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Interview With Jerry Springer

Aired August 6, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: it was a decision seven months in the making.

JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: I can't do it at this time.

ANNOUNCER: Jerry Springer explains why and tells us what's next.

SPRINGER: All options are open. I just want to be helpful.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



Now that Jerry Springer has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, he has plenty of time to do talk shows: his own and ours. We'll ask him about his future in and out of politics. But first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

Senator Dianne Feinstein kept to the stand-by-Gray line today. She refused to let her name go on the October 7th ballot as a possible replacement if California voters decide to remove Gray Davis as governor. Davis figures if no other Democrats are available to replace him, Californians will keep him, even if they hate him. But Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez figures that is a really stupid strategy that will probably elect a Republican, and so she may enter the race.

On the Republican side, Arnold Schwarzenegger may terminate his candidacy on the Jay Leno show tonight. But if he does enter, look for the second actor ever in the California's governor office. After all, it is Hollywood.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, I think -- I mean the word is that on the Jay Leno show tonight Schwarzenegger is going to say no. This has now become the most expensive joke in California history. It's going to cost $60 million to try to overturn a perfectly valid election.

This is what Republicans do. They don't believe in democracy, so they try to overturn elections. It's an outrage.


NOVAK: Well, you know the thing you don't realize is that if the people really hate Gray Davis enough to get rid of him, maybe you ought to listen to the voice of the people.

BEGALA: Hey, they ought to have a legitimate election when the time comes.

Anyway, the EPA has an inspector general who announced that they are looking into charges that the Bush administration deliberately misled the American people about the purity of our drinking water. "The Washington Post" reports today that while the Bush administration told the American people that 94 percent of Americans have safe drinking water, real number may be as low as 79 percent.

So, next time you poor a glass of water, keep in mind there is a one in five chance that it contains arsenic, industrial chemicals or fecal matter. Still, the odds of getting poisoned really are only just one out of five. But, of course, you have a four out of five chance of getting false information from President Bush and his deeply dishonest administration.

NOVAK: You know my bartender once told me when I was a young man, never drink too much water, it is just really not very good for you.

BEGALA: That's good advice. I'll stick to beer.

NOVAK: I'll give you a couple of facts. The EPA is about the most liberal agency in the Bush administration. And, secondly, this, Paul, is a classical fight between bureaucrats. It happens when the government tries to play big mother and tells you what is a good water and what is a bad water.

BEGALA: They should just tell the truth. They don't tell the truth about arsenic or doo-doo in the water. They don't tell the truth about war, they don't tell the truth about a tax cut, they don't tell the truth about the deficit. The only Bush tells the truth about is sex, and god bless him for that. But I mean we ought to have a little better than that.

NOVAK: Senator Bob Graham's one asset in his run for President has been that he is from the key state of Florida and is one of the state's greatest vote getters ever. Well, the Mason Dixon Florida poll had some very bad news for Senator Graham, who is a sharp critic of President Bush and his Iraq policy.

By a margin of 50 to 38 percent, Floridians don't think the President deceived the country on going to war. By a bigger margin, they support the invasion of Iraq 58 to 32. And, get this: in a choice for President it's George W. Bush 51 percent, Bob Graham 39 percent. What a way to treat a favorite son.


BEGALA: You know it would be interesting to see that race happen. I think Graham has an awful lot to offer his party, and I think he could beat Bush in Florida. But it would be interesting just to see if even once in his life Bush could actually carry Florida without Rehnquist and the rest of them stealing it for him.

NOVAK: He did carry it. But I want to tell you this, Paul, and you should pay attention to this.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

NOVAK: All this pounding and Bush bashing has hurt Bob Graham. Bob Graham was running even with Bush until he started pounding on him. People don't like treating the president of the United States that way. They didn't even like treating Bill Clinton that way.

BEGALA: No, he's not bashing Bush, he is telling the truth, which is something that Bush is not used to hearing. You know he's not a guy comfortable with the truth, apparently.

Well, the mountains of eastern Kentucky are perhaps best known as the home of the frontiersman hero Daniel Boone. Old Daniel Boone settled that wilderness about 200 years ago, and his name and exploits have been the stuff of legend there for two centuries until now.

Right wing Republicans in Kentucky are removing Daniel Boone's name from the region's main highway to replace it with Hal Rogers. Hal who? Well, it turns out Rogers is a right-wing Republican congressman who has earned no real distinction in his 23 years in the Congress except to rail against big government spending and then raid the federal Treasury report (ph) for his own district.

So, here is my idea. Instead of singling out Rogers, maybe the right-wingers should name the road after every modern day Republican and call it the hypocrites' highway.


NOVAK: You know, Paul, let me tell you a couple of facts. Hal Rogers is not a right-wing Republican. You think every Republican is a right-winger. And he has served with distinction as one of the biggest purveyors of pork on Capitol Hill.

He is an appropriator. Appropriators are Republicans, Democrats. They like to spend. And I have to tell you this, because I try to be honest. I think taking away Daniel Boone and putting Hal Rogers' name there is an outrage and is an example of typical congressional arrogance.

BEGALA: Well, Republican arrogance, I would say. But otherwise...

NOVAK: It's bipartisan, my friend. BEGALA: Well, Jerry Springer says that he can't get through the clutter of his TV show, so he won't be running for the Senate next year. But, of course, there are other years, there are other elections. And in a minute we will ask Jerry himself what the future holds.

Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Jerry Springer says he spent about a million bucks of his own money exploring a possible run for the Senate. He says he found an audience for his message but he couldn't break through what he called the clutter of his own show. He won't be challenging, therefore, Republican Senator George Voinovich next year for the U.S. Senate, but he is stepping into the CROSSFIRE.

Jerry Springer joins us live from Columbus, Ohio. Jerry, good to see you.


JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, nice to see you again. Thanks.

NOVAK: Mr. Springer, let me see if I understand this. You could avoid the clutter if you just got off the show or even mercifully kill the show. And the problem is, as I understand it, and tell me if I'm wrong, you put money -- and you make a lot of money on that show -- over public service.

SPRINGER: No, I have a contract. And the contract, as I said, even before I started looking into this, is that I clearly had to finish the show for this coming season. But that meant that, while I was campaigning, in fact, even going through a primary, the show would still be on the air. I was wondering whether I could break through that, and I concluded that I can't.

And I understand that. That's a reasonable assessment to make. I understand that if I want it return to public life, that if I want to run for public office, I have to get rid of the show. And I understand that and I live with that.

NOVAK: You could have bought yourself out on that. You just didn't want to give up the money. Isn't that the truth?

SPRINGER: No. I know it makes a better headline to say that, but that's not the truth at all. The reality is that I am under contract. That means something to me, and I promised I would do the show through May of 04.

That was the contract. We have contracts with, what, 209 markets in America, 52 countries. If I walked out of that contract and all these stations bought the show, I will spend the rest of the campaign in court. I don't have the kind of money to take care of all the lawsuits, there would be no attention paid to the campaign. And, by the way, when you sign a contract, that should mean something. I am going to fulfill it.

BEGALA: Jerry, that certainly proves you're not for the Republican Party if you're actually talking about keeping your word when you've given your word. That would be news to President Bush. But let me ask you about the clutter you talk about. What did voters say to you when you went out exploring a run?

SPRINGER: The good news, at least for me, was that they really accepted the message that when they saw the whole campaign -- you know I went around giving speeches. You know, we had great crowds, the media followed me around. So it's not just me saying that.

They saw it. They saw what the response was. There's no trouble in me getting my message across when I get to meet with people and they hear me talk.

What is a problem, though, is no Democrat can win in the state of Ohio with just Democratic votes. The only way you can do it is to bring about all those other people -- and there are about two million of them -- that only occasionally vote, that don't identify with either party, that think all politics is bull. They don't relate. But somehow, there was a connection with me.

If I could have brought them to the polls, you add that to the Democratic vote, then we have a victory. Here's the problem. Because the show would still be on the air while I was running, and because I would still even be taping some shows to fulfill the contract, the reality would be that I would never get through the media to reach these people.

They're not the people coming to the Democratic dinners, they're not coming to union meetings. These people right now aren't participating. So the only way I can reach them is through the media. But I can't break through the media when I have the show going on.

That's an understandable reason. And when I saw that, I had to make the decision. As much as I would love to be in the Senate and love to fight for people I care about, I'm not in a position to do it right now.

BEGALA: But let me ask you to give some advice then to politicians who don't have the clutter of a talk show but also can't seem to reach those people. What do politicians need to do to reach those millions of Americans who are disenfranchised by the system?

SPRINGER: Well, I would say that, even as a Democrat, the Democrats have failed. They really have failed in offering an alternative to the Republican point of view. I don't particularly like the Republican message, but I'll give them this: at least they know what their message is and they're consistent with it.

With the Democrats right now, we're all over the lot. And we haven't had an alternative message that people can relate to.

Here's what I think we ought to do. We have to recognize that our government now is basically elitist, that all the laws that are passed usually benefit people like me. And middle America is absolutely forgotten.

So when we come to decisions like how are we going to to juice up the economy -- and the way to do that is for a tax break -- you're not giving the tax break to middle America or low income America, you're giving the tax break to people like me. What the hell are you giving me a tax break for?

Take the money you give me a tax break for and make sure that we have quality schools. Make sure that everyone has a right to health care -- I mean health insurance. That's what we ought to be doing. And we need a message to people to say we're going to bring you into the loop and here's how we can do it. And payroll tax relief is the way to do it, by the way.

NOVAK: Mr. Springer, there are Democrats (UNINTELLIGIBLE) politicians all over America who are just delighted that you're not running. And most of them won't say so publicly. But just the other day, Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, whose father, I believe, was mayor of New Orleans the same time you were mayor of Cincinnati. And Senator Landrieu said this about your campaign -- we'll put it up on the screen.

"Lord help us. He's an American citizen and he has the right to run, but all I can tell you is if our politics have deteriorated to that level, lord help us all." And Mary said she would go down to Ohio to campaign against you. Do you realize that there was that kind of resentment of you in the United States Senate in the Democratic Caucus?

SPRINGER: I am sure there is some. But you know what, that's OK. The truth of the matter is that, if I became a candidate, I would be running against the United States Senate. They're part of the problem.

What happens, Democrats, Republicans, these people get to Washington and all of a sudden it is all within the beltway. You know middle America doesn't exist anymore. I believe that people in middle and low income America, they need to have a fighting voice that isn't going to be bought out.

Here's what's wrong with what the senator is saying. She doesn't like me, god bless her, she is entitled to her opinion. But here's the problem. Imagine, imagine if I would have been the 51st seat for the Democrats and because of that I could have stopped the tax legislation that just passed. Imagine if because of that we would have health insurance for all Americans.

Imagine if some of the policy she really cares about or alleges to care about would have all of a sudden been able to pass because I was the 51st vote. Wouldn't it be stupid to throw away those positive policy decisions just because you want to teach me a lesson about my silly show?

For God's sakes. What's more important? We're not talking about television here. We have to talk about things that really affect people's lives.

The election should not be about me. I'm doing fine, thank you very much. The election is about people right now that aren't getting any help from the government, any hope that the American dream can work for them.

These people really are outraged. And, you know what? They have lost interest and they no longer participate. That's the problem.

BEGALA: OK, we're almost out of time for this segment. But did you get encouragement at all from national Democrats or was it all kind of criticism, like Bob just read you about Senator Landrieu?

SPRINGER: Well, no. I can tell you as late as yesterday the executive director of the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee came to Cincinnati and said, "Please run, please run, please run."

Look, I understand. There are politicians around America that have to make a public statement opposed to me because that gives them moral credibility in their own state. I understand that; I don't take it personally. I assume they're good people.

You know what? I really believe that if they knew me, if they spent some time talking to me about where I stand on the issues, of how committed I would be about it and how much I would fight for it, you know they'd probably end up thinking that I'm OK and would love to have me there.

But they don't know me. So they're going to say these things because it helps them in their own state. Tom Daschle is a fine example.

NOVAK: We're going to take a break, Mr. Springer. And after a quick break, Wolf Blitzer will check the news headlines. And it's Rapid Fire, short questions, short answers and no slugging the questioner on this program.


NOVAK: It's time for Rapid Fire, the quickest question-and- answer session in television. Our guest is non-candidate and still TV talk show host, Jerry Springer.

BEGALA: Jerry, who do you like for president?

SPRINGER: I like Kerry, I like Dean, but any of them are acceptable to me over the current president.

NOVAK: Mr. Springer, on your program today you have Cathy (ph) confronting her 83-year-old husband for having an affair with her best friend. Do you ever get sick of putting that kind of stuff on the air? SPRINGER: Mo. Come on, Bob, you enjoyed the show, didn't you? You know what, I'm hired to be an entertainer. I'm hired to host a show about outrageous people or people involved in outrageous relationships. I defy you to watch that show and tell me that those people aren't outrageous. They are. That's what I'm supposed to do.

BEGALA: Well, as an entertainer, do you think entertainers like yourself -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, who apparently tonight is going to tell Jay Leno he's not going to run for governor -- do entertainers have to reach a higher bar than, oh, say, the sons of former presidents who have lived their whole lives off their daddy's name and their family's money?

SPRINGER: It's a good thing that wasn't a slanted question. You know, it's a free country and every one of us who decides to enter the public fray and to run for office has to give it the best shot they can. And ultimately, we're going to be elected or not elected based on our own merits.

It doesn't matter what the profession is. You know Ronald Reagan did "Bed Time for Bonzo" (ph).

NOVAK: Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger is less qualified to be governor of California than a professional politician like Gray Davis?


BEGALA: Jerry Springer, thank you. Hang on. Keep your seat, though, because in just a minute we're going to come back after we do a little research of our own.

We're going to see if Jerry has been able to cut through the clutter in our own audience. Give them voting devices, and we're going to ask you this question, guys: Should Jerry Springer have quit his show to run for the Senate?

Press one for, yes, he should have run. Press two for no. We'll show Jerry and you all the results after the break, and he's going to stick around and answer questions from our audience during our Fireback segment. Stay with us.


NOVAK: It's Fireback. And we asked the audience, should Jerry Springer have quit his show to run? Republicans about evenly divided, 51 percent yes, 49 percent no. Democrats, about two to one again.

BEGALA: Wait, the Republicans were all against it.

NOVAK: I mean, yes. And Democrats 70 to 34.

BEGALA: Well, Jerry, it's interesting. The Republicans did not want you to run. It sounds like they're afraid of you.

SPRINGER: I don't know if they have reason to be afraid, but one day maybe I will. And then there won't be the show. But clearly -- most of your viewers obviously aren't from the state of Ohio, but Ohio is in trouble and I thought I could have been helpful. And we need something different. We've had the same people running the state for the last decade.

NOVAK: Let's get a question from the audience, please.

SKYLER VAN OIN: Hi, my name is Skyler Van Oin (ph) from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. And Mr. Springer, my question is this: do you think that the stigma of your TV show will dissipate over time so that you can pursue public office based on your views and not on public misconception?

SPRINGER: Well, I -- it is clear that the show has been part of my history. I have done it for 13 years. I don't expect people to ever forget that, and I don't think they should. That is part of what I have been.

But, as long as I'm doing the show, I don't think I can break through that. Once the show is over, then it's part of my history, just as being mayor was part of my history or being a lawyer was part of my history or a news anchor or all of the other things I've been. So I think I have to quit the show in order to be heard on my message, but I don't think, you know, I'm ever going to get people to forget that I've done it.

NOVAK: OK. Next question, please.

PAULA BIRMBERG: Hi. My name is Paula Birmberg (ph) from Los Angeles, California.


BIRMBERG: And my question is this: you said you are interested in fighting for the people you care about in the Senate, but how can you say that after exploiting these people on your show for so many years?

SPRINGER: Well, see, I disagree with the premise of the question. I used to exploit people, but then I gave up doing the news. News is the business of exploitation, because it constantly reports on people and puts them in a negative light against their wishes.

Our show, as silly as it is, and I always admitted it is a silly show, is absolutely totally voluntary. You have to desperately want to be on our show in order to get on. You get to choose the subject matter, you get to...

NOVAK: Time for one more question. Yes, sir?

CARTER CAMPBELL: My name is Carter Campbell (ph) from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Mr. Springer, do you plan to enlist any of your entertainment friends in helping any of the Democratic presidential candidates? And how do you plan on getting involved this year in this upcoming election? BEGALA: Fifteen seconds, Jerry.

SPRINGER: Well, I think the best way I can help to the Democratic candidates for president is probably to endorse President Bush.

BEGALA: Jerry Springer, a great spokesman for his cause. Always happy to have you on CROSSFIRE. Please come back often, Jerry. Great to see you again.

SPRINGER: Thank you.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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