Talk show host Larry King

The iconic talk show host weighs in on the results of the White House race.

With 50-plus years in broadcasting, Larry King has logged more than 40,000 interviews, including with every U.S. president since Gerald Ford. After a 25-year run, he signed off on his signature CNN program—TV's first worldwide live phone-in talk show—and took his career in a new direction as co-founder of Ora TV, which carries his web series, Larry King Now. The Emmy and Peabody winner has been inducted into five leading broadcasting halls of fame. He's also made cameos in more than 20 films. After bypass heart surgery, he founded a cardiac foundation, which provides life-saving procedures for children and adults.


Tavis: As we continue to digest the results of last night’s election, I couldn’t think of a better person to break down the results than a man who’s covered so many of these. How many, do you know? Since what year?

Larry King: On the air, broadcasting, 1960. (Laughter) Oh, my gosh.

Tavis: I was born in ’64.

King: Stop it. (Laughter) Stop it.

Tavis: The iconic –

King: Oh, I was on the radio and television in Miami in 1960, and that was the Kennedy-Nixon, that was the first televised debate.

Tavis: Wow, I remember this – the one that Nixon was sweating like a –

King: Yeah, and Kennedy had that great makeup and Nixon had just come from the hospital. I heard it on the radio. I thought it was a tie.

Tavis: Right.

King: And then when I got to the studio, people were telling me Kennedy murdered him, and it was all on looks.

Tavis: The wonders of television.

King: Yeah.

Tavis: The iconic talk show host is doing a new project now since his tenure at CNN. Currently the host of “Larry King Now,” which can be seen on and on Hulu. I can’t wait to come to your show. I’ve heard some people who’ve done it say it’s a lot of fun.

King: It is. Well, it’s very relaxed, very different from CNN. It’s very casual. It’s a homelike atmosphere, looks like my living room.

Tavis: So I can wear blue jeans when I come?

King: Oh, please.

Tavis: With suspenders and a tie, maybe?

King: You could do that.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: Copy-cat. (Laughter) Hey, I’ve hosted this show.

Tavis: Yes, you have, a couple times.

King: I’ve hosted every show.

Tavis: Yeah. You did not host on CNN, where we’ve seen you for so many, many years, this time around, you were, of course, hosting on your own thing. But what did you make of –

King: Well, I think it was a wake-up call for Republicans, that the problem the Republican Party faces, being very objective, is to win the Republican primary you have to appeal to the Tea Party or what might be called the extreme right. To win the election, you have to be moderate-center.

Romney tried to be moderate-center late. It was too late, and they have to appeal to a Latino voter. I think the Latino will be the majority American in 2012 – 2020.

That’s eight years away. You’ve got to make a better appeal to them. So they may have just missed the gun. They’ve got to reevaluate where they are, and I don’t know what the answer is. Because the Tea Party held a press conference, the actual Tea Party held a press conference today in which they blamed it all on Romney.

They said we had an elite establishment candidate. Well, Romney won the primaries, so I don’t know how they were blaming it on an elite establishment in the East. He won the primaries and they paid the price.

Tavis: There’s so much to talk about. I’m glad you’re here for the full show – for the hour, Larry King.

King: Oh.

Tavis: (Laughs) What do you make of the fact, though, speaking of the primaries, Larry, that this is the guy that they didn’t want? They tried to pull everybody and his mama out of the ether to run for this. They wanted Chris Christie, they wanted Jeb Bush, they wanted Mitch Daniels, they wanted, they wanted, they got the governor of Texas and sent him back after a couple days.

King: Yeah.

Tavis: But what do you make of the fact that Romney wasn’t the guy they really wanted in the first place?

King: Who’s “they?”

Tavis: The Republicans.

King: Yeah.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: Yeah, well, the problem is back to Kennedy.

Tavis: Right.

King: When Kennedy won the Democratic nomination, there were only seven primaries – seven. That was called the back room. In the back room days, I’m not sure that wasn’t better. The elite, the people and the pros, got together and said, “This is our guy.”

Then when the primary system came in really heavy in ’60, the public started to pick the candidate. The public that the Republicans voted for, the Republican registered voter, went out and selected Romney. It’s a whole new world of politics, and now with the Internet and Twitter and the (unintelligible) so instantaneous.

The public’s more involved and the Republican public, the registered Republicans, are selecting their candidates. And they’ve selected McCain, who again, the right wing said they didn’t like. Now they select Romney that the right wing didn’t like.

But if you go – you can’t go further right. They’re in a dilemma. They’re in a dilemma.

Tavis: To your point, it is a new ballgame and this isn’t rocket science. I can’t figure out, though, how, to your earlier brilliant analysis, I don’t know how you expect any candidate on the Republican ticket to run far right to get the nomination and then to hustle back to the middle for the general election without the Democrat whupping him upside his head, successfully, as Obama did, about the flip-flopping.

You run this way, you run back. Of necessity, once you get to the general election, you flip-flop so much to try to make both – the Etch-A-Sketch thing that was –

King: Yeah.

Tavis: You’ve done so much of that –

King: It’s almost kind of a no-win.

Tavis: Precisely.

King: So what do you do? You need the right guy. Now, the right guy may be, if I were advising, and I’ve always been an objective broadcaster. I’ve never announced who I voted for, never will tell who I voted for. I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, I’ve voted for Independents.

The perfect guy may be Marco Rubio, right? Latin, Florida, changing state, appeal, young, he’s conservative but he’s got to appeal to Latinos. He might be the answer. Now, can he win the primaries? Will he win the primaries?

Tavis: Well, obviously, to your point –

King: He may be perfect.

Tavis: He was obviously lacking something for Romney. Romney could have picked the guy for VP, and he didn’t. So he was (unintelligible).

King: Yeah, well, Romney went to Ryan, a real –

Tavis: Right, which didn’t work.

King: – Tea Partier.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: Maybe the king of the Tea Party in Congress. So he went to the wrong one. I’ll give you my campaign in 2016, if they pick them.

Tavis: Right.

King: In 1992 – follow this closely, folks.

Tavis: Yes. (Laughter)

King: Clinton ran against Bush and defeated him, largely due to Perot. The third party candidate really hurt Bush.

Tavis: On the “Larry King” program, the debate.

King: We made him.

Tavis: Yes, you did.

King: Anyway, in 2016, Clinton against Bush – Hillary and Jeb. Now, that, already we’re thinking 2016. That would be a campaign. Now the question will be can Jeb Bush – and this is funny to say this – win the primaries. (Laughter) Now can a moderate Republican –

Tavis: That is funny.

King: Would Jeb Bush be a strong candidate? Absolutely. That would be a hell of a race.

Tavis: Do you think Hillary should run?

King: If I were a Democratic adviser, I would hope she would run.

Tavis: Okay.

King: I think she has hit – we’re ready for a woman president, certainly, on either ticket, and we have hit a certain point where the Clintons, I think Bill Clinton helped elect Obama. I don’t think there’s a doubt about that.

Tavis: Understatement.

King: Obama called him immediately. In fact, if Obama in the second term can adopt a Clinton second term, they will be very strong, because Clinton finished with an enormous plurality on the economic side of things. He had a tremendous run as president. In fact, most people say if Bill Clinton were running this time, he’d have won much bigger than Obama won.

Much bigger. The public likes him, and they like Hillary. She’s been a great secretary of State. Even those opponents like her. So she’d be a very strong candidate, I think. I would encourage her to run, and I don’t think she’d have any opposition.

I know that Governor Cuomo of New York, who would certainly be a strong contender, the governor of Maryland would be a strong contender.

Tavis: I don’t think Biden’s out of this thing.

King: No, but he won’t run. He has Hillary.

Tavis: You don’t think so?

King: No, I don’t think so.

Tavis: So here’s the question – how long do you think Hillary – obviously, she’s got the name recognition.

King: She’ll be 69.

Tavis: Yeah, she’ll be 69, but she’s got the name recognition, clearly she’d have the money. But as long as she doesn’t declare in or out, she’s handicapping the field. How long does she have to have to make a decision?

King: Isn’t it interesting? We just had an election –

Tavis: I know, I know.

King: – and we’re at the – I’m wondering about 2020.

Tavis: Right. (Laughter)

King: Really, I’m confused about 2020, because I think Chelsea will run.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. Well, I only went there because you raised this. I’m just trying to one last question about –

King: Against George Bush’s grandson.

Tavis: Oh, you’re funny.

King: Oh, he’s a terrific kid.

Tavis: I know him, I know. (Laughter) George P. Bush.

King: George P. Bush, that’s right. He’s a great little kid. Yeah, how long does she have to wait? Of course, she’ll – remember, there were no Democratic primaries this time. No one challenged – I don’t see anybody challenging her. I think it’s hers for the asking.

Tavis: Okay.

King: If she wanted. The question is I can’t get into her head. I think Bill probably would like her to run.

Tavis: You think? (Laughter)

King: Well –

Tavis: Of course he does, yeah.

King: Bill is a tremendous guy, but you can’t meet Bill Clinton and not like him.

Tavis: I agree.

King: He’s the greatest politician I’ve ever been around as a politician. She’d be very effective. I think it’s hers for the asking.

Tavis: All right, so back to reality, 2013, in a matter of weeks, Obama gets sworn in for his second term. Because of what happened between 2008 and 2012, the hopes, the dreams, and the aspirations of so many people on his left flank were put on hold.

A lot of folk got silenced, a lot of folk got sidelined, and they are coming after him aggressively in a matter of days. So the Hispanic community is first in line, as they see it, and there are a bunch of other folk, Black folk are in line.

King: He’s got to pass an immigration reform bill.

Tavis: Oh, Lord. So what’s this legacy going to be, then?

King: Too soon to tell.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: It’s how does he approach the second term. He already sent out a little feather cap here to Romney, announcing in his speech he wants to meet with Romney in a few days. What’s Romney’s position on the Republican Party? Almost nil. I don’t think he’s going to run again, but Obama wants to sit down with him, wants to talk to him.

That’s a sign he’s going to lean across the aisle. Now, he can be tough or he can be approachable. Clinton was approachable – tough, but very approachable. I think he’s going to – well, you’re not going to have to run again. There’s an advantage to that.

You can go all-out. He disappointed a lot of liberals. I thought Obama was very hawkish. Much more hawkish than they expected him to be. The guy’s sending off drones. Didn’t close Guantanamo. A lot of areas, he was very disappointing. I think the economic tide is turning already.

I think whoever got elected this time, I think the mood in the country’s better, I think the economic situations, I think that’s a pendulum. They go this way and then they go that way, and we’re probably in a recovery mode now, I would guess.

So it’s tough to read. Will the Republicans sit down with him? I think they have no other course to go

Tavis: Yeah.

King: I’m optimistic.

Tavis: Yeah. You tiptoed around this earlier; let’s go right at it, and that is what the Republican Party has to do to remain relevant. I suggested the other day, and it got all kind of Internet conversation going, I suggested, or in fact said, that the GOP is toast if they cannot figure out how, in the most multicultural, multiracial and multiethnic America ever, to play to a broader base. But how do they go about doing that?

King: It’s a different world, but to say someone is toast, I’ll pull my age on you.

Tavis: Okay.

King: In 1964, Lyndon Johnson annihilated Barry Goldwater, and the theme was the Republican Party is dead. They have gone too far right. They are dead. Four years later, Richard Nixon, who had been defeated for the governorship of California two years prior, was elected president.

So nothing is forever, never say never. Nothing is toast. Anyone can come by. A guy could come by on a white horse. It could be a new candidate emerging. It’s too soon to tell. I wouldn’t put them into toast. Do they have to come – they have to find someone.

We’re very people-oriented, not party-oriented. Obama was liked. One of the things that helped Obama is people liked him. That’s a lot going for you, if you can be liked. They didn’t know Romney, and I don’t think Romney ever sold himself well enough to make that leap. But Rubio may be a tremendous – I’ve never seen him on the national stage.

If the candidate has charisma, and if he can swing through the primaries – again we’ve got that primary juncture – anything can happen. But I would never lock in something. I don’t think by any means it’s toast.

Tavis: Yeah. The difference is if I were pushing back on Larry King, and I would never do that to Larry King, push back on him –

King: Oh, you can do anything you want to me.

Tavis: But if I were going to push back on Mr. King, I would only say that what makes your example different than the contemporary moment that we’re in is that America was basically white and Black then, and a whole lot more white than Black, and now America, as I said, is a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic place, so the electorate is so different now than that –

King: So (unintelligible).

Tavis: If all you want – if you think you can win with white, rural voters, you’re toast, Larry King. You’ve got to have more than that.

King: Okay, then I’ve got the perfect candidate for you.

Tavis: All right.

King: A Latin American man with a white mother, (laughter) a Black grandfather on the mother’s side, with –

Tavis: Oh, I love it.

King: – with hopefully an Asian brother-in-law. Now if we can find (laughter) this guy, he runs independent, he’s backed by Perot, Carlos Slim finances the campaign, (laughter) he requires no federal funding.

Tavis: Okay, you’re never really toast, I get it, I get it, I get it.

King: Okay. I’ll give you – (laughter) first of all, with this day, with mass communications the way it is, I can give you the next president who today is unknown, okay? Unknown. All right, let’s see.

Let’s ask a question that no one in the audience can come up with. Who’s the governor of South Dakota?

Tavis: I have no freaking idea.

King: Okay, I don’t know.

Tavis: I don’t know, yeah.

King: I don’t know if he’s Republican or Democrat.

Tavis: Right.

King: Let’s say the governor of South Dakota has a Latino mother and an uncle who’s Black, and there’s a prison riot in South Dakota, okay? Get this – Pierre, I guess (unintelligible). Prison riot. Prisoners have taken over the prison and they’re demanding to see the governor, and they want to see him alone. Now it’s a national story, and everyone’s there, PBS, CNN, all, the Internet, everybody’s on, people are twittering, what are they going to do?

They’ve got guards taken hostage. They’ve taken – they want to see the governor. This governor, who no one knows, announces, “I am going into that prison and I’m going by myself. No one’s going with me.” All of television sees him. A little tall, a little dark, kind of a Latin accent. (Laughter) Walks into the prison, and he’s in the prison for four days, no contact.

Now everybody’s there, the whole world. Germany, everybody’s looking, looking at what’s going to happen. Israel, what’s going to – two days, three days, fourth day, he walks out with the prisoners behind him, and the guards. The guards have taken control. Peace has occurred in the prison.

“I have looked at crime back there, ladies and gentlemen,” he’s talking now, “and I have discovered some things. I am calling a national conference on drugs, on crime, on how we allowed this to happen. We are going to step this out. We are going to get at it with the help of guards talking to prisoners. We will have no more riots, we will solve it.”

He’s on the front cover of “Time.” Well, he can’t be on the front cover of “Newsweek” anymore. (Laughter) He’s on the front cover of “Time,” he’s everywhere. He’s your next president.

Tavis: And the meeting, and the conference takes place in Iowa.

King: That’s right. He makes it (unintelligible). He makes it (unintelligible).

Tavis: Right.

King: And he runs in the primary, and the Tea Party doesn’t support him. (Laughter)

Tavis: It’s a funny story –

King: You can be famous quickly.

Tavis: I got you. It’s a funny story, but I take your point, which leads me to this very serious question, which is what you make, after all your years in the business, of the fact that the media does, in fact, get not just caught up but transfixed with the horse race, with the personality, with –

King: I don’t know any other way around it, Travis. Did I call you Travis? Wow.

Tavis: (Unintelligible) call me for dinner.

King: Yeah, I know why I called you Travis.

Tavis: Mm-hmm?

King: Because I’ve got a friend Travis who coaches my kids in sports.

Tavis: It’s a compliment to me, then.

King: And so it’s a compliment.

Tavis: Thank you, I take it. (Laughter)

King: Don’t. I’ve had a long day, okay? (Laughter) First of all, who is “the media?”

Who is “the media?”

Tavis: Well, it’s corporate these days. It’s all corporate, come on.

King: It’s everyone. Everyone’s – in fact, you’re the media, he’s the media, she could be the media. You could start a rumor that goes around the world on Facebook, Twitter, right? You can do so. So I don’t know what the media is, but of course we focus on personalities. That’s the name of the game. What’s your answer?

Tavis: My answer is I’m tired of the media covering, the traditional mainstream media, covering the horse race and not spending enough time talking about the issues, particularly the issues that don’t get mentioned unless and until New York City ends up underwater and Michael Bloomberg says, “I’m voting for Obama because climate change is real,” and when the media, when the news media in New York is forced to deal with the issue, then all of a sudden they deal with it.

But they were forced to deal with it, when everybody’s been saying climate change. They didn’t press these candidates during the debates about climate change. It didn’t come up one time, basically.

King: Did not come up.

Tavis: You see my point? So they get forced into covering what really matters, but because they’re focused so much on the horse race, the personality.

King: All right, so it takes an incident.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: Right?

Tavis: Right, yeah.

King: You can’t invent an incident. I don’t know what your answer is. You are correct. You’re intellectually correct, but demonstrably, you’re not – that’s just the nature of the media. Programs like this, of course, you’re going to discuss serious issues. But the problem is we don’t think in advance.

For example, the money we spent on the Iraq war. Had we spent that on building levees in areas that are near the sea, you’d have no hurricane damage, right? Had that in Europe, I think. You’d have it in the ground and it builds right up and you can’t –

Tavis: That’s called leadership, Larry. That’s what leadership is all about – thinking ahead. That’s what leaders are supposed – that’s what this election is about, wasn’t it, trying to pick someone who’s going to think ahead and create a path forward for America on all these different (unintelligible).

King: But when you worry about the environment and climate change, Philip Wylie was a great author years ago. He wrote “Generation of Vipers.” I interviewed him once, and he said you will never convince man if you talk to him about generations not yet born, because man desires immortality.

And if you desire immortality you’d rather build a smokestack than stop the environment from getting worse. Because you’re not thinking about your great-great-grandchildren, you’re thinking about you and your son.

Tavis: I take that. I take that.

King: Climate change, who’s it going to affect? It ain’t going to affect you. Ain’t going to affect me.

Tavis: Of course, the problem with that – I totally, I take that, I accept it. The problem is that every politician that steps to a podium always preaches about how this is going to impact our kids and our grandkids. We can’t pass this debt on to future generations. So it works rhetorically, but I take your point – it don’t work in practice.

King: It doesn’t work in real life.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: I guess there are people in denial about climate change. About – come on. I mean, life is changing.

Tavis: What’s Paul Ryan’s future, as you see it? Wasn’t this a win for him either way? Exposure, name identity?

King: Well, it’s power in the Congress.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: Weakened by the fact that he lost his state. He’s dynamic. I don’t think he’s presidential timbre yet. He might throw himself into that race. Again, if he’s a Tea Party candidate, he might win primaries. But he’s going to be around. He’s going to be a force. He’s likeable, I think. I don’t dismiss anything.

The one thing I’ve learned is you can’t predict anything. Come on. The Tigers, four straight. (Laughter) Who the hell saw that?

Tavis: Yeah. Not even Brian, and he wears a Tigers hat every day around here. (Laughter) So having said that, let me ask you to predict –

King: Okay. I’ll be happy to predict.

Tavis: – yeah, whether or not – do you think President Obama has a real shot at creating the kind of legacy, given that he has a second term, that will make him the kind of iconic president FDR, LBJ, beyond just his being the first African American president?

King: Fifty-fifty.

Tavis: Fifty-fifty.

King: The way the mood is in the country, 50-50. The way the split is, you always have a shot. Events could make him. Sometimes an event –

Tavis: Oh, Lord, yes.

King: Events make the man.

Tavis: Absolutely.

King: There’s no World War II, you don’t know Eisenhower.

Tavis: There’s no Civil War, Abe Lincoln isn’t the same.

King: That’s right, Abe Lincoln’s another president.

Tavis: And the Depression with FDR, yeah.

King: Depression with FDR. So sometimes events make the person. Clinton became a great president without an event.

Tavis: Yeah, but if you talk to him, as you have done many more times than I have done, he will tell you that he would have loved to have had a moment during his presidency – he’s told me this – he would have loved to have had a moment in his presidency that would have allowed him to have that kind of prison moment that you spoke of earlier.

King: I’ll tell you a man who we’ve got to think about, if he’d lose a little weight, (laughter) is Christie.

Tavis: A little weight?

King: I understand people are blaming Christie.

Tavis: Yeah.

King: For –

Tavis: Being so friendly to Obama.

King: Obama.

Tavis: It’s stupid.

King: Well, he cared about his people.

Tavis: Of course. Are you going to have me on

King: We’re going to have you on. I think we’re taping you next week.

Tavis: I’m coming.

King: All right. I will hammer you like you’ve hammered me tonight, (laughter) putting me in this position of calling you Travis. Actually, you know something?

Tavis: I love you, Larry.

King: Wait a minute.

Tavis: What?

King: I want you to think of something. I like Travis better. (Laughter) First of all, it gives you six letters in the first name and six letters in the last name.

Tavis: Okay.

King: There’s more balance to that.

Tavis: Okay.

King: Think about it.

Tavis: All right.

King: Join Travis Smiley next time. Do you like that? (Laughter)

Tavis: So just go, say “keep the faith,” and we’re done.

King: Okay. Well, who am I promoting? Who’s on tomorrow?

Tavis: Amy Goodman’s on tomorrow night.

King: Oh, Amy.

Tavis: From Democracy Now. So go ahead.

King: Amy Goodman, Democracy Now. Join her tomorrow, right here with (laughs) Travis Smiley. Bye.


“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: April 23, 2014 at 1:12 am