This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 12, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Right off the bat, I should disclose this right away about my next guest. I devoted a chapter to him in my book, "More Than Money," to really the quite literally miraculous career and personal story of Jon Huntsman (search), a multiple cancer survivor, who had to stave off bankruptcy and near financial ruin in the process.
He did and won on all counts. And now very clearly jealous of my huge literary success, the self-made billionaire has penned a pretty darn good book in his own right. In "Winners Never Cheat," Jon Huntsman takes some fellow rich guys to task for forgetting everyday values and proves that good guys can finish first.
With me now, I'm biased to say, one of the best CEOs on the planet, Jon Huntsman.
Good to have you, sir.
JON HUNTSMAN, CHAIRMAN, HUNTSMAN CORPORATION: Neil, what an honor to be with you.
CAVUTO: What an honor to be here with you.
I remember, when I wanted to write about you, I had heard about your multiple battles with cancer, still looking after your people, still looking after those who dealt with the disease. You had a great line where you felt that this was a disease that ravaged so many people. So, you thought you would get about trying to cure it by building this large foundation that has done a lot of good work. Why do you do stuff like that?
HUNTSMAN: Well, you know, Neil, I believe that the greatest gift we can give is a gift to other people. And irrespective of our wealth, irrespective of our position in life, if we try to think about other people and focus on other people, our lives become more enriched. And we seem to feel better about ourselves. It doesn't matter how much money one makes. It's how much money one gives.
And it's just been such a joy to do some modest things. Neil, listen, you're my hero. You've gone through M.S. and cancer. And if there's anybody who should be complimented, I compliment you on behalf of all Americans.
CAVUTO: Well, you're very kind. It sounds like the mutual admiration society.
HUNTSMAN: No, no, no, Neil.
CAVUTO: Well, let me tell you, one of the things I loved about the book — and, again, everyone is saying, Oh, Neil is being a suck-up and all that stuff.
CAVUTO: But one of the things that you do is, you say that the rich and poor among us have a responsibility just to be decent, you say, even when it comes to crises that everyone deals with. You dealt that with that corporately and personally.
CAVUTO: A crisis allows us the opportunity to dig deep into the reservoirs of our very being and to rise to the levels of confident strength and resolve that otherwise we didn't think we possessed. So, that positive underpinning seems to be lacking today in corporate America.
HUNTSMAN: I believe it is.
I believe, just earlier on your program today, we heard just tales again and stories of more corporate scandal.
CAVUTO: What do you personally think of that?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I've watched over the last 30 to 40 years. And it seems like there's been an acceleration, a proliferation, if you will, of more and more greed, if you will, where money becomes the ultimate objective, instead of what we do with our money and how we can help other people and what we can do to really be a better person in our life.
And I watch it and it's heartbreaking, because we each have a moral compass. We know what's right and wrong. We were taught as kids. You know, as kids, it didn't matter what religion we were or what nationality we were. We all understood right from wrong. And somewhere along life's pathway, we've kind of lost our moral compass.
CAVUTO: But you always said, never lose sight of your roots. I'm paraphrasing there.
CAVUTO: You came from the wrong side of the tracks. I know, when you were in the service, even back in your earliest, poorest days, you always gave a percentage of your income to charity. You were a big believer in that, you and your wife just starting out.
But a lot of big, successful, rich guys, Jon, like being big, successful and rich. And they kind of forget that.
HUNTSMAN: Well, I know they do. And I made my share of mistakes and there's a big difference between making mistakes in life and in cheating in life. You know, mistakes sometimes are made accidentally. And cheating is something we predetermine and we...
CAVUTO: Cheating is something you go about actively doing, you know you're doing.
HUNTSMAN: Absolutely. And there's intent.
And you watch what has happened in America today and some of the other countries of the world and it breaks your heart, because some of these people who are being indicted and who have problems should never have done these things. They knew what they were doing. And they try to blame it on lower-echelon people.
And I look at people who are what you just mentioned, Neil. They have an obligation, not only an obligation, but a duty to give back and to help those who are suffering.
CAVUTO: Yes, but, Jon, a lot of CEOs today popularized are on shows like "The Apprentice," there's a ruthless thing we kind of admire about them. What do you think of Donald Trump? (search)
HUNTSMAN: Well, I'm not going to get into personalities.
CAVUTO: I've tried for the longest time to get you to say a bad word about him. And you don't take the bait.
HUNTSMAN: Well, he went to my alma mater and I know Don.
HUNTSMAN: We forget in those shows that there's something greater than money. And it's concern and love for our fellow human beings.
CAVUTO: Yes, but what if your fellow human workers are lazy or not getting the job done? You have to fire people. You have to go through the routine of getting rid of the weakest link.
HUNTSMAN: Sure, you do. Of course.
CAVUTO: What do you do?
HUNTSMAN: Well, you have to be honest with people. I think the No. 1 characteristic, as Churchill said, is courage. He said it determines all other factors and all other personal elements, is courage. And a man...
CAVUTO: So, in your early days, early days — I know now, when you're a big muckety-muck, you don't have to deal directly on this sort of thing — but, in your early days, when you had a weak link, how did you get rid of them?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I think you were honest with them.
First of all, you tried to improve that weak link. You didn't go in and fire them. You didn't go in and insinuate in some way. You tried to help them. You tried to build them. You tried to lift them. You tried to correct whatever mistake they had. And then, if they were non-correctable, then, you know, you gave them a chance to work their way out...
CAVUTO: But I always thought with you that, maybe because people knew all that you had been through and dealing and beating cancer so many times, that they thought, well, you know, the guy just has his mind on other things and he's distracted and we can get away with murder.
HUNTSMAN: Oh, I — well, I don't think they probably felt that way. I mean, I've tried to do what you've done, Neil. And that's to be fair with people. And, sometimes, we make mistakes.
But you and I know and the people listening to your program right now, they have a moral compass. And they know the difference between right and wrong.
CAVUTO: You kind of do know right and wrong. We're supposed to know that.
HUNTSMAN: You do know. And if we get away with something and somebody says, well, some winners have cheated, well, they know in their heart they've cheated. And they have to live with it.
And the best thing I can think of is the eulogy at our funeral. You never hear about our academics. You never hear about our civic achievements. You hear about, did they care about their fellow man or woman? Did they love somebody? Did they care for somebody? Did they help somebody? And that's why eulogies are always good to kind of read and...
CAVUTO: I had a bunch of very rich, successful CEOs talking about the pope last week and that old biblical story, whether it's tougher for a rich man to enter heaven because they're rich.
CAVUTO: What do you think of that?
HUNTSMAN: Well, I think, again, it boils down to not so much our wealth, as what we do with what we have.
I believe the reason that Pope Jon Paul II was so well loved — I had the privilege to meet with him in 1993, and he put his arms around me and he kissed me on the cheek. And he said, "I have never met a Mormon before." And I said, "Your Holiness, I never met a pontiff before."
HUNTSMAN: And I didn't know what to say. And he said, "But you're so gracious." And I said, "No, Your Holiness, you're so gracious."
And it was one of these mutual admiration societies. I'm not Catholic, but I loved everything about him. He stood for what was great about the world and good people in the world.
CAVUTO: Well, I always tell people, when they say, well, Jon Huntsman is the exception, I like to think you're more the rule than people know.
HUNTSMAN: Well, thank you.
CAVUTO: Thank you.
HUNTSMAN: And I think it's fair to say, Neil, that there are many great businessmen and women.
CAVUTO: They don't get any press.
HUNTSMAN: Who are honest and fair.
CAVUTO: You're right.
HUNTSMAN: And straight with everybody else. And yet, we only hear about that very small minority.
CAVUTO: All right.
The book is "Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten)." It's due out formally May 1?
HUNTSMAN: May 1.
CAVUTO: All right. But you can rush to Amazon, preorder it. It's going to be big, big, big — not as big as my book.
CAVUTO: He's a very envious man. That's one great thing he just can't get over.
But, anyway, it's going to be out there soon.
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