Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


America's Top General Under Fire; Are College Athletes Being Exploited?; Legalizing Incest

Aired March 13, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.
Out in the open tonight: America's top general calls gay sex immoral, and refuses to back down.

The real March madness: how colleges and universities exploit student athletes.

And a brother and sister who also happen to be husband and wife, believe it or not, their love could help rewrite the laws on incest.

Out in the open tonight: The Pentagon's top general reveals what he really thinks about gays. And the shockwaves are still bouncing around the country. Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace told a newspaper he thinks homosexual acts are -- quote -- "immoral," and that he's all for the military's ban on openly gay men and women.

And you know what? Half the country believes the same thing. A Gallup poll from last year shows 51 percent think homosexual relations are morally wrong. Forty-four percent say they're morally acceptable.

Well, gay-rights groups still want the general to apologize. But, as we mentioned a little bit early on, he isn't backing down.

Here's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It came in an interview with "The Chicago Tribune." And the hand grenade thrown by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, on the sensitive issue of gays in the military was completely unexpected.

GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts. So, the -- the don't-ask/don't-tell allows an individual to serve the country.

STARR: Under the policy known as don't ask/don't tell, gays and lesbians cannot openly serve their country in the military. They must hide their personal lives.

In fact, since the policy started in 1994, more than 11,000 service members have been thrown out for openly engaging in homosexual conduct or even just saying they are homosexual.

General Peter Pace explained that his comments were personal, that they came from his own upbringing. But that led to ferocious criticism, not just of the policy, but the general expressing his personal moral code.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is incredibly disrespectful to the tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans who have served their country honorably.

STARR: As criticism grew, and after talking to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, General Pace took the unusual step of putting out a statement, saying, "I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views."

The general stopped well short of an apology.

By some estimates, there are as many as 65,000 gay service members. Eric Alva lost his right leg in Iraq. Now retired, he says he wants to be known as a gay man who served his country.

STAFF SERGEANT ERIC ALVA (RET.), U.S. MARINE: The irony is that the one organization that is our shield of protection against terrorists and of hatred is the one to discriminate within its ranks.

STARR: Finally today, Secretary Gates weighed in on the issue, saying the current law will stand.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think personal opinion really doesn't have a place here. What's important is that we have a law, a statute that governs don't ask/don't tell.

STARR (on camera): But some are having second thoughts.

Retired General John Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when don't ask/don't tell began, recently wrote that he now believes gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers in the military.

(voice-over): In fact, a recent poll of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan showed that about three-quarters of them were comfortable with gay men and women, but only about one in four were in favor of gays serving openly.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


ZAHN: And retired Marine Eric Alva, who we just saw in Barbara Starr's report, joins me now.

Good of you to be with us tonight, sir.

ALVA: Thank you, Paula. Thank you very much for having me.

ZAHN: Our pleasure. So, you heard what General Pace had to say, equating homosexuality with immorality. You are a guy who has served his country admirably for some 13 years, lost part of his leg. Do you view yourself as an immoral person?

ALVA: No, I do not, Paula. I -- I absolutely do not.

ZAHN: So, what is your reaction to his remarks?

ALVA: You know, his -- his -- my reaction to his marks -- remarks was -- was, you know, shocking, and they were appalling. I mean, you know, he -- his remarks were insensitive and disrespectful and insulting to the thousands of men and women who are serving in the -- the military at this current time under the policy.

It's funny, listening to the -- to the intake of, you know, secretary of defense, and saying that it's a personal opinion that does not have a place here. It's funny he states that, because, then, of course, you know, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pace gets to state his opinion.

You know, men and women aren't open about their orientation because they're following the rules and guidelines of the policy. But, then, you have here someone in a leadership position, who, as, you know, military tradition, is men and women follow by leadership from example. It is a very incorrect statement to make, and -- and it's insulting and disrespectful to the men and women who -- who serve our country.

ZAHN: Do you think he owes the 65,000 gay and lesbians currently serving in the armed forces an apology?

ALVA: Oh, it's beyond the 65,000, because you -- you honestly have to think about the men and women who have brothers and sisters that may be gay, or people that were adopted by, you know, a couple of the same sex. I mean, it -- it's beyond the 65,000. He owes everyone an apology.

ZAHN: But, as you know, there's an evangelical group today called the Biblical Family Advocates that had this to say about a potential -- potential -- potential apology -- quote -- "If there is any apologizing that needs to be done, it's by homosexual advocates, who have drawn millions of young people, including soldiers, into a destructive, immoral and unhealthy lifestyle."

Do you have anything to apologize for?

ALVA: I don't. But, you know, I would like to -- to point out that, you know, I -- I have -- I have served my country honorably for 13 years, and highly decorated. And I have paid a huge sacrifice.

And -- and, you know, people often ask me, you know, what do I think about negative criticism or people's personal views and -- about their own beliefs and values? And, you know, that's one of the privileges I was fighting for, freedom of speech, to have people have that -- that freedom and privilege. You know, the only thing is, you know, I'm entitled to the same thing, and, above all, probably more than a lot of people.

I mean, I was fighting for the rights and the freedoms, the privileges of -- of all people in this country, not just some. And, so, you know, I beg to differ with quite a bit of people that...

ZAHN: All right.

ALVA: ... you know, about the immorality.

ZAHN: Eric, I need a brief answer to this one. As you know, that people who are highly critical of gays serving in the military are very concerned about cohesion. They worry about distractions when you're on duty and the possibility of same-sex attractions.

Were you ever attracted to another soldier in the field?

ALVA: You know, my -- my mission at hand was always -- especially being in Iraq, was the mission at hand, what we had to do. Of course, crossing the border at Kuwait into Iraq, our first mission was, of course, the city of Basra.

You know, I -- I never took my personal life to work. My personal life was mine, and -- and that in itself. And, by me serving under the don't-ask/don't-tell policy, my mission, it -- it was always a priority to be, you know, an outstanding Marine.

ZAHN: So, do you think the cohesion argument is a bunch of bunk?

ALVA: I think it's just a -- it's a -- it's a poor excuse of an excuse of still taking rights away from people.

I mean, they said the same thing when -- when, you know, blacks were integrated with whites in the military, that it would disrupt the cohesion or the structure of the military. And -- and that went OK -- and the same argument with the -- the people, you know, stating that women did not belong in -- in combat. There are women in combat today, not in -- I mean, they're there providing security patrols in Iraq.

We have lost more women in -- in this war than any other battle the country's ever been in. And women are on the front lines. And they...

ZAHN: Yes.

ALVA: They work well hand in hand with men. And -- and we still function well with unit cohesion and morale.

ZAHN: Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, really appreciate your coming in tonight for us.

ALVA: Thank you very much, Paula. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Good luck to you.

ALVA: Thank you. ZAHN: I want to bring tonight's "Out in the Open" panel into this conversation.

With me tonight, Joseph C. Phillips. He's an actor and conservative commentator. He also happens to be the author of "He Talk Like a White Boy." Ed Schultz is a syndicated radio talk show host. And Jeff Johnson, host of BET's "Cousin Jeff Johnson Chronicles."

Good to see you all.


ZAHN: So, did Peter Pace blow it by making these comments publicly?

JEFF JOHNSON, HOST, "JEFF JOHNSON CHRONICLES": I don't know if we say he blew it, but I think he overstepped the bounds of the position.

As a Christian myself, I think that we have to take a look at the perspective from where he's coming from. And where he's coming from is based on biblical principle. And, so, I don't argue with the biblical principle.

What I argue with is carrying out that biblical principle when you haven't been called to be a pastor. You have been called to be a general.

ZAHN: So, it's OK if he would have kept that to himself, you're saying?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

JOSEPH PHILLIPS, AUTHOR, "HE TALK LIKE A WHITE BOY": Well, he was -- he was actually responding to whether or not he supports a policy that has been in place for now about 13 years.

I want to ask the question, and I want to know why it is that -- that -- that -- that when -- this is a freedom-of-speech issue. In exercising the freedom of speech, people are going to hear things that they don't like and that they might fight offensive. But you cannot shout people down. You can't shut them up. And you can't prevent them from speaking.

He has a right to speak. This is his opinion. And, I mean, I really think that that's what the issue comes down to.

ZAHN: Was it -- do you have a problem with the fact that he didn't make the clarification at the beginning that this clearly was his own personal opinion?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, let's give the general credit. He's definitely got us talking about this, instead of Walter Reed. And I'm not so sure that wasn't part of the plan. The fact is that there are a lot of gay people in this country that have served admirably. They deserve their opportunity to have representation, under the society of discipline, which is exactly what the United States military is all about.

If they go out of line, they will be dealt with, from a discipline standpoint. The -- the current policy, Paula, right now, is almost discrimination. But it was the best policy they could come up with at the time, because social mores were changing, and the military just didn't know how to deal with it.

ZAHN: I want you all to look at some statistics about how having gays and lesbians in a unit could potentially affect the unit's overall morale.

Fifty-eight percent of the folks in this poll said they did not know someone gay in their unit, said that the president -- or -- that would be presence of someone gay would have a negative impact on unit morale.

Do you understand why some folks serving would be very uncomfortable knowing that someone serving side by side in a foxhole could be gay?

JOHNSON: I have never been in the armed services, so, I can't speak to what it has to feel like, being on the front lines.

But I guess my concern would be, if I'm in a foxhole, I'm not concerned with your sexual orientation. I'm with concerned with, can you aim and are you willing to shoot? And, so, I think that's the real issue.

ZAHN: Is this unit cohesion issue overblown?

PHILLIPS: Well, I take my cue from the soldiers who are...

ZAHN: I mean, you heard what Eric said.

PHILLIPS: But Eric is in the minority of those serving in the armed services.

We heard the -- the statistics there. And he is in the 25 percent. I take my cue from those men and women in the armed forces. They say that it is a distraction, and I believe them.

ZAHN: Ed, you have the last word.

SCHULTZ: Well, they may say that, but they don't have the final word. The American people have the final word.


SCHULTZ: And there's no question about it, that, right now, the policy is one of discrimination. And for...

PHILLIPS: Well, the American people have said that don't ask, don't tell. That's what the American people have said. That's what the policy is. And that's what the general is saying that he is going to support.

SCHULTZ: Not if a Democrat gets in, because they have shifted their position on this.

PHILLIPS: A Democrat wrote the policy, signed the policy, Bill Clinton.

SCHULTZ: He's changed his position on that. Things change. How did...


PHILLIPS: Bill Clinton changed his position?


SCHULTZ: How do we know that this many gays would be so much of a contributing factor to the success of the military? Why do the Brits do it? We're behind the times.

PHILLIPS: Ed, can I ask you a question?

ZAHN: And you know what? You can't answer any more questions...

PHILLIPS: Is anything immoral...

ZAHN: ... because I have got to hit a commercial break.


SCHULTZ: Not telling the truth is immoral.


ZAHN: Hold it. Hold it.

SCHULTZ: Not telling the truth is immoral.

ZAHN: Our panelists are going to be sticking around.

And we have two ways for you to join in our conversation. Go to our Web site at, and vote on whether you agree with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral. You can also send an e-mail to Our panel will read some of them a little bit later on tonight.

Coming up, we bring you an annual rite of spring out in the open -- not college basketball, but the way universities make millions by exploiting student athletes -- coming up, a man who is making waves by saying that has got to stop.

Then, a little bit later on: a brother and sister who are sleeping together, already have children together, and could possibly rewrite incest laws all over the world. We will be right back.


ZAHN: The next three weeks are heaven for sports nuts. The NCAA men's basketball tournament has just begun. The first game, Florida A&M against Niagara, is going on right now in Dayton. Did I have to tell people to make them go watch? No, watch us. You can see it later.


ZAHN: For the players on the 65 teams, the tournament is the chance of a lifetime. A few may actually go on to the NBA.

But could these college athletes really just be victims of outrageous exploitation? We're bringing that question out in the open tonight.

And my next guest compares the NCAA to a pimp. College sports is a billion-dollar industry. Coaches are paid millions, but the players earn nothing. And he says that has cost America's black community $250 billion -- Billion?


ZAHN: Billion dollars over 40 years.

Joining me now, Boyce Watkins, a finance professor at Syracuse University, which is not in the tournament this year.

I'm not saying that just to rub it in.


ZAHN: I didn't mean it that way.


ZAHN: So, give me an example of how you feel these student athletes are exploited, or pimped, in your vernacular.

WATKINS: Well, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand exploitation when you see it.

If I'm Macaulay Culkin or -- or Dakota Fanning, and I act in a $100 million blockbuster film, I am going to -- I am going to show up and get my paycheck. But, for some reason, when it comes to college athletes, people say, well, they shouldn't get paid, or they're -- you know, but -- but the thing about it, though...

ZAHN: They're getting scholarships.


ZAHN: They're being paid to go through school. WATKINS: But the problem...

ZAHN: And, in some cases, that's $250,000 they get for books.


WATKINS: That's nice.

ZAHN: They get lodging.

WATKINS: That's a very cute form of compensation.

But the coaches don't get paid with tuition. The coaches get $3 million, $4 million salaries. If you look at a player like a Greg Oden at Ohio State, he's literally worth about $10 million a year to that university.

So, if you can pay him with a scholarship, that's really nice. So, the fact is that the NCAA is in a really tough position. They're sort of like an elephant in a rabbit suit. You know, you are trying to tell everybody you're a bunny, because you have got the ears, but, really, rabbits don't weigh 3,000 pounds.

They signed a $6 billion contract with CBS Sports for the rights of the NCAA tournament. You have got 20 or 30 coaches making over $2 million or $3 million a year. You have a valuation of the NCAA final four that exceeds the World Series and the NBA finals.

This is real money. This is not a bunch of kids walking -- playing up and down the court. The C. in NCAA really stands for cha- ching, because they are making big money off of these guys. Now, I'm not saying...

ZAHN: Why are you so upset about this personally?

WATKINS: Well, because a lot of these kids -- the crime in this, Paula, is that a lot of these kids come from poverty. How can you, as a coach, make $2 million a year sitting in your big mansion, knowing that your star player, his mother just got evicted from her apartment?

That happens all the time. What -- you have players -- the coaches show up to games on private jets. The star player's mother comes by in a Greyhound bus. I know of a player that played for a school -- and I am not going to name the school to embarrass them -- but her mother -- his mother -- he's the star of the team now. They went to the final four.

His mother had to go to the church to beg for money to go watch her son play in this game. That's a crime, because, if her son's worth that kind of money, and the school is going to get a check for $15 million, $20 million, when they win that game, his mother should not be begging for anything.

ZAHN: You also think it's a crime that these kids are pulled out of classes, and -- and basically become pretty lousy students in the process. WATKINS: Yes. Yes. I mean, I have -- I have seen the students have their major change because it interferes with their football schedule.

Everybody knows that a lot of these so-called voluntary practices really aren't voluntary. They're actually mandatory. You have -- I have seen, actually -- believe it or not -- I'm not making this up. I have actually seen an athlete had his eligibility questioned because he got a bag of Skittles from the wrong person at the wrong time, not even the whole bag, just a couple of Skittles out of the bag.

So, the thing is that these rules are put in place because they're allegedly designed to protect the athletes. But the NCAA has to watch it, because there's a thin line between being a protector and a pimp.

ZAHN: Let's move on now to our panel.

Joseph C. Phillips is back, Ed Schultz, Jeff Johnson.

Gentlemen, I want to read you a pretty harsh critique from the nonprofit Center for College Affordability and Productivity: "An immoral and shameful exploitation of students occurs, as the sports cartel, better known as the NCAA, works to assure that the financial gains of sports accrue to the universities and the adults running athletic operations, not to the children verging on adults who are providing the entertainment. It is a scandal."

Ed, you are a former college athlete, almost made it to the pros. What's your reaction to Boyce's argument?

SCHULTZ: Well, I only got -- I only got $15 a month to buy pizza. So, I really didn't have a very good deal. The bottom...

ZAHN: Did you get a scholarship?

SCHULTZ: I did have a scholarship. And I think that that's the reward. And that says a lot. There's a lot of kids today that are getting out of college that have got a tremendous amount of debt. These athletes have got an opportunity to walk away debt-free with an education.

Now, keep in mind, if you want to run a dirty program, you can do it. But it starts at the top, with the president. If you have got a good president, who has got a solid philosophy, who hires a coach with a solid philosophy, the system is going to work. It's not going to be perfect, but the fact is, is that, if you start paying players, Paula, it's a slippery slope.

The next thing you know, you have got the seventh-grade basketball coach on the payroll, because this kid might be a star someday, and we have got to, you know, have the feeder system come up. I think it's wrong.


JOHNSON: The reality is, the seventh-grade coach is already on the payroll...

SCHULTZ: Well, they have got to police that.


JOHNSON: ... either being paid by Nike or Adidas or these shoe companies that run the...


SCHULTZ: So, there is no integrity? There's...

JOHNSON: In many cases, there's a lack of integrity.

But the problem is, even with the notion that you have put out there, is that too many of these athletes don't get degrees. They're not encouraged to get degrees. They're not encouraged to go to class. If they're injured...

SCHULTZ: That starts at the top with the president. That's what I'm talking about...

JOHNSON: But -- but the bottom line is...

PHILLIPS: This is not exactly true, what -- what Jeff is saying...


PHILLIPS: ... because -- and -- and I think that this issue that we're discussing now is an issue of luxury, because the fact is that, when you look through the NCAA, and you look at programs, like you said, good programs, like Notre Dame, that have a graduation rate of 98 percent, those...


WATKINS: But what is the GPA you need to get into Notre Dame in the first place?


PHILLIPS: Wait a minute.


PHILLIPS: Let me finish my point.


PHILLIPS: Let me finish my point.

The point is that, across the nation, students on athletic scholarships have a higher graduation rate than the regular student body. So, in addition...


PHILLIPS: Let me finish.


PHILLIPS: In addition -- in addition to getting four years of paid -- of scholarship to some of the finest universities in the country, they are graduating at a higher rate than...


WATKINS: Why don't we do this? Why don't we pay...


WATKINS: Joseph, no, no. Wait. Wait.


WATKINS: Let me finish my point.


WATKINS: Why don't we pay them what they're worth? Let them pay their own tuition.

PHILLIPS: They are students. They're not employees.

WATKINS: You are not paying Steve Spurrier with tuition.


PHILLIPS: He's an employer, not...


SCHULTZ: That money goes and pays for other scholarships for other revenues...


WATKINS: I'm sorry. I'm sorry, my friend. But a bad excuse for me not paying you what you're worth is to say, well, I have already spent your money on something else.


WATKINS: When you go to work every day, you expect to be fairly compensated.


PHILLIPS: If you are an employee, not if you are a student. What I'm saying is that this is...

WATKINS: The students are employees. PHILLIPS: Boyce, Boyce...

WATKINS: They're treated like professional athletes.

PHILLIPS: ... I need to make this point. Boyce, I need to make this point.

ZAHN: Quickly.

PHILLIPS: Quickly.

The fact remains that, even though graduation rates are up, black students are graduating at about 20 points gap between white students and black students, athletes and non-athletes. The real issue is, why do we continue to have this gap among college athletes, who have all of the benefits, who have tutoring, money, all of this, are graduating...


PHILLIPS: That is the issue, not whether or not they should be paid.


JOHNSON: All of the benefits, Joseph, speak to teachers that have low expectations, coaches that are allowing students to take classes that aren't challenging.


JOHNSON: I let you talk.

PHILLIPS: Yes, you did.

JOHNSON: But we have to be serious about what is a student athlete, setting the stage, and then dealing with the...


JOHNSON: ... and then dealing with the millions and billions of dollars that are made.


SCHULTZ: They are creating dollars for the university and for other students who are not working in revenue-producing sports.


PHILLIPS: This is where I agree with Boyce.


ZAHN: All right.


JOHNSON: ... with degrees, where they don't have the ability to make a dime. And that is the criminal act that's taking place.

PHILLIPS: A degree from the University of Notre Dame...

ZAHN: Gentlemen, I have got to leave it there.

PHILLIPS: ... and you can't make a dime?


SCHULTZ: Scholarship is money.


ZAHN: All right.


ZAHN: All right.

JOHNSON: How about the other 1,000 schools in the country?

WATKINS: That's right.

ZAHN: I have to -- have to stop. We have got to move on.


SCHULTZ: By the way, I did pick North Carolina.



ZAHN: Thank you for making me another six seconds over there.

We want to hear what you have to think. Send an e-mail to Our panel will read some on the air in a little bit.

And, while you're online, please go to our Web site at, and vote on whether you agree with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral. We will have the results a little bit later on.

We will also have a story of brotherly love that is way over the top -- out in the open next, a brother and sister living, sleeping together, as husband and wife. Yes, their love could actually rewrite the laws of incest.

A little bit later on: illegal immigration from a perspective you never get to see -- the other side of the border.

We will be right back.


ZAHN: Tonight, believe it or not, the idea of legalizing incest is out in the open. It is one of the world's last and strongest taboos, something few of us ever feel comfortable talking about. But the couple you're about to meet is now asking the highest court in Germany to make it legal.

Frederik Pleitgen has their shocking love story.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're OK people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not? Well, what -- well, hold on. What...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't -- I just think that's disgusting. That's all.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are comments about their relationship. Patrick and Susan are in love.

Two-year-old Sofia is one of their four children, a typical family, except the parents are brother and sister, an illegal relationship under German law.

We met the so-called "incest couple" in their apartment in Leipzig, Germany. Patrick was raised in a foster home, and did not meet Susan until she was 16, and he was 22. They fell in love, and started a family, even though they knew they were brother and sister.

For two years, they have been fighting a court battle to get their relationship legalized. German social services have taken away three of their children because of the incestuous relationship. Two of the kids were born with disabilities, legal documents say.

Germany's highest court has now decided it will hear their case. If they lose, however, Patrick will have to go to jail for two years for having incestuous sex with his sister.

We feel the tension as we go out to film the couple walking together. All of a sudden, Patrick starts yelling at his sister. He doesn't like her attitude, he says.

"When I see her make that face, I can't take it," he yells.

Both are aware the camera is present. Susan says nothing, and simply takes the verbal abuse. This shows the pressure Patrick is under, he himself later explained, but the siblings appear to be genuinely in love, hugging and cuddling up often during breaks in our filming. The question the country's highest court will have to answer now, should this man go to jail, be separated from his family for another two years, for falling in love with his sister?

We got mixed opinions from those we spoke to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this case, I would say, OK, leave them alone. But I don't say it would -- I don't would say it should be legal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think brother and sister cannot have love. I think it is not -- not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they will -- they will change their mind, and -- and will not -- married and make other children.

PLEITGEN: In our interview, Patrick told us he and Susan have come to the same conclusion about children.

"A few weeks ago, I had myself sterilized," he says.

"Why?" I ask him.

"We didn't want to have any more kids. I don't know what else to say," he answers.

The couple say they believe German society is treating them unfairly. "They say we are likely to have disabled children", but that's not proven," Patrick says. "But then disabled people should not be allowed to have children and women over 35 should not be allowed to have children because those children may be disabled."

Strangely, siblings having babies isn't even illegal under German law. Only the sexual act itself is forbidden.

This court battle may be Patrick's last chance to avoid prison time. The incest siblings say to them it isn't about sending a political message. All they care about, they say, is keeping their family together.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


ZAHN: And we are told it could be two months before Germany's highest court makes that ruling.

The fight over illegal immigration is getting pretty loud and nasty once again. Coming up next from Mexico, our Soledad O'Brien has an eye-opening look at why people will do anything to sneak across the border.

"Out in the Open" a little bit later on, the latest clues in the hunt for a thug who is attacking old women, like this 101-year-old woman knocked off her walker.

Oh, it makes me sick to look at that.

And don't forget, please go to and vote on whether you agree with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral. Send an e-mail to us now at Our panel will read some of them on the air in a little bit. They're reading what you've written so far.

We'll be back.


ZAHN: Tonight, President Bush is in Merida, Mexico, on the Yucatan peninsula. It is the last stop of his Latin American tour, and it is once again bringing out in the open the debate over illegal immigration. And today, with Mexican Felipe Calderon beside him, President Bush pledged to work hard to pass immigration reform. But his plan to build a 700-mile border fence is straining relations with Mexico.

My colleague, Soledad O'Brien, is reporting from Mexico City this week on the immigration debate and on the lives of Mexicans who depend on jobs here in the U.S.

And I guess, Soledad, you've gotten a really good taste of just how much controversy there is surrounding this issue.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We truly have.

You know, in the United States, of course, that debate is very, very fierce. And that's because there are millions of Mexicans who are living illegally in the United States. They're there to make money and send that money back to their home towns. And the difference, Paula, that they're making in their home towns is truly astounding.


O'BRIEN (voice over): For Miguel, this is his American dream.

(on camera): Is your business pretty successful?

MIGUEL, IMMIGRANT: Thank god, yes.

O'BRIEN (voice over): His flower shop is thriving, but Miguel thinks he would be doing even better if he were living here legally. Miguel crossed the border into the U.S. 10 years ago.

MIGUEL: It's really, really, really scary, but it happened.

O'BRIEN: Miguel's wife and their two children live with him in New York. The children were born in the states and are American citizens. Miguel is reluctant to show their faces or give his last name.

(on camera): You pay rent?

MIGUEL: Yes. O'BRIEN: You own a business?


O'BRIEN: You pay taxes?


O'BRIEN: All those things. People might think a surprise to have no documents.

MIGUEL: When you need to open a business you have to call the IRS, and give you -- they give you a number.

O'BRIEN (voice over): Miguel grew up in Oshacopan (ph), a two and a half hour drive outside of Mexico City. Locals say nearly half the town has left for jobs in the states after the textile mills here closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are no jobs here.

O'BRIEN: Miguel's father, Julio, works construction, but it's not enough. Every week Miguel sends $200 or so back home. His two brothers and sisters, also living illegally in the United States, help, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel proud about building the house because my kids' sacrifice had a purpose.

O'BRIEN: The money they've made in the U.S. is improving life here in Mexico. The two-room house Miguel grew up in now has rooms for everyone. But there's a good chance Miguel will never come back, and his mother, Margarita, has never seen her grandchildren.

MARGARITA, MIGUEL'S MOTHER (through translator): A mother needs her kids around. I miss them. It's been difficult.

O'BRIEN: Back in New York, Miguel says he'd like to be legal, own a bigger shop, hire more people.

(on camera): What do you think about this country?

MIGUEL: I think it's great. It's very -- it's very good. Just the only thing to immigrants, illegal immigrants, they give us a lot of -- like, they hate us, because they think that we just come to take and not to give.


O'BRIEN: Miguel says he doesn't expect things are going to change any time soon, and certainly doesn't think this meeting between President Bush and President Calderon will make a difference in the short term. But keep in mind there are more than six million, it's estimated, illegal immigrants who are living in the United States from Mexico.

So you hear that story again and again and again and again and again -- Paula.

ZAHN: But Miguel certainly has to understand why so many Americans are angry at him. He is breaking the law.

Has he ever made any attempt to get U.S. citizenship?

O'BRIEN: He did, actually. He was on the path to being sponsored before 9/11. But he worked in a flower shop that was basically put out of business after 9/11 because it was downtown, and so he started his own -- his own business. And because he didn't have a boss, he wasn't able to get a sponsor. So right now he's not working towards citizenship, but there was a time when he was.

Miguel says he'd like to differentiate between migrants or illegal immigrants who are living in the United States and causing trouble -- he recognizes there are issues with crime and overwhelming, you know, emergency room services and social services -- and people like himself, who -- you know, he's paying into a Social Security system that he's never going to see that money if he doesn't become a citizen. He's paying taxes. So he would like to -- he says he would like to see Americans appreciating what he's contributing, too.

ZAHN: That may take a long time for that to ever happen.

O'BRIEN: It may never happen.

ZAHN: If it does, yes.

Soledad O'Brien, thanks so much.

And just a reminder for all of you out there. The most news in the morning begins with "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 Eastern.

Well, a lot of you, as I was, outraged by a security camera video and what it showed. A low-life purse snatcher attacking a 101-year- old woman. Look at this creep.

"Out in the Open" next, what are police doing to find him? In fact, he attacked a second victim just a short time later.

And please drop our panel an e-mail. They'll read some of them on the air. The address, once again,

We're ready for you.


ZAHN: "Out in the Open" now, the crime that has outraged even jaded New Yorkers. We got a lot of response from you out there when we first brought you this story last night, so we want to stay on top of it for you.

Tonight, some 25,000 street cops in New York are all over the place looking for this guy, the guy in the surveillance video, the thug who punched a 101-year-old woman in the face and then robbed her.

Allan Chernoff has the latest on that manhunt tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone with any information is urged to call Crime Stoppers at...

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police are intensifying their manhunt for this thug who assaulted and robbed 101- year-old Rose Morat. The crime captured on surveillance tape two Sundays ago as Rose was leaving her apartment building for church.

The assailant punched her twice, then rifled through her pocket book. As she reached for it, he hit her again, knocking her to the ground and breaking her cheekbone. His take -- $33.

ROSE MORAT, VICTIM: I'm 101 years old. How are you going to run after a mugger?

CHERNOFF: Police who were trying to find the mugger visited Rose this afternoon.

CAPT. STEPHEN CIRABISI, NEW YORK POLICE DEPT.: No new leads. No new leads right now. We're still working on it.

CHERNOFF: Their investigation includes a second heinous crime. Police believe the same suspect later assaulted 85-year-old Solange Elizee in her apartment.

SOLANGE ELIZEE, VICTIM: And he pushed me, began to beat me on my face...

CHERNOFF: Solange says her attacker took $45, the wedding ring she wore for 60 years, and a ring engraved with the initials H.R. that her son gave to her on his deathbed.

ELIZEE: A beautiful ring. My son was dying in the hospital.

CHERNOFF (on camera): That distinctive ring could provide a break in the case. So this afternoon, police were checking out local pawn shops to see if anyone has been trying to sell such a ring.

What did the police say?

VINNY PERSAUD, PAWN SHOP MANAGER: They showed me a picture of the ring and they asked me if somebody came in here the last two weeks or week and a half. So I said no.

CHERNOFF (voice over): Exactly what the other pawn shops here said. As this videotape continues to outrage New Yorkers, a city councilman added to the reward money, which now stands at $17,000.

JAMES GENNARO, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Somebody knows something, and if we can get that person or people to come forward and tell us what they know, we can get this guy behind bars.

CHERNOFF: Police continue searching for that information. Allan Chernoff, CNN, Queens, New York.


ZAHN: Well, we hope they get him.

"LARRY KING LIVE" coming up in just a few minutes.

Larry, I know you've seen that video as many times as I have. Doesn't that just make your stomach ill to watch that beating?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": It is unbelievable. What kind of person would do that?

ZAHN: So, changing the subject, what are you doing on the air tonight?

KING: Well, we've got the battle over Anna Nicole Smith's baby. It's back in court today.

ZAHN: Oh, surprise!

KING: Yes, aren't you excited?

ZAHN: Oh, very.

KING: We've got the lawyers on all side from that paternity hearing.

One day this will end.

Plus, comedian David Spade able to make fun of show business no matter how over the top it gets.

All that at the top of the hour, immediately following the lovely, talented, effervescent and exciting Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Larry, you say that to all the girls, don't you?

KING: No, I don't.

ZAHN: You don't?

KING: Do not.

ZAHN: Thank you. I appreciate that.

KING: Just you, Paula. It's you.

ZAHN: And, you know, once you exhaust all the Anna Nicole stories or the whole system does, there will be another one. You know it.

KING: There will.

ZAHN: I know it. Have a good show. KING: Bye.

ZAHN: See you in about 15 minutes.

Right now we're going to take a quick "BizBreak".


ZAHN: Every week we bring you some people we think you should know. "Out in the Open" in just a minute, you're going to meet a man who's helping the families of America's wounded warriors.

And don't forget tonight's "Quick Vote Question". Do you agree with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral? Vote at Send an e-mail to We just might read it on the air. So send it our way.


ZAHN: All right. We've been encouraging you to e-mail us all night long. Now it's your turn.

But first of all, I wanted to show you how your opinions reflected in this instant poll. Forty-seven percent of you agree with General Peter Pace that homosexuality is immoral. Fifty-three percent disagree with the general.

We should make clear our poll isn't scientific, but the results are eye-opening.

So now on to our e-mails and our panelists -- Joseph Phillips, Ed Schultz, Jeff Johnson.

We're getting a lot of e-mail about the issue of gays in the military.

Anne in Kansas City writes this -- "I am in currently in the military and definitely know that being openly gay would certainly be a disruption to the unit. There have been soldiers caught having homosexual relations in Iraq. It does detract from the mission at hand. I, for one, am disgusted by it and would seriously consider retiring from the service. I completely agree that homosexuality is immoral and the general should never apologize for his morals."

SCHULTZ: Is it immoral to bomb innocent civilians? When you talk about morality, that's one thing. If you're talking about the discipline and the code of conduct in the United States military, that's something else.

The fact is, women get pregnant in the military and they deal with it. If someone gets out of line and can't adhere to the tough military disciplinary standards that are set forth by all the different forces, then they're going to be dealt with. You cannot discriminate against Americans who want to serve their country, who have paid their taxes, who have contributed to society. And many of them have helped with military effort. JOHNSON: And especially in a military where we're struggling for numbers as it is, where the military is over-stretched. If there are young men and women that want to serve with distinction regardless of their sexual orientation, they should be able to do that without persecution.

ZAHN: It's interesting. General Shalikashvili is a man that was opposed to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

PHILLIPS: He switched, too.

ZAHN: At one point has switched, and he's saying -- hey, not in that way. But he's saying that...

PHILLIPS: If he switches, you better be careful. They're going to send you to rehab talking like that.

ZAHN: No, but he said that he believes that gays should be able to openly serve in the military for the exact reasons that Jeff just brought up.


PHILLIPS: I want to make this point. No one is saying that homosexuals cannot serve in the military. The policy is that...

ZAHN: Yes, but he says openly serve.

PHILLIPS: ... you can be -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And we've just seen by Anne's testimony here -- she's a soldier -- that she feels as a soldier on the front lines that it's disruptive.

Ed spoke about women being on the front lines getting pregnant. Jeff talked about the number of troops that we need. Well, I think that troops getting pregnant and having to leave the front lines is a disruption. I think rape that you brought up is a disruption.


SCHULTZ: The military's a reflection of society is a reflection of America.

ZAHN: Absolutely.

Let me go on to this e-mail from John of New Berlin, Wisconsin.

He writes, "I find it ironic that the cohesion issue is used as an argument against gays in the military. I had three daughters who served in Iraq, sharing quarters with male soldiers. No one seemed concerned about the disruption that might come about because of some romantic involvement. My daughter gave her life in a firefight."

"The gay question is silly. The military needs every troop it can find, regardless of gender or sexual orientation."

Quick final thought. JOHNSON: I think it's the same thing that I just said. And I agree.

And I think the disruption issue is an issue that's an anomaly. We need to make sure we have the most dedicated servicemen as possible to serve with distinction where we are.

ZAHN: A 10-second thought. And you get the last word.

PHILLIPS: There's nothing right now that says that people who want to serve cannot serve. I find it interesting. It says that we need all the military we can. But I bet if we started talking about instituting a draft, he'd be having a heart attack right now.

ZAHN: Can you do it in 10 seconds?

SCHULTZ: The military has changed their policy in dealing with military families throughout time. This is just going to be another change.

ZAHN: All right, gentlemen. Joseph Phillips, Ed Schultz, Jeff Johnson, thank you.

Tonight's person you should know is touching the lives of America's wounded Iraq war veterans and their families. Twenty-four thousand servicemen and women have been injured in Iraq. And while Colonel John Folsom hasn't been able to help them all, he is making a huge difference.

Here's Don Lemon with tonight's "People You Should Know".


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Images of war may be commonplace on our TVs these days, but to some Americans, those pictures are reminders of families that have been torn apart.

JOHN FOLSOM, FOUNDER, WOUNDED WARRIORS: We go to war, our families go to war. And they're paying a price. And we need to recognize that.

LEMON: Marine reserve Colonel John Folsom says when soldiers come home wounded or don't come home at all, it's the families that must deal with the emotional aftermath.

FOLSOM: You've got kids who -- young kids, "Where is dad?" You know, they're growing up basically without -- without a dad. Or the trauma of, well, dad walked out with two arms and two legs, and because of an IED blast he's not the same guy who left.

LEMON: Colonel Folsom helped create a nonprofit organization called Wounded Warriors to help wartorn families. It's a vacation program that gives qualified families a chance to spend a week at one of the organization's two resorts in Texas and Florida and visit area attractions, all for free. FOLSOM: Get away for a week. Don't worry about physical therapy, don't worry about unpaid bills, don't worry about stuff. Focus on what's really important in our lives, and our families.

LEMON: The cause has turned into a full-time job for Colonel Folsom, but he says it's well worth the work.

FOLSOM: This is not a consolation prize for having received the Purple Heart. It's a children thing. It's for the kids.

LEMON: Don Lemon, CNN.


ZAHN: What a great man.

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for joining us.

Tomorrow night we have a very special hour for you. A lot of people are saying that Iraq has turned into a quagmire, and they're comparing it to what happened in Vietnam. But is that valid?

Please join me at 8:00 Eastern for a PAULA ZAHN NOW "Out in the Open" special, "From Saigon to Baghdad: Lessons Unlearned."

Until then, have a great night. Hope to see you again tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines