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Political Sex Scandal; House Call: Road to Recovery; Interview With Laurence Fishburne

Aired June 23, 2004 - 09:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 9:30 here in New York. A check of the markets right now. The opening bell was just a few short seconds before we came back from the break. Twenty-three points on the positive for the Dow, 30 yesterday, opening mark today 10,395 there. Down on Wall Street, the Nasdaq Marketsite, Times Square, 1,994, up about 20 points in trading yesterday, coming real close to that 2,000 mark. We'll see where it goes today.
Welcome back, everybody, and good morning again.

There are Republican leaders in the state of Illinois accusing Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan of not telling them the truth. Some embarrassing details have become public about his divorce, accusations from his wife, the actress Jeri Ryan, about sex clubs. We'll look at whether or not this could derail his campaign in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, we all know how debilitating a stroke can be, but how many people are able to resume their lives? In just a few minutes, we've got a story of that. That will provide some hope, not because of any kind of medical advance, but because of the love and determination from a family.

HEMMER: Yes, a good story.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

HEMMER: The actor is with us. Laurence Fishburne joins us a bit later. He has just returned from South Africa. In fact, he visited as an ambassador for UNICEF. What he has learned about the country's orphans and AIDS and what we all should know. We'll talk to him in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: All right. But first, let's get to this embarrassing political sex scandal that's hitting a U.S. Senate race in Illinois. Republican candidate Jack Ryan says he's going to stay in the running, but, of course, there is much scandal to report about. Apparently, his wife, Jeri, now divorced for about four years, says that she was invited to sex clubs. He, of course, is not necessarily denying the allegations, but says that there are worse things. It's all coming from a very bitter custody battle.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has more on this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Illinois Senate race has been sideswiped by that three-letter word. But Jack Ryan is asking voters to look beyond the headlines and feel for him as a parent.

JACK RYAN (R), ILLINOIS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think about my boy we're trying to protect.

FREED: The Republican's campaign is reeling from allegations that he once pressured his then wife, actress Jeri Ryan of "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public," to have sex in front of other people at risque nightclubs, which she says she refused. She alleged it in 4- year-old court documents unsealed by a California court and released late Monday. He denies it.

RYAN: There's no allegation of infidelity or of breaking any laws, kept all civil and criminal laws, kept my vows to my spouse.

FREED: But there are questions about whether he kept the details from the state's GOP leadership. For months, Ryan, a millionaire and political neophyte, insisted there was nothing damaging in the divorce documents, which both he and his ex-wife fought to keep sealed.

BRUCE DOLD, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": The Republican Party leadership in this state is livid with Jack Ryan, because they felt like that he didn't tell them the truth on this.

FREED: The Illinois seat could help shift control of the Senate, and Ryan was already trailing Democrat Barack Obama, who chose his words carefully Tuesday.

BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Over the next week, I'm sure that this is going to get a lot of attention, but it's not what we're going to be focused on.

FREED: Political watchers here expect the party leadership to wait until the end of the week before deciding if they should pressure Ryan to quit.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.


O'BRIEN: And, of course, it remains to be seen if Jack Ryan can recover from all of the negative press. The Republican was already trailing his Democratic opponent in the polls -- Bill.

HEMMER: We can go to health news now, Soledad. For stroke victims, rehab can be a difficult and painful task. You're about to hear the story of a man who defied that diagnosis, and he can thank his family for it.

Sanjay Gupta is back at the CNN center.

Good morning.


Yes, medical jargon and all of the treatment options, it can all be sort of confusing for people. This is the story of two sisters, one father, a devastating medical illness and doctors who were not optimistic. This is their story about how they had different ideas and a different dream.


WAYNE EDSALL, STROKE SURVIVOR: You get the bugs in your teeth and the wind in your hair.

GUPTA (voice over): Seventy-five-year-old Wayne Edsall has loved flying for over 50 years. But four years ago his world came crashing down with a debilitating stroke.

W. EDSALL: I felt trapped within your mind. There's no way to get out of it. I can't -- I can't talk. I can't tell you what I want. So it's a lonely, dark, place to be in.

GUPTA: Doctors and therapists said he would never fly again.

W. EDSALL: At that time it's an impossibility. I just felt that, you know, my days of being a pilot, you know, was over.

SUSAN EDSALL, HELPED FATHER RECOVER FROM STROKE: I got down on my knees. I held both his hands in mine and I said, 'Dad, you will fly again, you have to give me a year.'

GUPTA: Susan and her sister, Sharon, would not accept the diagnosis, and came home to Montana, without medical training or guidance, to work with their father.

S. EDSALL: Dad did not know the alphabet, and so we made flash cards. And I would hold them up, and he would have to say the letter and the sound. And we started with consonants.

GUPTA: From letters they went to syllables and then words and sentences, writing and finally math. Working from learning materials for preschoolers, grinding away for hours every day.

S. EDSALL: I describe it as similar to plowing a field with a table fork.

GUPTA: Their self-made rehab program paid off. Wayne and his family defied the doctors, and in just three months he was piloting his plane again.

W. EDSALL: As soon as we got in the air, it all felt like it's supposed to. And from then on it was up, up and away.

GUPTA: Susan authored a book, "Into the Blue," detailing her family's journey to recovery.

S. EDSALL: The experts, if they can help you, is terrific. But if they can't, your dream is going to serve you better than someone telling you what can't be done.

GUPTA: And that's a lesson we can all use.


And really interesting. You know, Wayne has just completed a three-day flying hop from Montana to Saskatchewan. So, he's definitely up in the air. It's hard to tell, Bill, whether or not he would have recovered on his own without his daughters' therapy, but no question that he's doing very well today -- Bill.

HEMMER: Very well, and a great story to tell, too. Thanks for sharing it with us, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you. All right.

HEMMER: We'll see you.

O'BRIEN: And that's a nice story.

Still to come this morning, what's the best movie song of all time? There are lots of contenders out there, but only one, as you know, can be the champion.

HEMMER: The list is out, and we'll get to it.

Also, some fireworks on Capitol Hill yesterday. Ralph Nader paid a visit. Somebody's not too happy. Actually, a lot of people aren't too happy. We'll explain in a moment here when we continue after this.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everybody. To the guy with the pajama top. He is our fan, Toure.

O'BRIEN: You know, this is like a $250 shirt.

HEMMER: That it is.

TOURE, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: You know, everybody's talking about it.


O'BRIEN: Exactly.

HEMMER: He's working for Jack Cafferty today. Good to have you.

TOURE: Everybody's got jokes. Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Good deal.

TOURE: The "Question of the Day," American Film Institute's list of the 100 best movie songs is out. At No. 1, "Over the Rainbow," sung by Judy Garland a very long time ago in "The Wizard of Oz." At 51 is "Fame," a great song, from a movie of the same name.

O'BRIEN: Irene Cara sang it.

TOURE: Right, very good. But what is the best song from a movie ever, besides "Shaft?" Time for more answers.

HEMMER: Here we go.

TOURE: Cindy from Oshawa, Ontario says: "Hey, what about Tom Cruise in his underwear singing Bob Seger's 'Old Time Rock 'n' Roll'?"

O'BRIEN: That's No. 100. That's the bottom of the list.

TOURE: Yes. I know.

O'BRIEN: It's at the bottom of the list.


TOURE: Good call.


TOURE: Peter says: "If only I could remember the words to 'Jaws.'" Which, of course, are very easy, dun, dun, dun.

And "Big Daddy" says: "Hands down it's 'Louie, Louie,' as mumbled by John Belushi and the rest of his Delta Brothers in 'Animal House.'"

And, of course, we had to include that one, because "Big Daddy" is Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). How about "Brian's Song?" Was that was on the list?

TOURE: You know, "The Wiz" was completely shut out...

HEMMER: It was?

TOURE: ... which is complete travesty of justice.

HEMMER: How about "Brain's song?" Was that on the list?

TOURE: I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Did Luther Vandross ever do a movie -- a song for a movie?

TOURE: I don't think so. He should have.

O'BRIEN: He should have.

TOURE: But, you know...

HEMMER: Andy Serwer recommended "St. Elmo's Fire." O'BRIEN: That's a terrible song. Oh, sorry.

TOURE: He's the financial guy. It's OK. He can like that stuff.

O'BRIEN: All right, Toure, thanks.

HEMMER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Weather now and Chad Myers at the CNN center for more with us.

Good morning -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No "Pretty in Pink" in there at all?

O'BRIEN: That's a good one, too.


O'BRIEN: I mean, "Sixteen," "Pretty in Pink."

TOURE: Yes, if you're a 16-year-old girl, that's a great choice. A good one, Chad.

MYERS: Thanks.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, lots of studios thought that "Fahrenheit 9/11" was too hot to handle, but it might pay off big time for one distributor. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan. It's 15 minutes until the top of the hour. Let's take a look at the headlines.

Just one week until the handover in Iraq, a new terror threat aimed at Iraq's new interim prime minister. An audiotape believed to be the voice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been posted on the Internet. On that tape, the voice also threatens to continue attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians. Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian terror suspect with possible links to al Qaeda. The CIA has not yet verified the recording.

South Korea's government is standing firm on plans to dispatch troops to Iraq despite the beheading of a South Korean hostage. Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil in Los Angeles yesterday after learning of his death. The hostage's body was found west of Baghdad yesterday by U.S. troops.

In campaign 2004, Independent candidate Ralph Nader is not bowing to pressure from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The group unsuccessfully trying to persuade Nader yesterday to drop out of the race. Both sides seem peaceful now, but a shouting match could be heard from behind closed doors at the Capitol. Nader describes the meeting as -- quote -- "a robust exchange."

And Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras is spending his first morning together with his family here with him in the U.S. They were reunited in Miami yesterday after being apart for nearly two years. Contreras' wife and two daughters were among a group of Cubans who left the communist island on Sunday night. He says he wants to show them the sights of New York, Bill, including Yankee Stadium. He'll have that opportunity this weekend. He's set to pitch against the Mets.

HEMMER: Oh, well, that's nice.


HEMMER: Very cool. Robust is how they described that conversation with Ralph Nader.

KAGAN: Yes, robust, exactly.

HEMMER: Word from our crew on Capitol Hill is it got downright nasty.


HEMMER: Like through the doors and through the walls. Thank you, Daryn.

Coming up at 10:00, what are you going to have for us?

KAGAN: Well, on this very day that we're hear that Mary Kate Olsen is going into a rehab program for an eating disorder, "People" magazine is coming out with an entire issue that's called "Your Diet," focusing on that. We're going to talk about people who feel like they keep trying to lose weight and can't. And is it a good idea for "People" magazine to be putting something out like this, because given the media giving perceptions of people being thin or not thin enough?

HEMMER: All right. See you in about 12 minutes. Thank you, Daryn.

One company's stock is getting hot thanks to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." Andy Serwer checks back in with that, "Minding Your Business."

Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Hello.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Hello to you, guys..

HEMMER: First the markets?

SERWER: No, first my favorite movie song. "It's Raining Men" in "Bridgette Jones Diary." O'BRIEN: Oh, yes.

SERWER: Of course my favorite film. Not.


SERWER: Yes, thank you. OK.

All right, let's talk about the markets. The stocks are not really moving off the dime too much here. Down one -- down less than one as you can see there on the Big Board.

What's happening? I hate to say it again, Norwegian oil strike. It's actually really -- the price of oil is up, the strike is spreading, the third largest exporter in the world. It's real.

Federal Express moving to the upside big time. The stock at an all-time high. Really what an amazing business this is, $79, even the Internet, the economy, all of the problems it's still cooking.

HEMMER: You have long argued that FedEx should be on the Dow 30, right?

SERWER: Should be on the Dow, yes. I still maintain that.

AT&T pulling out of seven states -- Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Hampshire. Thirty-eight million customers. It doesn't like the new deregulation ruling, and it's pulling out of these states. And unbelievable development there.

Let's talk about "Fahrenheit 9/11." It opens tonight in New York. It opens around the country on Friday, generating tremendous buzz, obviously, very controversial. One company really benefiting from that, a small movie company called Lions Gate publicly traded. And look here. This stock has tripled over the past year. A lot of the action coming this spring when it was rumored and then confirmed that the company was going to be distributing this film. So it's kind of interesting there, a little story.

Finally today, "USA Today," they call it the paper of record, some people do. Some people call it "McPaper." Raising its price for the first time in 19 years, going up from 50 cents to 75 cents. For all of you who are putting two quarters in the box, get three. It starts tomorrow.

HEMMER: Yes, chalk up one more.

9/11 did not get the 'PG' rating.


HEMMER: Which is a bit of a blow.


HEMMER: It could affect ticket sales certainly. Some people think that documentary can make well over $65 million.

SERWER: It's going to do really well. Look at "Super Size Me" at how well that's done. And documentaries have really gotten a lot of buzz lately.

HEMMER: All right, thank you, Andy.

In a moment here, the actor, Laurence Fishburne, might be best known for fighting bad guys in the "Matrix." Now though taking on a much bigger enemy. We'll talk to him live about that when we continue in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

I'm talking with Laurence Fishburne. He's an actor, of course, by trade, award-winning Oscar nominated. But he probably would be the very first to tell you that his best and most important work is actually very far from Hollywood. In his other role as a national ambassador for UNICEF, he just returned from a mission to South Africa, where he witnessed the toll that HIV and AIDS have taken on a generation of children.

We were in the middle of chit-chatting when they came up.


O'BRIEN: You handed me something that you said a Canadian gave you in the airport.


O'BRIEN: It's a note from Harry Belafonte. We can't read the whole thing, but give me a sense of what the note says.

FISHBURNE: Yes, well, the basic thing is that he says, you know, make a difference. You don't have to make a difference with the totality of a problem, just pick an area and do something to change it. So that's what I hope my work as a national ambassador for UNICEF will allow me to do is address some things.

O'BRIEN: The question I had to ask you was you're a busy guy.


O'BRIEN: You're a famous movie star. Why get involved in something else that has got to a tremendous amount of time, and also, I think, emotionally take a real toll, too.

FISHBURNE: Well, when you consider that in South Africa the average age of someone who's been abused sexually and who's at risk for HIV and AIDS is a 12-year-old girl. You see, the face of AIDS used to be, you know, a white homosexual man in America, and now the face of AIDS, in South Africa at any rate, is a 12-year-old girl. So I just think that's... O'BRIEN: It's shocking.


O'BRIEN: You literally are just off the plane from South Africa.

FISHBURNE: Literally yesterday morning.

O'BRIEN: Give me a sense of some of the impressions that you have of this country and the devastation, especially among children with HIV and AIDS.

FISHBURNE: Well, again, we visited a place called Kwazulu Natal (ph). Kwazulu Natal (ph) is the largest province in South Africa. It is the poorest province in South Africa. It has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. It has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS amongst women under 30.

So, UNICEF is basically supporting localized programs like this one that are educating these young people about how to prevent the spread of AIDS and about the connection between AIDS, HIV and child abuse.

O'BRIEN: What are they doing on the front -- UNICEF, that is -- and your involvement, too, with the number, the staggering number of AIDS orphans in South Africa and Africa as a country?

FISHBURNE: Well, they have -- there are a lot of programs that are in place locally that are created by nongovernmental organizations that UNICEF basically funds. So, we go and we visit, and we basically see how these programs work.

There's something called Soul Buddy's Clubs in Soweto. This is what we're visiting here. And it's a spinoff of a television show called "Soul City." So, Soul Buddy's Clubs have sprung up all around South Africa. And basically UNICEF helps to fund these clubs, to teach children how to prevent the spread of AIDS. They help the children understand the connection between HIV and gender-based abuse.

O'BRIEN: When was the last time before this recent trip where you're just back that you were in South Africa?

FISHBURNE: This was my first trip to South Africa. I hadn't been there before.

O'BRIEN: So what's your reaction overall? Have you just been shocked?

FISHBURNE: It's incredible. They have inherited a lot of problems, but they have also dismantled a system that was a horrible system. And they've maintained the democracy for 10 years. If they can dismantle apartheid and maintain a democratic system for 10 years, they can certainly, given the right information and given the right kind of funding, they can certainly defeat the AIDS epidemic.

O'BRIEN: Anybody who wants to send money, just go right to UNICEF?

FISHBURNE: Go right to 1-800-4-UNICEF, if you want to call. It's 1-800-4-UNICEF. And if you want to see a virtual tour, if you want to go on the virtual field trip with myself and the U.S. front president, Chip Ryan (ph), you log on to, I believe.

O'BRIEN: Or do a search on Google.

FISHBURNE: OK, that will work, too.

O'BRIEN: Lawrence Fishburne, nice to have you. Thanks for coming in to talk about this really important work.

FISHBURNE: My pleasure, and thank you so very much.

O'BRIEN: We really appreciate it.

A short break. We're back in just a moment.


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