be posturing about Limbaugh but in the end they will go where the money is. And he says that's how Limbaugh's bid should be judged.


BROWN: So, will politics get in the way of a good game? Well, our favorite sports junkie, James Carville, weighs in a little bit later, along with some others coming up.

Now to an on again/off again political love story, this one between President Obama and some of his biggest supporters, the gay community. The president has been accused of not living up to his campaign promises. But now, he says, he will deliver.


OBAMA: I will end don't ask, don't tell. That's my commitment to you.



BROWN: The catch? Not so fast. With health care and a war in Afghanistan looming, the White House is giving no timetable tonight for getting this done. And that was not lost on tens of thousands of protesters who gathered in Washington.


LADY GAGA: Obama, I know that you're listening. Are you listening? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LADY GAGA: We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality. We need change now.


BROWN: In other words, they don't want to read your lips on that, Mr. President.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow tonight. She's trying to get Russia to lean on Iran over its nuclear program. On the way, she stopped off in Northern Ireland with just enough time to throw back a beer at a local pub.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is an ambassadorial decision.


BROWN: Having a good time there. But the story getting buzz here at home is what Clinton said before she left. Check it out.


ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Will you ever run for president again, yes or no?




CLINTON: No. No. I mean, this is -- this is a great job. It is a 24/7 job. And I'm looking forward to retirement at some point.


BROWN: So there you go, not running for president and looking forward to retirement. We shall see about that.

Hillary Clinton may be out of the running, but there is still hope for a woman in the Oval Office for some of you, Sarah Palin. Her former running mate, John McCain, admits there was some tension between the two of them during their campaign. But he says he will back her in 2012, kind of.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Sarah and I, did we always agree on everything in the past? Will we in the future? No. But, look, let's let 1,000 flowers bloom. Let's come up with a winning combination the next time. And let's all go through the process, rather than condemning anybody's chances. And I'm happy to say we have some great people out there. And Sarah is one of them.


BROWN: Well, not exactly a full endorsement, but certainly better than what McCain's former campaign manager Steve Schmidt said about a Palin run in 2012. He called it catastrophic.

Congress and the White House went after health insurance companies today, calling a report from an industry group -- quote -- "a hatchet job." The report warns that $829 billion plan that's coming out of the Senate Finance Committee would cause premiums to skyrocket.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the 11th hour, the insurance lobby has released a study that says insurance coverage under new health care reform will be more expensive than we think over the next 10 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Among the claims, a family health care plan that costs $12,300 today would jump to more than $17,000 in a few years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? Among other reasons, they say it does not impose enough penalties to require every American to get health insurance. And without those tens of millions of new customers to help defray costs, the insurance industry will have to raise premiums.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The White House is out swinging against the claims in this report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This legislation would absolutely lower costs for all Americans and expands coverage to 94 percent of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supporters of health care reform call the report an insurance industry hatchet job and not worth the paper it's written on.


BROWN: The Finance Committee votes tomorrow on its plan. That is the only one thought to have any chance of Republican support.

And now to an amazing survival story. A pilot, his stepdaughter and her husband held on to a buoy after their plane crashed off the Florida Keys. The family was bitten by jellyfish. They were afraid of shark attacks, but they managed to stay alive in the water for 12 long hours.


WHITNEY PAGE, SURVIVED PLANE CRASH: It was dark. We couldn't even see. We knew we were going down, but we had no idea when we hit. And then finally, bam, there's the water. And, well, thankfully, we got out really quickly, and we ended up out on the wing, and then into the water.

BEN PAGE, SURVIVED PLANE CRASH: We found a lobster buoy, but the current was too hard -- too fast for us. So, we held on for a little while, but the waves and current were too much. So, we let go of that and drifted for about maybe another hour or two and found another buoy, and the current had subsided a little bit. So, that was easier to hold on to. We tied off to that and sat there about nine hours, 10 hours.

W. PAGE: They were searching 2,200 square miles. So, three little heads bobbing in the ocean, we were pretty hard to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.

W. PAGE: We tried. We waved as hard as we could.

B. PAGE: When the sun came up, we saw a plane off in the distance. That was still a glimmer of hope that they were still looking for us.


BROWN: And, eventually, Coast Guard rescuers did spot them, obviously, there, pulled the family out of the water -- a happy ending for a Monday.

And now from Toledo, Ohio, what looks like a modern-day gun fight at the OK Corral. At least five men pulled out guns. They opened fire Thursday night in the middle of a crowded bar, whole thing caught on video. Take a look. Three minutes later, it was all over, I mean, incredibly, nobody hurt here. Police say they are still shooting -- or still hunting, rather, for the shooters, and released the video, hoping that they get some leads on this. Unbelievable.

Now to tonight's "Punchline." This is courtesy of several late- night comedians, who had a field day with President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Along with the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama also gets $1.4 million -- $1.4 million. Usually, to get a check that big, you need to blackmail David Letterman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In other premature awards this week, high school football player Billy Reynolds has been named this year's Heisman Trophy winner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifth-grader Amber Collins has been named Miss America, and 9-year-old Dillon Holt has been named "People"'s sexiest man alive. (LAUGHTER)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Yes, the committee said they gave it to Obama partly for his idealism and commitment to global cooperation, but mostly for calling Kanye West a jackass.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I didn't even get a call, as due to the time difference in Norway, the Nobel people didn't want to wake me up.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I wish they had. I could have said to Hillary Clinton, hey, remember that 3:00 a.m. call you were so worried about?



BROWN: And that is the "Mash-Up" tonight.

Coming up, tonight's big question: Should politics and football ever mix? Some star players are threatening to boycott the game if Rush Limbaugh becomes part owner of the Saint Louis Rams. Our own political sports junky joining us, James Carville, right after this.

Plus, what if you could rewire your brain? Tonight, we are going to meet a woman born, literally, with half-a-brain who did just that. It's part of our special series "The Brain That Heals Itself."


BROWN: Rush Limbaugh could be tackled in his bid to buy an NFL team. The radio talk show -- is part of a group looking to purchase the Saint Louis Rams. Radio talk show host, I should have said there.

Now the union representing NFL players is leading the call to keep Limbaugh out of pro football. And some African-American players vow never to play for the Rams if Limbaugh succeeds, not because Limbaugh is a conservative, but because critics say he is a racist. They point to comments he made during his brief stint as an ESPN football commentator. Listen to what he said in 2003 about Donovan McNabb.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And I think the sum total of what you're all saying is that Donovan McNabb is regressing, he's going backwards. And my -- I'm sorry to say this. I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we have had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.


BROWN: Those words led to a storm of controversy, and Limbaugh left the network as a result.

But there's more. In 2007, Limbaugh said -- quote -- "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons."

Our big question tonight, should the NFL block Rush Limbaugh from buying the Rams?

And with me now to talk about that, journalist and sports analyst Stephen A. Smith, sports attorney David Cornwell, and CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist and just junky, sports junky, James Carville with us as well.

David, let me start with you.

Al Sharpton today speaking out writes a letter asking the NFL commissioner to reject Limbaugh's bid because he's been -- quote -- "divisive and anti-NFL" on several occasions. Do you agree Limbaugh should be blocked from owning a stake?

DAVID CORNWELL, SPORTS ATTORNEY: Absolutely, as his statements indicated previously.

And I don't want to be unnecessarily inflammatory, but I think he's a fool. And I think the less said about him, the better. But now that he's on this platform, I think his bid, if he has the resources to own an NFL team, should be rejected.

The NFL is a partnership between its players and the team owners and, in a league that is overwhelmingly black, should resoundingly reject a man who's expressed such racist points of view about black people generally and black players specifically. There's no place for Rush Limbaugh in the National Football League.

BROWN: Stephen, you agree with that?

SMITH: I do. I really don't have any problem with him pursuing NFL ownership. I think that it's his right. But I think a lot of people misconstrue my statements in terms of what he has the right to do and what the NFL has the right to do and what the NFL Players Association has a right to do as well.

He has a right to pursue ownership, if he has got the pockets deep enough to pull it off. They have a right to reject him based on some of the incendiary comments that he's made.


BROWN: But should they?

SMITH: The question that I have asked them repeatedly is this. Where has everybody been? All of a sudden, you don't want to let him own a football team, but you want to let him have his own radio show reaching 20 million people saying these incendiary comments? Where has everybody been? That's what I have been saying.

BROWN: James, what do you think about all this?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, most sports fans -- let's separate the fans -- don't care who the owners is.

My Saints are 4-0. We're playing the Giants this weekend. If George W. Bush bought the Saints this weekend and Bill Clinton bought the Giants, it wouldn't matter. I would still be for the Saints.

The problem is -- and it's not Rush's ideology. As these guys point out, as you point out, some of his statements have just been very, very unsettling to everybody, and particularly to African- Americans. He also spoke with nostalgia about slavery, which is -- I'm not even going to try to go there.

And over 60 percent of the labor force in the NFL, that's a fancy word for the players, are African-Americans. And I'm not sure that the owners want to have this kind of controversy.

But let me tell you this. If somebody has a sports radio show, I mean, this is good. We fill up a lot of hot air on the air with this kind of stuff. But that's a tough question that the owners are going to have to ask themselves. Do they want to go in this kind of controversy with their players? And that's something I don't have the answer to.

BROWN: Stephen, let me go back to something you said about where have they been up until now? And listen to this. Some of the NFL players already protesting saying they wouldn't play for him, no matter how much money that he offered.

SMITH: Lying.

BROWN: I know. On his show today, Limbaugh responded. Listen to what he said.


LIMBAUGH: One of the things that is going around out there is that black NFL players will boycott playing the game if I am an owner in the league, which, of course, is patently absurd. But this is being reported. And it's designed to affect the outcome of all of this.


BROWN: So, to your earlier point, do you really think that the players would turn him down, would accept less money from another team?

SMITH: Absolutely not. I think a few of the more key ones that have options may make the choice to do so.

But, by and large, most NFL players are not going to do that. Their color is about green. The person that has the steepest check is the one that they're going to sign with. It's just no mistaking that. And in interest of full disclosure, I'm somebody that has listened to Rush Limbaugh over the past year.

I was not aware of a lot of the comments that I read up about that -- that I ultimately read up about that he's actually said. I find them very, very offensive. But I'm hear to tell you, those same players that find it just as offensive as I find it, if they have an opportunity to play for him because he offers them more money than one of the other 31 owners in the NFL, they will most certainly do it. And anybody who says otherwise is either a liar or a fool.

CORNWELL: I think if...


BROWN: Go ahead, David, but to address this point about whether or not the players have leverage really or, as to James' point earlier, would the owners actually decide, you know, if this turned into something, like, hey, we don't want to deal with this; who needs the controversy?

CORNWELL: I think it's a mistake to limit the reaction to Rush to black NFL players.

If the commissioner was concerned about the interests of animal lovers in the Michael Vick case, he most assuredly should be concerned about the reaction of NFL fans, NFL players, black and white, to Rush Limbaugh. It's a mistake to think that only black players find him offensive.

I'm certain that there are black and white players and black and white fans that find Rush Limbaugh to be an offensive racist who he's fine in his box talking into a microphone. But once he comes into the NFL, they should tell him, you're not welcome.


BROWN: But I think you're right. Plenty of people may believe -- find his remarks offensive, black or white.

James, to this point, but it is it even about that? Or is it to what Stephen said? Is it more about money? Is it more about fans not caring who owns the team, as you said earlier?

CARVILLE: First of all, some players, active players, have said they wouldn't play for them. There was a very eloquent statement by the guy from the Giants. I'm sorry. His name is escaping me. I mean, a very, very eloquent statement.

SMITH: Mathias Kiwanuka.

CAVUTO: Yes. I don't think this guy -- my guess is, is, he's not going to the highest bidder. That's just my guess based on his statement. I thought it was pretty eloquent. But, again, most NFL owners are Republicans. That doesn't matter to the average fan.

But what's happened is Rush has said some things that are going to upset a whole lot of people. And I don't know if the NFL -- and the NFL owners, as a lot -- and I think our other guests will back me up on this -- are a conservative lot, not just conservatives in their politics. They have got a lot of money invested in this. And I don't know if they're going to want to -- if they're going to -- they might want this kind of controversy. Boy, they will get it if they do. And we will talk about it forever.


SMITH: They don't want it.


BROWN: Quickly.

CORNWELL: The commissioner has said that there's a standard, a higher standard, to which NFL players will be held because of their participation in the NFL.

BROWN: Right, rather than the owners.

CORNWELL: The same standard should apply to prospective owners.

BROWN: Right.

CORNWELL: And Rush Limbaugh doesn't meet that standard.

BROWN: We have got to end it there.

David Cornwell, Stephen Smith, and our own James Carville, as always, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Tonight, a woman born with half-a-brain, find out how, seriously, she rewired her mind. This is part of our special series "The Brain That Heals Itself," fascinating stuff, coming up.

Plus, tonight's intriguing person: David Alan Grier.


DAVID ALAN GRIER, ACTOR: Barack Obama is a really cool customer. He's not the president that's going to vomit in the lap of a foreign dignitary or smack his head on the doorway of Air Force One or stumble down stairs.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: You have heard the old saying that you have to pick your battles. So, we're wondering why the White House would choose to take on FOX News.


BROWN: Coming up next, our special series "The Brain That Heals Itself," breakthrough medical research that could change the possibilities for recovery. Tonight, the incredible story of a woman born with half-a-brain. You have to see this when we come back.


BROWN: Tonight, we start a special series called "The Brain That Heals Itself."

Just a few years ago, the idea that the human brain could heal itself would have been unthinkable. But medicine has made some incredible discoveries about our brains, about how they work, discoveries that are giving new hope to a lot of people, people with serious brain injuries, people like Michelle Mack.

Listen to her story.


BROWN (voice-over): Michelle Mack was born with half-a-brain. And her life has turned medical thinking upside down. She can speak normally, graduated from high school, and has an uncanny knack for numbers and dates.

WALLY MACK, FATHER: Say, two years from now, 2011, April 17.


This is where I need to think also.


M. MACK: I need to think. That will be on a Sunday.

BROWN: When Michelle was born, her parents knew something was wrong. But it took years for doctors to figure it out.

W. MACK: And we went through test after test after test.

BROWN: The prognosis, she would live, but her life would be limited.

C. MACK: There wasn't a group I could turn to. Michelle didn't have cerebral palsy. I knew that. She didn't have Down syndrome. I knew that. And there was -- I had no -- no place to turn, because the doctors themselves had said, whatever you have got, you have got. And that's it.

M. MACK: It was very hard for me growing up, because no one knew the truth about my brain.

BROWN: When Michelle was 27, her mom reached out to Dr. Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institutes of Health who finally diagnosed her.

JORDAN GRAFMAN, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: And we did the scan and lo and behold, we saw the dramatic effects of what appears to be a neuro stroke (ph). So you can see here, this is the left hemisphere. We were surprised to see the extent, as was Michelle's parents, the extent of the lesion in the brain, which basically took away the left side of her brain. There's very some very deep structures remaining but the surface of her brain, the cortex, is 95 percent gone.

BROWN: What surprised doctors even more is that Michelle's brain had rewired itself. The right side took over some of the essential functions of the left, like speaking and reading. Scientists used to believe that our brains were hard wired, that most brain damage was incurable. Michelle's case shows researchers that the brain has the power to change its own structure to compensate for injury.

GRAFMAN: Even over the last ten years, we've seen a change in some of her abilities that have actually gotten a little bit better. Some aspects of her intellectual functioning have actually improved over the last few years.

BROWN: Recovery has not been perfect. Michelle still struggles with abstract concepts and gets easily lost in unfamiliar surroundings.

GRAFMAN: It's quite possible that in her learning, in her development, when the right hemisphere either took over or developed some of the language abilities, that was a benefit. It cost her in some of the skills that are normally mediated by the right side of the brain. So there was a benefit in the recovery but there was a cost to other abilities that are normally found in that hemisphere.

BROWN: Michelle has also always struggled with controlling her emotions. At least now she and her parents know why.

MACK: He's helped us understand -- understand the reason why -- the reason why I tend to get -- why I tend to throw temper tantrums at the time. Because it was because I was -- because I was missing half my brain.

BROWN: Today, Michelle is 37 years old and lives with her mom and dad. She works from home, doing data entry for her church. She's fairly independent, pays rent and can do most household chores. She realizes she'll need help for the rest of her life but wants people to know, in spite of her condition, she's normal.

MACK: I wanted to do this, so that people like -- people like producers, photographers and security guards and police officers learn that -- learn about people like me, that I'm normal but have special needs and that there are a lot of people like me. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. MACK: Yes. So that they can -- so that they can be more understanding.


BROWN: And stories like Michelle's can be hard to wrap your head around, literally. A girl born with half a brain. She's not only surviving, she is thriving. So how can this be? How does it happen?

We want to get some answers now from an expert on the human brain. Dr. Norman Doidge is the author of "The Brain That Changes Itself." I spoke with him earlier.


BROWN: So, Michelle Mack, who we just saw -- this is a really incredible case. And it's a great way to understand, I think, what -- or try to understand -- what neuroplasticity is, and this idea that the brain can actually heal itself.

Explain to people why this is such a breakthrough.

DR. NORMAN DOIDGE, AUTHOR, "THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF: Well, for about 400 years, our best and brightest neuroscientists and physicians thought of the brain as though it was like a machine with parts, and each part performed a single mental function in a single location. And this had all sorts of implications.

Machines do many glorious things. But one thing they don't do is, they don't grow new parts.

So, for instance, 95 percent of us, approximately, process language in our left hemisphere. But Michelle has no left hemisphere. How is it possible that she does -- you know, that she can do it?

Well, brain plasticity gives us an explanation as how it might work. You know, brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is that property of the brain that allows it to change its structure and change its function through mental experience.

Now, when she was in the womb, that hemisphere failed to develop. But because she was getting input and she had to learn how to speak, that right hemisphere -- which usually does visual, spatial things -- was able to actually change its circuits based on the input it was getting.

BROWN: OK. So, go back, though, to this idea that -- of just how revolutionary this is, I think. Because really, up until recently, somebody like Michelle would have been written off.

DOIDGE: Well, no one would have dreamed that it was true that she was missing half her brain.

Look. It's revolutionary, because once we thought of the brain as a machine with each part performing a single function at a single location, it meant that if you were born as a kid with some deficits, like learning disabilities, or if your brain didn't develop properly, or if you had some kind of brain trauma, it was pointless to try to change.

And it also meant that, if you were an older person and you were trying to maintain your brain, it didn't make any sense.

We now know we have plasticity from cradle until grave.

BROWN: You also write about this idea extending to, like, an amputee or people who lose a limb, who oftentimes still feel pain in that missing limb. And this is being used, some of these techniques...

DOIDGE: Right.

BROWN: ... to deal with that.

DOIDGE: Yes. Many people who lose limbs -- and in war, for instance, or in any kind of accident -- have what are called "phantom limbs." They actually feel that they have a limb that's active and doing things.

And it becomes especially problematic, because often the phantom limbs are associated with a lot of pain. A man who was holding a grenade that blew up was constantly re-experiencing that painful explosion in his hand.

Now, we -- it was the greatest of medical mysteries to explain what is a phantom limb. But plasticity has explained it. If I was to lose my right arm from here on down, the part of my brain which would be right about here, that maps for that wouldn't be wasted. It wouldn't go dormant. But adjacent parts of the brain would actually start to use that part of the brain to process their activities.

We get a phantom limb, because the brain is plastic. But there are also techniques I describe in the book to get rid of the phantom pain that goes with the limb...

BROWN: The treatments...


BROWN: ... that you're using to experiment, which...

DOIDGE: Which exploit that plasticity.

So now that we're understanding plasticity and the laws of plasticity, we're actually be able -- we're actually increasingly able to turn them into treatments.

BROWN: So, these treatments seem so extraordinary, the impact they're clearly having on a lot of people.

Why aren't they more common? Why aren't we hearing more...

DOIDGE: Well, this is... BROWN: ... about stories like this?

DOIDGE: Well, this is the cutting edge of the most important change in our understanding of the brain in 400 years. And there are models of the brain that are not consistent with it.

Most people who are trained, are trained in the model of the brain as like a machine.

BROWN: Right.

DOIDGE: You know, whenever you open the newspaper and you hear that, you know, this -- this mental function is hardwired in us, that's the computer metaphor. But this notion of hardwiring is what many people think is true science, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the brain works by changing its wiring.

So, whenever you have a revolution of this magnitude, it takes years -- it'll take decades for it to play out, so that people can benefit from it. It's like electricity. You know, it was discovered a long time ago, and we're still reaping the benefits of that kind of discovery.


BROWN: That was Dr. Norman Doidge again. Our series "The Brain That Heals Itself" continuing tomorrow with a story of one stroke victim's miraculous recovery.

The White House declares all-out war on FOX News, saying it does the work of the Republican Party. Is that a strategy that will come back to fight the president? More when we come back.


BROWN: There is an old saying about people in power arguing with their critics in the press. Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.

Well, that phrase having no impact on the Obama administration which is now ramping up its attacks against the FOX News Channel. This weekend, the White House communications director appeared on CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" to say that FOX News is now essentially being treated like a political opponent. Listen.


ANITA DUNN, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The reality of it is that FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. Take their talking points, put them on the air, take their opposition research, put them on the air and that's fine. But let's not pretend they are news network the way CNN is.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Our big question, why would the White House take on FOX News? Let's talk about it with media analyst Steve Adubato, CNN political analyst Roland Martin, and "Washington Post" media critic Howard Kurtz who's conducted -- who conducted that interview you just saw -- this weekend's interview for his CNN program "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Welcome to everybody. Steve, let me start with you. The White House saying they're going to treat them like a political opponent. What do you think of the approach?

STEVE ADUBATO, AUTHOR, "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING": Last time I checked, Campbell, the campaign is over. And the president and the White House, frankly, should be acting presidential.

Look, FOX is what it is. There's no secret there. They lean obviously, particularly on prime time, to the right. They bash the administration. I say either ignore them, fight them, deal with them head on, because you can't get the Nobel Peace Prize, which is a very big deal, and say that you're not going to deal with them because they're not serious.

My attitude is they're there. They're not going away. They have an audience. And when you discount them in that way, even though they're susceptible to legitimate criticism, you just count a huge audience. It's a dumb move and a fight that the administration doesn't need, particularly when they have much bigger fights out there.

BROWN: Howie, FOX says, they put out a statement saying, "It's astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming." I mean, FOX makes it pretty clear they're doing opinion in primetime as Steve just pointed out there. MSNBC for that matter, doing liberal opinion in primetime. And we're both very different from what I think -- you know, from what I think we're trying to do here, but is it really all that confusing?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, you know, I was surprised that Anita Dunn was as blunt and aggressive with me in going after FOX News. And, you know, clearly, it probably makes people in the White House feel better because they're ticked off with Glenn Beck calling the president racist and Sean Hannity bashing the president with Republican arguments after doggedly defending George Bush for eight years.

But there is this question of FOX's sizable audience and why would the White House not want to try to win over some of those hearts and minds, to use a war analogy. And, you know, Nobel Peace Prize or not, they've made a tactical decision.

This wasn't just Anita Dunn popping off. They very carefully calibrated the message here. Tactical decision to go after FOX, maybe get some cheers from the White House's liberal base but I don't see what else it gets the administration.

BROWN: Roland, if the White House rationale here in all honesty, is that in their view FOX has a biased, then should the administration be denouncing MSNBC for its bias, even if it happens to be a bias in favor of the president?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Because that's not how the game is played. We know how Washington is played. If you're on the right, you don't rip the right. If you're on the left, you don't hit the left.

BROWN: God, Roland, you're so cynical.

MARTIN: No, it's called -- it's called a fact. Now here's the other piece.

OK. They do benefit from it. Remember, 59 million people voted for Senator John McCain. So it's not likely going to pick up some votes for going after FOX. But here's the other deal, Campbell, right now, we are talking about the White House attacking FOX. That's exactly what they want. They want other networks --

ADUBATO: FOX or the president?

MARTIN: Going after them. Now here's the other piece. Now we talk about FOX's primetime. It's a difference between having an opinion in prime time and then distorting facts, lying and also just throwing stuff out that's absolutely false. And so you see that.

Even Bernard Goldberg was on Bill O'Reilly's show and was ripping Sean Hannity as well as Glenn Beck by saying wait a minute, these guys call themselves journalists. And so what you have is them trying to throw the dukes up saying if you're going to sit here and lie and manipulate, we're going to call you out.

BROWN: Steve, go ahead.

ADUBATO: Roland, here's my problem with your argument. It's not about defending FOX. They are what they are. It's clear.

Here's the problem. If the president is so tough, if he's so good with the media, and I believe he is, my opinion is -- any rally during the campaign it was a calculated decision to do it then. My argument is this. Go on selectively. Do well. Persuade who you can. But if you're going to say there's a political calculation that says you can't persuade the people who watch the FOX News Channel to be with you, then let's stop calling it a journalistic issue and say what it is. A very cynical, political ploy and frankly, disrespect to everyone in the media.

MARTIN: But first of all -- first of all, it is a journalistic issue. It is a journalistic issue. The other thing is look, --


BROWN: It's not, though, Roland. I mean, you just said it wasn't. Let me go to -- let me go to Howie on this because strategy -- because strategy --

MARTIN: No, no, no. I know what it is for me. For me, it's about journalism.

BROWN: OK. Strategy though aside, which is what I feel like we're talking about. I mean, presidential complaints aside, Howie, is there a fundamental change in what we define as legitimate news? I mean, have people chosen to accept opinion, which we're seeing on our competitors as legitimate news source?

KURTZ: We are very much in an era of opinion journalism, Campbell. We see that online. You see that in cable. You see that just about everywhere.

But Barack Obama, you know, did go on O'Reilly show during the campaign. And a candidate can benefit when he's got to hit a fast ball pitching from the opposition. It shows that he can stand up to the opposition if that's how the White House wants to view FOX.

Meanwhile, as we talk about this, FOX News loves this. They love to get into these fights. It boosts their ratings. It lets them say we are the only ones who are holding this administration accountable. Very different attitude than they had during the Bush administration.

But -- so maybe both parties benefit. The White House gets to beat up on FOX and FOX gets to market itself. Again, I don't think it necessarily has any political benefit for the Obama White House.

BROWN: Guys, we got to end it there. We're out of time. Howie, Steve here with me in New York, and Roland, as always, thanks. Appreciate with it, guys.

Tonight's intriguing person is comedian David Alan Grier. We're going to ask him about comics changing their tone on President Obama and how his own family has been affected by America's first black president. He's up when we come back.


BROWN: Ever since his inauguration, Barack Obama has been something of a Teflon president, at least for late-night comedians. Well, now, they are taking the gloves off. And I want to hear what my next guest thinks about that.

He is tonight's intriguing person. He is the author of "Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth." Comedian David Alan Grier. I spoke with him earlier.


BROWN: So, I'm going to get into the nitty-gritty of the book in just a second. But before, I just want to ask you more broadly.

You know, until recently, you heard a lot of comedians complaining, really, about what a hard time they were having making fun of President Obama. And then, it seems like recently, we've seen a little shift in that. The late night comedians, "Saturday Night Live," among others, going after him, taking some stabs at him.

What do you think? Is it a good thing?

DAVID ALAN GRIER, COMEDIAN AND ACTOR: It should be expected. Every president in the history of this country has been fodder for comedy.

I think the real problem with Barack Obama and his administration -- first of all, I think it took a while to get a bead on the personality of his administration and how he was going to govern.

And also, Barack Obama is a really cool customer. He's not the president that's going to vomit in the lap of a foreign dignitary, or smack his head on the doorway of Air Force One, or stumble down stairs.

So, you kind of had to wait and figure out exactly how you could find the humor.

BROWN: And you have said before, I read, that, you know, you felt white people may not be comfortable enough to make jokes about the president for fear of being branded racist.

Do you think that's fair to say?

GRIER: Well, I -- no. I think everybody's loosening up now. But I know, definitely during the primaries, I know when my show, "Chocolate News" was on, and traveling around the country, after he was elected, there was this sense of, you know, now it's over. Meaning racism. You know, now it's over.

I mean, it was a great moment, a great stride forward, the election of Barack Obama. But do I think every racist, bigoted thought that some hold in this country was eradicated by his election? Of course not.

But we've made great strides forward.

BROWN: And you write about this a little bit in the book. You talked about how you were addicted to election coverage. We love that.

GRIER: I was. I was.

BROWN: And that you couldn't believe it when President Obama won, the sense of possibility that you felt. Do you still feel that way, that sense of change?

GRIER: Well, it's like this. It's like this. Yes, absolutely.

I think the possibility is open. It's still only nine months into his tenure as president. And also, he's inherited -- we have as a country tremendous problems and challenges. And it's going to take more than nine months to attack all those issues -- health care, the war in Afghanistan, the economy. My career, I'm hoping that Barack can do something for me, you know. Cabinet post, or something like that.

BROWN: You write that President Obama made being multiracial or biracial cool. And I know...


BROWN: ... I mean, you've talked about that having a personal impact on you. Also your daughter, I know, is half Korean and half black.

How do you think her world -- you know, not just because of President Obama, but how things have changed -- how do you think it's going to be different from yours growing up?

GRIER: I just think -- you know, the most emotional moment during the election process was that moment, I think after the Iowa caucus, when all the pundits started saying, "OK, this, statistically, this can actually happen. Barack Obama can clinch this nomination."

And holding my infant daughter that night in my house on my lap, I just began to weep and cry, because I realized that her world would change immeasurably from mine, you know.

So, I'll -- now I'm going to be the old black dude going, "I remember there was a time when there was no black president."


So, you know. I'm going to be the old crabby guy, which is the way it should be, her world should be. We all want the world of our children to be better, to be broader, to have their choices be more than ours.

BROWN: David Alan Grier. David, I'm a big fan. It's so good to have you here.

GRIER: Thank you.


BROWN: And coming up next, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure," the video we can't resist. It's for all you Miley Cyrus fans out there, whether you admit it or not.


BROWN: Larry King starts in just a few moments. But first, Mike Galanos back with tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." the video we just couldn't resist.

Mike, what have you got?

MIKE GALANOS, HLN PRIME NEWS: You talked about it. Miley Cyrus saying goodbye to Twitter. Now you're wondering, is it a big deal what she has? It's Miley Cyrus and she has two million followers on Twitter. So when she says goodbye to Twitter, it's a "Guilty Pleasure." And she says it on YouTube.

And it gets better than that, Campbell. Not only is she saying goodbye, she gets philosophical on us talking about why as she wraps her goodbye. Let's give it a listen.


MILEY CYRUS, SINGER: Yes, the rumors are true. I deleted my Twitter. Can't you believe it? I got to two million then I said adios.


GALANOS: There you have it. The goodbye on Twitter. Now her dad is even getting into the act. Billy Ray Cyrus, he doesn't want her to leave Twitter.

I still can't get the whole technology of this, Campbell. She says goodbye to Twitter on YouTube. It's a new world, isn't it?




GALANOS: I always throw you these curveballs.

BROWN: So I finally caved and I'm twittering now, Mike, too.

GALANOS: Are you really?

BROWN: Yes. So maybe I'll get Miley's two million, do you think?

GALANOS: Yes, you'll have your two million.

BROWN: I somehow think that they would never in a million years be the same people. But you can follow me at, Mike.

GALANOS: I'm in.

BROWN: You better be.

GALANOS: I'm not twittering yet, but I'll get in just to be part of your crowd.

BROWN: All right.

GALANOS: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: We'll see you tomorrow.


BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. He's going to be talking about ground beef tonight. Should we eat it? How can we be sure if it's safe, coming up.


BROWN: Is there a dark side to the secret, the co-author of the smash hit book self-help guru James Ray at the center of an investigation to the deaths of two people over the weekend. We've got more on that coming up tomorrow.

"LARRY KING LIVE" right now.