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Barack Obama and Hollywood; Confederate Flag Flap

Aired February 20, 2007 - 20:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Paula does have the night off.
Out in the open tonight: lights, cameras, and politics. Right this minute, Barack Obama is trying to shake Hollywood's loyalty to the Clintons.

Also, the Confederate flag's checkered past catches up with NASCAR.

And, if you're in the need of a fast buck and considering those ads for instant tax refunds, you won't believe what they really cost.

And the first story we're bringing out into the open tonight: money, politics, Hollywood, and Barack Obama. The Democratic presidential candidate is surrounded tonight by Hollywood's A-list stars at a fund-raiser going on right now. It's expected to bring in $1 million for his campaign. That's huge money this early on in the race, and even more surprising because of Hollywood's long friendship with the Clintons.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins me now from L.A.

They seemed pretty excited to see him, Bill.


He was here in L.A. -- he is here today. He spoke at a rally right behind me just a few hours ago. Something like 3,000 people were here. It's right in the middle, the heart of -- of the streets of L.A. There was a very enthusiastic crowd.

He showed the kind of star power that people are seeing in this new Democratic presidential candidate.

He came here to say: Show me the love. He's in Hollywood tonight saying: Show me the money.

PHILLIPS: How important do you think Hollywood plays -- what type of role does Hollywood play in these presidential elections? Is that big a deal? Do people vote for a candidate that Hollywood supports?

SCHNEIDER: Very often, Hollywood support can be the kiss of death for a candidate. Remember how George Bush ran against John Kerry, saying that he was the Hollywood candidate with Hollywood values? Hollywood is aware of that. But this is very early. The campaign isn't even close to starting. And, of course, it's right now a Democratic primary, because the Democrats are the ones who raise most money here. Hollywood is important for money -- money, money, money. They have got a lot of it here.

And this dinner tonight, this event, could raise $1 dollars, as you said. That is the kind of money a president of a United States raises when he comes to California. For someone who is running in the Democratic primary to be raising it this early is remarkable.

PHILLIPS: So, is Hollywood saying that it's not supporting Hillary or Giuliani?

SCHNEIDER: Nope. They're saying: Listen, we're giving money to Barack Obama, but we're still going to support other candidates.

And there was a Giuliani event recently out here. He's a Republican, of course, with a lot of New York roots, as do a lot of Hollywood people. I think, basically, in this race, there are two establishment candidates, John McCain in the Republican Party, Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party, and there are two insurgent candidates, Barack Obama in the Democratic Party, and, interestingly, Rudy Giuliani, who is something of an insurgent running against the conservative establishment in the Republican Party.

And they're coming on very, very strong right now. And Hollywood sees, certainly in Barack Obama, something that they're very well qualified to judge: star power -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Bill Schneider, our star, with lots of power -- thanks, Bill.


PHILLIPS: Let's turn to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Roland Martin, Roland Martin, host of "The Roland S. Martin Show" at WVON Radio in Chicago, defense attorney Lauren Lake, and Martha Zoller, talk show host at WDUN Radio in Atlanta.

What can Obama do for Hollywood?

ROLAND MARTIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE CHICAGO DEFENDER": Well, first and foremost, Bill said that Hollywood provides money. But, also, Hollywood provides message.

Well, you saw the impact of Bill Clinton when he went on "The Arsenio Hall Show." And, so, what you are going to see is a crossover effect, in terms of Obama likely being in the "People" magazines, the celebrity magazines. Clearly, "Ebony" magazine, they have sold tons of copies with him on the cover.

And, so, he benefits from that, because that is free media going after an audience that frankly does not watch political shows.

PHILLIPS: Let's take a look at the numbers. It's being called the first billion-dollar election.


PHILLIPS: Obama -- what is that?

MARTIN: This is the election, a billion-dollar -- oh, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: The first billion-dollar election.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: And Obama...

MARTIN: It's going to be huge.

PHILLIPS: ... if you look at the numbers, he has a lot of money to raise here. Is this the way to do it?

LAUREN LAKE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, yes. He has to do what he has to do.

This doesn't mean he's automatically got their vote. And he's not that crazy to think so. However, he needs money. And he's getting it. We're in a celebrity-obsessed culture.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

LAKE: We have to do what works. They're already saying he's a rock star. You know what? He's got to use it. He's got to use it. And he's doing it.


PHILLIPS: Why would Hollywood back Obama? Hollywood and the Clintons have always had this great relationship, Martha.

MARTHA ZOLLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, in primaries, though, people like to spread their money around. And, maybe, in Hollywood, in '96, they didn't spread it around because Clinton was the incumbent president.

But, other than that, they like to spread their money around, because you don't want to be backing the guy that doesn't win the primary, because then people are angry at you. So, it doesn't matter if it's Republican primaries or Democratic primaries. That's what happens. They spread their money around.

MARTIN: But -- but, Kyra, we also need -- need to show one point.

John Edwards raised less than $100,000 just a couple of days ago. Obama, according to Bill Schneider, in the latest poll, is second in New Hampshire. And, so, from a Hollywood standpoint, you're not simply raising $1 million for some guy who is simply running for office. You're raising somebody who is clearly in number two right now, who has no place to go but up.

So, certainly, they recognize his ability to be able to attract the attention of voters. And, again, he's sitting in the number-two position. That's why he's got a million bucks.

ZOLLER: And -- and...


ZOLLER: And what's important about him being in the number-two position is, you have got a Hillary Clinton, who we have talking about for years. And, if there's one thing that the media likes, as well as voters like, is something new and different.


ZOLLER: And I think they may...

PHILLIPS: The new, shiny penny?


PHILLIPS: Didn't you say that, the new, shiny...


LAKE: He's new. He's different. And I think he's relatable...


LAKE: ... in terms of young people.

And I think Hollywood, Obama and young people, which is a powerful vote, which is often lagging in elections -- we have seen people like Puff Daddy get out with strong...

MARTIN: Absolutely.

LAKE: ... campaigns to get the young people out.

I think Obama is one of those candidates, linked with Hollywood and our celebrity-obsessed culture, to maybe get that vote out.

PHILLIPS: So, he can identify?


LAKE: He's just a younger, relatable candidate.

ZOLLER: And I think it's more than just young people, because, even with the increased number of voters in 2004, the youth vote, whatever that is, was -- was still at 17 percent.

A million more young people voted, but it was still 17 percent.

PHILLIPS: Yes. ZOLLER: So, across the board, people were voting more.

I want to see candidates who are going to get people out to the polls. That's what I want to see.

MARTIN: But there's -- there's one big difference. We did not have the -- the emphasis of MySpace and Facebook in 2004.

If you look at all the candidates...

ZOLLER: No, that's true.

MARTIN: ... who have sites on those social sites, he's leading all of them. On -- on Facebook, he has almost 300,000 people who have signed on to his particular page.

And, so, he's able to drive that. And, so, when you combine Hollywood, celebrity culture with the money and that whole type of culture, you're going to see a different kind of campaign than we have seen in the past.


PHILLIPS: Are there better ways that he could raise money?

ZOLLER: Oh, he's going to raise money...

LAKE: He's doing a great job right now.

ZOLLER: He's going to raise...


MARTIN: Also, look at the number. He has to raise anywhere from $50 million to $100 million just to get through the primary. And, so, you're taking money from anywhere.

ZOLLER: Well, one thing that concerned me is, they made the point, when they were talking about this, is that even the people that are paying money aren't going to get really any face time, unless they pay the big bucks.

So, you don't want people coming away from this, saying, "Gee, I thought I was going to get to shake his hand; I thought I was," because Obama is sort of the touch factor. You need to be able to shake his hand. You need to be able to see him. And people want that.

So, he's got to be very careful, with these -- these huge crowds that are gathering, that he doesn't separate himself from what got him there, which is that relatability and that ability to talk...


LAKE: I think it's early enough, though...


LAKE: ... where he still has that time to make that connection.


LAKE: And I think what's so key is, he has that it factor. That's what Hollywood talks about with their stars. He has that as well.

I think, at this point, people are going to be excited to be in the room with him...

ZOLLER: And, for now...

MARTIN: Yes. Yes.

LAKE: ... and then pursue that connection maybe later.

ZOLLER: And -- and, for now, the it factor is great. What people are going to start asking in another month or so is, OK, what do these promises mean and how is he going to accomplish them?


ZOLLER: But he has got a little time.


MARTIN: But you have got to have the bucks.


MARTIN: You have got to have the bucks.

PHILLIPS: We have got four it factors right here.


PHILLIPS: We're going to keep talking, OK?

Ladies and gentlemen, just keep your engines running. We're about to wave a familiar flag. But what will you see, Southern pride or ugly racism out in the open?

Later: his infidelity and her ratings. My Headline Prime colleague Glenn Beck brings an intriguing poll about the Clintons out in the open.


PHILLIPS: Another story we're bringing out into the open tonight: south-of-the-border parties at colleges and universities. You won't believe how they're dressing up. We will show you more in just a little bit.

But, up first, an old fight is out in the open again tonight, partly because of the presidential race, and partly because of auto racing. Yes, they have something in common, a flag, the Confederate flag, to be exact. Yes, that old Southern emblem of the Civil War still makes lots of people see red.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): NASCAR drivers and official vendors aren't supposed to display the Confederate flag. But try telling that to the fans. Wherever NASCAR goes, the flags follow.

You will find rebel flags adorning NASCAR memorabilia on eBay. And people are expecting to see flags this weekend when NASCAR pulls up for a race at the California Speedway.

It's prompted a strong protest from a columnist for "The Orange County Register," who complains, "Many racing fans don't see the shame stitched into this cloth."

Many people believe that the flag is offensive, no matter where it is, and that anyone who flies it is a racist.

REVEREND NELSON RIVERS, NAACP: At the end of the day, the Confederate battle flag is a racist symbol. And what we say is that the flag represents slavery, represents hatred and racism, even represents American terrorism, and, of course, treason.


PHILLIPS: But white Southerners argue that the flag commemorates their ancestors and traditional Southern heritage, and doesn't automatically mean racism.

JERRY PATTERSON, TEXAS LAND COMMISSIONER: I'm a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It's part of our logo. I am not a racist. You need to judge people by who they are, what they say, what they do. Simply because someone is offended is no reason to remove a flag or a plaque or an icon of any kind.

PHILLIPS: The Confederate battle flag hasn't flown above the South Carolina Statehouse since July of 2000. But you will still find it on the statehouse grounds near a monument honoring Confederate veterans.

And, once again, it's an issue in South Carolina's presidential primaries. Campaigning in the state on Monday, Senator Hillary Clinton said the flag should be removed from the statehouse grounds, in part because the nation should unite under one banner, while American troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The state newspaper in Columbia is keeping track, and reports, all the major Democratic presidential candidates are calling for the flag's removal. Republican presidential candidates tell the paper, it's a matter for the state's officials and voters to settle on their own.


PHILLIPS: So, is anyone who flies a Confederate flag a racist?

Let's run this up the flagpole, shall we say...


PHILLIPS: ... with our panel, radio talk show host Roland Martin, defense attorney Lauren Lake, and radio talk show host Martha Zoller once again.

All right, once again, I just want to hit on the Hillary comment for a moment, because she was the first lady in Arkansas for 12 years. She never brought this up. And -- and she wasn't against this Confederate Flag Day either. And that's still in play.

So, why now?

ZOLLER: I think she wants to be divisive. I think she wants to bring it up to -- to -- to score some points, to get people on record, possibly.

But it's not something that I think people are talking about as much as they were. Now, let me -- with that said, you know, I blame the Sons of Confederate Veterans for where we are today, because it wasn't what happened under that flag during the Civil War that made it offensive.

It's what happened from the time the Civil War was over, until 1981, which is how long it took them to file suit, saying: Don't fly this flag, Ku Klux Klan.


ZOLLER: So, I really -- I -- I -- I put the problem there. And I don't think that telling people that are fans at NASCAR that they can't fly it is the way to do it. That's not American.

PHILLIPS: "The Orange County Register" had a -- an op-ed piece.

This is what it said: "The flag's meaning, sadly, has changed, because of its misuse. It has been embraced by the white supremacists and the white-hooded racists of the Ku Klux Klan. These groups soak the flag with hate, turning it into a painful symbol for a shackled past for black America."

Ku Klux Klan's fault?

LAKE: If that is true, now that you have established that that's what it stands for, why, then, is it so important for you to fly it? At a certain point, the state government has to do a balancing test, as we see courts do.

Weigh the interests of society at large, the people who are offended by it, by your need to have it. I just don't see how you can come out of that balancing test feeling that it's more important to fly that flag than it is to take it down. ZOLLER: Well, they did that.

PHILLIPS: I live in Georgia. I have traveled through...


LAKE: I have lived in Georgia, too.


LAKE: And, every time I saw a car with one on the back, I cringed.

MARTIN: But, Kyra...


PHILLIPS: But let me ask you, I have asked restaurants, why do you have the -- I remember asking an older guy, why do you have this flag?

And he said, it represents unity and courage during the Civil War.

This guy was like 80 years old, and that's what he told me.


MARTIN: Yes, because he also refused to read his history book.

First and foremost, the reason Hillary Clinton brought it up is because more than 40 percent of the -- of the voters in the Democratic primary in South Carolina are African-American. And, so, that is a hot-button issue for African-Americans.

Now, as it relates to the people who say, I'm from the South, this is Southern heritage -- let me -- let me remind some Americans who skipped over this. These people committed treason against the United States. It was their mission to destroy the nation. That's what this so-called Southern heritage is.

And, so, when you have Mississippi and Trent Lott, the senior senator for Mississippi, right now, in the U.S. Senate, he uses the desk of Jefferson Davis, the greatest traitor in the history of America, that's the -- this is so-called Southern heritage.


MARTIN: They wanted -- OK. I'm from Texas. They wanted to keep slavery in existence. That's why they broke apart.

ZOLLER: They wanted states' rights, OK, and...

MARTIN: No. OK, states' rights.

(CROSSTALK) LAKE: To have slavery.


MARTIN: To have slavery.

ZOLLER: But South Carolina moved it to a Confederate memorial on the grounds. It is not flying over the capitol anymore.

MARTIN: It -- it is still being flown.

ZOLLER: Right.

PHILLIPS: But, even though it's on the ground, you have -- you have, what, eight -- eight blacks in the Senate, 24 in the House. I mean, is it going to take a white person, Hillary Clinton, to come forward and get it completely removed?


ZOLLER: Look, there are 5,500...

PHILLIPS: Where is the black influence, though?

ZOLLER: There are 5,500 elected African-American officials in the South. Atlanta is the wealthiest city for African-Americans in the world.

As far as wealth is concerned and opportunity, the South has provided more opportunity since the Civil Rights Act than anywhere else in this country.

MARTIN: Well, thank you -- well, thank you so very much.


MARTIN: But, again -- I appreciate that -- but, again, the point still comes back to this so-called Southern heritage they are defending is one rooted in slavery. It's rooted in treason.

Let -- let me say that again.


MARTIN: They were trying to destroy the Union.

LAKE: Right.

ZOLLER: And there was a war fought over that.


MARTIN: Right. And they lost.

ZOLLER: And there was Reconstruction.


LAKE: Why not, though?


LAKE: What I'm saying...


ZOLLER: But it's still free speech.



LAKE: My point is, if you do the balancing test, and you hear about the offensive nature of it, and you hear an African-American like me say, I still cringe -- I don't want to see that flag, just the way a Jewish citizen wouldn't want to see a swastika. We don't want to see it.

ZOLLER: Then, you take the time...


MARTIN: How is this, Martha? How is this?


LAKE: Why not weigh that...

ZOLLER: One at a time, please.


ZOLLER: ... picking on me.


PHILLIPS: So, basically, you're saying you can't separate the historical politics from the symbolism of the flag?

LAKE: Why should we have to?


LAKE: Should African-Americans have to walk past that flag and say, I need to stand here now and separate the...


LAKE: No, we don't need to separate anything. That was 400 years of oppression.

ZOLLER: But then you do it exactly...


LAKE: That's a symbol of it. It should just come down.


PHILLIPS: So, no matter what, that flag represents slavery; so, anyone that waves that flag is saying, I'm a racist?


LAKE: I don't know what anyone who waves that flag says.


LAKE: I'm saying the subjective of the -- the subjective thought of a person...

PHILLIPS: As a black woman, it offends you.

LAKE: ... looking at that flag, experiencing it, being in front of it, doesn't that matter? Why is it that your personal...


ZOLLER: We are not guaranteed -- we are not guaranteed not to be offended in this country.


ZOLLER: And what you have to do is change the minds of people, like we did in Georgia.

LAKE: But when you have an...


ZOLLER: But wait a minute. Wait a minute. wait a minute.


LAKE: ... have the institution of slavery, Martha...

ZOLLER: No, no, no.

LAKE: ... that still divides us as people...

ZOLLER: But...

LAKE: ... why would you continue to hang something that is a symbol of the divisiveness?

ZOLLER: But you still have to change the minds.

We did it in Georgia. We changed our flag.

(CROSSTALK) ZOLLER: We're going to do it in South Carolina.


MARTIN: You cannot -- you cannot change the minds if they continue to distort history and live in denial as to exactly what that flag means, in terms of Southern heritage.

That flag and the Southern heritage that they are so proud of simply represents trying to destroy America.


MARTIN: And let me tell you something.


ZOLLER: Wait a minute.


MARTIN: If somebody waved the flag of al Qaeda, we would be offended. That's the exact same thing.


ZOLLER: With all due respect...

MARTIN: It was treason and trying to destroy America. It's the same thing.

PHILLIPS: We will continue the conversation. We have got to go. Love you guys.


PHILLIPS: All right, all of you stay with us.


PHILLIPS: We have got a lot more to discuss, and a reminder that February is Black History Month. And CNN has special coverage all month of many of the issues that affect black America and all Americans.

Now, Britney Spears' scandalous behavior has everyone talking -- I know you guys are gagging -- I know -- including my Headline Prime colleague Glenn Beck...

MARTIN: I need a haircut.



PHILLIPS: I can shave your head, no problem. (LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: Coming up, what he thinks about shaved heads, tattoos.

Obviously, Roland is going to weigh in.

And now, of course, she's going to into rehab.

Now, later, we are also going to bring you a new and shocking college fad. Yes, we're going to bring that out into the open.



PHILLIPS: Headline Prime's Glenn Beck drops by every week.

And, tonight, Britney Spears is on his mind. Well, at least my writers say that.




PHILLIPS: Thanks to her head-shaving meltdown and because, tonight, we know she has checked into rehab.

BECK: Yes, not really.

PHILLIPS: She's -- she's forced to be on your mind, because...

BECK: Not on my mind.

Yes, I think she's...


PHILLIPS: ... we have to talk about it.

BECK: I think she is -- you know, her, Anna Nicole Smith, all of these people, they're on our minds because it's -- it's candy. You know, I think we're facing so many big, colossal things, that we like candy.

But you have to ask yourself, what does it say about us that we are fascinated, strangely fascinated, by these people?

PHILLIPS: Who's fascinated? We sit here in our news meetings and we think, all right, we're journalists. Is this newsworthy? Do we have to talk about this? Yet, we go down the street...

BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: ... and everybody: Have you seen this? BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Have you seen the picture? Have you seen what's...


BECK: Yes. I'm -- I'm actually very fortunate, because I'm not a journalist, and, so, I don't have those meetings.


BECK: No, we -- we -- we sit around, and we do. Every day, when we put the show together: What -- what is the average person talking about? And it is this. It is Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears.

PHILLIPS: What is the fascination? Do people want to see the train wreck?

BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Do they want to see the survival story?

BECK: I think it's...

PHILLIPS: Do they want to see the miracle?

BECK: I think it's a little of all of those.

I also think this is an extension of "American Idol." You see "American Idol." That is a homogenized version of this, one that doesn't make you feel so dirty to watch.

PHILLIPS: But those are average Americans. You want to see them succeed. They're getting a lucky break.

Britney Spears is wealthy. She was a successful singer. Should we feel sorry for her?

BECK: She was a...

PHILLIPS: She had everything at her fingertips.

BECK: Right.


BECK: She was regular person.

It's the same thing, though, as "American Idol." You see them built up. You see them crash. You see dreams realized, and you see dreams destroyed.

It's the same thing. Here, we see Britney Spears. She has nothing. We want to see her succeed. Then she succeeds. Now you're getting a little too big for your britches. Oh, really? That's real nice, Ms. Fancy Pants. Then, she can't control it, and we like to see that she is destroyed.

Now the next step is, we like to see her go into rehab.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton.

BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Going to switch gears completely here.

BECK: Mm-hmm.

PHILLIPS: A recent poll says that 62 percent of women thought Hillary Clinton was strong for standing by her man, despite her husband's infidelity.

BECK: Let me ask you a question.


BECK: Let me ask you a question.

First of all, this -- to me, this story is not about politics. It's not about left and right, not about the Clintons. It's about us. It's about right and wrong.

But let me take it on politics here for a second. If this was a conservative, if this couple happened to be Mitt Romney and his wife, do you think, if he was a serial philanderer, and did exactly the same things that Bill Clinton did, do you really think the feminists and 62 percent of women in this country would stand up and say, that -- she's going back to him; oh, that's strong?

PHILLIPS: I will tell you what. We would hear from the Mormon Church, if Mitt Romney did that.


BECK: Absolutely, you would.


BECK: But you would hear from the women and the feminists -- because this has been made left/right, not right/wrong, you would hear from them: Oh, look at the little Mormon wife, following her husband wherever he goes.

How does this make you strong? This, to me -- take the Clintons out of it -- makes me so angry at American women, because they don't have self-respect enough to say, no woman should ever be treated that way.

PHILLIPS: But, Glenn, I have got to tell you something. In my circle at, least, if I did something like that, if I stood by my man who was a philanderer, I would be looked at as pathetic in my group.

BECK: Oh, my gosh. You -- let me tell you something. This is...


PHILLIPS: It would be: Kyra, get a break -- get a life.

BECK: This is the other thing that this story sends to the American people: Guys, cheat all you want.


BECK: According to this...


BECK: ... six out of her 10 friends are going to say: Go back.


BECK: He's cool.

I mean, that's nuts.

PHILLIPS: That could lead us into a whole 'nother discussion.

BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about men and how faithful they are.



BECK: That's why this story is clearly about politics and left and right, and not about right and wrong, because, if it happened in your life, if it happened in my life, I can tell you what my wife's friends and family would say to her about me, if I had done that.

PHILLIPS: All right.

I know we have to wrap, but...

BECK: Yes.

PHILLIPS: ... she had plans. She wanted to run for politics. She wanted to become senator, possibly president of the United States.

BECK: That makes it even...

PHILLIPS: Hey, her husband is a rock star. He brings in all kinds of attention.

BECK: That makes it worse. That makes it worse. If that's true, then she is the most evil, cold and calculating woman in the planet.

PHILLIPS: OK. I'm not saying that. I'm going to be in trouble now.


PHILLIPS: I will let you talk about that on your show.

BECK: I'm not a journalist. I'm not a journalist.


PHILLIPS: That's right.

BECK: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Glenn Beck, always great to see you.

BECK: You bet.


PHILLIPS: Well, we have been bringing out-in-the-open racist parties thrown by college students -- next, a new version. This time, the theme is south of the border. And you will be shocked at how they're dressing up.

Later: The signs don't tell the whole story. We will look at the hidden costs behind these promises of instant cash.


PHILLIPS: There's more outrage tonight over racist parties thrown by white college students. For weeks we've been bringing "Out in the Open" the shockingly common and offensive parties that play on black stereotypes. Just one example, Clemson, in South Carolina, where some white students showed up in Afro wigs with bottles of malt liquor taped to their hand.

But tonight, Peter Viles uncovers another racist party. This one thrown by students at a Catholic college in California. And this party played on Hispanic stereotypes.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At Santa Clara University, students dressed for a Mexican-themed party as pregnant women. Others dressed as janitors, wielding mops, gloves and sponges. Some students outraged when photos from the party showed up on the Web site FaceBook, then in the student newspaper, "The Santa Clara."

BERNICE AGUAS, SANTA CLARA UNIV. SENIOR: When I first saw the pictures, I didn't even know what to say. Like, I was speechless. I was shocked to even think that some people could be so ignorant and insensitive.

VILES: Bernice Aguas is a senior at the university and a daughter of Filipino immigrants.

AGUAS: I wanted to, like, cry, but I was kind of frustrated and upset.

VILES: The college newspaper reports the so-called "South of the Border" party on January 29th was hosted off campus by a student who is "half Mexican."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even it is for, like, you know, their Hispanic friend, it doesn't make it OK.

MAGGIE SPREITZER, SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY FRESHMAN: It definitely was supposed to be funny. But funny or not, it doesn't change the fact that it's offensive.

VILES: A posting also on from a person who claimed to have been at the party said it was harmless and is being blown out of proportion. Tuition, room and board at the Catholic school is $41,000 a year.

TINA BARNETT, SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY SOPHOMORE: I think it's sad that it's come to a point where kids are so insensitive to the problems, the social problems that we have in the U.S. that they feel it's OK.

VILES: The university says that it's investigating the students' conduct. In an e-mail to students, the university president said, "The targeting and demeaning of any group is unacceptable." He add he was "... personally disappointed by the choices made by a few students."

Gustavo Arellano writes a syndicated column about Mexican- American issues.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO, "ASK A MEXICAN" COLUMNIST: We have to remember this is college. Colleges have for centuries been factories for racially insensitive remarks, racially insensitive parties. It's been going on for centuries.

That's the American way. That's the collegiate way. College football isn't the big sport, it's making fun of minorities.

VILES: Bernice Aguas says the party was not the first racially offensive one at the school. She says a recent fresh-off-the-boat party mocked Asian immigrants.

AGUAS: It was offensive and it was hurtful. And I felt almost -- I just -- I was just shocked, like, because it hit so close to home.

VILES: Bernice and some other students at the school are wearing orange arm bands to symbolize their support for diversity.

Peter Viles, for CNN, Los Angeles.


PHILLIPS: Now I want to turn to Rafael Olmeda, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Rafael, what did you think of the photos?

RAFAEL OLMEDA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOC. OF HISPANIC JOURNALISTS: I thought they were appalling. And I thought they were disappointing. I can't imagine that people would think this is fun or funny, but that's what kids do.

PHILLIPS: Do you think they should be punished?

OLMEDA: For telling a bad joke? I...

PHILLIPS: For -- I mean, for throwing these parties, for dressing like this, for having the pictures out there? Should they be punished?

OLMEDA: I think they're in college. And college kids have a particular kind of fun.

This is really more of an opportunity to educate, to talk to these people about the whole Latino experience. They come in and they make fun of gangsters and women and janitors, and what they really don't know a lot about is the police officers, the lawyers, the doctors, the mayors, the governors, the attorneys general.

PHILLIPS: How about forcing them to take a class? What do you think? Latino culture.

OLMEDA: I don't know about a specific class. I think that might be helpful. Maybe a training session, a few hours. But I think they really need to spend some time with members of the Latino community, a diverse group of members of the Latino community, just to show that we're not just one picture.

PHILLIPS: Do you think they're being rebellious toward political correctness?

OLMEDA: Absolutely. That was -- that was actually my first thought when I was seeing this, was that there's so many people telling people what to do, how to think, what they can laugh at, what they can't laugh at. And this particular group maybe feels put upon and says, you know what, I'm going to laugh at what I want to.

The problem is that humor has become the new hiding place for bigotry. So when you have somebody making all of these jokes, they think they're being funny. They're not. What they're doing is they're letting out the things that they really would probably rather keep hidden.

PHILLIPS: But this has got to come from somewhere, right? Could it be their parents? I mean, it seems like learned behavior.

It seems so insensitive, it had to come from somewhere. It had to come from the home. It had to come from the friends they're spending time with.

OLMEDA: It could be any and all of the above. At the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, we actually analyze network news coverage and we find that year after year, the images that we see on the network news are not reflective of the whole of Latino culture. So it really shouldn't surprise us all that much when we see people acting this way when they make fun of us.

They don't -- in a lot of ways, they don't know any other images of us. So it's something that in the media we can do something about.

PHILLIPS: Rafael Olmeda...

OLMEDA: That -- that part of it.

PHILLIPS: ... thank you. I appreciate it.

OLMEDA: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Let's get back to our "Out in the Open" panel -- radio host Roland Martin, defense attorney Lauren Lake, and radio host Martha Zoller.

What do you think? Do we not have enough positive imagery on the air? If you think about the news, it's all about illegal immigration, right? The protests, the marches.

ZOLLER: But see, the point is, illegal immigration is a legitimate and serious issue, but this kind of activity -- which I have three sons in college. And if I ever caught wind of them doing anything like that, you wouldn't hear from them for a while, I don't think, because I'm from the South and we know how to discipline our children.


ZOLLER: But I'm telling you, what -- what happens here is when they do something like that, like when pro-lifers, which I am one, throw plastic fetuses at people to make their point, it goes beyond the line and it muddies the water on what you're trying to really talk about. This is insensitive at best and racist at worst.

I don't think there should be punishment or anything like that, because how are you going to punish people for what they think? But I tell you what, there ought to be a strong signal that this is not appropriate. And no digital cameras in the future.

MARTIN: Kyra, I'm not letting them off the hook. I'm not letting their parents off the hook. When you talk about learned behavior, you -- you just don't go to college, all of a sudden, hmm, let's have a migrant farm worker party.


MARTIN: You don't.

PHILLIPS: I mean, back when we were in school it was toga parties. OK?

MARTIN: You don't.

PHILLIPS: Do you remember a racist-oriented party? Seriously, any of you?

LAKE: No. We don't...

MARTIN: Well, first of all...

LAKE: We did not do that. We did not do that. And it's unacceptable.

MARTIN: Those (INAUDIBLE) sheets had parties. But that's...

LAKE: It's unacceptable, despicable behavior. Let's just be honest here. And I'm tired of this thing, oh, they're in college, let's let them off the hook.

We're supposed to be a nation striving to be more tolerant. Instead, we're tolerating nonsense from our kids.

ZOLLER: No, see...

LAKE: No, Martha.

ZOLLER: We're not tolerating it, though. They're getting a swift reaction to this.

MARTIN: No, no, no. But here's...

PHILLIPS: Why did they do it in the first place?

LAKE: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: Why do they have the guts and the insensitivity to do it in the first place?

MARTIN: And that's my point, because, see, I was raised a certain way. So when I went off to college, my mom and dad said, "You represent our name. Don't you embarrass us in and disrespect our name." And so I wonder how many parents see their kids in those photos and they're saying, "I need to talk to you."


MARTIN: don't want to just see the kids apologize. I want to see their parents. I want to know how they were raised. I want to know what conversations took place in the home.

LAKE: And I want to see the parents and the kids being dialogued with the parents and the children of the people they offended.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

LEMON: AI have never, as my mother and father's child, said to myself one night at college, oh, let's dress up like poor white trash and have a party. We don't do that. PHILLIPS: But I have to tell you something, though. There were white trash parties when I was in college, believe it or not. And a couple of people in the newsroom spoke up and said...

LAKE: Were you having them or were black people having them?

PHILLIPS: No, no, no. That's a great point. They were white. They were white.

LAKE: I thought so. I thought so.

PHILLIPS: Yes, they were. It was in the Greek system. It was in the fraternity-sorority system.

LAKE: Well, we're not having those kind -- we would never -- I would never be a part of something like that.

MARTIN: And I think we have to understand something. These are folks who are going to be managers one day.

LAKE: Yes.

MARTIN: They're going to be bosses one day. They're going to be doing the hiring. And so, therefore, if you have an attitude today in terms of those kinds of stereotypes, how is that going to impact your decision-making in the future? Trust me, it's going to impact it.

PHILLIPS: But what do you do with these students? Do you -- do you have them sit down and take a racially sensitive class? Do you punish them? What do you do?

ZOLLER: I think that it should not be across the board, let's punish everybody, even people that weren't involved, but I think the parents and the students need to be involved in something like that. And I talk about this all the time on my program. Boundaries, behavior in certain places.

There are times to talk with your friends and let it all hang out, and there are times not to. And certainly not taking pictures and -- I mean, it's just boundaries.


PHILLIPS: You know at least one student had a parent that said you have boundaries.

LAKE: And what my thing is...

MARTIN: Here's a critical issue you have to understand. This was not a joke. This was not a comedy routine. This was a planned party. That is a different standard.

LAKE: This was almost a celebration of bigotry. Let's just be honest here. These pictures that we see here are just completely offensive. For people to plan this, that's premeditation. That means we thought about doing this. We didn't almost arrive here on one great night and we decided to line (ph) our lips. We planned this party.

That's unacceptable. And these parties are becoming a trend.

MARTIN: Right. Right. Right.

LAKE: This has to stop.

MARTIN: California, South Carolina, Texas, take your pick. And Kyra, look, I hate political correctness. I mean, I say all kind of politically incorrect stuff on my radio show.

PHILLIPS: You say it to me all the time when we talk on the phone. That's why I need you, the attorney.

MARTIN: But...

LAKE: It's Roland take.

MARTIN: ... the difference is, I'm not going to sit here and throw a party and say, hey, you know, I think I'm going to have a migrant farm worker party at the crib on Saturday. It's not going to happen because I understand what that actually means. And so, again, what they come away with, that's what concerns me.

LAKE: Because of what you have, experience. And many of these children...

MARTIN: But also, it's how I was raised.

LAKE: Exactly. But many of these children have not been raised and have not had to experience the racism and the insensitivity that other children of color have had to.

MARTIN: Well, they could have been raised this way.

LAKE: Well, that's my point.

PHILLIPS: All right.

MARTIN: Could have been raised this way.

PHILLIPS: Keep it right there. Keep it right there and don't move.

MARTIN: Don't move.

PHILLIPS: All right. Don't move.

Have you done your taxes yet, Roland, Lauren, Martha?

"Out in the Open" next, we'll talk about how much they owe, but also a tempting offer about what the real cost of instant cash for your tax refund. It's a serious investigation we're going to talk about.

Also later, a governor who has made history just by getting elected. That makes him a person you should know.


PHILLIPS: "Out in the Open" tonight, a popular tax refund offers it promises fast, easy money, but at a price. You have got to take out a high interest loan to get it. Some of the country's best-known tax preparation firms give customers the option, but consumer advocates say they're just preying on minority and low-income taxpayers while raking in millions of dollars.

Allan Chernoff has the story.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the hardscrabble streets of Newark, New Jersey, many people are desperate for cash. So when tax preparation firms promote money now it's especially enticing here. Never mind the cost of getting money now.

JONEL GILES, USES INSTANT REFUND SERVICE: I need it now to catch up on my bills.

CHERNOFF: Jonel Giles, who is a county government employee, answers ads for up-front cash every year even though she pays a steep price, interest of at least 70 percent, which for her is well over $100, to essentially borrow her own tax refund for just a few days.

GILES: You don't worry about how much their fee is going to be. You just worry about how much you're going to get back. And it's worth it. You know?

CHERNOFF (on camera): But if you waited a little longer you'd get the money without the fees.

GILES: Yes, but I don't like to wait.

CHERNOFF (voice over): H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and other tax preparation firms love customers like Jonel, who borrow to get their tax refund early even though they could get the refund within a matter of days if they filed electronically.

Poor neighborhood are filled with these ads, some of which make it seem like easy money. How would you read this billboard? "I got $1,500 today." What the billboard doesn't say is the cost of borrowing that money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really just our modern-day legal loan- sharking. These products target people of color and people living in neighborhoods of color. So we've got millions and millions of dollars being siphoned right out of some of our poorest neighborhoods, and then even middle -- middle income, predominantly black neighborhoods.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Americans borrowed more than $900 million in so-called tax anticipation loans during the 2005 tax season, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Much of it in low- income, black and Latino areas.

(voice over): Jackson Hewitt says it markets its products and services to all consumers. This year, the firm capped refund loan fees and interest at $125 per loan.

After heavy criticism, H&R Block lowered its rates this year, telling CNN "the refund loan is among the best short-term credit solutions available for cash-strapped people." But the firm's promotional literature reveals sky-high annual percentage rates ranging from 70 percent, all the way up to 525 percent to get a check at an H&R Block office.

Gwen Richardson tells neighbors, beware the tax prep ads.

GWEN RICHARDSON, NEWARK RESIDENT: These people suck the blood out of them.

CHERNOFF: Much of the profit from refund loans goes to the banks that actually lend the money. Tax prep firms are just middlemen and marketers.

HSBC, the top lender of refund loans, told CNN, "Customers represent a wide variety of income levels. Refund anticipation loans are reasonably priced compared to other short-term cash options."

RICHARDSON: The people that do it are stupid.

CHERNOFF (on camera): A lot of people do it.

RICHARDSON: Yes. There are a lot of people that are stupid, too.

CHERNOFF (voice over): Even so, quick cash around tax time is alluring to millions of Americans who need to pay off their Christmas shopping bills.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Newark, New Jersey.


PHILLIPS: And in case you didn't realize it, April 15th this year falls on a Sunday. The following day is a holiday in the District of Columbia, so your federal tax return is actually due on Tuesday, April 17th.

"LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in just a few minutes.

Larry, who will you have on tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": That's a relief, those two days.

PHILLIPS: It gives you plenty of time now. No excuses, Larry.

KING: Whew.

Hi, Kyra.

Coming up, high drama in court today as Anna Nicole Smith's partner Howard K. Stern takes the stand and Anna Nicole herself speaks on video. We've got reaction from friends of Anna Nicole and attorneys who were in court, news people, whatever. It's all at the top of the hour -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Larry. We'll see you at 9:00.

Now let's take a "BizBreak".


PHILLIPS: Every week we introduce to you "People You Should Know" but who you may not recognize. Next, the first black governor in a state that's produced presidents.


PHILLIPS: Our "People You Should Know" segment tonight focuses on only the second African-American elected to be governor in the U.S. since reconstruction. Deval Patrick took the oath of office last month as governor of Massachusetts, a state where only seven percent of the population is black.

Here's Boston Bureau Chief Dan Lothian with tonight's "People You Should Know.".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you've got tough questions for the governor, call the number and ask him...

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Deval Patrick is laying it all out on the table.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: If they're illegal immigrants, they broke the law. I understand that.

LOTHIAN: Massachusetts' first black governor is keeping his campaign promise and giving citizens a chance to speak directly to him through a new radio program called "Ask the Governor."

PATRICK: I understand how regular people don't feel as if people in power are actually connected to them.

LOTHIAN: Patrick says his empathy for the common man stems from his own personal journey. He grew up on poverty-stricken streets in Chicago, but his drive and determination led him to the halls of Harvard Law School and eventually to the governor's office.

PATRICK: Thanks again for tuning in.

LOTHIAN: Patrick says anyone can rise to the top with the right attitude.

PATRICK: You know, people are constantly looking at a good idea, a big idea that you can only accomplish over time and saying, you know, it's not possible, it's never been done before. Well, you know, my whole life is about what's possible.

You better believe we can!

LOTHIAN: Governor Patrick hopes the can-do spirit that has brought him this far will help him succeed in government, where major challenges await.

PATRICK: It's a humbling thing to be suddenly an historical figure. It will be an even better historical accomplishment if I can be the best governor Massachusetts has ever seen.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


PHILLIPS: We're just minutes away from "LARRY KING LIVE." Tonight, the latest from today's hearings on who will get Anna Nicole Smith's body and her baby. That's just ahead at the top of the hour.


PHILLIPS: Paula will be back tomorrow. Join her for an in-depth look at one of the most controversial forms of expression in America today. Hip-hop is everywhere. We're going to look at its roots, bring it "Out in the Open," its alleged connections with crime, and what some say is its mistreatment of women.

Here's a quick preview with Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Since she was 5 years old, Celestina Henry dreamed of being a serious dancer. But her professional debut came in a hip-hop video with 50 Cent. It involved a lot of exposure.

CELESTINA HENRY, ACTRESS: I never had aspirations to be in aid very. I had aspirations to be a dancer, aspirations to be an actress. And I thought about different ways of getting exposure.

CARROLL: Celestina changed her name to Celestine Rae after her performance, which was mild by the standards of some hip-hop videos. Critics say these portray a negative image of black women, even calling it porn for beginners.

JERMAINE DUPRI, RAPPER-PRODUCER: If people don't like it, then you can always turn it off. You know what I mean? So people act like they can't turn it off. And you don't got to watch the booty videos, but the people that talk about it, they're so intrigued they want to see it.


PHILLIPS: Is hip-hop art or poison? Tell you what, go to our Web site,, and tell us. There's a "Quick Vote" question right under Paula's picture.

And tune in tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the special edition of "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

All right, panel, quickly around the horn, hip-hop, art or poison -- Martha.

ZOLLER: Selling a lot of records doesn't make it art. And I don't like the way it portrays women.

LAKE: I think the lyrical content and the imagery is definitely problematic, somewhat poisonous. But the pushers are not just the rappers making the music, but also the record companies that distribute it.

MARTIN: It is not an either/or question. It is and. Not only that, you can talk about hip-hop being denigrating, but it also produced the most black millionaires the music industry has ever produced.

PHILLIPS: Big difference between hip-hop and rap.

MARTIN: And rap, absolutely.


MARTIN: Hip-hop is a culture, rap is a musical genre.

LAKE: Exactly. And not all rappers and not all hip-hop artists degrade women in their music.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Linked with crime, homosexuals, it's ugly against women.

ZOLLER: Hey, music has those kind of links in all of it. It depends on what direction you want to go in.

LAKE: But you have to be honest. If you're feeding a certain poison to our kids, they're not adult enough to realize whether they should internalize it or not.

MARTIN: And again, we have to take a panoramic view of hip-hop and simply not focus on a very small segment. So again, you look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. But if you only look at the ugly, then you get a distorted view of the culture.

ZOLLER: And it comes back to parents, Kyra. That comes back to parents.

LAKE: Very important. PHILLIPS: Lauren, you want to sing us to break?

LAKE: Do you want to pay for the clip I'll sing. I think they'll kill me. You know I'm a lawyer, too.

PHILLIPS: Roland Martin, Lauren Lake, Martha Zoller, thank you guys for joining us.

That's all for tonight.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.


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