Larry King Wasn't Opinionated on CNN? Remembering His Shots at the 'Far-Right Wacko Element'

Larry King's announcement that he's stepping down from his perch at CNN has been declared an end to a cable news era. On The Early Show on CBS Wednesday morning, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz wondered “Is there still room in an increasingly partisan cable television universe for this kind of variety show, where you talk to a president one day and Lady Gaga the next? I mean, Larry losing the ratings to Sean Hannity at Fox, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC, it's a lot more opinionated out there than Larry ever allowed himself to be.”

Signaling the end of King's long reign last month, New York Times TV writer Brian Stelter sounded a similar note: “Larry King Live is the last trace of an earlier age of cable TV, one that had little interest in the opinions of its hosts.”

King’s show is definitely not in the Hannity or Olbermann molds, but to suggest he didn’t venture an opinion would not match the record. Conservatives remember his occasional shot at “wackos” on the “far right,” especially in the Clinton years. Here’s a short listing of a few King items we published in our Notable Quotables newsletter: 

Dan Rather: "I don't do editorials. And about that perhaps you and I will just -- I hope in good humor -- agree to disagree that we don't do editorializing. And I'm either famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, saying we don't editorialize; we don't want to editorialize, in no way, shape, or form...."
King: "Over all these fifteen years, how do you react to the constant, especially, far right-wing criticism that the news on CBS is mainstream biased?"
Rather: "Well, I don't quite know what mainstream is."
King: "I don't know what it means either, but they say it. I'm just quoting 'em."
Rather: "Oh, no. I understand. Well, my answer to that is basically a good Texas phrase, which is bullfeathers.” – Exchange on Larry King Live, March 11, 1996.

"When I heard the quote it sounded to me like it was Limbaugh or Liddy or Ollie North. It was like wacko talk radio. It didn’t sound like Brinkley. In other words, Brinkley’s always been irreverent, but always kind of classy."
-- CNN’s Larry King on David Brinkley’s election night comments that Clinton is a "bore" and his speech delivered "more goddamn nonsense," November 7, 1996 Larry King Live.



"All right. So what if we made this case -- OK, he's pretty tough with fundraising. But there's no proof that the Chinese had any in, except they gave money. He did a bad deal for you. And he has turned on his friends maybe a little. But nobody made big money in Whitewater. It was years ago. He was in Arkansas. He's a good President. I am happy. No boy is dying overseas. Country seems to be coming around. Supreme Court is pretty good. Are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes. What I if I made that case?"
-- Larry King to Whitewater scandal figure Jim McDougal, April 21, 1997 CNN Larry King Live.



"Let's run some things down: the travel office, was that an example of your saying 'I'm unhappy,' and then people taking it further than that? Was that an example of what you spoke about earlier, you have to think of everything you say. What did happen?...Have you felt, like with grand juries and the like, beleaguered, put upon?...You may be too close to the forest for the trees, but with all the attacks that have occurred, how do you explain the popularity of Bill Clinton?....Mr. [Webster] Hubbell, were you just being a friend?"
-- Some of King's probing questions to Hillary Clinton, April 29, 1997.



Whitewater scandal figure Susan McDougal: "What kind of country has a mother go in and testify against her daughter?"
Larry King: "But that they could always do, right?"
Mark Geragos, McDougal’s attorney: "They can always do that, but..."
King: "Germany did it, too."
— Exchange on CNN’s Larry King Live, February 24, 1998.



"You're also talking to people who are not popular because they closed the government; they're not popular because they never came up with campaign finance reform, which they promised -- that could be a moral issue, too, taking money from people to vote. So morality covers a lot of areas and some of the people you're talking to have the questionable morals themselves."
-- CNN's Larry King to Focus on the Family head James Dobson, May 6, 1998 Larry King Live.



Greta Van Susteren: "If the Southern Baptists want to do this, they have an absolute right to do it, and especially when you examine the history and see how many wars are fought in the name of religion, how many people are critical of other religions - you'll see how dangerous it is."
Larry King: "Greta, the Ku Klux Klan said it was religious. Would it have been rude to criticize them?"
Van Susteren: "Well, they also violated the law. They started killing people."
King: "When they violated the law. But on their edict it was wrong to criticize them that whites were superior..."
-- Exchange on Southern Baptist statement that a wife should "submit graciously" to her husband, who is to "love his wife as Christ loved the Church," CNN's Larry King Live, June 12, 1998.



"Why, Lesley, do you think he’s so hated [Clinton]? He’s a moderate to a conservative right, basically?"
-- CNN’s Larry King to CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, February 2, 1999.



"So it was not the, as has been termed, the wacko element? The far right or those who are conspicuously anti-Clinton who were pressuring her?" — CNN’s Larry King to the son of Clinton sexual-assault accuser Juanita Broaddrick after he said she only came forward to correct misleading stories, March 8, 1999.

"Tipper, one of the things that Elian Gonzalez's father said that I guess would be hard to argue with, that his boy's safer in a school in Havana than in a school in Miami. He would not be shot in a school in Havana. Good point?"
--­ CNN's Larry King to Tipper Gore, April 20, 2000.


That [Democratic congressional victory] may be the first defeat for the far right tonight....Since the far right did get into that race in upstate New York, is this a legitimate defeat for them tonight?...Do you see the far right as evidenced by — we all know who they are — as a threat to your party?” — CNN’s Larry King to various guests during his network’s election night coverage just after midnight, November 4, 2009.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis