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THE SITUATION ROOM

Coverage of The Michael Jackson Memorial

Aired July 7, 2009 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Think about the generations and to say we want to make it a better place for our children and our children's children so that they -- they -- they know it's a better world for them. They think they can make it a better place.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: "Heal The World" by Michael George -- Michael Jackson. What a song that was. And we all remember "We Are the World" that was played just before that. It was originally performed back in 1985 -- co-written and performed, certainly, by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, the other composer of "We Are the World." Quincy Jones produced it.

Donna Brazile and Hilary Rosen are here -- Hilary, a lot of people forget that back in 1985, when "We Are the World" came out -- and so many great stars performed in that video, in that song. It wasn't just a song, but it really changed the world, because it was designed to help raise money for Africa's famine.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, and people also forget that Michael Jackson was at the height of his power. And "Thriller" had just come out. It had gone to be the biggest selling album in the world. And what Michael Jackson did then was gather all of the biggest stars in the music business to do this song and raise all of these millions of dollars for the famine relief in Africa.

So at the height of his power, he used it for good. And -- and that's something incredibly admirable.

BLITZER: It really did change the way rock stars and others, Donna, get involved in humanitarian causes.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, 45 artists participated in this huge gathering of singers from different musical backgrounds. Bob Dylan performed, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross.

Initially, Michael Jackson was...

ROSEN: Bruce Springsteen...

BRAZILE: Bruce Springsteen, who helped Quincy Jones, of course, with many of the arrangements. But, you know, Ken Kragen, who was the manager of Lionel Richie, was one of the managers who really helped to pull the talent together. And it was said that Prince was supposed to be paired up with Michael Jackson but didn't make to the actual performance.

A year later, there was another effort, this time to raise awareness and money here in the United States for Hands Across America. And I participated in that. Ken Kragen, you know, got a bunch of us -- organized us to go around the country and pull together lines stretching from -- from coast to coast.

So they used their artistry. They used their talent to raise awareness. And Michael was a giant. He was someone who believed in giving back. And he really devoted himself to helping causes like relieving, you know, famine in Africa, as well as home here in America.

ROSEN: And all...

BLITZER: It was an amazing, amazing cause.

Go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: Well, and almost 10 years later, when he wrote the song "Heal The World," he took those proceeds and created the Heal The World Foundation. And, finally, he had his to own foundation, where he started giving more of his own money to charity. And that foundation exists today.

BLITZER: He was one of the most generous entertainers ever, Michael Jackson.

We're going to have a lot more of the musical performances that were done today at this memorial. Mariah Carey sang beautifully. Usher was there, Stevie Wonder. Our viewers are going to see highlights from this memorial service over the course of the next two hours in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want to go to Soledad O'Brien and Don Lemon.

They're out at the Staples Center. And they have some special guests with them right now -- Soledad, I'm sure you were moved when you heard "We Are The World" and "Heal The World." It was really a beautiful, beautiful performance.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a -- and it was a beautiful memorial. I mean, you know, for anybody who has been a fan of Michael Jackson's music, every single moment you had an opportunity to hear one of your favorite performers to performing some of his music or even to hear from Michael Jackson himself in some of the -- the taped clips. I thought especially one where he was on "The Ed Sullivan Show" as a child was really remarkable. You just don't get to see that a lot.

We, of course, have some very special guests with us today...

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we do.

O'BRIEN: Who have just really come out of the Staples Center, where they were attending the memorial.

LEMON: And we were sitting here talking. It really is one of the most emotional, you know, events -- at least of memorials -- that I have ever covered -- Soledad, I don't know if you agree with that.

And sitting right next to us, two people who spoke today, Bernice King and Martin King, III.

Thank you so much for joining us.

You know, I was -- people were e-mailing me about you and you, saying that you were channeling your father today. And then there was a quote that you said, but you said don't be the sun. If you can't be the sun, be a star.

What was that quote that you said today?

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I said...

LEMON: You can paraphrase it. Feel free to paraphrase it.

M. KING: Yes. It was essentially -- the essential elements are just that we all must be the best of whatever we do. And my father always challenged every individual to become the best that they could become.

And, essentially, all I was saying was that this is a person who personified exclusively the best. You can't get any better than Michael Jackson, in my judgment, as it relates to the field of entertainment.

And then, you know, you go into humanitarianism, just a number of things.

LEMON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I thought it was very interesting when we heard the Reverend Al Sharpton talk. He really connected Michael Jackson to the civil rights movement. And when people think civil rights, they think of yourselves and your father, certainly.

BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about Michael Jackson and his connection to -- to knocking down barriers and opening doors for -- not just for African-Americans, but I think for a lot of folks.

B. KING: You know, music has a way of bringing people together. And I think Michael, because he was so wedded to that notion, was able to break barriers and cause people from all over the world to gravitate toward him and his music. And he was really the first to do that globally. I remember as a kid growing up, I used to be amazed at people in Asia and Europe just looking upon this man and listening to his music and just crying. And I said wow!

LEMON: Uruguay, Bangladesh, Africa -- all over.

B. KING: Africa. All over.

LEMON: I ran into people here shopping, because, you know, I didn't intend to come here. I had one -- you know, one day's change of clothing. So I was out shopping the other day, buying stuff.

And some people walked up to me and said oh, you're the guy on CNN. We've been watching you. We saw your reports in Africa. We're here. We got on an airplane, from Europe, from all over.

But, you know, Soledad was talking about Reverend Sharpton. And what -- I thought -- I thought it was the quote of the day.

B. KING: Yes.

LEMON: Reverend Sharpton said to the kids, he said: "There wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."

B. KING: Yes.

LEMON: Do you want to talk about that?

B. KING: Well, I mean the way he grew up. I -- you know, we all remember -- we remember, in fact, when he came and visited our home. They did a concert for the King Center in the early stages, helping to raise monies.

And everywhere they went, they had to run off of the stages. He -- he didn't have a normal life. And so he had to create his own world and what he thought his world ought to be about -- like, that was different than, perhaps, the way people thought he should have lived in the world.

But he...

O'BRIEN: He was sort of other worldly in some ways.

B. KING: He was.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's been interesting to see so many people identified so emotionally with him. And at the same time -- and I think especially over the last 10 years or so -- he became almost other worldly, like he could fit in kind of anywhere.

LEMON: He wasn't a person anymore. He was sort of this object, you know, that was out there.

And I do have to say, I saw -- doing the documentary on James Brown that just aired, "The Man in the Mirror." Rodney Jerkins was one of his producers who worked with him on "Invincible." And he has some videotape of them working in the studio together.

And it's not Michael Jackson on stage. It's not the Michael Jackson that you see when he's, you know, all done up in his gear or drag, as people call it.

He was in the studio dancing, joking around, talking, telling Rodney Jerking, come on, man, dance, laughing at him. And he was -- to me, it was the first time that I had seen Michael Jackson as a real person without all of the accouterments.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

B. KING: People didn't let him, though, be human and be a person.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask...

B. KING: I mean, we, to a fault, did not allow that.

O'BRIEN: I think that's true. I think it's impossible to be the most famous human being on the planet...

B. KING: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ...and yet also have a very normal life and raise your children as you want...

LEMON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ...and wander around. I mean, you -- you can't -- it is not possible to do both of those things.

He was a -- he was a lot of contradictions. He was a very complex person. And I'd be curious to know, from your own experience with the loss of your father -- he now leaves three small children behind. We heard Paris speak and what an amazing little girl.

What was it like to watch her?

I mean, she's only 11 years old. And, oh, I thought she was very remarkable.

M. KING: Well, first of all, obviously, that's the most moving moment of today. I can certainly directly -- we can relate to that -- that moment. I related to it, also, in the sense that, you know, being a father now. And I'm like, oh my -- my goodness.

B. KING: Yes.

M. KING: I don't think there was a dry eye in the Staples Center after she said what she said.

LEMON: What do you...

O'BRIEN: Or out here, I should say.

LEMON: What do you think your father is thinking in -- up in heaven about this today?

M. KING: Well, number one, it was an incredible, certainly, memorial and tribute. But more than anything else, perhaps, what is interesting to me is what our father was able to do (INAUDIBLE)...

LEMON: And your mother, by the way, I should say.

M. KING: Yes, father and mother. But -- but through words, Michael put and integrated things into his music that will have an impact around the world forever. Just look at "Man in the Mirror" -- you know, look at yourself.

I mean, dad wanted to make the world a better place for all of God's children. Essentially, that's what Michael wanted to do through his music. And I think he certainly accomplished that -- that objective. We're nowhere near where we need to be, but at least we are moving in the right direction, I believe.

LEMON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Martin Luther King III and Bernice King.

Thank you for talking with us.

LEMON: Thank you, guys.

O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate your insights.

LEMON: Yes, we really appreciate it. It's so good to see you.

O'BRIEN: It's always nice to talk with you.

M. KING: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Let's send it right back to Wolf in the studio -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Soledad and Don. Please thank the King family for all of us. I don't want either of you, though, to go away. We're going to be coming back to the Staples Center to continue our coverage of the aftermath of this memorial service -- an amazing memorial service. It was two hours and 15 minutes. The family is now over at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a private reception. We'll check in to see what's going on on that front.

We're also going to be having other moving highlights from the memorial, including Usher's performance of the song "Gone Too Soon."

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BLITZER: Lots of fans still outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- this in the aftermath of the memorial service honoring Michael Jackson, 50 years old. He died in recent days.

We're going to continue to cover the aftermath of this memorial service and check in to see what the -- the Jackson family is doing over at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Much more of our coverage coming up, including other highlights from the memorial, including Usher's performance of "Gone Too Soon," appropriately entitled.

But I want to check in with Betty Nguyen.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what else is going on?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we do have some other news, Wolf.

A political boost, in fact, for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Less than a week before her confirmation hearings begin, the American Bar Association gave her its highest rating for professional qualification. The ADA says a review of her record concluded unanimously that she is well qualified to hit on the high court.

And Iran's president -- he is addressing the nation, calling last month's vote "the most free election anywhere in the world." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election was followed by, as you recall, deadly protests and the arrest of more than 1,000 people.

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PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): It has been absolutely healthy because people themselves held the election. They themselves took part in that and they, themselves, counted the votes. You saw that in the recount, too, there was no harm made to the recount. And those who claimed they did not provide with even one piece of document regarding irregularities or vote fraud.

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NGUYEN: Now, earlier, former President Mohammad Khatami and defeated candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi all said that those arrested should be released.

Well, in other news, a show of force by Chinese police today after clashes left 156 people dead and hundreds wounded in a western province. Just look at some of this video here. Earlier, mobs of Han Chinese, some armed with clubs, even meat cleavers, roamed the streets, angry after rioting by the Muslim minority, which says the Han majority discriminates against them.

And Costa Rica's president will step in as mediator in the Honduran political crisis. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made the announcement after talks with deposed Honduran president, Jose Manuel Zelaya. She says Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti both agreed to a the Nobel laureate, Oscar Arias, as a mediator. Now, the Honduran military forced -- forced Zelaya out after he pushed forward with that planned referendum to allow him to run for a second term. So that's a look at some of the other news taking place today -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. We're going to come back to you, Betty, because I want to make sure we get to hear what's going on elsewhere around the world, even as we stay on top of this memorial service honoring Michael Jackson.

I want to check in with Jack Cafferty, though, right now.

He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's not too many days when you take President Obama off the front page, but this was one of them.

BLITZER: Yes. We're going to have some excerpts of his interview with Ed Henry, our White House correspondent, in Moscow today and tell our viewers what happened there.

And, also, Sarah Palin, by the way -- she spoke with our Drew Griffin up in Alaska while she was fishing.

So we're going to have a lot of other news coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CAFFERTY: A lot of things to look forward to...

BLITZER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: ...as we move forward here.

BLITZER: We will.

CAFFERTY: The president is in Moscow for meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in an effort to smooth things over between our two countries. It is the latest example, if you will, of President Obama trying to extinguish the flames of something that former President George Bush left burning.

At a news conference today, President Obama said a strong Russia is good for the United States and spoke of a deep rooted respect that Americans have for the Russian people.

Maybe not. It depends who you ask.

According to a Gallup poll, Americans don't feel much like cozying up to Russia. Fifty-three percent of Americans view Russia unfavorably. That's the highest it's been in nine years.

Russians aren't in love with us, either -- at least not with our leaders. Thirty-four percent of Russians disapprove of U.S. leadership, which is lower than it's been in previous years. But it's worth noting a lot of Russians said they're still undecided about their opinion of U.S. leadership under President Obama.

And it's actually better than it was 10 years ago, during the unrest in 1999, right before Boris Yeltsin bowed out and handed power over to Putin. Then, Russians' opinion of American leadership was at an all-time low.

So here's the question: How important are better relations between the United States and Russia?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

Fifty-three percent of the American public not interested.

BLITZER: It's an important subject, though.

CAFFERTY: Well, I think it is.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: That's why we put it in The Cafferty File.

BLITZER: Very important. Always -- you only have important subjects in The Cafferty File, though sometimes on a Friday night in the 6:00 hour not so important.

CAFFERTY: Occasionally, we get a little silly on Fridays.

BLITZER: Occasionally.

CAFFERTY: Right.

BLITZER: We're going to get back to you, Jack.

Thanks very much.

And remember, we're going to be playing for you Usher's amazing performance of "Gone Too Soon" at the memorial. That's coming up.

We'll also speak with Ken Ehrlich, the man who produced this memorial service honoring Michael Jackson.

Much more of our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM after this.

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BLITZER: Among the many memorable moments during this memorial honoring Michael Jackson, the singer, Usher, performed the song "Gone Too Soon."

Let's listen to it.

USHER: We love you, Michael. You mean so much to us, especially me.

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BLITZER: Wow, what a performance by Usher, "Gone Too Soon," appropriately entitled. There you see the reaction, an amazing, amazing performance. Ken Ehrlich is joining us now from outside the Staples Center. Ken produced this memorial.

Ken, thanks so much for doing this. Tell us how this came about.

KEN EHRLICH, PRODUCER, JACKSON MEMORIAL SERVICE: Well, it's funny, I mean, we are standing about -- we are about 50 feet from the place where Thursday, five days ago almost to the hour, we had our first meeting with some of the representatives from the Jackson family and from AEG, and my partner, Kenny Ortega, who we did this thing together. And it just grew from there. They -- the family and -- said they wanted to do a memorial service and that's -- that's how it started.

BLITZER: It looked as if some of the performers had rehearsed this and correct me if I am wrong, was some of this going to go in the new Michael Jackson tour that was about to begin in England?

EHRLICH: No, actually the only thing that was, was at the end of the show, when we did "Heal the World" and" We are the World" that was this number that was literally staged by Michael and Kenny Ortega together.

And the reason we wanted to do it was because -- it was one of Michael's last efforts, creative efforts, but everything else we did, we basically had about six hours last night between the hours of 5:00 and 11:00. We rehearsed all the performances last night.

BLITZER: Including that amazing video montage of Michael Jackson's career. Was that just -- or arranged over the past few days?

EHRLICH: No, actually that had been done before. I mean, Chuck Workman, who's done an Academy Award-winning documentarian, has done several of these for Michael over the years and that was, I think, maybe the most recent one that he had done and they might have been talking about using that in the show. I'm not sure.

BLITZER: I know that much of this was scripted and choreographed and highly produced but I think this was an unscripted moment right at the very end. Let me play the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARIS MICHAEL KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S DAUGHTER: Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I loved him so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She was comforted by Janet Jackson, her aunt. Was that planned, that moment, Ken?

EHRLICH: No. We had asked the family if they wanted to come up at the end to thank people and we were told, having thought that it was going to be the brothers and the sisters, but we didn't know that the kids were going to come up with them.

And it was -- actually a lot of the show, contrary to what you said a minute ago, was not scripted. A lot of it wasn't. The music, obviously, was laid out, music that we had to rehearse those. But most of the speakers really spoke from their hearts, Smokey and Berry and, you know, people that knew Michael well.

And I think that's what gave this show its heart was that, you know, it wasn't us TV people. I mean one of the things that the Jacksons had said to us was, we don't want to do a TV show, we want to do a memorial service and if you either were here or I hope you were watching at home, you got the feeling that you were at a memorial service for Michael Jackson.

BLITZER: It was certainly a memorial service. It was an excellent memorial service indeed. Was there anything that totally surprised you in the course of those two hours and 15 minutes and given the fact that you produced it?

EHRLICH: You know, there were -- I mean that's going to take some time to really look back at it and see where -- you know when you're in the throes of it, you don't always get to think about what it is. I'll tell you what struck me.

What struck me was that almost every speaker -- there were a few that we did right, too, but so many of them -- it wasn't just about the great entertainer that Michael was, it was about the kind of human -- that he was human, that he had faults, that he had frailties, but that, you know -- and I certainly don't think that it was posed as being defensive at all.

The fact of the matter is we were asking, I think a lot of the speakers were saying, you know, we all had frailties. We all have faults. Let's remember him for what he did and how he changed the entertainment business.

People didn't dance the same way after Michael Jackson danced. People didn't perform the way they did after they saw Michael Jackson do it. And I think that, you know, there is a tone that came from this I hoped was in there.

And it was surprising, because I didn't realize how many of the speakers would address Michael's human qualities and his eccentricities and the fact that that's what made him different from us, that's what made him, in some ways unique and actually, at the end of the day what we admired most about him.

BLITZER: And if that was your mission to get that tone going, it was certainly mission accomplished.

Ken, let me thank you on behalf of all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world for producing this memorial.

Ken Ehrlich, co-produced the memorial service. He was joining us from the Staples Center. Thank you. We're going to go back to the Staples Center and Soledad O'Brien and Don Lemon, they're standing by. Gladys Knight is with them. We'll speak with her. We'll also have more of the performances, including Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz. They sang "I'll Be There." You'll hear it when we come back.

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BLITZER: We're going to head back to the Staples Center and Soledad O'Brien, just a moment, she's got a special guest, Gladys Knight. You're going to want to hear her thoughts on this memorial for Michael Jackson.

But first, Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz, they performed this rendition of "I'll Be There" and it brought back a lot of memories.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz remembering Michael Jackson and doing it in a beautiful, beautiful way.

Let's go back to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Soledad O'Brien is standing by with a very special guest. Soledad?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Gladys Knight is one of those people who really needs no introduction. She is a legend. And as we were watching that performance, Miss Knight was also looking up in the screens and seeing some of these pictures of Michael Jackson as a boy. It must really bring back some memories for you.

GLADYS KNIGHT, SINGER: It really does. I still see him as that little old boy.

O'BRIEN: You knew him at that age, as an 8-year-old.

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And you, in a way, discovered him, right?

KNIGHT: Well, yes. I mean, his parents were so, you know, aware of his gifts and his father really promoted them and what have you, but when I saw them, I knew immediately something had to be done.

This was greatness I was listening to because I heard them before I saw them. And the Pips said, "Oh, those were Joe's boys." Because they would get out, see, I was like Michael, I stayed in my room all the time. You know? And I said we got to call somebody.

And I went downstairs and I called Motown trying to get Mr. Gordy to come down and take a look at him. You know? I guess I didn't have enough weight.

(LAUGHTER)

But I just kept calling. I called about four or five times and I said, "You guys need to get somebody down here." Well, they never came. But about a year and a half later, with someone echoing what I had called them about, Bobby Taylor, for one, and others at the company kept telling, they finally took a look.

O'BRIEN: He was a real student.

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: He was -- you have described him as very inquisitive.

KNIGHT: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: And when you see all the things that he put into his shows, he was always learning.

KNIGHT: Yes. Michael wanted to know everything about everything, and he put all of that everything into his spirit and into his music. He wanted to know about life. When we would talk, he said, well, I have a family, you know? Because he hadn't started one yet. You know? I said it's difficult, Michael, but you can do it.

You know I have been singing since I was 4. Michael has been singing since he was -- so we have some things in common.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you that. When you were sort of joking about being a hermit but in a lot of ways...

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... it's not a joke.

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I mean, that must have been very hard for you as -- to be a child star has got to be...

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... a burden in a way.

KNIGHT: Yes. Like I -- the story that Michael told about seeing the kids on the playground, well, all my buddies and my girlfriend, they were thumbing rides to the park.

O'BRIEN: But not you.

KNIGHT: Well, even if I wasn't a singer, my mama wasn't going to have that, you know? But it was just certain things that I could not do, you know. Either you're committed to this or you're not.

She did make us do it and I think it was the same thing with Michael. You know, his mom treasured him that way, too, and kept his feet on the ground but yes, out of pure love and I think that was Michael's misgiving, so to speak. It was what he should have had but we were not ready.

O'BRIEN: He had a very -- he was a very complex person, people have said. He -- seems like he struggled a lot.

KNIGHT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Over the last 10 years.

KNIGHT: Because of what he had to carry.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

KNIGHT: He had such an enormous, enormous gift. Such an enormous calling and he stepped up to it. He could have said at any time, I quit.

O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

KNIGHT: You know, this is too much for me. You know I want to have a family and I don't want -- you know, I don't want this responsibility that goes along with being this icon that God has blessed me to be.

But he didn't do that. He tried to make his own little world. He created Neverland so he could have a childhood. He did all of those things. And we looked at him, like, oh, he gone crazy. You know?

And it wasn't that. He was just trying to have something normal that he did not have? And it was kind of sad. And he was sad in a way. But we didn't see his sadness. We just wanted to see that dance. We wanted to hear that music. We wanted to do all of those things, you know. But yes.

O'BRIEN: It was a remarkable, remarkable memorial service today. Remarkable.

KNIGHT: What we have given the world, he was an American, y'all. He was an American, first, and he was an African-American. First, he was a child of God. Then he was an American, then he was African- American, and we gave that to the world. For the first time, we've been one as a world.

O'BRIEN: And he was very talented. Gladys Knight, pleasure to chat with you.

KNIGHT: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I am your biggest fan in the whole world.

KNIGHT: And I am so proud of you.

O'BRIEN: And you're so (INAUDIBLE).

KNIGHT: I am.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Thank you. Let's send it right back to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Soledad. Tell Gladys Knight I always loved Gladys Knight and the Pips. What a group, that was.

All right. Stand by. Thank you so much. If you can hear me, Gladys, appreciate your contribution to music over these many, many decades.

Abbi Tatton is joining us now, our Internet reporter. Abbi, we're getting iReports coming in from folks who were there.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We've had iReports. We've seen photos being shared and distributed on Twitter. And I wanted to show you some of those, because this is a day, this is a memorial that was experienced and shared by people inside the Staples Center and all over the world.

And these are their photos. The photos that were coming in in real time on Twitter, as people were experiencing this day. Some of them from people who were lucky enough to be inside the Staples Center. Like this Twitter user, Allan Palace (ph), who said, "I've worked at the Staples Center for two years. I have never seen it packed like this in complete silence."

These are fans who wanted to show that they were there, wanted to share this with the whole world, tell people what it was like to be in there, even in the nosebleed seats earlier on today. And they wanted to share the memorial program. This has been passed around on Twitter all day. The program that just those few thousand people have a copy of right now but online that photo is everywhere.

And then there's the people outside as well, who couldn't get in but wanted to be part of the memorial wall. Some people here are standing on tiptoe so they could leave their mark, leave their tribute.

Wolf, this is all from the Web site PicFog. We've got more from iReport.com that we're gong to bring you later on -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll check back with you, Abbi. Thank you so much. We're going to have more of these remarkable performances that occurred at the memorial at the Staples Center. That's coming up.

We're also going to check some other important news that's been going on today. CNN had interviews in Moscow with President Obama today and in Alaska with Governor Palin today. That's coming up. And a lot more of the memorial service after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're going to get back to the aftermath of the memorial service honoring Michael Jackson. And more of the really amazing performances that occurred during those two hours and 15 minutes. But there's some other important news that I want to assess right now.

Joining us, our political analysts, Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist, and Mary Matalin, the Republican strategist. Guys, Drew Griffin, our special correspondent, had a chance to interview Sarah Palin in Alaska today. We're going to get some of that interview coming up.

But Mary, let me start with you and just give me a quick assessment right now, how Sarah Palin is doing in the aftermath of her announcement last Friday that she's stepping down as governor of Alaska.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, for the moment, she seems to be doing fine. I did some radio shows today. And our own Bill Bennett said on his show the incoming was 4-1 in her favor. If you don't like her, you think she's a quitter. If you do like her, you think she's a victim.

I think she's neither. I think she was in an untenable situation. She's an unorthodox candidate and always has been. And she is a middle class mega-multitasking mother. She's a conviction conservative. She was reform governor. She had to balance all those things.

I think she will continue to have an important future in the conservative party, in the Republican Party. What that is, I don't think she knows. I don't think any of us know. But I think what we're saying about she's done, she's toast, stick a fork in her, are just -- it's really unfounded. We have no way of knowing that.

BLITZER: And that's some of the comments coming from the Republicans. At least some Republicans.

All right. Let's listen to a little bit of the interview that our own Drew Griffin had with Governor Palin earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: July 3rd was deliberate. That's a good catch, because that was the eve of Independence Day. Yes.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: I am told by your attorney that was your declaration of independence.

PALIN: Well, it was a declaration of "Come on, Alaska, let's move forward." I am willing to step aside and allow our state to progress. I love Alaska that much. I don't want to hamper its progress and its potential and our path on reaching our destiny.

Our destiny is to contribute more to the U.S., to provide that energy independence and that national security aspect. I don't want to get in the way of that. And I'm willing to step aside and fight for what's right on a different path. So it's not a retreat. It's progress.

I'm a fighter. And that's why I'm doing this, to go out there and fight for what is right without the constraints that have been surrounding me in these final months. And anybody who lives in Alaska will tell you, of course, our administration has been paralyzed. We spend most of our day fending off frivolous lawsuits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Sarah Palin speaking with Drew Griffin up in Alaska earlier.

Paul Begala, what did you think of how she is handling this? It wasn't just an interview she granted to CNN. She granted an interview, I think, to all of the major television networks on this day.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, you know, her defenders will say, she's crazy like a fox. I think they're half right. The notion that she would look Drew in the eye and say, I'm not a quitter as she's quitting. She is either delusional or disingenuous.

I mean she did seem to admit, that's saying she plainly admitted that her continued service as governor would harm her state. That's an astonishing admission of failure on her part.

I did notice a story, I have to say. ABC also interviewed her and she told ABC News that she wouldn't have ethics complaints filed against her, even frivolous ones, if she were was president because, as she put it, the department of law would protect me.

Well, there is no department of law, Governor. There is an attorney general. Maybe she means that. The Department of Justice. Maybe she means the White House counsel. Those folks are not empowered to dismiss ethics complaints. Believe me, I've been there. She, as president, would have to deal with incoming of the same sort.

In fact, President Clinton, as you know, I worked for him. He had millions of dollars, millions and millions in millions in legal bills, which he then paid off after he left office and was cleared on all that stuff. So, you know, she's just kind of incoherent.

BLITZER: I guess the biggest problem she has, Mary, is that she's got now, at least, tag on her, this label that she's a quitter.

MATALIN: Look, if -- if the question is, what is the future or her future in the Republican Party, what we need to go back to this premise that is often overlooked in these kind of conversations, which is, in the real world, Republicanism and conservatism are two different animals.

The Republican brand is down just like the Democratic brand was down when Paul and my husband wrote a book about we the Democrats. And -- but the conservative self-identification is 2-1, conservative- liberal. An increasing numbers, every time they take a poll, more Democrats, more independents are moving away from the liberal side to a center-right side.

She appeals to common sense conservatives out there. It's in her hands. It's completely up to her to be -- take a deep dive on some substance, to reset, to recalibrate, to get her political equilibrium. Is that possible? Absolutely. Is she a huge talent? Absolutely. Is she a unique, charismatic personality?

That's just something you can't learn, you can't find, no consultant can give you. So let's just see how this thing is going to unfold. And if she's so over, why are we all continuing to be so fascinated with her?

BLITZER: All right. Hold on, guys. I just want to alert our viewers that we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This coming hour we'll have extensive coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial service, highlights of that service, including some musical performances that occurred. But important news was going on also in Moscow today. The president of the United States meeting with the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, continuing his conversations, trying to improve U.S.-Russian relations.

The president took some time and spoke with our senior White House Ed Henry. Here's part of that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Obviously, a grueling trip. What's it like, though? Does it take the edge off having not just your wife but your daughters here as well? They get to visit the Kremlin and tag along for what must be a pretty exciting trip.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, it makes a huge difference. You know the girls are just a joy.