Oprah Talks to Phil Donahue
Oprah: Do you worry about the show not working?
Phil: Sure I do, but a little worry got me this far.
Oprah: What is the show's format?
Phil: We're coming off the front page—live, five nights a week at 8 P.M. [EST]. And you know that means booking guests at five and six o'clock. There's no audience, but we're taking phone calls.
Oprah: Were you excited when you first got the call from MSNBC?
Phil: My first thought was, "Do I really want to be a player?" I didn't even have an agent.
Oprah: Did you think that after 29 years on Donahue you were played out?
Phil: That, and I'm 66. The Philadelphia Inquirer said, "He's Paleozoic!" But shock, shock, shock—here I am. Over a year ago, I was asked if I'd be interested in doing a show with Newt Gingrich. I said, "Why do I have to have balance? Alan Keyes doesn't have balance. And O'Reilly's all by himself." Conservatives criticize government, liberals criticize business—that's why television managers and civic business leaders are not altogether welcoming of progressives and liberals. But it's a shame. There's no other democracy on earth that doesn't have a political party with a progressive agenda. In the last presidential election, we had two candidates who essentially said almost the same thing and avoided all the painful, third-rail issues like the drug war and how we're executing retarded teenagers. And we have conservatives supporting the idea that all women who are pregnant shall remain pregnant by order of the state. What kind of country do they want? And who's going to enforce this law? How many cops are they going to hire? Are they gonna knock down hotel rooms to see who's having an abortion? They're gonna walk in to find their baby sisters, their mothers, their girlfriends, their daughters.
Oprah: The bottom line is that we need you, Phil, because we need to be challenged by the voice of dissent. What do your children think of your return?
Phil: They're surprised. But they've also said, "Go get 'em, Pop." I'm not 29 anymore, my wife isn't pregnant, I'm not trying to raise kids, I don't have a mortgage—so it takes less courage for me to speak up. Maybe I'll get to talk about things like why this administration is so secretive. Whatever the framers meant, this wasn't it. I'm an American, just like you, and I am impressed with the Bill of Rights. I believe a woman's home should be her castle. I believe that the separation of church and state makes both the church and the state stronger. And I believe in the privilege of conversations between attorneys and clients. People can yell at me, they can criticize me, they can call me names. But there's one thing they can't do: They can't take away my flag.