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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Wyclef Jean Running for President of Haiti
Aired August 5, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Wyclef Jean exclusive. The singer is running for president of Haiti -- speaking for the first time on TV, right here, about why he's doing it, what his first act as his homeland's leader would be, and how he hopes to change the country for the better.
Plus, the controversy over his charity and tax troubles that could derail his political dream.
Then, actor Sean Penn and his commitment to Haiti. He's in it for the long haul.
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
BLITZER: And to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry tonight. Larry has the week off.
Let's go right to Port-a-Prince. Wyclef Jean is joining us now.
Wyclef, we had our LARRY KING LIVE cameras following you today. Tell us what you did. You formally filed papers. You want to be the next president of Haiti, is that right?
WYCLEF JEAN, MUSICIAN: I can't hear nothing yet.
BLITZER: All right. This is Wolf in Washington. Can you hear me now?
JEAN: I don't hear nothing.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we've got a little problem with Wyclef.
We're going to get to him and clean that up in just a moment.
Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent is standing by as well. He spent a lot of time in Haiti. Before we go back to Wyclef, Sanjay, tell our viewers what you're hearing about the situation in Haiti right now. You were just there. They just went six months after this earthquake. It's still a horrible situation.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It hasn't really changed much. I think on appearances, Wolf, that's the first thing you notice when you get to Port-au-Prince and many outlying areas, as well. Still much of the rubble that those images and people really recognize from the time of the earthquake, so much of that rubble is still there and admittedly, it's going to be a very long time before you can move that rubble out. It's just one of the difficult parts of this sort of cleanup effort.
But as a result, Wolf, just simply navigating the roads, simply trying to get supplies that are located in warehouses that made it into the country of Haiti, made it into the city of Port-au-Prince, they got there, but still so much difficulty simply getting those things to people who need it.
Wolf, around the country, there's, you know, fewer than 100 hospitals, more than half of those right now the way that we saw it were actually temporary hospitals. There were private hospitals that existed in Port-au-Prince and around Port-au-Prince before the earthquake, but so many of those have gone out of business, as well and so many doctors simply unable to practice medicine.
So, there is -- there was a benefit from so much of the relief efforts in the few months after the earthquake, but so much of that is starting to disappear now, as well, Wolf. So, it's tough to say what the next few months look like.
BLITZER: And the numbers, as -- I actually want it remind our viewers -- are horrendous indeed. The earthquake occurred on January 12th. The United Nations estimates more than 230,000 people were killed, 2 million people were left homeless. And of those 2 million -- you were just there -- a lot of them remain homeless right now.
GUPTA: There are camps, Wolf. It's hard to really describe, I think maybe television doesn't even do to this justice, but these camps are 50,000 people in size, Wolf. And these are temporary camps. They are tents.
And, Wolf, you'll remember in years past, I mean, just how significant the hurricane season can be, how significant the storm season is -- these tents simply aren't going to be able to sustain that time period. So, it's hard to imagine.
The other part of it, Wolf, is that Port-au-Prince obviously a very densely populated city, so many people living there. And now, these tent cities outside of Port-au-Prince, many of them -- if you don't have a car and you can't get around the country, these tent cities may as well be on the other -- on the other part of the country because people, they can't get to Port-au-Prince anymore.
So, it's a true sort of displacement in the truest sense of the word, Wolf.
BLITZER: And as you know, Sanjay, there was an enormous outpouring of help for the people of Haiti immediately after the earthquake from countries all over the world. They came in -- doctors and nurses, and others. You were just there. Are they still there or are they basically left?
GUPTA: Well -- so, one of the biggest public hospitals that many people may identify with, General Hospital, the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince, this was sort of the big trauma center, if you will, Wolf -- took care of many of the patients in Port-au-Prince again before the earthquake. It got -- it sustained damage during the earthquake, but there were so many relief workers, doctors, nurses, health care professionals that came there in the weeks and months after the earthquake -- so many so, Wolf, that, in fact, they had to literally triage doctors saying we have too many right now, we're going to need to move doctors and nurses to other parts of the country.
I was there just a couple of weeks ago and that hospital is basically a bare bones operation again. Not only have those relief workers left, but the capability of that hospital, even one day before the earthquake, it hasn't even returned to that as things stand right now.
So, it's a few steps backwards, hopefully, for many steps forward. But it's a tough -- it's tough going right now there, Wolf.
BLITZER: I believe that. Sanjay, stand by.
Anderson Cooper is going to be joining us later as well. Sean Penn who's been deeply involved in trying to help the people of Haiti, he's going to be joining us.
I think we've cleared our little technical glitch. Wyclef Jean is joining us, the Grammy winning musician.
Wyclef, just want to make sure you can hear me OK. Can you hear me?
JEAN: I can hear you clear. How are you?
BLITZER: Good. Thanks very much for doing this.
Tell our viewers here in the United States, Wyclef, and around the world, are you running to become the next president of Haiti?
JEAN: Well, until I do that, Wolf, you have to do me a favor. I need you to say in Creole (SPEAKING CREOLE)
BLITZER: I don't know what it means. Tell me what it means first.
JEAN: It means "What's up, what's going on, how you feeling?"
BLITZER: What's up, what's going on, how you feeling? I'll say it in English. Go ahead. Just go ahead. Tell me -- tell me if you want --
JEAN: Haitian people told me, Wolf -- BLITZER: We'll do it later. You know what? We'll do it later. I promise -- I promise our viewers in Haiti, I'll speak a little Creole a little bit later.
But let's get right to the business, very serious business. You want to be the president of Haiti, right?
JEAN: Yes, this is my first time announcing it live that today I went in and I signed and I'm running to be the president of Haiti.
BLITZER: The election is scheduled for the end of November -- November 28th. You have a few months to campaign right now. You're 40 years old. Most of your life, you've lived in the United States. You were born in Haiti. You feel strongly about Haiti.
Why do you want to be president? Why have you made this decision?
JEAN: Well, after January 12th, I would say over 50 percent of the population is a youth population. And we suffered for over 200 years. Now that our country has a problem, it's a chance to rebuild from the bottom on up.
And I don't even say I'm trying to be president. I'm being drafted by the youth of Haiti. Right now is a chance for to us bring real education into the school, infrastructure, security and proper jobs. So, this is some of the reasons that I'm running.
BLITZER: What qualifies you to be president of Haiti?
JEAN: Well, what qualifies me to be president of Haiti, when I look at the past 200 years with what our people have suffered, Wolf -- political instability, coups after coup d'etats. I feel that me running, it bring as neutral situation -- meaning that Wyclef Jean can sit with any political party, have a conversation. I'm coming in neutral.
I think 200 years we have suffered the exact same thing and what I'm saying is: when you vote for Wyclef Jean, you basically try something new. I represent the voice of the youth which is 50 -- over 50 percent of the population.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by for a moment, Wyclef. We're only getting started. We have a lot of questions I want to go through. This is a momentous moment for the people of Haiti right now. They're going to get a sense a little bit of what you're all about, why you want to be president of Haiti.
We'll continue this conversation, Wyclef, right after this.
BLITZER: The Grammy winning musician Wyclef Jean. He has made the decision. He has announced that right now that he wants to become the next president of Haiti, the election scheduled for November 28th. They were supposed to take place last February, but after the January 12th earthquake, they had to postpone it. Now, the elections will go forward.
We're going to go back to Port-au-Prince in just a moment, continue our conversation with Wyclef. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent, has spent a lot of time -- as all of our viewers know -- in Haiti right now.
The leadership issue, the government issue -- it's been a problem, an enormous problem for this poorest country in the western hemisphere -- as far as I know for -- not only for decades, but for hundreds of years.
GUPTA: Ineffective, inept, corrupt -- I think these are all adjectives that have been used to describe it for sure. And I think see some of the ramifications of this.
Wolf, when this -- I remember watching you, Wolf, when this -- when this earthquake first hit January 12th and I remember my -- I really got a pit in my stomach because there's been so much more poor planning in Haiti and so much lack of reserve for something just like this.
I mean, you have a very densely populated area, Port-au-Prince, and many of the surrounding areas, as well. And these buildings so poorly constructed, Wolf, as you saw. They come tumbling down and so many of these crush injuries as a result.
But, you know, some of this is about planning, which is why some places around the world can sustain earthquakes better than Haiti could. And after the earthquake itself, just a complete lack of medical resources. And so many -- I mean, it's tough as a doc because so many preventable deaths occurred in those first few weeks after the earthquake because people simply couldn't get medical care.
Now, granted, during an earthquake, it's challenging no matter what. But there was just absolutely no reserve to be able to take care of so many of these challenging problems, Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the greatest health related issue facing the people of Haiti, Sanjay, right now?
GUPTA: Well, you know, even before the earthquake, about half the country, maybe even less had access to clean water. It is not something that people in the United States think about when they think about health problems, but if you don't have it, it's all you think about.
And this is probably one of the areas where you maybe can point to and say maybe there has been some success since the earthquake. They have more clean water in many areas even as compared to a day or two before the earthquake. So, that's good. It's now a question of how sustainable is that going to be because it's expensive. They're filling up these big water bladders and these camps, trying to provide water for people living in these temporary tent cities. But everyone that I've talked to, even just as recently as a couple weeks ago, say that time is going to come to an end when they can continue to do that. You can also potentially point to a success in that there haven't been the big infectious disease outbreaks that a lot of people expected. You've heard about it this, people expecting a second wave of deaths as a result of infectious diseases. You haven't seen that either.
But it's so -- it's such an interesting thing that has happened, Wolf, because so many of these relief workers came in and they provided free medical care for a period of months. Even the private hospitals that were functioning before the earthquake, a lot of them have gone out of business. So, people who have completely treatable, completely preventable, in some ways, problems simply can't get care.
So, it's an access issue now, Wolf, as far as your question, the biggest health problem. There just isn't enough doctors, there aren't enough hospitals and there aren't enough permanent structures to sustain the demand for health care.
BLITZER: And what I worry about enormously and I know do you and I know a lot of others worry, as well, if there's another weather- related issue, a hurricane or a tropical storm. So many hundreds of thousands of people simply living in tents -- the scenario would be devastating for the people of Haiti.
Sanjay, stand by for a moment.
I want to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll go back to Port-au-Prince. Wyclef Jean, who wants to become the next president of Haiti, he is standing by.
BLITZER: We're back with Wyclef Jean. He wants to become the next president of Haiti. He's joining us on the phone right now. We've had some technical problems via satellite.
Wyclef, I hope you can hear me OK. I know there's a big crowd surrounding you. Wherever you go in Haiti, there's always a big crowd by the folks down there.
You've been thinking about this for a long time, running for president of Haiti. This is not a decision you just recently made.
JEAN (via telephone): Wolf, to be honest with you, the idea of being part of our country was always in my mind. But after January 12th, the day after coming and being out here with my wife and picking up dead bodies from the ground, I felt that because of the youth of Haiti and the population, that this is not even Wyclef saying that I want to be the president of Haiti. I feel like I'm being drafted by the population right now to give them a different face, a different voice.
And, Wolf, I want to tell you, despite what you're hearing with the tent cities, there's a crowd behind me right now with so much excitement because they feel hope is on its way. BLITZER: How would you describe your political ideology, Wyclef?
JEAN: Well, basically, my political ideology is basically this: I have what's called the four pillars and five points. When I look at the situation of Haiti as a kid, I think the focus right now should definitely be on education, job creation, agriculture, security, and health care.
And when I say -- when we talk about job creation, I'm talking about the diaspora which gives to Haiti $2 billion per year. That's more money than the donors would give. Now, what we need to do is whatever job creation we're creating, we need the diaspora outside of Haiti to be part of that, because a lot of times, we're waiting to get help for Haiti.
But the true help that we need is we have to galvanize our own people starting with this diaspora outside of Haiti. So, this is why I'm running.
BLITZER: Assuming the elections take place as scheduled November 28th, Wyclef, are you going to -- between now and then -- are you going to be on the ground in Haiti campaigning throughout the country?
JEAN: Wolf, I'll tell you, I'm going to be on the ground campaigning throughout the country, but an election won in Haiti and lost in the U.S. or international community is not an election. The reason why I'm doing this is because there has to be an election that is won around the world. The Haitian people have suffered that far and it is time for us to listen their voice and help bring back investment into this country.
BLITZER: Are the donors or the international community that pledged billions of dollars to help Haiti after the earthquake, were those -- are those pledges being met?
JEAN: No. I think -- well, that's let's with the $5.2 billion. I think only 6 percent or 7 percent of that was given. Now, this is where Wyclef come in. If that was me, I would get on my plane and I will go around the world, and -- so, I'll start right now and I'm looking at the donors and I'm saying what's promised, we need it, but we have over 1.5 million people living in tents. We got the rain coming, and the people in Port-au-Prince is still in a crisis.
BLITZER: This is a new world for you -- politics. Unlike others who have made the transition from entertainment to the world of politics, whether Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, you really don't have a lot of political experience, do you?
JEAN: Yes. I mean, really, I think coming into this, Wolf, being that I am not a politician, so we can speak in terms of logic. What I am is I'm a young youth that have seen my population suffer. And the only way that they're going to get out of this is for us as Haitians who stayed in Haiti, who lived in Haiti, came to America, got an education, and still kept Haitian passport, went back to Haiti and decide -- you know what, that piece of the dream that I got in America, I'm going to give you a piece of that dream. I mean, this is what it's about right now. We're talking about 21st century. Haiti will not be part of the 21st century if the population cannot read and write.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go through some of the requirements that must be met in order to get certification to be a candidate for president of Haiti, as far as I understand it, the research that I've done. A candidate must prove that he or she has lived for five years consecutively in Haiti. These last five year, you haven't lived consecutively in Haiti.
JEAN: Yes, that's one of -- one of the points that keeps coming up with Wyclef. I have -- I have residency for over five years in Haiti. But what I would like to tell you, Wolf, is also, the president, Rene Preval, that I voted for five years ago, he elected me as an ambassador, a roving ambassador at large to promote my country.
Now, how can I promote my country just sitting down? That means I have to get up and go out. So, if you follow me and you can play all those videotapes back, whether I was with Shakira at the World Cup or I was sitting, pleading a bill at Congress -- for the House bill at Congress in Washington, D.C., I always represented for my country.
BLITZER: Another requirement is that you have to own property in Haiti. Do you have a house? Do you own property in Haiti?
JEAN: Yes, I have property in Haiti, Wolf. My wife, she's from Jeremy. She has houses in Haiti. I have business in Haiti. Yes, sir.
BLITZER: Another requirement is that you only have Haitian citizenship, that you don't have citizenship of another country. You've lived most of your life in the United States, whether in New York or New Jersey. Do you have other citizenship beyond Haitian citizenship?
JEAN: No, once I came to these United States of America, I got a green card and I got what I called the American Dream and basically brought that dream back to my country. I've always kept my Haitian passport and a lot of people said, well, why didn't you change your passport? I always felt like this is the place where I came from and this was my identity, and every time I looked at that passport, I always remembered the people of my country.
BLITZER: So, you never became a naturalized U.S. citizen?
JEAN: No, I'm a green card holder with a lot of the rest of my friends. I'm an example of what you would call the American Dream taking it back to Haiti.
BLITZER: Wyclef, we have many more questions. You want to be president of Haiti. You got to answer some serious questions. We've got some stuff questions coming up as well. I want to you stand by.
We'll continue our conversation with Wyclef Jean. He's running for the presidency of Haiti. We'll continue the conversation here on LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry tonight.
We have an exclusive -- we're talking to Wyclef Jean, the Grammy Award-winning musician who wants to be the president of Haiti. The election is scheduled for November 28th.
Wyclef, who's going to pay for your presidential campaigning?
JEAN: Well, I'm going go out and I'm going to campaign and I'm going to raise money. So, what I'm hoping is all my friends that are watching this, from all of my entertainers from Hollywood, to all the connections that I've had made around the world. And we're going to do also a local campaign on the Internet, too, which I was inspired after looking at President Barack Obama's online election.
BLITZER: So, you want to follow in his foot steps in terms of campaign fundraising.
Let's talk a little bit about money because as you know, Wyclef, there have been questions raised about the foundation that you created by in 2005, to help the people of Haiti, the Yele Fund the Yele Haiti Foundation. Just in the last few days, you stepped down from your leadership role. Why?
JEAN: Well, I stepped down from the Foundation For Yele Haiti. I've been running Yele Haiti for the past five year. I started a grass roots organization. But it was important that the next step that I wanted to take had to go beyond being an NGO. And I felt to take my country to the next level, I needed to create aid that helped the people aid themselves and bring back investment. And this is why I stepped down as the chairman.
BLITZER: Looks like we just got that satellite transmission frozen again. We'll fix that. We'll get back to Wyclef in just a moment.
In the meantime, let's bring back Sanjay Gupta, who is with us, our chief medical correspondent. Sanjay, we're listening to a 40-year-old musician who is obviously deeply committed to his homeland, the people of Haiti. He wants to go back there. He wants to be president, even though he doesn't have any political experience. And we're going to go through some of the tough questions that have been raised already.
But I think to put it bluntly, he doesn't need to do this. He's a rich guy. He could go out on tour. He could make a lot of money. But he wants to help the people of Haiti, which is a very, very nice thing.
GUPTA: Yeah. I don't -- who knows what his thinking is exactly. I mean, he's got a really tough job in front of him, Wolf. They described to me that even to get Haiti back to what it was one day before the earthquake, you're talking about four years of significant reconstruction. And that really isn't accounting for everything. I'm obviously focusing in on the health care, which I think is of paramount important in a country that has ten times the mortality rate -- infant mortality rate as the United States, 50 times the maternal mortality rate as the United States.
So there are just so many parameters by which you measure a country's success, the likelihood for success in the future. And Haiti just falls terribly short in all of these areas. You know, you talk about tough questions, Wolf, but these have vexing, challenging problems, as you pointed out, that have lasted not just decades, but even longer than that.
So who knows what his thinking is exactly in terms of his inspiration for doing this. But there are so many facets to this, Wolf, and I'm just scratching the surface when I talk about this.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Wyclef. He's joining us once again. Wyclef, some of the money that was raised by your foundation -- now you've stepped down from the Yele Haiti Foundation. There have been questions raised. First of all, how much money did you raise in the aftermath of the January earthquake?
JEAN: After the January earthquake, Wolf, we raised approximately nine million dollars.
BLITZER: And there's been questions raised that some of that money was not spent appropriately. There's even been allegations that some of that money went into your pocket. I want you to respond to those allegations.
JEAN: Well, those allegations are not true. The allegations that are true when it comes to the Yele Haiti is the situation of the tax, which wasn't filed on time. My governance was questioned and we brought in an accountant firm from Washington and cleaned up the tax issue. In addition to that, we brought in a new CEO, Derrick Johnson. But did Wyclef Jean every take Yele Haiti money to put in his personal pocket? Never.
BLITZER: The other questions that have been raised about your personal income tax returns here in the United States, that the IRS, for example, put a two million dollar lien on taxes that were not paid. Have you paid up all of the back taxes to the United States government that you owe?
JEAN: Wolf, I want to start by telling you I am living in these United States of America, I have great lawyers, and I have great business people that work with me in the life of Wyclef Jean. There is no situation of Wyclef Jean that we will ignore. We respect the IRS very much. I will not leave these United State of American and come to my country and do not handle the situation with the IRS.
Any personal Wyclef matters are being handled as we speak.
BLITZER: Do you still owe money to the IRS or is all that paid up?
JEAN: Everything is paid up. BLITZER: And because the question is if you had these personal financial problems, the question is what gives you the qualifications to run an enormous budget, which is the budget of Haiti, all this foreign aid coming in and all the expenses that a president of a country has to deal with?
JEAN: Well, Wolf, God has been good to me and financial problems I do not have. I'm currently on the road. I'm performing. I have great publishing companies. The situation with the IRS was a situation that came up and it is a situation that will be handled. Just to be clear, Wolf, when it comes to is Wyclef OK, is my wife OK, is my financial situation OK, can I continue staying in America, working and making millions of dollars a day? Yes, I can.
But now the mission has changed. I'm 40 years old and I want to focus on helping the people of Haiti.
BLITZER: I guess some of the other questions that have been raised involve your commitment to being able to deal on a day to day basis with the people of Haiti. Your English obviously is perfect. What about your French and Creole?
JEAN: What about my French and -- That's good, Wolf, my French and Creole. Earlier, I tried to get you to speak Creole. You still wouldn't speak some Creole. We'll get to that.
But, Wolf, seriously, we've had years and years of politicians speaking French. And where has that gotten us? So I do believe that this population should speak French. It should speak Creole. It should also learn English.
I left Haiti when I was nine years old. I came to these United States of America. I'm proud that I learned English. And I'm proud when I go back to my country -- when I'm communicating with these people in the -- (FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
BLITZER: That sounds like good Creole to me. Now, what did you want me to say in Creole, Wyclef? And I'll say it, because I know you're on the phone. I promised our viewers I would speak in Creole. Speak softly, slowly and I'll do the best I can.
JEAN: All right, Wolf, you're my man. We love you in Haiti. And we want to see you soon. You see the crowd in the back of me? (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). That's a lot of happy people in Haiti. Haiti has hope for the future.
BLITZER: You know, Wyclef, former President Bill Clinton, as we speak, is in Haiti right now. Have you met with him? Have you dealt with him, Bill Clinton?
JEAN: I look forward to sitting down with Bill Clinton. I'm a big fan of Bill Clinton. I'm going to tell you why. Because before Haiti was popular, Bill Clinton was always on the map representing for Haiti. I know Bill Clinton has a lot of big ideas. And Wyclef Jean, with the youth of Haiti, (FOREIGN LANGUAGE), we have a lot of big ideas, too. So I would like to sit with the president, Bill Clinton, and show him some of the ideas that I have. I look forward to doing that.
BLITZER: He's going to be there tomorrow, as well. So maybe your paths will cross. All right, Wyclef Jean, the great musician, he now is becoming a politician. He wants to run for president of Haiti. It's not a done deal. You got a lot of work ahead of you, Wyclef. Good luck to you. We'll stay in close touch. More importantly, good luck to all the people of Haiti.
I've been to Haiti. It's a great country. You just need a lot of help. You need strong leadership. You got to get rid of that corruption over there. If you do it, things will turn around.
JEAN: Definitely. I look forward to doing that. And I'm going to tell you like, like I said on Nasdaq, despite that you see us living in these tent, I'm going to tell you, Wolf, Haiti is open for business.
BLITZER: That's good to know. Wyclef, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Haiti. Thanks so much for doing this. Thanks for joining us on LARRY KING LIVE. All right, we have a lot more to discuss about Haiti. Anderson Cooper is standing by. Sean Penn, the great actor, is standing by, who is so deeply committed to the issues in Haiti. Sanjay Gupta is still with us. Much more to digest right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get some reaction to what we just heard from Wyclef Jean. He's running for the presidency of Haiti. Joining us now is CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's the host of "Anderson Cooper, AC 360." That comes up right at the top of the hour. Also joining us, Sean Penn, the Academy Award winning actor, activist. His humanitarian group, the one he co-founded, JP Haitian Relief Organization, was on the ground less than a week after the earthquake. He has spent a lot of time working in Haiti for the people of Haiti.
Sean, stand by for a moment. Anderson, I know you've spent a lot of time in Haiti and all of our viewers know it. But give us your sense of the popularity of Wyclef Jean in Haiti right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me point out, I've spent a fraction of the time that Sean Penn has spent on the ground there. And having just come back from his camp a couple weeks ago -- he runs probably the largest camp in Port-Au-prince and certainly one of the best well run. So what he's doing there is truly extraordinary.
Look, Wyclef Jean is extremely well known throughout Haiti. He's viewed as an American success story. He came here when he was nine years old. There are some people who have a lot of questions, though, about his charity, Yele Haiti, about their presence on the ground, about what they're actually doing. Clearly, there are stories in the past about financial issues they have had, about unclear book-keeping, about a lack of transparency, about what are they doing with the money they actually raised from this telethon.
Look, he's now entering the realm of politics and these are hard questions that need to be answered. And there is going to be a lot of focus on his organization and his ability to run an organization. There's also the question which he addressed a little bit tonight about those tax liens, major tax liens against him here in the United States.
The view of him in Port-Au-prince and Haiti is, look, that he's a rich American who is above corruption and can come and help. Bottom line, Haiti needs leadership, as you pointed out. It needs leadership at all levels. There are entrenched elites there. There are generations of corruption and problems and interference from outside powers. We can go on and on with the difficulties that Haiti now faces.
But if they have some strong leadership, if they have commitment form the international community -- you know, Wolf, more than five billion dollars has been promised to Haiti a couple months ago from countries around the world. Guess how much of that money has actually been delivered so far? About three to five percent at the most.
I mean, it's stunning that the international community, which was so focused on this early on, has literally not written the checks that they promised, the United States being one of those countries. Whereas a country like Colombia, Australia and a few others have written checks. But Haiti is still waiting. They have no money to pick up rubble, to really begin the serious work that's going to take years to take place to rebuild that country.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. It is heartbreaking to think about it. They make the pledges and then they don't write the checks. Sean, what's your reaction to Wyclef Jean deciding he wants to run for the presidency?
SEAN PENN, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Well, I'll tell you when I was asked to be on the show today, I had thought I would reserve judgment. But after paying attention to the things that were said, I feel that it's important to say that while President Preval himself has made very clear the value of Wyclef's voice as a song writer, as someone with whom the youth is quite enamored with, and appointing him, not as he said electing him, ambassador at large, which took place, in fact, three years ago, which does not qualify him as someone who has had residency for the five consecutive years necessary -- but that's an issue of rule of law that we will or won't respect in our donations, or lack thereof, to campaigns abroad.
We are talking on CNN, which has primarily an audience outside of Haiti. And so I think what's really important is that the last thing in the world Haiti needs -- and I'm not accusing Wyclef Jean of being on opportunist. I don't know the man. But I think it's extremely important that we pay great attention to both the individuals in the United States who are enamored with him, maybe not for his political strengths, and in particular for corporate interests that are enamored with him, and those that may themselves be opportunists on the back of the Haitian people.
Right now, I worry that this is a campaign that is more about a vision of flying around the world, talking to people, as he said. It's certainly not one of the youth drafting him. I would be quite sure that this was an influence of corporations here in the United States and private individuals that may well have capitalized on his will to see himself flying around the world doing that. What the Haitian people need now is a leader who is genuinely willing to sacrifice.
And one of the reasons I don't know very much about Wyclef Jean is I haven't seen or heard anything of him in these last six months that I've been in Haiti. I think he's an important voice. I hope he doesn't sacrifice that voice by taking the eye off the very devastating realities on the ground and the very difficult strategic future that it's got in putting itself back together.
BLITZER: Well, those are important concerns that you have, critically important concerns. And I want to go more in-depth on some of them. Anderson, stand by. Sean Penn, stand by as well. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will still be with us. We have lots more to assess on this important day right after this.
BLITZER: Anderson, stand by for a moment. I want to bring back Sean Penn. because you raised some serious questions about the motives behind Wyclef Jean's decision to run for president of Haiti. I want you to be more specific if you can, Sean. This notion that there are some corporate interests here in the United States who may be pushing him to do this. What do you mean by that?
PENN: Well, the people that I've spoken to related to his campaign and those on the ground in Haiti claim these things, and so really I'm putting this forward to a very important oversight committee, and that's the media. You know, I watched Rick Sanchez prior to this program talking about himself and his frolic of baseball as a child for a long time. In the meantime, on my Blackberry, a woman of 24 years old is dying because she didn't have attention to a tooth for the last two months in Haiti.
I see in Wyclef Jean somebody who could well have been influenced by the promise of support from companies. I think that Haiti is clearly vulnerable to, in particular, the manufacturing concerns that it so desperately needs and the jobs that it so desperately needs. But with a history of American interests coming in and underpaying people. This is a culture of one to two dollars a day that they were making. And we really can't -- if we help with them in fixing this house -- if it had a leak before the earthquake, it doesn't make much sense to rebuild it with a leak again.
So what I'm encouraging is that we look very hard at all the donors, because this is somebody who is going to receive an enormous amount of his support, if he continues his campaign, from the United States. And I'm very -- I have to say, I'm very suspicious of it simply because he, as an ambassador at large, has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he has been a non-presence.
He said earlier he was helping to move bodies and so on in the first days. That may well have been. And everybody's help was very needed. But his voice has really been most loudly that which allegedly has taken over 400,000 dollars of money that was designated for Haitian relief for himself. He claims he didn't do it. I think that is going to have to be looked into it.
In the meantime, I've been there where I know what 400,000 dollars could do for these people's lives, and for a 24-year-old girl right now who is dying. So this -- I want to see someone who is really, really willing to sacrifice for their country, and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that, in context, I felt was a very obscene demonstration.
BLITZER: Those are excellent questions that need to be -- need to be explored and they will be explored if, in fact, he continues this campaign that he has launched today to run for president of Haiti.
PENN: I just want to say -- I just want to say.
BLITZER: Hold on, Sean. Hold on one second.
PENN: This is a very important voice there.
BLITZER: Hold on one second. I want to continue this conversation. We're not going anywhere. We'll take a quick break. First, I want to get to our heroes, waging war on Mississippi's waistline. For six years in a row, the Magnolia State has been named the fastest in the nation. So this week's CNN hero put her entire hometown on a diet. Linda Fondren challenging the city of Vicksburg to lose 17,000 pounds in 17 weeks. It was such a success, she couldn't stop there. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA FONDREN, CNN HERO: Mississippi has held the title of being the most obese state for six consecutive years.
Let's walk! I knew that I wanted to do something to help people who wished they could live a better life.
My name is Linda Fondren and I challenged my community to the 17,000 pound weight loss challenge.
Go girl. Go. Good job.
For 17 weeks, I asked the 50,000 people in Vicksburg to only lose only a half a pound. They beat the challenge. But I decided to make the challenge permanent because we did not reach enough people.
We have a walking club and a nutrition program. On Saturday, the gym is open for free. You have to give them the tools and opportunities to want to do better. And they will jump at that chance to do better.
Obesity affects us all. The only way to combat it is to stand together and help each other. We need to make a commitment to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So far Vicksburg residents have lost almost 15,000 pounds through Linda's weight loss initiative. To help Linda and her continued fight against fat, go to CNN.com/Heroes. We'll be back right after this.
BLITZER: Talking about Haiti with Sean Penn, the great actor. Sean, is the Obama administration living up to its commitment to the people of Haiti?
PENN: You know, that's a very good question. As I think you know, I've been very strong in my support of what the Obama administration initially ordered in Haiti. Certainly the United States military effort there was extraordinary. You know, this is -- this becomes such a political question, because we have to say where are our commitments? You know, if we had the troops that are deployed currently in Afghanistan in Haiti continuing the mission of Operation Haitian Relief, I think that the emergency concerns there would be a lot further along. It still is, in very many ways, in a state of emergency.
Clearly, there's not been enough pressure on the donors, including the United States, to come up with money. But Haiti is a very complex place, which brings us back to the conversation of who will lead the new Haiti, where a social revolution is so needed. I'm very hopeful that President Preval will address the General Assembly and talk about land deeding, for example. But what it doesn't need is a social revolution on the back of a cult of personality issue right now.
BLITZER: Sean, we have to leave it right there. But thanks to you and thanks to your group for everything you are doing. I want to thank Larry for letting me sit in tonight. I'm Wolf Blitzer. See you in "THE SITUATION ROOM" tomorrow. Enjoy your vacation, Larry. Time now for "AC 360."