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More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan?; ACORN Under Fire; Tea Party Express Tour Winding Down; Uganda Protesters Rise Up Against Police; ACORN Employees Fired Over Video Shows Advice on Tax Fraud; Gas Station Erupts in Fire; Turkey Has Record Rainfall; Iraqi Journalist Who Threw Shoe at Bush Released from Jail; Perez Hilton Talks with Rick Sanchez

Aired September 11, 2009 - 14:59   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: The Tea Party is about to arrive in Washington. But how much of this is really about taxes, and how much is just plain hate?

Riot police beat protesters in the streets. Why would a conservative activist pose as a pimp, complete with a fake prostitute? It's all about busting this organization.


RICK SANCHZ, CNN ANCHOR: You're gay, I'm not?



HOLMES: He's also not here. But this is still your national conversation for Friday, September 11, and it starts right now.

And good afternoon, everybody, I'm T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Rick Sanchez. Your next generation of news beginning right now.

We have got some brand-new developments to tell you about on a story we have been following here on CNN, the conservative activist filmmaker who also poses as a pimp. Why would he do that? Yes, a pimp complete with a fake prostitute. He did this to record two Baltimore ACORN workers allegedly giving advice on how to avoid paying taxes from a prostitution ring involving underage girls.

Our Abbie Boudreau of CNN's Special Investigations Unit here to tell us what in the world is going on. This story has been strange from the jump. And I guess we're probably going to hear about some more strange developments in...


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Oh, yes, absolutely. Have you seen the tape?

HOLMES: We have seen the tape. Yes, I have.

BOUDREAU: That tape is pretty outrageous, to say the least. Now, everyone's talking about this tape where it appears that the two ACORN workers were caught on tape allegedly offering advice on how to set up a prostitution ring and evade the IRS. And the man who secretly recorded the video is an independent filmmaker man named James O'Keefe. He's also a conservative activist.

And remember ACORN of course is a liberal community organizing group. Now, the undercover sting shows the pair approaching two women working at the ACORN office in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, O'Keefe and a colleague posing as a prostitute are heard on the video asking for advice on how to set up a prostitution ring involving more than a dozen underaged girls El Salvador. Now, we're talking about girls 14, 15, 16 years old.

Well, one of the ACORN workers tells the pair you want to keep them clean and you want to make sure they go to school. She kept repeating that. She says to train them to keep their mouths shut.

Well, one of the employees told the pair they could even declare some of the young girls as dependents to receive child tax credits. There was even a point in the video where a worker that the woman posing as a prostitute refer to herself as a performing artist on tax forms and stop calling herself a prostitute.

Here's how that all unfolded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, let's see what we got here. Combination food service and drinking places. (INAUDIBLE) business (INAUDIBLE) agencies. Credit bureaus. You might have to name it something else. Performance arts. Let's see. Independent artist. You could be that.

Your business is a performing artist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A performing artist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which you are. OK, so you're not lying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's kind of...



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little play on words. But it's under a performing artist, OK? So, stop saying prostitute.




(LAUGHTER) BOUDREAU: Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa is calling for a full congressional and Justice Department investigation into the matter. Here's what he had to say.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: To undermine our electoral process and do so for partisan criminal activities, and be involved in a criminal enterprise, we have got to audit them completely, every single affiliated corporation that they have. There needs to a Department of Justice complete forensic audit. We need to do congressional investigations. And we need to shut off every dime going to ACORN until such time as they can have a clean bill of health.


BOUDREAU: ACORN's national spokesman, Scott Levenson, says the portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism.

Levenson says the filmmaker made similar efforts in Philadelphia, and in that case, ACORN workers actually reported the filmmakers to the police. And ACORN did provide a copy of that police report to CNN.

Levenson also said he believes the video was -- quote -- "doctored" and that the group is considering legal action against the filmmakers.

Now, in a letter to FOX, ACORN also says the worker -- quote -- "denies every giving tax advice to people identifying themselves as a pimp and a prostitute."

Now, despite that denial, that chairman of the Baltimore chapter of ACORN says that both workers have been fired. And here's what she had to say.


SONJA MERCHANT, ACORN BALTIMORE: They were dismissed. The two employees that were filmed in the video were immediately dismissed because they did not follow the protocol of this organization. There's specific guidelines of what you can do when you do intake. And that wasn't followed. And so, you know, they were dismissed.


BOUDREAU: We have reached out to those two workers, of course. They have not called us back. Meanwhile the filmmakers have posted yet another video that CNN is investigating right know allegedly showing a similar sting taking place at an ACORN office in Washington, D.C. We're making calls on that, of course.

I don't know if you had a chance to check that on out. A lot of questions. We just have to keep looking. We're not the ones taking the videos, so it's hard for us to just say, OK, here is exactly what happened.

HOLMES: This is exactly what happened.


HOLMES: And they cut around a little bit. But it seems like, if they went ahead and fired them, then they are obviously admitting that they believe these workers did something wrong, even though the national ACORN spokesman is saying something a bit different.

BOUDREAU: Right. Right.

HOLMES: But with all this, is there anything illegal in there? Are the authorities looking into it?

BOUDREAU: Well, we did call the Baltimore Police Department, and they say that right now they're not looking into it. But as pressure mounts and people are calling for congressional hearings and the Justice Department to get involved, who knows what could happen.

HOLMES: Congressional hearings, Justice Department. If we start starting about pimps and prostitutes down on the congressional hearing, my goodness, we will have you back for sure. Abbie Boudreau, we appreciate the update.


HOLMES: And we appreciate you all as always participating in this newscast. And you are doing that so far. We have got a couple of comments already on this story from you guys. We will take it over here to the Facebook screen.

One, let's go with Anita first up top, saying: "It's a nonstory. We have been down this ACORN-strewn path before. The radicalized Obama haters on the right will obsessively cling to it, but they will be the only ones. Mainstream American will shrug at the craziness and then move on. ACORN is pretty trivial when you don't have a job or health insurance for your kids."

Jennifer down below says: "You've got to be kidding. Again with ACORN? What's wrong with these people? I really tried to give them the benefit of the doubt during the presidential race, but it seems like they are in the news with this kind of stuff all the time now, and on top of that, when the story breaks, some leader or organizer is always saying it was a temporary employee or something like that."

We appreciate your comments. Keep them coming in and that and plenty of other stories that will be happening.

You may be commenting on this one we're about to show you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most dangerous place in (INAUDIBLE).




WARE: You all right?



HOLMES: You hear that, that explosion? That is one of our own right next to that explosion, Michael Ware. He was reporting on the Taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and almost lost his life to an IED. We're going to show you this whole thing unfold.

And, we have been reporting on the Tea Party Express, but our Ali Velshi was there, and what he saw doesn't seem to be that festive if you will. That story ahead.


HOLMES: All right, welcome back, everybody.

Don't take your eyes off the screen here for a second. And also I want you to listen closely. You're going to see and hear what happens when a roadside bomb explodes in Afghanistan right next to a CNN reporter and photographer. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most dangerous place in (INAUDIBLE)

WARE: Oh, really?




HOLMES: You hear it explode there, and then you can hear that debris come down on top of them. This happened in Kandahar while CNN's Michael Ware and his cameraman were on night patrol with an Afghan police unit. Michael has a story to tell -- you will see it in just a second -- about surviving in Afghanistan in the heart of Taliban country.

But let's make a distinction. We're talking here about what's happening in Afghanistan today. But a lot of people are thinking about what's happening tomorrow, down the road in Afghanistan. That may be a whole different story.

A leading U.S. senator on military matters, Michigan's Carl Levin, he says now no more troops to Afghanistan. He's just back from them. He has seen it firsthand, but he is saying no more until we do some other things first, namely trying to build up the Afghan security forces. We're going to be talking about troops and deployment and the future of our military involvement in Afghanistan in just a minute.

But first that report about survival in that country from our Michael Ware. Take a look.


WARE (voice-over): This is one night, one police patrol in Kandahar. A hidden Taliban roadside bomb, an IED, is about to hit this Afghan police gun truck. A CNN cameraman and I are riding in it. By some miracle, it detonates a heartbeat too soon. Otherwise, we would all be dead. Instead, gravel rains over us.

(on camera): You all right?


WARE (voice-over): Then comes the shooting, a so-called death blossom, police firing aimlessly to ward off further attack.

But this is the true front line against the Taliban. It's where President Obama's war will ultimately be won or lost.

(on camera): Oh, my God.

WARE: On that front line is my old friend Afghan police commander Mullah Gul Akund. I have been away for six years reporting in Iraq, so it's a relief just to see he's still alive.

It takes a certain kind of man to survive for long on the Kandahar front, a hardened warrior with little mercy, a man like Mullah Gul. As a police commander, he has been killing Taliban since December 2001. For the Taliban, that means he's been a target for eight years. I have no idea how he survived.

"I protect myself," he says. "God has a date for everyone's death. And when that day comes, they will die. But my day has not yet come."

The men and boys he command guard the back door to Kandahar. After Mullal Gul's outpost comes territory fully controlled by the Taliban. Through that mountain pass, just beyond his checkpoint, it's all Taliban.

As for our night patrol, we have just broken the Muslim fast of Ramadan with Mullah Gul and his forces in a neighborhood called Loya Wala.

(on camera): It's very hard to see me where we are right now, because the men we're with are using as little light as possible. These are Afghan police patrolling Kandahar. This is the Taliban heartland. This is the birthplace of the -- the Taliban.

Let's get moving. We want to get back in the trucks. These men do this every night. And where we are right now is a Taliban-held neighborhood. Their commander says, if they were not patrolling, there would be attacks almost every night.

(voice-over): In Mullah Gul's vehicle, he warns me we could be heading into trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the street that we are getting inside now is called (INAUDIBLE) yes?

WARE (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the most dangerous place in (INAUDIBLE)

WARE: Oh, really?


WARE: So, we're about enter the most dangerous area?

This is where they have a lot of contact with the insurgencies, firefights, IEDs. There is a curfew in place here for 10:00 p.m. So, anyone on the streets after 10:00 p.m. is deemed suspicious. Here we are in the middle of the night moving through this neighborhood, watching the police at work.

(voice-over): We arrive at an intersection controlled by Taliban fighters.

(on camera): Only about 10 days ago, this intersection here at this small bridge was a Taliban running point. The commander says, every night, they were spotting as many as 20 or 30 Taliban gathering here to share information (INAUDIBLE) launch attacks.

By -- but, by establishing this one permanent patrol base, a checkpoint not far from here, he has managed to force the Taliban to move to another area.

(voice-over): We didn't know the strike against our vehicle was only moments away. The police gun truck CNN cameraman Samad Gusiri (ph) and I are riding in enters this back street. The Taliban bomb is hidden ahead of us.


WARE: It seems victory is still a long way off.

(on camera): You all right?


WARE (voice-over): Michael Ware, CNN, Kandahar.


HOLMES: We will continue to talk about Afghanistan right after the break with Congressman Adam Smith. Want to know if he agrees with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who says that for now no more U.S. terror should be heading towards Afghanistan.

A quick break. We're right back.


HOLMES: Hello and good afternoon once again everybody, T.J. Holmes here sitting in for Rick Sanchez. We're talking about Afghanistan right now.

Many of you just saw the report from our Michael Ware, an IED blowing up right next to him and his cameraman. He's OK. And some of you saw that report and are now reporting to us about what you just saw. Let's go over to a comment on MySpace, someone saying: "Michael Ware is amazing. Thank God he keeps going into harm's way to show us the truth about what's going on in the world. I always look forward to his reports. Stay safe, Michael."

We certainly echo those sentiments here. Michael Ware does goes anywhere and does anything for us. And we certainly do appreciate him into harm's way to get those reports for us.

More troops to Afghanistan is the topic now. Some are saying, no, not now, at least. That's the position held today by Senator Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says -- these are his words I'm giving you here now -- that the U.S. -- quote -- "has lost the initiative" -- end quote -- in the war against Taliban insurgents.

Instead, Senator Levin wants Afghan forces increased by a whole lot before one more American service member is deployed there.

Well, joining me now, Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington State. And the congressman just got back just days ago from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sir, we appreciate you being here.

I know you read the comments today from Senator Levin, who was down on the floor of the Senate making a speech today.


HOLMES: And he says point-blank that we should increase and accelerate our efforts to support Afghan security forces in their efforts before we consider whether to increase U.S. combat forces above the levels already planned. Do you agree with him that before we even think about sending another U.S. member, first we need to deal with the problem of increasing Afghan security forces?

SMITH: Well, I agree in part and disagree in part.

HOLMES: Which part do you agree with first?

(CROSSTALK) SMITH: Well, let me explain.

Certainly, I think the critical element -- this is a classic counterinsurgency campaign. And in a counterinsurgency campaign, what you need is you need the locals, the people, in this case the Afghans, to take the lead in that. You need to work with them. They need to be the ones who are providing security. Yes, we need to train their army. We need to train their police.

There's also a huge development piece of this. We need to build the capacity of their local governments to provide what the people need, village to village, community to community.

The part that I would disagree with is that we should preclude our options, because part of enabling them to train the army and train the police is to make sure that they have security. And if that requires U.S. troops to help provide security, to give them the space they need to get to the point Senator Levin mentions, I don't think we in Congress should be precluding options to get there.

Furthermore, I have enormous confidence in General McChrystal. He's the guy we picked to lead this effort. The president put together a brand-new plan in Afghanistan that I think is absolutely correct. We should not preclude options from the general that we have charged with making that plan successful.

HOLMES: Well, I guess that's certainly where -- the part you and Senator Levin disagree.


HOLMES: I'm going to let you and our viewers listen right now to Senator Levin I guess further explain his position. Then we will talk about it on the other side. Let's listen first.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In short, we need a surge of Afghan forces. Our support of this surge of the Afghan security forces will show our commitment to the success of a mission that is clearly in our national security interests. But we would do so without creating a bigger U.S. footprint, which provides propaganda fodder for the Taliban.


HOLMES: Well, I guess what about that point, and many would say maybe that's where we made some missteps in Iraq as well, to keep throwing American service members at the problem? You got to show Afghans that they can be taken care of by their own Afghanistan government and security forces.

SMITH: Yes. And that is absolutely the ultimate goal in counterinsurgency, that the motto is by, through and with the local population to get where you need to be. So, I certainly agree with that piece of it. But on the propaganda piece, it cuts both ways. And there's also the security piece. Yes, the Taliban will use as propaganda the presence of outside forces. But they will also use as propaganda anything we say that shows a reluctance to do what we need to be successful. They will say, we're going to win. You have to side with us because they're not going to be here. They are not committed to helping you.

So, that too is a danger on the other side. And again while we're training the Afghan police and the Afghan army, if the Taliban are able through car bombs and suicide attacks to undermine that effort, if there is not sufficient security to train those police and train that army, then the effort will never get off the ground.

Now, what's the magic right number of troops? I don't know. I would even submit that Senator Levin doesn't know. I would submit that General McChrystal, the guy who's been over there, who understands the battle better than any of us, he's the guy who knows. And I do believe we ought to listen to him.

HOLMES: You mention listening to him there, but never short of getting opinions from some of the folks in Congress. So, tell me how far should you, how far should Senator Levin, any member of Congress really go in coming out and making statements like Senator Levin does I guess even before General McChrystal comes out and says exactly what he wants to do? Does that in some way almost even undermine General McChrystal at a time when support for the Afghanistan war is decreasing among the American public?

SMITH: Well, let me just be clear. It is perfectly for Senator Levin or any member of Congress to state what they think the policy ought to be in Afghanistan or in Pakistan. And there will be differences of opinion.

And don't get me wrong, also. It's a very, very tough part of the world. I wish that al Qaeda wasn't there. I wish that the Taliban weren't so closely allied with al Qaeda and this wasn't such a threat to our national security. But it is, so we have to deal with that difficult part of the world.

And I do think we should be cautious about saying no more troops or it has to be this strategy or it can't be that strategy before the generals on the ground that we have put in charge get the chance to offer their opinion.

Now, if you feel strongly enough about it, if we feel that General McChrystal is wrong, then we need to find a different general to lead that effort. I don't believe that. I think General McChrystal knows what he's doing and we should give him the chance to tell us what the plans are.

And also he understands just as well, better, than Senator Levin or anybody that you have got to have the local population in the lead. He's been very much involved in counterinsurgency efforts, and he knows that. But again you can't there if you're not able to provide basic security for those Afghan people who you are trying to get trained and get ready to basically take over both security and the development in these communities.

HOLMES: And one more thing here, Representative Smith. I guess there are a lot of opinions up there, no doubt, in Congress. But given the time we're in, where we're in the middle of this health care debate, and the president is having a tough time getting all the Democrats on the same page, a lot of opinions about the health care reform debate, is this the last thing he needs right now, and Democrats need, is another split within the party up there on Capitol Hill about what to do on another major issue?

I'm not saying with this Afghanistan debate, we're near as far as the split we have seen on health care reform. But still another split, another divide among Democrats, is that last thing you need right now?

SMITH: Well, as the president famously said during the course of the campaign, part of being president is you have to be able to deal with more than one crisis at the same time.

We face many challenges. I think we all knew that when the president was sworn in, in January. Some of them were domestic, but there also continue to be the major threats in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, the difficulties we face. And specifically in Afghanistan, the threat we face from al Qaeda is very, very real. I mean, particularly on 9/11, we should remember that. So, I don't know that I would say it's the last thing he needs.

It's just it's what he faced when he got elected. He knew it, and these are challenges that we have to meet. There will be differences of opinion amongst Democrats and Republicans. And, ultimately, he's got to push the right policies. And in Afghanistan, I think he is.

HOLMES: All right, Representative Adam Smith, again joining us from Seattle today, sir, we appreciate you taking the time out.

SMITH: Thank you.

HOLMES: You enjoy your weekend. Thank you so much, sir.

SMITH: Appreciate the chance.

HOLMES: What you're seeing here is all the king's men battling police. The story out of Uganda, we will put you inside the clashes coming up.

But, next, we will go inside a different experience. Our Ali Velshi took our cameras to the Tea Party Express. You will get that experience next.


HOLMES: Well, if you follow the show here with Rick, you know right here he's been following the Tea Party Express on its trip across the country. It's been a rallying point for people who say they're opposed to big government. Tomorrow, that tour will end in Washington.

So, we're taking this chance to take a look back at where it all started. It all started in Elko, Nevada, August 29. This was one stop. Take a look.




HOLMES: OK. No matter what your politics are, that's kind of catchy. Again, that was in Elko, Nevada.

Take a look now at the Tea Party Express in Troy, Michigan.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't assault me, lady!



HOLMES: Now, see what happens when you don't have music? They need a jingle and they wouldn't have gotten into it like that.

Take you to one more stop, Scranton, Pennsylvania. This was just yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?

CROWD: Health care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am coming from a socialist country. I am coming from a socialist country. I am coming from a socialist country. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!

HOLMES: Can we just go back to Elco (ph)? They were just singing, still getting their point across through jingles. But again, this some of the highlights, I guess you could call them, from the tea party express. Again, the tour culminates tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

Well, let's show you a scene I'm sure you will remember. Yes, you remember that scene well. President ducking and moving there as an Iraqi journalist pitched his shoes at him. Well, we've got an update on his future, not the former president's, the guy who tossed the shoes. That's just ahead.

Also, we showed you some video of this. Here's some more of it. Police in Uganda facing off with supporters of a king. Are police on the king's side? A little confusion here. We'll try to straighten it out. That's next.


HOLMES: Well, welcome back here, everybody. We have been spending the past two segments talking about Afghanistan. And your comments are coming in. I want to share a couple with you that you've sent in to Rick's Facebook page.

The first one up top there -- it says time to wrap up that debacle. Once the Afghan election cycle is over, they, too, have to get their collective will to stave off their own extremists. Of course, the election cycle not quite over. A lot of complaints about the legitimacy of that election. We'll see what happens.

Also, Daniel right below that said, "I agree. No more troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. needs to save itself first before we can go out and try to save the world. Six years in Iraq and all the thanks we got was shoes thrown at our president." Again, we'll have an update on the guy who tossed those shoes coming up in just a few minutes in this newscast.

Meanwhile, two days of rioting and at least 13 people dead. Out of control, essentially, in the capital of Uganda. We'll explain exactly why this is going on in a second. But let's now show you exactly what is going on in Kampala.



HOLMES: All right, let me explain to you now why this is happening. Well, land rights, unemployment a part of it all. But mainly this is an ethnic dispute. Thousands of people loyal to the leader of a long-ago kingdom got angry when the man they see as king was allegedly harassed. His followers then started burning tires, throwing stones at police in Kampala. Witnesses say they've seen government forces shoot protesters. We're keeping an eye on that story.

All right, pimps, prostitutes and the child tax credit -- yes, this all goes together. This is all part of a story involving the community organizing group ACORN. Now add the phrase to that caught on camera. You do not want to miss this story.


HOLMES: All right, once again we appreciate all of your feedback coming in about several of the stories we're talking about today. And one of them in particular has to do with ACORN, the community organizing group. Allegedly video out there taken by a conservative activist who dressed up like a pimp and had someone with him that was dressed up like a prostitute.

They go into an office in Baltimore, one of these ACORN offices, and ask for some tax advice. And allegedly, according to the video that has been put out there, it seems that they were getting advice from these ACORN workers about how they could essentially cheat the IRS. They were even given advice -- you can hear someone saying actually they could get a child tax credit for operating a prostitution ring.

So the story has caused a bit of outrage again. It's hard for us to confirm it because it was shot by this independent filmmaker. But still, it's causing a lot of concern right now. Those two ACORN workers have been fired.

You have been giving us feedback about that story. Let's go to a few comments over here from Rick's FaceBook page. One at the top there says, "I'm sick of ACORN stories. Will someone feed the ACORN to a squirrel so I don't have to hear about it in New York any more?"

Also another one says, "Ditto. Enough about ACORN." One more below that says, "There are bad people in every organization. ACORN should have figured that out by now and realized you can't just hire everyone who applies without checking them out first." So maybe there is a good point there.

Again, that's not everybody bad in every organization, no doubt about that. But again, a lot of backlash about that video right now. We will continue to follow that. Don't go anywhere. Continue to follow us right here. Quick break -- we're right back.


HOLMES: All right, sorry, no Rick today. I'm T.J. Holmes sitting in for him. He's taking a much-deserved long weekend, Rick is. But you'll see him back here next week, of course.

You've been sharing your comments, as always, on this show. We want to share another one we got from someone about the ACORN story, which is getting a lot of attention. This is on Rick's MySpace page over here. This is the one right there in the middle from a guy named Vincent. It says, "Lions, tigers and bears, my. What is up with ACORN now? First they are a voter frauding place. And now they sell women." Of course, he's making a reference there to this video that has surfaced that allegedly shows two ACORN employees giving advice to a guy dressed up as a pimp and a woman dressed up as a prostitute who are looking for some tax advice and trying to operate actually a prostitution ring with underage women. The story just goes on and on and pretty much spirals downhill from there. But you all and a lot of people -- a lot of outrage over that story. And again, the two ACORN workers have been fired. We'll continue to follow.

This is the part of the day and of the show where Rick shows photos of the day. We're going to start with some home video of some extraordinary events, one of the things television news exists for. This is what we can show you. This is in Florida. Police believe here what the problem -- I didn't know you all had the music to accompany this.

What you are seeing there is a car and a gas tank on fire at a gas station. Police believe that static electricity ignited a fireball at this station. They say the driver was there fueling up when he went back into his car to grab his cell phone. That was apparently not the right thing to do at that particular time.

A spark apparently set off gas vapors, caused the pump to explode. You see the damage there that was done to the car. But there is the video that somebody caught. The gas station attendant luckily jumped into action, hit the emergency stop button on the pumps. And again, the driver, I'm told, did suffer some burns. But the gas station attendant is OK as well. But everybody is expected to be just fine, but lucky to get out of that one.

Take you to some more extraordinary video, some video we've been watching pretty much for the past several days. This is in Turkey where they got more rainfall, more than they've seen in some 80 years. And it led to all these scenes, a lot of people having to be rescued.

This is Wednesday. This is when flood waters broke across a highway, poured into a commercial district. Twenty people that we know of drowned in this one incident. Also, would you believe they're bracing for more heavy rain waters? But a lot of these scenes people helping out, people being rescued, but a lot of them (inaudible).

You saw the guy give him a kiss there, just happy to -- they seem to be getting out of there. But a lot of scenes like that playing out in Turkey. But again, more rainfall expected. We may be expecting some more of this video.

Also some video -- can you believe this? I am still to this day very impressed at how he maneuvered away from those shoes, the president. Well, we're showing this to you again because we have an update. The journalist who did the tossing in this incident -- well, he's getting out of prison on Monday.

He's been there for nine months behind bars for this show- throwing incident, throwing them at the leader of the free world, our president, President Bush. So what is he going to do now when he gets out of prison? Well, he's reportedly been offered money, jobs, marriage, also a career in politics. But we're told his first stop, though, after getting out of prison -- Payless Shoe Store.



HOLMES: Yes, this is our guy, Rick. We love Rick. You've seen Rick a lot. You know Rick talks an awful lot. You also know Perez Hilton. He's a celebrity blogger. Would you ever think about putting those two in the same place at the same time? Can you imagine what happened? We'll show you what happened. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Well, porn stars and M.C. Hammer -- you've got to love this show. Mr. Rick's show celebrated its one-year anniversary. Some of the highlights you saw there. You guys tune in, those that do every day at 3 o'clock eastern know Rick calls this national conversation, this hour. And now he's taking it a step further. Starting next Friday you can visit the CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta, become part of the newscast, come inside the conversation. If you want to do it, call the number 1-877-4CNNTOUR -- 877-4CNNTOUR. Well, all right.

We want to turn now to our guy, Wolf Blitzer coming up in the Situation Room here shortly.

Wolf, good to see you, as always.

BLITZER: T.J., thanks very much.

HOLMES: Sir, what do you have going today?

BLITZER: Let me tell you what's coming up at the top of the hour right here in the Situation Room. Among other things, we have a special interview with the New York City police commissioner, Ray Kelly on this the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Also, we're going in depth on the political scene. What's happened? It's been a dramatic week this week. Paul Begala, James Carville, Nancy Fortnower (ph), Mary Matalin -- they'll all be here in the Situation Room -- lots of news going on right now. Back to you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right, we appreciate you, as always, Wolf. We'll see you here shortly.


SANCHEZ: They're from Miami. I'm from Miami. We're both Cubans. You're gay. I'm not.

(UNKNOWN): You're not?

SANCHEZ: Well, there you go. You made news.

(UNKNOWN): Breaking news.

SANCHEZ: Breaking news.


HOLMES: You know, you never know what's going to happen with Rick anyway. But you certainly don't know what's going to happen when Rick invites somebody like Perez Hilton to the set. In case you missed it, we've got more of the conversation between the Cubans coming up.


HOLMES: All right, this is not a slight at all to Rick Sanchez. The dude talks a lot. He talks a whole, whole, whole lot every day right here on this show. Well, can you imagine, to his guests, what that's like for them? Well, what happens when he meets his match, talking to somebody who talks just as much as he does?

Well, yesterday he had such a guest, the celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Here's how it went down.


SANCHEZ: Do you ever get mad?

HILTON: I get mad for like if people accuse me of being lazy. That gets me mad.

SANCHEZ: Really?

HILTON: Yes. I don't get mad about a lot of things.

SANCHEZ: So this work ethic thing is a big deal for you?

HILTON: It really is. You know, I work really hard. I don't know if people really get -- I'm doing so much. I've got my Web site. I've got the tour. I've got a new Web site,, all about fashion. Your wife might enjoy it.

SANCHEZ: She probably will. What is success for you?

HILTON: Success for me really has been being able to move my family and have them be with me and work with me and then treat them nice. Like, I bought my mom a car for Christmas this past year.

SANCHEZ: That is nice.


SANCHEZ: Do you...

HILTON: I still drive an old Toyota Camry. But my mom has like a brand new really nice car. SANCHEZ: Do you really? You drive an old...


SANCHEZ: You must be making some pretty good dough.

HILTON: I'm not into material things. And if I have some to give, I like to give it to my mom and sister.

SANCHEZ: Is that why you had to borrow my suit to go on the air?

HILTON: I borrowed your jacket because I forgot mine in Los Angeles.

SANCHEZ: That's a nice one, too. I think it's got a good label on it. Doesn't it?

HILTON: It's...

SANCHEZ: Let's see. Yes, Hickey Freeman.

HILTON: They're good?

SANCHEZ: Hickey Freeman is a good suit. Well, it is for like a conservative New York Wall Street guys.

HILTON: No, I like it. It works. It's kind of preppy.

SANCHEZ: Well, thank you very much.

HILTON: (inaudible)

SANCHEZ: I'm glad you're enjoying it. Do you feel like your success is something you work to achieve or something that happened through happenstance?

HILTON: Everything in my life I've worked to achieve.

SANCHEZ: But I mean -- but I mean -- let me reask that.

HILTON: No, but...

SANCHEZ: I mean -- go ahead. Sorry.

HILTON: I get what you mean. A lot of it was probably luck in that I was one of the first people to use the online medium to talk about celebrities. When I started back in September of 2005 now -- September of 2004, five years -- four years -- like just four or five years ago -- like I'm so flabbergasted time flies by. That was before TMZ. That was before the magazines were really using the Internet to communicate their information.

And then now it's like everybody is doing it. But had I not really put in the effort and worked, worked, worked, nothing would have happened.

SANCHEZ: What else do you want to do? Do you want to do television?

HILTON: I would love to do television. And I'm working on a few projects.

SANCHEZ: Well, you're a good looking guy.

HILTON: And I think I'm good at it. I give good sound bytes and good TV. And I get people talking. I would love if Donald Trump invited me back to the Miss USA pageant this coming year.

SANCHEZ: Do you think he will?

HILTON: Of course, because he's a smart man.

SANCHEZ: Really?

HILTON: Everybody will tune in to see what is Perez going to ask. I've already got some questions.

SANCHEZ: I get a sense when I talk to you that you are in many ways -- and please don't take this the wrong way. You are very much, if not all, about marketing.

HILTON: Yes. I mean, not all, but marketing and hard work and being smart.


HOLMES: All right, Rick and Perez Hilton -- who knew? Hey, what is that? Yes, hey, that's something else we've got to have coming up. A guy with a different hairstyle is going to go at it with Rick Sanchez? Rick's going to be talking to the ex-governor of Illinois, Rob Blagojevich. That's coming up on Tuesday.

Now, Blagojevich has a new book that's coming out, nothing to do with Perez Hilton here. We just thought we'd make the connection between a bunch of guys who seem to like to talk a lot and like a lot of attention. So stay tuned for that. That's coming up on Tuesday.

Before we let you go here, we want to share with some of you what you've been sharing with us here. A lot of comments about what we were doing today. Several stories -- let's go with the top three here over on the Twitter board.

The first one saying does Perez Hilton ever paint -- he uses the word paint -- paint his hair a normal color. I think every time I've seen the guy he has a different hair style and a different hair color. One right below that says love the crazy Twitter CNN segment with Rick Sanchez and Perez Hilton.

And one more here says where the hell is Rick on the birthday of his own show. You've got to love the guy. We do love the guy. The guy will be back next week.

We also love Wolf Blitzer, who we're going to hand it over to in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now.