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Larry King speaks at Hillel
Daily Bruin (March 03, 2006)

by Jennifer Mishory

Larry King is usually the one doing the interviews.

But when he spoke Thursday night at the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, audience members got a chance to ask the broadcaster some of their own questions.

King spoke as a part of the Daniel Pearl Memorial lecture series, a yearly event that honors the slain journalist.

Daniel Pearl was an American journalist who was kidnapped, killed and beheaded in 2002 by a militant group in Pakistan while covering the war on terrorism. A video documenting his murder was then released over the Internet.

After a serious introduction from Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's father and a computer science professor at UCLA, the night took on a lighter note when King opened his lecture with anecdotes from his life as a broadcaster.

His stories included getting kissed on the lips by Marlon Brando and working for the Mafia.

"I don't speak seriously. I try to have a good time," King said.

King was then questioned on topics including his signature suspenders and the wide variety of politicians and celebrities he has interviewed in his 49-year career.

King also discussed his inquisitive nature that gave rise to his career.

"When I was a kid, I would ask a bus driver why they want to drive a bus," he said. "I had an ability that people responded to me."

The series is put on by Hillel in conjunction with the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which is run by Pearl's family and friends.

Past featured journalists have included columnist Thomas Friedman and CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Hillel first approached Judea Pearl with the idea for the series, Seidler-Feller said.

"We wanted to honor the memory of Danny," he said.

King was asked to speak because of his prominence as a broadcaster and because he expressed interest throughout the tragedy and offered his help, Judea Pearl said.

Seidler-Feller said Daniel Pearl was killed because he was Jewish, and so Hillel wanted to establish a connection to the Jewish community with the series.

Judea Pearl said he has used his son's three vocations journalism, music and dialogue to address the hatred behind the events surrounding his son's death.

He has appeared at many universities with Akbar Ahmed, a Muslim professor of international relations from American University in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to create dialogue between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

"We represent our communities; we express our grievances," Judea Pearl said.

The foundation also brings journalists from other countries to the U.S. to expose them to a free-press environment, he said.

Judea Pearl said the issue of journalistic ethics also came about in the days of his son's kidnapping, when the American media stayed quiet on his Jewish background so as not to increase the danger of the situation.

But a Pakistani paper printed Daniel Pearl's religion, he said.

Judea Pearl and his wife Ruth also published "I Am Jewish" a book titled after their son's last words.

The book contains responses from Jewish leaders and celebrities regarding what the phrase "I Am Jewish" means to them. King and Seidler-Feller are featured in the book.
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