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CNN CROSSFIRE

Is It Time to Investigate Investigator?; PETA Celebrates American Meat-Out Day

Aired March 21, 2002 - 19:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Tonight, is it time to investigate the investigator? Former independent counsel Robert Ray launches a Senate bid. Did he use his office to boost his chances?

And then, the great American Meat-out. Did you take a break from steak?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida and Republican Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana. And later, Ingrid Newkirk, president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

One good investigation begets another. It's a lesson many in Washington know well. It's a lesson that former independent counsel Robert Ray is learning right now. Earlier this week, Ray wrapped up his multi-year investigation of the Whitewater scandal.

Today he announced his candidacy for the United States Senate. Ray, a Republican, wants to replace New Jersey Democrat Robert Toricelli, who is the subject of his own long investigation. The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into charges that Toricelli accepted improper gifts from a campaign supporter.

Ray calls himself the alternative, a candidate who can provide ethical, principled leadership in contrast to Robert Toricelli. Not so fast, say some Democrats, who charge that Ray began campaigning for political office even before he left the federal payroll. That's a major sin.

Senator Leahy has asked already asked two different government agencies to investigate. So who's unethical? Ray, Toricelli, Leahy, all of the above? That's our debate tonight.

Bill Press?

BILL PRESS: Congressman, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Thanks. Great to be here.

PRESS: So before we get into Senator Leahy, I want to start with Robert Ray. This, of course, today was not the first time that he announced for Senate. It's at least the second, maybe the third, maybe the fifth. I don't know.

But back, February 10, while he was still independent counsel, still probing Whitewater, here's what. He gave a speech up in New Jersey to some New Jersey Republicans. He said, among other things, "if President George Bush can restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office, then we can have, and deserve principled, ethical and trustworthy any leadership for New Jersey in the United States Senate."

I mean, you've been a candidate. If that's not a campaign statement, if that's not a campaign speech, I don't know what is, congressman.

PENCE: Well, Bill, I appreciate the take on that. But the truth is that the issue here -- and these are attacks that were leveled by Congressman Conyers and now are being leveled by Senator Leahy.

And the issue here is whether or not this prosecutor broke the law, which is a pretty potent thing to suggest against a lawman. And the fact is, under the Hatch Act, as Rob may well concede in a moment, he just simply didn't here.

Thinking about running for public office while on the federal payroll is simply not in violation of the Hatch Act. He had no campaign. He had raised absolutely no money. He did not mention Toricelli that night. This was a dinner in his home county. And he paid to be there, Bill.

PRESS: Well, I think the point is that he was doing more than thinking about it. Congressman, I want to repeat a couple of phrases here. "We can have and deserve, principled, ethical and trustworthy leadership for New Jersey in the United States Senate." Are you suggesting he was talking about Bob Toricelli?

PENCE: No, I don't think he was talking about Bob Toricelli.

PRESS: He was talking about Robert Ray. Admit it.

PENCE: Well, he was talking about a vision for governance that he's carried since Rudy Giuliani hired him in New York city. This man is a distinguished federal prosecutor, a man of unimpeachable integrity, Bill.

PRESS: Until now.

PENCE: And so the reality is that the Hatch Act and Congressman Conyers and Senator Leahy are not the thought police, any of them. A person can think about federal service even while they're in federal service.

CARLSON: And Congressman Wexler, this may come as a surprise to you, but a person is even allowed by law to criticize Senator Robert Toricelli, even if he's on the federal payroll, something that Senator Leahy doesn't seem to understand, which leads to my question which is who's being partisan here?

There's an election coming up, and Leahy, a pal of Toricelli, asked for two separate investigations into Toricelli's opponent. Now who's being partisan? Leahy, who's trying to sabotage the campaign before it starts.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: The issue is not Senator Leahy. The issue is not Senator Toricelli. The issue is Mr. Ray, who is the independent counsel, whose primary obligation is to judge the facts and prosecute them in an impartial way, totally destroying the entire credibility of the $73 million that the public spent to investigate the White House.

And what does it say about Robert Ray? That he abused his office, that he had a tremendous conflict of interest. The moment that Robert Ray thought about running for the United States Senate, to be a senator, he should have been smart enough and ethical enough to understand you can't run for the Senate and be an investigator of the president in an impartial way.

And I cannot believe that we're even having a discussion.

CARLSON: Oh.

WEXLER: ...and you're arguing that it's okay...

CARLSON: I think I understand.

WEXLER: To be a special prosecutor and run for the United States Senate.

CARLSON: The crime was in the thought is what you're saying.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: You want to say something?

PENCE: No. I actually agree with the point. I agree with you, Rob, at the very moment that he began a campaign, that he was compromised in the preparation of the investigation. The problem is...

PRESS: I don't think that was.

PENCE: Robert Ray filed his -- the report in his investigation over a year ago. The special division has had to vett this and talk to people that are mentioned in it. This work was done over a year ago. Senator Leahy praised Robert Ray over a year ago for his outstanding work in bringing this investigation to a conclusion.

WEXLER: The public spent $73 million of the public's money to get an impartial report about the Clinton White House. And what'd we get? We got a report to bolster the primary campaign of a man that wants to be a United States senator.

CARLSON: Is that right? Well, let me just crush your argument with facts, if you don't mind. I know you're a little grouchy, having to defend all the Clinton sleaze for all these years.

WEXLER: I just can't believe.

CARLSON: But the fact is...

WEXLER: Pillar of morality of morality for eight years (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not justified.

CARLSON: I understand. But your essential argument is that this guy, Robert Ray, was conducting a campaign while he was on the federal pay payroll. And that's a conflict.

WEXLER: My argument is that he was an independent counsel, not the attorney for the RNC, the Republican party...

CARLSON: Right.

WEXLER: Or not a potential candidate for office.

CARLSON: Well, let just me blow you out of the water here really quickly, if I can. There was a poll taken between February 26th and March 4. And it asked New Jersey voters, what about this guy, Robert Ray, who you say has secretly been preparing his campaign, and bolstering his own candidacy and whatever.

Here it is. Favorable, 4 percent. Unfavorable, 3 percent. Mixed, 7 percent. No opinion, i.e. never heard of the guy, 86 percent. He wasn't running a campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

WEXLER: What was Robert Ray doing talking to Republican organizations in New Jersey?

PENCE: Rob, he was doing it in his home county. He paid a ticket to go to a dinner in his home county.

WEXLER: Why was he there? He's the independent counsel.

PENCE: As those poll numbers suggest, he wasn't campaigning here. He was discharging his duty. He was thinking about honorable public service that you and I enjoy.

WEXLER: He was discharging his duty as the independent counsel to investigating the president of the United States in some county in New Jersey? Give me a break.

PRESS: Congressman, I want to give you a point. I'm not accusing him of doing anything illegal. I would just like you admit and take your point. He filed his report over a year ago. He stayed there. He kept giving news conferences. I saw him on every other show, except CROSSFIRE, which he would never come on.

You know, he's getting his name out there. He's running up to New Jersey to give speeches. He's talking to Christy Whitman about putting a Senate race together. If he were really honest, the moment he knew he was going to run for Senate, shouldn't he have resigned, announced his plans and resigned his office to avoid any appearance of a conflict.?

PENCE: Let me say, Bill, I think the moment that he began to campaign, the Hatch Act says, it involves campaigning, announcing, seeking a party nomination or raising money, he didn't do any of those things. He went to a dinner in his home county. I know it bothers Rob a great deal, but a lot of people just go home a lot, as you do and I do. And he brought up topics about public integrity. There's nothing wrong with that.

WEXLER: Do the people of the United States have a right to expect that a person investigating the president will be impartial? Do they have a right to expect that?

PENCE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

WEXLER: Okay, and when a man decides he's going to run for the United States Senate as a Republican candidate in New Jersey, when he didn't even get his resignation speech in from being independent counsel, do you think that's an impartial man who was the impending counsel?

PENCE: Well, what we have today in the news today right here on CNN is that Robert Ray announced his candidacy for the United States Senate. He has begun to raise money.

PRESS: But he didn't just start thinking about it yesterday.

PENCE: The reality is the Hatch Act is very clear. My gosh, if we're going to turn the Hatch Act into prohibiting political thought, then we're going to take it to a new level.

CARLSON: Now Congressman Wexler, even if every one of the outrageous charges you're throwing out there is true...

WEXLER: The man visited New Jersey. He made political speeches.

CARLSON: That in itself is not yet a crime.

WEXLER: He talked about being a United States senator.

CARLSON: Right.

WEXLER: No, it is a...

CARLSON: He thought about it, but that's -- let's just say that all of those untrue things were in fact true, just for the sake of argument. Wouldn't Robert Ray still stand miles, incalculably higher above ethically than the current occupant of that office, Robert Toricelli, who has never denied accepting thousands of cash and gifts from David Chang, his pal, who he claims not really to know now?

WEXLER: You with a wouldn't to distort the issue.

CARLSON: You want to change the subject. WEXLER: No, no. The issue is did Robert Ray conduct himself appropriately?

CARLSON: Oh, I see.

WEXLER: No, there was no finding. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing. Ask Senator Toricelli.

CARLSON: It's in the Senate Ethics Committee right now. That's not been decided, as you know.

WEXLER: And if there is, it will prosecuted.

(CROSSTALK)

WEXLER: That does not in any way excuse Robert Ray from violating his right.

PRESS: We have a minute left.

PENCE: Bill, the reality here is they're trying to change the subject from an ethically challenged senator. They're having a little bit of success doing it, but this man's reputation, Robert Ray's reputation, will overcome it.

PRESS: 45 seconds left. I want to get your opinion on a related subject, which is this Whitewater report. Robert Ray's report came out. Three independent counsels, eight years, $73 million, no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton. Wouldn't you have to agree, looking back, a total partisan witchhunt and a total waste of time and money?

PENCE: Absolutely not. As the Ray report and the independent counsel report show, there were...

PRESS: No evidence.

PENCE: There was evidence for which there were potential crimes for which Bill Clinton could have been charged.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has admitted to conducting felony perjury. These are...

CARLSON: Worth every dime.

PENCE: How many specials does Monica Lewinsky have to do before we...

WEXLER: It wasn't a total failure. We have a new candidate for the United States Senate, who will run on his credibility for not at all...

(CROSSTALK) PRESS: Robert Wexler, Mike Pence, thank you members very much for being here. And now the rest of you, stop before you take another bite of that Big Mac. Don't you know how important it is not to eat beef? Save the animals, eat tofu instead.

When we come back, Tucker and I grill Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA about the great American Meat-out day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: And now CROSSFIRE, round two. Don't tell me, don't tell me you had ham and eggs for breakfast or a big steak for lunch. You must have totally missed yesterday's great American Meat-Out Day. For one day in the year, for 18 years in a row now, when every true American eats strictly veggie, no beef, no chicken, no pork, no seafood and some would say, no fun.

It's supported by celebrities like Ed Asner and Bill Maher and by organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, who argue that the best way to be kind to animals, all animals is not to eat them. Stick to beans and tofu instead.

Taking a break from her own tofu sandwich, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk stopped by to answer the obvious question. Why can't I love my cat and love a big, juicy steak, too?

Tucker?

CARLSON: Ingrid Newkirk, thanks for joining us.

I guess what bothers me about the great American Meat-out day is that it sounds so moderate and reasonable, when in fact, as you know as the head of it, PETA is something of a hate group. Now let me not just throw terms around give you one example.

Last summer, an eight-year-old boy name Jesse Arbogast was bitten by a shark on the East coast, tore his arm off. He suffered permanent, life long damage after this. And PETA wanted to put a billboard up. Let me read it to you. You probably thought it up. You probably know what it says.

But for our viewers, here it is. "Would you give your right arm to know why sharks attack? Could it be revenge?" Now that's hate speech. And if the Aryan nation put up a billboard, people would say, of course, it's Aryan nation. PETA puts it up, you get away with it somehow. How? How do you get away with that?

INGRID NEWKIRK, PRESIDENT, PETA: You have to get a sense of humor.

CARLSON: He's a 10-year-old boy!

NEWKIRK: I didn't think sharks were going to riot. It wasn't exactly to incite them. But people were going to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet right next to the beach and actually having the gall to say, well sharks are big predators. We eat more of the other animals than any other animal on the face of the earth.

Actually, we were very kind. There was a Russian woman whose fiance was killed by a shark, ended up in the hospital next to our office. We had to Russian intern and we provided them with veggie food and comfort every day she was there.

CARLSON: Well, that's awfully nice, I must say. I don't see anything funny about making fun of the injury of an 8-year-old boy, but you obviously do.

PRESS: Let me get to the American Meat-out. Okay? And what bothers me about it is that you connect animal rights to the American Meat-out.

I am an animal lover. I've received awards from animal rights groups for my commentaries on animal rights. I really believe in it. I wouldn't go duck hunting. I wouldn't go deer hunting. I'm against animal testing unless somebody tells me it's absolutely necessary to save a life. I think I qualify as an animal rights person, but I eat steak and I'll eat chicken.

I love my cat, but I can't get myself to wrap my arms around a chicken. I'm sorry. I mean, how can you connect animal rights with eating meat or chicken?

NEWKIRK: You just have to get to know them. You know your cat.

PRESS: I don't want to get to know a chicken.

NEWKIRK: I know, but that's silly to you. But you know, you have to open your mind, open your heart a little bit.

PRESS: No.

NEWKIRK: Beaks are seared off with a red hot wire for these birds. They are in cages so small, they can never raise one wing in a lifetime. What sort of bullies and lousy people are we that we can't extend our compassion, not just to the animals who are in our homes, but to ones who, through no fault of their own, never get to know us?

Corporations are recognizing that young people think this is an important issue. It's not just human rights; it's animal protection, which is why Burger King today has introduced a veggieburger. And I've got some here for you.

PRESS: I see. Well, you've got some here.

CARLSON: I can't wait to dig...

PRESS: No, I'm not sure the for you applies.

NEWKIRK: You guys are so biased. You know, one point you would have been arguing against women's rights, you would have arguing against...

CARLSON: Oh, I beg your pardon. It's a veggieburger, not a ballot box.

NEWKIRK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Well, animals can't come on the show and argue. And you mustn't think that they're just disposable objects. They feel. They're like you. They feel pain, they feel hunger and thirst. They want to live, too. And if you seeing what happens inside farms, your heart would break because you're a kind person.

PRESS: Thank you. I'll grant your point that animals should be treated humanely, even animals that are headed for slaughter. But I know we're going to talk about Burger King in just a second here, but you're going to be campaigning against Safeway right now, saying they have to treat their animals humanely.

I mean, I see that as a contradiction on your part. You're saying treat them humanely and then kill them and eat them. I mean, you can't have it both ways.

NEWKIRK: No, we actually can because any kindness, any step is a step in the right direction. I'd rather know that he ate any animals at all. We don't need to. We're not survivalists. You know, we can eat a host of vegetarian foods.

But places like Safeway, which we call it Shameway. If you go to peta.org, you see all the things they're not doing. Not even basically auditing slaughterhouses to make sure that the cows are unconscious when they have their throats slit. And a lot of them are not.

CARLSON: Now Ingrid Newkirk, I'm sorry. You say, first you call you call meat-eaters bullies.

PRESS: You want your veggieburger now?

CARLSON: Actually, I don't. I'll save that for later. You call meat-eaters bullies. The rest of us are bullies. You say you're pro- animal. It strikes me that you are anti-human. Let me give you an example and I want an explanation and I want an apology for this.

Last spring, I took my children to the circus here in Washington. I had my four-year-old son, very nice boy, in my arms walking up to go into the circus. And some monster from PETA leans forward and shoves in his face a photograph of a wounded elephant, and says, "This is what the circus is," to my four-year-old son.

NEWKIRK: I doubt it very much.

CARLSON: I watched it. He was in my arms. And I want you to apologize for that.

NEWKIRK: If anyone did that, I absolutely apologize.

CARLSON: Well, good.

NEWKIRK: Because everything we do is based at adults. We're asking adults be responsible. You were telling me about giving your children meat and milk. They're going to be to grow up to be tubs of lard. They're getting heart attacks.

CARLSON: I beg your pardon.

NEWKIRK: Their arteries will be clogged.

CARLSON: They eat only veal, I will have you know. And veal actually has a slimming effect on the human body, as you're aware.

NEWKIRK: No, but most children do care about animals. And if you are honest about...

CARLSON: Settle down, Ingrid. We have animals, unlike you, we have two dogs at home. Do you have dogs at home?

NEWKIRK: Where the animals come from...

CARLSON: No, you don't.

NEWKIRK: No, I don't.

CARLSON: Okay, so don't lecture me about caring about animals.

NEWKIRK: I don't eat them. But no, your children do care. And I think if you are honest to them about what happens in the slaughterhouse, about castration without anesthesia, dehorning...

CARLSON: Well, it's a dinner table conversation in my house, as you can imagine.

NEWKIRK: But you've covered it from them.

PRESS: I want to come back to this. You have shamed Burger King into preparing a veggieburger. I mean, it's clear these things are not going to sell. I mean, they're just there to appease people like you so they don't picket out in front of them.

But my question about this is a serious one. I gave up red meat for like 15 years or so. I was too porky. I was really, you know, a little too heavy. I wanted to lose weight. I went to the diet books. What did they tell me? To be healthy, eat meat. I mean, meat is how I get my protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12.

CARLSON: That's right.

PRESS: Isn't it healthier to eat meat?

NEWKIRK: That's old information. No, absolutely. You get all the protein you want from fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, you name it. But you don't get any...

PRESS: You have to eat a lot of them.

NEWKIRK: No, no, no. You don't get any cholesterol, because cholesterol is only in animal products. You get fiber. Fiber is not in any meat. And you have all the calcium you want from green, leafy vegetables. Don't do it, don't get a heart attack. CARLSON: Ingrid Newkirk, I think you summed up perfectly when you said nuts.

PRESS: Time and we really time for my veggieburger.

CARLSON: Time for the veggieburger.

PRESS: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you very much, Ingrid Newkirk, we appreciate it.

Up next, the moment you've been waiting for, our Thursday night police blotter. The good, the bad. When public figures intersect with law enforcement, CROSSFIRE is there. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: And now, crime marches on. Actually, there's too much crime and not enough cops, so sometime usually on Thursday night, Tucker and I have to jump in and help nab the more usual suspects. Make that unusual suspects.

Our CROSSFIRE police blotter. Starting off, former police detective Steve Thomas probably wishes he'd stayed a cop instead of writing a book. In "Jon Benet," published last year, Thomas opined that John and Patsy Ramsey actually killed their daughter and made it look like a botched kidnapping. The Ramseys sued for $80 million. Thomas and his co-author have agreed to settle for big bucks. No doubt, more than he made writing that book. But still the question remains, if John and Patsy did not kill their daughter, who did?

CARLSON: The mystery continues. Zero tolerance or zero commonsense? 16-year old Taylor Hess was expelled recently from his Bedford, Texas high school after a security found guard found a bread knife in the bed of his pickup truck. Hess said the knife fell out of a box of goods he dropped off at the Goodwill. School officials don't contest his story, but said they no choice but to boot him. It's the law.

And not just in Texas, but in Arkansas an 8-year-old found himself suspended from school, after he pointed a particularly dangerous looking breaded chicken finger at one of his teachers. The war on terrorism continues.

PRESS: Chicken fingers? And of course, no police blotter's complete without an update on the longest running and biggest criminal trial in the country. But things aren't looking too good for CROSSFIRE favorite, James Traficant.

On top of bribery charges, an IRS testified yesterday that the congressman failed to report $78,000 in gifts and kickbacks. Traficant denies the charge. IRS agents, he says, are nothing but "thieves that prey upon the American people." Well, at least he's not wrong about everything.

CARLSON: Right about quite a bit, in fact. And finally, the end of the world as he knows it. Guitarist Peter Buck of the group REM says the last thing he remembers about his flight to London was taking a sleeping pill and having a glass of wine. When he awoke, he says, "there were bright lights overhead. I had this fear I'd had a heart attack and was in weird hospital in Disneyland."

But he wasn't. He was in jail at Heathrow Airport, charged with assaulting members of the flight crew and damaging British Airways property. The airline claims that Buck went beserk when flight attendants refuse to serve him more alcohol. At one point, they said the rock star walked toward a cabin door saying he wanted "go home." He isn't home. The trial continues.

PRESS: And for $64,000 the only CROSSFIRE co-host who actually appears in the lyrics of an REM song.

CARLSON: You?

PRESS: Rock star Bill Press.

CARLSON: I'm impressed.

PRESS: Yeah, I know. I am, too. That's it for tonight. Hey folks, we love to hear from you. Read your e-mails. Tomorrow, send e-mails to billandtucker@crossfire.com. We'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for watching.

CARLSON: That would be Friday. We'll be there. Hope you are, too. I'm Tucker Carlson. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

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