Return to Transcripts main page
PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview With Michael Lewis; Interview With Harry Belafonte
Aired October 13, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight he wrote the book on money, power and sports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like the rest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An ugly girlfriend. Ugly girlfriend means no confidence.
MORGAN: But what does Michael Lewis think of this? I'll ask him about those Wall Street protests and why we should be very worried about some monks in Greece.
And Harry Belafonte, one of the greatest American entertainer of all time. Like you've rarely seen him on race and politics.
Do you think America is more or less racist since the inauguration of the first black president?
HARRY BELAFONTE: I think what Barack Obama is going through (INAUDIBLE) than race. Almost any other fact.
MORGAN: And on another great entertainer, Michael Jackson.
BELAFONTE: Top of the list. And I watched him transform himself from the child he was to the figure that he became. All those facelifts, all those distortions. I found it to be a very sad, sad journey.
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening, we start with breaking news tonight. You're looking at a live shot from downtown New York where the clock is ticking for a potential confrontation between the protest group Occupy Wall Street and the city. The group says it will defy Mayor Bloomberg's order to clear out by 7:00 tomorrow morning so the park can be cleaned. They say it's an excuse to simply move them out.
And they're expecting some heavyweight backup. Members of the United Autoworkers Union is going to show up and support them.
My next guest knows probably more about all this and the inner workings of Wall Street than probably anybody else, and why these protesters are so fired up. And that's Michael Lewis who joins me now. Michael Lewis, what do you make of all this Occupy Wall Street? Are they right? Do you know what they're really protesting about? Do they know what they're protesting about?
MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR, "BOOMERANG": Well, nobody has put a fine point on it but it's not hard to see why people might be outraged by Wall Street. I mean, it is incredible, really, what's happened in the society. That you have a private sector that -- the banking system went basically insane.
It generated the conditions for this financial crisis. It got bailed out by the taxpayers. All the big Wall Street firms should be out of business if this government had not stepped in and rescued them. And then restored to health. They promptly set about trying to queer any attempts to reform them.
And against this, there is a backdrop of rising despair and worse unemployment prospects for young people. So it's not surprising that something had to give at some point. It's still a little hard to see right now where it goes because the minute -- of course the minute the demands become specific, some part of the group is probably alienated.
And so I can absolutely understand the outrage. I think the thing has legs because it's justified. It's just a question of how it gets -- how the anger gets directed.
MORGAN: Clearly, I mean your view is one that I share, that the anger directed at the way that Wall Street has basically got away with it and its responsibility of what happened with the financial crisis. I mean that is a real scandal. Nobody has been really held to account.
And like you say, and I've been reading your book, "Boomerang," you know, you cannot look at companies like Goldman Sachs and other of these banks and not think, well, it's all right for them, isn't it? You know you got bailed out by the taxpayer, and you've moved on to rewarding yourselves with whacking great big bonuses again. Meanwhile the Joe public are left unemployed, homeless and really suffering.
LEWIS: Yes, I can take it even one step further. And that is that these firms were rescued because they were said to be and seemed to be too big to fail. And they've gotten even bigger and even more dangerous to the system since then so that the problem hasn't been sorted out.
It's not as if -- it's not as if they were a run on Goldman Sachs tomorrow and it looked like it was going to collapse, that the government could just let it go. And -- so that we've got this -- it's a very strange situation because you've essentially got socialism for the capitalists. They're backstopped by the government. They can do what they do because the government is there to back them up if something goes wrong.
And -- so you've got -- you've got a kind of social support for elites for the best-paid people in the society and at the same time you've got, you know, red and tooth and claw capitalism for everybody else. And that -- that's the sense of unfairness that gives rise to -- I mean, I feel it and I'm well off.
I can only imagine what it feels like to be 20 years old, and I have lots of student loans, and no job prospects and wonder why the world is the way it is. So, to me, it's a very interesting social movement because it isn't half baked. It's fully baked. I mean that there are real reasons for people to be on the streets.
Just kind of a question of why now. And I think the answer to that is that the pain had to accumulate to the point where people felt they needed to do something about it. That people -- I think for awhile after the financial crisis, people thought we can go back to normal. And it's now pretty clear we can't.
MORGAN: How bad do you think the situation really is? Because just today, Harrisburg in Pennsylvania has declared itself bankrupt. Now when whole towns in America starts declaring themselves bankrupt, this is a sign that this is pretty serious, isn't it?
LEWIS: Yes, but I'm not sure what the bankruptcy of Harrisburg means. I'd say this, that if you look at where the United States is vulnerable in the way -- in the way that Europe is vulnerable, vulnerable to a collapse in -- in faith in the financial markets in the United States to the point where people won't loan money to go about its business more or less as usual.
It is at the -- it is at the local level. I mean that the federal government, you know, in a state of extreme paralysis and declining to raise the debt ceiling suffered a downgrade of its debt. Awhile back, Standard and Poor's lowered its debt rating from -- the Treasury debt rating from AAA to AA. And the financial markets responded to that by saying -- by rushing into U.S. treasury bonds.
And that people -- it's a very strange situation but to some extent, the worse the federal government manages its affairs and the more of a sense of impending doom it creates, the more people will lend to the treasury because the treasury is still relatively less risky.
But at the local level, with states and municipalities, that's clearly not true. I mean you see that anytime whispers begin about defaults in the -- in the municipal bond market, investors flee. And what you're seeing, I think, it's no longer -- it ceased to be -- the crisis has ceased to be purely a financial problem. And it's become increasingly social and political one.
And what you see on the ground, I mean in my home state of California, for example, I mean yes, we have a bankrupt city called Vallejo but we have bigger cities that are flirting with bankruptcy. And whether or not they actually declare it is almost immaterial. That the big thing is that they can't afford the services they need to provide.
And you have is degradation of public life that is a little scary. I mean you've got cities cutting their police forces and their fire departments by half, and so making the world a little less safe. So I think -- people are feeling that. But it's slow. I mean it's a difficult story to perceive moment-to-moment because the pace of change is pretty glacial.
MORGAN: I mean it sounds like an extraordinary thing to even contemplate. But is America basically bust financially?
LEWIS: Well, America has been living beyond its means for a generation. So bust is the point where Greece is, right? And that's the point where people decide that you will never pay it back, and so they won't lend you more. But until it gets to that point, until the Chinese, for example, won't buy our treasury bonds, we aren't bust. We're just living on borrowed time.
And to me, the unsettling thing, what's scary to contemplate is that this isn't, as some people would cast it, a sort of dysfunction at the top of the society. Dysfunction just with political elites. This isn't a matter of just us having elected the wrong people to do our business.
The problem is that the American people seem broadly to be getting what they want. And all the polls show that what people want in public services but not to pay for them. And -- so it's a matter of public attitudes that need to shift. And the only way that happens that I see is that we do actually flirt with being bust. I don't see anything between us in being eventually bust.
MORGAN: What do you see the politics in all this? Clearly, the next election in America is going to be fought now on the economy in various ways. When you look at the GOP runners and riders it looks like Mitt Romney and perhaps Herman Cain are now pulling away.
Do you believe that Barack Obama can win a second term or will it literally come down to what are the jobless figures, what is the state of the credit rating of America Incorporated? And where do you see this politically?
LEWIS: So you've got to accept that -- like everyone else in the world when I answer that question, I'm just guessing. I mean nobody knows. And as you know, all sorts of things could happen to change the tone of the election that have nothing to do with the economy. I mean, what if there are terrorist attacks in the United States. I mean there are all kind of factors that may enter into the election that we have yet -- we can't imagine or don't imagine.
But strictly, if the election is fought strictly on the economy and the economy is the way it is now, I actually think when it comes to a general debate between Barack Obama and whoever the Republican nominee is that the Republican nominee is not going to look good because they don't have anything to say.
I mean Obama has made, what seems to me, a clearly sensible proposal to -- of a large short-term stimulus to create demand in the economy. I mean we are suffering from inadequate demand. It is a classic case where the government should step in. And spend money in the short term. The responsible way to do of course is to have a short-term stimulus at the same time actually seem to be or actually sorting out our long-term entitlements problem. But Obama's proposal is dead in the water in Congress. Is it dead in the water because Republicans have -- they don't like it. And the Republican nominee is not going to like it. And what does he going to say? When people say, OK, Mitt Romney, you disapprove of Barack Obama's plan to fix the economy, what's yours? And his plan is not, I think it's going to sound like austerity to people.
And I just -- so I actually think -- I'm kind of bullish on Obama. I know that's not a fashionable sentiment but -- and I know it's there -- it would be very unusual for a president to get reelected in this economic climate, but I think he's going to have a pretty compelling case to make.
MORGAN: And it certainly has been an unusual climate. A full stop.
When we come back after the break, Michael, I want to talk to you about why a bunch of Greek monks may be to blame for all this mayhem.
MORGAN: Back with my guest, Michael Lewis.
Michael, your book "Boomerang" tells your adventures, mainly in Europe actually where you go to Iceland, to Ireland to Greece and re- tell the pretty horrifying stories of the financial collapse in each of those countries.
What made you do this? Why did you go looking for whatever it was you found?
LEWIS: There were a couple of reasons. I was working on my previous book about the U.S. financial crisis, it was "The Big Short," and realized that it was only part of the story. That effectively what had happened in the run-up to the financial crisis is that societies had been -- had been allowed to tap credit that they shouldn't have been allowed to tap. That they were left alone in the darkroom with a big pile of money and -- and left to do whatever they wanted to do with it.
And so it was the story of temptations we got in the societies and the temptation expressed itself here in the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage bubble. And in other places, the story was different. And it told you the money was a way into the places. In addition, it was really clear that the financial crisis was more than one act. That act one was Lehman Brothers going down in the panic of 2008.
But that -- effectively what happened is the governments around the world stepped in and basically guaranteed their banking system, said the banks -- well, they're too big to fail. And when they did that, they accepted the fact that maybe one day they'd have to cover the losses of the banks.
And one of the characters I had interviewed for "The Big Short" was a hedge fund manager down in Dallas named Kyle Bass. And said to me, you know, look at it this way. If you add the banking losses on to the -- on to the existing debts of these countries, there's some countries that actually can't afford the bill. And the countries are going to be what goes down next, like falling dominos.
And he had -- he had had bets in place against essentially Iceland, Greece, Ireland, France, and when you looked at that scenario, which is what we're in now, you saw that the -- not only would countries have trouble paying back their debts but the effect on the global financial system could be much worse.
Because the last time we got out of this, we got out of this because the governments are credible. They could come in and say, all right, yes, the banks screwed up. Yes, they're all bankrupt but we're behind them. And so you can still -- you can still invest money in them. What happens when the governments themselves are not credible. And that's what at the -- that's where we're living through now.
That's why when Greece goes down, all of a sudden it's -- it has this potentially devastating effect on lots of other places.
MORGAN: And what is amazing in this book is the story of Greece. It seems to fall on the shoulders of some monks who are trying to raise money for a monastery end up raising ,why, hundreds of millions of dollars and basically bankrupting Greece. Tell me about this.
LEWIS: No, it's an amazing story because this is actually the -- this is the trigger mechanism in Greece. It's two years ago roughly when Greece acknowledged that its books weren't what people thought. That they had their deficits and debts were much greater that had been previously announced.
And the reason that happened is the previous conservative government fell and was replaced by a new government. What caused the previous conservative government to fall was a scandal. And monks at the Vatopaidi monastery in the north of Greece who don't venture off their peninsula very much. And it's a gorgeous and strange place.
Mt. Athos, the holy mountain, is a place only for men. They don't even let female animals on the island except for cats. But these monks had a monastery to -- they had a monastery to repair. And it is -- I mean it's -- these places are spectacular. They look like -- kind of Italian hill towns. And they had this rubble of a monastery. And they needed lots and lots of money to fix it up.
And the way they did it was they went through the old vaults and found they had thousand-year-old deeds to the property in the north of Greece. And they got the government to recognize their rights a lake in the north of Greece. And then they went to the government and they swapped this pretty worthless lake for lots of valuable commercial real estate.
And the scandal was why the government had done this. They had essentially -- nobody -- the exact number, I'm not sure, had other people estimate between 100 million and a billion. But what the monks had actually made on these transactions. But that scandal is what caused the government to fall, the new government to come in, and say, oh my god, it's so much worse than anybody knew. And that's the beginning of Greece's problems.
MORGAN: I mean, Michael, Michael, let me just -- let me just in there. I mean when you have monks who are behaving like this, hasn't the whole world basically lost its entire moral compass?
LEWIS: Well, you know, you probably give monks too much credit just to start with. Monks historically have not always been well- behaved people. And I would say this in defense of the monks because I actually -- I went up to the monastery and spent a little time. And I was -- became quite fond of them. And I think that they -- it's not as if that they were taking the billion dollars to live high on the hog. All they wanted to do was rebuild their place so they could set up there in my view miserably in their selves.
They were living very, very (INAUDIBLE). So it was -- so in fact -- and in fact the monks, I thought, were kind of moral example to the rest of Greece because they were well liked every other Greece person. They seem to think it was OK to go in and get what they could out of the government regardless of what it cost everybody else. I mean this is a common Greek problem. The Greeks treat their estate just like a pinata filled with goodies that everybody takes a whack at it and gets what they can.
But the monks, unlike the rest of Greeks, had a kind of collaborative spirit. They were doing it for the greater glory of their monastery rather than for their individual greed. And I thought, actually it's very funny, in the last few days, I've had an e-mail from a Harvard Business School professional saying they want to do a case study on the monks because the monks -- the monks look like a -- compared to the rest of Greece, an extremely well-run enterprise.
MORGAN: Maybe we should find some monks and send them down to Wall Street.
After the break, Michael, I want to talk to you about baseball, about "Moneyball." I saw the movie last week. And about whether you've been a force for good or evil on one of America's great sports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD PITT, ACTOR, "BILLY BEANE": Guys, three players.
JONAH HILL, ACTOR, "PETER BRAND": Yes.
PITT: That means you too.
HILL: Actually 51. I don't know why I lied just now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PITT: When I sell him back for twice the amount next year, I keep the money.
HILL: OK, so Billy says he'll pay for Rincon himself but when he sells him for more money next year, he's keeping the profit. OK, thank you very much. We'll call you back. Thank you. Come on. Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: It's a clip from "Moneyball," a movie made for my guest Michael Lewis's book.
I mean pretty cool that Brad Pitt is starring in your movie of your book, Michael.
LEWIS: What do you want me to say? No, it's not cool? It's very -- it's great. It's great. You know every now and then -- every now and then, a lottery ticket comes in.
MORGAN: Tell me about the -- I supposed when I watched the movie, I was torn. I'm a big sports fan. I wouldn't say I'm the world's greatest baseball fan, I'm more of a cricket chap myself, but when I watched it, I couldn't work out whether the concept, which I know is a real story behind this movie and the book was a force of good and evil.
Because basically, what's happening is a bunch of, you know, slightly better than mediocre players statistically being selected to behave as they would be, slightly better than mediocre. Where is the flair? Where's the exuberance? Where's the passion that comes with normal sport, Michael? What are you doing to baseball?
LEWIS: The passion that comes with idiocy and irrationality? That's what you're looking for? There's another passion --
MORGAN: Well --
MORGAN: No, what I would to say is that there's -- it's a fine line. You see you hit the nail on the head there. You want it to be statistical and logistical. I'd rather like Spock from "Star Trek" whereas you're more Captain James T. Kirk kind of guy, you know? I want to go for the big picture. The wild transfer, the guy you want to spend $20 million on to win you the World Series.
LEWIS: Thank god you're not running a professional sports team.
LEWIS: So here's what I'd say -- here's what I would say to that, because this crossed my mind as I was writing the book. It does seem from a distance true that when you are getting more and more precise in the way you measure people and their value that it seems bloodless and sort of without passion.
But in fact, the story had a great deal of passion in it. The movie has a great deal of passion in it. And the question is why? And I think it was kind of wonderful what they did. This business of finding value in people that sometimes even the people themselves didn't know was there because the world had told them they weren't valuable.
It's the story of -- I mean it a story of -- of prejudices falling. And so I don't see why it's any less passionate for the players to be properly evaluated than for them not to be. And it's always going to be more or at least as much art as science that predicting how cricket players or baseball players or any athlete is going to perform is always going to be this some -- you know, it's going to be -- it's an essentially unpredictable thing in a lot of ways.
But to get a little better at it, nothing wrong with that. And as you kind of put your finger on it, that when you're now managing a sports team and you make a mistake, it's a $20 million mistake. You know there was a time not that long ago it was a $20,000 mistake. The athletes have gotten so expensive that they sort of demand to be more accurately assessed.
MORGAN: Michael, what is next for you. You have conquered almost every sphere of human life. What's next on this target zone?
LEWIS: I was thinking -- I was toying with the idea of doing a book about -- about cable talk show hosts.
MORGAN: Well, I think you'll find I'm exceptionally good value for money, despite the apparent semblance of mediocrity.
LEWIS: That's not what the producers were saying. But the -- the -- so I don't know. Actually, I tell you what's next. I know exactly what I'm going to do when I walk out of here. I'm writing a screen play for my first book, "Liars Poker."
So that's what I'm going to do next. But that's -- the -- I find the books, generally, the minute I find out what it is, the last thing I want to do is talk about it. Because the minute I talk about it, I don't want to do it. So I'll tell you after I'm done, how about that?
MORGAN: Well, I hope you come back on and talk to me about it when it's done. Is that a deal?
LEWIS: Thanks for having me. Yeah.
MORGAN: I've really enjoyed it. Michael Lewis, thank you very much.
LEWIS: Thank you. MORGAN: When we come back, the incomparable Harry Belafonte on music, race and politics. It gets pretty lively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY BELAFONTE, MUSICIAN: It's a great day. Great day. Great day. And there are millions on the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Harry Belafonte must have one of the most recognizable voices of all time, a voice he's used to entertained the world and to change the world. His memoir is called "My Song."
And I'm delighted to say Harry joins me now. Welcome.
BELAFONTE: Good to be here, finally.
MORGAN: You should have come sooner. You've resisted the lure, but you're here now. Come on, tell me -- I want to know, if you had -- if I said you right, Harry Belafonte, you have five minutes left to live, what is the single moment in your life that you would relive right now? If I had that power, what would it be?
BELAFONTE: The first time I met Martin Luther King in the basement of a church in Harlem. He was two years younger than I was. He asked to meet with me. HE was coming to New York. He was giving a talk before the ecumenical community.
I went to see him speak. Quite taken with what he had to say. Then we retired to the basement to talk on a host of personal thoughts and objectives. It was an epiphany. The way he said the things that he said and what he said made me know that course of my life was in the -- just the dawning of a major change.
MORGAN: What kind of man was he?
BELAFONTE: Humble, without false modesty, eloquent, intellectual, extremely intellectual and highly intelligent. But he was hunting for the meaning of his mission. I caught him just at that apex, just at that cross roads.
MORGAN: How far do you think America has come in realizing Martin Luther King's dream?
BELAFONTE: There's no question we have realized a good portion of it. But we have not realized the fullness of it, the largeness of it. Nor have we touched on all the things that are yet to be done. Had he not been taken away from us, I think the world would be in a very different place.
I can say that about a couple of people. I can say that about Bobby Kennedy, as well. I think there was a group of leaders emerging at that time that carried purpose, that had moral vision, who were politically very smart.
MORGAN: What I liked about them, those two names in particular, they were fearless. These were people prepared to stand-up to anybody. They didn't care about the consequence of themselves or even political consequence. They were driven by a higher calling. Do you see that anymore in modern leaders?
BELAFONTE: No, I do not. I think that that's what is truly absent. I think we've got a lot of guys that are politically smart. They can play the chess game. But they have lost moral compass. And it is the absence of that moral vision and the absence of that moral courage that I think we suffer from.
I don't see anyone out there that I can say would be able to pick up that legacy and move forward.
MORGAN: Did you think briefly that Barack Obama was going to be that person? How did you feel when he got elected?
BELAFONTE: I had hoped very much that he would be that person. He appeared to be that person. I must hastily say that I think he can still be that person. I'm not quite sure what is going on in this interim period, in this time when he is finessing the game.
I think he's got so caught up in the game, he has not quite translated the vision to the rest of us. We need to know what that vision is.
MORGAN: Do you think America is more or less racist since the inauguration of the first black president?
BELAFONTE: Certainly the amount of social activism, we are less racist than appearance. But I think in depth, we are as racist as we have been all along. I don't think this country has ever dealt honorably and succinctly with the whole issue of race. I think we have codified it. We've pushed it aside.
We have glorified the things that we have done in the name of ending racism. But in the truth of our existence, I think much that Barack Obama is going through now is more rooted in race almost than any other fact.
MORGAN: I had Morgan Freeman on the show very recently. I know that you told me you watched that. He came out and said, you know, he fears a lot of these Tea Party political figures and their followers are racist. And he said it, that he believes that their sole intention is to, as he put it, get this black man out of the White House.
What did you think when he said that?
BELAFONTE: I subscribed to it. I was pleased that he articulated that point of view, because we spend so much time trying to be politically correct, as opposed to being politically honest, that we sometimes blur the picture. I can't believe that whether it was Roosevelt or Kennedy or Eisenhower, anybody who ruled in difficult times, with inordinate decisions to make, ever had the kinds of problems that Barack Obama is facing.
I think a big part of that is the fact that he is of color -- that he is a man of color. And there's a mood in this country that cannot tolerate that.
MORGAN: Let's have a little break, and come back. I want to talk to you about the shocking moment a white woman touched you on television and, of course, Deo.
MORGAN: From a controversial appearance by Harry Belafonte on the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which included footage from the riots outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. CBS censors deleted the segment.
Harry, I mean, is it controversial. Why should that have been controversial? But it was. It was in the '60s. And you were pushing the envelope there. And CBS moved in and censored it. What did you feel when that happened?
BELAFONTE: I felt that something very important had been revealed. Those of us who sit in places of power and have an audience and a constituency, there's always another power that makes sure that you are modified according to what the hierarchy insists on having.
During that convention, it meant a lot to the Democrats. It was in Chicago. Daley was the mayor. We looked at the whole thing and it was just -- actually, it really looked like a carnival. The Smothers Brothers invited me on the air. They said, let's do the carnival song. It was one of the popular ones in our repertoire.
And behind, we will show the fiasco taking place in the streets of Chicago. To reveal that in this context really disturbed the network. They said, we can't show that. Tommy asked a very simple question. It's being shown every day on the daily news, why can't it be in the context of this hour?
They said, well, that's not what this show is about. They said, no, this show is about anything we want it to be, meaning the Smothers Brothers. They said no, it's not. They not only took that off the air. There was nothing really that abusive about it. They took it off the air.
But even to carry the punishment further, the very next morning they fired them at the height of ratings and the height of --
MORGAN: Amazing, amazing. What was even more extraordinary, looking back on it now, 1968, you appeared on the Petula Clark prime time special on NBC. During a performance of a song, Petula Clark smiled and briefly touched your arm. Let's watch this, because this caused national outrage. White woman touches black man. Shocker. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I mean, it just seems -- it seems unfathomable that this would have caused outrage, but it did. The shows sponsor, Plymouth Motors, were apparently nervous that they didn't approve of the interracial touching. They thought southern viewers, in particular, would be offended by it.
BELAFONTE: The account executive who represented Plymouth, which was part of the Chrysler family, was sitting in the booth as the show was being taped. When she did that, he personally got very upset. When I -- once I checked him out some time later to understand why he felt that way, I understand because he came from a deep southern tradition.
He was himself not pleased with race and equality and all those things. He chose to use that moment to impose this rather silly reprimand on the people who were engaged --
MORGAN: I mean, just utterly ridiculous. Yet, at the time, many people in America would have said yeah, that's too much. We can't have that on the air waves. We have come a long way, haven't we? That was 1968. So, we have come 43 years.
BELAFONTE: Why don't I touch you and see what happens. There we go.
MORGAN: We're in the clear. We're in the clear. I'm not hearing that any advertisers have called in.
Let's move to music. Given the impact that you have had through your career as well, at the same time, in this incredibly important movement in America, do you sometimes worry that when you eventually leave us -- I am hoping it will be a very long time to come, Harry -- that there will be the words "Deo, Oh Deo" in almost every obituary headline?
Don't answer that. Let's play it, so everyone who doesn't know -- there must about one person left. This is what I'm talking about.
MORGAN: Can you still sing that?
BELAFONTE: One or two there.
MORGAN: Are you still proud of that? Or do you wish you had never sung the damn thing?
BELAFONTE: I'm glad I sung it. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding.
MORGAN: Because that was one of the greatest --
BELAFONTE: Every time I go to a Yankee ball game, and I hear in the middle of -- any inning, all of a sudden there's "Deo," and 60,000 voices go "Deo. I said, I made it.
MORGAN: What I didn't know was that that was obviously off the Banana Boat song. It released in 1956. But the album Calypso became the first album to sell a million copies.
BELAFONTE: First in the history of the industry.
MORGAN: Isn't that amazing.
BELAFONTE: Yes, it is.
MORGAN: And that can never get taken away from you. That was huge in those days.
BELAFONTE: Very much so. In those days, we didn't have Internet and Facebook, all of those things. It was really almost mouth to mouth, country to country, border to border.
MORGAN: What are your personal other favorite songs?
BELAFONTE: "Try to Remember," a great ballad from the Fantastics. A lot of the Calypsos that I did were filled with metaphor. I sang a lot of songs that came out of the classic English tradition, a lot of Irish songs, "Danny Boy."
MORGAN: "Danny Boy," of course.
BELAFONTE: I remember I was an African. I missed the We Are the World Campaign during that great devastation. And I found upon a group of Irish nuns. And they were out there feeding the hungry and really doing incredible work. And I sat with them that night around the camp fire. And one of the nuns said to me, hey, Harry, could you give us a little song.
And I said gladly. And they said could you lead us in your version of "Danny Boy?" And here I am sitting in Africa, in Kenya, with all these nuns singing "Danny Boy." It was a very touching moment.
MORGAN: It's a fabulous song, when sung by you. I'm Irish, but when I sing it, it's not quite as magical, I have to say.
Let's take another break, Harry. When we come back, I want to talk to you about Michael Jackson, who I know you knew. I want to talk to you also about the demons you have fought in your life and overcome, that he, for whatever reason, wasn't able to.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (SINGING)
MORGAN: That is Harry Belafonte on "The Muppet Show" in 1978, performing "Turn The World Around." That was reportedly Jim Henson's favorite ever show.
BELAFONTE: That was one of the most joyous moments of my life. Jim, when he asked me to come on the show, said look, I'd like to do something out of the African mythology. And we'd like to make these puppets. And we wrote the song for that show.
And when we performed it, not only did it turn out quite well, but it turned out to be the most repeated segment of all of the Muppet shows and his favorite. Sang it at his eulogy at the church. And it was a very, very fulfilling moment.
MORGAN: One of the other extraordinary things you took part in was the We Are The World song, obviously, with Michael Jackson. Funny enough, when we talked about Calypso before the break becoming the first album to sell a million copies, it wasn't until Michael Jackson's "Thriller that an album stayed longer on the charts. Did you know that?
BELAFONTE: Yes. I will never forget when I was called and told that Michael Jackson's "Thriller" just broke your record.
MORGAN: Did you feel happy or furious? Be honest.
MORGAN: Really? I would have been furious.
BELAFONTE: Happy. Well, not furious.
MORGAN: The record had gone.
BELAFONTE: Unless you are smitten with extreme greed, to be on the charts for over 137 weeks --
MORGAN: That's amazing.
BELAFONTE: Yes, 137 weeks.
MORGAN: Tell me about Michael Jackson. What was your view of him?
BELAFONTE: Like many, I was certainly in awe of his great gift and his talent. I always looked at him with a great sense of sadness, because I knew a lot about his background, his family. And for those children to have been manipulated in the way in which they were manipulated, not only by the family and their father, and what had happened to them, but the way in which they were exploited by all of those who earned livings off of their lives, I think led them to a path that -- I don't know that celebrity is worth all of that.
MORGAN: Obviously Michael had real problems. And this trial that's ongoing is telling us more and more about what those problems were. A lot of it relating to various addictions to pain killers, to sleeping pills, to fame, all sorts of addictive stuff going on in his life.
You yourself have battled a few of these demons over the years, gambling and so on and so on. What's the trick to surviving this stuff? Can anybody help you? Or in the end, do you yourself have to do with these things?
BELAFONTE: I think, along the way, there are individuals that intervene that help you to see a brighter side to things and can help -- you can trust their view of what they say about you and the distortions you may be living through. But in the final analysis, I think it is good part luck and something inside of the individual that is awakened all of a sudden, that you can then begin to nurture.
Because the gambling addiction for me was quite severe. I got out of it without any scars, but it was a hell of a struggle.
MORGAN: It's a remarkable book. It's been remarkable life, as I said at the top of this interview. When you look back, how would you like to be remembered?
BELAFONTE: There are two things that have defined me. One is that so many people branded me as a social and a political misfit. They branded me a communist because of the things that I did on behalf of liberation. And although I saw many and met many communists who I thought were people of great value and had great wisdom and things to say, although I did not like the practice of many things that came out of the ideology.
I'd like to be remembered as somebody who really deeply cared about America, cared about where it was going, and that for us, that is people of color, it's the best place in which our game could be played. I don't think anywhere on earth, at this moment, offers us -- offers us the opportunities that we have here in America, if we will seize them and make the Devil do our dance.
MORGAN: Well, it's been a great pleasure. The book is called "My Song." There is an HBO documentary, "Sing Your Song," that's airing song. It has been a delight. Thank you very much.
BELAFONTE: Thank you very, very much.
MORGAN: Harry Belafonte, an impressive man. Breaking news. You're looking at live shot from the Wall Street area, where the clock is ticking on a possible confrontation between the city and the protest group Occupy Wall Street. The group says it will not clear out tomorrow morning. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants them to go by 7:00 a.m.
He says the park needs to be cleaned. They say it is an excuse to push them out. Protesters may get some serious help from members of the United Auto Workers Union, who plan to show up and offer their support. It could be a lively morning. And we will have Sean Penn on the show tomorrow night, who I'm sure will have his own view on what is going on Wall Street. That's all for us tonight. Now "AC 360."