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CNN Larry King Live

Swine Flu: Alert Level Raised

Aired April 27, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, are we on the verge of a swine flu pandemic?

The alert level is on the rise. More than 100 deaths may be linked to the outbreak in Mexico; 40 confirmed cases in the United States. Schools in California and New York closed.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is obviously a cause for concern, but it's not a cause for alarm.


KING: Should America close its borders?

We're live with the latest.

Plus, remembering golden girl Bea Arthur. Co-stars and friends Betty White and Rue McClanahan share their personal stories.

And then, activist Mia Farrow -- she's on a hunger strike, starving herself to save lives in Darfur.

Will her desperate measure call attention to a world crisis?

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

The swine flu story seems to be changing by the hour. Breaking news right now is that New Jersey is reporting five probable cases of swine flu. The victims are not seriously ill. Four of the five had traveled to Mexico.

And that's where we begin our coverage tonight.

In Mexico City is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent.

Also in Mexico City is our correspondent Ted Rowlands.

At the airport in Los Angeles LAX, is Dan Simons, CNN correspondent.

Our correspondent, Thelma Gutierrez, is in San Diego. And Deborah Feyerick is outside the New York City Health Department in Gotham City, New York -- Dr. Gupta, you are right on the scene in Mexico City.

What can you tell us?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if Mexico City is sort of the epicenter of this swine flu outbreak, then the hospital behind me is sort of where a lot of those early patients were brought, where they were treated, where the mystery of all this sort of began.

They didn't know what this was for some time, Larry. And what they've figured out is that this is a new virus that the world has never seen before, made up of all sorts of different viruses that came together that's causing the problems.

It's been interesting here in Mexico City. When we arrived over the weekend, it was very quiet. The mayor here said people should stay indoors. There's no public gatherings. Today is a little bit busier. There's a lot of commotion outside the hospital today -- patients coming in, families being concerned; also, protesters from within the hospital.

Get this, Larry. Hospital workers that weren't getting these masks; hospital workers that weren't getting the medications, even though they were treating some of the patients who were infected.

It is sort of controlled chaos here on the streets of Mexico City. And I think it's going to be like this for a few days to come. It's not panic, but lots of concern -- Larry.

KING: Ted Rowlands, you're -- you're in Mexico City.

How many have died?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Mexican government fears up to 150 people -- 149 people may have died. There's unconfirmed cases. And those numbers keep going up. And the health minister today warned that he expects the numbers to continue to rise over the next few days.

The hope is that once they start to curtail and once they either start dropping -- especially the new cases that come in -- they can start opening up things.

We've got schools are closed. In the evenings here, bars, restaurants, everything closed that promotes public gatherings. That's their strategy -- don't bring people together. Hopefully, more people won't be affected.

KING: Dan Simons in Los Angeles Airport. I think there are 45 daily flights into LAX from Mexico.

What kind of precautions are they taking, if any? DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen pretty much everybody getting off a flight from Mexico wearing a mask. They were given these masks at the various airports in Mexico. A lot of people are really nervous about this.

We actually spoke to a mother. She was traveling with her 3- year-old. She was in Guadalajara, Mexico on vacation. She decided to come home early because of the situation there.

When people arrive into LAX and to other airports across the country, Customs -- they are giving them basically a sheet that tells them what to look out for -- basically, the symptoms in terms of swine flu.

In terms of what we're seeing in California, Larry, 11 confirmed cases -- nearly all of the cases happening in the counties that border Mexico, San Diego County and Imperial County. Here in Los Angeles, no cases. But authorities say it's really only a matter of time until they start seeing some here -- Larry, back to you.

KING: Speaking of San Diego, Thelma Gutierrez is there -- earlier today, Thelma, the -- Governor Schwarzenegger said there were at least four confirmed cases in San Diego County.

What can you tell us?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, Larry that now they have upped the number to 11 total cases in California, most of those here in San Diego County and in Imperial County.

Now, right here on this border, this is one of the busiest land border crossings in the entire world. There are 100,000 people who go between the two countries. Folks here are very concerned. They're not panicked, but they are concerned. And the agents who are out there working with the travelers are wearing masks. It's not mandatory yet, but they are wearing masks for protection.

And a curious thing, Larry, that we have seen out here out on the American side of the border is Mexican travelers who've come here to shop, they're wearing masks, as well. And I've asked them why, since the swine flu -- everyone's talking about the swine flu in Mexico City.

And they've told me, you know, Thelma, you have a border crossing, that is not going to stop the virus from coming through.

KING: Yes.

GUTIERREZ: And so they're doing it as a precaution. A very interesting sight, though.

KING: Thank you, Thelma.

Deborah Feyerick is outside the New York City Health Department. Now, there's a number -- a number of students from a prep school in Queens who fell ill after vacationing in Mexico -- but not very ill, right, Deborah?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, not very ill. A lot of the symptoms were mild. But now, Larry, we're learning that there may be as many as 45 cases of swine flu in that cluster at that school. There are 28 confirmed cases; 17 pending results from the CDC. So this is spreading.

The big concern, obviously, amongst investigators is whether any of these students may have infected or exposed their family, who, in turn, exposed co-workers or other relatives. So that's what they're watching now. That's why you've got researchers and investigators just trying to track all of this, because they don't know which way it's going to go.

Is it going to get larger and larger?

Or is it going to die out like the avian flu -- the fear of avian flu a couple of years back, which sort of fizzled and went nowhere?

The doctors don't know. But they're saying, look, criticize us for doing too much, not too little -- Larry.

KING: Thanks to our outstanding reporters.

Dr. Gupta will remain with us.

And we'll be joined by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Bob Arnot, two top medical experts. They're going to try to answer the question, how big a threat is swine flu and what is swine flu?

Don't go away.



MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: So the biggest piece of news today is that four to five days after seeing the first signs of the swine flu in Queens, we are still dealing with a single cluster of swine flu cases all associated with this one school.


KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta remains with us.

We're joined in New York by Dr. Mehmet Oz, health expert for the "Oprah Winfrey Show"; a "New York Times" best-selling author and professor, as well, at Columbia University.

And in Washington, Dr. Bob Arnot, also known as Dr. Danger, former network correspondent, author of "Your Survival."

Dr. Oz, it would seem nine minutes into this program, we ought to get a definition.

What is swine flu? DR. MEHMET OZ, HEALTH EXPERT, "OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": Well, swine flu occurs when a virus that lives normally on pigs somehow mutates and changes and becomes available to the humans that take care of those pigs. So we believe that some time in very early April, maybe the end of March, in a small town in Mexico, some of these viruses, which, again, very commonly live on pigs, jumped into humans.

And they mutated in a way that scares us, because now that we've been able to look at this virus carefully, it seems to have an ability to drill into human cells that's different than other viruses that we have examined in the past. And once, of course, these viruses get into human cells, they replicate themselves. They trick our bodies into allowing them to replicate. Then they explode and cause the clinical syndrome that we see.

KING: Dr. Arnot, can we expect that since the summer months are coming, it will die down a lot, because these failures usually thrive in winter, and that by next fall, if it comes back, it will be part of the vaccine package?

DR. BOB ARNOT, AUTHOR, "YOUR SURVIVAL": Larry, it's a very smart take. That is, this is the end of the flu season now and you would expect that it would actually die off here in the U.S. They're at the critical threshold now at the Centers for Disease Control whether or not to incorporate this into next year's vaccine.

Now, the key thing is Mexico.

The question is, why do you have so many sick kids there -- and this is something that attacks young as opposed to old -- and why so many deaths?

One interesting answer is that in Mexico, they're looking, actually, for the virus just in hospitals. There could be thousands or tens of thousands of others who have been affected.

So right now, nobody knows the extent of this. Surveillance over the next week or two will tell us whether this is just going to be a -- a short scare or whether this is something we should all be very worried about.

But I think you're dead right, it's next fall we should start to worry about it here in the U.S. if it continues.

KING: Dr. Gupta, I know you're a part of the news media, but this question is fair.

Is there a danger in possible over reporting this?

GUPTA: I think so. But I think the -- the critical thing here is responsible reporting of this.

Some context, first of all. We have around 150 deaths, as Ted Rowlands mentioned. And we don't know out of how many that is, as Dr. Bob was sort of referring to. That could be out of thousands and thousands of people who had mild illness. That's important because this could have a very -- a very low fatality rate.

Another piece of context, around 36,000 people die every year in the United States, on average, from seasonal failures. So 36,000 and we're talking about 150 or so in Mexico. So there's some context there.

Having said that, this is an unusual virus. We've never seen a virus like this -- this particular virus -- in the world. And it is spreading around the world in ways that raise some red flags for public health officials.

It also seems to be affecting people in their prime, as opposed to the elderly or the very young, which seem to be the targets of seasonal flu.

So there's some concern there. But I think -- I think responsible reporting is -- is the key here -- Larry.

KING: Dr. Oz, should the United States facilities be sending Tamiflu, a very effective drug against viruses and flu, to Mexico?

OZ: I think we can share it with Mexico. But, again, most of the time these viruses -- just to echo what's been said earlier -- are affecting many, many more people than we're actually identifying.

So the question then becomes, how do you get the flu treatment to the right people in time?

Ideally, you would be able to get the treatments to folks within 48 hours of diagnosis. We've got about 50 million vials available in this country. A quarter of those have now been released to be spread out as required.

But I think for most folks, that's not going to be the ideal way of treating this virus. It's going to be a self-limited case, as it has so far been in this country.

I do think for more severe cases -- the very young, the very old, who traditionally had been -- have fallen from these viral illnesses, it makes a lot of sense.

But I am not sure we're gong to reach the level of pandemic that the 1918 Spanish Influenza incurred on humanity, where it took about 50 million lives. That's the fear that many are worried about. In that case, we'd have to use these Tamiflu type medications for hospital workers and people who are going to be forced to take care of the ill and stay healthy enough to keep taking care of them.

KING: Dr. Arnot, is there a danger in eating pork?

ARNOT: No, there really isn't any danger in eating pork. Interesting, though, Larry, in terms of Tamiflu, that for this to work, you have to take it in the first 24 hours, the CDC was just telling me.

KING: Right. ARNOT: And if you -- if you don't take it just as your fever starts to spike, it's probably not going to work.

There is a recommendation today that if you're taking care of somebody with the flu, you might take this. And in terms of sharing it with Mexico, think of those poor hospital workers there that we just heard Sanjay talk about, who don't have Tamiflu or Relenza and are taking care of patients that could badly infect them.

KING: We'll be -- our panel will return.

What's it like to have swine flu?

Find out from a man whose family is quarantined.

See you in 60 seconds.


KING: We're on the phone now with Patrick Henshaw of Sibila, Texas and his wife, Robin.

The family is homebound because of the swine valley -- or the swine flu virus.

Has this been a forced quarantine, Patrick?

PATRICK HENSHAW, TESTED POSITIVE FOR SWINE FLU STRAIN: No, sir. After the scientists tested positive and then us, then they just asked us if we would just stay in the house and -- and not let anybody in and us not go outside. And just to be safe, so as not to -- not to get other people sick.

KING: Robin, how sick is your son?

ROBIN HENSHAW, DOES NOT HAVE SWINE FLU: He was very sick to begin with, just like the classic flu symptoms. But he hasn't had a fever since Saturday. So he's doing pretty good right now.

KING: How old is he?

R. HENSHAW: He's 18.

KING: Would you have an idea, Patrick, as to how he contracted it?

P. HENSHAW: No, sir. You know, we -- we haven't been to Mexico. We haven't been anywhere that we just don't do everyday around town.

KING: Now, other members have been diagnosed as positive for the swine flu.

Are you being treated at all, Robin?

R. HENSHAW: We're all taking Tamiflu. And they came out on Friday. And the preliminary testing is positive for my husband and my daughter. But mine was negative.

KING: Are you worried, Patrick?

P. HENSHAW: No, sir. I mean, naturally, you get concerned after seeing what's happening in Mexico and such. But the health department, they've been in constant contact with us. And they've been -- they've been very good to us. And, you know, it's just -- it's a flu. And I'd like to think that if somebody or their children had a fever or they were sick, that they wouldn't go to school or go to day care or to work anyway.

And so, you know, when it all boils down to it, it's -- I mean it's a flu.

KING: How's the Tamiflu working, Robin?

R. HENSHAW: It's working great. It must be working really good on me, because I haven't contracted it so.

KING: Yes. That's an amazing drug.

How long do you all expect to stay in, Patrick?

P. HENSHAW: I do not know. They -- I believe they said they were going to come by and see us tomorrow. And so, hopefully, not long.

KING: Well, good luck to both of you and the whole family.

P. HENSHAW: Thank you, sir.

R. HENSHAW: Thank you so much.

KING: Patrick Henshaw and his wife Robin in Cibolo, Texas.

Good people.

Should America close its borders to keep swine flu out?

That's next.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with our panel of experts, Doctors Gupta, Oz and Arnot.

Dr. Gupta, what about closing the border?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I don't know that we're there yet, certainly. I think that there are certain things that sort of trigger a decision like that. I think right now there is a lot of focus on trying to contain this within Mexico and certainly within the other countries, as well, that have been affected. It was interesting, the couple that you were talking to from Texas, it was probably a human to human transmission of someone who may have returned from Mexico. So that sort of thing is clearly happening.

But, you know, I think that there's -- the fatality rate may not be nearly as high as we think it is. And I think that the CDC and the other infectious disease organizations are going to continue to monitor that. But they're not giving any indication they're planning on closing the borders.

KING: Dr. Oz, does the government -- the United States government -- have sufficient resources for dealing with this outbreak?

OZ: They do, absolutely. And I do want to applaud the steps they've been taking so far. And, in particular, I think raising the awareness of the American public. And, yes it is a -- it's a bit alarming to use that word emergency. And that's the word that we have that's available to us right now. But it's the same level of warning we give populations when they're in the path of a hurricane.

So it's actually an empowering message. We're saying, hey, listen, folks should -- out there ought to be aware of the fact that there might be some risk and there might be some fatalities, even, because of this flu. Because it's hard to imagine that 150 people could die in Mexico and not die across the border.

That stated, there are things you can do today that we know will dramatically the chances you might have an illness.

What the Henshaw family is doing is very important. You know, they're quarantining themselves voluntarily. That reduced dramatically the number of people who could have been infected there. And simple steps like hand washing, which you can do just by walking around with a hand sanitizer; avoiding sneezing; and maybe avoiding some social events you might have gone to, and certainly not kissing everyone when you go there, are simple things that Americans take advantage of, which is why I think we're getting the right information at the right time in a very honest way.

KING: Very well said.

But Dr. Arnot, how do you avoid sneezing?


ARNOT: You can't avoid sneezing. But what you can do, of course, is you can cover your mouth and wash your hands immediately afterwards. And it's interesting. I was in an Ebola epidemic in Uganda not long ago. And a droplet -- someone coughed and a single droplet landed in the doctor's eye and he died several days later.

Now, obviously, this is not Ebola. It's nowhere near as dangerous a disease. But it does show you that it's basically spread by respiratory droplets. Either I cough or sneeze or I cough in my hand and I shake hands with you.

So the very simplest personal hygiene is very important.

So stay at home, of course, if you have it. If you are staying at home with somebody and taking care of them, you may want to take Tamiflu or Relenza as a way of preventing the transmission. Another interesting way they're going to use it is health care providers, doctors, ambulance workers, policemen may be on it. And then they also use these drugs strategically, that in a community, to stop it from spreading, it may used -- it may be used by -- by lots of people in that community to really ameliorate it.

Dr. Oz was talking about the -- the 1918 epidemic. Lots of tools here to prevent that from ever happening again in terms of those numbers of deaths.

KING: Dr. Gupta, would it be a very good idea to wear masks?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I have a mask and I'm wearing it most of the time, except when I'm doing shows like yours, Larry. It's helpful. It's not foolproof, by any means. It prevents large amounts of virus getting through my mouth and or nose and into my lungs.

I think what's even more effective, as both -- both Dr. Oz and Arnot have talked about, is the hand washing. And we talk about this all the time, but it's probably never been more important.

This virus can hang out on an ATM keyboard, on a computer keyboard. It can hang out on money. It can hang out on your hands when you shake hands.

So we're washing our hands all the time. These are the basic rules -- the things we've talked about in the past.

But, again, I think that this is a good reminder of just how effective these simple strategies can be.

KING: Dr. Oz, can we call it a pandemic or is that a little off base?

OZ: No, not yet. I think we've got lots of things we can to do to prevent this from happening, as Dr. Bob mentioned. And I also believe that this is too early in the course of this -- of this viral spread to tell that.

I do think what folks ought to be doing right now is paying attention a lot to what the numbers look like from Mexico over the next four to five days. Because if that number starts to decline or at least plateau, then we'll know this is going to burn out pretty quickly.

If it continues to increase, that does worry me.

Now, getting back to 1918, one last lesson. That pandemic started with a light case of the flu in the spring and then returned viciously the following winter. So there is a possibility that this initial variant of the swine flu may return, to come back and haunt us. And so we want to be cautious about that and try and develop vaccines, if needed, to be able to address that possible risk.

KING: Dr. Arnot, if I have the flu, how do I know what flu I have?

ARNOT: You probably don't. The interesting thing is, Larry, let's say you've got that first sort of cough. You get a scratchy throat, maybe a runny nose. Before you have any severe symptoms, when that fever first starts to spike, talk to your health care provider. And if you believe you have it, Relenza or Tamiflu is not a bad idea, because it's the only way of stopping it from becoming severe. And u don't know.

What was scary about the avian flu, you remember, from a couple of years ago, is that the -- the young people that had this flu -- you know, it started out very mild for three or four days. Day five it hit them really, really hard. Young people, because they produce so many antibodies, be a terrible thing called a cytokine storm, where they start to pour a lot of fluid into their lungs. It becomes very fatal very, very quickly.

And so the only real way you have of preventing this from becoming more serious is to take one of these drugs. You just don't know whether you're going to have a serious case or not, which is why I think it's such an important preventive strategy to consider.

KING: Our doctors will return.

I hope Dr. Oz isn't in trouble there with the sirens.

The head of the CDC will be with us to give us the latest swine flu numbers.

How big can this get?

Some perspective next.

Stick around.


KING: We're back.

Our doctors remain.

We're joined for some moments in Atlanta by Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

How bad is this, doctor?


You know, at this point, I think it's too early to say how bad this is going to be. We have, in this country, 40 confirmed cases. Only one of those cases required hospitalization. And we haven't had deaths.

But as you've been hearing from your reporters, the situation in Mexico is -- is quite different. It's too soon for us to say what the spectrum will be in this country. And I -- and I fear that as we continue to look for cases, we are going to see cases in this country that are more severe -- individuals who are hospitalized. And I would not be surprised if -- if we see deaths in this country.

KING: Among those in what age groups?

BESSER: Well, you know, the current age range that we're seeing for the cases in the United States is in younger individuals. The average age is about 16 to 18. But as we continue to look, we will look to see what ages it's -- it's affecting.

KING: Any danger of a pandemic?

BESSER: Well, we are in a pre-pandemic period. Today, the World Health Organization raised the alert level from Level 3 to Level 4, which talks about ongoing transmission in communities. And we are taking a very aggressive approach to this. We are quite concerned and we'll continue to apply very aggressive measures to try to control and limit the impact on peoples' health.

KING: All right, doctor. Aside from panicking, of course, what's the number one thing you want to say to Americans tonight?

BESSER: The Henshaws, I think, said it better than I could say it. And that is the important of responsibility at all levels. There are thing that government needs to do. There are things communities needs to do. But there are thing individuals need to do. And your panelists hit them very well, in terms of preventing infection by frequent hand washing or hand gels.

If you are sick, stay home. Whether you're talking about having Swine Flu or another infection, the more you can do to stay home and not send your children to school when they're sick, the less likely you're going to spread infection throughout your community.

KING: Thank you so much. We'll call on you again, Dr. Richard Besser, acting director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Gupta, did that make a lot of sense to you?

GUPTA: It did. I covered SARS. I covered the Avian Flu. Now covering this. It's a similar pattern, in some ways. There are some similarities, and there have been some lessons learned from the past.

If you listen to him closely, he is being cautious with his words. He is being calming, but he's also recognizing that there are some red flags about this virus that they really have to just keep an eye on.

The good news is that this is a lot different than 1918 and even some of the more recent pandemics. We can take care of patients better. The Tami-Flu can really help. There's some of the doctors here in Mexico who have treated some of these patients, say Tami-Flu has probably saved some peoples' lives. So I think that there are some real strategies if people just act responsibly and early.

KING: Dr. Oz, you are going to be on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" tomorrow. What will you talk about with her?

OZ: We're going to talk about the super bugs. And that includes, of course, viruses, but also things like MRSA and flesh- eating bacteria. Interestingly, they all come back to some basic things we are focused on today, which is the ability of bacteria and viruses and other germs to mutate faster than we keep up with them.

Remember, all of us right now have the bodies covered by bacteria and we have small viruses on our bodies. They live with us. They co- habit with us. We actually can survive because we have them. Part of the challenge is we evolve is to be able to deal with these new viruses and other bacterial species, these germs that can sometimes rear up and begin to hurt us. And what we're dealing with right now.

Just to echo one thing Dr. Besser said -- we were, by the way, classmates in medical school. And I spoke with him last night, and he didn't bring it up now, but I think it's important to mention, because it's very sage advice. I think a lot of Americans should be saying to themselves, what am I going to do if the government says you can't go to work tomorrow, or says my school has to be closed, so my kids can't go to school.

Those are planning efforts that take some time. And if you can make those kinds of provisions now, that's a kind of responsibility that can help get us through this.

KING: Dr. Arnot, can children take Tami-Flu?

ARNOT: Yes, they can. After the age of one, children can take Tami-Flu. They even have a liquid version of it. So you want to make certain it's just the right amount for your child's weight.

Interesting point, too, you make, Larry, and that is, you know, if you really did have a pandemic, or a lot of cases, people would need to work from home. They'd need to have enough water. In our book "Your Survival," you see we talk about the medications, the antibiotics you want to have there. You want to have the right kind of even power generators, should this go on for long periods of time, because this is something, as Dr. Besser said so well, we all want to be prepared for, at a state, national, local, and at home.

If you do have someone at home right now who has this, you do want to have precautions in terms of yourself, other family members there, and to look at taking Tami-Flu or Relenza to try and prevent you, the care giver, from getting this disease.

KING: Are the drugs similar?

ARNOT: They are. They're pretty similar. They actually prevent a thing called neuro-nimadase (ph). What that does it prevents the virus from breaking out of one cell and going into other cells. Interesting, Tami-Flu, this year in the United States, went from about a two percent resistance to about a 98 percent resistance. Less resistance to Relenza. Both very, very good drugs. A few lesser side effects to Relenza. So just because you hear the name Tami-Flu, remember, there is another one and you should consider that, as well.

KING: Equal time for both drugs.

ARNOT: Exactly right.

KING: Thank you all very much, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr., Bob Arnot. An outstanding panel.

Next, remembering Bea Arthur. Fellow "Golden Girls" Betty White and Rue McClanahan will join us to honor their friend next on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Bea Arthur, a one of a kind TV actress, died on Saturday of cancer. The Emmy-winning performer, star of "Maude" and "the Golden Girls" was 86. We are remembering her with two of her friends and co-stars, Betty White, friend of Bea Arthur, co-starred with her in the "Golden Girls," and of course the famed animal rights activist, and also on the phone, Rue McClanahan, who co-starred with her in "Golden Girls" and "Maude." Both ladies are animal rights activists as well.

Let's take a quick look, ladies, at Bea Arthur in action on the "Golden Girls."


BETTY WHITE, "GOLDEN GIRLS": Come on, blanch. You've landed on your back more than -- more than --

BEA ARTHUR, "THE GOLDEN GIRLS": The American Gladiators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh! You just watch your mouth, Rose. I may be a social person, but I am certainly discerning.

WHITE: Discerning? Blanch, you have been under more than drunken sailors than -- than --

ARTHUR: Rose, don't drag me into this.

A nautical toilet.


KING: Can we say, Betty, that the woman had timing?

WHITE: Would you say, Larry? I think her timing was probably as impeccable as anything in the world. May I just correct one thing before we get started? I am not an animal activist. I am into animal health and welfare. I just want to clarify that.

But she -- her timing was such a lesson to everybody else. But it was such fun to play opposite. Wasn't it, Rue? I mean, she'd set up something and you answer it, and then she'd zing you.

RUE MCCLANAHAN, "THE GOLDEN GIRLS": Well, I mean, that was always true. That was the first thing I learned about her when I started "Maude." What fun it was because her timing -- we fit right in. I knew exactly how to play a scene with her.

KING: What was she like, Betty, as a person?

WHITE: As a person, she was not the strong lady that you see on camera. She was very private, terribly private. But also very, I think, basically insecure.

KING: Really?

WHITE: When she got her lifetime achievement award, which I was so thrilled that she got while she was still here to know and enjoy it, she didn't think she deserved it. Oh, no, I don't -- almost didn't go to the ceremony for that.

KING: Rue, would you agree with that?

MCCLANAHAN: Oh, oh, not at all. If anybody made -- look at what's happened all day today and ever since we lost her, day before yesterday. The impact that she left on people --

KING: Yes, but what about herself? Was she basically really shy?


KING: That's what Betty said, yes.

MCCLANAHAN: Not only -- I would say in some cases even timid.

KING: Would you say, Rue, she was timid?

MCCLANAHAN: Yes. That was me talking, Rue. Yes, I would say timid.

KING: We have another clip, girls, from the "Golden Girls." Check it out.


MCCLANAHAN: How childish to resort to name calling. You Jezzabel.

ARTHUR: Floozy.


ARTHUR: I am a tramp? Blanch, have you heard the latest ad campaigns. Join the Navy, see the world, sleep with Blanch Devereaux?

Join the Army, be all can be and sleep with Blanch Devereaux. The Marines are looking for a few good men who have not slept with Blanch Devereaux.


KING: That was funny. How do you explain that sex and middle aged women caught on with America, Betty?

WHITE: I think it was -- I think it was -- came even as a surprise to the network that -- I think they were thinking they were addressing an older audience. But, first of all, our writing was so immaculate. We were so lucky to get that kind of writing. But we could get away with things at that point in time because we were older women and we had been around the track several times.

Had younger women done it, it would have been a little salacious, but then came along came the shows after that where let it all hang out. But I think it was because it came as a surprise to them that women that age can still be interested in sex.

KING: Rue, would you agree?

MCCLANAHAN: Absolutely. Our show was -- it remained -- you know, kids could watch it and laugh at it. And they wouldn't know -- they wouldn't get the jokes. But they would laugh at it. So they tell me now they have grown up and they're watching it. Now they get the jokes. But we didn't say anything blatant.

WHITE: No. You just did blatant. We didn't say anything blatant. You just did blatant.

KING: You were just plain funny.

MCCLANAHAN: I love you.

KING: More with Betty and Rue and the brilliance of Bea Arthur, who made it look so easy. Back after this.



KING: We're back with Betty White and Rue McClanahan. I want to show you one more clip from the "Golden Girls." Watch.


WHITE: Daddy would sit at grandma's old player piano and he'd play Christmas carols and the children would sing along. And then mother'd bring in some homemade egg nog and Snicker Doodles. And then we'd decorate the tree. And after daddy had hung the star at the very top of the tree, we'd all join hands and pray. And then daddy'd tell us a story and tuck us into our feather --

ARTHUR: Who was your father, Rose? Michael Landon?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Oh was she funny. Betty White and Rue McClanahan. Like both of you, Bea Arthur was a great defender of animals. She was an honorary director of PETA for more than two decades. Betty, did you get her into that?

WHITE: No, no. We all were animal lovers individually and then each in our own way. No, we just know who some of our best friends are.

KING: Rue, PETA can be pretty rough, can't they?

MCCLANAHAN: No. I think they do it exactly the way it should be done. They do it through the courts. They do it legally and they make a lot of changes in the way animals are suffering. I really admire them. I've been with them for years and I just -- they -- I can't say enough wonderful things about how they operate.

WHITE: As I have been with the Morris Animal Foundation. We fund specific humane studies into specific health problems of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. We help develop the feline leukemia vaccine, the parvo-virus (ph) vaccine. We're all animal nuts.

KING: And logically and correctly so. Rue, do you have a favorite Bea Arthur memory?

MCCLANAHAN: Yes. I think it's the time that my mother died. It was Thanksgiving Day when I got back from the funeral. I walked into an empty house. And I felt extremely despondent. I called Bea. That was back during Maude. And she said, you get over here right away. She put me to bed in her guest room, gave me some Thanksgiving dinner, tucked me in, and made me feel safe for the first time in six days, since I had gotten the news about mother.

And that story has stayed with me. I will always remember that experience.

KING: Betty, you have one?

WHITE: Well, I think that much of the success of "Golden Girls" -- you know, we're all over the world. And I'd get mail from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and Finland and all that. It's all in various languages. And they all loved -- and I think it was -- so much of it was due to Bea, tall, big, strong, deep voiced Bea, being bossed around by little Estelle Getty, her mother. And I think that just tickled particularly the young people.

We have young people all over the world who weren't born when we went on the air.

KING: I thank you both. I wish you both long life. Betty White, Rue McClanahan.

MCCLANAHAN: And may I say my best to your wife.

KING: Thank you. She will appreciate that.

MCCLANAHAN: Lovely lady.

WHITE: And thank you, Larry, with all my heart.

KING: Betty White, Rue McClanahan, "Golden Girls" and "Maude," as well. It's day one of Mia Farrow's hunger strike. She's here to tell us why she's starving herself for the people of Darfur. It's next. Stay with us.


KING: From Bridgewater, Connecticut, we welcome the wonderful, talented Mia Farrow, the actress and activist. She is, as well, a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador. And she began a hunger strike today. Why, Mia?

MIA FARROW, UN GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: Because, Larry, more than a million people are going to die unless the status quo changes. You probably know that for the last six years, there has been what has been called genocide on-going in the Darfur region of Sudan. And hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions have been driven to camps across Darfur and Eastern Chad.

And last March, things just got a whole lot worse when the president of Sudan, a wanted man for war crimes and crimes against humanity, expelled 16 key aid agencies from the Darfur region, leaving about 400,000 people -- I mean -- yes, 400 -- no, four million, approximately, will be without a life line.

And the United Nations has implored the Sudanese president, al Bashir, to readmit the expelled agencies. But so far that hasn't happened. And we could be seeing a genocide that will dwarf the Rwandan genocide.

KING: What do you want, Mia? What do you hope by starving yourself? Do you hope to draw attention, obviously, but what do you want the government -- what do you want the United States to do?

FARROW: Well, you know, I come from a generation that ended a war that we deemed to be unjust by pressure on the government, taking to the streets, as you well know. You know, that was born on campuses. And if we look at Apartheid, that effected change. I don't think the government is going to take robust action without the voice of the people. So I thought, I believe that if the people know what's happening in Darfur, if people inform themselves, and if this is helping at all, then people, let your voices be heard, because Darfur's people are crying out for help. And they can't be heard right now.

So it's great that you're interviewing me, and I suppose you wouldn't have had I not gone on a hunger strike.

KING: Right.

FARROW: So there we have it.

KING: How do you prepare for this, by the way, for a hunger strike?

FARROW: I asked my doctor, who said he'd never been asked that before. And then I went on the Internet and tried to inform myself about is there a preparation and how long could I go conceivably? And no one knows. I mean, I've set a goal of three weeks. But my doctor said, given my weight, it's unrealistic to suppose I could go that long. Maybe it will be two weeks. Maybe it will be 16 days, one day for every single one of the aid workers that have been expelled.

I think people can be heard in all sorts of ways. One way -- I mean we set up a 1-800-Genocide number. If people want to call that, it will connect them immediately with their legislators and/or with the White House.

KING: That's 1-800-Genocide.

FARROW: That's right.

KING: I know you've been to Darfur a lot. I think a dozen times.

FARROW: That's right.

KING: How would you describe it?

FARROW: Darfur and Eastern Chad. I don't think I have the words to really describe the desperation of the situation. People driven from their homes, traumatized because their villages were attacked. Women, countless, countless rapes. I wear around my neck a safety charm given to me in 2004 by a woman named Helema, who was wearing it when her village was attacked, when her baby son was torn from her arms, and bayonetted before her eyes. Three of her five children were similarly killed on that day, she told me. And she clasped my hands and said, tell people what is happening here. Tell them we will all be slaughtered. Tell them we need help.

Now, no adequate protection has come for Helema, but I don't think there could be a more visceral plea from the human heart. So I would ask people, you know, you can go to my website, I'll be blogging every day that I can. This 1-800-Genocide number. If anyone wants to join me in a fast, you're welcome to it, even for one day, to show solidarity with Darfur's people, and express our own outrage at a world that has allowed this to happen.

KING: And as George Clooney has told us so many times, what a wonderful people they are.

FARROW: The most wonderful people. And somehow in the camps, where they've now, as I said, been sidelined for now six years, they've managed to retain some --

KING: Dignity.

FARROW: ration of dignity, totally. And a ration of hope. And they're good parents. And their humor, too. They retained their humor. I have friends there, you know. KING: Thank you, Mia.

FARROW: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Mia Farrow, she's written an exclusive commentary about the situation in Darfur for our website. And you can read it only at And you can go to 1-800-Genocide for more or to her own website. Right now, our own Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?