Larry Klayman, the lawyer who won Monday's ruling
against NSA data collection, got into a testy exchange Tuesday on CNN over whether he is up to the job of taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
CNN's Don Lemon, sitting in for Erin Burnett, began with a piece on Klayman's past lawsuits, including cases challenging President Barack Obama's birth status. Lemon also noted that Klayman has sued former Vice President Dick Cheney, Facebook, and OPEC.
Lemon noted, too, that Klayman founded the conservative political watchdog group Judicial Watch and later sued the group.
The report ended with Bradley Blakeman, a senior staffer to President George W. Bush, saying, "I think Larry is a professional litigant . . . He pretends he's fighting for the little guy when he's really fighting for himself and his own, in my opinion, delusions of grandeur."
With that, Lemon was joined live by Klayman and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Lemon started to ask Klayman about the case, but Klayman immediately ripped into the previous report on him.
"I also think it's important to note that you're a big supporter of Obama," Klayman told Lemon. "You have favored him in every respect. You have to try to do a hit piece to diminish a very important decision."
"Are you talking about me personally?" Lemon asked.
"I'm talking about you personally," Klayman answered.
"You can continue, but none of that is true," Lemon responded. "Go on."
"Well, it is true, Don," Klayman shot back. "I've watched you for many years. You're an ultra-leftist and you're a big supporter of Obama."
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Klayman said he wanted to steer the conversation back to the NSA and not himself, saying Monday's victory was for the American people.
"And you, as somebody from the left . . . should appreciate that you don't have a police state in this country that's going to be able to intimidate Americans, to chill their free-speech rights, their associational rights," Klayman said.
Lemon told Klayman he could continue to attack him and CNN, but said no one but he decides what his political beliefs are. As Klayman tried to interrupt, Lemon threatened to cut his microphone.
Toobin, waving his arms in the third panel of a split screen, jumped in, noting that Klayman had said he and his clients had been harassed by the NSA with mysterious text messages and had received a disc containing a spyware program.
"In other words, this case is based on Larry Klayman's tinfoil hat paranoia about the NSA being after him," Toobin said.
The case isn't about Klayman, Toobin said, but the NSA's metadata collection program, which affects all Americans.
"But the idea that Larry Klayman is the representative is outrageous because he is a professional litigant and lunatic who should not be a representative of the very important issues of this case," Toobin said.
Klayman responded that Toobin's attack on him showed he was not a "serious person" and shouldn't be doing legal commentary on CNN. Clearly, he said, the judge did not agree with Toobin's assessment, and suggested Toobin read the complaint "rather than shooting your mouth off."
Klayman said the conduct of both Lemon and Toobin was a "disgrace."
"Oh, my gosh," Lemon said. "You are . . . are you OK?"
"No," Klayman answered. "Are you OK?"
"You have come on here and made this about you," Lemon said. "It's not about you."
"You made it about me," Klayman said, referring to the opening taped report.
Lemon then asked that Klayman be taken off the screen.
"Great. You're a charter member of the ACLU," Klayman said. "You believe in free speech, right?"
After Toobin expounded more on the case, Lemon told Klayman, "We are going to be the bigger people here. We'll give you the last words."
"Last word is, you're not the bigger people," Klayman said. "Don't kid anybody. Let anybody watch this and see that CNN removes you from the screen when it doesn't like what you think. And you know what? You're not CNN, Don. And Toobin, you're not CNN. CNN is a reputable organization, but you have not acted in a respectful way, and, in fact, disgraceful. You're more like Martin Bashir."
Bashir was forced to resign from MSNBC after a recent on-air verbal attack against Sarah Palin.
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