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PIERS MORGAN LIVE

Massive Landslide in Washington State; Zimmerman Brother's Shocking Tweet; Matt Lauer's Future

Aired March 27, 2013 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: TV wars.

MATT LAUER, HOST, "TODAY" SHOW: When people start to write articles about what might be wrong with the "Today" show, you know where you should point the finger? Point it at me.

MORGAN: That was then. This is now.

Has morning king Matt Lauer become the new Bryant Gumbel? And will history repeat itself in late night with Fallon versus Leno? I'll talk to the author of that "New York" magazine piece and Howie Kurtz.

Plus the shocking tweet from the brother of Trayvon Martin's killer. Comparing the teen who allegedly shot a baby in a stroller to Trayvon Martin. Both of them making a gesture we can't show you here. But tonight my exclusive with Robert Zimmerman, coming here to explain himself face-to-face.

Did anyone think it would come to this? The White House closed to the American people for 18 days and counting. Why do school children of families have to pay the price for Washington dysfunction?

Plus, 17 going on $30 million. The high school senior who sold his company to Yahoo! What's next for the whiz kid?

What's your next great idea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE. We start with some extraordinary breaking news. A massive landslide in Washington State, a would-be island north of the Seattle, has destroyed a home and dozens more are now left in danger tonight. And one of those homes are Richard and Jude Barker, a retired couple who could be forced to flee any moment. They live about 500 feet south of the landslide and they both join me now on the phone.

Welcome to both of you.

Richard Barker, if you can tell me, we're looking at a scene, this was taken a few hours ago. But it shows how perilous your position is right now in terms of the house to the landslide. You must be feeling pretty scared about this, aren't you?

RICHARD BARKER, OWNS HOUSE ON EDGE OF LANDSLIDE (via phone): A little nervous, yes.

MORGAN: Tell me where you were when the landslide happened and what did you feel?

(CROSSTALK)

R. BARKER: Go ahead, Jude.

JUDE PARKER, OWNS HOUSE ON EDGE OF LANDSLIDE (via phone): We were asleep. We didn't feel anything. We weren't aware of it until the fireman came to our door to tell us about it, at about 5:30.

MORGAN: And you both sound in remarkably good spirits. If this happened to me, I'd be absolutely terrified. How are you managing to stay so calm, Richard?

R. BARKER: What good does it do to be terrified, I guess?

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Do you know any of the other homeowners whose houses have been affected, Jude?

J. BARKER: Yes, we do.

MORGAN: Are they all showing the same kind of stiff upper lip spirit that you are?

J. BARKER: One of them at least was that we talked to, because he's the one that came around after the fireman to tell us if they were having to check all of the water lines.

MORGAN: And have you been warned at all that this could happen again in the next few days? In other words, could your house literally disappear, do you think? What are the -- what are the experts telling you?

J. BARKER: Right now, not much. We've been told that they're checking it out. And if we need to evacuate, they will try to give us as much warning as they can.

MORGAN: Are you going to stay in there? I mean, I wouldn't take the risk, but you sound very, very plucky to me. Are you going to stay there, Richard?

R. BARKER: Oh, yes. This is home. And, you know, we -- we're going to stay here until we need to move.

MORGAN: Well, I completely admire your courage. It's a -- it's a remarkable scene. And I suppose this is a question I don't really want to have to ask you, but I will anyway. But the value of your property must have absolutely plummeted, as well, along with this land. Are you concerned about that? R. BARKER: We -- our property is extremely valuable because of the view we have.

MORGAN: Well the view you used to have, Richard.

(CROSSTALK)

R. BARKER: We had an incredible view. But we laughed this morning and said, OK, it just went down $100,000.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Well, it's got a very unique view now. Remember, you can sell it on the unique view of nothing, which is what you now have. But listen, I appreciate you both joining me. I love your spirit. It's a true American fortitude in a time of crisis. And I wish you all the very best with it. Thank you very much.

J. BARKER: Thank you.

R. BARKER: It's great to talk to you.

MORGAN: And to you.

Now I want to turn to the emotional interview you saw right here just two nights ago, a grieving mother, devastated over the death of her 13-month-old son, shot in the stroller, in broad daylight. Sherry West told me that two teenagers approached her, demanded money and then shot and wounded her before killing her son. And then she told me this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRY WEST, 13-MONTH-OLD SON WAS SHOT IN HIS STROLLER: I just -- I just hope, you know, that the shooter dies. I mean, I had to watch my baby die. And I want him to die. A life for a life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Today, those teenagers, 17 and 15, were indicted for murder. Since they're both juveniles, they won't face the death penalty. But that's not the end of the story tonight.

Robert Zimmerman Jr., the brother of the man who shot Trayvon Martin, is here to explain this. A shocking tweet that he sent out a lot of people are calling racist, comparing De'Marquis Elkins, the 17- year-old charged of shooting Sherry West's baby, with Trayvon Martin. Both teens making an obscene gesture and Zimmerman added a caption, quote, "A picture speaks 1,000 words. Any questions," unquote.

Robert Zimmerman Jr. joins me now exclusively.

Robert, I've spoken to you a number of times in the last year. I've read all the tweets that you sent carefully. And there's no doubt they were incendiary. And I want to draw in particular attention to two of them. One is one that you said here, alleged FB picks of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago's alleged killer and Trayvon Martin. The two pictures that we saw side by side, hash tag, uncanny.

Second one says, "Liberal media should ask if what these two black teens did to a woman and a baby is the reason people think blacks might be risky."

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, JR., BROTHER OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: Now the first one I thought was very controversial. The second one I found, blatantly honest with you, I thought was bordering on outright racism.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: It seemed to me that what you were saying was, this is why young blacks are risky. In other words, that is why my brother George did what he did to Trayvon Martin.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, certainly that's one way to read it. And that seems to be the way a lot of people have interpreted it. And I don't think Twitter is the place to make points about what you recall a year ago. Because the recollections that I have or that we have as a family specifically are very different than what can be portrayed in 140 characters.

Now I realized those were controversial and offensive, and I did publicly apologize for them. I don't think it was the right thing to do that way. One -- the point about the pictures. It was a larger point on the media and their honesty in portraying the person who encountered my brother February 26th.

We've been led to believe that it's a junior high school aged person because of the pictures, the way he's portrayed.

MORGAN: Well, he was 17.

ZIMMERMAN: We'll never interview Trayvon Martin. We'll never see Trayvon Martin but we have --

MORGAN: You don't dispute he was 17.

ZIMMERMAN: No, of course not, Piers. And I --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: A young 17-year-old boy.

ZIMMERMAN: Well --

MORGAN: Who had gone -- who had gone from his father's house to buy some Skittles from a store.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. So now we're back --

MORGAN: And was returning.

ZIMMERMAN: We're back to the Skittles from the store. Let me explain --

MORGAN: Well, we're not back to that. But the reason why I want to take you back to that is that when you say -- what these two black teens did to a woman and her baby, they shot the baby in the head is the allegation they have been charged with.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: A more gruesome crime would be hard to imagine.

ZIMMERMAN: Sure.

MORGAN: You are likening this to Trayvon Martin who was unarmed.

ZIMMERMAN: Well -- well, let me -- let me --

MORGAN: He didn't even have a gun on him.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me get back to the first tweet. What I'm saying is -- and, again, I understand it's controversial and I apologize for it and I'm sincere about that. I shouldn't have done it this way. And I don't disagree he was 17. I understand that.

What I'm saying is, yes, he was 17. And he chose to portray himself by his own hand in a certain way. And at this time last year --

MORGAN: Well, a 17-year-old kid puts a picture of himself gesticulating in a slightly rude manner on Facebook. That doesn't make him a killer.

ZIMMERMAN: No, that's not what I insinuated. That's not what I said.

MORGAN: But you're likening him to somebody who has been charged with shooting a baby in the head.

ZIMMERMAN: No.

MORGAN: Dead in a stroller.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, those are -- those are your --

MORGAN: That's an unbelievable analogy to make, isn't it?

ZIMMERMAN: Those are your words. They're not my words.

MORGAN: But they're not my words. They're your words.

ZIMMERMAN: No --

MORGAN: Alleged FB pictures.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: Thirteen-month-old Antonio Santiago's alleged killer and Trayvon Martin. Uncanny.

ZIMMERMAN: See, here's I'm going to try --

MORGAN: Why is it uncanny other than they're two young black boys?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm going to try again. And unfortunately all you're seeing in that is color. And again I'm going to try to redirect you to the point --

MORGAN: Well, they're two young black boys.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, they're also 17. You know?

MORGAN: But you go on to say liberal media should ask if what these two black teens did to a woman and baby is the reason people think blacks might be risky. I'm trying --

ZIMMERMAN: And --

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: And we'll address that.

MORGAN: I'm trying to be fair to you.

ZIMMERMAN: Let's try to stay on topic.

MORGAN: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: Because I really haven't had a chance to respond. You've just been reading from your note --

MORGAN: But explain to me what you mean by --

ZIMMERMAN: I'm trying to explain to you what I mean by that.

MORGAN: I will allow you to do.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm trying to explain what I mean by that. What I'm saying is, both of these people were 17 years old. And before Trayvon Martin was a household name and before De'Marquis from Georgia was a household name, they had an identity that they portrayed. And I'm not saying that because you flick off a camera that says anything about you other than that is the way you choose to portray yourself.

Now at this time last year "The Daily Caller" released Trayvon Martin's social media records, and we got to know a better picture of who Trayvon Martin was. Those pictures were surrounded in some kind of cloak of secrecy and they're not portrayed in the media. The pictures you'll see -- I don't know if you'll see them today, but the pictures you see generally when I'm on your show --

MORGAN: But listen. With respect, Robert, I don't think it matters a damn that Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old kid, did a stupid picture on his Facebook. ZIMMERMAN: I don't think --

MORGAN: That's what --

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: I don't think it matters either.

MORGAN: I've got three teenage sons.

ZIMMERMAN: Sure.

MORGAN: I'm sure if I studied all of their pictures, some of them would be flicking the bird.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm sure --

MORGAN: It's meaningless.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm sure -- I'm sure we all do when we're 17.

MORGAN: To draw -- but to draw, again with respect, any kind of analogy between that and a 17-year-old, purely the same age, a young, black, 17-year-old teenager, who is accused of shooting a baby dead in a stroller with a gun.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: Trayvon Martin was unarmed.

ZIMMERMAN: I understand that's what you're going to continue --

MORGAN: You cannot make that analogy.

ZIMMERMAN: I understand --

MORGAN: Without people saying you're a racist.

ZIMMERMAN: Right. I -- I learned that you can't make that analogy because it's a visual analogy and you can't explain them that's why you say, any questions, and it was the wrong thing to do. And I've been clear about that. But the analogy is, these are two people who chose to represent themselves in this way. One was accused of killing a baby. And whatever is in his social media makes the rounds immediately.

And the next 48 hours, these things are very public and very well-known. And this is the self representation of this young man. Is the way he's represented in public. However, the other person, who almost killed my brother, had he disarmed him -- my brother had every indication to believe he would have killed him -- his social media is off limits.

The media is not supposed to touch that because Ryan Julison, Benjamin Crump and Natalie Jackson don't want you to know who Trayvon Martin was. The Trayvon Martin that my brother defended himself from is not the Trayvon Martin you portray on your show. It's not.

MORGAN: This is the Trayvon Martin that your brother has told you.

ZIMMERMAN: No, this is the Trayvon Martin that has a social media account and puts photographs and --

MORGAN: Of him flicking the bird?

ZIMMERMAN: No, no, no. Piers, I said photographs. This is the tip of the iceberg.

MORGAN: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: There is a Trayvon Martin 2.0 that people don't want to address.

MORGAN: Let me -- let me read you this. This is a statement from Marc O'Mara, who I've on many times on this show.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: He is the attorney for your brother.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: "The Zimmerman case has started the conversation about race in America. We must talk about race in a way that brings us together, not in a way that drives us apart. Robert Zimmerman Jr.'s recent comments about race only drive us apart. Robert doesn't speak for the defense. He doesn't speak for George."

They're clearly very angry about this.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, they are very angry. And we -- I don't disclose --

MORGAN: But you know why they're angry?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. And I understand why.

MORGAN: Let me -- let me lay bare what people are saying. They are saying that when you, as George Zimmerman's brother, tweet that liberal media should look at what these black teens did to a woman and a baby allegedly --

ZIMMERMAN: Allegedly. Allegedly.

MORGAN: This is what you tweeted.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: You didn't say allegedly in the tweet. You just said what they did. So you assumed --

(CROSSTALK) ZIMMERMAN: Because the liberal -- no, no, no. Because the liberal media was doing it last year to my brother, Piers.

MORGAN: With respect, let me read to you exactly what you tweeted.

ZIMMERMAN: I -- I tweeted it. I understand exactly --

MORGAN: Wait. You didn't say allegedly.

ZIMMERMAN: No, no, no, no. I'm saying right now.

MORGAN: So you presume -- but there is an irony in you presuming the guilt of these two.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm clarifying the timeline --

MORGAN: Let me just finish what I'm saying.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm clarifying the timeline.

MORGAN: OK. Robert --

ZIMMERMAN: Because there was presumed guilt of my brother at that time.

MORGAN: Let me -- let me finish.

ZIMMERMAN: To this day even by members of Congress, he's referred to as a murderer.

MORGAN: You have constant -- right.

ZIMMERMAN: And he is not convicted of any crime.

MORGAN: Well, he killed --

ZIMMERMAN: So the allegation --

MORGAN: He killed Trayvon Martin.

ZIMMERMAN: The allegation standard did not apply to George Zimmerman March 26th of 2012.

MORGAN: Right. Let me -- let me finish what I was about to say. You didn't say allegedly. So you have presumed the guilt of these two teens.

ZIMMERMAN: The liberal media did not say allegedly, Piers.

MORGAN: Let me read the tweet to you.

ZIMMERMAN: And that's the point of that tweet. Go ahead.

MORGAN: "Liberal media should ask if what these two black teens did to a woman and baby." An assumption of guilt there, there's no allegedly. "Is the reason people think blacks might be risky."

This is why Marc O'Mara is so enraged by this. Because it reveals to some, to many, I've seen the Twitter reaction to this. It reveals a possible mindset amongst the Zimmerman family that young, black teenagers are risky.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: Because they're young black teenagers.

ZIMMERMAN: That --

MORGAN: Which many people say is exactly the reason --

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: -- that your brother George shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

ZIMMERMAN: Precisely. Exactly.

MORGAN: And if he hadn't profiled Trayvon Martin as a young black teenager.

ZIMMERMAN: It's been kind of according to them. Well, let me -- let --

MORGAN: Then he might be alive.

ZIMMERMAN: Let's take that --

MORGAN: And that's why what you tweeted is so sensational.

ZIMMERMAN: It is sensational. I understand that.

MORGAN: And why the defense for your brother have issued such a strong statement denouncing you.

ZIMMERMAN: Correct. And correct to do so. Because if I were an attorney and something like that landed in my lap to where it has evolved to which has made a racist tweet -- I made a tweet about here are two images of two individuals, two -- one accused of a crime, one who in our minds would have gotten away with a crime, had my brother not saved his life.

The social media accounts of Trayvon Martin, the way he chose to portray himself, before he was a household name, are irrelevant. Things about Trayvon Martin like marijuana pipes, allegedly, things that we know now in evidence have come out, are irrelevant. It's irrelevant. If marijuana is found in his system, it's irrelevant. It's dismissed by an attorney and it's not talked about ever again.

And the images that are played again and again and again in the media are dated images. And you know how they're quoted, you know how they're cited, you know how they're presented the context that's given? Getty or AP. Whereas the images of George have dates. This is a mug shot from this time, this is a MySpace page from that year, or whatever the case may be.

Now this De'Marquis, he is accused of doing something heinous. Is he presumed guilty and therefore has social media --

MORGAN: You presumed him guilty.

ZIMMERMAN: No, no, no, Piers. I'm not the one --

MORGAN: No, no. You did. Let me read you one more time.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I'm not --

MORGAN: If you seem to be --

ZIMMERMAN: No, no. I seem to be -- I seemed to be very clear that 140 characters --

MORGAN: Shouldn't we be trying mask what you tweeted.

ZIMMERMAN: No, I seem to be trying to explain.

MORGAN: You presumed their guilt.

ZIMMERMAN: Piers, I did not presume their guilt.

MORGAN: "Liberal media should ask if what these two black teens did to a woman and baby is the reason people think blacks might be risky."

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

MORGAN: That is a presumption of guilt by these two black teens. The very thing you have repeatedly on this show --

ZIMMERMAN: Let me be very -- let me be very -- let me be very clear, Piers.

MORGAN: -- in the last year railed against about what people have done to your brother.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me be very -- and that's the key thing. That's the key thing about last year. The risky doesn't come from me. The risky comes from the people saying we are all Trayvon and we are all seen as risky. That's what the narrative is. Do you know what the liberal media was asking last year? How does it make you feel that George Zimmerman is still out on the streets with a weapon? Do you feel safe knowing that the likes of a George Zimmerman is still out? No, because he's a baby killer. No, because he's a child murderer, no, because he's a racist.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Honestly, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: Those are fair questions. With respect, Piers, you can keep interrupting me, but those are fair questions. MORGAN: I wasn't interrupting you.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, you are right now. Those were fair questions that people asked. They were presumed fair that people asked a year ago about George. They're not fair today. To ask. Correct? The liberal media, MSNBC, is not walking up and down that street asking families if they're going to go walking their babies. And if perhaps if what these two teenagers did, which they didn't give my brother the benefit of the perhaps -- and people including members of Congress to this day still don't, if perhaps what they did is why they allege that they are -- they are saying themselves a year ago, hey, we're risky, and that's why George profiled us.

MORGAN: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: And what I've been saying is, no, that's absolutely not the case.

MORGAN: The trouble is, Robert -- I've got to end it there. But the trouble is, that isn't what you tweeted. What you tweeted was a presumption of guilt for these two black teens and you said is the reason people think that blacks --

ZIMMERMAN: What I tweeted was an indictment of the liberal media. Had the liberal word not been in there, I would have --

MORGAN: That's not what you said.

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, it is. It says liberal media.

MORGAN: No.

ZIMMERMAN: It says liberal media should know and ask --

MORGAN: Liberal media should ask if what they did --

ZIMMERMAN: Liberal media -- right. Because the liberal media --

MORGAN: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: -- did a presumption of guilt on George Zimmerman, starting February 26th, 2012, to this day. And you know how they do it --

MORGAN: Are you going to carry on tweeting?

ZIMMERMAN: They indict him with photographs of Trayvon Martin that don't accurately portray the person.

MORGAN: OK. You've made that point. You've made that point.

ZIMMERMAN: That George encountered February 26th.

MORGAN: Well, that person --

ZIMMERMAN: He didn't encounter someone skiing. MORGAN: -- is now dead.

ZIMMERMAN: Correct.

MORGAN: And he was shot dead by your brother.

ZIMMERMAN: And we should portray him ethically. We should portray him the way he portrayed himself.

MORGAN: And there will be a court case -- there will be a court case later this year and I imagine that your tweets are going to be used by Trayvon Martin's --

ZIMMERMAN: I would -- I wouldn't go that far. Who knows? You know?

(CROSSTALK)

I don't make assumptions like that.

MORGAN: I would if I were them.

ZIMMERMAN: I don't make assumption like that.

MORGAN: But do you accept that what you've done is not helpful to George?

ZIMMERMAN: I -- of course I do. This is something that I did for a year and I did something very controversial. I'm a human being. I'm being upfront about what I did, I made a mistake. You know, and people do make mistakes.

MORGAN: Yes.

ZIMMERMAN: And this is a very high-profile case and it's unfortunately may not have helped George.

MORGAN: OK.

ZIMMERMAN: That's why I'm here tonight to explain. And that's why I accepted this invitation.

MORGAN: Robert, thank you for coming in.

ZIMMERMAN: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: When can he come back, winners and losers in the TV wars. Matt Lauer, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon. Who will come out on top?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": So NBC says we've got to put an end to this because it's the "Today" show. So now they come up with these crazy stories about the other end of their programming day, "The Tonight Show" so now -- all of that conversation comes up to get people's mind off the Matt Lauer stuff. Now if I'm on to something, blink twice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: David Letterman trying to get Brian Williams to talk about the morning show wars, and boy, are they heating up. It's all about Matt Lauer's future. A lot to get to tonight.

With me now is Joe Hagan, a writer at "New York" magazine. He did an expensive profile on the Lauer story. And Howie Kurtz, he's the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Welcome to you, gentlemen.

This is a juicy bone for the media to gnaw on. There's no other way of looking at it. You've got a really morning and late-night now. NBC has been so often in the last few years in the grip of this.

Howie, how is it all going to wash up? If you were a betting man, where are we going to be in a year's time on the "Today" show and "The Tonight Show?"

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: As far as the "Today" show, I would say that Matt Lauer will still be in that chair. NBC paying him a lot of money. NBC chief executive Steve Birk got on the phone with me to say what a good job he thinks Matt Lauer is doing.

Now did NBC handle the ouster of Ann Curry well? No, it was an absolute debacle, as Matt Lauer knew it would be, which is why in certain meetings he tried to slow it down.

Jay Leno, I probably should look into being on some more comedy clubs because he may have some time on his hands.

MORGAN: Do you think he'll be out in a year's time?

KURTZ: I don't think it makes any sense to take a guy who's number one in the time slot, even though all the TV critics, the New York wise guys think that he's not hip and he's not cool, we went through this with Conan. But it does seem -- haven't seen a single denial, Piers, from NBC saying that the idea that he will be replaced at the end of 2014 when his contract expires by Jimmy Fallon. Nobody is knocking it down. So that does look like it may happen.

MORGAN: Joe, you did a terrific piece on the Lauer scandal, as it's now being billed into media circles.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE HAGAN, WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: You didn't tell nobody --

MORGAN: No, I'm going to come to that in a moment. Let's look at two front pages of magazines. One is the "Hollywood Reporter," almost exactly a year ago, that's when Matt signed this $25 million deal to continue "The Today" show, and there he was, the front of the Hollywood's number one magazine as the hottest guy in the business.

Cut forward a year. A picture from the same set, the "Hollywood Reporter" had, and that tells the story. Not a good morning.

It's hard to think of anyone who hasn't been involved in a Tiger Woods scandal or anything of that nature whose brand has been so apparently damaged in such a short space of time over somebody leaving the show that most experts agreed probably wasn't working on the show.

HAGAN: Well, you're right. It's been one of the most incredible arcs that we've seen in TV. And I think part of it is is the view people had of him before and after was such a wide one. I mean, the viewers made a judgment on him that was profound when Ann Curry left. And --

MORGAN: Was it fair, though?

HAGAN: I think it was -- it doesn't really matter if it was fair. The viewers were the judge. They are the judge of who has the highest ratings and they have to believe that what they're seeing on the screen, that these people are nice people, they're a family. I believe that and at the moment they don't believe it, they don't believe it. And I don't think it helped that behind the scenes there were things that were upsetting and, you know, back-stabbing going on.

And Ann Curry probably didn't help them repair that image, because she was genuinely hurt by what happened.

KURTZ: It was very unfair, Piers. I mean, I'm not saying Matt Lauer is blameless here. And everybody knows that Ann Curry wasn't his first choice of co-host and anybody over the age of 10 could see they didn't have any chemistry on the air. But the way in which he's been made the fall guy for this, including by many in the media who seem to have turned on Lauer -- I mean, he's a talented guy. He was a very good interviewer --

MORGAN: Also, I mean, he's a very nice guy.

KURTZ: Right.

MORGAN: I mean, in my experience, he's been very kind to me, with no reason to be. Take a little clip now from an interview he did on this show where we talk about the blame game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUER: I take responsibility for it. When people start to write articles about what might be wrong with the "Today" show, you know where you should point the finger, point it at me, because I've been there the longest and it's my responsibility. I truly feel that way and that's why I stick around. Because I think there's more I can do. I can do it better. I still learn something every single day. And so, you know, I want the responsibility of trying to make it better and trying to get us into a better place. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was May of last year. Now, Joe, here's the problem. As a viewer, I love the "Today" show. I actually co- anchored the fourth hour from a couple of weeks with Hoda once and I really enjoyed it. Loved the whole set up there.

KURTZ: Are you available if they decided to go in a different direction?

MORGAN: If money is right, everyone is available, Howard.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm resolutely committed here. We'll come to the CNN link in a moment.

KURTZ: Yes, we will.

MORGAN: But here's one thing, as a viewer, I can't help but look at it now and think they've got a real problem. No one seems comfortable. Matt seems to me like he's feeling the heat. And why wouldn't he be? He's getting so much of it. You know, you look at Savannah, she's obviously, I think, feeling it too. The show is under so much scrutiny and tension. Natalie doesn't seem happy. Nobody seems happy. You click over to "GMA" and you see a bunch of happy, smiley people having a party. That seems to me to be the problem they've got. How do you fix it?

HAGAN: Well, I think they have to get over this period of media attention. You know, there's a book forthcoming, "Top of the Morning," by Brian Stelter, reporter for the "New York Times," I think they are also waiting for that to land.

MORGAN: Which could make things even worse because Brian has been all over this.

HAGAN: Right.

MORGAN: On the "New York Times" and you know --

HAGAN: That's right.

MORGAN: He's really been on Matt Lauer's case.

HAGAN: Right.

MORGAN: You've been on the show to talk about the book.

HAGAN: They weren't able to get out ahead of their own story months ago. You know, this happened, and they hunkered down and they hoped it would go away. And --

MORGAN: Bad management?

HAGAN: I think bad management -- change of management. They had -- everybody left. The president of the news division was phasing out. The producer of the show was phasing out. There was so -- there was chaos there, frankly, inside --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Right. The whole rumor today was that my colleague, Anderson Cooper, had been phoned up by an NBC executive. This has not been denied and apparently Anderson has told his own staff today at CNN, the call was made. He denied to me that Matt Lauer had called him to say, "What are you doing," which seemed preposterous anyway. But Anderson has also told his staff he's not interested in going to the "Today" show.

What do you make of that? I mean, to be ringing people up of Anderson's caliber and basically saying, are you up for Matt Lauer's job? What does that tell you about what is really going on there?

KURTZ: But one reason it gave me pause is that I was able to report a couple of weeks ago on "The Daily Beast" that Matt Lauer had offered to step aside. Told his NBC bosses that if he was hurting the "Today" show he would move on. But I think -- I believe the "Today" show is committed to Lauer. And, you know, the fact that Anderson was called and it was a conversation, you know, a lot of people who don't understand how this business works, say, well, maybe they're bringing him next week. Well, you're always talking to talent in this business about when somebody's contract is coming up, would you, could you. And look, Anderson Cooper has been a main stay for CNN but he's also on "60 Minutes." He had a syndicated daytime show for which lasted two seasons. So --

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: He's somebody you might want to cultivate for the future.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: And I like Anderson's office, so personally, selfishly speaking, quite happy if he goes over there.

(LAUGHTER)

HAGAN: And we should add that look what just happened with the transition with Ann Curry. They probably want to get out ahead of it -- as far in advance as possible.

MORGAN: Right. Well, I got to run but that's a fascinating story. Lord knows where it all ends up. But it keeps us on the job, doesn't it, chaps?

Joe, Howie, thank you both very much.

Next, 18 days and counting. What will it take to get the White House tours back up and running, and why should you have to pay the price for D.C.'s dysfunction? That's after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: A video from Congressman Darrell Issa blaming President Obama for canceling the White House tours, now being shut down for 18 days, the president says because of budget cuts and it's not his fault. Well, let's see about that.

We'll bring in my all-star panel, Abby Huntsman, host of Huff Post Live, and conservative radio host Ben Ferguson, and Marjorie Clifton, who is the founder of SpikeTheWaterCooler.com. Welcome to you all.

Let me start with you, Ben Ferguson. I imagine you're foaming at the mouth about this. So I find it completely baffling, I must say. It costs 74,000 dollars a week to let these White House tours go on; 11,000 Americans -- mainly Americans, go through the doors and see the home that basically belongs to the American people. What do you make of this?

BEN FERGUSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yeah. Well, I think this is -- the president's duty and job is to run the country for the people. Run America's house for the people, and keep it open for the American people. And the core of it is we're supposed to have access to our leaders. That's why we don't have royalty or a king here.

But what he's done is he's done the complete off opposite of that. And basically what he said is I'm going to try to make the sequester as painful as possible for Americans who would actually like to be -- maybe the lifetime for a kid is to go to the White House and see the White House. And the president is obviously, and his staff have obviously said let's make this as painful and political as we possibly can to hurt people.

Meanwhile, his own kids are on spring break, their third vacation of the year, Hawaii first, Aspen, Colorado second. And now they're in the Bahamas. So they're not being affected by this. It's incredibly selfish. But also I think it's really childish by the president of the United States of America to do this.

MORGAN: OK. Abby Huntsman, there was a time last year when your family could have been at the White House. You were running your father for the presidency. Has he got a point, Ben Ferguson? I find myself in the unusual position of nodding through most of what he just said.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, HUFF POST LIVE: Well, I don't think it's fair to point fingers, necessarily, at the Obama girls. I am sure I probably would have taken a vacation once or twice the year my dad was president.

FERGUSON: Three a month?

HUNTSMAN: We are increasingly living in a garrison state. I think we have to look at the bigger picture here. How much are we spending on travel? How much are we spending on security? I mean, look at Vice President Biden's trip along. He spent one night in Paris. I think it was nearly 600,000 dollars? You have to say, this is crazy. But like how much are we spending on all of this? And at the same time, we're not allowing White House tours. So I think the bigger the entourage you have and the more you're spending on travel, the less -- I guess the more out of touch our elected officials are with the American people. It's exactly why we need these White House tours.

I do agree with Ben, though, that it's these White House tours that keep the American people in touch with their elected officials.

MORGAN: It's the American people's house. It's their property. They pay for this. It's not Barack Obama's personal home. Marjorie Clifton, it seems to me that -- it looks like the president's chucking toys out of a pram here, punishing ordinary Americans from seeing this great house, wonderful home of the president, for the sake of, what, 74 grand a week. It's a pointless point-scoring exercise, isn't it?

MARJORIE CLIFTON, FOUNDER, SPIKETHEWATERCOOLER.COM: Well, you know, pretty harsh words about him being mean to children. But I think we have to look at what the sequestration is about. It was about cutting non-critical activities by the federal government. And look, every time any president is in office, there is a lot of scrutiny on both sides of the aisle about what's critical and not critical.

And while I would like to think going to peek at the First Lady's China pattern is a critical activity to a lot of people, truly what visiting the White House is about is sort of the ambiance and what it's about. But they did actually keep the Capitol hours open. And if you look at what's an actual civic activity, what engages people, what provides transparency, that is actually an opportunity where you do see how Congress works and you can actually see things live and in person.

When you go to visit the White House, nobody is there.

MORGAN: But hang on, hang on.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Let me say something. I have actually got a solution here.

CLIFTON: What's that?

MORGAN: The solution is this, the American people would, I'm sure, be quite happy to pay five dollars each to go and see the White House. Why stop the --

FERGUSON: absolutely.

(CROSS TALK0

MORGAN: -- Throughout the period of the sequester, problem over!

CLIFTON: There you go. FERGUSON: Piers, here's the issue. We've already paid for the White House and his staff and the vacations and everything there. It is something that we're paying for. The fact that we even have to mention adding another five dollars in there is the insanity of this whole entire issue. We're the United States of America. We're not poor.

And this president has had no problem spending money, six trillion that he has added to debt. We can afford the White House being open.

HUNTSMAN: Are you telling me that President George Bush never took vacations?

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: I'm saying the president of the United States of America, George Bush -- ma'am, ma'am. President George W. Bush never closed down the White House to use it as a political way to score points with the American people. That's wrong.

HUNTSMAN: You're getting way off topic. I think we need to get back to the bigger picture here. And where are we spending where it actually makes sense? I mean, we're talking about these huge entourages.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: What's going to happen is that the real threat of the sequester has yet to kick in. In a month's time, when the TSA all walk out and suddenly no one can fly in America, there's going to be a lot of real anger on the ground. What I don't like about this is it's so petty. And the point you made about George Bush is absolutely right. George Bush had far more holiday than Barack Obama has ever had, including his family.

So Ben Ferguson, when it comes to the holiday part, you lose me. But if you stick to the White House --

FERGUSON: Here's what I'm saying. My point is this. If -- hold on, listen to me carefully, because this is my point: if we are really in such bad issues with our debt that we're stopping White House tours, then I think the president of the United States of America should look at his own travel budget, if it really is that bad. And the point is, it's not that bad. He is doing it on purpose. And he can still go on vacations and so can Biden, at a half a million dollars a night in Paris, because we do have the money.

This is not about us not having the money. It's about them wanting to hurt people, and that's a problem.

MORGAN: OK, OK. Listen, we're going to leave it there. We're going to take a short break, calm down and come back -- let's get all excited about DOMA, which may be disappearing. Wouldn't that be a tragedy for America, if that ridiculous act disappeared. We'll come back after the break and discuss that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now with my all-star panel, Abby Huntsman and Ben Ferguson and Marjorie Clifton. So I want to play an extraordinary bit of television history. This is Bill O'Reilly, the king -- self- appointed king of cable news, saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That's where the compelling argument is. We're Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else. That is a compelling argument. And to deny that, you've got to have a very strong argument on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the argument on the other side --

O'REILLY: And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible.

I support civil unions, I always have. All right? The gay marriage thing, I don't feel that strongly about it one way or the other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then leave it to the states.

O'REILLY: I think the states should do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Ben Ferguson, will you always remember where you were when Bill O'Reilly publicly supported gay rights in this extraordinary manner?

FERGUSON: You know, there's a lot of people like myself that support civil unions. And I think the interesting part about this argument is, there are so many people now that are on the pro-gay marriage side that have been brilliantly making this argument, that if you're against them, you're automatically a bigot, you're a homophobe, you are some sort of civil -- anti-civil rights human being. And I think there's a lot of conservatives like myself that are in favor of civil unions.

HUNTSMAN: Ben, are you married?

FERGUSON: But also are very clear. Let me finish this real quick. Let me finish this real quick. There are a lot of conservatives like myself that are very clear on one issue. Marriage has been defined between one man and one woman. And once you redefine it, where do you stop redefining it? Because we all know the Supreme Court looked at this today. If we redefine it now, when the next group of people want to redefine it, then what does marriage become? And that's the reason why I'm in favor of civil unions. I'm not in favor of redefining marriage outside of one man and one woman.

(CROSS TALK) MORGAN: Wait, wait. Let Abby Hunstman?

HUNTSMAN: You're married. Why did you not just get a civil union then?

FERGUSON: Because I believe that marriage -- and the sanctity of marriage, and what it represents, was important for me and for what I believe in. And the history of marriage -- there's also a religious background around marriage. And I'm not going to shy away from that.

But, again, there are a lot of people that get married. And there's 43 states that have decided this. And even a liberal state like California, for example, they voted to define marriage between one man and one woman. I'm not in the minority, but a lot of us have been --

MORGAN: Actually, Ben -- Ben, actually, you are in the minority, because the latest polls show that over 50 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. You are, whether you like it or not, in an increasing and very rapidly moving minority.

CLIFTON: And I think --

FERGUSON: And Piers, I would say this --

MORGAN: OK, Ben, just respond to that point first.

FERGUSON: If somebody calls you as a pollster and asks you a question about gay marriage, you do not want to be a bigot or offend somebody over the phone. But when people walk into a voting booth and they can vote their conscience, including California, they overwhelmingly have supported, in 43 states, marriage being defined between one man and one woman. And that's the truth.

MORGAN: Let me bring in Marjorie.

CLIFTON: Ben brings up an important thing about, you know, I want to uphold history. Unfortunately, I think what will happen is you'll be on the wrong side of history. Because there is -- what a lot of people are talking about is the inevitability of this. And I was actually on Capitol Hill yesterday walking in front of the Supreme Court.

And I have to tell you, if you just look at the audience standing out there, there are so few people that are there fighting this. There's actually so many people who are in support of, you know, the idea of marriage being redefined. And if you look at even the religious groups that have come out in support, and you look at who is talking about this, and it's -- Bill O'Reilly, case in point. Even the Pentagon came out and made rights for same-sex marriages.

And right now the onus is I think on Congress and it's also on the Supreme Court in terms of definition. But either way, it's either by the state or it's going to be federal.

MORGAN: Final word with Abby. Could you imagine a situation in 2016 where the Republican candidate who takes on whoever the Democratic candidate is would be anti same-sex marriage?

HUNTSMAN: Absolutely. I mean, we have seen this issue evolve very quickly over the past 10 years. Marjorie mentioned the public support for it. We see especially the young generation, the millennials, 18 to 29, I think 81 percent now support gay marriage. More than 50 percent of the country now supports gay marriage. That's just where we're at.

MORGAN: No, what I mean is, could you imagine a Republican candidate who didn't support same-sex marriage in 2016?

HUNTSMAN: It would be -- I don't think they could actually win a general election, is my answer to that. And so I would say to Ben --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Ben, I'm going to leave you with the words "I disagree." And we will bring you back another time to continue disagreeing with almost everybody we put you on with. But we've got to leave it there for now. Thank you, Marjorie. Thank you, Ben. And thank you, Abby.

I like this panel. This works for me. It's beauties and the beast.

Anyway, next, the teen genius who made 30 million selling his company to Yahoo!. Wait until you hear what his next big idea is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: He's the 17-year-old genius who created Summly, a news app for smartphones. And Nick D'Aloisio just sold his company to Yahoo! for tens of millions of dollars. I know it's about 30 million dollars. Not bad for someone still in high school. Nick joins me now.

What can I say? I interviewed you a few months ago and now you're the 30 million dollar kid. I know you can't talk about the specific figures. But this must feel a bit surreal, doesn't it?

NICK D'ALOISIO, FOUNDER, SUMMLY: Yes. It's been an amazing journey over the past two years. And I can't wait to continue it at Yahoo!.

MORGAN: You bought a new sweater.

D'ALOISIO: Yeah. Actually, I did have one, not this one, but yeah.

MORGAN: This idea that you had -- you were 15 years old, you had been playing around with a few programs and stuff from the age of 12. Tell me about the moment you thought of Summly, which for viewers who don't know it, it basically aggregates news stories down to 400 words in a simple way that people, especially young people can understand it. My kids all use it and love it, for example.

When did you have the germ of the idea? D'ALOISIO: So, it was about two years ago, when I was 15. I was revising for some history exams in the U.K. I was using Google and these search engines. And there's all this information. So I thought, if you could provide like a summary of the content, it would help you decide what you want to read.

So I ended up building this algorithm, this technology, working people like the Stanford Research Institute, where you can take any long form content and automatically summarize it into paragraphs. That's what we're excited to do at Yahoo! now.

MORGAN: What is amazing is at the age of 15, a Hong Kong billionaire, Lee Ka Shining (ph), invested 300,000 dollars into that. He was then followed by Ashton Kutcher, Yoko Ono, Steven Fry and so on, Lady Gaga's business manager, all investing in a kid. What was it about you, do you think, that they liked?

D'ALOISIO: Fundamentally, I think it came down to the idea. It's like the big play of the idea. So obviously a lot of the younger -- as you said, the younger generation, they're consuming content on the mobile phone. This technology has the power to change the way people consume content. So I think they backed the idea. Yes, because I'm young, that helped it.

MORGAN: What will Yahoo! do with your idea? Is there a fear that they're just going to take it, park it into one of their own things and that's the last you see of it? Or are you hopeful it's going to become ever bigger?

D'ALOISIO: No, I'm really enthusiastic by the opportunity at Yahoo1. I think with Marissa Mayer now there as the CEO, who is a product person, there's so much opportunity on the mobile platform. And summarization technology will soon be integrated kind of on a global scale at Yahoo!.

MORGAN: A lot of bitchiness down in San Francisco and all these places, you know, what the hell are they doing giving a 17-year-old kid all this money? Reaction?

D'ALOISIO: No, from my perspective, I think we have robust I.P. that we've been developing for the last two years. This has been with people like the Stanford Research Institute. One of the people coming over in the acquisition, he's a professor in his late 50s who wrote the original book on summarization in the '90s. He's coming over. So we have serious technology and we have big plans for it.

MORGAN: You thinking of doing a new campaign, because he's worth it?

D'ALOISIO: No, I don't.

MORGAN: Are you single at the moment?

D'ALOISIO: No, I do have a girlfriend.

MORGAN: Really? D'ALOISIO: Yes.

MORGAN: How is she feeling about the fact you're now worth 30 million dollars?

D'ALOISIO: I don't think that really comes into it. I hope it doesn't.

MORGAN: Let's go chat about that backstage. We'll have a beer and talk about it. Actually, we can't. You're too young. Good to see you, Nick. I'm very proud of you.

D'ALOISIO: Thank you.

MORGAN: You're a British entrepreneur who is kicking butt. It is great to see. Great for you. Great for Yahoo!. And it's a great little app. My kids all love it. So well done.

D'ALOISIO: Thank you.

MORGAN: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Tomorrow, one of the most influential spiritual leaders in the country, the Reverend Franklin Graham on the issues that really matter to all Americans, religion, politics, guns, same sex marriage. It will all be on the table with Franklin Graham tomorrow.

That's all for us tonight. Now, the king of nighttime, Anderson Cooper starts right now.