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PAULA ZAHN NOW

American Civilians Killed in Iraq; Wisconsin Student Found

Aired March 31, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Paula Zahn.
It is Wednesday, March 31, 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Out of Iraq, gruesome pictures of American bodies burned, beaten and dragged through the streets. Does today change the way you look at the war?

A woman found alive after a mysterious disappearance. What happened during those four days?

And tonight, I will challenge the man who claimed he had an affair with Carolyn Bessette during her marriage with John F. Kennedy Jr. and turn to a close friend of hers to respond.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: All that ahead tonight.

But first, here's what you need to know right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH SEILER, FATHER OF AUDREY: Audrey is doing well. She's happy to be back. Needless to say, she's thrilled to be -- to be home again with her family and friends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: That's the father of 20-year-old Audrey Seiler, a University of Wisconsin student who vanished on Saturday, but miraculously found alive today. Someone had spotted her in a marshy area in Madison, Wisconsin. Police are now searching for a suspect in this case. They believe he's armed with a gun and knife. Audrey, meanwhile, has just been released from the hospital.

Curt Pennuto, a friend of the Seilers, joins us now by telephone.

Good evening, sir.

I can't even imagine how her family is reacting to this news. You were part of the search party? Did you ever think she would be found alive?

KURT PENNUTO, FRIEND OF SEILER FAMILY: Good evening, Paula.

Yes, I did believe we were going to find Audrey. I kept that in my heart and I kept that with everyone else that was involved with the search.

ZAHN: When did you know you had a break in the case?

PENNUTO: I didn't know we had a break in the case until I walked into our search central lobby, coming in for a debriefing with the sergeant, and to have some lunch and get ready to go out for another search. I walked in the lobby and was told that they had found Audrey.

ZAHN: And share with us what the reaction was at that very moment.

PENNUTO: Tremendous joy, just a lot of, a lot of tears, a lot of hugs, a lot of shouts. It was just a wonderful feeling. And I still have that with me.

ZAHN: I know the investigation continues, but Audrey was attacked a month ago when she was walking late outside, knocked unconscious, later found behind a nearby building near her apartment building. Have police given you or any family any indication whether that had anything to do with her abduction?

PENNUTO: Yes, I don't have any information on that. I don't think that those two -- these two incidents are related. That's what I've heard, but I have no information on that.

ZAHN: We just caught a glimpse of Audrey's parents and in a sense part of the family's joy. Give us an idea how the family plans to put its life back together.

PENNUTO: Oh, I couldn't begin to imagine the joy that Keith and Stephanie are going through, and Kyle (ph). I know that they're going to need some time alone, time to be with each other. And for us to allow them that time is going to be important. I guess, after digesting all of this roller-coaster ride, we'll probably hook up with the family and be able to sit down and talk with them.

I haven't talked with them since the news broke. They've been separated from all of the volunteers that have been with the police department, police officials, and Audrey.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, when we cover these stories, we always hope they'll end up this way. But you never know whether they will. Just a final thought on all of the searchers, many of whom didn't even know the family who joined in this critical, critical search in these waning hours since her abduction.

PENNUTO: To everyone out there to know that hope is very strong. Hope can persevere. Support from family and friends and community is very important. Supporting each other in times of need carry us through difficult situations, and to always be mindful of that and mindful of privacy within the family and of friends. ZAHN: Well, our thoughts are with you.

PENNUTO: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: As you all try to absorb this very good news and help Audrey get back on her feet again.

PENNUTO: Yes.

ZAHN: Kurt Pennuto, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

PENNUTO: Thank you.

ZAHN: Now, "In Focus" tonight, the brutal violence against Americans on the rise in Iraq. Two attacks today left a total of nine Americans dead and pushed the number of American troops killed in the war to 600. We are about to show you a disturbing report on these latest attacks. Watching with you in Los Angeles, former Marine Lance Corporal Jeff Key. He recently served in Iraq and we will ask him what he thinks about the U.S. mission there.

But first, today's violence raises questions about the Bush administration's plan to rebuild Iraq as a democracy and an ally.

Senior international correspondent Walt Rodgers reports from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the TV cameras arrived, Iraqis were stoning the two burning vehicles.

Four civilian contractors, Americans, ambushed. Witnesses say their SUVs were stopped by exploding hand grenades, the vehicles then sprayed with gunfire and set alight. There is much more we will not show, but we believe some images are necessary to fully illustrate the extent of the violence. These Iraqis seem to revel in mutilating and displaying the dead bodies.

Bystanders shouted "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans" and "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam." But the blood and sacrifice this day was from four civilian contractors come to Iraq to try to rebuild this country. The crowd then dragged the corpses through the streets of Fallujah, an area which has seen some of the worst violence in Iraq this past year. Two of the victims' charred bodies were later hung from this bridge over the Euphrates River. U.S. officials blamed insurgents.

DAN SENOR, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: They are people who want to turn back to an era of mass graves, rape rooms and torture chambers and chemical attacks. They want to turn back to the era of Saddam Hussein. RODGERS: Nearby, in Habbaniyah, in a separate incident, five American soldiers were also killed by a powerful explosion that left a 15-foot crater in the road.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. DEPUTY CHIEF OF OPERATIONS: There's a small core element that doesn't seem to get it. They're desperate to try to hold out, desperate to try to turn back the hands of time. And that just isn't going to happen.

RODGERS (on camera): U.S. officials said this violence is a sign of the opposition's desperation. Yet as the deadline approaches for Iraqis to govern themselves, officials are also predicting increasing violence on this order.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, the violence may be difficult for any American to see, especially one who knows Iraq firsthand.

Former Marine Lance Corporal Jeff Key joins us now from Los Angeles.

Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

RET. LANCE CPL. JEFF KEY, USMC: You're welcome, Paula. Thanks for having me.

ZAHN: I know I winced when I saw these pictures for the first time. When you saw these images of American soldiers not only being brutally beaten and murdered, but dragged down the street, what went through your mind?

KEY: Oh, I first saw it this morning when I was sitting at the computer. And, honestly, the first thoughts I had were a lot of intense anger. I wanted to go back there to find the people who did that and to hunt them down. It's the Marine in me. I wanted to exact vengeance for it.

And then shortly after, I started to think about the families. You know, we have a family in great celebration here today for when the missing student was found. There are several families today that are changed forever because of the events in Iraq today. I felt a huge amount of sadness for those people. I know that the American service members that lost their lives there, the Americans working there did so out of noble purpose, and it's really -- it's a shame.

I've spent a lot of time and introspection and thinking since I came back from Iraq about our mission there, what it meant to me. I have very conflicting feelings about it. I'm still intensely committed to the reasons I became a Marine four years ago and have decided this week to leave the Marine Corps, actually, and came out of the closet as a gay man.

I had made sweeping rationalizations that allowed me to continue to lie about my sexuality and stay in the Marine Corps in attempts to stay true to my commitments, to the reasons I joined. And having come back and received a lot of information, things we didn't know when we were there, that we were never told about weapons of mass destruction, about our entering there in the first place, I just

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, you certainly aren't alone in feeling that way, but clearly, you've got tens and tens of thousands of troops still on the ground in Iraq. How...

KEY: Right.

ZAHN: ... is the brutality of what we witnessed today likely to impact their morale?

KEY: Well, as I said, I'm still committed to doing the things that I joined the Marine Corps in the first place to do. And what I've noticed -- this week, I have started the process of founding a nonprofit organization that will assist those veterans when they come back.

It's -- I mean, it's pretty much a no-brainer how it's going to impact morale there.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Obviously, these soldiers are trained to do their job, but no one prepares them for the loss of life that they witnessed there today and the way it was carried out.

KEY: Of course not. And the things we see in the American media are just a very small, small part. You know, when I was a little kid, we saw coffin after coffin come back from Vietnam. We haven't seen one coffin come back from Iraq. It's almost -- it's as if it's being hidden from us.

The reality that the American people do not see is something that those service members that are serving there are facing on a daily basis. And those that I was able to talk -- because I'm a little bit holder than a lot of the people I served with. I was able to talk with them while I was there and the level of upset and their beliefs of how it was going to impact them psychologically from there on out. At least 24 have killed themselves while still in country. Seven more have come back to commit suicide here in the states after coming home.

The effects are going to be long-reaching. And I want to do what I can to help them out.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate you're coming on to talk to us tonight. Jeff Key, good luck in the next chapter of your life.

KEY: Well, thank you, Paula. Thank you very much. ZAHN: Now, the emotional toll from the loss of American lives in Iraq is indescribable. The numbers tell a striking story, once again, four American civilians murdered today in Fallujah, five American soldiers dead in Habbaniyah, 11 in the last week alone, 600 troops killed in the war so far, 80 percent since the fall of Baghdad nearly a year ago.

And the clock is running down, with only 92 days before political power is handed to the Iraqis. But is that even realistic?

Let's debate it with Eric Margolis, a columnist for "The Toronto Sun," as well as an expert on terrorism and al Qaeda. He joins us from Toronto. And Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.

Good to see both of you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Frank, I'm going to start with you this evening.

And I want you to react to what the government said immediately after this horrific attack on American soldiers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMITT: That isn't going to stop us from doing our mission. In fact, it would be disgracing the deaths of these people if we were to stop our missions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: How long do you think the American public is willing to endure this kind of catastrophic loss, this loss of American life?

FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Paula, I think as horrible as any loss of life is, it's overreaching to say this is a catastrophic loss of life, relative to what these people were there to try to do.

And, by the way, I think the clarification is in order here. These were civilians who were murdered and treated in the horrible way.

ZAHN: Yes, excuse me, absolutely.

GAFFNEY: But the point is the same.

The American people need to appreciate and I hope continue to support this operation in Iraq, because the stakes are immense. What we're about is nothing less than trying to help consolidate the freedom of some 25 million people and create thereby a model for an entirely different kind of Middle East. It's a very large ambition. But the payoff, if it succeeds, is great. And that's why I think you're seeing this kind of barbarous behavior, calculated to replay in all of our minds the kind of trauma that those 18 servicemen who lost their lives in Somalia inflicted upon us and the same kind of result, trying to drive the United States out and leave Iraq to the tender mercies of the perpetrators of this crime.

We must not let that happen.

ZAHN: Eric, do you believe the United States is making any progress in clamping down on the terrorist elements who are believed to be responsible for these kind of attacks, not only on just American civilians, but American soldiers as well?

ERIC MARGOLIS, "THE TORONTO SUN": No, I do not, Paula.

Well, there are occasional arrests and captures and things, but what we're seeing is probably a steadily mounting series of attacks. They're more sophisticated. They're geographically more spread. And yet, these attacks are only coming from a small part of Iraq, which is the Sunni heartland.

The big question now is that Iraq's Shia majority, 60 percent of the population, are on a collision course with the U.S. authorities over real devolution of political power. And if the Shias don't get it by the beginning of next year, their younger mullahs are calling for armed resistance against the United States. So what we could be seeing now, bad as it is, is merely a foretaste of what's to come.

ZAHN: So, Frank what does the ferocity of the attack in Fallujah tells us about the United States trying to win over the hearts and minds of various aspects of Iraqi society?

GAFFNEY: It's certainly signaling that we've got a lot of work to do in that area.

And, Paula, I think it is important to emphasize that this is one of the places where we're seeing the opposition, intense and violent as it is, really quite different than what is true in the vast majority of the rest of the country. These are the people who lost most when Saddam Hussein fell from power. And they're the kind of people who are clearly desirous of putting something like Saddam back into power.

We can't, again, let that happen. But I think that the intensity of that feeling argues for a military operation, combined with a much more intense war of ideas, efforts made to counteract the ideologies that animate the people, whether they're of the secular stripe of the old regime or the Islamist stripe of some Shiite or Sunni who would try to constitute a kind of theocracy like Iran's perhaps in Iraq. That must not be allowed to happen. I don't think it's in their interests or ours.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Eric, you get the last word. I saw you shaking your head no. And just a very brief final thought on whether we'll ever make the handover date of June 30.

MARGOLIS: We'll make a token handover by June 30, but it won't mean anything in reality or to most Iraqis, because until there's an Iraqi government that welcome say to the United States, please remove your troops, which isn't going to happen, it's not really an independent, free government.

And I just like to say to Frank that there are 20 different resistance groups in Iraq now. None are trying to put Saddam back into power. We are facing a whole new cast of characters.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we're going to have to leave it there this evening.

GAFFNEY: Don't know how you know that.

ZAHN: Frank Gaffney, Eric Margolis.

GAFFNEY: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

President Bush will have the vice president by his side. Neither will be under oath. We'll look at the questions raised by the White House deal with the 9/11 Commission.

And football great Paul Hornung intercepts a hornet's nest with remarks about black athletes and college sports.

And scandalous accusations about the late JFK Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette, written by a former "Baywatch" actor. Why did write the book?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BERGIN, AUTHOR: I wanted to put an end to all this. I just wanted closure. I'm the only one left in this love triangle still living.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: When the 9/11 Commission hears from President Bush and Vice President Cheney, they will appear as a pair. And the White House is already facing a lot of heated questions about just how that arrangement will work.

And to look at some of them, we turn now to regular contributor and "TIME" columnist Joe Klein, John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal," and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, the co-chair of the commission.

And I started off by asking him about the deal to have the president and the vice president testify together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE HAMILTON, VICE-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: From our standpoint, it's a satisfactory arrangement. We'll get to talk to both of them. They'll not be a real tight limit on time. And it has been especially important to us that all 10 commissioners have an opportunity to meet with the president and vice president.

ZAHN: We talked with Mr. Ben-Veniste last night, who is also on your commission. He found this arrangement in his words strange.

HAMILTON: Well, it's unusual. I don't know that I recall anything quite like it before when you're seeking information in a fact-finding mode, if you would, as the commission is here. But I don't find it objectionable.

Now, I've had no experience with it. So I can't be sure, I guess. But we looked at it, Chairman Kean and I, principally from the standpoint of, will we be able to fulfill our mandate, do our job with this arrangement? No restrictions on questions. We'll be well prepared when we go in there and I think we can find out what we need to.

ZAHN: Do you really believe, Joe Klein, in the end it will compromise the commission's ability to get the truth. You just heard what Mr. Hamilton said. He feels, given the way it's set up, they'll be able to ask what they want to ask of both of them.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

I don't think it's going to compromise the commission's ability to get the truth. I just think it looks kind of bad for the administration yet again, after a week of being under pressure to put Condi Rice before the commission and then finally giving in on that, and before that, you know, being opposed to giving the commission two extra months to do their work and having to give in on that. You've seen a series of these sorts of stands and then withdrawals by the administration. And it hasn't worked to their benefit in the public relations campaign.

ZAHN: John Fund, what is the potential of either the vice president or president getting in there, altering a story, simply because of hearing what the other said and not intentionally trying to change the story, but as a result of how this is working?

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think that's a little bit too Machiavellian.

I think the White House took a real P.R. hit and they want to get this off the table as fast as possible, get Condi up there, get the president and vice president before the commission. It's not like they're going to be finishing each other's sentences. We know what they're going to say. There will be no surprises, given what the vice president and the president have to say. It's very clear. And, remember, their position has been out for months already. The commission have already chewed on that.

ZAHN: Mr. Hamilton, a number of discrepancies have been pointed out in what Condoleezza Rice has said in public comments and interviews and with facts that the commission has uncovered. What is the biggest problem you have right now?

HAMILTON: We want to know that critical period between the time when President Bush took office and September 11, what they were doing with regard to the counterterrorism efforts. We want to hear from her about September 11 itself, what she was doing, what her role was, and, of course, some of the aftermath as well. We're interested in the decision-making process here. And we're interested in crisis management.

ZAHN: Final question to Joe Klein and John Fund here.

Once we are exposed to all the testimony, do you think we can anticipate any backpedaling from Condoleezza Rice, the vice president or the president?

Joe, you first.

KLEIN: Well, I think that -- I don't know about backpedaling. I think that they're going to try to make the best case that they can make that they took this seriously. Unfortunately, there's a paper trail that says they didn't take it seriously enough.

ZAHN: John Fund, you get the last word tonight.

FUND: The people who have looked at all of the commission's work to date concluded that there was continuity between what the Clinton administration did and what the Bush administration did. That's clear.

Clearly, there was an intelligence failure. But I think rather than placing blame, the American people want to figure out what happened and then move on and let's make sure this doesn't happen again.

ZAHN: That's why we wish Congressman Lee Hamilton luck in figuring that all out. Appreciate your joining us tonight.

Joe Klein, John Klein, thanks for your time as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Coming up, how an arson crime committed by a teenager became a federal case. His parents say it's all because of who got burned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Fourteen-year-olds rarely go to federal prison, no matter what the crime. Now a boy who is serving hard time for a burglary and arson is getting a shot at a reduced sentence.

Jason Carroll has the latest on this unusual case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): July 7, 2002, a boatyard blaze near Kennebunkport, Maine. Two teenagers, 14-year-old Patrick Vorce and Christopher Conley, 19, admit setting the fire to cover up a burglary.

PAUL LARIVLERE, BOATYARD OWNER: Right where you stand is where they broke in.

CARROLL: Even now, the boatyard's owner hasn't recovered.

LARIVLERE: Everything I ever owned is gone, you know, just because two kids wanted to burn the place.

CARROLL: Despite the damage, Vorce's parents say their son's punishment doesn't fit the crime.

ROBERT MONGUE, STEPFATHER OF VORCE: What we'd like to see that he be treated the same way as other juveniles would normally be treated for the same thing he did.

CARROLL: In what some legal experts describe as a rare decision, instead of serving his time in a state facility, Vorce was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, making him one of only two juveniles from the Northeast in federal prison.

DENISE COLLIER, MOTHER OF VORCE: The only reason he's in the federal system is because of the connection, unfortunately, with Mr. Bush's Secret Service.

CARROLL: The fire destroyed spare parts and a motor belonging to former President George Bush, who vacations in Kennebunkport. A Secret Service dingy also burned, totaling more than $30,000 in damage.

COLLIER: Within days of the fire, we had Secret Service agents coming through the house with Kevlar vests and they told us that they had national security concerns.

CARROLL: Vorce's parents don't believe former President Bush played any role in their son's sentence, but they say Patrick is the victim of overzealous prosecution, led by the Justice Department. A department spokesman declined to talk about it because of ongoing litigation, nor would anyone from Maine's U.S. attorney's office, which prosecuted the case.

In previous news reports, Maine's U.S. attorney says Vorce's sentence wasn't about politics. It was about damages, more than $1.5 million, some of it to federal property.

LARIVLERE: I don't have a problem with him in federal prison. I don't care where they send him.

CARROLL: Vorce's parents want him in a state facility closer to home where he can get rehabilitative care, like any other juvenile offenders. A federal appeals court has ordered a judge to reevaluate Patrick's sentence. Jason Carroll, CNN, Kennebunk, Maine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: A pro football Hall of Famer's comments about black athletes fuels the debate over grades and college sports. Actor and male model Michael Bergin writes a tell-all book about the affair he says he had with Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. If she could defend herself, what would she say?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BERGIN, AUTHOR, "THE OTHER MAN: A LOVE STORY": She would say thank you because I'm telling our story, and it was her story and it's the truth and she lived it. And you know what? She's not with us today, and whatever, so what has she got to lose? She would say thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: His critics are calling Michael Bergin a liar. And tomorrow, the anniversary of the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch. I'm going to ask her about her life one year later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Here's what you need to know right now. Martha Stewart's lawyers want a retrial. In court papers filed today, Stewart's attorneys say her guilty verdict should be overturned because a juror allegedly did not disclose his criminal past before the trial. Stewart was convicted this month of obstructing justice, conspiracy and lying to investigators.

For the second straight day, Michael Jackson met lawmakers in Washington to talk about fighting AIDS in Africa. Today he spoke with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressional aides say some members passed on the meeting because they didn't want to be seen with Jackson, who is accused of child molestation.

Another controversy to talk about tonight: NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung was sparked -- or has sparked anger this week for something he said about recruiting black athletes to his alma mater, Notre Dame.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PAUL HORNUNG, NFL HALL OF FAMER: As far as Notre Dame is concerned, we're going to have to ease it up a little bit. We can't stay as strict as we are, as far as the academic structure is concerned, because we got to get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if we're going to compete.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, now, Hornung has apologized for the remark today, but it raises the question, is it racist or just common sense in the competitive world of college sports? Tonight, we pit the former director of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission versus a prominent radio host and columnist. Joe Hicks joins us from Los Angeles, Armstrong Williams from Washington. Good evening to both of you.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, RADIO HOST: Hi, Paula.

JOE HICKS, FORMER DIR., LOS ANGELES HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION: How're you doing, Paula?

ZAHN: I'm fine, thanks. So Armstrong, were you offended by Coach Hornung's -- or Mr. Hornung's comments?

WILLIAMS: No. I think most colleges recruit athletes, and a lot of these athletes, many times, don't do well academically, and it's not necessarily that they're black. The problem with this comment is that, if you want to be honest about it, the majority of these athletes overwhelmingly are black. But if you look at institutions like Duke, I mean, you look at a Shane Battier, Grant Hill or Jay Williams, I mean, they did well academically at the institutions.

But I think what he said -- it was harmless. He's trying to say that if Duke wants to compete competitively with the rest of the universities and colleges in this country, they've got to create -- they've got to lower their standards, like most universities do, to attract these athlete to their institutions.

ZAHN: Yes, Joe, this isn't a new concept, to lower standards to try to attract both talented black and white athletes.

HICKS: Well, you know, it was a clearly bone-headed statement. Was it a racist statement? No. The question is, does it -- does lowering standards help college athletes who are -- who are there? Most of them are not going to go on to pray pro ball. And if they hurt their leg or if they're disabled in some way three years into their career, what then happens? So my issue is, his arguing you lower the standards doesn't help anybody. And I think that's what really needs to be discussed, not the sort of racial component of what he's saying here.

ZAHN: Well, what about that, Armstrong? Should any athlete get a break, when you have so many serious students out there can't get into these big schools?

WILLIAMS: Paula, if they could find an athlete that could play like a Jason Kidd or a Kobe Bryant and if they needed to lower his -- or lower their standards, they do it all the time. It's not going to change. It's about money. It's a big-time sport. Collegiate sports make a living off these athletes. They will continue to do it. I think Notre Dame has it right. We refuse to lower our standards in order to bring in any athlete. You got to meet our academic standards, just like at Duke. And Duke has shown you can find the best and brightest athletes, regardless of color, and they can compete in the classroom and on the court. But I got to tell you, Duke is the exception, not the rule.

ZAHN: Well, Joe, what about this whole process of lowering standards -- as you were saying, you don't think it should be done for blacks or whites, but it's done all the time. So what's the answer here, in your judgment?

HICKS: Well, the answer is to hold the standards high and not to make accommodations for people that aren't cutting it. See, I think what's really interesting here is some people are trying to claim that Paul Hornung is a racist. Yet John Thompson, a black former college coach at the university of Georgetown, made exactly the same comment. Whatever happened to him? He's a high-priced NBA analyst now. So the question of lowering standards is what needs to be attacked, not the issues of -- the racial component.

So I'm one who, like, I'm hearing what Armstrong is saying, not ready to claim that this guy -- you know, it was bone-headed. It was a ridiculous comment. But he's making comment and actually arguing for lowering the standards to be able to entice even more, quote, "black athletes" to that level of play. And I think that's simply wrong. Armstrong's right. I mean, that's the reality. The question is, what's the bottom line, in terms of the effect of doing that? And that's my concern. It's harming young people's lives. College is not supposed to be farm teams for the NFL or the NBA. Yet that seems to be what's going on.

ZAHN: But Armstrong, you say the bottom line here is money, money, money. It always has been.

WILLIAMS: It always -- you know, it's deeper than this, also, Paula. There are parents who spend all their time for -- all their kids they do is play basketball, play basketball, hoping that these kids will bring them out of their poverty situation or the situation that they're in. And what -- and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) argument now. Oh, just skip college. I don't see any benefit in going to college. Just draft them straight into the NBA. Right, there it is, saying that their kid is not equipped academically for college, so our best bet is to go in the NBA quickly as possible, so you can bring home that money.

And their lies another problem. Families perpetuate this kind of thinking, and so there's no one to hold the universities accountable, so everybody gets a cut of it. The parents, the family benefit, the university benefits, the student benefits. But if they don't make it to the pros, they lose big-time in the end.

ZAHN: Another repercussion to think about. Joe Hicks, Armstrong Williams, thank you both.

Some intimate accusations in a new book about the late JFK, Jr., and his wife, Carolyn Bessette. I'm going to be talking with the author who claims to have had an affair with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERGIN: She would come to me as a friend, not a lover. And mistakes would happen along the way here and there, OK? And then she would go back to her life because she loved John and she wanted her marriage to work, and I wanted it to work. It was -- it was, it was a messed-up situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Lovers of tabloid news this week are getting lots of material from a one-time underwear model and actor on the TV show "Baywatch." Michael Bergin is making the rounds with his new book, in which he reveals details what was he says was his affair with Carolyn Bessette before and during her marriage to John Kennedy, Jr. The book is called "The Other Man: A Love Story, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Carolyn Bessette and Me." In a moment, we'll ask one of her friends about these claims. But first, Michael Bergin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Michael Bergin, welcome, good to see you.

BERGIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: You've been called a parasite for writing this.

BERGIN: Oh, that's a new one.

ZAHN: You've been called self-centered.

BERGIN: That's a new one.

ZAHN: It has been said that what you have written is total BS and totally self-serving. What did you expect when you published this book?

BERGIN: You know what, Paula? I tried to protect the secret for a long time, for about seven years. All this news came out, and it wasn't my doing. It came out last summer in a book, and everyone just ran with it and they wrote about it. And they're saying horrible things about Carolyn. They're saying horrible things about me.

ZAHN: But in the end, you do not paint a very sympathetic portrait of her. You talk about her being an intensely private woman, but then you go on to say that she had two abortions, that she mad a miscarriage. How could any reader walk away from this book feeling any better about her than any of the other accounts of her life?

BERGIN: Well, you know, everyone was talking about and writing about my affair with her, this affair with her, like they knew what they were talking about. And I wanted to put...

ZAHN: Why did you feel it was necessary...

BERGIN: I wanted...

ZAHN: ... to confirm you ever...

BERGIN: I wanted...

ZAHN: ... had an affair with her after she got married?

BERGIN: I wanted to put an end to all this. I just wanted closure. I wanted -- I'm the only one left in this, like, love triangle still living, and I want to just move on with my life, with my kids, with my fiancee, and get on with my life. And I wanted John and Carolyn to just finally rest in peace, and I wanted their families to stop hurting.

Carolyn passed away five years ago. She was America's princess. And what is she a today? What was she last summer when all the articles and stories came out? She was a cheat. She's cheating with a TV star. You know, she was a coke addict. She was this, she was that. She was a rageful person because the ex-boyfriend said so. I was going to take it to my grave. I decided it was time. It was time to tell my story -- or tell the story.

ZAHN: In the process, though, haven't you violated her in her death?

BERGIN: No, I haven't. No, I haven't. Who else is coming to her defense? Who else is saying anything nice on her behalf?

ZAHN: But a lot of what you wrote...

BERGIN: No, I...

ZAHN: ... was negative.

BERGIN: What? Like what?

ZAHN: Well, you talked about how she got angry with you and she had fights, that she was physical.

BERGIN: People fight in relationships. There's nothing wrong with that. And people have abortions.

ZAHN: Although, you know, some of her friends have come forward and said, Wait a minute. Carolyn was on birth control. How could she have gotten pregnant? They also say, how could you have possibly seen her during her marriage to JFK, Jr., with the papparazzi all around? Where is the proof...

BERGIN: OK, you know...

ZAHN: ... that any of this stuff actually happened?

BERGIN: I heard about that one. First of all, yes, when she comes out of her apartment in New York City, the paparazzi's right there, OK? But when she gets on a plane with her friend and she comes out to LA to see me, people know that she doesn't live in Los Angeles. They're not waiting for her at the airport. And you know what? All those people who think that -- you know, that I'm lying and I'm not telling the truth, then they don't have to believe me. I wrote a book. I wrote a book in my own words, telling what happened, telling the truth. And it's my story, too. It's my story, too. Did anyone ever think about that? (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: When we come back, a close friend of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy gives us his take on Michael Bergin's story, and we're going to hear from Bergin about his alleged affair with JFK, Jr.'s wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERGIN: I didn't respect the marriage vows because I was there with her. And it was wrong. It was wrong, all right? But I was -- I was -- I was in love with this girl, and I was young and I was naive and I was her friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we're back. More now with Michael Bergin, the man who says he had an affair with Carolyn Bessette before and during her marriage to John. F. Kennedy, Jr.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

The book has just been out for a very short time, and you have heard this chorus of, Liar, liar, liar. Do you regret that you wrote this book?

BERGIN: No. Not at all.

ZAHN: Why?

BERGIN: Why? Because it happened and it's the truth, and it needed to be done. You know what? I'm not happy that I'm here and this is a very, very sad situation, and I'm not like, yes, I wrote a book. Yes, way to go. I'm not -- I don't feel good -- I don't feel good about that, no. I feel like [DELETED], excuse my language, OK?

ZAHN: There's been so much controversy surrounding this relationship, what happened once she got married, your walking...

BERGIN: Whose relationship, my relationship with her or...

ZAHN: Yes. I mean, do you think the American public really understands who Carolyn Bessette was?

BERGIN: By my story?

ZAHN: Yes.

BERGIN: A little bit better than they did before.

ZAHN: But she was this lovely human being, who you said was...

BERGIN: You know what? I didn't describe her, you know, for 250 pages, but I -- I painted a pretty good image of who she is and what she was all about and what she gave me as a boyfriend, so people can understand what kind of person she is, and probably -- she probably was the same way with John, with all her boyfriends.

ZAHN: You say in part that you were inspired to write this book when you heard other journalists telling lies about Carolyn Bessette. Now that you've got this book out and the same thing's being said of you...

BERGIN: You know what?

ZAHN: ... what do you plan to do?

BERGIN: What can I do? I'm going to go on, and I'm going to live my life and I'm going to find happiness with my family. That's what I'm going to do. And I'm going to put this behind me. You know what? Once the truth is out, are they going to write about it anymore? No. It's old news. It's old news. We'll see what happens in six months, when no one's writing about this anymore because I came out with a book to tell the truth.

ZAHN: You acknowledge that you made a mistake in seeing her during her marriage.

BERGIN: I -- no, I...

ZAHN: If you had to go back and do it all over again, what would you have done?

BERGIN: I would see her again. I would see her again. She didn't come to me for an affair, she came to me as a friend. While she's married, I saw her just a handful of times. I was living 3,000 miles away. And I know...

ZAHN: But you do think she found ultimate happiness.

BERGIN: I hope so. I didn't see her the last 14 months of her life. And I hope to God, I pray to God that she at least found happiness and that she was happy those last 14 months. She was such a good person, such a giving person, that you could only wish her happiness. And as long as I knew she was happy, I was happy for her, whether she was with me or not.

ZAHN: And if Carolyn were alive today -- you say you wanted to write a book that was sympathetic about her. You wanted people to know the truth. How could she possibly be happy about this book and the invasion of her privacy?

BERGIN: She'd be proud of the book and she'd be proud of me. She would say thank you.

ZAHN: We appreciate your joining us tonight.

BERGIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: I thank you for coming in personally.

BERGIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And good luck to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now we turn to a friend of Carolyn Bessette. Paul Wilmot was her boss when she worked at Calvin Klein. He joins us now. Good evening.

PAUL WILMOT, FRIEND OF CAROLYN BESSETTE KENNEDY: Paula.

ZAHN: What's your reaction to this book? Is any of it true?

WILMOT: Well, I think there are one of three scenarios. One, it's not true at all, in which case, it's reprehensible that he's written this. There's nobody to defend her, to refute it. They're all -- they've all passed away. And he just did it for money.

Second thing is maybe it's a little bit true. Maybe they had a friendship. In which case, he's written something that's still erroneous, and he did it for money. The third thing, maybe it is true. If it is true, why write it? I mean, why sully the reputation of this beautiful girl and her marriage to the crown prince of America and the tragedy that surrounded the thing? This guy did it for money, Paula.

ZAHN: I know you were very close to her. Which of those three scenarios is true?

WILMOT: Probably the middle one. Maybe they maintained a friendship. Carolyn was a very intense young woman. When you had a conversation with her, she was very engaging. You know, she formed friendships. You know, she was a very smart. She had a wonderful vocabulary. And they probably had some sort of a friendship that was going on. And if she went to California or whatever -- I mean, this guy is all about making money.

I mean, there is not one person -- first of all, he's not an author. I mean, we were laughing about, you know, maybe the guy -- the only other thing he's ever written in his life was maybe his grocery list. And I mean, the collected works of Michael Bergin will never see another book again. And so it's not like this thing was crying to be told at all, nor was it...

ZAHN: Although he said that this book was triggered by what a journalist, Ed Klein (ph), had written in another best-selling book last summer, where he delved in Carolyn's life and made a bunch of pretty negative charges against her...

WILMOT: Well, so...

ZAHN: ... about alleged drug use.

WILMOT: So he set the story straight. He said that he -- she didn't take drugs but that he slept with her. I mean, I don't understand this. I mean, this is a -- you know, what about -- if there was any part of it that was even partially true, why not just let everyone rest in peace and let everyone go on with their lives? ZAHN: Have you had any contact with Carolyn Bessette's family lately?

WILMOT: No, I haven't, really, you know? And I think the family's been very quiet. Remember, they lost two daughters. I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE) And I mean, the tragedy that surrounded the thing -- I mean, I think that in a situation like this, all of our lives, when we've had anything sad happen to us, the only thing that's healing is time. And you want to put time between what happened and now.

So, I mean, there was -- the feeling about, you know, John and what he tried to do and the magazine and all the things that he tried to do and how he honored his mother in her long illness, and so on -- I mean, all this now is all stirred up and with a whole bunch of these charges about, you know, lurid conduct on the part of Carolyn, that just can't be substantiated. No one can refute it, and no one can confirm it. And to me, that's -- that's just -- it stinks, really.

ZAHN: How hurtful has it been to those of you who not only were fiercely protective of her during her life but have dealt with these really tough blows over the last year or two.

WILMOT: It's hard, you know, with her memory, you know? Carolyn didn't do any interviews when they got married. And she -- because they hadn't worked it out. You know, they were only married a couple of years. They hadn't really started to plan a family. She didn't know what she was going to be doing, in terms of charitable things, and so on. And I remember being with them at the opening night of the Grand Central, and that was the first time they felt they had had a normal life. And it's really sad to see it just now come to this, you know, terrible book.

ZAHN: Paul Wilmot, thank you for your response in reaction to the book.

WILMOT: Paula, thank you.

ZAHN: Good to see you.

And we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: That wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Tomorrow night, former POW Jessica Lynch on the anniversary of her rescue in Iraq. I'm going to ask her about her life since that incredible day and how she's doing physically after a very long rehabilitation.

Thanks again for dropping by tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Until tomorrow night, have a good night.

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