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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Catastrophic Quake in Haiti; Conan to NBC: 'I'm Not Moving'
Aired January 12, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Conan O'Brien tells NBC jump in the lake. The network's late night lineup has already crashed.
Is it about to burn big time?
Plus, exclusive, Jose Canseco -- the former baseball star who claims he introduced slugger Mark McGwire to steroids. He says Big Mac's confession isn't complete.
What's the missing mea culpa?
He says he's got the rest of the story.
And then, a third White House party crasher tells us how he got into that state dinner and he says he was invited. You be the judge.
And then the men who dug up the dirt on Harry Reid and Sarah Palin, John Edwards and others with the political bombshells from their sizzling new book.
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Before we begin all the breaking news, a little bit of breaking news of our own. About 35 minutes before air time, we received word from Jose Canseco, the former baseball star, saying, quote, "I am having a breakdown. I can't emotionally do it" -- meaning this program. "I am emotionally drained. I am tired of defending myself."
The only thing that surprises me, I heard Jose earlier today on the radio and he was well defended by both the hosts and the callers, all of whom were praising him.
Anyway, we're sorry to hear that, Jose. And if you want to get a rain check, you're welcome here tomorrow night, as well.
Let's move right to the breaking news at hand and that's the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. From Haiti, a major earthquake there just three hours ago. It measured at 7.0 -- the largest ever recorded in that era -- the area, rather. The epicenter 10 miles west of Port- au-Prince. The Haitian ambassador says he believes the number of victims will be very high.
This is being called a catastrophe of major proportions. Let's go to Michael Holmes, CNN international anchor and correspondent; the "Miami Herald's" Jacquie Charles is also with us. She's the paper's Caribbean correspondent. She'll be on her way to Haiti, by the way, first thing tomorrow morning -- Michael, earthquakes in the tropics -- have you ever heard of this?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, amazing, isn't it?
You know, there's a lot of earthquakes around the world every year, but they rarely get into this sort of level -- this 7.0 level. And also, the damage that's done in a place like Haiti -- because, you know, the buildings aren't built the way that we would expect. The foundations aren't great. There's a lot of concrete buildings there, but not well-built. There's a lot of shantytowns there.
Larry, I've just got this here. We're -- we're -- by the way, we're in our International Desk. This is really the engine room of our coverage, where people are assigning crews, getting them out in the field, getting them down to Haiti and getting the information in.
Seconds ago, I just got this from one of our people here, a U.N. official telling her that the U.N. headquarters in Haiti has collapsed -- the building has collapsed. They have not been able to reach any of their senior officials. This confirmed from a U.N. official in Haiti. There are engineers on-site at the moment, checking out the damage, what remains of the building. And, in fact, Brazilian and Filipino troops who are in Haiti are protecting the site -- because guess what?
There are already reports, Larry, of looting.
Now, I've got to tell you, one of the -- one of the first sources we've had to get information out of Haiti -- because, of course, the communications have been terrible -- believe it or not. I'm talking about social networking sites. I'm going to push in here on Waffa (ph), who's been following one of these sites.
The gentleman who she's been in contact with, we've actually Skyped with him, as well. So more technology. He's posted these pictures on his Facebook sites, because even when phones aren't working, social media sites are working.
And so you've got several of the first pictures.
And Talia (ph) over here has got some Twit Picks, as well. You can see damage done to a building there and I think we've got another one there of a wounded person.
There's a -- a lot of these things coming in, Larry. So a lot of new information coming through social media again.
He'll be on the scene. And, by the way, I would gather, based on prior knowledge, that CNN International will be on top of this scene throughout the morning hours.
Jacqui Charles, the "Miami Herald's" Caribbean correspondent, is with us on the phone.
You have covered Haiti.
Are you surprised to see this in a place like Haiti, Jacqui?
JACQUI CHARLES, CARIBBEAN CORRESPONDENT, "THE MIAMI HERALD": Well, you know, I would like to say that I am surprised. But last -- the year before last, when I was covering the school collapse that came right after four back to back hurricanes, everyone talked about the possibility of an earthquake, because it's -- you know, they know that Haiti sits on the fault line that runs through the Dominican Republic, through Haiti.
So even though people spoke about this, it was still not something you expected. But, again, this is a nation that, in the last couple of years, has had major challenges, including those four back to back storms.
KING: Well, you know Haiti as well as anyone.
The death toll is going to be incredible, isn't it?
CHARLES: Well, yes. I mean, right now, we have not yet confirmed any deaths or casualties on the ground. But I am in contact with our stringer. We also have reporters that already left tonight to try to get to Haiti across the border. But I'm being told that two major communities -- these are vitonvilles (ph) or slums that are in the mountains, that they collapsed. I've heard reports from people about watching the mountains crumble.
So it's not going to be until daybreak that we really start to get an assessment of what, you know, the damage. And even then, it will be a couple days to get a real assessment of what has taken place.
You're going to try to go there tomorrow?
CHARLES: Yes. I -- I am going tomorrow to Haiti. You know, American Airlines has canceled some flights, we're told. But, you know, there's other ways to get there. So, you know, we've already got some reporters en route and I'm going to try to get there, as well.
KING: One -- one other quick thing.
Since they're adjoining, why do you think the Dominican Republic was not hit? CHARLES: You know, it's interesting because I've got reports that -- I cover the whole Caribbean and I've got reports that they felt this all the way, you know, to Jamaica. But one of the things about Port-au-Prince is that it is a densely populated city. There have been issues of concerns about the construction.
But interestingly enough, what we're hearing about is, you know, the presidential palace, which is a very well constructed building, has been damaged.
CHARLES: The president, fortunately, was not in, but other people were in and they are reportedly injured. So they're trying to get some assistance there. And this has happened in Petionville, which is a suburb of, you know, very wealthy, very well-built homes. So I don't necessarily think that it's because of poor construction or this is just Mother Nature.
KING: What a tragedy.
Jacqui Charles, good luck getting there.
CHARLES: Thank you.
KING: Quickly, on the phone is Patrice Pierre.
She's in the United States. She has family in Haiti.
Have you spoken -- have you ever rea -- have you reached anyone, Patrice?
PATRICE PIERRE, SPOKE TO FAMILY IN HAITI: Well, yes, I do have, you know, (INAUDIBLE). And, you know, we contacted through Facebook and text message.
KING: Are they OK?
PIERRE: Some of them are OK. Some are not OK.
KING: By not OK, you mean how badly hurt?
PIERRE: It's like the -- the whole house collapsed with them and some of them like broken legs and broken arms. And they -- I don't know, they didn't report anybody die yet, but so far, they said some of the part is not OK.
KING: Thank you, Patrice.
You keep in close contact with us.
Let's check with our meteorologist, Chad Myers -- Chad, how did this happen quickly?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I'll go through one question at a time, Wolf -- or, Larry, that your other answers couldn't get to.
Here we go. A big fault all the way through the Caribbean, all the way up the West Coast. That fault line slipped. It didn't slip in the D.R. That's why there was no rupture there. That's why there was no earthquake in the D.R. It was near Port-au-Prince.
As we move you ahead, I'm going to play this. And as you play it, you'll notice that there is a big line right through here.
Do you see this trench?
That -- see that dark line right through there?
That dark line is part of the fault line. The fault line slipped near Port-au-Prince and we had a 7.0 earthquake. The problem, Larry, is that it was only six miles deep. You can have an earthquake 200 miles deep, the Earth kind of pads it before it gets to the surface. You get six miles deep, there's no padding. There's a lot of shaking going on. And that's what happened here -- the entire Earth shook at a 7.0.
And we are getting iReports now. I want you to go to iReport.com. We don't know that all these are right, but we think so. I mean we're looking at these -- these earthquake pictures and they are stunning. And I think we're going to see a lot more.
Look at that picture -- just completely shattered, the building coming down. Go to iReport and you'll see a bunch of them throughout the evening, as well -- Larry.
KING: Chad, are you saying an earthquake could happen anywhere?
MYERS: Absolutely. No question about it. I mean you know that New Madre...
MYERS: Absolutely. Even in the middle of plates -- in the middle of plates in New Madrid -- you know, we're talking about like the St. Louis area there is a potential for earthquakes there. There are earthquakes all the way through the Caribbean along the faults and also intermediate of the faults you can also get a rupture. We're not sure exactly why, but some of those -- sometimes the ones in the middle of the plates, where we don't expect them, can be the worst.
Well, NBC's late night drama is next.
Is Conan O'Brien staging a mutiny?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Well, everybody knows what's going on at NBC.
But here's a statement issued by Conan O'Brien just today. Here's what he said: "NBC executives told me they intended to move "The Tonight Show" to 12:05 to accommodate "The Jay Leno Show" at 11:35. For 60 years, "The Tonight Show" has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying "The Tonight Show" into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. "The Tonight Show" at 12:05 simply isn't "The Tonight Show." Also, if I accept this move, I'll be knocking "The Late Night Show," which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon out of its long held time slot. That would hurt the other big NBC franchise that I love and we -- it would be unfair to Jimmy."
With us on the phone, Donald Trump, the star of a hit NBC show himself, "Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."
And in New York is Dick Cavett, the writer, former "Tonight Show" writer for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson and a host of his own late night show.
All right, Donald, it's your network.
What do you read on this?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, it's a very sad situation. It was a terrible, terrible decision that was made. The decision was incorrect. Jay Leno was doing very nicely. David Letterman is a great guy. They're all my friends of mine. I mean my problem is I'm friends with everybody...
KING: So what?
TRUMP: ...over there. It was a -- just a terrible decision and now probably it's going to be rectified. They'll put Jay back where he belongs. Conan will probably leave and go to another network. And maybe everybody is going to be happy.
KING: Will Jay go back, do you think, to an hour at 11:30, to "The Tonight Show?"
TRUMP: Well, I think that's what he wants and that's what should happen. Jay should go back. He was doing very well. As you know, Conan's ratings were substantially lower. Now, I don't know if that's Conan's fault or is the fact that he's preceded by Jay, which is a lot of entertainment for one night of that type.
But it's going to work out. It was a catastrophic decision, but they're making a comeback.
KING: Dick Cavett, you're a veteran of these wars.
What do you make of this? DICK CAVETT, WRITER, "THE TONIGHT SHOW" PAAR & CARSON: Well, Donald -- Donald put it very well. Larry, as a veteran broadcaster, is this not, perhaps, the jackass move of all time in broadcasting, perhaps second only to Arthur Godfrey's firing of Julius LaRosa on the air?
KING: Yes, it goes back (INAUDIBLE)...
CAVETT: What did they get...
KING: But you mean the stupid move of -- of Leno to 10:00, you mean?
CAVETT: Well, yes, to make -- to take the salad and put a fork in it and stir it all up. Things were going rather nicely, as Donald said. And I love the way that politicians and network people will always say, in a disaster, this is exactly the way we hoped it would work out. Three quotes at least...
KING: Do -- do you think...
CAVETT: ...the shows have achieved just what we thought they would. You thought they would achieve low ratings, angered hosts and affiliates wanting to dump out all over the place.
Is that what you are happy with?
I -- I promise you that the man or men responsible for this -- because you and I and Donald Trump know how these things work -- will very soon be promoted and given a pay raise.
KING: Do you think Conan will go to Fox, Dick?
CAVETT: Probably. You know what's -- what I think -- they don't understand performers. I guess there's no way that they would. They come from other worlds.
But what do they think the hosts feel?
They don't understand the sensibilities.
KING: Yes, true.
CAVETT: You take Conan and say, you're not good enough, Conan, to start the show, so you need a warm-up man. Let's see, maybe we can get a warm-up man.
How about Jay Leno?
We'll give him a third of what he had and put him in there. And I'm sure he'll be happy. How to please everyone...
KING: That's (INAUDIBLE)...
CAVETT: ...and to piss everyone off.
KING: Let's call in -- let's call in maybe the best media writer in the business, certainly right up there with them, Bill Carter of "The New York Times." He wrote one of the great books written about all this years ago called "Late Shift." He broke this story, as well.
What do you make of this, Bill?
What do they -- what -- what happens now?
BILL CARTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think that's a big question. And I think there's going to be a massive negotiation. I mean, pointedly, you know, Conan didn't resign here today, he just basically said he wasn't going to accept this assignment. And I believe they're in the -- the middle of a very big mess now and how they get -- get it resolved.
I do think, you know, from the perspective of NBC, getting Jay back to 11:30 might be, you know, what -- what they most want right now, because they feel like he can still be very competitive at 11:30. And, you know, Conan was losing to Letterman, so I guess they feel like that's what they've -- they have accomplished, if anything. But mostly what they've accomplished is a gigantic train wreck.
KING: Conan sounded today like he's leaving, though, didn't he, Bill?
CARTER: Yes. He basically said he wouldn't do what they're -- they're telling him to do. But he didn't -- he -- he showed up for work. He did a show tonight. And he'll continue to do shows because if he were to not do shows, then they'd say he quit.
KING: Broke the contract.
CARTER: ...and then they wouldn't have to pay him off in this, you know, this -- whatever massive amount of money they still owe him. So I think that's very much being misinterpreted. He's not quitting, he's just telling him he won't do what they asked him to do after the Olympics.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) Conan have been...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Larry.
KING: Jay, hold on a second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KING: Jay and Conan have been making jokes about this debacle.
Let's take a look.
Oh, I'm sorry, we didn't have the jokes.
CAVETT: Larry, I can see...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see out the window here.
KING: Go ahead.
CAVETT: They've just put a banner up at NBC, "mission accomplished."
KING: Donald, aren't you surprised?
You know all these executives.
How did they get in this mess?
TRUMP: Well, it was just a -- a big fat mistake. I think it was one of the worst decisions in the history of television, as Bill Carter said. And it's just -- it's been -- it's been a terrible situation. And it looks to me like it's a massive litigation waiting to happen.
At the same time, I think at least now NBC has a claim not to pay Conan, because they're going to say that Conan refused to go on the air and therefore we don't have to pay him the $40 million or $80 million or whatever it is -- a tremendous package. So at least now they have a claim.
So NBC obviously made a terrible mistake. But they are coming back. And now they're going to probably say we're not going to pay Conan and we have Jay Leno back where he belongs.
So, you know, it's -- it's a mess. I've never seen anything like it.
KING: Whoever (INAUDIBLE)...
CAVETT: Do you think...
KING: (INAUDIBLE) 11:35.
Hold it, Dick.
KING: Whoever ends up on at 11:35 will compete with Letterman. And here's what he said during the taping of his show tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, COURTESY CBS/WORLDWIDE PANTS)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: So now, NBC is really, really up against it, trying to come up with new shows to replace all the other ones that are gone now. And look -- look what they've come up with so far. I think you're going to like this one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the television industry, there are two types of talk show hosts -- Jay Leno and those who have been victimized by Jay Leno. (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The true beneficiary, Dick, is David Letterman, right?
CAVETT: Yes, David Letterman and, of course, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel and all the people who are having a nice laugh over what's happening to their colleagues.
I wonder if Donald, in his milieu, would say that if the economy were different and if NBC's economy were different, they could have afforded to maybe let things go a little longer -- not that I don't -- I think that would have helped. But in my -- usually -- you know, in the old days, they could afford to let a thing go a year and then say it's no good (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: Donald, do you think so?
TRUMP: I don't think so, Dick. I -- I think the ratings were extremely bad for "The Tonight Show." Jay Leno was actually doing the ratings that they anticipated, about five million people. And the sad part about that, that's what they thought he'd get, but NBC could never be number one, because when you have the 10:00 hour, getting five million people...
TRUMP: ...no matter what you get, you can never again be number one.
KING: All right...
TRUMP: ...which is sad.
KING: Bill Carter, give me...
KING: Give me a forecast.
What -- how is it all going to end up?
CARTER: With Conan making a deal within the next week to 10 days to leave. I think then they'll -- they'll move Jay back into "The Tonight Show." They'll call it "The Tonight Show." He'll have an hour- long show. Jimmy Fallon will retain his show. And I think Conan will attempt, as best he can, to get an offer. I think the Fox deal is a possibility, but it's very complicated by the same thing that complicated the Leno situation, which is the reaction of affiliates. They have other shows at 11:30 that -- and 11:00 that they might not want to give up...
CARTER: ...because they've already spent a lot of money on it. It's going to be more complicated than people think...
CARTER: And Conan is a land, but he's a big talent. I think he should land somewhere.
KING: As we say in the business, stay tuned -- maybe.
We'll be right back.
KING: Such is life in the news business. We're abandoning all previously scheduled programming that will probably be rescheduled for tomorrow night and other nights.
We're back with breaking news on Haiti and that catastrophic earthquake there. So stick around. I imagine CNN International will be on top of it all night long.
I want to go back to Chad Myers -- Chad, I have never seen an earthquake in Miami, never seen an earthquake in Atlanta.
KING: Why Haiti?
MYERS: Because there is a fault, Larry, that lies right through the Dominican Republic and right through Haiti. This is called a slip fault, just like the -- what we would know as the World Series earthquake. There's a fault that runs right through the country -- in fact, all the way even into the British Virgin Islands.
There are earthquakes all the time in Puerto Rico, just not that -- not that -- not that common in -- in Haiti. So the fault was going this way on one side, the fault going this way on the other side.
Now, that's different than what was, let's say, the -- the Banda Aceh quake, which was a -- basically a fault that moved up. We had a subduction zone at Banda Aceh and then another piece of dirt or earth, the crust, going that way.
When it broke, which was right here, the earth moved up literally feet up in the air. That pushed water out of the way and that pushing of the water created the big tsunami.
MYERS: There was a tsunami watch with this, but there was never really that big of a tsunami threat with this earthquake. It was all shaking. And a 7.0 earthquake only six miles deep was a violent shake for the people there. And the fact that we don't have much information is not a good sign. No news is bad news at this point. KING: Yes.
MYERS: That means that nobody can actually get information out of there to tell us, Larry.
KING: Hang -- hang with us. You'll be with us throughout the hours, Chad.
Michael Holmes is our CNN International anchor and correspondent.
This would not be a surprise in California. It would not be a surprise in San Francisco. A major surprise in Haiti.
How much of an effect do you think, Michael, is had by the fact that it's such a surprise?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I mean any earthquake is going to be a surprise, I guess, Larry. And what the problem is in a place like Haiti, the buildings, they're not sound like they are here in the United States, for example, obviously. A lot of buildings are made of concrete -- foundations not good. There's a lot of shantytowns there.
So when an earthquake, particularly one of 7.0, which is -- which is a serious earthquake -- strikes so close to the coast, so close to the city, 12 miles, it's going to do damage.
And I -- I'll tell you, what's happened since we last spoke. Come across here. Danielle Delintz (ph) is -- is here. She is patient. We've brought you in. You've been listening in on some of the feeds that have been coming.
What -- what sorts of things have you been hearing?
DANIELLE DELINTZ: Lots of destruction. Churches have collapsed. There's a local marketplace that has collapsed. And they've reported a lot of casualties. There's a suburb called Peguyville where a lot of houses -- luxury homes have collapsed. And they're reporting a lot -- a lot of deaths.
HOLMES: A lot of deaths, yes. That's the sort of thing we're hearing.
Danielle has been listening in to the local language feeds that have been coming in here, actually, via the Internet.
The Internet has played an important role here in us getting information to you, Larry. As we said before, Irving Waffer (ph) has still got the Facebook pictures up here. We've actually been in contact with the fellow who has this Facebook page, Corel Pedre (ph). We talked to him on Skype, in fact.
This is one of the first lots of images that we got, posted on Facebook when the phones weren't working, when a lot of the other infrastructure had gone down, social media kicked in again. Over here, Talia (ph) has been keeping an eye on Twit Picks. A lot -- a lot going on on Twitter. A lot of people also, Larry -- I've got to point this out, because I'm hearing from all kinds of people the BlackBerry won't stop. People are calling in, wanting to know how to help.
Now I've got to say, one of the best Web sites that is one of ours, CNN.com/impact. It's the Impact Your World Web site -- all kinds of information about groups that are there, groups that are going there, ways people can help...
KING: All right...
HOLMES: ...because people are really asking for that, Larry.
KING: Michael, there are two million -- two million people live in Port-au-Prince. It should hold 50,000, but two million live there.
In wild -- how catastrophic is this going to get, do you think?
HOLMES: Well, this -- this was a country that was in dire straits, anyway -- economically crushed. You know, there's been -- there's aid -- one of the good things, I surprises, in a way, it's been so bad there for so long, there are already aid groups in place there. I was talking to somebody from World Vision earlier in Haiti, in Port-au-Prince, who went through all of this himself and -- and told us some stories. We've had some of our own people here who are Haitian who've been in contact with their relatives.
This is going to be enormously damaging, not just to the infrastructure, but it crushes people. There's a lot of environmental damage there already, Larry. Deforestation has been a huge deal in Haiti for many years. I don't know if you remember, last year, it rained and rained and rained. There were all these mudslides that happened.
Because the forests have all gone.
So this is a country that is about as pained as can be to begin with, let alone this sort of thing coming down on their heads.
A lot of aid groups are mobilizing...
HOLMES: The U.S. military, even, is going to mobilize. A lot of things are being promised. These people need it.
Stay there, Michael.
We'll be back with lots more on coverage of this incredible occurrence in the Caribbean. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Luke Renner is with us on the phone. He's outside Cape Haitian, Haiti, a humanitarian worker in Haiti with his family. What can you tell us as to what's happening in Cape Haitian, Luke?
LUKE RENNER, HUMANITARIAN WORKER: Larry, tonight, I'm happy to report that in in the north of Haiti -- we're about 90 miles due north, as the crow flies, of Port-Au-Prince. While we did, in fact, feel the earthquake -- and it was substantial. I was telling folks earlier that our house felt as though it was sitting on top of a beach ball. Everything in the world was moving.
Your previous guest told you that Haiti is largely deforested. Up here, there are quite a few trees, old trees. When I stepped outside, I saw these trees moving like they were match sticks. While we felt it, I'm happy to report that in the north, outside of Port-Au- Prince, things seem to be fairly calm. Damage is low to none at this point.
KING: Is that the second largest city?
RENNER: I'm sorry; can you repeat that?
KING: Is Cape Haitian the second largest city in Haiti?
RENNER: That's correct, Larry. Sorry for the connection. Surprisingly, our connectitivty through the Internet has been the saving grace here. The entire cell phone network in Haiti has been crippling right now. I don't know if it's overloaded or if it's actually shut down.
In the north, we are feeling the earthquake. We felt the aftershocks so far. But everybody seems to be fairly calm, and damage, prior to the sun going down, seemed to be minimal, if not non- existent.
KING: Lucky break for the second largest city. Let's go to the White House. Dan Lothian, our White House correspondent, is with us on the phone, not actually at the location. Dan, what's the White House doing about all of this?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they continue to monitor the situation, Larry. The president, earlier tonight, put out a statement saying "my thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake. We are closely monitoring the situation. And we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti."
The president found out about this earthquake shortly before 6:00 p.m. tonight, Larry. And at that point, you have to make sure that the embassy personnel in Haiti were safe, to begin preparations in the event that they were needed for humanitarian assistance. And, of course, the State Department and US Southern Command began working to coordinate an assessment and any assistance.
From Secretary of State Clinton, she said that the US is offering full assistance to Haiti, that the US will provide both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. So Haiti, a country that's been hit hard in the past by political unrest, other natural disasters, again, reeling after this earthquake. And the United States saying it is standing by, ready to help out.
KING: Dan, from what you heard, would you expect to see troops going in?
LOTHIAN: It's unclear. According to Pentagon folks, there are no US troops currently on the ground in Haiti. Obviously, we'll have to wait and see what develops. Right now, the US just promising any kind of humanitarian assistance. It's possible troops could end up on the ground, but no plans, at this point at least, that we know of.
KING: What have we heard from our embassy?
LOTHIAN: That's a good question. It's unclear whether the US and the White House was able to communicate directly with the embassy to make sure everyone was OK. The only word that we got is that the president did ask his staff to reach out to them to make sure they're OK. Clearly, reports coming back that there is a lot of structural damage. There are even some government buildings have been impacted as well.
We don't know what the situation is for the US structure there. But certainly that's something the White House is looking into. And we should be finding that out in the coming hours.
KING: Now, with something like this, Dan, in Washington, are the White House lights on all night? State Department, everyone up?
LOTHIAN: That's an interesting question. Everyone isn't at the White House. Clearly, some of the folks have gone home. But there are some people around closely monitoring the situation. As you know, in this high-tech time, everyone can access information through the phone or Blackberry or any other device they might have.
So you have the various different point folks are in touch with the necessary people and monitoring the situation. To what extent have they gathered in the Situation Room or anything like that, we have not been able to get that information. But we've been told that the White House is on top of this, and, again, ready to provide any kind of assistance necessary to Haiti.
KING: That's Dan Lothian at the White House. We have some comments that our producers have found on Haiti.
RamHaiti writes, "the phones are mostly down, but sometimes you get lucky and get through."
WyclefTweet says, "we need a state of emergency for Haiti. Please call your fellow councilmen, mayors, governors, et cetera, to contact Congress. We need aide ASACP." RamHaiti writes, "the singing and praying is getting more intense. And you have to believe, from what I'm hearing, this is worse than anyone is imagining."
SteveBruskCNN Tweets, "American Airlines cancels all flights going into Port Au Prince tomorrow. We'll reassess future flights after daylight Wednesday."
And that's it. We'll check with more and come right back after this.
KING: We'll be checking with others, but let's show you what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say earlier. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti. The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region. We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. And our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families and their loved ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll check with a representative of Unicef in a moment. Let's go back to Patrice Pierre. She's on the phone with us. She has family in Haiti. She spoke to a few relatives earlier. Any further contact, Patrice?
PIERRE: Yes, Larry. I have spoken to my uncle in Haiti. And things are really bad right now, from what I hear.
KING: Better. In what way?
PIERRE: Well, a lot of houses are falling apart, especially the two-story houses. They are falling apart. Our home has fallen apart. And there's a big hotel in Petionville called Hotel Montana, has collapsed to the ground.
KING: You didn't mean better?
PIERRE: No. No.
KING: I misunderstood you.
KING: What are your own emotions right now? You live in Haiti, right?
PIERRE: Yes, I do.
KING: Are you going to try to go back?
PIERRE: Yes, I'm going to try to go back in the next -- in the weekend coming up, if I'm allowed to.
KING: Have you lost any family members?
PIERRE: As far as I'm concerned, we don't know yet. I have been trying to contact Haiti. It's really hard to get through right now. Everybody is trying to call their family, so it's going to be hard for me to get through.
KING: Where are you physically, Patrice? Where are you located?
PIERRE: I'm in Florida. I'm in Lakeland, Florida right now.
KING: Thanks, Patrice. Let's go now to Tamar Hahn. She is a representative of Unicef. What is your title, Tamar?
TAMAR HAHN, UNICEF: I'm the regional communications officer.
KING: And where are you located?
HAHN: I'm in Panama City, Panama.
KING: That's about how far from Haiti?
HAHN: Yes, and we'll get --
KING: How far from Haiti?
HAHN: Two hours by plane.
KING: What is -- Can Unicef do anything at this early hour?
HAHN: At this early hour, no, because we're still trying to gather all the information that we need. It's dark in Haiti. We have suffered substantial damage to our own building, as have many other UN agencies. So right now people are just trying to gather information.
However, we are on the ground. We have been on the ground in Haiti since 1949. And we have prepositioned supplies, which we have ready for the hurricane season, which strikes the Caribbean every year. Luckily, this year was very quiet, as opposed to 2008, which was a devastating hurricane season for Haiti.
But this comes as a big surprise for everybody. And the situation of children and women in Haiti was already one of great vulnerability before the earthquake hit the island, as this is one of the poorest countries on Earth.
Far too many Haitian women and children are engaged in a struggle for their rights, basic necessities like nutrition, clean water, education, and protection from violence. It's also important to know that Haiti has the second highest population density in the western hemisphere, with four out of ten children living in homes with mud floors, or in severely overcrowded conditions, and with more than five people living in each room.
KING: And that's Unicef's number one concern in the world, is children.
KING: What do you immediately do when you can get in there?
HAHN: This first line of action is water and sanitation, because that will prevent the spread of disease. At the same time, you know, we try to tackle it from all different angles, nutrition, obviously, shelter and education. We provide something called school in a box to enable children to go to some sort of semblance of kind of quiet and healthy environment as soon as possible after a disaster. Those are our first lines of action.
KING: Tamar, we'll be calling on you again. Don't go away. Congressman Kendrick Meek from Florida has been to Haiti 12 times. His office is getting constant updates. And he joins us now from our Washington bureau. Congressman, what can you tell us? What's the latest from your perspective?
REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA: Larry, there is a lot going on on the ground now in Haiti. Unfortunately, we have reports coming in from individuals. My district office received a number of calls. I've been in contact with the White House, also with Southern Command, which is the military arm that covers Haiti. It's had to respond at the recent hurricane.
You have to understand that there are people that are trapped right now. There is a search and rescue effort to the best of the (INAUDIBLE) and the UN that's on the ground now. They're trying to help, as well as individual family members. But search and rescue teams must make it to Haiti as soon as possible. Their structures are not as solid as structures in the US. And I know that the crumbling and the dust that individuals have experienced today, we will see that for days to come, because the buildings are so fragile.
KING: What area do you represent in Florida?
MEEK: I represent Miami Dade County, that has Little Haiti in that particular district, the 17th Congressional District, and Broward County. But there are Haitian Americans in New York, Boston, LA, Central Florida, a number of places. So all of them are very, very concerned. I know the State Department has received quite a few calls. The Haitian government is definitely in need, once again, because of the lack of resources that are there already.
But I think it's very, very important for folks to understand there are a lot of Americans also in Haiti that are carrying out humanitarian work. I know the Southern Baptists have many missions that are there, building and feeding children that are there. So this is a real issue that has a serious connection to the United States of America.
KING: The congressman is going to stay with us. The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti. The number is 1-888-407-4747. I'll repeat it; 1-888-407-4747 for information -- there you see it on the screen -- about family members in Haiti. The congressman remains. We'll be right back.
KING: Let's go to Michael Holmes in Atlanta. He has a Skype interview, I understand, with someone in Haiti. Is that right, Michael?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, Larry. A lot going on at the international desk. I want to get Jim the cameraman to come in right here on the screen. This is very low tech, I have to tell you.
Carel Pedre, who is there in Haiti. Now, first of all, just tell me what happened. What was your experience of this earthquake? What happened around you?
CAREL PEDRE, HAITIAN: I was a little bit struck. Hello, I'm going to say hi to everybody. I was driving, driving back to my work. I was stuck in traffic. I was on the phone when I feel like my car was shaking. I thought that some other cars hit me. And when I look in front of me, I see a lot of people falling down, and they were crying, crying, crying for help.
And after that, my phone, I lost the communication. The call was dropped. And after that, I went out of the car and I realized that it was an earthquake.
HOLMES: Yes. So your photographs on your Facebook page were among the first pictures we saw out of Haiti. What sort of level of damage have you seen and what are your friends telling you about how bad this is, how extensive this is.
PEDRE: To tell you the truth, those pictures that I took with my phone has nothing to do compared to the real damage that I saw after all, because there is a lot, really a lot of -- you have to know the country to see really what happened. There is a lot of big buildings were collapsed. And there is a lot of really, really, really big house near my job that will collapse, too.
The big thing is that there is a lot of people under those buildings, still living, still breathing, but no people -- no response to help them to get out where they are.
HOLMES: And how well equipped is Haiti to deal with something like this? I know the answer. It's not very well equipped at all.
PEDRE: Yeah. It's not very well equipped at all. I have to tell you a story. In November 2008, we had a school that collapsed, only school, one school. And we were not able to give the quicker and real response to this disaster. Now, it's not one school. It is like every block you find a building that collapsed.
HOLMES: What about the toll, as far as people are concerned? What have you seen? What have you heard?
PEDRE: I heard a lot of people are praying. That's the first thing, saying that Jesus is coming, saying that we are -- we need to pray. We need to save our lives by believing in God, in something. That's the most thing that I heard.
And I heard that people are saying that we are a poor country. We don't need those kinds of situations, because we can't deal with them.
PEDRE: The people crying for help. Because the thing is that when you don't have a car, when you're stuck in traffic, when there is no word to warn or nobody to help you, and you're bleeding, you can say anything, really a lot of things.
HOLMES: A very, very bad situation. Stay with us. I want to keep talking to you after we get off here. But, Larry, there you go. Somebody right there at the front line of this, giving you a sense of what it was like to be there.
KING: Thank you, Michael. Outstanding work, Michael Holmes. We're monitoring Twitter feeds tonight. Here is more of what people are saying from and about Haiti.
From FiresideInt, "Falling buildings are the major threat in an earthquake. To those with family outside PAP, please don't panic. The countryside is calm."
RamHaiti Tweets that "people in large numbers are singing prayers downtown."
TroyLive Tweets that "in our area, mostly exterior walls have fallen and people are afraid to reenter their homes."
We'll be right back.
KING: Let's check in at the State Department with Jill Dougherty, our foreign affairs correspondent. What's the picture regarding aid, Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We just got the latest coming out of the State Department -- Information Agency. They are sending what is called a Dart team, Larry. That's Disaster Assistance Response Team. They've activated two partners. One comes from Fairfax County here in Virginia, a search and rescue, and then also from Los Angeles search and rescue.
And they say that they have 72 personnel, six search and rescue canines, and up to 48 tons of rescue equipment. They also have US AID disaster experts who are going to help to assess the situation on the ground.
One of the real complications, as we've been reporting, Larry, is communications. They believe that they'll be able to get this team in. That's the really, really important thing that they have to do.
And we also have that number that the State Department Operations Center gave out recently. Maybe we can put that graphic up again, which is the number for Americans who are searching for information about the family members. That number is 1-888-407-4747.
What they're doing -- they also have what's called the Warden Network. That is a way of getting in touch with people who work at the embassy and also US citizens who are in Haiti. They have that activated, but it is very, very difficult to have any type of communication within Haiti. So anyone who is within Haiti trying to get in touch with the embassy could be in for a lot of trouble.
That is the number for people here to call to try to get information on their family members, Larry.
KING: Thanks, Jill. Jill Dougherty, our foreign affairs correspondent at the state department. Been quite an hour. Quite a today. CNN, of course, is all over this story, on the air, online, on Twitter. See who CNN is following to cover this story. Go to Twitter yourself, Twitter.com/CNNBrk/Haiti. You'll get it all as we've been getting it throughout this hour.
Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?