MSNBC "Tucker" -Transcript
MR. CARLSON: Here to tell us about Fred Thompson's prospects and about the future of Larry Craig, we welcome Congressman Peter King of New York.
Congressman, thanks for coming on.
REP. KING: Tucker, it's always great to be with you.
MR. CARLSON: So Congressman, what if Senator Craig is cleared, he's able to withdraw his guilty plea and he is found not guilty? Would Republicans take him back?
REP. KING: Tucker, I don't see how. First of all, all of this would have to happen between now and September 30th. And the fact is, he did plead guilty. He, above all, being in politics, has to realize that appearances mean a lot, that appearance can become reality, and he's just dragging the Republican Party further down. To me, for his own sake, for his family's sake, and for the good of the Republican Party, he should get out of there.
MR. CARLSON: But, I mean, have you entertained the possibility, Congressman, that maybe he didn't do it? And I'm sort of interested to note that nobody believes him; nobody in his own party, people who have served with him and called him friend, people who accepted his endorsement for president. Nobody even entertains the possibility he's telling the truth.
REP. KING: I don't know Senator Craig personally, but my feeling is he's been in politics for 27 years, and once he pleaded guilty, that was it as far as his political career. Now, listen, I guess there's some chance that he could be innocent. But also you have to play the cards you're dealt.
And what he did in pleading guilty, that to me eliminates any chance of him being able to stay on with the approval of the Republican Party. He should realize that. If he is innocent, then he should just, again, (offer it up ?) to the Republican Party, because he has put them in this position and just have to, again, play the cards you're dealt.
MR. CARLSON: Here's -- one of his lawyers, Stan Brand, the famous lawyer, writes this to the Senate Ethics Committee. This was hand-delivered today in a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer of California. He said the arrest, quote, "involved purely personal conduct unrelated to the performance of official Senate duties, and therefore doesn't fall within the scope of the interest of the Senate Ethics Committee."
What do you think of that argument?
REP. KING: I think it does come under the scope of the Ethics Committee. But Tucker, let's keep in mind, here's a person who had and he knew there were these allegations against him for being homosexual for 27 years. He gets caught in a men's room. He pleads guilty.
Again, putting aside whether or not he's innocent or guilty, the reality is that once he pleaded guilty, he has to face the consequences of that. He's a mature adult. He speaks the English language. He's intelligent. He knows what the law is. And once he pleaded guilty, he has to face the consequence. Otherwise what he's saying is that he entered a phony plea, that he gave in to some kind of pressure.
MR. CARLSON: But wait. You said the allegation was that he was homosexual. There are plenty of homosexuals in the Republican Party --
REP. KING: Absolutely.
MR. CARLSON: -- some serving in office, and you know them, of course.
REP. KING: Right.
MR. CARLSON: I mean, being gay, is that the problem?
REP. KING: No, what I'm saying is that he knew these allegations were out there. He knew that if he pleaded guilty, it was going to confirm a lot of beliefs about him. He knew -- in other words, he knew the realities in which he lived in politics. And knowing that, for him to plead guilty, he knew that it would make it that much harder for people to disbelieve him when he says that he really was innocent, even though he pleaded guilty. That's all I'm saying.
MR. CARLSON: No, and you're absolutely right.
REP. KING: This isn't something that came out of the blue.
MR. CARLSON: No, you're absolutely right. People have been saying this about him. He was caught apparently doing it. I wonder, finally, though, is there a place for compassion here? I mean, here the guy went from being a fairly well-thought-of senator, as far as I could tell, not very famous, but everyone thought he was a solid guy, to being the subject of just profound and really nasty ridicule from all sides.
Why has nobody stepped up and said, "You know, even if he was soliciting gay sex in a men's room, he's still a human being and a decent person?" Why has nobody had the brass to stand up for him? It's kind of disgusting, isn't it?
REP. KING: Okay, let me just say right now that I think it is wrong to ridicule him. I think that this was a victimless crime, if it were a crime. It's a personal tragedy for him and for his family. And I have not taken and will not take part in any type of ridicule, publicly or privately, of someone like this.
This to me is a tragic, tragic situation. But he's only going to prolong it by staying in there. But I'm just saying, as a very practical political matter, when you have these allegations against you, including allegations of sex in men's rooms before, and you plead guilty to that current charge, it just takes away any presumption that ever would have been there.
MR. CARLSON: You were recently quoted saying this of Fred Thompson, who, incidentally, is apparently announcing for president tonight or tomorrow. You said, quote, "Rudy Giuliani is a real crime- fighter. Fred Thompson has primarily done it on television. Rudy got crime under control in New York City not by acting but by getting results."
Why go after Fred Thompson of all the other challengers?
REP. KING: That was in answer to a question about if the people are looking for a leader, someone who's strong against crime, someone who's strong against terrorism. "Doesn't Fred Thompson have the image to fill that bill?" And I said no, that the one person who does have the really tough record against crime, who has a strong record against terrorism and has articulated a strong position against terrorism, is Rudy Giuliani.
Here's a guy who turned around New York City, who broke up the mob when he was U.S. attorney, turned around the city, brought murders down by two-thirds when he was the mayor of New York, who was there on September 11th, and as opposed to Fred Thompson, who, by the way, is very able, a very nice guy, but the fact is, his crime-fighting credentials, again, are very minimal. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in Tennessee over 30 years ago. And as far as terrorism is concerned, he really has had very little to say or do on it.
MR. CARLSON: This implies not just that you support Giuliani -- you obviously do -- but that you think Thompson's a phony.
REP. KING: No, I think Fred Thompson is a very able guy. And I'm just saying that he is not as qualified as Rudy Giuliani when it comes to fighting terrorism or fighting crime or providing the strong, tough leadership that Rudy Giuliani showed both as United States attorney in New York and also as the mayor of the city of New York at a time when people thought the city was going to collapse and was doomed.
MR. CARLSON: All right, Pete King, Republican from New York. Thanks a lot, Congressman; appreciate it.
REP. KING: Thank you, Tucker.