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Senators Working Overtime on Health Care; A Thousand Marines to be Ship to Afghanistan; Passenger Gave Birth on Air; Russia Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds; Stable Fire Kills 43 Racehorses; War of Words on White House Briefing; White House Party Crashers

Aired December 5, 2009 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The president heads to the Senate on Sunday. What will he say? Will it be enough to turn a tide on a contentious health care debate?

Parents, it is a hot Christmas toy. You may be considering it for your kids. A consumer group claims it is unsafe. The maker fires back. We get to the truth of it.

Plus, a war of words.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Just take a deep breath for one second. I see. This happens with my son. He does the same thing.


GIBBS: I'm not.

RYAN: I'm being serious.

GIBBS: And I'm giving you --


LEMON: The White House press secretary and a regular commentator on this show go at it about the state dinner crashers. Tonight, April Ryan tells us what really happened.

Plus, actress, choreographer. Debbie Allen joins us live to talk about her new effort to bridge the gap between eastern and western cultures through dance.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

As we go on the air tonight, the president is getting pressured by members of his own party saying they want to see him get off the sidelines when it comes to health care. And apparently he is listening. Because as senators worked today on Capitol Hill, the president promised he would join them tomorrow. All in the name of health care reform. Democrats are trying to unite. The hang up is that contentious so- called public option. A government insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Well, meantime, Republicans are trying to defeat the Democrat's plan. Today they offered several amendments design to highlight Democrat's attempt to cut spending on Medicare as part of the overhaul.

Well, today marked the sixth day of the Senate debate on health care and patience is starting to wear thin. Republican John McCain criticized the Obama administration for holding meetings with health care industry groups while the health care reform bill was being crafted.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus took issue with McCain's remarks. And the normally collegial senate, well, the floor turned tense.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They're not too interested in seeing --


SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: At a time being equally allocated both sides on this --

MCCAIN: I don't know what the deal was. I don't know what the deal was. But I guarantee you that --

BAUCUS: I'll tell the senator the deal. I'll tell the senator the deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Arizona has the floor.

MCCAIN: I don't know what the deal was, but we'll find out what the deal was. Just like the deals were cut with all these other organizations, which is full of lobbyist.


MCCAIN: I can't walk through the hallway without bumping into one of their lobbyists.

BAUCUS: Senator, do you want to hear the deal?

MCCAIN: And if the senator keeps interrupting, he is violating the rules of the Senate. I thought he would have learned them by now.


LEMON: A one deal often criticized by Republicans, a June cost- cutting agreement between the Obama administration and pharmaceutical companies. That agreement has been incorporated into the overall health care bill.

Earlier, I talked about the health care debate with Michigan democratic senator Debbie Stabenow. I asked her what the president needs to say on Sunday when he goes to Capitol Hill.


SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Well, they need to continue doing what they're doing, which is talking with us, meeting with us every day. And I think the president needs to really focus on what I just said in terms of the fact that this is a historic time. We have too many people losing their jobs, then losing their insurance. Too many families that can't get insurance because of a pre-existing condition, small businesses can't find insurance they can afford. The president really needs to focus on what is really going on and what's at stake. Doing nothing, Don, is not an option.


LEMON: And the president expected to go to Capitol Hill to give Democratic senators a little pep talk tomorrow. Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, and they'll need every one of them to pass their version of health care reform. The bill's ten-year cost has been estimated at close to $1 trillion.

The first wave of additional U.S. troops will ship out this month for Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the order which means about 1,000 marines will deploy in coming days. In all, President Obama has ordered an additional 30,000 troops sent to Afghanistan. The army says its first contingent of soldiers won't ship out until March at the earliest.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is traveling with U.S. soldiers already in Afghanistan. One concern for the new troops will be gaining the trust of the Afghan people. And, of course, this winter there's the weather to contend with.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, it's another cold, blistery day in Afghanistan, and winter is setting in. That's going to be a major challenge for U.S. troops as the surge of 30,000 U.S. forces is beginning to become underway here.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already signed the orders that will send some of the first troops here. The Marines are expected to be among the first to arrive, to be followed by a good number of army forces and other support units. All of this aimed at carrying out this policy, this strategy, if you will, of protecting the Afghan people and providing enough security to take the oxygen out of the Taliban movement, out of the insurgents forces.

And we already saw some of that at work earlier today when we went on a foot patrol with some U.S. forces and saw them interact directly with Afghan villagers. That's what it's all about. Trying to provide this new profile of U.S. troops being here to help, but also here to provide that security to make the Taliban realize they don't have a future in the country.

It's going to take a long time to see if all of that works. And security will continue to be job number one. The Air Force planes you see behind me here, they are a crucial part of that. They are here to work, to provide that security, to conduct air missions against the insurgents when they find them. But, also, to make sure that they are not inadvertently killing civilians in their missions as, unfortunately, they have done so in the past.

So all of this working together. All of it is going to take a long time. But the hope, the hope of the U.S. strategy is that they can begin to see progress and begin to perhaps withdraw some U.S. forces in 18 months.


LEMON: Barbara, thank you.

If capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden is an ultimate objective on the war on terror, the U.S. could use a break on where the al Qaeda leader is hiding. That is from none other than the Defense Secretary Robert Gates himself in an interview that will air tomorrow on ABC's "This Week."


GATES: Well, we don't know for a fact where Osama Bin Laden is. If we did, we'd go get him. But --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, THIS WEEK: When was the last time we had any good intelligence on him?

GATES: I think it's been years.


GATES: I think so.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So these reports that came out just this week about a detainee saying he might have seen him in Afghanistan earlier this year, we can't confirm that?



LEMON: Conventional wisdom is that Bin Laden is hiding in the mountains along the Afghan border with Pakistan.

Airborne. Imagine giving birth at 30,000 feet. We'll talk with the doctor who did it, and hear how it all happened. Actually, he helped someone who gave birth.

And later, actress, choreographer, Debbie Allen joins us live to talk about her new effort to bridge the gap between eastern and western cultures through dance.

Also, we want to know what's on your mind tonight. Send us your comments. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or You'll get on the air.


LEMON: All right. This is an unexpected diversion for a Southwest Airlines flight, and it's all because of a baby. The flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City and Boise had to be converted to Denver when a passenger went into labor. A crew was ready on the ground for the plane's arrival. But it was too late. With the help of a doctor and two nurses and the flight crew, the woman gave birth before the plane landed.


DR. JOHN SARAN, HELPED DELIVER BABY ON PLANE: I pulled the shoestrings out of my shoes so that baby is walking around with one of my shoestrings on its umbilical cord.


LEMON: Well, mom and baby are said to be doing just fine tonight. The doctor that you just saw there, he talked about making a shoestring delivery. He joins us now live via Skype. He's from Sundance. He's in Utah to tell us about it.

Thank you. Dr. John Saran is an internist at Edward Hospital in Illinois. He was on vacation with his wife, or at least traveling.

So you were sleeping -- this is what I hear. You were sleeping. You happened to be in the seat -- correct me if I'm wrong. The seat behind the woman whose about to give birth. You're sleeping. Your wife hears the announcement from the captain or the flight crew, whoever it is, and she says, you got to help. And then you spring into action. Take it from there.

SARAN: Well, Don, I got up at about 5:00 a.m. to make that connection. So I was napping a little. And got the poked from my wife and said -- then that fateful message came overboard. Is there a doctor on board? And as I was saying it, it's been over 35 years or so since I delivered a baby back in medical school. So I was quite surprised, but I rose to the occasion. And with great help from a couple of nurses in the flight crew and the pilot and the passengers, we all -- it was great teamwork. We all got together and got it done.

LEMON: So, listen, the mom -- I think you said the mom was in her 20s, right? She was sitting right in front of you? How did she handle this? What was she like during this entire ordeal?

SARAN: She was really a trooper. And we escorted her to the back of the plane where we could get her some privacy, and lie her down on the floor with some blankets and pillows. And I thought, well, labor, as far as I know, takes a few hours. So we might have time to get to our destination and the hospital. But when I saw that baby's head coming, I knew we were going to have a baby on board.

LEMON: You knew there was going to be a baby on board. How fast did it happen? Was it really quick? SARAN: Things happened really fast. This was not her first baby so, maybe, 10, 15 minutes, two or three pushes and the baby was out. And I was just praying it would be a nice, normal delivery and sure, enough, it was. Baby's head came first like it should. And then we had the problem of trying to improvise and find a way how to separate that cord. And as you heard, I pulled a couple of shoestrings out of my shoes. One of the nurses took the drawstring from her hooded sweatshirt and on goes the shoestring on the baby's end of the cord and the draw string on the mother's end of the cord. And snip goes the umbilical cord, and we had a baby boy.

LEMON: And that was it. So you said -- the quote is that "When I first saw the head coming out I said, great, at least it's not the back end. That would have been a huge problem."

It's a baby boy, right? Baby boy is fine as far as you can tell? Healthy?

SARAN: A baby boy. And then the pilot made the announcement, we have a new passenger aboard. A brand new baby boy. There was a cheer from the passengers. A round of applause. And then right after that, oh, by the way, passengers we're going to have to make this emergency landing in Denver. And we'd like you cooperation. Obviously, there are connections to be missed and things like that, but in the Christmas spirit, the passengers were all rose to the occasion and we're very cooperative.

LEMON: We're glad that everything is OK. And that you were aboard that plane. And all of the other people who jumped in. Hey, can you please enjoy your vacation, Dr. Saran, and stop working?

SARAN: Well, I'll sure try. But you never know, as the MTV, VIP doctor, we're always ready for emergencies like this.

LEMON: All right, thank you. Best of luck to you, OK?

SARAN: Thank you. Thank you, Don.

LEMON: All right. Thanks.

It was a heated exchange. Take a listen.


GIBBS: April, April, calm down. Just take a deep breath for one second. I see. This happens with my son. He does the same thing.

RYAN: No, don't play with me.


LEMON: The showdown between April Ryan. You know, April is on this show almost every Sunday night and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary. What is that all about?

Plus, nasty weather. Where's the snow heading to next? We'll tell you.


LEMON: A close call for former NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw and his wife. They were involved in a fatal traffic accident in New York, but they were not injured. It happened on an expressway in the Bronx when a SUV swerved and crashed into a postal truck. The Brokaws then hit the truck. The driver of the SUV was killed.

The folks involved in this 33 car pile-up in Northern California are lucky that no one was killed. Thick fog caused low visibility this morning on Interstate 5 near Lodi, and that set off a series of 13 crashes over a half-hour period. Paramedics took more than two dozen people to the hospital, but only one had serious injuries.

We turn now to our meteorologist Karen McGinnis.

Karen, wow, that was due to fog? We also have some very weird weather. Snowing in the south before it even snows up north? What's going on?


LEMON: All right, Karen, thank you very much for that.

You know, this has been a year of big stories dominating the headlines. The economic collapse and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just to name a few. So we were thinking, what are some stories that may have slipped through the cracks without getting the attention they deserved.

We asked some of our correspondents to share their thoughts. Here's Paula Newton in London.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So we're here at the Space Exploration Exhibit at London's Science Museum to talk about a story that I think was the most underreported of the year. A NASA fact that NASA scientists now believe, they have confirmed there's water on the moon. You know, they've tried this dozens of times over the decades, trying to confirm it. This time they shot a satellite on to the lunar surface and we're able to confirm from the plume that came up that, yes, it did have water inside of it.

Now what's so interesting about this is that explorers have said this is one of the most significant scientific discoveries since the '60s. And yet we didn't really hear that much about it. You know, one editorials in "The New York Times," went as far as to say that he thinks maybe we're too distracted. That humanity literally is too distracted to be inspired by this great discovery. So, anyway, it caught my attention. I'm just reminding everyone, apparently they've now confirmed, there is water on the moon.

Paula Newton, CNN, London. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Paula, thank you.

It is a popular toy that's been called a "Health Hazard" for children. Now the makers of the toy defending their product tonight.

And later, Debbie Allen teaching through dance that our cultural differences aren't so different at all. We'll talk with her live about "Oman, Omen."


LEMON: A packed Russian nightclub erupts into flames. More than 100 people are killed and a criminal investigation is now under way. Investigators are picking through the burned-out club, a night spot in the industrial city at Perm that was celebrating its eighth anniversary yesterday. As many as 109 people are dead and 130 more are injured. Police say the blaze started when a performance artist juggling cold flame pyrotechnics caught the ceiling on fire. The club owner, the manager and several others have been detained by police.

Near Cincinnati, a barn filled with harness raising horses burned to the ground early Saturday. At least 43 horses were killed along with two men. It is not clear who the men were or why they were in the barn. Wooden Stable at Lebanon Raceway was the size of a football field. By the time firefighters arrived, it was already too late.


CAPT. KRISTA WYATT, LEBANON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our first engine arrived to find barn number 16 fully involved in fire. The roof had collapsed into the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no idea who this individual could be. Of course, we have some circumstantial things. People that may have been there last night, but of course that changes daily.

SHANE CARTWILL, OHIO STATE FIRE MARSHALL'S OFFICE: The other thing that will complicate looking for victims and animals as well is because the similar structure, bone structures of the animals to the humans so we want to make sure that we are very thorough, methodical and take our time. It's not something that we're going to rush through.


LEMON: Well, that racing schedule was cancelled because of that tragedy.

If you have Slim Fast in your pantry, you need to get rid of it. The makers of the popular dietary supplement recalling all cans for possible bacterial contamination. Company officials say the product could cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Officials at Slim Fast say the possibility of anyone coming down with a serious health problem is remote. One of the hottest toys this holiday season could be a hazard to your child's health. The consumer product testing company "Good Guide" says the Zhu Zhu pet name Mr. Squiggles contains high levels of a potentially toxic chemical. The robotic hamsters had been one of the top selling toys this year, flying off store shelves across the country. The toy's manufacturer says its products have passed rigorous testing and insists the toy hamsters are completely safe.

From civilian to soldier. A California teen heard the call of duty. And now he is kissing his family good-bye. We're watching the transformation.


LEMON: Checking the top stories for you now. Senators are working overtime on health care. In Sunday, President Obama stops by to rally some wavering Democrats. The bill is projected to cost almost $1 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Majority leader, Harry Reid, has said he hopes to get it passed by Christmas.

American college student Amanda Knox spent her first day in prison today since being convicted of murdering her British roommate. Knox and her former Italian boyfriend were found guilty yesterday in an Italian court of killing Meredith Kirchner. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for life. Her attorneys plan to appeal.

About 1,000 marines will ship out this month for Afghanistan. They will be the first wave of about 30,000 additional U.S. forces President Obama has called up to fight the Taliban and try to win over the Afghan people. NATO has pledged another 7,000 troops as well. At full strength, there will be about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and about 50,000 NATO forces.

Many Americans wonder where the Pentagon will find 30,000 additional troops for the Afghan war. It turns out 30,000 is just a fraction of the available forces. The U.S. has more than 1.4 million men and women in uniform right now. That makes it one of the largest militaries in the world. The vast majority, 83 percent are enlisted. The rest are officers. And about one percent are students in the military academies.

The U.S. Army claims more than a half million soldiers in this rank making it the largest service branch. And the smallest branch, the Marines, which accounts for just over 200,000.

But what is it like to make the move from civilian life to the U.S. military. The Pentagon has granted CNN unprecedented access to the process.

Earlier tonight we brought you part one of an exclusive series introducing you to a young man from a small town in California. Up until now, Will McLain's life revolved around football, motorcycles, shotguns and partying. Then to his mother's great anguish, he decided to join the army. Well, it's one thing to think about joining the army. It's quite another to suddenly have your head shaved, be given a uniform and get shift off to boot camp.

Here now is part two of CNN's Jason Carroll's exclusive look at one young man's journey from civilian to soldier.



JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tearful goodbyes at Will McLain's parents see their 18-year-old son leave home in Rosamond, California for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wasn't looking forward to this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Everybody understand that?


CARROLL: As McLain takes his first steps towards joining the Army, questions about his future begin to weigh on him.

WILL MCLAIN, U.S. ARMY RECRUIT: The major unknown I guess is I want to know where I'm going to be ended up stationed at, you know. You know you got a four-year contract. Are these four years going to be, you know, fun and enjoyable, or like I hate my job?

CARROLL: For now, those answers will have to wait.


MCLAIN: Thank you.

CARROLL: First, there's registration.


CARROLL: At a nearby Army processing station in Los Angeles.

MCLAIN: I'm anxious. But, you know, I'm kind of glad it's starting finally. Like one of those days you don't think it would come and then, bam, it's here.

CARROLL: This is where Will McLain finally becomes Private McLain.

MCLAIN: I will obey the orders of the president of the United States.


MCLAIN: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: When I tell you, you can buzz quickly but safely, is that understood.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Yes, drill sergeant.

CARROLL: Twelve hours later, McLain is now more than 1600 miles from home.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Pick up your bags.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Yes, drill sergeant.

CARROLL: At an Army base in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri...

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Row by row. Let's go. Let's move.

CARROLL: ...for several days of orientation.

(on camera): You look a little different. You shaved the goatee. How does that feel?

MCLAIN: It feels weird. It's a first time in a while. You know, I expected them to yell on the bus. They did. You know, I mean, I'm surprised I haven't had to do push-ups or anything yet. So, that's also a plus.


CARROLL: Well, it's coming.

MCLAIN: I know it is.

CARROLL: Sure, it's coming.

MCLAIN: I'm sure it is.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: If you do not have an electronic device, do not take an envelope.

CARROLL (voice-over): After turning in personal items for safe keeping, Will and the other privates are issued gear.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Step in front of me. Open up your bag.

CARROLL: Will finds his bunk and turns in for a short night. Four hours later...


CARROLL: ...his morning begins on unfamiliar territory.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: What are you doing? What is going on?

CARROLL (on camera): I'm thinking of all these movies that I've seen with the drill sergeant. And you pretty much fit that role.

SGT. JOSHUA SMITH, U.S. ARMY: I guess you just have to say it's a Type-A personality.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Hurry up. Hurry up. UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Right over there. Hurry up.

CARROLL: Will couldn't eat much in the three minutes it took him to finish.


CARROLL: Not a problem for sergeants eyeing his weight. He's 5'9", 228 pounds.

(on camera): You look at him and your assessment is, he's got a little weight to lose.


CARROLL: You think you can get that off him?

SCOTT: Oh, yes, sir. There's plenty of ways to get that off of him.

CARROLL (voice-over): There are just a few more tests.


CARROLL: And then the regulation cut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think?

MCLAIN: It's short. And I'm white.

CARROLL: But he still sees the same Will.

(on camera): Do you feel like a soldier yet?

MCLAIN: Not yet. I haven't been through brute. I won't claim to be a soldier until I'm done with that.

CARROLL (voice-over): And that basic training comes next.


LEMON: That was CNN's Jason Carroll reporting.

OK, so, we want you to listen to this heated exchange.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: April, April, calm down. Just take a deep breath for one second. I see. This happens with my son. He does the same thing.


GIBBS: I'm not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: April Ryan versus Robert Gibbs. What's it all about? April joins us live next.


LEMON: OK, so I was on vacation and I got calls and e-mails saying, hey, what's going on with April Ryan? She's always on your show. She's getting into it with the press secretary at the White House, Robert Gibbs. What's going on?

Well, it can get heated we know. Sometimes at the White House press briefings, and it did when Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and April Ryan, a White House correspondent with American Urban Radio Networks got into this exchange. I want you to listen. And then April is going to talk to us afterwards about what happened.

Take a listen.


RYAN: What's their concern in the White House that she came out, being someone might have called her the bell of the ball, overshadowing the First Lady at the --

GIBBS: I don't know who "some" are. I've never heard that.

RYAN: Well, it's been bantered around Washington, and it's been in circles -- Democratic circles as well as Republican circles, high- ranking people

GIBBS: April, that's not a station I live in in life --

RYAN: Just answer the question, please.

GIBBS: Are you done speaking so I can?

RYAN: Oh, yes. I'm done.

GIBBS: Excellent.

I've not heard any of that criticism. I've not read any of that criticism. The President, the First Lady and the entire White House Staff are grateful for the job that she does. And thinks she has done a terrific and wonderful job pulling off a lot of big and important events here at the White House.

RYAN: Did she invite herself to the state dinner or was she a guest -- did the President invite her, or did she put her -- no, that's a real -- do not fan it off. I'm serious -- no, seriously.

GIBBS: Jonathan.

RYAN: No, no, no, did she invite herself, or did the President ask her -- her name was on that list, and social secretaries are the ones who put the names on the list. Did she invite herself or did the President -- GIBBS: Was she at the dinner? April, April, calm down. Just take a deep breath for one second. See? This happens with my son, he does the same thing.

RYAN: Don't play with me. I'm being serious. Do not blow it off.

GIBBS: And I'm giving you a serious answer. Was she at the dinner? Yes.

RYAN: Was she an invited guest?

GIBBS: She's the social secretary. She had the primary --

RYAN: Social secretaries are not guests of the dinner.

GIBBS: She is the primary -- for running the dinner. I'm going to get back to weightier topics like 98,000 men and women in Afghanistan.

Jonathan, take us away.


LEMON: OK. So it went on a little bit. And we're going to talk to April in a second.

But these are some of the things I'm getting.

"Asked her if there was a previous history that led to this argument." That's what KeanSandra (ph) says. "It seems that as if they had a previous problem."

One other person says, "The White House is a pressure cooker, and these things are bound to happen. All I have to say is Ms. Ryan's needs to accept Gibbs' apology, which I'm sure she's doing to get and to move on to a story, then went on to something else."

"Why was this question of self-invitation so important? It seems as if it's a waste and gossipy-type of question to me."

Well, we don't know. We're going to ask April.

"I didn't see the exchange, but what's up be Desiree? She thinks she is so hot and untouchable."

Well, we don't know that.

"Gibbs should be ashamed. It proves he has no class. What would Rogers have done at the door that the Secret Service shouldn't have already done given their job description?"

OK. So many questions about this. I'm surprised that there are so many questions.

So April Ryan. April usually here on Sunday, here on Saturday now. What is going on? You said that this didn't just start that day. It started the day before. Did it go on for two days? Explain the back story to us.

RYAN (via telephone): Well, Don, thanks for allowing me to come on. Number one, the questions began on Monday about this and then they carried over again to Wednesday. So, what you saw, that exchange right there was Wednesday. But, again, it's all about the security of the president of the United States. The prime minister of India as well.

And, typically, I've been at the White House for 13 years in January. Thirteen years. And during that time, I have been able to cover many events and, also, I have been an invited guest by two presidents to two State Dinners, myself, and other events at the White House I've been invited to by presidents. So I know how a lot of it happens at the gate.

Now the policy or the procedure that was in place prior to this administration was not followed. And it's a layering effect. The Secret Service is security. And you have, normally, before this administration, a social office staff or standing at the gate, who is checking the list. Again, you have Secret Service as security and then the social office standing by, someone there, you know, looking at the names because there's many people who come to the White House who may say, OK, I'm here and my guest is here and only one name will be on the gate. And then Secret Service says, look, let's to talk to the social office and the social office they'll work it out. They'll find the original list and what have you. So all of the questions led up to that.

LEMON: Do you feel -- it sounds like to me, and I want to read it real quickly before I ask you this next question.

The director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, who testified during a hearing on Homeland Security Committee hearing on Thursday said that he testified at the hearing that the Secret Service and White House had a meeting to go over how they would handle the State Dinner guests. The Secret Service signed off on the plan to have social office personnel roving in the area and not standing at the entrance checkpoint, clipboard in hand. So if they decided that -- is it, I don't know, a feeling among the Press Corp, people who are questioning that, some protocol that this was mishandled in some way, April?

RYAN: And that's a good question because when we started asking the questions on Monday, that policy was changed, or that procedure was changed back to where it was. The White House changed the procedure back to how it used to be in administrations before and did more and they are doing more layering.

So -- to help make sure that there are no more gate crashers, I guess you'd say, or State Dinner crashers. I mean, and some might say, you know, this is Pindley (ph) but it's not. The historic nature of this president -- you know, many African-Americans have said, you know, if a black president ever gets in the White House, what would happen?

You have to also remember that the White House, and I hate to say it, a magnet for the crazies because every day something weird is happening. And you don't want to start a copy-cat situation. So, I mean, for people to come in and crash it and have a reality show behind them, that is, you know, that took it to the next level.

LEMON: Did you feel like that Mr. Gibbs was blowing you off? Or in some way condescending to you? Because when, you know, people gasped in the room and also, watching, when he said that's the way I talk to my children.

Did you feel like he was blowing you off? Because some people said, she was upset from the beginning. And I don't know if we saw the beginning of the exchange.

RYAN: No, you didn't see the beginning of the exchange, actually. I was not upset at the beginning, but if you want to ask if both of us could have done things differently? Sure, we could have. Yes we both could have. But, you know what, there's another day. And, you know, we've actually talked since then. He had the gaggle, a morning meeting with reporters on Friday. And I was in the office with him and he talked about some things, about Russia first and then I asked him a question about jobs, the new job numbers. And I asked him two questions and he pontificated and talked.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this. Because there has been talk not only in Washington, it's been on the blogs, it has been written about in "The Washington Post" and all over, even our own Lynn Sweet has written about it, about who should bear the burden of the responsibility for this. In the spotlight has been Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary. Also, Director Mark Sullivan for the Secret Service and what have you.

So what is the talk in Washington? Why are so many people focusing on Desiree Rogers? The social secretary? What is the story behind that?

RYAN: Well, again, there's a cooperation normally at that gate that wasn't there, and that's why these two were able to come in. Grant it, they have organic and metal detection devices outside before you come in, but still, who's to say what can happen once you get in.

These people met the president and prime minister and other people, the vice president. I mean, it takes one time and that's the issue. The security of the president.

Now, the office that's in charge of allowing people and inviting people to come in, it's the social office, which -- you just mentioned, who has it and then the Secret Service.


LEMON: And Desiree Rogers is a long-time friend of the Obamas from Chicago. A very successful businesswoman in Chicago and was there when I was there.

April, listen, we know you're going to be on tomorrow. You join us frequently on Sunday. We'll continue this part of the conversation then. Thanks for being so transparent and honest with us tonight. And we'll see you tomorrow, OK? RYAN: Thanks so much, Don.

LEMON: All right. We talked about Lynn Sweet, another regular on this show. She had something to say about the whole thing. You're going to hear from Lynn Sweet. She actually wrote about it today, and she spoke with the people involved, including Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary, her ex-husband. We're going to hear from her in just a moment. Don't go away.


LEMON: All right. So we're talking again about what happened during that heated exchange. We'll show this real quick and then we're going to get to Lynn.

Someone says Derekeb on Twitter says, "I think everyone needs to exhale and move on."

"Wow, that was a great interview with April, Don. Too bad time is running out. I'll want to hear more tomorrow." Thanks.

"Amazing exchange. Can't wait to hear your next interview concerning Desiree Rogers."

Well, here we go.

Lynn Sweet, Also I should say she's with the "Chicago "Sun-Times." But she wrote an article for, a very interesting article. It is called "In Defense of Desiree Rogers."

So, listen, Desiree Rogers has been, you know, sort of in the crosshairs about taking the responsibility for these party crashers being let in. You say what to that, Lynn?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES (via telephone): Well, the ultimate security, Don, was with the Secret Service. The Secret Service has been more than willing to say that to whoever asked. The Secret Service director testified that under oath that their officers failed to either notify their own Secret Service superiors or anyone in the White House social office, when they discovered that the couple was not on any list, any guest list and more important, they weren't on any list that the White House had of people who had been vetted and cleared to be admitted to the White House.

LEMON: All right. Let's just be honest about this, Lynn because Desiree Rogers. We both know Desiree Rogers from Chicago, right? Because she's a long-time friend of the Obamas. Some people may be saying or maybe thinking and people have been writing that the Secret Service is taking the heat for a long-time Obama friend. You say what to that? And you spoke to her ex-husband, John Rogers, who was the finance chair in Illinois for candidate Obama's campaign?

SWEET: Right. Co-finance chair. The Obamas have a lot of people working in the administration who are also friends. And I say, no one wants to endanger the president of the United States. So I think that's, you know -- take it as a starting point. I don't see where she was -- what is it she did wrong.

If the Secret Service really needed somebody with a clipboard standing at an entryway, then that's their job to make happen whatever needs to happen to secure the White House and make sure the president is protected.

LEMON: And as you wrote in your article, you said, Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, he said that they had agreed upon that, that they wouldn't have someone standing there. And also when you spoke to her ex-husband, he said, you know, it's unfair to characterize this one incident with a career. A very successful businesswoman who is devoted and dedicated to her career and not only that to the Obamas. How do you feel about that?

SWEET: Well, it is -- it is interesting, and I write about this in the column. This is really the Washington way because you take one -- this is a very serious breach of security. And while the White House said there is shared responsibility because they put new guidelines in to have even more personnel out there, you have to be proportional. The social office is not there to protect the president of the United States.

LEMON: So then why not appear in front of the panel then, Lynn? Why not have Desiree Rogers appear in front of the panel and the Salahis didn't show up either?

SWEET: That I think is another issue. And as always, in Washington, the questions build on questions. And I think that's another question. I will always like to fall on the end of having people from the White House saying more rather than less. I think in this case, a separation of powers argument is not as strong as it could be for other people. But I don't have -- I'm all for the panel saying what it is exactly they want to know.

I heard some of the members say what their questions were. And their questions had been answered in the testimony of the director. Now, if they want answers, I think there are other ways to get answers rather than her testimony which is a fight. Now --

LEMON: Hey, Lynn, we're out of time. Listen, if we get a chance we'll bring you back tomorrow to talk about this, but we appreciate it. We know that you're at the Gridiron Dinner tonight, and we're looking forward to the articles that you're going to write about that.

Thank you so much.

SWEET: Very interesting. Sarah Palin and Barney Frank were here.

LEMON: All right. We'll talk to you about that tomorrow. Thank you very much, Lynn Sweet.

Meantime, I want to talk about bridging the gap between East and west through dance. We'll meet an amazing woman who is helping show us all that cultural differences. Well, they aren't so different. There she is.

Hey, Debbie Allen. We're going to talk to you in a bit.


LEMON: So listen, not many people can artfully bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultures, but choreographer extraordinaire, Debbie Allen and 12 protegees, young protegees did, they're dancing got accolades from both.

Debbie Allen joins us now from Los Angeles. Always good to see you. She was -- what, just a little while ago you were in rehearsal. I want you to hold that thought real quickly because I want to play a little bit of this play, a little bit of "Oman, O Man," and then we'll talk about it, OK?



LEMON: OK, so listen, like I said, not many people can bridge that gap. Why is this so important? First of all, what was the idea behind this? How did you come up with this?

ALLEN: Well, I participated in this fantastic arabesque festival at the Kennedy Center last March, February and March, where they brought not less than 300 artists from all over the Middle East to celebrate Arabic culture, and I was the only one commissioned to do an original piece. And my task was to, Debbie, come on, do something wonderful and dance, fuse east with west.

OK. So I landed in a country called Oman, the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. And I had the most amazing journey, I'm telling you. It was wonderful. And to bring those young artists from America and Oman together, was just what the world needs. And "Oman, O Man" is this amazing dance driven spectacle. We'll actually going to open again this Thursday night at Royce Hall at UCLA right here in Los Angeles for three days.

LEMON: You stole my tag to your story. I was going to tell you that. You know, we're kind of laughing about it and having a good time. But, really, you know, sometimes the art, especially dance and theater, it really can bridge the gap and it can bring people together because you're not debating, you're not fighting, you're just kind of up there together, or sharing it as an audience experience and it can change minds.

ALLEN: Well, what you realize when you travel the globe the way I do, is where we don't speak the same language, where we don't even understand that we're praying to the same God. We love the same music and dance. And American culture has just translated -- I mean, I think it's greatest export out of America is our culture. Incredibly, hip-hop culture in particular, which I know a lot of people won't be happy about that.

But when you go to China or the Middle East or to Brazil, wherever you go, India, and you see they're all emulating young, American kids, that is something of a wonderful conversation that you want to continue. So "Oman, O Man" became a conversation through dance and music. Great score by Arturo Sandoval, by the way.

LEMON: We have like -- we've got about 20 seconds left. We understand. As you said it's going to be at the UCLA Royce Theater. Denzel Washington, Will and Jada Smith will be there raising funds. And also Mrs. Obama commented about your show. What do you make of all that?

ALLEN: It was the greatest review I ever had. She said, "Every child in America should see, "Oman, O Man" when she saw it at the Kennedy Center. So we'll be celebrating this next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Royce Hall, UCLA, Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones. A few great athletes. It's a great way to start the holiday.

LEMON: Debbie Allen, we wish you the best of luck. Hey, Merry Christmas to you, and give your sister a big kiss for me, OK? Happy holidays.

ALLEN: I will.

LEMON: And thanks for joining us.

ALLEN: Yes, thank you.

LEMON: All right. That's it for us tonight.

I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you back here tomorrow night at 6:00, 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "BLACK IN AMERICA 2" starts in two minutes. Have a great evening, everyone.