TONY COX, host:
As you know, most of our focus this week was on the Republican National Convention. Now though, we turn to some news events overshadowed by the top political news. Detroit starts to pick up the pieces after the city's mayor pleads guilty to obstruction of justice and agrees to resign. Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff gets four more years in prison for corruption. And for more on those stories and more from that, we have Jerome Vaughn, news director for Detroit's WDET and Adrian Walker, a reporter for the Boston Globe. Adrian, Jerome, nice to have you on News & Notes.
Mr. JEROME VAUGHN (News Director, WDET): Good to be here.
Mr. ADRIAN WALKER (Reporter, Boston Globe): Glad to be here.
COX: Jerome, we're coming back to you because we talked - I guess it was yesterday if my memory serves me, about Kwame Kilpatrick agreeing to resign after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. How is the city coping today? What's next?
Mr. VAUGHN: Well, you're right. It was yesterday and everyone here is just taking a deep breath, you know, really trying to take it all in, soak it all up. The mayor who had been under political pressure to resign for months and months and months finally took a plea bargain agreement, pleaded guilty to a couple of felonies and you know, will have to pay a million dollars restitution, will have to spend four months in jail, have to give up his pension, and people are just really taking it all in. We've been stunned repeatedly over the past several months and yesterday was a great opportunity for him to wind this all up and for the rest of the city to be able to start thinking about moving on from here.
COX: Adrian, you know it's no secret that News & Notes is the program at NPR that is designed with the interest of an African-American audience to heart. But my question is, with regard to Kwame, looking on the Internet and seeing how that story is covered in the rest of the country, the kind of play that it's been receiving has been - uneven perhaps, will be the fairest way to say it. What's the coverage been like, if at all, in Boston?
Mr. WALKER: It has received very little attention in Boston and I've been a little surprised not just here but looking around nationally at how little attention. It's got - it's really a sad story when you think about what's happened and you think about, you know, all the promise when Mayor Kilpatrick went in office and what's it's all come down to.
COX: Do you think, Jerome, that Kilpatrick will eventually get back into politics? I know it's a little early maybe to know that.
Mr. VAUGHN: Well, it looks like he is already thinking about that, you know, as the day was progressing yesterday, we got word late afternoon that the mayor was going to make a special address. Right about 7:30 he did and it sounded more like a campaign speech than a goodbye speech. I mean, it was amazing how he talked about all the things his campaign had accomplished, all the reasons that other politicians were against him and that's why he was in the position that he was in. And you know, at the end, you know, he really said, you know, you set me up Detroit for a comeback. So, he's already looking down the road. Now, as part of the plea bargain agreement, he can't run for office for five years but you know, come 2013, 2014 we'll likely see his name on the ballot.
COX: One more story about Detroit before we move on to some other topics. It's this council president Kenneth Cockrel Junior taking over the mayoral post on September the 19th. Back to you, Adrian. I mean, Jerome. Who is he? Tell us a little bit about him and the kind of mayor you might expect him to be.
Mr. VAUGHN: He is a smart, intelligent, fairly mild-mannered sort of guy, really has a good grasp of the politics in a good way of what's going on in Detroit. He was elected a few years back as the president of City Council. You become president of City Council by getting the most votes to be placed on City Council. That's how we choose our president. So, he was very popular. Over the years, there's been quite a bit of battling between Mayor Kilpatrick and the City Council but those sorts of battles go back decades in the city of Detroit. He's going to come in. He's going to look at what needs to be done and get to work. He understands he's going to be an interim acting mayor but all expectations are that next year, whether we have a special election or he's interim mayor until the general election in November, he will be running for mayor. And he's going to look to, you know, boost the police presence. Crime is rising in Detroit. He's going to look to sure up the city's finances, you know, we're on the edge of having to lay off several hundred workers. You know, there's a lot to be done and a lot has built up in the past few months as the city has been a little more paralyzed in the midst of this Kilpatrick crisis.
COX: All right, let's move on to topic number two. Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist pleading guilty to charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, having his sentence extended. I'm imagining, Adrian, that is a story being covered.
Mr. WALKER: Oh, absolutely. Sure. You know, any story of a corrupt lobbyist is always a good story especially on the East Coast.
COX: What do you think this means for him, for Abramoff? The obvious obviously is that it's continuing his time behind bars. But what does it mean for him in a larger sense and the impact that that's having on lobbying in general?
Mr. WALKER: Well, in Abramoff's case, I think you have to assume that his career as a lobbyist is probably over anyway as a result of the original sentence. And I don't really know what effect it will have on lobbying (unintelligible). I would guess not a very dramatic effect. I think in a way, it's sort of an isolated incidence.
COX: All right. Well hold...
Mr. WALKER : But I will talk.
COX: I'll tell you what, we're going to continue this conversation. We're going to talk more about Abramoff. We're going to talk about some of the problems facing U.S. Representative Charles Rangel who is in hot water over reports that he failed to report 75,000 dollars in money that he earned. And then, we're going to talk about Oprah Winfrey and whether or not she should have Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on her show. Some say, she should. She apparently is saying that she is not going to. So, we're going to talk about all of that when we come back right after this quick break.
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COX: I'm Tony Cox and this is News & Notes. We're back with more of our Reporter's Roundtable. We're joined by Jerome Vaughn, news director - program director for Detroit's WDET and Adrian Walker, a reporter for the Boston Globe. We were going to talk about Charlie Rangel as we were leaving and he apparently - the congressman from New York is in trouble perhaps after reports surfaced that that he failed to report 75,000 dollars in earned money from property in the Dominican Republic. Jerome, can you fill us in more about what exactly is going on here?
Mr. VAUGHN: Yeah. He got a no mortgage interest on a beach resort that he bought many, many years ago outside of the country and you know, hadn't paid any taxes on it and it's especially embarrassing for him because, you know, he's on the Ways and Means Committee. So, he's one of the people who is, you know, in charge of the U.S. tax code and for him to say he didn't know he had to pay on this is really very embarrassing for him. One other thing I'll say is, you know, we started off this segment talking about Mayor Kilpatrick and then Jack Abramoff and now, Charlie Rangel. I mean, we're really talking about reasons here that the presidential election is focused on change this year. You've got all of these politicians and lobbyist who are accused of wrongdoing. It really adds up very quickly.
COX: You know, that's a very salient point that you make, Jerome. It comes of course on the heels of a report that the chairman of the house Ways and Committee also has rent-controlled property in New York. Now, today - let me do this before I come to you. Let me just say this, Adrian. Today, we spoke with Rangel's attorney, Lani Davis from the firm Orrick and Herrington. He told us that Rangel was not aware of the money he owed because of a lack of communication from the resort in the Dominican Republic. He also said that Rangel is not likely to owe the federal government. OK, Jerome. I mean, Adrian.
Mr. WALKER: Well, you know, with all due respect to Lani Davis. I don't know. I mean maybe he doesn't owe federal taxes, but that doesn't change the fact, this it's awfully embarrassing. You know, it's a big omission. It's 75,000 dollars in income that's sort of a lot to forget. Particularly coming on the heels of the rent control story in that, you know, the cops reported a couple of months ago that he has four rent controlled apartments in Harlem. It's a lot of bad news for Rangel. I don't think it will put him in any kind of electoral jeopardy. In fact, I'm pretty sure it won't because he's such a legend in Harlem. I mean, it's almost inconceivable that he would have a close race but this is not good.
COX: Here's another story that has - well we won't put a judgment on it, we'll just talk about it and it involves Oprah Winfrey who says that she doesn't want any political candidates on her show until after the election. Now, this comes after it was revealed that her team is divided about having Sarah Palin on the show. Her audience has made request online to have the Alaska governor on the air. And she issued a statement saying that she is not going to use her show for political purposes and that they would consider having Sarah Palin on after the election. What's your first - at first blush - Jerome, what do you think of this?
Mr. VAUGHN: Well, you know, I would never presume to doubt Oprah's wisdom. That's a sure way to get in trouble but, you know if it were me, I would have - I would have her on. I mean we all know that she supports Obama and supports him greatly. She doesn't have the same sort of requirements of balance as a news show or you know, might have. And it's going to build some ratings. I mean, so in that respect, I would think, you know, go for it. Everyone knows it's not your candidate but you know you'd get a good show out of it. So, that's what I think about it.
COX: Well, Adrian, you know she is not a journalist, we all know that. And she's not required to give equal time to each side of the political spectrum and we could also point to Jay Leno for example is having had Republican Candidates on and not necessarily balancing that with the Democrats but what's your take on how this should play out?
Mr. WALKER: Well, I mean it's up to her, I think she can have whoever she wants on her show. But I agree with Jerome, that would be great television to have her on and you know, Oprah's kind of going to decide whether she wants to be in this election or not. If she's going to, you know, be part of it, then she may as well have, she should have Republicans on. We all know that she supports Obama. I don't really see what the big harm there and having Palin on for an hour and it's kind of disingenious to say, well, I'd be happy to have her on after the election. Nobody is going care after the election, as she well knows.
COX: Now, that's true. Now, she's had Barack Obama on her show on two occasions but both of those occasions were before he announced his candidacy for the presidency. I'm not suggesting that that makes a real difference, but it is a difference, isn't it?
Mr. WALKER: Yeah. It's a kind of a technical difference since he was pretty clearly running when he was on it, if I remember correctly.
COX: Now, would you think, Jerome, that were she to put Sarah Palin on her show that obviously, there would be a ratings bonanza for her for the show, but she would risk losing or alienating a sizable chunk of the Oprah audience base, wouldn't she, if she went after her because of her support of Obama?
Mr. VAUGHN: I don't think she would lose anybody. I mean, people tune in to Oprah because they love what she does from day to day and they love her personality and I think they would respect her for, and everyone knows that she supports Obama,, that she have the courage or whatever to have on somebody who didn't agree with her. I think that would endear her even more to a lot of people and its one show. I mean, it's not like it's going to be the Oprah and Sarah show for a week. It's just going to be an appearance.
COX: Really briefly, I don't know whether you guys watch Oprah Winfrey or not, but if Sarah Palin were to be on the show, would you both watch?
Mr. WALKER: Yes. Absolutely. Just out of curiosity.
Mr. VAUGHN: I'm right with you there.
COX: And you know what? I would watch it with you as well. Fellows, thank you very much for coming on Reporter's Roundtable. We appreciate the conversation.
Mr. WALKER: My pleasure.
Mr. VAUGHN: My pleasure, too.
COX: Adrian Walker is a reporter for the Boston Globe and Jerome Vaughn is news program director for member station WDET in Detroit. He spoke with us from the studio there.
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