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Erin Burnett Outfront

Clock Ticking for Super Committee; Profiting from Public Office; Thirty-Year-Old Mystery; Ball or Nothing

Aired November 18, 2011 - 19:00   ET



We're on the frontline at Penn State tonight. Second Mile, the charity that Jerry Sandusky co-founded could be folding. Joe Paterno says he has lung cancer. And tonight, allegations of a similar scandal at Syracuse University.

Then the Natalie Wood case reopened almost 30 years after the actress died. Was it really an accidental drowning? A man who was there that night, OUTFRONT tonight.

And the bottom line on the Super Committee. Five days left until the deadline. It is time to rock and get a deal done. So let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, countdown.


JAMES BELUSHI, ACTOR: Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget it. He's rolling.

BELUSHI: It ain't over now. Because when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Who's with me? Let's go.


BURNETT: We're with you. That was John Belushi inspiring the troops at "Animal House." And that's the kind of inspirational message our Super Committee needs to get the job done.

They have five days to make a deal. Now if you think that's not a lot of time, consider this. Any proposal must be made public 48 hours before the deadline, so the pressure is on.

Now there is still time, but today Democratic panel member John Kerry came out of a closed-door meeting, sounding less than optimistic after his side balked at a GOP offer that didn't have what he felt was enough in new taxes.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're still working. I hope we can get there. But I don't know.


BURNETT: If the committee fails, $1.2 trillion of automatic cuts will kick in. Half from Republicans' sacred cows, like defense, and half from Democratic sacred cows. None from Social Security.

Now the threat of these cuts was supposed to force the panel to take action. But I can't decide what's more offensive. That the cuts don't take place until 2013, after the election, allowing both parties to run for reelection dishonestly, because Americans haven't felt the pain of cuts yet. Or that Republicans and Democrats may agree on only one thing. That they will remove the automatic cuts since they're too painful.

So they'll get no automatic cuts and no negotiated cuts. All this made me feel like Howard Biel in the movie "Network." Here's what every American should do tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm mad as hell, I'm not going to take it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to take it anymore.


BURNETT: The bottom line is America must reduce its borrowing, that is a fact. And we must cut spending on things that we all like. If we do not, companies won't hire, our economy won't grow, interest rates will one day go up, a lot, on mortgages, on credit cards, on any kind of loan, on everyone. At the same time, our economy will flatline and people won't get raises.

The 12-member Super Committee has a chance to change the path of American history. To do a deal and to do a deal that is big. $4 trillion or more. If they don't, those 12 people will confirm to the world that this country cannot govern itself, and hand the future on a silver platter to China.

Jim Bianco is president of Bianco Research. David Gergen is a senior political analyst here and John Avlon is a CNN contributor. Jim Bianco, I want to start with you. You have looked at the numbers, you have done the math, how big of a deal do we need to do to really make a difference and tell the world and the markets that lend to America that we're serious?

JIM BIANCO, PRESIDENT, BIANCO RESEARCH: Oh, I think the $4 trillion number that you cited is probably the range that we'd have to do. The minimum, of course, they'd have to do is $1.2 trillion to raise the debt ceiling, which is going to hit again in about six weeks. But if you want to send a very broad message, I'd say $4 trillion if not more. And the more you send, the more you would do, the stronger the message would be.

BURNETT: And if they don't do this -- they don't do a deal and then they get rid of these automatic cuts, as we have heard people like Senator John McCain say that he wants to get rid of, that would mean we have a debt ceiling problem soon, right?

BIANCO: Oh, yes. It'd be August of last summer all over again. Remember, we were talking about default and we were talking about not paying on our debt. And we were all worried about the doomsday scenario. If we call the whole thing off and have no cuts, in six weeks, we hit the debt ceiling again at $15.2 trillion.

I suspect the Tea Party is not going to roll over again. They're going to call for a shutting down of the government again like they were last summer. And we're going to be all over again and the markets didn't like it at all last summer and they probably won't like it again.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about that in a moment. Because that could mean more downgrades, more downgrades, maybe not now, people, but soon, will mean much higher interest rates.

John Avlon, do you think they get it?

JOHN AVLON, SENIOR COLUMNIST, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: They apparently don't, because they're playing chicken again. They're coming up to the clip. And this is pathetic. This is a self- inflicted crisis. They have the mandate to do something and do it big. A hundred and 50 of their colleagues in Congress said, go big, hit that $4 trillion, and yet here they are in the 11th hour and they seem to be struggling to hit $1.2.

Here's the urgency they need. The world's sole super power cannot be the world's largest debtor nation indefinitely. This is a chance to turn it all around. If they fail, it will be a black mark on our nation and we will be back at this negotiation again.

BURNETT: It's -- David Gergen, what -- is this a moment when you have someone like a John Kerry on the Democratic side stand up and say, you know what, I don't care about getting re-elected? I just don't care, because I care about my country more. I mean it seems like we need to hear more of that, don't we?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's been astonishing. It's the most irresponsible Congress I can remember. And it looks like they're heading towards another cliff without acting.

Look, there are good individuals in this group, but the differences are obviously profound. And what's been stunning to me is that we have lost our capacity to find the middle. To find some way that each side can let go some on their principles in order for the greater good to prevail.

And the -- if this fails, the markets are not going to go down immediately. But as Mr. Bianco said, if this fails and we then void the sequester, these automatic cuts in January of next year, then the markets are really going to take a blow and we're going to the look at -- Moody's and others are going to be looking at downgrades.

BURNETT: What do you think about the scenario, the downgrade scenario, Jim Bianco?

BIANCO: It would be bad. S&P downgraded last summer and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 600 points that day. And most people in the market would tell you the second downgrade is actually the one that matters more than the first downgrade. Because then that means that the majority rating of the U.S. is AA plus.

Right now the majority rating is still AAA, even though one of them has AA plus. So the next downgrade would be worse than the first downgrade. It would really fundamentally change the way that we do business in the financial markets. We use treasuries as a cash proxy. We assume that they're AAA rated. Well, if they're no longer AAA rated, they're not cash anymore and a lot of transactions simply cannot occur because there is no cash proxy for them.


BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

GERGEN: And as you know, Erin, the other part of this is, this is occurring in a context of enormous anxiety in the markets about Europe. And if you combine a lack of political leadership and Europe and now with a -- yet another failure of a political leadership in America, it's that combination that casts us into an uncertain place.

Who can say with certainty how the markets will respond over the next two or three months if they simply fail this time out? And so they're just playing -- these members of Congress are playing with fire. They are putting our economic, you know, well-being, such as it is, at further risk.

AVLON: That's right.

GERGEN: That's what -- and it's unbelievable to me. It's unbelievable to me, where are the people who want to be president? You know, the presidential candidates on the Republican side, at least Mitt Romney spoke up today, the president, yes, he put a plan out, but they're all AWOL, basically, on trying to get this solved.


AVLON: That's right. Well, and as David just syndicated, I mean, you know, this summer when we were having this debate, they were saying, let's go over the cliff, let's default. I mean it's -- this is a fundamental cross section we're at right now. The S&P cited political brinksmanship when they downgraded us and Ben Bernanke echoed it.

Here we are at doing the same political brinksmanship again. And here's what's really sick, you've got political strategists in both parties counseling them not to make a deal, saying, we'll deal with it after the election. Let's keep the election year issue alive. That is so fundamentally irresponsible. We cannot kick this down the road any longer. They need to deal.

BURNETT: Yes, it is. And I'll give the final word to you, Jim Bianco. Because once it happens and once you've lost the faith of the markets, it's not like all of a sudden when you deal with it, it gets -- it's fine.

BIANCO: No, that's what happened in Europe. If you want a one- sentence thing to what happened in Europe, they borrowed too much money, they kicked the problem down the road until it was too late. And now they're dealing with 20 percent interest rates over there. And if we start doing that, we're going to get to the point where the markets are going to blow up, they're going to promise a deal, and the markets are not going to right themselves.

That's what happened in Europe a year and a half ago and we see the mess they're in now and we're playing that same game.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to all three of you. And sure hope those Super Committee members are watching and listening and taking it to heart.

Twenty percent interest rates or remaining the best economy in the world. It's a choice and they can make it.

All right, OUTFRONT next, Newt's payout is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. New reporting on how much Gingrich earned from John Avlon.

And two deaths that might have been murder. A woman found hanging in her home. And 30 years after police ruled Natalie Wood's death an accident, the case reopened. We talked to someone who was with her the night she died.

And wildfires ripped through Reno. We go there tonight in the "OUTFRONT Five".


BURNETT: Time for the political play of the day. This week, profiting from public office. We're talking about what some people call crony capitalism, the revolving door between government and business, and whoo-hoo, it's a revolver going in crazy, you know, like a mall at Christmastime.

John Avlon is taking a look.


AVLON: That's right, Erin.

Look, revolving door has been doing overtime and Newt Gingrich is becoming a symbol of it. As he rose in the polls, he came under scrutiny for some payments he took from Freddie Mac, totaling $1.6 million. Now he said he wasn't lobbying, he was giving historical analysis. But as a point of comparison, the average historian makes around $60,000 a year. And that gap is what's calling a lot of people to cry foul and be frustrated with the way our system is working.

This week it took on new urgency when news came out reported by "The Washington Post" that he made $37 million through the Center for Health Transformation over eight years, working for the health care industry.

Now it's not just the outside paycheck we object to, it's the hypocrisy that comes with that. Take a look at this kind of quote that he was peddling at the time. Advocating, quote, "Anyone who earns more than $50,000 must purchase health insurance or post a bond."

Now, if that sounds like the individual mandate, it's because it sounds like the individual mandate. This is the kind of situational ethics that drives people crazy about politics and our politicians.

But it's not just Newt. It's a lot bigger than Newt. And this week, a bombshell new book brought light to an old practice that's troubling to a lot. The title of the book, "Throw Them All Out" by Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweitzer.

Now the book was picked up in a profile on "60 Minutes" and detailed of the members of Congress who indulge in what is basically insider trading. Now it's a bipartisan epidemic. Members of both parties, including, allegedly Speaker John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi. But here's the thing, it's entirely legal.

That's right. And by the way, some of these folks deny doing this. But this is entirely legal. What sent Martha Stewart to the pokey, what would send you to prison, is legal if you're a member of Congress.

That's why this is an old political play, but it's nonetheless disgusting. It's called honest graft. Back in 1905, Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt said, look, there's an honest graft. He said, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place, I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood.

Then, it all -- it's all perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight. Of course, it is. Well, that's honest graft. Well, that's our political play of the day. Honest graft. It's perpetuation is still disgusting, folks, all these years later with the new urgency. And maybe that's why it's time for a new round of congressional reforms -- Erin.

BURNETT: Right. It's sort of that whole insider trading things is always -- it's about time. All right. Thanks so much to John Avlon.

Well, we've got a fresh investigation into the death of screen legend Natalie Wood. After getting, quote, "credible evidence," the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the case today.

Now Wood was married to actor Robert Wagner and starred alongside the likes of James Dean and Warren Beatty. She was found drown off the coast of California in 1981. She was boating with her husband and with actor Christopher Walken. Her death was ruled an accident.

Marti Rulli wrote "Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour" in 2009 with the help of Dennis Davern who was on board the night Wood died. They're both with us tonight.

Thanks so much to both of you for taking the time.

Now, Marti, let me start with you. You turned over information to the sheriff just a couple of months ago. Was it new or was it information from the book, which I understand was published two years ago?

MARTI RULLI, AUTHOR, "GOODBYE NATALIE, GOODBYE SPLENDOUR": It was information from the book and information that I had learned along the course of writing the book. There was nothing really new with the information, but what I think made the difference was that because I had sent the department a book after the book was published, but I condensed it, I compressed it, I put it into bullet form with the crucial and critical information standing out.

And I think reading it and the information in that format made a difference, because they saw everything in outline form, and there were a lot of things that needed attention that this case did not receive in 1981.

BURNETT: So, Dennis, let me ask you. You were there that night. You've said before that you had lied to police back at the time when you told them your version of what happened. Why didn't you tell the truth sooner? And what is the truth, as you see it now?

DENNIS DAVERN, FORMER CAPTAIN OF "THE SPLENDOUR": Well, actually, I really didn't lie. I -- what it was, none of us really just told everything that happened that weekend.

BURNETT: So what did you leave out?

DAVERN: I believe we left out the -- the big fight that happened on Saturday night that was just an enormous fight. The wine smashing incident on the coffee table. BURNETT: And who was the fight between? Natalie and whom?

DAVERN: The fight was between the jealousy, the rage of Robert Wagner -- was between Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, because Robert Wagner was so jealous of Christopher. That's what the fight was all about.


DAVERN: And --

BURNETT: And, so, what is the takeaway, Marti? What do you think now is the version or what are police looking into? Have they told you based on your book and what Dennis is saying, what they're now looking into?

RULLI: What they're doing is actually giving Natalie -- Natalie's case, the investigation, that it deserved. Back in 1981, a few questions were asked, Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken were whisked away in a helicopter to go home and grieve. There was barely any questions asked. There was no investigation on lots of the issues involved. And the case was closed within a few days. Ruled accidental drowning and it left many unanswered questions.

BURNETT: Well, one final question to you then, Dennis, do you -- do you now think that it was murder?

DAVERN: No, I can't say it was really murder. The only thing I'm really happy about is, to me, I think it's the generation of detectives today that are taking the interest to do a proper investigation. And that will all be in their hands.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you.

RULLI: Thank you.

BURNETT: A case so many people will remember and we'll be watching.

We have the latest developments in the Penn State rape scandal. Sandusky's Second Mile charity could be folding. And did the school do enough in its investigation? We're going to go there live tonight and get the latest from Mike Galanos and his sources on the ground.

And now there are similar accusations of molestation coming out of Syracuse University. A man who knows the accused and has known him for 25 years on our program tonight. All this and the story we can't resist, OUTFRONT next.


BURNETT: And now a story "We Can't Resist." Last week a woman in Toronto, Canada, went to pick up her child at Earl Beady Junior and Senior Public School. Now while she was waiting in the schoolyard here, she was struck in the head by a soccer ball and suffered a minor concussion which required medical attention. As a result of the incident, the administration has decided to ban balls from the school. A letter sent home with students informed parents that, quote, "Students are not going to be allowed to bring or play with any kind of hard ball. Any balls brought will be confiscated."

The letter indicates that the school located on Woodington Avenue doesn't have a problem with students playing with soft or spongy balls, just the hard balls are banned. Soccer balls, footballs, baseballs. Probably squash balls. Those are kind of in between.

Questionable. Students are, obviously, pretty disappointed they're no longer allowed to play with their balls at the school. And one parent even likened it to the death of a pet.

That guy's kid must really like soccer balls.

So far, there's no word if the school council headed by Pam Coke (ph), agrees with the decision, but Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, the Canadian province where the school is located, discussed the ball controversy during a press conference.


DALTON MCGUINTY, PREMIER OF ONTARIO: I don't think balls are registered weapons last time I checked. And I'm sure that we're going to find a way forward and balls will soon be back in that schoolyard.


BURNETT: Well, we hope the school gets its balls back, too. In these days of rising obesity, kids need as much exercise and fresh air as possible. And we're not afraid to bring balls OUTFRONT to make that point. Sorry, we just couldn't resist.

And now there's something you might be curious about. Our number tonight. Fifteen. That's how many times we just said the word "ball" in the last segment. Because, you know what, it takes a lot of -- those -- to do this story.


BURNETT (voice-over): Still OUTFRONT, the "OUTFRONT 5." Nevada on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are throwing everything we have against this terrible fire.

BURNETT: Defending the accused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know him well. He was a coach when I was at Syracuse since 1983, my freshman year there. He's always been a great man, as far as I know.

BURNETT: Twist of fate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're going to commit naked suicide, one of the biggest causes is extreme guilt.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.



BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT 5.

Number one on a Friday, the clock keeps ticking for the super committee. Five days left for the panel of 12 to find at least $1.2 trillion to cut from the deficit. If they don't, major economic trouble is heading our way.

The bottom line: America must reduce its borrowing. We all have to cut spending on things we like. If we don't, hiring will stop, the economy won't grow, and interest rates one day will rise on mortgages, credit cards, and other loans.

Five days left, super committee. Let's get a deal done.

Number two, a wildfire spreading through Reno, Nevada, tonight. The governor has declared a state of emergency. One person has been killed. And the fire has already spread to more than 2,000 acres, destroying 20 homes.

Officials tell us they've stopped forward progress of the fire, but they have stressed that the flames are not under control. We're also told an evacuation order affecting thousands will not be lifted anytime soon.

Number three, the FDA revoked the approval of Avastin for advanced breast cancer because the drug wasn't shown to be safe or effective.

Our medical reporter Elizabeth Cohen told us this is a very controversial decision among women with breast cancer. She talked to one who believes the drug extended her life by more than a year. Elizabeth added the decision means insurance companies will likely stop covering the drug for breast cancer victims. It costs $90,000 a year.

Number four: the latest "Twilight" film, "Breaking Dawn: Part I" bringing in $30.3 million in its midnight screenings, beating out the openings of the other three movies in the saga. The movie is expected to rake in over $140 million. And if it meets estimates, it will have one of top five best weekend openings ever. I always wonder if they adjust those things for inflation now.

Well, it has been 105 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Super committee, we've got the power to prevent another downgrade. Five days to reach that deal. You can do it. An NCAA investigation into Penn State, lung cancer for Joe Paterno, possibly the end of Jerry Sandusky charity, the Second Mile. These are the three latest developments in the Penn State scandal today. The NCAA will examine how officials handled the child sex abuse allegations against the former assistant football coach. He's charged with abusing eight boys over 15 years, obviously over the past couple of days, as we have reported, more boys have come forward.

The sex abuse scandal has cost legendary coach Joe Paterno his job and now his family has announced the 84-year-old has lung cancer.

HLN's Mike Galanos is at Penn State tonight with the latest.

And, Mike, what are your sources saying about NCAA? I know they're going to take a look at how the university has handled the scandal. Is the university concerned? And what might the ramifications be?

MIKE GALANOS, HLN ANCHOR: Well, I'll start with the ramifications. I mean, you're talking football is so big here, it could be a loss of scholarship. They may be banned from going to bowl games.

And, Erin, it's a media term. It's not an NCAA term. It's called the death penalty -- where basically Penn State could not play football for a year. That would be devastating.

But let's backtrack. And the university is in full cooperation. The NCAA sent a three-page letter to the university, and it's -- how did they handle the scandal? What did they learn so something like this does not happen again?

And key points in there, that catch your attention, one is, they're --

BURNETT: Looks like, obviously, we just lost Mike's shot. So, we'll see if we can get that back. Do we have it or?

All right. You're back. Sorry, Mike. Lost you for a second, just as you were --

GALANOS: I'm back?

BURNETT: Yes, you're back. You're back. Take it away.

GALANOS: OK. False start there. I was mentioning the key to this, Erin, forgive me if I backtrack again, but the key to this is how did it happen, make sure it doesn't happen again.

The coach has to monitor assistant coaches and administrators in and around the program. Obviously, that hits Joe Paterno.

There's another line in that letter that says, you have to do more than just avoid questionable conduct and improper actions. Meaning, you have to take action in a case like this. There's four questions that the NCAA wants the university to answer by the middle of December, and the university put out a statement, basically saying, we're in full cooperation. We know this is the first step in finding out, again, those answers. How did this happen? And again, make sure it doesn't happen again.

BURNETT: And, Mike, before you go, Joe Paterno announcing the lung cancer today. What do you know about that?

GALANOS: I mean, just what a day of news. And we're finding out. Let me read the statement. This is from his son, Scott, to lay it all out there for you. And this is basically what we know, Erin.

Scott Paterno saying, "Last weekend, my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. He is currently undergoing treatment and his doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery. As everyone can appreciate, this is a deeply personal matter for my parents and we simply ask that his privacy be respected as he proceeds with the treatment."

So, again, last week, the first time he hasn't been the coach for Penn State since 1966, and he finds out he has lung cancer. But they're saying it's a treatable form of lung cancer.

He's 84. He had an intestinal issue within the last year. But they say he's a strong man and the prognosis for recovery is good.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Mike, thank you very much. We appreciate your reporting.

GALANOS: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And, of course, this has been a story that all of us now have been living and breathing. It's been just under two week since the scandal rocked Penn State and the nation.

Our legal contributor, Paul Callan, has been following and he's OUTFRONT tonight.

And, Paul, let me just start with this. The NCAA bylaws, as Mike has been talking about, they say that coaches and athletic staffers must do, quote, "more than avoid improper conduct or questionable acts, their own moral values must be so certain and positive" -- so what do you -- what do you make of that? Does that mean that they could lose the program, the football program?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this morals clause gives the NCAA handle to institute an investigation of Penn State.


CALLAN: And bear in mind that Penn State derives $75 million a year in revenues from NCAA sports, like football.

So, this is literally a death penalty, if the NCAA suspends or revokes accreditation of the school. So, they're walking a real tightrope here, because they're looking at NCAA investigation, civil investigation, criminal investigation, and different sets of lawyers are giving different sets of advice as to how to walk this terrible tightrope that's university is on.

BURNETT: And in terms of financial liability to the university, I would imagine, and you've been looking into this, that that could be quite significant. Because Jerry Sandusky himself, whatever money he has, would be fully used up in the initial stages of a criminal case.

CALLAN: Oh, you know, civil lawyers look for the big pocket, and Penn State's the big pocket here. So, they're going to be looking to show the university aided and abetted by providing this trap that was used to bring these young children for Sandusky to molest. So they're really worried about this case, because of the liability.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Paul Callan. Appreciate your time.

CALLAN: Nice being with you.

BURNETT: Well, allegations of sex abuse now beyond Penn State. Syracuse now the second Division I school to face accusations that one of its coaches may have sexually abused a young boy.

Bernie Fine is the assistant basketball coach, or he was, for the past 35 years. He's been accused of sexually abusing two boys between the '70s and the '90s. He denies the allegations, but he has been placed on administrative leave. The reason for that is that a second boy came forward, who it's important to note, is related to the first boy who had come forward in 2005.

Don McPherson has known Bernie Fine for more than 20 years. He's a former All-American quarterback at Syracuse. I spoke to him shortly before the show. He talked about his relationship with Bernie Fine.


DON MCPHERSON, SYRACUSE ALUM: I know him well. He was a coach when I was at Syracuse since 1983, my freshman year there, and I've known him as part of an honorary fraternity on campus as well, and he's always been a great man, as far as I know.

BURNETT: So you never --


BURNETT: -- heard, saw, nothing?

MCPHERSON: No. And I think that's the thing that surprised a lot of people about this, with Bernie Fine. He's always been an upstanding man.

BURNETT: And I know, obviously, some people had said it was a similar situation with Jerry Sandusky, except, for, obviously, there were certain incidents that various individuals observed. But you've never heard about anything like that in this case?

MCPHERSON: No, not at all.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you what you think is really happening here. And put this in context. You're someone who's an advocate in these sorts of situations. You've testified in front of Congress. This is a cause that you have taken on to prevent sexual abuse in sports.

So, what do you read into this situation?

MCPHERSON: Well, I think the first thing you have to make sure that you do is you take these kinds of accusations very, very seriously. I think that's what the university's done --


MCPHERSON: -- by putting him on leave and going through what is another investigation.

I think the troublesome part of this is that it comes on the heels of a very explosive case at Penn State that involved a grand jury investigation. In this case, we don't have that proof. We have a story that was revealed several years ago, investigated, and found to be nothing. And now, we have this second kind of claim that --

BURNETT: A relative of the first person --

MCPHERSON: Exactly, relative of the first person. Where this concerns me most is that it clouds the issue of child sexual abuse as something that happens in these big-time sports environments and not something that happens on an everyday basis. And I think stories like this tend to cloud the overall issue.

BURNETT: And why is this an issue that you care so much about? What made you become an advocate for this?

MCPHERSON: I -- you know, I was a student athlete at Syracuse and started doing programs around different social issues with young people. And I always felt like if I was doing issues around alcohol and drug use, it was always, you had the personal control to do something. But when it comes to abuse, when it comes to violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, it's really the pain at the hands of someone else?

BURNETT: Were you abused yourself?

MCPHERSON: I was not. No, I came to this work because I was an athlete and I was asked to go out and speak on important issues. And felt that if I was going to be a part of those important issues, A, I had to identify, what were the most important issues, and B, to be truly educated about them.

BURNETT: And, of course, you're going to have some situations, potentially right now, in light of Penn State that come forward that maybe aren't true.


BURNETT: But it might also shed a light on other situations that are very true and that be hidden because people have been afraid.

MCPHERSON: These are all issues that we've all been raised not to talk about.

BURNETT: That's right.

MCPHERSON: You don't talk about the abuse in your family, you don't talk about the violence in your family, you don't talk about the alcoholism in your family, the drug use in your family. That silence allows these things to continue.

That's what we saw at Penn State. It was the family that was being protected, the family of Penn State. And that's why I'm proud of Syracuse in this case to be forthright. But the reality is, these issues that we've all been raised not to talk about.

BURNETT: Are you going to reach out to coach Fine?

MCPHERSON: I won't. I will let the machine of justice work its path and hopefully coach Fine will be exonerated and that the institution will move forward in a responsible way.

BURNETT: All right. Don, thanks again. Really appreciate your being here.

MCPHERSON: My pleasure. Thank you, Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Paul Callan is with me.

And I wanted to follow up with you, Paul, on this issue of false accusations. Obviously, we have no idea what will happen in Syracuse. But do you think we're going to see more false accusations as a result of a spotlight on abuse?

CALLAN: Well, I think we have to be careful of a lynch mob mentality, which is developing around these cases. When you hear about pedophilia, it's such a horrible thing. But you know something? There are false cases and there are accurate and true cases. And we have a court system to separate it out and find out the truth here.

So, let's not -- let's not assume everybody charged is guilty. Some of these people are innocent. And we've got to look at it carefully as time goes on.

BURNETT: All right. Paul Callan, thank you very much.

Let's check in with Anderson.

Hey, Anderson, what you have tonight? ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": We've got more on the Penn State story ahead, keeping them honest tonight. Including the possibility that federal authorities may investigate Jerry Sandusky because he allegedly crossed state lines with one of his accusers. Jeffrey Toobin joins us with that.

Also tonight, we're digging deeper into new allegations from new accusers at a second school, Syracuse University. Dr. Drew Pinsky joins us with more on how abusers operate and how powerful institutions sometimes try to protect themselves and not the kids, although the Syracuse case seems to be a very different reaction from the university. We'll look at that.

Also tonight, an up close look at what happened the night actress Natalie Wood died. New details led police to reopen the investigation 30 years after she apparently drowned of the coast of California. Why now, though, are they really opening this? We'll try to figure that out.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you.

Well, in July, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau's body was found hanging in a California mansion. Police ruled it suicide. The new evidence working for the "Dr. Phil" show says it looks like homicide.

And the women who introduced Dr. Phil to the world, Oprah Winfrey, launched her show 25 years ago. We go inside.


BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle." We reach out to sources around the world, and tonight, we go to Egypt where tens of thousands of protesters flooded Cairo's Tahrir Square. It may have reminded you of earlier this year.

Ben Wedeman is in Cairo tonight.

Ben, what was the reason for this protest?


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, what brought out so many people into Tahrir Square today is the growing fear among many Egyptians that the military, the people who took over from Hosni Mubarak want to stay in power indefinitely. The military is pushing what are known as super constitutional principles that would essentially make the military a state within a state, that would ensure that their budget cannot be reviewed by civilians.

So, many Egyptians said, enough is enough. Some are even calling for a second revolution -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Wow. The revolution continues in Cairo.

Well, back in mid-July, 32-year-old Rebecca Zahau was found bound, naked, and hanging in a Coronado, California, mansion. She lived there with her longtime boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai. Now, just days earlier, his young son died, and that death was the result of an accident which happened while the boy was in Rebecca Zahau's care.

The sheriff's department eventually ruled the death a suicide, but her family didn't believe it. In fact, a lawyer for the family tells OUTFRONT there is information the police still need to look at. And the lawyer says existing evidence is consistent with murder.

So, in late October, the family had Zahau's body exhumed and another autopsy performed. The results were released earlier this week on the "Dr. Phil" show.

And I talked with San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, who investigated her death, and asked him if he'd seen the new autopsy results and if he will re-open the case.


BILL GORE, SHERIFF, SAN DIEGO COUNTY: At this point in time, the case is still closed, but should any new information be brought to our attention, we would be happy to examine it, and if necessary, re-open the case. So far, the family or the lawyers for the family have brought nothing new to our attention.

BURNETT: The Zahau family attorney, Ann Bremner, and Dr. Wecht, who is the man who just conducted another autopsy, which I'm going to ask you more about in a moment, have questioned this whole idea of the fact that she was -- Rebecca was naked when she died. That they said they usually aren't naked when people commit suicide, that would be highly unusual.

How did you become comfortable with this important aspect of the case?

GORE: This is definitely an unusual suicide. In fact, we approached it from the beginning, looking at a possible homicide. It was only until we got the results of all the forensic evidence, the DNA, the fingerprints. And I still wasn't convinced until we got the last piece of forensic information, which was the toxicology report. She had not been drugged.

And then the only logical explanation was suicide. So it's not unprecedented. Yes, it is unusual.

BURNETT: Dr. Cyril Wecht did the second autopsy, and he says the first one, which was done by your team, he has no issue with it. He thought everything in it was fine.

But listen to what he did say on "Dr. Phil" show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. CYRIL WECHT: I believe that if the body had just plummeted down with that sheer drop of several feet, then the cervical vertebrae would have been fractured or dislocated, separated, one from the other, or from the base of the skull. And that was not present as found in the original autopsy, nor by me.


BURNETT: How do you explain that lack of injury to her neck?

GORE: The medical examiner here in San Diego that actually did the autopsy, Dr. John Lucas, said as a matter of fact the research shows that only a minority of hangings have the vertical -- the vertebrae fractured in the manner which Dr. Wecht described. So I think he was misinformed on his science.

BURNETT: And what about in terms of the injuries to her scalp that Dr. Wecht said could be from blunt force trauma?

GORE: Sure. Dr. Lucas covered that in his first autopsy. And he talked about the minor nature of those wounds. We don't know exactly how they got there.

We speculate that when she went over head first, over the balcony, that her head could have hit the bottom of the balcony. Dr. Lucas pointed out that the very minor nature of these wounds, it wouldn't cause unconsciousness, and he doubted if it would even cause a headache.

BURNETT: Was there in your mind a link between her death and the death just a few days earlier of her boyfriend of three years' son who died while she was home taking care of him?

GORE: If we were responsible for watching over a 6-year-old and he had a tragic accident, which is what happened, which led to his death, how could you help but feel guilty about that? We think that was the case.

And as you pointed out, one of the main -- if you're going to commit naked suicide, one of the biggest causes is extreme guilt. So, we think that played a role in it.

There was also a journal kept on her cell phone that talks about concerns about her relationship with Jonah and how she was treated by the rest of the family. It was clear that she loved Max. And I think she saw that as her strongest link to Jonah. And when he died, I think she had real concern about what was going to happen with that relationship, what was her life going to be like.

Now, again, we're speculating. Nobody's going to know what was going through her mind. And again, we go back to -- yes, this is an unusual suicide. But this would be an incredible homicide. Why would somebody try to kill somebody but make it look like a suicide but maybe make it look like a homicide? It's just completely illogical.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Sheriff Gore, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us -- a story that has fascinated so many people.

GORE: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here, Erin.

BURNETT: Thanks.


BURNETT: Twenty-five years ago, Oprah Winfrey launched the daytime talk show that built an empire, changed -- I don't know how many lives, thousands, millions of lives. We take a look back. The president of the Oprah Winfrey Network, next.


BURNETT: Twenty-five years ago, Oprah Winfrey became a worldwide sensation and a new book, "The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy" looks back.

Sheri Salata was there the whole time. She's now the co- president of OWN, Oprah Winfrey's own network.

I met with Sheri this week and asked, hey, what's it like to work with Oprah?


SHERI SALATA, CO-PRESIDENT, OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK: It's just like you would think it would be. She is the same herself that she was on the air. And every day -- nobody knows how funny she is, though -- hysterically funny. She's an excellent mimic.


SALATA: Really, really witty. And I think most days we spend laughing at my antics. Or she would point something out, is that really the show you want to do, Sherry? You know, I think this is about my 50,000th makeover show. You know, it was a personal challenge to move the bar up, to do something the audience hadn't seen before.

And really, by the end, it was like I don't know how much higher, we're going to have to put her in a rocket and send her to the moon because I don't know what else we can do now.

BURNETT: But we're now in a world where the media's changed. I mean, there's just so many sources. It used to be the Oprah Book Club, the "Oprah Show".

SALATA: Right.

BURNETT: The "Oprah" magazine and she really could dominate the whole media world. Is that done -- I'm not talking about for her, I'm just saying for the future for there to be a person like that?

SALATA: Well, there is no question that things have changed. There's too many choices on television probably for somebody to go out and dominate for 25 years like she did. Even if they were, you know, as gifted, but hard to do.

BURNETT: And how does that play into the new network now, the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN? That's been sort of one of the first things -- I mean, at least in recent years where she hit a little bit of a hiccup and now, she's really getting involved to make sure it's successful.

SALATA: Right. Well, I know, we finished the show May 25th, took a little nap, and then, all of a sudden, now, we're diving into a 24-hour cable network. What I can see --

BURNETT: Welcome to our world, by the way.

SALATA: Exactly. You guys work really hard.

What I can see is there's going to be more freedom to do more things, that we can widen and expand our vision for the kinds of things we want to do on television. We can take more risks. We can try more things. So, in the end it's going to be tons of fun.

But it is a lot of work getting one going. I'll tell you that.

BURNETT: So when you look at running this network so far, what are the things you're most proud of that you actually think are really working right now, which you're committed to?

SALATA: Well, we just wrapped up the season one of Oprah's life class, which is a bold move going on air every night to teach. Using some of the best clips of the "Oprah Show" and going online for webcasts and talking to people around the world on Facebook. So, that was bold and a lot of people would say risky, and, you know, the people came.

BURNETT: So let me ask you, do you think you have enough for the 24-hour channel of programming?


BURNETT: Not yet?

SALATA: Not yet. No. I mean, we've had a really good couple months. We have some things that are breakout hits that we're renewing for second seasons. Our Lisa Ling show, "Our America," we're so proud of. She is just doing a fantastic job.

And then Oprah's coming back in January with another show, "Next Chapter," which are going to be all the fantastic travel adventures and interviews that people really love to see her on. She's out of the chair. It will be cool to see her out in the world and around the country and not in a studio.

BURNETT: Well, let us know if she needs any special reporting. We'll fill in.

Thanks so much, Sheri. Great to meet you.

SALATA: Really nice to meet you, too.


BURNETT: All right. We're going to be in the nation's capital next week covering the super committee countdown, and on Tuesday, CNN is hosting a Republican debate on national security.

Super committee, don't sleep. Don't eat. Do a deal. We're not going to give you water until you do a deal. Then, we know you can do it.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.