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Hannity

Diane Sawyer on the Breakdown of the American Family

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 20, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes."

Earlier Sean and I spoke with ABC News anchor and correspondent Diane Sawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: You have a great special coming up. I want to get to that in a second. Let me ask you a couple questions about the news business.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HANNITY: I made news recently, because our main cable competitor is Larry King. And Larry's a great pioneer in the business. He's a pioneer in talk radio. He's a pioneer in talk television. And I said nice things about him on the air and people were shocked that I could say that.

Katie Couric, a main competitor of yours, how do you get along?

SAWYER: I think she is so good on the air. I think she's so good at everything she does.

And I think you're right. People can never believe, they never trust the sincerity of what you're saying. But I've always said nobody knows what good is unless you're doing it opposite people. And then you know what good is really like.

HANNITY: Good competition makes you better.

SAWYER: I think it makes everybody better. But also we're all different. We all do different things. And I really do mean it. Over the years, I have watched her, and I think she's just an ace, I do.

HANNITY: There's got to be a little bit of you, now that she's moving over to CBS, thinking this is pretty good for "Good Morning America".

SAWYER: You know the story of the Zen master and it's in Buddhism that whatever you think is going to be good for you...

HANNITY: Be careful.

SAWYER: Yes. Right. Not so fast there. That's what he's always saying. "We'll see. Wait. We'll see."

Nobody knows in morning television. And Meredith Vieira is now going to "The Today Show." She's our Meredith Vieira, and she's wonderful, too. So there are lots of moving parts, and I don't think anybody knows what it's going to be like.

HANNITY: A little myopic, too, in this industry, because we think there's only one competitor, where literally there are 100 other channels that we don't want people to ever turn to.

SAWYER: Right. And you mean people out there are not consumed with what we're doing 24 hours a day?

HANNITY: Yes.

SAWYER: They don't think about us and our lives in television?

HANNITY: How is that possible?

I am really glad. You have a 90-minute prime time special coming up. I think the breakdown of the American family is one of the worst things happening to our society. You focus in on this issue in a very creative way. Let's talk about your special.

SAWYER: We're talking about the fact that a third of American families are now stepfamilies. And all of our lives, a half of us will have lived in a stepfamily at some point in our lives.

So the stepfamily is a new reality in America. It is the function of the enormously high divorce rate, as we know. And nobody is equipped to deal with this.

The letters that we got that started us on this journey, of people saying, "This is the most brutal thing I have been in in my life." This is a battleground, and no one is covering the slaughter out there.

And so we put cameras in homes: 1,500 hours of taping we did, to show you what it's really like.

HANNITY: And eventually they forget the camera is there.

SAWYER: They could control whether it was on or off. And when you see what we have on tape I think your mouth will drop open. It certainly stunned all of us.

COLMES: It's really remarkable with people before they merge families don't sit down and talk about the contingencies of all the things that could possibly go wrong: who's going to be the disciplinarian, things like that.

SAWYER: That's right. And I think part of it, too, is that we all still want to be in this, you know, America that had only marriages for a lifetime.

COLMES: Yes.

SAWYER: And nobody is admitting what happens when you have divorce. And when you have to try something completely new.

Also, there are new things that you have to learn. This isn't like anything else. And someone just said to me, as I was coming in here, this is harder than being a biological parent.

COLMES: You're talking about, for example, this couple and this family in Lake Placid where you have this daughter who I guess, there's all kinds of dynamics going on in terms of when she's close to her stepmother, I guess. And when she's not.

SAWYER: That's right. And the duel that gets set up and the screaming and the ferocity of their relationship.

COLMES: There's even a charge of abuse, physical abuse in that relationship.

SAWYER: Well, it's not a charge, you know. You look at it and everybody out there can make up their mind. But we have a scene of real hitting. We have screaming. And we have a girl who has had some real problems before. And our experts who look at this are — they're just gasping. They can't believe what they're seeing.

COLMES: Are you shocked at what you found?

SAWYER: Yes, I know. I am. Because I'm in a stepfamily. My step-kids call me the WSM, the wicked stepmother.

COLMES: That's hard to believe.

HANNITY: We have to doubt that.

SAWYER: They do. And I think of it as a complete endearment, and it is. It really is, because our family is a funny family. But in ours it was a different situation.

So I was amazed how open it is. What open warfare it is. And how kids will come in. And in one of our families, the kids come in and crack that marriage. And in another one, the two parents in that marriage, I think arguably are crushing a kid.

COLMES: Hopefully those who watch this will learn about what they might do if they're about to enter this kind of an arrangement or this kind of family.

SAWYER: And in fact, it's every marriage and every parent-child relationship, too, going on here. A lot of good lessons.

COLMES: In "Good Morning America" working with a partner has got to be hell.

SAWYER: Yes, right. You really don't ever do that. I really wanted to rush here today and tell you I have urgent advice.

COLMES: I wonder how you do it every single day.

HANNITY: You're asking for trouble now.

COLMES: After awhile, it gets almost like...

SAWYER: Well, you don't have to get up at our hours. Imagine if you had to face him at 4:30 every morning.

HANNITY: He would be so lucky.

COLMES: In other words, right. That's a job I really don't want, that's true.

SAWYER: Right.

COLMES: But now your hours have go to be — do you ever get used to those hours?

SAWYER: No.

COLMES: Never. Are you tired all the time?

SAWYER: Not tired. Not tired. I'm almost never tired. I'm something else, which is sleep deprived. And it's different, if you know what I mean.

COLMES: Yes, right. You get used to living like that way.

SAWYER: Occasionally, I've had the thing where someone will say, "I don't like the sweater" and I burst into tears.

COLMES: And you look at what Katie is doing and say, "You know what? Those are pretty good hours. I think that's something I might want to think about doing."

SAWYER: Those hours are so beautiful. They really are so beautiful.

You know what we do in the morning when we all come in, we have a code. And we come in, and people go, that's all you're allowed to do. You're not allowed to ask any questions. The worst thing you can do is be cheerful. No one gets to be cheerful until we really get it going.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLMES: And more of our interview with Diane Sawyer coming up in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue now with our interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer about her "Primetime Live" special tomorrow night on stepfamilies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: You followed these two families. And I think so often in life, people don't talk about the basics.

SAWYER: That's right.

HANNITY: If you were on the same page, if you have the same values, if you have the same — if you back each other up. In other words, if my wife says to either one of my kids, "You better do this," you can't go in and say, "Let him do whatever he wants." You have to be united. Because otherwise, they will very quickly see the dynamic that's going on, and they will divide.

SAWYER: That's right. They will. And so much of it, as you say, is in advance. Sit down and talk about parenting and step-parenting and where the banana peels are. And come to an agreement about what your values are and how you're going to proceed with them.

One of the things our experts say, too. I mean, there are many lessons in this but a couple that really stay with me is that the step-parent shouldn't be the disciplinarian of the biological child.

HANNITY: I agree with that.

SAWYER: And the biological parent should do that. You can have codes for all the children, and everybody should hold up their end. It's not "The Brady Bunch" out there.

HANNITY: I was going to ask you about that. It's really not. I mean, I guess maybe we have that image. "Here's a story." And very different...

SAWYER: Very good.

HANNITY: Very good. But it's very different in reality. I mean, if 50 percent of American families are now stepfamilies, that's such a high percentage.

SAWYER: In our lifetime. Fifty percent of all of us will live in a stepfamily, according to the predictions.

HANNITY: And 50 percent of first-time marriages end in divorce.

SAWYER: Nearly, yes.

HANNITY: So we're really looking at a really serious social dynamic emerging that really has not been examined thoroughly. And the impact especially on the children.

SAWYER: That's right. We can't live as if this isn't happening. This is happening. And we can wish all kinds of things were other than they are, but this is what is going on out there.

And so many people wrote us and said it is the silent lonely despair that is going on.

HANNITY: Yes.

SAWYER: Because you don't want to tell your neighbors that you can't be a good parent.

HANNITY: It's not perfect. It's not the perfect family. And we project these false images.

SAWYER: That's right.

HANNITY: In this prime time special of yours, I want to go back to this incident of hitting of this one particular child. I only read about it. It seems particularly brutal to me.

SAWYER: Well, what happens, I believe, as in so many of these families, is that you have several issues. And you get out of control and angry. And then you get OK, and then the next time they come back and you're angrier and you're angrier.

And this is one that is just at the breakpoint. It has never been addressed. They have never figured out why they're doing this to each other. And why the anger is so out of proportion to what's going on in the room.

And again, we're not saying that there is not love there. This is not about not loving. This is about are we equipped to deal with rage? And we don't want to believe that you can have rage at children at this level. But wait until you see the tape and what they show us.

COLMES: We have Charlie and Toni, very different parenting styles. Right? And again, do they ever sit down and talk before they get married about, "All right. I'll be the disciplinarian and you're going to be a little more laissez-faire"?

SAWYER: They were corporate managers. They can manage a family. Hey, we're professionals, we can handle this. And they get in the middle of it. And we have a step-daughter who starts out adoring her stepmother and very soon you hear her saying, "I hate her. She's the wicked witch of the west. I hate her."

COLMES: And do these families spend time together before they get married, before they actually join forces.

SAWYER: No.

COLMES: And the kind of quality time you have as family and see what the dynamic...

SAWYER: No. And some of the estimates by some of the experts say four years is the least amount of time it's going to take you to have a relationship with your step-kids.

COLMES: After you get married. Things change once the legal papers are signed. Right? It's not the same?

SAWYER: Definitely. And you're all there. And they're looking at you and saying this is in our life now? This is a person my father is caring about? What about me? Why is he deferring to her? Why does he pay attention to what she thinks?

COLMES: And how does this affect the marriages themselves, what's going on with the kids?

SAWYER: That's right. And the marriage is just splitting apart at the seams.

COLMES: I wonder how many people are going to watch this and say, you know, I wonder — maybe I shouldn't get married again. Maybe we should put this on hold.

SAWYER: No. Because the wonderful news is it can be worked out. And at the end of it, you know, some stepfamilies that make it through are, in many ways, great lessons in living the rest of your life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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