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The Situation Room

U.S. Marine Corps Stretched Too Thin?; President Bush to Meet with Iraqi Prime Minister; Whites-Only Scholarship Raises Controversy

Aired November 22, 2006 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time -- standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now: too many combat tours, and too few troops. The commanding general warns, the U.S. Marine Corps is stressed out and stretched too thin.

They were outraged and offended by a comedian's racist rant. Can they do something about it? I will speak with the comedy club patrons and their attorney.

And scholarships for whites only? A College Republican group sets out to spark controversy, but the spark set off more than that.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Does America need more Marines? It's a question that flows from a warning today from the new commanding general that the corps may be stretched too thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the troops and their families being asked to bear too big a burden?

Let's begin tonight with our CNN Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, the Marine Corps' new commandant, General James Conway, basically says it comes down to two options. The United States either needs a bigger Marine Corps or a smaller war.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): With some Marine units headed back for a fourth tour of duty in Iraq, the strain on the smallest U.S. military service is becoming too much. Just one week on the job, the corps' top general is warning, the pace is making it impossible for Marines to balance military service with family life.

GENERAL JAMES CONWAY, U.S. MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: I think we may lose some of those folks. I think that the families, the young Marines, the sailors will say, that's -- that's just more than I think, you know, I'm willing to bear.

And it could have some negative consequences for us in that regard.

MCINTYRE: Something's got to give, General James Conway says. Either send fewer Marines to war or recruit more Marines and increase the size of the corps.

Currently, there are roughly 180,000 Marines on active duty. And, unlike ground troops in the Army, they serve seven-month combat tours, not a year. They're supposed to get 14 months to recover. But the interval is more like seven or eight months, basically because the unrelenting violence in Iraq has prevented planned U.S. troop withdrawals.

The strain is not just a personal hardship. It's forcing the Marine Corps to forgo other critical missions, as it concentrates solely on counterinsurgency operations.

CONWAY: We're not providing to the nation some of the other things that we should be able to do, in virtually any other nature of contingency.

We're not sending battalions like we used to for the mountain warfare training, the -- the jungle training. And we're not doing combined arms exercises that we used to do for the fire and maneuver types of activities that we have to be prepared to do.

MCINTYRE: Currently, there are about 23,000 Marines in Iraq, all in Al Anbar Province, one of the most dangerous parts of country. That includes 2,200 reinforcements just dispatched to the area to try to keep the insurgents in check.


MCINTYRE: On the job for just a week, General Conway is not ready to make any bold or expensive recommendations to increase the size of the Marine Corps. For one thing, he wants to see what new strategy might be in store for Iraq. If it requires fewer Marines, instead of more, he says he can manage with the number he has -- John.

KING: Jamie McIntyre for us tonight at Pentagon -- thank you, Jamie.

And, while Americans look for a way out of Iraq, British troops may be closer to getting out. The British government today said the last areas controlled by its troops could be handed over to the Iraqi forces in the spring.

ITN's Tom Bradby has the story.


TOM BRADBY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): It was certainly never supposed to end like this. Tony Blair sent troops into Iraq to create a democracy that would be a shining example to the Middle East. Three years on, this is the state we have made.

There are now no easy options. So, the British government seems to have adopted the one most likely to work. Train up the local security forces, stabilize the situation, and then try and get the hell out.

Today, the foreign secretary led us to believe the situation was moving on.

MARGARET BECKETT, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The progress of our current operation in Basra gives us confidence that we may be able to achieve transition in that province, too, at some point next spring.

BRADBY: There are currently over 7,000 British troops in Iraq, concentrated in the south. Two British-administered provinces have already been handed over to Iraqi authorities. Al-Muthanna was transferred in July. And, in September, Dhi Qar followed.

Najaf, which the Americans control, is said to be next. And, in January, Maysan will be transferred to local control. And, if all goes according to plan, Basra will follow in the spring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any transfer of control by the spring would depend on the success of Operation Sinbad, which began late in September, which is an attempt to go through Basra, district by district, and take control back from a corrupt police force and the influence of the militias.

BRADBY: So, that's working right, and this marks the start of the pullout. Not necessarily, say the opposition parties.

(on camera): The government knows it isn't working in Iraq. And, effectively, they're doing what you have always suggested they do, which is begin a withdrawal, isn't that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- this is not -- I have to take issue with it. This is not the beginning of a withdrawal. This is a redeployment. A withdrawal would involve something quite separate and quite different.

What is clear to me, though, is that, among senior parts of the military, there is an acceptance that there is little more that British forces can do in Iraq.

BRADBY: Many may hope, tonight, therefore, that this is the beginning of the end for British troops in Iraq.


KING: That report from ITN's Tom Bradby.

Now, President Bush will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki next week -- that word from the White House today.

But, as the insurgency rages and Iraq's civilian death toll reaches new heights, can a summit make a difference?

Correspondent Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad. Michael, President Bush announcing he will travel to Jordan to meet Prime Minister Maliki next week, even though the president has already said there will be no major policy changes until he gets the report of the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker. That's still several weeks away. So, why this meeting now? Is there something Mr. Maliki wants or Mr. Maliki needs from such a summit?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just all pure guesswork at this stage, John.

The Iraqi prime minister and his office are remaining tight- lipped about the true forces behind this meeting, and, certainly, we have heard very little from the White House, in terms of the detail.

Clearly, this comes at time of American strategic uncertainty. Indeed, with the -- the Baker-Hamilton review not to come out until the end of the year, this period could even be a period of crisis, if it drags out that long. So, certainly, this is just a sign of how urgently people need things to change here. And I think these two leaders are getting together to try and spur things along.

However, the sad fact is, I don't see that either of the players, neither Prime Minister Maliki, nor President Bush, have a winning hand right now. So, it's difficult to see just what they can hope to achieve.

KING: And, Michael, the backdrop for this meeting, not only the policy review under way here in the United States, but this stunningly depressing new report from the United Nations, saying the civilian death toll, more than 3,700 last month, a record-setting month. Any end in sight? And I assume this is mostly of the result of this sectarian violence you speak of.

WARE: Absolutely.

As the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq says, that the 3,709 Iraqi civilians that are known of who died in October -- that's the worst death count of any month since the U.S. invasion back in 2003 -- is due to terrorism, violence from the insurgency, and sectarian violence.

So, this very much paints a tragic, tragic picture. And, when you put it back to back with the U.N.'s last report, before this one, we're talking about the deaths of more than 13,500 men, women and children in four months alone.

KING: Michael Ware for us in Baghdad -- Michael, thank you very much.

WARE: Thank you, John.

KING: Coming up: daughter of the president, Barbara Bush, robbed in Argentina. We will take a closer at how a thief could slip past the Secret Service. Plus: racist rant. We will talk to the people who were the targets of Michael Richards' hateful words. What do those men think now about the sincerity of Richards' apologies?

Also: Scholarship for whites only at an elite university, what's up with that?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Some new details tonight about a story we first reported about this time last night, President Bush's daughter Barbara having her purse stolen while traveling in Argentina.

CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins us with the very latest -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, it's been really difficult getting any information on this story. As you know, the White House hardly ever comments when it comes to the Bush daughters.

And this is not a moment that anyone is particularly proud of.


ARENA (voice-over): This is the San Telmo neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where law enforcement sources say first daughter Barbara Bush had her purse snatched.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I live here. And, truthfully, it's very quiet. But I have heard that there are people who rob around here. However, it is targeted to the tourists more than anyone.

ARENA: We can't tell you exactly where it happened, or even when, because no one in Argentina or in Washington is talking. Newspapers in Argentina have filed conflicting reports, and police officials there say no official complaint was ever filed. The White House has no comment. Neither does the Secret Service.

BOB OATMAN, SECURITY EXPERT: If I was chief of detail, I wouldn't find any of this humorous. And I will guarantee you the Secret Service doesn't think that way as well.

ARENA: A source familiar with the incident says some credit cards and a cell phone were among the items stolen, but CNN learned agents deleted the memory remotely as soon as they learned the phone was missing.

CNN is also told, Bush left her purse on a chair, and that she was never out of her security detail's line of sight. Security experts say that agents are there to protect people, not their stuff.

OATMAN: In my opinion, I don't believe the purse is the issue here. The issue is, it's an inconvenience that did occur. I -- I will guarantee you one thing, probably that the purse was not in proximity of Barbara Bush.

ARENA: What's more, CNN has learned, the president told the Secret Service to give his daughters as much freedom and space as possible.


ARENA: Bottom line, John, is that, while this was certainly embarrassing for the Secret Service, there's no indication that Barbara Bush was ever in any danger.

KING: Kelli Arena.

And, as she notes, they don't like talking about this one, especially when it comes to the Bush daughters.

Kelli, thank you very much.

Now, video-sharing sites like are redefining the way we watch and consume war. YouTube's exploding popularity means that ordinary people can get a small glimpse of life on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the good and sometimes the unsettling.

One video clip in particular has been getting some serious attention the last few days.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has been investigating -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, this video was posted on YouTube with the title "Iraqi Kid Runs For Water."

It appears to show a U.S. serviceman taunting a group of Iraqi children with an outstretched bottle of water. Their faces are not shown, but you do hear the voices of two men.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep running. Here.


TATTON: The kids do keep running. One child gives chase for the entire one minute, six seconds of the video. Towards the end of the video, the bottle is tossed in their direction.

This was put on YouTube a couple of months ago, in the middle of September. But, in -- in the last couple of days, it's been gaining a lot of interest. It has been passed around on blogs, on file-sharing Web sites -- many people posting angry comments after they viewed it.

We don't know the video's origin. It does appear to be Iraq, though we don't know exactly where. You don't see faces. You just see the arms and the helmet of an American serviceman in U.S. Army camouflage.

As to how it got online, we have reached out to the person that posted it, but that person did not respond to our inquiries. What he has written online, though, is that he himself is not in the video. He got it from someone who was over there. And he posted it -- quote -- "because I believe people should take responsibility for their actions."

Over 65,000 videos are uploaded on to the site YouTube each day from all over the world. And many of them that come out from Iraq are positive.

Just one click away from the video that I just showed you is this one, a very different one, of a soldier playing soccer in the street in Iraq with a group of children. That soldier is Army Specialist David Monteiro. He writes us via e-mail that this was in a Baghdad neighborhood, where his platoon had previously been handing out school supplies and clothes and footballs.

And, when he returned there, he was recognized by the children, and they asked him to play. Monteiro says that he uses YouTube to share his video with friends and family. This one's been viewed over 40,000 times at this point. He says that videos like his -- his bring a human aspect to the armed forces.

As for the video containing the bottle of water, U.S. officials in Iraq said they were not aware of any investigation connected to this video. Online, just in the last 24 hours, it's been viewed more than 100,000 times -- John.

KING: Amazing. Abbi Tatton, thank you for investigating that.

And still to come here: a rejected apology and reports that Michael Richards also has ranted about Jews. We have the latest on his damage-control offensive.

Plus, we will speak to the men who sparked Richards' racist tirade.

And money for whites? Why is a college group offering scholarship, but only to white students?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: We have new developments and fresh fallout from that racially charged tirade at an L.A. comedy club by Michael Richards of "Seinfeld" fame.

The actor and comedian is reaching out and offering apologies, some of which aren't being accepted. In just a few minutes, we will hear from the two men who were the targets of Richards' rant.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Carol Costello, live in New York, with the latest on this controversy -- Carol. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Michael Richards reached out to Al Sharpton. And, while he didn't get a total smackdown, the apology wasn't exactly graciously accepted.





COSTELLO (voice-over): Let the apology tour begin.


RICHARDS: I'm really busted up over this.


COSTELLO: But it won't be as easy as an "I'm sorry."

Richards tried that again today, calling the Reverend Al Sharpton, apologizing and offering to begin a healing process. Sharpton didn't seem in a forgiving mood, though, refusing to accept the comedian's apology.

AL SHARPTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I give him credit for calling, but I would be less than an activist to just say, oh, I can forgive you, all is forgiven, or just let's talk.

No. This must begin a long process. And he has the capacity, if he's serious, to help bring a lot of people to terms with what they need to deal with.

COSTELLO: After that, Sharpton agreed to meet Richards in Harlem or South Central L.A., predominantly black neighborhoods, to begin that healing process.

Abraham Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

RABBI ABRAHAM FOXMAN, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: He reached out in good faith. It's not easy for an individual or a celebrity to publicly admit that -- that they're flawed, and that they're flawed with bigotry. And I think the next thing is, if he reaches out, is to accept the apology.

COSTELLO: Many would say Richards deserves more trashing than understanding, because his racist rant was so extreme. He used the N- word seven times in two minutes and 10 seconds.


COSTELLO: It made us wonder if Richards had gone too far to be forgiven.

FOXMAN: Sure, there are some people who will never forgive and always see him as a bigot, never go to any performances. They're entitled. But he -- there's a next step. The first step is recognition that you are a bigot or you have bigotry. Second is to apologize. Third is to begin to deal with it.

COSTELLO: Cynics might say Richards is more concerned about his finances than about forgiveness. After all, Jerry Seinfeld appeared on Letterman Monday to plug the DVD holiday release of the seventh season of "Seinfeld."

And, while he was there, Letterman broadcast Richards's public apology. That is not lost on Sharpton, who is willing to listen, calling Richards's overtures to heal a step in the right direction.


COSTELLO: Something else to throw into the mix: According to employees at the Improv, another Los Angeles comedy club, Richards was known to go on anti-Jewish rants, but no one thought anything about it, because they figured Richards was Jewish. And he is indeed Jewish.

And I will let you decide if that makes it OK -- back to you, John.

KING: Likely to only add to the simmering controversy.

Carol Costello for us in New York -- Carol, thank you.

And we will talk to the two men who were the target of Michael Richards' rant. They will explain how it all began and whether they're planning to sue.

And a congressman in line for a key leadership position is defending himself against what he calls venomous attacks. When he was a judge, why was he impeached and removed from office?

Stay with us.


KING: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time

Happening now: The Iraq war has reportedly reached a new grim milestone, the highest number of civilians killed in Iraq since the war began. The United Nations Mission in Iraq says more than 3,700 civilians were killed last month.

The White House says Vice President Cheney will meet with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in Riyadh this weekend. The two will discuss issues related to the Middle East -- that meeting ahead of next weekend's summit between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And, apparently, it will not go to the highest bidder, O.J. Simpson's controversial book about the 1994 murders of his wife and her friend. One copy of the book titled "If I Did It" turned up on eBay today, getting a bid of more than $1,500, before eBay removed it.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

More now on that racially charged tirade by comedian Michael Richards at a Los Angeles comedy club. He's apologizing now, but some people aren't accepting.


KING: Kyle Doss and Frank McBride were among the targets of Richards's rant.

They join us now live from New York, along with their attorney, Gloria Allred. Gloria is in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

I want to start with you, Kyle and Frank.

First, just help me set the scene. You walk into the comedy club while Michael Richards' act is under way. At what point -- did something you do disrupt him, or did he just launch up in your direction?

KYLE DOSS, LAUGH FACTORY AUDIENCE MEMBER: Well, we walked into the comedy club in a very large group. There was maybe about 20 of us, a little more, a little less.

So, as we walked in, of course, we created some disturbance, because we walked in, in such a large group, but nothing purposefully, nothing out of the ordinary, just a large group walking in while someone's on stage, and that was about it.

KING: I want to stop you there for one second, so we can listen to Mr. Richards a little bit. I assume this is what happened when he felt he was being disrupted. Let's listen.


RICHARDS: Shut up! Fifty years ago, we would have you upside down with a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fork up your ass!




KING: Remarkably racist language there. I assume he's looking up at you two gentlemen and the rest of your party; is that correct?

DOSS: Correct. But there was a lot more before that. Someone caught that in the middle of things. He had said some things first, and then all of a sudden, then someone -- then someone started filming what was caught on tape.

But, as we walked -- here's what happened. As we walked in, we sat down and started ordering drinks. And, as we ordered drinks, I guess we're being a little loud, because there was 20 of us ordering drinks. And he said, look at the stupid Mexicans and blacks being loud up there.

That's the first thing he said. And then he kept on with his bit.

And, then, after a while, I told him, my friend doesn't think you're funny.

And then when I told him that, that's when he flipped me off and said, F-you N-word. And that's how it all started.

KING: And, so, Frank, are you talking among yourselves at that point about what to do about this?

FRANK MCBRIDE, LAUGH FACTORY AUDIENCE MEMBER: At that point in time, when he made his first remark, a lot of us were in shock. We couldn't believe that he had made that racial statement like that. So, a lot of us didn't know how to react.

I looked to the rest of the people that were -- that came with us, that were in our group, and there was a lot of confused and shocked faces, a lot of emotions that ran just -- ran through us at that one moment.

KING: And Kyle was saying a moment ago that a lot happened before one member of the audience decided to open their cell phone there and start recording on their cell phone.

Tell us a little bit about what you -- what you heard and what happened in there that we obviously can't see because it's not on tape.

DOSS: He even said comments like, I'm so rich that I can have you arrested. And I'm so -- when I wake up in the morning, I'm still going to be rich, but, when you wake up in the morning, you're still going to be an N-word. There was lots of stuff he said that was just totally uncalled for, totally shocking.

MCBRIDE: Nothing provoked to the point to where he should have made those statements.

KING: So you concede you might have been a little disruptive because your group was large, but nobody in the group said anything until he started shouting at you.

DOSS: Yes, correct. Yes, something like that nature, yes. Correct.

KING: OK. And then you make -- you have to make a decision to leave, along with other patrons of the club who have been deeply offended by this. I want to listen -- I want you to listen to a little bit of this, this sound from Mr. Richards, which he says as some of you were starting to leave the club. Let's listen.


RICHARDS: Wait a minute. Where's he going?


RICHARDS: You're threatening me? Oh, it's a big threat! That's how you get back at the man! (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was real uncalled for!

RICHARDS: Wait a minute. He's not going, is he?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not funny!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I guess you got me there. You're absolutely right. I'm just a wash-up. Going to stand on the stage and say -- we had it. We had it.


KING: It's hard to understand because, obviously, it's not the highest quality recording done on a phone like that, but there's obviously shouting back and forth between Mr. Richards and members of the audience. Is that exclusively to your group as you're leaving, or was the entire audience at this point outraged and in a debate with this man?

DOSS: It was -- his comments were exclusively towards us. As we were leaving, he even told me, That's what you get for interrupting a white man, and comments like that. He said so many comments, it was just unbelievable.

It was ridiculous. And that was me yelling, saying that that was ridiculous and that was uncalled for, in the background. And so -- and the other members of my group were saying stuff also.

MCBRIDE: Comments that came from us were after that small piece of segment that you've seen in which he had already said the "N" word over seven times.

DOSS: It was more than seven times. You guys didn't catch the stuff in the beginning. It was a total of probably over 10 times.

KING: I'm sorry for interrupting. Excuse me. But I want to get your personal reaction. So he goes on the David Letterman show and he says he's sorry. Now he's trying to reach out to the Reverend Al Sharpton, who's a prominent civil rights leader, and say he's sorry. Has he tried to reach out to you to say, I'm sorry? And what do you think he should do at this moment? DOSS: He has not reached out in a way I think he would be sincere. If he really wanted to reach out to me or any member of my group, just us in general, I'm not speaking of the other people he offended at the club. But he could have got ahold of me or ahold of one of us, and he didn't.

The only reason why he did apologize is because the tape got out. If this tape didn't get out -- because, like the Laugh Factory, they were recording that night. But they didn't release their tape because he didn't sign off on it. And if the tape didn't get out, there would be no apologies.

KING: And so, Frank, do you think he's apologizing -- do you think he's apologizing, Frank, because he wants to save what's left of his career, if that's possible, or do you think that this is someone who, for whatever reason, went off the cliff, said something horrible and offensive and is genuinely sorry?

MCBRIDE: No, I don't feel that he's genuinely sorry. I feel like he had to say -- he was put up to say it. His friends and his colleagues probably got on the phone and said, Hey, you really have to do something about this, and he went on David Letterman. And in the bit on David Letterman, when he's apologizing, you can hear people laughing. So even to them, it didn't sound genuine.

DOSS: He even called us Afro-Americans. And when he said that, everybody started, like, giggling a little bit. It even looked like he had a little smirkish grin on his face, so it seemed like it was totally fake.

MCBRIDE: It's hard to believe that it was genuine.

KING: I want to bring Gloria Allred into the conversation.

Gloria, as this goes forward, what do you think your clients deserve? Is there a legal issue here? Do they deserve reparations or payment from Mr. Richards? What is the -- let me ask quite simply, why do they need a lawyer? Obviously, something horrible, offensive and racist was said to them, but why do they need a lawyer?

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Well, it's interesting. Mr. Richards has not yet sat down face to face and apologized to his victims, namely, my clients, Mr. Doss and Mr. McBride. And this is what he needs to do. We want Mr. Richards to take full responsibility and account -- and be accountable for his actions.

So we issue a challenge to him today, and that challenge is to contact us. We will arrange a face-to-face meeting where he can hear from our clients the pain that they suffered as a result of the verbal missiles that he used to attack them.

And he can hear their pain. He can apologize to them face-to- face. We will have a retired judge there and the retired judge can make recommendations as to what would be a just result in all of this.

But let's understand this is not about free speech. This is about hate speech, and hate speech which carried with it for my clients the threat of intimidation or potential violence.

And everyone in the state of California is protected under the law from that type of hate speech and they have the right to freedom from intimidation and the threat of potential violence.

So we hope to hear from Mr. Richards. We urge him not just to go around apologizing to everybody who wasn't a direct victim, but to contact us and be responsible and fully accountable.

KING: And Kyle and Frank, if he does not do that, or even if he does that, do you plan on a civil lawsuit against him?

DOSS: That's up to Mrs. Allred. I'm not to speak on that. I have no clue on that.

KING: But do you believe that you should be somehow financially compensated for this attack on you?

DOSS: I feel as if he should be punished for this, exactly. So whatever -- the best thing is for Mrs. Allred to get involved in that kind of issue. But yes, I do feel like he should be punished. I have a 4-year-old little cousin who asked me, What does that mean? What is he saying?

I have my grandma calling me and having to explain to my little cousin. It's just you have no -- you don't have any idea how that feels, to try to explain to your little baby cousin on why somebody would say that and what that means and it's just horrible. You have no idea.

KING: Frank, follow up on that point. What have the days after this -- obviously, it's getting international attention because of Mr. Richards' celebrity. In some ways, I'm going to make the argument that that's a good thing, that the world sees the heinous and awful things that he said, that came out of him not once, not twice, not seven times or more.

Is there a downside to it, or is it -- forgive me for using the word good -- a good thing that this is exposed as it is?

MCBRIDE: If it -- excuse me. It's definitely a good thing that it's being exposed because there's no room for it anywhere in America for him to say those things and take us back into an oppressed time where he said that he can -- 50 years ago, he could have us hung and...

DOSS: Bought.

MCBRIDE: ...put to work and bought and certain comments...

DOSS: He could get us arrested because he has money, and that's what we get for interrupting him because he's a white man. Things like that, it's just awful.

KING: Gloria, you're trying to get him to meet with your clients and to sit down with a retired judge in the room. You know the law very well. Do you have legal standing to go after him in a civil action, if that -- if he doesn't -- if he doesn't do this voluntarily, if he doesn't realize that this is in his best interests and maybe in his heart that he should do this, what are your legal -- what is your legal standing?

ALLRED: We do feel that we would have a strong case, that we could allege intentional infliction of emotional distress, that we could allege a violation of the Unruh (ph) Civil Rights Act, which does protect our clients from such racist statements and from intimidation and potential threats of violence. And we do feel that we have substantial legal legs to stand on.

But we're giving the opportunity to Mr. Richards through this challenge to avoid a lawsuit and to resolve this in a positive way, where he can sit down face-to-face with the victims and work to resolve it in a positive way.

We'll look forward to his taking us up on this. Maybe he wanted to be a stand-up comic. We want him to be a stand-up guy, and we are looking forward to hearing from him to accept our challenge very soon.

KING: And we will keep in touch with you as that dialogue, hopefully, takes place and begins. Gloria Allred in Beaver Creek, Colorado, Kyle Doss and Frank McBride, thank you for joining us in New York City to share this experience. And we wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. Thank you both, gentlemen, and thank you, Gloria.

ALLRED: You, too.

DOSS: Same to you. Thank you.

MCBRIDE: Thank you.


KING: And we should note for the record, Michael Richards, of course, has been offered an opportunity to appear on this program and answer these questions himself.

Still ahead tonight, a scholarship with a twist. It's for whites only. It has controversy raging on one college campus, now at the center of the culture wars.

Plus, he was impeached by Congress, but now he's a congressman on the short list for a powerful post. Will Alcee Hastings' past come back to haunt him? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: It's called insensitive and offensive, but the president of the College Republicans at Boston University is standing by his decision to sponsor a $250 scholarship for white students. Our Mary Snow is in New York to explain -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, it's billed as a way to debate race issues when it comes to college financial aid, but College Republicans at Boston University are drawing criticism for the way they're raising the debate.


SNOW (voice-over): The idea was to provoke controversy at Boston University. And that goal has been met.

B.U.'s College Republicans are sponsoring a scholarship for white students only. The aid is $250, a sum the college GOP will pay out themselves to make a point.

JOSEPH MROSZCZYK, COLLEGE REPUBLICANS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: But we're really just trying to point out the absurdity of the whole notion of race-based scholarships. And we hope people will consider that, and not write us off as racists or white supremacists, or anything of that sort.

SNOW: But the way the group brought attention to the issue is under fire.

RONALD RICHARDSON, DIRECTOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES: It is silly. And it has created divisiveness among some of the students who were annoyed at this -- all the more reason for us to sit down and talk.

SNOW: The dean criticized the student group, saying their scholarship goes against the goal of increasing diversity at the school, where over 50 percent of the students are white.

The Massachusetts GOP criticized its charter college group, calling their move offensive.

But the head of the College Republicans says he had to use what he calls guerrilla tactics.

MROSZCZYK: The best way to get College Republicans out there and -- and start the discussion is to do something controversial, to use satire. And College Republicans use this across the country to break through the liberalism that's on campus, especially at Boston University.

SNOW: But others say, scholarships are not a political issue, and there is a reason for affirmative action.

RICHARDSON: I think that I can understand their feelings. But I -- I see no other way in order to redress problems that were caused by racial discrimination, decades and decades of racial discrimination, that followed upon centuries of slavery.


SNOW: Now one thing this whites-only scholarship idea accomplished is dialogue. Professor Richardson of the African- American Studies Group is inviting the College Republicans to come in and talk -- John?

KING: We'll keep track of those discussions. Mary Snow for us, fascinating story. Mary, thank you.

And there are new developments tonight regarding a Democratic Congressman who some accuse of being ethically challenged, but who could be in line to get a major post in the Democratically-controlled Congress. CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel has more from Capitol Hill.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Hastings critics say though are strongly objecting to his becoming the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee not because of his actions as a congressman, but rather dating back a quarter century ago to when he was a judge.


KOPPEL (voice-over): In early 1983, Alcee Hastings, then a federal judge, walks out of a Miami courtroom a free man, acquitted of trying to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him.

ALCEE HASTINGS, JUDGE: I feel fine. I feel vindicated.

KOPPEL: But, five years later, the House of Representatives still votes 413-3 to impeach Hastings of his federal judgeship. The Senate would soon vote to convict, over the objections of heavyweight Republicans, like Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, a former federal prosecutor.

HASTINGS: You prepare for the best, and you prepare for the worst, and you accept what comes in between. Listen, succeeding is the best revenge.

KOPPEL: Now, 23 years later, Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings is on the cusp of getting his revenge, on the short list of possible chairmen to head the House Intelligence Committee.

But critics are urging speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi not to do it -- one editorial writer calling him ethically challenged, another highlighting Hastings' friendship with Washington lawyer William Borders, who, unlike Hastings, was convicted in the bribery scheme.

"The evidence against Hastings is circumstantial, but it's too much to explain away, a suspicious pattern of telephone calls between Hastings and Borders at key moments in the case, and Hastings' appearance at a Miami hotel, as promised by Borders, as a signal that the judge had agreed to a payoff."

Some of the phone calls between Hastings and Borders were wiretapped by the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear with -- hear from him after we talked?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, I had -- I talked to him, and he wrote some things down for me.

KOPPEL: In an effort to set the record straight, Hastings sent House colleagues a five-page letter this week obtained by CNN, calling his critics' sometimes venomous attacks misleading and poorly informed.

"I was impeached and removed, after I was acquitted by a jury in a nearly one-month federal trial. It is amazing how little importance is given to this fact. It is also baffling. In a jury trial, the evidence is the only consideration. In an impeachment, politics is central."

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also come to Hastings' defense, highlighting his seven years' experience on the Intelligence Committee, as well as questioning the motives of his critics.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: We are a political body. So, the question is whether or not there are facts, or whether or not there are politics involved in all of this.


KOPPEL: Speaker-elect Pelosi, who voted to impeach Hastings in 1988 is keeping her cards close to her vest and won't say which way she's leaning. But when I ran in to Congressman Hastings a couple of weeks back, he indicated that he is preparing himself for the very real possibility he won't get it. John?

KING: Andrea Koppel for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Andrea.

And up ahead, chartering a jet to escape a hurricane. Welcome to the future. Stay right there. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Tonight in our "Welcome to the Future" segment, hurricane season is ending and it hasn't been nearly as bad as many had expected. But some wealthy Americans are getting creative about how to get out of harm's way. Is this, perhaps, the way of the future?

CNN's John Zarrella reports.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): John, hurricane season officially ends November 30th. After a whole bunch of pre- season hype, thankfully it turned out to be a very quiet year. But people seemed more prepared than ever, from generators to hurricane shutters, from the basics to the extravagant.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (voice-over): What if the next time a hurricane was bearing down on you, you could just hop on a comfy charter jet -- just like this one -- and get you and your family out of Dodge in a hurry?

That's exactly what the Russo family intends to do.

JACQUE RUSSO, BOCA BATON, FLORIDA: Get that private jet.

Where do you want to go? Charlotte, Atlanta?


ZARRELLA: The Russos didn't need to do it this hurricane season, but after watching what Katrina did in the Gulf and experiencing what Wilma put them through a year ago, they wanted no part of another hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last year was, you know -- we sat in that back bedroom and watched stuff fly around, like "Wizard of Oz" around here. And we just said, enough.

ZARRELLA: The Russos signed up with a company called Help Jet. It's not cheap. A membership cost the family of four $2,000 a year, and only guarantees them seats out. If they actually use the service, it's another $1,500 apiece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bottom line is to me, it was like an insurance policy.

ZARRELLA: Aida Florit can't afford that kind of peace of mind. For two years, she and her husband Robert lived in this FEMA mobile home park in Punta Gorda. They lost everything in Hurricane Charlie. Aida worked three jobs to save enough money to buy a new place of their own.

AIDA FLORIT, PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA: I worked for the telephone company. I worked for the courthouse, cleaning the offices at night five days a week. And I work cleaning three houses on Saturday.

ZARRELLA: Throughout all the ordeal, Aida never stopped smiling.

(on camera): How do you do it?

FLORIT: I don't know. God help me. God help me. God is with me.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Now she has something to really smile about: a new home, where the old one once stood. A new mobile home built to much stronger standards than the old one.

(on camera): Look out the window at the alligators.

FLORIT: At the alligators.

(voice-over): Next year, if a hurricane threatens, the Florits and the Russos will have responded in very different ways, but they'll have something in common. They believe they'll be ready, and both say they'll have peace of mind.


ZARRELLA (on camera): Forecasters say the El Nino that kicked in and suppressed this year's hurricane activity may be gone by next year, which means, of course, our break from hurricane headaches may be over -- John.

KING: John Zarrella, near the end of a relatively calm hurricane season this year.

John Roberts joins us now with a look at what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hi, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Thanks very much for devoting much of tonight's hour to everyone's top story, Thanksgiving.

Heavy security and identification checks that were given at the nation's airports. But at the top of the hour, the results of a startling CNN investigation into the illegal underground industry of manufacturing phony ID's. You'll be surprised just how easy it is to get your hands on one.

Also, some startling pictures drive home the danger of an increasingly popular way of preparing turkeys for Thanksgiving. The hazards of deep frying without following the instructions. Always important.

At the top of the hour -- John.

KING: I'm an old-fashioned oven guy, but we'll be watching.

Thanks very much, John.

And still ahead here, traumatized turkeys, Tony Blair and Barack Obama. "Hot Shots". That's next.

Stay right there. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In Amherst, Massachusetts, explosions sends flames into the air when a chemical plant goes up in flames. Ninety homes were damaged and people miles away mistook the blast for an earthquake.

In Portage, Indiana, two firefighters underneath a rainbow clean up the damage under a fire.

In this security camera photo -- take a look -- just released by the New Jersey Transit Authority, a flock of wild turkeys can be seen, yes, waiting on a train platform. Authorities were called, but the turkeys got away. Whereabouts on this Thanksgiving eve remain unknown.

And in Des Moines, Iowa, a male orangutan enjoys as piece of pumpkin at a primate research facility.

That's today's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words or more.

Thanks for joining us. I'm John King in Washington. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW". John Roberts, in for Paula.