Listener Says John Edwards Should Cheat Smarter

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Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. This week, the audience weighs in on former presidential hopeful John Edwards marital woes and whether his transgressions of infidelity say anything about his capacity to lead with integrity as a public figure. Also, hear an update on the controversy surrounding the proposed merger of three historically black colleges in Mississippi.

MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me as usual. Hi, Lee.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, political and media circles here in Washington, D.C. are abuzz about the saga of former North Carolina Senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards. Last week, after previous adamant denials, Edwards admitted he did father a child by his mistress, Rielle Hunter. And this week we're hearing reports that John and Elizabeth Edwards have legally separated.

MARTIN: And Lee, we can always count on our very own TELL ME MORE producer, Alicia Montgomery(ph), to rattle our blog readers. Alicia wrote a post last week taking issue with marital infidelity by public figures.

She said it suggests a great deal about their integrity as leaders, but not everybody agreed. We caught up with blogger Matthew, who posted this response.

MATTHEW: If Americans would grow up, then John Edwards would not have had to scuttle around trying to cover his tracks so desperately. It would also have helped if he had better taste in women and better sense with sex. Wear a condom, man, and for good measure, find a lover who doesn't want to get pregnant. If Americans realize that one's sex life has no connection to one's presidential or leadership abilities, then none of l'affair Edwards would matter to anyone besides those directly involved.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Matthew. Tell us what you really think. Lee, any updates?

HILL: Yes, a few updates, Michel. In December, we spoke with the president of Jackson State University, Ronald Mason, who along with the heads of two other historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State University, opposed Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's proposal to merge the schools.

But now Mason seems to have had a change in his perspective about a merger. We've obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation made by Mason that does, in fact, call for the three schools to be merged into one, and this week he told a Mississippi newspaper that such an idea, quote, "really would be a model for the next generation of HBCUs."

Now, we asked Mr. Mason to explain the apparent shift, and he issued a statement that reads in part, quote: "I simply offered one suggestion on how to survive and get stronger." Now, the full statement will be available on our Web site, and we've invited Mr. Mason back on our program, Michel, to explain the change in his thinking.

MARTIN: Good idea.

HILL: And finally, about this time last year, we reported on a tragic story out of Oakland, California. Twenty-two-year-old Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by then-transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white.

Now, the shooting was captured on videotape, and the incident sparked outrage and rioting in the city. Mehserle has since resigned and is waiting to be tried on the murder charges, but Wednesday, Michel, city transit officials announced a $1.5 million settlement for Grant's five-year-old daughter, Tatiana.

MARTIN: Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also long on to our Web site. Just go to npr.org, click on programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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Statement On Proposed Merger Of Mississippi Black Colleges

By Jackson State University President Ronald Mason

While I disagree with the governor’s plan, I think it is imperative for the HBCU community to band together to chart its own course. Proposed cuts upwards of $12 million for Jackson State alone by 2012, would have a huge impact on our university. Together, pooling our resources and areas of expertise, we can become the country’s premier HBCU and an impressive jewel for the state of Mississippi. Ultimately the decision rest with the Mississippi HBCU community. I simply offered one suggestion on how to survive and get stronger.

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