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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Does Auto Industry Deserve a Bailout?; Trial Begins for Mom Accused of Harassing Teen
Aired November 18, 2008 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight`s ISSUES: as the big three beg for a bailout, we`ll take a radically different look at the auto industry`s crisis, why their backward thinking has finally crashed down on them; why it`s symbolic of everything that`s wrong with America`s economy. The secret story you won`t hear anywhere else about America`s money meltdown.
Plus, the trial starts today for a mother charged with using MySpace as a deadly weapon. Should this woman be held responsible for humiliating her daughter`s former friend to the point of suicide? We`ll take your calls.
And legendary actress Lily Tomlin talks to me about her moving a lonely elephant from the Los Angeles zoo. Why she says the word "zoo" is elephant speak for Guantanamo.
Those ISSUES and more, tonight.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The gay rights movement continues to focus anger toward the Mormon Church. Meanwhile, supporters of a gay marriage ban, like Newt Gingrich, are calling protesters gay fascists. I`ll have the latest in the fight over same-sex marriage.
And did a grown woman use MySpace to drive a teen to suicide? The trial began today, but she`s only charged with violating MySpace policy. I`ll take your calls at 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. Tell me what you think of the MySpace suicide in just a bit.
But first, it has been the year of the bailout. And everybody wants a piece of it, including, of course, Detroit. Leaders from the big three auto companies -- GM, Ford, Chrysler -- went to Capitol Hill again today. They begged and they pleaded for 25 billion more dollars.
Unfortunately for them, their whining may fall on deaf ears. House and Senate versions of an aid bill are looking as if they will not pass. Many suggesting it`s best to let them go bankrupt.
Here is my issue tonight. There should be no bailout. Sorry to say that, but there should be no bailout for anybody, until they have figured out a way to retool for a future that is greener and smarter.
The auto industry`s dire condition is just one symptom of a much larger sickness in our consumer economy. We need to retool all businesses to make them globally friendly. If you want green, guess what? You`re going to have to go green.
We cannot in good conscience hand over billions and billions and billions of dollars to an industry that arrogantly hangs onto the past. We need a technological revolution. And unfortunately, Detroit ain`t ready to lead it.
Joining me now, Congressman Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, and former presidential candidate.
Congressman Paul, first of all, thanks for being here tonight. You ran for president as a Republican. But you are very well known for your libertarian philosophy, as well. Do you feel a bailout is a betrayal of what America stands for? And if so, why? But...
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Oh, absolutely. Any bailout is bad that emphasizes central economic planning, which is a failure. We had partial economic planning prior to the crisis. And that caused our trouble. So more of that won`t work.
And another bailout of the car companies makes no sense whatsoever. But quite frankly, even though there`s resistance here and it doesn`t look like it`s going to sail right through, I`d sort of predict that I don`t think you`re going to see the wiping off of the General Motors and Chrysler and Ford, I think they`re going to be around one way or the other. Because the politicians here, when push comes to shove, they will usually bend and do what they think the public wants.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t know if the public wants this. I think there`s a lot of resistance. I think they`re sort of, we bailed out AIG, we bailed out the banks, and now this? I think they`re getting tired of it.
PAUL: Yes, the public is probably not the best word pick, because on the first bailout package before the public was speaking out and they said no bailouts, and we defeated it. Then, five days later, when the other side of the public -- the other side of the public came out, those who were the lobbyists, are the ones who had the money and the ones who had the clout, they came and demanded. And lo and behold there was a switch of 57 votes, and the bailout passed. So yes, the lobbyists still -- still are pretty powerful. And unfortunately, the people sometimes get pushed aside.
And the people realize now that all these bailout things aren`t working. They`re shifting gears. Just think of the many different things the Federal Reserve has done. Three or four or five different programs. And now the treasury comes up, and they get $700 billion. And they start: "Oh, we`re going to buy out the liquid assets." And that didn`t work. So they`re going to buy something else out.
So the American people must be soon waking up. But unfortunately, the lobbyists are still pretty powerful. But what`s going to limit it is we don`t have any money here. We are bankrupt.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What I think is fascinating, sir, is that you just brought up two important issues. And one of them is the lobbyists. And we like to talk about these issues like we live in a purely capitalistic society, but we don`t. Lobbyists have actually substituted efficiency for influence. Influence is what counts in today`s business world. Not necessarily a good product.
We don`t live in a purely capitalistic society. And that`s one of the reasons why the whole world is in turmoil.
For example, we subsidized agribusiness by the billions in this country. And from what I`ve read, and people I talk to, it`s literally putting small farmers in South Africa and across Latin America out of business, creating poverty and crisis in those countries, and actually contributing to our immigration problems, because those unemployed farmers, who used to have a mule and a couple of acres, can`t compete with agribusiness, so they`re crossing the border to try to survive and get jobs.
PAUL: Yes, and it is the big companies that get the benefits. I have a farm district in Texas. I voted against all subsidies, but the farmers still vote for me, because they do know that big corporations get the subsidies.
And I tell them. I said, "How long have these programs been around? Since the Depression, and you`re still poor." So they`ve come around to believing this, once they understand it.
But, you know, we only have two problems here in Washington who deal with the lobbyists, and that`s the Republicans and Democrats, you know. They seem to like the lobbyists. I mean, just think in this last election, our president-elect right now got $750 million. And believe me, he -- he is not exempt from the lobbyists` control.
So it`s a system that is so bad. Republican, Democrat, or whatsoever, they run the show. That`s why I`m sort of pessimistic that we can hold off the next bailout, because I think they`re going to come and say the world is coming to an end. And...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: One quick question: why do we have to psychologically keep the American manufacturing industry going, and obviously, I know many jobs are connected to it. But it seems like everything else we buy in America is from another country.
I mean, I tried for a week not to buy something from China. And I had a really hard time. It seems clear to me that we are no longer primarily a manufacturing country. We are in the information age. And that is going to be our role in the world, as other countries take over manufacturing.
PAUL: Yes. But you have to understand, that`s a more complicated question, because you have to understand the monetary system that we have, the dollar standard that`s coming to an end. You have to understand overregulation and over-taxation. And all of these things that we have done.
Just think of the difference between the car company in the south versus the car company this the north. I mean, the Federal Reserve does a lot to mess up the economy, and they did. But also, in Michigan, they did a lot of things to help ruin the car company.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, they sure did.
PAUL: And so it is the overregulation that has a lot to do with this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Congressman Paul, thank you so much. And I hope you come back. Because we`re going to stay on top of this issue of what the U.S. economy needs to do to get back on track. Thank you, sir.
There is a lot of finger-pointing going on in response to Detroit`s distressed condition. One auto worker said, hey, don`t blame his union benefits. That`s not causing the problem. He points to all those perks for the high-level execs. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s a level seven. The level eights get the free car washes, the free cars, the free gas, the free insurance, and they complain yet. I mean, you want to save some money? Let`s save some money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s save some money. Everybody`s playing the blame game. But now we have to start talking about moving forward.
Joining me now, Debra Borchardt, reporter for TheStreet.com.
Debra, we have to look, I think -- and correct me if you disagree, Detroit is a symbol of what`s wrong with America`s economy right now. We have to learn from this debacle.
DEBRA BORCHARDT, THESTREET.COM: And we`ve had these situations before. Look at the airlines. The airlines, they went bankrupt but they didn`t die out, they didn`t disappear. In fact, they came back stronger.
Now, granted, they`ve had ups and downs. It`s very cyclical. But they did come back much stronger and leaner. And that`s really what we`re at the situation now. I mean, we are at a point now where the automakers could really reinvent themselves. And they`re fighting desperately to not do that. That`s what`s making us crazy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is. And listen to what the chairman of the Senate banking committee, Chris Dodd, said. He slammed the auto industry today during the bailout hearing. You`ve got to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The board rooms and executive suites, in my view, have been famously devoid of vision. They derided hybrid vehicles as, quote, "making no economic sense," unquote. They`ve dismissed the threat of global warming and the role played by their products in creating it, and the strong desire for the American people to do something to stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Debra, I think he is absolutely on target. We haven`t heard the CEOs of the big three saying, "Hey, we messed up. We`re wrong. We should have switched to hybrids long ago when the Japanese were doing it. Mea culpa." They haven`t -- the arrogance is what astounds me.
BORCHARDT: What got me was Nardelli kept saying, "I`ve only been doing this a year and a half." I`m like, you`re getting paid how much money? And then you have, like I said, the auto workers going, "It`s not me."
So look at this. When Barney Frank said that, if they give them this money, the first person who`s going to get paid back is the U.S. taxpayer, before dividends, before the bond holders.
But there`s one exception. The exception is the UAW trust fund.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I`ve got to get back to this. This is part of a problem with our economy. We have a consumer economy. Two-thirds of our economy is based on consumption. So we`re trying to get our economy back on track. But all the best and the brightest minds are just like, let`s get the people to spend more. Guess what? We already have, as much as we can -- most Americans have all the stuff they need.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whereas, the rest of the world, my gosh, in 2004, the U.S. accounted for 4.6 of the world`s population. We had 33 percent of the world`s consumption. Our median salaries in 2006 were $48,000. Almost half the world survives on less than $2.50 a day. Something`s out of balance.
Why can`t we retool our American economy to make stuff that the rest of the world needs, when half of the world doesn`t even have a toothbrush?
BORCHARDT: Well, what`s interesting is that we were berated for years for not being a saving economy. We were told, look at Japan. They saved so much money. They saved all their, you know, income. And now we`re getting berated for not spending any money.
So in -- and I think Americans are smart right now. They`re saying, "You know what? It`s time to pay off my credit cards. It`s time to put a little money way. It`s time to be smart." And now we`re getting beat up for that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you`re right, and I think we all, as Americans, have to look at what is the purpose of business. Is it just to get a higher stock price and to have a good quarter that you can report on so that the CEOs can get gigantic bonuses?
Or is the purpose of business -- and I go back to the great American inventors, who invented the car and the airplane -- providing a service to the world, to move this world forward, to help us evolve. I believe it is the latter. I believe that our economy has become cynical and poisoned. And we have to rethink the whole thing to try to be of service to the rest of the world.
Thank you so much, Debra. I hope you come back.
The trial of a mother accused of harassing a teen on MySpace began today. She`s charged with misusing the site. But since the bullying ended in suicide, could she be charged with more? I will take your calls: 1-877- JVM-SAYS.
And Newt Gingrich responds to California`s Prop 8 protest by calling the protesters fascists. Oh, really? More outrage coming right up.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Gay rights protesters target the Mormon headquarters in Utah. While Newt Gingrich calls those very same protesters gay fascists? I`ll have the latest in just a bit.
But first, jury selection began today in the country`s first criminal case of cyber bullying. It all stems from the suicide of a 13-year-old, Megan Meier. She hanged herself after being tormented by a boy on MySpace named Josh Evan. Megan was apparently smitten over this boy, but prosecutors say Josh was really Lori Drew. Drew, a 49-year-old mother, allegedly impersonated a teenage boy as part of a dispute between her daughter and Megan.
Lori Drew, we have to point out, is not being charged in connection with the suicide. Instead, this is being called the first case of cyber bullying to result in criminal prosecution. So this is a first. I`d like to hear from you on this case in just a bit: 1-877 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
But first to my fabulous panel. Lisa Bloom, anchor of "In Session," and Chris Lucas, clinical psychologist and associate professor at NYU.
Lisa, you are very good at explaining in plain English very complex cases. They say she violated the MySpace terms of service with intent to harm. I`m trying to get my head around it. How do you get criminally prosecuted for violating a contract with a private company?
LISA BLOOM, "IN SESSION": Well, here`s what happened. The state prosecutor said, "We can`t charge her. We don`t have an intent to kill. What we have is an episode of cyber bullying that doesn`t fall under the state murder or manslaughter or reckless homicide charges. So no case."
So some people think this could really set a dangerous precedent. The argument essentially is computer fraud, hacking, she set up a fake name. And that was a violation of the criminal law. And now she`s prosecuted for that.
And P.S., the judge has ruled now that the suicide is going to come into the case, so the federal jury is going to hear that. It makes it outside of the realm of just a computer hacking case now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we want to say, we reached out to the attorney for the 49-year-old mom. We were told that that person is in court. But we have an open invitation to hear the other side of the story. We would like to hear what this mother, or her attorney have to say about all this.
Chris Lucas, what makes this case so freaky is that it`s a 49-year-old mom. Usually, cyber bullying is between kids or teenagers. I was shocked when we dug up these statistics. Forty-two percent of kids have been bullied online. One in four have had it happen more than one time. And it just goes on and on. Forty-two percent said one of them had been bullied, made fun of in a chat room, received an upsetting e-mail, got an upsetting instant message. This is going on all over the place, this cyber bullying.
CHRIS LUCAS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: You know, absolutely. It`s now becoming an increasing problem. As more kids` social interactions are done in the online world, they`re vulnerable to this type of effect. Part of the issue here is that the cyberspace world allows you to be anonymous in many ways, and to perpetrate fairly mean acts without having a great deal of comeback.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. What`s really frightening is that most parents don`t know how to use MySpace or Facebook. They have no idea to even find out what their kids are doing online. That`s part of the problem.
The phone lines are lighting up on this issue. It affects so many of us.
Chris from California, what`s your thought or question, sir? Or ma`am?
CALLER: Well, first thought is I cannot believe that this woman can only be prosecuted over, you know, the Internet issue. I`m just appalled at that. But is there something civil that the family can do to this woman if they can`t actually prosecute her for manslaughter?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is an excellent question that Lisa Bloom, I`m sure, has the answer to.
BLOOM: Absolutely. They can sue her civilly for intentional infliction of emotional stress, because they say that this mom knew that the 13-year-old girl was emotionally fragile. She`d even administered her medication to her when she`d come over to play with this mom`s daughter.
So intentional infliction of emotional distress is essentially taking conduct that`s so extreme and bizarre and unconscionable that is highly likely to cause damage to somebody. That would be the civil claim here.
But civil claims are only brought against people, generally, who have money or who have insurance coverage. Otherwise, you`re not going to end up with anything. That`s probably why there`s no civil case yet.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I want to point out that the mom`s side of the story is she wasn`t even in the house, according to her, when the final message was sent that appeared to trigger this terrible, terrible tragedy, when the so-called Josh Evans said essentially, the world would be better off without you.
And this, Chris, kids are so impressionable at this age. Just a comment like that from what she thought was a cute boy. Just so sad.
LUCAS: You know, it`s you know, very worrying. This actually fits the pattern of some type of cyber bullying where someone is really acting as if they`re a vengeful angel. And essentially, they`ve seen a wrong or a misdeed, and they`re attempting to correct it. So they feel somewhat self- righteous in being able to use whatever techniques and tactics to inflict pain and harm on somebody.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s just -- it`s sick. Because you know what? And I want you, Lisa, Chris, please stick around. You`re fabulous guests. We`re going to be taking more calls in just a second. But you know, what`s really sad is that the Internet was supposed to be a force for good, and it has been such a force for good. To see it being perverted in this way just makes me sick.
We`re going to take your calls, 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Give me a holler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINA MEIER, MEGAN`S MOM: Megan`s death is not going to be in vain. I decided that either I can do two things. I can, one, I can be sad every single day of my life, which regardless, I`m going to miss her. And I can sit in the house and do nothing. Or I can take the positive and I can try to make the changes. And that`s what we`re going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. That is the mother of the girl who died. Megan Meier committed suicide after being bullied online.
Back now with my fabulous panel: Lisa Bloom, anchor of "In Session," Chris Lucas, clinical psychologist. We`re taking your calls.
Audrey from Utah, what is your call or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: The question I have, with this woman`s obvious lack of maturity and poor judgment, has anyone called CPS and had them check into the living environment?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa, that`s a really good question.
BLOOM: That`s a great question, because we`re talking about a mom. As you said, this is cyber bullying. You`d think it would be against a 13- year-old or a 14-year-old. It`s against the mom.
I don`t know anything about CPS being called. I can`t say that they have been called, but I think it`s an outstanding question. And this mom should be investigated further. No question about it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, absolutely. Now, we have another call from Utah.
Linda, what is your question or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: My thoughts are, in my opinion, this woman should go to jail forever. She`s no different than the person who loads a gun and fires it off. That`s exactly what she did when she deceived this girl into thinking she was this wonderful boy, and then tore her down.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now Lisa, I want to play devil`s advocate. Because I`m sure most people listening feel that way. Is it possible that she was trying to protect her child, which is what she said, that they had had -- these two girls had a dispute in the past, and that she didn`t realize what was going on?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: In other words, she sort of got caught up in this false identity?
BLOOM: Sure, I mean, everybody agrees what the mom did was despicable. Cyber bullying a 13-year-old girl and pretending to be a boy, breaking her heart and saying the world would be better off without you.
But the question, under criminal law, is did she have the specific intent to harm or specific intent to kill? And the state authorities said, "We can`t get that far." You know, a lot of people in our culture do mean things, do cruel things.
But if somebody goes off and kills themselves, and that`s completely unexpected, we`re not going to charge them with murder. So that`s why the state authority said the link is just not there. Under our criminal law, we have to have intent. It`s called the mens rea. Not just the physical action of a life being lost.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cindy from Kentucky, what is your question or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: My question is, how does this woman, as emotionally unstable, overwrought, whatever term you wish to use, how is she retaining custody of her own children?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, gee, sorry to leave you on the sidelines there, Chris, but that is definitely a question for Lisa Bloom.
BLOOM: Right. Well, to be found an unfit mother of her own children, the state authorities would have to find that she simply is not able to care for her own children, that there are allegations of abuse against her own children. And that just isn`t there, as far as I know.
So they`re not going to take her children away for this one incident done to another child. As I said, I think it should warrant further investigation, because it`s a shocking, outrageous act. But it takes more to take somebody`s children away from them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, I want to thank both of our guests. Always fantastic, as usual.
I have to say, I think parents get carried away. I`m not a parent personally...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... so it`s hard for me to put myself in their shoes. But I think they always have to realize what`s the moral lesson of what you`re teaching your child? Don`t get wrapped up in their drama, because you`ll become a child yourself. Remain above it and realize that, you know, like Jiminy Cricket said, let your conscience be your guide.
And that`s where I think parents go askew, where they`re trying to fight for their kids like they`re some sort of theatrical agents. No, they`re supposed to be moral leaders.
All right. Thank you both.
Gay marriage. Rallies continue across the country as the rhetoric from the right heats up. I will let you hear the shocking comments right after the break.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The firestorm still rages over California`s recent ban on gay marriage. Thousands continue to take to the streets in protest in all 50 states across the country.
That backlash is generating its own backlash from the right. Take a listen to Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich on the "O`Reilly Factor."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us. It is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Huh? Newt Gingrich basically just called gay rights protesters fascists.
So here`s the dictionary definition of fascism. A governmental system led by a dictator, having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, et cetera, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
Sounds like kind of a stretch to me, Newt.
Actually, regimentation and aggressive nationalism associated with prejudice, that`s what gay rights protesters say is being done to them, when being able to marry somebody you love is equated with fascism.
I think we`ve entered dangerous territory.
With me now, Steve Young who writes for the Huffington Post, and Matthew Staber, founder and chairman of Liberty Council and a supporter of Prop 8.
I got to get your reaction, gentlemen, on this comment by Newt Gingrich.
Let`s start with you, Steve. I mean, to me, that`s -- this is, you know, somebody who had a very prominent position in government at one point, to say something like that strikes me as outrageous.
STEVE YOUNG, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, he`s always been outrageous. I mean, hyperbole -- he doesn`t know hyperbole that he`s never disliked. But you just wonder, is he ready to put the pink arm bands on the gays now?
It`s just -- this is the reverse, this is what the right does, the far right does. They try to paint a target. They try to fear monger. They`re putting the gays in a position and calling them fascists, when actually Newt Gingrich is being the fascist here. He is setting these people up like they`re some sort of threat to our very lives.
And the fact is, all they`re trying to do is get married. First of all, in California, I think child rapists still can get married, but gays can`t get married.
So this whole thing about being a threat to our livelihood, and as it goes on, this whole quote that he went through on O`Reilly`s show, kind of got even worse. It was talking about the values that were going to be in effect criminalized by the gays wanting to go out and get their rights.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Matthew Staber, I want you to jump in here, because what`s extraordinary to me is that the Mormon Church and others who were in support of Prop 8 have actually accused the protesters of going too far because they`re out there demonstrating. And I don`t see them breaking any laws there. And yet, they`re the ones being accused of fascism?
MATTHEW STABER, LIBERTY COUNCIL FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN: Well, I think let`s put aside the labels of fascism and let`s look at the actual facts. I think one of the points that Newt was really trying to say, and I think it`s well taken, is that there is extreme violence that we`re seeing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What violence?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where are you seeing extreme violence?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what, gays are not known for extreme violence.
STABER: We have Bashback. And that particular organization has agreed that they were responsible for graffiti. That they`ve been responsible for other --
YOUNG: Oh, my God.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Graffiti? Oh, come on. I mean, when you think of what`s happened to gays --
STABER: Let me just make my point.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But you`re saying let`s forget about the comments regarding fascism.
STABER: We have the daughter of the owner of the El Coyote Restaurant. She gave $100 to support the Proposition 8. That restaurant, because she gave $100, was the target of riots. Riot police had to be called out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? I tell you what really happened. All her customers practically are gay. And they all said we don`t want to go there anymore because you`re not on our side. Ok. It`s known as a gay restaurant in Los Angeles. That`s what happened. That restaurant was not the subject of riots. It was simply --
STABER: You and Steve agree with me that we ought to stop the violence. Will you and Steve just agree --
YOUNG: We have to start the violence before we first stop the violence.
STABER: Well, we have a person who gave $1,000 who has a 25-year artistic director of the California Musical Theater was forced to resign because he supported Proposition 8.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now wait a second --
STABER: That kind of thing is horrendous. Stop the violence and the harassment.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just say this, the Mormon Church gave an estimated $20 million to pass Prop 8. So if you want to talk about money and the fact that it plays in this entire scenario, you have to look at the fact that people are using their muscle to get Prop 8 passed.
STABER: Well, money in the democratic process of voting is one thing. We all have the opportunity to do that. We can disagree. And obviously we have disagreements on this issue.
But we should not target elderly people and take their cross as we saw on one particular video, where they stomped on the cross of an elderly lady simply because she was a supporter of Prop 8.
Those kinds of things are uncalled for. They`re over the top. This kind of rhetoric does not help. And it`s something that we should not have in a civilized society.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, you`ve had you`re say but I`d like to say this. I think that all these protests across the country, and in fact, they`ve gone global at this point, actually show people, or showing Americans what average gays look like.
They look like the rest of the United States. I want you to take a look at this exclusive footage --
STABER: Is that there is a violent opposition here that`s being used to try to force silence --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Please, hold on a second. Ordinary Americans explaining why they are out there protesting for the passage of Prop 8.
STABER: You don`t have people supporting this --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deserve to get married. We deserve wedding bells too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want the world to recognize the love that we have cherished together. The families that we are bringing up and we want our kids to grow up in a world of love, not hate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want?
PUBLIC: Equal rights!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We told them that people think that mommy and mama shouldn`t be able to get married. And he was very disappointed. He looked like he was going to cry, and he said, well, why is that? And I said, well, some people think just a boy and a girl should get married and not a girl and a girl and a boy and a boy. And he`s liked, I just don`t understand. I said, baby, I don`t understand either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Young, are those rioters? I mean those are average Americans --
YOUNG: They`re violent. It`s just happening everywhere, you know when they go out and they pick out, -- if there was any particular violence, although I think the violence they`re talking about is perhaps that they played "It`s Raining Men" too loud, but the fact that is that if God really wanted the Mormons or Focus on the Family or Newt Gingrich to defend marriage, he would have not created Liza Minnelli.
The fact is, you`re sitting there in a situation where these people want to get married. Yet, that`s something wrong. If heterosexuals say under God in a church --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to go. And I know both of you are probably feeling you didn`t have enough time but guess what you both actually did speak for quite a bit of time the entire segment.
So thank you so much. Steve and Matthew, I appreciate you engaging in a vigorous debate.
And the momentum behind gay civil rights doesn`t end with Prop 8. The Liberal Palm Institute has just sent President-elect Obama a petition for more than 100 retired generals and admirals calling for an end to the military`s "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell" policy.
They say they find no evidence to support the policy`s rationale that openly gay or lesbian service members pose an unacceptable risk to morale. They also say "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell" has cost the military many highly qualified personnel and notes that this comes at a time when we are fighting not one, but two wars.
We will see if an Obama administration addresses this important issue.
And up next, we`re going to talk to Lily Tomlin about a whole bunch of controversy. She`s a big star, and she is really trying to help a fellow named Billy; a little guy who happens to be an elephant.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s an elephant named Billy sitting in the Los Angeles Zoo right now. He`s been there for about two decades. He is alone. He rocks back and forth all day long, according to reports I`ve received.
Zoo critics say he is depressed and nearly psychotic as a result of being kept alone in confinement in about a quarter of an acre. Critics call his condition a travesty. They want him out.
My next guest even went as far as to say that the word Zoo is elephant speak for Guantanamo; among plenty of other things. You know her from the classic and hilarious "Laugh-In" as well as many, many other TV shows and movies over the years, actress, comedienne, outspoken advocate for Billy the elephant. Lily Tomlin.
Lily, welcome to the show, thank you so much for speaking out against what I agree --
LILY TOMLIN, ACTRESS: Thank you Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- is a travesty. Thanks for being here.
The L.A. City Council is set to vote on this tomorrow. If they are listening right now -- and I have reason to believe because we called some of them, that they might be -- what would you tell them?
TOMLIN: I would tell them that they must close the elephant exhibit down, that they`re really just fostering a mortuary for elephants. Elephants in zoos across the country, more than 63 have -- more than 60 have died since the year 2000. 13 have died since 1975 in the L.A. Zoo alone. And they live shortened lives; an elephant in the wild lives to be 60 or 70 years old.
In zoos, the average age is 34; half of the elephants that have died since `75 at the L.A. Zoo did not live to be 20. And the whole time that they`re there, they`re really suffering. It would be like seeing, you know, children someplace being completely deprived, suffering every single day in their lives, and not doing something about it.
Everybody knows, and the zoo just will not face up to it, that elephants cannot live in a zoo. There simply is not enough room. And the intelligent, compassionate thing is to close those elephant exhibits down and move those elephants to the sanctuaries.
And we have wonderful safe sanctuaries in the U.S. We have a fantastic one up north in California. We have another fantastic one in Tennessee. And we want Billy to go to northern California to the Paws Sanctuary where he has a chance maybe to live something close to a life that was meant to be lived by an elephant.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And the Paws Sanctuary is ready to take Billy at any moment.
TOMLIN: They want him. They want him. And Bob Barker, the TV personality, Bob Barker from years and years, he`s willing to contribute $100,000 to the transport of Billy. And the Paws people come down. They sent zoo keepers, animal caregivers down to spend time with Billy to acclimate him to the new people --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And there are plenty of other elephants there, I mean elephants need to socialize.
TOMLIN: Lots of elephants. They need a lot of socialize. If you go on the Internet and go onto the Paws Sanctuary, you will see wonderful videos of elephants interacting, interrelating, rolling in the mud. I mean, they just have a grand old time. It`s really a delightful thing to see.
And to know that these creatures are suffering just to keep a zoo viable --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lily, what kills me, is that the whole notion of the zoo, hypothetically, is that kids will get to go to their parents and see nature and get in touch with nature. Seeing a depressed animal rocking back and forth that critics say, is almost psychotic, I would think would be traumatic for a kid. Not something that`s going to teach this child about nature.
TOMLIN: I love you so much. You`re so wonderful, Jane. You absolutely know, you know absolutely it`s true. And look at children, they know everything about dinosaurs and about whales, and they never saw a whale in a zoo, in an aquarium or a dinosaur in a zoo.
And there are many other ways to educate children to elephants, and to see elephants. And they don`t have to be in these terribly, ridiculous confined spaces.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just say Lily, that I think I became an animal rights activist when I was a kid and my parents took me to the zoo here in Central Park. And I saw all of these animals walking around in cages and I would get profoundly depressed and I would go home to my Ranger Ricks Club and try to figure out what I could do to help these poor animals.
We tried to get -- I mean, we tried to get the response of the city; because I`ve talked to a lot of critics. So we reached out to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa`s office, we reached to the City Council president Eric Garcetti`s office. Nothing, zip. We did not hear anything back from them.
So folks at home, if you want to give your opinion, give them a call. You`ve got their numbers on the Internet. Tell them how you feel about this.
But the critics say that Billy has been kept on a quarter of an acre, approximately, when elephants normally will walk 20 miles in a day. And they don`t walk in circles. They walk in a straight line. The critics also tell me --
TOMLIN: And they cannot --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead.
TOMLIN: And the critics will also tell you they cannot walk on a hard surface. And if you weigh 10,000 pounds and you`re walking around a quarter of an acre for 20 years, the ground is so compacted it might as well be cement.
And it causes them terrible foot abscesses and arthritic joint diseases. But the abscesses are just gruesome and excruciating. And the treatment to try to even keep them viable and standing is so painful.
If you read medical reports, which have to be published in many cities on elephants` care, the elephants fall to their knees. They scream. I mean, it`s really, really a pathetic circumstance.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know there`s taxpayers --
TOMLIN: There are experts all over the country.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lily, there`s a taxpayer angle. They`re going to create or they want to, let`s hope they don`t, this elephant exhibit to the tune of $40 million. We`re in the middle of an economic crisis, and I just don`t understand the mentality.
They`re thinking of spending $40 million on an elephant exhibit when the L.A. Zoo, according to its critics, has a horrific track record with the elephant. So I don`t understand. We`ve got an economic crisis; they don`t have a good track record with elephants. What do we do? Oh, let`s give them $40 million.
TOMLIN: And they hope to acquire seven to ten more elephants and put them all on less than four acres. It`s unbelievably mad.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you about --
TOMLIN: It`s like crazy people at work.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is like crazy people at work. I was told the story --
TOMLIN: And that $40 million is really a drop in the bucket.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well it`s going to be more, you know that. Right Lily, it will be more, by the time it`s done it will be $80 million or $100 million. But it`s not going to get done --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: If don`t have anything do say about it. What they did with Deeta and Ruby, according to the critics, again, we reached out to the city and we couldn`t get a response from the mayor`s office or city council`s office, but what they did with Deeta and Ruby at the zoo animals bond, these two animals had bonded. They were together for years, they separated them. They sent one of them to a zoo in Knoxville. That animal was traumatized. The other one got sick and died.
Finally, because of the huge protest in Los Angeles, they sent Ruby to this Paws shelter. What happened to her? She has flourished now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: She is actually experiencing life. That could happen for Billy.
TOMLIN: It`s absolutely true. And they do, they bond so deeply. I mean, elephants, I can recommend a book to an elephant suite, elephants literary cry tears. If one of the herd dies, they try to raise the elephant from the dead literally.
They go back and revisit the death scene and they pass the bones around. I mean, they`re deeply emotional and familial. And so to break them up -- and they will send an elephant to a zoo at a drop of a hat and trade them amongst themselves but they will not send an elephant to a place where they can have a really benign joyful life.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, you`re very psychologically aware person. What`s going on with this insistence on keeping these animals in captivity when it`s just so obviously painful for them?
TOMLIN: Well, a lot of it is business. A zoo is a business. No one -- people think the zoo is there for conservation, preservation, education. But a zoo is still a business. A zoo has to -- is supposed to turn a profit. It`s just like any area of life like that, that has to turn a profit. Something is going to be amiss.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Lily.
TOMLIN: Things are going to be overlooked.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Thank you so much. And I`m just begging you and, I know Lily is, too.
TOMLIN: Thank you. I`m so grateful that you`re so educated..
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mayor Villaraigosa, I know you. I think you`re a great mayor. We`ve worked together. Please, I`m begging you, let Billy go to the sanctuary.
Stay right there. We`re going to be back in a minute.
Two big issues, Billy and Prop 8; Lily`s thoughts on that. Stay right there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I am back with actress and comedian Lily Tomlin. We just talked about the saving the elephant in a California zoo by hopefully getting Billy out to a sanctuary.
Lily, I`d love to hear your thoughts on the whole Prop 8 issue. What`s your reaction to the gay marriage ban in California, and the protests that have erupted across the nation over the past two weeks?
TOMLIN: Well, I think because a lot of right-thinking people know that they`re taking civil rights away from people here in California, from gay people. And when people -- it`s just like imposing people`s religion on government. It`s not the right thing. And it`s certainly not the right thing to impose your religion on someone else.
I wouldn`t think of doing that, imposing my values on another person, and taking away their rights, rights that really belong to everyone. And it`s just -- it`s largely scriptural, biblical, people who believe that way, they believe that way devoutly, but they just can`t seem to let go of other people and -- letting other people live their own lives.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Newt Gingrich actually said --
TOMLIN: I did a lot of work for Prop 8.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You did?
TOMLIN: I`m sorry.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Against Prop 8.
TOMLIN: Against it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re against it.
TOMLIN: Yes, that`s one of the tricky things, too, with the proposition, they write it in such a way that half the people are confused. They don`t know if they`re voting for something or against something.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think a lot of people had no idea what they were voting fore.
TOMLIN: That adds to the --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Newt Gingrich is actually saying the gays are trying to impose their will on the rest of America, and equated gay rights activists to fascists. Your thoughts.
TOMLIN: Well, I think he can`t possibly think that, you know, this small minority of the population can impose their will on the other 90 percent or whatever it is. And why would anybody be so afraid of one group of people?
It`s not that gay people are afraid of people who are -- who fostered Prop 8. It`s just that whoever -- who wants to live in a place where they come and take your rights away?
I mean, we`ve lived under this kind of regime for a long time now, for the past eight years, where rights are in question at every turn, even the right to a fair trial. Well, they just can`t impose -- they can`t impose their will on another group of people.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lily --
TOMLIN: I just don`t know why they can`t just let it go.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lily, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to join us, and I hope you come back real soon. It was really fun chatting with you.
TOMLIN: Well, let`s talk about what fascism really is.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, next time. Okay. Back with fascism; I promise.
There are a lot of people talking on TV. Too few of them are saying anything real. We`re trying to keep it real. See you every night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.