ALISON STEWART, host:
On this last day of the BPP, we're taking a look of some of the big stories that we've covered. One of the biggest stories on our watch here at the Bryant Park Project was the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, back in December. She had recently returned to Pakistan after years of self-imposed exile to lead her political party in opposition to President Pervez Musharraf's government.
The news flashed while we were live on the air that Ms. Bhutto had been attacked in some sort of suicide bombing, and it was the first time that we went into breaking-news mode. Four hours of live radio to cover the developments included reports from the scene. One memorable moment was when we spoke to a member of Ms. Bhutto's media team, Farah Ispahani, who was at the hospital where Benazir Bhutto died. Here's a clip of that interview.
(Soundbite of NPR's The Bryant Park Project, December 27, 2007)
Ms. FARAH ISPAHANI (Member, Bhutto Media Team): (Crying) Inside the hospital, it's workers from the Pakistan People's Party and all through the grounds of the hospital outside. In the streets now, they're burning for (unintelligible) President Musharraf's political party. Electricity lines are being cut off and people are crying and in disarray.
STEWART: Is it clear when Ms. Bhutto died?
Ms. ISPAHANI: Do you mean the time or...?
Ms. ISPAHANI: Or the location?
STEWART: Both. Did she die at the hospital? Or was she killed at the scene?
Ms. ISPAHANI: (Crying) Yes, yes, yes, yes. She passed away at the hospital. They took her to an operating theater, as she was injured in the suicide bombing, and she passed away at the hospital.
STEWART: You obviously sound incredibly upset. For our listeners, can you put into words what it is you're feeling right now?
(Soundbite of crying)
Ms. ISPAHANI: (Crying) Ms. Bhutto came back from the very comfortable life abroad. She came back to fight these forces of extremism. She came back to try and bring Pakistan back to a secular democracy. People like myself left our homes and left our families and joined her. The army killed her father, both her brothers were assassinated, and yet she came back. She came back for this country. She was a rare daughter of the soil of Pakistan.
STEWART: That was Farah Ispahani on the day that Benazir Bhutto passed away. Now, just this week, there's been a development in the story. On Wednesday, Bhutto's former security chief, who was next to her at the time of the suicide bombing-slash-shooting, was himself shot to death in Karachi. He was expected to testify at a United Nations probe into her death. A Scotland Yard investigation included that Bhutto was killed by a suicide bomb and not by a man who fired a gun at her. Pakistan's government blames the attack on a Taliban commander.
(Soundbite of music)
STEWART: In this country the story of the year, so far, has been the 2008 election. Now think back to last summer. It seemed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and John McCain's campaign was almost out of cash. At the time, the BPP got wind that former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, was going to be in our building in the studios. Now, we were only in the pilot stage, not really yet booking big guests, so my then co-host, Luke Burbank, saw the opportunity, and frankly, he poached Governor Huckabee from another show. Luke challenged him to a game of ping pong, which, of course, we videotaped and put on our blog. And I challenged the governor to say something nice about another man from Hope.
(Soundbite of NPR's The Bryant Park Project, August 17, 2007)
STEWART: The last governor of Arkansas who ended up in the White House has very different set of beliefs than you do. I'm curious, did you and the Clintons, did you ever end up in the same social circles? Did you ever end up running into each other? Did you ever seek advice from Bill Clinton once you became governor?
Governor MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican, Arkansas): You know, we've had a very cordial relationship. He's nine years older and even though we both come from the same small town of...
STEWART: Hope, right?
Gov. HUCKABEE: Hope, Arkansas, he had moved away before I was born. But we knew a lot of the same people. When he was governor, I was president of the BAPS Convention of the state. We had a number of conversations. You know, I've never hated the Clintons. I still don't. I have great respect for them. He made a lot of mistakes, a lot of personal ones, but you know, something that I think should not be forgotten. There's two things about Bill Clinton that I tell Republicans. It drives them nuts, but here it is.
Number one, don't let it get lost on you that a kid out of a very small, southern, rural state aspired to be president of the United States. This kid came from a dysfunctional family, alcoholic, abusive father. And yet he didn't just aspire. He was elected president of the United States, not once, but twice. That is an affirmation of the system, and it's a wonderful testament to give to every kid in America that no matter where you've come from, you've got an opportunity to go something extraordinary.
The second thing, and this will really rankle some of, again, my Republican colleagues, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton went through some horrible experiences in their marriage because of some of the reckless behavior that he has admitted he had. I'm not defending him on that. It's indefensible. But they kept their marriage together, and a lot of the Republicans who have condemned them and who talk about their platform of family values, interestingly, didn't keep their own families together.
STEWART: Governor Mike Huckabee on the Bryant Park Project. Huckabee used that charm and considerable political skill to become a surprise superstar in the early primary season. He went on to win contests in Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia, and Alabama before dropping out of the presidential race. Along the way, he became best pals with Chuck Norris and got himself a role as a commentator on FOX News.
(Soundbite of song "Pull Your Pants Up")
Mr. DOONEY DA' PRIEST: (Rapping) Pull them up. Yeah. Pull them up. Pull them up. Yeah. Be a real man, stand up. Is that your underwear man? Pull your pants up. I'm a grown man on my grind trying to shine. How you going to grind when your mind showing your behind?
I think it's rude, but some of ya'll think it's cool, Walking around showing your behind to other dudes. It looks retarded, degenerate, and real...
STEWART: Showing your behind to other dudes? Those of you who have been listening to the show since October will probably remember this song by gospel rapper, Dooney Da' Priest. That was originally a public service announcement from Dallas, Texas, aimed at telling kids to pull their pants up. Well, we posted the song on our site and it quickly generated quite a conversation, specifically the line I just repeated, when a savvy blog reader, Andrew Jones, questioned whether the lyrics were using homophobia to scare kids into pulling up their pants.
Now, this was the first example of how a story started on the web and then migrated to the show. When we read your comments, we went out and booked Dooney Da' Priest to ask him about the song. He had just posted an apology to the gay community on his MySpace page. So, we got him on the phone to talk about it. He claimed the song did not attack homosexuals, but he also said he really isn't down with the gay folks either.
(Soundbite of reverse playback)
(Soundbite of NPR's The Bryant Park Project, January 1, 2008)
Mr. DA' PRIEST (Rapper): It has nothing to do with the gay community. Because, like I said, I was dealing with the N word, too, you know what I'm saying, as well. So, hey, like I said, I wrote an apology to the gay community, and that's basically about all I can do, you know?
STEWART: The issue, Dooney, is that by making it uncool, you're saying being gay is uncool. Being on the down-low, as you write in your lyrics, is the uncool thing.
Mr. DA' PRIEST: Well, for one thing, it's not being gay is uncool. I think that the fact that a lot of able young men on the streets are ignorant of the fact of what it truly means, and so my thing is to educate them. And whether their sexual preference is to be a homosexual or being gay, that's their problem. I'm the street - I'm the street priest, and I have real good Christian values on what I believe in, and I am against homosexuality, but this is not the reason why I wrote the song. My thing is to educate them.
Now, if they still want to wear their pants below, after being educated and being made aware of what that truly means, and if they want to be known as being a homosexual, or on the down-low, or gay, that's their sexual preference. I have nothing to do with that, because only God can judge them. I'm not here to judge them. I say that in the beginning of my rap. I'm the street priest. I'm not here to judge. If you want to be gay, that's your problem.
That is something you have to deal with between you and God. My whole thing of doing the song was to create some peer pressure amongst the young people to where it changes their mindset to where, amongst them, their group of peers to where they're saying, hey, let's pull up our pants, because I don't want to be considered gay.
STEWART: That was Dooney Da' Priest. Now, since we aired that story, Dallas Deputy Mayor Dwaine Caraway, who started the "Pull 'Em Up" campaign featuring the song, has dropped the idea of charging a fine for saggy pants. City attorneys had argued against it, saying the law would be hard to enforce and could raise constitutional issues. And well, Caraway took their advice. But those arguments didn't deter the Chicago suburb of Linwood. That community just passed an ordinance which will charge anyone showing three inches or more of their underwear in public a 25-dollar fine. Web editor Laura Conaway joins me in the studio, and Laura, this was really sort of a watershed moment for us here at the BPP, this story.
LAURA CONAWAY: Yeah, Alison. This is when I first realized that we were doing something that I had never felt before in all my time of doing journalism. I mean, you always talk about tips coming in from listeners or readers or whatever. But this was an instance where I was - very early days of the active live blog, I was just trying to blog something. I threw it up there and it became news because people were reacting to it. I didn't even necessarily know how to handle having a listener come in and say, I think I have identified something in this that you're not looking at.
STEWART: What were your concerns?
CONAWAY: Well, for one thing, it was an NPR piece that I had blogged, and here was a listener who had something to say about the NPR piece that wasn't in the original NPR piece, and how exactly did you move forward with that? And then it was just - also just the equalizing force of having listeners push back against something and say, we think there's a further story here.
STEWART: And we've had other stories develop that same exact way.
CONAWAY: That same exact way, yeah. And I think it really just sort of blew open the door between, you know, the studio wall and the rest of the world, in a way that is amazing.
STEWART: All right. We're going to have a couple of other examples of that coming up later on the show. It's a two-hour extravaganza!
CONAWAY: Bring it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
STEWART: Laura Conaway, thanks for sticking in the studio. Also coming up on the show, Krulwich in non-emergency form. We're also going to take a look at some of our favorite guests, singer Ben Harper, Mark Riding, another example of a story that came off the blog, and Jackie Bibby, just because we all like Jackie Bibby.
CONAWAY: Love him.
STEWART: Love him. He's fun to say. He's fun to listen to. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. Ramble's up next!