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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview With New York Congressman Charles Rangel; 'Seinfeld' Star's Racist Tirade?; Inside Al Qaeda
Aired November 20, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again, everyone.
Tonight: A top architect of America's last unwinnable war says, this one is unwinnable, too.
ANNOUNCER: He's got the president's ear. He's getting the country's attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think there is any hope left of a clear military victory in Iraq?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't believe that is possible.
ANNOUNCER: So, what is possible? The latest options and how they square with reality in Iraq.
Inside al Qaeda.
OMAR NASIRI, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE JIHAD": My name is Omar Nasiri. I'm Moroccan. And I was born in 1967.
ANNOUNCER: He's being called the best spy we didn't listen to, a mole in bin Laden's training camp. Could what he was saying have prevented 9/11?
MICHAEL RICHARDS, COMEDIAN: He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) He's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
ANNOUNCER: The most controversial word in the English language, from the mouth of Kramer? What he said, what he's saying now, and how people deal with the N-word.
And O.J.'s book.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is one of the most repulsive, disgusting, hideous spectacles I have ever seen.
ANNOUNCER: He wasn't alone. The country interrupted. Now the book is history.
ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
Sitting in for Anderson, and reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's John Roberts.
ROBERTS: And thanks again for joining us.
More than three-and-a-half years into the war, it has come down to this: There are no good options left. And the Pentagon is considering all of them.
According to "The Washington Post," they boil down to three choices, go big, go long, or go home. And reports are that options one and three are out, no massive buildup, no immediate pullout, which leaves going long -- the implications in just a moment.
But, first, CNN's Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pentagon officials say, rather than a formal study of Iraq options, instead, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has assembled what's been dubbed the strategic dialogue group. It's more of a brainstorming exercise, than a full-scale review, 16 of the brightest military officers, mostly colonels who are fresh from the front lines in Iraq, are providing insights, advice, and an unvarnished reality check in private meetings with General Pace and the rest of the Joint Chiefs.
It will then be up to Pace, as senior military adviser to the president, to give his recommendations personally to President Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases, and won't, until I hear from a variety of sources, including our own United States military.
MCINTYRE: General Pace has given his brain trust a list of questions he wants them to answer, including, where are we now and where are we going? What is the desired end state? What are we doing right, wrong? And what is keeping us from success?
The answers will help prepare General Pace to support, or perhaps counter, the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, expected early next month.
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter is calling for Iraqi unit in nine relatively peaceful provinces to be moved to the front lines.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In those provinces are 27 Iraqi battalions. Those Iraqi battalions could be sent into the contested areas in Baghdad, and should be sent into those contested areas.
MCINTYRE: A gloomy assessment comes from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who told the BBC the U.S. can't win a clear military victory.
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose write runs across the whole country, I don't believe that is possible.
MCINTYRE (on camera): Duncan Hunter's "Go Iraqi" plan is in line with what General John Abizaid, the top Persian Gulf commander, outlined as his preferred strategy before Congress last week, push Iraqi forces into the lead, before the violence spins out of control.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.
ROBERTS: All of this is happening in a vastly different political climate than a few years ago here in the United States. There is also a climate shift under way in the region, with Iran's President Ahmadinejad reportedly inviting Iraq's president for a sit- down in Tehran to talk about the violence and how to end it.
Meantime, Iraq shows little sign of improvement -- five dozen bullet-riddled bodies, one IED, and a mortar attack today. And that's in Baghdad alone.
As always, CNN's Michael Ware is on the ground there, and joins us now.
Michael, Henry Kissinger says that military victory in Iraq is not possible. He also adds that, if the U.S. were to pull out now, it would be disastrous.
How does that square with what you're seeing and hearing on the ground?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, given the circumstances that former Secretary of State Kissinger spelled out, the creation of a state here that can control its country, can get a curb on the sectarian violence within a reasonable time frame that the democracies can accept, to be honest, has to be said to be true.
Militarily, the U.S. is not achieving victory right now. It is not defeating its enemy, or enemies, that it actually faces here, be it al Qaeda, extremists, be it the -- the main body of the Sunni extremists, or be it the Shia militias.
Militarily, the U.S. forces are simply treading water to keep their heads above the level -- John.
ROBERTS: Michael, a few weeks ago, toward the end of Ramadan, Major General William Caldwell pointed to a downturn in the violence there, suggesting that things were getting better. What's the situation on the ground there now, as we're well into November? Is it any better than last month?
WARE: Well, we're still seeing the downturn that General Caldwell and the U.S. military, I think, rightly, attributes to the -- the aftermath of the holy month of Ramadan.
What we saw, of course, during the Ramadan was this war's fourth Ramadan offensive. It's always been a time when the insurgents step up their attacks, particularly against Americans. We saw that back in October, with 105 U.S. forces killed. This month, however, so far, there's been over 40 killed, 44 U.S. personnel.
So, on that front, it's certainly a better picture. But even the military puts that in a broader context. The insurgents have surged hard. Now they're regrouping and taking their breath. No one's reading this as any kind of a measure that the insurgency has been curbed in any way -- John.
ROBERTS: And, Michael -- and, Michael, what about that report we just heard that the Pentagon is considering a plan that, in the short term, would boost the number of U.S. troops by about 20,000 to help in training up the Iraqi forces, then cut the combat presence, in favor of expanding those training efforts? Is that a viable plan there?
WARE: Well, John, I mean, it's certainly one idea.
And, I mean, it depends upon whom you talk to here on the ground among U.S. commanders as to just what kind of a force strength it would take to really do this job properly. But, by and large, the assessment is, an additional 20,000 troops is really barely enough. It will only make a dent in certain areas.
I mean, look at Ramadi alone, where there's 5,000 U.S. troops in that city. Privately, U.S. commanders say they need as up -- as many as 15,000 troops, just for that city alone -- John.
ROBERTS: All right.
Michael Ware, in Baghdad, good to see you again, mate. Thanks very much.
For some additional perspective now, we're joined by Michael R. Gordon. He is the chief military correspondent for "The New York Times" and co-author of the best-selling book "Cobra II."
Michael, you were in Iraq just recently, as -- as I was as well, spent a month there. What's your assessment of the situation on the ground?
MICHAEL GORDON, CHIEF MILITARY CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the situation remains a very difficult one.
I think the U.S. forces do make a difference in containing the sectarian violence. But they can't be the ultimate solution, as everybody recognizes, and as Mr. Kissinger said.
What -- what do you think is needed there? Some tinkering around the edges to try to turn the plan in a different direction, or do they need a grand change in strategy? GORDON: It may not matter so much what I think. But I -- I -- I think it's clear there can't be any one solution to this problem.
It can't be a purely military answer.
GORDON: It can't be purely diplomatic.
I think what people are striving for is really a package that will have all elements, military, diplomatic and political.
ROBERTS: You know, some of the commanders that I spoke to believe that Donald Rumsfeld leaving, Gates coming in, may put a new pair of fresh eyes on the situation there, may lead to some changes that they believe might take it in a direction.
What are the people you're talking to saying about the whole shift of power at the top of the Pentagon?
GORDON: Well, it does open up some possibilities, as does the White House recognition that they need a course correction.
I think the things on the table are pretty logical. There are not a whole lot of new ideas out there. They can be connected in new ways. One is a surge in American forces in Baghdad. Clearly, that would have some short-term benefit. General Abizaid said as much last week.
But, you know, there's a constraint on this. It would be have to be a relatively short-term deployment...
GORDON: ... perhaps six months, because the American military is limited in its size.
Another would be a diplomatic opening to Iran and to Syria, as Kissinger and the Baker commission is expected to propose. That might have some benefits in perhaps reducing the amount of external interference in Iraq.
But there has to be a combination of efforts that, all put together, seek to change, in a positive direction, what is really kind of a downward situation in Iraq today.
ROBERTS: James Baker, who is going to be one of the co-authors of that report -- Lee Hamilton also in there -- and Robert Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group.
In addition to recommending intensive diplomatic engagement with countries like Iran and Syria, Michael, what else do you expect that report is going to contain?
GORDON: Well, there's one thing that everybody agrees on. It's sort of the lowest common dominator, but, again, it makes sense. And that is stepping up the effort to train the Iraqi army. That's what people are saying in the Pentagon. That's what General Abizaid said. That's what the Baker-Hamilton commission is likely to endorse.
The effort to train the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, unfortunately, has not been all that successful. There are a large number of troops, but they can't get them to go to Baghdad. There's a serious problem when it comes to the political loyalty of these forces.
And the U.S. really doesn't have enough advisers in Iraq right now with the Iraqi army. They have maybe 11 or 12 per battalion. A battalion could be 600 Iraqi soldiers. What they're talking about is doubling the number of advisers, and pushing them down to the company level, to try to make the Iraqi forces more effective.
ROBERTS: Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have both said that pulling U.S. troops out now would be a disaster.
Yet, Democrats are still advocating that, given a time frame of four to six months. Are any military commanders agreeing with that strategy?
GORDON: I think the military commanders on the ground in Iraq are -- have an appreciation for just how dicey the situation is.
And I think the -- the Democratic proposal -- I'm not interested in getting involved in American politics, but I think the Democratic proposal says more about the logic of American politics than it does about the logic of Iraqi politics.
I mean, the United States is able to influence the situation in Iraq to a certain extent, because it has a considerable amount of forces there and can leverage, use that as a farm of leverage with the government. If you begin to withdraw those forces, to my mind, you simply reduce your leverage in the situation.
Well, it will be intriguing to find out what happens after that Iraq Study Group report is out.
Michael Gordon, thanks very much. Appreciate you being with us tonight.
GORDON: Thank you.
ROBERTS: A reminder now of some of the numbers that are shaping the debate on Iraq. Here's the "Raw Data" for you: 2,865 U.S. troops have died in Iraq so far, 47 of them in November alone. More than 21,000 American troops have been wounded so far. For comparison, more than 58,000 troops were killed in Vietnam.
All of the troops in Iraq choice to -- chose to join the military. The U.S. hasn't had to draft since 1973 -- coming up, one congressman's fight to bring the draft back. His party will control the new Congress. Will that help Representative Charles Rangel win support for his measure?
Plus: a rare look inside al Qaeda, CNN's Nic Robertson's exclusive interview with a spy who now fears for his life.
Also ahead tonight, comedian Michael Richards sets off a firestorm with a racial meltdown at a comedy club. What are other comics saying about it? We will talk to Sinbad -- when 360 continues.
ROBERTS: How many U.S. troops should be in Iraq and how long they should stay aren't the only questions under discussion. This weekend, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York vowed to renew his push to bring back the military draft. He's fought for it before, and lost. But that was back when Republicans controlled Congress.
It doesn't look much better now, though. Late today, incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi, his boss, said she's against it. We spoke at length with Congressman Rangel. And we will have that interview for you in just a moment.
But, first, CNN's Joe Johns.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: My colleagues...
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York brought up the idea of reinstituting the draft years ago. Back then, it seemed like a good way to put the president and the Republican Congress on the spot.
Now Rangel, a Democrat, is in line for the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, controlling the purse strings of government in the House. What seems clear so far is that, with talk of increasing troop levels and other potential threats, Rangel isn't about to shut up.
RANGEL: You cannot increase the military without thinking about the draft.
JOHNS: But it's hard to buy support for an idea like this, even among other key Democrats.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I don't think we need it. I don't think we need it. I don't favor it.
QUESTION: ... if you support -- if you support Chairman Rangel's call for a draft.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: No.
QUESTION: Is that something... PELOSI: No.
JOHNS: The country's last experience with compulsory service was, well, instructive. There were violent protests against the Vietnam War, the burning of draft cards, draft dodgers slipping out of the country.
So, why would a Democrat, a decorated Korean War vet, but also a staunch critic of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq, start raising this issue while others in his party are talking at the same time about troop reductions?
A former defense secretary says Rangel's talk about the draft, for the sake of argument, has a way of focusing the public.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think it's good for the country to have parents have heartburn. And I think every parent, every citizen of this country should always ask the question, what are we committing someone else's son or daughter to or husband or wife to?
JOHNS: But, as a policy matter, military analysts say there are good reasons not to have a draft.
DANIEL GOURE, VICE PRESIDENT, LEXINGTON INSTITUTE: You have a draft, by and large, when you want cannon fodder. We did in World War I. We did in World War II. Unless you want to have a lot of people out there who are likely to get themselves killed or injured, because they're not going to be as well-trained, you don't want to draft.
JOHNS: Almost all military experts agree that the last thing you want to tinker with in a time of war is a professional volunteer army. Rangel says the military recruits disproportionately in poor and minority neighborhoods.
But, as critics point out, that everybody who is there signed up, and assumed the risk, in order to get something in return.
GOURE: The military has been a marvelous engine for the uplift of minorities, African-Americans in particular. It's a training issue. It's a skills issue. It's going to be the same thing for Latinos.
JOHNS: Whatever the prospects for Rangel's proposal -- and they may not look good right now -- it's a conversation that many say the country needs to have.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
ROBERTS: Well, no question it's a provocative proposal and one facing long odds.
Earlier today, I asked Representative Rangel why he has made it his cause. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ROBERTS: Congressman, you -- you brought up measures on the draft twice before. They both went down in defeat, the last one 402- 2.
The speaker -- the incoming speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has said about your idea of bringing this up again next year, nah, we have got other business that we should attend to.
Why do you keep bringing the idea up?
RANGEL: Because the idea of people dying, when people are saying there's no military solution, people saying I don't know why we got in Iraq -- it was poor information -- others saying, we need more troops in Iraq -- and then I hear other people saying that we have got to pull the military option there with Iran and North Korea.
And I'm saying, these guys are playing checkers, talking about the military -- the military option.
RANGEL: They're talking about human beings. I don't hear the president saying, America's being threatened by terrorists, and, so, therefore, enlist and join the military.
And where they are recruiting is in the poorest communities, in the communities of highest unemployment. I'm saying this. If my great country is being threatened by anybody, and has to be defended, let everyone make some sacrifice. That's it.
ROBERTS: You know, it's an interesting turnaround from back in World War I, when the draft was originally instituted, because too many of the elites were signing up for military service. And -- and people here in this country feared a brain drain, and said, a draft is going to even it out by, you know, keeping some of the elites in -- in the position where they are. Now it's flipped around the other way.
RANGEL: When this country's in trouble, and people believe it requires a military solution, I don't see how they can be against a draft.
ROBERTS: OK. Well, a cynic would say -- or even a skeptic would say...
RANGEL: That's OK.
ROBERTS: ... the reason why you're bringing up this idea of a draft is because you're trying to scare people to say, this is what it's coming to, unless we get out.
RANGEL: Hell no.
What I'm trying to do is to send a message that, when you say we need more troops, that you know where these troops are coming from. I'm trying to say that, if you believe that Osama bin Laden is a threat to the United States of America, and not oil, and not problems he's having, and not civil war, but a threat to us, then you have to say, everyone, put up something.
ROBERTS: I just came back from a month in Iraq. I spent about two weeks riding around with -- with U.S. troops. Most of them believe that -- the ones that are staying in the military believe that they're going to be back.
A couple of people reenlisted while I was there. But Donald Rumsfeld said recently that he believes that a large number of troops who are serving there would gladly continue. What do you think of that statement?
RANGEL: I think that, once you get involved there, there is a commitment. When you have lost your comrades there, and you want to get even -- it's hard to get even with a roadside bomb.
But there is something patriotic once you're there. But I'm saying that it should be patriotic for the guy just about to go to Harvard, or just about to go to Yale, or come from an affluent community. He should get angry, too.
But there is something -- when you have been hurt by somebody, and there's an enemy out there that you want to get even, and, sometimes, you want -- don't want to leave until you get even, the question is, though, if they were to surrender, who would be surrendering? Who would -- what would the terms of the agreement be?
And, for God's sake, if Kissinger is saying that there's no military victory, why are the military there?
ROBERTS: Congressman Rangel, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.
RANGEL: Have a good Thanksgiving.
ROBERTS: You, too.
ROBERTS: Up next: A man who was revealing al Qaeda's dark secrets, he says the terror network wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq, believing it would fuel its holy war. And he said much more than that.
And FOX pulls the plug on O.J. What made the network back away from the controversial interview, and why Simpson's book won't be published either -- when 360 continues.
ROBERTS: Much has been written about Senator Barack Obama lately.
The junior senator from Illinois is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party. And his name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president.
CNN's Don Lemon sat down with him today, and asked him about the issue of race in the battle for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that, at this point in our country, this point in time, that a person of color stands a chance to be the president of the United States?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Absolutely.
I think -- I think the American people, at their core, are a decent people. I think that we still have prejudice in our midst, but I think that the vast majority of Americans are willing -- are willing to judge people on the basis of, you know, their ideas and their character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, will Barack Obama run for president in 2008?
We ask him that and a lot more -- ahead on 360.
First, a new book by a man who claims he infiltrated and spied on al Qaeda -- but "Inside the Jihad" is more than just one man's personal story. It's giving the world a rare look inside the terror network, and, he says, tells how 9/11 and the mess in Iraq might -- might -- have been prevented.
CNN's Nic Robertson reports.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): ... be killed in a chemical gas test at one of al Qaeda's secret training camps in Afghanistan shocked the world.
OMAR NASIRI, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE JIHAD": What I recognize is the windows.
ROBERTS (on camera): You have been in this room before?
ROBERTS (voice-over): Now a man who says he was an Islamic holy warrior, a jihadi at the camp, is ready to reveal its dark secrets.
(on camera): In the same place where you were doing chemical tests on rabbits?
NASIRI: I feel. I feel myself there. I can -- I can -- I can again go back and -- and see the things, I mean, feels the things when we was experimenting, because it's not something you would forget.
ROBERTS (voice-over): But he is unlike other holy warriors. In his new book, "Inside the Jihad," he claims he was a spy used by French, British and then German intelligence agencies. He lied to stay alive, and, even today, won't show his face, fearing he will be killed. This is how his book begins.
NASIRI: "My name is Omar Nasiri. I'm Moroccan. And I was born in 1967. I am a Muslim. I'm very sorry. Almost none of this is true."
ROBERTS: His point, a spy must live a double life of deception, but a lot of what he actually saw and did seems true, and reveals much about al Qaeda, terrorism, and even Iraq.
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA BIN LADEN UNIT: For this to be a fabrication would be almost beyond my imagination.
ROBERTS: Ten years ago, Michael Scheuer headed the CIA's hunt for bin Laden. That's when Nasiri says he was in the Afghan-al Qaeda training camp. The publisher asked Scheuer to review the book for accuracy.
SCHEUER: It's really the most detailed firsthand account we have had of someone who had to find his own way into al Qaeda. It's -- it's -- it's a very, very important book, from that perspective. It's certainly more complete than anything that I saw when I was working for CIA.
ROBERTS: Scheuer says Nasiri's inside information helps explain how the U.S. got into the war with Iraq.
Nasiri says al Qaeda actually wanted the U.S. in Iraq, because it would expand their own holy war. So when the U.S. captured Nasiri's camp commander, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, he did what they trained Nasiri and others to do. He led the U.S. to believe Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and al Qaeda was going to get their hands on them.
(on camera) Do you believe that Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, when he was captured by the Americans, lied to them about the links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't lie. He manipulated them.
ROBERTSON: By lying to the Americans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's say by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): And we now know the big lie about Saddam, al Qaeda and nuclear weapons worked. After all, that's the reason the U.S. gave for invading.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the building where I was 100 thousand percent sure. Not just 100 percent sure. This building here.
ROBERTSON (on camera): This one right here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here. This one. This is the place where we was training the small quantities of explosives. Here, just in front of the building.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Watching the al Qaeda videos with Nasiri, we come to understand that, even though he began as a spy, especially a paid information in Afghanistan, he actually came to believe in the cause, jihad, the global holy war. So much so, in fact, he volunteered to go to Chechnya to fight with Islamic rebels against Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course I wanted to go to Chechnya. I trained with Chechens, young, very, very young Chechens. I spent seven months. We know each other like I know myself.
ROBERTSON: But al Qaeda had other plans. They sent him to Europe to take the holy war there. His spy masters couldn't have been happier, because now his cover identity was impeccable.
By then, Nasiri says, he was in so deep he convinced British intelligence to give him money to send to Abu Zubaida, a senior al Qaeda leader in Pakistan. And yet incredibly, he says, no intelligence agency ever appeared interested enough to follow the money trail to Pakistan.
And as it happens, Zubaida was vital to the success of the 9/11 bombings.
Nasiri says it was a critical missed opportunity that European intelligence agencies were only worried about al Qaeda attacks in their own countries and did not see the global connection to the impending attack in the U.S. In frustration, he says, he quit spying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm feeling myself wasting my time.
ROBERTSON: For sure, Nasiri's insights are not just history but a road map for the future.
SCHEUER: The coming defeat of the United States and Afghanistan and Iraq, and it will be, no matter how we dress it up, it will be perceived by the Islamic world as the Mujahideen prevailing in two countries. Will spur the enthusiasm of young Muslim men, will increase their desire to attack not only the Americans but probably more their own governments, as well.
ROBERTSON: Nasiri says few westerners really get it. It's not about al Qaeda expanding in one country or another; it's about why Muslims support them worldwide. About a global holy war...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just telling you how the things I'm seeing it through my eyes, nothing else. Take it how they take it. Put it in a dossier and put it in an archive and forget it. But it's better you understand it.
ROBERTSON: Better understand it, he says, because the global holy war is only getting bigger, and pulling out of Iraq won't make any difference.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Paris. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ROBERTS: Well, back home the out cry over the actor formerly known as Kramer, Michael Richards, racist tirade. We'll show you the tape, the reaction and now the apology.
The comedian Sinbad was in the club when it happened. We'll talk to him as well, when 360 continues.
ROBERTS: Today Jerry Seinfeld says he's sick over what he calls an extremely offensive outburst by one of his sitcom costars at a comedy club. That costar played a character who made millions of people laugh. Well, nobody's laughing now.
We want to warn you, you may find some of the language that you're about to hear disturbing, and you won't be alone. The story now from CNN's Brooke Anderson.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST, HEADLINE NEWS' "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" (voice-over): There was nothing funny about the angry racist words comedian Michael Richards, best known from Kramer from "Seinfeld" spewed from the stage of the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles Friday night in reaction to some unruly audience members.
MICHAEL KRAMER, COMEDIAN: Throw his ass out. He's a nigger. He's a nigger! He's a nigger!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God!
KRAMER: A nigger! Look, there's a nigger!
ANDERSON: This cell phone video was obtained by the entertainment web site TMZ.com.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was uncalled for.
KRAMER: What was uncalled for? It's uncalled for you to interrupt my ass, you cheap mother (expletive deleted). You guys have been talking and talking and talking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was uncalled for, you (expletive deleted), cracker-ass mother (expletive deleted). Call me a nigger?
KRAMER: Cracker-ass? You calling me cracker-ass, nigger?
ANDERSON: The reaction to Richards' rant has been shock and outrage, as evidenced by a protest outside the Laugh Factory and a heated exchange inside during a news conference addressing the incident.
PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ACTOR: Take responsibility? Don't justify it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear you. I hear you. I hear you.
RODRIGUEZ: It's wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear you. I hear you.
RODRIGUEZ: Can I say something please?
ANDERSON: Comedian Paul Rodriguez, a club regular who was also on the bill Friday night, and Laugh Factory manager Jamie Masada said Richards was allowed to come back and perform the next night because he told them he planned to apologize when he took the stage again. That apology never came.
RODRIGUEZ: The audience came here expecting to see Kramer, and they got Mark Fuhrman.
ANDERSON: During the O.J. Simpson trial, former LAPD detective, Mark Fuhrman, was painted as a racist by the defense team because of racial slurs caught on tape.
Richards refused to speak on camera after his act Saturday, but today he did appear via satellite on the "Late Show with David Letterman" to apologize.
JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: I was extremely upset about it, and he is extremely upset about it, and I asked him if he would come on the show tonight.
RICHARDS: I lost my temper on stage. I was at a comedy club trying to do my act, and I got heckled. And I -- I took it badly and went into a rage. For me to be on a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, you know, I'm -- I'm deeply, deeply sorry. I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this.
ANDERSON: But will it be enough? A coalition of African- American leaders have condemned Richards, and the Laugh Factory has banned him.
RODRIGUEZ: He will not be accepted on this stage until the community, the African-American community and its leaders, tell us that he has made proper amends.
ANDERSON: Making it clear that no one's laughing at Michael Richards' latest act.
Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.
ROBERTS: So Michael Richards has apologized, but is it enough? We'll put that question to Sinbad. He was in the club. The comedian joins us live next on 360.
Also, the latest twist in that shocking O.J. Simpson interview and book deal. You're watching 360. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARDS: I'm really busted up over this, and I'm very, very sorry to those people in the audience, the blacks, the Hispanics, the whites, everyone that was there that took the brunt of that anger and hate and rage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: That's Michael Richards tonight on "The Late Show with David Letterman", apologizing for his rant at a Los Angeles comedy club on Friday night. Richards, who played Kramer on TV's "Seinfeld", says he flew into a rage after being heckled and insists he is not a racist.
Joining me from Los Angeles for more on this story is a familiar face to many people, the comedian Sinbad, who was inside the club when Richards melted down.
Sinbad, you just heard Michael Richards' apology on television. It hasn't actually aired yet. It won't air for a little while on the David Letterman show. But what do you think of that apology? Does that make amends? Does that make up for what happened?
SINBAD, COMEDIAN: That's like a man apologizing to his wife when he's been caught cheating. It really means nothing because he got caught.
I just -- I had just walked into the comedy club. I had been there about maybe 5, 10, 15 minutes, and Michael was doing his thing.
I don't understand. When he says he was angry and he's not a racist, you know, there's not that much anger at a heckler. It was a heckler, man. And he wasn't even heckling hard. And he just went crazy, man. He went like -- it wasn't an accidental slip, man, because he kept going and going and going.
ROBERTS: Well, he admits that he flew into a rage, but he says, "It's surprising that that happened because I'm not a racist." But if there isn't some racial tint, how does that come out of a person's mouth?
SINBAD: That's like me pulling a gun out and I shoot you a bunch of times and saying, "I'm not a killer, man. I can't believe I shot you."
It's -- you know what? There's -- first of all, in America we get caught up saying we're not racist. If you're raised in this country, almost everybody has got a little racism in them. And I have racism. It doesn't take much to bring it to the surface.
And the whole idea of life is to put under control the racism that we have. And that night, man, you know, whatever -- whatever -- for whatever reason, he lost it. I mean, if you weren't there -- before he went into a rage, it's almost like he felt superior to the young man sitting up in the balcony, because before he went into the rage he had said, "I'm rich." He goes, "I'm a rich man. I can have the police follow you and arrest you."
So it led up before it went into the racial tirade.
ROBERTS: Right. So it was getting personal long before the "n" world came out of his mouth multiple times.
ROBERTS: Well, you've been heckled before in a club. And what's the way that, you know, a professional is supposed to handle that?
SINBAD: Remember, a heckler is part of a job. If you work as a highway person and then you work on the highway and then people go by and blow the horn at you, that's part of the job.
But for me, I've never, to this day, had anybody thrown out of a club, because I've never had a situation I couldn't handle, because the audience is not my enemy. And the audience was not his enemy. The whole idea is how you turn it around.
And there's never any reason to bury somebody. You don't have to bury anybody. And if you're going to bury somebody you don't get personal with it. You don't come up with race -- with hatred. And you definitely don't come up with racism or sexism.
ROBERTS: Let me ask you this question. Because you know, we dance around the "N" word all the time. Paul Rodriguez, who was on the bill as well, fellow comedian of yours, said today in this press conference any time the "N" word comes out of a white person's mouth, they've got some explaining to do. They'd better have a good reason for it.
Yet black comedians through it around all the time. Where's the line there? Try to help us out here.
SINBAD: Here's the line, man. First of all we talk about family. Let's face it, the "N" word. We call it the "N" word now like people don't use it.
SINBAD: What's happening now in society is a friendly version of the "N" word, which was "nigga" and then, I guess, the mean version is supposed to be nigger.
To me there's no friendly version. This is the problem. There's no time that word was friendly. There's no time in life that word was every friendly. It's probably one of the most vile words that's ever been put on a race of people since the beginning of this time, beginning of this civilization this country.
That word is so strong, it transferred over to other countries, how they felt about us.
SINBAD: Now whether young rappers, which I don't agree with, because I was guilty of using the word, too, but it's -- now it's become such a common thing because rappers are putting it in music, hip hoppers in music. The young white kids in America think they can use the word in the friendly version. But you know what? You can't use that around me, because it's never friendly.
ROBERTS: I mean, it's a word that has inherent violence attached to it for me.
ROBERTS: One quick question for you just before you go here. Do you think it's over for Michael Richards? Did he -- did he blow his career up?
SINBAD: The thing about America, until the next big incident -- somebody else will come along and do something stupid, and we'll forget about it. I won't forget about it. I mean, and when I see him I'll talk to him about it. Because I can't -- those kinds of things I can't let go, because that wasn't an accident. That wasn't like, "I'm not a racist, and it just came out of my mouth." Those things don't come out of your mouth, man. They just don't.
ROBERTS: Well, it's difficult -- difficult to see him in any kind of different light now, after that.
SINBAD: Yes. Yes.
ROBERTS: Sinbad, thanks very much. Appreciate you being with us, man.
SINBAD: Thank you for the opportunity.
ROBERTS: Happy 50th birthday, by the way.
SINBAD: Thank you. Now, I'm 22.
ROBERTS: For the 28th time.
Also no stranger to controversy, O.J. Simpson, now his TV interview and book deal are dead. That's coming up.
And later, high speed, high flames, the "Shot of the Day" when 360 continues.
ROBERTS: The interview that will shock the nation. But don't expect to see that interview any time soon.
The FOX network has canceled their controversial one-on-one with O.J. Simpson and his new book describing how he might have killed his ex-wife, Nicole, her and Ron Goldman. It won't hit the store shelves now.
This all comes as a new CNN survey suggests more Americans now believe Simpson is guilty than they did at the time of the murders. Forty-six percent of those polled believe Simpson did commit the crime. Only 10 percent of them surveyed believed that he was guilty 12 years ago.
Here's CNN's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If he did it, the public will have to wait to find out how O.J. Simpson would have gone about it. Late today Newscorp, owner of FOX News, bowed to increasing criticism and scrapped the publishing of Simpson's book, titled "If I Did It".
Newscorp also canceled plans to air a TV special where Simpson's book explains how hypothetically he would have killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown and her friend, Ron Goldman.
In a statement, Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch said, "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill- considered project."
It wasn't just a public outcry. Much came from within Newscorp's own ranks. FOX's Bill O'Reilly harshly criticized the decision to publish the book and air the interview, calling it "simply indefensible and a low point in America culture."
O'Reilly went a step further, saying he would boycott Simpson's book, as well as any companies that advertised during the televised special. FOX's Geraldo Rivera expressed his anger on ABC's "Good Morning America".
GERALDO RIVERA, HOST, "GERALDO AT LARGE": I think this project, whoever created it and wherever it's going to air, is just about as low as you can go. This is a -- an appalling idea involving a low- down and dirty double murderer.
CARROLL: The revolt within FOX gained momentum over the past few days. A dozen local FOX stations refused to air the Simpson interview. Ron Goldman's family set up a web site, where thousands signed an online petition to boycott the show and the book.
FRED GOLDMAN, FATHER OF RON GOLDMAN: We want to say thank you, thank you to everyone in this country who raised their voice and stood up for the right thing and made certain that a corporation the size of Newscorp wasn't and won't make money on this nightmare.
CARROLL: Before the plug was pulled on the deal, Judith Regan, publisher of Regan Books, owned by Newscorp, explained why she went forward with the controversial project.
"I made a decision to publish this book and to sit face to face with the killer, because I wanted him and the men who broke my heart and your hearts to tell the truth, to confess their sins, to do penance, and to amend their lives."
(on camera) Regan could not be reached for comments about the book or TV cancellation. Simpson's attorney told CNN, even though the deal has already fallen through, Simpson has already been compensated for the deal. The book's publisher made an undisclosed payment toward his children's' education.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
ROBERTS: Well, coming up, high speed danger. It's our shot of the day.
But first, Joe Johns joins us from Washington with a 360 bulletin.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Hi, John.
Three teenage girls have died in Huntsville, Alabama, after their school bus plunged 30 feet off an interstate overpass. Thirty-three others students were injured in the accident. Police are looking for the driver of a car that may have hit the bus before it fell off the overpass.
In California, an 89-year-old man who killed 10 people after driving through an outdoor market has received five years probation. The judge called George Weller's actions callous and his apology hollow, but he didn't give him a prison sentence, because Weller is too sick. He said Weller's health problems would make him a burden on prison authorities and taxpayers.
America's stockpile of bird flu vaccine is going to double to protect nearly six million people. The federal government is spending nearly $200 million to get more doses of the vaccine in case of an outbreak of the deadly virus. Eventually the government plans to buy enough vaccine for 20 million people.
In the Pacific off the coast of Costa Rica, a homemade submarine seized with three tons of cocaine. Authorities say what got their attention was three pipes skimming the water surface. That's how the four men inside the 50-foot craft breathed while underwater. Tonight, they're back on dry land and behind bars -- John.
ROBERTS: No end of innovation, Joe. Thanks very much.
Think about this one, Joe, next time you're racing to get into work. Time for our "Shot of the Day Here". It's from Sunday's NASCAR race. And how's this for a debut?
Driving in his first Nextel cup, is lucky to be alive after his gas tank ignited. The car was engulfed in flames, as you can see, spun off the track. With the wreckage still on fire, Montoya managed to climb out the driver's window and walk away uninjured. Though why would you want to hang around for somebody to come and rescue you?
Afterwards, Montoya said he accomplished what he was looking for. If that means being lucky, he certainly did that.
JOHNS: It's one way to win.
ROBERTS: Well, it's one way to lose, I think, Joe, but that's one way to come out alive in one kind of race.
Coming up next, the one that ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Will Barack Obama be in it, and could he win it?
And more on Congressman Charles Rangel's controversial proposal to bring back the draft.
And a 360 exclusive with the former commander at the Abu Ghraib prison and why she believes she and others are being scapegoated while her bosses walk. All that and more when 360 returns.
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