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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Shaheen Continues Protest; Marine of the Year Charged With Crime

Aired August 15, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening, everybody. Thanks for starting off the week with us here tonight.
An explosive combination under the hot Texas sun: War and free speech, politics and a mother's pain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A mother's vigil, right in the president's backyard. A lightning rod for protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go home, liberals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: A magnet for the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON DIED IN IRAQ: Get off the politics. This war is not a partisan issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: What's the president to do? What would you do?

A blockbuster bestseller, "The Da Vinci Code," with 29 million books in print, why is Hollywood keeping the movie under lock and key? What is Hollywood hiding?

And early education, real early, pre-kindergarten and already under pressure. Shouldn't 4 and 5 years just be kids?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GISELE RAGUSA, EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST: They miss a piece of their social life that is critical.

DR. RICHARD BAVARIA, SYLVAN LEARNING CENTER: I say bologna.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The raging controversy over pre-K education. We start tonight with Cindy Sheehan, the mom who changed her mind about the war after her son died serving in Iraq. Well, this summer, she turned up at Crawford, Texas demanding a meeting with the president. The White House said no and things have snowballed from there. She now has a small army of fellow antiwar protesters camped out with her. Now, the only way the president is going to see the protester with his own eyes is if he decides to take a little road trip in Crawford. Two miles after his motorcade pulls out of his ranch, he'd pass by the group.

Sheehan could not have picked a better time for her protest. August is a slow news month and there's an army of White House reporters planted in Crawford waiting for news to happen. So, this has turned into much more than a one woman against the world story. Sheehan has attracted more and more protesters and now she's getting some professional help with the staging. Here's our White House correspondent Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cindy Sheehan's vigil early on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pig! Pig!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk to us!

BASH: Then, the crowds. Reporters swarmed the first protest outside the president's ranch. Antiwar supporters celebrate a symbol. Then, professionals to choreograph.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need you all to back up one step.

BASH: Paid help from Sanction Public Relations, a firm associated with liberal causes, helping manage and maximize Sheehan's anti-Bush message, putting (INAUDIBLE)'s bill a blank check from True Majority, founded by the guy who brought you Chunky Monkey, Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction.

BASH: Now, more outside help. Moveon.org, which spent millions on ads attacking the president and Iraq War, is among the groups helping organize a nationwide, candlelight vigil later this week. Sheehan insists this is her operation.

SHEEHAN: They are working for me and my message. They're not taking over anything. I'm in charge here.

My name is Cindy Sheehan.

BASH: Sheehan's Gold Star Families for Peace paid to air this ad in Crawford for just $15,000, funded by online donations, easier to spring for when other costs are absorbed by new friends.

SHEEHAN: Every need I have has been met mostly by the Crawford Peace House.

BASH: Just days ago, the Peace House, a liberal beach head in conservative Crawford, couldn't pay bills. Now, contributions are pouring in to support Sheehan.

JONATHAN WOLF, SHEEHAN SUPPORTER: We've gone from a brand new account to over $84,000 in three, maybe four days.

BASH: Anti-Sheehan protesters are here now. Some call her a liberal pawn.

DON DUIKER, BUSH SUPPORTER: I think they are some groups that have gotten a hold of her and are just directing her like a puppet.

BASH: Pressed about support from partisans, Sheehan bristles.

SHEEHAN: Get off the politics, you know. This was -- this war is not a partisan issue. This war is wrong whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. Nobody asked my son, "Are you a Republican or are you a Democrat" before they sent him to die in an illegal war.

BASH: But critics say Sheehan is highly political not just a grieving mom. This from an online conference call organized by Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager...

SHEEHAN: You know a government is run by one party. Every level and the mainstream media is a propaganda tool for the government.

BASH: And this on what she calls Israel's -- "occupation of Palestinian land."

SHEEHAN: Part of our problem in world terrorism is our Middle East policies, which seem to favor Israel.

BASH: But 24 hours later, Sheehan concedes it was a mistake to veer from her call to bring home the troops.

SHEEHAN: Talking about other things has distracted us from our original mission. And I realized that but I've been so busy, I haven't had time to reflect.

BASH: Listen closely and her Sheehan voice gratitude for the support she encouraged. But there's also a bit of that old adage, be careful what you wish for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

SHEEHAN: It got out of hand. It just turned into a media circus. And what the original thing was is that I came out here and I sat down in a lawn chair and I said, "I'm not moving until the president meets with me."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So Dana, Mrs. Sheehan has met with the president once before. What is the likelihood that the president will meet with again while she's there in Crawford, Texas?

BASH: Paula, it's so interesting. The White House is being very careful to say, on the record; specifically that he won't meet with her. But they are certainly making every indication that there are no plans. I talked to one senior official today who said this -- who said, "President Bush met with Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother. What we're seeing now is Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar protester." But Paula, they do understand this is quite a dicey situation. You heard Cindy Sheehan just say that she's surprised by all of this. There's no question, the White House is too.

ZAHN: Well, how concerned are they about the perception of the picture that the American public sees?

BASH: Well, certainly, they're quite concerned. In general, if you sort of look at the bigger picture that this up against the backdrop of poll numbers that show that public support across the country is waning for the mission in Iraq, of news that they expected to be different like today on the Iraqi Constitution, which is delayed a week. So it sort of all falls into one big picture.

But as you said, and as is made clear throughout the past week and a half, she is symbol and she has become what many hope -- many think is a sympathetic symbol. That is also why, Paula, we saw this past weekend pro-Bush supporters coming out saying that Cindy Sheehan has her thing to say, but they believe that troops should stay in Iraq and even putting some other members of military families who lost soldiers saying the same thing -- Paula.

ZAHN: Dana bash, an interesting story for all of us to look more deeply into. I appreciate your perspective tonight.

So what does this mean for the president politically? Earlier, I spoke with Republican strategist, Bay Buchanan, who was an adviser to President Reagan and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who advised President Clinton and ran Al Gore's campaign in the year 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (on camera): Thank you both for joining us tonight.

Bay, I know that the president met with Cindy Sheehan back in June of last year, shortly after her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq. What would be the harm in the president meeting her now as she is literally camped outside one of the entrances to his Crawford ranch?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the question is, what would he gain at this stage? She's become an activist, an antiwar activist. She's down there with a number of other activists. This is a basically a professional campaign that she's got...

ZAHN: But Bay, I asked the question -- the question I asked was how would the president be harmed by this?

BUCHANAN: Well, he wouldn't gain anything. What he would do is he'd meet with her. She's not going to be satisfied with a meeting. She's going to come in there. She's on a bus. It's called the Impeachment Bus or the Impeachment Tour. And so, she's clearly got an agenda here. He sends his national security adviser to listen to her. That's an extremely senior person. If he meets with her, she's just going to have another couple days on television bashing the president.

ZAHN: So Donna, if you advising the president, and you know going in that there really is nothing that this president is going to say that will appease her, he's not pulling the troops out today, what incentive does he have to meet with her?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, he could say to her that, you know, in very personal ways because he is a man of tremendous charm that he understands her loss and the loss of other mothers and family members who have lost someone in Iraq...

ZAHN: But Donna, hang on one second. The president did meet with her and when she came out of that meeting before, she said he repeatedly referred to her as Mom, that he didn't have an understanding of who her son was and wouldn't even call him by his name, Casey. She was very insulted by that.

BRAZILE: Well, again, and that's why I think the president -- I don't there's any harm for the president to invite her over for coffee, after all it's southern hospitality, and to break bread with her. And say, look, I understand your loss. You are grieving. I'm grieving. The American people grieve with you. I don't agree with you but I would like to allow this episode to end so that you can get on with your life because, clearly the president would want to continue his own life.

ZAHN: According to the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup Poll, 54 percent of all Americans think it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq. So what is the message this president is sending Americans when there is a perception that he's whipping out by not meeting her.

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, the key here is, you know, the media has decided to make use of this woman, an antiwar movement. They're all down there. They're exploiting her.

ZAHN: We didn't put her there, Bay.

BUCHANAN: She's willingly participating in this. If he meets with her, I ask you, Paula, how many more are going to be there next week, the week after, in front of the White House, meet with me, will you meet with me? He has met with these families. There are -- her own family, it does not feel that she should be down there and making this statement. So there's people on both sides of this very, very sensitive issue in this country.

ZAHN: But Bay, does he risk looking like he's out of touch or that he's craven?

BUCHANAN: No, I don't think at all he does. He cannot win with this woman. She's very angry. She's a tragic figure. My compassion is with her. But she has now become a part of the antiwar movement and she's going to do the best she can to really -- to try to make -- embarrass the president.

ZAHN: Donna, a final question for you tonight. Do you think that Cindy Sheehan is being used at this point and that her mission, would have been successful if she had separated herself from these special interest groups that are now coming into her world?

BRAZILE: You know the people that she's attracting are ordinary Americans, people who have lost...

ZAHN: Move on, Donna.

BRAZILE: ... families. Look, she has invited moveon.org and other organizations who share her philosophy to join with her in a vigil this Wednesday night. No one is using Cindy Sheehan. She is on a mission to try in her own way to bring an end to the war. This is one individual trying to do something very old fashioned American and that is to...

ZAHN: But...

BRAZILE: ... influence her government.

ZAHN: But -- so it has turned into a political mission, is that what you're conceding, Donna?

BUCHANAN: There's no question it has.

BRAZILE: Look, look, look, Bay, it doesn't matter if it's a political mission or not. This is a grieving mother who wants to end -- would like to see the war ended in Iraq.

BUCHANAN: She wants to see the war ended. She wants to see the president impeached. She wants to see the president out of Gaza and out of supporting Israel. She seems to have a lot of things she wants other than just having a chance to talk to the president.

ZAHN: Donna, you got the last word. We should make it clear to our audience that Miss Sheehan did come out after making those comments about Israel and apologized, saying she wished she hadn't said some of those things.

BRAZILE: There's no question that her mission is still the same as it was when she came and pitched that tent in the ditch. She wants this president to listen to her and other mothers and end the war in Iraq.

ZAHN: Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan, we got to leave it there. Thank you both for joining us tonight.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: I appreciate both of your perspectives.

BRAZILE: Thank you. BUCHANAN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And there is an interesting side effect to the battle of wills between the president and the protesters in Crawford. It's annoying the neighbors. One of them, Larry Mattlage, got everyone's attention yesterday by actually firing a shot gun into the air. It was legal. Mattlage was on his own property and he said he was only practicing for dove season. But he also had a larger point to make, the natives are getting restless.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Crawford, Texas is like much of small-town America: wide open spaces, one traffic light and a population of only 705, including Larry Mattlage.

LARRY MATTLAGE, PRESIDENT BUSH's NEIGHBOR: This community is a tight-knit community. This is a German community of farmers and ranchers who settled this land 125 years ago. And we have followed a lot of other battles here with droughts and everything else. This is a tough group of people and they ought to just mind their own business.

ZAHN: But minding your own business isn't possible when the first vacationer's ranch is just next door because where the president goes, security goes, and reporters go, and satellite trucks go, and now, even protesters go. By Crawford, Texas standards, it's getting really crowded.

MATTLAGE: You want somebody to put this in your backyard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you like...

MATTLAGE: ... or your front yard? This is our yard right here. We just happen, in Texas, to have a bigger yard than they do in Maryland. I can't (INAUDIBLE) nobody for trespassing and the sheriff knows it so he's allowing them to park on my property. My own damn sheriff is allowing them to park on my property. We got a battle of the port-a-potties. They first starting going to the bathroom in a five-gallon bucket. Then they moved one port-a-potty in here. Now, we got two port-a-potties. And now, we got three. And if this keeps up, they'll be all the end to the end of the road. And they got four port-a-potties over there. The only living here is (INAUDIBLE) that came with the port-a-potties. And I've lived here for six years, (INAUDIBLE) and lived here, OK.

I don't even know him and he's my neighbor. I love him as a neighbor and I don't care what he does. That ain't my business. I'm not politician. All I know is when he gets through the presidency, he is our neighbor and all of the yelling and all of this protest is out of here. And the Good Book says you love your neighbor, so hell, I love George Bush. He will be our neighbor as long as we're here, and then he becomes a part of our community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the fact that these people are just temporary neighbors? Would you love them just the same?

MATTLAGE: I loved them for a week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: For a week. I guess that says it all. Larry Mattlage says the protesters have already made their point, and it's time for all of them to go home. And some have. Our crew reports the crowds thinned out considerably this morning. On Saturday, there were between, I guess, a hundred and a 150 anti-war protesters and a couple of hundred demonstrators who came to show their support for the president. Mattlage, by the way, in the interest of full disclosure, actually rents space to another network so it can set up cameras to watch the president's ranch.

And one more note on this story, no matter what you think of the controversy, let's not lose sight of this young man, Cindy Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan. He joined the Army at the age of 21 and re-enlisted three years later. He was a Humvee mechanic and had been in Iraq for only two weeks, when on April, 4, 2004, he volunteered to go on a rescue mission even though he knew it would be dangerous. Well, his convoy was ambushed. Six other soldiers died as well.

Coming up, a shocking twist of a story of a serviceman who just last month was honored as a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROGER PITMAN, PSYCHIATRIST: It's not so easy for them to simply throw the switch and turn off all of the things that they've learned while they've been away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Coming up, why did the Marine of The Year end up in a courtroom today charged with a violent crime?

And later, would you believe pre-kindergarteners have tutors at 40 bucks an hour. Is that too much pressure to succeed? What's happening to our country anyway?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still to come tonight, a controversy that is absolutely guaranteed to be a Hollywood blockbuster. Is the Da Vinci Code really anti-Catholic? Or were Jesus and Mary Magdalene actually married and have a child of their own?

And a little bit later on, can you do this? Jeanne Moos has discovered where it's time to tango. Ouch!

Right now, it's 20 minutes past the hour and it's time for an update of the top stories with Erica Hill who's going to do the news and not tango for us.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: No, it's just much better off that way for all involved. Thanks, Paula.

HILL: Well, instead of a historic, new constitution for Iraq, the new government produced a one-week delay today. Among the issues, the new Iraqi Assembly couldn't agree upon just how much power Islamic law should have and how much power the federal government itself should have. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is optimistic, adding Iraq just needs a little more time.

In the meantime, a Muslim cleric who ran a mosque in Northern California is now being deported to Pakistan. The FBI raided Shabir Ahmed's home in Lodi back in June. He's accused of having links to Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps. Ahmed's attorney said he's not terrorist but has agreed to leave the U.S. after overstaying his visa.

In the investigation into that horrendous crash of a Helios airliner near Athens, police raided the airline's office today, searching for the plane's maintenance records. All 121 people aboard died. One possible cause, maybe a sudden loss of air pressure in the cabin. Today, two clues emerged -- the coroner says six passengers were still alive at the time of the crash. It's not clear whether or not they were conscious. In addition, the body of a flight attendant was found in the cockpit.

And a new study says women who take non-aspirin painkillers like Tylenol every single day are more likely to develop high blood pressure. One expert says that's why it's important to let your doctor know about any over-the-counter drugs you may be using.

And Paula, that's the latest from "HEADLINE NEWS" at this hour. We'll hand it back over to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. We'll see you a little bit later on at the back end of the hour.

Coming up next though, a decorated Marine, a shotgun blast, and a disturbing question: are U.S. Troops ready for peace when they come home from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISSETTE CUMBA, SHOOTING VICTIM: I thought he was just doing it to scare us, you know. And he came inside shooting at everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So the question is, did he really do it. Coming up next, some serious allegations about the man just honored as the Marine of The Year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So how does a man just named Marine of The Year end up being charged with firing a shotgun into a crowd outside a night club. Well, that's exactly what people near Boston are asking themselves today. Here's Dan Lothian with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in saluting this outstanding, unsung hero.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One month ago, 33- year-old Sergeant Daniel Cotnoir stood on the stage in the nation's capital and was named Marine of The Year for his service in Iraq. Today, he was standing before a judge in a Lawrence, Massachusetts courtroom pleading not guilty to among other things armed assault with the intent to murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to be arraigned on two counts of...

LOTHIAN: The charges stem from a shooting incident outside his home that left two people wounded and brought back to the spotlight concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder and veterans of the war in Iraq. Cotnoir, a mortician in civilian life had the same job in the military.

ROBERT KELLEY, DEFENSE LAWYER: He had the task of retrieving the remains for those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice and he wanted them to be treated with dignity. So he went through a lot.

JAMES STOKES, FAMILY FRIEND: Well, how would you feel if you had to take care of your brothers and sisters that are over there?

LOTHIAN: This weekend, frustration over a long, simmering dispute led him to allegedly commit a crime.

(on camera): It happened early Saturday morning as the crowd was spilling out of that club and restaurant. Witnesses say there was a lot of noise. People were slamming car doors, playing loud music. Cotnoir, who lived with his wife and children on the second floor of the family-owned funeral home, was looking out the window. He had already called police and complained about the noise.

(voice-over): But before police arrived, witnesses say he grabbed a shotgun.

STEPHANIE TEJEDA, VICTIM'S COUSIN: He stood behind mini blinds, so you can see, like, just a shadow of it. But you can see it.

LOTHIAN: Witnesses say someone threw a bottle through his window and that's when the decorated Marine allegedly fired what his lawyer calls a warning shot in response to threatening situation. Fifteen- year-old Lissette Cumba and a 20-year-old man were hit by bullet fragments but were not seriously injured.

CUMBA: And I thought he was just doing it to scare us, you know. And he came and he started shooting at everybody.

LOTHIAN: Cotnoir recently recounted to a local newspaper reporter his haunting memories of war, including, having to cut down the beaten and burned bodies of two of the security contractors attacked in Falluja and hanged on a bridge last spring. Whether or not posttraumatic stress disorder becomes part of his defense, experts say the case highlights a major hurdle some soldiers are facing on the home front.

PITMAN: When they come home, they're expected to act completely normal. But it's not so easy for them to simply throw the switch and turn off all of the things that they've learned while they've been away.

LOTHIAN: A Marine honored for his service and valor has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation in a serious criminal case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Dan Lothian reporting for us tonight. Sergeant Cotnoir is due back in court on September 2.

Coming up, a best-selling book that's becoming a controversial new movie, but can you believe anything in it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHEL ROUGE, HISTORIAN, ST. SULPICE: Most of things in the book are not true, especially much of what is said about this church.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Coming up next though, is the Da Vinci Code really anti- Catholic or are some critics overreacting?

And later, getting ready for kindergarten with a $40 an hour tutor. Yes, kindergarten, folks. Are some parents pushing too hard? Find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Almost two years ago, Mel Gibson managed to turn anxiety and controversy over "The Passion of the Christ" into a surprise blockbuster movie. Well, get ready for another movie with a religious theme that's already enraging some people, even before it's made. It's the film version of the wildly popular novel "The Da Vinci Code" and the Catholic Church isn't pleased. Here's entertainment correspondent, Sibila Vargas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It seemed almost preordained, 29 million copies in print in 44 languages, topping worldwide bestseller lists for two years and counting. A stack of every existing copy of "The Da Vinci Code," its publisher claims, would reach 220 miles into the sky. A novel, anointed for success, cryptic code cracking, breathless chasing through some of Europe's most sacred sites. Woven throughout, dusty secret societies, like the Priory of Scion,the Knights Templar and hollowed religious rights. (on camera): What it says about the church have some calling it a attack on Christianity. Critics say it questions the cornerstone of the Christian faith, the divinity of Jesus Christ. It casts Mary Magdalene as his lover, if not wife with whom he is has a child. It suggests that the child then becomes a part of the bloodline of the kings of France. It's the Catholic Church's Opus Dei sect, has conducted a centuries long cover up that has included assassinations. Mystery tinged in history, or so it appears.

ANDREW SOANE, OPUS DEI: Although it's a novel, and one doesn't want to overreact, it does have a pseudo academic disguise, and therefore, things which are presented as facts are unusually damaging.

VARGAS (voice-over): But author Dan Brown does claim the grounding of his novel is fact. A simple statement in the prologue reads, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

The dark intrigue, biblical undertones -- Hollywood couldn't resist. Powerhouse producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard secured the rights and signed Tom Hanks to star. With Howard at the helm, the movie had instant hit written all over it. An added bonus? The recently discovered religious audience after Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" last year blind sided box office watchers.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN, PRESIDENT, EXHIBITOR RELATIONS: If you alienate that audience, you do so at your peril, because if they don't come out to see your movie, that could hurt you at the box office.

VARGAS: With the prospect that devout Christians might be offended, a shroud of secrecy came down over the making of "The Da Vinci Code."

STEVEN KOTLER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, VARIETY: Usually at the upper level of Hollywood, there are scripts floating around. People know things. People don't know anything about "The Da Vinci Code."

VARGAS: Here's what we know. London's Westminster Abbey wanted nothing to do with the movie. The 940-year-old cathedral rejected a request to shoot there, stating, "'The Da Vinci Code' is theologically unsound." Since filming began this summer in Great Britain, no outsiders have been allowed near the sets. These pictures are the among the few that exist of the shoot. Scripts are under tight control, and individuals associated with the film have signed confidentiality agreements.

KOTLER: This is very controversy book. I don't think everybody's has exactly figured out how they want to handle that controversy.

VARGAS: For that, moviemakers hired a marketer with expertise in Christian sensibilities. The producers and Sony Pictures turned down CNN's request for interviews. The book is already a lightning rod, but it's how Christian beliefs will be portrayed in the movie that has intensified Catholic concerns. WILLIAM DONOHUE, PRES. & CEO, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: A movie can have a more convulsive affect on the audience than the book can. But I'm not going to stand on the sidelines on this. I wrote a letter to Ron Howard, very clear what my concern was. If you have disclaimer in the beginning of the movie which simply says that this a work of fiction, fine. I'm walking away.

VARGAS: Author Amy Welborn, who's book "De-coding Da Vinci" refutes "The Da Vinci Code, gave advice to the Sony Studios marketing team.

AMY WELBORN, AUTHOR, "DE-CODING DA VINCI": The major concern was, you know, what can they do not to make everybody really made and not inspire a boycott of this film or the studio or anything like that. And it's really a very delicate situation. They don't want to alienate the core audience.

VARGAS: That core audience is made up of people who love the book, many of whom accept its premise as fact. A cottage industry has grown around them of conspiracy theorists, myth-busters, even "Da Vinci Code" based tours with the faithful following its clues, to places like Chateau de Villette in France, home of the book's villainous art historian.

In the novel, a nun is bludgeoned to death at the Paris' Church of St. Sulpice. That put local priests on the defensive. They even put a sign clarifying that a brass strip running across the floor is not a pagan astronomical device. That too was in the book.

MICHEL ROUGE, HISTORIAN, ST. SULPICE: Of course, most of the things in the book are not true, especially much of what is said about this church.

VARGAS: It's not just one church. The novel challenges some of the fundamentals tenets of Catholicism. Small wonder the movie is becoming so controversial.

KOTLER: Controversy puts people in seats. Keeping things secret is a phenomenal marketing tool. It stirs up interest, and how much do you have to market a thriller made by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard that 25 million people have already read and love?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Sibila Vargas reporting for us. Joining me now, one of the people you just heard in Sibila's report, William Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League. Of course, we never know what it is you're asking for, but you made a very clear request of Ron Howard to give you a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that basically said that this is fiction. Are you going to get that? Have you heard anything?

DONOHUE: I don't know. I haven't heard anything from him. If he's smart he'll give it to me. After all, what am I asking for? On March the 18th of this year, I asked him to do that. Look, if you look at the book, they say it's a work of fiction. On the other hand, you have Dan Brown who goes on TV shows and says it's based on historical truth.

I don't like the genre of docu-drama. It's either or a documentary or it's a drama. I didn't like it with Oliver Stone, I didn't like it with Alex Haley. I don't like it now when they're playing fast and loose with my church, making up lies about the Catholic Church.

You know, for 25 years we have been looking at all these movies coming out of Hollywood bashing my religion and Christianity in general. We finally found one we had a good time with, "The Passion of the Christ," and then we're called bigots. Now we have this movie coming out. Even one of the co-producers, John Calley, called this movie anti-Catholic. Sharon Waxman in the "New York Times," a week ago yesterday, had a marvelous article. He said it was conservatively anti-Catholic. Well, what does that mean? If he was anti-Catholic?

ZAHN: But you weren't making this argument when the book came out. You are only making this now once the movie's being made. You really believe this movie, even though it's based on a fictional novel, is going to hurt your church?

DONOHUE: The Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years, and we've done a lot of bungling of our own, particularly lately, haven't we? So there's got to be divine providence if the Catholic Church is still around after 2,000 years. Look, I'm not saying that the edifice of the Catholic Church is going to fall. We're not built on sand.

The question is this. A lot of Christians in this country -- which is 85 percent of the population -- do believe some of this nonsense. There's no evidence at all, for example, the idea Christ's divine (ph) was made up out of whole cloth, just as a fabrication? We ...

ZAHN: How about the idea that Christ married Mary Magdalene and they had a child?

DONOHUE: Well, you know what? What's more disturbing than that -- where do we have the accounts? We have 25 accounts in the gospels, 40 in the New Testament talking about the divinity of Jesus Christ. What he's trying to say is that this whole thing is a ruse. Now, Hollywood wouldn't make a movie, the protocols of the Elders of Scion, which is notoriously anti-Semitic, all those lies that these people told about Jews.

Why are they making this thing into a movie? Ron Howard, all he has to do is to simply drop the anti-Catholic element. You know what? He could still have a great movie.

ZAHN: But you're not telling me there's a conspiracy here when the majority of Americans are practicing Christians, and a lot of them Catholics?

DONOHUE: No, I don't think there's any conspiracy. Conspiracies have a certain element of latency. This is right out in the open. I mean, I'm taking a look at the kind of movies that Hollywood typically makes. Now look ...

ZAHN: Well, what is the precedent for Hollywood putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that this is a fictionalized account.

DONOHUE: If they do that, then it removes the idea that somehow this is based in history, it's based in historical truth. I don't care about the art and the architecture. I'm talking about the divinity of Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus Christ as the son of man (ph) as a Christian, and for them to allege that this was made up as a convenient lie by the Catholic Church in the fourth century is very, disconcerting.

ZAHN: I understand all of your concerns here but what happens if you don't get this disclaimer? It's been since March. You haven't heard from Ron Howard. He's kind of a busy guy, Bill.

DONOHUE: Right, well, you know, he's going to have to explain to the American public why he has a man as the co-producer who calls the movie anti-Catholic. See, I love it when he did that, because it's no longer Bill Donohue saying this movie is anti-Catholic, you had...

ZAHN: (INAUDIBLE) ask for the boycott of the film?

DONOHUE: No, I don't know. I ask for boycotts when I know I can win. I've won with that Calvin Klein, I killed an ABC show "Nothing Sacred," I've gotten people fired from the radio, I've gotten TV shows pulled and retired forever. I don't know -- this is more of an education moment.

ZAHN: You got 10 seconds left. You're not saying that the American public isn't sophisticated to understand when something is fact or fiction?

DONOHUE: Oh, I think they are, just as long as -- I believe in truth in advertising. And all I'm asking for is Ron Howard to tell us the truth. This is a result of the creative liberties taken by Dan Brown and himself. If they do that, then I walk away.

ZAHN: Will you let me know if you ever get that letter?

DONOHUE: Oh, sure. I will.

ZAHN: Bill Donohue...

DONOHUE: You'll be number one.

ZAHN: Oh, good. I'm glad to hear that. No shortage of energy with this man, ever.

Coming up -- when do you start pushing your children to excel in school?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RICHARD BAVARIA, SYLVAN LEARNING CENTER: We had parents tell us that they were eager for their young children, their 4-and-a-half- year-old children to be able to get a leg up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Is that too soon? What if your child is ready to learn?

You get an A if you stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So what were you doing in the summertime when you were just 5 years old? Probably splashing in the pool, playing on the jungle gym, playing with your friends. You were probably not going to school and not learning how to read.

Well, times have certainly changed, and a lot of parents are now sending their preschoolers to summer school, afraid they'll fall behind before they've even started. Here's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at her. Look at Sofia.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five-year-old Sofia is just like most girls her age. She can show her pesky little brother who's boss, and entertain herself with just about anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Sofia.

SIMON: But this summer, she's in a class all by herself. Literally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this upper case or lower case?

SOFIA, 5-YEAR-OLD: Upper case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Upper case, very good.

SIMON: Sofia is getting one-on-one tutoring a couple of days a week to learn how to read and write. It's in addition to preschool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you print five upper case capital B's for me? Very good.

SIMON: This is the Sylvan Learning Center in Northridge, California. The company, like several others, recently added a pre- kindergarten course. Being kindergarten-ready means more than it used to. Educators say over the past decade, expectations have increased as to what 5- and 6-year-olds should know. New research has also suggested that the earlier children are exposed to books and language, the better they do in school.

DR. RICHARD BAVARIA, SYLVAN LEARNING CENTER: Parents are becoming much more sophisticated about education.

SIMON: Dr. Richard Bavaria, who oversees Sylvan's curriculum, says it was only after the company started getting requests from parents that it began offering the tutoring sessions.

BAVARIA: We had parents tell us that they were -- they were eager for their young children, their 4-and-a-half-year-old children, to be able to get a leg up, to be able to have a little bit more confidence when they got ready for kindergarten.

REBECCA, SOFIA'S MOTHER: I had to decide whether it was reading or, say, the ballet for this summer break.

SIMON: Sofia's mother tells us reading won out, after hearing that other moms were doing the same thing with their kids. She didn't want her daughter to be left behind.

REBECCA: I wanted for her to know some things, so when she's called on in class, to have that confidence to put her hand up and -- because she knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say submarine?

MIMI: Submarine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's good.

SIMON: Little Mimi certainly had a confidence boost. Her mom says she was a bit behind the other kids in preschool, and the tutoring has done wonders.

CORRINE HICKS, MIMI'S MOTHER: She can read. She can do sight words, meaning small words like "red," "blue," "green," "it," "that." If you show it to her through flashcards, she can actually read them, and before, that was impossible.

SIMON (on camera): But getting kids in the classroom early obviously means less time here on the playground. And critics say that can be harmful.

DR. GISELE RAGUSA, EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It's really best to let the child set their pace.

SIMON: Dr. Gisele Ragusa is an educational psychologist. She's concerned that kids these days aren't being allowed to be, well, kids.

RAGUSA: Their world is so structured, by tutoring sessions, by structured play, by structured anything, they sometimes resist. And if they don't resist, they miss a piece of their social life that is critical.

BAVARIA: I say, baloney. I say if the child is ready to learn, if a child is motivated to learn, why would we not do that?

SIMON: But Sylvan does have a restriction. The child has to be at least 4-and-a-half years old to be eligible for the tutoring. Bavaria says the company has actually had to turn down some 3-year- olds. He concedes that some parents can be too eager.

BAVARIA: You don't want to push your child to do anything that he doesn't want to do when he's that young.

Now, when they're in middle school and they don't want to do their homework, then of course you do have to push.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you think of something that starts with "b?" What might that be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bus.

SIMON: At 40 to 45 bucks an hour, not everyone can afford the tutoring. But companies that offer it clearly hope more parents will look at it as something they can't afford not to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: They grow up faster all the time, don't they? Dan Simon reporting.

Coming up, something they usually don't teach in kindergarten, but it can be a lot of fun. Stay with us. Jeanne Moos is going to tackle the world of tango championships.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Coming up, a dance that never seems to go out of style. You might be surprised at how many people have done the tango over the years. Jeanne Moos takes us to the dance floor after we update the top stories. Here's Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.

HILL: Thanks, Paula.

Drivers may not be getting many smiles per gallon at the gas pump these days, and it's pretty obvious why -- just look at the numbers. Today, the Energy Department said the average price of regular gas has now climbed to $2.55 a gallon, a 20-cent surge in just three weeks. But even though there's more grumbling, gasoline use continues to grow.

The Gaza pullout gaining steam today. Some settlers (INAUDIBLE), others got the word from more than 55,000 Israeli troops, time to leave what will become Palestinian land. Still, some argued, begged, even pleaded with the troops. The Israeli prime minister called the evictions "a great anguish," but that they are good for Israel.

And a little less than an hour ago, one of those white-knuckle moments when a C-2 military aircraft makes an emergency landing at a Naval air field in Norfolk, Virginia, after its landing gear got stuck. Reporter John Massey of WAVY had a bird's eye view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MASSEY, WAVY-TV CORRESPONDENT: You can see just behind the aircraft, he's got a tail hook down, and he has shut down that right engine, the starboard engine at this point, as he comes in toward Norfolk. What they're going to do is he brought that nose gear back up at this point. He's got the rear gear up. He's got 25 people onboard that aircraft. They're in crash positions, they are braced, they are ready for the impact. You watch that tail hook, I want you to pay real close attention to it, is as he comes in and lands, you're going to see that tail hook grasp a cable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The crew of 20 aboard that C-2 aircraft, we're happy to report, all safe.

And Paula, those are the headlines at this hour. With that, we'll hand it back to you.

ZAHN: And that is one heck of a lucky crew. Erica, thanks so much.

Stay with us for a dance with an attitude.

The next dance belongs to Jeanne Moos and some of the hottest tango dancers in the world. You'll meet them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Right now in Argentina, hundreds of couples are competing for a title you've probably never heard of. There is not much money involved either, but think of the romance of calling yourselves "the best tango dancers in the world." Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a tangoed web they weave in Argentina, where the World Tango Championship is up for grabs. Argentina, home of the tango, a dance that supposedly got their start as men waited their turn at brothels. The church frowned on it. It was even banned.

What a difference a century makes. Now, over 400 couples are competing for a $5,000 prize. And any star who's anybody has done a tango scene. From Brad and Angelina to J.Lo and Richard Gear. From Jack Lemmon in drag, to the Addams family. Even kids are getting into it in a recently released documentary, "Mad Hot Ballroom."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that attitude. Look at that attitude on that face. Love that.

MOOS: The World Tango Championship has attracted couples from 29 countries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to say, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Argentina and tango.

MOOS: Don't try this at the world championship: Tangoing blindfolded, like in the movie "Naked Tango."

From blindfolded to blind, in "Scent of a Woman," Al Pacino had a tango tongue twister.

AL PACINO, ACTOR: No mistakes in the tango, no, no. If you make a mistake and get all tangled up, you just tango on.

MOOS: Though purists quibbled with his performance...

MARIA BASTONE, TANGO INSTRUCTOR: It's well done and it's professional, but...

MOOS (on camera): But it's not the tango.

M. BASTONE: It's not Argentine tango.

MOOS (voice-over): These two taught Madonna to tango, and they say that in a true Argentine tango...

DANEL BASTONE, TANGO INSTRUCTOR: From the waist up, it's -- it doesn't move.

M. BASTONE: It's stationary.

D. BASTONE: It's stationary.

MOOS: Nothing is stationary when you're "Dancing With the Stars."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dancing the tango, Rachel Hunter (ph) and Jonathan Roberts (ph).

MOOS: One guy who wouldn't make it into the tango championship...

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: You tango?

MOOS: Arnold admits he was concerned when he saw he'd have to tango in "True Lies."

TOM ARNOLD, ACTOR: Harry, you do not have time to tango, buddy. You copy?

MOOS: Arnold says he had to take a lot of lessons.

There's even an electric car named the Tango. George Clooney just bought the first one, for $108,000. Its inventor is an ice dancer who loves to tango on ice. Look how this thing tangos into tight parking spaces.

And finally, there's the former tangoer-in-chief. When Bill Clinton had to tango with Argentina's first lady, he did a lot of looking at his feet. And when he got tangled up with another couple, he took Al Pacino's advice.

PACINO: If you get all tangled up, you just tango on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That's not easy to do. Jeanne Moos reporting for us tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Tomorrow night -- online dating to the extreme. Get this: The clients are already married, it's just a click away. We're going to tell you about a new Web site that is attracting a lot of customers by the thousands.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up next. The guest host tonight, Bob Costas. Again, thank you so much for being with us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Have a good night.

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