CNN Paula Zahn Now Transcript

By:  Alfred Sharpton, Jr.
Date: July 2, 2004
Location: Unknown



July 2, 2004 Friday

HEADLINE: Bill Cosby Offers Tough Love for Black Families; How Much Trial Coverage is Too Much?; Who Will Kerry Select for V.P.?

GUESTS: Russell Simmons, Al Sharpton, Vinnie Politan, Stuart Fischoff, Will Durst, Jonathan Turley, Matthew Broderick

BYLINE: Soledad O'Brien, Tom Foreman, Judy Woodruff, Bruce Burkhard, Harris Whitbeck

Bill Cosby makes some controversial statements about black families; Is the media going overboard with televising trials?; The time nears when Kerry will choose his running mate, but who?

O'BRIEN: Joining us this evening to discuss Bill Cosby's statements, in East Hampton, New York, hip-hop entrepreneur and cofounder of Def-Jam Records, Russell Simmons. Nice to see you.

And here in Manhattan, civil rights activist, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Nice to see you as well.


Russell, let's begin with you.

Bill Cosby says it's hip to use the "N" word but these kids can't even spell it. Do you think that he has a point, or do you think that he is essentially out of touch with today's youth?

RUSSELL SIMMONS, COFOUNDER, DEF-JAM RECORDS: Well, I'm more concerned with cursed ideas than I am cursed words. I think this is the best generation we've ever had, and it's our job to mentor them.

Sometimes, you know, I remember the jazz or blues or rock 'n' roll explosions, the adults didn't understand young people. And we still have that problem. But our job is to mentor them and do the best we can for them.

O'BRIEN: So when you hear the "NN" word that's not a problem for? You say this is the way the culture is today. Is that what you're saying?

SIMMONS: Well, no. I'm going to say semantics are not a big issue for me. That the real profanity is in the poverty and the ignorance that exists, not only in our community but in the trailer parks and all over the country. There's a struggle, and we need to address that struggle.

O'BRIEN: Reverend Sharpton, Bill Cosby's remarks, obviously controversial over the last couple of months. Does his position come as a surprise to you?

SHARPTON: No. First of all, I respect Bill Cosby. I think Bill Cosby was part of the vanguard that helped opened the doors for us. And I think, in many ways, he is concerned that we're prepared to walk through those doors that open other doors.

But having said that-and I don't think you just beat up on young people without saying, therefore, we do what about it. Because a lot of young people do need to assume more responsibility, but then we ought to assume responsibility for a lot of young people who are trying hard, trying to excel, but society has not met them halfway. Where do we draw the line?

And I don't want to see someone as great as Bill Cosby's words be used by those that want to do nothing about what they should do. For example, right here in New York City.

SIMMONS: Let me interject.

SHARPTON: Fifty-one percent...

O'BRIEN: Let him tell his story. Then you can.

SHARPTON: Fifty-one percent of black men in New York City are unemployed. That's not because they want to be.

So yes, men should take care of their family, but society ought to deal with what it continues to do in institutional bias. And I think we've got to sit down and be able to deal with the balance of the problem.

And I think that, if nothing else, we ought to thank Cosby for starting a dialogue. We ought to take the dialogue somewhere now.

O'BRIEN: Russell, what do you want to add?

SIMMONS: I agree with everything that Dr. Sharpton just said.

I think it's very important that we remember that there is a debt still. That, yesterday, I remember I got Run DMC on MTV, and no African-Americans were allowed on MTV.

And now, today, we see a dramatic change in relations between young Americans, where we see it's a totally integrated space on MTV, for instance, and we see opportunity that before was denied us. There is some now.

But the truth is there is a lot of damage done, and we don't want people to use Bill Cosby's word. And I agree that he's a great American and contributed a lot.

But we don't want him to use his words and forget that reparations-we need to repair the past in different ways, whether it's for equal high quality education or other opportunities that we need in these communities. We have forgotten about-even George Bush certainly has not addressed the war on poverty and ignorance.

O'BRIEN: So are you saying then-forgive me for interrupting you.

SIMMONS: I think that we have to address-I'm sorry, ma'am?

O'BRIEN: Are you so-Gosh, don't call me ma'am. You make me sound old. Are you saying that...

SHARPTON: He called me doctor. So-so...

O'BRIEN: Are you saying, though, that then his focus should not be on the bad parenting of impoverished people, black people?

SIMMONS: My opinion is that there are more constructive ways to-to help those people. And I don't want those words to be used against the idea that we should all be responsible. Personal responsibility for each of us to help uplift all those who are in struggle.

Some people will use those words and think that they should walk away from their obligation to help all of those people.

Everyone I assume-everyone is doing the best they can at every given moment. That's a spiritual belief that I stick with, and I think that it's in all scripture.

O'BRIEN: Reverend Sharpton, what do you think is behind this? I mean, it almost sounds like Bill Cosby is setting this up for some kind of announcement of a foundation or a plan or a meeting.

SHARPTON: I don't know if this is about foundation, but we are going to have a meeting. We are going to deal with this. We need to have a plan, and I think that what he said can help inspire that.

You know, I say to people everywhere I go, preaching or in books or whatever I do, that if you're down, you can't get comfortable. You're responsible for getting up, even if you're not responsible for being down.

But what if people want to get up? You can't also have those forces in society that keeps them down. So there must be a balance in this.

And in a time that we're challenging government that has withdrawn a lot of the things-I have two teenage daughters. When I was a teenager, you had ways of lifting yourself. Neighborhood Youth Corps, Manpower. None of that is there.

I don't want to see a distortion of Cosby saying therefore we don't need to have these training programs anymore, we don't need education budgets anymore; it's the kids' fault.

O'BRIEN: But didn't he...

SHARPTON: Yes, the kids must correct themselves but society must also accommodate that. We need to develop a plan for that.

O'BRIEN: Didn't he essentially say black people have to stop blaming white people for their problems?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think he said in specific areas like cursing and lewd behavior. But I think Bill Cosby and no one else in their right mind would not say that general society has to be more fair. There's still doors Bill Cosby can't walk in, and I think he'd be the first to say that.

O'BRIEN: Russell Simmons, we're going to give you the final word tonight. Bill Cosby, pointing a finger at-yes?

SIMMONS: Young people, let me say this-young people-well, the industry, the music industry. Tomorrow, Puffy is flying in with the Declaration of Independence to announce his Citizen Vote campaign.

Beyonce and Master P and Puffy and others hosted the summit in Houston and registered 25,000 voters. Will Smith hosted the summit in Philadelphia, and according to Governor Rendell, during that period there were 80,000 voters. L.L. Cool J. and others joined him there.

Eminem hosted two summits with Mayor Kilpatrick in Detroit. Twenty thousand people showed up, and he registered a number of voters.

All over the country, the hip-hop community is doing the best they can to support their community. So I think that this is the most active entertainment community America has ever seen. And you'll see that at the polls.

O'BRIEN: That's the final word tonight. Thanks, gentlemen. Russell Simmons, Al Sharpton joining us.

SIMMONS: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: When we come back, the battle over cameras in the courts in the Kobe Bryant case. How much wall-to-wall trial coverage is too much?


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