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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Does Foley Scandal Threaten Republican Majorities in Congress?; Surviving a Midair Collision; Being Gay in the GOP; North Korea to Test Nuclear Weapon?

Aired October 6, 2006 - 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: And hello, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Two developing stories making headlines tonight, all covered by our team of correspondents.

There are some new revelations in the Foley scandal.

But first, an even more urgent story out of the Far East, where it is already Saturday morning -- there are signals right now indicating that North Korea could defy the world and ignore a new warning by the U.N. Security Council by testing a nuclear weapon, possibly in the next several hours.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

What is it the Pentagon is telling you, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon officially is saying absolutely nothing, Paula.

But what we do know at this hour is U.S. spy satellites, U.S. spy planes, have all of their sensors, all of their eyes trained on the North Korean country, on the peninsula of Korea.

When you look at the map, what are they looking at? Well, in northeastern North Korea, there are a number of sites that U.S. intelligences that discerned that, at these sites, the North Koreans are making test preparations.

But here is the interesting fact, Paula. The preparations are going on at several sites in North Korea. Only one will possibly be the place where the nuclear detonation takes place. What are the North Koreans to?

A lot of folks think it's a game of nuclear three-card monte, preparing several sites, and defying the CIA to figure out which is the site where they just might defy the world and conduct that nuclear test.

ZAHN: And, Barbara, Japan is already hinting tonight, if they go off and -- and do this test, they will threaten some kind of sanctions or perhaps military action. What would the consequences be?

STARR: Well, so far, what is really going on, of course, is rising diplomatic pressure, rising by the hour, from the world community, with the United Nations.

But let's take a look at something Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said earlier this week, some pretty ominous-sounding words from the secretary. He said: "North Korea can have a future or it can have those weapons -- these weapons. It cannot have both" -- so, a bit of a ominous sign out there.

But, still, the question is: Will North Korea do it? Bottom line, Paula, intelligence analysts say they could be ready as soon as this weekend. They might be messing with everybody's head, and just wait until they are good and ready. Or they might never do it. No one knows.

ZAHN: Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

CNN correspondents all over the world will be watching this story all weekend long. Be sure to check in with us for the very latest.

Now we move on to this hour's "Top Story" in politics. At this hour, Republicans are overwhelmed by the Mark Foley scandal -- party leaders facing a growing avalanche of questions over their handling of the disgraced ex-congressman and his dirty computer messages to teenaged former congressional pages.

For what they are doing, let's turn to congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She joins us now with the very latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, as for the speaker of the House, who, of course, has been under intense fire for his role in perhaps not doing enough to stop Mark Foley, yesterday, of course, he came before the cameras to try to plead his case, saying that he does take full responsibility.

Today, though, he took his damage-control effort behind the scenes, behind closed doors. He was working the phones, we understand, making calls to conservative leaders, fellow colleagues, but still making the same case, that his resignation would actually not help the party; it would hurt it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): GOP leaders who took shots at the speaker earlier in the week renewed their support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let me have the opportunity to go on record. I completely support the speaker of House, and was glad that he came on and shared his thoughts yesterday.

BASH: And allies rallied around him in a more public way.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), FLORIDA: The speaker of the House, in my view, did not know that any of that had occurred.

BASH: Senior GOP officials are voicing hope, the worst is over. VIN WEBER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I would say the panic is out of people's voices, but a deep-seated concern remains. I mean, those -- those members that have been polling regularly -- and we're in that season where members of Congress are doing regular tracking polls -- have found a dip in Republican ratings across the board.

BASH: On the campaign trail, Republicans in tight races are still seeking cover from the Foley fallout.

Tom Kean Jr., a Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, announced: "Hastert should resign as speaker. He is the head of the institution, and this happened on his watch."

In Indiana's conservative 9th district, Baron Hill became the second Democrat running for Congress to air a TV ad using Foley against his GOP opponent, raising questions about where his campaign money is coming from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: And $77,000 from the House leadership, who knew about, but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And, after a Florida debate Thursday night, Republican Clay Shaw defended Hastert -- carefully.

REP. CLAY SHAW JR. (R), FLORIDA: Until the -- all the facts are out there, I think it would be wrong to be in judgment of anybody.

BASH: Ron Lewis of Kentucky was the first of several nervous Republicans to cancel planned events with the speaker. His spokesman concedes, Hastert's campaign schedule has been -- quote -- "pared down." However, the speaker will appear at a Chicago fund-raiser with the president next week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Dana, you just very clearly showed us that some folks are worried about how this rally-around-the-speaker strategy might not work.

Are -- are they telling you on the record they think it's backfiring already?

BASH: No. I mean, I think that, certainly, some are very worried.

As you saw the -- the Senate Republican candidate in New Jersey. Still, even after the speaker tried to plead his case before the cameras yesterday, still said, you know: Sorry. I still think he has to resign.

He's in a very tough race there in New Jersey. But the bottom line in talking to people here and around town, that there is a consensus that they really don't have a choice, basically, that, even from -- from the speaker's office, from -- to the Republican National Committee, even to the highest levels of the White House, Paula, they decided that -- that, for the speaker to step down, it would actually do much more damage at this point, because of where we are, basically, in the calendar, a month before the election, than if he were to stay, because they would potentially have a leadership fight right now, and it would perhaps even more demoralize or depress the Republicans, who are out there, who are already not very happy.

So, that is the decision that they have made right now. You know, we will see what happens in a month.

ZAHN: And -- and you have just mentioned how we're moving up on this midterm election.

BASH: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: How are they telling this will impact turnout?

BASH: That's -- you know, that's the big concern right now.

People can look at as many polls as they want to, to see where voters say they -- they will vote. But the question is, will they actually go vote? And -- and, really, even if you look at this on a national level, it almost doesn't matter, because we talk to Republicans. They say, look, if a certain number of conservatives decide, you know, we're just not going to go vote, we're so angry, in some of these really tight races, where Republicans are really counting on every vote they can get, that could really tip the balance of control of Congress.

And that is their big concern right now, that these conservatives already were mad, fiscal conservatives, because they feel spending has gone way up -- now it's the social conservatives who these House members have been trying to appeal to, but not anymore.

ZAHN: Congressional correspondent Dana Bash, thanks.

Now, the last thing the Republicans need tonight are more pages telling stories of sexually suggestive comments from Mark Foley. But there are. On top of that, one former page has hired a very prominent attorney.

For that part of our story, let's turn to Brian Todd, who joins us now with the latest details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, from this attorney, we have the name of a former page who is very crucial to this investigation, 21-year-old Jordan Edmund. He's one of the former pages referred to in ABC News' original report on explicit instant messages, allegedly sent by former Congressman Foley.

Today, CNN spoke with Edmund's attorney, the well-known Stephen Jones of Oklahoma, who also represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Jones tell us he has been in contact with the FBI, but his client has not, yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A former congressional page at the center of the Foley scandal, a young man who faces many questions. His high- powered attorney answers some of them.

STEPHEN JONES, ATTORNEY FOR JORDAN EDMUND: Jordan hasn't done anything wrong. He's a witness. He will cooperate fully with the investigation, both the House investigation and the Department of Justice.

TODD: Stephen Jones says he represents Jordan Edmund, but Jones would not confirm Edmund exchanged instant messages with Congressman Foley.

Edmund finished the page program in 2002. The alleged exchanges, first reported by ABC News, mistakenly left with a username on the network's Web site, traced by a blogger, CNN, and other news outlets to Edmund, include this.

From Maf54, identified by ABC as Foley: "You're in the boxers, too."

The reply: "Nope. Just got home."

Maf54: "Well, strip down and get relaxed."

JONES: They read like some of the novels that are on the market. But I haven't read all of them. And I don't know whether they are true or they have been edited. I'm -- I'm still playing catchup.

TODD: Pressed further on when these alleged communications might have taken place:

JONES: I don't know what the allegations are, other than Congressman Foley allegedly acted improperly. I don't know whether he did or not.

TODD: Another key question: Was there physical contact with the congressman?

JONES: I'm certain that there was no physical involvement between Jordan and Mr. Foley.

TODD: We also asked Jones about an item on The Drudge Report, citing two people close to Edmund, saying he goaded Foley into the exchanges as part of a prank. ABC News reports that is not accurate. And Jones seems to agree.

JONES: From what I do know, this was not a prank.

TODD: CNN, along with one of our affiliates, has spoke with Brad Wilson, who was a page a year before Edmund.

Wilson says Congressman Foley's behavior made some pages uncomfortable. He says Foley never made any overtures toward him, but did approach a friend.

BRAD WILSON, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He asked my roommate when he was coming to Florida, and then followed the question with the phrase, 18 is the magic number. And that threw up red flags and was bizarre for all the pages.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Wilson said he thought that meant age of 18. We called Mark Foley's attorney, David Roth, for reaction to Stephen Jones' comment and Brad Wilson's accounts. Mr. Roth has not yet returned our calls -- Paula.

ZAHN: Brian Todd, thanks so much.

Along with Dana Bash earlier, they are two members of the best political team in TV.

Now, at the end of a politically perilous week for the GOP, our "Top Story" coverage turns to the Foley effect and the strain on Republicans.

Just today, a GOP candidate in New Jersey's close Senate race called for House speaker Dennis Hastert's resignation. We heard that earlier from Dana. And what about the loyalty of Republican voters themselves?

Tonight, Keith Oppenheim is in Dennis Hastert's neighborhood, the western Chicago suburbs, reliably Republican, at least until now.

What are you hearing?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right.

And the reason we came to this district, Paula, is because the western suburb of Chicago is -- are typically Republican strongholds, a good place to talk to voters about these questions and what effect this scandal may have on the upcoming election.

Some nearby districts to this one may not be safe. Dennis Hastert's district appears to be quite safe, at least for the moment. But other nearby districts may not be. And one of the reasons for that, in politics, it's all about timing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Some experts believe it's particularly bad timing for Republicans that the Mark Foley scandal is getting attention in October, just when voters are making decisions.

DON ROSE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: With Hastert still in there, an investigation still going on, it becomes a very significant item for November. It's only -- it's only five weeks now.

OPPENHEIM: Chicago political consultant Don Rose believes, in tight congressional races, the danger for the GOP is, they could lose some of their core constituency, social conservatives.

ROSE: I think a lot of conservative Republicans, people who are conservatives first, particularly religious conservatives, are going to be chilled by this. They are not going to come out in the kind of droves that they came out once.

The other side is that Democrats are being energized by this. And, in an off year, if fewer Republicans vote, and more Democrats come out, it could really have a tidal effect.

OPPENHEIM: One tight race in suburban Chicago is the Illinois 6th District, where Congressman Henry Hyde is stepping down. Republican State Senator Peter Roskam faces Democrat and war veteran Tammy Duckworth. To be sure, some don't believe the Foley scandal will have any impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they are paying as much attention as the media is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This issue with Foley got nothing to do with the race here

OPPENHEIM: But others who said they often vote Republican acknowledged, the scandal has taken them aback.

(on camera): Are you telling me that you are basically turned off by your own party, by the Republicans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I don't like the way it's being handled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess the Republican Party has always been the -- the virtuous party. And it's kind of a hazard now to make that self-proclamation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM: One voter I spoke with today, Paula, said that he thinks voters around here will be much more affected by issues like the war in Iraq, say, than the Foley scandal. It's a fair point.

But, still, the question is: Will social conservatives be so turned off, that they may turn away at the polls at the risk of losing some Republican control in Congress? -- Paula.

ZAHN: Keith Oppenheim, thanks so much.

Now, the political fallout from the Foley mess could be huge, as you have just seen. Coming up next, I am going to ask a "Top Story" political panel if the Democrats could actually take over Congress because of this?

And, then, a little bit later on: Gay and Republican, can anyone in Washington be both in public?

Plus, a top international story: survival against all odds. A reporter who lived through a midair collision tells his extraordinary story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're back with another "Top Story" we're following tonight, a man who is amazed he's alive -- coming up a little bit later on, his story of actually surviving a midair collision over the Amazon jungle. How can that be?

And what a week for politics, it was: the Foley scandal, the Republican House speaker's career threatened. And we're just one month before the crucial midterm elections. Tonight, eight Senate races are very close. The Democrats need to gain only six seats to take back control of the Senate. And more House races are tightening, too.

So, let's call in our "Top Story" politics panel right now, Amy Holmes, political analyst and former speechwriter for Republican Senator Bill Frist, political analyst and "Los Angeles Times" columnist Ron Brownstein, and columnist John Fund -- there's Ron -- and columnist John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal."

Glad to have all three of you with us.

John, I am going to start with you and call your attention to a number of polls out tonight, the first one out of "TIME" magazine, showing that two-thirds of Americans aware of the Foley scandal think the Republican leaders tried to cover it up, and then "The Wall Street Journal" showing over 40 percent of respondents having less favorable feelings about keeping the GOP in control in Congress, based on the news out of the past couple of weeks.

Could the Foley scandal threaten the Republican majorities, both in the Senate and the House?

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Certainly.

"The National Journal" took a bipartisan poll of 100 political insiders. And that probably could swing three House seats and perhaps one or two Senate seats. That could be enough.

The facts, as they eventually come out, will show, no, there was no cover-up; there was manifest incompetence. And there will have to be accountability for that.

ZAHN: Manifest incompetence, Amy Holmes, or is it more than that?

AMY HOLMES, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we all knew that this election was going to be a tough one for Republicans. It's a mid-season election in a second administration, while the president's approval numbers are down. It was always going to be a -- a tough fight. But, obviously, the Foley scandal has raised the degree of difficulty -- the first casualty being, of course, Foley's seat down there in Florida. That's going to be a tough one for Republicans to hang on to.

But, in terms of the Foley scandal, I think Republican leaders are hoping that it's in peaked. In politics, you never know. You never know what could be coming out next week.

But the biggest casualty for all of this for national leadership is that they haven't been able to get their message out. It's been all about the Foley scandal. They haven't been able to talk about unemployment dropping to 4.6 percent. They haven't been able to talk about falling inflation and a falling deficit.

So, in as far as this story -- story sucks up all of the airtime on television, it makes it that much tougher for Republicans to win.

ZAHN: And, Ron, let's show right now how Democrats are already taking advantage of this. We know, in a conservative 9th District in Indiana, this is what the Democratic challenger has put on the air.

And we will let you analyze it as we watch this together. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: And $77,000 from the House leadership, who knew about, but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley. Millionaire Mike, he says nothing, and refuses...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, Ron, is this going to work as a campaign tactic?

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they need to be careful about going too far and being too overt.

But, certainly, it is another brick on the load for Republicans. I mean, there's several different distinct risks that are involved here. One is, as Amy was suggesting, individual districts, the Florida district that Foley represented, the district in New York with Tom Reynolds. The chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee, the Congressional Campaign Committee, now suddenly is in a much more competitive race because of his actions.

There's also the threat that you talked about in the piece from Illinois of the base not showing up in sufficient numbers. I'm -- actually think that is probably less of a danger than the final one, which is that this is simply going to reinforce doubts among swing voters and independents about the Republican Congress.

Paula, this is coming at the end of a very, very difficult two years for this Republican Congress. It started with Terri Schiavo, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Social Security. They have had an approval rating in the low to mid-20s, the lowest of any Congress since 1994, when the Democrats lost control of both chambers in an historic repudiation.

So, really, this is coming at the end of a long period. And it -- and it's just one more brick to carry up the hill. And it makes it very -- it makes it more difficult for them to get to where they need to be.

ZAHN: And, John, given how Republicans are already telling us how they feel about this scandal, let's talk about how you think the House speaker's statements played yesterday, that this was basically Bill Clinton and his Democratic cronies sort of leaking this story, and trying to bury Republican candidates, going into the midterm election.

Does that fly at all?

FUND: Well, I think there is going to be an interesting sub- story coming out in the next few weeks, which is, the Democrats and liberals have to be careful that they don't beat people over the head with this.

Everyone knows that there are some gay Republicans in key positions on Capitol Hill. Some of them may have put the interests of others ahead of the interests of the pages in Congress in this story.

But liberal bloggers are already saying, the hypocrisy here may justify outing a lot of gay Republican staffers.

If that -- if that happens, that could blow up...

ZAHN: All right. But that still doesn't answer the question, though, of -- of -- of...

FUND: That could blow up this story. And I think it would be very dangerous, because that is -- that is putting, I think, issues on table that people don't want to deal with...

ZAHN: All right.

FUND: ... and that are private.

ZAHN: But you didn't answer the question about Hastert dumping all over the Democrats and more or less blaming this scandal on them for leaking the story, when Republicans have told me that many of them knew about this well over a year ago...

HOLMES: Well...

ZAHN: ... and, if they could have buried it then, they should have.

FUND: No, no, that's...

HOLMES: Paula, if I could jump in here, I think that -- that storyline is important for core supporters of the Republican Party, that those are details they are interested in. But, for the swing voters and the independent voters, they don't want to see all of this blame game and finger-pointing. I mean, the story is out there that this man behaved just egregiously towards this page.

I think what the American voter wants and what the Republicans need to do -- and they are doing -- is being the grownups. They're coming forward and denouncing Foley's behavior, unequivocally, which Hastert did, calling for a full investigation, which the FBI is doing, and then reaching out in a bipartisan way, which is also happening...

ZAHN: All right.

HOLMES: ... with the House Ethics Committee.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Ron -- Ron, you are shaking your head no.

BROWNSTEIN: No.

ZAHN: You only got 10 seconds to close this off. I have really got to move on.

BROWNSTEIN: The issue is -- the issue is not morality in the political terms. It's accountability.

And the Republicans are going to face the question of not only this, but on Jack Abramoff, DeLay, oversight of the war in Iraq. That is the real danger, that they simply have not imposed accountability...

ZAHN: OK.

BROWNSTEIN: ... and have been more worried about the partisan interests, in some cases, than the national interests. That's the danger.

ZAHN: Got to leave it there, trio.

Ron Brownstein, Amy Holmes, John Fund, thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" coverage continues in just a moment.

First, let's get started with our CNN.com countdown.

MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: Let's turn to Melissa Long for that.

LONG: Good evening, Paula.

A U.S. general from Baghdad says Iraq's police are paying a great price, the story number 10. That top U.S. general says, over the last couple of years, 4,000 Iraqi police have been killed. Another have been 8,000 wounded.

Story nine: A Navy medic pleaded guilty to lesser charges, in exchange for testimony against seven Marines accused of murdering an Iraqi and covering it up. The petty officer told a military judge the Iraqi man was killed because the Marine squad leader was angry a suspected Iraqi terrorist had been detained and released three times.

And some interesting medical news to share from story number eight -- a study by the Scripps Research Institute says the active ingredient in marijuana may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. How? By preserving levels of a critical neurotransmitter that allows the brain to function, of course, good news, because the discovery could lead to new drugs to treat Alzheimer's -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Melissa. See you in a little bit.

LONG: OK.

ZAHN: Meanwhile, the Foley scandal has turned one of Washington's whispered guessing games into a "Top Story" -- coming up, why gay Republicans fear they will become the targets of a new McCarthyism.

Then, a little bit later on, one of the most dramatic survival stories you are ever going to hear from the survivor of a midair collision.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The Republican sex scandal is causing a struggle within the party itself.

Our "Top Story" coverage turns to the very uneasy relationship between powerful religious conservatives and a much smaller number of Republicans, some gay themselves, who have pushed for years to make their party more gay friendly.

Kathleen Koch looks at being gay at the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the nation's capital, a few gay Republicans have been open about their sexual orientation: retiring Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona, former Wisconsin Congressman Steve Gunderson, top campaign aide and vice presidential daughter Mary Cheney.

Many more gay Republicans serve behind the scenes in Washington, as aides, staffers, advisers and strategists, in every branch of government. But a number of them in the conservative-dominated party choose, like Congressman Mark Foley, to hide their orientation and protect their jobs.

Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, says he's been encouraging Foley to come out of closet for the last 15 years. CHUCK WOLFE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GAY AND LESBIAN VICTORY FUND: In Mark's case, he was not comfortable coming out. And I -- I think it was because Mark was simply in a situation where he thought it would affect his ability to get reelected. ` KOCH: The Lob Cabin Republicans, who lobby for inclusiveness in the GOP, warn, their party will suffer if it doesn't become more accepting of homosexuals.

PATRICK SAMMON, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Because the vast majority of American people believe that gay and lesbian people should be treated equally, and if the Republican Party doesn't become more inclusive, then, they are not going to be a majority party in this country.

KOCH: Some conservative advocacy groups have tried to make homosexuality the centerpiece of the Foley controversy -- one, the Family Research Council, in a release, claiming -- quote -- "Pro- homosexual correctness sowed the seeds of the Foley scandal."

Openly gay Republicans reject that.

SAMMON: Sexual orientation is irrelevant to what happened in this situation. Mark Foley's behavior was despicable, whether the victims were teenage boys or teenage girls.

KOCH: Still, there is fear in Washington's gay community that there might be a backlash because of the Foley scandal.

WOLFE: I have heard people talking about whether we should go after all gays in Washington. Should there be a list created? Should we try to out everybody? Should we be doing everything we can to take gays out of the Republican Party? Should we be taking them out of Capitol Hill?

Look, this nation went through that once before, McCarthyism didn't work, it didn't make our country stronger. We shouldn't repeat it.

KOCH: We approached the Republican National Committee to see if anyone would discuss the party's relationship with the gay community. The RNC simply referred us to the Log Cabin Republicans.

(on camera): Gay Republican politicians and staffers turned down our request as well, being gay in the GOP not a subject many want to talk about, especially now. Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So what is it like to be gay and be Republican? Jeff Cook joins me now, he's the former national field representative for the Log Cabin Republicans. Glad to have you with us.

JEFF COOK, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Thanks for having me Paula.

ZAHN: We just had a guest on saying that there were a number of gays in leadership positions within the Republican Party. Do you think they've gone public with that or do you think there are a bunch of gay Republicans who are hiding their sexual identity?

COOK: Paula I think that there are open and closeted gay people in both political parties in all levels of politics. But I think that it's important for the terms of public discourse to realize that these people's sexual orientation has very little to do with how they do their jobs day in and day out.

ZAHN: That may be true but are they fearful they'll lose that they're going to lose their jobs. Because we heard so much in that piece, because they're trying to protect their jobs by hiding their sexual orientation.

COOK: Well Paula I can only tell you personally, I came out at the age of 19 and I know that living up until that point in time it was a very -- you live in a lot of fear of what can happen and what the repercussions may happen to be. But I think at the same time that those people who have gone through that type of transition in life and who are now living openly and honestly can understand the value and sense the value in not only the way they feel about themselves. But also in their ability to be honest with their loved ones and everyone else in society.

ZAHN: So what do you think today would be the real repercussions for someone who is closeted, in a GOP leader position coming out with their sexuality. What would happen to them?

COOK: Oh I don't know. I mean I know that more and more gays and lesbians are coming out of the closet in both political parties, are running for office and are winning. Many of them have served with great distinction like Steve Gunderson and Jim Colby, with a limited amount of repercussions. I think that it's difficult to be in politics period. When you add in other factors and stereotypes that go along with those factors, I think that that is an added difficulty.

ZAHN: So are you saying these fears are founded or unfounded?

COOK: I'm saying --

ZAHN: With the number of people who have had success?

COOK: I'm saying that my experience in the Republican Party has been one of welcomeness and open arms. I'm also very lucky to be a part of the Republican Party in New York. Where Republicans understand and I think Republicans across America are starting to understand better, as well, that it's a benefit to be able to appeal to suburban swing voters and to have a big tent party that's inclusive of everyone.

ZAHN: You're saying closer to everyone and you're happy this party has embraced you yet this party that you've also embraced is against gay rights, is against gay adoption. Isn't there a huge disconnect for you then?

COOK: Paula I don't think that the far right owns family values. I grew up southern Baptist. My values are very important to me as a man of faith and I believe that the same values that drive me to support a free economy and to support freedom in the social realm are the same. The Republican Party is based on a tradition and on values of individualism and empowering people to make their own decisions in their own lives, at their own kitchen tables.

ZAHN: So you may not get everything you want, you just make it bits and pieces of what you believe in.

COOK: No, I think that my responsibility and any gay or lesbian person's responsibility, any person that's a member of a group where you do not yet have equal rights in society, is to work hard in which either political party you might be a part of, to move it toward progress and to move it in the right direction. And that's what gay and lesbian Republicans try to do every day.

ZAHN: Got to leave it there tonight. Jeff Cook, thanks so much for dropping by, appreciate it.

We're going to get straight back to our countdown right now, with Melissa Long. Melissa, fire away.

LONG: Paula, fashion icon Yves St. Laurent fell today on a street in Paris and a spokeswoman says the 70 year old is ok, home tonight as well. The designer is said to be in fragile health.

Story six is about one of the pretty ladies of "Desperate Housewives". Eva Longoria's publicist says the star slipped on stairs on the set, bruising her ribs but it should not affect production.

And story number five is one of the top stories tonight, today House Speaker Dennis Hastert staying out of the public eye, a day after vowing not to resign over his handling of the Mark Foley mess. Paula?

ZAHN: All right Melissa. See you back here in a little bit. Meanwhile, a newspaper reporter has an amazing story, I don't think you've ever heard anything quite like this before. He happened to be in a small jet that collided with a 737 over the Amazon jungle. Coming up next, why he's still alive.

And tonight's top story in health may leave you wondering why you aren't sick. You're not going to believe all of the toxic chemicals we absorb from the environment and even from our own clothes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story coverage now turns to a tragedy and an amazing midair miracle that is still making headlines all over the world because it might end up being a crime. Last week a brand new corporate jet with two Americans at the controls collided with a Brazilian airliner. The Boeing 737 plunged into the jungle killing all 154 people on board. The smaller jet made an almost miraculous emergency landing but now investigators at the crash site in the Brazilian jungle are trying to find out if the surviving pilots did something incredibly dangerous. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): At the site deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle a mystery is unraveling. The flight recording devices, bodies and wreckage, all vital clues in the investigation of how this Boeing 737 could have collided at 37,000 feet with a business jet that landed safely nearby.

JOE SHARKEY, PLANE PASSENGER: It's a calm day. Its 3:59 p.m., bang. I'm sitting right on the left wing and it's right on the wing.

ZAHN: "New York Times" reporter Joe Sharkey was traveling on that 13-seat business jet bound for the U.S.

SHARKEY: I took out my notebook, wrote a note to my wife, said I loved her and I put it in my wallet. When we go down, maybe they'll find the wallet and she'll at least have that. And then suddenly, I heard one of the pilots say there is an airport.

ZAHN: After a violent white-knuckle landing at a remote military base all seven on board walked off without a scratch, against all odds, according to CNN anchor and pilot Miles O'Brien.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Winning the lotto would be easier than this thing. The fact that these two planes would be in the same part of the air at the same moment over the Brazilian rain forest, is mind boggling.

ZAHN: Brazilian authorities say the business jet was flying a thousand feet higher than its authorized altitude and wasn't responding to repeated calls from air traffic control or ATC. Authorities also say the plane's transponder, the device that constantly signals an aircraft's location wasn't on.

O'BRIEN: There is no real good reason to turn off your transponder unless you don't want to be detected by air traffic control for some reason.

ZAHN: The two American pilots deny they turned off the transponder. Brazilian authorities think the winglet of the jet snipped the 737's wing, destabilizing it and sending it into a nosedive.

O'BRIEN: Now if they're right nose to nose with each other you would think they would probably see each other. And you have to remember, the closing rate of these two airplanes, think how fast they were going and how quickly they would turn from a dot into something very ominous by the time you realize a plane was there, it would be too late.

ZAHN: In Brazil the hope is that it's not too late though to find somebody accountable for this tragedy. The pilots are still being questioned and depending upon the outcome of the investigation, face the possibility of being charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of those 154 passengers.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And those pilots are being talked to as we speak. The air crash is the worst in Brazilian history and in the news media, there is a tremendous amount of hostility toward those American pilots. There is no word on when they will be allowed to leave Brazil and come back home.

Time to check in with Melissa Long one more time for our countdown.

LONG: As many as 17,000 people today Paula were chased from their homes because of that massive fire outside Raleigh, North Carolina. The story number four tonight. It happened overnight at a hazardous material plant and it may be another night before the fire is actually put out.

And in Pennsylvania today, an Amish community buried the fifth girl killed on Monday in that schoolhouse shooting, five other girls are still hospitalized, one however tonight is in grave condition. Paula?

ZAHN: Still makes me sick. Thanks.

Still ahead, our top story in health, even if you are eating right your body may still be full of toxic chemicals. See what you might be absorbing just by walking around.

Coming up, at the top of the hour, Larry speaks with two former pages who were actually sponsored by former Congressman Mark Foley. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight we bring you a brand new weekly feature, it's about people you probably never heard of but they are really interesting and we're going to change all that because we think they are people you should know and right now. Get to know America's top businesswoman. Ali Velshi has her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She beat out the likes of Oprah and eBay's Meg Whitman for the top spot on "Fortune's" list of the most powerful women in business. Meet 50-year-old Ingra Newey (ph), just this week named CEO of PepsiCo, the first woman ever to hold that title.

PATRICIA SELLERS, EDITOR AT LARGE, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: She has been sort of a super-achiever ever since she was young. She said she grew up in an environment where if you didn't get a 100 on a test you failed.

VELSHI: She was born and raised in India and remains close to her heritage. Newey(ph) came to the United States to attend the Yale School of Management. A Pepsi veteran since 1994 she's held titles like president and CFO. Now she's in charge of running a global giant that employs more than 150,000 people. And boasts revenues of $33 billion a year.

SELLERS: Inger is a visionary and a transformational leader. She believes that if you're not reinventing the company every year, every month, every day maybe, you're falling behind.

VELSHI: On the personal side, Newey(ph) lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. The newly minted CEO serves on numerous boards in the community including New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

SELLERS: Inger Newey(ph) is going to make some splashes out there, she is not going to be a quiet, behind the scenes CEO.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Fun to watch.

Guess who is in town and walked a couple hundred yards to see our brand new set? "LARRY KING LIVE," what do you think?

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm so impressed. What time does the game start?

ZAHN: Right after your show is over.

KING: This is big. This is really well done. Beautiful colors, beautiful feel, I like it.

ZAHN: Well I didn't have you come on here to --

KING: It's you Paula, this set is you. Oh forget about "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, this set is you.

ZAHN: -- to praise our set. Who are you talking to tonight?

KING: We have a bunch of pages who've flown in from Washington, three or four young men discussing what it's like to be a page, what that life is like.

ZAHN: Did any of them receive e-mails from Mark Foley?

KING: I don't know but I know one of them worked for Mark Foley. But I'll check that now.

ZAHN: Well you have at least 12 minutes to prepare for your show.

KING: And then, Olivia Newton-John.

ZAHN: She's terrific, I heard her rehearsing here earlier today.

KING: She's going to sing tonight, but she don't look bad.

ZAHN: Don't look bad, she looks great. KING: So do you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you Larry King.

KING: You take a back seat to no one.

ZAHN: Did someone pay you to say that?

KING: Play ball!

ZAHN: Have a great show. Thanks for dropping by. Time to wrap up our countdown now with Melissa Long.

LONG: NASA scientists have been studying a hole found in the space shuttle "Atlantis" during a post flight inspection. Officials say a tiny piece of space debris ran into the shuttle in orbit while its cargo doors were open. NASA says the damage didn't endanger the spacecraft nor the crew.

Twenty million readers made this story number one, four children were found dead in a public housing complex in Louisville, Kentucky. Investigators say their dad walked into police headquarters and said he killed them. Paula?

ZAHN: Melissa thanks so much. Get back to you in a little bit. We're going to take a quick biz break right now. Stocks finally took a breather today after record high closes in three straight sessions. The Dow lost 15-1/2 points, the NASDAQ down 6 points, the S&P off nearly four points lower. Twelve thousand workers at 16 Goodyear tire plants across the country are on strike tonight, they are fighting the possibility of more plants closing.

There are reports that Google wants to buy Youtube for close to $1.6 billion. Youtube exploded in popularity nearly a year ago and allowed users to share short video clips online. That acquisition could catapult Google into the emerging market for video advertising.

We move on to tonight's top health story, it may not make you change what you eat but just wait until you see what our bodies absorb just from walking around in polluted toxic parts of the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top health story tonight, shocking news about the unbelievable amount of dangerous chemicals right inside our bodies no matter how careful you are, every time you eat or breathe you're taking in something very harmful from the polluted world around you. But exactly what and how much? Well, one man decided to find out. Ted Rowlands has the amazing results.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the modern world, potentially toxic chemicals are everywhere, in the obvious like pesticides and in the seemingly harmless like home carpeting and many of those chemicals have made it inside many of us. DAVID DUNCAN, JOURNALIST: The problem is, like a lot of chemicals that seem wonderful on the one hand, these do get out in the environment

ROWLANDS: San Francisco science writer David Duncan decided to find out exactly what chemicals are inside his body. "National Geographic" shelled out $15,000 to have David blood tested for 320 different chemicals.

DUNCAN: I yanked out, sucked out about 14 vials of blood

ROWLANDS: The results reported in the October issue of "National Geographic" show David's body has detectable levels of 165 chemicals, including 97 PCBs, which are so toxic, they were outlawed in 1977. There were 16 different pesticides found in David, 10 dioxins which are linked to cancer, seven different phthalates that have been found in things like shampoo and baby toys. Seven different PFAs, a suspected carcinogen used in nonstick pans, three metals including mercury found in fish and lead found in old paint. And finally, there were 25 different PBDE, chemicals that are very common used as a fire retardant for fabrics and carpet.

DUNCAN: This is my level on the green bar and you can see that's way up

ROWLANDS: The amount of fire retardant chemical in David was more than 10 times the average amount found in a recent study of Americans and 200 times the amount found in a group tested from Sweden. The effects are unclear, lab animals have suffered deformities. David says he doesn't know why his levels are so high.

DUNCAN: It may be that these are perfectly harmless these chemicals at these levels or it might be dangerous.

ROWLANDS: Another shock for David had to do with his mercury levels, at first he tested at five micrograms per liter, well below the level of 10 that's considered high but then he ate two consecutive meals of fish.

DUNCAN: I had the swordfish for dinner and a halibut for breakfast.

ROWLANDS: Twenty four hours later the level of mercury shot up to 12. Medical experts say mercury levels usually fluctuate, other chemicals like the ones found in nonstick frying pans can stay in your system for life.

DUNCAN: These are together in my inside of me and in all of us and they are interacting in ways that are very poorly understood.

ROWLANDS: Health advocates think that chemical exposure could explain rising rates in certain cancers and possibly even be linked to other conditions like autism.

JANET NUDLEMAN, BREAST CANCER FUND: We're literally looking at an increasing body of scientific evidence that links chemical exposures to increasing rates of disease.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: It's important to know more about how those chemicals are build up in our bodies.

DUNCAN: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation making California the first state in the country to have a program that will test volunteers and compare what's inside different people. The challenge then will be to figure out which, if any of the chemicals are harmful.

Agent orange, now banned, was considered harmless to humans when it was dumped on the jungles in Vietnam as was asbestos, which had to be pulled out of millions of buildings after it was linked to cancer. Without more information about the affects of these chemicals, none of us know what, if any part of our modern world may actually be making us sick. Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Francisco.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we should add one more thing, David Duncan found out that 2,000 new chemical compounds are produced every year by the American chemical industry, 90 percent of those are approved by the government without further testing.

Just minutes away from the top of "LARRY KING LIVE". Tonight former congressional pages talk about the Mark Foley scandal. A couple of them actually worked for him. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We will be back, same time same place, Monday night, join us then. Until then, have a great weekend and "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Goodnight.

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