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President Bush Heads to Capitol Hill to Push Immigration Reform; Latinos, African-Americans and Major League Baseball

Aired June 11, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
Here's what we're bringing out in the open tonight.

Should the presidential candidates debate in Spanish? Are Latino voters more likely to support for a candidate who speaks their language?

Also tonight: an outrageous claim by a top-level baseball insider. Are Latino players cheaper and less rebellious than blacks?

And can you believe Paris Hilton's jailhouse claim that she's a changed and more serious and spiritual woman? Wait until you hear what our -- one of our guests has to say.

We are starting with a developing story out of Washington tonight, where, just about an hour ago, President Bush got back to the White House from his difficult weeklong trip to Europe.

It may seem like a vacation compared to what he has in store for himself tomorrow. He is going to go up to Capitol Hill to try to persuade lawmakers to take yet another shot at one of the toughest issues of our time, immigration reform.

Given the president's deteriorating support up there, that is quite a gamble.

Let's start with congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

So, Dana, as if that isn't enough, he also had some problems tonight with his attorney general barely escaping a no vote of confidence, including some breakaway votes by Republicans against him.


And that particular vote you're talking about that happened this evening -- it was a vote of no confidence in the attorney general, which failed -- really is a telltale sign, Paula, of the kind of political environment the president finds himself in here on Capitol Hill.

Seven Republicans broke ranks with him. And what's interesting about that is not just how different the environment is here than it was just a few months ago that -- where it would have been that it would have been, you know, these Republicans would have feared retribution from the White House.

Now what you see are Republicans almost gleefully voting against the president, because they think it's politically beneficial to really separate themselves from President Bush. That is going to be important for him, not just on personnel, political issues, like Alberto Gonzales, but also on the biggies, the big pieces of legislation, like immigration -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, is the president wasting his time tomorrow in bending ears?

BASH: It's going to be really tough for him, Paula. There's no question about it.

You know, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, wrote him a letter today and said, look, if you want me to bring immigration back to the Senate floor, you are going to have to deliver more Republican votes.

That's what President Bush is going to try to do when he comes up and has lunch with Senate Republicans tomorrow. But, you know, just to show you how hard it's going to be, the top Republican in the Senate, he had a conference call with reporters today, Paula. And he said that he just doesn't think that the president is going to be able to do much to persuade Republicans to come his way on the issue of immigration.

This is an issue that so divides him from his Republican base. Conservatives just simply hate the idea of giving any kind of legal status, especially citizenship, to illegal immigrants. And the fact that the president is so weakened politically and really doesn't have that much influence with these Republicans is going to make it really hard for him, especially since, as Senator McConnell said, he doesn't think that Republicans really want have arm -- want to have arm- twisting right now from the president.

What they want to do is, they want to have their voice heard on the Senate floor. They want to have even more chances than they have had in the past to change this controversial immigration bill. And that's not something that the president really can deliver -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, and it certainly is an enormous challenge to the president, as he tries to make himself relevant in this last year-and- a-half of his presidency.

Dana Bash, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

ZAHN: Like I said a little bit earlier on, the president's trip to Capitol Hill is a huge gamble. Does he have the political clout to do what Senators John McCain, Ted Kennedy, and others failed at so miserably? Or, as Dana just explained, will it only reinforce the perception that the president has become all but irrelevant?

We asked senior political correspondent Candy Crowley to find some answers for us tonight.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know things are bad when your best crowds are in Albania.


CROWLEY: The reception is less enthused back home, where the president looks into the legislative void left when his immigration went under.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we can get it done. I will see you at the bill signing.

CROWLEY: He talks a good game, but there are indications the president has lost his game, at least his ability to play offense.

His poll ratings are terrible. The clock is running out. And members of his own party are not afraid to go up against him. Consider that, on immigration reform, the bill the president saw as the centerpiece for his second term, 38 of 48 Republicans basically bucked him. Essentially, this president is a short-timer, and constituents are forever.

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": I think, increasingly, they are viewing him as part of history, the past, not the future. They're looking out for themselves, and they're listening to their constituents, not to the White House.

CROWLEY: And then there is this:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And Americans have made great sacrifices, some of which were unnecessary because of this management of the war -- mismanagement of this conflict.

CROWLEY: John McCain is regarded as the war's biggest supporter. He is clearly not George Bush's.


CROWLEY: On the campaign trail, Republicans are cutting loose from George Bush, whether it is the war or U.S. image abroad.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that we have suffered over the past several years, for a number of reasons. And I think you probably know what they are.

CROWLEY: If he is to get something done in the election season, the president may have better luck with Democrats.

ROTHENBERG: A problem may be developing for Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and congressional Democrats. They do want to accomplish something significant. They want to be able to go to voters in 2008 and say, see, we took over Congress and we did this. CROWLEY: Though badly wounded at home, the president remains the leader of the free world. He still runs U.S. foreign policy. There is opportunity there.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, possibly, he can pull something out with Iraq. He has got the possibility of negotiating still with the Israelis and Palestinians. You know, he -- he could possibly pull something out on climate change, as he demonstrated with G8.

CROWLEY: The White House bites back at suggestions the president's twilight has begun. Officials say, he has what they call a very active legislative slate, which brings us back to the resurrection of immigration.

BUSH: And, tomorrow, I will be going to the Senate to talk about a way forward on the piece of legislation.

CROWLEY: But, with an election season to find his replacement bearing down on him, this 32 percent president is running out of tomorrows.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: When it comes to the immigration debate, some people think that Washington doesn't get it at all.

One California town is rolling out the red carpet to all immigrants, even the ones breaking the law. We are bringing that story out in the open a little bit later on.

But, first, Hispanics are now the country's -- country's, that is -- largest voting minority, which makes them a vitally important bloc of voters. They are sure to be listening next September, when Univision and the University of Miami sponsor the first-ever Spanish- language presidential debate.

Univision says, "Rather than just simulcasting a debate intended for English-dominant audiences, our entire debate would focus primarily on the issues that matter most to Hispanics, and be broadcast in their language. It makes them feel that the speaker respects their culture."

So far, only two candidates, both Democrats who speak fluent Spanish, have accepted.

So, is anything wrong with a Spanish debate? That's a question for my "Out in the Open" panel right now.

Miguel Perez is a syndicated columnist and a journalism professor. We're very careful when he's around when it comes to grammar.

(LAUGHTER) ZAHN: And Raul Reyes is a contributor to "USA Today." Robert George is an associate editor for "The New York Post"'s editorial page.

Welcome back, all of you.


ZAHN: So, what do you think of this idea?

You have already got voters out there voting on -- on Spanish- language ballots. And there a bunch of Spanish-language stations that have been simulcasting these presidential debates we have heard so far. So, why is this necessary?

RAUL REYES, "USA TODAY" BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS MEMBER: Well, I think it's terrific, because, up until now in the immigration debate, so much of it has been driven by people on the right, conservative talk radio show hosts, people like Lou Dobbs, the Minutemen.

I think this is a great time for Latinos to -- to be -- to balance the equation. And I'm not saying that all Latinos necessarily support illegal immigration. We're just as divided as the rest of the country. But this is an opportunity for us to have our say, to raise -- to add our voices.

ZAHN: Well, what difference is it if -- if that debate takes place in English or Spanish?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: In fact, you mentioned that there should be -- they -- they wanted a -- a Latino debate to concentrate on Hispanic issues, of the issues -- I wish they had that debate in English. I wish all debates in English would deal with minority issues a lot more often. That's number one.

Number two, I see no problem with Univision or any Spanish network who -- hosting a couple of these guys who want to come on, and speaking Spanish.

What's going to happen there, Paula, is, they are going to discuss the issues. And it's not going to be a real debate, because it's not going to have all the other candidates. The other candidates would be foolish if they came on and tried to debate these guys through a translator, through an interpreter.

ZAHN: Well, sure.

And, then, the point you have got bloggers out there making today -- and here's what one of them had to say, that this is a very slippery slope -- quote -- "Who decides which minority group gets a debate? Why not have an African-American-specific debate on BET? How about a debate discussing only women's issues on Lifetime? How about a debate that focused solely on the issues of the Farm Belt?"

ROBERT GEORGE, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK POST": Well, you know, I say, you know, the more debates -- the more debates, the better.

I, however, feel that, as leaders and people who want to be leaders of the -- the country, I think part of what they're doing is an education process. And I think, since -- even though we do not have an English-only country, I think we do -- it is still technically the national language. And I think -- I think the debates should be in English.


ZAHN: So, wait. Are you saying this idea compromises that, that it, in some way, undermines English as the national language?

GEORGE: Well, I -- in the -- in the sense -- in the sense, that they are campaigning to become president of the United States, and the United States' official language, not -- obviously, not the -- it's the national language, anyway -- is English, because I think the best thing for all of people is to -- to learn English.

I mean, if you go to foreign countries, the -- the -- the young people there are learning English, because it's -- it's seen as the international language of business.

REYES: But what's wrong with reaching out to other people? I mean, Hispanics, we are the fastest growing group in the country. But, right now, only, I think, 39 percent out of, what, 41 million are eligible to vote.


REYES: So, what's wrong with that?


ZAHN: As you continuing arguing about that, I'm going to put...


ZAHN: ... statistic on the screen, and people can soak up those numbers you're talking about.


GEORGE: This is why you said early on, you know, that they're the largest voting minority. They are actually the largest minority. But, since they are not registered -- they are not registered yet, the largest voting minority is still -- is still -- is still African -- is still African-Americans.

But I -- obviously, you do want to get the...

REYES: Why not reach out to everybody?

GEORGE: Well, I have no -- I have no -- I have no...

PEREZ: We should not feel threatened by other languages. (CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: You mentioned other -- you mentioned foreign countries, people finding the need to learn English.


GEORGE: It's not the point.

PEREZ: In all those other countries, you know what they are doing? They are speaking four or five languages.


PEREZ: Why should we close our minds to knowledge?

GEORGE: I have no -- I have no -- I have no problem with that.

I do, however, feel, though, that the -- the best way for Latinos, obviously, to succeed is to master English.


PEREZ: And Latinos recognize that.


REYES: We all agree with that.

ZAHN: All right.


PEREZ: Look, the first thing Latinos recognize when they come to this country is that they have to learn English in order to succeed.


ZAHN: All right. But what message are you sending...


PEREZ: There are waiting lists at the English courses, waiting lists. These guys who are out in Congress complaining that Latinos don't want to learn English don't fund the courses that are needed.


GEORGE: What is -- what is wrong, though -- what is wrong, though -- with what is wrong with -- what is...

ZAHN: Yes, what is the message you think it's sending?


REYES: It's sending a fantastic message, number one, of inclusion.

I mean, you're from "The New York Post." One of the things I like about "The New York Post," they have an tempo section in English and Spanish. Just this Sunday, they put out a whole special for the Puerto Rican Day Parade in English and Spanish. They are reaching out. They're involving more people. What's more American than involving more people in the civic debate?


GEORGE: What is wrong with Univision hosting a full-fledged Democratic presidential debate or Republican debate in English with all of the candidates there? Why don't they do that?

PEREZ: I would agree with that. And I would tell you, they should have a debate in English with Spanish translation.

REYES: Right.


PEREZ: And then they could get all the candidates to speak in English...


ZAHN: Because, if you do it the other way, and you have other candidates who don't show up...


PEREZ: The two who speak Spanish have an advantage.


ZAHN: ... you're going to -- absolutely.


REYES: ... anyway. As long as they include people, that has great resonance for our community, especially, right now, in the middle of the immigration debate.


ZAHN: It is interesting how many candidates are trying to learn Spanish right now, though, isn't it?



ZAHN: What is all that all about? Is that pander, pander, pander?


PEREZ: Well, you know, McCain won the Republican debate, as far as I'm concerned, when Tom Tancredo was bashing immigrants...

REYES: Right.

ZAHN: Yes.

PEREZ: ... and, all of a sudden, he turned around and said, muchas gracias.

REYES: And every single one of those...

PEREZ: That was wonderful.

REYES: Every single one of those candidates, even the ones like Mitt Romney, who are against people speaking Spanish, they have Spanish Web sites.

PEREZ: He won a lot of Hispanic votes...




PEREZ: Adios.

ZAHN: Adios.



ZAHN: Muchas gracias.

REYES: De nada.

ZAHN: Raul Reyes, thank you. Miguel Perez and Robert George, please stick around. We are going to check back with all of you in just a little bit.

So, how would you expect a Rush Limbaugh fan who also happens to be a conservative Republican mayor to feel about illegal immigration? Get a load of this.


ED MURRAY (R), MAYOR OF LINDSAY, CALIFORNIA: We do need a large work force. Be it illegal or legal, that is irrelevant. We need a large work force.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: That's right. He says that is irrelevant -- out in the open next, a mayor who isn't checking up on who's legal and who isn't. Can he get away with that?

Then, a little bit later on: the outrageous claim by one of the most outspoken people in baseball that Hispanic players are easier to control than blacks.

Also, a huge fight over letting a young man out of prison. He's doing 10 years for having consensual sex with a teenage girl. What's up with that?


ZAHN: Right now, a very different kind of fight over immigration continues in California, as President Bush rejoins the battle to try to resurrect the immigration bill in Washington tomorrow, when he faces a bunch of senators and representatives on Capitol Hill.

Out in the open tonight: a town fighting to welcome immigrants, not just welcome them, but to keep them and put them to work. You may be shocked to learn that the rock-solid conservative mayor says his town needs all of its immigrants, whether they're legal or not.

We sent Thelma Gutierrez to talk with him and find out why.



ANNOUNCER: Rush on the EIB Network.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If this immigration bill goes through, we are doomed.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ed Murray listens to Rush Limbaugh every single day.


LIMBAUGH: We're treating the illegals as though we are doing something wrong.


GUTIERREZ: Murray is the Republican mayor of Lindsay, California.

ED MURRAY (R), MAYOR OF LINDSAY, CALIFORNIA: I'm a member of the NRA. I'm definitely very conservative.

GUTIERREZ: But Murray says he and Rush part ways on one big issue, immigration. Lindsay is a rural farming community three hours north of L.A. A national group voted it an all-American city. That doesn't sit well with some people, because 80 percent of the people here are Latino, some here legally, some here illegally.

MURRAY: Your kids go to school here.

GUTIERREZ: Unlike most of his fellow conservatives, Mayor Murray will tell you, immigrants are welcome here.

MURRAY: They have made Lindsay's economy. they have made the economy that we have. They have made our city to be a robust city.

GUTIERREZ: That's because Lindsay's economy is all about agriculture, mostly oranges and olives. The mayor and growers say, immigrant laborers are the city's lifeblood.

MURRAY: We do need a large work force. Be it illegal or legal, that is irrelevant. We need a large work force.

GUTIERREZ: Some say that's just breaking the law.

JOHN KEELEY, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: If the only way you can exist is on the backs of illegal labor, you don't deserve to do business in our country.

GUTIERREZ: John Keeley is with a Washington think tank. He says growers would attract Americans if they just paid more.

KEELEY: I would say that they have never tried to recruit native workers, precisely because U.S. immigration policy has delivered a labor subsidy.

JAY WEAVER, PACKING PLANT MANAGER: Somebody in the city that never sees a tree hardly, they don't know what is going on here. You know, they don't know the issues we're facing.

GUTIERREZ: The mayor says ads like this offering jobs with health and retirement plans have brought no permanent takers.

The LoBue Packing House flew in workers from Thailand two years ago, an experiment that failed.

WEAVER: Their performance was so abysmal, that we canceled the whole program.

GUTIERREZ: Then came the devastating winter freeze this year that wiped out more than $400 million in orange crops in Tulare County alone.

(on camera): After the winter freeze, the city leaders worried the farm workers would leave the town of Lindsay, so they came up with city jobs to keep them employed through the next harvest...

(voice-over): ... repairing alleys, building the new football field, and maintaining public lands. GUTIERREZ: Alberto Salaz is an orange picker who was able to stay thanks to the extra work.

ALBERTO SALAZ, FIELD WORKER (through translator): I wouldn't be able to pay my rent or bills, so I would have to leave.

GUTIERREZ: Murray says state money pays for his public works program, and immigration enforcement is up to the federal government.

(on camera): Some of the people who work on your public works project may be illegal.

MURRAY: It's possible. When a person comes across and has the proper documentation, is it our responsibility to go back and say, is this a legal card or not a legal card?

GUTIERREZ: Is it not your responsibility?

MURRAY: No, it is not.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Murray says, America's immigration policy is broken, because it makes it hard for people to put in a good day's work.

MURRAY: These people don't want a free handout. They want to work. They want to get ahead.

GUTIERREZ: The mayor says, hard work is a core conservative value he believes in, even if it takes him down a different road from his beloved party.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Lindsay, California.


ZAHN: Interesting take.

One of our top priorities on this program is bringing America's hidden racism out in the open. Well, one of the most outspoken people in baseball says, the owners prefer Latino players to blacks because they are easier to control and make less money. That's next.

And, then, a little bit later on, a young man locked up for 10 years for having consensual sex with his girlfriend when they both were teenagers, should he get out?

We will be back with more.


ZAHN: Welcome back.

Out in the open tonight: some outrageous comments from one of pro baseball's most outspoken stars about racism in the game and why he thinks Latinos now outnumber African-Americans in the Major Leagues. The Detroit Tigers' Gary Sheffield talked about it in an interview for the current issue of "GQ" magazine.

Now, Sheffield was supposed to be live with me that. But, just a few minutes ago, he backed out of our interview without any explanation at all.

But we're going to tell you what he said and why it's causing so much controversy.

Here's Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's one of the most feared hitters in baseball and one of the most controversial. Gary Sheffield says Latinos are pushing African Americans out of the game because they can't speak English and can't talk back.

In "GQ" magazine, Sheffield said: "It's about being able to tell Latin players what to do, being able to control them. Where I'm from, you can't control us. These are the things my race demands. So, if you're equally good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home?"

And Sheffield is offering no apologies.

GARY SHEFFIELD, DETROIT TIGERS PLAYERS: you know, they want to say that's -- that's controversial, or taking it wherever, then so be it.

COSTELLO (on camera): How would you characterize Gary Sheffield's comments?



FALCON: Yes, yes, and more disappointing because it's coming from an African-American.

COSTELLO (voice-over): At Shea Stadium, where the Mets were playing the Phillies, Sheffield's comments resonated. The general manager for the Mets is Latino. Omar Minaya has been accused by some fans of Latinizing the team. Thirteen of 25 Mets are Latino.

CARLOS GOMEZ, NEW YORK METS PLAYER: Some friends tell me today, why did Sheffield say that? And I said, I can't believe that he would said that, for he -- he's not racist.

ABRAHAM NUNEZ, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES PLAYER: I don't say I like it, but I just -- you know what I mean? He's speaking his mind, whatever he's -- that's the way he feel. He's the one who has to deal with that, not me.

COSTELLO: But is Sheffield merely saying out loud what many Americans think? FALCON: There's that debate going on around immigration, where there's that whole trend of many African-Americans believe that Latinos are taking over jobs that they should be getting.

COSTELLO: But other Latino players agree with Sheffield. Shortstop Carlos Guillen, who plays with Sheffield in Detroit, says Latinos are controlled by the same fear many immigrants have, being sent home: "Latin players, if they get released, go back to their country with nothing. You lose everything. You lose your life. You're done."

As for what baseball's commissioner feels about diversity in the game:

BUD SELIG, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER: I have known Gary Sheffield for a long time. And this is America, and everybody is entitled to their opinion. I'm very proud of what baseball has done.

COSTELLO: So, is Sheffield's comment right or racist? On this one, it appears there's no easy answer.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Well, time to see what our "Out in the Open" panel thinks about all that.

Miguel Perez, he's back, syndicated columnist Robert George from "The New York Post," and with us this time around, Judith Browne- Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group based in Washington.

Great to have all you with us tonight.


ZAHN: I want to read a small part of that very controversial interview Gary Sheffield did, where he was quoted as saying in "GQ" magazine -- quote -- "It's about being able to tell Latin players what to do, being able to control them. Where I come from, you can't control us. So, if you're equally good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home that can outplay a lot of these guys."

All right, so, he's stereotyping Latinos. He's saying they're easy to control, and they can be bought on the cheap. But he also goes on to say he has a lot of Latin friends and he's not a racist.

Do you think he is?

GEORGE: I don't necessarily think he's racist.

I think Gary Sheffield, who actually has been proven difficult to control, since he's -- I think he's on his seventh Major League team right now.

ZAHN: Is that because of his race?

GEORGE: He -- no. I think he has a -- he has a tendency to engage his mouth before he engages his brain.

I think there are certain issues that he is bringing up that are going on here. There are certain economic factors why Latino players -- why the teams are going after Latino players right now, because it's cheaper to get them, get players out of the country, than to -- than those that are in the country.

Those are that are -- native-born -- native-born players have to go through a draft process, which -- which makes it a lot more expensive for the owners, whereas, if you can find -- if you can find a talented Latino player in Ecuador or Venezuela or something, you can just...

ZAHN: All right.

GEORGE: You can just bring him up.

So, it -- it -- there is an economic incentive for them to do that.

ZAHN: Well, let's talk about the economic incentive and the cultural identity of -- of baseball in some Hispanic communities.

Let me put up on the screen what the manager of the White Sox had to say in response to Sheffield's remarks. He said: "I guarantee you, the Latin American people play more baseball than any people, because that's all we have. You have more people playing baseball in Venezuela or the Dominican than anywhere. So, there are going to be more players from there."

PEREZ: Absolutely true.

ZAHN: Is that what this is about?

PEREZ: Take Cuba, too.

ZAHN: Economics?

PEREZ: I can't wait until they open the Gates with Cuba, and Gary Sheffield is going to feel threatened by all the Cuban players who are going to be coming into the Major League as well, when that happens. But you know what? A lot of those...

ZAHN: But is he stereotyping by making that point?

PEREZ: No, because, you see, the -- the -- the point that he's missing is that a lot of these players from Latin America are black. So, what is the race problem here? There -- I -- I don't think...

ZAHN: So, you're not offended by what he had to say? PEREZ: I am not -- I think Gary Sheffield -- let me tell you, Gary Sheffield is one of the best baseball players around. I love the guy when he's on the field.

GEORGE: He is making a distinction, though, between African- American, native-born blacks and Latino blacks. And he's making -- he made...


PEREZ: The distinction should be between American and foreign- born. Because white Americans go through the same thing. They're having to compete with the rest of the world. It's not an American pastime anymore. It's a world pastime.


ZAHN: Let's bring Judith into the picture here, because we haven't been able to see much of her. Your husband happens to be a sports agent, and he's had a fair amount of experience with black players. Anything you want to share with us tonight about that?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Yes, I just happen to have a little bit of information about this, and also, as a civil rights lawyer, when we talk about baseball, I mean, there's a history of discrimination in baseball against African-Americans. Of course, we know that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

But today, discrimination still exists on the basis of race in baseball. In fact, my husband represents a player named Dave Anderson, who just graduated from a university in Connecticut. And he experienced being called the "n" word in the locker room. The school did nothing about it. When he complained about it, he was told that he had an attitude problem, and then what he was told is, you know, we'll do something about that so put it in your crack pipe and smoke it.

I mean, this is the kind of treatment that you get. And while there is a problem with the pipeline, and in fact, there are not a lot of African-American players in the pipeline, the other problem is the treatment once they get there.

This same young man, a Major League scout asked my husband what's the, quote, "makeup" of this player -- code words for what is his character, a question that would never be asked about a white player. So we have to look at this also along, you know, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, but we have a long way to go in terms of racism in the sport.

ZAHN: Quick final thought, Miguel, on the decreasing number of blacks that are playing professional ball, and increasing number of Latinos. Look at these numbers.

PEREZ: The decreasing number is the decreasing number of Americans, not black Americans, Latino Americans. U.S.-born -- I mean, A-Rod is a U.S.-born black Latino. Where do you count him? GEORGE: Look, we are seeing this happen in other sports as well. Just take a look at what's going on in basketball right now. Take a look at the San Antonio Spurs. You have a black man from the Virgin Islands, you have a black man, Tony Parker, from France. All of the leagues are becoming internationalized, and Americans, black and white, have to learn how to compete.

PEREZ: And there's the Japan factor to consider. All these Japanese players are coming on. They're taking American jobs, too.

ZAHN: Unfortunately, I have got to move on, but you have given us plenty to debate and we'd love to have you come back to talk more about it. Judith Browne-Dianis...


ZAHN: ... Robert George, Miguel Perez, thank you all.

GEORGE: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Next story I want to bring out in the open has stirred up so much outrage, one state actually rewrote the law that sent a teenage boy to prison for 10 years because he had sex -- consensual sex -- with his girlfriend.

Coming up, why is he still behind bars tonight?

And later, can it be? All right, panel, even though you are not supposed to comment on that, is life in jail changing Paris Hilton? She's all spiritual now. Did you know that, Robert?

GEORGE: Keep her in jail. Let her get more spirit.

PEREZ: I thought it said "jailhouse rock," but it got it wrong.

ZAHN: It was great.


ZAHN: Out in the open now, a story of teen sex that has turned into a huge fight over crime and what many say is unjust punishment.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not for teens having sex at the ages we're talking about, but get this -- a Georgia law sent a boy to jail for 10 years just because he had sex with a girl, consensual sex.

Genarlow Wilson is 21 now. He was only 17 when he and a 15-year- old girl had consensual oral sex. Even Georgia lawmakers thought a 10-year sentence for that was outrageous. They changed the law, but didn't make it retroactive.

Well, this morning, our Rick Sanchez was standing by when a judge faxed Wilson's attorney and his mother an order setting the young man free.



Read it -- read what it says. Can you read it to us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The writ of habeas corpus is granted. The sentence is void.

SANCHEZ: The sentence is void. That means he's clear. That means he's clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And an order of release!

SANCHEZ: B.J., explain to us what this means, if you could.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; The order, the order -- he's released. He's released.

SANCHEZ: So the judge is saying that he agrees on habeas corpus grounds that he should be released.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's released. He's released.

SANCHEZ: Because essentially, he's being held, what, unconstitutionally?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unconstitutional.


ZAHN: But as it turns out, the story doesn't end there. Rick Sanchez has been on this story all day long, and joins me now with the latest.

This one had quite a turn after that -- the fireworks you witnessed on camera that we just saw.

SANCHEZ: What a moment, Paula. I mean, I wish you could have been there to feel the anxiety in that room as those 11 pages of this fax were rolling out, and trying to read them one by one to figure out, well, what's the ruling going to be?

I mean, they've got so much rejection in the past. They've been told by the legislature, forget about it. They've been told by other courts that they just can't hear it. The governor says, I'm sorry I can't pardon him, so has the attorney general. So this was really one of their last shots that they had.

And Genarlow Wilson's mother was there with me at the time. She doesn't give a lot of interviews on this. It's been very, very painful for his mom.

Her son is not a bad kid. He doesn't have a criminal past. He was really good in school. Had a 3.2 GPA. He told me in jail that he was being recruited by several colleges, may even get a football scholarship. So for her, this is a really special moment. Here's what she told me, just as this was happening.


B.J. BERNSTEIN, GENARLOW WILSON'S ATTORNEY: The truth is, this is wrong. There's just nothing right about this, there's nothing right about this. I don't know who's pulling the strings here. I don't understand why smarter heads can't prevail, why people consistently have said "keep this kid a convicted felon, ruin his life on the sex offender registry."

And now the games are continuing.


SANCHEZ: All right, we got a little ahead of ourselves there. That's B.J. Bernstein, that was not Genarlow's mother. And what she was reacting to is the fact that just as when they were so excited, Paula, about this decision, that it finally looked like they were going to get Genarlow out of prison, the attorney general of the state of Georgia decided, no, we're going to appeal this case, we're not going to let you get him out of prison. And we don't think that the judge who made that decision had standing to make the decision.

So you know, it was really one of those rollercoaster rides of a day. I think we have got the sound now, the interview that I did with the mother just as the very moment when the decision was coming out. Let's go ahead and listen to that now.


SANCHEZ: How do you feel as his mother? How long -- how long has this been for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In January, it was three years.


SANCHEZ: There must be just incredible relief for you right now. Do you feel -- explain to us, in the best words that you can, why you feel what this judge has done is the right thing for your son.


SANCHEZ: "The New York Times" had editorials about this three times or so, asking for his release. Blogs are written about it. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was saying he was going to boycott the state of Georgia over this. Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States, Paula, is on the record saying that this is a travesty, that this should change, and he's asking the attorney general to do this. I mean, really, people all over the country are saying, even if this was stupid, even if this was immoral, even if this was wrong, 10 years in prison for consensual sex between two teens should not be punished with 10 years, and worse, he should not be considered a sexual deviant for the rest of his life, which is what's going to be on his record.

ZAHN: So what's the deal, Rick? Now he has to stay in prison pending this appeal?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Look, at least for now, it appears that he's going to have to stay in prison. His attorney, B.J. Bernstein, is trying to see if she could get a judge to agree, to say, look, since one judge has already made this decision, let's let him out now on bond and -- while this appeal is being heard. And hopefully, that's what they are going to be able to do.

But if he loses this thing, I mean, he's still got another eight years in prison, at a very young age.

ZAHN: It was pretty amazing to see you in the middle of all that action today, and then to see the story change so quickly.

SANCHEZ: It was -- it really was a rollercoaster ride of a day. But you know, we'll see what happens. It's certainly an interesting case with a lot of twists and turns possibly yet to come.

ZAHN: We'll be watching it closely alongside you. Thanks, Rick. Appreciate it.

We're going to move on now. The most glamorous prisoner in America is talking about how jail is changing her life. Do you buy it? Or is she just listening to a really smart PR person? We'll talk about that when we come back with someone that knows an awful lot about recreating.


ZAHN: Out in the open tonight, some new developments in the latest Paris Hilton reality show. Today, civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton met with Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca to talk about Hilton's early release from jail last week, and discussed inequality in the legal system.

As you probably know, a judge sent Paris Hilton back behind bars on Friday. Well, this weekend, Hilton called ABC's Barbara Walters, and today on "The View," Barbara revealed what Hilton told her during their conversation.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC: "I used to act dumb. It was an act, and that act is no longer cute. It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me."

She said, "I'm 26 years old now, and it is a different time." She said, "I have become much more spiritual. God has given me this new chance."


ZAHN: So is this truly a jailhouse conversion? Let's ask celebrity brand strategist Marvet Britto. Always good to see you.


ZAHN: Let's just remind our audience of what it means in Paris' mind to act dumb, by looking at a very short scene from "The Simple Life."


PARIS HILTON: What are pig's feet?

Who the hell eats pig's feet? Pig's feet? Ew, I barfed.


ZAHN: All right. So she just discovered now that she's 26 years old. Marvet, give me a break.

BRITTO: I know.

ZAHN: Do you buy it?

BRITTO: I don't. I don't. I mean, I think that Paris has known all along who she was and what her schtick would be. And now it has caught up to her. Celebrity can't get her out of this jam. And she's, you know, successfully made a mockery of the U.S. judicial system.

ZAHN: Finally caught up with her -- it didn't occur to her before she had her so-called physical programs to be -- problems to be sprung from jail?

BRITTO: It never did, because she has always gotten away with it. And now it's a legal situation that she can't get herself out of, and she doesn't know what to do but cry "mommy." So it's a much bigger deal than she thought.

ZAHN: Well, hopefully, she wasn't reading any blogs or newspapers during the time of her release, because I want everybody to see what Andrea Peyser of "The New York Post" had to say about Paris, which was mild compared to some of the other blogs that I've read. "Good luck crying your way out of jail this time, Paris, you ignorant slut."

You think it really got to her?

BRITTO: It did. It was over the top. I mean, it really personifies the way people feel about Paris right now. I think that the most important thing she can do is go away. She needs to take a break, a sabbatical, if you will, from herself. I think that will make the biggest difference, because we need to know that she understands the severity of her actions. And she hasn't done that.

Her sister is quite the opposite. Her sister seems to balance the best of both worlds. She has the celebrity, but she has the balance. We are on Paris overdrive. We really need a time out from Paris Hilton right now. We really do. ZAHN: Yeah, but remember, she was the one, shortly before she was put in jail, who said that she wanted to be treated just like everyone else. Remember this?


HILTON: I want to go to county, to show that I can do it, and I want to be treated like everyone else. If I'm going to do the time, I'm going to do it the right way.


ZAHN: Well, she didn't do it the right way.

BRITTO: That was before she got there.

ZAHN: Well, exactly. It didn't play out that way.

BRITTO: No. Not at all.

ZAHN: So what PR genius told her to say that ahead of time, giving people the expectation that she would actually follow through, and serve this with some grace and with some dignity?

BRITTO: You know, I think she had every intention to do that, and then she got there, and the harsh reality of where she was and what she was faced with was unlike anything she's ever dealt with before.

ZAHN: She didn't know that designer cupcakes couldn't be sent to jail?

BRITTO: Oh, no. Absolutely.

ZAHN: Didn't know designer dog food wasn't going to be shipped to her?

BRITTO: Absolutely. And it's a harsh reality. And unfortunately, it sends the wrong message by, you know, having her go in, letting her out, putting her back in. It's ridiculous.

At the end of the day, she really needs to sit down in jail and reflect on who she really is, and figure out what changes she needs to make when she emerges. Apologize to the public, you know, and clearly go away and take a moment from -- we don't want to see her go straight to the hot nightspot the minute she is released. She needs to really reflect on every mistake she's made and how she's going to change the course of her life. I mean, she's famous for being a celebrity. Most creative people that we really respect, we respect them because they go away. They take a break. Then the public yearns for them more. But with her, we haven't had a moment, you know, to really yearn for more Paris. Let us want to see you. Right now, we're on Paris overdrive.

ZAHN: Well, let's see if she ever finds that moment, Marvet.


ZAHN: I don't know that she' listen to you. But we'll see. Marvet Britto, thank you.

BRITTO: You're welcome.

ZAHN: So what exactly is Paris Hilton going through in jail? That's coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE."

So you're not on Paris Hilton overdrive yet, are you?

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: I am, and I hope this is the last for a while.

ZAHN: Well, I think it probably is.

KING: Enough. Enough is enough.

ZAHN: Especially if she takes Marvet's advice.

KING: Yeah. Anyway, would Paris have had her jailhouse conversion if she wasn't put back behind bars? We'll explore that with Reverend Al Sharpton, who by the way, met today with the L.A. sheriff. And also, former Whitewater convict Susan McDougal.

Plus, their teenage daughter was missing for a year, found alive last week in a house a few miles from her house. Her parents' first live, prime-time interview at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE."

And Paula, I'll be in New York the last three days of the week. Look forward to seeing you.

ZAHN: I will be right here.

KING: I will be there.

ZAHN: Come see us at this very studio.

KING: I will be in that very studio. I'll be there.

ZAHN: We'll be watching tonight. Larry, thanks.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Coming up in about nine minutes from now.

But before that, we've got to take a quick biz break. On Wall Street, the market closed flat. The Dow gained less than 1 point. The Nasdaq dropped a point. The S&P picked up less than a point.

Mixed news at the gas pump. Gas prices dropped more than seven cents over the last three week, to $3.11 a gallon for regular. The Lundberg Survey reports this is the first drop since January. But oil prices are headed back up again, coming close to $66 a barrel, which means gas prices may creep back up as well. The pollution at many of America's greatest rivers is a scandal, so what can one man do about that? So much that he's one of the people you should know, and you'll meet him in just a minute.


ZAHN: Now we're back and we're going to change our focus for a moment, because I want you to meet someone who is undertaking a monumental task, cleaning up the rivers that provide nearly half of this country's drinking water. Here's Miles O'Brien with tonight's "People You Should Know."


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a dirty job, but Chad Pregracke doesn't mind a bit.

CHAD PREGRACKE, LIVING LANDS AND WATERS: Do you want me to grab it or you got it?

O'BRIEN: For the past 10 years, he has been on a crusade to clean up America's rivers.

PREGRACKE: I grew up right on the banks of the Mississippi River. When I was 15, that's when I started to see all the thousands of barrels and tires and appliances and all the junk that accumulated out on the islands. Pretty much, I got sick of seeing it.

O'BRIEN: As he found out, it wasn't just the Mississippi. In fact, recent estimates show more than a third of America's waterways are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.

PREGRACKE: You'd be amazed at how much stuff will be pulled out of here.

O'BRIEN: So Pregracke formed a nonprofit group, Living Lands and Waters, to organize river cleanups all across the country.

PREGRACKE: You will get out there and that garbage won't run from you, so no hurries.

O'BRIEN: Pregracke says he and his teams of local volunteers have collected roughly 3.5 million pounds of trash from the rivers, as well as some unlikely finds.

PREGRACKE: We found evidence from bank robberies, surveillance tapes. We pull out cars. Tons of bowling balls.

O'BRIEN: Pregracke doesn't just put people to work. He also educates them, through workshops that teach everything from river biology to river history.

Pregracke says if he can make a difference, so can you.

PREGRACKE: People see a problem, they should get involved, like do something about it. Make their town, the county, the state, the country, the world a better place.

O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien, CNN.


ZAHN: Thank you, Miles. Larry King has a lot to talk about. Coming up at the top of the hour, what's up with Paris Hilton's jailhouse proclamation that she'll be a more serious, spiritual woman coming out of this? Reverend Al Sharpton is among Larry's guests. Let's see if he buys it.


ZAHN: And that's it for all of us here. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Have a great night.


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