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Health Care Town Hell; Smuggling Humans From Mexico

Aired August 11, 2009 - 15:00   ET



RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly anti-Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since this Laurel and Hardy team has been in Washington.

SANCHEZ: Which party is being helped or hurt by this?

The president in Mexico, and so was our Michael Ware.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I cannot tell you her name, nor anyone else's in this story. Nor can I show you their faces.

SANCHEZ: And Mrs. Clinton in Congo with a bad translator and an attitude.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My husband is not the secretary of state. I am.

SANCHEZ: All this in your national conversation for Tuesday, August 11, 2009.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with the next generation of news, a conversation, not a speech, and certainly your turn as usual to get involved.

Talk about a conversation. Just listen to what was heard outside a health care town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. We picked this up just as we were getting ready to go on the air. I want you to hear what both sides had to say in this debate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not want to pay on a health care plan that includes the right for a woman to kill her unborn baby. Is it true that this plan is in the health care bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the polls show that most people are happy with their health care. There's a few problems. The illegals, they shouldn't even be here, let alone...



SANCHEZ: All right, that was the wrong tape. For what it's worth, that's the beginning of the second tape.

Chris, do we have that other one cued up? Or do we not? We don't. All right, then let's do this. I'm still -- what I want to do is give you a sense of what's transpired in these health care debates today.

Now, I want to tell you about the two town hall meetings that have taken place. Stay with me here, one with President Obama, the other held by Senator Arlen Specter. One is civil. One is raucous.

Now, as you prepare to watch this, consider this. If you want to rile up a certain crowd and get them to be against something, no matter what it is, anything, just get them to be against something, just tell them it is pro-same-sex marriage or pro-illegal immigrant or pro-terrorist, even if none of that is true. That's why they are called wedge issues.

Now, listen to this town hall meeting with Senator Arlen Specter and ask yourself what much of this has to do about health care.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not want to pay on a health care plan that includes the right for a woman to kill her unborn baby. Is it true that this plan is in the health care bill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the polls show that most people are happy with their health care. There's a few problems. The illegals, they shouldn't even be here, let alone...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would ask Congress to do something to send them home, so we don't have to deal with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what the bill does say? And I can cite the page and the number. There will be no health care until you are born. While that baby is in the mother, we don't count that as a person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about this Guantanamo closure? I don't want these criminals to come over into here into our area and then escape, and we find that a bunch of innocent people have been murdered. And that's what's going to happen. Did you ever read the Koran, Senator?



SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have every right to leave.


SPECTER: Wait a minute. He has a right to leave. He is right. He has...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... my constitutional right.

SPECTER: He -- wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You want to leave, leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to speak my mind before I leave, because your people told me I could.

I called your office and I was told I could have the mike to speak. And then I was lied to, because I came prepared to speak and instead you wouldn't let anybody speak. You handed us, what, 30 cards.

Well, I got news for you, that you and your cronies in the government do this kind of stuff all the time. Well, I don't care about...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care how damn crooked you are. I'm not a lobbyist with all kind of money to stuff in your pocket, so that you can cheat the citizens of this country so I will leave, and you can do whatever the hell you please to do.

One day, God is going to stand before you, and he is going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill. And then you will get your just desserts.


SANCHEZ: Ali Velshi is on the road on the CNN Express visiting town hauls. And Dr. Steffie Woolhandler is with Physicians for a National Health Care Program, a group advocating reform.

To both of you, how much -- were you as puzzled by -- I was -- listening to these town hall forums today and noticing that so much of the debate was not about health care?

Ali, why don't you start us off?

All right, Ali can't hear me.




VELSHI: Whether or not you are in favor of...

SANCHEZ: Go ahead, Ali. You got it, baby.

VELSHI: Have you got me there, Rick?

SANCHEZ: I do. You are on the air. And you heard the question, right?

VELSHI: All right. Listen, I am troubled by this because, yes, this is just such an important debate. It is such an important thing for Americans to talk about, whether or not you are in favor of health care reform.

What troubles me is that I listened to that entire press conference and -- the entire town hall and then the one with the president. Certainly, that one with Arlen Specter was 70 percent or 80 percent about things that had nothing to do with health care.

And the anger and the vitriol -- I'm doing something very different here. We have been driving from Atlanta. We're on our way to Iowa. We're in Kentucky right now. We are having some very interesting discussions with people. And we are finding the same things. There are real concerns about the cost, about the quality (AUDIO GAP) of health care, about whether (AUDIO GAP) people's choices (AUDIO GAP)


SANCHEZ: It looks like we are getting a little bit of a satellite -- let's go ahead and go to Dr. Steffie.

Dr. Steffie, as you were listening to this, what was your biggest frustration, I imagine, as an intellectual, somebody who wants to try and look at the data and try and analyze it as best you can?

DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, I don't agree with what the protesters said, but the reality is that the Democrats' plan is going to spend a whole lot of money and not solve anything in terms of health reform.

SANCHEZ: Yes, what are you -- you are pushing for what, a single-payer system, right?

WOOLHANDLER: Single-payer, also known as Medicare for all, that's the kind of system that has worked beautifully in Canada and Western Europe.


SANCHEZ: Let me just stop you real quick. For the sake of argument here, because a lot of people are going to listen to us talk about single-payer, and they're going to be trying to figure what it is you're talking about. It is one of those terms that is thrown around an awful lot. Single-payer means the government is the single payer. That means the government will pay for everyone's health care and we will, in turn, pay the government in the form of taxes, right?

WOOLHANDLER: Yes. That's the way the traditional Medicare program works, and, frankly, it works pretty well.

SANCHEZ: Is that really a good idea for the United States, though? Look, I know they have it in Canada. And it works. Smaller population, different demographics. One of the best systems in the world is the French system. And theirs is a hybrid. It's not just single-payer. And it's also not private. It's a combination of both. Why not go with something like that, which seems to be what this president is pushing for?

WOOLHANDLER: Well, in fact, the French system is a Social Security-based national health insurance model.

It is very similar to traditional Medicare. Virtually all of the insurance is public insurance. The majority of hospitals are public. And they have a little bit of private stuff around the edges. But the core of the system actually resembles traditional Medicare.

SANCHEZ: Let me listen -- let me let you hear what the president had to say today. He is saying, essentially, that most of these people who are going to these town hall meetings and seem in many cases -- not in all, but in many cases, to be completely ill-informed, saying things about old people being killed, et cetera, et cetera, and death panels, for example, he says this is being orchestrated by certain people who want them to believe those falsities.

Now let's go ahead and listen to what the president had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they have got. They use their inference. They use their political allies to scare and mislead the American people. They start running ads. This is what they always do. We can't let them do it again, not this time, not now.



SANCHEZ: What do you make of what the president said there, Doctor?

WOOLHANDLER: Well, there has been a lot of false information out there. But, really, the Democrats have been putting out false information as well.

SANCHEZ: Like what?


WOOLHANDLER: Well, for instance, they say things are solved in the state of Massachusetts, where we spent a lot of money. But, this year, one out of every six people with health insurance said that they couldn't get care because they couldn't afford it.

So, you spend a lot of money, you give people insurance, but it's like a worthless piece of paper, because health care is still not affordable because of co-payments, deductibles and other gaps in coverage.

You know, one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in this country is medical illness and medical bills, but the majority of people with medical bankruptcy had private health insurance when they first got sick. And they were bankrupted anyway by these gaps in coverage.


SANCHEZ: Look, is it realistic to think that the American people under these circumstances, given what we are hearing in some of these town hall meetings, would go for a single-payer system, some kind of universal health care, where the government would be 100 percent responsible for making all payments on health care?

WOOLHANDLER: Absolutely. People love the Medicare program. And part of the problem with these town hall meetings is the plan the Democrats are putting forward offers nothing to the middle class.

If you have insurance through your job right now...

SANCHEZ: But wait a minute. What are you talking about? The people who are complaining at these town hall meetings are not Democrats. They are Republicans who have essentially been reconstituted from other things that they have been against this president in the past. How can you say that the problem is that the Democrats are not positioning their program well enough for people, when all the opposition that we see seems to be coming from the right?

If anything, it's disheartening to see that one group is basically a part of this conversation and not the other, right?

WOOLHANDLER: OK. But if you had a really good program and you could honestly say to people, look, you're going to have coverage like they have in Canada, that is first dollar to last dollar coverage from the day you are born to the day you die, there's no gaps, no deductibles, no co-payments, that might shut some of these people up and make them think twice that maybe they would benefit from the system.


WOOLHANDLER: But what Obama is proposing doesn't help you if you already have insurance through your job, other than making it mandatory for you to go and purchase that insurance.

And if you have an income greater than 300 percent of poverty, greater than $33,000, the new law is going to make it mandatory for you to hand your money over to a private insurance company to buy one of their policies.


WOOLHANDLER: Of course, the private insurance industry loves it, but their policies are a detective product. They will not protect you from bankruptcy if you have a serious illness.

SANCHEZ: So, you're saying we got to go all the way, actually go with single-payer, where the government is charge of everything. Interesting perspective, one that I guarantee you would not be well- received, not in this environment anyway.


WOOLHANDLER: Well, people like Medicare. Many of these elderly people say they want Medicare. Let's call this Medicare for all.

SANCHEZ: Many of these elderly people don't even know they are on Medicare, because they keep saying, leave my Medicare alone, we don't want socialized medicine, which seems to be a contradiction in terms in and of itself.


WOOLHANDLER: Well, then we need to educate them. We're talking Medicare for all. That is what works elsewhere.

SANCHEZ: Now you're on to something, the idea that we can get maybe get many of these people to understand what it is we are talking about, including some of the politicians, by the way.

Doctor, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

WOOLHANDLER: My pleasure.

SANCHEZ: All right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave us alone. That's all we would ask. Would you leave us alone?



SANCHEZ: Here is the question. Does President Obama win while the nation watches these raucous health care debates, or does he lose? That's the political argument in all of this that we want to ask you.


CLINTON: You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There is an update on this story. The State Department now has a new explanation of why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to lose it in Congo. And, no, this is not about the translator's mistake. You will hear this explanation if you stay with us right here.

Also, remember, after the show, we are going to do something called after the show on right here at 4:00. Stay with us. A lot of information coming in.

Oh, and there is a Claire McCaskill town hall debate that's going on right now. And we are going to be dipping into it. Stay with us. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: You could make an argument that I am an expert at making women mad. Just ask my wife or my executive producer. By the way, both are always right, just for the record.

But what do you make of Hillary Clinton's angry outburst in Congo yesterday? Well, it turns out that she may have been right as well. Why? Because the State Department is now saying it was caused by her reaction to a war-torn region of Africa where women have been customarily treated like they simply don't matter or worse. First, here is the moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does Mr. Clinton think through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, and what does Mr. Mutombo think on this situation? Thank you very much.

CLINTON: Wait. You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not the secretary of state. I am. So, you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I'm not going to be channeling my husband.


SANCHEZ: That's interesting.

Here you see Clinton and the questioner later shaking hands. All right, here is what happened. The secretary of state was responding to a question that was lost in translation, literally. She reportedly was asked what President Obama believed, but the translator had asked her what her husband, Bill Clinton, believed.

That set Clinton off on defending women.

Now, here is what a State Department's spokesperson says -- quote -- "You can't separate the question from the setting." The State Department was referring to the area of Africa where women have been raped, murdered for nearly 10 years. By the way, women are raped and murdered in parts of Central America as well. And they, and others, are bought and sold. And CNN's Michael Ware is going to document it for us. He takes you to places most dare not go. This is a powerful report that I would like you to see. Stay with us. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: It's always one of my favorite kind of newscasts. It kind of tests an anchor's ability when everything seems to go down, sound, and pictures, and technical problems. And guess what else is now going down? The Twitter board. We have been watching the same thing now for the past half-hour. It seems like Twitter is down, interestingly enough. But we will muster through regardless, thanks to you.

I want you to take a look now at Lebanon, Pennsylvania. This is something else we have put together for you. And before I show you this loud conversation on health care outside Arlen Specter's town hall meeting that we showed you a bit of earlier in the first segment, there's a couple of things I want you to look for.

First, you're going to hear a man in blue. He starts to speak up. He describes himself as a veteran and he's clearly against reform of the health care system. You're also going to hear a woman who tells that man that she has got as much right to speak as he does. And then I want you to look closely at a man who going to enter the picture to warn people on the side of a forum that they're not helping the cause by engaging in the other side's anger. In other words, let them go ahead and scream and yell. Don't engage them.

Is that his opinion or those his marching orders? This is interesting.

Now, this all starts with a supporter of reform telling opponents that the day the government tells him what insurance to have, that's the day he will be on the other side.

Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are forced to take the government's standpoint (INAUDIBLE) I will be on your side. I will be on your side.

Right now, right now, we need health care reform. We need it. That's why I'm on this side.




(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you have credit cards. Obama promised you jobs...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... work and then paying them off. Why aren't you paying your bills by the job he's going to give you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served my time, lady.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served my time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're entitled to be here, just like you. Just like you, we have free speech, just like you. Just like you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... asked us why we're here. We are here for our principles. We are here for our principles.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we are here for.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wouldn't have America and we wouldn't be standing here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it wasn't for his generation, none of this would be going on right now.



SANCHEZ: Who does the screaming help? Think about that person who walked into the screen and tried to pull the other person back.

Again, that was the scene today outside Arlen Specter's town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.


SPECTER: And, and, and...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... way you are. You are not letting all...


SPECTER: You want to be let out of here? You are welcome to go. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute.


SANCHEZ: Yes. Do scenes like these actually help President Obama, or do they hurt President Obama?

Now, we are going to tell you what some of the experts are saying about the politics of these town hall melees. And then, when we come back, a smuggler's tale. We are going to take you into places in Mexico few dare tread, few dare tread that is except our own Michael Ware. Memorable piece.

Also, speaking memorable, we want you to remember the after-show. It's on after this show at 4:00 on Stay with us. We're coming right back.


SANCHEZ: We're going to bring you the very latest on what's going on with Mexico's drug gangs. They're expanding their crimes into human smuggling. What's interesting about this is, it's involving kidnapping, rape, torture, and death.

And you're going to see and hear most of it right here in just a moment. We will be right back.


SANCHEZ: In our "Conexion" segment, where we take you to other parts of the Americas, we travel today to Mexico.

We all need to keep an eye on these drug cartels, especially now. And we are hearing they are not only moving drugs anymore. They are now also moving people. And many of those people, if they don't pay or if they don't obey, they are raped or murdered or even enslaved, as we have documented.

We have the proof, as described here by CNN's Michael Ware.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a tale of kidnap, imprisonment and worse, much worse. It's the story of those who fall prey to Mexico's drug cartels because of their hope to come to America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because they didn't let me free, they raped me.

WARE: I cannot tell you her name nor anyone else's in this story. Nor can I show you their faces or tell you where I met them. Because if I did, they say, they would almost certainly be killed. That's because the violent drug cartels have a new and lucrative business. Think of it as a hostile takeover, the people smuggling business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were very scared because these men were very bad. They don't have a soul. They can just kill an immigrant without a thought because to them, we don't count for anything.

WARE: This woman fled the poverty of her hometown, the seventh of 12 children. As hundreds do every week in Central America, she headed north to Mexico, bound for the U.S., only to be seized by one of the most brutal cartels in the business, Los Zetas.


WARE: The cartel ransomed them off for whatever they could get, selling them back to families who barely could pay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They couldn't follow the route. The have the infrastructure. They have the money. They have the people. They have the guns. They have everything right now to control everything.

WARE: This man is one of few working with the cartels' victims. He tells us the cartels new business, human trafficking, is flourishing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, this not only a drugs issue. It's getting money. Where come from the money they don't care.

WARE: And some of the money is used for bribery. When the car carrying the young woman in our story arrived at an immigration police checkpoint, she hoped her ordeal with the cartel was over. But she says the immigration officials were in on it.


WARE: This is another woman who was held by a cartel. Her family was unable to pay a ransom. So for four months she was forced to work, cooking for the other hostages and the cartel kidnappers themselves.


WARE: She says she was also ordered to take food to prisoners shackled in makeshift torture chambers and to wash the clothes of their cartel jailers.


WARE: The men chopped into pieces, she says, were hostages who could not pay. Or more often they were the men they called coyotes, the Mexicans who specialize in smuggling people across the U.S. border, the cartels literally butchering their competition. And anything that makes cartels like La Zetas (ph) stronger is a threat to America, particularly when it offers a new means of importing more drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Los Zetas are a prime example of an organization that has, from a traditional perspective, looked into other areas of making money, specifically with the alien smuggling situation. It's a means of introducing drugs into the United States.

WARE: And that means only one thing: many more horror stories to come.

Michael Ware, CNN, Mexico.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day God's going to stand before you. And he's going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill.


BLITZER: Anger and vitriol -- Senator Arlen Specter taking really a bit of a beating at his first town hall event of the day. Well, guess what? His second one kicks off in about -- well, in about 10 minutes or so. And we're going to bring it to you. You're going to see it here live.

In the meantime, there's a town hall that's going on right now. This is the Clare McCaskill event in Hillsboro, Missouri. We'll dip in just a little bit to listen to her, and then we'll go straight into the break. And we'll follow it throughout the rest of the hour.

MCCASKILL: ... there by someone as the cure all to something. And where it has happened it hasn't worked to bring down health care costs. So -- OK, George Salava (ph)? George Salava. What a sign.

Hi, George.


MCCASKILL: OK. Senator, can you assure us without a doubt that we will be able to keep our...


SANCHEZ: There is new information on the Michael Jackson investigation. Yesterday we told you more about the police not releasing some of the medical records. But now we understand that there has been a raid, possibly search warrants issued today where police swarmed into a pharmacy in Las Vegas. I suppose the question here is, is this the place where Michael Jackson was getting the drugs that some are saying may have led to his death.

Part of the investigation into Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. Ted Rowlands is joining us now. He's in Los Angeles.

Where were police? What are they looking for? ROWLANDS: Well, this is according to a source familiar with the investigation, this is the fifth -- well, not according to the sources. It is the fifth. This is the fifth search warrant issued in this case and the fifth one directed at Conrad Murray. But according to a source, this search warrant is an extension of the last one, which was Murray's clinic in Las Vegas.

Now they've taken the information from that search warrant and they came up with this one to a pharmacy not far away from Dr. Conrad Murray's clinic is in Vegas. And that assumption that you had that this is where he could have gotten the Propofol -- obviously that's on the table as a very, very clear possibility in this case.

What we do know -- you mentioned the coroner's office. They're done with their reporting. They're done with their investigation, the cause of death, the toxicology. The LAPD said instead of releasing it now, please hold off until we're done with our investigation so we can move forward united.

And clearly, what we're seeing today happening right now in Las Vegas is that ongoing investigation from the LAPD, which, according to this source, is an extension of that last one. So they're building and building a possible case, it seems, against Dr. Conrad Murray.

SANCHEZ: This Propofol, though -- this isn't the kind of drug that you just get at your neighborhood drug store, is it?

ROWLANDS: No, not at a neighborhood drug store. But doctors have relationships with drug suppliers. And pharmacies can also provide, not only to the consumer, but also to physicians on a professional level. So that could be the relationship there. We don't know. That hasn't been confirmed that the Propofol came out of there.

But you're right. Normally it just goes into the hospitals and is used in only a hospital setting by -- or in a clinical setting. But it wouldn't come through your neighborhood pharmacy by any stretch of the imagination.

SANCHEZ: Now, could there be -- you mentioned that they're going after the doctor. And we all know that that's been established. The investigation continues. Still no certain signs that he's going to be convicted in any way. But we start to wonder now whether there may be other people who may be involved in this, perhaps some people who have worked at some of these centers, some of these pharmacies, for example. Any news on that?

ROWLANDS: Nothing specific in terms of other potential suspects, especially on the level of Conrad Murray. Because you've got to keep in mind that they're investigating the death of Michael Jackson.

Now, as a side investigation, the DEA absolutely will be categorizing what they have found as they help the LAPD. And there could very well be inappropriate prescribing going on going back years in connection to Jackson. But that'll be separate and on a much different timeline obviously. It appears that the real focus here is just connected to the death and just centered on Conrad Murray for now. But you're right. There could be other doctors in the fray down the line.

SANCHEZ: Ted Rowlands on top of that story for us. We thank you so much.

We've just heard that there's been a development at the Claire McCaskill event. We told you that this is going on in Hillsboro, Missouri, where she, like, just two days ago, is holding a town hall meeting to try and inform her constituents about the health care reform legislation. Moments ago there was an altercation that involved police. Let's watch this. I think we've got it turned around.

Go ahead. Hit it.


MCCASKILL: So we catch a crook over here in the system over here. Hey -- hey -- hey. OK, ma'am? OK. Everybody sit down. Everybody sit down. Everybody sit down. Now, let me just say what happened here. OK? I want everyone to understand what just happened here. OK?

Just so everyone understands -- everybody take a deep breath and sit down. I want everybody just to remember we had a prayer at the beginning. OK? Now, let me just say what happened. OK?

There was some women who came in with signs who shouldn't have had them. OK? And I apologize to you for that. Then after the women sit down, someone sitting over there -- all right. OK. OK. OK. The bottom line is...


MCCASKILL: We had two people that got involved and shouldn't have. And I want to apologize to all of you for the disruption. And I want to thank all of you for sitting back down and realizing that we can do this. We can still have town...


SANCHEZ: Let's do this: If we can, Claude, let's see if we can recue that. Now, the outstanding question here, obviously, is what signs. We saw nothing of any signs. We don't know much about that part of the story. We're obviously going to see if we can make some phone calls and find out exactly what was going on. It seems curious that she would mention that.

But then it seems like she was almost shouted down a little bit when she made that suggestion. We've got Steve Brusk (ph) behind me here. We'll be seeing if he can make some phone calls for you.

Steve, are you hearing me back there? You hearing me? Check and see what's going on with those two signs.

Meanwhile, I'm going to let you hear this.


SANCHEZ: Listen to what McCaskill says here and see if you find anything out about this.


MCCASKILL: Everybody sit down. Everybody sit down. Now, let me just say what happened here. OK? I want everyone to understand what just happened here. OK?

Just so everyone understands -- everybody take a deep breath and sit down. I want everybody just to remember we had a prayer at the beginning. OK? Now, let me just say what happened. OK?

There was some women who came in with signs who shouldn't have had them. OK? And I apologize to you for that. Then after the women sit down, someone sitting over there -- OK. All right. OK. OK. OK. The bottom line is we had two people that got involved and shouldn't have. And I want to apologize to all of you for the disruption. And I want to thank all of you for sitting back down and realizing that we can do this. We can still have town hall...


SANCHEZ: All right, as we follow this, obviously a lot of this is happening before. It's hard to keep an eye on all the different town hall events that are taking place. As a matter of fact, there's one that's going to start any moment now. This is the second Arlen Specter town hall meeting that's going to be going on in Pennsylvania.

And as you can see, the crowd is already mustering their energy there. The first one did not -- well, I guess it depends from what point of you you come. But certainly, it was raucous as well. It was very difficult at times on Arlen Specter, as this seems to be on Claire McCaskill there in Missouri.

And by the way, I should share with you that the president had some very stern comments today about these crowds and what they're being told and what they're saying and what they, quote, "don't know." We have that that the president has said. I want to share that with you in just a little bit when we come back.

For the sake of preparation, Claude, if you're listening to me in the control room, that's the piece that Gary had prepared at the very beginning of our newscast. It was the second sound byte from Barack Obama explaining where this rumor started about death panels and old people being killed under his plan. The president addresses that specifically and tells us where that started. And we're going to play that for you when we come back. Stay right there. Obviously, there's a lot going on right now. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: OK, there's a lot going on, a lot of information that's moving as we're following this. There you see Claire McCaskill. She's in Hillsboro, Missouri. There you see Arlen Specter. He's in Pennsylvania. We were trying to clear up what was going on with this McCaskill moments ago. I think we've got a little more sound on that now.

My executive producer, Angie Massey (ph), just told me that Claire McCaskill herself goes on to explain what really happened here. And apparently it had to do with people who had brought in signs, despite the fact that they were told not to do so.

Let's listen to this moment again as Claire McCaskill continues or amplifies her explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCASKILL: Now, here's the sad part about this. And I am going to talk to the cameras now for a minute. Here's the sad part about this. We've been at this for an hour and-a-half, almost an hour and 45 minutes. And there are strong feelings in this room. And while there's been some people that have been impolite and hollered, by and large we've been able to get through it. Right.


By and large, I think we've had a pretty good discussion about this bill and what's in it and what isn't and what people are upset about and what they aren't. Now, the sad thing is I'll bet you a dollar all they show on the news tonight is what happened right there.

So what I want -- what I want all of you to do -- if you would do me a huge favor, what I would like all of you tonight to do -- I know many of you are on the Internet. Many of you are blogging. Many of you are e-mailing. Many of you are communicating with Twitter and lots of different things. I really hope that the message goes out after this that, by and large, this was a good meeting and by and large, everyone behaved.


SANCHEZ: All right, there you go again -- Claire McCaskill making some clarifications. Apparently those two people brought Obama -- or pro-Obama signs. Those were on the other side, according to our own researchers say -- were upset that they were allowed to go in with pro-Obama signs while those who were against Obama were not able to bring in their signs. That's what caused the problem.

And that's what caused Claire McCaskill to leave the microphone. Moments ago she was asked by a security person would you like to be escorted, would you like to leave. And she said no, not on my life. I'm staying right here and continuing the town hall meeting.

We've got that byte again? All right, go ahead, Chris. Hit that, if you've got it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCASKILL: Ma'am? OK. Everybody sit down. Everybody sit down.


SANCHEZ: It's amazing as you watch that unfold. There you saw parts of the sign, which is why we wanted to show you that.

Meanwhile, the big Twitter board is down, but we've still got the little one, though. You heard Claire McCaskill, a big twitterer herself, by the way. Rick, these town hall folks need to stop yelling for the rich and listen to their own middle-class real folks. Then the next one says I'm shocked nobody has gone into cardiac arrest and needed health care at these town hall meetings. Yikes.

That's some of the comments that are coming in from you.

OK, a big part of what we've been watching today has to do with some of the unsubstantiated reports, rumors, if you will. People have been told, for example, that if they're old, under the Obama plan there will be death panels that will allow old people to die. It's obviously not true.

Now, while there may be many legitimate concerns raised at these town hall meetings -- for example, people are concerned about how much money this is going to cost Americans and all of our kids. Some of these concerns are not legitimate. They are, in fact, falsified. They are not true. That one, in particular, is not true. From all the research we've done independently here at CNN.

Here's the president now telling a town hall audience just about 45 minutes ago where this rumor came from. Here it is.


OBAMA: The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican, then House member, now senator named Johnny Isakson from Georgia, who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people's options. And somehow it's gotten spun into this idea of death panels.


SANCHEZ: Yes, he was talking about Representative Isakson here in Georgia, as a matter of fact, who had raised this as a way of maybe helping people who had someone who was dealing with that type of care. But somehow it's become a death panel, to quote the former governor of the state of Alaska in recent days.

All right, when we come back, we're continuing to monitor the latest health care town hall, which is going on right now in Pennsylvania.

Have we got that picture, Claude? Let's go ahead and put that up, if we possibly have a chance. That's Arlen Specter's. And we're going to monitor that and see what's going on with that. It looks like he's smiling, at least, at this point. And also we are going to be joined by a representative from the White House, the Obama administration to answer some hard questions about whether the Obama administration has been in cahoots with big pharmaceutical companies to come up with some kind of deal, as we alluded to yesterday. That and a whole lot more. Stay with us. I'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: All right, welcome back. We've got a lot of folks lined up here. We're going to do a couple of things for you. We're going to be monitoring what's going on with Arlen Specter. He's having a town hall meeting. There it is right now. Things seem to be under control at this point. But we'll dip in from time to time.

The president had a town hall meeting as well. And we're going to be sharing with you some of the information the president shared with the American people during that. Speaking of the president, let's take you to the White House.

Linda Douglass is joining us now. She's good enough to join us from the White House to bring us up to date on what's going on. She's the president's communications director on health care reform.

Linda, thanks so much for being with us.


SANCHEZ: This town hall strategy -- did it come from the White House? And is it working, given all the chaos that we've been seeing going on, really, all over the country?

DOUGLASS: Well, you know, typically, during any recess when Congress is not in session here in Washington, members of Congress go home and talk to their constituents about the issues that they're grappling with in Washington on the country's behalf. And every recess the members have gone home and held town halls to talk to constituents about health reform and about the rising costs of health care and the impact that it's having on their lives.


DOUGLASS: But first of all, you know, people want to hear from their elected representatives about how this is going to work. Secondly, the representatives want to hear from the people about how they're coping with rising costs.

SANCHEZ: Yes, yes, we know all that, Linda. The question is what do you say about all these people who are interrupting these town hall meetings and really creating chaos. It's not a pretty picture out there. Is that what the White House wants?

DOUGLASS: Well, certainly, you heard the president say that this is a country that has a tradition of spirited debate. And there has been a lot of that. Obviously, it is not helpful or constructive to a discussion if people are shouting when their fellow citizens are trying to hear or trying to ask a question or trying to get information. So, you know, we're hoping that there will be a civil discussion. And this has been a very spirited one.

SANCHEZ: And I don't mean to interrupt. I'm sorry. But let's just talk politics here. Do you really -- or deep down, doesn't this politically really help the president by making the other side perhaps look not so civil?

DOUGLASS: You know, I just have no idea. All I know is that it's very important for the country right now to be having a real discussion about what's going on with rising costs, about what's going on with unfair insurance regulation. That's what your elected representatives are trying to do right now.

And people are coming to these town halls, as they did to talk to the president today, with their questions. And certainly, when they talk to the president -- and it was a much more civil event than some of the ones that you've been showing here on cable -- they got very good, solid answers. I think it was very helpful.

SANCHEZ: Well, we showed the president's here on cable in its entirety, by the way.

DOUGLASS: Yes, you did.

SANCHEZ: I just wanted to -- just wanted to give you that as a little wink, wink, Linda. Hey, when you watch people ask questions, like the woman who was asking about old people all being killed under the Obama care or the person who starts to recite the pledge of allegiance or the woman who starts talking about abortions, although there's no evidence as we've found out that there's any plans to make the government or make all Americans pay for abortions in the plan -- what do you think, what do you say and what's your strategy for dealing with those falsities?

DOUGLASS: You know, I mean, obviously some people have come with particular ideological interests that are less related to health insurance reform. They're not about costs. They're not about coverage. They're not about whether you're going to have security if you lose your health insurance at your job.

They are coming with different kinds of issues. They're using these forums to ask those questions. But you're also hearing people ask questions such as the woman who was worried about what's going to happen to old people because there has been so much -- you know, so many scare tactics employed.


DOUGLASS: What this provision does is provide coverage for a person who is seeking advice about making a living will.

SANCHEZ: No, we get that. We get that. We get that. And the president explained that very well, by the way.

Did the president cut a deal with the pharmaceutical companies?

DOUGLASS: Well, cutting a deal is kind of a -- kind of an interesting way to put it.

SANCHEZ: OK. I'll take it back. Let's rephrase that. Did the president sit down and come up with some kind of negotiation with big pharma whereby they would be limiting their payments?

DOUGLASS: What the administration and the Senate Finance Committee did in talks with the pharmaceutical industry is get the pharmaceutical industry to agree to contribute $80 billion toward lowering the costs of health reform. It's an extraordinary, unprecedented sum of money.

And as a result of this agreement, they will be lowering the costs of prescription drugs for seniors who pay exorbitant prices now under Medicare prescription drug bill. And they will also be making substantial contributions to lowering the costs of health care for everyone. It is an unprecedented and important deal. And yes, the White House absolutely participated in that. It's a very good deal for the country.

SANCHEZ: Well, there are some who say that we're also missing out on another $80 billion as well. Did I say billion or million? What was the original savings?

DOUGLASS: Eighty billion dollars.

SANCHEZ: Right. Some are saying the opposite. You know what? We're out of time. We'll get you back, and we'll continue that discussion. Linda, I certainly didn't mean to hurry you, but we've had a lot going on.

Here now, Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."