updated 4/13/2004 12:05:25 PM ET 2004-04-13T16:05:25

Guests: George Ross, Carolyn Kepcher, Sheila Wellington, Dorothy Baker Hines

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

Dynamic duo.  From real estate to reality TV.  These are two of the brains behind the Donald dynasty.  How George and Carolyn climbed the corporate ladder and reached the top of the TV ratings chart will astound you. 

DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL:  Welcome to the esquire suite. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross take a meeting with the Deborah. 

Plus, from the boardroom to the bedroom.  These apprentices have learned that sex sells.  But do they know what it really takes to dress for success?

And an update on the ongoing hostage situation in Iraq. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They attacked our convoy. 

ANNOUNCER:  This American has now become the latest bargaining chip in the war zone.  Tonight, how to get him home safely. 

From studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  And good evening. 

What started out as yet another reality show has turned into a national phenomenon.  This week, millions of Americans will be tuning in to see who doesn‘t get fired and who‘s chosen as The Apprentice. 

The pressure is on the final two, Bill and Kwame, as they‘re subjected to their final tests in the most intense assignments they‘ve faced yet.  The winner gets a much-coveted job with real estate mogul Donald Trump. 

The two have survived a total of 13 boardroom meetings where others have heard the Donald say those now famous words...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  You‘re fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  The Donald is not making those “you‘re fired” decisions all by himself.  On each side of him are two of his most trusted advisers, Carolyn and George.  And they‘ll be doing it all again in this week‘s final episode Thursday night when the country finds out who will become The Apprentice. 

But there‘s some other things we‘d also like to find out before the final episode.  Like just how realistic is this reality show in the business world? 

And Carolyn and George, have they ever been afraid of being fired themselves?  We‘re about to find out. 

With me in the studio this evening, Carolyn Kepcher, who is also an executive vice president with the Trump organization, and George Ross.  He, too, is an executive V.P. with the Trump organization and senior corporate counsel. 

It‘s nice to meet you both.  We‘ve been watching you on TV every week.

CAROLYN KEPCHER, V.P. WITH TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  Thank you.

GEORGE ROSS, V.P. WITH TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  Nice to see you, too.

NORVILLE:  How did you all got chosen by Donald Trump to work with him?

KEPCHER:  He picked up the phone and called me and asked me, and I said OK, and that conversation lasted about four minutes. 

NORVILLE:  But he had seen you in operation, Carolyn.  You had been running a property that he ultimately bought and turned into a golf course. 

KEPCHER:  Two properties, yes. 

NORVILLE:  And so he kind of had watched you do what you do. 

KEPCHER:  Quite a bit.  For about 10 years. 

NORVILLE:  In about the same way that they‘ve been watching these people on “The Apprentice.”

KEPCHER:  Right. 

NORVILLE:  And George, what was your story?

ROSS:  Well, my story is that I represented Donald for a long time. 

Many, many years, I was his lawyer.  I was with a major law firm.  And I did his first deal, and we‘ve been friends.  And I‘ve been working for him now for nine years since that. 

And he called me in one day and said he was planning on doing the show, “The Apprentice,” and he would like me to a judge and it would take three hours a week.  That‘s what he told me, and I bought the three hours a week. 

NORVILLE:  How much does it really take out of your day?

ROSS:  I would say 30 hours on the show and maybe three hours working for him. 

NORVILLE:  During the real work that you‘re supposed to be doing.  And the same thing with you, Carolyn, he came to you and said, you know, it won‘t take much time?

KEPCHER:  I really didn‘t know too much about it.  Maybe I said yes too fast; I don‘t know.  But I think I got the gist of it maybe two weeks into it. 

NORVILLE:  When you figured out...

KEPCHER:  When I was definitely already into it was when I really realized how much—what a time commitment it was. 

NORVILLE:  While it‘s Donald sitting in the boardroom with you on either side, the fact of the matter is the way the logistics of the show have gone, it‘s been Carolyn and George, out there pounding the pavement, watching these people do these sometimes ridiculous things that they‘ve had to do to prove themselves. 

What‘s a typical day been like, George, when you guys have been out watching one of the stunts? 

ROSS:  I don‘t think—There‘s no such thing as a typical day.  Some of them started at 5:30, 6 in the morning.  Some of them were in the afternoon.

Some of them had—you were out there, and they had nothing to do for four hours, and you came back, and you had to count up money that they had, or figure out who won the task. 

There‘s no such thing as an average day.  It was just...

NORVILLE:  Putting your running shoes on. 

ROSS:  Put your running shoes on and then just go.

NORVILLE:  And—And another thing that‘s a bit of an unreality to this, it looks so buttoned up in the boardroom, when the team marches in, the people who are eligible to be offed that week and everybody sits there.  And it looks pretty buttoned up but it‘s actually excruciating.  You guys are in there for a long time.

KEPCHER:  I‘d say yes.  Some tasks—excuse me, some boardrooms have gone on for a very long time. 

NORVILLE:  Like a couple of hours?

ROSS:  Yes, absolutely. 

NORVILLE:  And what goes on in there?  Are these people, you trying to save their skin?

KEPCHER:  Those who are fighting for their lives, the boardroom goes on a little longer. 

NORVILLE:  And what‘s been some of the more memorable moments sitting in the boardroom?  You guys are sitting there and Donald is in between you and these kids...

KEPCHER:  Sam. 

NORVILLE:  Sam?

KEPCHER:  Sam comes to mind with those eye?  That‘s probably the first memorable. 

ROSS:  The first one where Sam stood up and Donald said, “Sit down, Sam,” you know.  And also when Sam at that point, Donald says, “Sam, don‘t you think it‘s over? It‘s over.”

NORVILLE:  It‘s over.

ROSS:  It‘s over.

NORVILLE:  And what about the time—I forget which one it was that he said, “Don‘t you get it?  No one likes you.”

ROSS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Did you all discuss that beforehand?

ROSS:  No.  No.  We—A lot that went on in the boardroom that you don‘t really see.  There was a lot of discussion between questions that Carolyn would raise, that I would raise, that Donald would raise, and responses that came from the contestants, very often from the contestants among themselves, when one of them would say, “You laid down on the job and you didn‘t do this.”

And the person would say, “Oh, yes, I did.  You just didn‘t do”—they would defend themselves.  So it went on, basically, for two hours.  So there was some very heated discussions that took place in that boardroom. 

NORVILLE:  And while you all had watched, for instance, the tasks being done.  You were out there sometimes at 5 in the morning when they would begin their day.  And you were there until the bitter end when they were finished.

Donald wasn‘t there, but you reported back what you had seen.  Were there times when he challenged your own assessment of what these contestants had been up to?

KEPCHER:  He was out there at times, whether it be the helicopter, whether it be by phone, whether he actually just walked up to the suite, whether he just walked down.  He did see a good amount.  He certainly took our opinion. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

KEPCHER:  We are his advisers.  We told him exactly what we thought.  Of course he disagreed with us, but a lot of times I think he certainly agreed with us. 

NORVILLE:  Ad did he ever challenge you?  And say no, no, no. 

KEPCHER:  No, he never challenges me.  Of course. 

NORVILLE:  Carolyn, you must have misunderstood.  “I‘m sure he didn‘t lay down on the floor and go to sleep.” 

KEPCHER:  I mean, everything we said he took that it was truthful without a doubt, maybe questioned it, like are you serious?

NORVILLE:  How could that guy have done this?

KEPCHER:  But absolutely he listened to us and will took everything in, I‘m sure. 

NORVILLE:  Took it all in?

KEPCHER:  Absolutely, he took it all in.  Then he made a reasonable decision. 

NORVILLE:  What‘s this person going to get?  What we hear is it‘s a dream job of a lifetime, a $250,000 annual salary.  Doing what?

ROSS:  Well, it depends on who the winner is, naturally.  But whoever it is will be groomed into a very high level executive position, running a division.  They will get a certain amount of guidance to help them because they‘re basically still green.  And then eventually they‘ll just run that division for as long as they care to and as long as they can. 

NORVILLE:  And when you say running a division, they will be a president of one of the divisions of the Trump organization?

ROSS:  Ultimately, yes.  Yes, yes.

NORVILLE:  Ultimately.  But in the beginning they‘ll be what?

ROSS:  Well, in the beginning...

NORVILLE:  Well, it‘s one of two people.  It‘s either Kwame or Bill. 

So if it were Kwame, what would he be a good candidate for?

ROSS:  He basically—Kwame is extremely skilled in handling people.  He‘s extremely skilled in handling certain tasks.  And depending upon if it happens to be Kwame, I don‘t know which division Donald would choose to put him in, but we‘ve got lots of divisions that need lots of people. 

NORVILLE:  And what about Bill?  What are his strengths, Carolyn? 

Where would you see him to be more likely to be?

KEPCHER:  I think Bill is very personable.  I think he‘s very street smart.  I think he has a good way about him that is motivating, makes you want to work with him.  I think he‘s very bright.  He is against a Harvard MBA.  But I think, to his credit, he‘s done phenomenally.  And I think both of them will do incredibly well. 

NORVILLE:  There‘s been a lot of press lately, with all the publicity about “The Apprentice,” there‘s also been some about some of the divisions of the company that haven‘t been doing as well, certainly if the ratings on the television show have been. 

I‘ve seen some people say yes, they‘re going to stick him on the one

that‘s having a hard time right now.  Are the divisions that are having

some business challenges going to be off-limits?  Or is that a place where

·         talk about the ultimate business challenge, you know, you‘ve got some account balance things that look a little interesting, let him in here. 

ROSS:  He‘s not going to be in that one area.  There‘s only one area that‘s got a problem, and the problem is the debt is too high and the interest rate is too high.  That division will solve its own problems, but certainly they‘re not going to be put into one that‘s got any kind of a negative...

NORVILLE:  Where he‘s got a real tough mountain to climb?

ROSS:  No, they don‘t do—you‘ve got experts in there, professional. 

You‘re not going to put either of these two candidates in that type of situation. 

NORVILLE:  And the other thing that makes Thursday night‘s final broadcast very interesting is many of the former candidates will be coming back in.  And I gather that the challenge involves motivating these people that you have just stepped on to get to the final round. 

KEPCHER:  Right. 

NORVILLE:  To work with you in achieving your goal.  Have they done this yet?  Have they done the challenge yet?  We know that the announcement will be live on Thursday night.  Have they actually done what the challenge is?

KEPCHER:  They have completed the task.  And I think the hardest task for both of them, Kwame and Bill,                was, again, trying to motivate these assistants...

ROSS:  Employee.  They became employees. 

KEPCHER:  ... employees, to actually motivate them to help this person win.  And that‘s tough.  That‘s tough right there.  They were needed, though, because they couldn‘t do the task by themselves.  But I think it was very, very difficult to motivate these people. 

NORVILLE:  And did some of them come in with an attitude, you know, “I‘m out of here.  You could have helped me back then”?

KEPCHER:  People are human, of course. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, exactly. 

KEPCHER:  But I also saw some people who really, really wanted their particular person to win.  And really, really went that extra mile.  And some didn‘t. 

NORVILLE:  And that will work in the favor of whoever was the group leader for that one?

KEPCHER:  Absolutely. 

NORVILLE:  And how was it laid out?

ROSS:  And also the group leader, you‘ve got to understand that this was also a task in which the group leader had to show their authority and how they handled authority. 

So if they had to make a tough decision, they had to make it.  So it was not one where we were working as a team.  I‘m the boss, you‘re the employee.  You better do what I want.  And if you don‘t do what I want, you should be out of here. 

NORVILLE:  This was all about leadership?

ROSS:  So it was about leadership, which was entirely different.

NORVILLE:  Did they look like they were sweating it?

ROSS:  Oh, yes.  There‘s no question about it.  No question.  These tasks were tough. 

NORVILLE:  And though the announcement is going to be made live on the broadcast Thursday night, do you know who it is?

KEPCHER:  Who the winner is?

NORVILLE:  Yes.

KEPCHER:  No. 

NORVILLE:  Or is there something that will happen on Thursday that will be the final determinant?

KEPCHER:  Yes, it will be his decision.  And he will let us all know.

NORVILLE:  So Donald knows.  He‘s figured out.

KEPCHER:  I don‘t know if he knows yet. 

ROSS:  I don‘t know is he has.  I can tell you who the winner is. 

It‘s either going to be Kwame or it‘s going to be Bill. 

NORVILLE:  You should go to the casinos and bet.  You have a 50-50 chance of getting it right.  Well, we‘ll all find that out on Thursday.

We‘re going to take a break.  We‘re going to come back more, talk about some of the specific adventures that have gone during the many weeks of “The Apprentice” on NBC.

Back with Carolyn and George when we come back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, how realistic is “The Apprentice”?  A big time business model or staged for television. 

TRUMP:  You‘re fired.

ANNOUNCER:  George and Carolyn on the ultimate job interview, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Well, that was a hard one. 

ROSS:  It‘s only going to get harder. 

KEPCHER:  That‘s what she said. 

TRUMP:  What did you say?

KEPCHER:  I said, “Live from New York it‘s Saturday night!”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That‘s Donald Trump hosting “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” earlier this month.  Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross, his two trusted advisers on the program there and here in the studio with us, as well.

I was watching; I was stunned.  You got to be the one that said “Live from New York.”

KEPCHER:  I was just as stunned as you. 

NORVILLE:  You didn‘t know?

KEPCHER:  No, absolutely no idea until just a few hours before I actually did it. 

NORVILLE:  And you—you blanched when the joke came back up again.  How embarrassed—how much grief did you have to take on Monday for that one?

KEPCHER:  It‘s “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.”  What did you expect?  I had a blast.  It was a lot of fun.  You know, you have to poke fun at yourself if you‘re going to be on “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE,” and that‘s what we all did.

NORVILLE:  That‘s something that Donald has done and taken in great humor.  I mean, he—is he like that in real life?

KEPCHER:  Sure.  He can poke fun at himself. 

ROSS:  Yes, yes.  He can poke fun at himself.  He can recognize when he‘s done something wrong or he‘s made a mistake, yes. 

NORVILLE:  Or when there‘s something like the do that‘s getting attention. 

ROSS:  That‘s part of it.

NORVILLE:  Part of it. 

ROSS:  Well, also, when we were working on the site and his hair blew, he says, “You see, it‘s mine?”

NORVILLE:  One of the things that‘s been very interesting about “The Apprentice” is the attention it‘s focused on the way business is being conducted in America. 

You say that you‘re asked all the time, is it real?  Is that really the way business is done?  And you seem surprised that the question comes up. 

KEPCHER:  I am surprised and I think it‘s very, very real.  The best example are the women.  Early on, we had comments about the women and the way they dressed.  Particularly my comments, I suppose.  And I think reality states that using sexuality in the workplace is only going to get you so far.  And I think that‘s exactly what happens.  So it‘s reality.

NORVILLE:  I want to broaden the discussion a little bit.  Also with us this evening is Sheila Wellington.  She‘s a professor at New York University‘s Stern School of Business.  She actually teaches a course called Women in Business Leadership.  Among other things, the class has been studying “The Apprentice” and comparing it to real corporate America.

Professor Wellington, thank you very much for being with us. 

I know the whole using your femininity in work has been something that your class has taken note of. How have they reacted to the way, particularly early on, as Ms. Kepcher said, in the program, some of the contestants who were female used their figures to further their business careers? 

SHEILA WELLINGTON, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF BUSINESS:  When I surveyed my students, what they said was, not at all realistic.  Women generally don‘t look like that.  They certainly don‘t dress like that in the business world.  And they certainly don‘t use their sexuality like that. 

A couple of them said that they had seen it once, and every time it happened it was bad for the women. 

NORVILLE:  And this actually got some comment, George, on this show as well. 

ROSS:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  I mean, after a while, even Donald said, you know, enough already. 

ROSS:  We all agree.  We all agree.  We all agree.  It was good for a certain start-up, and then it just had to stop, because it wasn‘t going to be successful.  It wasn‘t a way to get to where they wanted to be. 

NORVILLE:  Did they get it?  Did they get that message?

KEPCHER:  Some did, some didn‘t. 

NORVILLE:  Really?

KEPCHER:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  How could you tell?

KEPCHER:  Oddly enough, I saw right after—maybe 10 minutes after we gave that speech, Omarosa grabbed me and she said, “I‘m so glad you said that.  Because myself”—and I think Jess was with her and someone else—

“we totally agree with you.  We were just following the lead of the other women.” 

Oddly enough, the following day out comes the “TV Guide” with Omarosa in the pink bra.  So here I‘m thinking, “OK, maybe she got it; maybe she didn‘t. I‘m not too sure.” 

But I could definitely tell that some of the women toned it down and some of them women just got very frustrated with what I was saying instead of heeding some good advice. 

NORVILLE:  Donald also gave them a dressing down.  I want to roll the sound bite...

KEPCHER:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  ... from that episode when he finally took the bull by the horns and had a little talk-to to the ladies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

TRUMP:  You are smart, dynamic and attractive women.  You beat the guys fair and square.  But you‘re coming a little close to crossing the line.  Relying on your sexuality to win.  Well, it‘s unnecessary. 

Carolyn?

KEPCHER:  Things like that aren‘t going to get you the job here. 

I want to know that one of you may be president of one of his companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Now they all looked at you.  They batted your eyes very sheepishly.  And then if you pick up the current issue of “FHM” magazine, you will see the final four in their skivvies.  And I‘m not sure what they‘re selling here. 

George, how would their business career be furthered by this? 

ROSS:  They‘re gone already.  You understand?  They‘re off the show. 

NORVILLE:  But this picture was taken before some of them were off. 

Some of those people could have been the winner. 

ROSS:  Well, I don‘t know when it was taken or if they knew at that point, but obviously they felt this would further their career, whatever it may be.  It certainly wouldn‘t further their career with the Trump organization. 

NORVILLE:  Professor, I‘m guessing that this had all kinds of reaction from the students in your class. 

WELLINGTON:  It certainly did.  This is career suicide.  There‘s no doubt about it.  It may give them 15 seconds, 15 minutes of fame.  But on the whole, in a serious business organization, it‘s not going to work. 

NORVILLE:  And what is the fallout from that?  When people see that and they see these ambitious young women posing like this in the magazine, is the seed planted in another would-be business career person‘s head that, gee, look at these ladies.  They‘re getting paid.  They‘ll get commercial endorsements.  Why not?

WELLINGTON:  I don‘t think it‘s going to work.  People are looking for brains these days.  That‘s what it takes to succeed in business.  That‘s what helps business succeed.  And if you‘ve got the brains, you‘re going to succeed and help your business succeed.  It‘s brains.  It‘s not sexuality. 

NORVILLE:  And I wonder how many of the contestants who first applied to be on “The Apprentice” and certainly the 16 that got onto the show weren‘t looking for their 15 minutes to extend into overtime. 

“Fine, if I don‘t get the career with Donald Trump‘s organization, maybe I‘ll get a great career as a spokesperson or a model for this or an endorser for that.”

KEPCHER:  I didn‘t get that opinion in the very beginning.  I mean, certainly I see it now, because maybe the avenues are open for them.  But I didn‘t feel that in the beginning. 

WELLINGTON:  My students—My students say that this is not at all realistic.  And I‘ll buy it.  It doesn‘t work on the whole for women.  Most women who go into business surely recognize it.  If they don‘t, they get it in a millisecond. 

These are very smart young women.  They‘ll make it on talent. 

NORVILLE:  And when your students are watching the show, when you‘re discussing the show, professor, with them, what about the process of proving yourself, of showing your skills, of not outfoxing, but outsmarting in a good way the other people who are contestants for the same job. 

What do you see being exhibited that you like, that you‘d like to see people take into the workplace for real?

WELLINGTON:  There‘s a certain amount of teamwork.  There‘s a certain amount of supportiveness.  Certainly, the last two guys on the show are doing that.  I think that‘s really good. 

It‘s got to be a team effort.  If it‘s not a team effort, that also isn‘t going to work.  So I like the teamwork. 

I like the fact that they‘re ambitious.  There‘s nothing wrong with being assertive.  They‘re assertive.  They‘re flexible, and you know what else?  They‘re not risk adverse.  And being risk adverse doesn‘t work in business. 

NORVILLE:  What about Omarosa?  I mean, she certainly was a firecracker just, you know, exploding more than once.  She came off the show.  She was belligerent while she was in there.  She certainly knew who she was and what she wanted to do. 

And then when she left the show, she made a very, very strong accusation that the N-word had been used.  And yet I understand the producers looked at the tape—George, you‘re shaking your head?

ROSS:  Never happened.  Never happened.

NORVILLE:  Never happened.

ROSS:  Never happened.  They went through every inch of tape at that point.  It never happened.  And I‘m sure that had it happened, we would have known about it very quickly, because we would have been very upset by it. 

KEPCHER:  Very strange that it took how many weeks for her to—I mean, that‘s a heck of an accusation, and it took this long for her to take it—to bring it to light on national TV? 

NORVILLE:  What does that tell you about the individual?

KEPCHER:  That there‘s lacking some credibility there. 

NORVILLE:  And did it make you then feel good about the decision that was made, that she was no longer going to be competing?

ROSS:  No, I don‘t think that based upon, at least my analysis, that Omarosa really would have gotten to the end if she didn‘t even say that.  It really wasn‘t a question of if somebody was going to be fired.  It was really a question of when they were going to be fired. 

So you know now I have to get down to two and ultimately down to one.  I don‘t think in my mind there was any doubt that that she was never going to be one of the finalists. 

NORVILLE:  She was never going to make it to that point?

KEPCHER:  No.  Just the skills, the business skills, the management skills, they absolutely weren‘t there. 

NORVILLE:  They absolutely weren‘t there.

And professor, you mentioned the whole thing about men being team builders.  And you‘re seeing this with Bill and Kwame.  There‘s also this notion that women are consensus builders.  Did you see any of that exhibited in this show or is this one of those cards that didn‘t work?

WELLINGTON:  I think women are team builders and consensus builders both.  And frankly, I didn‘t exactly see it on the show.  It‘s another thing that I would question, and I‘m sure my students would, too. 

NORVILLE:  All right.  We‘re going to leave it at that.  Professor Wellington, we thank you for your thoughts. 

WELLINGTON:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a break and we‘re going to get some final thoughts from our guests here about some of the people who have passed through the doors of “The Apprentice.”  You may be surprised what Carolyn and George say about some of the contestants they‘ve seen.  Stick around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEPCHER:  Heidi, in the time that we‘ve been here, I have yet to really see anything out of you. 

TRUMP:  That‘s pretty harsh. 

HEIDI BRESSLER, “THE APPRENTICE” CONTESTANT:  That‘s very harsh.  I mean, you‘re entitled to your opinion.  I don‘t agree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Omarosa, go out and sell paintings, or whatever the hell you‘re doing.  I don‘t like excuses.  In this case Omarosa has to go.  You‘re fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  People used to dread hearing those words, “You‘re fired.”  Now we can‘t seem to get enough of it.  Donald Trump‘s got one more job to fire someone Thursday on “The Apprentice.”

And with me again, his two top adviser on the show, Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross, who are also big wigs within the Trump organization.

We‘ve seen Donald become sort of this mega figure as a result of the popularity of show.  I‘ve seen him doing the Verizon ad.  I think he‘s on a credit card ad.  Has it gone to his head? 

KEPCHER:  I don‘t think it‘s gone to his head, but he‘s certainly enjoying it. 

NORVILLE:  Is he really?

KEPCHER:  Absolutely. 

NORVILLE:  Are you surprised by the reaction that people have had, not

only to the show, but to the guy who is the center

(CROSSTALK)  

ROSS:  I am surprised, because it‘s something that I knew, I‘m sure Carolyn knew.  I‘ve known Donald so many years, that there is a mellow side to him.  There‘s the human side.  But that never got portrayed in the media, unfortunately.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSS:  He came across as arrogant, abrasive, or what have you, which he is not really that way.

So this is a chance to see him as a human being who can laugh at himself and respond quickly to people.  He was very, very sympathetic when Heidi‘s mother had cancer.  He came down and he would want to know really, do you want to be on the show, you don‘t want to be on the show?  He was just a very nice...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Real human. 

ROSS:  Real human.

NORVILLE:  When it came to that.

NORVILLE:  The thing that I have always wondered about, were there no fat people who applied?  All 16 of them were nice-looking folks.  Was there a weight category you had to fit into?

(CROSSTALK)

KEPCHER:  ... guilty of doing that. 

NORVILLE:  You all didn‘t pick them, but...

ROSS:  We didn‘t pick them. 

KEPCHER:  But I think it was a very good cross-section of people.  I really do. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  But they‘re all good looking. 

ROSS:  No, let‘s put it this way.  I think Bowie was pretty heavy. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSS:  And he was there and he was very good.  So I don‘t think that was it, that they were picked as to they were perfect physical specimens, as we might like to see.  No, I don‘t think so. 

NORVILLE:  Well, the finalists certainly are good-looking guys.  I want to just kind of do a quick word association, throw out a name and then just have each you kind of give me one or two words that describe them. 

Bill. 

KEPCHER:  Will go very far.  And I know that‘s more than one word. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s OK.  That‘s a good phrase.

ROSS:  Yes, Bill I think has got a lot of talent, good character.   

NORVILLE:  And Kwame? 

KEPCHER:  Talented as well.  It‘s very hard.  I see them both equal. 

I think they‘re very strong.

ROSS:  Kwame I think is very smooth.  He‘s eloquent. 

NORVILLE:  So either one has got a great future.  Whether they win Thursday night, there‘s another job waiting for them somewhere. 

KEPCHER:  Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Well, we should say, Kentucky Friday Chicken has already offered them $25,000 for one week‘s work.  That is what they‘re going to be doing.

ROSS:  Absolutely.  I don‘t think there‘s any question they will be snapped up. 

NORVILLE:  OK. 

Amy, the last lady left standing. 

ROSS:  Are you looking at me? 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Yes.  I am.

ROSS:  Amy was a tremendous amount of energy, very bright and unfortunately when she went before the executives, they felt that there was a lot of fluff and not that much substance. 

NORVILLE:  Really?

KEPCHER:  But I think she‘s got a good head on her shoulders.  I do. 

NORVILLE:  OK.

ROSS:  Wonderful salesperson. 

NORVILLE:  Good salesperson?

ROSS:  Excellent. 

NORVILLE:  OK. 

Nick. 

ROSS:  Nick?  You want me first? 

NORVILLE:  Yes, why not. 

ROSS:  Nick, I got the feeling as far as Nick was concerned that he is a player.  He knows how to work the situation.  He comes up with an appropriate answer at an appropriate time, but I don‘t see him going out on a limb for anyone or sticking to his guns. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  He might not be the real deal.

ROSS:  He adapts. 

NORVILLE:  He is adaptive.

KEPCHER:  He has a good facade. 

NORVILLE:  A good facade.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Now, were he and Amy doing the wild thing? 

KEPCHER:  I would not know.  George and I were living at the suites at the time.  Let‘s make that perfectly clear.  We found out when Donald found out.  We didn‘t see. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  You didn‘t?  OK.

ROSS:  No.

NORVILLE:  So this is a mystery that America just have to wait

(CROSSTALK)

ROSS:  Well, except Amy says it was a show business thing, not a real affair. 

NORVILLE:  OK.  All right, we‘ll give her that.

Troy.

KEPCHER:  It didn‘t sway our opinions.

NORVILLE:  Troy.

KEPCHER:  Just a good, hardworking guy.  And he will do very, very well. 

NORVILLE:  He was such a sweetheart. 

(CROSSTALK)

KEPCHER:  He has a great heart.  I‘m so happy that he—and he did come very, very far.  And I think he did wonderfully. 

NORVILLE:  Has he got a job yet? 

KEPCHER:  I think he has already his own mortgage firm.  I think he‘s doing just fine.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  He was a mortgage banker, yes. 

ROSS:  He was a mortgage banker.  Troy is great.  He‘s got more—I think, of all of them at that point, he probably had the most street smarts.  He was great.  He could read people. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSS:  He went much further than one would think he would go based upon where he‘s coming from, Boise, Idaho, at that point, but he was great. 

NORVILLE:  Heidi? 

KEPCHER:  Heidi.  Heidi is feisty and Heidi is aggressive. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s not Heidi.  That‘s Omarosa.  There‘s Heidi.

Heidi is feisty. 

KEPCHER:  Heidi is feisty.  She will tell you exactly how it is, and she‘s aggressive, a little controversial. 

NORVILLE:  George.

ROSS:  Controversial.  She‘s fine.  But she got bleeped out a lot. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  OK.  And last but not least, the Donald. 

KEPCHER:  Oh, I thought she was going to Omarosa. 

NORVILLE:  No, no, we did her already. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROSS:  Oh, OK.

NORVILLE:  We did her.

Donald.

KEPCHER:  I think he‘s very fair.  I think he respected every single one of the candidates.  And I really believe that a good amount of those firings were very, very difficult, very difficult decision.  I‘m glad that we didn‘t have to make that decision. 

NORVILLE:  He takes it to heart when he has to give somebody the boot? 

KEPCHER:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

ROSS:  Oh, yes, yes, absolutely.  He takes it to heart.  I think, whatever conceptions he might have had going in got quickly dissipated as he went and saw how difficult it was going to be and how it affected the lives of the contestants.  And he wrestled with it each time he had it.  When he said, that was a hard one, he meant it really was a hard one.  And when he got near the end, he really was touched by having to say to someone, you‘re fired. 

NORVILLE:  And finally a question for the two of you.  There was another reality show that aired on ABC called “Joe Millionaire.”  And there called Paul the butler who there week in, week out, assisting “Joe Millionaire” in making his decisions. 

Paul the butler really was a butler when this all started.  He‘s now gone on.  He‘s got an agent.  He‘s got commercial endorsements.  He‘s got a career out there in a whole ‘nother world.  Is this the beginning of a new other Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross? 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Any chance of seeing you guys in another television role, not beside Donald? 

KEPCHER:  I think we‘re doing just fine where we are. 

NORVILLE:  All right. 

ROSS:  I don‘t know about another television role, but if they do, they better hurry up. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  George Ross, Carolyn Kepcher, it‘s been fun to watch you throughout this process.  And you‘re very good to spend so much time with us tonight.  We‘ll be watching Thursday night.

KEPCHER:  Thank you so much. 

ROSS:  Hey, thank you.

NORVILLE:  Good to have you.

ROSS:  Thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, this American truck driver has become the latest bargaining chip in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS HAMILL, HOSTAGE:  They attacked our convoy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Rebels say they‘ll kill him if U.S. Marines don‘t pull out.  Can coalition forces deal with this kind of warfare? 

DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  An American truck driver held hostage in Iraq, his kidnappers threatening to kill him.  Up next, we‘ll visit his hometown in Mississippi.

First, this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  People living in a small town of Macon, Mississippi, are going through a terrible time tonight.  One of their own, Thomas Hamill, is being held hostage in Iraq.  He was kidnapped on Friday while driving a fuel truck for Kellogg, Brown & Root.  That‘s a subsidiary of Halliburton. 

His abductors have threatened to kill him.  There are at least six other Halliburton employees missing in Iraq.  And a spokesperson for campaign says it is anxious but prayerful that Hamill will return home safely. 

Hamill took this job in Iraq after his dairy farm went under in Mississippi.  He needed to support his two children and his wife, who‘s now recovering from heart surgery.  In Mississippi, the flags are flying at half-staff.  Yellow ribbons have been tied to trees and doors.  And last night, just about everybody in town came together for a vigil, praying that Thomas Hamill will make it back home alive. 

Dorothy Baker Hines is the mayor of Macon, Mississippi.  And she joins me now to talk about Thomas Hamill and how everybody is praying for him.

Mayor Hines, thank you very much for being with us.  I know you‘ve been designated on behalf of the family to speak for them.  They don‘t want to say anything that could possibly put Thomas in danger, but how are they doing right now? 

DOROTHY BAKER HINES, MAYOR OF MACON, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, I spoke to Ms. Hamill about an hour ago.  And she was holding up really well.  And she said she feels the prayers of the people and she just appreciates the outpouring of love from all over. 

We‘ve had calls from as far away as Hawaii, people that are concerned about this family.  So, in our little community, when one person is hurting, the whole community hurts.  So she knows that we all love her and we are praying for her.  And I try to stay in contact with her.  And she knows that we‘re all here for her.  And we appreciate all the media and everyone else that seems to care so much. 

NORVILLE:  Well, there are so many people who are thinking about this family.  But we know she had heart surgery just two weeks ago.  Is she physically doing OK with this added stress that she‘s under?

HINES:  Well, actually, it was about two months ago. 

NORVILLE:  Two months.

HINES:  Yes, ma‘am. 

But she‘s doing real well.  I asked her just point blank about her health and she said that her health is OK and that she has mended really well.  And she‘s just trying to be real strong for her children. 

NORVILLE:  Now, we know that Mr. Hamill took this job because his dairy farm went under and he had some bills that he had to pay.  Are there others in your area that are also working for companies in Iraq?  I mean, we don‘t even think that smalltown America could have folks over there.  But we certainly learned they do. 

HINES:  I don‘t know if they‘re working in Iraq.  I do know some people do try to find jobs offshore in different, you know, jobs where they can make a good living. 

And some of us have been talking today that it‘s a shame that he had to leave the United States to find a good job where he could help his family.  But, you know, farming has not been that good in the last 10 or 15, 20 years.  And it‘s been real hard on the farmers.  But Mr. Hamill had to do what he felt he had to do for his family.  But, again, I say it‘s bad that our people have to leave the United States to make a living. 

NORVILLE:  When you‘ve seen the video with Mr. Hamill, there‘s a couple of shots that we‘ve seen.  There‘s the first shot where he‘s actually in the automobile.  And what we‘re looking at right now is the second video we saw where he‘s in a black shirt and in front of that flag. 

How does he look to you?  It looks to me like he has some sort of a bandage on one of his arms. 

HINES:  Yes, ma‘am, I had noticed that also.  I really—you know, I don‘t really know anything about that, but it did look like that, yes, ma‘am. 

NORVILLE:  And I know that there was a deadline by which his abductors said that he would be killed if there was not an end to the fighting in Fallujah.  A cease-fire has been declared.  Have you heard anything about the health or safety of Mr. Hamill? 

HINES:  No, ma‘am.  We‘re just hoping and praying that they will let him go.  And we‘re just, you know, just waiting for some good news.  They say no news is good news.  So, we‘re just keeping the faith and we‘re keeping a positive attitude. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And what support is the company for which Mr. Hamill works being able to give to his family there in Macon? 

HINES:  Well, I haven‘t actually talked to anyone from his company.  I do know that they have been in contact with Ms. Hamill.  But I haven‘t—she and I haven‘t discussed that.  I‘m sorry.  I just really don‘t know.

NORVILLE:  But I know the arms of the folks of Macon, Mississippi, have been holding up that family.  They‘ve got two kids, along with Ms.  Hamill.  And I‘m sure they‘re very grateful for you talking on their behalf tonight. 

HINES:  Well, we love them all.  And I told Kellie just a little while ago mean anything that we‘re hear for them, and anything that they need, and I mean anything, that we‘ll do our best to get it for them and their family. 

But most of all, we‘re just going to keep praying that he‘ll come home so that he can see these flags and these yellow ribbons and we‘ll have a big parade right down Main Street. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I bet it would probably be longer than Main Street probably lasts, too, Mayor Hines.  Thank you very much.

HINES:  You‘re right about.   

NORVILLE:  We appreciate your time. 

HINES:  Yes, ma‘am.

NORVILLE:  And do give our best wishes to the Hamill family. 

HINES:  I certainly will.  And thank you. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re welcome. 

When we come back, while hope continues for Thomas Hamill, the American hostage, there‘s even better news for seven Chinese men.  They‘re now safe after having also been abducted in Iraq.  Our next guest worked for years as the chief hostage negotiator for the FBI and trained international police.  His insights next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  More now on the chaos in Iraq. 

Tonight, seven Chinese men were freed by their Iraqi captors after being abducted by gunmen in Fallujah yesterday.  More than two dozen foreigners from at least 12 countries have been kidnapped by rebels in the last several days.  But there‘s still no word on that those three Japanese civilians who were taken captive last week.  But their kidnappers have threatened to burn them alive.  And, as we mentioned just a moment ago, American truck driver Thomas Hamill is also being held hostage by Iraqi guerrillas. 

Joining me now is a man who for many years worked as chief hostage negotiator for the FBI.  He‘s also trained international police.  MSNBC former analyst and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt is with us. 

Clint, good to see you. 

One of the things we‘ve talked about on this program is, the American operation couldn‘t be done without the support of these civilian workers who are there.  And yet they now seem to have a big target on their back that says, take me. 

CLIFF VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  Yes. 

And this is going to be very challenging times from here on out.  You know, I‘m surprised, unfortunately, or fortunately, that we haven‘t seen hostage takings like this in the past.  You know, when we have this transition from this full-time war environment to now we‘re dealing with insurgencies throughout the country, unfortunately, one of the natural evolutions you see sometimes is hostage taking. 

Now, Deborah, as you know, this can be either criminals.  This can be Sunni militia gangs.  This can be people who are just demanding political considerations.  They want hostages or prisoners released.  They want humanitarian considerations.  And, you know, sometimes these groups, group A will do a kidnapping and then group B will come over to group A and say, OK, we‘re going to take the person you kidnapped.  We‘re going to hold him now. 

I mean, you know, nobody is wearing numbers on their back and the names of the teams across the front of their shirts.  So it‘s hard to even figure out who we‘re dealing with to conduct. 

NORVILLE:  So, if we don‘t know who we‘re dealing with to say what is it they want, there‘s no simple answer to that question either.  Different groups want different things. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, that‘s exactly true. 

Now, one of the things I‘m sure we‘re doing, is—when I saw we‘re, you know, it‘s not the U.S. government officially.  It‘s going to be probably civilian crisis management company, like two of which I know are on the ground right now, that may well make approaches to these various groups through, you know, through some cleric on the ground.  That‘s usually the best approach, to go through a local national. 

And then it depends how you make the appeal to get the hostage released. 

NORVILLE:  So while the United States officially does not negotiate with kidnappers and we‘re not changing that stance, there are definitely people who are in there working on behalf of these individuals who have been held captive.

VAN ZANDT:  Well, as you know, again, there are dozens, hundreds, of security people, nonmilitary that are on the ground.  There are a lot of FBI agents on with boots on the ground, too. 

NORVILLE:  Sure.

VAN ZANDT:  But these civilian organizations, they are trained in crisis management.  I‘ve worked with them overseas in hostage situations.  They‘re good at what they do.  And their job is to kind of facilitate the negotiations process to move this along and see if they can get their clients‘ employees released. 

NORVILLE:  In the meantime, this just underscores how squirrelly the security situation there is.  We‘ve seen reports where Iraqi police who have supposedly been trained to help keep the peace have literally stood by and done nothing as convoys have been attacked, as people have been kidnapped and taken away from those burning convoys. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, and I think this is part of the frustrating thing, too, is that just because they have a uniform on doesn‘t mean, you know, they‘re following the tenets of that uniform. 

I think it‘s very hard.  This is obviously the most dangerous environment in the world to be working in, and—you know, to be in the military.  But can you imagine being a civilian?  And as the interview that you just did showed, this man was just a truck driver trying to make a living for his family.  And, Deborah, that‘s exactly the appeal I would use.  This is just a common man.  He‘s not bearing arms. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

VAN ZANDT:  He‘s got nothing in this politically.  All he wants to do is feed his family. 

NORVILLE:  This is maybe not an appropriate question, but I‘ll ask it anyway.  If you were there, you‘re just a man trying to earn a living and take care of your family, would you stick around?  Or would you get out of Dodge? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, I guess it depends on how much I needed the money.  You hear there‘s a lot of money to be made.  And I think some of those stories are exaggerated and some of them are true. 

But there‘s—some people do it, Deborah, because they can‘t get a job anywhere else.  Some do it because they like the excitement.  You know, you come home and you‘ve got these great stories to tell, if you come home. 

NORVILLE:  Yes. 

VAN ZANDT:  And that‘s the challenge.  A lot of these people unfortunately are not coming back the other way. 

NORVILLE:  And last quick question.  There was just yesterday, I believe it was, there was the finding of American uniforms that said 82nd Airborne on them, along with them suicide belts that in some cases were loaded with explosives.  That would be a frightening new turn in the terror attacks against Americans. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  And it just shows you that you can have one person and he or she can become a weapons of mass destruction.  All they got to do is put on a stolen uniform, strap that belt on them.  And if they believe what‘s waiting for them in the hereafter is X number of virgins or whatever it‘s going to be, they can walk right into a group of our soldiers and here we are—you know, because we‘re working with Iraqis, they‘re wearing uniforms many times that look like ours, it‘s a terrible challenge for the soldiers and for the negotiators. 

It‘s this game of who blinks first.  And there‘s lives on the line. 

NORVILLE:  I‘ve got about five seconds.  Do you think these hostages are going to come home safely? 

VAN ZANDT:  I do.  I do.  I think there‘s going to be a good job done there.  And I think they‘re going to listen.  The challenge is, you‘ve got hostages from 20 or 30 different countries and it‘s going to take a while.  And I‘m afraid this deadly game is going to continue. 

NORVILLE:  Well, as long as they get home safely.  I know a lot of people are glad to hear you say that. 

Clint Van Zandt, thanks so much.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll be back with a final note about what‘s going on in Iraq in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Finally today, tomorrow night at this time, President Bush will be on television talking about the war in Iraq, which has just had its bloodiest week since the president declared hostilities ended last May 1. 

We‘ve seen that harrowing footage of the Japanese kidnap victims, prayed with the town of Macon, Mississippi, with the abduction of its native son and, if you were with us on Friday, listened with amazement at the story of “Times of London” reporter Stephen Farrell, who was kidnapped last week and then kidnapped from his first abductors. 

Not surprisingly, stories like these prompt some people to say America should just get out.  But those people are not in the majority.  While a new “Newsweek” poll suggests, the more you can remember Vietnam, the more likely you are to be concerned America could get stick militarily in Iraq, most people, 57 percent say, still say the U.S. did the right thing in striking Saddam Hussein.  And 63 percent say they‘re fine with increasing the number of troops over there, if needed, in response to these recent attacks. 

It is an election year, and because of that, just about everything is viewed through that political prism.  But that doesn‘t change certain realities.  General Sherman said it clearly:  War is hell.  And the men and women in Iraq, whether as civilian workers or wearing the uniform, have chosen to be there and serve in whatever way they do.  We assume they know risks.  They assume we pray for their safe return.

Send us your comments and e-mails to NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  That‘s our program for tonight.  We‘ll see you soon.

END   

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