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Caramel Coloring in Soda; Animal Planet Abuse; New Details on Brain Dead Mom Case

Aired January 23, 2014 - 08:30   ET

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


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities also investigating whether police gave him an escort between strip clubs.

It is going to be a cold winter weekend from the Carolinas to the Midwest and the Northeast. More snow could also arrive early next week.

Texas has executed a Mexican national convicted of killing a police officer. Mexico and the U.S. objected to the killing of Edgar Tamayo. The U.S. is concerned about safety of Americans abroad.

Security is tightening. Fifteen days away from the start of the Sochi Olympic games. An e-mail threat sent to the U.S. and to European countries warning of terror attacks is now being dismissed as not credible by the International Olympic Committee.

And at number five, the Maverick Surf completion is on in California. The one-day invite only contest set to happen tomorrow after forecasters determine the right mix of swell size and weather could make for 40-foot waves. Not for the faint of heart.

Always updating those five things to know, so be sure to go to newdaycnn.com for the latest.

Now, if you will, I'd like to add a sixth thing you should know if you're a soda drinker. When it comes to drinking soda, there may be a lot more to worry about than all those extra calories. According to Consumer Reports, a chemical found in the caramel coloring that's added to those soft drinks could actually cause cancer. Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

All right, let's talk about this because now we know that the FDA is also looking into this caramel coloring. What is the report, the Consumer Report saying?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So consumer reports looked at all sorts of different sodas and they found that two, Pepsi One and another one called Malta Goya, had high levels of these chemicals, or certainly higher levels than is allowed in the state of California.

Consumer Reports says this is a problem. They think that this chemical is a potential carcinogen. Now, the American Beverage Association says that their drinks are safe and the FDA, as you noted, they said, look, this chemical doesn't pose a health threat, but we are looking into it. We're going to look at a bunch of foods and we're going to review new data and maybe we'll issue new regulations.

PEREIRA: All right, so they think it's worthy of taking a second look.

COHEN: That's right.

PEREIRA: So what about us? If we're a pop or soda drinker, should we be drinking this, bottom line?

COHEN: You know, scientists really disagree on whether or not this chemical is a carcinogen. Some say it is. Some say it isn't. So this is how I look at it. If you're someone who's really risk averse, you could look at this and say, you know, I don't want to drink these sodas anymore. Other people might say, you know what, there's so much back and forth on this, I feel OK about drinking them. This ends up being an individual decision that you have to make because the science is clear.

PEREIRA: Get the information. Make a decision for yourself.

COHEN: There you go.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth Cohen, we appreciate you. Thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

PEREIRA: Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, a top rated Animal Planet show, "Call of the Wildman," you probably know of it, fighting charges now that animals are drugged and abused during their filming. We'll hear from the reporter who broke this story and also one of the show's producers to counter those accusations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A rack (ph) and roll (ph) line, wrap him up, pull him near me and the fight is over. I've got me a wild bossy (ph) turkey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That was Ernie Brown Jr., aka the "Turtleman," star of Animal Planet's hit show "Call of the Wildman." He's backwoods antics are the focus of the show, priding himself on catching and releasing critters back into the wild. But a "Mother Jones" investigation is calling its ethics into question. Allegations include whether producers on the show allowed a zebra in one of the episodes to be illegally sedated or if animals had been trapped and held without proper care for staged rescues. Joining us to talk about this and sort this all out, James West, senior producer for "Mother Jones," who wrote this investigative piece, and also Dan Adler, senior vice president of Sharp Entertainment, the company producing this show.

So let's discuss, guys, because as you well know, this piece has gotten a lot of reaction. James, let's walk through some of the allegations in the piece. It's a long piece. People should read it. Baby raccoons trapped, staged to be rescued, orphaned and then, after filming, they were very sick. Bats placed in a salon for filming for just for staging and then question (ph) -- a dead bat, more than one dead bat was found in the salon. The zebra, as we saw there, drugged during filming to make the zebra more manageable. An untrained production staff also handling animals. A mink being kept in a cage at a staffer's home for a week due to scheduling issues of the show. So, James, where's the proof?

JAMES WEST, SENIOR PRODUCER, MOTHER JONES: Well, what I can say is, this has been a long process for us. This has been a seven month investigation. We've interviewed eight people involved with the production of "Call of the Wildman."

We have government documents with numerous government public information requests. We have internal production documents as well. We also have a very rigorous fact checking staff who I put through the ringer and then some for this story. And we've presented a lot of the proof in the piece. I think it's - it's in the reading of the piece. As you say, it's a very long piece and a very detailed one.

BOLDUAN: And, Dan, I know your company, as well as Animal Planet, has been waiting to weigh in on this. So, please do.

DAN ADLER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, SHARP ENTERTAINMENT: Yes. Very much so. Well, thank you for having us on the show. I really appreciate that. I have four quick responses, and they're quick, in regards to the article because we have the opportunity now.

First and foremost, the idea that there is a culture of neglect or abuse on the show is completely false. As Animal Planet said in their statements that everyone on this show, from staff to (INAUDIBLE) love animals. The idea the animals are killed or drugged on "Call of the Wildman" is false.

James knows this. He put a salacious title out there to get attention towards it. It is not proof. It's meritless. No animals died on "Call of the Wildman." Drugging is not an aspect of "Call of the Wildman." No production has ever been involved with the drugging of an animal on "Call of the Wildman."

Number two, hundreds of animals have been saved on "Call of the Wildman." This show is about saving animals. Nuisance animals in Kentucky are customarily euthanized. This show believes giving those animals a second lease on life. Hundreds have been saved that way. And that's extremely important. So many shows out there kill animals for sport or for money. This show is about saving them.

BOLDUAN: Gentlemen, you're being very cordial to each other, but you cannot square these two things together.

ADLER: No, the - I - yes, that's right.

BOLDUAN: So?

WEST: Well, I mean, I can't speak for the investigation that Sharp has done into the allegations. We've given Sharp numerous opportunities and presented our case to them a number of times during our reporting and we'll continue to do so as this story develops. But I can speak for the investigation that we did. My task in this was to follow evidence-based journalism and we -

BOLDUAN: Any chance you could have been misled by a disgruntled employee?

WEST: We followed where the evidence took us. We corroborated the evidence. This was a very careful process. This isn't --

ADLER: Can I jump in here?

BOLDUAN: You're sitting right next to each other. Please do.

ADLER: Well, OK. This is old news. Nine months ago, one employee came forth with every single claim that James brought to our attention, nine months ago. We did an investigation then. At that time, we found most of those claims to be inaccurate. However, we still constantly make animal welfare the most important thing to us, so we instituted some changes at that point to further (ph) -

BOLDUAN: Well, I do want to ask you about that because it does say that - and Animal Planet put out a statement as well. We should let Animal Planet weigh in on this. But they said exactly what you said, that the notion that this culture of neglect at the only network that is devoted to celebrating and protecting animals they say is absurd.

But at the very same time, in just a couple graphs later, it talks about how the company that -- how -- where appropriate Sharp Entertainment instituted changes to further ensure the welfare of animals. So did this investigation bring to light that something bad was going on, though?

ADLER: No.

BOLDUAN: So what changes were made then?

ADLER: The changes that were made were this. We just looked at the production schedule and, you know, when you do production in television, over time, you see that changes can be made to further make the show better. At that point, we did the investigation and we found most of the claims meritless. As you will see in the article, you can read our responses, even though most of them were not included.

We respond to all those points. We decided at that time to bring on a USDA licensed animal handler to be in charge of the animal's welfare from start to finish of production. That's our sole job. We also instituted guidelines for handling of animals on set, which is read before every shoot and it goes through animal welfare points. It's read before every single shoot and everyone gets a hard copy of it. Animal welfare is beyond anything else the most important part of this show, which is why this is so frustrating for us. This shows --

BOLDUAN: So are you saying that James - I mean you would assume that Animal Planet's top priority would be animal welfare.

ADLER: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: That's where - that's where you make your money, the animals have (ph) - you know. Are you - are you lying - are you saying you're lying? I mean, I don't understand why we --

ADLER: I'm saying he's manipulate - I think he has information that's not correct and he's also manipulating situations that he has heard miss incorrect to make salacious false claims.

BOLDUAN: Why would you do that?

WEST: Well, I wouldn't do that to be perfectly frank with you, very upfront with you. I mean all we can - all we can say is we I've said before, which is, our - we stand by this investigation. We wouldn't have put my name on it, nor the name of our company on this if we didn't want to stand by this investigation.

And I wanted to clarify something just that Dan brought up early. During our conversations, Sharp admitted that some of these allegations came to their attention, but not all of these allegations came to their attention. This was a process for us over a number of months that a lot of -

ADLER: (INAUDIBLE)

WEST: What we explored during those conversations were clarified to me and were reflected in the article.

BOLDUAN: Real quick. Is a little -- is any element of this that we are -- you are exposing the reality that reality TV is not real, that it is staged? It happens in all reality shows. Is that where your beef is or is it more with the treatment of the animals here? I just want to make sure we get it out there.

WEST: Yes. And to be honest, I don't have any beef. I'm simply researching and reporting the sources that have raised concerns and questions with us over a number of months.

ADLER: So in (INAUDIBLE) the source (ph), one thing that struck us very odd, the one person who has a name and a face in the article, I'm not going to mention her name now, but you can read the article, she was never involved in the production of "Call of the Wildman."

The only source they use as a name was never involved in production. So the fact that her opinion is used as part of the furthering of the article is frustrating for us because I've worked on the show for three years - for three seasons and everyone involved and we're speaking from a real place of knowledge. The only individual speaking with their name was never involved in the production.

BOLDUAN: Well, definite -

WEST: Are you talking about Karen Bailey (ph) from the Kentucky Wildlife Center?

ADLER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Real quick.

WEST: Well, in fact, she was involved in the production.

ADLER: How (ph)?

WEST: She was helping producers in the field wrangle locations. She was on the phone with producers in the field. So I don't think it's entirely accurate.

ADLER: That was -

BOLDUAN: Really quickly, then we're going to wrap up.

ADLER: Sure. One phone call was put out to her, amongst many other places, as customary for our producers to do. She was one of many calls finding locations for potential shoots down the line. That was her involvement in the show.

BOLDUAN: Clearly this is not settled here today, but I do appreciate both of you coming in to actually have this discussion. The article and the topic has a lot of people talking online and beyond. So, thank you both, James West, Dan Adler. Great to meet you both. Thank you very much.

WEST: Thank you.

ADLER: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I've got to tell you, that was a model debate of differing viewpoints. Very interesting to listen to here. And we'll continue this story as it develops.

Now, we're going to take a break on NEW DAY.

When we come back, we're going to go from animal rights to human rights. What would you do? A pregnant, perhaps brain dead mother, kept on life support against her wishes, says her husband. You know about this story.

But there's new information this morning about the condition of the baby and how will that impact what is done here.

Please come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right.

We're going to turn now to the story about a mother who is believed to be brain dead in Texas. She is being kept on life support against her husband's wishes because she is pregnant. New this morning, we're learning that medical records call the fetus quote, "distinctly abnormal".

The story is actually about two questions. When does life begin and when does life end? Now the second question, the legal and medical equivalent of death has been worked on for years and has yielded enough guidelines that a judge may actually settle that part of the question in a case.

So the second question, when life begins is a continuing source of confusion for us that fuels debates about reproductive rights and stem cell research and the like. And that's one of the big reasons we're bringing this story because while on the face of it, this is the story of a family which is agonizing with the decision that none of us would ever want to be forced to make, whether or not to end someone's life, let alone two lives if you include the fetus, the baby that is in the stomach. However, there are also bigger issues that go along with it of law and policy and morality.

And joining us to continue this debate with the new information as we've done from the start, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin; it's great to have you both here.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

CUOMO: Just to set the table. This started with two medical professionals saying to each other, "If I am ever in this kind of situation, don't keep me on the machines. I don't want to be on them." It was not written down. It is not being echoed by anybody who can authorize that this is certainly what was wanted and yet then the worst happens.

The wife winds up being in an accident, has oxygen deprivation to the brain, is believed to be brain dead, on life support. Now comes the agonizing part, even worse, a baby is involved. She is pregnant; at the time, maybe 14 weeks pregnant.

The husband says she wanted to be taken off life support. The state comes in. Why? There's a Texas state law which says even if you are brain dead on life support, if you are pregnant, we keep you alive for the sake of the baby.

New information, the baby is said to be abnormal to a significant degree. The baby is also, we believe, now just about 20 weeks which, as anybody who has ever had a baby or knows anything about medicine knows it's a real age where you consider it a child.

That's where we begin. That's where we pick upon this. The new facts -- Sunny, do they change the situation for you? HOSTON: I don't think they change the legal analysis. And the family's lawyers have admitted that when they issued their statement indicating that the baby was developmentally abnormal. So I don't think it changed the legal analysis. I think it does change the discussion for a lot of people because this has been sort of the elephant in the room.

People are suspecting that perhaps they had this discussion, the mother and the father, but perhaps he doesn't want to have a child that's less than perfect and maybe that is sort of the driving force of why he wants to unplug her.

CUOMO: That's hard to believe, though, isn't it? Because, look, I -- we have kids. The idea of losing a spouse is just heart-wrenching, God forbid. But the idea that you wouldn't do everything to preserve that piece of her, let alone your child, it's counter intuitive.

HOSTIN: That's why it's so tragic, but I suspect if he believed all along that this child was going to be developmentally abnormal, and we know now that perhaps that is the case, a father without the mother, without his wife and grieving with another child to take care of, that makes sense, I think.

CUOMO: Is it all the more reason, Jeffrey, to honor the wishes of the family and go ahead?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Of course it is. I mean, remember this is not a politically neutral issue. This is a case about anti-abortion politics. This law is about telling women that the state of Texas, the legislature of Texas, knows better than you, knows better than your family when you should carry a child to term or not.

It's an anti-woman law that is subjecting this family to an additional horrific tragedy. I think -- the law is on the books as Sunny says, but I think it's a terrible law and I think it illustrates what happens when you take decisions away from people and their families and give it to politicians.

HOSTIN: And I really disagree with Jeff. And, Jeff, you know I love you, but I don't think this is a case that's a law that's anti-women. But I do think --

CUOMO: Because?

HOSTIN: Well, I think that it is more a case about a woman's general love for her child, quite frankly. And I think that when you look at all of the other states that have these kinds of laws and the situations that have come up where there have been birth -- brain dead women who have been pregnant, generally, the families want to keep the child. Generally, the women want to keep their child and try to make the child viable.

CUOMO: But that's still about the family's want as opposed to the state saying whether you have the right to choose. Isn't that true? HOSTIN: That is true. There's no question that I think this law is murky, it's unclear especially in this context. And the law now in this case is in the right place. It's before a court. It's going to go before a judge. When we have laws that are murky and unclear, it's for the courts to decide what happens next.

Not me. Not Jeff. Not you, Chris. It's for the courts to decide.

TOOBIN: No, I think precisely the opposite. There are certain decisions that are personal that shouldn't be before the courts. That shouldn't be before the state legislatures. Women making decisions about their own medical care -- they shouldn't have to go to court to decide what to do with their own bodies.

So, yes, it is true it's there now. I hope the courts make the right decision but I think the very existence of this law is an insult to women's rights.

CUOMO: I mean, Sunny, it does seem that it's difficult to see arguing in favor of this law, unless you are just a legislative purists where it's a law we must follow it, without having an echoed sentiment that I'm in favor of the rights of this child. And I will do anything I can to forward those rights as opposed to being someone who said, I believe in the rights of the mother and her right to choose.

HOSTIN: Yes. Well, I certainly -- I'm a person that sort of believes in the purity of the law. I think, you know, when there's a --

CUOMO: Is that what it is for you or are you also colored by the perception that I think this kid has a right to live.

HOSTIN: That is a significant part of it. But I do believe that the life that we are sort of dancing around in this discussion is the life of the child. You look at the statute, I don't think it's clear that the life of a child is not considered. They talk about life- sustaining measures that need to be taken for the care of the patient.

Well, you have two patients now. Right? You have the life -- you have a child --

CUOMO: But isn't the mom taken out of the equation?

TOOBIN: No, this is not a child. When we had -- when this woman had her stroke or the medical event, her fetus was 14 weeks. No fetus can survive at 14 weeks. It's now 20 weeks.

HOSTIN: It's still a life.

TOOBIN: No fetus -- well see this is a fundamental decision.

HOSTIN: And that's the question.

TOOBIN: Yes.

CUOMO: And why haven't we dealt with it. I'll tell you. Obviously we're going to get wrapped up on time. This story is going to continue but I want to leave it with this question. We as a society duck this question.

TOOBIN: Yes.

CUOMO: Why? There's a lot of money wrapped up in the politics and the religion and in the life -- when life begins. We spent the time on when life ends. We used to have the same confusion. We don't have it anymore.

If this woman is found brain dead by certain criteria, a court is going to rule that way. We're nowhere near it when it comes to life begins. Reproductive rights, stem cell research. It's all stymied by this question because you two, we three don't know when it begins --

HOSTIN: That's right.

CUOMO: -- if it's based on our faith more than science.

TOOBIN: Well I think we have laws in this country that say just because a woman is pregnant doesn't mean she can't control, make her own medical decisions.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Absolutely true.

TOOBIN: And that's what this case is about. That's what the abortion debate is about. And, you know, I have an opinion on that. But the Texas legislature has an opinion and that's what's controlling here.

HOSTIN: But the question still remains, when does life begin under the law? I think.

CUOMO: Agree?

TOOBIN: True enough.

CUOMO: That's the question we don't know the answer. To be continued. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Thank you for a wonderful show, everyone. We hope you have a good day but a lot of news still happening today. Let's go straight over to the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello for that.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, have a great day. And good morning to you.

I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Justin Bieber is now the newest pop star to fall from grace, as the 19-year-old was arrested early this morning on suspicion of street racing and DUI.