This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes."
The impact continues to be felt tonight from political statements made Tuesday at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. With President Bush and thousands of mourners in attendance to honor the wife of slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, several speakers used what should have been eulogies as opportunities to attack the president and the administration. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JOSEPH LOWERY, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there, but Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Joining us now is the chairman of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, the president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, civil rights activist the Rev. Joseph Lowery.
Reverend Lowery, I've been out of Atlanta now for a few years. And you and I have had a number of passionate debates over the years. I know you miss me down in Atlanta, don't you?
LOWERY: Miss you terribly, wish you'd come back.
HANNITY: Well, you can still listen to WSB every day. We're still there.
Reverend Lowery, let's be honest here, the president of the United States goes to Coretta Scott King's funeral, and you knew what you were saying. I've known you a long time. You knew what you were saying and you knew you were taking a shot at the president. You're going to be honest here and acknowledge that, correct?
LOWERY: I'm always honest, and my speech was the same, whether the president were in Atlanta or Athens, Greece. It had nothing to do with the president. I was doing my job. I was carrying out my assignment. I was asked...
HANNITY: All right.
LOWERY: I was asked by the family to give a civil rights and human rights tribute.
HANNITY: Well, it...
LOWERY: What did you expect me to talk about, wine and roses?
HANNITY: No, no, it was — look, I would never expect that. But it was a celebration of Coretta's life. Here's my position.
LOWERY: What was the...
HANNITY: The president — hang on. The president gave an incredibly touching speech, I thought. I thought he, rightly so, honored a great woman. I thought it was appropriate that he be there.
You know what, Reverend, there's a time and place for politics. You've been on my radio show and we've had a good give and take...
LOWERY: What you call politics, Sean...
HANNITY: Wait a minute. We've had a good give and take. You knew very well when you used that line about weapons of mass destruction, you knew what the audience's reaction would be and you knew you were taking a shot at the president. Come on, Reverend Lowery.
LOWERY: What did you expect me to talk about, Sean? I was there to talk about civil rights and human rights in the context of the life of Coretta Scott King. It's on the program.
HANNITY: But don't use a funeral...
LOWERY: It's written on the program.
HANNITY: Don't use a funeral for a political agenda, though.
LOWERY: But the funeral planners asked me to talk from a civil rights, human rights perspective.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Reverend...
LOWERY: There was no way to talk about civil rights and human rights without talking about the war and poverty and racism and discrimination. And besides that, I knew what I was in for when I came out here tonight with you.
COLMES: I'll protect you.
LOWERY: And I'm sure the president didn't...
HANNITY: I am being so nice, it's ridiculous.
LOWERY: ...not recognizing he was going to hear civil rights and human rights.
COLMES: I'm glad you said — I don't know how you do a eulogy for Coretta Scott King without bringing up the very issues that she stood for and she talked about.
LOWERY: That's right.
COLMES: In fact, I want to put up on the screen, Reverend, some of the words used by Martin Luther King himself in a eulogy for young victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 16, 1963.
LOWERY: Four little girls.
COLMES: And he talked about those four little girls. And here's what he said. He said, "They have something to say to a federal government that's compromised with the un-Democratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans."
And you don't hear people criticizing Martin Luther King. If that's not politicizing the president...
LOWERY: They did. They did at the time. But now that he is safely dead, they praise him.
LOWERY: But dead men makes such convenient heroes. They cannot rise up to challenge the images we mold and fashion for them. Besides, it's easier to build a monument than it is a movement.
Let me ask you a question, Sean. What should I have talked about on behalf of the civil rights and human rights community with Coretta Scott King?
HANNITY: Listen, Reverend, I understand that, for example, you and I have different political agendas, that I understand you disagree with the president on weapons of mass destruction.
LOWERY: Why don't you answer my question?
HANNITY: Here's the question — good, here's the answer. The president of the United States came to honor this woman. It should have been about her life, not you using the occasion of her funeral to take a shot politically at the president. That's where you and I disagree. I don't think that was the right thing to do in that environment.
LOWERY: I talked about her life.
HANNITY: You were taking a shot at the president. You were...
LOWERY: That was her life.
COLMES: Reverend, I mean, the issues of poverty...
LOWERY: She took shots at the president. Coretta took shots at the president. I was in — I met with Coretta with Ronald Reagan when he was president. And Ronald Reagan said, "We think things are going pretty well."
Coretta looked him straight in the eye and said, "Mr. President, all is not well in our community."
I had conversations with Coretta about the war in Iraq...
HANNITY: I appreciate that.
LOWERY: ... about the weapons of mass destruction, about poverty. I was asked to talk on behalf of the civil rights, human rights community.
HANNITY: You have every right to say whatever you want. I am just saying that...
LOWERY: If you don't expect me to be true — if you don't expect me to be true to my assignment, I'm sorry.
HANNITY: Look, I believe in freedom of speech, Reverend Lowery. And I've debated you enough over the years I know that you're going to stay what you want to say. I'm just looking at the appropriateness of the venue.
I want to talk about Bobby Kennedy, who ordered the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and his family when we get back, so stay right there. The Reverend Joseph Lowery with us.
COLMES: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes.
We now continue with the chairman of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda and president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, civil rights activist, the Rev. Joseph Lowery.
You know, this is an invented controversy, Reverend, by Republicans who are so sensitive about President Bush in a time he's not doing very well.
I'd just like to put up on the screen, since we're honoring Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, what he said in his famous drum major speech about what he would want said during his own funeral, his own eulogy.
He said, "I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. I want you to say I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; a drum major for peace; a drum major for righteousness."
These issues of poverty, of war, they didn't start with the Bush administration. What you said, what Jimmy Carter said could have been said decades ago, because the same fight continues. They're making it about Bush when it wasn't.
LOWERY: You're exactly right. Let me tell you what else was said decades ago. It's not the appropriate time.
When we started the bus boycott in Montgomery, it was not the appropriate time. When we went to Birmingham to fight segregation and public accommodations and brutal oppression on the part of the police department, the preachers said to Martin, it's not the appropriate time.
And Martin wrote this letter from the Birmingham jail, which I brought as a gift to you, Sean, that will enrich your life.
HANNITY: Yes, sir.
LOWERY: In this letter from the Birmingham jail, he said to those eight preachers, rabbi, priests, Protestant, Roman Catholic. He said to them, "Gentlemen, they always told us it was not the appropriate time, but I say to you, it's always the right time to do what's right."
And I had to do what's right the other night. It's what I was asked to do and what God, I believe, wanted me to do in my conscience, in my heart, and I cannot recant.
COLMES: What did the family ask you to do? What did they say they wanted you to say and do on that day?
LOWERY: It's written on the program, civil rights and human rights tribute, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, co-founder and president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, co-founded with the husband of the woman we honored of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I was the linear successor to Martin. Martin served from 60 — from '57-'68. Ralph served from '68-'77. I served from '77-'98.
COLMES: So how do you not talk about those things? How do you give a eulogy and not mention the things you're now accused of politicizing? How do you not — how do you do it?
LOWERY: I couldn't. I wouldn't know what to say. What was I to talk about, wine and roses?
HANNITY: Hey, Reverend, let me ask you a question. We need to have a serious discussion. Name — here's a quiz. I'm going to go through three quick questions and see how you answer them. What president has appointed more African-Americans to higher positions of power than any other president in the history of this country? Can you answer that?
LOWERY: No, I can't. But I can guess what you're going to provide.
HANNITY: No, it's not a guess. George W. Bush. Next — hang on. Next question. What attorney general was the one that wiretapped and had surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr.? A Democrat by the name of Bobby Kennedy.
What party put a former Klansman as the head of the Senate for 12 years? The Democratic Party. Which president had as his mentor in politics a segregationist? Bill Clinton.
LOWERY: Sean, what's this got to do with the funeral?
HANNITY: It has to do with...
LOWERY: Who is the attorney general now...
HANNITY: It has to do with this.
LOWERY: ...who is wiretapping everybody? You know, let me tell you something...
HANNITY: It has to why don't you give George Bush — why don't you give him credit for what he has done?
LOWERY: Let me tell you something. Well, let me — this is going to surprise you.
LOWERY: I think he's an affable young man. I wish his policies were different.
HANNITY: Fair enough.
LOWERY: Some years ago when his father was president he stopped me in the airport and said, "Aren't you Reverend Joseph Lowery?"
I said yes. I didn't know who he was. I looked into his face. The minute I saw him, I knew who he was. He's an affable fellow. It's just that his policies, which may be developed by somebody else, I don't know. But his policies are not in the best interest of world peace.
HANNITY: That's fair. No, I disagree with that.
LOWERY: Not in the interest of economic justice.
HANNITY: That's fair.
LOWERY: We've got almost 50 million people in this country with no health insurance. We have more children in poverty. The rate of poverty for children is higher in this country than in any other industrialized nation.
HANNITY: Reverend Lowery, I've been — I lived with you and...
LOWERY: I can't stomach his policies.
HANNITY: Hang on. I lived with you in Atlanta for a number of years. You and I debated on the radio. Our relationship goes back a long way. I have a great respect for you. I really do.
I've been to Techwood Homes, the first housing project in the history of this country. I've been to Peppermill. I've been to some of those Atlanta housing units. I've seen the poorest neighborhoods in this country and some of the housing units.
And the poorest in America, Reverend, there are cars. There are big screen TV's. There's microwaves. There's running water. There's plumbing. And there's one other thing that we never factor in: there's more opportunity here than any other place on earth.
That is the modern day America for people that want to take advantage of it if they're responsible. Isn't it?
LOWERY: And I want to keep it that way. But if you...
HANNITY: You were complaining about it.
LOWERY: But more and more — I certainly am complaining, because we aren't anywhere near where we ought to be. And poverty is increasing. There are more people in the Commerce Department, there are more people in poverty in 2005 than in 2004.
One out of five children in this country lives in poverty. One out of three black children live in poverty. If you are satisfied with that...
HANNITY: Is that George Bush's fault? Is George Bush supposed to redistribute wealth? The top 10 percent pay 70 percent of the taxes now. How much more do you want them to pay?
LOWERY: Part of it is his fault.
HANNITY: George Bush's fault.
LOWERY: Part of it's his fault. He's cutting taxes for those who don't need it cut, and he's cutting programs for whose who need it most. There's something wrong. Something wrong, Sean.
HANNITY: Reverend hang on. The top 10 percent of wage earners in America, Reverend, pay over 70 percent of the federal tax bill. Ten percent pay...
LOWERY: The top 20 percent...
HANNITY: How much more do you want them to pay?
LOWERY: The top 20 percent own more than 80 percent of the wealth, and those are the people who are getting the tax cuts.
HANNITY: You want perfect socialism in America? You want redistribution?
LOWERY: Sean, there's something wrong — you can call it names. There's something wrong when a handful of people have more than they'll ever need while the masses of people have less than they always need. I'm not satisfied.
HANNITY: Listen, I want every American — I'm not satisfied either.
LOWERY: America can do better.
HANNITY: You know something?
LOWERY: American can do better.
HANNITY: Reverend, where we ought to agree is that the public school, the government school systems are destroyed in America today, Reverend. And yet the people that are standing at the door forcing these kids into people's — into these failing schools are on the left.
Join with conservatives and give people choices in education. Because if you solve that problem, you solve your crime problem, your drug dependency problem. You solve, you know, a whole host of government problems.
You get the last word.
LOWERY: The problem in the public schools is we don't support them. We don't put the best teachers there. We don't put the best resources there.
HANNITY: Can't get any worse.
LOWERY: You're trying to destroy public schools for something called vouchers. Throw helpless people out in a jungle where they get chewed to pieces by the tigers and the fat cats. That's not good.
COLMES: Reverend, I appreciate you coming on.
LOWERY: And you know it.
HANNITY: Hey, Reverend, you miss me more than you admit here, Reverend. I know you do.
LOWERY: Come back home.
COLMES: That's an answer I guess he's not pulling out of you. Thank you very much for being with us, Reverend. We appreciate it very much.
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