Return to Transcripts main page

Piers Morgan Live

Big Story: President Vs. Conservatives; Interview with LL Cool J

Aired February 10, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, has President Obama become the compromiser-in-chief? Under mounting pressure from the conservatives, he changes direction on the contraception coverage and on super PACs. I'll ask his campaign: is this a way to get re-elected?


MORGAN: Welcome.


MORGAN: Plus, politics and pop music. And the host of the Grammy's LL Cool J.


LL COOL J, ENTERTAINER: I don't think anybody should assume that I'm a Democrat either. I'm an independent.


MORGAN: And his ideas of keeping America great.


LL COOL J: Einstein had a great quote, he said you have to learn the rules of the game and play better than anyone else.


MORGAN: Also, music's greatest star maker Clive Davis' brightest talents, Jennifer Hudson.


MORGAN: And have you seen (INAUDIBLE)?

JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER: Well, sometimes if I have enough energy to.


MORGAN: And only in America, Barbra Streisand is having a special Grammy moment. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.


MORGAN: Good evening.

Tonight, politics, pop and Barbra Streisand.

But in our big story, we begin with President Obama getting in the business with conservatives.

Listen to Mitt Romney today at the Conservative Political Action Conference.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been a great conference so far and for that I supposed we should also acknowledge President Obama, he is the conservative movement's top recruiter, it turns out --


ROMNEY: It turns out he is really a good community organizer. I just don't think that this is the community he planned on organizing, but he did.


MORGAN: So how is the president's reelection campaign fighting back?

Joining me now is Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama in 2012.

Welcome, Stephanie.

So, a bit of a rough old time you're getting over this. What I can't understand is why nobody saw it coming.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR OBAMA 2012: Nobody saw the criticism coming from the Catholic Church on contraception? Well, you know, Piers, let's remember where we started out on this debate. The president announced maybe two and a half weeks ago a monumental step forward for women's health and insuring that all women got access to contraception care with no out of pocket costs.

As part of that announcement, he announced a year and a half extra transition for the religious institutions -- not churches because they were exempted -- but religious institutions to work with them to find a way that we could implement this policy in a way that work for them and respect their belief and ensure that women got coverage.

So, this policy doesn't take effect for them for another year and a half. So, we were working through that policy. But obviously, we saw many, including some of the sound that you were just talking about, Mitt Romney, other Republican candidates, you know, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, a lot of men standing up there and trying to drive a political wedge into this issue.

So, the president decided, let's expedite this, let's just take the steam out of it, take the debate away and focus on what we need to focus on, protecting women's health in a way that respects religious beliefs. And that's what we accomplished today.

MORGAN: Did you set (INAUDIBLE) the compromise today though, it obviously looks to everybody on the outside that you have committed your own goal and you're trying to clear the mess-up? I mean, that's what it would seem to be what you're now accepting.

CUTTER: Well, it's actually not a compromise. It's an adjustment to the implementation. A compromise would mean we are compromising to whether or not women can get this health care. That's not anything that the president is going to compromise on.

Women are still getting the same access to the health care that they need, contraception, to keep them healthy, cuts down on the rates of cancer. That's, you know, unwavering in terms of the president's commitment to that. This is an adjustment to the implementation.

And, you know, part of it is a little bit of disbelief that we're even debate about contraception to begin with. This it is birth control, something that women have been taking, you know, for decades, and something that is accepted in this country, 99 percent of the women take birth control. It's a little unbelievable that we are debating it.

MORGAN: Yes, it is. But I don't think it's unbelievable that Roman Catholics would be debating it. And I'm a Roman Catholic. And I could have -- you could have just called me --

CUTTER: As am I.

MORGAN: I could have saved you -- well, one of them, so you must understand why it's such is a big debate, because obviously, many Roman Catholics would be appalled by this. You would know that, and that's why I find it surprising that nobody at the White House thought this through in terms of the Roman Catholic element of this, as you people are saying, I don't like this, and the right seizing on it the way they have.

CUTTER: Well, Piers, you know that the Catholic Church is exempted from the rule, and they were exempted from the rule from the beginning. But you know, as Roman Catholic, and as a woman, we have disagreed with the church for a long time, and I don't believe and the president didn't believe that we should -- you know, a nurse at a Catholic hospital should have any less of a right to get the care she needs than the nurse of a public hospital. So, that was always our ultimate test.

MORGAN: Well, the president probably also is quite pleased, I would imagine, that his approval ratings are ticking up, and the economy --


MORGAN: -- appears to be, albeit it slowly, grinding its way back into some kind of a recovery and the GOP can't seem to decide who they want to take him on. So I would imagine from your point of view, the Obama 2012 campaign is going quite nicely at the moment.

CUTTER: Well, we don't have an opponent yet. We are watching the Republican primaries play out. We saw a lot of interesting speeches today at the conservative conference that you were playing earlier, a lot of very sharp lines being drawn.

You know, Mitt Romney claiming that he was severely conservative as a Massachusetts governor. And, you know, he continues to play to the conservative vote to try to lock up the nomination. It doesn't seem to be working very well for him, both for playing for the conservatives. And while he does that, he's alienating independents.

So, ultimately, we don't know if he'll be the general election nominee, we don't know if Rick Santorum will be the general election nominee. But we know over the course of this primary season, they have spent a lot of time alienating people.

MORGAN: And let me ask you one Santorum question which has come out with this comment that he would not like to see female soldiers on the front line in combat, because of the emotional issue. He stressed he didn't mean the women's emotional; he meant the man's emotion on the front line.

What did you think of that? What did the president think of that? Is he happy for women to be on the front line of the combat? Does he feel that the emotions can all be kept in check?

CUTTER: Well, I don't want to speak for the president about Rick Santorum's comment. But that comment seems a little crazy to me, that men and women, when fighting for their country, can't keep the emotions in check. Certainly, there are men and women of great valor who have been fighting for this country for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, that comment seems a little crazy to me, and I'm sure to men and women in the military.

MORGAN: Finally, as we look at the forthcoming election and the battle hotting up, what do you identify now, given you're so closely involved with this campaign -- is there a slight credibility issue with his dramatic U-turn on the super PACs?

CUTTER: Credibility issue -- no. I think that from the response that we've seen this week, people appreciate that he doesn't want to fight with one hand tied behind his back. And, you know, he has fought long for campaign finance reform so that average Americans, low-dollar donors have a say in our elections, not just wealthy Americans or special interests or corporate interests.

MORGAN: I understand -- I do understand that, but --

CUTTER: And on the --


MORGAN: And let me just say that when the president is on the record of saying that these PACs are a threat to democracy, how can he have the brass neck to now support them?

CUTTER: Exactly what I said. He is going to continue to fight to change the law. But the law is the way it is right now in this election cycle. And we just saw a commitment by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, and a whole host of other Republicans to spend a half a billion the defeat this president for one particular reason, to defeat this president.

Mitt Romney's super PAC -- tens of millions of dollars were raised in the last quarter by less than 200 people. So, in order to ensure that the millions of Americans who are giving what they can, $5, $10 or $25, that their voices are not drowned out, we're going to make sure that those attacks are responded to. We know those attacks are coming, and we're going to respond to them.

And so that's why we made this decision to not fight with one hand behind our backs and not unilaterally disarm in the middle of an election. It doesn't mean we're not going to continue fighting to change the law, and the president is committed to doing that. You know, ultimately, it might take a constitutional amendment to finally make sure that average Americans have a say in their elections rather than special interests.

But, you know, I think that the response that we've seen over the past few days after we made this decision, people appreciate that there needs to be a fair fight.

MORGAN: So the threat level from super PACs to democracy is being downgraded to zero just for the period of the election? Is that how we are leaving things?

CUTTER: No. Absolutely not. I am sure that even with our announcement, it's emboldened a lot of people on the other side to give even more. But at least we can do our best to ensure that those attacks are responded to. We're going to continue on the campaign side to raise dollars from average Americans.

You know, you know the statistics on the Obama for America money, more than $1 million, the average donation is $250 or less. You know, we are proud of that. We are continuing to build that grassroots force and ensure that those voices aren't drown out.

MORGAN: Stephanie Cutter, thank you very much indeed.

CUTTER: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: When we come back, Mr. Cool himself, LL Cool J, and his surprising ideas of keeping America great. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


LL COOL J: I'm LL Cool J and on February 12th, I'll be hosting the Grammy's along with artists like Nicki Minaj, who I love.

NICKI MINAJ, ENTERTAINER: Yes and this is very exciting for me because, like I've been listening to you since I was a baby.

LL COOL J: I love you less now.


MORGAN: The Grammys haven't had a host in seven years. But this year, the Recording Academy has called on a guy so cool, it's actually his middle name. One of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time, the legendary LL Cool J, which, of course, stands for Ladies Love Cool James. And he joins me now.

I love that name.

LL COOL J: Thank you.

MORGAN: It's one of the greatest names in the history of music.

LL COOL J: Yes, as long as people don't know it's dedicated to my mom, I'll be all right, but --

MORGAN: That slightly ruins it. That ruins it.

LL COOL J: That ruins it a little bit, doesn't it?

MORGAN: No you were christened James Todd Smith.


MORGAN: Your friends call you Todd.


MORGAN: Why do you like being called by the fans? What's -- what should I be calling you now? What is -- what is a respectful way?

LL COOL J: I think Todd works just fine. Mother knows best.


MORGAN: How are you feeling about the Grammy's?

LL COOL J: I feel great.

MORGAN: They haven't had a host in seven years.

You're the man now. Are you nervous? Do you get nervous? With a name like "cool," you can't get that nervous.

LL COOL J: Well you know what? I'm -- I wouldn't say I'm nervous, but at the same time, it's not like, oh, I've got it. I'm -- I'm done, you know, spandex on, you know, it's not -- it's not that kind of a deal.

I'm ready to do it. I look forward to living up to the challenge and getting out there not being in the way. It's not going to be the LL Cool J wardrobe show. It's going to be about the artists that, you know, were nominated and our performance.

MORGAN: You -- you've won two Grammys.


MORGAN: So you know what's it like to win.

LL COOL J: Oh, I've been nominated nine times so I've lost more than I've won.

MORGAN: Let's be honest -- winnings better than losing, right?

LL COOL J: Without a doubt.

MORGAN: You came out with an amazingly powerful quotation, which I want to read in full.


MORGAN: You said, "I'm happy to be black. I am what I am. I'm doing very well in my life and I'm thankful to God for that. I'm a real person that cares about his art and cares about what he's doing. I have a heart and a soul and I want to touch people and give.

As a black man, my hope is I can touch more and more people all over the world of different races and different colors, and I think eventually if I just stay on this path, we'll get there."


MORGAN: I found that very inspiring that -- that quotation.


MORGAN: And it made me think, I guess again, we're in an election year --


MORGAN: -- of the fact that America three years ago took this huge leap forward as a nation.

LL COOL J: Yes. Right.

MORGAN: Got its first black president.

Given what you said there, how do you -- how do you critique Barack Obama?

LL COOL J: I think, you know, first of all, when you're -- I want to qualify by saying that when you're running for the president of the United States, you're going to make a lot of promises on the campaign trail that where, you know, when you look at the equation, it's one plus one equals two outcome, right? But when you get into the inner sanctum, you find out that one plus one plus a couple other ones equals four.

And now people are saying, well what happened to two?

I think that -- I think that we as people in the United States of American don't have all of the information in front of us, and for our benefit. And I think just on a worldwide level, no democracy, you know, no democratic, you know, government is like just doling out all of the state secrets and all of the various nuances and dynamics that effect the decision making that goes on in the inner sanctum, you know?

MORGAN: Well let -- let me ask you a difficult question.


MORGAN: Because you had this extraordinary upbringing, you fought against a lot of, you know, really tough things in your life.

At the age of four, you watched your father shoot your mother and your grandfather.

LL COOL J: Yes, yes.

MORGAN: A traumatic event that most people couldn't even imagine.

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: You fought through this and you became what you are today, this incredibly successful Grammy-winning star, hosting this huge event and so on.

Is America still the country of that opportunity do you think?

LL COOL J: Of course it is. Of course America is still the country of that opportunity.

And I mean, you know, going back to what we were saying about, you know, President Obama, you know the reality is that, you know, no matter who holds that office, there is always going to be opposition. Some of that opposition is going to be aggressive, some of that opposition is going to be passive, sometimes it'll just be passive enough to make it look like you have a coordination problem, like you can't put, you know, certain pieces of the puzzle in certain place some -- you know, it happens in different ways.

That being said, I don't think anybody should assume that I'm a Democrat either. I'm an Independent, you know? MORGAN: What do -- by my mantra recently on the show --

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: -- has been a theme of keeping America great --

LL COOL J: Right, yes.

MORGAN: -- because I think it's a more positive way --

LL COOL J: Yes, it is.

MORGAN: -- of viewing what is going on right now.

Let me ask you, you're a successful businessman, never mind anything else.


MORGAN: How do we keep America great?

LL COOL J: I think in order to keep America great, we have to keep America creative. I think the key is to create. I don't think that anything great in this nation has ever happened without creation, whether it's the Wright Brothers or it's what Bill Gates has done, or, rest in peace, what Steve Jobs did.

You know, there are so many great things but I think the basis of America, it's about creating, even it it's just creating freedom, you know. We've always been about creation.

I mean you -- you look at it. If you have -- you have all of these billionaires and, you know, some of their kids are running around and they're partying in the Hamptons, the only cure for their lives if they're bored and feel like they have everything is to create. Sometimes creation is the best solution, you know, to create.

Now, not destruction, but harmony. We need to make sure that there's art in the school. Why? Why should art be in the school?

Because if art isn't in a school, then a guy like Steve Jobs doesn't get a chance to really express himself because in order for art to meet technology, you need art. You know, it's not like, oh, it's technology, you -- you need both. I think we have to maintain that balance and I think that that's where people kind of get it a little muddy.

And then when you think about, you know the -- the class thing that's going on, I mean you have one group of people that are wearing all white and playing cricket or cricket or croquet, I don't even know how to say.

MORGAN: I don't see much cricket here.

LL COOL J: Yes, cricket, they're playing that, and then you have another crew that's playing it on the sideway, you know they're play skully on the sidewalk, Google that, you know? And, you know, they can't relate to each other, but there is a middle ground

MORGAN: Here -- here's the thing, they talk all the time, the rich are getting richer, and you have this huge upper-class, if you like, of very wealthy people in America.

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: The 1 percent.

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: Then you have this underclass, which is the branding it's given --

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: -- which are people who have just been shoved aside by the system, if you like.

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: And that number is getting bigger and it's not just a black thing, it's a white thing, it's all colors, all creeds --


MORGAN: More and more people are falling into this poverty trap, real poverty trap.

LL COOL J: Yes, yes.

MORGAN: What do we do about that section of the community?

LL COOL J: Well Einstein had a great quote, he said you have to learn the rules of the game and play better than anyone else, you know? So, that obviously means you've got to be educated. To know the rules of the game, you have to be educated.

So, it starts with education. But it's not just about, you know, going to the public school and learning arithmetic and reading, of course we need that. But the -- I think we all know that there are certain things that are being taught around dining room tables and certain things that are being taught in, you know, fancy dimly lit rooms that need to be shared in that underclass or that underbelly community because that will only help society as a whole.

Remember, if you --

MORGAN: How much should they be personally responsible? I interviewed Ron Paul --

LL COOL J: Completely.

MORGAN: I interviewed Ron Paul recently. He was very big on you can't wait for governments or states or whatever it may be to help you. You've got to help yourself. LL COOL J: Yes. Well he's right. He's right in that regard because, you know, you know, the government is not our religion. You know, the government is our government and their job is to make sure that we have a safe society, that we're protected and that they take care of us and serve our, you know, our -- make sure our needs are taken care of as a -- as a society and a nation.

But we have to take care of ourselves and I think that starts with believing it could happen.

See, a lot of times, when you're dealing with the downtrodden and you're dealing with, you know, the underbelly, the urban community, you're dealing with people who have given up hope. So, you know --

MORGAN: And when you talk to people in that position, what do you say to them to inspire them?

LL COOL J: Look at me.

MORGAN: But how did you get there, do you think? When you look back, what was it about you that allowed you to get out of that trap?

LL COOL J: Well, there was this woman, her name was Ellen Griffith, and that was my grandmother and, you know, may she rest in peace.

And she always told me, Todd, if a task is once begun, never leave it until it's done, be thy labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

And that is an education that I was luckily -- lucky enough to get at home. I wasn't taught that in a school.

When I walked in school I had a math teacher that used to call us dummies and punch us in the back and send us in the classroom, "dummy," that was his idea of a joke. In the meantime, he's developing all these math-phobes.

MORGAN: What if you don't have anybody like your grandmother? Because I've heard this before --

LL COOL J: Right, yes.

MORGAN: sat where you are now and told me a similar story about his mother. And I see where you have the undivided love of a parent.


MORGAN: It doesn't even need to be both parents.

LL COOL J: I understand.

MORGAN: It can be one parent that just believes in you, it's 10 times easier than if you have nobody.


MORGAN: What do you do if you have no one?

LL COOL J: You have to look at all the people in the world that are successful and you have synthesize all of those positions, those people, those goals they achieved, the things they did, the heroic moments. You have to take your, you know, your greatest Michael Jordan moment and your greatest, you know, whoever you name moment and put them all together and say, you know what, I'm going to go for it.

Because I always tell people, I said this in one of my -- my books, I said, if a -- if you're plane crashed, it was actually in a song too, if your plane crashed and everybody else was gone and there was a life preserver over there, would you just let it float away or would you grab on to it?

I mean, it's your life. So it's really at the end of the day, you have to make the decision, you know?

It -- it, you know, as bad as the urban community is, as bad as the trailer park is, as bad as it can be and let's say the Appalachians and certain parts of America where it's really, really tough -- at the end of the day, there are no bars around those communities, so you can get out. You've just got to make the decision to get out.

And a lot of times, it's not the physical bars, it's the mental bars that stop people. You know? It's like an elephant that knew it was tied up for six months and stops trying to escape, you don't even have to tie up anymore. You put a little rope there.

MORGAN: I'm fascinated by this. Let's take a little break.


MORGAN: Come back and talk more about keeping America great because I think you're on to something.

LL COOL J: Let's do it.

MORGAN: I like this.

LL COOL J: All right. Cool.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know someone in Belgium?

LL COOL J: Before I got stuck with you, Sam Handle (ph) was an international brand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. You know, before I got stuck with, I didn't realize that people who referred themselves in a third person really existed in life. LL COOL J: Yes, right, kind of like guys who have one letter of the alphabet for a first name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five years to the day.


MORGAN: LL Cool J staring in one of television's biggest smash hits, "NCIS: Los Angeles" on CBS and back with me now.

Huge show there.

LL COOL J: Yes, it's doing well, you know, who knew? You know? If I -- if I knew the secret, I would have did it 10 years ago.


MORGAN: Why do you think it is so popular?

LL COOL J: You know what? I really can't say. I think that, you know, the stars just aligned. Obviously, the original "NCIS" is a huge show so, you know, having them as a lead-in really helped us.

You know, Shane Brennan did a great job as a show runner, I think the writing staff does an amazing job. You know and then, you know, the network really got behind it and believed in us, you know, you know, Les Moonves and Nina Tassler have been great.

It's just been -- it's just one those things that happen, you can't really say why.

MORGAN: Well, I said to you right now -- if you can either make movies, make television or make music for the rest of your life, but it can only be one of them.


MORGAN: What would you do?

LL COOL J: That's harsh.

That's an interesting question. I guess I'd make television movies that are musicals?


MORGAN: When you look at all these artists at the Grammy's on Sunday --

LL COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: -- performers already announced. Chris Brown, Cold Play, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen -- who do you get excited by?

LL COOL J: You know, I've got to tell you, you know, I grew up -- MORGAN: You can't say all of them.

L.L. COOL J: No, I can't. And you know, as a host, yes, I look at the body of work. But just as a fan, I did grow up -- everybody know I love hip-hop. I'm hip-hop to the core.

But I did grow up singing that Bruce Springstein "Born in the USA" back pocket, with the flag poster. It was like part of the ether, you know. So I kind of want to se the Boss perform. I want to see Bruce perform.

MORGAN: It is good time for the Boss to perform and to maybe sing "Born in the USA." It is such a patriotic country, America.

L.L. COOL J: It is.

MORGAN: And yet right now, I just get a sense of collective deflation. Everyone is a bit down in the dumps.

L.L. COOL J: You know, it is OK, you know, to -- you know, sometimes if you are carrying a heavy load up some step, it is all right to take a break. You know, whew, exhale. Let's get back up and keep moving. So I think that is what America is doing.

I don't think America is going to, by any means, give up. And I think that deep down in the recesses of our American psyche, we see ourselves coming out of all of this turmoil or whatever you want to call it, perceived turmoil, and going on to bigger and better things.

But it just comes with the territory. I mean, it is kind of like this, you know. You are down here, but you are higher than you were before.

MORGAN: How important is it that big companies like Apple, which I'm a massive consumer of -- a lot of Apple gear at my house. And I love them. And I love what Steve Jobs --

MORGAN: Every time I pull out a Blackberry, I get reminded. I get reminded every time.

L.L. COOL J: The one thing I can't get used to is the iPhone. My fingers are too big. Something is wrong with it. But other than that, I have got Apple everywhere.

But I have a real ideological problem with the fact they employ more people in China than they do in America. To me, it is just wrong. I had this debate with financial people, and I said, look, why can't they just one day, we are going to bring back 10 percent of that workforce and put it back in America, and we'll take a bit of a hit.

Because if they did, the American people would respond so favorably, they would make the money back anyway.

L.L. COOL J: Because, you know, like in all businesses and like in politics and anything else, sometimes your -- your greatest strength can be your greatest Achilles' Heel. And we are talking about capitalism. You know, that's moving money from this place to that place and getting the best return.

Part of the reason why capitalism works is because we move money from this place to that place to get the best return, and some other reasons.

MORGAN: Do you have any problem with it?

L.L. COOL J: Personally, do I have a problem with it? You know, I would love to see a creative way for more Americans to stay employed and stay involved. I don't necessarily think that I want to tell a business owner how to run their business or how to make sure that their business works, because ultimately the corporation, that living entity is a person. And its only goal in life is to make sure that it feeds the bottom line for its shareholders.

So that is the gray area, the shiny gray area that we deal with when we talk about business and capitalism.

MORGAN: I just think if the whole focus now was getting Americans back to work --

L.L. COOL J: Right.

MORGAN: -- it would change the whole thinking.

L.L. COOL J: I think that -- I think you're right. I agree with that. Americans want to work. Everybody is not running around, you know, with a big bottle of fancy celebrity cognac, you know, laughing it up. People are hurting. People are suffering.

MORGAN: I would run on just two things. If I was able to run for president, which I'm not, I would just run on better education and getting Americans back to work. And everything else would follow.

L.L. COOL J: I agree with that. But this is where I think it gets complicated. It's easy to run on something. The problem is executing. And you know, there are so many moving pieces and that -- you know, Washington is so dynamic. And there are so many players that have so many different agendas, not always villains, just different agendas.

They may totally right about what they're doing. It's not to villanize anyone. And so you have to keep that in mind. But I think ultimately most people agree that they want Americans working.

The problem comes in that some people feel it is the government's responsibility to get them working. Others feel it is private business owners who need to get them working. I personally think it is a combination of the two working together, so that the American people are taken care of.

MORGAN: I can't let this go without talking to you about love. You have the love of a great woman. You have four kids.

L.L. COOL J: Yes.

MORGAN: What have you learned about yourself through that process?

L.L. COOL J: Eat your soup, let her talk.

MORGAN: You know what, I am actually going to leave it there. That is the best advice for a man I have ever heard in my life. LL Cool J, have a great time on Sunday.

L.L. COOL J: You too, my man.

MORGAN: Coming up, music business star maker Clive Davis and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson.


MORGAN: I want to bring in two of the biggest names in the music business. First, a question, what do these stars have in common?




MORGAN: The answer, of course, is one man, Clive Davis. He is the man who made stars out of all of the people you just saw. And he is here with me now along with one of his biggest stars, Oscar and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Hudson. Welcome to you both.


MORGAN: Great honor to have the great man in my studio. Jennifer, you are a fantastic story. You know why I love your story? Because Simon Cowell didn't spot your talent. And I remind him of this every time I see him.

If you had come on "America's Got Talent," I would have made sure you won.


MORGAN: How do you feel, Clive, about -- because you swooped on this amazing talent I think after you saw the reels for "Dream Girls." Did you see her on "American Idol?" Did you pick up on Jennifer then?

DAVIS: I did. But you know, to me, I had agreed to record the winner and the runner. Of course, I saw Jennifer's talent. And regretfully, you know, she didn't reach the finals. But I saw the screen test for "Dream Girls," not the actual reel. I saw that rough, raw screen test, where she sang "I'm Changing," where she sang, you know, the great songs and saw her acting ability.

And that sold me. So we got together after that. I reached out to her and signed her.

MORGAN: And you are living, walking proof that these shows, which often get derided by critics, really can actually produce world class stars, can't they?

HUDSON: I think so. I think that reality shows are a good platform, one, for you to display your talent, and two, it really teaches you and prepares you for the industry in which you are trying to become part of. So I feel like it is a very good thing. I do.

MORGAN: You went through a huge roller coaster of emotions, I would imagine. You know, you're in this amazing show. You're doing fantastically well. And then the heart break, you don't make the final three. And you're probably going home thinking that is it. What were you thinking?

HUDSON: You know, I had that little moment right there, very briefly. I was like, you know, it is over. Everybody goes through that. Of course, nobody wants to be rejected.

But I quickly got over it. And I said, you know what, I am walking away with the prize. And that is my talent. And I just kept singing. Even in my exit speech, I said you know what, it is something in store for me. I don't know when. I don't know how, but I know I have to sing my way to it. And two years later, I got "Dream Girls."

MORGAN: What was the moment for you when you realized that you were going to make it?

HUDSON: Wow. I guess when I -- that is a good question. When I got that second chance. And it is not every day that you get second- chances. And when I say that, I mean like being able to audition for "Dream Girls" and then being one of the people that was called back over and over again for it.

MORGAN: Could you sense that this was going to be a big movie ? Could you feel it?

HUDSON: Now that I didn't know. All of that became a huge surprise to me. I had no idea what all would come from it.

MORGAN: That is kind of what I mean about when your realized, because that movie could have bombed, in which case you would have had another blow. What was the moment when you knew it was going to be a smash and you and your career were never going to look back?

HUDSON: Ooh, goodness. I probably didn't know that until I was like nominated for things. I honestly didn't, because even while we would be filming on set, I wouldn't know that I had a scene that would be on my shoulders to lead, you know, until I was in the middle of it. Or one of the times when Jamie came over and told me, you will probably get nominated for an Oscar for this -- every time someone would say that to me on the set, I would like, whatever, and pay it no attention.

I had no idea. Somebody once said like this girl -- the amazing thing is she has no idea what she is in store for.

MORGAN: Well, let's take a clip from "Dream Girls," because it was an incredible performance.

HUDSON: Thank you.




MORGAN: My god! Even when I hear it again, it knocks your socks off. Do you sing like that in the bath?

HUDSON: Sometimes if I have enough energy to.

MORGAN: You get up in the morning and go --

HUDSON: Sometimes. You have to feel it. You know, it's an emotional thing.

MORGAN: She has some set of pipes on her, doesn't she, Clive? You have seen some of the greatest singers of all time. Where does this lady rank?

HUDSON: She really ranks right up there. For me, I have been known to be involved with Divas, whether it started with Dionne Warwick, which led to Aretha Franklin, and then it led to Whitney and Annie Lennox. When I saw that audition for that movie part, I saw a depth and a range and a soulfulness that really ranks at the top level.

And that is why we have been working together ever since.

MORGAN: I have always assumed -- and correct me if I am wrong -- but it would be hard to beat Whitney at her peak, hard, right. When I hear you sometimes, I do genuinely feel -- and I'm not an expert like Clive is -- but I feel she is nearly there, maybe as good now.

DAVIS: Oh, listen, it is hard to make comparisons for years. You know, working with the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, people always said, can Whitney compare with Aretha? They are all-timers and Jennifer definitely has that potential.

MORGAN: Let's take a break. I want to come back and talk about how you look, because according to what magazine I have read in the last two years, you have either been too big, too small, too skinny, too whatever. And I'm looking at what I think -- unless I'm wrong, Clive -- is almost physical perfection here.

HUDSON: Thank you.

MORGAN: So they're all talking complete clap trap. Let's come back and talk perfection.



MORGAN: Jennifer Hudson's latest, "No One Going To Love You," from her new album "I Remember Me." And she's back with me now, along with producer extraordinaire Clive Davis.

Let's talk about these magazines' obsession with how you look. I can't think of anything worse than picking up magazine after magazine telling me whether I'm too big, too small, whatever it may be.

What is like being Jennifer Hudson, with all of this nonsense being written about you?

HUDSON: You know -- well, I try not to pay much attention to it, because you will go bonkers. You will go -- you'll fall in to what everybody says you should do and how you should look and all of those things. I have come to learn through my weight loss journey, there is really no winning with losing weight.

It's like when you lose weight, then you're too small. First, you can't do it. Then you do it. Then you're too small. And it goes from there. And it never ends. but that is why you have to do it for you.

MORGAN: You have been through stuff in the last few years that nobody would ever want to go through. And I'm not going to dwell on any of that because you've talked about it. But where do you find the strength of character that you have shown? Because that's what has always impressed me about you, is this inner strength that you have?

HUDSON: First of all, I have to give credit to God and also my upbringing. I grew up around a very religious based family. My grandmother was very spiritual. And I grew up in the church.

And my mother was a very wise and strong person. And I feel like she raised us well. And she prepared me well. So that's what I live by. You know, go back to that base. And that's what I stick with.

MORGAN: Have you taken those values now to motherhood? Impending marriage?

HUDSON: Definitely, definitely, every day. And that's a blessing in itself.

MORGAN: What are the core values you think you got from your mother and your grandmother that you can take forward?

HUDSON: Oh my goodness, again, my faith in God, you know, family. Family is everything. And I have my son. I have my fiance. I have my sister and even my friends. Like my assistant, Walter, we have known each other since we were in the sixth grade, 11 years old. So keeping family near, and the things that I was taught, and sticking with those things.

MORGAN: Clive, you have this huge pre-Grammy party tomorrow night. Richard Branson, my friend, is being honored there. And you've got Jane Fonda, you said, presenting. Does he know this?


MORGAN: OK. I didn't want to ruin the surprise. It is an amazing event, your party. Everybody goes to this. Tell me about it. What is the thinking behind it?

DAVIS: It started the year I started Arista Records. We had a number one record "Mandy" with Barry Manilow. It was nominated for two Grammys. And every company celebrates the night of the Grammy Awards. So I said to Barry, if we celebrated, we'd have two tables at Jason's in Los Angeles. So let's do something the night before.

Stevie Wonder came. John Denver came. Elton John came. I knew we were on to something special. And that began the tradition. The night before the Grammys, everybody comes from motion pictures, from television, from records, you know, and we al celebrate music. There are no winners, no losers that night.

And I paired people over the year, Aretha Franklin with Alicia Keyes.

MORGAN: It's always an amazing -- who have you got this year? Tantalize me?

DAVIS: I will tell you the show will open with Tony Bennett. He's had a great album this year.

MORGAN: Greatest living crooner?

DAVIS: You know, I would say.

MORGAN: Here is a question for you, and I have always wondered what your answer would be, if I could only allow you to listen to one song for the rest of your life, on repeat, what would it be?

DAVIS: First of all, it would be very painful, to listen to one song.

MORGAN: I'm forcing you at gunpoint.

DAVIS: I would have to say, among my fondest memories and that which I was a part of in some way, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." I have to say that the spiritual nature, the incredible song that Paul Simon wrote, that performance that Art Garfunkel gave, it just is memorable.

To me, there's not one song, but if I had to comply with your hypothetical, I would say that.

MORGAN: I've been running a sort of thematic thing for a few weeks now about keeping America great. When you look at what's happening with America now, what do you think the answer is to get America fired up again?

DAVIS: I think it's going to have to be, A, an improved campaign. And so far, I think the debates among the prospects has been disappointing. I'm a great believer in President Obama. I do believe that he is capable of inspiring this country and to absolutely trigger that greatness again.

The first year, there were many issues that might have sidetracked. But I'm a believer. And I believe that Barack Obama is going to lead us to a great second term. I would like to see a greater commitment to funds, so that highways, schools, and the standard of living and quality of life can be and restore America to its prime.

MORGAN: What you're saying really, Clive, is we need "A Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

DAVIS: We need "A Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

MORGAN: Which is where we started this conversation. It's been a great pleasure to meet you, sir. Best of luck with the party. Have fun at the Grammys. I look forward to seeing you at the Grammys. It's going to be one hell of a night.

Coming up, a special Grammy edition of Only in America, with the one and only Barbra Streisand.


MORGAN: Tonight's Only in America remains on the Grammy theme. On Sunday night, the world's great music stars will gather for the prestigious awards here in Los Angeles. And we and indeed they will all be asking the same question: who is the best?

Well, here is a clue. One of them is celebrating her 50th year in the business. She's won eight Grammys. She's nominated for two more this year. And she's won four Oscars, four Emmys and a Tony.

She's sold 140 million albums, including number one records in five different decades. But on Sunday, she will witness first hand the one truly defining symbol of Grammy superstardom. Another artist has been nominated for an infectious smash hit dance hit called simply "Barbra Streisand."

If you haven't heard it, it will stick in your head like a hyperactive ear worm.

Here's a clip.




MORGAN: Surely, the greatest symbol you could ever want as a musician. Yes, our frighteningly infectious "Barbra Streisand" by DJ Dure Almond Van Hellman (ph) and A-Track, otherwise known as Duck Sauce. Nobody -- I repeat nobody in musical history has ever been nominated at the Grammys at the same event that somebody else has also been nominated for a song named in their honor.

There is quite literally only one Barbra Streisand, the queen of American music. Happy anniversary, your majesty. That's all for us tonight.

"AC 360" starts now.