Incredibly odd exchange occurred on “Larry King Live” on Monday.
King had WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange — whose website leaked 400,000 classified documents related to the Iraq War on Friday — along with former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the so-called Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in 1971.
The show’s already-weird vibe (King introduced Ellsberg as “the most famous man who ever released papers,” and Ellsberg delivered some leaker-to-leaker smacktalk, saying, “These are not the Pentagon Papers”) got even weirder.
King brought up rape accusations that have been leveled against Assange — noting that Assange had walked out of a CNN interview recently when the subject came up, and they rolled footage of the interview. King saw the footage on his monitor, apparently thought it was live and that Assange was doing the same thing to him.
Gawker has a video clip of King’s confusion, but it’s almost easier to follow along via the CNN transcript:
KING: Julian, shortly before the massive release of the Iraqi war documents, you walked out of an interview by CNN Atika Shubert. She asked you about any turmoil within WikiLeaks and about accusations of rape and molestation by two Swedish women. He's walking off again, apparently. Why will you not respond to that question? Daniel, are you still there?
KING: I guess you can't answer for him. … That was the video from before. You're still there. I'm sorry, that threw me. Why did you walk off?
ASSANGE: I haven't walked off. Well, I didn't walk off, Larry, just then. But perhaps, I should. We released 400,000 classified documents, the most extraordinary history of a war to have ever been released in our civilization. Those documents cover 109,000 deaths. That's a serious matter and it's extraordinarily disrespectful to those people to start inflating the first revelation of that material with any sort of tabloid journalism. And CNN should know better, and I believe does knows better than to do that.
KING: You don't think that was fair?
ASSANGE: It certainly –
KING: She was asking about the deliverer of the information, a question about the deliverer of the information. You don't think that's fair to ask about the person who then repeats the information? Or as we said, the Pentagon spokesman was doing just what his bosses told him to do. How do we know that? We don't know that. We assume that. So we're asking the question just about you to further confirm your reliability. What was wrong with that?
ASSANGE: Well, I mean, it should be obvious that these things are not in balance and they are not proportionate. It is not right to bring in sensational and, in fact, false claims, a relatively trivial matter compared to the deaths of 109,000 people. And it is — I mean, CNN should be ashamed of doing that. And you, Larry, you actually should be ashamed, as well.
KING: All you had to do was to say they were false. When you say they were trivial, rape is not trivial. To say they were false, that's your answer. They're false. That's fine. That's all we wanted to hear.
Then, this being CNN, King announced that they “ran out of time” but “are going to do more on this.” Just when things were getting interesting.