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JOHN KING, USA

Tea Party Confrontation; Repeal Fight Begins; U.S. China Summit; Martin Luther King Day

Aired January 17, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday consider this statistic. Less than half of Americans today were alive when the civil rights leader was slain. So how do you teach the lessons of the man and the movement to those growing up in an America with an African-American president? We'll ask a Pulitzer Prize-winning King biographer.

And is Michael Reagan right when he says his father, Ronald Reagan, was a better president for black Americans than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama? We'll ask one of the country's leading young African American voices, the Atlanta mayor, Kasim Reed and you'll want to hear just what the mayor means by this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR KASIM REED (D), ATLANTA: There was a time when we could actually afford racism in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Also tonight, did you watch the Golden Globes? Was host Ricky Gervais funny or rude? Well he's one of Piers Morgan's guests this week as the newest program here on CNN launches and Piers will be right here to join us to talk about Oprah, Ricky, and much, much more.

But we begin tonight with several significant new developments in the Tucson shooting tragedy. Doctors today gave another upbeat report on the recovery of the assassin's prime target, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, including word she could be moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center within days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF NEUROSURGEON, UNIV. MED. CENTER: The family's looking at all their resources. They have the entire country available. It has to be in a place that is not only top-notch in terms of the ability to render care and rehabilitation, but also proximity to family is very important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Doctors also disclosed that over the weekend they surgically repaired an eye socket that was damaged in the shooting. That surgery went well the doctors said and they also relayed positive word from the congresswoman's husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RANDY FRIESE, ASSOC. MEDICAL DIR., UMC TRAUMA CTR.: Mark told me THAT he thought he may have seen a smile. We're all very optimistic. So we could be wrong, but we all want to see the best and sometimes we see what we want to see. But if he says she's smiling, I buy it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN is also told that suspect Jared Lee Loughner's defense team is all but certain to try to move his trial out of Arizona, most likely to California. But the Justice Department says it would fight such an attempt and try to keep the trial in the federal courts in Phoenix.

And there are new developments tonight in a bizarre rampage- related confrontation involving one of the shooting victims and Tucson's Tea Party leader. Here's the confrontation. During a taping of the ABC program this week, Tucson Party -- Tea Party Leader Trent Humphries is speaking about the community's mood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRENT HUMPHRIES, TUCSON TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: My neighbor is one of those people. I love that man. And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're dead.

HUMPHRIES: And I want to see -- I want to see some introspection maybe from the people on the floor, the national debate happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The man who shouted "you're dead" was 63-year-old James Eric Fuller. He was among those shot at the Giffords event 10 days ago. Fuller was taken from that event in order to undergo a psychiatric examination. Tonight Fuller's girlfriend tells CNN he asked her to convey that he is quote, "apologetic and very sad." And she says Fuller quote, "wishes he could go back and do things differently."

The man at the receiving of that outburst, the Tucson Tea Party leader, Trent Humphries, is with us now. And Mr. Humphries, let me just start with a very simple question. Has that apology been relayed to you personally, and whether it has or has not, do you accept it?

HUMPHRIES: No, I mean, I haven't heard from them. I mean, it's something that hasn't been told to me personally. I've heard it through the news stories just like everybody else, but you know apologies don't really have anything to do with what's going on right now. And so, I mean, if he does feel remorse, and he does you know regret what happened, and he's coming to his senses, that's positive, happy news and I hope that continues.

KING: Take us back inside that room. As we just replayed it for our viewers we can hear you speaking because you have a microphone. Mr. Fuller gets up and says "you're dead." And you can just barely hear him if you listen closely on the tape. Could you hear him? You went on as if either you didn't quite hear it or you just decided you were going to keep going. What went through your head as it happened? Did you hear him clearly?

HUMPHRIES: Well I thought I misheard him obviously. I said well he just didn't say that, so I tended to hope that he didn't say it and as I continued saying what I was saying I -- you know and then after I sat down, everybody else just looked at me like -- you know horrified looks about what had just happened. So I said you know he must have really said that and I was just -- I was hoping not.

I was hoping that wasn't the case. Obviously nobody wants to see that. I mean I can deal with the catcalls and boos. You know that's something that happens, I guess, in today's politics. But yes, threats, threats are a little beyond the pale, I think.

KING: Well when you realized that that is what he had said, "you're dead", what went through your mind and did you think at all, where's this coming from?

HUMPHRIES: Well, yes. I mean obviously it went really fast. I mean as soon as I sat down they closed the program and the sheriff's deputies had me out of there within just moments. It wasn't something where we got to sit down and think about what happened or I got to even draw eye contact with Mr. Fuller or, you know, kind of engage him at all. The sheriff's deputies you know separated me out of the crowd pretty quickly.

KING: I want to just continue this conversation, but first I want to go back. I sat down with you when I was in Tucson last week. We had a remarkable lunch. It was yourself, the head of the Tea Party, the head of the Republican Party -- you don't always get along with politically anyway, and the head of the Democratic Party and we were talking about yes, you guys are divided politically, but at that moment right after the shooting how perhaps you could work together on several things in the community. I want our viewers to listen and for you to listen again to something you said during that conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUMPHRIES: There has to be responsibility taken on both sides. All that mail in my inbox came almost directly from the comments the sheriff made and people blaming my organization for what happened. And nobody in inn this city, nobody in this town that knows me and my organization believed that to be the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You were saying there back -- this is back then. This is just a couple of days after the shooting that already you were getting hate mail. Has that continued, sir? Have you received other threats, other hate mail, other death threats?

HUMPHRIES: Well I think people are being very circumspect on the threats now. I'm still getting a lot of hate mail. You know that people are being very careful, obviously knowing there's an ongoing investigation, they're not going to put themselves in danger in that particular way. People -- I guess people are probably paying a little more attention to what might be construed as a threat, as compared to just run of the mill nastiness.

But I guess that's an upgrade. But, yes -- we're still getting people saying that you know how could you do this to this poor man? And you know, again, it's not something I wanted to have happen. It's not something I sought out, you know and if we could go back and not have this happen, by all means we'd do that. But that's not where we're at.

KING: So what is then your own thinking? We are now 10 days removed from this and when I was in Tucson for several days last week, and you have heard it in your community, you have heard it here in Washington, D.C. that no, you can't connect the dots between any vitriolic rhetoric, any politician's speech and what happened. But maybe if we could all learn a lesson we could learn to be more polite, be more civil, be more about the issues and less about the personalities in our political discourse. Where is Trent Humphries on that question?

HUMPHRIES: You know again, I've seen -- I've seen things that, you know -- you know, we're still trying to come to grips with the tragedy in the neighborhood. You know that's still part of this. You know, and we're happy to hear about the news you just reported about Representative Giffords and hope that her -- you know she continues to get better because that's a happy thing we can focus on.

You know, but as far as the rhetoric goes, you know again we've tried and we've done our best to you know to be as civil as possible, but disagree. You know as Barry Goldwater said, you know you can disagree without being disagreeable. And we've done our best to try to do that. And I just -- it pains me to see that there are just so many people, you know, and so many things that push this.

You know again, if you want to say it happens on the right, that's fair. But you know there's things that pushed Mr. Fuller to act the way he did too. You know if you look at his previous activism and the things that he was talking about, you know, that wasn't helpful either and a lot of that was perpetrated, not just by you know whispers in the shadows, but "The New York Times", you know Paul Krugman. Our own sheriff you know perpetrated those things. And it's just been unfortunate to see it, you know -- that it's come to this, you know.

(CROSSTALK)

HUMPHRIES: As far as that -- go ahead.

KING: Well, we're in this political environment. You just made those points about some on the left and I know there are people watching who will immediately say, no way, and they will get involved. And some of that's healthy political give and take. Some of it I'm not so sure is quite so healthy at this particular moment. But if you're going to criticize those on the left and you just did and that is fully your right, sir, I want to read you something that a fellow Tea Party leader wrote just yesterday.

I want to ask you just straight up is this over the line? This is from Judson Philips (ph) from the Tea Party Nation. He puts this on their forum yesterday, responding to an op-ed piece that Senator John McCain, a Republican, wrote in "The Washington Post".

"What we've seen from Obama is not an incompetent fool. He knows exactly what he is doing. From being raised by a mother who hated America, to associating with America-hating communists in his youth, he gravitated to communist-America-hating professors in college and associated with America-hating political groups until it looked like he might actually go somewhere in his political career. Obama is no patriot and neither is McCain."

Do you think the president is an America-hater or associated with America-haters until he realized he was going to run for political office? Is John McCain not a patriot?

HUMPHRIES: No, I mean, look, I spoke with John McCain, I've had John McCain call me on the phone a couple of times about things that are pending. You know I mean we've not always agreed with John McCain, but I would never say he was not a patriot. And as far as Barack Obama goes, you know again, it's possible to disagree with people without them being your enemy. I'd hope that we could get to that where we should be as a country. You know I don't subscribe to any of those. We're not followers or even affiliated with the gentleman you just spoke about. You know and yes, there are --

KING: Yet people -- yet people will say he has a -- I understand, and you're right, there's many loosely knit Tea Party groups all across the country. Some work with others, some don't. But they just have the Tea Party label. But as someone who is trying to establish and grow a movement in American politics that you call the Tea Party, would you say to Mr. Philips (ph), sir, in my view, if you're going to use the Tea Party name that is across the line?

HUMPHRIES: Well I just -- I would hope that he wouldn't speak for the Tea Party in general. That's what hurts me is that look, Tea Party groups should be local in nature. They shouldn't -- there shouldn't be -- I don't believe there should be national Tea Party movements. Now they should -- national issues but the Tea Party works is more effective when it's local. You know again, where you're part of the community, where you have friends on both sides, where you're so close to the action that your brother's a Democrat or doesn't believe the same way you do.

You know and again that's how -- that's where the conversation's helpful. And, you know some of these people in different groups -- I mean they -- I'll be honest with you, some of the so-called national Tea Party groups, they make statements all the time that make me cringe. But I'm not affiliated with them, I can't control them. There's nothing I can do, no, but we don't -- we don't -- we don't subscribe to what they say because we're our own group. We do what we're supposed to do in our own local community. And I think by and large that's what the Tea Party is.

KING: Trent Humphries is the Tucson Tea Party leader. Sir, we appreciate your time tonight. We'll keep in touch.

HUMPHRIES: No problem.

KING: Thank you. Still ahead tonight, Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes a medical leave. Will that impact the next generation iPad or the company's stock price?

And up next, it is still officially called quote, "repealing the job-killing health care law act", but when House Republicans bring it to a vote this week will the rhetoric take a kinder, gentler, post- Tucson turn?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The new Republican House majority this week moves on its promise to repeal the Obama health care law. And the president holds a critical U.S./China summit looking to press his Chinese counterpart on major economics, security, and human rights differences. Let's discuss the big week ahead with our contributors James Carville, John Avlon and Ed Rollins.

Mr. Rollins, to you first as the Republican in the group. What is the burden on the new Republican majority when they bring health care to the floor? I want to go back through this. Officially, officially the legislation is called "the health -- the job-killing health care law act." So when Leader Cantor put out the schedule today, that was on the posting. He -- I have the e-mail here somewhere. He put out the posting and that's what he calls it in this posting. Should Republicans -- should Republicans just back away from that language post-Tucson or is that silly to ask them to do that?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's the name on the bill at this point in time. What they need to do is to make the arguments and many Republicans do feel that this health care will basically cost Americans jobs. It will certainly cost them a lot more money. I think at the end of the day the arguments have to be put forth in a way that the American public understands it. Do it in a quiet effective way. At the end of the day if you get the 218 votes, which I think they do, repeal it. Don't make a lot of noise about it. Do it. This is the beginning of a long process to change this law and make it more effective.

KING: John Avlon, Ed says do it in a quiet, effective way, if you have the votes just do it. I want you to listen to some of the language before Tucson about this. Let's listen to the language first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: That's why we're taking these first steps to repeal the job-killing health care law that was passed last year, over the objections of the American people.

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: This bill is a job-killer.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: As we go forward though we're going to be looking for job killers in regulatory excesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is asking the question, can you get word of the word killers or killing, John Avlon, after Tucson, is that the right question to ask or are we overreacting?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it's absolutely the right question to ask and they're stuck with that bumper sticker that was printed before Tucson. But it's a fundamental evidence of the problem in American politics. That kind of language should be on the ash heap along with the talk of Second Amendment remedies. Our -- we should have principled political differences, principled political debates but this is not a war. The rhetoric of violence is totally inappropriate. And it looks stupid now but it was stupid then too, so we've got to stop this stuff.

KING: James Carville, you want to give the Republicans your advice? What should they call it instead?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: They've got a name for it and I think to try to go from job-killing to job-crushing just looks silly. It just -- you know have the name and just don't use it anymore is probably the best thing to do. I would point out that the CBO says this will actually cut the deficit by $230 billion. And there was a bunch of articles today illustrating how Republican math on this is faulty.

But that's a fair thing for the political discourse here. But if they try to change it they'll just promote more discussion. Just leave the name of the bill the same and talk about it in a different manner is probably the best thing they can do.

KING: I want to change. It's not just the House Republicans who have a huge and delicate challenge this week. The president of the United States will be sitting for several days across the table from President Hu Jintao of China. And this is -- this is the relationship that matters most. Whether we're talking about the growth of China's military and security matters, when Secretary Gates was there, they tested a new stealth fighter.

Whether we're talking about economic concerns and the fact that China has promised to deal with its currency but has not done that in a way that's satisfactory to the United States. Other questions about American jobs and cheap Chinese goods and on the human rights issue. You'll have a president of the United States, himself a Nobel Prize winner, sitting across the table from a Chinese president who has a Nobel Laureate locked up in prison. John Avlon, what does the president of the United States have to do here? I assume part of the question here is proving he's being tough.

AVLON: Yes, and I think you've seen actually a shift in the administration's approach to China over the last several weeks. Secretary Gates' trip to China, speeches by Secretary of State Clinton and Timothy Geithner. I think this administration has woken up to the fact that they need to view China as a strategic competitor and that simply trying to get along is not going to work. That they need to find a way to grow with China but they need to take a stronger line, whether it's on the economy or human rights in particular, that that's going to get the best results in the long run for the values that we care about around the world.

KING: But James, we need the trade relationship, do we not? And there's also the fact that the Chinese happen to hold most of our debt.

CARVILLE: Right. If anybody's ever had a discussion with that banker, you're not in the strongest possible position, I agree with what John said. But we made a decision some -- you know seven, eight years ago that we were going to let them become our banker. And that is coming back to haunt us.

And for the foreseeable future, the relationship on a financial basis is not an even relationship. And I think that was a bad choice we made when we decided to spend as much as we could and, you know, fund wars with tax cuts and you make somebody your banker and the Chinese stepped in and we're paying for the consequences of that.

KING: Ed Rollins, you were at Ronald Reagan's side at the Cold War days and in negotiations that led to the end of the Cold War. There are some who say it's not from a military standpoint obviously, at least yet, but right now that that's essentially where we could be headed, to a Cold War between these two giant economic and security powers.

ROLLINS: The critical thing here is 20 years from now if China does nothing but continue to grow at the rate it is, it is the super power economically and what have you. And it may be on its way to becoming a military. I would argue very strenuously that there is potentially a strategic partner that's very important.

And as important as language may be everywhere else, particularly with the Chinese, where face is so, so very important, that the words matter. And if you want to jawbone them about certain things that are going on inside their country, when we have many things inside our country that are not perfect, it could have an impact. And I think at the end of the day we want them to be -- you know with the Cold War you can say all you wanted to the Soviets, because they've said everything they wanted to, and we've been against each other for 40 years. In this particular case there's some delicacy that needs to be for the reasons laid out by my two partners here, and I think it's just probably as important a meeting as we've had in a long, long time in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: -- and a test of this president.

KING: I want to squeeze one more issue in before we go. Often we talk politics here but the former Vice President Dick Cheney has just given a television interview to NBC News. We haven't heard from him much. He's been at a few public events. We haven't seen an interview with the former vice president. In this interview with Jamie Gangel, he explains the device he now has essentially attached to his heart to keep him alive. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER V.P. OF THE UNITED STATES: I wear it on a vest and there's a control element here and then two batteries, one on each side. Good for about 12 hours each. And then there's a cord that runs inside my chest to the pump on the inside. And that's what powers it and keeps it functioning. Initially, obviously, it's kind of awkward to walk around with all this gear on. But you quickly get to the point where you've adapted, where it's second nature to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll talk more about the political subjects that came up in this interview tomorrow. But what a delight -- Ed to you first, to see he's just sitting there whether matter of factorially (ph) well I got this thing plugged in here and the batteries go here. Well that's what's keeping Dick Cheney alive.

ROLLINS: Well it's the wonders of modern technology and health care. And as all the debates we're having about cost and who should have what, I mean here's a man who obviously wouldn't still be alive if it wasn't for the technology and the advances and I think it's wonderful. I still think he has contributions to make. Obviously different points of view than a lot of people. But at the same time, he's there. He's got a strong voice, a weak heart but a strong voice. And I'm all -- all the more power to him.

KING: Ed Rollins, John Avlon, James Carville, appreciate your coming in tonight. Gentlemen we'll talk a bit later.

Twenty-five years now the United States has marked the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. But how do you explain the man and the civil rights movement to a young person growing up when America has its first African-American president? Historian King Biographer Taylor Branch on that and more in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it's good for us to remind ourselves of what this country's all about. This kind of service project is what's best in us. And we're thrilled with everybody who's participating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Obama made that reference to the Tucson shootings today while visiting a mentoring project here in Washington. One of many community service events marking Martin Luther King Day. Our next guest wrote what historians consider to be the definitive biography of Martin Luther King Jr. And when I spoke to Pulitzer Prize winning author Taylor Branch a bit earlier I began by asking him about the demographic challenge. About half of Americans weren't alive when Dr. King was assassinated. So how do we teach the lessons of the man and the movement to younger Americans who look up now and see an African-American president?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAYLOR BRANCH, MARTIN LUTHER KING BIOGRAPHER: I think that it's very hard to teach the reality and the great upheaval and progress from that era, especially because there are so many myths about it. People think it was only for black people or by or about black people, and in fact Dr. King himself defined it as a mission to redeem the soul of democracy. To establish freedom in a much broader sense. And it was a great drama and it takes a lot of effort to try to get the reality of that to penetrate all the myths that we have now.

KING: And for you, before you were a historian, just as a young man, what captivated Taylor Branch about this drama? You were nine when the Montgomery boycott started, 13 when the sit-in protests, 14 when the freedom riders staged their protests. Why did Taylor Branch as a young man say, this is fascinating, I need to know more.

BRANCH: I did my best to avoid it because it was scary but finally it just wore me down. Particularly to see small children, much younger than I was, marching to jail singing freedom songs, little girls in Birmingham. And it finally broke down my resistance to know where this was coming from, because it was both scary and stirring. And what I later -- the longer I studied it the more I realized it was fundamentally American, fundamentally patriotic, and that people were really wrestling with the essence of what it means to be an American.

KING: You talk in your books and your interviews about the myths, the great myths about not only about the movement but specifically about Dr. King. What's the greatest myth about Martin Luther King?

BRANCH: That he was just a simple preacher who got carried away with turn the other cheek. He was -- instead, he was a man of great ecumenical vision, who understood and gave his life for what it really means to be an American, which is to be -- to build public trust and be involved as a citizen and believe that your country can accomplish impossible things. And we really need that again today.

KING: We ask often somewhat silly hypothetical questions. What would Dr. King think if he saw this? What would Dr. King think if he saw that? I want to ask you one based on the history you know quite well. It was then young Marion Wright who talked to Dr. King back in the day about the poverty project, the people's project, and Marion Wright Edelman's children defense fund has a new study out this just week on the state of black America.

Black children are three times as likely to be poor as white children. Fewer than 40 percent of all black children live with two parents. Four times as likely as whites to be in foster care. Seven times as likely as white children to have a parent in prison. What would Dr. King think if he saw the state of black America today?

BRANCH: Well I think there are many things that he would be dismayed by. That and the state of violence. He would probably say just what he did then, which is that the condition of black Americans is not a taillight but a headlight for where all of America is going in educational systems and the erosion of a lot of primary industries that causes this poverty. And that we should all take an alarm from it and try to get engaged in what to do about it.

KING: We also conduct polling this week. Has the United States fulfilled Martin Luther King's vision? Americans are denied -- divided on it, 48 percent say yes, 49 percent say no. What's interesting is 23 percent say no and never will. Why the skepticism or maybe it's opposition?

BRANCH: Well I -- we live in a pretty cynical time when a lot of people don't believe that anything is possible in public affairs. And that the government is surely an object of entertainment. We'd be better off if it folded. So that's not surprising. Nor is it surprising I think that a lot of people are divided, because we have made enormous progress that would amaze Dr. King.

The conditions of the middle class -- I mean after all, a year after he died, the University of Texas won the national football championship with a team that didn't have a single black player. These things are unimaginable today. We've made great progress for women, for black people, and everything else. But we've gone backwards on a lot of poverty. We've gone backwards in violence. And we've gone backwards, above all, in an erosion of public optimism about what America can accomplish.

KING: Later this year, assuming all goes according to the current schedule, we will dedicate the MLK Memorial more than 40 years after he was killed. Why did it take so long and what do you think of that project?

BRANCH: Well, all these projects tend to take a long time. I mean, goodness gracious, the Washington Monument didn't get up until 1880; got interrupted by the civil war. Many decades after Washington, so these things take awhile. And I think it's good to try to commemorate him. We're also in the midst of creating a National Museum of African-American History and Culture on The Mall. Right catty corner to The Ellipse. That's a few years off.

There are a lot of really wonderful commemorative projects going on to remind people that the black people's struggle is part and parcel of the essence of what it means to be an American.

KING: Taylor Branch, appreciate your time today.

BRANCH: Thank you, John.

KING: When we return, more on Doctor King's legacy from a young mayor in the city that Martin Luther King Jr. called home. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're more than 42 years beyond Doctor Martin Luther King's assassination, today is the 25th year King's birthday has been a federal holiday. But has his dream been fulfilled?

For perspective I'm joined by the Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mr. Mayor, I want to start with this generational question. I also asked the King biographer Taylor Branch. How do you teach young Americans -- I'm going to include you in this group-those not alive, or just born, when Doctor King was assassinated. They're growing up in a country with an African-American president. How do you teach them about the man and the movement and the struggle?

MAYOR KASIM REED, (D) ATLANTA: Well, you do it like taking advantage of moments like today. The 25th anniversary is a part of it. You've really got to do it every day and make it a story that is a part of the American character. I actually believe that, as I talked about in the speech today, that we have to use all of the technology available so that young people are comfortable getting it in whatever form that's comfortable for them. So whether that's on their iPad, on their iPhone, through Google or e-mail, we have to make it available in the formats that young people are used to dealing with right now.

KING: And Doctor King's church is in your city. The King Center is in your city. What would Doctor King think today if he were walking the streets of Atlanta and seeing the city of paradox? There's African-American political power but you have the largest concentration of black millionaires, yet one of the largest rates of African-American poverty.

REED: Well, I think that he would know that we have work to do. We're actually very fortunate in Atlanta because we have so many of the heroes and she-roes from the movement. He'd say we have work to do. Now is the time to take maximum advantage of Kingian values. He would be talking about improving access to health care. I think he would want us to take much more radical approaches as it relates to preparing young people in the educational system. I don't think he would be satisfied, we're not satisfied. I think he would want us to reach out to rural America, and not just be confined to urban America.

Right now, I think the country and the city and states are in a position where there can be no weak links in the chain. So we've really got to be exploiting all of the human potential that's available right now. In terms of Latinos and African-Americans and rural folks; and making sure that they become full contributors to the American dream. And I think they would take advantage of the challenges we have right now and force us to push much harder than we're doing.

We're also not talking about poor people enough. If you listen to the national conversation right now, it's generally a conversation among the super wealthy, the wealthy, and the middle class. And poor people are being left out, in my judgment, to the challenge and -- to the challenge of the nation. I think we've got to focus on poor people more. And acknowledge the fact that we have to provide the opportunities and focus in the areas of education and housing and investment in that community to bring them along as well.

KING: And to what degree, Sir, then does our first African- American president share in the responsibility, in your view, for focusing more attention on the poor, more attention to the problems of the inner city? You know this better than I do. There's no question President Obama's popularity in the African-American community is still significant. But when you go into some urban pockets where you have the education problems and the jobs problem, in some cases crime problems, you do pick up a bit of-resentment's not the right word-but a little bit of, why doesn't he spend more time talking about us? Is that fair?

REED: I think that's fair, but I think that in the African- American community, and in other communities, we understand that the most important thing that President Obama can do for us is to be successful as president of all of the United States of America. I actually take it up as my obligation to do a better job of explaining and focusing on the challenges that we have in cities and in towns. That's why in Atlanta, we're doing things like moving forward with a Mayor's Youth Program. To make sure when our kids graduate from high school they're able to go on to college. We are helping fund that in this city.

We just reopened every single recreation in the city of Atlanta. They've been closed for two years. It was creating a massive gap between the time that our young people got out of high school at the end of the day, and that critical three to four hours when their parents and folks weren't home. We opened our rec centers till 8:00 at night.

Rather than criticizing the president, we've got to take responsibility in offices where we are, and that's what I intend to do. Not to pass the buck, but listen to the challenges that you present in your questions, and do something about them. We have African-Americans in offices across the United States of America. It's really time for my generation to be accountable for the problems that we have. Working in partnership with the federal government, this needs to be a no-excuses time.

KING: I want to get your observation then on this. You mentioned a no-excuses time. On this day I was searching around, what is the commentary, what are people saying, how are they reflecting on Doctor King, on his legacy, on the civil rights movement, on the state of black America today.

Michael Reagan, son of former president Reagan, wrote this on FOXNews.com today. I'd love your reaction. He says, quote, "Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to black Americans than Barack Obama has been. Just compare the Reagan and Obama records. Under Obama, black unemployment rose from 12.6 percent in January 2009 to 16 percent today. This means the black unemployment has increased by more than one-fourth since Obama took office."

Ronald Reagan, a better friend to black America than Barack Obama, Sir?

REED: I wouldn't say that that's the case at all, because it ignores the previous eight to 10 years that we have had our Republican leadership that candidly was not focused on the African-American or minority communities. So you had eight to 10 years where you had massive deficits and the president had a Herculean task. He had to save the automobile industry. He had to pass health care so more people of color and all working people could have greater access to health care. He had to deal with the financial crisis that was unprecedented.

So if you look at the challenges that Barack Obama had, the notion that he has somehow not paid attention to the African-American community, after eight to 10 years of neglect, I think is wrong- minded.

But I also think we need to have a new conversation. The success of the African-American community, the success of the Latino community, and the success of rural America, needs to be framed in a different way instead of the same old paradigm. It needs to be framed from the standpoint of what we have to do to make sure the United States of America is strong. There was a time where we could actually afford racism in America. Those days are past. Because of the rise of China and the rise of India, we can no longer afford to be racist, or to exclude large cadres of our population from being well-trained and prepared to compete. So rather than to get bogged down in talking about the old gripes and petty concerns, we need to acknowledge the fact that you can't have large populations of black people and Latino people and rural people who are not equipped to compete on the world stage. The United States can't carry that burden anymore.

So if you love America and are committed to making sure that America is as strong as it can be, we've got to have a new conversation about excellence among all our people and about making the critical investments among the working poor and people of color. And I think that is the conversation that's going to move the country in a more progressive direction instead of playing the old games.

KING: Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Mayor, thanks for your perspective tonight.

REED: Thank you so much for having me.

KING: Thank you, Sir, take care.

Next in tomorrow's news tonight, Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel is about to get, well, a little help from his friends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Lisa Sylvester's with us with the latest news you need to know right now.

(NEWSBREAK) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Finally, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undisclosed medical issue.

KING: One of the big questions about that is, will it somehow slow product development? Or will it cause any ripple in the company's value?

Lisa, hang tight a second, I want to show, the past when Steve Jobs has taken medical leave or whether he looked like he lost a lot of weight it has had an impact. Let's take a peak at this. As we this out right now. Apple and Microsoft stock values, 2001 to 2011, essentially over the last 10 years. Look they are sort of roughly the same. Microsoft is the blue line. This is Apple up here. So why these spikes? If you look at the spikes, way back here, 2004 is when Steve Jobs first said he had pancreatic cancer. You see the stock comes up. He demonstrates the iPhone for the first time in 2007, up we go.

Look at the dip here, 2008, he appeared dramatically thinner. There was a lot of speculation about, that the stock value dropped a little bit, came back up. He did take a medical leave in 2009, from January to June, stock went back down a little bit. Then, you've seen Apple since then, wow, going up, going up, demonstrating the iPad. The question is what happens now?

Again, Steve Jobs is still the CEO. He says he hopes to be back soon. But we need to keep an eye on that. That's one thing to watch here. Here's another big thing to watch here. This has been the prediction, essentially the analysts' projection. Here is Apple stock now, just under $350. The median projection it will get around $400 a share. Some people think it could go as high as $450, others think it might drop to $349.

So, Lisa, one of the big questions you ask now is with Steve Jobs out for a little bit does it cause a little anxiety, jump in the market?

SYLVESTER: Yes, and you know, this is such a crucial time right now. You've got the iPad 2 they're supposed to be unveiling. They just had the announcement Verizon's going to be a carrier with the iPhone. So much going on right now and just the timing is really lousy for the company.

KING: Which is why they announced it I'm sure on a day the markets are closed so we could all digest.

Lisa, thanks for being here.

When we come back, who's got a question for Piers Morgan? I've got a few. He'll be with us on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This guy is pretty lucky. He's had weeks of promos. There has even been a countdown clock on CNN today. We're just a little more than hour away from the debut of "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT"

Piers is lucky, we're lucky to have you with us. You're lucky to be here but we're lucky to have you with us tonight.

I just want to ask you, there's been a great buildup about this. Are you a bit nervous? You are launching this new program. And you've been a talent judge. What will the first line of the review be tomorrow morning?

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I think it will be brilliant. John, it will be the first word. At least, I hope it will. It will be if I write it.

No, I think it's been a hell of a buildup. Yeah, I'm a little bit tense. It would be inhuman not to be. We're one hour away from the end of a kind of iconic reign of Larry King. I suppose you must be quite happy because you're the only King left on CNN in prime time.

KING: There can only be one monarch.

MORGAN: It has worked quite well for you. I think I'm cautiously optimistic and excited above all else.

KING: You had these promos. The one I'm struck by as you pull on your cufflinks, you say you'll be a little dangerous. Isn't that sort of like, sort of pregnant?

MORGAN: I meant that I'm unpredictable. You're not quite sure what's going to happen. You'll see flashes of that tonight with Oprah. You'll definitely see it tomorrow night with Howard Stern and even more significantly you'll guaranteed see it on Thursday when my guest is Ricky Gervais, with the first interview since the Golden Globes. So, that is what I mean by dangerous. I think when you get guests like that on, anything can happen.

KING: Let's get to that. I want to get to Oprah, but let's do Ricky Gervais first. I want you to listen first to a little bit of his commentary last night that left people in Hollywood a tad upset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICKY GERVAIS, HOST, GOLDEN GLOBES: It's going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking. Or as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast.

Our first presenter is beautiful, talented, and Jewish, apparently. Mel Gibson told me that. He's obsessed. Please welcome Ashton Kutcher's dad, Bruce Willis.

Many of you this room probably know him best from such facilities at the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail. Please welcome Robert Downey, Jr.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so this is a great get. You get the first interview. Hollywood is saying how dare this guy come into our backyard and say such rude things. What are you going to do in that interview?

MORGAN: Probably just going to congratulate him. I sort of point out that if you invite a hammerhead shark to dinner then you can hardly complain when he starts to eat all the other guests.

KING: Now, are you worried you'll be sitting across -- you're a Brit. He's a Brit. That the Americans will think, oh, sure, who are you to cast judgment on us? Especially those Hollywood people?

MORGAN: I can bring an interesting perspective. Ricky Gervais to a British ear last night was howling funny. But our humor is bent toward sarcasm and talking each other down. The American celebrity world, as I have encountered in the last few years, isn't quite like that. They like to go to award ceremonies and slap each other's backs and tell each other how wonderful they are. Well, I don't really subscribe to that. I prefer the rather more brutal roasting that someone like Ricky gives them.

Some who realize, he's kidding. He doesn't really think half of this stuff. He just finds it funny. And I love the fact that it's dangerous. I watched it with tears rolling down my cheeks knowing that half the room would find it very funny and the other half would have a terrible sense of humor failures.

KING: Your first guest is that woman, Oprah. We all know her. She's known around the world. I want to play one little a segment here, where you talking to her about love and betrayal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK: I had been betrayed by someone in my family who had gone to the tabloids and for $20,000 had sold me out. And Steadman came into the room with tears in his eyes. We knew it was coming out. He came into the room with tears in his eyes and he said the story is out. I have a copy of it if you want to see it. I'm really sorry. You don't deserve this. It was that moment.

MORGAN: You looked at him and thought you love this man?

WINFREY: No, I looked at him and thought here's something who is willing to stand in and stand up for you. And that's what love is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Interesting answer because you asked you looked at him and you thought I love this man. No. There's a twist on her definition there.

MORGAN: Oprah is always careful about how she answers the questions in the interview. At the same time she's very revealing. The question that prompted that whole exchange was when did you first realize you loved Steadman, and that was her way of answering. You know, it is an interesting insight. There's been so much speculation about the relationship she has with Steadman. But certainly she went out of her way in the interview tonight, I think, to really make it very clear that it's a real relationship. He's been there for nearly 20 years, in her life. Although they don't want to get married, they are (AUDIO GAP) a real sense that it was important to her, in this interview, to make that clear.

KING: Piers Morgan, we appreciate your time here. And we are very much looking forward to your debut. Welcome aboard, my friend. Have fun. Be dangerous.

MORGAN: John, thank you so much. You'll always be the King to me, you know that.

KING: I like that. I like that quite a bit. Piers, have a great night and great week. Welcome aboard, my friend.

MORGAN: Thank you.

KING: There is much more to say on this Ricky Gervais controversy and who better to ask than our own resident comic? Pete Dominick, he's got a few thoughts. He's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What do comedians think of the controversy over Ricky Gervais' comments on last night's Golden Globes? Well, we have one of the best in the business. Our funny man, Pete Dominick-Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN OFFBEAT REPORTER: Thank you very much, John King.

Of course, we think Ricky Gervais, and I speak for all comedians who take risks, who push the envelope, who write and write originally, we all think he did a phenomenal job. Some how in America we worship actors and actresses and athletes and somehow they are a sacred cow that we can't make fun of it. Forget about it.

I don't feel bad for anybody who got a little bit of a roast last at an award show. I congratulate and applaud Ricky Gervais. I look forward to seeing Piers' new show. I liking Piers all the more for his opinion and looking forward to seeing that interview later this week.

KING: Amen to that.

And Pete, before we go. I owe you. Yes, open it up. Open it up.

DOMINICK: Go ahead and say it.

KING: I owe you a congratulations to your New York Jets for beating my New England Patriots.

DOMINICK: Oh, yeah.

KING: I still believe my guys are the better team, but on Sunday your guys were the better team. They deserve that win.

DOMINICK: You are a class act.

KING: That's all for us tonight. PARKER SPITZER begins now.