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PIERS MORGAN LIVE

Interview with James Ray

Aired November 25, 2013 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is Piers Morgan Live. Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world. Tonight, exclusive, the man with a secret, millions of people follow his teachings on the science of success, how to attract the life that you want. James Ray had it all, fame, fortune, even Oprah Winfrey. Listen to what he told back in 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES RAY, NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, "HARMONIC WEALTH": I had tears in our industry tell me, "You will never be on Oprah. You're not main stream on that." I said, "Baby, I'm the new mainstream."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And he was. But it all came crashing down October the 8th, 2009 at the foot of the right (ph) cliff at Sedona, Arizona and Native Americans starts sweat lodge built as hellacious spot, promising power breakthroughs the spiritual warrior is paying $9,000 each. After two and a half hours, 3 people are dead19 hospitalized and James Ray went to prison for nearly two years. Now, he is a free man with all other questions that remained unanswered about what happened that day in the desert.

And tonight, for the first time since getting out of jail, James Ray is here live to answer those questions.

I'm going to begin with the story of how it all went so very wrong for the King of Self-Help. Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY: Your greatest spiritual calling is to find your purpose in this lifetime.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CHICAGO: At the peak of his popularity, Self- Help author James Arthur Ray was one of the world's top motivators giving speeches, writing books that reached the New York Times best seller list, even catching the attention of Oprah.

OPRAH WINFREY: The truth again is this (ph) giving up the hope at the past could've been different.

RAY: Could've been ... WINFREY: Could've been different. You released that but through forgiveness, you're saying ...

RAY: Yeah, you say I don't want to be different because there's so many gifts that came out of that.

WINFREY: True forgiveness is ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for giving me that experience.

WINFREY: Thank you for giving me that experience.

ROWLANDS: He was also attracting flocks of people willing to pay thousands of dollars to attend his Self-Help boot camps. Part of his philosophy pushed his followers to test their physical limits, but on October 2009, near Sedona, Arizona, he pushed too far.

911 OPERATOR: What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two people aren't breathing. Two have no pulse.

911OPERATOR: OK. Is this the result of a shooting or something?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it was a sweat lodge.

911OPERATOR: A sweat lodge?

ROWLANDS: It was James Ray's version of a Native American sweat lodge ceremony where temperature's reportedly reached 120 degrees killing three of his followers and sending 19 to the hospital.

BEVERLY BUNN, SWEAT LODGE SURVIVOR: Everybody was throwing up everywhere. There was spitting going on. There was -- people were so disoriented, they were screaming. At one point in time because I know that they were yelling and yelling and yelling at this man because he was so disoriented that he actually started crawling into the pit with the hot rocks.

ROWLANDS: Witnesses say Ray instead of helping people get out wanted his followers to stay inside the sweltering sweat lodge tent even though they were over heating.

MELINDA HUDSON, FMR. EMPLOYEE OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY: He was trying to get these people not to leave and I heard him telling people in the outside to come back in.

ROWLANDS: Ray was charged with three counts of manslaughter for the deaths of 38-year old Kirby Brown, 40-year old James Shore, and 49-year old Liz Neuman. He faced up to 30 years in prison. After 54 days in court with 9 hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury duly and held and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oath do find the defendant, James Arthur Ray, on the offensive manslaughter as a result of the death of Elizabeth Neuman as follows not guilty.

ROWLANDS: Not guilty on manslaughter but the jury did find him guilty on the lesser charge of negligent homicide. At his sensing hearing, relatives of the victims were outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter did not choose to go unconscious in a tent, in an event that Mr. Ray run and then be ignored.

ROWLANDS: James Ray served 20 months in an Arizona prison. Today, he is a free man. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And James Ray now joins me exclusively. To my viewers, it's the first time he has spoken since coming out of prison after all this dreadful tragedy.

James Ray, first of all, how are you? You've served 20 months in prison, you've had a few months since you came out to reflect on what has happened. How are you in yourself and what do you feel about it all now that you served your punishment?

RAY: Well, I'm doing pretty well, Piers. I mean, I'm very sorry, remorsefully for what happened. I wish that I could change that and there's really no way that anything can change that. You know, I have apologized time and time again and it just -- it doesn't seem like that's enough.

It hasn't been easy for anyone, really. It's been very difficult for me and my family and yet, there's been a lot of learnings. I'm grateful for the learnings and the lessons that was brought.

MORGAN: That moment that you were convicted, I mean, that's the moment your life changes irrevocably, obviously you've been arrested, you've been charged but to actually be convicted of negligent homicide, being partly responsible for the deaths of three people.

To someone like you who is such a force of positivity that was a message you always spread of self-help, of getting over bad times in your life. This is a terrible moment for you. What was going through your head when you heard guilty negligent homicide?

RAY: Well, if I can back up a little bit. I think the most difficult thing I could ever imagine is investing your entire life in helping people and then finding them getting hurt. It's just the anti-thesis of everything that I had ever stood for or wanted. And so that anguish has continued every single day, since that moment on October 8th.

When I was sentenced, the hardest thing was that my mom, this is going to be tough. My mom had cancer. And so the first thing that went through my mind and I was her caretaker and I'd always been kind of the caretaker for the family. And so the first thing that went through my mind was, "Oh my God." you know, "What's going to happen to mom?" She had to have her thyroid removed in the midst of my trial and obviously that was tough. And then it metastasized in her lungs and liver and the doctor had told me it was a stage four at the time. And so, you know, that -- I can't describe how horrid I felt in my greatest fear of going into prison was that I would never see her again as she would pass while I was gone.

MORGAN: And what was the reality, how was she when you were in prison?

RAY: You know, it's interesting, Piers, that the first month that I was in and that was the better part of the first month. I was in a solitary confinement. The first couple of weeks, I was in what they called Hole which is where death row is. And so the point being is that I wasn't able to be in contact with my loved ones for the better portion of the first month.

And when I finally got to call her and I said, "Mom, I'm OK. Don't worry." It's interesting now, I mean she's in full remission. The -- I'm just thankful to God because it was a complete turnaround in which tells me that she had really stressed herself into a situation that, you know, I feel responsible for that as well.

MORGAN: So there'd be people watching and they're going to say, on a human level, we can see how traumatized you are, how upset you are. Obviously powerful what you just said about your mother. But she has survived the experience. You have survived the experience. Three people did not survive the experience. They paid big money, $9,000 each to come and have this extraordinary experience with you. You were very famous around the world at the time and they lost their lives.

When you look back on it, what is the single biggest regret about any aspect of the preparation, the planning, any of the things that led to these people dying?

RAY: You know, hindsight is 20/20 and there's a lot of things that I wish were different. And I said earlier there's no greater pain than attempting to help people and then end up they get hurt. I mean, it's just -- it's horrible and, you know, I think one of the great lessons, Piers, and there's been many more than we have time for here tonight but is -- when is good enough, good enough?

And that's been a tough one for me because all my life I've kind of been driven to bigger, better, best. And I reflect back on that particular week in the sweat lodge was that much. It was kind of the sizzle on a steak. It really was not what the week was about. And that's been really misinterpreted and misunderstood. And that whole week was so powerful and everybody was so high at the end of it. And then we have this graduation physical metaphor and, you know, if I'd stop when everyone was on a high. It would have been different.

The wind is good enough, good enough. I remember thinking, you know, everybody's on such a high and I'm really not into doing the lodge. I've done plenty of lodges. But, you know, the contracts were signed and the commitments were made and there was expectations and some people were looking forward to it and then I felt compelled to do the lodge and, you know, maybe again, the lesson is when is good enough, good enough.

MORGAN: Let's take a break. Let's come back and talk about what happened that day about what happened in that lodge because it became a death threat to three people, 19 more were injured. It was a horrifying particularly trying to work out how this could have happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY: Love attracts (inaudible) tracks like and as you lock your attention upon that then another particle which is in harmony with it is attracted and another is attracted, and another is attracted, and bang, you got a Mercedes, or boom, you got a motor head (ph), I mean. And that's how it works. This is science. What are you creating? What are you creating?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was James Ray in his prime in 2008 months later sweat lodge ceremony. He led for what he call spiritual warriors left three people dead. Ray, a best-selling author with the Oprah seal of approval has been 20 months behind bars. And tonight, telling you his story for the first time since his release live and exclusively.

So James, you know, your career was rocketing. You know you're paid on Oprah. Everyone was talking about you made I think $10 million in one year alone from all the stuff that you are doing. Life must have seemed as it looked from that clip. You're at the top of your game, super confident. Did that super confidence do you think lead to you getting greedy, cutting corners, having too many people at these things because the central allegation about the sweat lodge tragedy is that normally you would have between 15 and 20 people on these things and you had 55 to 60 I think.

RAY: Well, we had had 75 -- 73 to 75 the year prior. The lodge that was built was built specifically for a large group of people and it was built by the Native American that the facility we had paid had hired to built it. So if it ...

MORGAN: So, what happened? I mean, how could within an hour of this thing started and two and a half hour show that you put on the sweat lodge. How within an hour could 18 people be pretty badly injured and three people loose their lives? How does that happen in such an environment?

RAY: I don't know. Piers, I really don't know. And you know there's a lot of different ideas. I mean there was a lot of medical evidence that say that there were toxins involved. And then the state felt that it was too hot. And obviously the jury ultimately thought it was too hot. And we'll never really know because the lodge was destroyed within 48 hours of the accident. And so, you know, there was nothing to follow up on. MORGAN: What is the purpose of the lodge? You say it's a small part of the whole five-day thing but what is the specific purpose of the sweat lodge as part of the prices you were putting on.

RAY: Well that's, you know, I'm glad you asked that question because a lot of people believe the sweat lodge is a Native American tradition. It is a Native American tradition but there's a lot of other cultures that have used sweat lodges as well. The Greeks use sweat lodges. Many others. And so, it really depends on what tradition you go to, what the purpose was.

For me, it was a physical metaphor. You know change is hard. It's difficult. And so, it was a physical metaphor to be able to say, "After all this work I've done during the week to embrace and the heat on the deal with the issues that have haunted me. This I'm going to do. And metaphysically -- metaphorically rather I'm going to go in. I'm going to have this physical metaphor. It's going to be difficult which I warned them it would be.

MORGAN: And physically -- I mean it's punishing. So, you go inside, they were crammed in like sardines. And they're basically exposed to ever greater amount of heat. I mean that's how this works the sweat lodge. They sweat, right?

RAY: Correct.

MORGAN: And they're very hot.

RAY: Correct.

MORGAN: So what kind of barriers or controls that you have in practice given that it was clearly, potentially dangerous?

RAY: Well, obviously not good enough, you know. And again, as the captain of the ship I have to be responsible for that. And ...

MORGAN: Was there a heat limit that you used to have for the sweat lodge?

RAY: Well, you really don't know how hot. No one knows how hot it was in there because there's no thermostat or anything of that nature.

MORGAN: So people watching will say, "Why was he in there." And you've got nearly 60 human beings crammed into this vast sauna which is basically what it is. You know a sauna has to be regulated. Why was there no regulation?

RAY: There's no regulation for a lodge. I mean, again, in retrospect there's so many things that now knowing what I know could've been done differently. However broadband (ph) and numerous lodges and no lodge has a thermostat that I've ever been in. People were free to come and go. And, you know, the record showed that 16 did live when it got too hot for them.

MORGAN: Others have claimed that you sat by the tent door which remained sealed as chaos ensued, people were collapsing, vomiting, having trouble breathing, hallucinating, foaming at the mouth. I mean, it seems pretty extraordinary to somebody looking at this in the outside that the first thing you wouldn't do is say, "OK, let's stop and get everybody out of here." Again, why didn't you do that?

RAY: Well, I didn't know nor did anyone know that anyone was in a death -- in a life or death situation. I've been very physical all my life and what I noticed was a lot of people having challenges much like you would see on a marathon or any other physical activity. Had I known, I wish I would have known.

MORGAN: You didn't you see anybody suffering from any of those things? Nobody collapsing? Nobody is vomiting? No one having trouble breathing or hallucinating or foaming.

RAY: I didn't see any of the things. Those things were happening outside the lodge. And again as I've said, you know, my remorse there's many things I would do differently of all the physical metaphors that I did, the board breaks and fire walks and all those things which are rope (ph) courses which are extremely powerful for whatever reason, the lodge was the only one that I participated in. All the rest of them - and in retrospect, I'm not sure why.

MORGAN: Who was in charge that day in the lodge? Who was running the show? You?

RAY: Well I was in the lodge running the lodge which the prayers and the affirmations and all those types of things.

MORGAN: But were you in charge?.

RAY: Had I -- I was in charge to that degree.

MORGAN: So you have it in your power if you were genuinely concern by what was happening to just open up the flaps and let everybody out.

RAY: And we did. Every 15 minutes, we open or there about as we open up the flaps. And people were free to leave, come and go. And there was people outside standing around. And again in retrospect, I probably should not have participated because I was dealing with the same issues that many of people inside were dealing with.

MORGAN: That there was an allegation. A woman said that you were asked if she could open up the back of the sweat lodge to get two victims out. You told her, "Be sacrilegious to remove the tops and blankets covering the wood frame." Is that true? And if is so why?

RAY: I don't recall that at all, Piers.

MORGAN: Did you recall anybody saying to you, "I've got to be out of here"?

JAMES RAY: I do and I recall people leaving.

MORGAN: Were they panicky? JAMES RAY: Some people wanted to quickly exit and one of the things I told them in the set up was to go our clockwise carefully because obviously there's a pit of hot rocks in the center. So, you know, I was doing my best to control their movement out in a controlling manners so they wouldn't fall in to the pit. One gentleman actually ended up hurt himself in the pit.

MORGAN: Let me see, it seems to -- when you what happened and the scale of it, the number of people that were clearly suffering pretty dramatically, it just seems extraordinary that nobody in any position of authority called a halt of this. I mean, you must live with that I guess everyday now, that guilt because it cost three people there lives. And it just pop the question "Why was nobody being more responsible?" I guess.

RAY: I had systems in place and the systems broke down.

MORGAN: What was the system in place for that kind of eventuality?

RAY: There were people positioned within the lodged that were supposed to take care of the participants. And, you know, there were people positioned outside the lodge. They were to take of people and we had, you know, I mean, the record, we deliberated that, you know, ad infinitum in the trial. We did our best to provide, you know, all the things outside the lodge that for hydration, et cetera because I've done this experience for a number of years. And we've never had anything even close to this.

MORGAN: You've had people injured, right? You have at least three different instances with people who had suffered some kind of health issue or injury.

RAY: No, there was time that a gentleman was taken to the hospital two years prior and for hydration. And he would -- and he was dehydrated. He got hydrated. They send him back within a couple of hours. And so we immediately put in some hydration mechanisms post that year because we realized, "Hey, we want to addressed this." We were -- I was totally shocked, totally shocked.

MORGAN: Let's take another break. I want to come back and play the dramatic 911 call to alert the authorities to what was going on here. And also hear from some of the relatives of the victims and get you to respond to what they say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: What's the problem?

CALLER: Two people aren't breathing. Two have no pulse.

911 OPERATOR: OK, is this the result of a shooting or something?

CALLER: No, it was a sweat lodge.

911 OPERATOR: A sweat lodge?

BEVERLY BUM: He made one comment and they did say, "She's passed out, she's passed out, I don't know if she's breathing", and he said "The door has now closed and this round has begun, we'll deal with that at the end of this round."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: This is 911 Call from the sweat lodge and the survivor of the tragedy talking about what happened. James Ray spent two years behind bars (inaudible) after three of his followers died. He's back with me now exclusively speaking out for the first time since his release.

You got a lot of reaction on Twitter and give me your views at Piers Morgan if you want to join in this debate. A lot of people saying, come on the guy is just hold these people in, making loads of money out of him, maybe $10,000 each but packing them in as much as he could didn't really give a damn and just want to do his thing and get out of there. What do say to that?

RAY: I understand. I mean, if the only thing I knew about me was when I saw in most recent media coverage. I would think I was arrogant, self-centered and non-caring.

The truth is ...

MORGAN: Were you before that day? Had you become a bit like that, you know, what's the clips of you does a supreme confidence, many would see it as arrogance. It was all about making money, success, be famous. Did it go to your head a bit? Did you make yourself subliminally cut corners?

RAY: I don't know, Piers. But I'll answer the first part of your question. Was I arrogant? Yes. I have that characteristic. I can be arrogant. And I think there's a lot of Hebrews (ph) that comes in my former business. You know, people flying all over the world and asking me how to have a better life. And it tends to go to your head, you know, you tend to think you got all the answers. And so you get humbled.

MORGAN: When you were told that people have died, three people have died, what was your immediate reaction?

RAY: Shocked, denial, disbelief I couldn't comprehend it, anguish. Like I said it's the greatest pain I could -- I can imagine is to really care about helping people and end up seeing them getting hurt.

MORGAN: I mean, people who heard you said earlier reacted quite strongly and said, "Well no, the greater pain is to a be relative of somebody who died in your lodge that day, "and I want to play a clip now. This is from Kirby Brown one the victims who's 38 in Westtown New York, this is her mother talking about what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIRGIANA BROWN: How many people walked passed my daughter in her last moments trying to grasp -- gasp for breath and didn't help her, how do you live with that? Someone was working to revive her outside the tent and I don't know that they were even trained to do CPR, how do you live with that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: How do you live with that and what would you say to a mother who has lost her daughter in such circumstances.

RAY: I'm terribly sorry. It -- It's not easy to live with, you know, it's something I've thought about every single day and will continue to.

MORGAN: Do you fell guilty for what happened?

RAY: It was my event. It was my lodge, I designed it, not the lodge, I designed to event, I chose to do the lodge and to that degree I'm responsible. I am as the captain of the ship, I have to take responsibility for that.

MORGAN: That there was an allegation that you left the scene pretty quickly, and just disappeared, is that true, and if so why did you leave so fast?

RAY: You know, Piers I wish I could say that I was enlightened enough to not have any impulse for self-preservation, I'm not. I - Within the first five minutes the detective told me that they were investigating as a homicide and I was already in shock and I was like, what, and I called my lawyer and my lawyer said, get out of there. I've told him what the detective said, he said get out of there, they'd seized my room, there was nowhere to go and so I left and again there's many things I wish in retrospect I could do differently, I mean, but I was scared.

MORGAN: Right. I think that's perfectly understandable you'd be scared but it also will appear to people that was pretty cowardly, rather than as you say the captain of the ship would normally stay there and right to the end, but you fled and left this catastrophe behind you.

RAY: I wouldn't argue. You know, I wish I was strong enough to say in the moment to my council -- I've never been there before, I was in a situation where I was scared and I was shocked and I didn't -- and, you know, again I wish I was enlightened enough to say that I could overcome that, but I wasn't.

MORGAN: Were you a nice person then when you look back in yourself. Did you look back at yourself with a certain degree of disgust perhaps at your actions and recognize that there was a character trait in you that you had to change?

RAY: There was definitely character traits in me that hadn't changed and there's still are. I don't know that I would say disgust, you know, I'm human and I think I had to go to prison to learn some things that I couldn't learn anywhere else. Scared the hell out of me to go.

MORGAN: What was the single biggest thing you learned from the time in prison.

RAY: There's so many. I think the biggest thing I've learned, there's a lot of things but, is that I felt like I imprisoned -- I -- first of all I was scared to death when I went in, I didn't know if I was going to be beat up or stabbed or raped, you know, all I knew about prison was what I saw on the movies and I was scared.

MORGAN: And when you find yourself on those first few weeks as you've said on with death row inmates is about as low as your life could possibly have gotten coming from down this huge high, what the hell were you thinking as you've said in yourself?

RAY: I had to play mental games with myself because I had to wear shackles to the shower. You know, you get a shower twice a week and you have to be escorted in shackles to the shower. And it was amazing experience, you know, but the back ...

MORGAN: Humiliating?

RAY: Well, humbling. Humbling. You know, it was filthy and it was disease ridden but at the end of the day, I met a lot of really interesting people. And, you know, back to what I learned there, when I first got there, Piers, I saw everyone else and then me. And then the longer I was there, I just saw us. And I felt like I was in the boiler room on -- in the bowls of the ship of humanity. And in the boiler room it's hot and we fight and we scrap and we'd hate drugs nonstop believe it or not. And we tattoo our gang affiliations all over our face and bodies to try to show our importance and escape our pain.

Up in the penthouse of the same ship, they're still the same pain. You know, we cheat with our best man's wife and we have to build our business bigger and make more money, and we tattoo with jewelry and cars and houses. The pain is the same. It's the human experience. The only difference is how we try to escape it. And that's the great lesson, one of the great lessons. The many that I've learned.

MORGAN: Let's take on a break. Let's come back and talk about coming out of prison, about the future, and about the call from many of the relatives of those who died on the sweat lodge. There should now be regulation and I know some guarantees from you personally that you won't repeat this kind of thing going forward. We'll get your reaction to that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAWN BOWEN, AT SWEAT LODGE ON THE DAY OF INCIDENT: It's a really loud and clear message to people in the self-help industry especially providers that if you're going to misuse your power, if you're going to convince people to follow you, if you're going to convince people to trust you and be vulnerable with you and then you leave them in a harm's way, you are now going to be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Strong words from the eyewitness to the sweat lodge tragedy. Back with me now is a man who spent 20 months in prison after three of his followers died, James Ray.

James, a huge reaction on Twitter to this and I'm going to say lot of it quite condemnatory and saying you keep talking about the pain you suffered. What about the families? And it's going to be harsh given that you, you know, you tried to explain your feelings in that sentence, but surely (ph) the families are watching, they might will be to see how you are and to see how you may have changed. What would you say to them?

RAY: First of all again, I'd say I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry for what happened, you know, if I could trade places with any of the three James, Kirby or Liz I would do it and I can't and I know nothing I can say could -- can ever change any of that.

I, you know, in reaction to your comment before the break. I mean I have to intentions whatsoever of certainly ever doing another sweat lodge and nor doing any experiential activities, you know, and ...

MORGAN: Will you do any kind of self-help ...

RAY: I don't know.

MORGAN: ... stuff, you thought about that?

RAY: I don't know. You know, Piers ...

MORGAN: You could be in an even better position now to help people who had been through a nightmarish experience.

RAY: I hope so. I think, you know, I think we're all here to serve. And, you know, some people entertain, some build business, some teach and my personal belief is that the universal intelligence which many people call God send situations to you to help you learn and to become a better person.

MORGAN: You lost not just your liberty but most of your money.

RAY: All of it.

MORGAN: I actually by chance went to view a house in L.A. and it turned out to be your house you happen to sell at a bottom rate because you just had to sell everything. Did you lose everything financially?

RAY: Everything. MORGAN: How much did you have before all this?

RAY: Millions.

MORGAN: 10, 20 million?

RAY: You know it's a lot of my money was tied up in my business and in hard assets. I ...

MORGAN: I mean, did it go for a month (inaudible) to go from that kind of wealth to getting wiped out and to lose your liberty. It's a huge toll on anybody. But do you think looking back it was an appropriate punishment given that three people had paid money to be in your tutelage lost their lives?

RAY: I have no complaints. I, you know, I feel like I've taken the punishment and that God gives us what we deserve.

MORGAN: You came here tonight with a delightful lady, she's sitting here watching this whole interview. Tell me about that relationship in the future for you.

RAY: You know, all the things that we -- here's another lesson if I may digress. All the things that we hold in such high value in our society, at the end of the day really amount to nothing. That's my lesson. You know. The millions that I once had in the bank, the New York Times best seller, all the accolades, the Inc 500 Company, all those things amount to nothing. I mean, in a matter of months they were gone and they couldn't buy me one ounce of slack with my -- on my mortgage or anywhere else.

And so, coming back, I believe that the most important things in life are the things that we sometimes take for granted like our health, you know. I'm so grateful to be healthy and in our family and our loved ones. You know, I had an incredible family unit that stayed with me through all this and it was hard for them. It's really hard for them.

MORGAN: And this lady that you came with tonight?

RAY: She's in that category, you know. She didn't have to stay with me through it. You know, she drove five hours one way to visit me for four hours to drive back five hours in the same day, you know, time and again. It has been hard for her. She's -- She had three jobs, you know. I couldn't because I was wiped out, I couldn't help her, I couldn't take care of her in a way that I would have liked to. And when I went away, my brother drove 22 hours one way to come visit me and also to come to my trial and sit to the trial and then turn around and drive 22 hours back throughout the night.

I mean, I'm very, very grateful. I have no complaints at all. And I'm incredibly grateful.

MORGAN: What did your mother say to you finally? I mean, now to see you were talking very emotionally about her at the start of the interview, when you came out what did she say to you? RAY: My mom is my greatest supporter. It always has been. She was always so proud of me and, you know, one of the greatest pains was to have to see in her eyes as I all of these horrible things were being said about me, she was just glad I was home and safe.

MORGAN: James Ray, I appreciate you coming in. I appreciate you talking so openly about this. I know it's not been easy for you. And I wish you all the best in solving out your future and getting your life back on track.

RAY: I appreciate it.

MORGAN: Good to see you. When we come back, the monster storm that's threatening your whole day travel plans, where it will strike next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: 43 million Americans are traveling this weekend with the Thanksgiving holiday and if you're one of it -- excuse me, CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers had some pretty bad new for you. Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Lots of the latest bad news. Hey lots of people going many places. Now, you know what this was a different week. Probably you don't even wait to come to me this late in the night. But the problem is we have 40 something million people trying to travel, still thousands of airplanes in the sky right now. People aren't getting to where they want to on time. And that's a couple of days before the weather really gets going. Part of the problem D.C. tomorrow morning you get the 32 and it tries to rain. That's not going to be a good combination. The moisture is coming out of the golf of Mexico. It's humid, it's just rain. But the problem is its cold up here. The rain is going to try to fall into temperatures that are approaching 30 degrees.

So you go 35 degrees a loft like a thousand feet up. But when it rains down to where you are, it's 30, 31, 32 degrees and its rise to freeze. That freezing rain is a real problem. So, rain to cross the Deep South, this 6 a.m. tomorrow starting to get some light snow across D.C. but the problem is west of there. All of these inner states, all of these roads across Pennsylvania the through way (ph) the turn pike 80, 90, 66 they all will have ice and snow to the west of the big cities.

Now, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia all rain. This is not snowmageddon for you but there will be an awful lot of snow to the west into the areas that people are probably trying to drive through. Piers.

MORGAN: And Chad if you do make it, what's the prognosis for Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

MYERS: Yeah. When we get to Friday it's all done. But the problem is the winds are going to be blowing at 40 miles per hour. And I don't think all the airports are going to -- would be reacting with that big wind as well as they should. They're definitely slow down. Some people may have a couple excuses not to get to work on Monday.

MORGAN: Chad Myers, let's wish everybody all the very best in getting to their families for Thanksgiving and thank you for that update. 50 years ago today John F. Kennedy was laid to rest. The images are heartbreaking, the brave widow, the slain president's family and three-year-old John-John saluting his father's casket.

Later tonight, CNN remembers with the assassination of President Kennedy at 10 Eastern.

Stay with us, we'll be right back with my thoughts on this after the break.

TARAN KILLAM: Good evening. And welcome to Piers Morgan Live.

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MORGAN: Before we go tonight, one of my favorite T.V. moments of the weekend Taran Killam and my friends from Saturday Night Live proving that imitation really is a serious form of flattery.

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KILLAM: I'm Piers Morgan, the tiny little fool of news. It's been a busy year for George Zimmerman. First, he was acquitted of murder then detained after dispute with his ex-wife and this week, he was arrested for assaulting his new girlfriend. Here to tell her side of the story is his girlfriend Samantha Scheibe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Piers.

KILLAM: Samantha, first thing's first, do you ever have doubts about dating the George Zimmerman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, of course Piers. I'm not a target.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Just got one thing to say to you Taran Killam and that is, I'm not tiny. I'm 6 foot 1. That's all for us tonight. The assassination of President Kennedy, a CNN Special starts right now.