Guest: Hayes Roth, James Wolcott, Max Robins, Judith Miller, Floyd Abrams, Tom Joyner
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: The harassment factor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”: Hi. I‘m Bill O‘Reilly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The face of Fox News in crisis mode.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: This is the single most evil thing I have ever experienced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: As the master of “The No Spin Zone” is now forced to spin a defense against allegations he sexually harassed an underling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: Bad day. Bad day for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Power play. “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller usually writes for the front page. Now she‘s been making headlines herself for refusing to reveal a confidential source. Tonight, Judith Miller on freedom of the press, the power of the courts and the possibility she could end up in jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM JOYNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I‘m trying to do all I can, but I need some help to spread the word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: As the host of the nation‘s top urban radio show, Tom Joyner has got the ear of some of the most influential people in politics and show biz and more than eight million listeners each week. But are the nation‘s swing voters tuning in? Tonight, radio personality Tom Joyner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOYNER: Oh, thank you for participating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. Bill O‘Reilly called yesterday the worst day of his life. The host of Fox News Channel‘s “O‘Reilly Factor” is embroiled in a bitter sexual harassment lawsuit and countersuit. One of his producers, Andrea Mackris, is accusing O‘Reilly of making sexually explicit phone calls to her and claiming that she felt increasingly threatened by them. O‘Reilly claims that Mackris and her attorney picked the wrong guy to go after. He filed his own lawsuit, claiming they tried to extort $60 million from him and from Fox.
Meantime, O‘Reilly has to go on the air every night. So how does all of this affect O‘Reilly‘s show, his career, his role as a major media player? Guilty or innocent, how does the “no spin” master stop this scandal from spinning out of control?
Joining me tonight is “Vanity Fair” columnist James Wolcott. He‘s the author of “Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of News in a Time of Terror.” Hayes Roth is with us tonight. He‘s the vice president of worldwide marketing and business development for Landor Associates. And Max Robins is the editor-in-chief of “Broadcasting and Cable” magazine. And I thank you all for being here.
You know, if this is true, it‘s terrible for the young lady. It‘s terrible for Bill O‘Reilly‘s wife. And if it‘s no true, it‘s terrible for Bill O‘Reilly. But until it‘s decided in court, he‘s got to go on. And I wonder how much his reputation has suffered, from each of your different perspectives. Max, you first. The broadcasting and cable worlds that O‘Reilly works in—how‘s this going to impact on him in the interim?
J. MAX ROBINS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “BROADCASTING AND CABLE”: Well, I think for the time being, the ratings of his show go up. I mean, I think there‘s a real curiosity factor.
NORVILLE: Because people want to see, Does he look stressed? Does he look worried?
ROBINS: Absolutely. Absolutely. So he‘s going to bring in an audience that normally wouldn‘t come to the—to his show. Long-term, I think he‘s tarnished by this. This hurts him. I mean, the guy‘s out selling a book right now that‘s about, you know, family, family values, how to raise a family. From these—from what we‘re hearing in the press, this doesn‘t sound like the guy people are going to want to take advice from.
NORVILLE: Yes, the book is called “The O‘Reilly Factor for Children:
A Survival Guide for America‘s Teens and Families.” And Harper Collins pulled the book tour. He was supposed to be going on more publicity appearances, and they‘ve said, Not right now. We‘ll do it a little bit later, after all this dies down.
Hayes Roth, you‘re in the strategic brand business. How is his brand affected by this?
HAYES ROTH, VP LANDOR ASSOCIATES: Well, it‘s interesting. He‘s a media brand, and I don‘t think he‘s known as being a warm and fuzzy guy, so there‘s such an edge to him that, in some regards, this “in your face” confrontation that he‘s going through is sort of on brand, not that this is the reason he tried to go out and get publicity. But I agree with Max. I think you can‘t go through this for very long without it damaging you. Whether it‘ll be a death blow is another discussion.
NORVILLE: Well, the way he reacts to it may be “in your face,” but the allegations that have been made against him certainly aren‘t in keeping...
ROTH: Well, they‘re very...
NORVILLE: ... with the kind of image...
ROTH: ... brutal and...
NORVILLE: ... that he‘s had.
ROTH: Right. And given the high ground that he‘s tried to take on some of his books, as we just heard, I think that it does undermine a great deal about what he says. So it‘s a dangerous situation for him.
NORVILLE: James, he‘s always sort of had the point that, you know, I‘m out there. I‘m there for you. Who‘s looking out for you? Me. I‘m there for the little guy. If he ends up being exonerated on all of this, he‘s got a tremendous platform, doesn‘t he?
JAMES WOLCOTT, “VANITY FAIR” COLUMNIST: Well, but before we get to that point, we have to remember there is a pattern with him, which is that people will accuse him of saying something in public, then he‘ll say, Never said it. Never said it. Then the clip is shown on the air, and he did say it. And then he goes, That is just the usual garbage you get. You know, they try to knock me down—and he does this sort of thing where he denies something, and then when it‘s brought back, it‘s, like, he shifts the argument. So if this turns out to be true, he‘s in big trouble.
The other thing it does in the short run is it turns him into a figure of fun. This is a guy who cannot laugh at himself, who gets furious when he‘s teased. So these little pokes that he‘s going to get, he may not be able to withstand them. He may go off at some point.
NORVILLE: And you think that...
WOLCOTT: He doesn‘t want to talk about it.
NORVILLE: ... could be really dangerous, if...
WOLCOTT: I think it‘d be very...
NORVILLE: ... that button gets pushed.
WOLCOTT: Yes. If he goes off on that and if he—if he shows a real flash of anger about it—because this isn‘t a case of him going up against the “big guys”—I‘m standing up for you. This is somebody who was in a lower position than him. It‘s directed downwards.
NORVILLE: And that‘s a...
WOLCOTT: So he‘s got to be...
NORVILLE: ... completely different thing.
NORVILLE: You know, they always say that when they start making jokes about you on the late-night comedy shows, you‘re toast. And I don‘t know if that‘s true or not, but I do know that last night on Jay Leno, Bill O‘Reilly was the butt of one of the jokes. Here‘s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST: Did you hear about this? A female producer at Fox News has filed a sexual harassment against Bill O‘Reilly, claiming he reportedly talked to her about phone sex, threesomes and masturbation. And of course, the people at Fox News were shocked. They had no idea O‘Reilly was a Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: OK, everybody here is laughing. Is Bill O‘Reilly laughing, Hayes?
ROTH: Oh, I don‘t think so! This is—obviously, this is not what you want to have happen. But I think what‘s happening is that he‘s—I think his biggest challenge is his own mouth because he clearly is having a hard time just doing what a normal public relations professional would tell him to do, which is—and his lawyers—which is keep it quiet. Let‘s go through this and ride it out. And I don‘t think he‘s able to do that. He‘s going to be fodder for more of that.
NORVILLE: But he did make one statement. He did make one appearance with respect to the book publicity. He went on “Regis and Kelly,” and this is what he had to say about the situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘REILLY: Now, if I have to go down, I‘m willing to do it. But I‘ve got to make a stand. I‘m a big mouth on the air, I‘m a big mouth off the air. I‘m a big Irish guy. You know, Regis knows what I am.
O‘REILLY: But I am a person who will say, Enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLCOTT: I have to say, if I‘m at Fox News, I‘m very nervous that somebody‘s saying, “If I have to go down, I‘m going to”—because that sounds almost like pulling the pillars of the temple down with you. And one of the things I‘m very interested in is, you know, this is a guy who‘s lorded it over his colleagues—I mean, over his competitors, but he‘s also lorded it over his colleagues. I...
NORVILLE: How do you know that? I mean...
WOLCOTT: Well, because that‘s what you—he talks about himself as, like, I really—you know, I‘m the king of cable news. I‘m the...
NORVILLE: Well, he‘s got ratings to back it up.
WOLCOTT: He‘s got the ratings to back it up. But that makes people, you know, kind of root inside, and maybe outside, for, Oh, well, let‘s bring him down several notches. I‘m going to be very interested in seeing who comes to his defense, if anybody, because you‘re not seeing a great swarm to his defense so far, you know, from—you know...
NORVILLE: Well, I think people, frankly, are looking at the complaint. And when you look at the complaint—it‘s very lengthy. There are a number of points on it. And looking at the complaint, it would appear that this young lady had access to a tape recorder. There are what appear to be verbatim conversations being retold in which she says, for instance, that Mr. O‘Reilly Said to her, quote, “If any woman ever breathed a word, I‘ll make her pay so dearly that she‘ll wish she‘d never been born.” She alleges that O‘Reilly continued and said, “It would be her word against mine. And who are they going to believe, me or some unstable woman making outrageous accusations? They‘d see her as some psycho, someone unstable.”
There‘s been a lot of speculation about whether there‘s tapes, if there‘s tapes, it was legal. Under New York state law, she‘s absolutely...
ROBINS: Oh, she can—she...
NORVILLE: entitled to have done this...
NORVILLE: ... if, indeed, this took place.
ROBINS: Absolutely. She could tape him. The way the language is in that document, it does seem that there are tapes. Those tapes get out—and we all know about embarrassing tapes. You know, I remember something called Watergate. I mean, certainly, this isn‘t of...
NORVILLE: It‘s not exactly on the...
ROBINS: ... the magnitude of that.
NORVILLE: ... same order.
ROBINS: No, no. I don‘t mean to suggest that. But can you imagine these tapes get out, and you start hearing them on Leno and Letterman and on the Howard Stern show? I mean, come on. That‘s serious business.
WOLCOTT: And also, at that point, then—you were talking about tapes. I was thinking of the famous Marion Barry defense—“The bitch set me up.” You know, Yes, I‘m on tape, but this was a setup.
NORVILLE: Well, we don‘t know that there are tapes.
WOLCOTT: We don‘t know. No, we don‘t know.
NORVILLE: We‘re simply speculating...
WOLCOTT: We don‘t know because it‘s very...
NORVILLE: ... based on what‘s contained in the complaint.
WOLCOTT: Yes, it‘s very detailed. Right. And the lawyer—the lawyer, when he was on interview shows, he sort of did not deny there were tapes. He sort of said, Well, she‘s either got a very good memory or—he sort of—this is—clearly, it‘s a negotiated thing, a leverage that they have.
NORVILLE: And with respect to that, before her lawsuit against Mr. O‘Reilly was filed, Mr. O‘Reilly countersued, alleging that she had been attempting to shake them down. How is that going to be perceived, Hayes, in the public arena? Is it, again, the big guy taking on the underling?
ROTH: No, I don‘t think that‘s going to be seen as that. I think it was an aggressive act, but he‘s an aggressive guy.
NORVILLE: So it‘s in keeping with his brand.
ROTH: It was in keeping with his persona. I think it may backfire. Obviously, it‘ll backfire if they‘ve got something on him. And it‘ll be a history. It will be part of the joke.
ROBINS: You‘ve already seen this kind of media war that‘s already started over this. In “The New York Post” today, which, let‘s not forget, is part of the same media family as Fox News, there‘s a story about how this woman in question supposedly had some incident at a posh Manhattan restaurant. They‘re already trying to paint her as unstable. It‘s already starting.
WOLCOTT: Whereas “The Daily News,” of course, says...
WOLCOTT: ... two pages for the highlights of—“The Daily News” is using that because they know “The Post” has to, you know...
NORVILLE: Let me ask each of you to look ahead into the future, what you predict for Bill O‘Reilly. And let‘s take both sides of the coin. Max, this is unfounded. This is unfair. And after the legal process continues in whatever form it takes, he‘ll be exonerated of this. What happens to Bill O‘Reilly then? And what if it is true?
ROBINS: Well, he still survives, maybe even continues to thrive, but I don‘t think at the same level as he‘s enjoyed up to this point. I mean, the stuff is still there. That‘s what the public‘s going to remember, all the salacious stuff that‘s come out. So I don‘t know. Even if he‘s vindicated that he didn‘t harass her, this still hurts him. One thing, though, is interesting to note. We were looking at Rush Limbaugh‘s ratings, which are still pretty, pretty high after his bout with drug addiction and obtaining drugs illegally, so...
NORVILLE: So if your fan base is really loyal, your fan base can stick through...
ROBINS: They find a way...
NORVILLE: ... with you through thick and thin.
ROBINS: ... to forgive you, you know? A lot of people still like the former president, Clinton.
NORVILLE: Hayes, we‘ve talked about Martha Stewart rehabilitating her image. Obviously, it‘s not the same kind of thing, but certainly, it‘s a very large media figure with a very big problem.
ROTH: Exactly. But she had a whole different positioning, and let‘s say the crime is of a different nature.
ROTH: I think Kobe Bryant is a more instructive comparison, and I think that we‘re not going to—we don‘t know yet what‘s going to happen there. But clearly, it‘s not going to be he‘s going to get exonerated or she‘s going to get the—or win the case. I think there‘s going to—it‘s too muddy. It‘s going to—there‘s always dirt on both sides that comes up out of something like this, and it‘s how you weather that. And it has not been good for Kobe from a professional branding standpoint. He‘s not—all of his relationships...
NORVILLE: He‘s lost a lot of endorsements.
ROTH: ... McDonalds of the world are over and...
NORVILLE: Is that predictive for Bill O‘Reilly?
ROTH: Well, he—he doesn‘t have a lot of licensing agreements.
It‘s whether people are going to buy his book or want to watch his TV show. He‘s a pugnacious guy, as I said. I think—especially if he‘s even moderately exonerated or there‘s some gray area, he can use that, as he‘s done in the past, and he‘ll come back meaner than ever, probably but—if it‘s a slam-dunk case, then I think we‘re talking about something totally different.
NORVILLE: All right. And James, real quick.
WOLCOTT: Well, I think that he has to go for total victory because he‘s not a sympathetic figure. He‘s not going to get the sympathy of the audience. So in a sense, he has no choice but to tough it out.
NORVILLE: And anything short of that is total defeat.
WOLCOTT: Well, I think so. I mean, he can go on and the career can go on, but it‘s a very changed, you know, Bill O‘Reilly, in terms of the way people perceive him.
NORVILLE: I think this is a story that is going to be with us for several weeks to come. I hope you‘ll all come back and talk more about with us in the future. Max Robins, Hayes Roth and James Wolcott, thank you very much.
ANNOUNCER: Still to come: She challenged a federal judge to protect a confidential source. Now “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller might be going to jail. DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address, making the case that Iraq was trying to develop nuclear weapons by obtaining uranium from Niger, a claim that was disputed a few months later by former ambassador Joseph Wilson in a “New York Times” op-ed piece. Soon after, the name of Wilson‘s wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, was leaked by confidential sources to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who printed it. Other reporters were also tipped off. But revealing the identity of an undercover agent is a federal crime, and now the Justice Department is investigating.
Today President Bush‘s top political adviser, Karl Rove, testified before a federal grand jury, and at least five reporters have also been subpoenaed to testify, including Judith Miller of “The New York Times.” Miller is refusing to reveal her sources, and last week a federal judge found her in contempt, threatening her with 18 months in jail. She‘s free on bond pending an appeal.
And joining me now is Judith Miller from “The New York Times” and her attorney, Floyd Abrams. Ms. Miller, is going to jail worth it for your job?
JUDITH MILLER, “NEW YORK TIMES” REPORTER: It has to be. My job
really means protecting the confidentiality of my sources, as does yours,
Deborah, and as does every journalist. And if I‘m not willing to do this -
· obviously, I don‘t want to do this, but if I‘m not willing to, I‘d be kind of betraying my profession and my sense of ethics. So I have to be willing to do it..
NORVILLE: And yet, Mr. Abrams, it‘s not clear that Ms. Miller even knows anything about what the government wants to know about. She never wrote a story about Valerie Plame and the CIA identity and all of that. There‘s been no byline with her name about this story.
FLOYD ABRAMS, 1ST AMENDMENT LAWYER: That‘s right. She never wrote a story. And yet, here she is now—sorry to put it this way—on the lip of jail, having been ordered jailed. And unless we get this reversed by the court of appeals, I mean, that‘s what would happen, notwithstanding that she never wrote a story about this at all.
NORVILLE: On the other hand, Matt Cooper, whom you also represent, from “Time” magazine, did write a story. The story he wrote, though, seemed to be on the government‘s side. It denounced whoever had done this leak and took them to task. He, too, is facing up to 18 months in prison.
ABRAMS: Right. Right. Well, when you say “on the government‘s side,” he wrote a story exposing the fact that people in the government had leaked this information. Now the government, wearing a different suit, is basically trying to jail any reporter who won‘t cooperate by revealing her or his source.
NORVILLE: And he has, however, spoken. There have been some reporters who have spoken to the federal prosecutors, among them, Tim Russert from NBC News who were given permission by at least one of their sources, Scooter Libby, who works for the vice president‘s office, to have that conversation.
ABRAMS: Well, Matt Cooper was given permission by Scooter Libby, and on that basis, and he agreed to answer questions only about him. And then when he did so, we got a new subpoena. And the new subpoena, in effect, said, Well, thanks a lot. Now we want to know about everyone in the world except Scooter Libby. So you know, nothing good happened from having tried to avoid this—this conflict between journalists and the courts. I mean, this is not a situation where Judy Miller or Matt Cooper has been looking for a chance to make new law. They just want to be able to go about their lives and to gather information and report it to the public.
NORVILLE: Ms. Miller, here‘s the thing that I don‘t understand. If you never wrote a story about this—it has been reported that you did do some investigating on this issue, as I guess every national journalist was, once it hit the news when Bob Novak did his piece in July of 2003. But if you never reported anything about it, how does the government suspect that you know anything?
MILLER: I think I‘m going to let my lawyer handle that question.
NORVILLE: Because that‘s something they could potentially ask you about, if you ever ended up in front of them?
ABRAMS: No, it‘s not that. It‘s that the only way we have any idea what the answer to your question is, is by sort of surmising, trying to guess how in the world could the government have gotten her name because, as you say, she never wrote a story. The only thing that makes sense is that people who have testified, people who work in the government, mentioned, I spoke to Judy Miller, as well as, you know, blank, blank, blank. That‘s the only thing I can think of. It certainly is not Judy calling up the prosecutor and saying, I sure would like to testify.
NORVILLE: The government says that it can compel Ms. Miller‘s testimony and Mr. cooper and anyone else that may end up in this thing because of the Supreme Court decision that came down in 1972. It‘s called Branzburg versus Hayes. And that decision says, in part, “The 1st Amendment does not relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation that all citizens have to respond to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation.”
There is a criminal investigation going on. Ms. Miller, why shouldn‘t a reporter have to adhere to the same standards that every other citizen in this country does?
MILLER: Well, first of all—and I think Floyd can address this better than I—there are categories of citizens who do not have to appear before grand juries and do not have to violate their pledges of confidentiality. Think of lawyers, for example, or think of priests or...
NORVILLE: Husband and wife.
MILLER: ... husbands and wives. There are whole groups of people who have been given some special protection by the courts. Our argument is that because we have a 1st Amendment obligation and responsibility, that we, too, should find ourselves in that category. And in fact, 31 states and the District of Columbia have all passed shield laws that give journalists some special protection. And what we‘re very interested in getting is a federal law that would give us the same kind of protection that I‘m afforded in states and in the District of Columbia.
NORVILLE: I want to throw up a graphic of those 31 states, so people know if they live in a state where reporters are protected or not, and just read a part of the Pennsylvania shield law. They‘ll all worded a little bit differently. But basically, the shield law says, “Anybody engaged in press activities, whether it‘s radio, TV, magazine of general circulation, shall be required to disclose the source of any information in a legal proceeding”—shall not be required to do that—basically, it says if you live in this state, there‘s certain things, as a reporter, we cannot compel you to do.
But frankly, Mr. Abrams, a lot of people think that the press is not deserving of this special protection, and while they may think Ms. Miller is a fine person and a great worker—sorry. This is a bigger issue than you personally.
ABRAMS: Well, it is a bigger issue than Judy Miller personally, as she well knows. But the bigger issue is whether the public can still get the information that Judy Miller and all the other journalists who gather it for the purpose of reporting it to the public try to do. I mean, that‘s what journalists at their best do. There‘s been so much written, and some of it has been justified, about journalists who failed in their responsibility to the public.
ABRAMS: Here are journalists trying to gather information about the workings of government itself, one of the things where sometimes the only way you can gather the information is by confidential sources giving it to you. And the price tag for them doing that is now, apparently, to have to risk jail and, perhaps, if things go badly, to go to jail.
NORVILLE: What about Bob Novak? He opened this can of worms. He first reported this story in July—July 13 of 2003. Do we know if he‘s had to testify?
ABRAMS: That is, to use a cliche, the 600-pound elephant in the room. No one has any idea. No one has any idea if he has testified, if he has claimed the 5th Amendment, if the prosecutor is waiting to ask him or force him to testify later. No one knows, and Mr. Novak isn‘t answering questions about what he‘s doing.
NORVILLE: Help people understand at home, Ms. Miller, why it‘s so important to you that you really would go to jail for as much as 18 months, according to the federal prosecutor, so that they can read your stories in “The New York Times.”
MILLER: Right. Because my business, our business, depends on people who have a grievance, who have a story to tell, coming to us, knowing that they do so at perhaps great peril, perhaps losing their jobs, and knowing that we will safeguard their confidentiality. If there‘s no other way they can give us the information, if they can‘t be on the record, they can speak to us and know that we will protect them.
If I can‘t make that pledge to them and if they don‘t believe me, they won‘t come, and the public may never know something the public may need to know.
MILLER: That‘s really at the heart of what we do as journalists. And if I can‘t do that, I might as well, you know, take down my shingle.
NORVILLE: And Mr. Abrams, you think it‘s potential that this case could go as high as the Supreme Court to get a final decision?
ABRAMS: I think it really is possible. You know, you never know what cases the Supreme Court will take. But the case raises a very important issue. Since that Branzburg case that you mentioned, the lower courts have gone all over the place with different sorts of rulings and different direction, often protecting the press, often not.
ABRAMS: John Chancellor of NBC once was looking to the future. He worried about a time when all there would be on television is what he called “non-fiction, non-news.”
NORVILLE: Ooh! Sounds like reality TV, doesn‘t it?
NORVILLE: Yikes! The future may be here. Floyd Abrams, thanks for being with us. Judith Miller, good luck to you. Keep us posted on what happens.
MILLER: Thanks, Deborah. We will.
NORVILLE: We‘ll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Up next: He‘s the influential voice behind the nation‘s top urban radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM JOYNER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you for participating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Does he have the political wattage to swing voters? A conversation with radio Hall of Famer Tom Joyner when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE TOM JOYNER SHOW”)
TOM JOYNER, HOST: And we‘ve been saying that the swing vote is really black people.
AL SHARPTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The swing vote will be the unlikely voters, the people that don‘t expect to show up, people that listen to you every morning, and you registered voters all over this country.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was the Reverend Al Sharpton on the Tom Joyner morning show, the No. 1 urban radio show in Americans, more than eight million listeners every week.
“Newsweek” magazine recently named Tom Joyner one of the 10 most prominent broadcast voices in this red-hot political year, and he just won radio‘s Marconi Award for personality of the year. He is also the first African-American to be elected to the Radio Hall of Fame. When Tom Joyner talks, people listen. Lately, he‘s been talking a lot about voting.
I‘m pleased to welcome Tom Joyner to the program.
Nice to see you.
JOYNER: Hi, Deborah.
NORVILLE: It‘s sort of media night here. We were talking a moment ago with Judith Miller about the possibility of going to jail to protect a source and then earlier about Bill O‘Reilly and his problems with this sexual harassment suit. How do think people regard the media these days in general? Do they like us or do they like us to be quite?
JOYNER: You know, are we fair and balanced?
JOYNER: You know, it depends on, of course, I think which media source you‘re talking about, you know? I think we are all watching Fox pretty closely, especially after the last presidential election.
And then, of course, on my end, we do things from a black perspective. That‘s what we do on the radio show. That‘s what we do with BlackAmericaWeb.com. Our content comes from a black perspective. So it depends on whose perspective you‘re looking at, you know? If you‘re looking at us, it‘s going to be from the black American perspective.
NORVILLE: I know that this particular point in time, voter registration is something that‘s particularly important. It‘s something you‘ve been working on for a long time. And I know your mantra has always been making people feel that they‘ve got a voice that they can exercise, because there are a lot of people who feel disenfranchised.
And yet, frankly, when you look at the numbers, while you‘ve been out there for many, many years telling black Americans to get out there and participate, you look at the numbers from the last election and it just doesn‘t show that they‘re participate in the kind of numbers you‘re talking about. I want to throw this survey up. It shows that, of white Americans, almost 40 percent, 39.6, didn‘t vote. Almost 46 percent, 45.9 percent, of black Americans didn‘t get to the polls in 2000.
What have you got to say to make people think that it really does matter if they participate?
JOYNER: Well, who‘s checking your facts?
NORVILLE: That was the U.S. Census Bureau.
JOYNER: Just kidding.
JOYNER: After looking at all these debates and stuff, everybody‘s throwing out numbers there. I know as soon as you throw a number back, somebody‘s back there checking facts.
What are the numbers for—was there an increase of black voters from the last election? Was there an increase, especially in Florida?
NORVILLE: Well, I know that‘s one of the issues going on right now.
JOYNER: I think so. I think so.
NORVILLE: The whole idea that some say that particularly blacks, but
across the board in some areas, Florida voters among others were
disenfranchised, not given the opportunity to get there and get
But I think, Deborah, if you checked, if you checked, there was an increase of black voters from the last time. Sure, there‘s a huge gap of the number of potential black voters that did not vote. But, overall, I think that there was a record number. And you can check and see if I‘m right or wrong.
But I think that there was a record number from the 2000, especially in the off-year election in 2002. So I think that black voters are going to turn out in record numbers. We‘ve registered a lot of black voters through the show, through BlackAmericaWeb, through our “Sky Shows.” We did -- like, over a six-week period we did like 40,000 new registered voters.
NORVILLE: And how do you think those voters are going to vote? Because I know this is a nonpartisan thing, and the Republican Party is out there saying this is an effort to put Democrats on the voting rolls.
But there‘s no request that you vote and register with any particular party, is there?
JOYNER: No. But I think, if you check your facts, you‘ll see that most African-Americans voted last time for the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.
And I think that‘s probably going to happen this time. Let‘s just break it—let‘s just—like it is, tell it like it is. Look, African-American voters want anybody in office but Bush, OK? And so our choice is Kerry. And that is probably what‘s going to happen. Probably nine out of 10 black voters are going to vote for Bush—I mean, for Kerry.
NORVILLE: Vote for Kerry.
I‘m sure you saw in “The New York Times” today an op-ed piece that Paul Krugman had in there. And he said that—quote—“Florida is the site of naked efforts to suppress Democratic votes and the votes of blacks in particular.”
If these efforts are so naked, what should folks be looking for come Election Day or leading up to it to get the sense that there‘s some force afoot to stop them from voting as they wish?
JOYNER: Anything that looks suspicious.
NORVILLE: Like what?
JOYNER: Well, anything that looks suspicious like the last time or if you—you know, if you see any action of anybody trying to suppress a vote, whether it‘s a hanging chad or if it‘s throwing out Democratic registration forms in Ohio, like we have had reports of, if anything, we‘ve got the NAACP, Unity ‘04. We have a number.
And if you see anything, call and report it. There will be a lot of poll monitors this year. And we‘ll be on the case to report it.
NORVILLE: Understandably, the RNC says those kinds of charges are just hogwash. They say—quote—“Nothing could be further from the truth. The Republican National Committee does not condone any activity that would disenfranchise any voters anywhere.”
JOYNER: Yes, what else would they say? NORVILLE: What else would they say?
But do you really believe that there was a plan afoot four years ago to directly prevent Americans from casting their vote?
JOYNER: I don‘t know if someone woke up and said, here‘s what we‘re going to do. We‘re going to suppress black voters in Florida and other places. I don‘t know if there was a plan in place. But some mighty funny stuff went down.
NORVILLE: Like what?
JOYNER: Well, the whole 2000 election and the thing going through the Supreme Court.
NORVILLE: Well, I don‘t mean the hanging chads and stuff like that.
I mean, you don‘t know if your chad is hanging when you were voting.
People didn‘t know that their ballots weren‘t being done correctly.
Were there other things that happened in 2000, specifically in Florida, where now, looking back, that was suspicious? I should have spoken up then. I should have called this number. We‘re going to put the number on the screen in a moment. Things like that that people could have taken note of?
JOYNER: I don‘t have specifics.
But the NAACP did an investigation right after the 2000 election that was very extensive and it dealt—and they dealt with a lot of people who called us who had complaints. The NAACP did a great job in doing that and pointing out the irregularities, and that report is still out there.
NORVILLE: Yes. And that‘s the number right there; 866-OUR-VOTE is the number. Come election time, if there is something that looks a little funny, that‘s the number to call.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, more with my guest, Tom Joyner, in just a moment.
NORVILLE: Tom Joyner has got the No. 1 urban radio show in the country and he says his audience will sway the election. What does his audience want to hear from the candidates? Next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE TOM JOYNER SHOW”)
JOYNER: After the first debate, you‘ve got to know that the people that prepares John Kerry for these debates, his head speechwriter is a black man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s a black man?
JOYNER: That‘s right. He‘s a black man. And I know that black man right now is somewhere giving everybody, I gave him line.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That‘s mine. That‘s mine.
JOYNER: I wrote that. I wrote that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That‘s radio personality Tom Joyner on the first presidential debate. Eight million people listen to his radio show every week. And they don‘t just listen. A lot of them talk back. This fall, Joyner‘s listeners have the race for the White House on their minds.
And we‘re back now with Tom Joyner, who‘s down in Miami, where he‘s going to be doing some voter work.
What do your listeners say to you when they phone into your show? Are they liking what they‘re hearing in the presidential debates, or are they feeling like it‘s the same old, same old?
JOYNER: They‘re getting off on it.
I‘m surprised. That just goes to show you, I think there‘s a huge momentum out there among African-American voters to go to the polls on November 2. Our listeners are really getting into this debate. My phone lines are constantly just about Bush and, you know, what he‘s not doing, and people saying that they‘re fed up and they want some change and most of which, of course, are against Bush and for Kerry.
NORVILLE: You know, what I think is so interesting about your story, Tom, is that you, and Tavis Smiley, too, together, the two of you kind of banded together and said, you know what? No one is paying attention to the black audiences out there, and it‘s big and it‘s substantial and it spends money.
And you came up with a pretty clever way with CompUSA, which is located down in Texas, where you‘re headquartered, to make the point that if you went after that urban audience, you‘d do well financially.
NORVILLE: What did you do?
JOYNER: Well, what we did was, we took CompUSA—this was many years ago now, because I just want to preface that, because CompUSA has really changed their ways as a result of what we did.
What we did was, we went to CompUSA. And we chose CompUSA as one of many corporate players out there who take the African-American consumer dollar for granted. And we said to them, as we say to all of our partners, potential partners, sponsors and advertisers, that if you go after the African-American consumer, if you show the consumer that you are interested in not only selling them your wares, that if you show them, if you show us that you are also interested in the affairs of our community and the issues that we‘re concerned with, that we‘ll put our arms around you and we‘ll be with you for life.
We‘re very brand-loyal. And so we took—we went to the air and we
said, if you‘ve ever shopped at CompUSA and you‘re African-American, send
us your receipt. And we got boxes of receipts. We took them down there to
CompUSA and we said, this is the money. This is some of the money that
you‘re getting on a daily basis. Now
NORVILLE: And if
NORVILLE: ... advertised directly to those people, they might be even more loyal than just coming on the chance.
And so a little back and forth, and they saw that we were right, and they came on board to advertise in black media, not with the “Tom Joyner” morning show. Let me preface that, because our show at the time was sold out. But they advertised in black media, and I think they were quite satisfied with the results.
NORVILLE: And now that idea is being translated into helping folks get the right kind of health care they need.
Take a short break. When we come back, more on how Tom Joyner is doing what he can to change the face of black America.
We‘ll be back.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “THE TOM JOYNER SHOW”)
JOYNER: Today, I want you to call and express yourself. Today‘s question is, who do you know that needs to go see the doctor? At 1-800-JOYNER-1, 1-800-569-6371. This is the hardest-working man in radio, the fly jock, Tom Joyner. Six minutes, six minutes past the hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Don‘t call that number right there. He‘s not there. He‘s with us.
Radio personality Tom Joyner talking about another cause that‘s close to his heart, called Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day.
You wanted to make sure that people were getting the right kind of health care. And it turned out, this one hit real close to home. What happened?
JOYNER: Well, you know, we‘re always talking about the health of our community.
And the black community, of course, you know that we are disproportionately affected by heart disease.
JOYNER: Diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and the list just goes on and on, AIDS, HIV.
And we‘re always talking about the symptoms and all the things that, you know—this was our call to action. This was our call to action. We said on September 21, we declared that day as Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. And the name says it all. Whatever it takes, make an appointment for that day. Take a loved one to the doctor. We set up health fairs all over the country.
We had about 200 total in cooperation with the Department of health and Human Services. And we don‘t know how many people were served on that day. But we do know that we have gotten a lot of testimonials from people who said thank you for helping me see the light. I went. I‘m now diagnosed with whatever and I‘m getting treatment and things—and I‘m living a better life.
NORVILLE: And I know one of those was your own son. At an earlier version of this, he actually went and found out that he, not surprising, given you all have a family history, had tested positive for a diabetic condition.
JOYNER: Yes. And he didn‘t believe it. And so he went. He went as a result of going to the doctor on doctor day, escorting one of our personalities. And, of course, he got checked. But it just goes on and on.
JOYNER: So this was our call to action.
Now, we‘re doing something very similar to that right now with early voting. We‘ve declared October 22 as early voting day in the states where there are early voting precincts going on right now.
JOYNER: So, on Friday, a week from today, we are getting with our affiliates. We have some 120 around the country. And we‘re setting up early voter registration day. That‘s what I‘m doing in Miami at our “Sky Show” on the 29th, which is the Friday before the election, after the show, at the Jackie Gleason Theater, which is about 2,000 or 3,000 people that we have early in the morning from 6:00 to 10:00, we‘re going to march from the theater, just a few yards from the theater to the early voting booth in Miami and we‘re going to early vote en masse. We‘re going to have a mass march and rally to early vote on October 22.
NORVILLE: So you think you‘ll know before November 2 if all of these get-out-the-vote efforts have been successful, even before most of America goes to the poll. You think you‘ll have a good read on it.
JOYNER: Well, if—we registered 40,000 in six weeks. And if we can get a large percentage of those 40,000 to early vote, you know.
NORVILLE: That‘s a good thing.
NORVILLE: Everybody needs to participate.
Tom Joyner, it‘s always fun to see you. Nice to see you and not just listen to you. We appreciate you being with us.
JOYNER: Thanks, Deborah.
NORVILLE: And if you want to learn more about Unity ‘04 vote campaign, just go to our Web site, NORVILLE.MSNBC.com. We‘ve got a link for you.
When we come back, this week‘s “American Moment.” Stay tuned.
NORVILLE: For the fifth year in a row, Americans led the pack among Nobel Prize winners. And their achievements make up this week‘s “American Moment.”
Seven out of the 12 Nobel Prizes awarded this year went to Americans. And once again, they dominated the science fields. Among this year‘s winners were Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck for research in medicine. They figured out how the nose smells and how scent can trigger memory and emotion. Edward Prescott shared in the prize in economics. And he got really excited when he heard the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD PRESCOTT, NOBEL PRIZE WINNER: It was early in the morning, and I couldn‘t figure out how to make the cell phone work. The first three times, I cut them off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
American Irwin Rose shared the chemistry prize with two Israeli scientists. And Americans David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek won the physics prize. Their work was focused on quarks, nation‘s tiniest building blocks, on darkness in the universe, and something called the Theory of Everything. You‘re simply going to have you look that one up for yourself.
Since the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, 42 percent of the winners have been Americans. And so, congratulations to all of this year‘s Nobel winners who make up this week‘s “American Moment.”
And that is our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching.
I‘m Deborah Norville.
Coming up on Monday night, with the presidential campaign in the homestretch, will Sinclair Broadcasting company follow through with plans for an anti-John Kerry documentary? We‘ll find out.
We‘ll see you next week.
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