Return to Transcripts main page


American Captain Held Hostage; Detroit Downsizes Teachers

Aired April 9, 2009 - 15:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took an American ship. I think they're going to regret it.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Have the pirates finally messed with the wrong guys, an American vessel with American military might behind it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Navy is in command of the situation.

SANCHEZ: Describing the tactical options, frogmen, Navy SEALs, fly-ins, the element of surprise.

If you say it enough, they may believe it, which is why a major charge from Senator James Inhofe is coming into question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have too many buildings for too few students.

SANCHEZ: And, apparently, too many teachers, 600 being laid off in Detroit.

BILLY BOB THORNTON, ACTOR: I don't know, maybe. What I'm explaining is, is, we said to not talk about (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like that.

SANCHEZ: Is this the intersection of mean and crazy? Angelina Jolie's ex-husband, what he said that's got hundreds of thousands on the Internet already watching right now. Hollyweird.

My take, and yours, as our national conversation begins right now.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everyone. From the world headquarters of CNN, I'm Rick Sanchez.

Before we get started, let me remind you that we are now awaiting a live news event from the White House. How will the White House address this hostage situation? You may be finding out about this at any moment now. As soon as we get word that Robert Gibbs is starting to address this matter, we're going to take you there and you're going to be able to hear it live.

The news of the day, still the pirates. It is now nighttime -- that's significant -- 10:00 p.M. in the dangerous waters off the East African coast. That's where an American man, a cargo ship captain, is still being held at gunpoint, the hostage of pirates off the African coast.

And if the Navy is going to go in and do something, they will do it now, perhaps during this hour, in the cover of night. We have newsmakers, correspondents and military experts standing by to take us through what's going on out there.

But, first, let me tell you what's going on right now, good and bad, first, the good, the cargo ship. The Maersk Alabama has left the area where it was hijacked. It has moved for the first time.

We understand it's now steaming toward a port in Kenya. Here's the bad news I have to share with you, though. The captain, yes, Richard Phillips, is not on board. He is still in some kind of lifeboat, said to be about 20 to 30 feet deep -- or long, I should say -- pardon me.

And he's with the pirates at gunpoint. What is nearby? This is important as well. The destroyer, the USS Bainbridge. The Navy crew is watching. An FBI negotiating team is either there or we understand now on the way, but somehow involved in what is going on.

Here's something I want you to listen to. This is captain Joe Murphy. He's a shipping instructor and the father of one of the Alabama crew members.

He tells our Jason Carroll what he knows. And that is where we're going to start things off. Take a listen.


JOE MURPHY, SHANE MURPHY'S FATHER: And he said that they had managed to take down one of the terrorists. And it was by sheer force. They have no weapons. So it must have been -- obviously just overpowered them. We got a secondary report that three others had gone into the water.


MURPHY: Three other pirates had gone into the water. We're not really sure how they got into the water or what happened. But they had regained at that point control of the ship. Shane called her again. He said he was OK, the crew was OK, and he didn't want to go any further with the discussion because he didn't want to upset his wife.


SANCHEZ: This thing is a mess. Imagine what happened on the deck of that ship.

Kaj Larsen is an international correspondent, former member of the U.S. Navy special ops, the Navy SEALs. There he is. Also joining us by phone now is Nick Davis, a former British military pilot, an expert in maritime security.

Gentlemen, my thanks to both of you.

Kaj, let me begin with you. Do you have any sense at this point that this thing could be somehow resolved by the U.S. military?

KAJ LARSEN, JOURNALIST, CURRENT TV: Sure. It's always an option that the military reserves.

Obviously there's the potential that there's a Navy SEAL team embarked. The Navy SEALs are the premier U.S. maritime -- the premier maritime special operations force in the world. They always reserve the right to do that.


SANCHEZ: What will they do? What will they do? Paint a picture for us.


Well, I mean, it's very possible that the team could use -- they could use RIBs, they could use Zodiacs to insert, and they could make an assault on the target vessel. It's unlikely that they will do so. It's much more likely they will try and resolve this through negotiation because of the danger and the risk to the hostage.

SANCHEZ: Nick, let me bring you into this.

Can you put us in this captain's position? The guy's on a boat, apparently about 20 feet long, one of those skiffs that they often use to get people to shore in case there's an emergency. He's surrounded by pirates, apparently armed. What's he going through right now?

NICK DAVIS, ANTI-PIRACY MARITIME SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Well, the captain, he's a pretty cool character, by all accounts. Very experienced in that type of water. And I would certainly put him in the same league as Captain Sullenberger, the guy that put the Airbus into the Hudson.

He's going to be, I would hope, from what I know of him, probably trying to at least talk to the pirates and get to sort of win their hearts and minds and try and probably bring them round to a sort of -- to a resolve that doesn't include arms.

But, you know, as your previous person just said, that if the SEAL teams get in the water, I mean, yes, they will probably surround the boat, the lifeboat already, with the Zodiacs and the RIBs that they have got on board.

SANCHEZ: What do these pirates have to gain now by holding him, if the ship is already gone?

DAVIS: Well...

SANCHEZ: I'm not quite sure I understand what they would be negotiating. For his head?

DAVIS: Well, currently, they will just be negotiating for his head, but actually all the time that the lifeboat, because it's out of fuel and it's just drifting -- currently, all of the cards are sort of stacked against the pirates.

They're using a satellite phone to speak to their sort of peers on the actual Somali sort of coastline and will be taking instructions, but they will be of limited value.

And you also have got to remember these guys are the equivalent of the sort of foot soldiers. They're not the actual true sort of people that are controlling the situation. So, it's...


SANCHEZ: Well, you know what I want to get? I want to get -- and hold on, fellows, because we have got to hit a break here, because we're going to try and make the White House news conference that we're going to have coming in at any moment now.

But we do want to get more in to exactly what the SEALs would possibly do in this situation. And I think it's important, now that an American-flagged ship has been taken, to understand what these pirates have been doing and whether they really do this for money and whether they get paid off every time, despite fact that for the most part people don't talk about this.

So, let's do this. I'm just told now that we're going to have a two-minute warning. That means that the president is going -- that the White House is going to be briefing reporters, most likely on what's going on right now with the pirates. Let me keep you guys here as we possibly go.

Nick, do these pirates get paid almost every time they do this?

DAVIS: Absolutely.

There's only been two ships released in the last sort of four months that haven't been paid out. And the reason why they were not paid out was because of the crew and the nationality and the flag of the vessel. And then the elders in the actual towns, in the coastal towns of Somalia got involved. Typically, they get involved via Kuwait and Djibouti because of the connections inside there.


SANCHEZ: Is it usually the case that this thing is resolved because it's paid? And is this different this time because they're messing with an American-flagged ship and that obviously involves the most powerful country in the world? And we're down to 40 seconds, by the way.


It does, but the American flag's got nothing to do with it. The crew took the ship back, but they didn't take -- they only got 99 percent of it back. They didn't get 100 percent.

SANCHEZ: Kaj, was this crew trained?

LARSEN: It's possible they were trained in some counterpiracy techniques, but, remember, they're going up against Somali pirates with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades, so it's very difficult to combat that.

SANCHEZ: Is there any possibility that this thing will not be resolved? I mean, is your guess right now that this thing will be negotiated through somehow by some of these FBI fellows that we were told earlier today are going to be there negotiating this thing?

LARSEN: Yes, the pirates are really in a bad spot right now. What you are seeing is a plan gone awry. And they are just holding on in the hope that they can escape. But it's most likely they are going to end up in a bad spot here.

SANCHEZ: Do you worry that desperate times might call for desperate measures and this might make them more likely to hurt the U.S. captain?

LARSEN: I do. But it is also their only bargaining chip, so we can take solace in the fact that, if they harm him, then they're really in a bad spot.

SANCHEZ: For those of you joining us now, we're talking to two of our experts.

The situation still not resolved off the coast of Africa. The ship apparently is now gone, but the U.S. captain of the ship, or the American captain of the ship, has still been taken hostage. He is apparently on board one of those skiffs, about a 20- to 30-footer, and he is apparently being held at gunpoint by some of these pirates.

The word is, though, that that skiff is not able to function. So, you know, these guys are drifting at sea.

What is their -- what has been their M.O. in the past? Nick, let me take that to you.

DAVIS: Yes, I mean, their sort of modus operandi previously is once they're on board, they will then get the ship as soon as they can off to Somalia. That's typically where the (INAUDIBLE) pirates get on board.

You have got to remember, the attacks happen. There's normally between four and eight pirates that get on board initially. Once they get the vessel to Somali territorial waters, then within 24 hours at least 50 people, at least 50 Somalis get on board these vessels.

So, then they have a sort of fairly slick routine of the watch system. They contain typically all of the crews in the bridge for sleeping.

(CROSSTALK) SANCHEZ: I think I think we have Robert Gibbs walking in now. Let's go ahead and take him and see if he takes some questions on this very thing.

Gentlemen, on the other side, we will talk.




GIBBS: That's -- let me just start with one -- one quick announcement. The president has asked DHS Secretary Napolitano and John Brennan, the director of the White House Homeland Security Council, to make a series of visits to border communities to meet with local officials and residents in the continuing effort to enhance border security in cooperation with Mexico and state and local law enforcement.

Their first visit to the southwest border will be on Wednesday, ahead of, as you know, the president's trip to Mexico and the Summit of the Americas beginning on Thursday. And we'll have some more details on that as we get a little closer.

I think most of you know we're not going to do a briefing tomorrow, so let me give you just a sort of quick week ahead. Not all of it is flesh out yet, and we'll have some more details.

Tomorrow, the president is going to meet with the head of the FDIC, the head of the Fed, Secretary Geithner, and Dr. Summers in the Oval Office. There will be a pool spray around that.

I don't know the topic of the radio address yet.

On Monday, the president will do a transportation event in suburban Maryland, but I don't have the exact city.


GIBBS: Transportation event. On Tuesday, there will be some other events, but the Phillies will be in town to celebrate their World Series victory.

And as you -- as I said, as you know, the president leaves sometime on Thursday to head to Mexico and then ultimately over to the Summit of the Americas over the weekend. So...


GIBBS: What's that? What's that?

QUESTION: Wednesday? Anything on Wednesday?

GIBBS: There will be an event here at the White House, but I don't have many details.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) this weekend?

GIBBS: He'll be here all weekend.

QUESTION: In Washington?

GIBBS: In D. C. , yes.

QUESTION: What church for Easter Sunday?

GIBBS: I'm not going to give that out.

QUESTION: Is he going to church on Easter Sunday?

GIBBS: He will go, but I'm not going to tell you where.


GIBBS: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: A few quick ones, please, on the Somali piracy incident.


QUESTION: First of all, can you tell us about the president's specific role in this over the last couple of days? Has he been involved in the decision-making on how this is handled, how the FBI and the Navy proceed, or does that not rise to the level of the president?

GIBBS: Well, we have at the White House had for -- for sometime an interagency group on maritime safety that includes agencies represented by the Department of Homeland Security, the Commerce Department, Energy, Justice, and the FBI, the State Department, Transportation, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The president has followed the situation closely, has gotten -- got updates throughout yesterday and today.

And, obviously, his main concern is for the safety of the -- the captain and the rest of the crew on the ship. And he will continue to -- to receive those updates.

I don't have a transcript of this, but I know the commander of the Fifth Fleet, I think, gave an interview this afternoon. And as soon as we have that transcript, we will -- we will shoot that around, as well.

QUESTION: So on -- on this incident, is that the extent of the president's involvement, staying apprised, or is he -- is he involved in any way in direct...

(CROSSTALK) GIBBS: At this point, he's staying apprised of the situation. And obviously, the -- the interagency maritime group has been -- has had a number of meetings and conference calls about this.

Obviously, the Navy and the FBI are to some degree on the scene with -- with their resources. And so the resources of our government are deployed in ensuring the safety and security of the captain and the crew.

QUESTION: Does this raise any questions for the White House about the administration's strategy towards addressing piracy? Is the U.S. military and the government equipped to handle this kind of threat? What does the president think about that?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think obviously this not the first time that we've had unrest off the coast of -- of Somalia. That's why there's an interagency group on maritime safety to work on these issues.

Obviously, it's a concern and, particularly, this is a ship containing food aid to Africa. So, obviously, it is a concern of the administration and, as I said, particularly, for the safety of the captain.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Welcome back.

GIBBS: Thank you.


QUESTION: A question on the economic meeting that you mentioned tomorrow. Can you flesh out some of the details about what they'll be discussing? Will they talk about the latest on the bank stress test? Will they discuss how to deal with the banks...

SANCHEZ: All right. And there you have it. We were waiting for some of the first responses from the White House.

You heard him there say that there is an interagency group of maritime safety that's been following this. He said the president has been following the situation closely. When he was pressed on that, he said that there had been a comment from the commander of the 5th Fleet, but all he could say about the president was that he was staying apprised of the situation.

Interestingly enough, he went on to mention that the Navy and the FBI are heavily involved, but then he went on to say that -- and this is interesting, again -- that this is an important situation, but that it's happened before and that this was a ship that had taken -- that was taking food, food supplies.

Never once did we -- or at least if he said it, I didn't hear it -- never once did we hear him say, and this was curious by omission, that this has perhaps at least a heightened urgency for the White House because there were Americans on board.

We expected that there would be some -- some degree of conversation about that coming from the White House. But it almost seemed as if Robert Gibbs were alluding to this as if it was just another piracy situation off the coast of Africa, curiously enough.

It's curiously a conversation starter, something that we're going to pick up on the other side.


SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back. A lot of comments that we're getting right now and that curious response it seemed from Robert Gibbs there at the White House, not exactly -- at least the impression left seemed to be that there wasn't a huge sense of urgency about the fact that an American citizen might be held at this very time by his captors, these pirates off the coast of Africa.

It seemed -- it seemed that way to us as we were watching it.

Kaj Larsen is an international correspondent and former member of the U.S. Navy special-ops, the Navy SEALs.

Did it not seem to you -- have you not heard in the past when Americans are taken overseas that that seems to have, if not urgency, a certain level of preeminence in the response that we have gotten from the administration? I didn't sense that from Robert Gibbs. Did you?


I didn't sense that from his explicit words, but you can know by the fact that the president is personally paying attention to this tactical incident that they have a heightened awareness, because there are American citizens' lives at stake.

I think the way to interpret the administration's response is that they're keeping all options on the table during this tactical situation. And they also understand that they have the tactical upper hand right now.

SANCHEZ: Nick Davis, in the past, we would have heard Americans -- American presidents -- and this president has had several opportunities today, in fact, to speak to this. And on both occasions he chose not to talk.

Is that a tactical decision, do you think? And now we hear from Robert Gibbs, his spokesperson, almost seeming to try and calm the waters on this.


Propaganda's quite an important thing to any organization that is out to basically, you know, gain -- gain financial means through sort of improper practices. And this is all about money. You know, the main thing that I would say is that these pirates have not sort of knowingly killed or hurt anybody and that would not be their intention. They will be trying to think of a plan at the moment. And they know that their plans and their options are limited.

SANCHEZ: But isn't this politically -- let me bring Kaj into this.

If nothing else, is it not politically risky for the administration to put its front man out there and say, essentially, this is something that's happened before and we're just treating it as something that's happened before?

Heaven forbid, what if something were to happen to that captain while we're covering this story? Couldn't that be a problem?

LARSEN: I think what they're doing is being sort of naturally tightlipped in the middle of a crisis situation.

I see your point, Rick. But I think the administration, again, understands that piracy in the Gulf of Aden is not about any one specific incident. This is a problem that's not going to be decided militarily. Ultimately, in the long-term view, they're going to have to view with this ungoverned, lawless area that is Somalia that's breeding piracy.

SANCHEZ: Let me stop you, Kaj. We understand we have a comment coming in now from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let's go to that. We will talk about it on the backside.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Secretary Gates and I are fully engaged in this matter. We consider it a very serious matter.

These people are nothing more than criminals. And we are bringing to bear a number of our assets, including naval and FBI work, in order to resolve the hostage situation and bring the pirates to justice.


SANCHEZ: Maybe it's just that we're so used to hearing leaders say, whenever an American is in trouble overseas, we as a nation will move whatever resources are necessary to help them. And maybe the fact that we're not hearing that just sounds a little bit different.

Now, mind you, this is a maritime situation. They're in international waters, right, Kaj? Does that make a difference?

LARSEN: Yes, absolutely. They're several hundred miles off the coast of Somalia at this point.

SANCHEZ: And that makes it different, because really it is a lawless area?

LARSEN: It is absolutely a lawless area.

The U.N. -- there's a new U.N. resolution which actually allows the combined task force -- the coalition task force there, Task Force 151, to pursue pirate suspect into Somali waters. But, regardless, they are in international waters. And there is...

SANCHEZ: No, you're right. It's a lawless area, because they're in international waters to a certain degree, and not only that, but Somalia in and of itself is a nation really without government, without rule. It's a mess.

Thanks so much, gentlemen, for taking us through this. We will continue to stay on top of this story. We do expect more reaction, and as we get it, we will be sharing it with you.

North Korea's Kim Jong Il, his first major public appearance since reportedly having a stroke. And that's the most dangerous man in the world, as you look at him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Billy Bob, you guys formed only in the last couple of years, right?

THORNTON: I don't know what you're talking about.



THORNTON: I don't know what you mean by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when did the band form?

THORNTON: I'm not sure what that means.


SANCHEZ: Billy Bob Thornton tries to humiliate a radio show host really just trying to do his job.

As you watch this, you will wonder if there's something shameful about what's going on here. We will let you see it and decide for yourself.

Also, a questionable charge from a U.S. senator -- words matter. And that's why we want to make sure you get the truth on this one. We will tell you what he said and who it was.

Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Rick. This is Robert in Fort Lauderdale.

Just wanted to compliment you. I just heard your comments on Cuba. And I agree with you completely. Bobby Rush and the black delegation, the Black Caucus, were the wrong people to send to Cuba. And it created too much of a turmoil. So, I agree with you 1000 percent.

Maybe you ought to run against Mel Martinez down here in Miami when he retires next year.

Secondly, I saw a poll yesterday on CNN that only 39 percent of the American people support stricter gun control. When you look at all the violence in our society lately and all the killings and massacres, it's hard for me to believe that it's only 39 percent. Well, maybe, someday, we will come to our senses.

Thank you.



SANCHEZ: And welcome back.

We're getting information now that the wife of Richard Phillips, Richard Phillips being the captain that we have been talking about being held by these pirates off the coast of Africa -- there he is now -- his wife, Andrea Phillips, is going to be giving a news conference scheduled likely within the next half-hour.

So, hang tight. That's going to happen. We're going to bring it right here to you on CNN as it happens. We will be hearing, again, from Andrea Phillips, the wife of Richard Phillips.

And this -- out of sight, out of mind. Well, maybe not necessarily, especially when it comes to a guy who may be one of the most dangerous leaders in the world. Talking about North Korea's Kim Jong Il. He made his first public appearance in months today, as they -- look at him, as the country's parliament elected him to another five-year term.

Look at the love and the unanimous standing ovation for the -- quote -- "Dear Leader" whose grip on power over the secretive state has been in question lately. The 67-year-old reportedly suffered a stroke, though, in August of last year. He's been very much out of the public eye since.

He looks really gaunt. Look at him. But, then again, he's been busy overseeing the defiant launch the new rocket that North Korea says was a success, to the dismay of many.

And this -- when President Nixon went to China, it worked because Nixon was seen as a hard line anti-communist, and he was trusted even when sitting down and talking to the reds.

So, as we learned this week that Cuba's Fidel Castro and his brother met with U.S. officials, it's important to take into account who was in that U.S. delegation and who met with Fidel Castro. The answer?

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, all liberal Democrats. Their message is sound -- finding a way to finally bridge the gap between Cuba and the United States.

It is. So that some of these beaches -- some of the most beautiful in the world, according to Christopher Columbus himself -- can finally be enjoyed by Americans and Cuban immigrants who live in the United States and to help democratize Cuba. So again, look the message was sound. The messengers, though, not so much.


Because they're among some of the most liberal members of Congress meeting with -- what -- a communist dictator, which is not a good match if you're trying to counter an argument that traces its roots to the cold war.

Enter today two Republican Congressmen -- Chris Smith and Frank, Wolf. They are now blasting the Congressional Black Caucus members, accusing them of ignoring Cuba's human rights abuses. Smith and Wolf are also urging President Obama not to ease the trade embargo and the travel restrictions on Cuba.

And back we go, 50 years or more, to the same cold war arguments -- not exactly moving forward.

Automakers in Detroit are suffering and so are schools. And now hundreds of teachers are about to get walking papers -- 600 of them. And this is a hit on the Internet. It's the most viewed on you can go there and see it. It's there now. Billy Bob Thornton -- talk about weird.


NORM TRAVIS: Yes, Rick, this is Norm Travis from Sturgis, Michigan.

I just watched your program -- your little tete-a-tete with Tony. And I -- I agree. We need to have some responsible negotiations with Cuba, with other countries.

Today is the 9th.

Thank you very much, brother.

Appreciate your thoughts.


SANCHEZ: And we're going to be checking the market for you. And that's where it is right now -- another up day always good to see. It means some investors are taking advantage of some opportunities. By the way, let me let you know, once again, that we are going to be taking you live within the half hour or less -- as I look at the watch or I look at the clock here, just to my right -- about what's going on with Andrea Phillips. She is the wife of Richard Phillips. He is, as you know, the captain who is being held right now by pirates off the coast of Africa. And she is going to be giving a news conference from her home. CNN will take that live as it happens. It's likely to happen sometime around 4:00 p.m. That's about 25 minutes from now. If it happens sooner or later, either way, we will be on it for you. Expect it.

Also, more woes for Detroit.

First, Mayor Kilpatrick busted and jailed for lying about an elicit affair, among other things. And then the city's big economic driver, the automakers, who are stuck in reverse or still on the road to bankruptcy. We are finding out if that wasn't enough bad news, there's a city school system now scholastically at the pinnacle of underperformance and financially insecure. Their school buildings are crumbling. They're more than $300 million in the hole. And despite the deficit, they own the dubious honor of the nation's worst high school graduation rate.

Are you ready for this?

Thirty-seven percent. Consider that again -- 37 percent is the graduation rate for kids that are in their schools in Detroit. That's against the national average, by the way, of 70 percent.

Can it get worse?

Hold on. Today, the system's emergency financial director announced a series of deep cuts meaning the closure of 20 plus schools, laying off hundreds of teachers and transferring thousands of students.

From CNN affiliate WDIV, reporter Jim Kiertzner has the latest.


JIM KIERTZNER: The Detroit public schools are under a state takeover by the State of Michigan. They've put into effect an emergency financial manager. Only a few weeks on the job and he's cutting -- and he's cutting deep. Right now, 23 schools, K through 12, on the chopping block this year; another 26 next year. Six hundred teachers being pink slipped before next fall; 7,500 students being relocated to new school buildings.

This is a city facing possible bankruptcy by two automotive giants, General Motors and Chrysler. But the emergency financial manager says he has one objective -- that's to keep the Detroit public schools open.

ROBERT ROBB, DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOL EMERGENCY FINANCIAL MANAGER: The bottom line is that we have too many buildings for too few students. And so we -- the reality is buildings -- school house buildings will have to be closed and consolidated.

Following a series of input from the community, I will make my final decision on these rounds of closings by May 8th.

KIERTZNER: Detroit's $300 million deficit did not happen overnight. There's evidence of mismanagement and possible fraud. They're looking into possible criminal charges. They're projecting out the deficit will not be erased until the year 2011.

In Detroit, Jim Kiertzner, for CNN.


SANCHEZ: And, obviously, we're going to continue to follow that.

We thank Jim.

So to wrap up Motown's proposed educational cuts as they stand right now, 23 schools to be closed by next year, with one relocated. The plan, if approved, means about 7,500 students are going to have to change schools.

By the way, there's a final decision that's expected next month. It's May 8th. That's Detroit schools -- it's being called D-Day.

Also, this -- the pulse of the country, as seen by many Americans hearing mixed or misinforming messages. We'll tell you what he said.

Then we fact check the latest charge about the American military budget.

True or false?

We'll check it out.

Oh and Billy Bob Thornton. Wait until you hear what he did.


SANCHEZ: A program note, as we stand by, that we're going to be letting you know, exactly what it is that Andrea Phillips has to say about her husband. He is, as you know, the captain of the ship. Richard is being held, as we understand -- Richard Phillips, being held by some of these pirates on a 20- to 30-foot vessel.

We don't know how many pirates. We don't know how many -- what kind of weapons they're using. It's -- we expect that we might find out some of these details from his wife, who, again, will be speaking to reporters within the next 20 minutes. And we will broadcast it for you here on CNN.

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie's ex, Billy Bob Thornton, has people flocking to the Internet even as I speak because of what he said. You've got to hear what he says and does.

And spreading lies -- why is a senator saying things that are certainly questionable at best?

We will explain and check the facts.


SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back.

I'm Rick Sanchez here at the World Headquarters of CNN.

Now to the place where it seems crazy could possibly be mean, where Angelina Jolie's ex-husband, Billy Bob Thornton, can seemingly try to humiliate a radio host trying to interview him. There is a word that fits here perfectly that I can't use on TV. But I guarantee that it will come to you as you watch this.

Are you ready?

Here it is -- Billy Bob Thornton acting irrational at the interviewer for mentioning -- just mentioning, as he introduces him, that he's a famous actor.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Boxmasters' principle songwriter, singer and drummer is a guy named Billy Bob Thornton, whose other job -- some of the time -- is Oscar-winning screenwriter, actor and director.

Billy Bob, you guys formed only in the last couple of years, right?

BILLY BOB THORNTON: I don't know what you're talking about.



THORNTON: I don't know what you mean by that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you -- what do you learn from Willie Nelson, Billy Bob?

THORNTON: I've never met him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given that you seem to be quite passionate about your music, I was wondering about your...

THORNTON: Would you say that to Tom Petty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would I say that he's passionate about music?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not trying to be insulting to your musical...

THORNTON: Well, what I'm explaining is, is we said do not about (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) like that. And we also said that we don't want to hear anything about how this is my first love. You wouldn't say that to Tom Petty, would you -- I understand music is your first love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to continue this if we talk about music?

THORNTON: That would be great.


You guys are going to play a song for us.

What were you going to -- what were you planning on playing?

THORNTON: The guys are going to do an instrumental version of a song called "Turn It Over," which is on this record that we have now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You know -- you're not going to play?

THORNTON: Well, I'm a drummer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you don't have your drums here.

THORNTON: No, we don't cart those around at 6:00 in the morning.


SANCHEZ: Talk about the true meaning of Holly weird.

Didn't you want to almost be the radio guy -- or help him out, at least, as you watched that?

If you want to see the interview in its entirety, we have it waiting for you on my blog at

And trust me, if you watch the entire thing, you'll really get the sense of what he was doing at the beginning -- completely ignoring, completely ignoring the guy's questions, making him feel pretty small.

And there's this. Senator James Inhofe says that the U.S. military is being disarmed.

Is it?

We check the facts.

And Current TV had me all atwitter. I'll explain.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: All right. We've got a lot of comments about Billy Bob Thornton, as you might imagine.

Robert, let's take some of those and go to our Twitter board as we go. BuddyCrossing said: "Billy Bob reminded me of Sling Blade. Maybe he really wasn't just acting. Maybe what an (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) doesn't appreciate his lifestyle."

All right. Run_Amok says: "Billy Bob looked really disoriented. Does he have any mental issues?"

Not ours for -- not for us to say, Run_Amok, only to report.

All right. Words matter. They do. And people respond to them. Yesterday, I told you about some of the misinformation about gun laws. And it's causing, according to the FBI, an extra 1.2 million Americans to buy guns. And it's also causing many Americans to believe that a gun ban is a certainty in the Obama administration, even though the facts do seem -- so do the words, by the way -- to show otherwise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stock up on your guns now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy wants to take every weapon you own. You will be left with nothing to protect yourself and your family. Obama means enslavement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look for heavy taxes on firearms. Look for huge taxes on ammunition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Registration is the first step to confiscation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stock up on ammo now. Don't wait. Basically, we have a socialist for president. The gun ban is coming. Don't let anybody fool you.


SANCHEZ: Again, words matter. So today, we're looking into a statement made by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. This is a YouTube video produced for his own Web site -- Inhofe in Afghanistan responding this week to the presidents proposed military budget.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Here we are in Afghanistan right now. We have our -- our men and women in uniform in harm's way. And we're here to announce that we're cutting -- and I would say gutting -- our military.


SANCHEZ: He just said the president plans to gut America's military.

Separating fact from fiction when it comes to the U.S. defense budget, when we come back. We'll tell you.


SANCHEZ: Robert, let's go to a quick comment on the Twitter board, if we can.

Someone -- this is interesting. Somebody who actually listens to that radio show that you saw Billy Bob Thornton on a minute ago -- 2cheese right there, he's responding. He said: "Wow! That really makes me angry. I listen to that radio show all the time. I'm from Toronto. He didn't deserve that."

We agree, 2cheese.

Here's a fact check for you. This week, President Obama revealed his first military budget for our country -- total outlay, more than $533 billion.

Here's how it compares to the last military budget under President Bush -- total outlay, some $515 billion.

So, as you can see, in his first year in office, President Obama is proposing more for the Pentagon than did George Bush -- a fact that is not being well-received, by the way, by many on the left, who don't want to see that.

Why then, from the right, is Republican Senator James Inhofe complaining and, in fact, saying this?


INHOFE: Here we are in Afghanistan right now. We have our -- our men and women in uniform in harm's way. And we hear an announcement we're cutting -- and I would say gutting -- our military. I've never seen a budget like this. We're spending so much money. The Obama budget has increased welfare and all time we're doing this, increasing all these welfares to an (INAUDIBLE), the only thing in the budget that's being cut is military. Right here, things are going to increase. The numbers are going to increase and yet we're cutting the budget.


SANCHEZ: Cutting and gutting the military budget.

Joining us now is Jim Arkedis.

He's the director of the National Security Project of the Progressive Policy Institute.

You guys check on these things...


SANCHEZ: make sure the figures are right. So because you're down now in the middle, I'm going to ask you the question -- is Senator James Inhofe correct to say that President Obama is "gutting the U.S. military budget?"

In fact, he goes on to say disarming America.

ARKEDIS: Obviously, the senator's words are pretty ridiculous. President Obama has proposed an increase, as the numbers you just rattled off suggested. And there's absolutely no hint any time in the future that America's military budget is going to be gutted or we're going to be incapable of fighting the wars that -- that we are in now and we will look to in the future -- or have to in the future.

SANCHEZ: And just to be clear, you're -- you're not a lefty, right?

You're not coming at this from oh, I'm a defender of Barack Obama or the Democrats' proposals here, right?

ARKEDIS: Well...

SANCHEZ: Your organization is?

ARKEDIS: We are the Progressive Policy Institute. So I'll let the -- the title speak for itself. But we are a centrist progressive organization.

SANCHEZ: Do you think this has something to do with the fact that Senator Inhofe did have some programs cut from his own state, in Oklahoma -- apparently some kind of defense mechanism project where they used -- that they used for tanks or something?



SANCHEZ: ...happens from time to time.

ARKEDIS: Absolutely. It's a big problem in the defense industry.

Look, what Senator Gates has done is essentially reoriented America's defenses. This is long overdue. He's told the defense industry that we have to move from a cold war mindset into fighting the battles like irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan that we're current -- currently in.

As you mentioned, the senator in Oklahoma -- there's a big construction of a program called Future Combat Systems, which is supposed to be this very high tech, integrated system on the battlefield that -- that links up everything from tanks to medical vehicles to... SANCHEZ: And it was cut.

ARKEDIS: It was cut.


ARKEDIS: It's a big, unwieldy problem, it's been the sort of problem child of the defense industry. It's decades overdue and...


ARKEDIS: ...and hundreds of billions of dollars too expensive.

SANCHEZ: So, really, when he says the U.S. defense is being gutted, actually what he probably seemed to be inferring was Oklahoma's was -- or at least this particular project.

Jim, we're out of time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

ARKEDIS: Thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: By the way, we reached out to Senator Inhofe. His office says that he is traveling overseas and though he'd love to have joined us, he could not be reached.

We will continue to try. Our invitation to the senator stands, of course.

Wolf Blitzer is standing by right now to bring us up to date on what's coming up.

And I understand you've got a couple of big news conferences that might be happening during your hour.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes. We're waiting to hear -- pretty soon, Rick, the wife of the captain who's being held hostage by those pirates off the Somali coast. Andrea Phillips, she's going to be speaking to reporters. We're going to go there live and hear what she's saying about her husband. He's certainly a hero in this whole episode.

We're also going to the White House. There's now word, Rick -- and you'll be interested in this -- a lot of our viewers will be -- that the president of the United States is planning on going forward with comprehensive immigration reform this year, despite all the other issues already on the agenda.

So we've got a full lineup coming up at the top of the hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SANCHEZ: All right. We'll look forward to it.

And if that news conference happens, we'll go right to it, even during the break. We'll be right back.

Thanks so much, Wolf.


SANCHEZ: Many have been watching the show and responding. We've been getting a lot of tweets and a lot of comments all the way around the board from you. A lot of you upset that we had mentioned at the very beginning that perhaps the Robert Gibbs statement should have sounded more urgent, given there was Americans whose lives were at stake in this.

And then we got this saying: "Inhofe could have at least Twittered in his response."

There it is.

And with that, we leave you.

And we take you now to Washington.

Here's Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM."

We'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, breaking news. Hostage negotiations -- the FBI desperately working to free the captain held hostage by pirates.

When and how might this tense standoff end?

And he's happy to be alive -- an American in Pakistan was ambushed, held hostage several months and his captors threatened to cut off his head. Wait until you hear what he says about -- right now about being free.