Video: Oklahoma City bomber's son

msnbc.com
updated 4/20/2006 10:10:14 AM ET 2006-04-20T14:10:14

Today is the 11th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. 

Josh Nichols, son of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, sat down with Rita Cosby for an exclusive interview that airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

The interview took place in a prison where Josh Nichols is awaiting sentencing for a crime unrelated to the bombing. This is a transcript from their conversation.

RITA COSBY, HOST, 'LIVE & DIRECT': Do you think you're being overcharged? And that this has happened to you a bit before because you're Terry Nichols' son?

NICHOLS: Oh, absolutely. I have this shadow pulling at me and it's been pulling at me for 11 years. I've pulled back and I've done some great things in my life. Been through programs, the programs were great. It is what you make it. If you want to use the program to your advantage, go ahead and make something of yourself. And that's what I chose to do.

But we have bad days. Sometimes we have poor judgment. And I made some bad decisions. And I jump back in the streets and I committed some crimes.

COSBY: Do you feel you've been punished enough in your life just by being Terry Nichols' son?

NICHOLS: You know, I wouldn't really know what punished enough is. The stuff I've been through in my life I wouldn't wish upon nobody. I've been sentenced for 11 years, I've been called John Doe number two, this could be a terrorist, he could be John Doe number two by the FBI.

At 12 years old I was labeled as a could-be terrorist. I just go through life called the bombers' son or there's bomber, just pointing fingers at me and calling me names and just unfair treatment.

I can't convey to you enough how my life just took a downfall from that point forward. I wish my father was here today. I mean, physically he's not, but mentally he does his job. He keeps in contact with me. He keeps his faith and he's such a great person. To know him is to love him.

COSBY: Do you believe in this case that the government wants to keep your dad quiet and maybe is punishing you and others?

NICHOLS: Yes.

COSBY: Do you believe what your dad is ready to say about the Oklahoma City bombing could hurt the U.S. government?

NICHOLS: I believe it could.

COSBY: And how so?

NICHOLS: Because he knows what happened that day. He knows what happened in Oklahoma City.

COSBY: And how many others do you believe are involved?

NICHOLS: I couldn't put a number on it, you know? It could be five, it could be 10, it could be more, but there has to be others involved.

COSBY: And why do you think that?

NICHOLS: Because of how he has tried to reach out to other people and say what he knows, and somehow, some way, they keep the public from knowing the truth. And maybe one aspect of it is charging your son with attempted murder.

COSBY: How do you describe your dad? Because some people in the American public call him a monster.

NICHOLS: My father is no monster. My father is not a monster. McVeigh is a monster. My father has a heart. My father loves people.

COSBY: How often do you communicate with your dad? How do you communicate with your father? Is it phone calls, letters, visits?

NICHOLS: He calls my house like once a month, once every other month. His calls are very limited. I haven't spoke with him for a very long time because of my incarceration, but his belief, he believes in the Lord so much and when I think about the Lord I think about my father. When I think about God I think about Terry.

COSBY: Your father is Christian.

NICHOLS: Yes he is.

COSBY: You believe faith has helped him?

NICHOLS: Oh. God has given him the most amazing strength. I've seen such a change in that individual. I've seen such a change in my father in the past 11 years. To be in the position he is in, he's in solitary confinement, also, he doesn't have contact with nobody whatsoever. They bring the shower to him. He's cut off from the world. One phone call a month and all he has is his Bible, and that's gotten him through.

COSBY: Do you believe that someone in the government had prior knowledge about the bombing or covered it up?

NICHOLS: I do believe it. I mean, how could something that huge happen and just two people know about it? It doesn't make sense.

COSBY: How high up do you believe it goes?

NICHOLS: I really don't know who is involved, what individuals or what positions they have in their department but it's obvious to me, it's very obvious to me that he's fearing for his life for some reason.

COSBY: And when you say department, do you believe the FBI?

NICHOLS: ATF, FBI, some government agency investigation, agency, CIA, some department investigates this kind of stuff.

COSBY: Your Dad has said that he believes that there's some government cover up here.

NICHOLS: I don't know what he knows but it is also obvious to me that what he knows is something that's very powerful and he doesn't want to go out and exploit it when the time isn't right. When there's a lot more at stake than just telling a story.

COSBY: Do you think your dad is ready to tell the truth now about the Oklahoma City bombing?

NICHOLS: I know he is.

COSBY: Do you believe your dad's faith is also persuading him to speak?

NICHOLS: I do. I really do because of the fact that having faith in God and Jesus; you learn to wash your sins, you learn to open up and confess to the things you've done wrong and because of the involvement that God has had in his life in the past 10 years, it's opened up a whole other room, it's opened up a whole other ballgame. In other words, I believe it prepares him to say what he needs to say.

COSBY: Do you think the American public is ready to hear the truth and accept it whatever it is?

NICHOLS: I think the American public can accept it, but I don't believe the government can.

COSBY: What kind of a man was Timothy McVeigh? You knew him.

NICHOLS: In fact, he was an extremist. He really didn't care too much for children. He used to drive like a maniac. The times I did see him, he was real moody, real isolated. And that's the picture that I got of McVeigh. That's how he carried himself. He was independent and I guess he stuck to what he believed.

COSBY: When you say he didn't like kids, how so? I mean, he wrote in a letter to me many years ago, the kids in the daycare center were collateral damage. Were you surprised to hear that?

NICHOLS: He just has no heart. I've never seen a good feeling from him. I've just seen negativity; negativity from McVeigh.

COSBY: Did you have any idea that Timothy McVeigh and your father were planning this?

NICHOLS: No I didn't.

COSBY: None at all.

NICHOLS: None at all.

COSBY: Nothing suspicious?

NICHOLS: No.

COSBY: Nothing unusual?

NICHOLS: No.

COSBY: You're in seventh grade at the time and they pull you in and say "Did you play a role in this horrible crime"?

NICHOLS: You know, it was kind of strange to me. I was going through my sixth hour class and all of the sudden, the dean, the principal, the hall monitors, they surrounded me and said, Mr. Nichols, you ought to come with us. I thought I was in trouble for goofing off in school. And they pulled me in the dean's office, locked me in a room, by myself, and said your mom's boyfriend is coming to get you.

I tried to open the door, the door was locked, and I'm like, what's going on? They're like just, calm down, your mom's boyfriend will be here in a few minutes.

My mother's boyfriend arrives and we hop in the vehicle and I say, what's going on, what's going on? He said, Josh, there is somebody following us and I say, well, so? As a kid I'm like, who's following us? He's like, the FBI. And he let me know why they were there, what happened the day before, a couple days before.

I'm like, OK, so, you know? What's the bombing got to do with me and why is the FBI following us? 

So we get to my house and there's five or six white government vehicles. There's eight to 10 government FBI agents in my house, all in their suits, business attire and my mom is just crying and crying and crying and I don't know what's going on. I'm still kind of new to the fact what the news was. The news was a building was blown up in Oklahoma City. As a child you don't watch the news. As a child you go out riding bikes, you play with your friends. You're not aware of what happens in the real world.

And my mom was just crying and crying and crying and I swore it was a mistake. Your father has been arrested for what happened in Oklahoma City and I'm like, yeah right, you know? Because reality, it doesn't set in on a child as it does an adult.

COSBY: Has he told your mom that that there were several others involved? It's my understanding is that there were a number of people involved, beyond your Dad and Timothy McVeigh.

NICHOLS: He has related that to my mother. I haven't personally had a conversation with him about other people's involvement and stuff like that, but my mother's conversation with him would be in more depth and more in tune with what he is trying to do with the story, with what he is trying to convey to America.

NICHOLS: There's more people involved. More than just McVeigh and him.

COSBY: Do you believe that there are several others involved beyond your father and Timothy McVeigh?

NICHOLS: I do believe, I do believe. I don't know the number, but I believe there was more involvement somewhere else. They should be looking somewhere else also.

COSBY: Do you believe your dad is worried for his safety and that of his family?

NICHOLS: I know he is. I know he is. There's been threats on me. There's been threats on my mom. Every day there's threats in prison against his life.

COSBY: What would you want to say to Congress who oversees these federal agencies that you believe may have played a role? If they're watching, what would you want to say to them? Because those are the folks that could reach out to your dad, who could give an independent investigation.

NICHOLS: Take a risk. Every individual if they're labeled a criminal or a terrorist or a bad influence, those people change, don't give up hope on them. Believe in them. People do change and just do the right thing. Respect the truth.

COSBY: Do you believe there was any foreign involvement in the bombing?

NICHOLS: I don't believe so.

COSBY: No Al Qaeda, no Arab tie?

NICHOLS: No, I don't believe so.

COSBY: Any tie in with your dad's trips to the Philippines?

NICHOLS: To my knowledge, no, there wasn't. There could have been but as a child I was not aware of it.

COSBY: Do you believe the others were either belonging to the government or extremists in America?

NICHOLS: Extremists. Extremists can be connected with certain people, certain individuals and certain groups take things to different levels and they believe in different laws and they abide by different things and the people that McVeigh was around with obviously had the same beliefs and nature he did.

COSBY: Do you think your dad knows who John Doe number two is?

NICHOLS: I do. I never said that. I do believe he knows who it is. I believe he does know. I believe since this came out and he let America know and people are aware of his involvement now, he has to know. He has to know who was involved in the things he was involved in.

COSBY: Do you think he's ready to say everything?

NICHOLS: Yes.

COSBY: How so?

NICHOLS: Well, I don't believe he would get - it wouldn't benefit him, as I was saying earlier. It wouldn't get him a lighter sentence, it wouldn't get him a contact visit with a special person. There would be nothing beneficial. Actually, it would make circumstances worse for him by relating what he knows.

COSBY: On April 19, 1995, you were 12 years old. What do you remember from that day?

NICHOLS: What I remember from the 19th of April, 1995 is just the state of shock. Just sorrows, sadness. Things really weren't what I wanted them to be. I wouldn't -

COSBY: Were you at home? I've heard that you were at home with your parents. Were you with your Dad at the time?

NICHOLS: I was on Easter vacation with my father.

COSBY: When, on April 19th?

NICHOLS: No, just before that.  Easter vacation was, I believe, like the 12th through the 16th.

COSBY: OK. Where were you? Were you with him on the 19th?

NICHOLS: No, I wasn't. I was in Vegas. I recall on Easter Sunday we were eating Easter brunch, having a little family dinner.

COSBY: A few days before the bombing.

NICHOLS: A few days before the bombing, on Sunday. And the telephone rang. My dad got up and answered it and it's McVeigh on the phone. McVeigh is screaming at him, just constantly screamed at him.  I heard the conversation over the table and my dad hung up the phone and he just got up and said, I have to go. He got up from Easter dinner and hopped in his pickup and took off.

COSBY: Was that the last time you saw him before...

NICHOLS: No, he came back from wherever he went the following morning but the impression I got from McVeigh was he was threatening him over the phone, by him screaming.

COSBY: What do you think McVeigh was saying to him over the phone days before the bombing?

NICHOLS: To come across to somebody and to make somebody move like my dad moved, he got up and left just like that.

COSBY: And what do you think he said to McVeigh on the phone?

NICHOLS: I believe that's when he brought to my dad's attention what could happen if he didn't do what he said.

COSBY: Do you believe the bombing victims now need to hear the truth about who else may have been involved?

NICHOLS: They deserve the truth. They deserve to hear what happened, what led up to that type of action. It's my belief that the truth, who it may hurt, it needs to be out there. It needs to be talked about.

COSBY: Do you believe the bombing victims especially deserve to know if there are others involved?

NICHOLS: Of course. There shouldn't be no one holding anything back. I wish the circumstances were a little different so my father could say what he has to say but they're not.

COSBY: Do you believe he will though?

NICHOLS: I do. I really do.

COSBY: You actually went to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.

NICHOLS: I did.

COSBY: People would say why? How was that for you?

NICHOLS: Victim to victim. I share a part of their loss too. Because victims deserve to be honored and respected, especially in the horrific act that happened. On that day so many lives were taken. They deserve that memorial. They deserve to be honored and people to know that what happened was wrong and that they're not forgotten.

COSBY: Is your Dad planning on writing the judge and asking for leniency?

NICHOLS: He is. And I'm fortunate to have my father do that for me because of the fact that I was so over in left field because of what happened to me and the circumstances of the bombing and the effect that it had on me in my life that my father still believes in me, my father still loves me.

COSBY: Do you think your dad writing the judge will have an impact? And what do you think he'll say in the letter?

NICHOLS: I hope it does, I hope it does because his spiritual belief and his understanding of the kind of man I am.

COSBY: Do you think he'll also say, look, it's my fault what happened to my son?

NICHOLS: I believe he will. I really do. For him to make a stand like that it would be very credible and respectable.

NICHOLS: I believe the truth is important so they can have peace and understanding. They need to know what happened, the events that led up to the bombing, they need to know who was involved and they need to be brought to justice.

COSBY: What would you say to Congress tonight?

NICHOLS: If you could just take a risk and provide my father with some safety.  If Congress could do anything to help my father feel a little bit safer, to provide some comfort, hopefully enough comfort to have my father speak and let the truth be known.

COSBY: Do you think it would help you if you knew every detail and knew all the people involved in Oklahoma City. Do you think that would give you some comfort?

NICHOLS: Some type of closure, yes. Some type of closure, it would.

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' tonight at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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