This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 2, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


BILL COSBY, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: We cannot protect ourselves if the picture of ourselves is in a trough.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FNC SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST AND GUEST HOST: Wow. Bill Cosby (search) holding up a mirror to the young black community. He says a lot of African-Americans need to start taking advantage of opportunities and stop blaming white people for their problems. Cosby is being called a crank by some, a hero by others.

Let's ask the Reverend Jesse Jackson (search). He was on stage during Mr. Cosby's comments.

Reverend Jackson, today's big question: Are Bill Cosby's criticisms justified?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, his criticisms are accurate, but they must be put in context.

May I take this one liberty: today is the 40th anniversary: July 2nd, 1964, Public Accommodations Bill (search); and, Marlon Brando (search), was a huge force coming around in Hollywood to help use his celebrity to bring that apartheid barrier down. And, so our condolences go to the Marlon Brando family today.

NAPOLITANO: You're talking about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (search) signed by President Johnson?

JACKSON: That's right; 40 years ago today. And Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra (search) and Sammy Davis (search) and others joined Harry Belafonte (search) to make this momentous day. So his death today is, in some sense, a kind of poetry, it seems.

NAPOLITANO: All right.

Back to Bill Cosby. You were present when he made these comments. Is he right or wrong?

JACKSON: Well, Bill is right. The point is — but you must put it in context — Bill is saying you will find an equal opportunity with superior effort. Bill is saying we may not be responsible for being down, but must be so for getting up. And that given the price has been paid for the right to an education, we must fight to even the playing field but also use the same kind of effort we do on the athletic field in academics.

Bill was not trying to put anybody down, he was lifting people up and people accepted it in that spirit.

NAPOLITANO: You have been a world-renowned leader of the African- American community in the United States for a generation. Were you in his crosshairs? Was he criticizing African-American leadership for not encouraging free enterprise and self-help and rugged individualism and learning how to speak English to get out of the ghetto?

JACKSON: Well, that is not true. The fact of the matter is this is an ancient message; it's not a new message. "Do your best against the odds. Don't fight degradation with self-degradation, or you must not self- destruction."

And so, there are too many young people today who are missing an opportunity to achieve education. I met with some high school youth in L.A. just a week or so ago, and they're practicing basketball five hours a day: no radio, no T.V., no telephone, and they're doing well but not corresponding time academically.

Bill is saying that your academic pursuits must match your athletic pursuits because your mind will outlast your needs.

NAPOLITANO: Let's listen to another one of Bill's challenges.


COSBY: It is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us, and it keeps a person frozen in their seat.


NAPOLITANO: Isn't he condemning the culture of victim-hood? Isn't he saying, "Don't look upon yourself as a victim. The injustices visited by whites upon blacks are history. We can't change history, change yourself."

JACKSON: Well, he's not quite saying that, although he talked about only having one full psychologist for three schools as being inadequate. He's aware that on the No Child Left Behind by Mr. Bush, two million have been left behind and 300,000 don't have after school programs.

He knows that and he says, "How do you fight these odds? If you're behind, you got to run faster. You must not self-destruct. You must use your skills, use your minds, use your morals. And he says to parents, "Do some basic things. Take your child to school. Meet your child's teacher. Exchange phone numbers. Turn that T.V. off."

These are values after value. There's no conflict between fighting for equal opportunity and fighting for superior effort.

NAPOLITANO: Here's another one of the comments that Bill made.


COSBY: We're going to call each names of ugliness. Comedians coming on T.V., "My mother's so ugly; you're ugly..." That's all minstrel show stuff. I'm tired of this.


NAPOLITANO: You know, right after he said that, he said, "I can't even talk the way these people talk: "Why you ain't; where you is." And I blamed the kid until I heard his mother talk, and then I heard the father talk.

Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of "crap", his word, "coming out of their mouths."

Why is there no emphasis on understanding the English language amongst these people who need it the most?

JACKSON: The fact of the matter is most children that go to school do graduate. Most parents do take care of their children as best they can. But there are too many who are doing less than their best and they're recycling their pain, recycling self-destruction, recycling self- degradation, and Bill is saying, "That course will not work. We, in fact, must study diligently and lift our spirits above our predicament."

NAPOLITANO: Have government handouts furthered the status and the idea of victim-hood?

JACKSON: That's not true. Government subsidy has, in fact, increased the gap between those who have and those who have not. You look at suburban education and then the city education or rural education where you have a tax-based funding, which means that those who don't have a tax base don't get an education and those that do have one get a better education, you end up with what: first class jails and second class schools.

And so, we must fight to even the playing field, but all of those who are sober and determined can fight the big fight.

NAPOLITANO: Before I let you go, Reverend, are you on John Kerry's (search) short list?

JACKSON: No, I'm not. I support him enthusiastically. I think he is an alternative to our present economic crisis and our disastrous foreign policy.

NAPOLITANO: The one and only Jesse Jackson joining us on this holiday weekend.

Thank you very much, Reverend.

JACKSON: Thank you.

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