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Ahmadinejad Speaks Out; Interview With New York Congressman Peter King; Interview With Columbia University President

Aired September 24, 2007 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This is amazing. You thought, I thought, we all thought that he was going to make all the headlines today. Instead, it's the university president, the guy next to him, who really stole the show. That's why we're going to have him on live.

SANCHEZ: Here we go. The expectation at Columbia University was a wimpy Northeastern liberal welcome. Instead, it's an in-your-face slam-dunk.

LEE BOLLINGER, PRESIDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

SANCHEZ: Blunt. Fearless, I would say, in fact, almost uncomfortable.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Many parts of his speech, there were many insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully.

SANCHEZ: Tonight, you will hear the surprising accusations and the response.

And, from the streets of New York, the outrage.

Outsourcing the war. More contractors than troops? Billions being paid to military industrial corporations? It's time to talk about it.

The death of Pope John Paul II, a new report suggests it wasn't what we thought.

Cops on horseback, bloodhounds hunting an escaped prisoner accused of killing a guard. It's a wild manhunt.

And Bill O'Reilly giving a lesson on racism to blacks? How is that going over? We're bringing it out.


SANCHEZ: And hello, again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Let's try and pick it up with the president of Iran. It seems to be what everybody is talking about all over the country, talk shows, all over. He's in the United States. He's arguably the very core of the so-called axis of evil, right? And he's said some pretty ridiculous and some pretty outlandish things.

So, the idea that he would speak at a major school, an ivy league school in the Northeast, was not going over very well. But then this is where things changed. The president of Columbia University stood up and introduced him, and then everything seemed to have a different spin on it.

Columbia University Lee Bollinger has agreed to join us. And we are going to be talking with him in just a little bit, so he can take us through his motivation for saying these things, in his own words.

First of all, though, I would like for you to hear how he seriously lit into Ahmadinejad.


BOLLINGER: Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

And, so, I ask you...


BOLLINGER: And so I ask you, why have women, members of the Bahai faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?

Why in a letter last week to the secretary-general of the U.N. did Akbar Ganji, Iran's leading political dissident and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and noble laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world's attention from the intolerable conditions of your regime within Iran?


SANCHEZ: So, it's one thing to say that the guy shouldn't be here. It's quite another to get in his face when he's right there next to you, and say these things about him. "A petty and cruel dictator," that's a direct quote as you heard.

So, Ahmadinejad now gets a chance to respond, right? Here's some of the things he had to say.


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all.

Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom. In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): We don't have that in our country.


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): In Iran, too, there's capital punishment for illicit drug traffickers, for people who violated the rights of people. And some of these punishments, very few, are carried in the public eye, before the public eye.

So I'm awaiting logical answers instead of insults.

My first question was if -- given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?


SANCHEZ: It almost looks a little more stale there.

By the way, we got Lee Bollinger there. He is the president of Columbia University. He is still getting his microphone on. And we understand that we're going to be going to him in just a little bit to talk to him about this.

That was a brave move that he made, to actually say these things in front of Ahmadinejad. And that's the reason we have asked him to come on. And he has been good enough to join us.

First, let's see how the Iranian president went over with the audience.

We're going to join our Deborah Feyerick, who is here with us. And she's been following this story all day.

Hang on real quick, Deborah, because we want to do is let the viewers listen to what the response was. And you were there in the auditorium as soon as the statement was made by Lee Bollinger.

Here it is. Go ahead, Will. Play it up.




SANCHEZ: Hot and cold there, a little of both reactions.

How did the students react to their president standing up and saying these things to this man?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was very interesting. First of all, you have to understand there was a real energy on campus.

You had students who were very much against the visit. You had others who were supporting it. And what was surprising to us was that some students were very impressed by the Iranian president. They told us that Ahmadinejad really reframed certain debates in their minds.

For example, when he said self-determination. Why shouldn't we have nuclear energy? Well, some students thought, well, why shouldn't they have nuclear energy? There was the issue of Israel and Palestine. He said why shouldn't the Palestinians able to decide what it is that they want?

So, there was a really interesting mix of people on both sides. But there were also those, the majority, who said they didn't buy it, they don't think he had any truth to what he was saying, and certainly if his goal was to impart knowledge, it's not what he did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I definitely am glad that he was here to give his opinions on things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He maid makes himself sound ridiculous by saying things like equating studying the Holocaust to studying physics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seemed to not even have a grasp of his own country, much less his own views or his own philosophy. After he lectured about knowledge and understanding and how that is the most important thing to him and why he's here, he proceeded to not answer questions, not give any knowledge.


FEYERICK: There was also the introduction by president Bollinger. And he was really under fire for inviting the president in the first place.

And some students said that he was right to be tough on the world leader. Others saying, who is he to attack a world leader?


FEYERICK: You supported his visit here because why, quickly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, because of free speech, just what president Bollinger was talking about. I would support any world leader that would like to come and voice his opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He treated Ahmadinejad as a child. And it was very disrespectful. And whether or not we agree with the content of the speech, that's up for debate. We're a university debating ideas. But I found it really, as a graduate, recent graduate, of this institution, almost embarrassing.


FEYERICK: Now, I asked about tensions on campus. One young Muslim woman told us that tensions existed before. They will likely continue afterwards.

There was also a sense by students that this was a success because it sparked debate. So, yes, you had cheers. You had boos. But at least you had a forum in which to hear both sides -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Interesting that you would be there and be able to get all those quirky things that these students were saying. And certainly there was no shortage of opinions out there.

Deb Feyerick, thanks so much for joining us.

Now, let's go to the man of the hour, the man who actually made the comments. He's the president of the university. Lee Bollinger is good enough to join us.

Mr. Bollinger, I guess there's two ways to look at this. And we have been having a lot of conversations back and forth since we heard your comments. You could either ignore the man, as some were saying the United States should do, or you should engage him and get in his face and tell him the truth, however difficult it may be to hear that.

You chose the latter. Why?

BOLLINGER: Because the dean of the school of international affairs and faculty members wanted him to come and speak. And this is part of the academic decision-making to have people of significant power and influence come to the university and address issues.

The only way I wanted that to happen and we wanted that to happen was to make sure that the issues were confronted in a really full and sincere and authentic way. So, there's always risks that, when you have something like this, it will degenerate into a bland conversation and run the risk that really major things, major beliefs, very serious matters are minimized and not truly confronted.


SANCHEZ: But, when you heard all these arguments, Mr. President, going on all over the country, saying he shouldn't speak, how dare Columbia University have this man on, you never seemed to give any information or any indication to anyone that you were actually going to be pretty stern with this guy, or at least if you did, it certainly went by me. BOLLINGER: I did, actually, say that. I said that I would introduce this, and it would pose very direct questions about things that President Ahmadinejad has said and done.

Also, as part of the arrangement with the president, it was very clear that the only way this would happen would be for me to be able to introduce this with very sharp questions and very sharp statements.

SANCHEZ: What did you feel...

BOLLINGER: These are not...

SANCHEZ: I'm sorry. Go ahead and finish. I apologize.

BOLLINGER: I'm sorry.

I just wanted to say, these are very serious matters, very serious beliefs. And it's my deep belief that the only way to have a discussion like this is to make sure that it's a full and robust debate and dialogue and confrontation. Otherwise, it doesn't take full advantage of free speech.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's called speaking truth to power. And I have got to tell you, I couldn't agree with you more.

Did you get any energy from him when you were making this speech? Were you nervous? Did you sense he was nervous or defensive? Can you share some of that insight with us, if you would?

BOLLINGER: Well, I have things that I wanted to say, and I wanted to say them in my own words, and I wanted to say them with the right feelings and to be sincere about this.

What he felt, I don't know. My sense was that he was very stony about this when I happened to look at him on occasion. So, I really don't know what he felt.

SANCHEZ: Do you think your words will blunt some of the criticism that we have been hearing from people who say you, Mr. President, should never even have allowed this man to step onto your campus?

BOLLINGER: I don't know.

I mean, I think that, if you look at the totality of the event, you look at the way students have dealt with this, the debates, the discussions, wonderful example of how young people can take something that's of enormous consequence in the world and to really learn from it and participate in it.

I mean, that gives one great, great hope and courage really. I think also there are great differences over time about the limits of freedom of speech and about academic freedom. I happen to believe very strongly in the importance of an extremely wide scope for freedom of speech. Other people think there ought to be limits. I think that's an ongoing debate in our society. It so happens my field is freedom of speech. And, so, I'm very much aware of how, especially in times of war and when people feel threatened and vulnerable, that they can regard this as having implicit endorsement in giving enemies the stage. I don't think that way. I think that it's better to openly confront your adversaries and enemies and to express your views, and, to some extent, to listen to theirs.

SANCHEZ: Well, Mr. President, we want to thank you, sir, for taking time to talk to us and share that perspective. A lot of folks have been wanting to talk to you. And there's a lot of folks with different opinions on all kinds of issues on this controversy.

But I think few would doubt that, when you stood there today and said those words, there was a lot of vigor and there was a lot of courage in what you were doing. So, once again...

BOLLINGER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: ... we thank you, Lee Bollinger, for taking time to talk to us.

There is more outrage ahead. It's a major voice in Congress that tells me why he thinks just the opposite of what the president said at the college. He said Ahmadinejad shouldn't even be here. And just who is this guy?

I am going to talk to CNN's Christiane Amanpour as well, who knows Iran very well, in fact, has interviewed the Iranian leader and plans to interview him again this week. We will have that for you right here.

And then Bill O'Reilly giving advice about race to some African- Americans, how is that going over?


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN once again. I'm Rick Sanchez.

CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has interviewed Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, twice now. She's also spent many years reporting from obviously all over the world, but in Iran as well.

Her take now on the man, the people there, the centrists, even, and what this Persian president is really trying to accomplish here.


SANCHEZ: It seems like we really don't know the Iranians and they probably really don't know us. How does something like what happened today here in the United States play to the average guy in Iran, a moderate, let's say?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of moderates in Iran are very dubious about the effect their president, Ahmadinejad, has had on their situation and their status. They have seen Iran being increasingly isolated under his presidency.

They see this rhetoric of war being ratcheted up. They see what they had hoped under their previous president, a steady march towards reform and increased freedom, in fact, lead to the opposite. They have also seen this president, who came to power on a populist ticket, promising economic prosperity and to put the oil money back on the table of the people, that promise has failed.

SANCHEZ: So, to a certain extent, I almost hear you saying the more we push him, the more we make him the boogeyman, the further we isolate ourselves and the Iranian moderates, who love America, right?

AMANPOUR: Look, most Iranians, if you talk to them, want to have a good relationship with the United States. That's clear.

SANCHEZ: Really?

AMANPOUR: People have been polled. It's clear. And they want a good international relationship.

The problem is relations between Iran and the United States have been really bad ever since 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary Iran took American diplomats hostages for more than a year in the embarrass in Tehran. And the relationship has never recovered.

And now it's pretty much at its lowest since the revolution. Why? Because President Ahmadinejad is considered provocative, belligerent. He has not answered all the questions. Iran has not answered all the questions about its nuclear program. And, therefore, there is a gaping hole of mistrust.

Plus, there's this crackdown inside Iran on various cultural and other social issues. Newspapers are being closed down. Journalists are being imprisoned -- I mean, the human rights situation...

SANCHEZ: Yes. He's a weird guy and he's got some very serious violations, it appears from the outside, of human rights.

But, at the same time, you wonder what he's positioning himself for. Why does he want to come here? What character is he trying to create for himself in that region of the world?

AMANPOUR: President Ahmadinejad believes that he's a folk hero in that region of the world. And, to be frank, when he travels around the Islamic parts of the world, he is greeted with quite a lot of applause, because he's viewed as the personification of a leader who will stand up to the United States.

And, sadly, the United States' position in the world right now is at an all-time low.

(CROSSTALK) SANCHEZ: Is that all it takes? Stand up to the United States and you become a hero?

AMANPOUR: Hey, what has Castro done -- you know -- in Cuba?


AMANPOUR: That is what it takes, to a great extent.

But he's not that much a hero at home. To the hard-line, committed, fundamental revolutionaries, he is a hero, those who want to stick by the strict ideology of the revolution that came in 28 years ago. But, to the vast majority of this very youthful country, they want something different.

SANCHEZ: Christiane Amanpour, boy, you know this turf. Always a pleasure to talk to you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.


SANCHEZ: We should mention as well that Christiane is going to be sitting down with the Iranian president again this week, only here on CNN. You can see her full interview Wednesday night on "A.C. 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

When we come back: a congressman who wants nothing to do with Ahmadinejad. In fact, he wants him out. Is that smart? We square off on the issue.

And, later, Bill O'Reilly giving advice on race on his show to African-Americans. How is that working out? And what does he have to say about it? Just got off the phone with Mr. O'Reilly. I will tell you what he says.


SANCHEZ: And I welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

One of the things that makes this such a great nation is democracy and freedom of speech, right? Take it from me. I was born in a communist country. I know and appreciate it, as many of you do.

It's almost a tradition here, though. And this is where the irony comes into play. Here in the United States, we get outraged when one of our country's enemies suddenly comes to speak at the United Nations.

And there's a history behind this. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is getting that treatment in New York right now. He's certainly in good company.

Let's take you back. Let's do a little history walk, huh? We will go over here to our wall. Nikita Khrushchev, 1960, remembering the pounding of the gavel and getting everyone all upset? That was a famous incident. By the way, same year, 1960, none other than Fidel Castro doing the same thing, one of the longest speeches ever delivered, excruciatingly long, four hour, 27-minute speech, still the longest, by the way, in U.N. history.

And then Yasser Arafat comes to town. They had a huge issue in New York with security as a result of this. And he comes, gives a speech actually with a weapon in a holster that he was wearing at the time, tells U.N. delegates: "I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

At the time, by the way, the U.S. considered Arafat a terrorist when he was here.

And, then, of course, last year, remember Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leader, he stands there at the U.N., and he says, "I'm standing here where, just the other day, President Bush was here," and then goes on to say that President Bush was the devil, saying that he's standing where the devil was standing.

So, one of the leading voices denouncing people like this coming to our country and denouncing Ahmadinejad's visit this year is Congressman Peter King of New York. He has been very vocal about this. He's the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, extremely outspoken. So, we booked him to talk about this and bring it OUT IN THE OPEN, the president's trip.


REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: That appearance at Columbia University is going to give Ahmadinejad a respectability and a credibility in the Middle East and even in Iran itself among the large percentage of people there who support the United States or wonder, are we sending a mixed message?

So, no, I still think it was a real mistake to invite him to Columbia University.

SANCHEZ: I have got it tell you something, though. I'm a Cuban- American. I have grown up my entire life with my family and everybody else telling me how much we have to hate Fidel Castro. And this country has done everything possible to isolate us from Fidel Castro.

And I do have to ask you, quite seriously, where are we as a result of that?

KING: Well, first of all, we could certainly argue the Cuban policy separately.

But, as far as Iran, I believe right now there is a key tipping point in Iran, since the large majority -- this is the one, by the way, Muslim country in the Middle East where the large majority of people do support the United States. If we're trying to send a signal, it's a very mixed signal now, because we're giving him a stature and a credibility he doesn't deserve. So, I think it was a mistake, yes.

SANCHEZ: You have something that doesn't work, when you have something that's dumb, or saying evil things, like that the Holocaust doesn't exist, don't you want to shed a light on it?

KING: Oh, it sheds a light on it here in the United States. We know that already.

I think we have to look at a more global view on this. And the global view is that this gives him a stature in the Middle East. He's using it against the United States. And that's what we have to keep in mind. We have to keep our eye on the real prize here. And the real prize is to deny him respectability, deny him credibility. And Columbia University made a terrible mistake.

SANCHEZ: But if we're going to talk about the greatness of our country -- and it truly is one of the greatest countries ever, obviously imperfect, as we have heard.

KING: Right.

SANCHEZ: But still great, right?

We do have free speech. We do have access. If we allow a guy like that to come here and the first thing we say is, you can't go here, you can't go there, you can't talk to them, and you can't say that, aren't we falling into the same trap we're criticizing them for?

KING: No, because he can stand on a soapbox outside the U.N. and give whatever speech he wants. He can stand outside his hotel or yell out the hotel window or he can go on talk radio.

But the fact is that, to me, to give him the status of appearing at a major American university -- as deficient as it may be in other respects, it is still a major American university -- and to give him that status is wrong.

No one is saying he can't speak. He can say whatever he wants. But I just wouldn't give him the respectability of such an outstanding forum as that.

SANCHEZ: Congressman Peter King, I enjoyed the discussion.

KING: Thank you, Rick. Thank you.


SANCHEZ: Next, look who is giving some advice on race to African-Americans. Bill O'Reilly. So, how do you think that's playing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: Tonight a comment that Bill O'Reilly made on his radio show that's gotten many African-Americans to respond. It's controversial. But just how big a deal is this?

Well, I want to let you hear part of what he says. Here's the set up. He goes to a restaurant in Harlem with the Reverend Al Sharpton and then he makes some comments. Here he goes.


BILL O'REILLY, TALK RADIO HOST: I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it was run by blacks, primarily black patronship, it was the same. And that's really what this society is all about now here in the USA. There's no difference.


SANCHEZ: O'Reilly goes on to say -- I'm going to quote him here, because we want to make sure that we've got these things down accurately. Here we go. "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming 'm-fer'" I think you know what that probably means, "'I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-White suburb in the sense that people were sitting there and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all."

Here's some more, here's another direct quote, see if we can get that one up there if we're done with the first one. Ready? O'Reilly says, "I think Black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out."

Now O'Reilly's critics are saying it's not the first time that he's made some questionable remarks publicly. Now, in fairness, he has a radio show and a television show. He's on the air for an awful long time. I want to find out, though, what our CNN contributor, Roland Martin has to say about this after hearing some of this.

I guess, let me just go right to it, here.


SANCHEZ: What's wrong with a White guy making social commentary about other people's race? Which is what he seems to be doing, here.

MARTIN: The issue is not social commentary, the issue is how stupid can you be? The point about the restaurant is offensive, because here's what he says: "I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference." Why couldn't you? It's a restaurant. People sit down, they eat. What's the big deal about that?

SANCHEZ: What are you saying? You're saying the fact that he was shocked by the fact that African-Americans were no different than White people...

MARTIN: Right.

SANCHEZ: Shows what? What are you trying to say?

MARTIN: What is shows that he probably lives in a very isolated world. "I couldn't get over the difference," over the fact that somehow they're sitting there, eating. No one's cursing, saying bring me my tea. What does that say? Now, does that mean that his opinion of African-American restaurants has been formed by someone else? He didn't say there is no difference. Yeah, we get that. But, why couldn't you get over that fact? What's the big deal?

SANCHEZ: Let me tell you what he said. I was on the phone with him just a little while ago, and he was animated in his conversation. He said to me, "Rick," he said, "there was no racial intent in what I said. It was a benign program. We didn't receive one single complaint on any of our radio stations," and he says this is a hatchet job by Media Matters.

MARTIN: No, but here's the deal, though. Bill -- and look, I did Bill O'Reilly's show on many times prior to joining CNN.

SANCHEZ: Controversial guy.

MARTIN: Nice guy.

SANCHEZ: And he always has something interesting to say.

MARTIN: Yes, indeed. But you couldn't get over the fact that, oh my god, no one was shouting and cursing? But here's what also bothered me, when I read the comment in terms of: Black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves, they're getting away from the Sharptons and the Reverend Jacksons of the world and trying to lead them into a race-based culture.

Here's what bothered me now. They're just trying to figure it out. Look if I can make it, work hard and get educated I can make it. I'm reading Marcus Mabry's book, "Twice as Good" on Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza Rice's father, in 1954, was not an active participant in the civil rights movement. You know why? Because he believed that we just focus on getting our kids educated, we'll do well. Black folks have always thought that. And so this notion that somehow, oh, we're all of a sudden -- Black people are now thinking today, is just ridiculous.

SANCHEZ: Do you think -- I bet you if he could have that back, he wouldn't have used those words, "thinking more and more for themselves," because it's almost sounding like, you know, the guy up here talking down to those folks down there.

MARTIN: But the issues, there are a number of people who somehow believe that African-Americans are sitting there going, OK, I need to get my cue from Reverend Jackson, Reverend Sharpton. There are people out there who are working their butts off every single day who are doing an amazing job. But the other piece, Rick, that jumps out is that I wonder what formed his opinion to think that somehow the case. Who does he talk to?

SANCHEZ: Well do you think -- let's be honest about this. Do you think it has something to do with his audience? I mean, after all, he's talking to a specific audience.

MARTIN: Well look, I have a mostly Black audience at WBON. I get that.

SANCHEZ: The reason I as you that is, well what if an African- American said this on the radio to an African-American audience? Do you think...

MARTIN: And they would say, wow, you just decided to go to a Black restaurant? What's going on here? Obviously you're not informed. The whole point here is how are you informed about various people? See, Bill O'Reilly might somehow believe that all Black America is just waiting on two people to tell them where to go. That's not the case. The day of there being what I call a super-duper Negro is no longer here. You don't just have just one leader. And also...

SANCHEZ: So, what doesn't he get? If there's one thing, Roland, that you think maybe he doesn't get, in fairness, if he's watching this program right now, he says I'm going to watch this show, Rick, and see what you guys say.


SANCHEZ: What would you say to him?

MARTIN: I think he doesn't get that African-Americans are not monolithic. If he listens to my show, a show on WBON in Chicago, the home of Reverend Jackson, you don't get people sitting here saying I agree with everything that he says. You don't have people saying I do everything Al Sharpton says. And his show is also on my station. The point is, people have different views and not just one train of thought.

SANCHEZ: Well, what's interesting is, I just finished reading his book. And Bill, let me look at the camera and offer an invitation to you. If you want to come on and talk about this and defend your point of view and disagree with Mr. Martin on what he has to say, we would love to have you. And by the way, to be fair, one more time, Mr. O'Reilly's point of view, no racial intent, benign program. Not one single complaint. Hatchet job by Media Matters. Media Matters is one of those Web sites that talks about what we do in this business. They've criticized me plenty, by the way, as well. And I'm sure you too.

MARTIN: And Bill, guess what, I got a college degree, my parents did focus on education.

SANCHEZ: Roland Martin, thank you for being with us. Big story in the news that seemed to hit Americans like a cold slap in the face this past week was the Blackwater scandal, the idea that tens of thousands of contractors, some of them really acting like soldiers are allowed to run around Iraq unchecked, is problematic to many Americans. In fact, the U.S. Provisional Government passed a law in 2004 that said that these contractors really don't have to abide to the laws of Iraq at all. Well, if that's the case, how, then, can we call Iraq a sovereign nation -- Mr. Rumsfeld?


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a sovereign country. And they're making impressive progress.


SANCHEZ: By the way, they're also not bound by the uniform code of military conduct. And this all came to a head just last week when the government in Baghdad threatened to kick Blackwater out of the country after men guarding diplomatic convoys there opened fire, killing 11 Iraqis and injuring 12 more, probably a story that you've been hearing about.

Joining us now, is Jeremy Scahill, he's the author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's most Powerful Mercenary Army." And then also with us, is former Blackwater vice president, Chris Taylor, who's now a graduate student, as a matter of fact, at Harvard, no less.

He Jeremy let me begin with you. If they don't have to abide by Iraqi laws and they don't have to abide by the military laws that our soldiers and troops have to abide by, who are they accountable to?

JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, "BLACKWATER": Well, that's a very interesting question. And in fact, the U.S. government and the military have had difficulty answering that. I mean look, the reality is that Iraq has been turned into a Wild West atmosphere. There have been tens of thousands of these so-called private contractors that have gone in and out of Iraq since March of 2003. They've shot up Iraqi convoys, they've run vehicles off the road, they've caused blowback attacks against U.S. forces. We've had military commanders say that they're hurting the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq.

And the fact is that nothing gives a more clear indication to the Iraqis that they don't have a sovereign government than the kinds of incidents that took place last Sunday when Blackwater operatives apparently killed as many as 20 Iraqis. The government says they are civilians. And apparently there's going to be no consequences for those actions.

SANCHEZ: Let's let Mr. Taylor respond, because you're hurling some accusations that seem to imply that they are a bunch of cowboys over there. I'm sure a lot of them are good guys, but there is an impression that's been left out there. Mr. Taylor, how would you respond to that? CHRIS TAYLOR, FMR BLACKWATER VP: Well, I would say, first of all, that the standards that these people meet each day are very high, they are set by the Department of State and the Diplomatic Security Service. Nobody is deployed without meeting those standards. They include psychological evaluations, they include skills training, they include leadership training, core values training. And unless they've met these standards, they cannot deploy.

SANCHEZ: What about the numbers? This is the number that came out this week that was starting, at least it was to me, and I think it has been to many Americans. There are 180,000 contractors in Iraq. Let me throw that number out again -- 180,000 contractors. Like the Blackwater guys. There are only 160,000 troops in Iraq. Those are our soldiers fighting for us. There are more of the contractors than there are of the soldiers. How do we reconcile that, either one of you?

TAYLOR: Well, I think it's important to point out that the overwhelming majority of contractors in Iraq are Iraqis themselves. To include the overwhelming majority of private security contractors operating in Iraq, they are, in fact, Iraqis. There's probably...

SANCHEZ: How many Blackwater guys have you got over there?

TAYLOR: Well, I don't work for Blackwater anymore, but as I understand it, there's fewer than just about 1,000 people operating in Iraq.

SANCHEZ: Mr. Scahill, is he right? Are most of these guys just hardworking Iraqis, these 180,000?

SCAHILL: No, the fact is, you know, Blackwater tries to portray itself as an all-American operation. Yes, it has former Navy Seals and Delta Force operators, but Blackwater is a company that has recruited, hired and deployed former commandos who trained and served under the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet and they've been on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq...

SANCHEZ: Here's -- you just mentioned the word "payroll." Hey Will, come on out real quick. I want to do something. Can we do -- Jeff, are you ready? Let's go over to the wall. I want to show you something. Because this is where we get into the whole business here of how much money is actually being spent.

Come over here to this wall over here, Jeff.

In Blackwater USA, $593 billion. But we can break it down and show you some of the others in Iraq that tax money is being spent to take care of this. Now, there's a lot of accusations there about war profiteering. Shaw Group, 2006, they got $1.4 billion. Blackwater, OK, got $593 billion. It gets a lot more deep, folks. Bechtel, they got $3.6 billion and then of course we have the king of all of them, that would be the Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, Kellogg, Brown and they got more than $6 billion worth of contracts in Iraq.

The question is, when put money into the equation like this, and you've people making these kinds of money, is it possible that their motivation may not be altruistic? Is that a problem that we have to face in our country?

TAYLOR: I can tell you from firsthand experience that we absolutely have people who support the mission in Iraq, more so than they support the dollars that everybody thinks they're earning. I think it's important to point out that there is a clear difference between security contractors and logistics and reconstruction contractors. The security companies generally operate on what's called "firm fixed price contracts" whereby they tell the government this is how much we can do the job for. If the government selects them then they...

SANCHEZ: I guess, Mr. Taylor, is, should money even be entering into this? Once you throw a profit margin into a war, doesn't that make it likely that maybe many of the people making decision about war could possibly go askew in their decision making? It's just a reasonable question.

TAYLOR: It is a reasonable question. And I'm going to tell you that I have spoken to thousands, thousands of people who work for Blackwater and other companies and they -- to a person virtually say, I'm there to support the mission, they want to do what's right and they've already served -- and they've already served a career's worth of time in public service, there's law enforcement officers...

SANCHEZ: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there because my producer is telling me we're going so over the limit. But we thank you both. We're going to stay on this topic and hopefully we'll be able to get both of you back. Is that all right?

TAYLOR: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: All right, appreciate it.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Next, some dramatic pictures from a prison break where they called out the bloodhounds to track down two escapees.

Also, a report that's going to cause some outrage. Raising the question, did the Vatican let the pope, John Paul, II, die?


SANCHEZ: Another good day for videos. We've been plucking them out for you. Let's start with this one. This is a scary situation. It's a manhunt after a prison break in Huntsville, Texas. Two inmates working in a prison field, overpowered a female guard that led to this, these pictures that we've been monitoring all day long. It looks like something out of a western.

Apparently they ran over the guard in a pickup truck and killed her. One inmate was recaptured less than an hour after the escape. It's taken police officers on horseback, bloodhounds to try to catch up with the second just a couple of hours later. And there's this. This is Iraq. Take a look at these pictures, it's a U.S. armored vehicle. Watch what's about to happen, right now. You can actually even hear the sound of the preparation. These are insurgents that apparently are trying to plan to take out anyone who, they say, has occupied their country. There you go.

Also, this, more dramatic pictures, now. This is an attack that caught on tape in Norfolk, Virginia. It's a 13-year-old White boy being beaten by a group of Black teenagers. The boy and his mother have told local media they believe it was racially motivated. They just moved to town and they say that he'd been taunted in the past at school just for being White. Police in Norfolk say, so far their investigation has ruled out race as a motive in the attack. But, wrong is wrong no matter what color it is. That's why stories like this get brought OUT IN THE OPEN.

That's what we do. And Larry King, he talks to the best of them. He's coming up in just a couple of minutes, and he's joining us now to let us know what he's got for tonight -- Larry.

LARRY KING, LARRY KING LIVE: Hey Rick, speaking of that last item you just ran, coming up, the first live interview with the parents of the only defendant jailed in the Jena Six case. That's got racial tensions near the boiling point in Louisiana.

Then we'll have country superstar Reba McIntyre with her biggest fan, Kelly Clarkson and maybe some surprises from Reba's other big- name duet partners on her new album. It's all at the top of the hour, Rick, on LARRY KING LIVE.

SANCHEZ: I thought you'd be wearing like country-western suspenders or something tonight. They all look good on you, though.

KING: No. Nah, it's not me.

SANCHEZ: Thanks buddy. Appreciate it. Larry king, folks, he'll be coming up in a little bit.

Now let's take a "Biz Break." On Wall Street stocks dropped after last week's gains. The Dow fell 61 points, the Nasdaq dropped three points, the S&P slipped eight points.

Also, General Motors, 73,000 workers -- listen to this -- put down their tools and picked up the picket signs. That's right. United Autoworkers Union launch a strike today after marathon talks broke down. The strikes stopped work at 80 facilities in 30 states from coast to coast. Both GM and the UAW have been suffering from GM's declining share of the U.S. car market, thus far.

And just when it looked like airlines were taking off again, big trouble for American Airlines. Shares for parent company AMR dropped 14 percent on warnings that profits are slipping in the face of rising oil prices.

Music means I talk. Here we go, still ahead, a disturbing story in the news this week. Who is asking if the Vatican euthanized Pope John Paul, II, a special report. We'll have it right here.


SANCHEZ: The whole world seem to watch the final days of Pope John Paul, II but now an Italian news magazine is asking what many consider to be an amazing and somewhat shocking question. Did the Vatican actually euthanize Pope John Paul? An Italian doctor says that the failure to give the ailing pope a feeding tube, not just days, but weeks earlier, caused him to die sooner. That would be a violation of strict Catholic stance on medical ethics and euthanasia. So, we asked our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen to look into this and find out more about tonight's "Vital Signs."


Elizabeth Cohen joining us now. It looks like what they were trying to do at the Vatican is if you don't give him a feeding tube, then you don't have to go through the rigmarole of removing the feeding tube. This think could have been a huge controversy for them, a la Schiavo, right?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Rick, the bioethicist that I talked to say that it is much less complicated than that. I spoke to a lay bioethicist and I also spoke to a very prominent Catholic bioethicist and they both were adamant, they said feeding tubes are commonly not put in and then were taken out in the final days or weeks of life.

Now, I know that sounds cruel, but they said during that time, people lose the desire to eat. It's not going to prolong their life. The pope wouldn't have lived any longer if he had he had a feeding tube during those periods of time and it actually might have hurt him. He might have -- those feeds might have gone down -- that were supposed to go into his stomach. He might have thrown it up. It could have gotten into his lungs and caused pneumonia, so a feeding tube might have actually hurt him.

SANCHEZ: Are there two different rules, by the way? Maybe can you help us with this a little bit? I mean, is there a rule for older people and one for younger people when it comes to something like this? Which is a sensitive subject for us Catholics, because it has to do with euthanasia.

COHEN: You know what? Age is not really the issue here. And I want to tell you, Rick, that the ethicists, both the Catholic and non- Catholic bioethicist were both adamant. This is absolutely not euthanasia. They said that over and over again. It really doesn't have to do with age, it has to do with whether or not you're at the very end of life.

They said if someone is at the very end of life, it is very common not to have a feeding tube. Now, if someone is just ill and needs a feeding tube for, let's say, a matter of days so they can make a recovery, of course you would use a feeding tube. But in the final days of life, it is very common not to have one. It's not going to help someone live longer and it could actually hurt them. SANCHEZ: Is it possible that this pope, knowing the way he was, may have given specific instruction instructions to some of his caregivers and said, look, I don't want a feeding tube. I want to make sure I'm not put on anything, when it's my time to go, I want to go.

COHEN: Sure, that is absolutely possible. I mean, people when they're at the end of life, do make certain decisions like that. But I also want to be very clear. Even if he had said yes, I absolutely want a feeding tube, up to the last minute, it probably would not have prolonged his life. And maybe if it had, let's -- the ethicist I talked to said, maybe a day or two. At that point, food is not the issue. He was at the end of his life, no matter how much food he was getting. He was still going to die.

SANCHEZ: So, as far as you look at this, final word, it's not that big of a controversy, is it? It's a decision that they made and ethically speaking, it's probably it falls within the range what Catholics -- Catholic doctrine.

COHEN: Absolutely and if falls within the range of what Catholics and others do every single day, which is not having a feeding tube. I spoke with Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, he is an M.D., he's a Franciscan friar, he's the director of Bioethics Institute in New York Medical College. And he was adamant, he said this is not euthanasia and this is also something that is done all the time with Catholic patients and non-Catholic patients.

SANCHEZ: Important decisions that have to be made in those final days.

COHEN: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for taking time to talk to us.

COHEN: Thanks.


SANCHEZ: All right, let's continue our trend of trying to use every single inch of this studio and go on the move again, because we've got another video clip to share with you. This huge international illegal steroid bust. This has really been in the news, especially in the sports world. More than 120 people arrested, dozens of steroid labs uncovered, more than 11 million doses of drugs have been seized, so far. This is some of the video that we've been taking in for you. Drug enforcement administration is saying the bust reached into nine other countries, as well.

And here we go. What in the heck is going on at Disneyland? Is that Pluto? And why is he trying to catch that kid? We'll break that one down for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: OK, let's reach into our YouTube bag. What in the world is going on with this? Who's that? Pluto chasing some kid. We don't know why. But we'll try and find out for you.

Hey, Larry King's coming up next. I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us everybody and by the way, a lot of you have been tuning us on lately. Thanks. Manana.