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Nov. 3, 2006 | 4:44 p.m. ET

Stunning accusations against a national church leader

I just finished speaking with Mike Jones in his first national television interview. Click here to read the full transcript. 

Jones, a former gay male escort, is making shocking allegations.

Jones says that Rev. Ted Haggard, the well-known head of the 30-million member National Association of Evangelicals, came to him for sex and methamphetamines on multiple occasions over a three-year period. Rev. Haggard resigned from his position in his church Thursday after Jones first made the accusations.

Just minutes before my interview with Mike Jones, Rev. Haggard admitted to the media on camera that he bought methamphetamines from Jones one time after meeting Jones in a Denver hotel room for a massage… but he denied ever having sex with Jones.

Regarding Jones, Rev. Haggard told NBC affiliate KUSA, “I did call him, to buy some meth, but I threw it away. I was buying for me, but I never used it.”

In his first reaction to Rev. Haggard’s new comments, Jones told me, “Well, that just doesn’t make sense.”

Jones disputes claims that they met in a Denver hotel room at any point.

Video: Pastor's alleged lover speaks out “He was trying to be so secretive,” he told me, “and so I never met him at a hotel room. He always came to my place.”  Jones also claimed that he did not sell the evangelical leader methamphetamines…instead Jones says Rev. Haggard asked for meth and he put him in touch with someone who could provide the drug.

Jones also told me that his relationship with Rev. Haggard was purely “business” and that they met “for roughly once a month for three years.” Jones also claimed that he physically saw first-hand Rev. Haggard snort methamphetamines before most of their sexual encounters.

Jones told me he has two voicemails on his phone and showed me, and all of you watching at home, an envelope from “Art,” Rev. Haggard’s middle name and the name Jones says he used during their meetings.  In fact, Jones says he didn’t know who “Art” really was until six month ago when he saw him on television. 

Jones speculated that Rev. Haggard admitted publicly to portions of his allegations because he believes he has heard his own voice in the voicemails. “Yesterday he was denying he even knew me,” he told me. “The only reason he really came forward was he finally heard the voicemails, and it was his voice and he has to admit it.”

However, many are speculating about the timing of Jones’s allegations… only five days before Video: Dr. Dobson 'heartsick' about Haggard these crucial midterm elections. Jones claimed that he made the decision to come forward on his own accord. “I didn’t consult my friends or anybody. No organization, no group did I consult with,” he explained.

When I asked Jones what he wanted to say to Rev. Haggard at this time, he told me, “I wish the best for him, but I owe this to the gay community that has to put up with hypocrisy from the religious right because they want all the benefits in life, but they don’t want the gay community to have the same thing, and it’s simply wrong.” 

Ever since Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, Rev. Haggard and other have organized state-by-state opposition to the practice.  In fact, next Tuesday, voters in Rev. Haggard’s home state of Colorado will cast their ballots for an amendment to ban gay marriage.

Oct. 23, 2006 | 4:53 p.m. ET

Spencer denies calling Hillary ugly

John Spencer told me today on the air that he’s furious about the headlines claiming he referred to Hillary Clinton as ugly. The New York Daily News is reporting that John Spencer said of Hillary, “You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew…I don’t know why Bill married her.”  Daily News reporter Ben Smith also claims in his “exclusive” story that Spencer told him that Hillary must have had “millions of dollars“ of “work”, referring to plastic surgery.

John Spencer is running against Hillary Clinton in the heated New York Senate race and is trailing quite a bit. This story is getting a lot of play, as people are outraged that he might have made those claims against the Junior Senator from New York. A lot of people are surprised that these comments are attributed to John Spencer, saying he’s typically always been a gentleman, and they fear that he’ll be scarred by even an accusation like this. With so much happening in the world right now and so many national and international controversies, it’s hard enough for candidates to talk about the economy and other issues…and this is sure to make it even more difficult for John Spencer, who already has an uphill battle going up against an opponent named Clinton.

When I asked Spencer if the reporter, who says he was quoting Spencer, is a liar and made up the story, Spencer said this about the New York Daily News reporter: “I’m calling the reporter a fabricator.” He told me that “the cover of the Daily News is one flat out lie.”  He explained further, saying, “I never called Senator Clinton ugly, nor did I refer to the fact that she had plastic surgery.”  Spencer knows just the appearance of him saying these things looks unseemly, especially with election day just two weeks away.

But Ben Smith, the reporter for the New York Daily News, is standing by his story. He told us that although he had no notes or a recording, he is sure John Spencer said those things to him about the always-controversial Hillary Clinton.

Oct. 17, 2006 | 4:38 p.m. ET

Mike Tyson fights women, children and celebs

I just interviewed former boxing heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson. I’ve known Tyson for years and have interviewed him multiple times.  In this interview, I have to say that he really looked liked he was comfortable in his own skin.

He spoke with me about his new world exhibition tour that will send him from Russia to South Africa. He truly seems to have a good sense of humor about this new phase of exhibition fighting, where he told me he’s going to be boxing against “some lady boxers, maybe some children, some personalities like Tom Jones,” and even people from other sports. Unlike the man that formerly bit his opponent’s ear off in the ring, Tyson said to me with a smile, “I hope nobody gets knocked out. It’s going to be fun.”

When he said he was fighting against women, I had to ask what would happen if he lost in the ring to one of the “lady boxers.” With a grin and a laugh he told me, “I might enjoy it, you never know.”

This is a man who was reported to have hated boxing, who has said his life was a waste, and who has struggled with depression. Talking with him now, he says “he was born depressed,” but also seems like he’s in good spirits and more sure of himself. Tyson said that he’s proud of the “great leaps I’ve done as far as improving as an individual.” And he told me that his debts, which were once reported to be over $20 million, are now history. Tyson claims, “I’m not in any financial quagmires” and that he’s “pretty much out of debt.”

Tyson told me candidly that he’s not a top fighter anymore, that’s he’s just having fun. And when I asked him about the effects of the world exhibition tour on his reputation, he self-assuredly told me, “I’m just here, I’m happy.”

Tyson also unveiled a forgiving side of himself. Despite all of the dramatic ups and downs he has weathered in the spotlight, he told me, “I don’t have any hard feelings towards anyone, Rita. I don’t blame anybody for anything that happened in my life that wasn’t in my best interest.”

And where will this new Mike Tyson be in 20 years? He told me that he hopes he’s “healthy and alive.”

Oct. 13, 2006 | 7:49 p.m. ET

9/11 first responders not getting help

I am personally outraged that so many of those who first responded on 9/11 are now sick and apparently getting little help from our government. A new study claims that a staggering number of those who volunteered and worked at Ground Zero are sick -- 70% of the first responders that have been screened have had respiratory problems. 

Just this week, 11 firefighters were hospitalized as a small plane crashed into an apartment building in New York City, and I wonder whether they will receive the treatment they need in the aftermath of the clean-up.

I recently spoke with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York about a bill she’s supporting that is now surprisingly stalled in Congress. It’s legislation that would get the first responders the monitoring and funding they need to get better. The Congresswoman was furious at the lack of support for these heroes of 9/11 and that the bill is sitting there without approval by fellow members on Capitol Hill.

We spoke of the heartbreaking case of Vito Valenti, a brave Ground Zero volunteer who is now  dying of pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease that has already taken the lives of multiple policemen and firefighters who responded on 9/11. Vito desperately needs a double lung transplant, but can’t afford it. He is living on donated oxygen, but he doesn’t have the money for medications. He is ineligible for government support or a pension, even though he selflessly helped those in need on 9/11. Shockingly, one of the reasons he’s ineligible for funds is the fact that he came down with his illness more than two years after 9/11, which is often the case with respiratory problems.

Congresswoman Maloney is diligently trying to support people like Vito Valenti and I applaud her efforts and determination. To me, helping these courageous men and women should be top priority for this Congress and this nation.

I pray Vito Valenti, whom I talked to personally on the phone the other day, gets the double lung transplant and medications he needs to survive. For more information on the health of Ground Zero first responders and how you can help people like Vito, visit www.maloney.house.gov.

Let’s not forget those who did so much for so many on one of the most tragic days in America’s history.

Oct. 12, 2006 | 6:26 p.m. ET

Jim McGreevey talks about Mark Foley

I just spoke with Jim McGreevey, the former New Jersey Governor who is now well known for his “I am a gay American” speech in 2004, which came after reports of an affair with a male staffer had surfaced. McGreevey had some interesting comments about this newly unfolding scandal with former Republican Congressman Mark Foley.

As the father of a 14-year-old from his first marriage, McGreevey is deeply concerned that the Congressional pages “were being subjected to these advances.” Yet when I asked McGreevey, who has since been very open about his sexual orientation and apologized for his missteps, what his advice to Congressman Foley was in this situation, he told me, “Well, I don’t think, Rita, it’s appropriate for me to give advice to anyone.”

He spoke with me candidly about his book, “The Confession” and what it was like to be in the closet in the political world. McGreevey said that he “consistently had to create a façade” that he was straight, and that hiding his orientation “was dishonest. It wasn’t right.” He told me, “embracing my sexuality, my gayness, with a sense of pride and integrity is, at long last, the right course of action.”

The Foley scandal and the fact that Mark Foley was hiding his sexual orientation resonated with McGreevey, and he told me of a theme in his new book: “the need to be truthful, the need to be transparently honest to those that you love, and to be truthful with yourself” and finally, that “secrets are a bad thing.”

After all of the political scandal that McGreevey has had to deal with, his message to everyone, including Foley, “is to be truthful with yourself, with your loved ones, with your family, and that’s how, God willing, you’ll live a life of integrity.” McGreevey now hopes to help young people and those who need to have enough faith in themselves to be who they are, regardless of sexual orientation.

Oct. 10, 2006 | 5:57 p.m. ET

Page's attorney speaks out

I just finished speaking with attorney Stephen Jones minutes after he and his client spoke to FBI investigators in Oklahoma City. His client, a former Congressional page, spoke to investigators for two and a half hours today and may still have to speak to others who are looking into the Foley case, including the House of Representatives. Clearly, these pages and the American public are disturbed by the actions of now former Congressman Mark Foley, but it’s still unclear whether he’ll ever face any criminal charges.

Stephen Jones told me that his client had been a documentarian page about five or six years ago, and that he worked every other day on the floor of the House of Representatives in close proximity with all the Congressmen, and it was “not unusual” that his client knew Congressman Foley. He said his client “took no action to make any of this public” and that he “wishes it wasn’t public.” However, the former page “has a great respect for the House” and “believes he has a duty and he discharged that duty this morning” while answering questions from the FBI investigators.

Jones told me that during the course of the questioning, the agents were “very professional, very thorough and cordial.” In his association with the Foley scandal and investigation he says that so far he doesn’t “see any evidence of a cover-up or any effort to blunt it.” Jones also said that from his viewpoint the House Ethics Committee “seems to be doing its job.”

Jones has not yet confirmed the authenticity of the Internet messages that purportedly came from his client. He told me “I don’t know whether there are any IM’s or emails.” But when he can find what may be the original, “then I’ll have my client at the proper place and the proper time see if he can authenticate it.”

His client has yet to speak with the House Ethics Committee, but the former page has instructed his attorney that “he will be available and that he will answer their questions concerning any knowledge or evidence that he has.”

Oct. 3, 2006 | 12:02 a.m. ET

Explosive charges against Anna Nicole

I just finished interviewing Larry Birkhead who only a few hours ago had Anna Nicole Smith served with court papers in the Bahamas.

“I am fighting for what I believe in,” he told me.  “Now I have no rights, no visitation, no rights whatsoever. They were all stripped from me. I think that it’s time that we get to the bottom of it.”

He’s now requesting that the court order Anna Nicole to immediately submit to paternity testing, that her newborn child be returned to the state of California, and that drug testing be conducted on her and her baby daughter. Sources tell me the court filing is explosive with some very damning claims against Anna Nicole Smith and her attorney, Howard K. Stern, who went on national television himself last week proclaiming he’s the baby’s father. Birkhead says he’s the real dad and plans to now prove it.

I’ve learned that among the allegations in the legal action filed by Birkhead are these powerful claims:

-Anna Nicole Smith was taking Methadone and that Howard K. Stern was allegedly facilitating her prescription drug habit.

-She fled to the Bahamas after Birkhead says he suggested the baby be tested for drugs, fearing for the child’s health.

-Howard K. Stern is claiming paternity for his own financial gain.

-Anna Nicole previously tried to get another man, a third guy, to claim it was his baby several months ago, but he had a vasectomy.

If any of these allegations are true, it could be devastating to Anna Nicole and her attorney, especially if either knowingly perpetrated a lie. Also, Anna Nicole’s son who died in the Bahamas recently, is believed to have died from a lethal combination of three prescription drugs, including Methodone.

Larry Birkhead says he is worried the baby Anna Nicole gave birth to on September 7could have serious health issues. His attorney Debra Opri told me, “The public will be very surprised when they learn the details of the lifestyle this baby is going to be faced with if she remains in the current situation.”

“There’s absolutely no way that Howard Stern is the father of this child,” Birkhead said.  “He knows it, I know it, and that’s all there is to it. I am ready to fight for my baby daughter.”

Sept. 27, 2006 | 5:37 p.m. ET

Support for Anna Nicole Smith

Now more people are speaking out about Anna Nicole Smith’s terrible loss of her son and the surprising news of who’s the father of new baby daughter. Two people who were touched by the loss of Daniel Smith in different ways, his father Billy Smith and Anna Nicole’s former publicist and family friend, David Granoff, spoke with me today. David Granoff also spoke to me about the two men claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole’s 2½-week old daughter.

Billy Smith, Anna Nicole’s first husband, spoke out for the first time to me today about the loss of his son, Daniel, earlier this month. For him this loss was so difficult.  He told me, “I still feel like it left me empty, stunned. He was only 20 years old.” In the midst of all the controversy surrounding his son’s death, he said that his family thinks there was a medication overdose with anti-depressants. He hopes that Anna Nicole will reach out to him and he told me that he gives her his condolences during this tough time. He told me actually just spoke with Anna Nicole’s mother and plans to attend the funeral and memorial service she is setting up in their hometown. Even though he’s been estranged from his son and Anna Nicole for so many years now, you could tell the loss was still heartbreaking and painful for him to speak about.

Afterwards I spoke with David Granoff, and he also expressed genuine sadness about the loss of Daniel, who he had watched grow up. He wanted to let Anna Nicole know, “I’m deeply, deeply saddened and terribly shocked.” He told me that “the whole world is mourning for Daniel” and that “there is one thing the whole world has in common, they’re all giving you their sympathy and they’re very, very sorry.” It’s clear that so many people are so confused and saddened by the loss of this young man and the unanswered questions in this case. Additional autopsy results are expected any day now and could at least provide some answers for friends and family members.

Sept. 26, 2006 | 4:40 p.m. ET

Congressman comes to Dog's defense

Now Dog the Bounty Hunter is getting the attention of lawmakers on Capital Hill. Today I interviewed Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, who’s now a vocal advocate for the famous bounty hunter. Rep. Tancredo has always been critical of our immigration policies and discussed corruption on the Mexican side of the border.

Today, he told me he’s written a letter to the Attorney General asking who “was in charge of prioritizing assignments. Is it this administration-or the one in Mexico City?” He spoke to Dog on the phone in the last few days and believes, as many Americans do, that this man is a hero for getting a convicted rapist off the streets. The Congressman believes that justice officials on both sides of the border have their priorities out of whack to be focusing on bringing Dog back to Mexico when they have so many more severe problems at hand. He also wondered if it’s more than coincidence that Dog and two of his other team members get hauled in by U.S. Marshals only days before a major drug lord from Mexico gets brought back to the United States.

The Congressman, known for fighting for what he believes in, is really trying to do what he can to keep Dog on U.S. soil and free from any further legal actions stemming from the Andrew Luster case. He’s also written a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and asked the public watching our show to log on to his web site to read the letters and reach out to their congressmen and get them to sign onto his letters so that his message can gain momentum.

Having known Dog and his team for years, it’s amazing for me to see how popular he’s become with the American public who’ve gotten to know him from my interviews, but also his now top-rated A&E show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” Now the man known for catching what he says are more than 6,000 fugitives is catching the attention of Capital Hill and probably one of the most passionate Congressman, who says he’s now loyal to the Dog.

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