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NASCAR, NRA in New, Cozy Partnership; Former Member of Westboro Baptist Church Describes Experiences

Aired March 4, 2013 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, gentlemen, start your firearms. The Texas 500 becomes the NRA 500. NASCAR teaming up with the NRA, a bad idea.

Also, take this, North Korea.

DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA STAR: I love him. I love the guy. He's awesome.

MORGAN: Dennis Rodman's special brand of basketball diplomacy. I'll ask a newsman who's seen it all before, Dan Rather. Is this really what the world needs?

And White House revelations. The moment in George W. Bush's presidency that made his father, Bush 41, crying.

Plus my exclusive look inside the controversial church, picketing church's funerals, and encouraging anti-gay hatred. What one woman saw before they threw her out.


Good evening. There are stranger things in Dennis Rodman's not-at-all official diplomatic mission to North Korea. Well, I assume there are stranger things. I just can't offhand think of one. What he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos about his new best friend, Kim Jong-Un.


RODMAN: Guess what, I don't condone what he does. But as far as person-to-person, he's my friend. Well, I supposed what he does, that --


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC'S "THIS WEEK": Someone who hypothetically is a murderer who's your friend is still a murderer.

RODMAN: Well, you know, seriously, you know, guess what -- guess what, what I did, what I did was history. Was history against what? It's just like we do over here in America, right?


MORGAN: "What I did was history." Well, it's hardly your standard diplo speak. But the fact remains Dennis Rodman is one of the very few Americans to do any talking at all with any of the North Koreans in the last few years. What does it all mean?

Joining me now is a man who I reckon can sum this up pretty well. Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS TV.

Dan, quite extraordinary incident. I mean, I can remember where I was when Elvis died. Dennis Rodman sitting there with the leader of North Korea, talking about being his best friend, et cetera, et cetera. Amid all the comedic aspects of this, and not comedic to many people who feel affronted by him, associate himself with this guy.

There is a serious point about raising awareness about North Korea and having any kind of contact there. What do you make of it all?

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR AND MANAGING EDITOR, AXS TV'S "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Well, first of all, I think it is important that we focus at least some attention on North Korea. Anything that gets some attention focused. This is one of two or three places in the world most likely to be a Third World War. High on the list.

One tends to get that when we had bad relations with the Marxist, Leninist, Maoist China, ping-pong diplomacy is the closest to this that I can see. I'm not suggesting it would work out that way. You remember they played ping-pong.


RATHER: People -- had his comedy moments as well. But it led to a little bit of opening. Now, with Dennis Rodman, I will say that, look, I've been to goat ropings and space shots, I've been in Antarctica and deepest Africa. I've never seen anything quite like this.


MORGAN: Crazy as goat roping, my god. I mean, I know Dennis Rodman quite well. I just did this "Celebrity Apprentice" for a couple of episodes with him. I went back in as one of Donald Trump's board room guys. And I got to know this. He's slightly crazy, very passionate. And I'm sure that he went out there with the best of intentions. He's gone out there with this team from Vice Media crew, along with members of the Harlem Globetrotters. Doing a documentary for HBO. HBO and CNN, I have to say, both owned by the same company, Time Warner.

It's a legitimate exercise in that respect. He seems to be taken aback by the outcry that's come his way, which may be a little naive. But, again, I say this. As everyone heaps all this mockery on Dennis Rodman, I'm trying to say, it's been in the news, all over America today.

RATHER: Right.

MORGAN: That's not a bad thing.

RATHER: No, I agree it's not a bad thing, for the reason we discussed as we came on the air. That at least it gets people thinking about North Korea. North Korea is one of the strangest places on this or any other --

MORGAN: You went there in 2005.

RATHER: I did go there. And to fracture Churchill's old, quote, "It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma." I doubt that any Westerner can understand it. But this we do have to understand, that China is the key to North Korea. If there's to be peace in the region, over any length of time, China will be the key to that.

I don't think most Americans know that. So in the sense that Dennis Rodman going to have his picture taken with him, appearing and -- I agree with you that a certain naiveness comes into this. But terrible things have happened there. Murder, the country's concentration camps, people starving, all of those things.

But Dennis Rodman was the -- I think all-time rebounder in the NBA history. He can't be expected to know all of this.

MORGAN: And I find it sort of oddly fascinating, Kim Jong-Un is such a basketball fan. I mean, it sort of humanizes him in a way he's never been humanized. We don't know much about this guy. He inherited when his father died. We don't know almost anything about him. And from what I've been reading. And suddenly Dennis Rodman is taking us into this guy's world. We've got extraordinarily footage.

This is when he came out with Rodman at the basketball stadium. And, you know, it's like watching, I guess, China back in the days of Mao. But it all got completely crazy. He's a totalitarian state, and yet there's a sort of -- amid the naivete, there's an openness about what Rodman's done here, opening up perhaps the blog to getting somebody in a more official capacity, a more sensible capacity perhaps, to do some proper talking with the North Koreans.

RATHER: Well, I agree.

MORGAN: Which has to in the end be the right way to go, isn't it?

RATHER: Well, I can hear in my mind's ear, people in the State Department scoffing and laughing and saying, listen, Dan and Piers don't know what they're talking about. But these kinds of small things, small acorn, if you will, literal oaks can grow. I'm not saying it will grow in this case. By the way, I've been inside that stadium, and it's a sight to behold.

MORGAN: Extraordinary.

RATHER: I don't know, 150,000 people or something. But we know this about the -- now the ruler of North Korea, that he was educated outside the country. That's when he became a basketball fan. And we knew before he ascended to this role that he was a big fan of basketball. And he knows who Dennis Rodman is.


RATHER: How many world leaders even know who Dennis Rodman is.


RATHER: He's also -- he loves movies, as did his father. His predecessor in this role. And when one goes to North Korea, even to this day, if you're even hoping for an interview, or get in the presence of the Supreme Leader, you're always advised, take along some really good new movies, and that will give you your best chance.

MORGAN: Extraordinary. But I -- Dennis Rodman's taking a lot of flack. I'm not defending him and I think he was very naive about the way it's played out. Having said that, I think it's quite encouraging there is any dialogue with North Korea. And the more you know about this country and its leadership, probably for America's point of view the better.

RATHER: I agree.

MORGAN: Let's turn to sequestration, which is probably something even North Korea doesn't understand. And I found the -- just found the events of last week incredibly dispiriting. The fact that America, this great superpower, appears to have this utter paralysis of (INAUDIBLE) now in Washington, with both sides scrapping over each other in this absurd manner. I think it demeans the political system here.

RATHER: Well, there's no question that it does. Listen, no one wants to say it, and some can accuse me of being harsh in the language. But we have been parachuted into the valley of the stupid. And that's the way it's viewed around the world.


RATHER: The United States -- this is dumb. There's nothing smart about this. But I do think that we -- Americans need to see it now in the context, which is one of the more important contexts. Each side is now running a political campaign for the next election. 2014 is what it's about. The Republicans, they want to wreck the Obama presidency, metaphorically they want his administration moved from lame duck to dead duck. And they need to do well in the 2014 --


MORGAN: But here's my point, though. Here's my point. They spent the last four years trying to wreck his last presidency. They openly admitted this. Now they've already into the wrecking ball system again. The Democrats are trying to wreck the Republicans. Everyone is trying to wreck each other. And amid all this wrecking is the wreckage of the American economy.

RATHER: Well --

MORGAN: And the real people suffering are the American people.

RATHER: Well, and the big loser is the country.


RATHER: That each of them, they talk about what's good for their party, what's good for the reelection campaign and all that. We need the leaders. How many times do we need to say it. Whoever had the idea of saying all these people should be made to go see the movie "Lincoln."



MORGAN: I certainly agree.

RATHER: What's needed here is leadership. And it will only take a few good men and women in each party to exercise really to say, look, if it beats me in the next election, so be it, but I want to do what's best for the country.

MORGAN: Found they already (INAUDIBLE) mocking someone like Dennis Rodman who at least went and talked to the other side.

RATHER: Right.

MORGAN: Right? I mean, in Washington, they don't even talk to each other. I saw that John Boehner and Barack Obama hadn't physically met to talk about the economy since the mid of November. Absolutely extraordinary.

RATHER: Not in a substantive way. And when you try to explain this to someone in China, or India, or somewhere in Africa, or in Russia, they say, you've got to be kidding me. The United States of America --

MORGAN: Crazy.

RATHER: And the leader of the House doesn't talk seriously about the economy with the president --

MORGAN: Crazy. I think it's insane. I really do.

Let's turn quickly to these George H. W. Bush letters, called "All the Best of George Bush: My Life and Letters, and Other Writings." A fascinating book. It's not dated version of an early one that you did but includes so many riveting snippets, where he has written either to his son or to other people about his son who then, of course, became president.

What did you make of it when you pored through it?

RATHER: Well, I wasn't surprised because as one who -- at least once, I think twice received a handwritten note from then President Bush. Look, he's well educated. He writes well. He thinks pretty well. I wasn't surprised by any of it. If someone were to be critical, you could say, well, he wrote about a lot of things, but what you didn't see much is writing about his son's decision to go into Iraq.

MORGAN: Right.

RATHER: He did write one thing, saying he had to hold back. He had some difficulty holding back because he wanted to lean in. But it was his son's time. But I think it shows a side of George Bush, which serves him well. And maybe one reason the book is out, of course. But this doesn't come as any surprise to anyone who'd ever received a letter from him, or knew very much about him.

MORGAN: It's an interesting stuff. I mean, shortly after September 11th, he spoke to his son right after the attacks. He said, I've talked to George. I did tell him the sooner he got back to Washington the better. He totally agreed with that. It's not easy to sit on the sidelines now, not easy to make decisions or take actions.

Interesting that that unique position of being a father, watching your son become the president that you were, and sort of feeling even then slightly impotent. Because it's got to be down to the new president.

RATHER: Well, more than slightly interesting. And as he described, you know, he and Mrs. Bush, Barbara Bush, wept the night it was clear that their son would become president.

MORGAN: Yes. Very moving night. I think that's really --


RATHER: The most moving of the letters.


RATHER: But with Katrina, one has to believe, although he didn't say this directly in this letter, it was a mistake for President George Bush not to go immediately back to Washington.

MORGAN: It was interesting, but his father says, I'm really down about the way the president's been attacked. This is after Katrina. Over and over again the networks attacked him. First for being late in moving then for overflying to Louisiana on the way back to Washington. Then on the snail-like pace of relief. My heart goes out to him. He's a guy who cares deeply."

And so he goes to defend him. The critics do not know what's in 43's heart. Now obviously he did, he's his father. And -- but I sort of agree with you, that it's a father's sentiment that, isn't it, rather than probably a more pragmatic thing, which is actually the president made a number of big mistakes over Katrina.

RATHER: Well, exactly what I said go back to Washington, I meant, you know, get ahold of this Katrina situation. But anybody who is a father understands why he would leap to his defense, even within himself saying, look, I think he's made a mistake here. That he's got this great empathy and sympathy for his son. And anybody who attacks his son, he sees as a personal attack on him. Quite natural.

MORGAN: Tell me quickly, Dan, about this, this special you've got, and it's about elderly abuse. Very quickly, what is it about? RATHER: Well, what it's about is the phenomenon of so many American seniors being preyed upon by international crooks, cowards, to take their money, with telemarketing and particularly with lotteries.

I had an idea about this for years I've been hearing complaints. But now it turns out that in places like Jamaica and Nigeria, in fact those two places particularly, that people use telephone techniques, telemarketing techniques, lottery -- fake lottery techniques to dupe people for hundreds of millions of dollars, if not over $1 billion a year, it's pretty hard to find exact figures. What we've tried to do is do two things. One, inform people that if you have a senior in your family, don't just assume that they're going to make the right decisions.

MORGAN: Right.

RATHER: And to get to older people, look, when somebody calls you and talks about you winning money or a chance to win money, hang up.

MORGAN: If it sounds too good to be true, it's -- it's a fascinating investigation. It's the first episode of "Dan Rather Reports" is next Tuesday, March 12th, at 8:00 Eastern on AXS TV.

No stay here, Dan. We'll talk about, after the break, about this revolution that NASCAR is going to be sponsored by the NRA.

RATHER: Right.

MORGAN: So tobacco companies can't sponsor the NASCAR races, but companies that endorse guns can. I have my view. (INAUDIBLE) as a good Texan.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pleased to announce that the NRA has signed a one-year agreement with a renewal option to be the race entitlement sponsor for the April 13th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway. The event will be retitled the NRA 250 and serve as the first primetime Saturday night event of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup racing season.


MORGAN: NASCAR putting the NRA in the driver's seat. NRA's which calls itself America's oldest civil rights organization, sponsoring next month's Texas 500, which will now be known as the NRA 500. The timing is certainly no coincidence as this country struggles with the issue of gun violence. We'll talk about that in just a moment.

But we begin with CNN anchor Rachel Nichols. Rachel, a fascinating development. The cynic in me would say, the NRA has seized a moment when they need some good publicity out there and they see this as a target-rich environment, perhaps, for their core audience. RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly the marriage of these two organizations can't be a surprise to anybody. Especially at this particular track. This is a track where the winner traditionally shoots off a six-shooter in victory lane. They give a rifle to the person who wins the pole position. So, obviously the association has been there for a long time.

Still, it is an interesting time. Because NASCAR is trying to get more mainstream fans involved in the sport again. Certainly, that's why they were so excited Danica Patrick did well at Daytona. You want to draw in those fans, and then you make the association with the NRA. You have to wonder, are those mainstream fans going to want to sit down on their television sets on a Saturday night and watch this race called the NRA 500?

MORGAN: Right. Let's go to Dan Patrick, senator in Houston, Texas. Mr. Patrick, we spoke recently at a gun range, and it's good to talk to you again. Tell me why is it a good idea? I'm slightly baffled that you can't have a tobacco company sponsoring this race because presumably it's deemed bad for Americans' health. But you can have now the NRA, which is basically funded by gun manufacturers.

DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Well, first of all, tell me what's bad about it. I mean, Texans love guns. Texans love fast cars. There's nothing wrong with NASCAR. And they have been involved with the NRA before. This is the first time the NRA has stepped up to the Sprint Cup Series, which is the top league.

But there's nothing wrong with this, Piers. I don't really understand anyone who would want to argue with the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. They kind of go well together here. So, I don't really understand the fuss. Tell me what your problem is. I don't get it.

MORGAN: My only problem is, I can't understand the difference between a tobacco company not being allowed to sponsor this race because it's deemed bad for American health, and yet a gun company, essentially (ph) what the NRA is, which is funded almost predominantly now by gun manufacturers, is using this to sell more guns. I just can't imagine that guns are better for Americans' health than tobacco.

PATRICK: Yes, well, first of all, I'm not going to argue tobacco over guns. But the NRA, I think, is not trying to sell guns, and they are supported by -- I'm a lifetime NRA member myself. So, they're supported by mostly citizens as well as gun manufacturers.

But this is really making a statement about who we are. I know there was a car in a race recently devoted to Sandy Hook. And I think that's a great thing, that I think it was Darrell Waltrip Jr., possibly, who drove that car. I'm not sure of the driver. That's a wonderful thing. And in Texas, we can support and help and pray for the people who have been victims to gun crimes in our own state and other states. But here in Texas, we understand that the NRA is something that we can be proud to be a member of.

Let me tell you something, Piers. When you were here -- I enjoyed meeting you a few weeks ago when you were here in Texas. Today -- and I sit on finance and I sit on criminal justice -- we're closing down prisons in Texas. Crime is down. People carrying guns in Texas, concealed carry, which we talked about on your last show, has a positive impact. I can assure you in Chicago, where they have tight gun laws, they're not closing down jails. They're opening up jails. But in Texas we actually have 12,000 beds now that are freed up because crime is down in Texas.

So, fast cars, guns, Texas, it all works together. We're proud to be Americans. We're proud of the First and Second Amendment and we will reach out, pray for to help the families of victims of crime anywhere.

MORGAN: Fast cars and guns. Let's turn to Tim Carmody from The Verge. What is your reaction to that? It's all about fast cars and guns.

TIM CARMODY, SENIOR WRITER, "THE VERGE": Well, I think this is completely disproportionate to have a single car at the Daytona 500 for Sandy Hook relief, versus an entire race sponsored by the NRA. I also -- I don't understand the association -- NASCAR is so much more infinitely popular than the NRA. There are NASCAR fans all over the country, there NASCAR fans of every political persuasion. The identification of NASCAR, I think even in Texas with supporters of, I think, the NRA's -- what has become the NRA's increasingly extreme stance on gun rights, is, I think, there's just a huge contradiction there. And --

MORGAN: Let me just ask on that point, Dan Rather. You're a Texan, and you like NASCAR. Do you have a problem with this?

DAN RATHER, ANCHOR, "DAN RATHER REPORTS": I don't have a problem with it, to tell you quite honestly. And I don't think anybody should blow a gasket about this. The NRA, it's made up of a wide divergence of people. Not everybody in the NRA agrees with everything that the NRA administration puts forward.

One of the things that occurs to me, and forgive me if you must, Piers, but as a reporter, you're always looking for the story behind the story. I ran into a chance meeting today with Vice President Joe Biden, and he said to me, it's going to be tough to get these gun laws through. He said the NRA -- this is what he said -- the NRA is now beginning to back away on background checks. You know, they put forward sort of a feeling well, maybe we can do some background checks. They're backing away.

So, at the very time -- if the vice president's correct, and I assume that he is -- that they're backing away on that, they have this big announcement getting all the publicity. So --

MORGAN: When you say backing away, you mean they may not support universal background checks?


MORGAN: I mean, see, this is what I find so bloody offensive. And I'm sorry, I'll come to you (INAUDIBLE). You can calm me down. But this is so cynical. You've got the NRA coming up, backing this NASCAR race now. They want to sell more guns. The senator down in Houston there is thrilled about that. Fast cars meets more guns, that's great. Great for everybody. Except if you're somebody shot by one. And here you have the NRA not even prepared to support universal background checks on gun sales. To me, this is an overtly political thing they're doing with sporting event which should know better, I think.

RATHER: Well, of course it's a political thing. There's no question about that.

NICHOLS: It's political for them. But for NASCAR, it's a business decision. This is a track that lost its sponsor. It was sponsored by Samsung. They decided to pull their sponsorship. According to the head of the track, they had gotten offers from other companies. But they were not at the amount they were asking for.

MORGAN: Do we know what they paid the NRA?

NICHOLS: We don't know their exact amount. Sponsorships usually go for between one and three million, reportedly. So, as the head of the track said, people were wanting it at a discount. The NRA came in instead and said we will pay full price.

And on top of that, this is one of the largest tracks in the country, 190,000 people. There are seats for that at this event. And so, NASCAR has said, and this event has said, we're going to use the NRA rolls to try to sell tickets. And we expect NRA members to come out in support of this event, because it is called the NRA 500.

MORGAN: Let's take a quick break. I want to come back and carry on with this. Because it's got me steaming. I've got to be honest with you.



MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: Like so many of these mass shootings, or the gun violence we see every single day on our streets, that amount to 34 - 33 to 34 on average gun murders every single day -- there is a segment of our population that includes criminals and the dangerously mentally ill that should be prevented from having access to firearms.


MORGAN: Mark Kelly, retired astronaut and husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, testifying today about the need for more background checks with gun sales.

Back with us now is Texas state senator Dan Patrick. Tim Carmody, he's a senior writer for "The Verge." Also with us, Rachel Nichols and Dan Rather.

Let me go to you again, Senator Patrick, if I may. So, here's the deal with this race. There's going to be a lot of kids in that audience. A lot of young children. Some may even be the same age of the children who died at Sandy Hook. What kind of message that this sends to their children that their favorite sporting event that they are going to see with the family maybe is sponsored by a gun lobby group?

PATRICK: You know, Piers, you're a fine fellow. You just don't get it. There's nothing wrong with guns and responsible gun ownership. And a lot of those young people that you're talking about who will go to the race go also shooting with their mom and dad. I was talking to the camera person in the studio here. They went out shooting this weekend with their daughter.

There's nothing wrong with this, Piers. I know it's just foreign to you. But there's nothing wrong with responsible gun ownership. And -

MORGAN: Well, it's not - no, it's not foreign to me. I understand that when guns are used properly by law-abiding, sensible, rational people, then that is part of the American culture. The problem America has is there are so many criminals and mentally insane people getting their hands far too easily on guns and then slaughtering other Americans. That's my problem.

Dan Rather, you --

PATRICK: That's all of our problem, Piers. No one supports that lifestyle.

MORGAN: OK, thank you, sir. Let's come to Dan Rather, quickly. You know about this culture. You grew up in the culture. We've talked about this before. I don't get it, apparently. But I have the right to express some concern that the NRA are basically hijacking a great family sporting event in America.

RATHER: The phrase, don't get it, frankly, I think you get some of it. I think Dan Patrick gets some of it. But the key phrase he used there was responsible gun ownership. Responsible automobile drivers don't have any difficulty. What we try to do is, as best we can, pass some laws, put some regulations in that deal with the irresponsible parts of the car drivers.

Look, this is a case where, frankly -- one of Ed Murrow's favorite words was steady. Everybody needs to be kind of steady. Feelings run high on all edges. There's a cultural divide here. Some of it's rural versus urban. Some of it's regional. But we need to understand each other's point of view, and reach that point where you say, listen, we can disagree about 50 things. Are there two or three things we can agree on, for example, background checks.

MORGAN: You're telling me that they're even backing down on universal background checks, I give up with the NRA. I really do. Rachel, tell me about this. The race will be broadcast on Fox. What are the repercussions and possible implications of Fox and the NRA in all of this?

NICHOLS: Well, it's interesting, because the NRA has had so many controversial television ads lately, which we know. And gun makers aren't allowed to broadcast. This is something the networks do themselves. They basically decided they're not going to air ads from gun makers. And then in Comcast, basically cable then recently took this up as well.

So it's been a matter of great controversy over when these ads are going to run, who is going to run them, who has decided not to run them. Part of the sponsorship deal is that at least once an hour the broadcaster has to mention the name of the sponsor. So all of a sudden, this is, in some ways, an end around the NRA, who has had controversial ads, gun makers not being allowed to advertise guns on Fox, usually -- the NRA name will be out there with some regularity during the broadcast.

And this really hasn't happened before in this scenario. Because there's never been this high-profile athletic event sponsored by the NRA.

MORGAN: Right. Tim Carmody, this is my problem again. You're going to have the NRA getting all this ad time. And they only have one real modus operandi. Wayne LaPierre just wants to sell more guns. He doesn't want to have any for of bun control that will prohibit his big funders, his big donors from the gun manufacturers having any problem with their currently escalating and roaring sales in guns and ammunition.

CARMODY: Right. And there's a history here in terms of television advertising and Nascar. So Nascar, for years, the Sprint Cup, which is the series that this race is in, most people probably know as the Winston Cup. It was sponsored by R.J. Reynolds. This was a way around the government's earlier laws banning the sale of tobacco, sale of cigarettes, that, again, you would get the brand, or the name of the sponsor mentioned in golf tournaments, tennis tournaments and absolutely Nascar races.

2010, the federal government worked to close this loophole, so that cigarette manufacturers could no longer sponsor this. But Nascar had already moved away from its partnership with R.J. Reynolds.

MORGAN: But even as you say that, I'm like, God, how can you ban tobacco companies on the health grounds, but allow the NRA to basically say, hey --


NICHOLS: You know the answer to that question. Because the cigarette lobby does not have anywhere near the power that --

CARMODY: Not anymore. And I think, you know, Nascar did fine leaving tobacco behind. And it would do fine if it left the NRA behind.

MORGAN: Let's take a quick clip from Wayne LaPierre from the NRA about his glorious coup.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in a long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the Nascar community. NRA members and Nascar fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America. We salute our flag, volunteer in our churches and communities, cherish our families. And we love racing.


MORGAN: Yes. And you love selling guns, too, Mr. LaPierre. That's what this is all about. And I don't get it. Yes, Senator Patrick?

PATRICK: Just very quickly. In all seriousness, if you're going to be upset with anyone about seeing the increase in gun sales, you should be upset with President Obama and Joe Biden. Because the president and vice president have done more to sell guns in this country than the NRA.

MORGAN: Let me respond to that, because I've heard this farcical argument. The fact that the president and vice president --

PATRICK: It's not farcical.

MORGAN: Well, the fact they're trying to bring in any form of gun control to make America safer, and the fact that the response, driven by the NRA's cynical marketing, in my view, has been a massive surge in sales not just of any old weapons, but of the specific AR-15 type assault rifle used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, I think shames a civilized society. I really do.

I find it an astonishing reaction to the worst atrocity involving school children in America. The fact that you, as a state senator, honestly believe the answer after an atrocity like that is to allow the NRA to hijack sporting events full of young impressionable children, I find equally shameful.

And I may not get it, senator. But I feel angry about it.

PATRICK: It's not -- you can feel angry. I respect that. But it's not hijacking. It's the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights. You know, we created that because of your country and our country not agreeing on some issues with the king many years ago.

But the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment allows the NRA to step out and advertise as they wish at this event. I can guarantee you, of those 190,000 fans who will show up at the racetrack, I bet you'd have a hard time having a CNN reporter find more than a dozen who would be against the NRA sponsoring that event.

We understand responsible gun ownership as part of being an American. Nascar is part of being an American. And I'm proud to support both.


RATHER: If I may, is it also -- this is a question. Is it also part of being an American to say, we have to find some way to keep irresponsible people from perpetrating these crimes, time after time, things like the Sandy Hook shooting?

PATRICK: I agree.

MORGAN: Senator Patrick, I fully respect your First Amendment rights to debate this with me. And I think I've afforded you due respect. And to my other guests here tonight, fascinating issue. People know where I stand, but it's important to keep the dialogue going. The most important thing since Sandy Hook is that here we are, nearly three months later, and it's still at the top of the news agenda, guns.

Gun violence in America is a problem. We will keep addressing it on this show. We will do so, I hope, in a fair way. Thank you all for joining me.

RATHER: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up, inside one of the most reviled religious groups in America. I will talk with a woman who was kicked out of the Westboro Baptist Church. Now she's talking about what she has seen.





MORGAN: The Westboro Baptist Church protesting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Westboro's known for messages that are anti-gay, anti-semitic, pretty much anti-everything. They protest at funerals, even at services for fallen soldiers.

And joining me now exclusively is Lauren Drain. She's the author of "Banished," is a former member of the church, who says she's no longer welcome because of her beliefs. Welcome to you, Lauren.

LAUREN DRAIN, AUTHOR, "BANISHED": Thank you for having me.

MORGAN: It's a shocking book in many ways. I mean, the Westboro Baptist Church is a shocking church. I've watched it from afar with just increasing horror, really, about what they get up to in the name of religion. Tell me about your experience when you first went in there. How bad was it on the inside?

DRAIN: On the inside? It's very controlling. They control like literally every aspect of your life. They control what you believe, what you say, what you do, what friends you have. They say everyone on the outside's evil. And they don't allow any outside influence at all.

MORGAN: How do they equate being a religious group with their appalling behavior, picketing funerals of soldiers, young children, the anti-gay outbursts and so on?

DRAIN: They claim to speak for God.

MORGAN: Simple as that?


MORGAN: That's their all-encompassing excuse?

DRAIN: I mean, it's not a good excuse at all but they do it. It's unfortunate and it's atrocity, the things that they do and say -- horrible things they do and say. But yeah, they claim that they're speaking for God.

MORGAN: Do they brainwash people like you, young people?

DRAIN: Absolutely. Yes, they did. They did brainwash me.

MORGAN: Did they make you picket and do things that you now look back and find contemptible?

DRAIN: Yes. They manipulated the children into believing that that's the right thing to do for good, that they're being good Christians to go out and protest all these different things. And it's very hypocritical. They don't even hold themselves to the high standard that they hold everyone else to.

MORGAN: Of course. Let's read a statement. This is from the church, actually from your father, Steven. You've been effectively disowned by your family, your parents and your siblings. I'll talk about that in a moment. It says, "we don't care how many books you write" -- it says to you -- "Westboro Baptist Church doesn't allow fornication. As to the veracity of the book, her parents have read several excerpts. They say it's filled with lies. The book shops that carry it should offer their customers a little truth in advertising and display it on the fiction shelf."

They're trashing you, basically.

DRAIN: Yes. That's his tactic, manipulation, hateful speech. They don't want to hear anything else except their own voices. Yes, that's typical. I kind of expected that.

MORGAN: How do you feel emotionally about losing all contact with your closest family because of this?

DRAIN: I mean, it was very traumatic when it first happened. I wasn't ready for it. I didn't expect it. Mostly because of my siblings, who are still stuck there.

MORGAN: How many of them?

DRAIN: Three. When I left, they were three, five and 16. Now it's five years later, so they're growing older. They have no opportunity to see any type of outside influence, any type of other perspective on God, any other type of knowledge of good life or good people. They have no idea that there is a happiness and life and forgiveness on the outside.

MORGAN: Because it's so hateful -- DRAIN: Right.

MORGAN: -- the Westboro Baptist Church. There seems to be nothing that constitutes any kind of natural positiveness that you would associated with a religious organization.

DRAIN: They don't focus on it, that's for sure. And the manipulative tactics they use, they say you'll die, you'll die of a horrible disease, God will kill you, you'll go to hell. Everyone out there is just looking out to destroy your soul and all these tactics that they use. And it works. It works for the children. It works to brainwash.

MORGAN: How has it affected your personal religious beliefs?

DRAIN: For me? When I first left, I had no faith. I had no faith in God. I had no faith that I would survive, that anything successful would come out of my life. They told me everything was doomed to fail, and that I would live a miserable life.

And until I was able to meet people and study on my own and realize, they don't own the scripture, they don't own God, they don't own what God says. And in fact, there are interpretations that are much more loving and forgiving. And that's what I believe.

MORGAN: Are you a Baptist? How would you describe your religious conviction?

DRAIN: I wouldn't say any denomination specifically. But I'm definitely a Christian. And I study and I listen to a pastor.

MORGAN: Is there anything Christian about the Westboro Baptist Church, in your view?

DRAIN: I thought that it was in the beginning. They led me to believe that they were just -- in the beginning, they weren't extreme. They weren't picketing all the things they're picketing now. They were like, we're just kind of pleading with our country. We're just kind of trying to point out some things that maybe churches aren't understanding.

And you know, they were big against the Catholic Church and stuff with the scandals going on there. So I thought that they had some good points. I thought they had -- you know? But they got extreme, and now they just judge everyone and condemn everyone. It's really awful. It's just horrible.

MORGAN: It's a fascinating insight into a very, very, very uncomfortable situation that goes on down there at Westboro Baptist Church. I commend people to read it. It's called "Banished, a Memoir, Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church."

Lauren, thank you for coming in.

DRAIN: Thank you so much. MORGAN: Coming next, he's back. Mitt Romney blasts Barack Obama and says, if he had been elected, he could have gotten Congress to make a deal. We'll see what Nick Kristoff thinks about that, coming next.



MITT ROMNEY, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see this as a huge opportunity. And it's being squandered by politics, by people who are more interested in a political victory than they are in doing what's right for the country. And it's very frustrating.

I have to tell you, the hardest thing about losing is watching this -- this critical moment, this golden moment just slip away with politics.


MORGAN: Mitt Romney, remember him? He is back in the spotlight after months of post-election seclusion, and telling Fox News that President Obama is squandering a golden political moment. Sour grapes or does he have a point?

Joining me now is "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristoff. It's interesting watching ex-presidential candidates, isn't it?


MORGAN: It is a bit sad. On the other hand, he has got to get on with his career. And he's come back with this statement that Obama is squandering his political capital he got from the election. Is he right? Does he have a point?

KRISTOFF: I don't see any great opportunity to do a deal. I think that is why we have a problem. I mean, I do think that there is a certain amount of truth in the argument that President Obama could try a little bit harder to charm Republicans, to drag them off to Camp David. I am a little skeptical that that would work. But it's a reasonable thing to propose.

But the notion that there is some deal to be put together there, I sure don't see it.

MORGAN: Would it have made any difference if Mitt Romney had been successful, do you think?

KRISTOFF: You can make the argument that -- it seems to me that, in general, Democrats have been a little more reasonable, a little bit more willing to compromise. So, in that sense, maybe a deal would have been a little more workable, but I think only marginally. I think basically the two parties here just see the world very, very differently. And I don't see Romney getting a deal either.

MORGAN: Speaking of deals, I can't let you go without asking about Dennis Rodman. Is he the great unsung deal maker now on the international stage? KRISTOFF: I don't think the Obama administration is going to appoint him to be special negotiator for the North Korean matter.


MORGAN: I was talking this to Dan Rather earlier. I am sort of in two minds about this. Because at the very least, what he has done is put North Korea all over the news map in America, which is not a normal occurrence. He has also had some contact with this weird guy that none of us know anything about. Is this a bad thing?

KRISTOFF: I think the notion of engaging North Korea is really a good thing. I have been there a couple of times. It is the most totalitarian country in the history of the world because they have technologies that past totalitarian governments didn't have. But -- and so it is useful I think for Americans to go there and hang out with Kim Jung un, the new dictator there.

But the problem is you want that American then to raise the issue of prison camps, to raise the issue of opening up a little bit. Instead Dennis Rodman gave him a big bear hug. I do think maybe South Korea should invite Rodman to hang out in Seoul. And maybe North Korea would be less likely to send artillery barrages to their buddies.

MORGAN: There is no hard evidence that Dennis knows which is which, is there?

KRISTOFF: In fact, he seemed to be a little confused about which was which. But, you know, North Korea is such an isolated country. And you really is -- I remember people there telling me that there was no crime ever in North Korea. So the notion of an American occasionally going there wouldn't be bad.

MORGAN: I am really not that against it.

KRISTOFF: I just wish it was me.

MORGAN: Exactly. You wouldn't get the bear hug.

John Kerry making his first move as secretary of state, the $250 million to Egypt. Are these the right kind of moves that he should be making?

KRISTOFF: I think so. And he was pushing them very hard to work on the economy, to get them ready for the IMF. I'm sure under the table he was cautioning them to work out an arrangement with the opposition, a modus vivendi. And that kind of advice they desperately need. And using that kind of bait is one way to get the message through.

But Morsi is a really stubborn guy. Will it work? Who knows?

MORGAN: I like the 70 young people who gathered and did the Harlem Shake outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. It is interesting that they would do that and call out Morsi in this way, because he's not going to like it, obviously. KRISTOFF: Yes. Egypt is so divided right now. And that is the problem with Morsi, that instead of reaching out, he has essentially been entrenching himself. And he should maybe try the Harlem Shake a little bit himself.

MORGAN: You're here to discuss the latest installment of your collaboration with your wife, Sheryl, the Half of the Sky Movement. It's a web based game on Facebook. What's it all about?

KRISTOFF: So we started out writing the book, "Half The Sky," kind of the dead trees version, about the need to empower women around the world. And -- but the problem with a book is the people who read it are those who tend to already agree with the proposition. So then we did a PBS documentary about it.

But we think that really the future of advocacy may well be gaming. That is where a lot of eye balls are. If you want to really preach beyond the choir, build a new audience, we thought we would try social gaming. So there have been a few social purpose games in the past.

This one is on Facebook. But there has never been a game with as much oomph and engineering input as this one. So we hope people will go to Facebook and give it a try.

MORGAN: I like this. This is the new Nick Kristoff, a new technological Nick Kristoff.

KRISTOFF: You know, we have to move with our audiences. And if you care about issues like AIDS and Malaria, maternal mortality, then you can't just preach tot he choir. You have to find new ways of having that conversation to put that issue on the agenda.

MORGAN: Yes, totally agree. Well, good luck with it. Nice to see you again.

KRISTOFF: Thank very much. Good to be here.

MORGAN: Take care, Nick.

We'll be right back.


MORGAN: Tomorrow night, batten down the hatches. Another massive winter storm is making its way across the country. Some of you could see as much as a foot of snow. Chicago, it's your turn tomorrow. And the east coast may well get pummeled next, as the storm gathers strength.

We are watching it for you. We'll have the latest. That's all tomorrow.

That is all for us tonight. Anderson Cooper starts right now.