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CNN Larry King Live

Help on the Way for New Orleans

Aired September 02, 2005 - 21:00   ET


MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. You're too doggone late.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, more anger in New Orleans, thousands still stranded with dead bodies and a rising tide of human waste but after four days of pure hell, starving hurricane survivors finally start getting help.

And, the president tours the disaster area promising more relief.

We've got all the latest on one of the worst natural disaster in America's history next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: A couple of notes before we start. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who on Thursday had scathing remarks about the federal government changed a little today. He said "President Bush was very serious and very engaging in his visit, said he was brutally honest and I think we're in a good spot now," that from the mayor of New Orleans.

Tomorrow night, I will host a three-hour special. We're calling it "How you can Help," a LARRY KING LIVE special. It's going to help you help them. How you can help the victims and further the cause of those who need help in the aftermath of Katrina, all of that tomorrow night, 8:00 to 11:00 Eastern, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Pacific time.

And, also you'll remember one of our guests last night was Gizelle (ph), the lady who had one night left in a hotel. She was out of money, people missing, her brother missing, unable to contact people. Well, dozens of people called in after that show. How many called in? The hotel was able to pick up the tab for everybody staying there who had no money left based on your donations.

We're going to start tonight, we've got a lot of guests, with Mike Leavitt, who is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Mike comes to us from Washington. He's the former governor of Utah. Mike, are you going to go down there?

MIKE LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Yes, I will be. We are working with every resource available to us to accomplish three things. One is to save lives and the other is to prepare for a public health potential emergency that will come when you've got stagnant water and unsanitary conditions. And then we're settling in for the long term. We have health care to provide and facilities and assistance that will be there for weeks and months.

KING: What are you hearing about infections, one of the big problems we expect here?

LEAVITT: Well, it's a big worry for us. E Coli, Hepatitis A, those are the kinds of things that come when you get unsanitary conditions, fecal matter floating in water, all of the things that are there. We know that. We're moving rapidly. We've deployed 24 teams of 20 people, essentially an entire health department into that region to work with state and local government to get ahead of this.

KING: Do you understand the anger?

LEAVITT: I think everyone is feeling enormously frustrated right now but I think help is, in fact, on the way. Literally tens of thousands of people to swoop in there once that place is open and I think we're making great progress, as the president said. I think we're going to get there.

KING: A lot of people are saying if FEMA knew that this was coming, a type five code hurricane heading right for New Orleans, more should have been in preparation. How do you respond?

LEAVITT: In the height of a crisis this way I think we're all feeling we wished we had done a lot of things but we are now moving with every resource possible. This is a problem that's existed for a long time. It has not happened for a long time but now it has and we're doing everything that can be done to help those people, to save lives, to prevent disease and to settle in for what I know is going to be a long time.

KING: You've declared it a federal public health emergency. What does that entail?

LEAVITT: It's a means by which we can move rapidly to deliver the services without any red tape to get right to the heart of delivering services. We are -- I'll give you an example. We're going to be deploying up to 10,000 shelter beds for medical care over the course of the next several days.

We now have 2,500 of them that are being fielded as we speak today. We've got these 24 teams that are going in. It will allow us to cut any regulatory restriction that could, in fact, slow the services down by local and state governments.

KING: Mike is going to be with us throughout the hour.

Karl Penhaul is at International Airport, a CNN reporter, International Airport in New Orleans. What's the situation there, Karl? I'm not hearing Karl.

All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta do you hear me?


KING: Dr. Gupta, can you hear me?

GUPTA: Yes, Larry, I hear you fine.

KING: Where are you tonight?

GUPTA: I made my way back to Baton Rouge. I was at Charity Hospital all day in downtown New Orleans, Larry.

KING: Where you reported to us last night.

Mike Leavitt is with us. He's Secretary of Health and Human Services. How bad is it on the ground?

GUPTA: Well, it's significantly bad, Larry. First of all, a couple things, at Charity Hospital there are still a lot of patients at the hospital. I bring this up because there's been some reports out there that all the patients have been evacuated. In fact, there are still several patients there.

What's most concerning, I think, is the possibility and we talked about this, the possibility of a public health crisis. You have this moat of water, just a cesspool of bacteria, viruses, just very dirty and disgusting, add to that the gasoline fumes and people are just getting sick from sort of walking around.

There's also people who are chronically ill, Larry. They have heart disease and they have diabetes or something like that and they've been separated from their medications. So, you take people who are otherwise very functional, separate them from their medications, add all these insults such as the heat, such as lack of shelter, lack of water, lack of electricity, lack of plumbing and it's a significant problem -- Larry.

KING: Is this, Mike, Mr. Secretary, I call you Mike as well, is this -- do you call this a surprise?

LEAVITT: No, this is what happens when people are stuck in the same place in unsanitary conditions for a period of days. I've been spending much of the evening on the telephone with Dr. Kevin Stephens (ph), who is the head of public health in the city of New Orleans and we've been inventorying the things that we can do to bring relief there.

But, he emphasizes as we do and as the president has, the best thing we can do is to get those people out of there and complete that evacuation and I know that that's where the resources are going. We've secured that area now. We're moving the busses in. We're moving the different, the airlifts, the evacuations.

Dr. Stephens confirmed as well that there are still patients in Charity Hospital. There are still patients in a number of other places that we're working to get out. They are very complicated evacuations and we're doing what we can to take care of the individual circumstances. In some cases, it's been better not to move patients because of their individual conditions.

KING: You announced today the opening of the first of what will be many federal medical shelters. When will that open? Where will it be?

LEAVITT: Well, we actually believe we'll have up to 40 of them around the entire gulf region. We are putting into place ten of those units so they'll actually be in five different locations.

One of the things we're working to do is to double the capacity at the New Orleans Airport, where so many of the evacuees are moving. We know that that's been rough and not the kind of care that we yet want to provide but we're working.

We have -- literally as we speak there are trucks rolling with beds and medical supplies and people who can provide it. We are deeply concerned about those people as they come out of these difficult conditions.

KING: By the way, if you're trying to reach someone, if someone is missing and you want to locate them, the Red Cross has a special number. It's toll-free 1-877-568-3317. That's 1-877-LOVE-DIS, Loved Is, 1-877-568-3317. And with that number the Red Cross will help set up a tracking system to find missing loves ones.

We'll be right back.


KING: We're back.

Joining us now in Washington is Marty Evans, the President and CEO of the American Red Cross. She traveled with the president today. The Red Cross is not in New Orleans, why?

MARTY EVANS, RED CROSS PRESIDENT AND CEO: Well, Larry, when the storm came our goal was prior to landfall to support the evacuation. It was unsafe to be in the city. We were asked by the city not to be there and the Superdome was made a shelter of last resorts and, quite frankly in retrospect, it was a good idea because otherwise those people would have had no shelter at all.

We have our shelters north of the city. We're prepared as soon as they can be evacuated, we're prepared to receive them in Texas, in other states, but it was not safe to be in the city and it's not been safe to go back into the city. They were also concerned that if we located, relocated back into the city people wouldn't leave and they've got to leave.

KING: Marty, everyone looks at themselves when they're working in some kind of tragedy. Is the Red Cross examining itself saying could we have done more?

EVANS: Larry, we're always looking at that and, you know, in this particular case it's the largest disaster we have ever done in the history, 125 years of the Red Cross and we are determined to do more and more and, in fact, we are.

We're sheltering just under 100,000 people right now. We're gearing up to shelter even more people. We have people sheltered in nine different states, 275 locations, so we will continuously look at what we're doing, see if we can improve it.

And, the other thing I would say is that we're breaking new ground. We're setting up new systems and processes that get rid of the bureaucracy and make it easier for people.

KING: Reverend Jesse Jackson last night was in New Orleans. Tonight he is in Baton Rouge. When you were critical last night, Jesse, some in the administration followed by saying this is not a time for criticism. That may be later but not now. How do you respond?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW-PUSH COALITION: Well, that's ridiculous. I mean the Red Cross' absence in New Orleans, the high point of the crisis is a disaster. It is a sin. We had no real plan for rescue and relief and relocation.

Last night we went into New Orleans to get -- with ten busses to take out 450 students from Xavier who had been on the bridge for three days and the painful part was we had to leave people who -- the human chain around the busses because they had been there four days and no plan to rescue them.

And then today we went back into New Orleans again on I-10 the causeway and there were like 6,000 people with seven busses. No bus had been there today and wonder why because across the street were 150 empty busses that had no place to take them, so no plan for rescue or for relocation. More people may die from lack of rescue and lack of food and water than from the flood itself. The people have not been very well served.

KING: Marty, how would you respond?

EVANS: Well, Larry, we were asked, directed by the National Guard and the city and the state emergency management not to go into New Orleans because it was not safe. We are not a search and rescue organization. We provide shelter and basic support and so we were depending, we are depending on the state and the agencies to get people to our shelters in safe places.

KING: Joining us in the Astrodome is Shayonne Green. She is missing her mother, her brother, her two sisters and her baby's father. Shayonne, how long have you been there?


KING: You came from where New Orleans?


KING: Were you in the Superdome in New Orleans? GREEN: No, I wasn't.

KING: Now, all these people are missing, are you trying to reach them?

GREEN: Yes but I can't.

KING: Do you know if where you were living is still there?

GREEN: I don't know. They had water in the house when I was there.

KING: How well are you being taken care of in the Astrodome?

GREEN: It's OK but it's not like...

KING: We know how you feel Shayonne. Do you have enough food?


KING: Is it air-conditioned?


KING: All right now who's missing? Who haven't you heard from?

GREEN: I haven't heard from none of my kin people. I have my mamma, my child's father, my two little sisters, my little brother and I want them.

KING: I understand. Reverend Jackson wants to say something to you, Shayonne -- Jesse.

JACKSON: It is that do not give up hope. There are very difficult times but turn to each other not on each other. Don't engage in any self destructive violence, number one, and turn to God. This is a faith tester but I tell you it's difficult but help is on the way and hope is in the air. Through it all, as we rescue and relieve just don't give up.

KING: Shayonne, the best of luck to you dear.


KING: We hope everything works out for you.

We'll be right back with more of this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: Secretary Leavitt and Marty Evans and Reverend Jackson will be with us throughout the hour.

By the way, at the end of the program tonight, Jerry Lewis will join us. He's got his telethon Sunday night. They're going to contribute to this effort.

Joining us from Montgomery, Alabama is Governor Bob Riley, the Republican of Alabama who was with President Bush today. What was that like for you today?

GOV. BOB RILEY, ALABAMA: Well, it was good to see the president down here. It's good for him to show all the people on the gulf coast how concerned he is about what's going on and see him fully engaged.

KING: What is this Golden Rule Initiative you initiated?

RILEY: Well, Larry, I don't want the people of the south, especially Alabama, to lose focus. The Golden Rule that we set up is an operation where the state is going out into every community. We're asking communities to open up as many shelters as we possibly can.

When I talked to Mike Brown today, we've literally got hundreds of thousands of people that need shelter. You know it seems like everyone's wanting to just assess blame today. What we need to be doing is trying to figure out a way to relieve some of that suffering.

So, we're opening old closed military bases for shelter. We're going into closed metal facilities that Alabama had closed last year. We're opening all of these back up. We're trying to just get Alabama to be able to take as many of these evacuees as we possibly can in the next few days.

KING: You know, governor, we hear always about Mississippi and Louisiana. How bad was your state hit?

RILEY: Well, not anything like Biloxi or like Louisiana. I had an opportunity to fly in a helicopter and we went over to Biloxi the other day and it was just absolutely devastating.

But, on the other hand, in the southern part of the state down around our barrier islands we did lose a lot of houses. On one island down there we probably lost 45 or 50 percent of all the homes there. In Biola Battery (ph) we've probably got over 2,000 people that are homeless tonight. We're trying to provide shelter for them.

But I think all of us need to focus right now. We need to focus especially in the surrounding states on opening up these shelters so we can take these evacuees.

You know, we've told our Department of Education if someone comes in and they've got a child that needs to go to school, we'll do the paperwork later. Let's go ahead and get them in school right now and let them get back to some semblance of normalcy in their life.

KING: Have people come to Alabama from Mississippi?

RILEY: We've got thousands, you know, maybe tens of thousands. They are all over the state and Alabamans have always been this way. We have communities that are taking in 400 here, 500 there.

The communities are literally adopting these centers and what we are trying to do is Alabama is expand that so we can give as much aid to these people, especially from Mississippi because they're migrating over.

You know Louisiana can go to Texas and Arkansas but Mississippi basically is going to come this way or up into Tennessee and we're just trying to as much as possible be ready for as many people as we can.

KING: Thank you, governor, Governor Bob Riley, the Republican of Alabama who was with President Bush today.

Joining us now in Washington is Lieutenant General Carl Strock, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. General, what's been the progress in sealing the beaches on the levees?

LT. GEN. CARL STOCK, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Sir, the progress has been very good. It's a combination of the approach we're taking of three different ways to go after it. We're going after it by land putting causeways across the levees. We're going after it by air lifting in sandbags. And, we're going after it from the water to try to seal off the canal that's leaking by driving piles across.

All of those efforts are working, sir. We feel the situation has stabilized now and, in fact, we stopped some of those operations because as the waters now begin to recede we'll actually use those open areas to move water out of the city, so I would say that...

KING: What's the number one problem, general, you say you face in this tragedy?

STROCK: Well, sir, I think we got our hands on this, on the levee break and that appears to be in check now. My agency, sir, is in support of FEMA on this exercise, on this response and we do many things for them.

We're responsible for debris removal and over time I think that will be our biggest challenge. We also are responsible for providing ice and water to FEMA through the states to the local people and we also do temporary housing, roofing and shelter. I think the temporary housing missing is probably going to be a real challenge for us too and FEMA has set up a special task force to accomplish that mission.

KING: Are you responsible for temporary housing, the Corps of Engineers?

STROCK: Sir, we are. It comes under our function but in this case they set up a special task force under FEMA and we are part of that task force.

KING: The president has said that no one could have envisioned the levee breaches flooding New Orleans. Would you share that view?

STROCK: Sir, I think that was a scenario that we thought could happen. These levees were designed to protect against the equivalent of a category three storm. We recognized that a category four or five, which we did suffer here, could have made those levees vulnerable. That is the reason that the evacuation were ordered. The local officials understood the danger and made an informed decision to evacuate the city.

KING: This is the height of hurricane season. This is a what if, general, what if God forbid another one came?

STROCK: Well, sir, we've gone out and done condition surveys on the levees. I might point out these levees are constructed in partnership with the local authorities and the federal government but the local authorities operate and maintain them with some very, very committed and competent levee and drainage district people.

The challenge in this case was that they were evacuated when the city was evacuated. They're now back in. We're conducing levee condition assessments of all the levees to ensure that we understand where there might be any weak points.

As far as the breaches that are now open that's one of the reasons we stopped work. For example, on the 17th Street levee we've driven sheet piling across about 70 percent of the entrance to the canal.

We could easily close the canal off but we recognize we need that for drainage now but we also have the piling on site to put in an additional 30 percent if we see another storm coming. We're very much aware of the fact that it's still hurricane season.

KING: Thank you, general, Lieutenant General Carl Strock, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Let's go to Kenner, Louisiana and CNN's Rick Sanchez, what's the condition there Rick?

RICH SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reality is that across that 17th Street canal that we were just talking about and listening to there are people who are stuck in their homes and there's been a lot of conversation tonight, Larry, about evacuees and people who are trying to get out, people going to Houston and Dallas and San Antonio.

But the fact of the matter is there are still people who are here in New Orleans in their second floor of their homes screaming and hollering for someone to get them out and because of a lot of reasons they're still there, as there also are people on causeways, underneath overpasses and near the convention center in New Orleans.

So, it's a tough situation, Larry, and it's a lot of people here who are still hurting and for many reasons it's been tough to get to them and get them out of here.

KING: Do you understand, Rick, the difficulty the authorities face?

SANCHEZ: Oh, after covering as many hurricanes as I have and being there for many months with Andrew, I certainly do. Part of the problem is that the federal officials come in here after a problem and the first thing they got to do is get a lay of the land because they're not from here.

The people who are from here are the police officers and the ambulance workers and the EMTs and for the most part they're devastated. Most of their equipment is gone and it's hard for them to get around. So, until the two come together, it's really tough to get the job done.

Maybe the question, Larry, is, you know, you're from Miami, you spend a lot of time there, you've talked to a lot of people in the weather department and meteorologists, every single meteorologist you talk to says this was the nightmare scenario that if a category four hurricane hit here this would happen. Maybe the question is why didn't we prepare for the eventuality of it?

KING: Well, we were warned. Rick Sanchez in Kenner, Louisiana.

We'll take a break and come back in a moment.

Don't forget tomorrow night "How you can Help" it's a three-hour LARRY KING LIVE special that is like it's titled how you can help, three hours tomorrow night, 5:00 p.m. Pacific. It will be repeated. It will be seen internationally and heard on CNN radio.

We'll be right back.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be getting back to our panel as well throughout this half hour, Mike Leavitt, Marty Evans and Reverend Jesse Jackson. Right now, let's go to Biloxi, Mississippi, and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. What's the story today?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, spent the day in Waveland, Mississippi, going out on rescue and search operations with some search and rescue -- urban search and rescue team from Virginia. Today, I didn't find any bodies with the team I was with.

But, you know, I spent the day basically just with them and also with people going through the rubble of their homes. And there's -- you know, there's still a lot of anger on the ground here. A lot of people have questions, and they've not hearing answers. They're hearing responses from government officials, they're not hearing answers. And people want answers to hard some questions. And I haven't heard them, and no one here has heard them.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. Stay right there.

Joyce Blackwell is in San Francisco. Her elder ailing uncle Jimmy is missing in New Orleans. Other family members have been evacuated, but are in serious need. Joyce, do you live in San Francisco?

JOYCE BLACKWELL, UNCLE MISSING IN NEW ORLEANS: No. I live in Oakland. KING: OK. How --when did you last talk to your Uncle Jimmy?

BLACKWELL: He was last talked to and heard from, I think it was maybe Monday. Nobody has heard anything since then.

KING: Does he live alone?

BLACKWELL: Yes, he does. Jimmy is an amputee. He's wheelchair- bound. He has a heart condition. He's a diabetic. And as of now, we don't know, you know, whether or not somebody got him out of the house, or whether he has food, water, nothing.

KING: Now, the rest of the family, they were stuck for a while and they're now in Alexandria. Right?

BLACKWELL: Well, no. Well, yes. Yes and no. The pictures you're seeing now is my sister and her two children. They were stuck in the ninth ward. The house had water in it. And I have a brother- in-law that has a bad heart. Two of the children there has asthma, severe asthma. And they were there without food water, ever since the storm -- the hurricane, should I say. And that's my -- the picture you're seeing now is a picture of my sister, myself and my brother-in- law.

KING: What part of town does your uncle live in?

BLACKWELL: Jimmy lives in, you would say the uptown area of New Orleans on the Second and Liola (ph).

KING: Are you fearing the worse?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Because nobody has heard from him. He is the type of man that -- he just didn't want -- you know, he doesn't leave the house. He doesn't really leave his house.

KING: Hmm.

Reverend Jackson -- Reverend Jackson, where does Joyce's hope going to come from?

JACKSON: Well, we'd be well-served for bureaucrats not to fluff what's happening. We're still in a rescue mode. There are perhaps 2000,000 people that still yet need to be evacuated. And there is no place to relocate them if they, in fact, are rescued, but they have not been rescued.

I thought Governor Riley made a wise recommendation, rather than sending people from New Orleans to Dallas and Houston and Ft. Worth, Arkansas, why not use some of these military bases where you already have an infrastructure of housing, and for plumbing and for hospitals and for food. You can't take people too far away from home without having additional psychological damage and increased alienation.

KING: Joyce Blackwell we wish you nothing but the best. We hope uncle Jimmy's OK. We hope you hear from everyone. And Mike Leavitt -- and good luck, Joyce. BLACKWELL: Thank you.

KING: Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, does Jesse have a good point?

LEAVITT: As a matter of fact, that's where most of our medical facilities will be located, is on military bases. We have actually four that we're setting up as we speak. And we expect a lot of the evacuated persons to go there. They're also establishing with the Red Cross and others, evacuations centers as close to their home as possible.

We're deeply concerned about the -- well, what's going to happen with the mental health of all of these people. We know that's going to be part of the long-term demand of this, is to help people reconstruct their lives. They will have lost their jobs. They will have lost their homes. They will have lost the things that are precious to them, many of them like our guests tonight would have lost relatives.

We have a very long and difficult stretch ahead of us. But we're resolved to help. We're all resolved, as he said, to unite, and to pull together and to see the greatness of this country.

I can tell you that immediately we've begun to feel that -- the compassionate impulse of 290 people coming -- million people, coming together to help with this. It's a very difficult situation, but the country's coming together to solve it.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more. Again, tomorrow night, a three-hour special starting at 8:00 Eastern time. "How You Can Help." I'll host it tomorrow night. Back with more, after this.


KING: Joining us in this segment in Washington is Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, the immediate past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. And Kesha Booker. Kesha's uncle and two cousins are missing in New Orleans.

Congressman Cummings, why was the Black Caucus so critical of the administration?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Basically, we got tired of seeing people, first of all, called refugees. And I hate that term, because these are Americans. And they pay taxes, and they're our fellow citizens. And we got tired of seeing people on the street walking in pools of water and walking in polluted situations, sitting on top of roofs, waiting for days. Just got to a point where we began to question whether our fellow Americans were truly being treated as Americans, and we began to question how much of a priority making sure that they were safe and that their well-being was being taken care of -- we began to wonder about that, so we needed to say something.

One writer said, it makes me want to holler, throw up both my hands, and we wanted to scream, because there was so many people that were also asking us, as leaders in this country, what were we doing about this, when every time they turned on their television, all they saw were people who were in desperate need and many dying.

KING: Do you think, Congressman Cummings, that if New Orleans were two-thirds white instead of two-thirds black, this would have been different? You think there is a race issue here?

CUMMINGS: I'm not sure. One thing that I do know is that a lot of these people were not able to evacuate, because they don't have the money. And even if they had some money, they wouldn't have anywhere to go. And so the fact is that they -- we have a city, most of the pictures that we've seen were African-American.

But let me be clear. When the Congressional Black Caucus spoke today, the responses that we got were not just from African-American people, but from whites and others. And basically what they said was to us, Larry, thank you so much for standing up and making sure that these folks, our fellow Americans, are being taken care of.

KING: Kesha Booker, your uncle and two cousins are missing in New Orleans. Give me the circumstances. What happened? Where do you think they are?

KESHA BOOKER, UNCLE MISSING IN NEW ORLEANS: We, just before the show, I did receive two calls that we have heard from both of my cousins. My uncle, he still is missing. We did not hear from him prior to the storm. He lives in uptown, and we don't know if he made it to the Superdome, or if -- where he is at this point, if he even made it through the storm. So we're very concerned.

KING: What did your cousins tell you when they called?

BOOKER: My younger cousin, he is actually at the Astrodome. He is cutting people's hair for free, and just helping out at the Astrodome in any way that he can. My other cousin, Rosalynn Brooks (ph), she is on her way to Houston, and she is traveling just with people that she just came across.

KING: What a relief for you.

BOOKER: It is a blessing, yes.

KING: Now, what's the biggest concern about uncle Manny? Does he have any illnesses?

BOOKER: He does not have any illnesses, but the rest of our family has evacuated the city, and we're just very concerned. My grandmother, Rollyanne Simmons (ph), is extremely concerned because she has not heard from her one and only son. So we just are hoping that someone will contact us to let us know that he's doing OK.

KING: Are you from New Orleans, Kesha?

BOOKER: Yes. Yes. All of my family is.

KING: And do you live in Washington now?

BOOKER: Yes. I live in Ellicott City.

KING: When you lived in New Orleans, did you fear something like this?

BOOKER: No. It's not something that we ever thought would get to this catastrophic magnitude. It was just very, very unexpected, and I think a lot of people, as the congressman had stated, you know, they don't have the money to leave, and people are living paycheck to paycheck in dire straits. A lot of poverty in New Orleans. So it's a very difficult situation, to even think of, where would you go?

KING: Thank you both very much. Kesha Booker, the best of luck. I hope we -- I'm glad about the cousins. I hope we get uncle Manny safe...

BOOKER: Thank you.

KING: ... and Congressman Cummings.

When we come back, Mike Leavitt, Marty Evans and Reverend Jackson will go over it, and then Jerry Lewis. We'll be right back.


BUSH: I don't think anybody can be prepared for the vastness of this destruction. You can look at a picture, but until you sit on the doorstep of a house that used to be, or stand by the rubble, you just can't imagine it.



KING: I have a couple of minutes left with our panel, then Jerry Lewis.

Jerry -- I'm sorry, Jesse, I understand that Kanye West, a rapper at the NBC telethon tonight, unscripted, said that President Bush, George Bush does not care about black people. Do you have that feeling?

JACKSON: Well, he responded mighty late and mighty slow. There was one response to the tsunami and some years ago to the -- a response to the Armenian earthquake crisis, but he came in five days late, with platitudes. And in the case of 9/11, he came in two days later and embraced all those who were involved. There's a sense of alienation, a sense of distance, and we don't feel good about it.

I hope that there will be renewed commitment, not to just involve Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, but why not involve people like Congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and Cynthia Cleo Fields (ph) and Senator Bigenfiggis (ph). We...

KING: But you don't... JACKSON: ... ought to have a sense of being a part of this, and we're not.

KING: You don't think he doesn't care?

JACKSON: Well, he does not show it. And that's the -- that's the rub. And we need to know, we need to have access for dialogue, and we don't have it.

KING: Secretary Leavitt, would you comment on that?

LEAVITT: I think the reality of the caring that George Bush was showing today and the caring that I saw at the cabinet table and the love and appreciation and value that he places on the individual lives is evident to the American people. We are all feeling this. We are all feeling deep inside the sense of loss. And I can tell you, the president of the United States feels it right along us. There are 290 million people rallying to find ways not to divide but to unite, to find ways to deliver the kind of services these people need and the people we care about.

KING: Marty Evans of the Red Cross, do you sense it? Being with him today?

EVANS: Well, I certainly did. And as we walked in the streets of Biloxi, and met people, talked to them, the compassion was -- was palpable.

And I would also say that he is supporting so strongly the voluntary sector, and the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, other organizations who were on the scene sheltering people before the storm, through the storm and now have an enormous operation. The president is helping us do our jobs better so that we can provide for the emergency needs and the long-term needs of so many people, half a million or more people.

KING: Thank you all very much, Mike Leavitt, Mary Evans and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. We may do more on the -- Jesse, I've got time problems. OK.

We may do more tomorrow night. We have got three hours to do tomorrow night, from 8:00 to 11:00 Eastern time.

The legendary Jerry Lewis is always with us on the Friday before Labor Day. That's the couple of days before his annual telethon, which raises so much for muscular dystrophy. They're giving a portion of what they raise to relief in New Orleans. Jerry will be with us, right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These survivors have made up makeshift camps on top of this -- atop a rooftop waiting for rescue.



KING: Talking about children with Jerry Lewis. He hosts the telethon. This is his daughter, Daniella a year ago at 12. This is her a year ago at 13. You're going to have a problem.

JERRY LEWIS, ACTOR: Tell me about it. I got a 12 gauge in my car.

KING: Jerry's, what's this done to you? This whole..

LEWIS: Well, it's done the same to me, I suspect, as it's done to everybody. You have -- you just automatically forget what you are concerned about with yourself and everything around you.

KING: How does it affect your telethon?

LEWIS: Well I think it's going to have a -- it's going to have a tremendous affect. It's going to cut in deeply. And my concern is how do I help these people? And my kids and everything that I've done for them in 54 years will understand if I put them back a step and move as strongly as I can for these people.

KING: You're going to give, what? A million or more?

LEWIS: We're giving $1 million. But I'm sure we can do more. It depends on law. I can't take people's money and give it elsewhere, if they giving it to me for my kids.

KING: So, how do you work this? What do you say?

LEWIS: What I do, tell the people to please go to the right places where the money will be turned over to the people.

KING: The way we'll do tomorrow night with where you can help on our show?

LEWIS: Exactly. And I will -- every hour, or every two hours, I'll put up the numbers to call. I'll make it clear to the people that if you're going to send me $20, send me $10, send the other $10 to these people that are in trouble.

You know, that's going to cost a lot of money, but it's honest. It's the way I feel. And I don't have a board of directors I have to get permission from. I'm going to do it from my heart.

KING: Was there any thought, any thought, of canceling?

LEWIS: Not that I -- no. Not to my knowledge. No. There was no thought to canceling, as there was no thought to canceling when I looked like Dom DeLuise, there was no thought to canceling. As long as I'm breathing in and out, Labor Day, I'll be there for my kids.

KING: How much weight have you lost?

LEWIS: 76 pounds. I was up to 268, and I'm down now to 190.

KING: You were the Pillsbury Doughboy. But they took you off that drug?

LEWIS: Prednisone. When you get off the prednisone -- it's a steroid. I only hit two home runs in the whole period.

KING: Are you still on the pain thing?

LEWIS: Yes. I have chronic pain. Yep. I got pain going, I got sickness getting fixed. If this is all gone and better, and I'll be wonderful. A tsi tsi fly will go up my place and give me trouble.

KING: Do you ever think, maybe. I know you used to do this in the past, when tragedies occur. I remember there was a fire once. Sinatra told me this story. And he read about it in the paper, called you up and you and him went to St. Louis or some place and did a concert.

LEWIS: No. We went to Rockford, Illinois and did a concert for the wife and four children for the firefighters.

KING: Do you think you might do something for the people of this?

LEWIS: If there were something to do I would do it in a heartbeat.

KING: Maybe like a show or something.

LEWIS: Whatever could bring the people together and get dollars for them. I don't think clothing and all of the things that they're missing in their lives is going to do as much as getting some dollars. And then having the right kind of people, whether it's FEMA or otherwise, directing the money to the right place so that they get it.

KING: The telethon starts...

LEWIS: Sunday night. 6:00.

KING: 6:00 Eastern?

LEWIS: 6:00 Pacific Coast Time.

KING: Oh, so 9:00 Eastern.

LEWIS: 9:00 Eastern.

KING: And it goes til...

LEWIS: Monday, 3:00.

KING: 3:00 Pacific. 6:00 Eastern. And I'll be on. I get to host for you for two hours on Monday morning from 8:00 Pacific, which is is 11:00 eastern.

LEWIS: We'll work it out so you stay a little longer.

(LAUGHTER) KING: No. It's fun to do.

LEWIS: But that's what friendship is about, Larry. Every time I needed somebody and I go to you, you were there, and vice versa. It's a wonderful thing in our business, because people that do things for other people is usually based on a profit margin.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: I have never done anything for you where it inflated your pocket or mine. It was because I have a deep regard for our friendship and I'll be there any time you want me.

KING: Let's go over this quickly. Tomorrow night, the telethon starts Sunday night at 6:00, Pacific, 9:00 Eastern.

LEWIS: Right.

KING: Runs until 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday. And portions will go, you'll put up numbers to help the people of New Orleans and Mississippi.

LEWIS: I can't give them any dollars from what I raise. But I will promote the people sending me less and giving some to them.

KING: Wonderful.

LEWIS: Thank you, Larry. I look forward to seeing...

KING: Usually, we do the whole hour, but...


KING: Whenever you're ready, when this is through, you come back.

LEWIS: All right.

KING: Jerry Lewis.

Tomorrow night's our special, "How You can Help." It's on for three hours. It starts at 8:00 Eastern time. It will be seen on Internet -- CNN International, heard on CNN Radio and it will be repeated in the late morning hours as well.

Jerry Lewis, we thank you.

And standing by is New York to host another two hours of "NEWSNIGHT" is Aaron Brown.

LEWIS: Him? He's still on?

KING: Yes. Say hello to him.

LEWIS: Hi, Aaron.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Mr. Lewis. How are you, sir?

LEWIS: What a wonderful friend.

KING: he's a good guy.

LEWIS: Yes. I know. I like him very much. I saw him once last year, it was just too long.

KING: Aaron...

BROWN: I saw him once last year, too. Thank you, Mr. King.

LEWIS: Got to lighten up a little bit.

KING: Carry on.