SHOW: PAULA ZAHN NOW 8:00 PM EST
October 15, 2004 Friday
HEADLINE: Interview With Senator John Kerry
BYLINE: Candy Crowley, Paula Zahn, Joe Johns, Bruce Burkhardt, John Mercurio
GUESTS: Peter King, John Kerry
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ZAHN: So, was Senator Kerry out of line mentioning the vice president's daughter, or is the Bush campaign trying to make something out of nothing and distract potential voters out there?
We turn to Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.
ZAHN: Did you have a problem with John Kerry mentioning Mary Cheney's name the other night during the debate?
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: I did, because I felt it was gratuitous. It served no purpose. And it was done intentionally or John Kerry was incredibly insensitive.
I just found it very jarring. It had no real purpose in the debate. Mary Cheney is not part of the campaign as far as a gay or lesbian advocate. The work she does for her father is internal. She may travel with him, but she's not any kind of liaison to the gay or lesbian community. And she really has no role in the campaign involving that issue.
And I just felt it was entirely gratuitous, and, really, I think, it invaded on the privacy of the family.
ZAHN: And if you believe in part it might have been intentional, what do you think John Kerry was trying to gain from that remark?
KING: Well, whatever he was trying to do, I think it caught everyone, again, not just off guard, but really they were jarred by it.
And even John Kerry-I didn't notice it when I first heard it, but when I listened to the tape of it, he seemed himself to be awkward when he said it. He hesitated. Then he rushed through it, which was unusual for him, because usually he says things the way he wants to. So it seemed that even he knew he was doing something here that was inappropriate. But he took a shot anyway.
ZAHN: Earlier tonight, we heard the senator tell Candy Crowley that he meant no offense by his remarks. In fact, he said he meant them to be constructive and that it was his way of saying, look how families have to come together here. You don't believe him?
KING: Well, either he's not telling the truth or he was just amazingly insensitive to the situation. Listen, all of us know families who have family members who are gay or lesbian. We know the trauma they go through, how they have to try to come to terms with that, how they adjust to it and they realize the pressures that are on members of the family. And that should be a family issue. For John Kerry to on his own talk for Mary Cheney to say what he thought was on Mary Cheney's mind and to bring that issue out, to me, was just incredibly insensitive. And I've heard this from any number of people, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, people who have gay members in their family.
They just thought it was wrong. And either John Kerry did it intentionally or he was just terribly insensitive. And, also, you follow on to that what Elizabeth Edwards said when she questioned the integrity of Mrs. Cheney and said that somehow that Lynne Cheney is ashamed of her daughter, that really went over the line.
ZAHN: Can you explain something to me, though? Because it was during the vice presidential debate when John Edwards brought up Mary Cheney's name that the vice president thanked him for his warm words. What's changed?
KING: Well, in that case, Gwen Ifill had actually mentioned it in her question to the vice president about his family's situation. And she said a family member. The vice president answered the question. Then John Edwards came back and, you know, mentioned Mary Cheney.
Dick Cheney-listen, I can't speak for Dick Cheney. Either he felt that John Edwards was acting in good faith because Gwen Ifill had mentioned it in the question or, if you noticed, Dick Cheney didn't go on any more. He just said, I thank Senator Edwards, and that was it. He didn't go any further with it. But, again, the vice president was sitting there. It was brought up in the question by Gwen Ifill.
ZAHN: Congressman, if you believe there's a possibility maybe he was using this to drive a wedge between flanks of the Republican Party, between the conservatives and perhaps the more liberal members of the party, what is your judgment? Are Republicans comfortable with the notion the vice president's daughter is a lesbian?
KING: Absolutely. I mean, any Republican I know feels this is a matter of private choice. The issue comes down to the constitutional issue or the legal issue of whether or not gay or lesbian relationships should be sanctioned in a legal marriage. But as far as what a person's choice is, I think all of us have come far enough to know that this is a situation in society where any number of people who we work with day by day who are in sports or in politics, in business, can be gays or lesbians. And that's life.
ZAHN: So you're basically saying the senator was wasting his time if his intent was to drive some sort of wedge between conservatives and other members of the Republican Party?
KING: Listen, they may have seen some poll numbers that show some people somewhere who might be voting for President Bush may react that way or they just might feel that by putting the president and the vice president on the defensive by raising an issue between them, that somehow it would make the ticket look bad and therefore, again, pick up some cheap votes for themselves.
ZAHN: Congressman Peter King, we've got to leave it there. Thanks for joining us as you head into your weekend.
And the controversy over Mary Cheney is our voting booth question of the day. Go to CNN.com/Paula and let us know what you think.
In the end the White House is won by getting the most electoral votes. We've been tracking the electoral dynamics of this campaign and there has been a major change for one of the candidates in two battleground states. That's next.
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