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CNN Larry King Live
Interview With Nita Hanson; Interview With Wyclef Jean
Aired August 19, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, meet the woman whose call for advice set off Dr. Laura's "N" word rant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER: They did and I'll say it again (BLEEP) is what you hear on--
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: She's here and she'll tell us why she's rejecting the apology.
And then, Jose Canseco exclusive, the former Major Leaguer and steroid user who blew the whistle on juicers reacts to Roger Clemens' indictment.
Plus, texting while driving, is the dangerous combination even more deadly than cruising and boozing? Tweeting behind the wheel may have killed a plastic surgeon for the stars. Is dying to send a message really worth it? It's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
We begin with Nita Hanson. She's with us from Denver, Colorado. It was during her phone call to the "Dr. Laura Show" last week that the radio host used the "N" word 11 times. Nita, referred to as Jade by Dr. Laura, called in asking for advice about dealing with resentment she felt about comments made by her white husband's friends and family. Listen to some of what happened. And we'll talk with Nita.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NITA HANSON, CALLER: How about the "N" word? Now the "N" word's been thrown--
SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic. And all you hear is (BLEEP). I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Nita, thanks for joining us. What's gone on with you since all of this ruckus? How have you reacted?
HANSON: It has been really crazy, but I have been getting a lot of support. And I want to thank everyone who has spoken up and just supported me through all of this. It's just been amazing. The feedback I've gotten has been very positive, so thanks. Thanks, everyone. Thank you.
KING: The point that Dr. Laura was trying to make that blacks use the word, comedians use the word on HBO, that did not resonate with you at all?
HANSON: No, because I was calling to get advice about my relationship. I don't care -- you know, it's not okay to use the word, period, but I was calling Dr. Laura to get advice on my relationship.
KING: Why didn't you just hang up?
HANSON: That would have been rude. I honest -- my mother taught me better than that. And that would have been rude.
KING: Hey, are you -- were you a Dr. Laura fan? Are you regular listener?
HANSON: I was a regular listener for a while, for about five, 10 years. I would listen to her every day in the car. You know, to and from wherever I was going, but I was a huge fan.
KING: Why did she call you Jade?
HANSON: I like the name Jade. I didn't want to call and give my real name. I mean, that's something -- I just -- I wanted a little privacy. I didn't think that this would blow up like it did, but I like the name Jade. And I'd used it before when I'd called.
KING: Oh, you'd called before?
HANSON: Yes, sir, I have.
KING: In the past, had she been helpful?
HANSON: She was helpful. I mean, there were some things I didn't agree with, but I still listened to her.
KING: Now, let's listen to more of last week's on-air call between Nita and Dr. Laura. This excerpt comes from the end of the conversation. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSON: I can't believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the "N" and I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: I didn't spew out the (BLEEP) word.
HANSON: (BLEEP), (BLEEP), (BLEEP), everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: Right. I said that's what you hear -- yes, they did. HANSON: I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: They did and I'll say it again. (BLEEP), (BLEEP), (BLEEP), is what you hear on -- why don't you let me finish a sentence? Don't take things out of context. Don't NAACP me. Leave them in--
HANSON: I know what the "N" word means. And I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.
SCHLESSINGER: All right, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can't have this argument. Do you know what, if you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What did you make of that, Nita?
HANSON: Every time I hear it, I am shocked. I'm stunned. I'm confused. I'm hurt. Listen, I was a longtime listener. And I did not expect to hear that at all. I called for advice about my relationship with my husband. And that was it. And as you could tell by the tape, she was very angry. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. And I just -- I was embarrassed. I -- and I was -- I was a fan, and I just -- I was hurt. I was really hurt.
KING: All right, you're married to a Caucasian. And his friends would -- what was the problem you were having? What did -- what did he or his friends say that bothered you, that you felt the need to call in?
HANSON: You know, it was the stereotypes. And I'm the type of person, it takes a lot for me to get mad. I had been putting up with the stereotypes for a long time. And finally, you get tired of it. And then you think, okay, is there another motive? The questions keep getting -- they're worse. And I was just sick and tired of the stereotypes. And the "N" word had been--
KING: Well, a friend might say what?
HANSON: --not in that particular -- why do black people act the way they do? Why do you talk the way do you? Stuff like that. Why do you sag your pants? And I don't do any of that. So, I just -- the generalization of--
KING: What does your husband say? I get it. They generalize. What does your husband say about all of this fuss?
HANSON: He has been very supportive. He loves me very much and I love him. He's been very supportive through this whole thing. He cannot believe this happened as well, too. Because I didn't even tell him I'd called Dr. Laura. I wanted to try to fix the problem.
HANSON: And, you know, call her to get the advice and then try to fix it myself. But he had no idea that I had even called the show.
KING: And what about his friends and family, those who you had said had been making these kind of remarks? Have you heard from them?
HANSON: No, I have not. I have not. However, the neighbor did, I take that back, the neighbor did apologize. He apologized the next day. And I accepted his apology.
KING: We'll have more with Nita Hanson, including we're going to hear a clip from Dr. Laura on this show last week. She was invited to come back tonight. Declined the invitation. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Nita Hanson. As we said, Dr. Laura was a guest on this show last Tuesday. We asked her back tonight. She declined, but she did issue this statement.
"I'd like to tell Jade I'm sorry. She called me to ask for my advice and help. In giving my answer I not only didn't help her, I used words that offended her and others. And I'd like to say again, I'm sorry."
Nita, are you -- do you accept that apology?
HANSON: This was from last night, she said this last night?
KING: I think she said it today. We--
KING: She said it today.
HANSON: You know, the incident happened last Tuesday. I think if she were really sincere about that, she wouldn't have waited 10 days, 10, 9 days later to apologize. And I will still say if she were not caught, she probably would have gone on like it never even happened.
And in Media Matters, when they reported the story, because what originally happened, when I went back to listen to the tape to make sure that I was hearing what I heard, it was gone. The tape was gone. And this is a live streaming system -- website, and it was completely gone. And then I'm -- I started trying to figure out where is this tape? And that's when I saw it surface on Friday. But I don't accept her apology, because she still thinks it's okay to use the "N" word. She said things about interracial relationships.
KING: Yes. Have you had any direct contact with her?
HANSON: No, I have not. I did try to contact her afterwards--
KING: Would you like to speak to her?
HANSON: I don't -- see, it's not going to do any good, I mean, at this point. I mean, I was really hurt by what she said. And I -- it really -- it wouldn't make any sense for me to go try to talk to her now about that same problem, knowing how she actually feels, because I honestly believe she feels that way about black people.
KING: I didn't mean to interrupt you. You were about to say you tried to call her?
HANSON: I, you know, I tried to contact her to get a copy of the tape, but I haven't tried to contact her, no.
KING: Oh, other than that.
HANSON: Only to try to get a copy of the tape before it was actually released, yes. But other than that, no.
KING: As everybody now knows, Dr. Laura made a bombshell announcement about her future when she appeared on this show two days ago. Let's take a look.
KING: What are you here to tell us tonight?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, I'm here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year. And I've made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that. I'm not retiring. I'm not quitting. I feel energized, actually, stronger and freer, to say the things that I believe need to be said to people in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Nita, what's your reaction to that?
HANSON: Again, I think if she -- the apology wasn't sincere. She still thinks it's okay to use the "N" word. I think she's trying to shift the responsibility onto somebody else. Now it's somebody else's fault. Well, no, you said it. And I just want -- like she says, you need to go out and do the right thing. And she needs to own it and claim it. She said it.
KING: How about quitting radio? How do you feel about that?
HANSON: She really needs to be off the air. To say those type of things, in a -- we're in a situation right now where racism is just huge, but to say those type of things, you can't say that. You can't say that. And all I called was for advice. I didn't ask to be beat up and personally attacked and personally attacked, you know. It just went way too far. She went way too far. And she should not be on the radio. She shouldn't be on anywhere. She shouldn't.
KING: Sarah Palin has tweeted in support of Dr. Laura, telling her, don't retreat, reload. What's your reaction to that? HANSON: Well, you know, I'm really not here to turn this into a political, you know, I called for some advice about my relationship with my husband.
KING: Are you surprised that she would get this kind -- do you think -- what about her saying her First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate?
HANSON: Well, you know, there is a freedom of speech, but there's also -- she's throwing racism out there. She's using the "N" word. I mean, and this is not the first time we all have found out that Dr. Laura has been in trouble for saying things that are just not right. You know, the gay and lesbian community, you can't say those things. You can't say those things. We're people. We have feelings, too.
KING: Nita, thanks for appearing with us. We appreciate you taking the time.
HANSON: Thank you very much.
KING: Nita Hanson.
HANSON: Thank you, sir.
KING: She made the phone call.
Wyclef Jean is next. Will he be on the ballot for president of Haiti?
And then Jose Canseco reacting to Roger Clemens' indictment by a federal grand jury today. We'll be right back.
KING: Before we talk with Jose Canseco, joining us by phone from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is Wyclef Jean, the Haitian presidential candidate. Maybe he'll find out tomorrow if Haiti's electoral commission will allow you to run. Do you think they'll allow you to run, Wyclef?
WYCLEF JEAN: Right now, we're still waiting on the decision to be made tomorrow. Today I had a great conversation with President Rene Preval.
KING: Yes, the question is that they claim you have not lived in Haiti for five consecutive years. Is that a requirement to run for president?
JEAN: Yes, we--
KING: I think we lost him. I'm sorry. If we can get him back, we'll get him back.
Let's go to Laredo, Texas. Jose Canseco, former Major League star, outfielder, hit a lot, a ton of home runs. Today, baseball great Roger Clemens was indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with lying to Congress during a 2008 hearing on steroid use. Jose Canseco is maybe the guy who broke this whole story to begin with when he wrote that book "Juiced." He says he never saw Clemens use steroids, but wondered how the pitcher stayed so great for so long and even got better when he got older.
Jose, who never quit baseball, joins us from Laredo, Texas, where he's a member of the independent league Laredo Broncos. He's also an assistant -- he's bench coach for that team as well. What did you make of the indictment, Jose?
JOSE CANSECO, FMR. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: How are you doing, Larry? Well, I was kind of shocked, and, you know, very saddened. I mean, Roger was a colleague of mine, a friend of mine. And it's like I said, and I'll stick to it, I never saw him use steroids in any way, shape, or form. So, I'm really in shock that they have enough evidence to even indict him.
KING: Were you suspicious of him, Jose?
CANSECO: Well, I think in that era, you know, the way we just talked about it, everyone was suspicious of everyone. At one point in time, you know, the percentage was so high that, you know, there could be a chance that you were using steroids. But knowing that he was a friend of mine, I knew his family, we were golf buddies, we worked out together, he confided in me in a lot of things. And you would think -- and I always thought this -- that he would -- if he need any type of chemicals, whether it be steroids or growth hormones, he would ask me or confide in me enough to say, Jose, you know, I'd like to get some. Where can I get some from? Or where are you getting some from? And that never happened.
KING: Okay, he said in his testimony that steroid use was totally incompatible with who I am and what I stand for. He added that I cannot in good conscience admit to something I didn't do, even if it would be easier to do so. He also said he'd never seen any steroids. He'd never seen the use of that. Do you buy all of that?
CANSECO: Well, I mean, I can't speak for him. I think I was the most obvious player at the time the way we talked about that. I was using steroids. But, you know, I think everyone has their own opinions. Maybe he never saw anyone use steroids or never dealt with it. I really don't know. I can only speak for what I saw.
KING: All right. How about the fact that he did get -- he got better as he got older?
CANSECO: Well, I mean, I'm actually 46. And I'm completely off steroids, completely, you know, normal. And, I mean, I just hit a baseball the other day, 550 feet in a game, playing against kids that are half my age. So, I think steroids are completely overrated. I think they've gotten way too much credit. I think that if players put their mind to it at any age and work extremely hard, they could be great baseball players. So, I'm not really buying it, because I'm actually doing it now at 46 years old, competing against guys half my age. And really my swing is still there. It was just amazing. So, I really don't buy this, you know, that steroids makes the player. I'm proof that statement is wrong.
KING: Would you ban them?
CANSECO: Well, will I ban them from where?
KING: No, they're banned. Would you favor banning them? Or would you say whatever you want to use is okay?
CANSECO: No. I would favor banning them, because they're illegal, point-blank. I mean, anything against the system that's banned, you know, criminally, you just can't do it, period. Again, I think they're overrated. I think they're completely overrated.
KING: Thank you, Jose. We'll be calling on you again as this goes on. Jose Canseco now with the Laredo Broncos.
Back on the phone is Wyclef Jean. He will find out tomorrow if he's eligible to run for the presidency. You have not lived five consecutive years in Haiti, have you?
JEAN: We have had residence in Haiti for five years, more than five years, Larry.
KING: All right, so then, what's the problem? Do you expect that you will be allowed to run?
JEAN: Well, we're waiting tomorrow. We're supposed to be on the 17th. And tomorrow, they're going to make the final decision. So, all of the youth in Haiti, we're anticipating that it's looking good for us. So we're waiting, Larry.
KING: Are you optimistic?
JEAN: Yes. I wanted to clarify a rumor that came out on Reuters that said the list for the candidates came out and Wyclef's name was not on it. That is not true. The list is supposed to come out tomorrow.
KING: What is this story about death threats? Have you been getting death threats?
JEAN: I had a -- the president of Haiti, Rene Preval, brought me in today, because he said he was concerned for the area of Haiti. He was reading that I was hiding. We've had several death threats, six or seven. The president, Rene Preval, said if I need that, he would provide more security on our behalf.
KING: Do you need more security?
JEAN: No, we don't need any more security, Larry. I'm actually comfortable where I'm at right now. I'm in my hometown of (INAUDIBLE) and I'm comfortable.
KING: If they turn you down, if you're not allowed on the ballot, what do you -- does the fight go on? JEAN: If I'm turned down on the -- tomorrow, what we will do is, we have the movement for the youth, which is called Fas a Fas and the political party, which is called Vive a Sum, living together. We will continue to fight in the sense of how can we work with the new government, the administration, which -- to give kids, which is one of the number one things in the constitution, the Haitian constitution, says all kids should have privilege to a free education. And that's something that we're going to push on, whether if I make it or not.
KING: Thank you, Wyclef. We'll be staying on this story closely. Wyclef Jean.
JEAN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: He'll find out tomorrow whether he's allowed on the ballot.
Are you putting your life on the line by texting while driving? That's next.
KING: Did texting or tweeting play a role in the car accident that killed celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan this past Monday? The California Highway Patrol's investigating that possibility. Dr. Ryan's last posted Twitter included a photo of his dog on a sand dune, shortly after his vehicle careened off the side of the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu.
Joining us to talk about it is Janice Dickinson, the model, reality TV star, and author. She was a good friend and client of Dr. Frank Ryan. Tell me about him. What was he like?
JANICE DICKINSON, FRIEND AND CLIENT OF DR. RYAN: Frank Ryan was a gentle and a kind soul and dear friend of mine, whose hands actually look like an artist. He had the hands of a sculptor. He really did. They were quite effeminate and long, just like yours, Larry.
KING: He was a great plastic surgeon?
DICKINSON: Well, look at me. I mean, he would have loved that we're actually having a giggle, but I'm devastated. He was just a great philanthropist, who gave back to his foundation helping inner city kids.
KING: All right, it was just before you went on "Celebrity Rehab" with Dr. Drew that you talked with Dr. Ryan about getting a car for his daughter -- for your daughter who is 16, right?
DICKINSON: Yes, I did.
KING: Did Dr. Ryan, tell you, give you any advice about a car and a young girl?
DICKINSON: Oh, he did. He did. In fact, he offered me the car that he drove off the hill with, the 2005 Jeep Wrangler. And I -- my response was to him, was, Frank, are you out of your mind? This is this car. You shouldn't even be driving it, because it's an unsafe car, with the high suspension and the windy roads we live in here in southern California.
KING: All right. You and many of Dr. Ryan's friends and clients -- you had a candlelight vigil for him on Tuesday night. On the drive home, the issue of your son's Blackberry use came up. In what regard?
DICKINSON: Well, we were all just grief stricken on the ride home. On the windy roads going back from Azuma Beach to Topanga, it was very dark, and I just had this vibe when my son picked up his brand-new phone and started to text. And I said -- I responded, are you out of your mind? Look at what just happened?
No, this is a golden rule now. I just put the finger on it. I said "down." no more phones, no more texting.
KING: How old is your boy?
DICKINSON: He's 23. He's still my boy.
KING: Do you think he was texting?
DICKINSON: Dr. Ryan?
DICKINSON: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. He was -- I could get him on the phone pretty much anytime except for the fact that -- when he was during surgeries. I could get him or text -- I don't Tweet, I don't Facebook, I don't any of that crap. But I do --
DICKINSON: -- text.
KING: Have you texted while driving?
DICKINSON: I have in the past. Yes, Larry, I have.
KING: When you think about it, it is insane. It is indefensible.
DICKINSON: I stand corrected. I've been wrong. And no longer. I'm going to go champion for the Dr. Frank Ryan cause, you know, say no to texting. It just can't be done anymore. Look what happened to my friend.
KING: California has a law against it. It's a ban on driving while talking on a handheld cell phone. Do we have a ban on texting, too? I guess we do.
DICKINSON: Yes, we do, Larry. Yes, we do.
KING: You've called the death senseless. It's affected your attitude, right? Are you now on a campaign? DICKINSON: I am -- after I get -- after I get -- bore through my grief -- it's been a pretty rough couple of days. After I attended the funeral, I will start just being very clear, stay off the phone. Certainly my children, I hope, would adhere to the same rule. And I'm just hoping every woman and man in America, and child, just stay off the phone. Please save your lives. Look what happened to my friend, Dr. Ryan.
KING: Not being a texter myself, what is the fascination that you would do it while driving? Think back to when you would did do it.
DICKINSON: I'll be honest with you, Larry, I can't see that well texting. So I'm not very good. I have fake nails, so the texting wasn't -- I was -- I was more on the phone. I've never done that.
KING: You did a lot of cell phones on the phone. Talking on your cell phone on the drive.
DICKINSON: I have a few times. Yeah, you could say I did it a lot, sure.
KING: Janice Dickinson -- the very honest Janice Dickinson. More on texting while driving right after this.
KING: OK. We're talking about the dangers of texting and Tweeting while driving. Joining us is Officer Vance Ramirez with the California Highway Patrol, Jennifer Smith, president and founding director of Focus Driven -- it's an advocacy group for victims of motor vehicle accidents involving drivers using cell phones. Her mother was killed in an accident involving a driver using a cell phone. And Shelley Forney is with us, founding director of Focus Driven. Her nine-year-old daughter died in an accident involving a driver using a cell phone.
Trying to persuade people, especially tech-savvy, multitasking young people, about the dangers of texting while driving is tough. Last year, a public service announcement from the UK slammed home the message in a gruesome way. It also went viral on the Internet. Here's part of that PSA, and a warning, these graphic images may upset sensitive viewers. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By day, we make (INAUDIBLE) stunts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's funny. I'm just going to thump her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that an actual video? Oh. Officer Ramirez, any update, by the way, in the investigation in to Dr. Ryan's death? OFFICER VANCE RAMIREZ, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: Sir, I'm not at liberty to speak about that. I know it's an ongoing investigation. It's an open investigation. And we're looking at all aspects of that unfortunate incident at this point.
KING: Janice says it's probable, though, knowing him and his use of the phone and the use of texting.
RAMIREZ: My understanding is that it was a contributing factor at this point. But, again, it's an open investigation, and I don't think it's conclusive at this point.
KING: How's the California crackdown on this working, on both cell phones, use and texting?
RAMIREZ: Well, sir, the California Highway patrol is actively enforcing the -- there's three main laws, the one that prohibits people holding a cell phone to their ear, one that prohibits text messaging, and one that prohibits all -- any use of any electronic device within a motor vehicle by a teenager who is driving.
KING: What's the penalty?
RAMIREZ: Well, the penalties vary. And, again, they vary in California from county to county. They start with a base for the first offense of about 20 dollars. But there's also court assessment fees that bring up that first offense to over 100 dollars.
KING: Can you lose your license?
RAMIREZ: With subsequent offenses, you may lose your license.
KING: Jennifer, you're president and founding director of Focus Driven. What does it do?
JENNIFER SMITH, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, FOCUS DRIVEN: We're here to support the families of these victims of distracted driving crashes, and to help educate and raise awareness and hopefully change the laws and change the culture, so this doesn't have to keep happening to more families across the country.
KING: What happened to your mother?
SMITH: She was leaving her neighborhood, and at the same time that the intersection at the exit, a 20-year-old driver who was talking on a cell phone ran a red light, never seeing her car, which resulted in her death.
KING: When you think about it -- I hate to use the word insane -- isn't it insane to text and drive?
SMITH: It really is. When you're texting while driving, you're taking the three types of distraction, which is your visual -- you're taking your eyes off the road -- the manual -- your hands are off the wheel -- and the cognitive, which is your mind is off the task of driving. And so to think that you could do those things and still drive a 3,000-pound deadly weapon is absolutely insane. These crashes are 100 percent preventable and totally senseless, just like she said earlier.
KING: Shelley Forney is founding director of Focus Driven. Jennifer is its president and founding director as well. What happened to your nine-year-old daughter, Shelly?
SHELLEY FORNEY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, FOCUS DRIVEN: It was two days before Thanksgiving. She was on her way home from school, about three blocks from our home. And Erica was on her bicycle. And she was just around the corner from our home. She had to pedal 15 more pedals, and she would have made it home alive.
KING: And what happened?
FORNEY: She was on a phone -- a woman was on her phone, and she was on her way home, and a neighbor of ours -- we didn't know her. She was about -- lived about two blocks down the road. And as she was coming up the main road, her and Erica were coming towards each other. And she was finishing a phone call and drifted over into the bike lane about nine feet and hit my daughter straight on with her SUV. And Erica flew 15 feet and hit her head off of her bicycle. We lost her two weeks later, Thanksgiving day.
KING: What happened to the driver?
FORNEY: She was sentenced to 24 months probation, and had to take a defensive driving course, and write us an apology letter, and that is all.
KING: It's hard to take. Officer Ramirez, I've read that there are indications that when you're texting while driving, you have less reaction time than a driver impaired by alcohol.
RAMIREZ: That is what I'm hearing, too. There are several studies that have concluded that. Now, I can tell you for -- from a law enforcement stand point, when we're following somebody who is text messaging, it's about the same as looking at somebody who is driving impaired. They're speeding up, slowing down, moving side to side. And then depending on which side of the ear they hold their telephone on, they may have that visual --
KING: Can you spot them easily? Like, texting, can that be spotted easily by a highway patrolman?
RAMIREZ: Most experienced officers can easily spot them. They don't have to be right next to them. They can be behind them. Again, we're looking at driving behavior, certain patterns that identify them as impaired drivers or someone who is text messaging.
KING: Janice, do you wonder why we need a campaign for this?
DICKINSON: We need a campaign, Larry.
KING: Do you wonder why? It's insane.
DICKINSON: I can't believe I'm here speaking to you about it. I'm so grief stricken for the loss of my friend and these women and your families. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry about -- I'm sorry the whole damn thing got invented.
KING: You have a point. Jennifer, why do we need to -- isn't it logical? Why do we need a campaign?
SMITH: Well, it's very logical, but we -- this technology really came around so fast, and we all just got addicted. We all constantly want to be connected. And everyone thinks that they can do it, and everyone else can't. And so they think I'll just do this real quick, and they don't understand that they're not just jeopardizing their own life, they're endangering the lives of every other person that's on the road. And, you know, we're losing moms, fathers, children, grandparents. You know, we're losing people we love for senseless phone calls that are not important, that can honestly wait.
KING: Yeah. When we come back, we'll ask about this idea of people pledging not to text while they drive. Whether that works or not. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Janice Dickinson, Officer Vance Ramirez, Jennifer Smith and Shelley Forney. How about those -- I know I signed Oprah's pledge not to use a cell phone while driving. Do you think, Shelley, that those pledges work?
FORNEY: Absolutely. We also at FocusDriven.org have a pledge of our own. And we have seen so many people take this pledge and say that it has changed their lives. We absolutely are -- are all over getting people to take the pledge and share it with their neighbors, with their children, with their best friends, because this is becoming an epidemic.
KING: Is there any indication, Officer Ramirez, that talking hands free cell phones while driving is safer?
RAMIREZ: There's no indication of that.
KING: No? It should be safer?
RAMIREZ: Well, one of the reasons is because you're still not paying attention. A hundred percent of your attention should be on what you're doing, the task at hand, driving. And, you know, that can be construed as a distraction as well. You're not thinking about what you're doing. And if there's an incident in front of you, you may not react appropriately and you may be involved in a collision or something of the sort.
KING: Jennifer, does Focus Driven encourage the handheld, where you can hold the steering wheel? And use the earphones? SMITH: Actually, we advocate for complete cell-free driving. There are over 25 to 30 peer-reviewed studies and scientific studies that show it's not about where your hands are, it's about where your head is. Your brain doesn't have the ability to dual process and see what's in front of you and have that cell phone conversation. So you may be looking straight out the window, but your brain simply isn't processing what's right in front of it.
So you don't have the ability to react to what's in front of you. And that's what happened in the case that killed my mother. That's what happened in the case that killed a young 12-year-old Joe Teeter (ph). These people are looking straight ahead, and they don't see. So handheld or hands free, you've got to focus our driving and just turn the phone off or put it down.
KING: Do you agree with that, Janice?
DICKINSON: I do. I certainly do.
KING: Do you agree with that, officer?
RAMIREZ: Yes, I do.
KING: Do you agree with it, too, Shelly?
KING: Because most people think that if your hands are OK, if your hands are on the steering wheel, it's OK. You're still looking at the traffic ahead of you. You're still aware. You're on the phone. So, what's the big deal? But it is a big deal to you, Shelley?
FORNEY: It absolutely is. You know, there's this image out there that texting is -- it's all about texting, that texting is the problem. And it isn't. It is a hand-held device that you're using to text and it was a phone call that took my daughter's life.
So I want to reiterate that to people, and beg people to give it up. There is no phone call, no text that is worth a life.
KING: You know, another thing pointed out to me, Officer Ramirez, texting while you're a pedestrian can make you be distracted, crossing the street.
RAMIREZ: That's definitely a distraction, but no law against it right now. So, we see it all the time.
KING: You do see it all the time? People walking across texting --
RAMIREZ: Texting or holding a cell phone to their ear. They step on the sidewalk and they don't even look in both directions to see if there's any vehicles approaching.
KING: What about the thought, Jennifer, that this is kind of a cool lifestyle, texting, cell phones. It's kind of hip.
SMITH: You know, that's the challenge we have to overcome. We have to make people understand that this isn't cool, that the cool kids aren't doing it, because they care about the lives around them. You know, I think about the man that killed my mother all the time. And he's a great person. He's actually started speaking out about this issue, too. He doesn't use the phone at all, because he knows it distracts him.
And his life is ruined forever. He took someone's life, an innocent person's life. And it's just not worth it. No phone call is worth it. Even if you have to hurry and take that call from your kid, you need to pull over because what good are you to anyone if you're not there to help them because you crashed.
KING: How was he penalized, the man who killed your mother? How was he penalized, Jennifer?
SMITH: The state of Oklahoma charged him with criminally negligent homicide and he was given five years probation, with community service, and he had to speak on some victims' panels.
KING: It's time for tonight's CNN Hero. More than 60,000 people drown in Africa every year. Our hero is saving lives by building bridges that help Kenyans cross treacherous rivers swollen by heavy rains, swarming with deadly hippos. Every day, Harmon Parker connects thousands with life-changing resources and each other. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARMON PARKER, CNN HERO: What strikes me about this place is the beauty and the feeling of being insignificant. The beauty of this place also becomes dangerous because of these mountains when it rains.
I've worked all over Kenya. Every community has the same story of people drowning. Crocodiles and hippos and loved ones lost.
Look at this, here come some kids helping.
The very first bridge I built I saw how it changed lives and transformed communities. So, I carried on and I love what I do.
My name is Harmon Parker, and I build bridges to transform people's lives.
The community has to initiate the project. They have to participate and make some sort of financial contribution. It's hard and it takes a lot of determination.
Get it, get it.
A bridge is a beautiful metaphor for many things. I feel privileged to do what I am doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Some incredible people in the world. Harmon's work has brought 45 foot bridges to remote Kenya, improving the lives of tens of thousands of people. To learn more or to help Harmon build more bridges, go to CNN.com/Heroes. Be back after this.
KING: By the way, if you notice these two little rodents -- what are they, squirrels? Anyway, it's California Highway Buckle Up campaign. Do most people buckle up now? Have we convinced most people that that's smart?
RAMIREZ: It is smart. And we are at -- I believe it's an all time High for compliance with seat belt enforcement.
KING: The car makes a sound now and forces you to almost.
RAMIREZ: Absolutely. And I think a lot of people are paying attention, too, to the fact that they need to buckle up.
KING: Janice, do you think Dr. Ryan's death might help inspire people to stop driving while distracted? Do you think so, if it gets enough attention?
DICKINSON: I hope so, Larry. I'm praying. I'm going to -- I have a pretty large mouth, so I am just going to spread the word. And hopefully, through the grace of God, we can learn from this senseless death. I hope so, Larry.
KING: Jennifer, do you think this -- do you think you're going to be -- do you think the campaign will be successful? Do you think we're going to reduce the number of people drastically who text and drive?
SMITH: We have to. I mean, in 2008, over 6,000 people were killed because of distracted driving crashes. If we don't do something now, this will spiral out of control and everyone -- I always say it every time I give a speech that it's no longer a matter of if this is going to happen to someone you love, it's when. I personally know many people who have been affected by this. And every day I speak to new victims' families. We have to do something.
KING: Shelley, being involved as you are in Focus Driven hasn't eased the pain any, has it?
FORNEY: It has some. But nothing will bring my daughter back. But knowing that if I share my story along with all the other board members and all the people who have submitted their stories to us on FocusDriven.org -- all these victims are in the same boat we are in. And they're all sharing their story for the same reason. We don't want anyone else to be in our spot.
If it means we have to go out and break our heart and share our story, that's what we're going to do, to try to save lives. It's worth it for me.
KING: You go to FocusDriven.org.
FORNEY: Absolutely. You can take the pledge, get involved, find out ways that you can help people who are victims, and spread the word about how dangerous this is. And we need to put a stop to it. And thank you so much for bringing the spotlight on to this, Larry.
KING: Sad that it had to be the death of someone. Of course, we haven't solved the mystery yet. But it's generally accepted that that is probably what it was. One other thing, Officer Ramirez, is this a tough -- from a law enforcement point of view, is this tough to enforce?
RAMIREZ: It's tough to the effect that we need more officers on the road, definitely. We want to catch everybody, but we can't. We make it an enforcement stop whenever we see it. We'd like to see a little bit more of this done. But we also have -- I want you to know there is the enforcement aspect of it and the education part of it, which we have two grants that are funded to help us educate the public. One is the Teen Impact Grant. The other one is the Adult Distracted Driver Grant. Education plays a big part, because we want to curtail this social norm.
KING: Tomorrow night, George Lopez and the Kardashians. Now, John Roberts and "AC 360."