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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Will Iraq War Hamper Tornado Recovery Efforts?; President Bush Hosts Queen Elizabeth; Senator Clinton's Iraq Do-Over?

Aired May 7, 2007 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us.
Here are some of the stories we're brining out in the open tonight.

An entire Kansas town literally wiped off the map by a tornado -- will recovery efforts be hampered by the Iraq war?

Also, a CNN investigation into slow and painful executions raises a troubling question: Should anyone care how killers die?

Plus: the outrage over an R&B singer whose act makes Don Imus likes like Sunday school.

Out in the open first tonight: how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hitting home all over the country and especially in Greensburg, Kansas. A nearly two-mile-wide tornado literally flattened the town Friday night. Now, three days later, the state's governor is complaining that the recovery effort is being hurt because so much of the Kansas National Guard's heavy equipment is overseas.

Before we get to that part of the story, I want you to see what is left at Greensburg -- look at this -- and get the very latest on the search for survivors.

Don Lemon is there tonight.

You know, Don, we have heard that as much as 95 percent of this town is destroyed. You have been touring there all day long. How bad is it?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can only imagine, Paula.

And, before you even roll that video, like you said, you wanted to see, look at this. Pan that way. That is what it looks like for miles and miles and miles, Paula, at least 22 miles of rubble and debris. This thing cut a swathe about two miles wide, 22 miles long, across this entire city, as you said, 90 to 95 percent of this city just completely, completely gone.

And, then, today, they found two more bodies in this rubble. Eight people had died. And then they found two more bodies in the rubble. That makes a total of 10 here -- one in the rubble, I should say, the other one in a lake nearby. They believe that his body, or her body, had blown into the lake. But, again, that's what people are finding today. They're coming back today and finding that they don't have anywhere to go -- Paula.

ZAHN: And the heartbreaking thing is that they were coming back for the very first time and seeing what little was left of their old life.

Describe to us some of the encounters you had with folks, when they had to brace for this cold, hard reality.

LEMON: Yes.

And you know what, Paula? When I see reporters and I see people who do what we do on television, and they say, oh, words can't describe it, and, you know, we always say, well, that's your job. Describe it.

It really is true. When you come to a place like this, it's hard to find words really to -- to describe what it looks like.

I met a family this morning on our way in here. They were in line, waiting to get their cars, their windshield marked. That's what they do in order to get in. You have to mark the windshield with the address and their name on it, where they have to go.

And I saw them this morning, before they went through that process. And I said, will you call me -- will you call me when you get home, and maybe we can come over and talk to you about it? They called me. We went over to take a look. This one grandmother, who was just amazing, her daughter greeted us as we walked in and we went in to talk to them.

Take a listen to what we -- what we saw of them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all here. .

LEMON: And the pictures are here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the pictures are here. So...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what's important.

LEMON: What did you say, mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what is important, that the kids are here., and helping us go through things that mean something to them.

LEMON: You're going to get through this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We will dry out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And we can all just imagine, I mean, just coming home to, you know, to something like that. But these people, Paula, were in their basement. They heard about it. When you live in this area, you know you live in a tornado zone, so you go down into your basement or the tornado shelter, or what have you. And they said, when they finally came up, what felt like hours -- it may have been five, 10, 15 minutes -- when they finally came back up, they realized their roof was gone because they say airplanes going over their home.

And, just really quickly , I just want to tell you, we just got a list about an hour ago of five of the people of the 10 who are dead. It's four men. We have a list of four men, one woman. They range in age from 48 years old to 79 years old, Paula, all from Greensburg.

ZAHN: And, unfortunately, officials expect those numbers to probably rise.

Don Lemon, thank you so much.

LEMON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And, just a short while ago, I spoke with David Paulison, who is the administrator of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He was in Greensburg today to personally look over the damage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: You have seen a lot of terrible things on your job. How bad is the devastation there?

DAVID PAULISON, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: As far as tornado damage, it's some of the worst that I have seen, because of the size of this tornado.

I have never seen one this wide. This tornado was a mile-and-a- half to two miles wide -- total destruction of this city. People have lost everything. They have -- you know, they have 10 people confirmed fatalities. The homes are down. The business district is down.

And this is a small town of -- only of 1,800 people. This is, for the size of this city, this is some of the worst that I have seen.

ZAHN: FEMA learned very painful lessons from Hurricane Katrina. What changes do we see in place in the wake of this tornado?

PAULISON: I think what you have seen here is the fact that we turned this declaration around within 24 hours after the tornado hit. The president has signed the declaration.

We had FEMA assets on the ground just within a few hours after the tornado. We put our staff down here. I had the regional director in there Saturday afternoon. We have worked hard to cut the bureaucracy out, to lean very far forward, and make sure we listen to the needs of the state and of the community. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Now I want to bring the Kansas governor's complaint out into the open to night. Governor Kathleen Sebelius says that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has siphoned off so much of her state's National Guard resources, it's slowing down the recovery effort.

We asked senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre to look into that situation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no! The structures! Oh, no!

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a major disaster like the Kansas tornado strikes, state officials are often quick to blame the Iraq war for any delays in emergency response.

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: With regard to our first- responders, they don't have the equipment they need to come in, and it will just make it that much slower.

MCINTYRE: It's no secret the war in Iraq has left the National Guard under-equipped and badly strained.

The guard's top general admitted as much to Congress last month.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL STEVEN BLUM, NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF: The National Guard today, I'm sorry to say, is not a fully ready force.

MCINTYRE: A January Government Accountability Office report found shortages of trucks, generators, radios, chemical protective gear, and engineering equipment.

Before the war, National Guard units typically had 65 to 75 percent of their needed equipment on hand. Now it's between 30 and 40 percent, a shortfall that will take some $40 billion to make up.

BLUM: Can we do the job? Yes, we can. But the lack of equipment makes it take longer to do that job. And lost time translates into lost lives. And those lost lives are American lives.

SEBELIUS: Here in Kansas, about 50 percent of our trucks are gone. We need trucks. We're missing Humvees. We're missing all kinds of equipment that could help us respond to this kind of emergency.

MCINTYRE: But, as bad as it is, the Army insists the devastation in Kansas isn't overly straining the Guard's admittedly limited resources. There are still thousands of troops and hundreds of vehicles available. In fact, of the state's more than 7,600 Guard troops, only around 10 percent are deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. And Kansas has not asked for any reinforcements or extra equipment from neighboring states. MAJOR GENERAL TOD BUNTING, ADJUTANT GENERAL, KANSAS NATIONAL GUARD: I think we got here in good shape. But we have limited resources. So, if we had another big storm right now, we would be hard-pressed to cover that.

MCINTYRE (on camera): In another sign that the Guard is not yet overtaxed, there's been no talk of canceling exercises under way this week in which thousands of Guard troops are practicing how to handle an even larger disaster, such as a massive storm, or even the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists.

(voice-over): The Army says it has enough equipment for both a simulated drill and the real-life disaster, and argues, if the governor of Kansas has an urgent need for more bulldozers, backhoes, or Black Hawk helicopters, she only has to ask.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And with me now is someone we saw in Jamie McIntyre's report, Major General Tod Bunting of the Kansas National Guard.

Thanks so much for joining us.

We know your governor is very concerned about the shortage of equipment, National Guard equipment, in your state to handle this disaster. How will that compromise the efforts to get the job done?

BUNTING: Well, at this point in time, we're fine with this job. What the governor is saying is, with the shortage of equipment, if we had another storm anywhere near this magnitude, we wouldn't have enough equipment to handle it.

We have got plenty of soldiers and airman here, but we would be short on equipment. And we would be forced to go to other states, through the emergency management assistance process, to get the equipment in here.

ZAHN: General, I know you saw a lot of the damage that came out of Hurricane Katrina. And, in many ways, you have described what you have seen there today as even worse than what you saw in New Orleans. How so?

BUNTING: Well, here -- I saw Bay Saint Louis and New Orleans.

I would say the damage is equal. The difference is that this entire community was hit. The way we have described it is, it looks just like Bay Saint Louis without the Gulf of Mexico. So, that's the -- the difference, total devastation, just everything moved off of the earth.

So, it's -- the fact that this entire community, too, got hit, with virtually nothing spared, it makes it a tough one-two punch.

ZAHN: When you look at the pictures, it seems miraculous that anybody was ever pulled out of this wreckage alive. But is there really still hope tonight that you still might find more survivors?

BUNTING: Oh, absolutely.

It's -- it has been amazing. And we did find one today. This rubble, though, in some cases, is 20, 30 feet deep. So, that's a challenge. But we have searched every area at least twice, and have extra crews coming in to spare the ones that are exhausted or going back -- back home to rest.

So, we always keep that hope present. And we just keep working, too. We just go over it and over it and over it to try to find everyone we can.

ZAHN: We wish you well.

General Tod Bunting, thank you very much for your time tonight.

BUNTING: Thank you.

ZAHN: Well, another way the Iraq war is hitting home is in the presidential race, especially for a certain Democratic candidate who voted in favor of the war.

Out in the open next: Has Senator Clinton figured out a way to get a do-over on Iraq?

We're also looking in on tonight's big do at the White House. Check this out. Queen Elizabeth is the guest of honor. When she turns around, you will she's wearing a glorious tiara from Queen Mary.

A little bit later on, you're not going to believe what one of the hottest R&B singers in the country is saying about women in his music, and what he's doing on stage. It has a lot of people outraged. And they're wondering why he didn't get in the same trouble that Don Imus did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As you know, May is only a week old, and, already, 26 Americans have died fighting in Iraq. Ten of them were killed just yesterday. Today, there was dramatic video of an American tank burning in Baghdad after it was hit by an improvised explosive device -- no word yet on casualties in that attack.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the stalemate between the president and Congress continues on funding the war. But opponents of the war may have found a new tactic, a vote to de-authorize the conflict.

Congressional correspondent Dana Bash brings that out into the open for us tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Catch Hillary Clinton on the stump any time, anywhere, and you will hear plenty of crowd-pleasing anti-war rhetoric.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is his responsibility to extricate us from Iraq. But, if he doesn't, when I'm president, I will.

BASH: What you won't hear is something every other Democratic contender who voted to authorize war in 2002 has flatly admitted, that voting for the war was a mistake.

CLINTON: I have taken responsibility for my vote, but there are no do-overs in life.

BASH: No do-overs. Or are there? Facing pressure from many anti-war voters, Clinton is still in search of political redemption. And she's now pushing to revoke the war authority she granted the president.

CLINTON: It is time to sunset the authorization of the war in Iraq. If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it's time for Congress to bring reality to him.

BASH: Repealing the president's authority for war is not a new idea. Senator Joe Biden proposed it three months ago, but it's having a revival now among Democratic presidential candidates searching for ways to voice opposition to war.

(on camera): But is it even constitutional for Congress to revoke authority it gave the president in a conflict that's still ongoing?

(voice-over): Most experts say yes, but:

DAVID BARRON, PROFESSOR OF LAW, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: The president would probably respond that all Congress has done is taken away the authority. It hasn't said he can't stay there.

BASH: In reality, experts say, Congress can only really succeed in ending the war if Democrats do what most have ruled out: cut off funding.

Vietnam may be a cautionary tale. In 1970, Congress, looking for ways to bring Vietnam to a close, repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution used to authorize that war. President Nixon signed it into law. But lawmakers kept funding Vietnam, so the president kept troops there. The same could happen now.

BARRON: Ultimately, when you're dealing with a president who's committed to remaining and keeping the troops in Iraq, it may be that Congress will have to take much stronger measures than simply repealing the initial authorization.

BASH: There's another more practical reason revoking the president's war authority is not likely to get beyond rhetoric. Democrats admit they don't have the votes to pass it.

Dana Bush, CNN, Capitol Hill. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Let's go straight to our "Out in the Open" panel. Republican political strategist Amy Holmes, she is back. Raul Reyes, brand-new to us tonight, an attorney and member of "USA Today"'s board of contributors, and John Aravosis, founder of AmericaBlog.com, an old hand around here.

So, we're going to start with Raul tonight, because he's brand- new to us.

Many have called what Senator Hillary Clinton is doing as -- is a way of saying, "I'm sorry," without using those words.

RAUL REYES, "USA TODAY" BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS MEMBER: It's her do-over.

ZAHN: She said she doesn't -- you don't get a do-over in life.

REYES: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: How do you read this?

REYES: You know what? I read it, it's disappointing, because the way she's making this statement, it's centrist to the point of being meaningless. It's not going to bring anyone home any sooner. It's not going to stop the war.

I think she's just throwing it out there to reframe the political debate, to appeal to the Democratic -- the anti-war Democrats. And, I mean, at this juncture, when things are so critical, and we need these tough solutions, it's really not good enough. I'm very disheartened by it.

ZAHN: Do you see this as nothing more than a political stunt? Or is there some merit to this?

(CROSSTALK)

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I think this is political positioning. And I think it's too good by half.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: If Hillary wanted to end this war, she would have voted to, you know, end funding to the troops who are in the field. But she's trying to have it both ways.

She is both trying to, as Raul was saying, appeal to centrists who saw her cast that vote. And she also wants to be -- to appeal to the people who want a hawkish president...

REYES: Right.

HOLMES: ... particularly who have doubts that a woman can be a commander in chief.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But her argument is that the only reason she voted for this war, that she was given information that ended up being misleading.

HOLMES: Right, Paula.

And, again, the Democrats are misleading on that point. They have been very good at it, very clever. The Iraq war resolution did not -- was not pivoting on whether or not there was WMDs. It also said it had Saddam Hussein attacking his own people, attacking planes that were enforcing the no-fly-over zone. There were all sorts of things delineated in that resolution the Democrats are not willing to acknowledge, because they want it to be all about WMDs so they can try to run away from their vote.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN ARAVOSIS, FOUNDER, AMERICABLOG.COM: Paula, can I jump in?

ZAHN: Yes, jump in here, please.

ARAVOSIS: Right.

First of all, let's not revisit history and pretend that this war wasn't about WMD. Excuse me. That was the reason we went in.

But, pulling all of that aside, there is one fact that remains. This war is a disaster. It's pretty much over. We have lost. And the majority of the country thinks that we're in serious trouble in this war. This president doesn't want to change the course. Hillary is at least trying -- trying -- to get the topic to change, for us to maybe do something different.

The Democrats are the only ones talking about what we can do differently in Iraq...

ZAHN: All right.

ARAVOSIS: ... how we can get ourselves out of there.

ZAHN: But changing the topic is one thing. Coming up with a resolution that has any chance of...

ARAVOSIS: But what do you do?

ZAHN: ... standing tall is a different story.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: No, you're right. No, no, you're absolutely right.

The problem is, we have a president who's willing to break the law to spy on American citizens. He's not going to leave Iraq. There's nothing we can do that's going to make him leave Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: John, you can make those wild accusations against the president.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: But the fact of the matter is, is...

ARAVOSIS: Twenty-eight approval ratings. Excuse me. They're not my accusations.

HOLMES: ... the president consulted -- the president consulted with the Congress. Congress passed the war resolution overwhelmingly.

ARAVOSIS: And now it is a disaster.

HOLMES: And, so, now to try to rescind that resolution...

ARAVOSIS: And now it is a disaster.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: One at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Finish your thought, Amy.

HOLMES: And now to try to rescind that resolution is to try to absolve themselves of responsibility.

ARAVOSIS: Right, but it is a disaster now. We gave him the authority.

REYES: Right.

ARAVOSIS: He screwed up.

ZAHN: Raul.

ARAVOSIS: What do you do now? Your president screwed up. We have got to change this.

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: I agree.

We are where we are.

HOLMES: Our president, John.

REYES: We cannot take back the votes. We cannot, you know, change history, where we voted in the past. But the fact is, you know, I think it was just Sunday night one of the chief officials of the Army said, we need to brace for an increase in casualties. And this is after, what...

ARAVOSIS: The White House said it today.

REYES: ... 3,300 men and women in uniform have already died. So, the time is now to make these difficult decisions and move forward.

ZAHN: All right.

But, Raul, you said you were disappointed in how Hillary Clinton...

REYES: Yes, I am.

ZAHN: ... is going about this.

REYES: Yes, I am.

ZAHN: But there are people who say that, because Senator Robert Byrd is the one who came up with this idea, that it carries a lot more weight than if Hillary had come up with it on her own.

REYES: Yes. I think -- honestly, I think Hillary is trying to align herself with him, because he was against it to begin with. But one thing that is very...

ZAHN: But why does that carry so much weight, whether Senator Byrd is for it or not?

REYES: Because he's a very respected Democrat, with a long history of...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: He's one of the oldest Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: That's fine -- with taking positions that are unpopular.

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: And I think, when we look...

ARAVOSIS: He knows the Senate inside out.

REYES: ... when we -- when we look at this conflict, you know, in her proposal, she says that we could leave troops there for continuing missions. That could be defined so broadly.

So, we do need to move forward, but that's not the way we're going to go.

ZAHN: You get the last word, John.

ARAVOSIS: Look, the problem is that the Republicans don't want to get us out of Iraq. Bush -- but wants to run out of the clock. He wants to stay to the end of his administration.

HOLMES: Oh, that's not fair, John.

ARAVOSIS: The Republican candidates -- excuse me, Amy. What's the Republican proposal to get us out of Iraq? You have the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: You got to see it in the Republican debate on Thursday. I encourage you to go back...

ARAVOSIS: They all want to stay.

HOLMES: I encourage you to go back...

ARAVOSIS: I watched it. They all want to...

HOLMES: ... and listen to those Republican candidates.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: There isn't a Republican who wants to get us out of that country.

HOLMES: They all want to get us out successfully.

ARAVOSIS: It's only the Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: I'm with you, John.

HOLMES: Successfully, John, not with a bloodbath.

(CROSSTALK)

ARAVOSIS: It is disgusting, what that party is doing. I'm sorry.

REYES: I'm with you.

ZAHN: All right, team, we have got to leave it there.

You can, John, looked at the transcript. It aired on another network. You don't have to go look at your VCR tapes and all that. Just -- just read the written word.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: We have a lot more to talk about with all three of you tonight... (LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... and for all of you as well.

There are two special guests in Washington tonight. I think you have seen her roaming about. One happens to be the queen of England. The other is our man Richard Quest.

Oh, you look so handsome all scrubbed up there, Richard.

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Paula.

White tie and tails, gowns and Jewels, a banquet fit for a queen -- we're all gussied up on PAULA ZAHN NOW -- back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: It is a night of celebration in Washington tonight, Queen Elizabeth the guest of honor at a white-tie-and-tail state dinner going on at the White House as we speak.

President and Mrs. Bush welcomed the queen and Prince Philip just a short time ago.

Richard Quest didn't make the list of more than 130 guests, but he's certainly dressed for the event.

And, boy, I'm so disappointed you didn't make it. Now, I know you're a guy that's not easily impressed by anything, but as you watched those 130-plus invited guests trot in, what -- what were your thoughts, Richard?

QUEST: My thoughts were, there is a reason, Paula, that you have white-tie events. Its enables everybody to get dressed up, put their best foot forward, and really make a show of it.

And that's why they do it, the most formal attire on the calendar. So it was this evening at the White House. We have seen Nancy Reagan, Colin Powell arriving at the White House. We have seen -- there's the jockey who won the Kentucky Derby arriving at the White House. We have had just one after the other of these guests, well, beautifully dressed.

And, then, it was time for the royal visitors themselves to arrive, the queen and Prince Philip. Now, when the royals arrived, of course, everybody is most concerned what they're wearing. The queen is wearing a white dress made by Stewart Parvin.

She's -- it's described to me as a necklace festooned with diamonds. The tiara comes from Queen Mary. The first lady, Laura Bush, the color of the dress is aqua. And the dress is by Oscar de la Renta.

As for the men, it's just white tie, I'm afraid -- Paula. ZAHN: We're going to have to you bring you to the Bryant Park tents during Fashion Week. You have got -- you have got all that designer lingo down, Richard.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Now -- now we have got the tougher task of walking us through the menu, quite a big meal. Spring lamb, that part of the menu, I got.

The -- what was it, blossom flower salad? What is that all about?

QUEST: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... rose blossoms.

QUEST: Well, the first thing is, it's five courses, instead of the usual four.

There are at least one, two, three -- at least four wines, including a desert wine. They're having spring pea soup with fernleaf lavender. Can't say I fancy that. The Dover sole almondine. No idea what that is, but it's fish.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: The saddle -- I mean, that much, I did gather.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: You're very swift tonight, Richard.

QUEST: Oh, I know.

The saddle of spring lamb, the arugula, Savannah mustard -- I think that's a salad to you and me -- and the rose blossoms. Now, that is some concoction and confection. It's a lovely meal, because, substantially, Paula, the White House will have asked the palace what the queen likes. The queen likes simple, non-spicy food. And shellfish is always a no-no.

ZAHN: Well, I know the toasts are about to come. If something really earth-shattering happens during those toasts, we will come back to you live to have you share it with us.

QUEST: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Maybe the next white-tie dinner, you will be inside the White House, Richard.

QUEST: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you, bud. Have a good night.

Most states in this country switched to execution by lethal injection, because it's supposed to be quick and painless. Well, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's strapped in on this execution chamber with straps across his chest, across his legs. He -- he raised himself up against those straps, taut -- drawing them taut, and shouted five times: "It don't work. It don't work."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Out in the open next: the result of a CNN investigation. Do we need to come up with a more humane way of putting killers to death?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Two days from now, a convicted cop killer is scheduled to die in Tennessee's death chamber. Like almost all death row inmates in the U.S., he will be executed by a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Fifty-two of the 53 executions in the U.S. last year were by drug injections, which is supposed to be a more humane way to die than methods like the electric chair. But because of gruesome disasters in death chambers and new research, the humanity of lethal injection is now being questioned. And we asked our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen to investigation the growing doubt about that process. And what she's bringing "Out in the Open" may shock you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not scared. I'm not nervous. I get emotional sometimes. But, you know, that's about it.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A year ago when Joseph Clark was executed by lethal injection for murdering two people in Ohio, something went terribly wrong. He was supposed to be under anesthesia, but then...

DR. LEONIDAS KONIARIS, UNIV. OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: He raised himself, and he is strapped in on this execution chamber with straps across his chest, across his legs. And shouted five times, it don't work! It don't work!

COHEN: Executioners drew the curtain so no one could watch.

KONIARIS: I think people realized pretty quickly that there was a problem.

COHEN: Witnesses heard groans and then silence. Instead of the normal 15 minutes or so, the process of putting Clark to death took nearly an hour-and-a-half. Here's how lethal injection is supposed to work. Officials move the prisoner into the execution chamber, secure him on the table and put an intravenous line into his arm. Then they inject a series of three drugs into the IV.

First, sodium thiopental, which is supposed to make the inmate unconscious in 90 seconds so the execution will be painless and the prisoner won't be aware of what's going on. Next, pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the prisoner's muscles, collapsing the lungs and diaphragm. Last, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

When a heart monitor flat-lines, the prisoner is pronounced dead. No one knows how often lethal injections are botched and don't work the way they're supposed to, but a new study says it may be more often than previously thought.

KONIARIS: It's not resulting in a rapid, painless death for the condemned.

COHEN: This is the man who invented lethal injections 25 years ago, Dr. Jay Chapman. While working for the State of Oklahoma, he developed the lethal three-drug cocktail that's now the standard in execution chambers across the country.

But now even he thinks it needs to be reconsidered.

DR. JAY CHAPMAN, INVENTOR OF LETHAL INJECTION: There are many problems that can arise. Given the concerns that people are raising with the protocol that is -- has been in existence that it should be reexamined.

COHEN: One major problem, lethal injection is a multi-step procedure that requires real know-how.

CHAPMAN: Certainly you have to have some skills to do it.

COHEN: Executioners who are often not medical professional sometimes have a hard time finding veins and mixing drugs. In one botched execution in Florida last year, the lead executioner later testified he had had no medical training and no qualifications. It took the condemned man, Angel Diaz, twice as long as normal to die.

Dr. Chapman, a death penalty supporter, says maybe it's time to bring back an older method.

CHAPMAN: The simplest thing that I know is the guillotine, and I'm not at all opposed to bringing it back. It's absolute if the person's head is cut off. That's the end of it.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Joining me now to debate this, Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's U.S. program; and William Rusty Hubbarth of Justice For All, an organization that favors the death penalty and is devoted to reforming the criminal justice system. Welcome to both of you.

JAMIE FELLNER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Thank you.

: Thank you.

ZAHN: So, Jaime, we just heard about what can go wrong in the death chamber. Describe to us what that would feel like.

FELLNER: It would be excruciating. The whole premise of the three-drug protocol is that the prisoner is fully anesthetized before he is paralyzed -- he cannot move even though he is still awake, and before the third drug courses through his veins to his heart, the third drug would feel like it's burning up. It is so painful that in the U.S., you are not allowed to kill dogs using this drug unless you've ascertained that the dog is fully anesthetized.

ZAHN: But you've heard from family members of victims out there that say, why should we care about the way these murderers die?

FELLNER: You know, it's a question of values. Just because a prisoner has killed without care or conscience doesn't mean the state should follow suit. We as a nation are committed to values of justice, of human rights, of fairness. And we don't need capital punishment to hold criminals and killers accountable for their crimes.

ZAHN: Do you have a problem, William, with people suffering as they die with these drug cocktails?

WILLIAM RUSTY HUBBARTH, JUSTICE FOR ALL: Well, first of all, as the earlier speaker said, short of bringing back to guillotine, which I don't see happening, lethal injection and the protocols that are being used these days are the most efficient, most humane form of execution...

ZAHN: All right. But you didn't answer the question, William.

HUBBARTH: ... in America.

ZAHN: As you know, things have gone wrong in the death chamber. You have just heard Jamie describe the level of pain and the burning sensation these people might feel. Do you have a problem with that or do you think that is appropriate that that would happen from time to time?

HUBBARTH: Well, first of all, I think it's a subjective statement because nobody can state that they suffered a great deal of pain while they were being executed for the obvious reason that they're not able to make any statements.

Furthermore, the credibility of the statement is suspect because, as they said, they're against capital punishment in any way, shape or form. So they're going to grasp at whatever straw they can to denigrate the procedure.

FELLNER: Paula, may I jump in here? HUBBARTH: Yes. There have been problems.

ZAHN: Hang on one second.

HUBBARTH: There were problems in Ohio and there have been problems in Florida. However, we have not experienced those problems in Texas who does have the distinction of having executed more people than any other state in the country.

FELLNER: Paula, we don't know...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: OK. Hang on there, William.

FELLNER: We don't know if there have been problems in Texas because Texas hasn't revealed the execution logs. There have been problems in every single state where we've been able to get access to the execution logs. You see time and time again that prisoners did not respond as they should have been had the protocols been going the way they should have.

In California, what Rusty didn't mention, a federal judge, after carefully reviewing mountains and reams and days of evidence said, this is unconscionable. This is so cruel that unless there is a change...

HUBBARTH: But that's in California.

ZAHN: All right.

FELLNER: It's the same protocol being used everywhere, in every one of -- the 37 of 38 death penalty states use the exact same protocol. And every time we get the data, there has been a problem.

ZAHN: All right. William...

HUBBARTH: And this was right after we executed two...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: .... a final question for you. Do you think these prisoners should be entitled to protection from the Eighth Amendment which would ban the use of cruel and unusual punishment, basically?

HUBBARTH: First of all, there's nothing about this that is cruel. And that has been upheld by the Supreme Court repeatedly.

FELLNER: That's not true. No, that's not true.

HUBBARTH: This not a cruel or unusual punishment. However, until we...

FELLNER: I mean, Rusty, that's completely not true. The Supreme Court has never ruled specifically on lethal injections. It just has not. HUBBARTH: But they have never ruled...

ZAHN: Got to give William the chance to...

HUBBARTH: ... that it is not a valid...

ZAHN: ... finish the thought...

HUBBARTH: ... punishment.

ZAHN: ... here.

HUBBARTH: And it will be used until a more humane method can be determined. Arguing whether or not there is a vengeful aspect to it is wrong. What we're looking for is justice. It's the most humane method of execution and as long as we mandate that there will be executions for capital murderers, the issues as to whether or not they feel momentary pain is irrelevant.

ZAHN: All right. You two, I've got to cut it off there. Jamie Fellner, William Rusty Hubbarth, thank you both. Appreciate it.

Moving on along now, an R&B star named Akon is at the center of a controversy tonight. Just wait until you see what he did on stage with a 15-year-old girl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was used. She was thrown about the stage for approximately I believe 46 to 47 seconds, like a rag doll.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" next, an artist whose songs about women have people absolutely revolted. Why is he all over the radio after Don Imus was kicked off? Why was he heralded on "American Idol"? We'll debate that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're back. I want to warn you now that the next story we're bringing "Out in the Open" has some video in it you might find downright disgusting. In fact, we've made a decision not to show you most of it because it involves a minor.

It has been about a month since we all watched the career of radio host Don Imus melt down over a racist and sexist insult. So where's the outrage over a wildly popular singer who simulated sex on stage with a 15-year-old girl? Entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas brings that story "Out in the Open" for us tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since his arrival on the American music scene, R&B and hip-hop artist Akon has taken the music world by storm. Topping charts and collaborating with some of pop and hip-hop's biggest names.

He sang alongside good Gwen Stefani on "American Idol" in March to an audience of millions. But it's this outrageous performance that's putting Akon front and center stage in a controversy about his treatment of women.

The video, shot last month in Trinidad, shows the singer simulating sex on stage with a female fan, twisting, turning and flipping her. It turns out the fan was a minor, 15-year-old Dana Aline (ph), the daughter of Trinidad pastor who should not have been admitted to the club in the first place, but was a willing participant, at least at first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a disgraceful sight for any parent to view. Could you just imagine what my parents experienced when they looked at that video?

VARGAS: Ian Aline (ph) says his sister thought she had won a trip to Africa in a dance competition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was used. She was thrown about the stage for approximately I believe 46 to 47 seconds like a rag doll.

VARGAS: The dirty dancing act got so much attention, the prime minister of Trinidad has called for a formal investigation of the performance. This is not the first time Akon has been captured simulating sex on the stage. Tmz.com first posted this video of actress Tara Reid straddling the singer at a concert last January.

And sexually explicit, even derogatory lyrics seem to be a part of Akon's act, as in his hugely popular single, "Smack That."

AKON (singing): Smack that, all on the floor. Smack that, give me some more. Smack that until you get sore. Smack that.

VARGAS: There's even an X-rated version of the singer's chart- topping Snoop Dogg collaboration, I want to love you. Only instead of saying "I want to love you," it goes a little more like this.

AKON (singing): I want to (expletive deleted) you. You already know.

VARGAS: That song also makes repeated references to female genitalia. Verizon is removing Akon's ringtones from its Web site and says it's pulling out as sponsor of a tour in which he was an opening act for Gwen Stefani.

(on camera): A spokesman for the company told CNN they simply decided to no longer sponsor Akon. When asked if the company's decision to discontinue its relationship with the artist was a direct result of his activities in Trinidad, the spokesman told us, that's what everybody is assuming, you can draw your own conclusions.

(voice-over): CNN tried to contact Akon and his record label, Universal Motown, but we did not receive a response from either. According to the Pollstar Web site, the singer is still scheduled for a number of U.S. tour dates alongside Stefani this month. But with corporate sponsorship dropping out, the question is, what impact will it have on R&B's latest sensation?

GEOFF MAYFIELD, SENIOR ANALYST, BILLBOARD MAG.: I think it does absolute damage in the short term, but depending on how responsibly he handles the situation, you know, he might be able to rally support again somewhere in the future.

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, as you know, Don Imus generated national outrage over what he said, and lost his job for a lot less than what Akon does. So why the double standard? Should Akon be in as much trouble if not more than Imus? Our "Out in the Open" panel will take that on next. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight we're bringing "Out in the Open" a controversy over R&B artist Akon. Last month in a performance in Trinidad he simulated sex on stage with a 15-year-old girl, a minister's daughter. Now, there is a video of the performance, but CNN has decided that because it is so raunchy and because it involves a minor, we are not going to show you the most graphic part of it.

But the issue for our "Out in the Open" panel now is whether there is a double standard here. Akon is still all over the radio, but Don Imus lost his career over some off-color insults. Back with me now, Amy Holmes, Raul Reyes, John Aravosis .

So, had this not been a 15-year-old girl that volunteered to come on stage, and it was an 18-year-old girl or a 28-year-old girl, would you be as equally outraged?

HOLMES: I would be outraged. This was a stranger who was led onto the stage by a fraudulent claim which is that she won the dance contest. (INAUDIBLE) girls lining up and dancing, you know, sexy or whatever, that she would get a trip to Africa. And then it was sprung on her that Africa was this rapper.

And, Paula, the video that you showed does not do service to what happened to this young lady. She was being thrown around like a rag doll. Her head was being bashed against the floor. He then after this what looked like basically a public gang-rape, threw her for her bodyguards then to rush her back stage.

So what we saw looks like dirty dancing. That is not what this was about.

ZAHN: No, this was downright disgusting.

HOLMES: And it was. It was assault in my view.

ZAHN: Did you view it that way? REYES: Yes, I did. And I've seen the full video as well.

(CROSSTALK)

REYES: In this instance, it was a minor, so of course it was totally deplorable. But the thing is, I'm not prepared to say that we have to set up some type of cultural police to say what is offensive and what is not. That's the last thing this country needs. And where do we draw the line?

ZAHN: Well, where do you draw the line?

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Don Imus, we saw what happened to him.

REYES: I think Don Imus got a raw deal.

ZAHN: You do?

HOLMES: And this concert was not being sold as a sex show. It was being sold as a music concert. And you know, minors, Trinidad coming to see their favorite rapper, you could have expected there to be 15- to 16-year-old...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: All right. But, John, let's not forget that this guy is on the radio all day long. He had that appearance on "American Idol." He has millions of American fans.

ARAVOSIS: Well, and Paula, can I make a point about Imus really quick. Imus has been making these comments for 10 years. It's not as if Imus just happened and he got thrown off the air. People have been complaining. He called Howie Kurtz at CNN a "boner-nosed Jewboy"...

ZAHN: I know, and Howard Kurtz....

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... told me in an interview last week he wasn't even insulted by that.

ARAVOSIS: Well, I have a lot of Jewish friends who don't like being called "Jewboy." He made -- I was insulted -- OK, I was insulted as a gay man that Imus made jokes about killing gay people. I mean, there were -- but the point is, it took 10 years to get Imus off the air. It's not like these things blow up and somebody gets sort of -- it's hard to make these things work.

ZAHN: Well, what should happen to this guy, Akon, John?

ARAVOSIS: You know, it was funny. I asked my blog about this today, my readers, because I was curious what their reaction was. To the person, people were outraged. And I think they were particularly outraged as, I think Amy may have noted, you're talking about a 14- or 15-year-old girl which made it even worse.

I would like to know what this guy's history is. I mean, I think you had said some of his lyrics and other things...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: John, John, John, I can tell you. He has spent up to five years in jail for armed robbery, for drug dealing...

ARAVOSIS: No, but in his show, but the lyrics and stuff...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: But you know what I think is going on here, is that he's fooling everyone with his dimples, his beautiful smile, his falsetto voice, and then he just, you know, uses the F-word.

ARAVOSIS: Oh, yes. I wouldn't defend the guy. Yes, I'm not going to defend him.

HOLMES: And because of that he has been getting away with a lot more than someone who is a lot more obviously thuggish.

ZAHN: Well, he even suggests mutilation in one of these songs.

REYES: Right. And that's deplorable, but still I just don't think we have a place. Our society, yes, it is highly sexualized, it is very violent, but our society is also totally organic. We cannot police that.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: We certainly can with our kids buying these CDs and downloading this music.

REYES: Then let's police our own kids, just like this minister's daughter...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, we're not policing our own kids, Amy.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: No, we're not.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, well, wait, are you blaming the victim here, this 15-year-old girl, it's her fault that she volunteered to onstage because...

REYES: No. I would say it's anybody's fault, it's her father's. That was a night club she had no business being in.

HOLMES: She snuck out. Kids sneak out. And let me tell you. This guy is lucky. This guy is lucky...

REYES: It is his responsibility. I'm not condoning this specific incident.

HOLMES: ... that her father is a man of the cloth. She is lucky that this -- that her father is a man of the cloth because if it was my dad or anybody else's dad, he'd go looking for this guy.

ZAHN: All right. Amy Holmes, Raul Reyes, John Aravosis, thank you all. We have got to move on to the King. Larry King.

You've got a big exclusive for us tonight. Who are you going to be talking to, Larry?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Another one, Paula. Coming up, David Hasselhoff, who had his child visitation rights temporarily suspended today after his daughter shot that sad sensational video of him drunk. What we're going to have is the exclusive first interviews with David Hasselhoff's ex-wife and then his attorneys on that video and the bitter custody battle. An intense emotional hour at the top of the hour, in fact, a couple of minutes -- Paula.

ZAHN: So sad all the way around. I don't know about you, Larry. I couldn't even watch that whole video. It was just painful to see a man in that much trouble. See you at the top of the hour. Thanks, Larry.

Right now we're going to take a quick "Biz Break." Another record for the Dow, closing up 48. The Nasdaq lost a point. The S&P gained 4. Eleven hundred Ford workers in Cleveland got some bad news today. The company says it will shut down its Cleveland casting plant in 2009, part of a restructuring plan that will lead to 16 plants in all closing.

The special panel investigating World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz says he broke the rules when he arranged a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend. That is according to an Associated Press report tonight. The panel could turn over its report to bank leaders tomorrow.

Look at these numbers. "Spider-Man 3" blew past box office records in its opening weekend, earning $382 million worldwide. Here in the U.S., 22 million people saw it in its first three days.

Have you guys seen it yet?

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We're late. We've got to go this weekend.

Once again, "LARRY KING LIVE" coming at you just about three minutes from now. He'll be talking with Pamela Bach, David Hasselhoff's ex-wife, about his ongoing battle with alcoholism. 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. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Hope you join us then. Until then, have a great night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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