|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Larry King Live
Did 'The Jerry Springer Show' Cause a Murder?Aired August 24, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, talk show ringmaster Jerry Springer -- his first major interview since one of his former guests ended up dead and a second accused of her murder -- an exclusive hour, including your calls, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening -- hasn't been with us in over two years -- always good to welcome Jerry Springer to LARRY KING LIVE -- the host of "The Jerry Springer Show" and former Emmy-winning newsman, former elected official, former mayor of Cincinnati -- has had quite a career. Thank you very much for being...
JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: Sure, Larry. Good to be here.
KING: Let's deal with first things first. There's a lot to talk about of course.
KING: But a former guest on your show was killed. Her ex- husband has been accused of the murder. I believe the trial starts September 1st. What do you feel the show's involvement was?
SPRINGER: Well, one, it's horrible that obviously the person was murdered. It had nothing to do with the show. That is what the sheriff said, you know. At first I didn't know that. You know, when I first heard it, I can came back home and I figured: Oh, my gosh, you know. But then, you know, we were told it had nothing do with show. It was two and a half months prior, so it had nothing to do with the show. But that -- it still -- it's horrible.
Someone got killed. So my reaction would be what any person's would be: Gosh, what a horrible thing to do.
KING: The sheriff said: I don't believe the show played a part. The only thing the show does is show there was a problem between the three people.
KING: Did you remember the show? You do so many.
SPRINGER: Yes, I honestly didn't. And I don't mean to sound insensitive about it. But the reality is, we do 200 shows a year. I have been doing it 10 years -- not -- finished nine years already. That is 1800 shows. We have 10 guests a show. That is nearly 20,000 people. I didn't -- you know, until obviously everyone has been showing me the tapes. At the time, when I heard about it, no I didn't remember it.
SPRINGER: ... two segments.
KING: Why do you think this has not had the effect on that you that the "Jenny Jones" show had on her?
SPRINGER: Well, I don't really want to get into it, but -- on the "Jenny Jones" show -- but obviously, it had nothing to do with our show, that is why. I mean that what....
KING: Because that show prompted the thing.
SPRINGER: Well, I don't want to accuse any other show of anything else. That wouldn't be fair. I wasn't there at the "Jenny Jones" show. But the allegations at the trial were that, you know, a situation was created. They responded to the situation that was created on the show and therefore someone was killed. That is the allegation.
You know, with our show, no one suggested anything, other than two-and-half months earlier, they happened to have been on show. So...
KING: One of the stories that did appear -- since it was a kind of surprise show -- is that the man actually was with his wife the night before inducing her, begging her to come on the show -- spent the night with her and then winds up bringing on his girlfriend -- which -- these shows are -- kind of look like setups.
SPRINGER: Well, it is purely...
SPRINGER: Well, it's purely voluntary. And that is how we are different than tabloid shows. Look, I have always said it. I will say it again. It is a stupid show, you know. I mean, I admit it. It is just a crazy show. But in its defense, it is entirely voluntary. People call to come on our show. Unlike a tabloid show, which will run a story sometimes -- often a negative story -- about someone against their will; on our show, you don't get on our show unless you call and want to be on.
And once you are on our show, you can talk about anything you want to talk about. If there is something you don't want to talk about, it doesn't get talked about. You can use a different name.
KING: Nobody is...
SPRINGER: You can use a disguise. You are not allowed to talk about someone who wasn't there. So we really protect the volunteerism of the show. KING: Nobody is prompted backstage to getting angrier than they might ordinarily be, or to goose it up?
SPRINGER: No. No. It's just like -- everyone gets briefed before they're on a show. I had a briefing before this show. And I don't mean like canned answers. I'm saying there's a pre-interview where someone talked to me on the phone and said what are subjects we are going talk about. That happens -- when I go on the "Tonight Show," there is always a briefing ahead of time what it is going to be.
I believe when people get on television, they perform. We all do it. We are talking differently now, because we are on the air than we would if you and I were having breakfast at Nate and Al's. I mean, it's a different kind -- and that is not inappropriate. I talk differently when I go to temple, or when someone else goes to church than when they are out with the guys bowling. So when people go on a television show, I do think they sometimes exaggerate. I think they sometimes perform. But I don't see that as necessarily dishonest. They're just -- a different way we present ourselves.
KING: Is your tape going to be used in the trial, do you know?
SPRINGER: I have no idea.
KING: Let's look at some clips from the show that aired on July 24th. In this scene, Ralf Panitz's wife, Eleanor, is clearly unhappy with his former wife, Nancy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
ELEANOR PANITZ, WIFE OF RALF PANITZ: Are you ready to leave us alone, Nancy?
NANCY CAMPBELL PANITZ, EX-WIFE OF RALF PANITZ: No.
E. PANITZ: See, see this is what I mean. You're not ready to leave us alone.
CAMPBELL PANITZ: You don't want me to. You love
E. PANITZ: I want you to leave us alone. I want a normal life. I want a normal life.
CAMPBELL PANITZ: No, you don't. Neither does Ralf. He loves the excitement.
E. PANITZ: Ralf does want -- no, he doesn't want you, Nancy.
E. PANITZ: You're old. You're fat.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Does that bother you?
KING: I'm pausing for effect.
KING: Does that bother you, something like that?
SPRINGER: Well, the behaviors that we have on our show are usually not very nice behaviors. There is no question about that. Please understand that our show is about either outrageous people or outrageous situations. It is not an endorsement of that behavior. It is just like when you do a newscast, and you report on murder or you report on a rape or war or corruption, it is not like the station or the show is endorsing that behavior.
You are displaying -- under a free American media -- something that is going on in the society. We happen to do it about outrageous relationships. So I know going in that this isn't going to be "Leave it to Beaver." If you call us with a normal story, you don't get on our show. We will refer to you another talk show. Our show is about outrageous people or outrageous behavior. That is it about by definition.
KING: Near end of the segment, Jerry, in this particular case -- as he often -- tries to set the record straight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
SPRINGER: So, basically you are saying you don't want anything to do with her anymore.
RALF PANITZ, ALLEGED MURDERER: I don't want to deal with Eleanor every
SPRINGER: Well, you understand, you understand...
R. PANITZ: Yes.
SPRINGER: And it is not my business. But you can say that is all you want. But if you are going over there and sleeping with her, she is not going believe you.
R. PANITZ: I thought she might be humiliated enough to recognize it is over, but you...
E. PANITZ: You can't humiliate this woman.
SPRINGER: He is telling you he doesn't want to be with you.
CAMPBELL PANITZ: That is fine. Bye.
AUDIENCE: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Why would you want to host a stupid show? And it's a fair question. You're a serious person.
SPRINGER: Yes. Well, yes. But I also -- I don't want to say that I don't enjoy doing the show.
KING: You do.
SPRINGER: I enjoy doing the show. It is a, you know, it is -- yes, I really enjoy it. I enjoy meeting most of the people on our show. I find most of the people on our show perhaps not, let's say, very well educated or very wealthy, but I find them usually pretty honest. In other words, they -- most of the people that are very successful in life put on airs. There is always the politeness that disguises real feelings. With most of the people on our show -- I'm not talking this particular show -- but just in general -- these people are very down to earth.
They say what they mean. They are who they are. And they're not trying to pretend to be somebody else. I find that...
KING: You think that's the forerunner of all this reality stuff?
SPRINGER: I don't know that it's the forerunner. Here is my thought on it: 95 percent of the shows we see on American television reflect one perspective, upper-middle-class, white America. Virtually every -- if you look at all the sitcoms, the drama shows, the magazine shows, the news broadcasts, it is like everyone comes from same neighborhood. If you have a black show, you wind up on one of the minor networks. But if you are on mainstream American television, it's upper-middle-class white, 95 percent of it.
And I think that is OK that that is reflected. But some part of American television in a free society ought to reflect things that are not like that. Our show reflects another side of American life -- maybe not very attractive -- but at least it reflects it.
KING: Right back with more of Jerry Springer. We'll include your phone calls. He's here for the hour. Don't go away.
KING: Our guest is Jerry Springer. Lots of areas to cover.
Jerry is the son of Holocaust survivors, born in London in the midst of a Hitler bombing campaign, once wanted to be a rabbi, now sees a Jew nominated for vice president, who said, singled out your show as the worst kind of trash a few years back, and Joe Lieberman urged it be yanked off the air. Do you have mixed feelings as a Democrat -- we know you're a Democrat.
SPRINGER: Sure. I think he'll be a great vice president, and you know, if he gets elected we're going to run our shows on Saturdays...
... so he can't watch them. No, you know, he's...
SPRINGER: No, he's...
KING: But do you have mixed feelings? I mean, this guy (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all over the lot.
SPRINGER: Well, I disagree with -- yes, but that's fair. It shows he has good taste. I mean, you know, the show deserves to be criticized. The only disagreement I would have for him, as I said before, is on American television -- first of all, in America, you never say something can't be on the air. That's free speech. The government -- and he is a government official -- can't be saying that.
The fact that he doesn't like the show, I wouldn't watch the show. I've said that many times. That's not my taste. I can understand why people wouldn't like it. I don't dislike him. I don't think he's not qualified. You know, if anything, that makes him more qualified. I don't want a vice president who's watching television. You know, run the country. I think he'll be great. I'm supporting, I'm sending him money, I'll campaign to the extent they want me to. They may want me to do it quietly.
KING: They may want you to endorse Bush.
SPRINGER: Yes, that's right.
But no, I think he'll be a great vice president. I think he's a man of great honor. I disagree with him on that one issue.
KING: Let's look at a clip, one of many, of the senator speaking. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 8, 1998)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: And we're saying that this stuff, this junk, appeals to people's lesser nature, and it has consequences. I'm telling you, if you watch "The Springer Show" -- you know, the Norfolk school system in Virginia sent home letters to the parents: Please don't let your kids watch Springer. Why? Because we're seeing the -- your children in the schoolyard fighting each other and saying that this is what they saw on "The Springer Show."
KING: Do you think action of your show brings that reaction? SPRINGER: No, I totally disagree with that. In fact, I would say much of television does glorify violence. I think much of our movies glorify violence. No one with a straight face, with all due respect to hopefully our next vice president, no one with a straight face can say that our show induces anyone to copy that behavior. We don't glorify anything.
A kid might go to a movie or might watch one of these other television shows where the heroes of the movies -- the heroes are always the guys with the guns who blow up the most buildings. You know, those are action heroes. Those are the ones we love. And we put on all these other shows and praise them and say, "Oh, what a blockbuster movie; this was great."
That entices a young person to have that kind of behavior because they're heroes.
There is no one, no one, that watches our show and says, "By gosh, tomorrow, I'm going to become a transvestite; this is exciting."
No, our show doesn't glorify it. In the next sentence, they always say: "Ugh! Look at that trash. Isn't that disgusting?" Everybody says it.
Well, wait a second, if they're saying that, then obviously that is not the kind of behavior you'd want to follow. I totally disagree with that.
I think what's really at the bottom of all this is as a nation we just don't like these people. Look at what we call them. We call them trash. Imagine, we're calling human beings trash.
If a wealthy person or a good-looking person or a well-educated person is involved in a violent action, oh, we can't get enough interviews with him, we can't get him on television enough, we make movies about him. It's -- we can't stop watching. It's wonderful. You know, but...
KING: Do you ever think, though, Jerry, that you're the sideshow in the circus? We watch them because it's fascinating to watch.
SPRINGER: It's a circus. We're not the sideshow; we are the circus. Yes, we are the circus. There's no question. Our show's the circus.
It would be horrible if all American television was like our show. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying 95 percent of it is everyone dressing up in a jacket and tie, and -- and living out in white suburbs and behaving like most of us behave. That's American television. Why not have some part of American television reflect another part of society?
KING: You said you wouldn't watch it. Why do you enjoy doing it?
SPRINGER: Well, because it's a totally different thing. I'm not watching it. I'm there. I'm meeting these people. It's exciting.
KING: And what do you enjoy -- what do you enjoy about it? You're seeing a...
SPRINGER: I think...
KING: But you're not seeing trash. You're seeing people...
SPRINGER: I think it's fascinating.
KING: ... at their worst.
SPRINGER: Well, I don't know always at their worst. I think Some times they're funny. Some times there's drama. Some times there's comedy. Some times -- you know, I'm not -- believe me, I am not saying that all these people are bad people. I wouldn't say that at all. The only common denominator is that most of them -- most of them, not all -- you know, don't necessarily speak the king's English, they're not wealthy. They're, you know, they're not all white -- I mean, all those kinds of things.
But they're OK people. I enjoy it because everyone is so nice to me, I enjoy meeting these people. Some of their stories are funny. Some of them aren't, but it's an adventure. It's an interesting job.
Every day -- I'm not normally, let's say, around a lot of these people. So all of a sudden, I get to be in an environment that otherwise I wasn't particularly raised in.
I find that fascinating. I love my job.
KING: We'll take a break and find out in a minute how that audience thing, the "Jerry, Jerry!" started. We'll be including your calls in a while. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Ray (ph), and I know that what I'm going to tell you is not going to make you too happy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, tell already.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you be quiet already?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have something I want to tell you. I'm not really a man. I'm a woman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I warn you, get away from me! (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how to tell you. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was thinking if I brought you here I had backup.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got backup. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) else to say.
You have to stay here, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You not going anywhere.
How the hell...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE)
SPRINGER: ... imagine that I could take a few minutes here and discuss the merits of the 18-year-old as a voter. I could tell that you he is intelligent, articulate, well-informed on the issues, and concerned about the city he lives in today and he will inherit tomorrow. But I maintain that those are not the reasons we should give the 18-year-old the vote. We should give him the vote simply because he has a stake in our society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Jerry Springer at age 26, appearing on behalf the 18-year- old's right to vote. You won that.
SPRINGER: Yes. My nose was big then, too.
KING: How did you get the audience to go -- where do you find the audience?
SPRINGER: Oh, to our current show.
SPRINGER: Thankfully, the show is very popular, and you know, there's a wait list for...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) SPRINGER: Yes, there's about a four-month waiting list for the show.
KING: It's all done in Chicago.
SPRINGER: Yes, they're all -- virtually all are done in Chicago...
KING: Are they all pretty young?
SPRINGER: People call in ahead of time. I'd say mostly. I think our target group is probably college students. I'd say it's mostly that.
KING: And what do you think this fascination is with the show, with Jerry? What do you think?
SPRINGER: Just because it's a circus, it's crazy, it's chewing gum. The show has no value. I mean...
You know, I mean, it's like, you know, it's like chewing gum.
KING: It's a show.
SPRINGER: It's a show. It's a one-hour escape from -- you know, why do you watch pro wrestling? That's all it is. You know, and I'm not suggesting once in a while not a serious show. Once in a while, we do serious subjects. But generally, generally, it's just a TV show. And you know, when I was college age, I remember when I was in college, for of cheap date on a Friday night, I would take the girl to night court. And we would see that -- you know, it was great. See all these stories all that. So that is a little bit. We're all voyeurs to an extent, and people are just kind of tuning in?
KING: How about when you touch things like skinheads, neo-Nazis, and they yell, and scream and say anti-Semitic things.
SPRINGER: Well, obviously, you know, when I have the neo-Nazis on, personally I hate what they believe, but I can't be consistent, I can't say, you know, the show -- the definition of the show is outrageous people, or outrageous behavior. Well there is nothing more outrageous than a neo-Nazi. So I can't say you can't be on because I don't like you. Then all of a sudden, my argument about free speech goes out the window. The rule on our show is, it has to be outrageous and there can be no censorship. Those are the only two rules. So that meets that requirement. I have had people on the show, you know, their point of view I hate, but it's America.
KING: But are you -- do you think you're advancing...
SPRINGER: No, no, and I'll tell you why, because you know, what, six million Jews were put to death in World War II, and no one had a television set. You know, we used to hang blacks from the trees in the South in the '30s and '40s. No one had a television set. I mean, you know, the great atrocities of the world had nothing do with television. If anything -- who was it, Justice Brandeis who said, "Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant." You want to wipe out a cancer, expose it, show it. If you didn't like some of the behavior on our show, deal with the behavior, don't say, I don't want to see it, don't say, let's not expose America to the fact that it exists. If people behave poorly, change the behavior, don't turn off the camera.
KING: Who watches "Springer?"
SPRINGER: Well, the truth is, it's across the board. I mean, it's fashionable, you know, in polite company to say you don't watch. But the reality is, is that doctors, and lawyers and business executives, they all watch it. I mean, we don't get the ratings we do because only college kids watch it. So obviously, it's across the board. I think it's an escape, and I think that's why people watch it, but I think there's no one demographic.
KING: There's not one heavy load.
SPRINGER: When you get the ratings that we're getting, over the years, it's everybody, you can't -- I mean, you know, if it were radio, you could narrow-cast, you could go to one group, but when you're on television, it's the world.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Jerry Springer on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what he fail to realize -- I look classy, not trashy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look classy, too! What about me? Don't I look classy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at me!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boo you. Boo you. Boo you. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that one. Look at that one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on now.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We're back with Jerry Springer.
You were quoted as saying you felt more guilty when you anchored news than doing what you do now, and you criticized the news media as hypocritical, manipulative and elitist. Did you mean that? You were happier doing this than anchoring news?
SPRINGER: Yes, I am. I mean, I love doing -- I enjoy doing news, but I'm much happier don this. I did it for 10 years.
KING: How are they hypocritical, and elitist manipulative?
SPRINGER: I believe that news -- and I was part of it, so I'm pleading guilty. I think in news, we're exploitative. What we do is every single night we jam the microphone into the face of someone who doesn't want to be on, someone coming out of a courthouse, a family involved in a horrible tragedy. We take this person against their wishes and we affect in our their lives. We never say in news, virtually never say in news, you know what, if this particular story humiliates you, embarrasses you, will make your kids feel bad, hurt your career, your marriage or whatever, we won't run it. Garbage. News, says this is great, let's run with it, as many headlines as possible. So news hurts people every day to make a living.
On our show, as crazy as it is, we have this firm rule the other way. No one ever gets on unless they want to be on. They never get to talk about anything other than what they want to talk about. If there is going to be a surprise on show, we give them a list of the possible surprises, they have to agree to every one of the possibilities before we go ahead with the show. They can wear a disguise. They can change their name.
In other words, where news will hurt somebody against their wishes, on our show, even though sometimes people do get hurt or don't like it, it's totally voluntary. It's like in England, they have Hyde Park Square -- here's the platform, get up, say what you want; it's a free society, so people are going respond. You may not like the response, but at least you're free to say what you want. There's a big difference between that and news.
KING: So you think the pretense is that news looks down on you when in fact they're doing worse?
SPRINGER: Of course news looks down on me, but that's fine, that's their whole schtick. But it makes no sense. I believe news is hypocritical. They're -- we were all in business. Every day, we look at what the ratings were for the next news program -- oh, my gosh, more people are watching channel 5 than are watching channel 7. What are we going to do? Let's lead with this story. We -- it's funny. when I'm interviewed on these local news programs, you know, they say how horrible our show is, all afternoon, leading up to the news, they will run a clip of the show which they say is horrible and shouldn't be on the air, but they'll say tonight at 5:00, watch our news, we're going to having Springer, look at the horrible things he's doing, and they show that.
KING: Or how about the car chases that they'll go to live now for two half hours of a car chase.
SPRINGER: It's -- yes, why not just...
KING: On the pretense it might endanger the community.
SPRINGER: Ninety percent of what you see on the news, we don't have to know. We may enjoy seeing it, but we don't need to know. What do we need to know? We need to know whether we're at war. We need to know if the water's been poisoned. We need to know if our taxes are going up. Certain things we need to know. Virtually everything else is basically -- it's nice to know, but we don't have to. Well, if it's just nice to know, but we don't have to, why hurt someone in the process? Why run a story on someone when it's not something we have to know?
Think about automobile accidents that get covered. No matter what community you're in, unless you're a very famous person, 99 percent of the audience doesn't know the person that was in that car accident. So what is the point of covering that story, hurting that family, for what?
KING: Like to show the wreckage.
SPRINGER: they want to show the wreckage.
KING: Back with more of Jerry Springer and your phone calls. Wolf Blitzer hosts tomorrow night. He'll have a major discussion about Hillary versus Lazio. On Monday night, we'll get into politics with people like Bob Woodward and David Gergen. Saturday night, Tom Clancy, and James Van Praagh, and Tammy Faye Messner. They'll all be with us on future editions of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
SPRINGER: Joe, what about the fact that she's 17? Hello, Joe? Over here. What about the fact that she's 17, she's a child. You're sleeping with a child, much less your cousin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, age is just a number, Jerry. Age is just a number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Age is just a number to me. You know what, love conquers all, and I don't care what you folks say.
SPRINGER: Well, here she is, here's first cousin and her sister, Becky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPRINGER: I really wanted to get a sophisticated memento of England, home of the world's greatest tailors, and so I went down to Savareaux (ph) and asked them to make me something from the finest British tweed, something which represents the quality, and taste and excellence of Britain, and it's my favorite souvenir, and -- well, let me show it to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you do in England? You do a show?
SPRINGER: Yes, I do like "The Tonight Show." It's...
KING: Once a week?
SPRINGER: Once a week.
KING: You fly there every week?
SPRINGER: Well, when the show is on. It's off now, during the summer, but when I go back, it's like every other week, and two at a time.
KING: They play it every week.
SPRINGER: Yes, I do an opening monologue. Sunday nights, I do an opening monologue. There's a band and I sit behind the desk. It's a fine show, and it's so much fun doing because it's different from what I'm doing here.
KING: And you have prominent Britishers on?
SPRINGER: Yes, we had the Spice Girls on and regular celebrities.
KING: Are you a big hit in London?
SPRINGER: The show does very well in England, yes.
KING: Endicott, New York, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I'd like to know how exactly you think you're helping society. And if you truly think you're helping society, why don't you try to have people on that will teach your viewers other ways to go about reacting to their lives? I think that...
SPRINGER: That's a fair question. OK, I'll answer that. First of all, I don't think our show helps society. I don't think it hurts it. I think, for example, if I were broadcasting basketball games, I wouldn't say that I'm broadcasting basketball games because I'm helping society, I'm you know, I'm broadcasting basketball because it's a sport, people enjoy wanting it. I do my show because, obviously, a lot of people -- not everybody -- but a lot of people enjoy watching it.
So the purpose of the show is not that I'm going to save human race, not at all. This show is, as I said, it's just chewing gum.
However, to the extent that there's a message that comes out of the show, I have two thoughts, one, is the dysfunctional behavior that you see on show is never rewarded. The audience invariably boos the bad guy, boos the guy that was cheating or whatever, and cheers the good guy. So it's almost like a little morality play.
And at the end of every show -- now, might be people don't pay attention to it, but for the 1,800 shows that I have done, every single show that I do, at the end of the show, I do a one or two- minute commentary on what I believe the appropriate position on this issue is. So we do give a little lesson at the end.
But please, I'm not suggesting that, therefore, our show helps society. I don't think our show has any effect on society. It's a one-hour television show, and that's all it is. And I guess that's what I would say about it.
KING: Why do you think so many people get upset?
SPRINGER: Well, because it is so outrageous. It' meant to be controversial. You know, obviously, more people like it than don't like it. That's why it does so well in the ratings. Its' just that when I'm on these shows answering questions, I'm always answering the criticism. But everyday, people vote with their remote controls and keep voting for our show.
KING: One of the things is that it's contrived. In other words, you're saying it's designed to be outrageous.
KING: And therefore, you're pulling at me, you're playing to the lowest common denominator in me, the viewer.
SPRINGER: But it isn't...
KING: Yes, I will watch midget jumping on top of the pro wrestler and hitting him over head with a handbag, because I will watch the circus.
SPRINGER: I don't know that I don't know that all these examples necessarily are the lowest common denominator. I mean when someone is upset -- an example I give is, let's take two very well-educated people, let's take two let's say a professor at Harvard who teaches English. And one night, he comes home and finds his wife in bed with next door neighbor. This professor of English at Harvard is not going to say, "Forsooth, my dear, what is it that I have found in my bedroom?" No, he's going to say, "What the hell is going on?" You know, he'll start screaming, probably cursing. He'll probably throw something.
In other words, what we're seeing is not the lowest common denominator, it's honest emotion. Virtually, everything else on television is scripted. Even when you watch news shows, they fake they script. Those reactions -- you notice how they're always looking off camera when there is a tape on, and as soon as the tape is over, if something bad, they'll go, we'll be right back. You know, I mean, the whole thing. It's just people ought to know that, it's all fake.
KING: What do you think of new show coming called "Confessions" on Court TV? You will see the actual confessions of killers? Made either to the police or to prosecutors, taped for the record, released after the case is over, people describing horrific murders. It's real life.
SPRINGER: Well, yes. And I guess my answer is, well, it's maybe not something I would want to watch, but I wouldn't say in a free society, you know, it shouldn't be on.
KING: Why do you think we like "Survivor?"
SPRINGER: I'm embarrassed to say that I may be the only American that has not watched it. I just -- I don't watch a lot of television, so I don't know.
KING: You know what it's about.
SPRINGER: These people...
KING: People on an island.
KING: Why do we like it, the collective "we?"
SPRINGER: I think society likes shows like this, because it's showing human beings honestly reacting to a situation.
KING: Even though there are cameras there and boom mikes.
SPRINGER: We have had a progression in the entertainment industry over the last 40 years. If used to be that entertainment was the entertainer up on stage, whether it's a stage in a movie theater, at a nightclub, performing, and the audience sits and watches. Then all of a sudden, we move to talk radio, where talk radio, for the first time, the audience the callers, became part of the entertainment. Then we had television talk shows, where the people came on the show to talk about their own lives. Now we're in the computer world, where in fact the kids are now are getting the entertainment through chatrooms, where they are providing their own entertainment through their own conversation, their own lives.
So all -- I think this is natural. We are real life, can't be duplicated by scriptwriters. I mean, every once in a while, you'll find a Shakespeare. But most of the time, the writing we get on television cannot duplicate -- that's why when people say, oh, your show is fake, hey, wait a second, you couldn't write what you see on our show, and on a lot of these reality show, and I think that fascinates us. KING: Back with more and more phone calls for Jerry Springer, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My sick and twisted cousin wants to marry my grandma.
SPRINGER: It sounds like normal show for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Jerry. How you doing?
SPRINGER: Fine, thank you.
CALLER: My question is, Jerry, how much do your guests get paid to appear on your show, and how much do you make to do the show?
SPRINGER: I make more than the guests. No, the guests don't get anything. No...
SPRINGER: Expenses. Obviously, we fly them into Chicago and we put them up in a hotel, and they get a stipend for food, you know, for their meals while they're there. But we don't pay them, and the reason we don't do that, one, we're cheap, but two, we don't pay them because then people would start making up stories just to -- just to make money. So no, we don't pay them.
And I get paid handsomely. There's no question...
KING: You don't know if they're made up, though. I mean, I could...
SPRINGER: We work very...
KING: ... get together with two other guys and make up a whole scenario.
SPRINGER: We're pretty good at finding out. I'd say 95 percent is real. Every once in a while, I'm sure, someone comes on and makes up a story we don't catch. And so, you know, I'm sure there are stories that have not been real. But I would -- we're pretty good at getting them.
I've thrown people off the show -- thrown not physically -- but in the middle of a show, say, "I don't believe it," and then we ask them to leave.
KING: You stopped all the hitting, though, right?
SPRINGER: Yes, pretty much. I mean, they still go after each other.
KING: Because of public demand. Your company told you to stop it.
SPRINGER: What happens is it gets edited out. Various cities sometimes edit the shows differently. In other words, at the show it's the same stuff. We have more security now that gets them before they reach each other. But the activity is probably still the same if you're in the studio. They just don't get each other because we put Steve and the other security guys right up in front.
They're all Chicago cops, by the way.
KING: They are.
KING: Off-duty or...
SPRINGER: Yes, off-duty cops.
KING: Hampton, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I just want to know if Jerry offers counseling to the people on their show.
SPRINGER: Once in a while. First, I make it very clear that I am not qualified to give counseling. This is a TV show. And anyone that has a real serious problem ought not to be coming on a television show to have it solved. So -- so we make it very clear this is not the place to come and get some help.
If any problem can be solved within an hour, then it's not a serious problem.
Now, once in a while, though, after someone's on the show, it's so clear just to a layman, such as myself, or maybe other people around the show that this person really needs help that, yes, we will refer it. But our show doesn't pretend -- you know, we're not a serious show. And we're not -- you know, I don't pretend to be this counselor.
I'm not trained in that at all.
KING: What do you make of the...
SPRINGER: So, that would be my answer.
KING: ... the Schlessinger brouhaha?
SPRINGER: She belongs on television. I don't -- you know, I'm pretty liberal. She's obviously very conservative. But this is America, and she has every right to be on. And end of story. She's on.
KING: Now you have a right to economically boycott anything.
KING: If I don't like her show, I have a right to say, don't buy such and such.
SPRINGER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
KING: That's American as apple pie.
SPRINGER: Absolutely. But I think the job of the people that run television ought to be to get as wide a variety of points of view on television as possible. That's the responsibility. When the chief executive of television start worrying about only being in the mainstream, then we're in trouble. I mean, I am a great defender of Howard Stern. I'm not saying I necessarily watch the show, don't watch the show. That's irrelevant.
The fact is Howard Stern makes the rest of us free, because if we can go to sleep at night knowing that Howard Stern can be on television, then everyone else in the business knows they're OK, that I never have to worry about saying the wrong thing or I'll be censored. That makes us free.
If you can knock Howard Stern off television, then everyone else in broadcasting has to suddenly worry "I better not say anything that is outside the mainstream. I better only say what middle America believes." And all of sudden, we then get white-bread television, and you know, we'll have television of the '50s again.
KING: Brooks, Alberta, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hello, Jerry.
CALLER: My question for Jerry is are you -- have you exhausted all your possibilities now for the show, or do you have some new surprises coming up for us next season?
KING: What can you come up with next? Give me a new subject.
SPRINGER: The beauty is, if the show depended on my creativity, we would have been off the air after a week. There's no way I could think up -- I don't think there's any way anyone can think up these stories.
The reason our show works -- and yes, we have a whole bunch of things coming up for next season -- is because we get thousands of calls a day from people who want to be on the show to tell their stories. You cannot make up the stuff that people come up with in their real lives. So we've got a whole bunch of shows, but it's not because we came up with it. The people came up with it.
Why would a guy call up and say, "Listen, I've been cheating on my wife, my girlfriend, and I want to tell her about it on television; I don't want to go over to her house"?
SPRINGER: I've done the show for nine years, and I swear I can't figure it out. I don't know. I would never do it.
I think 90 percent of America would never go on television and talk about their private life. Only -- but 10 percent would, and 10 percent of 250 million people is 25 million. That's a lot of guests. We're going to be on for a lot of years.
KING: We'll be back with more of Jerry Springer on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know what's going on. Why (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SPRINGER: Does she normally dress like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, she doesn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I brought you here today to tell you that we've been together a long time and I love you very much, and I'm pregnant, and I want to get married today.
But there's something else I need to tell you. I need to tell you that I'm here to marry the father of my baby and...
(HOOTING & CHEERING)
SPRINGER: You're here to marry the father -- you're pregnant?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SPRINGER: And the father of your baby to be is his brother?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a tramp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Jerry Springer. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Jerry. It's good to see you on TV tonight.
SPRINGER: Thank you.
CALLER: I'd like to ask you, first, if you were married.
SPRINGER: Yes. I never talk about my private life. So if you have a question other than my personal life I'll be glad to answer it.
KING: Second question.
CALLER: The reason that I -- the reason that I ask that, I was wondering what she felt about you having a show. And I do enjoy watching it. Although it is a little crazy, it does relax you, and I wanted to tell you that your commentary at the end of the show is wonderful. It means a lot to me in my daily life.
SPRINGER: Well, thank you. I can say that my family -- I'll do the whole family.
SPRINGER: Yes, my family doesn't -- no, they don't like the show. My mother would...
KING: Your children? How many children do you have?
SPRINGER: I have one. I have a daughter.
KING: She doesn't like the show.
SPRINGER: No, she loves her dad but she thinks the show is crazy. My mother -- you know, my parents have passed away. My mother would have hated the show. My dad would have said: "Louder! Louder, I can't hear! What are they doing?"
KING: How do people -- how do people react to you on airplanes, on the street, in restaurants?
SPRINGER: That's it. Now, watch, tomorrow it'll change. It's God's truth: People almost without exception -- it would be hard for me to think of two or three incidents in 10 years where people aren't so nice.
KING: Nobody says, "You do a terrible..." -- no one?
SPRINGER: It doesn't happen. I'm not saying there aren't people that hate the show, but they don't talk to me.
I -- I mean, I can't walk through an airport without "Jerry, Jerry!" The pilot's saying it: "Everyone stay in your seats. Jerry Springer's on board." You know, I mean, it's just -- I mean, they're always joking, but people are just so nice. I mean, they're just really, really nice.
Now, when I was in politics, then you get people that don't like your politics. But with television -- if you think about it -- who really --- other than critics -- who really gets that upset? I mean, if you didn't like a show, you didn't watch it. When I was kid, there were slows I didn't like -- I probably hate -- but I didn't watch it then. I watched it once, hate it, never watch again.
But I didn't walk around. I didn't, you know, I mean, fall asleep and I'd say: Oh, I hate that show. Thursday is coming up. It's going to be on. It's like -- it is just television.
KING: Do you enjoy fame?
SPRINGER: I have had it my whole life -- my whole adult life -- because even though I wasn't known nationally, starting in my 20s, being a mayor in Cincinnati, I was totally known in community I lived in. So it is hard for me...
KING: Not to -- you always had recognition.
SPRINGER: I've always been know. Yes. So it is my life. I don't think it is good or bad. I just don't notice it anymore. But people have always been nice to me.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with Jerry Springer. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW")
SPRINGER: ... you have in common with your boyfriend's other girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only thing I have in common with this white-trash whore is we are both -- we are both pregnant by the same guy.
AUDIENCE: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
SPRINGER: Hey, why are you yelling my name? So anyway...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It ain't his.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Something extraordinary happens at the end of "Springer" shows. All your guests, no matter how crazy it has been, gather on the stage. They sit. The audience have asked them various questions about it. And then you sign off. What do you make of that? They -- sometimes it is almost civilized.
SPRINGER: Oh, it is. Well, I'll tell you, after the show -- now, there are exceptions of course -- but, generally, after the show, they all stand around. They want pictures. They want me to stand with kids, hold their babies, sign autographs. And then they say: What's a good restaurant to go to in Chicago? In other words -- and I -- I just mean this -- I just totally mean it -- most of the people on this show I like -- I like.
I mean, you know, our backgrounds are different. But they are OK people. They are involved in dating problem, or whatever, but they are OK.
KING: Do they want to know how they have done?
SPRINGER: Yes. They will say to me: How did I do, Jerry, how did I do? I mean, the story is true, but they know they are on television. And this is their moment. You know, for a lot of the people, it is probably the first time in an awful long time -- if ever -- someone has paid attention to them for an hour or for a few days -- because, there are the phone call setting up flights to fly to Chicago. They get put up in a hotel.
In other words, for one week, people are paying attention to them. A lot of these people, no one ever listens to them. Their parents don't listen to them. Their kids don't listen to them. Their spouse doesn't listen to them. You know, their boss at work, they don't have the kind of jobs where someone is going to ask them their opinion. So it is like, they are the focus of attention. It isn't just the Andy Warhol, 15-minutes' bit; it is that they count for something for a day.
KING: Do you tell them the date is going to air, so they know?
SPRINGER: Oh, sure.
KING: Shirley, Indiana, Hello.
CALLER: Hi. I just wanted to know if any of the guests on your show have affected you had personally, like do you take it home with you?
SPRINGER: Do I what?
KING: Every taken really involved, followed up with someone?
SPRINGER: Oh, there are a few cases where we have really followed up. We did a couple of stories about people who were morbidly obese. I mean, I don't mean just heavy, but I mean 1000 pounds. We had a woman who was 1600 pounds. The fellow was a 1000 pounds, we had to cut out of the house, because literally, he couldn't get through the door. And he had to get to a hospital. And he was confined to his bed for about five or six weeks -- no, five or six months, because he couldn't stand up.
If he stood up, he would crush his bones. So we cut off a side of the house, got him by a crane down, and got him to the hospital. He get better for a while. Sadly, about two years -- or a year later -- he passed away. So, once in a while we do follow up when it is a really serious story. Understand, 90 percent of the stories we do have to do with dating. I mean, it isn't -- I'm not saying it is not -- it doesn't make them angry at the moment. But it isn't live- changing.
We have all been dumped. You move on to the next story, you know.
KING: But you have pregnancies. I mean, you have...
KING: ... serious situations here.
SPRINGER: Yes, but -- yes, as I said...
KING: You do.
SPRINGER: ... once in a while, we have serious situations. But 90 percent of the time, we don't.
KING: So you don't find yourself emotionally involved? You like them, but you're not emotionally involved?
SPRINGER: Well, it would be like a judge, or a police officer. You know, you are dealing with people every single day. It would be dishonest to say that you take every case home with you. You know, a judge doesn't go home every single day with the 50 cases.
KING: No. Oh, you would go nuts.
SPRINGER: Yes, you would go nuts. Obviously, some...
KING: How long are you committed contractually?
SPRINGER: I've done it for -- this is my 10th year. I've got until 2005. So five more years I'll do it.
KING: And you think you will continue after that? Or do you think...
SPRINGER: I hope I'm alive.
KING: What else -- quickly -- would you like to do?
SPRINGER: I may go back to politics. I think I would enjoy that.
KING: Run for office again.
SPRINGER: I might. That may not be possible because of the reputation of the show. I would have to think about that. But that's my passion -- politics -- so I might do that.
KING: Thanks, Jerry. Thanks for giving us this hour.
SPRINGER: You're great. Yes, thank you.
KING: Jerry Springer, host of "The Jerry Springer Show."
Tomorrow night, Wolf Blitzer sits in. He'll have a major discussion with some very disparate people, discussing the Senate race in New York between Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton.
CNN "NEWSSTAND" is next.
I'm Larry King. For Jerry Springer and the whole crew here in Los Angeles, good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.