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CNN Larry King Live

Oprah to End Show; Sarah Palin Book Tour Frenzy

Aired November 19, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, breaking news -- Oprah's show is coming to an end.

Plus, Palin mania -- they're getting up before dawn, lining up in the cold for hours and hoping for a coveted wristband for this.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Alaska and Michigan have so much in common, with the hunting and the fishing and the hockey moms.


KING: We'll take you to Sarah Palin's latest book signing.

Then, a 5-year-old sold into prostitution, allegedly by her own mother. Little Shaniya Davis turned up dead. But her murder and abuse wasn't a world away, the horror took place in the United States.

How could that happen here?


We begin tonight with breaking Oprah news. A few hours ago, we heard from Ms. Winfrey's camp: "Yes, Oprah will be ending her talk show. She'll be speaking about it on tomorrow's live show."

To discuss this, in Washington Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," "The Washington Post" media critic.

Here in Los Angeles, Lauren Sanchez, correspondent for "Extra."

Lynette Rice, senior writer for "Entertainment Weekly."

And on the phone, our good buddy, Ryan Seacrest, the host of "American Idol" and host of "On Air with Ryan Seacrest."

We'll start with Ryan.

What do you make of this, Ryan?

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL"/"ON AIR WITH RYAN SEACREST": Well, I think this is something that she's obviously been thinking about and hinting about for a while. And I think when you do a show every day like this, it's something that you probably go back and forth on for a while. And then you make up your mind that you're going to stop, but stop at the right time.

And I think a lot of things added up to be the perfect storm for her to stop, like the fact that she's launching her own network, the fact that her deal is coming up, the deal with a lot of her stations is coming up and she's got Dr. Oz often running. She's going to launch "The Nate Berkus Show".

For me, I look at it and think, the timing is probably right in her mind to do this once she made up her mind she was going to do it.

KING: Lauren Sanchez, this is 2011, right?

LAUREN SANCHEZ, CORRESPONDENT, "EXTRA": Right, 2011. And you know what, 25 years on the air and 25 years for Oprah is probably the perfect end. But in Oprah's thought, also, the perfect beginning, just like Ryan said. She's starting her own network. She's producing. She's writing. I mean she makes TV. She's the most relevant voice, well, besides you, Larry, that we have on television right now.

I mean everyone she puts on television becomes a star. She tells you to read a book and everyone reads it. It becomes a best-seller. She has a huge impact.

KING: Howard Kurtz, isn't that a tough thing, ego-wise, to give up?

HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST," HOST, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": I'm sure, except that Oprah is such an iconic force in this country that she can go anywhere, start her own network, go on satellite radio and she will bring the audience with her. I don't know, 25 years on the air sounds like a long time. It was just warming up for you, Larry.

But, yes, here are the biggest losers. ABC affiliates, which really depend on "Oprah's" ratings for her syndicated show to set up their local newscasts every afternoon during the week. The publishing entry, which loves putting authors on that program -- you know, talk about being an instant best-seller. And, also, politicians who needed a place to go sometimes to apologize for doing something stupid.

Remember what a big deal it was last year when Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama and then actually went on the road with him?

This is not a mere television personality. She's a brand. She's a destination.

KING: Yes, well said.

Lynette, do we know when she's leaving, specifically, in 2011?

LYNETTE RICE, SENIOR WRITER, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Her contract ends in September, 2011.

So if you can just imagine that last season, what it's going to be like. Can you imagine, every month there will be an Oprah's giveaway episode. I mean the tickets for that year are going to be great. I mean that's the ticket to have.

KING: Will she do a show on her new cable network?

RICE: From what I hear right now, they say her talk show is not moving to the cable network, but she will appear prominently there. She'll be able to explore all her passions, whether that's cooking. I don't know -- you know, what she has. She'll be able to develop the shows that reflect her personality.

KING: Ryan, historically, you weren't born. I guess you'd have to go back to, what, Arthur Godfrey, for being this much of a force in broadcasting, wouldn't you?

SEACREST: Well, Oprah has what very few have had and that is the power to anoint. I mean you make the point about the books, you make the about the stars that she's discovered and she's been able to build businesses out of those people. She does have the power to anoint.

And she also could take complicated issues and put a guest on her show and put those issues into our terms -- more common terms, help us understand some of the things that may be complicated to understand.

KING: Lynette, are they talking about -- is King World yet talking -- this is so new.

Is King World or anybody talking about a replacement?

SANCHEZ: Well, I mean I don't think you can replace Oprah.

KING: But it's a -- King World is a big company.

SANCHEZ: Right. Exactly.


SANCHEZ: Exactly. I mean I think they could put someone in her place. I know that they are talking -- I'm hearing rumors about Dr. Oz. He's one of her extra life changers. He also has his own show now. And...

KING: Which is successful, right?

SANCHEZ: He's extremely successful. And he's got that personality. He's smart. He can talk to anyone in a room, whether it's talking about, you know, medical or something personal. He just has that personality. I think he could actually do it.


KING: Do you buy that, Howard -- excuse me, Lynette.

Do you buy that, Howard, Dr. Oz as Oprah's replacement?

KURTZ: I could see that. I could see a number of people who could get a following, but not an Oprah-like following. I mean she is literally irreplaceable. You know, I was thinking about the arc of her career and why the queen would walk away from the throne at the same time. I mean she started out on Baltimore TV. When she went into the syndicated talk business, Larry, I mean she was not the Oprah of today. The show was seen as slightly tawdry. She did a lot of sort of tabloid subjects. She was kind of lumped in with Geraldo and some of the other early talk show host -- host pioneers.

But then she decided to take a higher road. She became the Oprah Winfrey that we know today. And -- and became, I think, particularly for women, a positive force, somebody who was honest about her own shortcomings, whether it was battling her weight or mistakes that she personally had made.

And -- and I think it's hard to walk away from that.

But at the same time, after a quarter of a century, what has she got left to prove?

And I think the answer is, not much.

KING: Do you know what she's going to say tomorrow, Lauren?

RICE: Lynette.

KING: I'm sorry. Lynette.

RICE: Well, supposedly she talked to her staff today and she explained, you know, what she's going to do. She'll explain more tomorrow. Obviously, she'll probably talk about the launch of her network. She wants to be there. You know, she -- she was -- she attempted to be part of a network at one time. You'll remember she was an early partner in Oxygen, but then that fell -- fell apart. So now, she'll want to commit to that.

You know, one other point I want to add. You know, there's probably one person who would argue whether Oprah is irreplaceable and that's Ellen DeGeneres. You know, she's in a great position now. We're going to see her, you know, moonlight on "Idol." We're going to see her star rise even more. You know, in some -- in a lot of markets, Oprah competes with Ellen DeGeneres. You know, she could assume the mantle. She could do some of the things that Oprah does.

Who's to say?

KING: But King World is going to want to compete with her, aren't they?

RICE: Absolutely. And the great thing is...

KING: They're not going to let it ride.

RICE: Yes. There's time. There -- there's definitely -- they have -- they have time to find the next person.

Who knows who it will be? But there's definitely time.

KING: When we come back, we'll ask Ryan Seacrest and the panel, if it's a daytime show does it have to be a woman?

We'll be right back.


KING: We're back.

Ellen DeGeneres talked to her audience today about Oprah's announcement.

Here's some of what she said: "Right before I came out here, I got a call from Oprah. It will be her 25th year and she feels like it's time for her to stop. I don't think I could be here without her. I think she's blazed a trail. She's an amazing woman. She'll always be the queen of daytime television. She also said she's leaving me all of her money. I was like, thanks, Oprah. Thank you."

So, anyway, that is what you will hear. But she is still going to do a lot of good work. She's an amazing woman.

Ryan, does -- does it have to be a woman in that slot?

It's daytime.

SEACREST: I don't think it has to be a woman, but I do think it has to be someone like Ellen, someone like Oprah, who can connect with the audience, feel comfortable with the audience, be accessible and likable to the audience and also be comfortable for all of the guests that come through. I mean that comfort zone, that sort of X Factor of being comfortable on both ends and really being accessible and being like the audience -- even though Oprah was very different because of the wealth that she had, you still felt like or feel like she is one of the people living their lives watching the show.

And I think Ellen does a great job with the same thing.

KING: Yes.

Would you talk to them if they asked to talk to you?

SEACREST: Would I talk to them if they asked to talk to me?

About doing a daytime show?

KING: Yes.

SEACREST: I would certainly talk to them. But my -- you know, my schedule, fortunately, is filled for about 20 hours a day right now.

KURTZ: I would talk to them, too, Larry.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) hour show.

KURTZ: I would talk to them, too. I'm available.

KING: Yes, I'm going to -- I'll get to you, Howard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes. We're -- we're totally open. We're free.

KING: Would you talk to them, Lauren?


SANCHEZ: I said, you know what, this is a woman who's worth $275 million. She has two more years on the air. She can actually groom someone on her show right now if she wanted to.

KING: Yes, she could.

SANCHEZ: I mean you never know. She has -- you know, she has such an impact and everyone. "Extra" was with Matt Damon when we told him the news. And he was like, I can't remember life without her.

So, I mean, this is a woman who's leaving television. She can groom someone else. But I don't think she's leaving us.

KING: She's been on this show quite a few times. In fact, I guested on her show in Baltimore.

SANCHEZ: You did?

KING: Oh, yes, back in...

SANCHEZ: And -- why don't...

KING: Back when she was starting.


So would you do daytime, Larry?

KING: I don't think so. I'm -- I'm too old. I'm -- hey, I've got a birthday today.

SANCHEZ: Happy birthday.

It's Larry's birthday, by the way, everyone.

SEACREST: Larry, you -- you couldn't do any show that wasn't live every single day. You'd go nuts.

KING: Yes, that's right. It would have to be live.

Howard, you've got feelers out everywhere.

Are you hearing names? KURTZ: I think it's a little too soon to be hearing names. You've mentioned a couple of them. I'm not necessarily buying the notion that it has to be a woman. I would remind you all that the guy who made all this possible, who could talk about serious and personal issues in front of a studio audience, starting in Cleveland, was Phil Donahue. Yes, it was a long time ago, but he was very successful at it.

KING: Yes.

KURTZ: I was just thinking, Larry, why does this feel like such a tectonic shift in the media landscape?

I think it's because we have this fragmented universe with cable and podcasts and Facebook and Twitter. And there are very few personalities -- in the previous generation, maybe Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite; more recently, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw; who -- who had such a -- the -- not just a huge following, but the trust of the audience, that their stepping down -- or, in the case of Jennings, passing away -- felt like such an event as this will be, when it comes to pass in 2011.

KING: How big a story will it be in tomorrow morning's "Washington Post?"

KURTZ: Huge. Big. Large. Although we've probably got a late start on it.

KING: Front page or style section?

KURTZ: If I was running the paper right now, I'd put it on the front page. It's a story -- I mean there are very few people in the world that -- who can be known by one name and Oprah is one of them.

KING: What about "Entertainment Weekly?"

How does it play it, Lynette?

RICE: Well, right now, we're writing about it online. So the next question is, you know, obviously, what he talked about, how will the -- the landscape change?

I personally hope that if King World does develop a replacement, it's something entirely different. You know, we know now that there are companies that are trying to copy "The View."

Who wants to see a copy of "The View?"

Who wants to see a carbon copy of "Oprah?"

I mean I hope it's something entirely different, just like "Oprah" was entirely different from what Donahue, you know, brought to television. I -- I'm hoping for something new.

SANCHEZ: This is our show. This will be "Extra" tomorrow. I mean this is a woman who woke people up. That's what she did. And there's very few people who can do that.

And she also got the guests. And, as you know, it's hard to get people to open up and come on a show and -- and talk to you.

And she got Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise. You know, and it's -- there's very few people who can get those type of people and have them tell them about their personal lives.

KING: Ryan, your radio show has a very young demographic.

Do you devote a lot of time to this tomorrow?

SEACREST: We sure do. This is -- I mean, you know, for me, it was something that I grew up with. I would come home from school and make a pan of nachos and watch "Oprah" every afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Ryan, don't admit that.

SEACREST: That was -- hey, I'm OK admitting that, because I think she transcends genders. I think that, you know, she is just a relatable personality that made you feel comfortable and safe when you watched her. So this is a big topic for us first thing in the morning, before the sun rises.

KING: We'll see what she has to say tomorrow.

Howard Kurtz, Lauren Sanchez, Lynnette Rice and Ryan Seacrest, thank you very much.


KURTZ: Thank you.

KING: Now we're into Sarah Palin -- maybe -- maybe Sarah -- Sarah Palin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good one.

KING: Replace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good one.

KING: We're in the middle of it in 60 seconds.


KING: Sarah Palin's nationwide book tour continues. Tonight, she was signing copies of an instant best-seller, "Going Rogue," at Border's in Noblesville, Indiana.

Here's some of what she said when she arrived.


PALIN: We had a great time a year ago in Indiana. But...


PALIN: I think I'm having even more fun now, though. So, you guys, thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart, for being out here and for just being great residents of this wonderful state and, even more importantly, great Americans who care about our country and care about those people who want to fight for what is right.


KING: It may be the first book tour ever to go to Noblesville, Indiana.

Let's meet one of the people waiting in line for hours for Sarah Palin.

Chris Bussick joins us from that noble city.

Chris, what drew you to this book tour tonight?

CHRIS BUSSICK, WAITED FOR HOURS TO SEE PALIN: Well, I was really excited to meet Sarah. As a mother, I feel like I share a lot of her same values and concerns of -- for our country today. And I also recently, within the last five years, started a home for women in crisis pregnancies from 18 and older. And I felt like she would share that concern, because her own daughter experienced that. And so I just was excited to visit with her.

KING: Were you surprised at the size of the crowd?

BUSSICK: Yes. Yes. I got here about 7:00 this morning. And I didn't know if I was going to get in, because they were only allowing 1,000 people. So I was about 640.

KING: Did you say anything to her when she signed your book?

BUSSICK: I just briefly told her a little bit about the O'Connor House. I mostly just shook her hand and told her it was a pleasure to meet her.

KING: Are you looking forward to reading the book?

BUSSICK: I am. I am. I think she has an interesting story and certainly she's an inspiration to a lot of people, especially mothers and women.

KING: Would you be inclined to vote for her again on a national ticket?

BUSSICK: Well, I didn't vote for her the first time because she didn't run, but I would...

KING: Oh, yes.

BUSSICK: I would have to consider. I -- I'd have to consider...

KING: I meant when she was vice president. BUSSICK: ...who -- oh, when she was a candidate. OK. Yes, I definitely considered running -- or voting for McCain and her.

KING: Thanks so much, Casey -- Chrissie, rather.

Chrissie Bussick online tonight in Indiana for Sarah Palin.

And we're going to talk about that Palin mania after this.


KING: The subject is Palin mania. Joining us in New York, Michelle Goldberg. She's a contributor to TheDailyBeast and a senior correspondent for "The American Prospect."

Also in New York, Naomi Wolfe, feminist, author of "End of America: Letter of Warning to A Young Patriot.

Also in New York, Andrea Tantaros, the well-known conservative columnist.

And in Washington, Amanda Carpenter, columnist of "The Washington Times".

Michelle, what is this -- is this book tour a prelim for a presidential run?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "THE AMERICAN PROSPECT": I think it certainly is. And I think that she indicates as much in her book. The very -- at the very end, she talks about the one person who really understood her rationale for stepping down as governor of Alaska was Mary -- was Mary Matalin.

And so I went back and looked at what Mary Matalin had said at the time that Sarah Palin stepped down. And she talked about what a brilliant preparation this was for a presidential run and that now she was freed up to travel the country and stump for other candidates and earn goodwill.

There's hints throughout the book, I think, that she sees herself as being somewhat anointed and, you know, believes that -- that there's a kind of grand destiny for her.

KING: Naomi, what is the attraction, in your opinion?

NAOMI WOLF, FEMINIST: Well, I've had a chance to now read the book thoroughly. And there are two big things going on that are worth paying attention to. They don't mean she should be president of the United States, but they're important.

One is, she's really articulating a conservative feminism more clearly than any conservative woman has ever done. We're so used to seeing feminism hijacked by the left and, you know, the assumption if you're a feminist, you're pro-choice, you're secular, you believe in big government. She -- her book a conservative feminism that's pro-life, that's small government, individualistic and very religious. And that's not a con -- I mean that's not a contradiction. There are many kinds of feminism.

But she's touching a nerve with all these women like Chrissy, who have never heard someone be powerfully in favor of women's rights from a conservative perspective.

KING: Yes.

WOLF: The other thing is she's working class and she's not Ivy League educated. And so there are all these people who are doing, you know, hard, difficult jobs, punching time clocks, wiping up, you know, coffee in diners that have never seen one of their own in the inner sanctum. And so when she goes up against the East Coast establishment, she's actually someone -- you know, her husband is a fisherman and he's descended from Inuit -- you know, Inuits, which I didn't know. And, you know, she really did grow up in a sort of small town Western setting, which explains a lot of her confidence (INAUDIBLE).

KING: So...

WOLF: I'm from the West and, you know, you really don't believe that the East Coast establishment is sacred.

KING: Andrea...

WOLF: So these are worth paying attention to.

KING: Andrea, is she going to be, in your opinion, a major force?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Absolutely. I mean I think she's a major force right now. As far as the Republican Party, there is no question. I mean this woman is an earned media machine. She can get the press out like nobody else.

The only other person I can think of is probably Barack Obama, who can garner such a large media gaggle.

But she can draw earned media to raise, as you saw what she did for New York 23. And whether you agree with Sarah Palin's beliefs or not, you have to say that her endorsement of Doug Hoffman, the conservative, didn't hurt him.

Now, what Sarah Palin can do, is she can go out and raise money for Republican candidates...

KING: He lost.

TANTAROS: Yes, but still, she didn't hurt him. And he barely lost, Larry. They're -- they're in the middle of a recount.

I think that Sarah Palin can go around the country and raise money...

KING: Yes, I know. But they're...

TANTAROS: ...for Republican candidates and really be a driving force for women's issues, for Republican issues. And now, she can be the voice of opposition to what so many Americans are objecting to what's happening in Washington, because she does embody that outsider image.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is terrible.

KING: Amanda, after the book tour, how does she stay in focus?

What does she do?


WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, one, she can do...

KING: She endorses candidates next year.

What does she do?

CARPENTER: Oh, I think she'll be very much in the game of picking strong, conservative candidates and getting behind them, even maybe if they have a prospect of losing. You know, and I'm glad New York 23 got brought up again because, yes, Doug Hoffman, as we know, did not win. But she successfully helped pull out -- push out of the party a Republican who wasn't loyal to the party and that was Dede Scozzafava. And a lot of people see that as a win.

But she does have her Sarah PAC up and running. She will be raising money through that, probably at some point in time. And she can use that to give out to the other candidates and stand behind other strong conservatives that the media might give a hard time to, like Michele Bachmann, because I noticed that she's talked her up in some of her Facebook postings and other things like that. And women who are conservatives like to see Sarah Palin not abandon another woman, like other Republicans have.

KING: We'll be back with more with Michelle Goldberg, Naomi Wolf, Andrea Tantaros and Amanda Carpenter.

The late night comics sure have enjoyed Sarah Palin. We'll take a look at that, when we come back.


KING: The comics and Sarah.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: In Sarah Palin's new book, she says when she first laid on eyes on her future husband she said out loud, "Thank you, God." Yes. Which is the same thing the Democrats said when they first laid eyes on Sarah Palin. So it all works out.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: But Sarah Palin admitted that she once got a D in a college course. And I looked it up. I think the course was called "Being Vice President." She got a D.



JON STEWART, HOST: Palin. No!!! You've done got me again, Palin.


KING: Michelle, you write in an article in "The Daily Beast," you say Palin lies when there's little to be gained from lying. She lies when everyone knows the truth. What were you talking about?

GOLDBERG: Yes, this is -- I think, you know, politicians lie. We know Bill Clinton lied, you know, when he was confronted with Monica Lewinsky. Hillary Clinton exaggerated some of her former accomplishments during the vice presidential debate.

But Sarah Palin's lies -- she lies about those type of things as well. But she also lies about strange and kind of inconsequential things. For example when she told Sean Hannity that she had taken a vote of her daughters on whether or not to accept the vice presidential nomination. The evidence of the book and of her later interview on Oprah is just that it's not true.

She's -- you know, lies when she says that her teleprompter broke during the RNC convention speech and she just had to wing it. You know, and she describes this whole scene in the book that -- about how exhilarating it was.

Again, just not true. She still is insisting that she didn't support the bridge to nowhere. And this stuff is not really contentious. The evidence is out there for all to see.

KING: Andrea, what about the book attacking people who work for her? Is that a good idea?

ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Well, I think Sarah Palin had to clarify some of these misconceptions about her. And while I think that it's OK to do that now, once this book tour is over she needs to leave the soap opera behind her because it's not good to stoop to other people's levels and start to attack campaign staffers. Now I understand why she did it. She wants to rehabilitate her image. But, Larry, there are things that Sarah Palin needs to do if she is thinking about running for president and that's get serious. So she can talk about her husband Todd and her children. But if she ever has a chance to run for president, she has got to get some ink in her passport.

She's got to stop with the moose chili and the teen pregnancy and start to talk about serious policy issues. I mean she's a very shrewd woman, but look, if she is going to say that these Katie Couric interviews were a fluke, then it's up to Sarah Palin to prove it. And my latest column talked about how she should use this book tour as a pre-primary and go out there answer some of the tough questions.

You know, rather than run around and talk about death panels, tell us what you would do, Sarah. And I that's what people who like her want to hear. I think that's what people who don't like her -- look, Larry, her unfavorables are comparable to where Hillary Clinton were in late 2006.

And we all know where Hillary Clinton went. And right Republicans in a Gallup Poll just a couple of days ago put her on the same level with Mitt Romney. Sixty-five percent said they'd seriously consider voting for her. Now she has gone rogue. Mitt Romney has gone dark. If that's the number she can pull when she is under attack, having like an onslaught of media criticism, I think she's doing pretty good.

KING: Yes. Naomi, what kind of presidential candidate do you think she would be?

NAOMI WOLF, FEMINIST: I think she is even scarier now than I thought she was last fall when I warned people in a "Huffington Post" column about her -- having Evita-like qualities and being a front person for the same old special interests. I just wrote in the "London Times" that if you read her book what you see is that she colluded in the geisha-ization of herself politically with the campaign.

She touches this nerve -- bear with me. She touches this nerve, as I mentioned, about speaking on behalf of conservative women. But again and again in the book she hands over her strengths, she lets herself be silenced, they write the script and she objects to it but she doesn't say anything.

She lets them ply her with all these expensive clothes. She knows -- she should know it's graft and that people from Hillary Clinton -- Nancy Reagan have gotten in trouble for it. It's illegal. But she doesn't do anything about it. She blames other people for her decision-making. Again and again. She gives up the chance to be a strong leader.

And I was glad to hear a credible leader. I think she should run as a Gore-type figure, as a public figure messaging, and she serve her country by staying away from public office.

KING: Amanda, do you think the Democrats would like her to run?

AMANDA CARPENTER, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes. I think they perceive her as being very easy to beat. But listen, you know, everybody likes to talk about well, should she be doing this? Is she doing the right thing? I think when you read her book you understand that she is a person who fundamentally believes that the system is broken and she cannot play by the rules that she is supposed to play by if she is going to be an effective political force, which is why, you know, for a lot of unexplainable reasons people could think from the outside.

She stepped down from office. She said listen, I don't think she's in it for power. I don't think she's in it to run for president because she is going to take this country by a bus tour if she has to to tap into the discontent that people have with the expansion of government.

That is what she's about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I jump in? Can I jump in?

KING: No. We're out of time. All right. Trust me, you'll be back. There are three sure things in life, death, taxes and we are going to be talking more about Sarah Palin.

Now a tragedy. A North Carolina mother has been charged with selling her own little girl into prostitution. Human trafficking in the United States. Next.



BRADLEY LOCKHART, FATHER OF SHANIYA DAVIS: Don't give up on me and don't give up on Shaniya. Just knowing my little baby is up there with you is making me comfort right now.


KING: Five-year-old Shaniya Davis was reported missing by her mother on November 3rd. But after her body was found earlier this week, Shaniya's mother Antoinette Davis was charged with human trafficking and child abuse involving prostitution. An acquaintance Mario McNeill has been charged with first-degree murder and rape.

Surveillance photos show him carrying Shaniya into a North Carolina hotel. Moments ago authorities released the cause of Shaniya's death as asphyxiation.

Joining us in Fayetteville is Sbraccia, Steve Sbraccia. He is a reporter for WNCN covering this story. And in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jeff Riccio who found the young girl's body.

Steve, get us to -- the story's almost unbelievable. In essence, are we saying that this is a mother selling a child? STEVE SBRACCIA, REPORTER, WNCN-TV, RALEIGH: That is what the police allege. That is what they have said and that is what the evidence has led them to believe. And also the man who was accused of kidnapping that child, Mario McNeill, the one who was originally charged with kidnapping, they have now upgraded that to murder following the investigation as they continue this.

But Larry, this story has had so many twists and turns. It gets more bizarre every time you turn around. And it's really not over yet. The police say the investigation is still continuing. There is still other charges involved. There is a possibility there may have been a human trafficking ring involved in all of this.

It's just very, very confusing. And to be perfectly honest it's awfully sad, too.

KING: If the mother gave the daughter to him why is it kidnapping?

SBRACCIA: Police are using that right now. That's what they need right now to get this person -- or needed to get this person into custody. There is still a lot about this that we don't know at this point. We don't know if the mother actually gave the youngster to Mario McNeill or if Mario McNeill took the youngster but that's the charge the police used initially to get him incarcerated.

KING: Jeff (INAUDIBLE), you found Shaniya Davis' body. Tell us the circumstances. What was happening?

JEFF RICCIO, FOUND SHANIYA DAVIS' BODY: Well, we had originally been, I don't know, a mile away or so searching during the day and cleared an area that was brush and field and things like that, and we decided to give the dogs a break and meet up in a parking lot looking for a command post.

We had been driving around looking for the command post. And we'd driven down the road and smelled some carcasses, like deer carcasses. We saw them on the side of the road. When we met up in the parking lot a woman said that she had heard that there's a chance that the body may have been dumped or whatever by some deer carcasses. So that's when we knew exactly where we were going and went right back there and we found her within 10 minutes with the dogs.

KING: Are you -- were you acting as an interested citizen or police officer? Why were you doing this?

RICCIO: I did it because I train cadaver dogs and police dogs. And my class had decided that they want to not train that day and go out and participate in the search. And I was all about it. So we took the cadaver dogs that we had and we went out and, you know, we were able to luckily make a difference.

KING: What condition was the body in?

RICCIO: I didn't really get a good look at it, to be honest. I mean I saw what I needed to see. And it was really hard to see. It was really hard to see so.

KING: Steve, is this going to go wider? This story going to go wider?

SBRACCIA: Absolutely, Larry. It's not over by any means. The police investigators admitted tonight that there's a lot of things they're still pursuing in this case. They still have not said whether there might be additional charges filed against the mother. Were there others involved in this human trafficking ring? We don't know that at this point.

There were indications that there might have been a broader ring than just one person giving a small child to another. There's a lot yet that still needs to be cleared up. This case continues to have surprises and it continues to have more developments.

KING: Yes. And he is charged with raping a 5-year-old, is that correct?

SBRACCIA: That is the allegation. He allegedly went into that hotel. They have records indicating he entered that hotel at 6:11 in the morning on a Tuesday. The surveillance photos show him taking her into the room. At 6:53 that same morning the mother suddenly calls the Fayetteville Police Department and says oh, my child is missing. I don't know where she is. I had left her on the couch in the trailer.

But that was 45 minutes after he had already checked into the hotel. Police now are looking at the possibility that that 911 call may have been some kind of way to cover up the fact the child died in that hotel room.

KING: Yes.

SBRACCIA: Or somewhere else for that matter. We don't know where the child died right now.

KING: We'll stay on top of this.

SBRACCIA: We don't know exactly where child died right now.

KING: Steve Sbraccia of WNCN and Jeff Riccio. We'll be back in 60 seconds.


KING: We'll return to the Shaniya Davis story. First, it's time for another great hero. Here is one of the 10 finalists that CNN will salute in an all-star salute Thanksgiving night.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Heroes.

TERRANCE HOWARD, ACTOR: Hello. I'm Terrance Howard. During last year's CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute, I had the honor of recognizing CNN's Hero of the Year, Liz McCartney for her extraordinary work in helping survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

Since then her organization has built 50 more homes in New Orleans and nearly another 60 are under construction. As we approach this year's tribute show, Thanksgiving night, let us look back at last year's CNN Hero of the Year, Liz McCartney.

LIZ MCCARTNEY, CNN HERO: The Heroes award was like a shot in the arm for the region. It reinvigorated people. It made them feel like across the country and around the world people still cared. All sorts of doors have been opened for the project as a result of the award. Volunteers, clients, donors.

I think every week people say I heard about the St. Bernard Project on CNN Heroes.

In the greater New Orleans area there are over 10,000 households that are struggling to secure permanent, stable housing.

To date we've had over 16,000 volunteers. We are going to be celebrating the 240th home that we've completed. We expanded our capacity. We are also building homes in New Orleans but it has also helped us start our Center for Wellness and Mental Health. So it helped us rebuild homes and also rebuild people's lives.

We're getting there but there's still work to be dome. A couple of more years and we'll be there.



KING: We'll talk about that tragedy in North Carolina with an outstanding panel in a moment. First he's here, Anderson Cooper with us in Los Angeles.

What's up tonight, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, ahead tonight on "360," could Fort Hood accused gunman Nidal Hasan have been stopped? Multiple investigations are being launched to answer that -- just that question. But tonight we're going to introduce you to a woman who says she contributed to a report that could have alerted military officials.

We're keeping them honest. Plus our "360" special investigation, "Killings at the Canals: The Army Tapes." Three Army sergeants convicted of murdering four Iraqi detainees. Tonight you're going to hear from the soldier who turned them in. Is he a hero or did he betray his band of brothers? You can decide for yourself.

An Oprah Winfrey, she's going to quit her daily talk show. We learned that today. She'll make the announcement tomorrow. Tonight we look at Oprah's impact over the years and I'll talk to Ryan Seacrest about what's behind this move and what lies ahead for Oprah.

Those and more, Larry, on "360" tonight. KING: That's 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific with our man right out here in L.A.

Our panel, Pat Brown, the famed criminal profiler is with us Washington. Here in Los Angeles, criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos. In Kansas City, Missouri, Kristy Childs, the founder and director of the Veronica's Choice, that's an organization that helps American victims of commercial sexual exploitation. She herself is a former sex trafficking victim.

And in Miami Stacey Honowitz, Florida's assistant state attorney who specializes in child abuse and sex crimes cases.

Pat, what do you make of this?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, I think everybody is so shocked that this type of thing could happen to such a little girl, that a mother could even think of something like this. But I think what they're forgetting is -- that this mother likely doesn't really care about the child. She hasn't been around the child for five years.

She is a prostitute. She's a drug addict. She's a criminal. Essentially she's got all kinds of issues going on and may have a personality disorder. So that child to her may just be a thing, a possession, something to play with, something to amuse herself with. And maybe even be a little bit of a battle with the father like you had her for five years, now I've got her, I can do with her what I want. And parentally she did.

KING: The reporter earlier said that there's a suspicion this may go wider. That there's more trafficking like this in America, Mark.

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't know that I buy that. I mean -- so far they say they're investigating this based upon what people have told them and it seems to be based on double, triple hearsay.

I just would find it hard to believe that it's as extensive as some people are suggesting. But who knows? It's up to the investigators and you'd hate to think that that was the case.

By the way, happy birthday.

KING: Thank you. By the way, Kristy, her mother originally called 911 to report Shaniya missing. Let's listen to that call and then I want you to comment.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: 911. What's your emergency?

ANTOINETTE DAVIS, SHANIYA DAVIS' MOTHER: Yes, ma'am. My name is Antoinette Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK, ma'am. How can I help you?

DAVIS: I woke up this morning and my daughter was not in the house. I don't know if she walked out, I don't know what's going on, but she's not here.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: How old is your daughter?

DAVIS: She's 5.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: What is her name?

DAVIS: Shaniya Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK. And you said none of the doors were open?

DAVIS: No, ma'am. They were locked but she knows how to unlock the front door.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: Was it closed this morning?

DAVIS: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: And you said it was around 5:30.

DAVIS: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 OPERATOR: OK. And your door was not unlocked, that's what you're telling me?

DAVIS: No, it was not unlocked, but I'm telling you she knows how to unlock it. I'm hoping that she didn't unlock it and walk out.


KING: Kristy, you were a victim yourself. After listening to that, what do you make of it?

KRISTY CHILDS, FOUNDER, VERONICA'S VOICE: Well, Larry, I can't really comment as far as, like, what was going on in this mother's mind. I do know that mothers and fathers sell their children. At Veronica's Voice, we had 22 women who reported being sold under the age of 10 last year.

So I'm not really clear as to what's going on with this story and how wide the net may go. We hate to think that it's happening, but it is happening here in America.

KING: Stacey, have you ever prosecuted a case like this?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Well, I've had a couple cases where women have tried to sell their children. We don't know what the reason was. So it's not that unusual to me because I do hear about it.

But we see it on a smaller scale. Sometimes we see a mother who allows somebody in the house to have sex with the child. And it's not just for money. But in essence, it's prostituting the child.

But I think in this case what investigators are trying to figure out, number one, is was she involved and how was she involved? And can she be charged with murder? Because certainly if it is found out that she told this child for prostitution and she committed felony child abuse and the child have died in the course of it, she can then be charged with felony murder.

So I think that's what we're waiting to see the investigators talk about next.

KING: Back with more after this.



CAREY LOCKHART-DAVIS, SHANIYA DAVIS' AUNT: The last time I saw Shaniya was four weeks ago on a Friday. I went to visit her mother. I packed her with two days' worth of clothes. I got her out of the car, and I kissed her good-bye, and I told her to be a good girl. She turned back to me and said, "I love you, Aunt Carey, and see you later." I have to go. I'm sorry. No more comments.


KING: Pat, what kind of person could do this?

BROWN: Well, I kind of tend to agree with Mark. I don't think we necessarily have a big sex ring here. I really don't think so, I think we have a lot of low-level criminals. We have Poe, he's a felon. That's the boyfriend of the mother. The mother's a felon and the guy who's got -- had Shaniya in the hotel, he's a felon.

We've got a lot of people committing a lot of different kinds of crimes. And I think they're very impulsive people who just want what they want when they want it. So I think it's very easy to manipulate and to encourage people to participate in certain things.

So it's hard to say. All of them, I think -- I don't know if Poe is completely out of this picture yet either. So I think the police have a lot of work to figure out who did what and exactly.

KING: We know everyone is entitled to a defense. But this would be tough for a defense lawyer, wouldn't it?

GERAGOS: Yes. It would be, but you know, the interesting thing about it is when you listen to the 911 tape and when you see and hear this, there's so many cases where you have this -- they didn't act right evidence. You have 911 tapes where this person didn't sound upset enough or they seems like they were calm, cool and collected.

You listen to that and you say well, that's exactly what I would expect from a mother who...

(CROSSTALK) GERAGOS: She sounded exactly as distraught, which is either goes to her innocence or goes to the fact that you really can't rely on that kind of evidence.

KING: Kristy, how old were you when you were taken?

CHILDS: I wasn't actually taken. I was running away from abusive home environment. But I got engaged with a survival sect with truck drivers initially at the age of 12.

KING: How did you survive?

CHILDS: Providing sexual favors for food and for a place to sleep which eventually I was very vulnerable for predators that were out there. And so I ended up with a pimp and under a lot of pimp control. And very much brainwashed into the lifestyle.

KING: Stacey, this would be called a -- who's talking?

HONOWITZ: No, I was talking. I was going to tell you that, you know, you hear about the surviving sex -- she had sex with truck drivers. You know you hear about so many addicted mothers, people that are addicted to crack cocaine or some kind of drug and they sell themselves in order to feed their habit.

So hearing something like this, you know, she was a drug addict. I think she was a prostitute at one time. It's not that unusual in circumstances like that that you would hear that someone might sell their child into sex in order to feed a habit that they have. So while we don't hear about it a lot, it does really go on quite often.

KING: This would be an aggressive prosecution, would it not, Stacey?

HONOWITZ: Very aggressive. I mean, first of all, you know...


GERAGOS: You don't get much more aggressive than this. Can you imagine Stacey with this case?

KING: Stacey, yes.

HONOWITZ: I'm flattered that you would say that.


KING: Yes, you two have gone at it and it's very interesting. Go ahead, Stacey. I'm sorry.

HONOWITZ: You know, when you hear about it...

GERAGOS: This is the kind of a case...


HONOWITZ: Go ahead, Mark.

GERAGOS: All I was going to say is that when you have a case like this, if you think you've got the evidence and if you're a prosecutor, you've got the wind at your back. This is the kind of case that you live for if you're a sex crimes prosecutor.

I mean as a defense lawyer, it's your worst nightmare. So that's probably the easiest way to put it.

KING: Thank you all very much. We hope we can come to some resolution of this true tragedy.

I received so many great birthday wishes on twitter today. Thank you. I am honored. I am humbled. Almost humbled. We're "Dancing with the Stars" tomorrow night. Right now, we're dancing across the studio to Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?