updated 5/28/2004 12:26:00 PM ET 2004-05-28T16:26:00

Guests: Brandon Mayfield, Tom Nelson, Avnell Mayfield, Mario Andretti, Morgan Freeman

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  The truth about Brandon Mayfield.  This American lawyer was accused of taking part in a horrific terror attack: the train bombings that killed nearly 200 people in Spain. 

He was linked to the attack by a fingerprint, arrested, and jailed for 14 days.  But it turned out to be a big mistake. 

BRANDON MAYFIELD, WRONGLY ARRESTED FOR TERRORISM:  It was humiliating. 

It was embarrassing. 

NORVILLE:  Tonight, for the first time ever, Brandon Mayfield tells his side of the story. 

MAYFIELD:  I‘ve been singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim. 

Plus...

What‘s got the world‘s greatest race car driver and an Oscar nominee all revved up?  Wait until you hear about their co-starring roles this weekend.  Mario Andretti and Morgan Freeman tonight.

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORVILLE:  And good evening. 

Tonight for the very first time, we will hear from Brandon Mayfield. 

The month of May has been pure hell for the Portland attorney. 

On Friday, the Muslim convert was released from jail after spending 14 days there.  All for a terror attack the FBI now says he had nothing to do with: those deadly train bombings in Madrid, Spain, that killed 191 people in March. 

The FBI said it had matched his fingerprints with a print found on a plastic bag near the scene of the attacks.  But Spanish investigators say the print belonged to another man. 

The FBI says it was wrong, and it has apologized to Brandon Mayfield and to his family. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYFIELD:  I‘m a Muslim and I‘m an American.  I‘m an American Muslim.  I‘m an attorney.  I‘m an ex-officer of the U.S. military.  And I‘ve been singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And joining me now in his first ever interview is Brandon Mayfield.  He‘s joined by his mother, Avnell, and his attorney, Tom Nelson. 

It‘s so nice to have all of you with us. 

Mr. Mayfield, I can only imagine your head must still be spinning from everything that you‘ve gone through the last several weeks. 

MAYFIELD:  Absolutely. 

NORVILLE:  What is it like, one day to be getting yourself ready to go to work, and the next day find you‘ve been labeled a material witness in one of the biggest terror attacks of the year?

MAYFIELD:  It‘s actually pretty overwhelming.  It was pretty amazing. 

Almost surreal. 

NORVILLE:  Tell me what happened. 

MAYFIELD:  Well, I was arrested May 6.  I went to work like any other day.  I generally get up early in the morning, take my children to school, and I live in the—in Beaverton.  It‘s a suburb of Portland. 

I drop my kids off at the Beaverton—the local schools in the Beaverton school district.  I commute to work in Portland.  I have an office that‘s located just on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. 

I probably got there shortly before 9, as I usually do.  I was handling legal matters, specifically a personal injury claim.  I think I got a call from my wife earlier just saying, you know, what‘s going on?  Checking up on me. 

She‘s my legal assistant, by the way, Deborah.  My wife is, my legal assistant.  I‘m a solo practitioner.  That is, I have my own law office.  And my wife is a paralegal and my legal assistant. 

NORVILLE:  So you were there in your office and the police, the FBI investigators came to your law office and apprehended you there?

MAYFIELD:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And what did they say to you when they came in the door?

MAYFIELD:  I got a knock on the door.  It was a little odd to me.  I was there by myself, as I sometimes am.

I got a knock on the door.  It was a little odd, because I didn‘t have any clients scheduled for that morning.  I don‘t know the exact time.  It could have been around, I‘m guessing it was around 10 in the morning. 

I opened the door.  I had a couple of FBI agents at the door.  One larger than the—I mean—I described them as good cop, bad cop.  That is the big agent, the small agent.  There was a male and a female. 

They said that they wanted to—I think they identified themselves.  They said they wanted to speak to me.  I have a small office, and they had just cracked the door.  I‘d opened it.  And I was—at that point, I knew who they were and...

NORVILLE:  Did you have any idea what they were there for?

MAYFIELD:  Actually, I didn‘t have any idea what they were there for. 

But I am an attorney.  I‘m a Muslim attorney.  I attend religious services at a local mosque, which is our equivalent of a church. 

NORVILLE:  Sure.

MAYFIELD:  And so I know members of the Muslim community.  And they‘ve been—I feel, I can say that that‘s why I‘m here talking to you about it.  I want to get this message out, that a lot of Muslim are fearful that they‘re being profiled and targeted.  And we‘ve had those discussions in our community at our mosque. 

NORVILLE:  So you assumed they had come into the door because you were a practicing Muslim and it had something to do with that. 

Did you have any inkling it had something to do with the attack that you and all the rest of us had seen unfold on television in March?

MAYFIELD:  Absolutely not.  I mean, the reason why I‘m telling you this is because I am an attorney.  I‘ve had—I‘ve had other Muslims approach me and say, you know, “The FBI have contacted me.  What do I do?”

Deborah?  Are you there?

NORVILLE:  I‘m right here. 

MAYFIELD:  I‘m—I‘m not a criminal defense attorney.  So when I get those type of questions being addressed to me by anyone, and particularly Muslims, saying that they‘ve been contacted by the FBI, I just give them the general information. 

That is, the way you respond to that is you just say no.  That is, if they‘re asking you for questions.  You do have rights.  If they want to—if they have specific questions they want asked, for them to give it to you in writing.  This is the protocol. 

NORVILLE:  Sure. 

MAYFIELD:  And—And if you need further representation, call me and I‘ll try to put knew touch with somebody else who can help you. 

NORVILLE:  So did you immediately kind of launch into that program yourself when they started asking you questions?

MAYFIELD:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Did you start, you know, responding the way you had told other Muslim contacts to do?

MAYFIELD:  I did.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And did they mention the train situation at that point?  Or was it later on that you heard about the link?

MAYFIELD:  You know, honestly, I mean, just trying to think about what transpired that morning, I don‘t know specifically that they said that you‘re—we‘re questioning you regarding the Spain bombing.  Although they did—I  did demand that they produce a search warrant, which they did. 

What happened, Deborah, is they came into my office.  And what I said is what I just told you.  They were halfway in the door.  I physically said, “Get out of my office.”  You know, not pushing them but motioning to them, you know, “I don‘t want you here.  This is a legal office.  I have, you know, client files.  Confidential files here.”

And at that point, it changed.  It wasn‘t an inquiry, “We want to ask questions.”  It was, “We‘re here on serious business.  We have, you know, the official paperwork.” 

And at some point, they—they were in the process of arresting me.  That is handcuffing me, you know, patting me down.  And I asked them to produce the search warrant.  They read it.  And some of the things that were listed were the items were—the items that they were looking for were bomb-making materials and so forth. 

And I didn‘t know at that time if that was just standard search warrant language.  I didn‘t know.  But I was shocked when I heard that.  But I didn‘t know if that was standard language in a search warrant.  But I did ask that—I demanded to see who had signed that search warrant. 

NORVILLE:  And who had signed it?

MAYFIELD:  Well, I demanded to see the affidavit and support.  You understand what an affidavit is?

NORVILLE:  Sure.  The affidavit is the document that lays out the reasons for suspicion, the reasons that the search warrant, they hope, will be given. 

MAYFIELD:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  That‘s presented to the authority figure, the judge or whoever. 

MAYFIELD:  Right.

NORVILLE:  And based on that information, you either get the search warrant or not.  Obviously they got it. 

And there‘s some pretty inflammatory stuff in there.  One of the first points being that your wife was born in Egypt. 

MAYFIELD:  That‘s—I don‘t even recall that.  I mean, that‘s just one of many things. 

I mean, one of the things that was in there, one of the points that was in there, the biggest point was, somewhere in the affidavit, probably the first paragraph, it said, you know, there‘s a fingerprint, 100 percent identification or a match to my fingerprint is on a bag in Spain that was in a car near the site of this bombing. 

NORVILLE:  And your thought to that was...

MAYFIELD:  I don‘t know that...

NORVILLE:  ... this is crazy?

MAYFIELD:  I don‘t know if I looked at that in detail.  This was—this was pretty shocking to me that this was all happening. 

And again, I thought it was just a routine interrogation, question and answer session by the FBI, that some of the other, my other, you know, potential clients, constituents, you know, Muslim friends, acquaintances say—and acquaintances said that they were experiencing. 

I didn‘t understand the ramifications of what they‘re doing initially. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I want to bring your legal representative in, Tom Nelson. 

MAYFIELD:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  Because at a certain point, Mr. Nelson, it became quite clear that this was not standard procedure that was a part of all search warrants and affidavits but indeed, very specifically directed toward Mr.  Mayfield. 

When—When you got the call about Mr. Mayfield‘s legal situation, and what the reason for his incarceration was, what were your initial thoughts?

TOM NELSON, BRANDON MAYFIELD‘S ATTORNEY:  I‘ve known Brandon for something running on 10 years now, through mostly telephonic conversations and other things. 

I was flabbergasted.  It was very hard for me to believe.  The call came from the U.S. attorney‘s office and said—I know the U.S. Attorney in charge of terrorism here.  He said, “Tom, do you know Brandon Mayfield?”

And I thought for a moment and said, “Yes, I do.”

And he said, “Well, he‘s been arrested as a material witness in the Madrid train bombings, and he‘s asked to speak with you.” 

I said, “Well, that‘s—that‘s amazing.” 

He said, “Well, would you come right down and talk to him?  He‘s waiting here at the justice center.” 

And I said I would. 

NORVILLE:  So you got down there.  You had a conversation with Mr.  Mayfield, and I guess simultaneously, were able to find out what the specific charges and connections were that the government was looking at. 

NELSON:  That‘s very true. 

Brandon and I met in a—what‘s called an interview room at the justice center.  And he passed to me through a little slot that‘s allowed the copy of the affidavit in support of warrant. 

And frankly, as I read that—I first started with the fingerprint. 

And I thought that‘s really strange. 

But then I got into the rest of the affidavit, the inflammatory stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with guilt or innocence, or anything of that nature.  Rather it was the kind of thing you‘d want to tell somebody who isn‘t knowledgeable—knowledgeable about Islam to get them riled up against Muslims in general and Mr. Mayfield in particular. 

NORVILLE:  I want to get into the details of the specific allegations in the affidavit in a couple minutes. 

But at that moment, when Mr. Mayfield is on the other side of the bars in the interview chamber where the two of you are, did you think this was serious?  This is really a big problem we have to deal with?

Or did you think, this is a huge mistake?  We‘ll be out of here before nightfall. 

NELSON:  I thought the latter very frankly.  And—and to me, it was absolutely inconceivable that there could be any merit to this allegation. 

His print had been found on a bag in Spain.  We talked about that at some length.  Had he been to Spain?  No.  Had he been outside of the United States?  No. 

The—The description in the affidavit itself made it very clear that the bag was from Spain.  So how did his print get on there?  That‘s what we spent some time discussing. 

NORVILLE:  That really is the $64,000 question.  And we‘re going to get into that question.  And also, questions about the specifics of this affidavit, which do raise a lot of eyebrows when you look at the details.  And we‘re going to do that in just a moment. 

More with Brandon Mayfield, his mother Avnell Mayfield and his attorney, Tom Nelson, after this short time out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  I‘m back with the man who the FBI now says was falsely accused of being a material witness to a terrorist bombing, Brandon Mayfield.  It is his first ever interview.  He is there along with his mother, Avnell, and his attorney, Tom Nelson. 

I want to get into the specifics, Mr. Mayfield, of the allegations in the affidavit that was used in getting the search warrant and arrest warrant for you.  And one of the things that is on there that jumps out is representation of a man who later was linked to some terrorist activity. 

The affidavit says, quote, “Brandon Mayfield represented Jeffrey Leon Battle in a civil case involving the custody of Battle‘s minor child.  Battle was arrested on October 2, 2002, on federal terrorism charges.”

You represented this gentleman in what capacity?

MAYFIELD:  I represented him in a—a dispute over the custody of his child, Esau Battle.  His son, whose name was Esau Battle, was taken into custody by the Department of Human Services here in Oregon.  And we were, you know, working quickly to try to put him in the care of somebody who was responsible. 

NORVILLE:  And you represented him prior to his own legal problems in connection with these other charges?

MAYFIELD:  No.  It was because he was arrested.  You had just mentioned the date.  I don‘t remember the exact date. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  October of 2002. 

MAYFIELD:  Yes, he was arrested.  And as a result of that arrest, you know, his child was taken into protective custody by the Department of Human Services.  And so some provisions needed to be made to get him into the care and control of a responsible family member. 

NORVILLE:  And this man was later convicted of the charges, and part of a group known as the Portland Six or the Portland Seven, all of whom were convicted on charge that had to do with assisting al Qaeda in its battle against the United States. 

You can see where your representation in child custody matters could be looked askance at by federal authorities. 

MAYFIELD:  I don‘t see how—I don‘t see how you could say that.  I mean, everybody has—they have their day in court.  You‘re innocent until proven guilty.  Jeffrey Battle had competent legal representation.  I think I might have met her on a couple occasions, you know.  A very talented attorney. 

Everybody has the right to an attorney.  I mean, they should have the right to an attorney, and specifically if you‘re a criminal defendant.  And I wasn‘t representing him in a criminal matter.  Never met him before.  But was happy to assist.  It was...

NORVILLE:  How did he hear about you?

MAYFIELD:  I think other approached me.  I think maybe in the community, the Muslim community, because I am an attorney.  I do—I do handle domestic relations matters, immigration matters.  I do a little bit of personal injury. 

And so somebody, some member of the community, contacted me and said he was concerned about Jeffrey Battle‘s son being in custody.  Can you help out?  And I said, you know, of course, I‘d be happy to help out. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think any lawyer that would have assisted this man with child custody issues would have been tainted in the way that you suspect you were?

MAYFIELD:  I hope not, Deborah.  I would hate to think the chilling effect of this, you know, this war on terror, terrorism preventing attorneys from representing clients who could somehow be linked to some of these matters that we‘re discussing here. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  That‘s one point in the affidavit.  Another one, specifically mentioned, and this is a verbatim from the document, is—it says, “On March 24 -- 21, 2004, surveillance agents have observed Mayfield drive to the Bilal Mosque in Beaverton, Oregon.” 

So the act, apparently, of attending worship services was something that mated you suspect, if I read that correctly.  Is that how you understand it?

MAYFIELD:  That‘s exactly how I understand it, according to the affidavit.  And that‘s completely outrageous and discriminatory.  And if that‘s not—if that‘s not religious profiling, I don‘t know what is.  I mean, that‘s the equivalent of saying you‘re a suspect because you‘re attending your local church or synagogue. 

NORVILLE:  And Tom Nelson, did you bring that point up with the authorities when you got involved in the case and had a chance to get your arms around this affidavit?

NELSON:  As a matter of fact, I did.  But in an informal manner. 

After I met with Mr. Mayfield, I went out and spoke with the—

Charles Gorder (ph), who is the head of the anti-terrorist task force, and two of his assistants about that affidavit. 

And I said I was outraged, that it was—appeared to have been drafted with the idea of inflaming somebody.  And that it totally mischaracterized the role and position of Muslims. 

I want to go back to that point about Jeffrey Battle.  If you read that affidavit carefully, you will see that paragraph after paragraph, there‘s a description of what Jeffrey Battle did and what a bad man he is, with the obvious idea there of trying to transfer some of that stain to Mr.  Mayfield.  And to me, that was a rather despicable attempt to inflame the grand jury into a passion. 

NORVILLE:  So you think the whole document was just prejudicial in the way it was—was worded? 

NELSON:  Not only—I think that and I told Mr. Gorder (ph) that at the get-go. 

At that point, though, however, we went back into the courtroom, and Mr. Gorder (ph) indicated to the judge, and the judge indicated to me, that Mr. Nelson shouldn‘t say anything about that affidavit because it was under seal. 

Mr. Mayfield and I subsequently were able to talk about it after I was

relieved of my—in my role as criminal defense attorney.  But I have been

·         I have been waiting for the day that that affidavit can be made public, in order to expose the attitude of the administration toward Muslims in general. 

I think that is the key point here, that—we already know that Mr.

Mayfield was not guilty of anything to do with the Madrid train bombing.  But the use of the language in the affidavit was prejudicial to the extreme.  We‘re not even talking about the leaks that the FBI folks put out about the—what a great match it was. 

NORVILLE:  I want to get into that in some more detail, frankly in the next part of our interview.  But I also want to talk about the specifics of the fingerprint. 

There was a partial fingerprint that was found on this plastic bag that was in a truck, a van very near the location of the bombing in Madrid.  A partial fingerprint. 

A Xerox copy, if you will, of that print was sent to the FBI when the Spanish authorities couldn‘t make a match with any of their database.  It was sent over to this country, and the FBI said, “That‘s it.  We‘ve got the match.”  Quote, “absolutely incontrovertible match.” 

There was eight points of identification, I understand.  Not the typical 15.  Would that have ever stood up in court, if it had gotten to that point?

NELSON:  I think, well, keep in mind that the identification of fingerprints is really more of an art than a science. 

And I think yes.  I think people have been convicted on that kind of -

·         that kind of evidence.  Mr. Mayfield was very lucky here, No. 1, that the Spanish didn‘t buy the FBI‘s story. 

There‘s—There‘s a footnote here.  The Spanish, or the FBI agents in the United States visited the Spanish agency in Spain on April 21 for the purpose of trying to convince the Spanish agents that, in fact, Mr.  Mayfield‘s fingerprint was on that bag.  While they were, there they had their digital copy of the fingerprint.  They didn‘t look at the original. 

NORVILLE:  And the FBI, once all of this was finally resolved, issued a statement.  And I don‘t recall ever seeing something like this come out of the Federal Bureau of Identification. 

It said, “Upon review it was determined that the FBI identification was based on an image of sub-standard quality, which was particularly problematic because of the remarkable number of points of similarity between Mr. Mayfield‘s prints and the print details in the images submitted to the FBI.  The FBI apologizes to Mr. Mayfield and his family for the hardships that this matter has caused.”

Brandon Mayfield, do those words begin to take away the pain and the anguish of your family for the last month?

MAYFIELD:  I can‘t say they begin to take away the pain and anguish, but I will say, it does go far. 

I—I‘m here in Portland, Oregon.  I was born in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I was raised in the Midwest.  And a handshake and apology goes a long way in my book.  So I mean, it is helpful. 

I mean, I think it‘s more helpful in wanting exoneration.  Because when you‘re thrust into this situation, you know you‘re innocent.  Your first matter of business is, I need to get released.  The second matter of business is, when you‘re tied to something as horrendous as this Madrid, Spain, bombing, is I need some kind of exoneration. 

So yes, that was—I‘m glad that the FBI, you know, stepped up to the plate and made that apology.  I haven‘t received a personal apology.  But as I understand, there was that public apology.  So I do have to say that that is commendable on the part of the FBI. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I think—I think your attitude is pretty commendable, too. 

Mrs. Mayfield, I can‘t imagine, as a mom, what it must have been like for you, seeing your son dragged into this, knowing that his wife and children were just as anguished as you. 

How did you and your daughter-in-law and your grandkids stay strong during this period?

AVNELL MAYFIELD, MOTHER OF BRANDON:  Well, first of all, knowing that Brandon was absolutely innocent, having some faith in the legal system.  Believing that the truth will always out. 

Just trying to remain strong for each other.  Just trying to maintain and trying to provide a little bit of a break from the anguish that it was causing, you know, trying to lighten up the moments as we could to make things a little easier for the children, to try to keep an even keel and try to maintain some semblance of normal life, which was really difficult to do under the circumstances. 

NORVILLE:  I‘m sure it was.  Here you are trying to be the rock of Gibraltar.  But I‘m sure inside, your own insides must have just been doing double back flips throughout all of this. 

A.    MAYFIELD:  Yes.  It was very—I dared not think about the extreme possibility if things went wrong.  I tried to just focus on, we will be out of this soon.  It has to end soon.  And, you know, there has to be justice.  So that‘s what kept us going. 

NORVILLE:  Well, the nightmare is over, but the story isn‘t.  When we come back, more with Brandon Mayfield, his mother, Avnell, and attorney, Tom Nelson.

And the question, will Mr. Mayfield seek legal redress?  After this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

NORVILLE:  Back now with falsely accused terror suspect Brandon Mayfield, his mother, AvNell, and his attorney, Tom Nelson. 

Mr. Mayfield, as you mentioned, you‘re a sole practitioner.  You run your own law firm and you have spent 14 days in jail, which means that‘s 14 days that you weren‘t out there doing legal work and earning money.  It seems to me you probably have got a pretty good case against the government if you wanted to press one. 

B.    MAYFIELD:  I‘m an attorney, so I don‘t know if I want to comment on that at this time.  It‘s something that I‘m taking into consideration and I‘m reviewing all possibilities. 

Deborah, I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank a couple folks.  And that is my immediate family, my wife, Mona, my kids, who were so supportive.  It was difficult for them, but Shane, Sharia, and Samir, my brother, Kent, who flew down personally to Oregon from Kansas, and his fiance, Tonya, my mother, who is sitting here with me, AvNell, my father, my extended family back home and those. 

I grew up in a rural community in Halstead.  My childhood friend, Cody Reap (ph), thank you, stepmom, Ruth Alexander.  I want thank those folks at the Washington County Sheriff‘s Department, who provided a certain amount of security when I was in the detention center in jail here in Portland, the Beaverton School District. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  You got a list longer than most Oscar winners. 

B. MAYFIELD:  Counselor and teachers.

Yes.  Hey, there‘s a lot of people I need thank.  And the professionals and the guards at the Multnomah County Detention Center, which I thought, for the most part, were professional, Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization, the public defender‘s office, Steve Shots—I mean, Steve Wax, Chris Shots, wonderful guys.  They‘re the good guys. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  I have got to stop you right there, because I know you could go for a very long time. 

But what impresses me about this list of thank yous that you‘re making, Mr. Mayfield, is there‘s an astonishing amount of lack of rancor.  What do you attribute that to? 

B. MAYFIELD:  I would have to say, my faith, I guess.

First and foremost, I should thank God.  By the grace of God, I‘m here.  I was enwrapped in serious prayers when I was in that detention center.  It wasn‘t but a couple days I was in that I received a prayer rug and a Koran.  And you can bet that I was praying hard when I was in there. 

NORVILLE:  I‘m sure you were.  I‘m sure it was great comfort. 

Tom Nelson, I want to follow up on something that you mentioned a moment ago.  And that‘s the pressure that the government must be under to show progress in this war on terror in which we‘re currently engaged.  Do you think the pressure has become such that well intentioned law enforcement officials are making mistakes, like happened here? 

NELSON:  Very much so.  And I think the pressure is all the more intense because of the political season that we‘re entering. 

I want to just talk about that.  I think the government has totally missed an opportunity of using the Muslim population in general, both in the United States and in the world, to support its efforts against terror.  In the United States, I can say from personal experience that the Muslim community is afraid of the government because of its actions against a number of Muslims in matters that need not have turned out the way they did. 

There is a sense in the community that the FBI is your enemy and that you should not have anything to do with them unless you can absolutely help it.  And I get the sense that‘s also the way internationally, where the United States is now seen as an anti-Islamic bully.  That is a shame, because, if we didn‘t have that, oh, I suppose, that notion surrounding us in our activities in the world, I think we could be much more effective in what we‘re trying to do. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Well, look, September 11 was an event that hit everyone so strongly. 

I want to let the last word come from you, Brandon Mayfield.  What have you told your three children to help them make sense of what‘s happened to you and help them stay focused and not rancorous, as you seem to be? 

B. MAYFIELD:  Deborah, I‘ve asked them to pray for my wife and my family and myself.  That‘s what I‘ve asked them to do. 

NORVILLE:  Just keep the faith, literally. 

B. MAYFIELD:  Just keep the faith and just pray that this doesn‘t happen to us or other families. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I thank you so much, Brandon Mayfield, for spending your time with us and granting us your first interview after this amazing odyssey you‘ve been on.  AvNell, thank you for your words as well.  And, Tom Nelson, thank you. 

A.    MAYFIELD:  Thank you. 

B.    MAYFIELD:  Thank you, Deborah.

NELSON:  Thank you.  Thank you, Deborah

ANNOUNCER:  Just around the bend, he‘s been called the greatest race car driver of all time.  So why is Mario Andretti expected to tail this guy in Saturday‘s Indy 500 showdown? 

A conversation with Mario and actor Morgan Freeman when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Race car driver Mario Andretti and Oscar-nominated actor Morgan Freeman, both pumped up for the Indy 500.  And they join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  It‘s auto racing‘s biggest event, the Indianapolis 500.  And it will be held this Sunday.  In just a few minutes, I‘ll be joined by the man riding in the pace car this year, actor Morgan Freeman. 

But, first, you don‘t have to know a thing about race to know the name of next guest, Mario Andretti.  He is a bona fide racing legend, often referred to as the greatest driver of all time.  In 1999, the Associated Press named Andretti the driver of the century, along with another racing legend, A.J. Foyt.

Andretti he is the only driver ever win the Daytona 500, a Formula One world title, and the Indianapolis 500.  He is also the only driver ever to win races over the course of five decades.  And he joins me tonight from the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he is getting ready to watch this weekend‘s Indy 500, a race that he won back in 1969. 

We should note, his son carries on the legacy as the owner of a team that is racing this year. 

And it is good to see you, sir.  Welcome!

MARIO ANDRETTI, RACE CAR DRIVER:  Thank you.  Thank you, Deborah. 

Thank you for having me on the show. 

NORVILLE:  What is it about Indy that year in, year out, trends come and go, fans come and go, but Indy lives?  What‘s the attraction?

ANDRETTI:  Well, the race has been here for a century.  And I think the tradition is what really supports it.  That‘s the strength of it.  That‘s what makes this race so important career-wise for drivers.  And also, this is what makes it so popular with the fans and sometimes even nonfans around the world.  So it‘s been here a long time. 

NORVILLE:  As we said, you‘ve been racing over five decades, which is just incredible.  But you won Indy in 1969.  How does that win compare to the many others that you‘ve enjoyed during your career?  Why is Indy so special? 

ANDRETTI:  Deborah, as a single race win, there‘s no comparison.  Winning Indianapolis to any other auto race anywhere in the world, that‘s the jewel.  It changed my life.  And it just—it created opportunities that otherwise I would not have had.  And it takes a lot of pressure off a driver‘s career, also, because you almost think you must have that under your belt to call your career complete. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  But you still don‘t say quit.  Last year, you were out there.  You were helping your son qualify.  You were out there on the track.  It wasn‘t a race but, boy, you had a close call.  What happened? 

ANDRETTI:  Well, just we had a crash in front of us.  Kenny Brack had an engine go.  And I ran over some debris.  Actually, a piece of his wing jammed underneath my car and stuck it.

And the car started flying and it almost came into the suites that we are right now.  Actually, that‘s where I thought I was going to end up, to be honest with you.  It was a surprise of my life.  And also, I‘m very thankful that we landed on those beautiful four Firestones, because any other way, I think it could have been a little bit of a migraine headache for me. 

NORVILLE:  No kidding.  Seriously, when we look at the footage just then, you must have gone about 200, 300 feet in the air.  Did you think, that‘s it; I‘m breathing my last breath; I‘m over?

ANDRETTI:  Well, I never—I never get that dramatic, but I was wondering how—if this was really going to hurt once it landed.  I had no idea which way it was going to land.  So I was totally bracing myself, believe me.  And when all of a sudden, everything got a little bit quieter, I was saying a few prayers, believe me. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I‘m sure everybody who was watching at that moment at the track was praying right along with you. 

Talk to me a little about the Andretti family legacy.  Both your sons are out there.  Your nephew John is out there.  And now your grandson is out on the circuit.  That‘s a pretty impressive group of guys out there behind the wheel. 

ANDRETTI:  Well, I guess we never learn. 

(LAUGHTER)

ANDRETTI:  I don‘t know if it is good.  But I think there‘s a lot of good into that, a lot of pride that goes along with it. 

And the fact that we had our share of success I think just makes it all worthwhile.  We‘ve had some bumps along the way.  I‘ve had a brother that had been injured in racing.  And also, son Jeffrey didn‘t have a very good time.  But between Michael and myself, you know, we probably won more races than we deserved.  And so from that standpoint, the sport was excellent to us. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  It has got to be a lot of pressure for them, though.  I mean, come on, they‘re following their dad, their granddad, the legend. 

ANDRETTI:  Well, it‘s pressure for everyone. 

Yes, the kids, of course, when they are ready, that—I have accomplished certain things.  They feel that perhaps they have to do at least as well.  Otherwise, they‘re not considered.  But I think they‘ve learned to deal with that.  And now we have my grandson Marco who is probably going through the same things. 

But here again, I think they‘re pretty much tuned in as to what the priorities are.  So those are not really the problems at the moment. 

NORVILLE:  Real quick, give us those folks—who don‘t know all the insides of racing the way you do, give us an insight who ought you to be looking for, who do you like for the race on Sunday? 

ANDRETTI:  Well, my son Michael has a team of four drivers, four cars, four drivers.  I have plenty to root for right there. 

NORVILLE:  All right. 

ANDRETTI:  And they‘re strong enough. 

NORVILLE:  OK, well, you got to keep it in the family. 

Mario Andretti, it is just terrific to see you.  Enjoy the race on Sunday.  We‘re so glad you‘re with us. 

ANDRETTI:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  Thank you. 

And we want to say a special thank you to the Asbell (ph) Bowes Seal Fast team.  They were great.  They helped make this interview possible tonight. 

Coming up next, the person in the pace is usually a famous face and this year it is Morgan Freeman.  He joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  One of the contemporary screen‘s most accomplished actor, Morgan Freeman, has brought dignity, as well as talent to a huge array of movie roles.  Perhaps the most notable were his two best actor Oscar-nominated performances as convict Red Redding in 1994‘s “The Shawshank Redemption,” opposite Tim Robbins, and as Hoke Colburn, the chauffeur to the character played by the late Jessica Tandy in the 1989‘s Academy Award winning film “Driving Miss Daisy.”

On Sunday, Morgan Freeman will be driving something a little different.  He‘ll be behind the wheel of the Chevy Corvette driving the pace car that will lead the field to the green flag to start the greatest spectacle in racing, the 88th Indy 500. 

And, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.  Morgan Freeman joins us from Indianapolis. 

Good to see you. 

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR:  Good to be here.

NORVILLE:  You‘ve had some pretty good gigs in your life, but what do you have to do to get this one? 

FREEMAN:  Do you want the truth?

NORVILLE:  Yes. 

FREEMAN:  Or shall I make something up? 

NORVILLE:  No, give me truth and then give me the good story. 

FREEMAN:  OK.

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Actually, the truth is, two years ago, I got a call from the group and they wanted to know if I wanted to drive the pace car.  And I said, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.  But I was working and I wouldn‘t be free enough to do it.  So they said, well, we‘ll be back much, and they came back. 

NORVILLE:  And they came back. 

And you are part of a lot of history.  I mean, there are so many names, including Eddie Rickenbacker, flying ace from the war.  There are some impressive names that have done what you‘ve done. 

FREEMAN:  There are a lot of impressive names that have done what I‘ve done.  And there are a lot of impressive names here today for this weekend‘s event. 

NORVILLE:  Have you been an Indy fan a long time? 

FREEMAN:  A long time, ever since I discovered that they go fast. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  And do you have fast cars yourself? 

FREEMAN:  I have a BMW 745Li, But let‘s not talk about it . 

NORVILLE:  OK.  Well, maybe, you know—how fast are you going to be going?  When you‘re driving the pace car, you have got all those other guys who are just ready to get you out of the way so they can start the race.  How fast do you have to go? 

FREEMAN:  Well, they said, when I come off the track, I may be doing about 110, not very fast. 

NORVILLE:  Oh.  Well, you can do better than that if there‘s not a traffic jam in Los Angeles, if you‘re lucky. 

FREEMAN:  Yes, that‘s real true.  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Actually, you can go a lot faster than that.  But when you come off, maybe you want to be slowed down to maybe 110. 

NORVILLE:  And what will be part of your whole role to play?  Driving the pace car is one thing.  But there‘s so much activity, so much pomp and circumstance that goes along with Indianapolis.  What are you looking forward to with the whole program? 

FREEMAN:  Well, most of the meals.

(LAUGHTER) 

FREEMAN:  There‘s going to be a lot of that.  There‘s going to be a lot of press, a lot of photo-ops, picture-taking, interviewing, and stuff like that.  So I‘m just here to flow. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think you‘ll get to drive any of the actual Indy cars?  Maybe not the ones that will be in the race, but some of the other cars that are out there?  Would you like to? 

FREEMAN:  No. 

Those cars, I‘ve been in one and—two.  And they are—you have to have lessons first.  It‘s like getting into an airplane.  You can‘t just get in one and start it and drive it.  You‘ll strip something. 

NORVILLE:  Right, right, like maybe your life, if you don‘t do the right thing. 

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Right. 

NORVILLE:  Tell me about the race.  You got any favorites?  Do you know enough about what‘s going to be going on, on the track to have a winner in mind? 

FREEMAN:  No.  I actually don‘t know enough about what‘s going on to have any favorites.  But a friend of mine is going to be driving.  He‘s the second position, I think second position on the post, Dario Franchitti.  What is Dario‘s last name? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Franchitti.

FREEMAN:  Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Franchitti.

FREEMAN:  Oh, Franchitti.  Yes.  God, I don‘t know why I can‘t do that.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  He‘s married to your former co-star, Ashley Judd.  Yes, he‘s out there. 

FREEMAN:  Yes.  He‘s going to there be.  So, obviously, I‘ll be pulling for him. 

NORVILLE:  Absolutely. 

FREEMAN:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Talk to me a little bit about the movie career.  You‘ve got so much going on.  You‘ve got one movie in which you play Nelson Mandela. 

FREEMAN:  No, no, no.  Wait a minute. 

NORVILLE:  No? 

FREEMAN:  No.

NORVILLE:  No? 

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  That one is in the works.  That one is set for some time in the future, as soon as we can get it organized.  We‘ve been organizing it now for about five years.  But a lot of movies take a long time to come to the screen.  And this is going to be one of them.  But we haven‘t done it yet.  We haven‘t even gone into production of it. 

NORVILLE:  But you have struck up I know a relationship with Mr.

Mandela. 

FREEMAN:  Oh, absolutely, yes. 

NORVILLE:  Is it true that if you guys are ever within 1,000 miles of each other, you make a point to connect? 

FREEMAN:  Yes, we try.  We try, because, if I‘m going to play him, I need to know him as well as possible.  And, of course, when we go into production, I would probably have much better access to him than the way we do it now. 

But the idea is that, if we‘re ever close enough that it only takes a couple, few hours for us to get together, then I‘ll tend to go to him. 

NORVILLE:  I know how important a project like this is.  To spend five years trying to get it ramped up so it can happen is a huge amount of time on everybody‘s part.  Why is it so important, so meaningful for you personally to play this gentleman on film? 

FREEMAN:  Well, when it was decided, when he decided that it was going to be a film, he was writing his own book, you know.  And he was asked who did he want to play him.  He said me.  Well, now it‘s important for me to follow through on that.  I would want to do it anyway, but that he asked for me, you know, that‘s like a major coup. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s a very major coup. 

And coming up next year, in a completely different vein, you‘re going to be in the next “Batman” movie.  Can you tell us about that? 

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  Yes. 

Christian Bale is going to play the role of Bruce Wayne.  Michael Caine is Alfred.  And bad guy is Rutger Hauer.  Another bad guy is Liam Neeson.  And I‘m going to play Lucius Fox. 

NORVILLE:  Sounds like fun.

Morgan Freeman, you get the greatest phone call of anybody I know.  Nelson Mandela says, I want to you play me in the movie.  And Indy 500 calls and says, we want to you drive the pace car.  I want to answer your phone the next time it rings, OK? 

FREEMAN:  That‘s a deal.  You can do that.

NORVILLE:  Alrighty.  Listen, have a great time this weekend.  We‘ll be looking forward to seeing you out there on the track. 

FREEMAN:  Thank you so much.

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, a look ahead to a very controversial film, one that is going to be hitting the screens tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We love to hear from you, so e-mail us at

NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.  Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.  And while there, you can sign up for our newsletter.  So don‘t forget to do that. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thank you so much for watching. 

Tomorrow night, the controversy over this summer‘s spectacular disaster movie, “The Day After Tomorrow.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  These tornadoes are forming so fast.  Oh, my gosh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  The film‘s premise is that global warming causes a sudden climate change that leaves New York City frozen beneath a block of ice, Los Angeles hit by zillions of tornadoes.  And the political word has basically had its own kind of tornado.  Both sides of the global warming issue are coming forward.  And the question, how real is this movie?  Can it really happen?  Tomorrow night, my interview with the film‘s writer/producer/director Roland Emmerich and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, all about “The Day After Tomorrow.”  And that is tomorrow.

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

Thanks for watching.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.

END   

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