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The Real Robert Blake; Penn State Under Fire; The Ultimate Newsman; Smiley and West Speak Out; John Leguizamo Talks Politics

Aired July 12, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, the interview everybody is talking about.


ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR: I've never allowed anybody to ask me the questions that you're asking.


MORGAN: But asked I did.


BLAKE: Why would I marry her if I was going to kill her?


MORGAN: Now the A-list defense attorney who got Robert Blake bailed then quit the case, Tom Mesereau, tells me about his star client and what he thought of the interview.

Plus, Penn State blasted for not protecting Jerry Sandusky's child victims. I'll talk to the man who said Joe Paterno's lies had forever tarnished his legacy.

Also, two of my favorite guests return, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. They'll mix it up over President Obama's NAACP absence. And on this --

Plus, from newsman to newsroom, why Dan Rather says the HBO drama gets it absolutely right.

And funny man John Leguizamo gets serious on immigration.


JOHN LEGUIZAMO, ACTOR, COMEDIAN, PRODUCER: It saddens me that I'm in this country and I love this country, and that they would treat my people that way.


MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. Good evening. Our "Big Story" tonight, my extraordinary interview with Robert Blake. He was controversial and well, let's face it, a bit on the edge. Especially when I asked him about the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.


BLAKE: I mean, I was worth $25 million. I could have hired somebody to kill her when she was in Tibet or some place. She drove all over the country. She was out selling, doing her -- I could have hired somebody to follow her for 10 months and make her disappear so nobody would ever find her, for Christ's sake. I would go out to dinner with her to kill her?

What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is the matter with you?

MORGAN: I didn't say you killed her.

BLAKE: You didn't say I didn't. And you said it's all very interesting.


MORGAN: Well, it was all indeed very interesting. But joining me now with more on our big stories is Tom Mesereau. He's Robert Blake's attorney until he quit citing irreconcilable differences.

Welcome, Tom. You watched the interview.


MORGAN: You know Robert Blake. You've represented him. You've got him out on bail, and we'll come to that in a moment. What was your reaction to the interview?

MESEREAU: I had many reactions. I found the interview riveting. I found it very interesting. I found it at times exhilarating and at times very sad. Robert has been through a lot of ups and downs. The period where I knew him was a very difficult, a very dark gloomy period. He spent 11 months in L.A. County Jail. The worst jail in America. He always professed his innocence.

From the time I first met him, until the time I last talked to him. He has always said, I'm innocent, I didn't do this. And the more I looked at the evidence, the evidence all, you know, vindicated Robert Blake. I mean they had a gun they could not tie to him. It was not his gun. They looked at DNA. They looked at fingerprints. They looked at hair and fiber. They found oil on the gun. They tried to trace the oil to oil under his hood in his car. They couldn't do that. Then they did a search internationally to try and figure out, you know, where this gun had come from. What hands it went through. They couldn't tie it to Robert.

He didn't have gunshot residue on him sufficient with someone who fired a gun. They went into his house. They invited a book author to follow them into his house. They being the police. There are so many ways he was mistreated. I don't blame him for being very, very upset with the whole thing.

MORGAN: Did you believe him?

MESEREAU: Absolutely, I believed him. You know, it wasn't just Robert saying he was innocent, look at the evidence. I mean, as I said, the witnesses against him were laughable. They had told inconsistent stories. They had questionable motives. The police went to the crime scene. And one of the first calls they made was to bring a book author to chronicle the whole thing.

The next day they searched his house. They brought the book author with them. They couldn't trace any bullets to Robert Blake. It -- I don't blame him for being upset.

MORGAN: And given the extraordinary background of his wife, Bonny -- he was her 10th husband. She had this extraordinary con artist background. Clearly mixed with very undesirable types for very long period of time.

What did you think, by the end, was the most likely theory for how she died?

MESEREAU: I think -- I think she burned men all across America. Not just burned men, she burned their families. She was a national con artist. She went from state to state. She befriended elderly men. She had them put her on life insurance policies, she had them put her on their will. She burned a million people.

I mean, it was almost scandalous. And I am absolutely convinced that somebody or their family, whom she burned, went after her and shot her. I don't think it was Robert Blake at all.

MORGAN: Well, I thought it was interesting that he said very clearly, look, once I got together with her, once I married her, people began to know that we were living where we were living. I was a famous actor. It wasn't hard to find out where we were. We were eating locally where we had eaten many times.

It was quite compelling, that part of it. I mean amid all the sort of slightly crazy aspect of what he was saying, underneath it all, I kept asking myself, if he's an innocent man, if he didn't do this, if he didn't kill his wife, he's been the subject of a grotesque miscarriage of justice.

MESEREAU: Absolutely. He was vindicated by a jury in a criminal case. He was found liable in a civil case. I don't know what happened in that courtroom. I wasn't there. And it obviously hurt his reputation, hurt his career, and hurt him personally.

MORGAN: Let's watch another clip from last night. This is him talking about the police.


BLAKE: About those rotten bastard cops that ripped my guts out and left me beside the road to die.

I get to you, son of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) later, but don't think you're going to get off the hook. I was supposed to die in that cell, wasn't I, you bastards. Well, I didn't die. And you didn't get your book deals, your mothers. I wrote a book about you. So you'll have to go out and rip some other celebrity until he's dead, then you can write a book about him.

I'm sorry. I'm back.


MORGAN: Do you think the police behaved inappropriately?

MESEREAU: Yes, I do. I think they investigated the case for a long period of time. They claim that they pursue this investigation for over a year because they had rushed to judgment against O.J. Simpson. They claim they had all their ducks in a row. They claim they had an ironclad case. They were leaking stories to the media because I would look at police reports and look at the way phrases were done in the police reports. I'd see the exact same phrase in "the National Enquirer."

So clearly, they were building up for a high-profile case that they thought they would win and achieve glory in. I don't blame Robert Blake for being mad as hell at these people for what they did to him.

MORGAN: He was particularly exercised by the way that Phil Spector had been treated in comparison to the way that he had. Phil Specter got bail immediately and was allowed to have his liberty until he was convicted.

Whereas in Robert Blake's case, he was put inside, and as you say, in the worst jail in America for a year of his life, in a cement box, as he put it. Why was he treated differently?

MESEREAU: Well, first of all, the cases were filed differently. Phil Spector was charged with straight murder. You can get Blake -- you can get bail for $1 million right away. Robert Blake was charged with murder with special circumstances which made him eligible for the death penalty. Nobody had ever gotten bail in a case like that over prosecution objection in California until we got bail for him after a three-week preliminary hearing.

MORGAN: You parted company with him. I know you can't talk about the circumstances behind that. Want to play another clip which is Robert -- when I confronted, really, about his sanity.


MORGAN: Do you think you're sane? Do you think you have your full sanity? Or has what's happened to you sent you slightly mad? What do you think?

BLAKE: Well, I'll tell you. I think I was born -- the truth is, I think I'm sort of a mutation or subspecies. I think if I was born 10,000 years ago I would have taken two, three people, gone off, and start another tribe.


MORGAN: See, a lot of people have said to day, got an amazing reaction to this interview. That's why I wanted to get you in. I couldn't think of a better person to talk to about it. A lot of people said to me well, he's obviously crazy. Others saying maybe he was acting. Others saying, if he didn't do it, you can understand why he's like he is. So lots of different opinions here about this.

When you dealt with him, did you question his sanity at all?

MESEREAU: No, I didn't. I mean, he was troubled. He was hurt. He'd been through 11 months in Los Angeles County Jail. Much of it in isolation. Terrible food. Terrible conditions. You can't sleep. You can't get the medication you need. He was at an advanced age. He was wrongfully accused.

I don't blame him for being terribly upset. But I never questioned his insanity. You know, Robert is complex. He's intelligent. He's emotional. He's interesting. He's different. That's why he excel at what he did.

MORGAN: Was he acting at all last night? I mean, some people said to me, look, don't let him pull the wool over your eyes. He's a great actor. Putting on a great performance to try and put himself back into the public domain.

MESEREAU: I don't think he was acting. I think he was being himself. I mean people are always going to attribute, you know, suspicious motives, questionable, you know, characteristics, to people like Robert Blake who've been charged with serious crimes. But no, I thought he was himself. I thought he was very expressive. He even said himself at one point he may have overreacted to some of your questions a little bit. And he's a human being. So, no, I don't blame him.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, I ended up the interview and I wouldn't say feeling sorry for him but certainly feel a lot of empathy for him. He had an awful childhood. Awful upbringing. And I kept in the back of my mind thinking, if he is innocent, as a court of law found him to be, never mind the civil case, which are always froth with other complications. And as you said, he was feeling suicidal at the time that that happened and so on.

If he is an innocent man this is one of the most outrageous things that's ever have happened to a famous person in this town.

MESEREAU: Well, sure. And remember, he gets arrested. He gets thrown in jail for 11 months. Then he waits -- I think it was about a year and a half, two years, for a criminal trial. He goes through the criminal trial and no sooner does he win that, he has to go into a civil trial. So this is a horrible, horrible experience. As I said before, he was at advanced age. And I'm sure it just affected him terribly in a physical and emotional level. It hurt his reputation. It hurt his career. He clearly wants to act again. And I don't blame him and I hope he does.

MORGAN: How do you -- how do you feel? I mean you've made it very clear. The one thing he'd like to do, having had everything taken away from him is to get a chance to make one more great movie.

MESEREAU: I hope -- I hope he gets it. I hope he gets it. Why not? He was a very talented actor. Made a lot of contributions to Hollywood. Clearly very gifted. Part of his gifts was that he was different. That he was complicated and unpredictable. Maybe not always the easiest person to get along with. But that's true of a lot of people. Particularly successful talented people. So I hope he gets the break.

MORGAN: Tom Mesereau, thank you very much indeed.

MESEREAU: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: If you missed any part of my interview with Robert Blake, you can see the whole thing again tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a stunning report on Penn State and why one prominent critic says Joe Paterno was to blame.



LOUIS FREEH, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Mr. Spanier, Shultz, Paterno and Curley, never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest.


MORGAN: Former FBI director Louis Freeh who blasted Penn State in a report on Jerry Sandusky's continued sexual abuse of children.

Joining me now for our other big story, two people who are clearly fired up about this case. Buzz Bissinger, sports columnist at "Daily Beast" and Lisa Bloom, legal analyst for

Let me start with you, Buzz. Incredibly damning report by Louis Freeh. This line stood out for me. "A most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State."

It doesn't get worse than that, does it?

BUZZ BISSINGER, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: No, it can't get any worse. Except when I think it can't get any worse, it does get worse. I mean a complete blanket condemnation of Penn State's conduct. Based not on anonymous sources. Based on evidence. Based on e-mails.

What is so hideous -- and this report reinforces it -- they did bend over backwards, Mr. Paterno and Mr. Spanier and Mr. Shultz and Mr. Curley. They bent over backwards not only to cover up the sexual abuse of Jerry Sandusky but to take care of Jerry Sandusky. To make sure he was insured for in retirement. To give him a pension payment. Unprecedented in Penn State history. To give him keys to all the buildings. To give him his own office. They didn't give a damn ever about any of those kids.

MORGAN: And in relation to Joe Paterno, Buzz, I mean I have always been disquieted by the kind of hero worship he's been attracting since this case first came to the public attention. Clearly, he's now dead. And he can't say anything about this report. But it is so damning about Joe Paterno. I just think you cannot call him a legend anymore. This is a man that harbored serious child abuse. He allowed a load more kids to get abused, didn't he?

BISSINGER: Well, there's no question. I mean, as the report says, once again, through documentation, through e-mails, he did know about the first alleged incident of sexual abuse involving Jerry Sandusky in 1998. He lied about that. He knew much more about the 2001 incident in terms of trying to cover it up in 2001 that he ever said. He lied about that.

The man is not a legend. I'm sorry he's dead. In my mind, not only does he have no legacy left, he was a bad man.

MORGAN: Yes, I'm afraid I agree with you.

Lisa, what happened to the other three senior people involved here? Graham Spanier, the former PSU president, Tim Curley, former PSU athletic director, Gary Shultz, former VP of finance and business. They've all been strung out by this report. They are culpable of knowing about, and harboring and allowing, therefore, automatically, to continue serious child abuse. What should happen to them?

LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST FOR AVVO.COM: Well, first of all, they should be civilly liable and they are gong to be civilly liable. They're going to be sued and they're probably going to lose everything that they had. And rightly so. Because children were raped because of their failure to stop it. Let's call it what it is. It's child rape. It's not a sex scandal. It's child rape.

In addition, they're charged criminally with failing to report child abuse and with perjury. And I think that's right as well. I'd like to see child endangerment charges brought against them. I mean this report is crystal clear that these men at the top -- and by the way, all the way down to the bottom, too, including three janitors, knew that children were being raped by this man at Penn State. And they willfully closed their eyes to it. I mean, can you imagine?

And you read the report. I've read most of it today. All 200- plus pages. For one person to say, my god, what about the children? What about this little boy that McQueary saw? Let's find him. Let's make sure he's OK. You will never find that in this entire report. Not one of the 400-plus witnesses. Of the three million pieces of evidence. Alludes to any concern for these little boys.

MORGAN: It's deeply, deeply shocking.

Buzz, you've called for the team at Penn State to be banned from competition. In a posthumously published op-ed piece released this week by Joe Paterno, he said, "Regardless of anyone's opinion of my actions or the actions of a handful of administrative officials in this matter, the fact is nothing alleged is an indictment of football."

What do you say to that?

BISSINGER: I think -- I think it's ridiculous. I mean I think it's ridiculous. This was all about the culture of football at Penn State and protecting the culture of football at Penn State. Lisa is right. No one should be excused. But the janitors I felt put it honestly when they said, yes, we should have done something. But, Joe Paterno, it was like the president of the United States. He was the god of Penn State. He controlled Penn State. Were terrified of him. And had we said anything, we would have been fired.

And it was all about Joe Paterno. About his ego. And about that goddamn football program. Make no mistake. They should be -- the Board of Trustees could have done something today despite all this empty ridiculous stupid over and over groaning rhetoric. They could have said, we on our own are banning football for a year to start ridding our school of a football culture. They did nothing.

MORGAN: Yes. Utterly shameful.

Lisa, before we end, let's turn to the Robert Blake case because you covered the original trial of Robert Blake.

BLOOM: I did.

MORGAN: You've heard what his lawyer at the time said, Tom. What do you think?

BLOOM: Well, I have great respect for Tom Mesereau. He's a terrific criminal defense lawyer. But I think there's no question that the civil jury got it right when they said he was legally responsible for his wife's death. Now the criminal trial was largely about bashing the victim and Bonny, of course, wasn't around to defend herself. And she'd done a lot of things wrong in this life. But of course none of that justified her being killed.

The trial was filled with evidence of people who said that Robert Blake had approached them and asked them to kill his wife. It was filled with testimony from her sister, for example, who said, if anything happens to me, Robert Blake did it. You know very reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson case. SO the criminal jury said they didn't see it beyond a reasonable doubt. But the -- the civil jury said yes, beyond a preponderance of evidence. And I think they got it right.

MORGAN: It's an extraordinary case. I mean the fact --

BLOOM: You could see his anger, by the way, with you, Piers. With the simplest questions you asked. How easily he was triggered to anger.


MORGAN: And he was -- he was --

BLOOM: I mean, imagine how he was with the woman that he didn't love.

MORGAN: I agree, he was unbelievably defensive. He was putting words into my mouth because clearly that's what's been going through his mind through all these years. The only question is, is it going through his mind because he's guilty or innocent. And we never know the answer, but Lisa Bloom, thank you for that contribution.

BLOOM: Thank you.

MORGAN: Thank you, Buzz, as well. Much appreciate it. A very sad day at Penn State.

BISSINGER: Thank you.

MORGAN: And everyone connected with it.

Next, Dan Rather joins me live. What does he think of the news and other news of the day. I'll find out.



JEFF DANIELS, ACTOR, "NEWSROOM": And now those network newscasts anchored through history by honest-to-god newsmen with names like Murrow and Reasoner and Huntley and Brinkley and Buckley and Cronkite and Rather and Russert. Now they have to compete with the likes of me. A cable anchor who's in the exact same business as the producers of "Jersey Shore."


MORGAN: Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy in HBO's "Newsroom." He's played the role of a TV anchorman. And with me tonight is the real thing. Dan Rather, one of the most famous TV anchorman in history. He's also the managing editor and anchor of AXS TV's "Dan Rather Reports." And it's great to have him back.

Dan, welcome back. And first of all, congratulations. Two Emmy nominations for "Dan Rather Reports," I understand. So more glittering silverware, I'm sure heading your way.

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, AXS TV'S "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Well, let's hope so. But thank you very much. Thank you for having me on. And thank you. It's always an honor to be nominated for an Emmy.

MORGAN: I just want to turn very quickly to the news of the day before we get to "Newsroom." And that is this Penn State report. It really is deeply scandalous, isn't it? What do you make of it all, now that we know the lurid detail?

RATHER: Well, it's heartbreaking to say the least. And outrageous. Someone said on your program I think earlier this evening, it doesn't state it in full just to call it a scandal. This was a case of child rape and child molestation. And you know, I have such respect for Penn State and I worry about the students there. But we have to have our focus on the children. That's what was missing.

Nobody at the top, and for that matter, practically nobody at the bottom, chose any indication in the documentation that's out now of caring about the children. They have to be the focus. The victims are the people who have to be the focus of the story. It's really, as I say, just heartrending and extreme. And this report today was sulfurous. It just couldn't have been worse for Penn State and those who have -- let's use the word, have been lying about what happened, what really happened there.

MORGAN: Yes, I completely agree. Really quite disgraceful.

Let's move on to the "Newsroom," Dan, because you get a name check at the top there from Will McAvoy, this TV anchorman who everyone has now having a view about. Many people criticizing it, other people loving it, you, I think, are in the "loving it" camp.

What do you make of the series so far?

RATHER: Well, absolutely, "The Newsroom," which is on HBO, are -- is terrific. For a lot of reasons. For those who haven't watched it, it's a story of the battle for the soul of a big-time big network anchorman, the soul of his newscast, and on a broader scale, the soul of news itself.

It is marvelously well-acted. I think what happened in the reviews -- the very first segment, first episode, there's now been three episodes, including the one this last Sunday, got off to a somewhat preachy start. I didn't find it that way but I can fully understand why some people did.

But this is so well-acted, and, Piers, you know how hard it is to get the tone just right when you're doing a fiction piece about reality. And I've been there. I know what a newsroom is like. And they have it dead in the bull's eye, dead on the money.

It's the closest thing to "West Wing," which was another Sorkin production, that we've had on network television. If they can keep up the quality, I'm not sure they can, but if they keep up the quality, this is going to be a classic. And let me say, Piers, if you will, that I don't know Mr. Sorkin. I don't know anybody on the program. I've never talked to them. I have no dog in this fight. Except it is important that people understand what big time television is like. What it's really like. As opposed to a lot of people would have you think it's like.

MORGAN: There's a great moment where the head of the news division, a character played by Sam Waterston, says, "We're going to try the news. I don't want content to drive ratings and demographics."

When you heard that, did you find yourself nodding vigorously in agreement? And how realistic is that premise for a modern cable news network do you think?

RATHER: Well, this is what they've done so wonderfully. This is what I call the struggle for the soul of news. It's not realistic in today's big-time network television to say, look, we're going to concentrate on news that matters. News that's really important. There is a total emphasis on ratings, demographics, profits, stockholder value and the big-time salaries of the big corporate moguls.

This is a variance with the sense we had in American news for a long time, including television news. It said, look, we're in business to make money. But we're going to give some time to public service in the public interest, not in our own profit-making interest. And that's all gone by the wayside now. And that's what they're trying to underscore in this program, the "Newsroom." And I think it's very important for every citizen to understand that.

I don't know whether you saw this last Sunday night's episode.


RATHER: Episode three. There they took into the boardroom. And these are the kind of conversations that go on in boardrooms. In which the head of the corporation played wonderfully by Jane Fonda just says, look, I have business before people in Congress. This is not a direct quote. But almost direct. I can't afford -- I don't want to stand for running things in the newscast that the people that I have business to do with before Congress don't like.

That's the reality of a lot of big conglomerate corporate news operations today, and I'm sorry to say.

MORGAN: Yes, I think there's lots of complexities I think to the news business. And I think that -- what I like about it, I love the passion of this show. I love the heartbeat of it. I love the premise that news matters. And I like the way that the anchorman, Will McAvoy, goes through this kind of huge sea change in his own view backed by a very good producer and a good team, and says, you know what, we're just going to go for this. There's something very invigorating about watching it.

But let's move on, Dan. You've got a show AXS TV called "It's A Southern Thing." which airs on Tuesday. Tell me about this.

RATHER: Well, we've been looking into what's happened with the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. It became to big public notice in the early 1980s. There's been major, really momentous changes and -- for the better. There's been progress against HIV/AIDS, particularly in this country. However, much of that progress has passed over what we used to call the Deep South. Ten states in the southern region of the country.

And what we've tried to do is investigate. Do some deep digging investigation as to why that's true, what needs to be done, and also to call people's attention to it. Things are much better with HIV/AIDS in places like San Francisco and New York. However, in these southern states, that's not the case. Now part of this, someone might argue, well, look, we all know, that there's an unusually high percentage of people of African-American heritage who are victims of HIV/AIDS. And of course there's a higher percentage of the population in the south in that demographic than elsewhere.

That's one of the reason but that's why we're doing the program and why I think the program is worth watching.

MORGAN: Well, it's a very important program, Dan. Looking forward to watching it. It's on AXS TV. It premieres Tuesday, July 17th, at 8:00 p.m. Wish you all the very best with that. It's always great having you on the show. Especially when there's this show running about a legendary TV anchor. Doesn't get more legendary than you, Dan Rather, so please come back soon.

RATHER: Well, thank you very much, Piers. I'm unworthy of that, but I very much appreciate it, thanks a lot.

MORGAN: Appreciate it.

When we come back, I'll ask Tavis Smiley and Cornel West if this moment helped or hurt Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him. You take a look.




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mistake of my first couple of years was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that's important. But, you know, the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism. Especially during tough times.


MORGAN: President Obama on CBS talking to Charlie Rose about mistakes he's made during his presidency. We'll get to that in a moment. Now I want to bring in two men who have a lot to say about the president, the race for the White House and race in America.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, the co-hosts of "Smiley and West" from Public Radio International and co-authors of "The Rich and the Rest of Us."

Welcome to you both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you, Piers.

MORGAN: You're separated but only by an expensive water and mountains. Nothing that can stop us today.


MORGAN: Let me go to you, Tavis, straight away, about what Barack Obama said today. In other words, it's not just about the policy. It's about the way you sell it. Has he got a point? Is he right?

TAVIS SMILEY, CO-HOST, "SMILEY & WEST" FROM PRI: He has a point. But people have been making that point to him for three years now. It's always been so amazing to me, and Dr. West and I make this point I think, in the book "The Rich and the Rest of Us," that the way he campaigned so brilliantly. It's hard to think of a campaign, Piers, run more brilliantly than the Obama campaign three or four years ago.

They stayed on message. They controlled the narrative. Brilliant campaign. Somehow when they got to Washington, they got off message. They've not been able to get back on track, as it were.

Now of course, you and I both understand that campaigning and governing are two different things so this is not -- maybe the first time he has acknowledged this but everybody else in Washington has been saying this for a couple of years now.

MORGAN: Cornel, let me turn to you about this sort of debate going on about whether he was right or wrong or whether it mattered at all. That he didn't attend the NAACP convention. He has done for the last three years. Mitt Romney went. And we'll listen to what happened to him there in a moment.

Does it matter? I mean the latest poll about his presidential approval rating from July 2nd to the 8th of this year, so right -- as current as it can be, says the black approval rating for him, 87 percent, white, 37 percent. A Gallup poll.

Pretty conclusive there that the black vote appears to be as strong as it's ever been for Barack Obama. So does it matter that he didn't go to that convention?

CORNEL WEST, CO-HOST, "SMILEY & WEST" FROM PRI: I think that on the one hand he should have been there. But the issue is so much deeper than whether he should have been there or not.

The issue is, democracy is dying in America because truth, justice and compassion are dying. When he talks about telling American people a story, no, that's not telling a story, it's respecting people enough to tell them the truth, so that they can discern their suffering and their hope in the story.

The problem is too much mendacity going around. Republicans and Democrats. Again, Brother Tavis and I are the first ones to say that Democrats are much better than Republicans. But Mitt Romney, catastrophe. Barack Obama, three years, for poor people and working people, disaster. Disaster is better than catastrophe. But what a choice. It's sad.

MORGAN: Let's watch the clip of Mitt Romney and discuss it afterwards. This is where he gets booed at the convention.


ROMNEY: I'm going to eliminate every nonessential expensive program I can find. That includes Obamacare. And I'm going to work to reform and save --



MORGAN: Now, Tavis, you mouthed the word "stupid" there. Is it so stupid? Sure --


SMILEY: You weren't supposed to say that on air.

MORGAN: No, no --


MORGAN: I wasn't sure if you were going to say it on air. Thought I'd jump in first. And everything is on air here, baby.


SMILEY: I feel like Robert Blake now.


SMILEY: Got to be careful what I say around here. No, when I say stupid, all I mean to suggest was -- and this is the problem that candidates have oftentimes. And the same can be said of Obama, that can be said of Romney. We all saw that picture a few months ago of the Obama campaign staff in Chicago. White, white, white, white, white.

It was great conversation about why the president doesn't have more people of color around him in running his campaign. It's one thing to beg black folks for their vote. But who's running the operation? Dr. West made the point any number of times. The advisers around him in the White House came directly from Wall Street. Is it any wonder at the end that they look out for their friends on Wall Street.

The same can be said of Mitt Romney. When you don't have enough African-Americans around you who have a conscience, this is what happens. Who in their right mind would go to the NAACP and use the phrase "Obamacare?" He still could have made his very point by calling the legislation by its official name. He got booed for using that phrase Obamacare --

MORGAN: Is that right, though?

SMILEY: Just a bad decision.

MORGAN: He got booed for the phrase or because actually a lot of people in the audience like Obamacare or whatever you want to call it?

SMILEY: This is a very respectful audience. Other Republicans have spoken before. If he'd gone and said, ladies and gentlemen, I know what I'm about to say we disagree on. I ask for your attention. You've heard so much about what I think about this in the media. Let me now respectfully thank you for the invitation and let me offer you now why I disagree with the president on this issue. There would have been no booing.

MORGAN: Now Mitt Romney went to Montana and made a statement about the booing episode. He said, "If they want more stuff from the government, tell them to go vote for the other guy. More free stuff. But don't forget nothing is really free."

Tavis, what did you make of that?

SMILEY: It smacks of Ross Perot some years ago referring to black folk as you people. So one day he goes there and closes the speech, and I'm paraphrasing by saying, I want to earn your respect, I want your respect me, though we may disagree. The next day, he's referring to them if -- as "they." If they want this, if they want that.

This is ridiculous. Here's the problem. Whether you're talking Obama or Romney. One of them -- how might I put this? One of them is so cautious that he can't lead because he's afraid of losing. The other is so calculating that he can't lead because he's afraid of not winning. And that's the real problem with it. Nobody -- everybody is trying to score points here.

And so your question you asked of Dr. West a moment ago may be born out by what he had to say today. Maybe you're right.

MORGAN: Final question for you, Cornel West. Despite all this, do you believe that Barack Obama has earned the right to have a second term? That maybe he has learned some lessons about leadership and how to take on the Republicans? WEST: I think given the narrowness of the political system and the truncated options that most Americans have, there's no doubt that Barack Obama is better than Mitt Romney. But as I said before, catastrophe, your house is burning down nearly. Disaster is on fire. When Martin Luther King said, are we integrating into a burning house, he said, we need firemen.

Neither provide the kind of firemen and firewomen we need to recoup, renew and reinvigorate the democracy for poor people, prisoners, working people, women, gays and lesbians, not special interest. There's truth, justice and compassion. Those are the three pillars of any serious democracy. We are in deep trouble.

MORGAN: And Tavis Smiley, finally, I can't let you go without mentioning Robert Blake. You and I are the only people to have interviewed him in about the last decade. You did so recently for PBS. What did you make of it?

SMILEY: I think Tom Mesereau was right earlier in this program. I think that he is troubled for all the right reasons, as you would be, too, if you had to endure what he had to endure. But ultimately I think quickly what he needs to do is to -- if he wants to get back in the business, I can't imagine in this town that there isn't somebody who for all sorts of reasons wouldn't give him a part in a movie.

If you want to get back in the business, then get back in the business and work your way back in. But I think what he ought to do respectfully, is one, respectfully, don't trust people like Piers Morgan.


SMILEY: For that matter -- he's like, I trust you -- come on, Robert, don't trust Piers Morgan. Don't trust me. Don't trust any interviewer. What he ought to do respectfully is to stay out of the interview chair and work his way back as any artist would through the process. Not by these interviews. It's not --


SMILEY: It's not serving him well quite frankly.

MORGAN: I think the jury is out. I watched it back on television last night. I was aghast. I was entertained. I was shocked. I was scared again. He's (INAUDIBLE). But at the end of it, I couldn't decide if this was going to be a good thing for him going forward or a bad thing. I kind of ended up thinking it can't get any worse.

SMILEY: Yes --

MORGAN: I mean actually he may get a role out of this. And if he does, then I wish him well. Cornel?

WEST: I was glad to see the show. It was riveting television. Tavis' interview, of course, was just classic. Your interview last night was magnificent in many ways because he was being himself. And I love that about him.


WEST: He's for real. And what we need in America is the real thing. Too many counterfeits circulating.

MORGAN: So maybe we should be looking towards having him in a late-run for the presidential race?



WEST: No, I wouldn't go that far.

MORGAN: Robert Blake --

WEST: No, no.


MORGAN: It's the real deal.

WEST: You need to put him back on the -- put him back on the set. As he said last night, he wants one last film. Listen, Hollywood.

MORGAN: I've got to --

SMILEY: More of an auction than an election anyway. You got enough money, get in.



MORGAN: We'll leave it with President Robert Blake.

Tavis, Cornel, as always, thank you very much.

SMILEY: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: And coming next, actor and comedian John Leguizamo joins me for much more of the laughs and he talks politics, the president and the immigration.



LEGUIZAMO: My father's -- I'm glad (INAUDIBLE). Of all the losers, you came in first place. And I'm sorry to disappoint you, dad. No, mijo, it's not you, it's me. I got to get used to your failures.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MORGAN: From last year's one-man Broadway show, "Ghetto Klown," starring the best (INAUDIBLE) always outspoken John Leguizamo. He's an Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee. He's been acting for three decades in more than 50 films, and he joins me now.

John, welcome.

LEGUIZAMO: Hey, how are you, how's it going?

MORGAN: I'm good. What do you think? What do you think about your extraordinary life? I've heard you describe yourself. You were born in Bogota in Colombia. You described yourself as an Amerindian and a Mestizo heritage. A bit of Italian, Lebanese, Puerto Rican -- I mean it's -- just about every facet of human life in your blood.

LEGUIZAMO: That's the modern man. I mean, that's what happens. I mean, you know, we Latin people we like to mix. We like to mingle.

MORGAN: When you look at your country now, obviously, you're a prime example of somebody who America has been good to, you could argue. What do you think about the current debates in America with regard to immigration, with regard to the American nationality, if you like?

LEGUIZAMO: Well, I mean, yes, America is still the great country of opportunity and look at what happened to me. I mean I'm a perfect example of somebody who got his dream. You know, I came here to Queens, humble origins. It was a tough thing, you know. When I came here, we were like the second Latin family and white flight started to happen.

You know white flight, it's not the snow goose. It's white people are starting to leave the neighborhood. And that's when I came in. There was a lot of fighting. A lot of getting beat up and whatnot. But I was a funny guy. And I had to battle things with humor and I got a career out of it. I got a lifestyle and I got opportunity to hopefully elevate and educate and it can happen in America.

And this whole immigration thing is kind of -- it saddens me. You know, it angers me and saddens me because I feel like Latin people, we've always been here. We discovered this country. I jut feel like it should be like an open door. Latin people should be able to come in and go because this was our country and it still is.

MORGAN: Did you have high expectations that the first African- American president would do a lot when it came to immigration? And has he lived up to that promise? Or do you think there's other work still to be done?

LEGUIZAMO: I mean I love Obama. I love everything he does and I just feel like he's the most dignified president we've ever had. And he wants to do the best for this country. I've never met anybody who had so much heart and soul and wanted to do the right thing.

He's had a hard time. You know, Congress doesn't play ball with him. I mean Congress rather undo this country than help the president. All the works programs he wanted to start. The health care, they slapped his hand. Even the immigration thing, they slapped his hand. And now, Obama is really stepping up and keeping up the promises to help immigration and get these people amnesty.

MORGAN: When you hear some of the rhetoric from the Republicans, and the Tea Party in particular, Mitt Romney, too, has been pretty tough about immigration, does it unnerve you? Does s it worry you if they are perhaps to take control, come November?

LEGUIZAMO: Yes. It's terrifying. I mean they think that it's OK to take kids out of schools, to stop a person and profile them because they look Latin. You happen to be Latin, they're going to stop you and check you for papers. I don't think that's cool. That's like Nazi Germany time. It's terrifying. And it saddens me that I'm in this country and I love this country and that they would treat my people that way. It's disheartening.

MORGAN: You have two children, 11 and 12.


MORGAN: What do you say to them about the land of opportunity? The American dream? Is it the same as when you were their age or has it changed? And do they need to evolve with that change?

LEGUIZAMO: Well, obviously, America has changed a lot. I mean, it's not -- you know, it's not the easy climb as it used to be. It's a lot harder to climb. But still things can happen in this country. It's a big country. Still a powerful country and we're doing better than a lot of other people. It's just tougher.

You know middle class is shrinking. So I tell my kids, you know, you've got to find a passion, first of all, and be ready for adversity. You know, turn adversity into a challenge. Don't see problems as a problem. See them as a challenge and enjoy finding the solution.

You know, as a dad, you've got to become a philosopher and that's what I'm trying to do. Just give them -- not to feel entitled, you know. I never felt entitled. And I think that's a good thing.

MORGAN: They must absolutely love the fact that their dad keeps coming back to voice Sid the sloth in "Ice Age." And we've got the fourth installment now, it's hitting the airwaves.

Let's take another look at this.


LEGUIZAMO: Mom, dad.

RAY ROMANO, "MANFRED": See? He still hugs his parents.

LEGUIZAMO: Oh, my whole familia. I knew it, I knew it. I knew I wasn't abandoned. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's incorrect. We totally abandoned you.



MORGAN: I always forget that in America it is called a sloth. My apologies.


LEGUIZAMO: No, it's -- I like sloth.

MORGAN: Yes, sloth sounds better, I think, don't you?

LEGUIZAMO: Yes, missile, hostile. You guys talk different. It's all right.


MORGAN: Do you like doing the "Ice Age" movies?

LEGUIZAMO: I love them. You know what, the message is so beautiful, man. It's family is the most important thing and it doesn't matter that we have the same biological family. And we all could be different species but if we work together, we can make this a better planet. And be hilarious at the same time.

And I think that's what people keep coming back to the series. That it's funny but the message is really beautiful, you know, and I dig doing that sloth voice, Sid the sloth. I got it from watching Discovery Channel, believe it, by a British guy.

MORGAN: Really?

LEGUIZAMO: And he said that sloths store food in their cheek pouches and they're so slow and they chew so slow that it ferments and it becomes alcohol and they get drunk and they fall off the trees. And that's how I created my character. Thank you very much.


MORGAN: It's been a real pleasure talking to you. I'm glad you finally came to the show.

"Ice Age: Continental Drift" opens this weekend. Also look out for "Tales from a Ghetto Klown" on PBS.

Come back soon. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

LEGUIZAMO: My pleasure. I'm the best sloth you've ever had.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: For tonight's "Only in America," that winning look with the Olympics only 15 days away. America's top athletes weren't just gunning for gold, they'll be looking to win the fashion contest, too.

This is the official U.S. team collection, designed by Ralph Lauren. It was unveiled on the "Today" show with plenty of (INAUDIBLE).


DAVID LAUREN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, RALPH LAUREN CORPORATION: Ralph Lauren has always been inspired by the Olympics. We've had this special opportunity to work with the team to look into their archives. Very inspired by the 1948 games which is the last time that America competed in England. Real old, old world elegance brought up to time.


MORGAN: But as with all cutting edge new fashion styles, the reaction has been instant and explosive. It's too British, screamed the critics, outraged by the bright and riveted type uniforms. It's too French, scream others. Appalled by the Parisian style. Berets, worst of all, screamed the loudest ranters. It's made in China.

That final revelation sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid into a meltdown. A patriotic fury. He doesn't just want the clothing changed. Oh, no, he told ABC News, they should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile, burn them and start all over again.

Whoa. Easy there, Senator. Let's just calm down. Maybe this isn't quite as awful as you think it is. I bet, I even go as far as to say it's a brilliant move by Ralph Lauren. What better way to show what a melting pot this country truly is than bringing Europe, the Far East and the United States all together in one daring cheeky outfit.

I hope those American athletes are now inspired to perform with viva of Le France, the rule of Britannia, the March of the Volunteers. And if they do, I think God and gold will bless America.

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.