Is Jesse Jackson a Hypocrite?

This is a partial transcript from The War on Terror: The Hunt for the Killers. For a complete transcript of the entire broadcast click here.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president's insisted on a full and complete investigation. We're going to make absolutely certain if there are guilty parties there, if laws were broken, there's full prosecution under the law.


RITA COSBY, HOST: The Enron controversy continues to raise eyebrows, particularly with many of the company's employees suddenly finding themselves out of work and money. Civil Rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson is stepping in to try to help the workers and the former leaders of the doomed company, even meeting with former Enron chairman Ken Lay earlier today.

I caught up with Jesse Jackson and asked him what the next step will be to mend the broken pieces of the Enron collapse.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: There should be a sense of worker outrage across the country about how these manipulations of books and pensions are taking place at workers' expense. I hope Mr. Bush will make room for a group of these workers, a small group of them, in the balcony on Tuesday night in his commitment to leave no American behind and will meet with them on Wednesday at the White House. A lot of these workers feel that their company let them down, but that the White House and the government cares.

COSBY: Now, Reverend Jackson, you talked about and you've been critical of sort of the closeness of the relationship between the White House and this company, yet know Ken Lay, the person who just resigned as chairman. Tell us about that.

JACKSON: Well, Ken Lay has a tremendous reputation civically in Houston. When that city was on the brink of real polarization on the Affirmative Action question, for example, it was his leadership that helped to keep a kind of multi-racial, multi-cultural even keel in Houston and spared that city of embarrassment and polarization.

COSBY: But what's your impression of him now?

JACKSON: Well, in some sense, you have the Ken Lay that most of us know, and you have these revelations. And I would hope that those who are rushing to judgment now would make certain that due process is honored and that you do have trials, as it were, in a hearing room or in a courtroom and not just in the newsroom. I don't know what to make of these revelations, except to say something went awfully wrong. There was some bad judgments made. There were some violations of laws that took place. And we'll know that in time to come.

COSBY: Now, you've been critical of the business irregularities of Enron, and some people are saying that you should not be critical because your company, your Rainbow/Push Coalition, has also had some financial irregularities that have been questionable, particularly the $120,000 that went to the woman you had an extramarital affair with. Are you the right person to be criticizing business?

JACKSON: Absolutely. First of all, that is not accurate. But the real deal here is that we have the biggest bankruptcy in the history of America. Could it have been avoided? Will another one happen? What will we do with 4,500 workers who lost their jobs, 1,100 who've lost their pension? What can we do, as a nation, to make these workers whole? We must keep focus on that. And what role did our governmental leaders have? And the issue today is not me, it's Cheney. What role does corporate influence have on governmental policy?

COSBY: But Jesse, what do you think of the attacks on you now? Because some people are saying you're not the person to be criticizing government when there have been some questions about your own financial dealings.

JACKSON: Well, all of us are subject to questions, and we ought be subject to questions. And we ought to provide answers. But I will submit to you tonight this not a time to be diverting from the issue of the biggest economic calamity in the history our country that is a foretaste of things to come unless there is, in fact, financial reform, campaign financial reform, unless there is, in fact, election law reform, unless there is a vigorous, impartial, vigorous oversight committee to protect American workers across the board.

So we're going to keep our eyes on where the focus really ought to be. All of us have some obligation to fight for justice for workers, for fairness for consumers and for a healthy environment.

COSBY: Now, Jesse, you recently had some layoffs in your company. About 17 people were laid off at Rainbow/Push in December alone. Some people have said that you have lost some political clout, between the extramarital affair and some of these questionable financial irregularities. Do you think you've lost some clout?

JACKSON: No. In a real sense, when you look at your finances and you make your payroll and pay your taxes, and sometimes become a bit more — still, that's called responsible management. In our organization, we've not missed a payroll. We're not behind in paying our FICA taxes. We're engaging in responsible business management, and our work continues, whether we're fighting for workers at Enron in Houston, Texas, or whether we're expanding economic opportunities on Wall Street. We'll be fighting for workers trying to get organized in Las Vegas.

COSBY: Now, Jesse, I know...

JACKSON: Our focus...

COSBY: I know you recently settled with Karin Stanford. And this is the woman you had the extramarital affair with. I know you cannot talk about the details. But was that the wrong thing to do? You've come under a lot of sharp criticism. I mean, even friends of yours said -- David Wallace, a Reverend, has said "The extramarital affair and baby forfeited Jackson's moral leadership." What do you think? Was that a big mistake?

JACKSON: Well, I will say to you that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And I say this further to you and to people everywhere, that we fall down sometimes. But as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) says, we get back up again. And I've gotten back up because I know that the ground is no place for a champion.

I have that championship urge to fight for people that cannot fight for themselves. This battle really is about a generation of youth with first-class jails and second-class schools. It really is about worker exploitation and violation. It really is about a kind of an overwhelming commitment to the very few at the expense of the masses. And so I work. And the good news is that people respond to this work.

COSBY: And Jesse, you've had some successes, particularly on the international front. You and I went into Belgrade together when you were able to free the three POWs, the American POWs there. Have you been asked to intervene at all in the case in the Philippines with the American couple?

JACKSON: You know, we were called about that. And we've not decided to make a commitment to that yet. But we've engaged in some conversation. But whether it's the plight in the Philippines or the Berenson case in Peru, we have real interest there. I've been blessed across the years to intervene if I can see where the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) failed and to bring Americans home from Syria and from Iraq and from Cuba and from Yugoslavia. And if at any point in time I can use my skills or access to the right combination of religious leaders, in the main, to help set Americans free, I will continue to do that.

COSBY: Do you think you'll intervene in the Philippines case? Would you like to intervene?

JACKSON: I just do not know. You know, I've never done it because I liked to. It was always done reluctantly. I've always done it with a great sense of fear and trembling because it is highly risky. You have to do it on God's grace, not because you're lucky or so skilled, but God's grace. I'll tell you what happened. Each time I've gone to bring an American back home...

COSBY: I know, Jesse...


JACKSON: ... they have always...

COSBY: Jesse, in the...


COSBY: Sorry, because we're so tight on time here. On the Philippines case, did the family call you? Who called you to ask you to intercede?

JACKSON: Well, I've talked with some religious leaders from there and religious leaders from here. Whenever I've gone, I always would lean heavily on religious leaders in a given country. Sometimes we underestimate the role of clergy in other countries. And if we were to go, it would be through some sponsorship of clergy there and clergy here who have the collective moral authority to make the appeal and to rise above the kind of political dog fight that's taking place and have the people caught in the crossfire.

COSBY: All right, Reverend Jesse Jackson, we thank you for coming today and also answering some tough questions. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you.


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