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Harsh Criticism of President Bush From Former White House Insider; Israel's Defense Chief Demanding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Step Down; A Cancer That Discriminates; Oprah Winfrey's Media Empire in Trouble?
Aired May 28, 2008 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
You'll see events come into the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday, May 28th.
Here's what on the rundown.
Iraq by the book. A former White House press secretary slamming President Bush over the Iraq war.
HARRIS: Florida -- critical to Hillary Clinton's long-shot chances. Political activists in court today forcing to get Florida's delegates seated.
COLLINS: Killed during war by an unseen enemy. Improperly grounded electrical equipment. A CNN investigation in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: He served as the public voice of the Bush White House. Today Scott McClellan is speaking out and some say selling out the Bush White House. A bombshell memoir and allegations of deception and propaganda. The response -- swift and angry.
CNN's Elaine Quijano is at the White House.
And Elaine, from the excerpts of the book out so far, most of the criticism seems to be leveled at some of the people serving the president.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. He does -- in fact, Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary, in this book lashes out. Here it is. It is called "What Happened." The full title, "Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." The book, 341 pages long, sending shock waves throughout Washington.
In it, McClellan blasts the Bush administration for, among other things, Iraq. And on that topic, McClellan writes that the president, quote, "He and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and sustain public support during a time of war. In this regard he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security."
Now, no official comment yet from the White House, but last night former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend fired back on "AC360."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FMR. BUSH HOMELAND SEC. ADVISER: I think people need to understand that as an adviser to the president, I or Scott have an obligation, a responsibility to voice concerns on policy issues. Scott never did that on any of these issues as best I can remember and as best I know from my White House colleagues. So it's...
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Never spoke out?
TOWNSEND: No. And so for him to do this now, frankly, strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous, and unprofessional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now we should mention that McClellan did speak briefly to my colleague Ed Henry and said that he stands behind the accuracy of this book.
Again, Tony, we are still awaiting official White House comment. We're looking for that later today -- Tony?
HARRIS: Well, Elaine, just a quick follow here. It's clearly not the book the administration expected as someone who traveled from Texas to Washington with the president, a Bush loyalist, we must say. The administration could not have seen this kind of criticism coming.
QUIJANO: Yes. You know, and that's absolutely right. You know, there were no indications of any kind of bad blood between Scott McClellan and the Bush administration when McClellan announced his resignation back in April of 2006, almost two years ago. In fact, I can recall at that time there were really some warm words exchanged between McClellan...
QUIJANO: ... and President Bush.
Let's take a listen to what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of these days he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas talking about the good old days of his time as the press secretary. And I can assure you, I will feel the same way then that I feel now, that I can say to Scott, job well done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: So, the bottom line here, Tony, is what makes this memoir so particularly stunning is not necessarily just what is being written, what has been written here, but who has written it. As you point out, Scott McClellan is a formerly staunch Bush loyalist who dates back to 1999 when President Bush was then governor of Texas. They go back a long way.
Certainly, a lot of people here in Washington saying they simply did not see this coming -- Tony?
HARRIS: It is the talker of the morning. Elaine Quijano at the White House for us.
Elaine, thank you.
COLLINS: So who is Scott McClellan?
Here's a look at his career highlights. McClellan served as spokesman for George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas. Then in 2003, McClellan replaced Ari Fleisher as White House press secretary. In April of 2006, as you just heard, McClellan announced he was resigning. At that time, President Bush praised him for, quote, "a job well done."
HARRIS: How the west is won. Three presidential candidates campaigning in western states today.
Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is holding a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada. He met up with President Bush for a private fundraiser in Arizona yesterday. The closed-door event raising an estimated $3 million.
On the Democratic side, Barack Obama rallied supporters this afternoon at a town hall meeting in Thornton, Colorado. Hillary Clinton shifts from Montana to South Dakota, holding rallies there this afternoon and evening.
COLLINS: A court hearing next hour in Tampa, Florida, is part of one voter's battle to seat Florida's Democratic delegates.
CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is in Tampa now with the very latest.
This is very interesting, Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is. Good morning, Heidi.
This Democratic Party activist, Victor Dimaio, is back in federal court again over a lawsuit that he filed against the Democratic National Committee last August. He's taking the party to task for punishing Florida over staging its primary early.
But he also claims that the party used ethnic origin and race for allowing Nevada and South Carolina to hold its primary and caucuses early because of the state's large Hispanic and black populations.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VICTOR DIMAIO, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: We decided this is not right, this is wrong.
CANDIOTTI (voice over): Political consultant Victor Dimaio and his lawyer, Michael Steinberg, the two-man team taking on the Democratic National Committee, suing to make Florida's January primary vote count.
DIMAIO: This is nuts. I mean this is not right. I mean how can they ignore Florida? I mean of all the things we Floridians have suffered through, through hanging chads, through Bush versus Gore, and you know, they're sticking it to us again.
CANDIOTTI: Their lawsuit was filed last August.
Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman L.C. Hastings also sued, but their case was thrown out of court by a different judge. DNC chair Howard Dean won't budge.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: You cannot violate the rules of the process and then expect to get -- be forgiven for it.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Why shouldn't the DNC be able to make its own rules?
MICHAEL STEINBERG, ATTORNEY: But the rules have to comply with the United States constitution.
CANDIOTTI (voice over): Steinberg dusted off the constitution and based his case mainly on the 14th amendment. "No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Steinberg says in 1940 the Texas Democratic Party would not allow blacks to vote in a primary and the U.S. Supreme Court making national headlines ruled in favor of black voters. He compares that case to Florida's battle with the DNC.
STEINBERG: Now, the Democratic Party is arguing, oh, you had a right to vote, we just weren't going to count it. But it's like saying, OK, black people can vote in the Democratic primary. We just won't count your vote. If you don't count the vote, then it does -- then it's not the right to vote.
DIMAIO: This is not about Victor Dimaio or even Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. This is about the poor suffering voters of Florida wanting their vote to count.
CANDIOTTI: So, again, the DNC says it has the constitutional right to make its own rules without interference by the courts. Now, Dimaio says that he hopes for a quick decision because, remember, on Saturday the rules committee of the DNC is meeting in Washington to try to settle Florida and Michigan's primary fiascos. And Dimaio says if he loses, he plans on appealing to the Supreme Court -- Heidi? COLLINS: I bet he does. All right, Susan Candiotti, we know you'll be following that one for us as well. Thank you.
HARRIS: Got some startling new figures this morning on the number of U.S. troops with posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is here with details.
And Barbara, good morning.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.
They call it the wound you cannot see, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, the stress of being in combat, and the number of troops now diagnosed with this very sad problem is reaching record levels.
The army published some numbers yesterday indicating that since the war began in Afghanistan in 2003, now with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.
The jump has come really in recent years. Last year, 2007, 14,000 cases, and look at it compared to the year before, in 2006, just over 9,000 cases. And that's for all members of all military services.
And what the Pentagon tells us is the real numbers could be significantly higher because these are only the cases that have been diagnosed. It's still a very tragic fact to report that many military members do not report their symptoms because they believe the stigma of seeking mental health treatment will hurt their careers.
That's something Secretary Bob Gates is trying to change. He's trying to tell the troops, please, get help when you need it -- Tony?
HARRIS: Well, Barbara, I apologize in advance for the leading question because I kind of know what's coming here.
HARRIS: Any more bad numbers expected to come out of the Pentagon (INAUDIBLE)?
STARR: Yes, you bet, Tony. We are told that sometime this week, in fact, the army is finally going to publish the suicide numbers for its troops in the year 2007. That, too, Tony, is expected very tragically to take a jump.
We will get the final numbers later this week, but every expectation is that the army will report that suicide numbers for its active duty troops reached a record level since the war began in 2007, Tony.
HARRIS: Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for us this morning.
Barbara, thank you.
COLLINS: Jacqui Jeras over at the Severe Weather Center for us today, because we are talking about more tornadoes and damage from them.
COLLINS: Why? Are we going to the tropics? Is that why it's getting interesting?
JERAS: We wish we were all going to the tropics.
HARRIS: Yes. And this might not be the time. All right.
JERAS: (INAUDIBLE) coming.
COLLINS: Yes, it doesn't sound good.
COLLINS: All right, Jackie. We'll check back later. Thank you.
Helping survivors in the quake zone. An iReporter's amazing story from China coming up next in the NEWSROOM.
ANNOUNCER: "Weather Update" brought to you by...
HARRIS: Good morning again, everyone. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
Killed in war but not by the enemy. Her son was electrocuted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he went to answer the door, and he could hear the boots coming in the door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Faulty equipment costing lives in Iraq and heartbreak at home. CNN investigates in the NEWSROOM.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.
COLLINS: A sense of urgency in China this morning. There's a growing danger from more than two dozen quake lakes, lakes that are created by landslides after that earthquake two weeks ago.
Right now, crews are using heavy earth-moving equipment to build spillways in order to relieve the pressure.
The Chinese government are calling the quake lakes problem the most urgent task it's dealing with.
So far, about 158,000 people in downstream communities have been evacuated. But that number could rise to around 1.3 million.
The death toll from the quake has risen to over 68,000 and more than 19,000 people are still missing.
HARRIS: You know so many people fleeing for higher ground afraid the quake lakes could cause massive floodings.
CNN Wilf Dinnick visited one town emptied by fear.
WILF DINNICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is a ghost town. We're in Jiuling. It's a collection of about 11 villages, about 10,000 people, and the people here have fled very quickly. You can see some of them not even taking the time to shut the windows to their homes.
Now the people here have left so quickly because they're concerned about those monster quake lakes, specifically, the big one, which is about 20 kilometers away. They're worried it will slide and spill down into the low lands here in Jiuling.
We also ran into some other vegetable farmers not far away. They're packing up their last bits of crops. They're worried that this river here and rivers throughout the area will flood their banks, ruin the homes, perhaps even threaten lives.
So here in Jiuling, two people have shut down their businesses, left their homes. A few stragglers around picking up their last bit, but most of them heading for the highlands. And in this case, it's way off in the distance there where there are government-supplied tents and much-needed aid.
Now the people here are told they're going to be there for about 10 days until the situation is safe and the government can insure that that huge quake lake won't explode and flood down here into Jiuling.
Wilf Dinnick, CNN, Jiuling, China.
COLLINS: (INAUDIBLE) iReporters on the devastating quake in China. A doctor and his wife traveled to one hard-hit town to treat survivors.
Veronica De La Cruz is joining us now with more on that story, and what a story it is.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: It really is. You know he said he saw this one photo that really did it for him. He saw this group of school children killed by the quake, and that is when he knew that he had to help. He got together a team of seven people, and they have been treating, Heidi, what he describes as an endless procession of those in need of help.
He says he's seeing fractures in every place a body can have, lacerations, dislocations, infections from walking through the mountains for days. Some have suffered debilitating deformities. He says most, all will be under severe psychological strain once the shock wears off.
Take a look. This is a photo of the doctor treating an elderly woman rescued from her demolished home. He said that she suffered head injury, a fractured arm, dehydration, and when he found her, Heidi, she was unconscious but they were able to treat her successfully.
Now he's been blogging his experience. He writes, "Case after case of physical, emotional and psychological distress and pain. Too many to even begin to tell of. Whatever I do here is not enough nor will it ever be. But I will try as will the rest of the world."
COLLINS: I'm curious after all this, his name, which was not given -- is he not wanting to give his name?
DE LA CRUZ: No. It's Dr. Matt Marko.
DE LA CRUZ: Dr. Matt Marko. You can find out all about him by logging on to ireport.com. And he has been working in his makeshift medical clinics for about two weeks now and he says what's most difficult is the children.
I want to show you this iReport. This is the children in the first camp he visited. He said that, Heidi, he was giving them small jobs to help keep them busy, help keep their minds off everything that's been happening. And he says so many of them have lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and they've been left orphaned by this quake.
So for now, Dr. Marko says he's done as much as he can, but he has depleted his own personal funds in doing so. On this entire journey, he says he's treated more than 1,200 people.
DE LA CRUZ: And, of course, you can read all about his blog, all his pictures, ireport.com is the place, and some really, really powerful words.
COLLINS: Yes. Anytime you see the pictures of the kids, I mean, you think about how many parents have been lost. We know a lot of children have been lost as well. It's just a horrible situation. So it's nice to see somebody really pitching in.
Appreciate it. Veronica De La Cruz, thanks. And remember, you can help, too. At CNN.com, we do have a special page on the devastation in China and Myanmar, plus links to aid agencies that are organizing help for the region. It's a chance for you to "Impact Your World."
HARRIS: Gas prices typically go down after Memorial Day. OK. We're waiting.
COLLINS: Three weeks and counting. Every day you are paying more to fill up your gas tank. In fact, new record gas prices.
Today's average $3.49 for a gallon of unleaded. That is up more than half a cent from yesterday. Diesel is averaging almost $4.78 a gallon.
Diesel is what trucks use, of course, to bring things to your stores.
But oil prices are down for a second day now, trading lower than $127 a barrel this morning. And demand for autos and airplanes way down in April.
The government says transportation items dragged down durable goods orders, so orders for other big-ticket items like appliances surprisingly strong.
HARRIS: You know, it is likely to be the summer of airline travelers' discontent.
CNN's Ali Velshi explains.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you're about to book an airline ticket, you may want to brace yourself for the perfect storm. Not one inflicted by Mother Nature, but by soaring oil prices.
Rising fuel costs are forcing airlines to take drastic action, including raising their ticket prices, overbooking flights, charging for extra bags, and selling premium seats.
Passengers aren't happy.
UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: It's reaching an all-time low. I mean, it's (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: They cut out all the amenities and stuff like that. I mean, it's just like a cattle call.
UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: I understand to some degree why they're having to charge more, but the delays and some of the service interruptions actually are very frustrating.
UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: Giving people a reason not to go anywhere. It's too hard.
VELSHI: In fact, according to the University of Michigan's American customer satisfaction index, overall customer sentiment toward airlines is at its lowest point since 2001.
The airline industry blames the U.S. government. The Air Transport Association, which represents the major U.S. carriers says, quote, "Until the government begins the transformation to a modern air traffic control system, we are going to continue to have delays which result in missed connections, mishandled bags, and passenger complaints."
Just last week, American Airlines said it was taking drastic measures to offset higher fuel prices. The nation's largest carrier said it's charging passengers $15 for the first bag they check. There will also be other fees of up to $50 for services ranging from reservation help to oversize baggage.
The carrier is also cutting a number of domestic flights, retiring some gas-guzzling aircraft, and laying off workers. All, it says, because of high fuel costs. And it makes for a truly grueling travel experience.
RICK SEANEY, CEO, FARECOMPARE.COM: I think it's an overall issue that, you know, with delays and cancellations, completely full flights, I don't know if we can actually have a good time on a flight anymore.
VELSHI: Not only is the experience of flying getting worse, there could be even fewer flights to choose from.
Overall worldwide, flights increased by 40,000 in May. That's half of the number from the month before. And overall flights in the U.S. were down by 23,000 in May. That's more than 1.5 million seats.
So get ready for a tighter fit in economy class. From the look of things, the air flying experience for millions of passengers could be bumpy for quite a while.
Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.
COLLINS: Corruption scandal robs Israel. Will it cost the prime minister his job? We'll take you live to Jerusalem.
ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins and Tony Harris.
COLLINS: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
HARRIS: And good morning, welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. And we want to take you to the New York Stock Exchange right now. Anticipatory applause, ready to sound the bell to get the business day started.
When we do, the Dow starts the day at 12548 after picking up, oh, 68 points yesterday. A short work week because of the Memorial Day holiday, Memorial Day Monday.
Listen for it. There it is. Pause, listen. And we're out of the gate.
I tell you, we could use a big week after the carnage of last week and looking forward, stocks are poised for cautious start today according to our friends at CNNmoney.com. And we're going to be following markets throughout the morning. A market check coming up shortly with Susan Liscovicz right here in the NEWSROOM.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Among our top stories this morning, harsh criticism of President Bush coming from a former White House insider. CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a look.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thank Scott for his service to our country.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two years later, the former press secretary stuns his old boss with charges of deception and denial deep inside the White House.
Scott McClellan's accusations against President Bush and some of his most trusted advisers are shocking and spilled out in his new 341- page book.
BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
COOPER: Some of the strongest attacks against the Bush White House concern Iraq. Listen to what McClellan said to the American people back in 2005.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 30, 2005)
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And there have been some that have tried to suggest that we don't have a plan. I know some congressional members of Congress have -- Democratic members of Congress have suggested that, and they are flat-out wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's what he said then. But, in his new book, McClellan claims Bush and his top lieutenants used propaganda to drum up support for the war, writing: "He and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security." McClellan also sharply criticizes the White House over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, writing: "One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term."
Remember this photo of the president looking down at the destruction from Air Force One? McClellan says it was Karl Rove's idea to take the picture, even though he and former presidential counselor Dan Bartlett opposed it. The book also paints both himself and Bush as victims in the case of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Some accuse former White House advisers Karl Rove, Lewis Scooter Libby and Elliott Abrams of leaking Plame's name to the media.
This was McClellan's response to that allegation in 2003.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCLELLAN: There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They are good individuals. They're important members of our White House team. And that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: McClellan now suspects he and the president may have been tricked by Rove and Libby over the Plame disclosure, writing -- quote -- "I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood. It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively. I didn't learn that what I had said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later."
Anderson Cooper, CNN.
HARRIS: And also making headlines this morning, political turmoil, boy, in Israel. The country's defense chief demanding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert step down.
Live now to CNN's Atika Shubert in Jerusalem.
And Atika, Prime Minister Olmert is battling some serious corruption allegations here. What are we talking about -- four or five different investigations under way?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's actually already had five previous corruption cases. This is his sixth. And that's why the public wants him to go. A lot of people we spoke to today said enough is enough. The prime minister should go. But it's not clear if the politicians are ready to push him out.
Ehud Barak is his defense minister, also the head of the Labor Party. He today publicly called for Olmert to resign, but he stopped short of setting a deadline and he did not threaten to quit the government himself. He said that it was up to Olmert and his political party to decide when and how he should go. So, he basically stopped just short of forcing Olmert out of office. So, we'll have to see what happens next, Tony.
HARRIS: But Atika, isn't he effectively -- Ehud Olmert, isn't he effectively done? If your defense chief says, you know, it's time for you to go -- this is the defense chief, after all, aren't you effectively done?
SHUBERT: Well, it certainly makes it more difficult for him to conduct his job as prime minister of Israel, but legally speaking, he can stay in office, and he had said he will only resign if he is indicted on corruption charges. So, he could still hang in there for a little while longer.
HARRIS: OK. Atika Shubert for us in Jerusalem. Atika, thank you.
COLLINS: Time now to take a look at some more weather. Every time that comes up it says "Severe Weather," so I guess we're talking about like severely cold or what's the scoop, Jacqui?
COLLINS: That's my birthday.
HARRIS: All right.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, happy birthday.
HARRIS: Early? OK.
COLLINS: What is it? That's the start of hurricane awareness?
JERAS: Hurricane Awareness Week is now. June 1 is the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.
COLLINS: So maybe they'll start it off with Hurricane Heidi. It will just a little tiny one though.
JERAS: I don't think it's on the list this year. (INAUDIBLE) is going to be number one this year.
HARRIS: What, a tropical depression? How about a cat 4, cat 5? Come on, bring it.
COLLINS: No, no, no. We don't want that.
JERAS: She's a cat 5, baby.
HARRIS: That's what I'm talking about. Thanks, Jacqui.
COLLINS: Thank you, Jacqui. We'll check back a little later on. Meanwhile, U.S. troops dying in Iraq, but not on the battlefield. A dozen American soldiers electrocuted. Our special investigative report, coming up next.
HARRIS: U.S. soldiers dying in Iraq and not from enemy fire but faulty wiring. CNN's special investigations unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau is on the story.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A memorial for a fallen soldier.
CHERYL HARRIS, RYAN MASETH'S MOTHER: The doorbell rang, and I looked at my husband and I said, oh, the neighbor.
BOUDREAU: Ryan Maseth was 24-years-old from Pittsburgh.
HARRIS: And he went to answer the door, and -- I could hear the boots coming in the door. I could hear the footsteps.
BOUDREAU: No ordinary soldier, Ryan Maseth was highly decorated. An Army Ranger in the Special Forces, a Green Beret. He was trained to survive, one of three brothers serving in Iraq. Cheryl Harris is Ryan's mother.
HARRIS: I remember saying to him which one? And he just stood there and looked at me quietly. And I just said, one of them are dead, one of them has died. And they finally said Ryan.
BOUDREAU: But Ryan Maseth did not die on the battlefield. He died on a U.S. base in his bathroom.
HARRIS: I can't make sense around Ryan's death. That he died like that. That he was so trained.
BOUDREAU: She was told her son was electrocuted while he was taking a shower. She says Army officials told her he may have been holding a small appliance when it happened.
HARRIS: It just created so much doubt. And I know Ryan, I know that he would not have been in a shower with a small appliance and electrocuted himself.
BOUDREAU: Ryan's mother felt the Army wasn't telling her the whole truth. She kept pushing. Soon uncovered what really happened to her son.
The army finally told her that her son's shower water pump was improperly grounded. It short-circuited sending a lethal jolt of electricity through him, leaving burn marks across his body and even singeing his hair.
Reports show he likely suffered a long, painful death. Electrocutions in Iraq have been a problem the Army has known about for years. In 2004, the Army even issued this warning bulletin calling electrocution a killer, growing at an alarming rate. Ryan Maseth is just one of at least 12 U.S. military personnel who have been electrocuted in Iraq since 2003, according to military and government officials.
(on camera): So why weren't the problems in Ryan Maseth's building fixed? These Army documents show a U.S. paid contractor inspected his building and found serious electrical problems, that was 11 months before Sergeant Maseth was electrocuted.
(voice-over): The contractor is Houston based Kellogg, Brown and Root or KBR. KBR noted several safety issues concerning the improper grounding of electrical devices. But KBR's contract did not cover quote, "fixing potential hazards", only repairing items as they broke. So the electrical problems were never fixed. Only after Sergeant Maseth died did the Army issue an emergency order for KBR to finally fix the problem.
In this internal government e-mail obtained by CNN, a Navy captain admits the Army should have known the extent of the severity of the electrical problems. The e-mail then states the reason the Army didn't know was because KBR's inspections were never even reviewed by a qualified government employee.
LARRAINE MCGEE, CHRIS MCGEE'S MOTHER: The impression I got was that this was the first time that it had happened. Chris was the first and that because of that they were going to correct the problem and it wasn't going to happen again.
BOUDREAU: Larraine McGee's son, Sergeant Christopher Everett was also electrocuted in Iraq. He was on U.S. base and washing a Humvee. That was in 2005, three years before Sergeant Ryan Maseth died.
When Army officials talked to Larraine, they told her the generators supplying electricity to the power washer that her son used was improperly grounded.
MCGEE: We're not supposed to bury our children. They're supposed to bury us and that's a very difficult thing to do.
BOUDREAU: She said they also told her this kind of electrical problem would not happen again. She found comfort knowing other mothers would not have to experience the same type of loss. Then she heard about Ryan Maseth.
MCGEE: I find out recently that that wasn't the case. He was not the first. And he hasn't been the last. And that's what upsets me. It makes me very angry because there is no reason for this to be going on.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: How did this happen? And why wasn't it corrected when we had the first signs that people were dying from electrocutions?
BOUDREAU: Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee is now calling for an investigation.
WAXMAN: It's inexcusable to contemplate the idea that we send our soldiers to Iraq and then because of neglect or incompetence they died because of electrocution.
BOUDREAU: In a statement to CNN, the Department of Defense wrote this is a serious issue. Adding that they have no information that their contract management officials failed to take appropriate action in response to unsafe conditions brought to our attention. They are reviewing the issue. Still, Cheryl Harris is suing KBR.
HARRIS: Ryan should be here.
BOUDREAU: Hoping to find someone to hold accountable for a death she says should have been prevented.
HARRIS: No, I'm not looking to bring Ryan back. I can't. Can I help another mother? If I can prevent one more family from not feeling the pain that I do feel, then that's all that matters. Let's not have them watch their family member come off a plane in a casket.
BOUDREAU: KBR declined to speak on camera to CNN but the company sent us a statement that says "It found no evidence of a link between the work it's been ask performed and the reported electrocutions." Now the defense contract management agency responsible for handling the contract with KBR also declined to answer CNN's questions.
HARRIS: I'm sure the investigation continues, Abbie. What's next?
BOUDREAU: Well, many ways, this is just the beginning. Congress, as well as the inspector general, are investigating all of these deaths. There are still serious questions that need to be answered like who is responsible and why has this been going on for so long. And these people are not going to give up until they find out those answers.
HARRIS: And they should. All right. Abbie, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: African-American women targeted by an aggressive killer. A cancer that discriminates. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta next in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A fast-moving, aggressive type of breast cancer is baffling the experts. Difficult to treat and a recurrence can be deadly. Plus, experts say this cancer seems to discriminate. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Los Angeles with details on this.
So, it seems to discriminate. How can we tell? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it can be very hard to tell. And that's what makes it so mysterious. You know, there's about 180,000 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed every year just in the United States. This is a very difficult cancer to treat. But there is something about a certain small group of these cancers that sort of predisposed them to certain ethnic groups and puts certain women much more at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHERYL REED, TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER PATIENT: It's like I didn't want to listen to anything else that was negative or that told me that this is, you know, the deadliest of all.
GUPTA: In 2006, Cheryl Reed (ph) learned she had triple negative breast cancer -- a rare, fast-moving cancer that has experts like Dr. Funmi Olopade stumped.
DR. FUNMI OLOPADE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: One, we don't know the risk factors for it. Two, we don't know how best to screen for it. And, three, we don't know how best to treat it.
GUPTA: 15 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will have the triple negative type, which doesn't respond to many of the common breast cancer drugs. And Dr. Olopade has found another thing victims of the triple negative cancer have in common.
OLOPADE: The African-American women also have a rate that's much higher than young, white women. We just state if you feel that your ancestry is more African than European, then you can get triple negative breast cancer.
GUPTA: Though black women are at lower risk of developing breast cancer overall as compared to white women, nearly 50 percent of black women diagnosed under age 55 are triple negative. Five-year survival rate is 15 percent lower compared to other breast cancers.
Researchers think a gene mutation is one factor putting black women at higher risk. But right now, research is preliminary. And clinical trials like the one Cheryl Reed (ph) is in at Emery University are trying to develop drugs specifically targeting triple negative cancer cells.
Despite the grim statistics, Cheryl's doctors say early detection is key.
UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: If you have your screening mammograms done and you get the cancer picked up at a very small stage, it's going to have a good prognosis.
GUPTA: Which is why Cheryl remains optimistic.
REED: It never occurred to me that I'm going to die from this. It's like, you know, I've got breast cancer. Let's take care of it.
(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: So, you know, right now chemotherapy is her most effective option, Heidi. But it's difficult. You know, before triple negative, there was a type of breast cancer called HRE2, which was considered the most aggressive and they developed a new drug for that. So that was good news. Hopefully, the same thing is going to happen here with triple negative.
COLLINS: Yes. I certainly hope so. It's weird, too, because when you first hear triple negative it sounds like it's a good thing. Why do they call it that?
GUPTA: Yes. Maybe a little bit of misnomer there. You think negative, it means you're in the clear. In fact, the way this works is when you have a breast cancer, they look for certain things on the wall of the tumor that drugs can bind to. Like an estrogen receptor or a progesterone receptor or something known as a human growth factor receptor.
With triple negative breast cancer, they don't have any of those receptors so they can't find drugs that are actually going to bind to the tumor and kill that tumor. Triple negative. What they have to do here, one of these new drugs that are going to come into play, they got to find something else in that tumor that makes it distinctive that they can target with the medication.
COLLINS: Wow. Besides African-Americans, though, are there groups at risk for this particular cancer?
GUPTA: Well, it seems to be, you know, -- African-Americans for sure. Hispanic women seem to be emerging as a possible at-risk group as well. At least according to Dr. Olopade's research. But also lots of developing countries.
For example, her research took her to Africa. You know, breast cancer is something that's very much in the public eye in the United States and many Western countries. But in many developing countries, it's not yet. So you know, certain other groups may emerge that have this and they may provide an avenue of even more research. Hopefully, more drug discovery down the road.
COLLINS: That would be great. All right. CNN's senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks, Sanjay.
GUPTA: Thanks, Heidi.
HARRIS: You know, it was a great moment of political theater, but did Oprah's endorsement of Barack Obama cost her viewers?
COLLINS: She's the queen of talk with more than a billion bucks, but is Oprah Winfrey's media empire in trouble? CNN's Kareen Wynter reports.
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: It's a wonder I got a roof.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Oprah Winfrey has a roof and a lot more. The media queen's empire includes a talk show, satellite radio channel, magazine, Broadway musical and production company. And "Forbes" magazine says she's worth some $1.5 billion.
But all is not perfect in Oprah land. Ratings for her show are down 7 percent, marking a third consecutive year in decline. For much-hyped primetime reality show "Oprah's Big Give" lost a third of its viewers by the end of its eight-week run.
ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Oprah is down 7 percent this year in total viewers but guess what, just about everything in syndication is down.
WYNTER: But television ratings aren't the only problem. According to the audit bureau of circulations, sales of Winfrey's "O" magazine have fallen by more than 240,000 copies in the last three years. Insiders say Winfrey's latest move to the campaign trail could hurt business even more.
WINFREY: I'm voting for Barack Obama.
STEVEN ROSS, PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR: The moment you open your mouth and speak politically, you puncture the fantasy of a huge part of your audience. And those people may never forgive you again.
WYNTER: Professor Steven Ross is writing a book about politics in Hollywood.
ROSS: There are moments in everyone's life when they say, you know what, this may be a risky business move, but it's what I need to do as a citizen. I believe in this.
WYNTER: Oprah's camp says those beliefs haven't caused business to suffer. CBS executive Robert Madden oversees the syndication of Winfrey's talk show. He tells CNN -- quote -- "It has been the number one talk show 471 consecutive weeks. Obviously, if you're number one, you're not in trouble.