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Andrew Young Steps Down from Wal-Mart; John Mark Karr's Handwriting Comparison; September 11th Hero Remained Anonymous Until Now

Aired August 18, 2006 - 15:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Andrew Young has seen the writing on the Wal-Mart. The former U.N. ambassador, Atlanta mayor, civil rights icon, is quitting his job as the Wal-Mart spokesman, having spoken to an L.A. newspaper about mom and pop stores that often don't stand a chance against the world's biggest retailer.
Young said, and we quote, "They ran the mom and pop stores out of my neighborhood. But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. They sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own those stores."

Young, who's in his youth, who in his youth, rather, was an aid to Martin Luther King, has apologized for what he said and earlier on LIVE FROM I sounded out the syndicated columnist Roland Martin and Niger Innis of the Congress of racial equality.


NIGER INNIS, CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: Well, you know, it's an old frustration that's been discussed in the black community about black-owned businesses.

But you know, a little quick insight. Back in 1960s when Roy Innis, my chairman, was chairman of HarlemCorp (ph), he pulled together a lot of these non-black, mostly Jewish merchants in Harlem and he said, "Listen, gentlemen, it's untenable that you're serving the community and that you virtually have a monopoly on these black businesses -- on these businesses, rather."

And the Jewish merchants, actually most of the Jewish merchants said, "Hey, look, I'm looking to retire. We're going to give up these businesses and go and retire. My son and my daughter, they're doing other things. They're not taking over." And guess what? They left.

And what happened? You had economic blight in Harlem and in other black communities for many, many years until, guess what, Koreans and other immigrants, using their entrepreneurial spirit, jumped into the void.

So not only was Andrew Young's statement insensitive, but quite frankly, it was not socially scientifically accurate.

PHILLIPS: So Roland, how did you take it? ROLAND MARTIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "CHICAGO DEFENDER": Well, first and foremost, there have been many people who have made a similar comment.

I was -- I don't see it as this great controversy. I think part of the problem here is we don't necessarily want to examine exactly what he said.

Secondly, we also have to deal with this. Somebody makes a comment. It's not always anti-Semitic. It's not always anti-black. It's not always anti-women. And so I think -- I think too often we're so sensitive to comments that we take it to the extreme.

And so I went to some of the people saying he's anti-Semite. That's not true. He doesn't have a hatred for Jews. He is simply stating, as Niger said, that frustration among African-Americans as relates to who is controlling businesses in our communities.

PHILLIPS: So if you look at that quote, all right, and some are saying, gosh, this was so racist. It was so controversial. All right. Let's just lay it out this way. Let's look at what Mel Gibson said. All right. I got the quote here. And it created such a fuss.

"F-ing Jews. Jews are responsible for all the wars in world." Well, the media went crazy. It was all over the place. It was the lead story on so many networks.

Now you've got Andrew Young saying this, quote. I want to point out that they both apologized, by the way, Andrew Young and Mel Gibson.

Now, not enough hype over young, a lot of hype over Gibson? Is it because Gibson is a white Hollywood star and Young is a black civil rights leader? Niger?


PHILLIPS: Go ahead, Niger.

MARTIN: Niger, go ahead.

INNIS: First of all, I agree with Roland. Andrew Young has worked with Jewish organizations and Jewish individuals longer than the three of us have been alive. OK? So he's not anti-Semitic. He's not anti-Arab. In fact it's kind of ironic, he lost his U.N. post in the Carter administration, because he came to the defense of Arabs in the Arab/Israeli conflict.


INNIS: So he's not anti-Arab. But he did make a comment that was a little nasty. And certainly he should be held accountable for it. In the case of Mel Gibson, Mel Gibson's statement was an outrageous statement. And he also should be held accountable. And I think he has stepped up to the plate and been accountable. But there's no question. I think Roland will agree with me here. There is a media frenzy when it comes to the anti-black or anti-woman or anti-Semitic or anti-Arab. And we have to, you know, get beyond the media feeding frenzy that occurs when these statements were made and scratch below the surface to look at the real substance of what that individual is saying if there is any "there" there.

PHILLIPS: OK. So what's the substance here? Because Mel Gibson, was there substance there or was he just drunk and said something ridiculous?

MARTIN: Right.

PHILLIPS: Andrew Young, you know, why did he say what he did? And what was the substance there? Still, there was a lot more -- there was a lot more hype over Mel Gibson than there was over Andrew Young.

MARTIN: Two words, pretext, context. The pretext for Mel Gibson was the fact that you had "The Passion of the Christ". You had a huge outcry across the world as it relates to whether or not the movie was anti-Semitic.

And so you had a number of people who were Jewish in Hollywood and other places who, frankly, were attacking Mel Gibson, were going after him.

PHILLIPS: But let me ask you a question. I just want to get -- the point of what can we say now and what we can't say.

All right. Spike Lee had this quote. He said, "Racism is when you have laws set up systematically put in the way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. Black people have never had the power to enforce racism, and so this is something that white America is going to have to work out themselves."

Now, he wasn't talking about the situation here. But he puts that quote out there.

So my question is, do blacks have more room to make these sort of statements than white people because of history, because of the lack of voice years and years ago? So should they be given a little more leeway in saying things like this?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, let's go over several different things here. You also have the matter in terms of control of organizations. When Niger talks about a CORE, there was a leader in CORE that made a comment as related to Jews that decimated the organization's fund-raising ability.

INNIS: Before my father took over.

MARTIN: No, no, no, I got you. But also Spike Lee has been criticized in "Do the Right Thing" and "Mo Better Blues" for his portrayal of Jews and Italians. The question you asked, Kyra, the answer is yes. Certain groups, you have more leeway. Women have more leeway with some issues. Jews have more leeway with some issues. Italians have more leeway. Blacks do.

The problem I have is, do Jews believe they can't be criticized? Do black folks think they can't be criticized? Women can't be criticized? If you criticize Israel, a lot of people say you're anti- Semitic. No, I just disagree with a policy. And so I think people are so sensitive, we can't have a disagreement on issues because people want to say, we're anti-African-American. No, I'm not.

PHILLIPS: But, man, we are living in such a P.C. world. We are living in such a P.C. world right now.

MARTIN: Right. We don't want to have honest conversations.

INNIS: I couldn't agree more with what Roland just said -- with much of what he said. Although I must disagree a bit, certainly with what Spike Lee said. There is no monopoly on racism.


INNIS: There is no monopoly on bigotry. White folks do not have a monopoly on bigotry. And certainly if there's a victim of a particularly biased crime, where the person is physically harmed, or murdered in some cases, the fact that the perpetrator is African- American, the fact that the person is Jewish, they don't get a bye, the fact that it's a woman beating up a man -- which does occasionally happen -- they do not get a bye. There is no monopoly on racism or abuse.


PHILLIPS: Now for its part Wal-Mart says it was outraged and dismayed by Andrew Young's remarks.

Young isn't the only one apologizing. In Florida, Republican Tramm Hudson is one of several candidates hoping to replace Katherine Harris in Congress. Here's what he said at a forum earlier this year.

Again we quote, "I grew up in Alabama and I understand and I know from my own experiences that blacks aren't the best swimmers, or may not even know how to swim."

Now Hudson's apology, "I said something stupid. I apologize for it and would apologize in person to anyone hurt by my comments."

Now coming up the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case, a ransom note from the last decade, a yearbook from 20 years ago, does the handwriting match? And what message could it be revealed? Rusty Dornin joins us next.


PHILLIPS: Well every picture tells a story, but what does handwriting have to say about John Karr's claims about JonBenet Ramsey? CNN's Rusty Dornin has some new information for us. You know, we've been talking about this ransom note right from more than 10 years ago and all the handwriting analysis that was done among the family members.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it was very mysterious the way it was signed. It was signed victory and the initials, SBTC. Now investigators have been puzzling over that for years. Some thought it might stand for "saved by the cross." Now CNN has been contacted by a woman who went to high school in northern Alabama with John Mark Karr. She went up to her attic when she found out about all this stuff going on, just out of curiosity, to remember what he had written in her yearbook.

Well she sent us the note that he did write in her yearbook. Her name is Theresa. And at the very bottom of the note he says, "Though deep in the future maybe I shall be the conquer and live in multiple piece." The shall be the conqueror is "SBTC."

Now she sent us this note as well as she's apparently sending it to the authorities as well, to see if there's any kind of thing that could be going on with this. The former investigators that we talked to, both Mike Brooks and Don Clark both said it was very interesting, that that is something that would pique their interest. This is not too far off, because he says, if you note, in it, "in the future, I shall be the conqueror." So this maybe something they will looking at. She has apparently sent it to them as of today.

PHILLIPS: Interesting. You also wonder the whole spiritual implications here, or what he's trying to say might lead to other things he was involved with, or reading or -- wow.

DORNIN: The other thing is, if you look at the handwriting, though and it's again, it's very different than what was on the ransom note.

PHILLIPS: OK, so the handwriting is different?

DORNIN: It's also different. Although some of the letters are similar, but this is from 1982 as well. I am sure of how much your handwriting can change over the years, but certainly there are some different things in there.

PHILLIPS: And it's both in print. Yes, but it does have sort of that kind of full -- I mean, it's interesting it's similar in some ways where it's kind of, I don't know, how would you describe it? Kind of like script or...

DORNIN: ... More artistic.

PHILLIPS: There you go, artistic.

DORNIN: Very artistic in high school, whereas the other one is very plain.

PHILLIPS: So authorities now -- she sent this to authorities, this former classmate?


PHILLIPS: And she just heard about all this, remembered...

DORNIN: Went into her attic and just pulled it out and just took a look at it and thought -- remembered the way the ransom note was signed, with this "SBTC" and noticed it at the bottom, and as I said, the investigators, we have talked to, we haven't talked to anybody that's actually looked at this as of today. But the ones that we've talked to have said that's very interesting. That's something I'd take a look at.

PHILLIPS: Well we're also being told that we're going to be giving this to a handwriting -- someone for handwriting analysis. So I have a feeling you're going to be doing part two to this story, Rusty. All right, thanks, Rusty Dornin, interesting.

Well two failed marriages, a teenage bride, the teaching career marked by controversy and frequent firings, child pornography charges, never tried because the defendant, John Mark Karr fled the country. Karr may or may not be the killer. But what he is, where he's been, what he's done will keep investigators busy for quite some time. CNN's Dan Simon has more.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Controlling and child obsessed, just a few of the accusations leveled at John Karr by his former wife, a woman he married 17 years ago when she was 16, and he was 24.

CNN obtained these court documents from their 2001 divorce. In a sworn declaration Karr's wife, Laura, he was booted from a substitute teaching job in the late 90s. The reason, she claims one school told him, quote, "He has a tendency to be too affectionate with children. That didn't stop Karr from getting another substitute teaching job a few years later, here in Northern California.

SIMON (on camera): So, everything checked out on this guy?


SIMON: Charles Wong was the head of one of the school districts where Karr occasionally filled in for absent teachers, and says he saw no reason to raise a red flag.

WONG: No one goes into a classroom, comes on a campus, until they've been cleared on both counts, on the professional qualification credentialing side, background, criminal check, fingerprint, that side has to be cleared.

SIMON: This young Alabama woman, a former girl scout, remembers him when he was her neighbor.

ERIKA SCHOLZ, FORMER NEIGHBOR: He never striked (sic) me as anything - like I wasn't comfortable. He's never, of course, invited me into his house for like coffee or tea or anything, but he was just a great guy.

SIMON: Karr's teaching days in California ended in 2001 when he got arrested for possessing child pornography. Sheriff's deputies busted him for having pictures of children engaging in sexual conduct on his computer.

Karr pleaded not guilty and was freed on bail, but according to California authorities, he skipped town and never stood trial. He may have fled the country, but Karr's ex-wife obtained a restraining order against him, that prevented him from getting within a hundred feet of her and their three sons.

Even so Karr's ex may be able to provide an alibi. She told a San Francisco television station that they were together in Alabama during the Christmas holidays in 1996, when JonBenet was murdered.

MIKE RAINES, ATTORNEY FOR LARA KARR: She sincerely believes that there was no Christmas any time between approximately 1989, when they were married and the year 2000, when her husband was not with her and her family at Christmastime. She has no recollection of him ever being away.

SIMON: The attorney for Karr's ex wife has instructed his client to dig through the photo albums to see if there are any pictures in 1996 that would show that they were not in Colorado at the time of JonBenet's murder. Dan Simon, CNN, Petaluma, California.


PHILLIPS: And you can catch more of Dan Simon's reporting on "PAULA ZAHN NOW," weeknights at eight Eastern.

Well from the rubble of the World Trade Center, a five-year mystery finally solved.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the last five years, you've basically told nobody about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct, my mother didn't know the details, as all.

TUCHMAN: How come you didn't tell people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to put -- I thought that you know, mission accomplished, you know, job done.


PHILLIPS: CNN's Gary Tuchman has the untold story of the unsung hero, straight ahead on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Well, we've heard so many stories of heroism and bravery since the 9/11, but one of the heroes who saved lives in Tower One that day has been anonymous until now.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has his story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jason Thomas and his wife, Kirstie (ph), walk amid the tourists visiting Ground Zero. But Jason is a tourist with a dramatic connection to September 11, that for the most part, he has not talked about.

(on camera): For the last five years you basically told nobody about this?

SGT. JASON THOMAS, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Correct. My mother didn't know the details at all.

TUCHMAN: And how come you didn't tell people?

THOMAS: I just wanted to put it -- I felt that, you know, mission accomplished, you know? Job done.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The mission was his participation in the rescue of two Port Authority police officers buried for hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings. Authorities knew two former U.S. Marines found the officers, but only knew the whereabouts of one of them. The other seemingly vanished.

The Oliver Stone movie "World Trade Center" is the story of the rescue of the two officers. And shows the Marines finding them. One of the Marines is Staff Sergeant David Carnes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone can hear me, yell or tap.

TUCHMAN: The other is Sergeant Thomas, so little known about him when production started that the actor playing him is a white man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recon the area, Sergeant. Our best shot is going up.

THOMAS: At one point Thomas started in that direction to the right.

TUCHMAN: Three weeks ago Sergeant Thomas was watching TV and saw a commercial for the movie which featured the two Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no going back. Let's go.



TUCHMAN: And because of the movie, we are now learning Sergeant Thomas's story, how he and Sergeant Carnes started a desperate search for survivors.

THOMAS: We were yelling "United States Marines, anyone down there? United States Marines, anyone down there?" And didn't hear anyone for the first, I would say half an hour.

TUCHMAN: And then they heard someone under the fiery, smoky rubble.

THOMAS: It was a low voice. And it was saying something.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But you knew you had someone alive?

THOMAS: I knew I had someone alive. I didn't care what that person was saying. At that stage, I just wanted to get to them.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): More help came, and both seriously injured men were rescued.

THOMAS: As I got out, it was the most amazing thing. It appeared to be a gauntlet. And they was passing down this gauntlet. And everyone was clapping.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Of people?

THOMAS: Of people. And it was amazing. It was amazing. It was emotional.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Michael Shamberg is the producer of the movie.

MICHAEL SHAMBERG, PRODUCER, "WORLD TRADE CENTER": Ever since we started, we kept trying to find him. We had no idea how to find him. And I wish he played himself. If you've met him, he's the greatest guy. He looks like a Marine. He's, like, you couldn't have cast him better than he is himself.

TUCHMAN: After a couple of weeks helping out at Ground Zero Sergeant Thomas went back home to Ohio, grateful when he heard that Police Sergeant John McLaughlin and Officer Will Jimeno were recovering, but content to remain anonymous.

(on camera): How does it feel being back here? You hadn't been here for five years, right?

THOMAS: I really don't want to look over. And yes, this is my first time being over here in five years.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): However, with the movie now out, Sergeant Thomas, who works as a court officer at the Ohio Supreme Court, is hoping to soon have a reunion with the two police officers. But notably, he hasn't seen the movie. And doesn't think he will.

THOMAS: Too emotional. Too emotional for me. But I do recommend others to go see the movie.

TUCHMAN: And if you do, you'll now know that this man is this man.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: You can catch more of Gary Tuchman's reporting on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Watch "A.C. 360" weeknights, 10:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer standing by in "THE SIT ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hey, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kyra, very much.

President Bush and warrantless wiretapping. We're following a federal judge's ruling that the president's program is unconstitutional, and now Mr. Bush comes out swinging. We're going to tell you what he had to say.

Plus, the man who beat Senator Joe Lieberman in the democratic primary is now trailing in the polls. Ned Lamont will be my guest in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Also, the Wal-Mart ambassador's foot-in-the-mouth. Ambassador Andrew Young makes some eyebrow raising comments about Arabs, Jews and Koreans, and we'll find out what happens next.

And the holes in the story. We're taking a close look at the self-confessed killer of JonBenet Ramsey to see if his story really adds up. All that coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, we'll be watching. Let's take a quick break. More LIVE FROM straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Straight to the newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield with some pretty amazing details on the JonBenet investigation.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra did I not mention already that this case, bizarre as it may be, is getting more and more bizarre by the minute? We're now learning that San Quentin state police officials have conducted the search of a cell of a convicted killer by the name of Richard Allen Davis. He's the man who was convicted of killing Polly Klaas back in 1993.

Well, apparently, in the past couple of days, investigators have learned that there's been correspondence between John Mark Karr, the man who is now, in a roundabout way, confessing to the killing of JonBenet Ramsey and corresponding with Richard Allen Davis, who is at San Quentin.

Apparently, this information is emerging from investigators. They are now looking into what may be learned of -- any kind of material in the cell of Richard Allen Davis. And you may recall that over the past couple of days, we also did learn that Petaluma, California, which is the place where Polly Klaas was killed, also happened to a place that John Mark Karr lived for a while, and was a substitute teacher before being dismissed there.

So lots of interesting details that are being linked to John Mark Karr, and that just happened to be one new one -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And we've talked about -- with the number of people, the obsession that he had with that case, in addition to the JonBenet case. Interesting detail, Fred. Thanks.



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