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Search for Laci Peterson Continues; Clara Harris' Trial Reaches Final Days; Michael Jackson Fights Back

Aired February 10, 2003 - 20:00   ET


CONNIE CHUNG, HOST: Good evening, I'm Connie Chung. Tonight, the day Conner Peterson was supposed to have been born and still no sign of his mom.

ANNOUNCER: A special day is bittersweet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope I find something and I'm thinking that I hope I don't.

ANNOUNCER: Laci Peterson's due date. What would have been a celebration instead is an ongoing search. And countless prayers for the missing woman and her unborn child.

She says it was an accident. The Clara Harris trial in its final days. The woman on trial for running over and killing her husband has an unlikely person come to her defense.

Michael Jackson fights back, claiming his TV tell-all was malicious and grossly misleading.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jackson's behavior was beginning to alarm me.

ANNOUNCER: But does the gloved one's actions speak louder than his words?

Dreams of stardom. The first two "American Idol" finalists tell Connie what it is like to make the cut.

SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL": I'm not being rude but I think the outfit sucks.

ANNOUNCER: And "Our Person of the Day." Not the shy retiring type.


ANNOUNCER: This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening. This wasn't the way February 10 was supposed to be. Modesto, California substitute teacher Laci Peterson was supposed to give birth to her son Conner today. Laci's mom was supposed to have a new grandson. Her brother, a nephew. Once they expected to spend this past weekend getting the baby's room ready for his arrival. But CNN's Rusty Dornin has details on what they were doing instead.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Laci Peterson's brother Brent mapped out new area to search over the weekend. Nearly seven weeks after her disappearance, volunteers fan out along a canal near Modesto, looking for any signs of Laci Peterson.

BRENT ROCHA, BROTHER: Yes, we want to bring my sister home.

DORNIN: Home to Modesto, where everywhere you look there is the smiling face of this expectant mother. People here take this case personally. And sometimes false hopes and false leads proved frustrating.

Scott Peterson said his wife walked the dog to the park that day. Search dogs indicated she got in a vehicle. January 11, a search of the Berkeley marina where Scott Peterson went fishing. A sonar device indicated something that resembled a body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the object we were concerned about ended up being an anchor.

DORNIN: Then there were nagging doubts about Scott Peterson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing's changed. He still hasn't been eliminated. He will still be part of the investigation until we are able to eliminate him.

DORNIN: Peterson shyed away from reporters. He said he wanted the investigation to focus on his missing wife.

Then January 24, a girlfriend went public with their affair.

AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON'S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: Scott told me he was not married.

DORNIN: Then Scott Peterson couldn't escape the headlines. Instead he put himself in front of the cameras.

SCOTT PETERSON, HUSBAND: When people accuse me of some involvement and I had nothing to do with her disappearance, but people still accuse me of it.

DORNIN: The family no longer invites Scott Peterson to do vigils for Laci, including one which will be held later this evening. They say they don't believe Scott Peterson told police everything he knows.

Then came the news that Peterson sold his wife's car to finance a new pickup to use for work.

RON GRANTSKI, STEPFATHER: You want to change the focus, Scott, talk to the Modesto police. End this circus. DORNIN (on camera): Once again, Laci Peterson is in the headlines in her hometown. This is the day she was to have her baby. A little boy she and her husband planned to name Conner. They had a nursery ready and waiting. Now everyone here is just waiting.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Modesto, California.


CHUNG: Covering the story this weekend's search and the split between Scott's family and Laci's is Chris Filippi, a reporter for KFBK News Radio in Sacramento. Thank you, Chris, for being with us.


CHUNG: What is Laci's family doing to commemorate this very sad day?

FILIPPI: Well, they're going to hold a very quiet and private candlelight vigil tonight, no more than 25 folks. They're asking the media to respect that and stay away.

It's been a very difficult time for them as you can imagine. In fact, I spoke with Brent Rocha on Saturday at the volunteer search. He couldn't bring himself to talk about today and what it means to the family.

CHUNG: And since this is Laci's due date, are they searching hospitals to see if she might be in a hospital?

FILIPPI: And indeed they are. That is certainly something that both sides of the family are doing, both Laci's family and Scott's family. In fact, Scott's mom and some of his other family members have been calling around the hospitals, really anywhere where a newborn child could be dropped off or found or anything like that, just in case there is that remote opportunity that something could happen.

CHUNG: But from what I understand, Chris, the families are not talking to each other.

FILIPPI: That's exactly right. In fact, they haven't spoken with each other for a couple of weeks now and it is a very interesting situation where you have not one, but you actually have two searches that are being organized.

Laci's family has taken it upon themselves to organize a series of searches here in February, one every Saturday. And the one on Saturday was actually very -- it drew a lot of volunteers. They had more than 300 volunteers showing up for this. in fact, they actually ran out of maps for all of the volunteers.

Meanwhile, Scott's family, down in San Diego, has been in contact with a nonprofit group based in Texas that specializes in finding missing people and they're organizing their own search. To this point they haven't organized anything specific, but they're moving in that direction.

CHUNG: Chris, in your report having you been able to find out where Scott Peterson is?

FILIPPI: There's been a lot of conjecture about that. As you know, he was in Mexico last week for a U.S. grains conference. He works as a fertilizer salesman. We were able to confirm that he did check into the Guadalajara Hotel and we do know as a matter of fact, that he did come back to the area. It looks like he came back on Sunday.

I've not been able to talk to Scott specifically, but one of his neighbors said Scott is indeed back in Modesto.

CHUNG: And as far as you know, the trip to Mexico was a legitimate business trip?

FILIPPI: At this point it certainly looks that way. It's kind of difficult to say for certain without having talked to Scott. But I can tell you that Modesto Police were not able to stop him from leaving the country. He's not been named as a suspect therefore he's as free as you or I to go wherever he wants at this point.

CHUNG: Now, during the search last weekend which I know you were reporting on, I understand the volunteers were asked to go and basically retrace steps that the Modesto Police had searched. Why aren't they going into different areas or new paths?

FILIPPI: Well, I think the idea in this particular case, to search this area, the police thought there was a possibility that this is area where Laci could have gone. There was, at least early on, way back when this first started the dogs that the police used had gotten a scent of her, in fact being in this area at some point.

So the idea to go to this particular area was perhaps the weather it turned something up. It had been several weeks since police had been there. And it gives the opportunity for the family and the volunteers to be able to participate in this search.

Remember, Laci's family took it upon themselves to organize this search. They really talked to the police a little bit, but this is Laci's family putting this together and they thought there was an opportunity to really find something in this location.

CHUNG: Are police still searching, though, as well? I mean, they certainly haven't dropped this case in any way.

FILIPPI: Oh, no, not at all. In fact, they are still searching, although the searches are not as broad as they were in the first couple of weeks after Laci disappeared. Modesto Police very tight lipped about this investigation. They will not tell us exactly when and where they are searching but we know the searches are still going on.

CHUNG: All right, I thank you so much, Chris Filippi.

FILIPPI: You bet.

CHUNG: As Chris noted, Scott Peterson's family has been organizing these searches. His mother asked for help from a Texas group called the Laura Recovery Center and co-founder Gay Smither joins us now from Houston.

Gay, thank you for being with us. Scott Peterson's mother called you. And what did she say to you?

GAY SMITHER, CO-FOUNDER, LAURA RECOVERY CENTER: Well, she e- mailed us asking for help and whatever help we could give her. And we pointed her to our manual and we have sent a hard copy of the manual in the mail to the family as well.

And we did the same thing with Laci's family. We pointed them to our search manual that is freely available on our Web site. And we'll assist in whatever way we can.

CHUNG: And Laci's family had called earlier, several weeks ago?

SMITHER: Laci's family actually called us on the day that Laci disappeared. And we immediately told them about the manual and that we could make a flyer and to get back with us if there is anything we could do to help.

And we know that we were told that they had downloaded our manual to help them in their search operations.

CHUNG: I know you started this group because your daughter, Laura, went many missing in 1998. And usually you work with children who are missing. In this particular case the search for an adult is not any different, is it?

SMITHER: That's correct. That's correct. The manual, although it is called "How to Search for a Missing Child" can be used to search for anybody.

CHUNG: Now, both families, apparently Scott's family and Laci's family are searching for Laci, but not together. Based on your experience, because you've been helping a lot of people with missing children and missing adults, is that wise?

SMITHER: Well, given the -- this particular situation, it is understandable. And obviously the most important thing is for the community to focus on Laci and not on any division in the search. But to go out and look for Laci at all costs. She's what it is about, not anything else.

CHUNG: I think that's so right, but probably so difficult for the two families.

SMITHER: Absolutely.

CHUNG: Has Scott Peterson's family asked for any additional help, I mean, to actually ask your group to help in terms of searching, or is it just the information that they were -- that they were asking for?

SMITHER: Well, I think they understood that we are an organization that focuses on children. We're a small group, and we do what we can. And so that's why they asked about the manual, and we gave them all the information about that at the very beginning.

CHUNG: Is there anything you'd like to say to Laci's parents, to give them some encouragement?

SMITHER: My heart goes out and is crying for this family. And do not give up hope. Until you find Laci, there is always hope. And we are here praying right alongside you.

CHUNG: Absolutely. Gay Smither, I thank you so much for being with us.

And a quick postscript, the Web site for the Laci Peterson search,, was set up for people to live tips on her whereabouts. It now has gotten more than 4.5 million hits. And interestingly, more and more people are using this site not to send tips, but to post angry accusations directed at Scott Peterson.

And still ahead, is Iraq changing its ways or playing its games? Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Next, Clara Harris says she killed her husband by accident. And an unlikely twist, the dead man's mother sides with Clara. CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT will be right back.


CHUNG: In the case of the people versus Clara Harris, the defense has rested. The stunning trial of the former Colombian beauty queen who is accused of running over her unfaithful husband had a surprise witness last week, when Harris herself took the stand. As CNN investigative correspondent Art Harris reports, the defense wrapped up with witnesses you would not expect to side with the defendant.


ART HARRIS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clara Harris was back in court to see the latest witnesses defend her against murder charges she ran over her cheating husband.

On the stand today, the victim's father, the mother, the brother. Gerald Harris, David Harris' father, said he disapproved of his son's affair, talked to him about it, and believed David was about to end it. He testified we did not think it was proper.

Gerald Harris Jr., brother of orthodontist David Harris, called Clara "truthful and credible," and "one of the most law abiding persons I know." When the prosecutor asked him if Clara's attack on mistress Gail Bridges in the lobby of the Nassau Bay Hilton altered his opinion, he called the violence "inappropriate behavior," but it did not change his opinion of her overall. David Harris' mother Mildred also came to Clara's defense. She beamed at her daughter-in-law and said, "I love her very much. She's really like a daughter." Clara smiled back, but sobbed silently into Kleenex as David's family called her a devoted mother, wife and daughter-in-law. Jurors appeared to be listening very closely.

Mildred Harris, radiating warmth, said, "Clara loved David very much. Sometimes I thought she loved him too much." In rebuttal, prosecutors called a Houston police officer to testify. According to his analysis, Clara Harris ran over her husband at least two times. In her testimony, she remembered none of that.


HARRIS: After David Harris' parents testified, they came out in the hall where I was standing a few feet away as they embraced Clara, their daughter-in-law. I could hear someone say, "do you need anything?" Clara said, "all I need is a miracle" -- Connie.

CHUNG: Art, it is so extraordinary that David Harris' parents were so supportive. Now, why did the defense put them on the stand after Clara Harris?

HARRIS: If you think of it as a trial, it has its rhythm. And Clara had already made her impression with this jury, very emotional impression, and if you believe her, and we don't know if they do yet, but she gave them enough to possibly have reasonable doubt. If they believe that she didn't mean to hit her husband, her intent was not there, they could find for her. So you don't risk putting her back on the stand once she sold them her story, no need to sell it again. You put someone who is unlikely to be on her side, the parents of the victim. And so if they then come to her support, you have the icing on the cake -- Connie.

CHUNG: So that's why they didn't put her back on the stand. And she was questioned by her own defense attorney and then by the prosecution, but today the defense could have put her back on the stand.

HARRIS: Correct. They could have had her up there again, but she made such an impression, they then announced to the jury they had passed and there would be no more questions of Clara.

CHUNG: All right. How do you think the jury reacted to this entire sequence of events that the defense put on?

HARRIS: Well, they were paying very close attention. There was one moment today when Clara's mother-in-law, Mildred Harris, was just beaming. She was just effervescent. She had on a pink blouse and a dark suit, and this was the children's grandmother, the mother of the victim, who said she loved Clara. She looked at her the whole time she was testifying and just beamed, and Clara seemed to be really picked up by that and looked right back at her and smiled. And this punctuated a day that alternately was Clara -- saw Clara sobbing a little bit, dabbing her eyes. So this was a moment the jury seemed to be paying very close attention to, Connie. CHUNG: All right. Art, tell us what's coming up, because I guess the prosecution has a chance to put on anymore witnesses, and when would closing arguments be, and then when would deliberations start?

HARRIS: There is at least one more prosecution witness in rebuttal, Connie, that would tomorrow, unclear when it ends, but there is a hint that closing arguments could come tomorrow. The judge advised the jury to bring an overnight bag in case she decides to sequester them. So by this time tomorrow night, Connie, we could be having deliberations.

CHUNG: All right. Art Harris, thank you so much.

Joining us now from Houston is Jack Harvey, a friend of David Harris' parents. Thank you, Mr. Harvey, for being with us. Tell us about the Harris', David Harris' parents, Mildred and Gerald.

JACK HARVEY, FRIEND OF VICTIM'S PARENTS: Well, Connie, I've known Gerald and Mildred for approximately 25 years. I would consider Gerald and Mildred two of my very best friends. Mildred was my secretary for 13 years, and I worked closely with Gerald in a school district in Pearland (ph). And like I told the group when Gerald retired, I made a little speech and I said when I grow up, I want to be just like Gerald Harris.

CHUNG: Well, it is quite extraordinary what they have done. I mean, they have basically forgiven the woman who ran over their son. It's extraordinary. It is generous. It is magnanimous. Can you explain to people who cannot understand how they could do this and how they could testify on her behalf?

HARVEY: I think -- I think this is one of those situations where you have to be there. You have to have known Gerald and Mildred like those of us who loved them, have been around also Clara. You have to have known her all of this time, to understand the relationship. And to those of us who are close to the family, it's not -- it's not unusual at all.

CHUNG: Did they support her from the beginning?

HARVEY: Within -- I know within 24 hours. I was out of town when I got word and I came back home. And I saw Gerald and Mildred about a day after that. And from that point, they were very supportive, from that very point. I don't know how they were immediately, but from 24 hours after, I know they were supportive.

CHUNG: Have you been able to talk to Clara?

HARVEY: Oh, yes. I came last week, I spent some time at the courthouse. And I know I came in and sat down near the front. And the session hadn't started at that time. And, you know, Clara looked around and she saw me and she came out, and we hugged. And, you know, didn't have too much to say. But, yes, I've seen her.

CHUNG: We're given the impression that David's parents really want her very much to be able to be a mother to those two boys. And is that sort of the bottom line? They want to have the mother of their grandchildren taken care of?

HARVEY: I think if the grandchildren were not even involved, they would still be the same way. You have to know Clara, also. Clara is a very sweet individual. And I know people wonder how can people, you know, act violently at times. And I know that many people have situations where this has happened to them. But if you know Clara, the years that we have known her, she's never exhibited anything except, you know, just exemplary behavior. And they love her.

CHUNG: Jack Harvey, I thank you so much for being with us.

HARVEY: My pleasure.

CHUNG: Right now, Iraq's latest bid to avoid an invasion tops tonight's look at the world in 60.


CHUNG (voice-over): Baghdad has agreed to let U-2 surveillance planes to play over Iraq. The flights were one of the demands made by top weapons inspectors during talks in Baghdad over the weekend.

NATO will reconvene tomorrow for a second day of emergency talks after France, Germany and Belgium blocked plans to defend Turkey in the event of a war against Iraq. The vetoing nation argued the move would hurt efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog downplayed Iran's announcement it was mining uranium to produce nuclear energy, saying it has been aware of Iran's plans to expand its nuclear program for months.

Nearly two million Muslims converged on Mount Arafat, Saudi Arabia, the climatic observance of the ritual of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed.

In Tel Aviv, a memorial was held for Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut who died when the Columbia broke up upon re-entry. Meanwhile, NASA officials were investigating whether a small object broke off from the shuttle and struck it during flight, causing the disaster.


ANNOUNCER: Next, Michael Jackson says he was set up. The TV tell-all sparks an outraged response. We'll hear what a close friend has to say about it when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.


CHUNG: You really didn't think the whole Michael Jackson controversy was over, did you? Well, after last week's blistering portrayal of him in a new documentary, Jackson is firing back, filing a formal complaint against the company that produced it, saying he has his own video he says shows the interviewer, Martin Bashir, violated British broadcasting guidelines. And in a statement, Jackson says, quote, "the unedited footage shows Martin Bashir blatantly contradicting his opinions that appeared in the edited version of the documentary. The footage reveals serious discrepancies in the outcome. I will say that again that I have never and would never harm a child."

Jackson also claims the documentary showed his children in ways that violated his agreement with the producers. Jackson has filed formal complaints with organizations that regulate British television.

In a statement, Granada TV said, quote, "this is becoming the most expensive, clumsy and desperate attempt at shooting the messenger we've ever seen. Our film is candid, revealing and honest. There is nothing misleading about it and no lies." Granada TV is also claiming that Jackson tried to sell his video clips to Britain's Sunday newspapers for $98,000.

A poll taken this weekend before Jackson's statements suggests that not a lot of folks are taking his side. The poll of 1,000 adults found 70 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Jackson. That doesn't mean Jackson won't win his battle with Granada, but what about his battle for popular opinion?

Joining us once again, Jackson's one-time friend, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach who also co-founded a charity Heal the Kids with Jackson, and because the story has potential legal implications, we're also joined by our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Thank you, both, for being with us.

Rabbi, you were quite disturbed by the interview. And you've been friends with Jackson for some time. Now, have you spoken since the interview with Jackson himself, or anyone very close to him?

RABBI SCHMULEY BOTEACH, FORMER FRIEND OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Well, I spoke to the person who is closest to him. And I said to him today that this new strategy of attacking Martin Bashir is completely misguided. Nobody cares about Martin Bashir. If you sling mud at him, the public is not going to respond. It's Michael Jackson they care about.

The real strategy at this point should be that Michael has got to stop this thing that he said that he actually invites children into his bed. He has got to come forward and say, I am misguided, that is a mistake. I know accept through the revulsion of the public that I should never have done this, and I will not continue to do it, and he has to bury the story before it gets legs. But for him to attack Martin Bashir, he's keeping it in the press. Michael has to get some of his virtues out, because people are only seeing the bad stuff right now.

CHUNG: Well, Jeffrey, let's take the legal side, then. If indeed Martin Bashir was perhaps duplicitous in what he said, he said, you know, you're wonderful and then turned around and says what you did was awful, is that a case? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Michael Jackson joins the long line of subjects of interviews who were disappointed by how things turned out. He has absolutely no legal remedy. These are taped comments that he made. If he thinks things were taken out of context, that's not a legal fault that he can sue about. This is purely a public relations attempt by Jackson. It's destined to fail that way, I think, as the rabbi says, but legally it has even fewer options, likelihood of success.

CHUNG: All right, Rabbi, I think the part that most people are concerned about are the children that he apparently sleeps in a bed with, and his own children. All right, let's take the issue of his own children. Have you seen him with his children, and how would you describe him as a father?

BOTEACH: I've seen him countless times with his children. He's not just a good father, he's actually an exemplary father, and I'll be critical of Michael when he deserves the criticism, but he actually spends endless hours with his kids, he prioritizes them, he never travels without them. They are deeply emotionally attached to him. They don't let him leave the room. They always call him, "daddy." He reads them books. He cries over parents who don't prioritize their kids. That's why I think that Michael's behaving so out of character lately. I don't even recognize him. The man who dangled the baby from a Berlin hotel room, to compare him to the man that I knew so well, who was overprotective of his children, or the man who called Tommy Mottola Satan, Michael always steps back from a fight.

He will lose money in order not to fight with people. He'll pay out money, if he has to. I don't recognize this man. And what I said to the people who sort of run his life today is...

CHUNG: No, I was just about to say, when you talked to them, did you say to them...

BOTEACH: I said to them, I'm holding you guys accountable.

CHUNG: ... you've got to do something to help him?

BOTEACH: Absolutely, because Michael Jackson is a profoundly private man.

And the fact that he invited a reporter -- a British reporter especially, because he's always felt that the British reporters are biased against him -- into his life for eight months is clearly an act of desperation. And he thought this was going to rehabilitate him. And, sadly, it went so awry.

But if someone doesn't tell Michael, sorry, there is basic elements of life that you have to return to, because you're really out there, then not only is your career gone, but we don't know where you are going to end up. I don't where this ship is going to land and I'm getting frightened.

CHUNG: Now, do you believe that there is any possibility that he has done something untoward to his own children? BOTEACH: To his own children, certainly not. And I have no reason whatsoever to believe that Michael has ever sexually abused any child. In fact, I would find it difficult to believe that he has. And I have many reasons to he believe that he hasn't.


CHUNG: Then why were you so nauseous, as you put it, when you saw this interview in which Michael Jackson says, I sleep with children?

BOTEACH: Connie, I write books on marriages. Could a husband sleep platonically with another woman? Of course not. It's inappropriate and it's unacceptable. It's deplorable. That Michael doesn't get that there is a right and a wrong, Michael -- this is a different kind of scandal.

Before, it was always things that people said about Michael. And he could defend them. He could deny them. I've been one of his defenders. But when he says himself on international TV that, I regularly invite kids to sleep in my bed, God almighty. Michael is a moral man. And he cannot behave immorally. Neither can he defend the immoral action. Sleeping with a child who is not yours is immoral, period. And this can't be defended.

CHUNG: Jeffrey, I think it is what everyone is concerned about. What about these children, if, indeed there is something going on that authorities should know about? Can maybe the Santa Barbara DA, who actually says no charges are being filed, can that DA go and do something or try to find out if these children are being molested?

TOOBIN: Well, both the Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles district attorney had extensive investigations of him in the mid-'90s, most of them stemming from that kid in '93 that had the big settlement.

But they can investigate all they want. At this point -- and I think the rabbi is right about this -- there is no evidence that he has sexually molested anyone. There is no complainant.

CHUNG: Well, is there any way...

TOOBIN: There is no person who says, he did this to me. And that's pretty much the necessary beginning of one of these investigations.

CHUNG: Is there any way authorities can monitor movements of children going in and out of Neverland?

TOOBIN: It certainly doesn't seem like they have enough evidence to get a search warrant of Neverland. But, certainly, they could look and see who is coming and going, but what would that prove? The fact that children come and go, that really doesn't prove that anyone is being molested.

Until someone makes a complaint or until someone says they saw something untoward that went on, there really doesn't seem to be much of a basis for a criminal investigation.

CHUNG: Rabbi, did you talk to Michael Jackson about the allegations that that 13-year-old boy was making?

BOTEACH: We talked about it all the time. And he denied it outright. He looked me in the eye. And I believed him. And I still believe him.

But we both agreed the there was a certain propriety that he had to maintain, especially in light of those '93 allegations. And that's why I was so shocked and saddened when Michael said that he regularly invites kids into his bed. That's just insanity that he does it and that he admits to it, because someone who has had those kinds of pedophile allegations against him has to be very circumspect.

I even remember once, when we were together at my house after a Thanksgiving dinner and we were all sitting around after dinner, me and my kids, my wife, and we had a blanket over, and we were reading books, I remember Michael kept -- everyone was dressed, of course. It was right after dinner. Michael kept his hands outside of the blankets with all the adults there just to show how careful he is, that people shouldn't even think the wrong thing.

And I even said to them, look, you don't have to overdo it, but make sure you are extremely careful in what people say and think. That's why I'm astonished that he's done this.

TOOBIN: But can I ask you, how can you be so astonished at this point? This is a guy who's shown this obsessive interest in children for years and years and years.

Just this -- and now he gives this interview. But I think most of us who are outsiders, unlike you, we're not all that surprised, because he's had what seems like an unhealthy interest in children. I don't understand why you're so surprised.

BOTEACH: I'll tell you why, because, when I used to look at all these rock stars who would sort of inject themselves with different needles and womanize and impregnate 20 women, I thought that was even more perverse than condemning a rock star who actually innocent enjoyed kids.

And Michael always tried to tell adults that there's childlike qualities that we should never forfeit, and, therefore, we get recharged and we sort of regain them when exposed to kids. It was a philosophy that made sense. And that's OK. But when you cross the line and you invite them into your bed -- and, remember, I never saw Michael doing anything even remotely questionable. This is honestly shocking.

And that's why it is so hurtful, because I actually owe him a lot as a parent. I read my kids stories because of Michael Jackson. I have dinner with them most nights. I owe him that. And I'll never forget that debt of gratitude. But, clearly, he's crossed a line. And someone has to bring him back and say, no, Michael you cannot make up your own rules. You're not God. You don't determine your own morality. And this is deplorable.

CHUNG: All right, I want you to take a look at a clip of Michael Jackson. He's talking about the incident of dangling the baby outside a Berlin balcony.


MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: We were waving to thousands of fans down below and they were chanting they wanted to see my child. So, I was kind enough to let them see. I was doing something out of innocence.

MARTIN BASHIR, REPORTER: He's hungry, isn't he?

JACKSON: He loves the milk, this guy. It is good. Thank you.

BASHIR: Jackson's behavior was beginning to alarm me.



CHUNG: So weird.

TOOBIN: It just gives you the creeps.

CHUNG: It does give you the creeps.

BOTEACH: You clearly see there how Michael moving his foot, how anxious and nervous he is. He doesn't want to be there. I don't know why he ever did this.


CHUNG: Yes. And he normally doesn't do -- normally, he doesn't...

BOTEACH: Oh, of course not.


BOTEACH: One of the things that so separated me and Michael was when I insisted to him over and over against that Prince and Paris -- I don't know the baby -- I never met the baby -- Prince and Paris have their mother regularly involved in their life. All I tried to do -- I was never a spiritual adviser. I was a friend, who said to him, you have to have a normal life.

CHUNG: But she's not, is she?

BOTEACH: She has to be involved with them.

Well, that was another sickening thing, when he said that -- when Prince said that, I don't have a mommy. I used to say to Michael -- and then Michael confirmed it -- I used to say to Michael all the time, what, you think these kids are going to hit 15 and think they were hatched from an egg, that they were delivered by FedEx? They are going to know they came from a mother. And this mother has got to be involved.

And when I ultimately saw I could not influence the situation more positively, there was no reason to hang out. But we should not demonize the man. That's what upsets me. Why people hate him, I don't get. Have compassion for him. This is a man who needs to be restored to..

CHUNG: Well, I think people are repulsed, is what it is. It is not demonizing.

TOOBIN: Someone with so many advantages and so much money and so many opportunities, to be fixated on children -- all of us love children, but this fixation.

And what I don't get is the surprise, because all of us who are outsiders saw this and it seemed like the culmination of a lot of weird stuff. And you seem to see it as some sort of weird aberration.

BOTEACH: Well, clearly, when I first was introduced to Michael, it was all very bizarre. But, as I said, as he explained it to me -- and we actually were going to write a book together. It's been written. I don't know how I'll ever publish it, because of the credibility he squandered.

But he tried to sort of condition me that parents need to be around their kids, not because the kids need them or they will be screwed up if they're ignored or neglected, but rather the parents will be screwed up. We need to be injected with youthfulness. There is a philosophy behind it. But, of course, it cannot cross borders and boundaries. And I absolutely deplore and condemn the fact that he said he brings kids into his bed.

But let's face it. You make it sound like parents really adore their kids these days, Jeffrey. They don't. Most parents are bored of their kids. They farm them out to TV and Nintendo to be raised.

TOOBIN: And the idea that Michael Jackson could give anyone advice on parenting seems to me beyond absurd, and it seemed even before this interview came out.

BOTEACH: Well, I still stand by that. I will defend his core message that adults have something to learn from children.

CHUNG: All right, Rabbi, I thank you so much for being with us.

Jeffrey, as always.


CHUNG: And still ahead, our "Person of the Day," he's going out on a high note. Hear how his heirs apparent are treating him.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Next: two hopefuls who made it past this.


SIMON COWELL, JUDGE: You walked out here as a loser. And that performance comes under the so-what category.




CHUNG: The new "American Idol" series is proving to be as big a smash as its predecessor, maybe an even bigger a hit. Why? Because it gives a Connecticut cosmetologist and an Ohio supermarket shelf stocker a chance to be the next overnight sensation. Horatio Alger would be proud.

The first finalist for this year's "Idol" are Julia DeMato and Charles Grigsby. And one of the very first perks is the chance to be here with us tonight.

Thank so much. Congratulations.



CHUNG: Both of you are so good. I can't believe it. Really, you are. And I can't believe that you don't have any formal training, neither of you.



CHUNG: It's incredible. And you're both in your 20s. And you just sang it so easily. Honestly.

GRIGSBY: Thank you.

CHUNG: Charles, were you surprised that you made the cut? There were 26 million people watching. And they voted for you.

GRIGSBY: Yes, yes. I was shocked.

CHUNG: Really?

GRIGSBY: Completely shocked, yes.

CHUNG: Julia, you did so well.

DEMATO: Thank you.

CHUNG: You really did. Did you think you were going to make the cut? DEMATO: It was a surprise. I think everyone was in the same state of mind, like you just don't know what to expect. So, I didn't really think about it much. I was just kind of like, OK, I'm here, and I'm breathing, and I'm doing OK.

CHUNG: Are you going to sing the same song? Because I know that there was some suggestion that maybe that wasn't the right song for you.

DEMATO: No, I won't sing that song again.

CHUNG: What do you think? What are you thinking about? What song? Or are you going to keep it a surprise?

DEMATO: I really haven't even thought about it yet.

CHUNG: You're kidding?

DEMATO: No. No. We've been so busy.

GRIGSBY: Yes, exactly.

CHUNG: You've been running around being stars, right?

GRIGSBY: Definitely. Definitely.


CHUNG: All right, Charles, I want us to listen to what the judges said, OK? Let's roll this clip.


RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE: You got a good-sounding voice. I liked it. It was good. I don't know if it like was unbelievable for me, but it was good.

PAULA ABDUL, JUDGE: The tone of your voice was velvet smooth, wonderful.

COWELL: But I think, actually, you did very, very good. Well done.


CHUNG: That was very nice. Well, Paula Abdul is always so nice anyway.

GRIGSBY: Oh, she's a sweetheart.

CHUNG: Did Paula Abdul give you something?

GRIGSBY: Yes, she did.

CHUNG: Both of you, actually. GRIGSBY: Yes. She's adorable. She's a sweetheart. She gave all eight of us each a pendant that is a star and that is significant that says, "When you wish upon a star, you just might become one."

CHUNG: Isn't that nice?

DEMATO: I have mine on, but my turtleneck is covering it.

CHUNG: Isn't that nice?

GRIGSBY: So, Paula, we're definitely wearing it with pride. Thank you.

DEMATO: We are. We're so happy.

CHUNG: So, that will be your good luck.

GRIGSBY: That's right.

DEMATO: Yes. It is a good luck charm.

CHUNG: You know what? I saw your mother crying. It was so sweet.

GRIGSBY: I know.

CHUNG: Wasn't it?

GRIGSBY: I know. I know. Tears in her eyes. I have never seen tears in her eyes.

CHUNG: Really?

GRIGSBY: Yes. Yes.

CHUNG: Did that mean the most to you?

GRIGSBY: Yes. Yes, it did.

CHUNG: Had to.

OK, Julia, let's listen to the judges after they saw you.



ABDUL: You looked so -- so much more vibrant. Your voice is wonderful. Good, good job.

JACKSON: It was nothing special for me. You sang the song. I wasn't moved. I don't know.

COWELL: So, you've sung better in previous auditions. I do actually think you're one of the better contestants in this competition, though. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG: Thank goodness Simon came in for you, right?

GRIGSBY: That's right.

CHUNG: What did you think when you heard that?

DEMATO: I was pretty impressed. I was happy, very happy. Yes.

CHUNG: Good for you.


CHUNG: So, I want to know what you both really want to do.

Julia, do you have true aspirations of being a huge pop singer or would you really like to do something else?

DEMATO: You know what? I really just don't think about -- I kind of live for each day as it comes and not try to look into the future too much, because then, if you expect too much, and you don't get it, you're just setting yourself up.


DEMATO: Yes. So, that's how I try to stay at a good state of mind.

CHUNG: Good for you. Good for you.

Now, Charles, none of the judges really thought that you two were going to be the ones that would move on, right?

GRIGSBY: I know. No.

CHUNG: What do you think convinced the viewers to vote you in?

GRIGSBY: I don't know. I'm hoping that they saw the talent within us, not only hear our voice, but also see our personalities. And since no one has met us yet, you see us on TV, and we really are like this off set and off camera. We really are friendly people.

CHUNG: Now, if you become a big star, do you think you're still going to be a nice person?

GRIGSBY: Oh, definitely. Definitely. Definitely. It gets tougher. But no one said it was going to be easy, you know?

CHUNG: Are you going to be impossible to work with, Julia, when you're a big star?

DEMATO: No. No way.

CHUNG: Promise?

DEMATO: Nothing is going to change me. I'll always be me.


DEMATO: Definitely.

GRIGSBY: That's right. Always be me.

CHUNG: Charles, haven't you performed before other big performers?

GRIGSBY: I got a chance to actually perform in front of Sisqo for his birthday. And he was very impressed. And his bodyguard as well was impressed.

CHUNG: That's great.

GRIGSBY: And previous talent shows and everything back home and everything like that. So, I kind of did have a little sense of what it is like on stage, but I've never had anything -- experience or any preparation for this.

CHUNG: So when are we going to see you again?

DEMATO: I think March.

GRIGSBY: March, March, I think. I think so, yes.


CHUNG: OK. Thank you, Charles.

Thank you, Julia.

DEMATO: Thank you.

GRIGSBY: Thank you.

CHUNG: Good luck to both of you.

DEMATO: Thanks.

CHUNG: I'll be watching.


GRIGSBY: All right.

CHUNG: Do good.

DEMATO: We will.

GRIGSBY: That's right. That's right.

CHUNG: When we come back: Britney Spears tops another group of finalists for a much more dubious honor.

Stay with us.


CHUNG: Well, Madonna is apparently getting even more competition from Britney, as we see in tonight's "Snapshot."


CHUNG (voice-over): Don't expect Britney Spears to knock herself out on an acceptance speech. Her debut film, "Crossroads," is up for eight Razzies, the awards for the worst movies of the year.

Critics also weren't kind to the romantic comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" either, but moviegoers were. The Kate Hudson flick was tops in this weekend's box office receipts.

In a London courtroom today, movie stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones accused a celebrity magazine of crashing their wedding and taking bad unauthorized photos. They're suing "Hello!" magazine for publishing the blurry pictures. Douglas called it vengeance for their granting of the rights to a competitor.

A British newspaper says Madonna's new music video will take a slap at President Bush's Iraq policy. "The Guardian" quotes reports that the video for the single "American Life in Los Angeles" will show the pop star in full combat gear flinging hand grenades.

New York is now enjoying the paws that refreshes. The Westminster Kennel Club's 127th annual dog show continues through tomorrow.


ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: our "Person of the Day," not the shy retiring type.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues in a moment.


CHUNG: The game to which he gave so much gave back last night: a special thank you to our "Person of the Day," even before he took to the court.

Although he wasn't supposed to, Michael Jordan started in his final NBA All-Star Game last night after Vince Carter changed his mind at the last second and gave Jordan his starting slot. Except for a last-minute jumper that could have won the game, Jordan's play was a little less than spectacular, but still good enough to nail yet another record. He became the top-scoring player in All-Star Game history. And he got a chance to say thanks.


MICHAEL JORDAN, NBA PLAYER: I felt very appreciative for what the league did for me. And I think it is a good way for me to leave the game and say, you know what, it is time for me to go home and watch the rest of these kids play.


CHUNG: No way.

Jordan's Eastern Conference lost the game, but Jordan walked away a winner. We love you, Michael. And you're our "Person of the Day."

Tomorrow, for the first time since Columbia was lost, America's astronauts still in space aboard the International Space Station talk about their situation. Plus: French bashing, a new national pastime?

And coming up next on "LARRY KING LIVE": Janey Peterson, Scott Peterson's sister-in-law; and the latest on the search for Laci Peterson.

Thank you so much for joining us. And for all of us at CNN, good night and we'll see you tomorrow.


Reaches Final Days; Michael Jackson Fights Back>

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