ad info

Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  





Bush signs order opening 'faith-based' charity office for business

Rescues continue 4 days after devastating India earthquake

DaimlerChrysler employees join rapidly swelling ranks of laid-off U.S. workers

Disney's is a goner


4:30pm ET, 4/16









CNN Websites
Networks image

Larry King Live

Al Roker Discusses His 'Adventures in Fatherhood'

Aired June 16, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, this man, Gary Graham is scheduled to be executed next Thursday in Texas for the 1981 shooting death of Bobby Lambert. Ron Hubbard says that he saw Lambert's killer -- and it wasn't Graham. He'll join us from Houston in his first television interview. Also in Houston, Bernadine Skillern. She witnessed the murder and positively identified Graham as the shooter at the trial. The attorneys will be with us, too.

And then the world's most popular weatherman: The "Today" show's Al Roker will join us from New York.

They are all next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

This is today's full-page ad in "The New York Times," put together by a group designed to try to get Mr. Graham off of death row. It's called give innocence a chance. This is a widely discussed case.

Let's meet Ron Hubbard first. He says he saw the incident and that Graham was not the man he saw. This was May 13, 1981. It occurred in a Safeway parking lot. What were you doing at the time, Ron?

RON HUBBARD, DEATH ROW DISPUTE WITNESS: At the present time, I was a sacker employed for the store, that Safeway store.

KING: And where were you at the time when the shooting happened?

HUBBARD: At the time the shooting happened, I was outside collecting buggies.

KING: Oh, the things that people carry the -- the groceries, in, they put them back.

HUBBARD: Exactly.

KING: And what did you see?

HUBBARD: Well, prior to going out to collect the buggies, I was inside sacking groceries at the express counter. And the store was jam-packed with people that night, so, therefore, they asked me to do a buggy run. So as I proceeded out to do the buggy run, there was this black gentleman standing up against a post. And he was dressed in a white short jacket and dark trousers. He was dressed very neatly, well groomed. And I walked past him. And I spoke to him but he did not respond to me, so I kept going to go after my buggies.

KING: And then what?

HUBBARD: And then after I proceeded to get the buggies, then I gathered about 20 buggies on the guff (ph) bank side of the store. And as I was going back into the store with the buggies, the chain of buggies, I heard this gunshot. And I saw a guy fleeing, running way from the -- running across the parking lot.

KING: Was it the guy in the white jacket that you'd seen standing?

HUBBARD: Yes, I assumed that was the white jacket, because when I got up he wasn't no longer on that post.

KING: But you didn't see him running? You saw someone -- was it a guy in a white coat?

HUBBARD: It was the guy in the short white coat, that's correct.

KING: Did you know Bobby Lambert? The person that was killed?

HUBBARD: No, I didn't know him.

KING: So all you saw was this man -- you saw the man standing in the white jacket, a black man in a white jacket. Then you saw him, you heard a gunshot, Lambert's down, and you see this guy running way.


KING: What you presumed to be this guy.

HUBBARD: Exactly.

KING: Do the police talk to you?

HUBBARD: Yes, they did. They didn't...

KING: And what happened?

HUBBARD: They didn't talk to me that night of the shooting, they talked to me a couple days after the shooting.

KING: And were you ever asked to testify?

HUBBARD: No, I was not asked to testify.

KING: When you saw Gary Graham go on trial, and he to you was not the man -- right? -- why didn't you go running to say that isn't the guy?

HUBBARD: Well, at the time, when I went down to the police station, when they asked me to come down to do a live interview, to review a lineup, I was also there the same night that Miss Skillern did the lineup. And after I did not recognize the person who I saw that night in the parking lot, and I told the police that, and they say, well, thank you for your cooperation, and that was the end of it.

KING: I see. And that's after -- we'll talk to Bernadine in a minute -- that's when she identified the person she saw.

HUBBARD: Mm-hmm.

KING: So when you saw the lineup, none of the people they had in the lineup was someone you you.

HUBBARD: Exactly, that's correct.

KING: But you don't know for sure if it was that man in the white jacket that shot that shot Bobby Lambert?

HUBBARD: The person that was in the white jacket, he was not in the lineup, no he wasn't.

KING: No, but you don't know if he did shoot him. You just saw a man in a white jacket running way.

HUBBARD: Exactly.

KING: All right, was Gary Graham wearing a white jacket that night?


KING: Do you know?

HUBBARD: I don't know.

KING: OK, so how do you know Gary Graham didn't do it?

HUBBARD: Because the person that I walked past was a well, like I said, he was a well-groomed guy, he had a self atmosphere about his, very well groomed, smooth dark skinned, dark complexion he had soft, a soft atmosphere about his heart. He was very well groomed, smooth, dark skin, dark complexion. He had a one-inch -- one- to two-inch Afro at the time, Afro, and he was about 5'4" to 5'5" tall. And...

KING: Graham was taller, right?

HUBBARD: As I was told, yes, he was taller.

KING: And Graham was a teenager at the time. What age was the man you saw, would you guess?

HUBBARD: This guy looked to be about in his mid-20s.

KING: All right, but you didn't see him shoot. You only saw -- can you say -- I'm trying to just establish something, Ron -- was it that man that you saw running? Was he running? The fellow you saw standing?

HUBBARD: Yes, the person that I saw standing, that's who I assume who had did it, because there was no one else dressed in that attire...

KING: I got you.

HUBBARD: ... that night.

KING: So you didn't see a gun, though?

HUBBARD: No, I didn't see a gun.

KING: All right. You hear a shot, someone goes down, and you see the fellow you saw standing, running.


KING: All right, you didn't see him shoot anyone, but he's running from what is the scene.

HUBBARD: Exactly, that's correct.

KING: OK, does it bother you all these years to see another man convicted?

HUBBARD: Yes, it does, because, therefore, here's an innocent man. Through the reports that I've read in the newspaper articles and things, even though Gary Graham had a criminal record, and what I saw that night, that is not the person that I saw that was standing up against the podium. Like I said, I walked past him maybe one to two feet. That's how close I was on this person.

KING: When the trial was going on, you didn't think of going to the district attorney and telling him, I think you've got the wrong guy?

HUBBARD: Well, what I come to the conclusion is that, well, they asked me to come down, and I did not interview the person. And then by me being a minor at that time -- I was 16 and Mrs. Skillern was an adult -- I guess they decided...

KING: I see.

HUBBARD: ... to use her statement as well. They thought she was more credible than I was, as a minor.

KING: So you are convinced Graham didn't do it, and that guy, whoever that was in that white jacket, was certainly a suspect because he was running away.

HUBBARD: Exactly, that's correct.

KING: Thank you. Thank you, Ron.

HUBBARD: Uh-huh.

KING: Ron Hubbard, the man who was there, and that's his side.

Bernadine Skillern, the key witness in this, she says she saw Gary do it. She's with us next.

Don't go away.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: How long did your trial take?

GARY GRAHAM, DEATH ROW INMATE: I don't know, probably two or three days at the most. It was quick. It was probably one of the quickest trials in the state of Texas. It was like an assembly line of justice.

I don't think there was any real concern on the part of the defense, and so the defense basically went along with the state in the process and there was no defense. And that's what was so horrible about it because it's -- no matter no matter what you say about the evidence, I think what we can all agree on is that that whole process wasn't fair.



KING: That clip we saw was Greta Van Susteren at the jail in Texas interviewing Gary Graham, who is scheduled to die next Thursday. It was behind a partition, that's why the sound wasn't too great.

Bernadine Skillern joins us now. She's in Houston, and she was the chief witness. And she saw the shooting and she said Gary Graham did it.

What do you make, Bernadine, first, of what Ron said about the guy in the white jacket running? Did you see anyone running?

BERNADINE SKILLERN, DEATH ROW DISPUTE WITNESS: I saw Mr. Graham running after he turned the corner of the building trying to get away.

KING: Where were you, Bernadine?

SKILLERN: I was sitting on the parking lot at the Safeway store waiting for my oldest daughter to come out of the store with my two younger children in the back.

KING: You were in the car?


KING: She was coming out with the groceries?

SKILLERN: Mr. Lambert was -- no, my daughter went in for school supplies.

KING: You -- I see. And so you're waiting for her, and then what do you see? SKILLERN: I see this elderly gentleman come out of the store and walk across by my car. And I see a young black man approach him and start touching him as if he was trying to touch his pockets. And then he pulls a gun and he shoots him. I'm blowing my horn at him trying to get him to stop, and that's when Gary Graham looked directly at me.

KING: Does he shoot him more than once?

SKILLERN: I only heard one sound.

KING: And then where does he run off to?

SKILLERN: Well, actually, he turned to walk away. He started walking fast. So I started up my car and turned the corner, because I was sitting right on the corner parked by the light. And as I turned the corner, my lights were on him. He crossed -- he looked at me, and then he crossed over. And as soon as he crossed and made the corner of the store, he started to run. That's when my daughter started to scream. So I stopped the car and backed up and went back.

KING: And the police questioned you right there, and you later identified him in a lineup?

SKILLERN: That's correct. I later identified him in a lineup.

KING: When this -- after the trial was over he was found guilty, and then Governor Richards gave him a 30-day stay and there was a longer look into this. What we -- all this time, did you ever question yourself?

SKILLERN: No, Larry, I have never questioned myself. I saw Mr. Graham for more than a minute and a half, at different positions, different sides of his face, full face. He shot and killed Mr. Lambert there that night at that parking lot. At the Safeway store, I have never doubted it that he was the young man that I saw.

KING: OK, now Ron -- you know -- you saw no man in a white jacket running, so what do you make of what Ron said he saw?

SKILLERN: Mr. Graham had on a white jacket and black slacks. He didn't start to run until he was at the end of that Safeway store. He walked away when he shot Mr. Lambert at a very fast pace. And that...

KING: I see.


KING: So are you saying Ron could have seen the same thing you saw, and what he describes as running, you describe as fast walking?

SKILLERN: Well, I'm not sure what Mr. Hubbard would call running or walking, but I saw him walking fast as he crossed the intersection, as I say, in the Safeway parking lot.

KING: What has happened to you since all of this has come to light now with these full-page ads and people saying that Gary didn't do it? I mean, have you been under pressure from people?

SKILLERN: Well, sure I've been under pressure, but the public is being misinformed. So I have to not worry about that pressure and make sure the public understands that Mr. Graham did shoot and kill Mr. Lambert, and I saw him do that.

I've been called the long witness, and, yes, I'm the long witness, but I'm not tragically mistaken. There -- I'm sure that there are times and occasions when there was only one witness, and maybe there was a misidentification. But this is not the case. I saw Mr. Graham shoot and kill that man on the parking lot that night.

KING: You say that the public is being misled -- how?

SKILLERN: They're being misled to believe that Mr. Graham is an innocent man, and he is not.

KING: Oh, through all of this -- but are you -- what do you make of all the attention being focused for him? I mean, it's so obvious to you, you were there, you saw it. Why are all these people, do you think, behind him?

SKILLERN: Well, what I think is that in the very beginning, Mr. Graham was in contact with the young woman who believed that he was an innocent man. And she began trying to fight his plea to get him off of death row. That's how those stars got involved. And from there, he just got a coalition, and the sensationalism began.

KING: I see.

SKILLERN: Maybe more to fight the death penalty. And they just chose the wrong person.

KING: Do you have an opinion on the death penalty yourself?

SKILLERN: Not one that I want to express with the public. I'm not an advocate one way or another, but it's a private thing with me.

KING: The two lawyers are going to tell us where this is legally in just a couple minutes.


KING: Bernadine, you -- so when they -- "The New York Times" reported that it was just a split second you saw the face. You're saying it was 60 seconds that you saw it.

SKILLERN: It was more than 60 seconds in total. And that's one of the problems, Larry. They're are only reporting partial things. They're saying that there was something wrong with the IDing and the photographs, that someone inferred that Mr. Graham was in there and that he was the person. None of those things are right. I saw Mr. Graham for a minute and a half at least, and that's trial testimony.

KING: And you saw him from the front of the car you -- from the front window. SKILLERN: Yes, I was sitting in my car. And he could not have been more than a car length from the end of my car from me.

KING: So you saw the shooting complete?

SKILLERN: I saw it complete.

KING: There was money found on the victim, right? So he didn't stop to grab him or anything, he just fled.

SKILLERN: That's correct. When I blew my horn at him and he looked at me, it was all in a simultaneous thing. He just -- Mr. Lambert started falling, and Mr. Graham left walking.

KING: Bernadine, I thank you. I know this has not been easy for you, and we appreciate you coming forward.

SKILLERN: Thank you.

KING: That was Bernadine Calleen (ph). She said she saw Bobby Landers shoot the man, said she saw him for more than a minute -- I said -- it's Skillern, it says Skillern, is it Skillern? I have it written as Skillern. Anyway -- we apologize for having the name wrong -- when we come back, two attorneys will join us. Right now, here's more of Greta's interview at the prison through the partition with Gary Graham.


VAN SUSTEREN: If the case was so thin, if it was simply a single eyewitness who had a prior -- a problem with an identification, why do you think jury convicted you?

GRAHAM: Well, because I think you're dealing with a system -- you're dealing with a system of white supremacy in this society, a system of injustice in this society, and if you're coming out of Harris County, when you're talking about a poor young kid that was involved with some other robberies -- and can acknowledge that, OK? -- but when you're talking about our youth, and our youth is expendable, not just at trial but at death and at birth. We were born in this society. We're expendable.



KING: Now let's get up to pace here with where all this stands. In Houston, Richard Burr is with us. He is the counsel for the condemned man, Gary Graham. The clemency petition is now pending before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Former Governor Ann Richards had given the 30-day stay previously. And also in Houston is Rusty Hardin, the former Texas state prosecutor in Harris County and the attorney and friend of Bernadine Skillern, who was with us just a moment ago in the portion.

All right, Richard, where do you stand now? Is the only hope for you that the Board of Pardons and Paroles issues some sort of petition? The governor's out of it?

RICHARD BURR, ATTORNEY FOR GARY GRAHAM: Yes, Larry, it is. We have filed a petition, as you said, on June 1st. It's pending, it's being reviewed by all 18 members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and they have the power to recommend relief to the governor, but no power to act on their own.

KING: You're asking him to be released?

BURR: We're asking for a variety of things. The most appropriate relief would be that he get what we call a "conditional pardon." That is, the pardon would exonerate him, do away with the conviction on the condition that he submit to retrial. The courts should have done this. This is a case that the courts have let fall through the cracks through a variety of sort of technical procedural barriers. But the real problem is that a person who has strong evidence of innocence never had a hearing on the evidence of innocence, stands to be executed because of procedural barriers.

KING: Rusty, as a good prosecutor, naturally you never want to see any innocent person behind bars. And the worst thing that could happen, ultimate worst thing, is to kill someone who didn't do a crime. What do you make of this?

RUSTY HARDIN, FORMER TEXAS PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, I totally agree with what you just said. The problem is it's always been clear, I would contend, that Gary Graham is guilty. From '81 until now, the versions of what was wrong with this trial, the versions as to his guilt or innocence have changed, what he's done and what he hasn't.

He's gone from a guy who after he gets sentence tells the bailiff he's being taken back to his jail cell, next time I won't leave any witnesses.

He's gone from that man who's claiming an alibi at the time of the arrest and he said that he was with his girlfriend, but he didn't know where she lived and he didn't remember her name, to by 1988 he's got some alibi witnesses, and when four of them are put on in a hearing, two of them crash dive so badly that the then-attorney, not Richard, decides not to put the other two on.

The ball has moved so many times, and Gary Graham has had so many different versions as to what happened, including his version in the explanations for all the extraneous offenses he committed, that I really think if somebody backs up who's spent a life in the criminal justice system, they're really not going to have much doubt that he's guilty.

KING: What do you make of what Ron had to say, that he saw a man that didn't look like that and couldn't identify him at the lineup?

HARDIN: Well, I want to say this as nicely and as gently as I can, and I'm sure Mr. Hubbard truly believes what he's saying, but I think anybody that objectively listened to him, even as I just listened to him tonight, without cross-examination or anything, would reach the conclusion that that testimony and that version would never affect a verdict or never affect a jury's determination, particularly compared with Mr. Skillern, who, I've got to tell you, in 25 years as a lawyer is probably the strongest eyewitness testimony I've seen. The judge who tried the case, who's been both a prosecutor and is now a defense attorney for the last 15 or 17 years, had notes and gave an affidavit saying that her testimony at trial in 1981 was the strongest eyewitness testimony he'd ever seen.

KING: Richard, how do you counter her?

BURR: Larry, she's never been cross-examined. She went through...

KING: What do you mean? She wasn't cross-examined at trial?

BURR: She was examined by the defense, but she was not cross- examined with the inconsistencies between her testimony and the police report, with the suggestiveness of the photo array, with whether or not that photo array led her to identify Mr. Graham from the live lineup. These questions have never been asked Miss Skillern.

KING: You mean she was poorly represented?

BURR: No -- well, he Gary Graham was poorly represented.

HARDIN: Yes, Richard, that of course is not quite true. He was cross examined. But, Larry, what...

BURR: Well, she was. She was cross-examined but she was cross- examined without any of the right questions being asked.

HARDIN: But let's make sure that everybody understands. Richard is a very good appellate attorney and, all due respect, is not a trial attorney. And any trial attorney that looks at that case realizes that the danger of cross-examining Bernadine Skillern too closely or putting on alibis or challenging her ability to identify is that he would have then opened up the entire range of extraneous offenses, which included 17 robberies, two of which he shot people, one of which he raped people -- a woman, rather, and all of which occurred within six days after the killing of Mr. Lambert. The problem...

BURR: That's absolutely...

HARDIN: The problem the trial lawyer had in that case is that if he cross-examined her too strenuously, he was going to open the door to so many extraneous offenses, it would have taken the jury five minutes to find him guilty.

KING: Let me get another quick break here, and then we'll come back and get Richard to respond.

Here's a little more of Greta Van Susteren's visit to the prison and her questioning of the defendant.


GRAHAM: Politically, they cannot afford to acknowledge that they have poor people, innocent people, here in Texas, who are being systematically killed. And it's a killing machine, and they are killing people for votes and trying to get elected in this process -- the governors, the judges and all of them are part of it. And they cannot acknowledge that, and part of the system that is a systematical pressure they're a part of, and so they will continue to deny it, and it is important, I think, for us to -- we can't trust any of their decisions. We can't trust them to fix a pothole in the community. How can we trust them to make life and death decisions concerning people's lives that are caught up in the system?


KING: Richard Burr, how do you counter what Rusty just said?

BURR: Well, it's -- the counter is this is a case where not only Mr. Hubbard but a second eyewitness would have exonerated Gary Graham. She was certain that Gary Graham was not the killer. And the jury only heard from the one eyewitness who said he was.

Cross-examination would not have opened up the door to those offenses. It would not. The defense in this case was who was this person. The defense was misidentification. There was no evidence that the defense put on, and yet there was evidence out there that would have exonerated him because these two witnesses saw somebody different.

KING: Rusty, how do you make for the fact that there was no ballistic match of the bullets from his -- from the gun found with Graham and the gun that killed Lambert.

HARDIN: Well, very easily. He was an equal opportunity shooter. And, Robert, he used four different weapons. In the extraneous offenses, he pled guilty to 10 after the capital murder case. And in those 10, he used a .387, he used a shotgun, he used a .22, and he used a .38 -- and those are offenses that he pled guilty to after this.

KING: What was the motive, Rusty?

HARDIN: Robbery. You know, and one of the things that he's sold people on and his attorneys have done to try to get some empathy for him is to talk about these drug-induced week-afterwards extraneous offenses. You have to remember what they are. They are violent crimes committed three and four a day after the murder of Mr. Lambert, in which also single eyewitness cases.

You know, Larry, one of the ironies of this thing of talking about how wrong it is for him to be a single eyewitness is, he pled guilty to 10 aggravated robberies, one of which was a rape after this capital murder. Evidence was introduced to two others, and all of those but two were single eyewitness aggravated robberies. So he has vouched for single eyewitness testimony himself.

KING: But that doesn't mean he did this killing?

HARDIN: Oh, but that's a good point. What they have been really successful in doing in the best PR campaign I've ever seen -- and it's to the credit of Richard, who believes strongly against the death penalty, that they've mounted this campaign. But what they've done is they've gotten you -- not you, personally, but people -- to say, listen, just because he went out and did 17 other robberies, doesn't mean -- and shootings -- doesn't mean he did this one. But the law does say that if one claims he's not guilty of this offense, if he has committed other similar type offenses, that's relevant to the issue as to whether he's telling the truth this time that he didn't.

They have succeeded in getting everybody to just shut these things away and say they don't matter when he did them similarly, he did them within the same week, he did them under the same circumstances, he looks the same way, and he was always very calm. No one ever said he was under drugs or alcohol.

KING: Richard, it seems like, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it looks like a duck.

HARDIN: Thank you.

BURR: Larry, this ain't a duck. The offenses that he pled guilty to were quite different. Under the law, they have to be distinctively the same. They were armed robberies, but they didn't occur out in an open parking lot...

KING: All right, I'm running...

BURR: ... they had nothing to do with approaching a stranger with a gun.

KING: I see. And money was found on the victim, right? Money wasn't...

BURR: There was $6,000 dollars on the victim before he died and $6,000 on the victim after he died.


HARDIN: Larry, this...

KING: Go ahead, Rusty.

HARDIN: Excuse me. This was the first one that was stopped by somebody like Bernadine Skillern with the blowing of the horn, and he was arrested six days later after having raped a woman repeatedly in many brutal ways and falling asleep because he got drunk. And then he had property from the other crimes on him.

KING: Only got 30 seconds. Richard, what do you expect will happen?

BURR: Larry, I think that -- I have faith that this system that the governor and the Pardon and Parole Board are apart of will have the ability to engage in this case, sort the wheat from chaff, sort the distortions from the truth, and find the truth. There is a vein of truth in this case that shows that Gary Graham -- no matter what kind of misguided, violent kid he was -- did not commit this murder.

KING: Thank you. I've got...

BURR: We don't kill people who don't commit murder.

KING: Richard Burr and Rusty Hardin, the execution is scheduled for Thursday unless something happens in between. Thank you both very much. Thanks to our earlier guests. Al Roker is next. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, always good to see him, the famed weatherman, feature reporter, and a fellow wax figure of mine in two museums...


KING: Boy, do we look real. Al Roker! Boy, scary.

Al Roker's new book is "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!" There you see the cover. "Adventures in Fatherhood." He's the father of two daughters, Courtney 13 and Leila 11.

What led to writing this, Mr. Roker?

ROKER: Well, actually Leila's 19 months tomorrow.

KING: Ah-hah!

ROKER: And Courtney's 13. Yes. But what led to it was I've always kept journals, and I've always written things down. And a friend of mine saw some of the journals I had kept about Deborah and I trying get pregnant and things like that, and he said, "You know, I think you've got a book here."

And so we took it to a couple of publishers and the fine folks at Scribner got really excited about it. And so I started fleshing these journals out and filling them out, and then also filled with observations about fatherhood between me being a dad, and of course, having a great dad, Al Roker Sr. -- who is still -- I'm blessed to say is still with me, along with my mom, Isabel (ph) -- and the things I've learned from him, and now how I'm applying those to my two girls.

KING: All of the occurrences that happened that you describe happened?


KING: Right. These aren't like invented concepts and what to do about them.

ROKER: No, no. These are -- these are things that have happened to me, that -- when I talk about stuff that's happened to me with Courtney or with Leila, I also tied it together with things that happened with me and my dad, and how my dad fathered and my mom parented six kids growing up in -- in Queens.

KING: It's a very open, honest book. You write honestly about your daughter. Any problems at home?


From this?

ROKER: Well, my wife, Deborah, kind of -- when she read the first draft, she goes: Wait a minute, you're telling about our fertility treatments. What are you, crazy? And we started -- she started going through with a highlighter, but she left a lot -- allowed me to leave a lot of stuff in, because, look, now obviously it's not a problem for a strapping guy like you, but as I'm to getting older, things are -- things are taking a little longer to get done. And so we -- we went and had some help. We went -- we went for in vitro fertilization, and it's a lengthy process.

Just the idea -- things they don't tell you. There's one drug we used, Perginol (ph). Turns out the company that makes it is a subsidiary of the Vatican. Why? Because the hormone, FHS, that they extract from -- they extract this hormone, FHS, from the urine of menopausal nuns, an order of nuns that live at the Vatican.

KING: Wow.

ROKER: I mean, go figure. That's right. And it's expensive stuff. I'm thinking it was cheaper to adopt a nun, you know, and just have her pee in a cup.


KING: What -- what makes a good father?

ROKER: Well, I don't know, I think somebody who listens, somebody who -- one of the things I learned from my dad -- learns how to say he's sorry when he makes a mistake. And above all, loves his kids. And that's one of the things I was so fortunate. I mean, look, my dad wasn't by any means perfect, and he learned, and he made mistakes, and he learned from those mistakes. And I think I'm the beneficiary of that. I think I get to be a better dad because of my dad.

KING: Do you think it's tougher having a -- to raise a daughter as a father than a son?

ROKER: I think so. I mean, I'm telling you, I remember...

KING: Having raised both, the answer is yes.

ROKER: That's what I think. I mean, you know, look, as my dad once said to me, he said: You know, look, you raise a teenage boy, he goes out in the evening, you worry about one teenage boy. You have a teenage girl, she goes out, you worry about all teenage boys. You know, I mean, it's -- it's rough. And you know, and I think I say without being immodest, I have a very beautiful young daughter. And look, you and I were teenagers, teenage boys once. We know what teenage boys are thinking about.

KING: Would you go out with you?

ROKER: Oh, no, I -- nobody went out with me. You know.


I was -- I was a nerd in high school. I was on the AV squad.


You know, AV. This was our little motto.


You know, I know how to thread the projector, you know. I know how to keep the loop, you know...

KING: I'll keep score. I'll keep score.

ROKER: Exactly. You know, I was on stage crew in high school, all that stuff.

KING: How many times have you said the words: "Don't make me stop this car"?


Great title.

ROKER: You know, I never thought I would say it. When my father would say it to us, and there were six kids in a station wagon, a '67 Ford Country Squire station wagon, I swore then that I would never say this. I was going to be a cool dad. And then about five years ago, Courtney was in the back of our truck with a couple of her cousins. We're going down to Great Adventure, the amusement park in New Jersey. And I hear this voice saying: "Hey, I mean it, don't make me stop this car!"


I'm thinking, oh, my god, I've become my father. Oh, let me -- let me just get a Hawaiian shirt and a lawn trimmer, you know, stand out on the lawn in dark socks.

KING: The book is "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood" written by our good buddy Al Roker. And as we go to break, here is Al in a very familiar format on the "Today Show."


KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: It's no secret that tomorrow morning things are going to be a little crazy around here when Ricky Martin shows up for our outdoor summer concert. MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: We can guarantee one thing. He will be singing his huge hit "Livin' La Vida Loca" but we don't actually think he's going to be singing this version of that song. Take a listen.

CHORUS (singing): Before you go out, get the weather from big Al Roker.


... weatherman big Al Roker.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the color of mocha. Wear your raincoat...


... Al Roker...




KING: As we come back, there you see Al's lovely wife, Deborah, and on the left is Courtney, age 13, and on the right is Leila, 19 months, a little younger than 19 months there, I guess.

ROKER: Yes, she's about a year-old there.

KING: But 19 months now.

Now, Courtney was adopted in your previous marriage.


KING: Obvious question. Any difference, adoption-natural birth, as a father?

ROKER: Not to me. I -- the moment I hold -- I held Courtney, the first time I held her I felt this instant love. And it was akin to the same feeling I held -- the first time I held Leila. This -- when that baby looks at you, that's your child. And I -- you know, I look at both of their eyes and these are my girls, and nothing would ever change that. I mean, it doesn't matter, biological, adoptive: That's your child.

And look, when I grew up, six of us, six kids. Three of us were biological. Three of us were foster or adoptive kids in my family. And so -- and my parents treated each one of us as their children. There was no differentiation.

KING: The oft-quoted Bob (UNINTELLIGIBLE) line: "I have four children. Two are adopted. I forget which two."


You write about baby proofing...


KING: ... and taking care of a house, and just this week the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Consumer Federation reported that there are serious threats to kids at most of the nation's public playgrounds.

ROKER: Really?

KING: Does that shock you as a father?

ROKER: Well, you know, it's interesting, because I look at -- I take Leila to the park and I've taken Courtney to the park, and things seem so much safer now than when we were kids. I know you grew up here in New York, and you know...

KING: Monkey bars.

ROKER: ... remember the jumbo gyms. Monkey bars. Monkey bars!

What were monkey bars? They were basically steel pipes set up in squares set in the cement. You fall off, you're ping-ponging off the metal into the ground.

KING: Correct.

ROKER: Now, you've got these little bridges and nice rounded edges, and it's all set into soft squishy foam. But I guess there are still -- there are still dangers lurking out there.

But I mean -- just remember the see-saws. Remember see-saws?

KING: Sure, my favorite thing.

ROKER: You know, you had a friend you didn't know...

KING: You send them off.

ROKER: ... how good -- yes, you jump off the thing. Bam! They fall down. They're talking soprano for the next three years.

KING: Any problems of a two-career couple?

ROKER: Well, you know, look, it's not easy. I was -- I was a little more fortunate growing up in that my mother, Isabel, stayed home. My dad -- for the most part. I mean, she worked when I was small as a nurse's aide. But my dad drove a bus and he brought the dough home. My mother took care of the six of us, whereas today Deborah -- my wife, Deborah Roberts, who's a correspondent on ABC, on "20/20," and also hosts a show on Lifetime live at 12:00 noon -- check your local listings. You know, we're both out, but we both -- we work different times so we're home at different times. So there's a nice overlap.

I mean, Deborah's home in the morning, then leaves. I get home in the afternoon. And we have a great babysitter, a woman by the name of Yvette (ph).

And so, you know, we try to make it all work, and when even those things don't wok, we're very fortunate in that we have the safety net of my parents, who live in Queens. In fact, Leila was there this week with her.

KING: Can't beat that.

ROKER: Oh, it's the best. Nana and pop-pop -- and Leila's got my father wrapped around her finger, you know, when because when he leaves, she goes, "Pop-pop, pop-pop," and of course, he eats that up with a big spoon.

KING: How well did the toddler and the teenager make it?

ROKER: I think they get together -- they get along pretty well. I think Courtney has really warmed to her little sister. She volunteers in taking care of her. She's babysat for her. And Leila -- whenever Leila sees Courtney, her eyes light up and she is on her like a magnet.

I mean, and Courtney loves it. I think sometimes when her friends come by, you know, it can be a little annoying to have, you know, your little sister when you're trying to talk about boys and other things like that. And she'll say, "Dad, she's driving me crazy," and so I'll take her.

But it -- I mean, you know, when you see your two girls together, it's a -- it's a pretty good feeling. In my house, it really is "NBC": nothing but chicks.


KING: There's a re-emergence now of attention on fathers. There's a new magazine out just for dads. It's called "Dads."

ROKER: "Dads."

KING: Do you think this is a good thing, that we've been sort of pushed to the background for too long?

ROKER: I think we have been. I mean, I talk about in the book, "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!" One of the things that drives me crazy -- and it's probably happened to you, Larry -- when you've got your children with you, and they say, "Oh, hey, baby siting today?"

It's like no, no, I'm not babysitting. This is my child. That's not a babysitting. I'm parenting.

But people tend to look at dad as kind of, well, he's not the real parent.

KING: He's dad.

ROKER: He's dad. He's dad. And I think -- I think today's fathers want to be equals, and I think studies have shown that guys are as worried about the same things that mothers are in the business world: being on a daddy track. If you spend too much time at home or you take paternity leave or you make decisions about -- that affect your children instead of job, are you going to be available for promotion? Are you going to advance? I mean, these are all things that affect not only mothers but affect dads as well.

KING: When we come back, we'll ask Al what he worries, like things on television, our industry and the like. The book is "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood." The guest is Al Roker. Sunday is Father's Day. Great idea this book. We'll be right back.


ROKER: Grant Hill, ladies and gentlemen...



ROKER: All right. Here we go.

HILL: You ready?

ROKER: All right.

CROWD: One, two...

ROKER: Three.

CROWD: Three, four. Ohh! Five!

ROKER: All right, five.

HILL: All right.

ROKER: Now, it's my turn.

HILL: Your turn.

ROKER: OK. Here we go.



All right.

CROWD: One, two, three -- ohh! Ohh! Ohh!




ANNOUNCER: This is "Newscenter 5," the late-night report, with Ron Curtis (ph).

RON CURTIS, HOST: Good evening, everybody.

Well, things may not have been ideal here, but...

ROKER: They weren't that bad.

CURTIS: Considerably better, yes.

ROKER: We can consider ourselves lucky.

And we can also consider ourselves lucky with the weather we've got, too.

CURTIS: Is that right?

ROKER: You bet. Sunny skies. We've got sunshine.

Not tonight, we won't have any sunshine tonight. But it will be starting to clear up however and we will have sunshine tomorrow. Then it's going to get cloudy again on Thursday, but let's not dwell on the unfortunate...



KING: Al, could you think of maybe a slightly bigger knot on that tie with the green jacket...

ROKER: Hey, it was '75. It was...

KING: ... in Syracuse.

ROKER: I'd like to see an air check of you in '75.


KING: They always come back to haunt you.

ROKER: Oh, man.

KING: As the writer of "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!" are you worried about things your children are going to watch on television?

ROKER: Yes, I do, I worry about -- you know, I mean, Courtney thinks I'm one of the squarest dads going. But you know, I get worried about stuff she sees on MTV, and I worry about the Internet.

I mean, heck, look, I even -- I mean, I have my own Web site, But I worry about some of the things that kids are on, so that she's got a computer in her room, but if she wants to use the Internet, she has to come into our family room to use it, so at least I can kind of like lean over. And what's she doing there?

But you know, I think it's -- you know, you've really got to work at watching what your kids watch on TV. Heck, my parents stopped us from watching "The Three Stooges" because I wanted to see -- so let's see. Does my brother's head make that sound that Curly's does when Moe hits him with a pipe? Doink! You know, boink, and that kind of thing. So, you know, my folks monitored what we watched it.

And look, it's hard. It really today -- you know, when we were growing up, there wasn't MTV, there wasn't the Internet, there wasn't cable television, there wasn't all these influences that affect your kids. And so...

KING: Do you think it's harder also being children of a celebrity?

ROKER: I think so to a certain extent. I mean, you know, they're under more of a microscope, and so, Deborah and I work at trying not to put them out there that much. I mean, I've shown some pictures, you know, in association with doing this book, but I didn't put any pictures in the book. And you know, I asked Courtney a lot what -- you know, does she want to come on this show and do that show? And she says no or yes depending. And we'll do the same thing with Leila.

KING: Let me -- let me get a quick call in. Beverly Hills, Michigan, for Al Roker, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Al. Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Al, my question is, as being a father later in life -- and you obviously love these girls -- and I'm just wondering if you ever worry about not being around to see them married or anything like that. A lot of us are having children later in life (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people seem to be talking about today.

ROKER: Well, you know, I didn't feel that bad until you brought that up, Beverly.

KING: Come to think of it, Beverly, never call again!

ROKER: No. Well, Beverly, back in the old days. No, no. Look, of course, I think about it. Look, my dad, by the time he was 38 he had six kids. I'm 46, and I've got an almost 19-month-old. And if we have another one, I mean, you're talking about...

KING: Oh, you'll see them grow. Come on! Your...

ROKER: Of course, I will. But I think about -- look, it's a lot -- it's a lot different. You know what it's like now. I mean, look, you get down with your baby on the ground, it takes you a little longer to get up.

KING: That's right, yes. Happened today. ROKER: In fact, a lot of times I just lay there.


KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back with our remaining moments with Al Roker. This wonderful book: "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood." We'll be right back.



ROKER: Finally it's time for my feature presentation, my fantasy fulfilled. Remember, it's a little more than 10 seconds, but now that you've seen all of the hard work that's gone into it, please, try not to blink.


KING: That's your true love?

ROKER: That really is. I love animation. Other than my family, animation, I grew up -- one of the things I shared with my dad, he'd come home from work driving a bus, and we'd watch "Huckleberry Hound" or "Yogi Bear," the "Road Runner" cartoons. I mean, that -- I love that stuff.

KING: Boy, it was great.

I can't let you go without a weather question. What's with this drought?

ROKER: You know what, we've got the remnants of La Nina, and hopefully that's releasing its grip on the country. But you know, the South is going to be suffering through some really dry times right on into the Southwest throughout much of the summer. It doesn't look like -- it's going to get a little bit worse before it gets better.

We've got all these forest fires going. It's going to be a really rough summer for the southern part of our country this year.

KING: What are you doing for Father's Day?

ROKER: Well, Father's Day I'm going to be up at the house. There will be much sacrificing of small farm animals at the altar of Webber.


And I'll be -- I've got a special on the Food Network at 9 o'clock this Sunday.

KING: Oh really?

ROKER: Al Roker's -- "Al Roker's Bahamas Reunion." I take my folks and Courtney down to the Bahamas, and we do a little cooking, a little eating, a little sightseeing.

KING: On Father's Day, will your father be with you as you're with -- will you all be together, the whole...

ROKER: That's my -- that's my plan. And we're going to have a great time.

KING: With the success of this book, now that you're an author, are you thinking of a followup?

ROKER: Well, you know, Larry, I don't know.

KING: Oh, a book on weather.

ROKER: Perhaps, or maybe a cookbook, or perhaps a book on cartoons. One never knows. But I hope -- I hope people go out and purchase this book and get it on the bestseller list so they'll ask me to do another book.

KING: And one other thing, the "Today Show," you're going to be working three hours every morning now, right?

ROKER: that's right. Starting in the fall, we're going to be going on from 7:00 to 10:00. Ann Curry and I will get a larger role in that third hour and give Matt and Katie a little bit of a break. And we're really looking forward to it. We're really excited about it.

KING: And of course, knowing NBC that's an automatic 33 percent increase in pay.

ROKER: Absolutely!


KING: They will take care of you, Al.

ROKER: They have taken care of me, Larry. I work for some nice people, and they've been very good to me.

KING: We do not need a benefit for Al Roker.

ROKER: No, we don't.

KING: Is the book on tape, too, audiotape?

ROKER: The book is on audiotape. It's on CD. I read -- I read abridged versions of the book both on CD and audiocassette. And it's soon to be a major motion picture.


I see Denzel Washington playing me.

KING: I see him, too, especially with that knot in the tie.


Thanks, Al. Always good seeing you. Happy Father's Day.

ROKER: Happy Father's Day, Larry.

KING: Al Roker of NBC's "Today Show." The terrific book, "Don't Make Me Stop This Car!: Adventures in Fatherhood."

Tomorrow night, we've got four great guests: Nancy Sinatra relives the '60s; Alan Dershowitz with an extraordinary book on Genesis and the law; Hamilton Jordan on surviving cancer; and Lou Canon on the life and times of Ronald Reagan.

Stay tuned for "CNN NEWSSTAND." More on the drought.

Have a great weekend. Happy Father's Day! Good night.



Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.