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Erin Burnett Outfront

"Pass A Smaller Package Of Spending Cuts; Power "Fluctuated" During Beyonce Rehearsals; Law Shielding Gun Makers Under Attack; The Mormons Influence On The Boy Scouts; New Details on Ethan's Daring Rescue

Aired February 05, 2013 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, it's Groundhog Day. No, not February 2nd, but the version created by our wonderful leaders in Washington, who are kicking the can down the road again. How long before that can is too big to kick?

Developing story tonight, the answer to whether Beyonce's halftime show was responsible for the blackout, finally an answer.

And a 5-year-old boy, he was hold hostage in an underground bunker for six days. His mother speaks out for the first time today. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening to all of you. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, February 5th, the new Groundhog Day.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If they can't get a bigger package done by the time "The Sequester" is scheduled to go into effect then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms.


BURNETT: A smaller package because you can't get a deal done in time? So of course, it's not the first time Washington has kicked the can down the road. We know that. I mean, remember when we first heard about sequester, that bizarre word that is now part of the lexicon?

It was August of 2011 and the word sequester came out of the failed deal on the debt ceiling. Then came the fiscal cliff that was the next chance to prevent all of the cuts. Washington punted, they said, three more months, we'll solve it then. Nope.

Now three months is coming so guess what? They will punt again. You know what, thinking about it today, it reminded me a lot about this. That of course was "Groundhog Day." At least they had a good song. We have to listen to the terrible voices of people in Washington. OUTFRONT tonight, Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and former director of speechwriting for President Clinton, and Michael Medved, a conservative commentator for Salem Radio.

OK, great to see both of you. Michael Waldman, you're both Michael so I got to do first the last name. Sorry. Let me start with you. The president asking for a smaller package because a bigger deal can't get done, how is this moving the ball forward? I mean, there's blame to go on both sides here, but it is pathetic.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, NYU: I think he probably would say that it's better to kick the can down the road than to kick the economy off the cliff. This is kind of a self-inflicted answer to a concocted crisis.

The threat to default on the debt a few years ago to try to force a budget deal, and then we're going to put these automatic cuts in, they're going to be so terrible that that will force our hand, and now the political market and everybody else is kind of priced in already the nonsense.

So I think as an economic matter, it would be really bad to have this austerity go in effect right now. But it's not a permanent solution, it's not a way to run a railroad or a government.

BURNETT: All right, you have a point. A lot of people agree with you. But Michael Medved, let me ask you about this. The president's 2013 budget was $3.8 trillion. The automatic spending cuts, sequester, is $110 billion a year, less than 2.9 percent of the president's budget. If he cannot cut that, if the Republicans cannot cut that, this is where I get to the feeling they're all pathetic. I don't understand. How can you go smaller?

MICHAEL MEDVED, SALEM RADIO: Erin, I agree with you completely. What I think Michael is forgetting and what a lot of people have forgotten is "The Sequester" was supposed to kick in January 1st. It was part of that original fiscal cliff negotiation.

It was supposed to be balanced. We were going to get automatic tax increases and automatic spending cuts. Well, we went along, we did the tax increases. We haven't done anything in the way of spending cuts.

It's about time they faced up to it and even doing the very modest relatively modest spending cuts that they were committed to do last -- in 2011 and then supposed to do on January 1st. It's about time they got it done.

WALDMAN: My view is thank goodness they didn't put these spending cuts into effect January 1st. What we learned is that the economy ground to a halt in the fourth quarter because businesses expected these cuts.

It shows that the kind of balance we really need is some investment and stimulus now to get the economy growing, which will do more than anything else to shrink the deficit and long-term tax reform, long-term entitlement reform.

That's the right way to do it. But to cut now because we want to reform entitlements later doesn't make any sense.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about that because you talk about tax reform. That's something the left wants, and something the right wants. The problem is with tax reform, what it entails. Here's the president today talking about tax reform, closing loopholes.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy, not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn't come together to eliminate a few special interest tax loopholes or government programs that we agree need some reform.


BURNETT: They're not little and they're not few and they're not easy. I mean, Michael Waldman, of the five of the top ten tax expenditures, these are loopholes. Mortgage interest deduction, the deduction we get for health care, the child tax credit, deduction for state and local taxes, charity.

OK, the president doesn't want to name those. Republicans don't want to name those. But that's what we're talking about, a tax increase on a whole lot of people.

WALDMAN: Well, if you really wound up closing those deductions, we would have a massive impact on a lot of lives and I don't think it's going to happen. I think that what you're going to wind up seeing is there are a lot of tax deductions that don't bring in quite as much money, but which really distort economic behavior.

Good one people point to is the carried interest, which allows hedge fund people to not pay the same taxes everybody else does. That's not going to bring as much money in, but there may just be to be ultimately higher rates if we're serious about dealing with long term fiscal health.

MEDVED: We do need to deal with long term fiscal health and we do need real tax reform, but we ought to be guided by President Obama's own Simpson-Bowles commission, which said that we need to combine this kind of tax reform, closing loopholes, with lowering rates, particularly lowering rates on corporate taxation so we're more competitive with the rest of the world.

If we are going to expend, use up these loopholes to pay for new spending or to avoid the kind of budget cutting that we need to do or the kind of entitlement reform, I mean, some of the entitlement reform that has been proposed, a different way of calculating the COLA, the cost of living adjustment, which would amount to literally pennies a day for people. It would not be a crippling kind of cut, that is what needs to be done and needs to be addressed right away. BURNETT: Michael Waldman, I don't get it, though. They can't cut 2.9 percent of the budget on spending. That seems to be a small amount. We should be able to do it, but they can't do that. When it comes to raising taxes, nobody actually wants to raise them because they will raise them on a lot of people. So there's no courage on either side.

WALDMAN: You're exactly right about that. When other countries look at our governing class right now, there's no honesty in any direction. The fact of the matter is a lot of the things that could be done to secure Social Security aren't that hard.

It's absolutely true, though, that Medicare is tough and requires real dealing with spending. The problem is, you know, President Obama, he's got his party at his back. I have no doubt that if he makes an ultimate deal that he will be able to pull along the Democrats.

The problem is John Boehner, can't bring along his party at all if there's even a nickel of tax increases and that's hard to get balance when you have something like that.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. John Boehner herding cats and by the way, cats have a very special appearance on OUTFRONT tonight. I promise you.

Still OUTFRONT, new developments in the Super Bowl blackout investigation. Today, the answer, Beyonce, was she to blame?

And war on gun makers. Our next guest wants them to pay for shootings, be completely liable.

And was Chris Christie telling the truth when he said this to David Letterman?


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Basically, the healthiest fat guy you have ever seen in your life.



BURNETT: We are getting new information tonight about what may have caused the lights to go out for about 35 minutes during Super Bowl. Our Brian Todd is OUTFRONT in New Orleans.

Brian, some speculated that it was Beyonce's halftime performance that was to blame, but now that you're getting some answers, is that the case?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing, Erin, for the first time that there were some issues with Beyonce's rehearsals in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now Super Bowl and other officials, Superdome officials have said that her actual halftime show had nothing to do with the power outage.

But there were some issues during the rehearsals, getting the first word of that this afternoon. In a statement to CNN, the NFL said quote, "There were some fluctuations in the frequency of the power supply, but not in the amount of the power supplied to the building."

This is again referring to the period of the rehearsals that Beyonce was having in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The league said there were no mass power outages during the rehearsals.

They also said it was because of those power issues during the rehearsal that they decided to have Beyonce's team use a completely different power supply from the Superdome's grid for the actual halftime show itself.

Now, we also caught up with Doug Thornton of the SMG group, group that manages the Superdome. Here's what he had to say about Beyonce's rehearsals.


DOUG THORNTON, SMG/SUPERDOME MANAGEMENT: Yes, we had a couple fuses blown, there were a couple circuits that were overloaded, but it had nothing to do with this power outage. It's totally unrelated.


TODD: Thornton says that that sometimes happens when you've got outside show producers coming in who are not familiar with the circuitry of the building. We contacted Beyonce's representatives. They issued a no comment to us about ten times over the phone when we called.

So they are not commenting on this at all. The broader issue of what led to this power outage and the investigation, we found out today there were memos circulating in October with worries among Superdome and other officials, engineers that they hired, about the power supply, whether it was strong enough.

There were memos about decay of the feeder lines going into the Superdome. One memo saying the power supply was not sufficient enough, reliable enough, to support a high profile event and that memo warned of a possible liability against the Superdome, but they did upgrade all of that by mid-December.

The question is, did the upgrades work? Was it something else that went wrong? That's what they're investigating.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Brian Todd.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Now to our second story, OUTFRONT, suing the gun makers. It's an idea gaining traction since the Newtown school shooting so current law actually shields most gun manufacturers and dealers from being sued. This is a law that was passed back in 2005 and it was passed in part due to heavy lobbying from the NRA.

OUTFRONT tonight, the congressman leading the charge to overturn the law, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Good to see you again, sir. Let me just get straight to this.

The NRA argues that the current law prevents lawsuits that are unfair and specifically, they say lawsuits that do this are intended to drive gun makers out of business by holding manufacturers and dealers liable for the criminal acts of third parties who are totally beyond their control.

Suing the firearms industry for street crime is like suing General Motors for criminal acts involving Buicks. Why should gun makers be held accountable for the actions of people?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, gun makers like any other industry in America should be held accountable only when they are negligent. This wouldn't go beyond that, but they shouldn't have a special immunity.

They shouldn't for example, if you're a gun seller and you're turning a blind eye to straw purchasers come in, you know they're buying guns on behalf of others to evade background checks, there's no reason to give them a blank check and give them immunity.

It would be as if we said well, a bartender who knowingly serves minors or negligently serves minors and the minors get in accidents, we should turn a blind eye to that and they should be immune from any responsibility.

BURNETT: Congressman, I'm curious about one thing, because if it were that simple that you could never sue them, it might be very black and white here but it isn't. Gun makers can still be held accountable.

There was a case in New York, an appeals court upheld a 16-year- old's case against a gun maker to go ahead, he said the gun was used to shoot him because it was sold -- the gun maker supplied hand guns to irresponsible dealers, exactly what you're talking about.

He's allowed to go ahead with the lawsuit against the company that made the gun. This fell within the exception of the protection of lawful commerce and arms act. That's a mouthful but the point is you can still sue him when you need to sue him. You're a former prosecutor. Why isn't that enough?

SCHIFF: Well, it isn't enough because the vast majority of these lawsuits are dismissed before the parties can even gather evidence in the case. That act passed by Congress in 2005 has been very broadly interpreted and essentially, the opportunities to sue gun makers are nonexistent.

There may be a case that gets through, but it is very much the exception. The broader question is why give this industry as opposed to every other industry in America? Why give them any special immunity from negligence? Why make it that much harder and the burden that much taller for this one industry?

BURNETT: But then wouldn't you end up with a situation, where lawsuits can run out of control? Someone commits suicide with a gun so the surviving family members sue the gun maker. These are unpleasant situations to consider, but you can see how there would be people who become lawsuit-happy about this. It's very easy to blame a gun maker for everything and just cause all kinds of tort issues.

SCHIFF: That same argument could be made with every other industry, too. That could be made with respect to the car industry. But the result of the fact that the car industry doesn't have immunity from negligence has meant that cars are manufactured more safely with airbags, with other precautions, with good ignition systems, with good braking systems.

The same would be true for the gun industry. They will perform better and one important thing to realize is that the vast majority of gun sellers, for example, 85 percent of them never sell a single weapon used in a crime, but a very small number, just a handful of gun sellers, may sell half the guns that are used in crime across America.

Why is that? It would be as if you had a bar where the enormous proportions of youth drivers who drive drunk come out of that bar and all the other bars in the neighborhood don't have a problem.

BURNETT: But would you allow them to sue the car company when they get in and drive the car drunk? That's what a lot of people on Twitter were likening your move to.

SCHIFF: Well, only if the car company had some responsibility. If the car company, say a car dealer is knowingly selling cars to an underaged driver, yes, they should be held responsible.

But it's never enough not for the gun industry or the car industry or any other, the mere fact that you sell a lawful product that is used in an unlawful way, that shouldn't be the source of liability. Nothing in my bill would make that the source of liability. It's only when you act negligently.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Congressman. We appreciate your taking the time to explain to explain what you want to do. I want to bring in Paul Callan now, legal analyst and prosecutor.

All right, so tell me, do we need to change this law in order to hold gun makers responsible when they should be held responsible?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I was looking at what was going on in 2005 when this law was passed, 30,000 gun related deaths in 2005, but huge numbers of lawsuits against the gun industry.

Thirty municipalities have started a big lawsuit and when the NRA and lobbyists came in, they said you know something, you will put gun manufacturers out of business. Not because they were losing the lawsuits but because they couldn't afford the legal fees. They said we'll have no gun industry in the United States unless we have this legislation.

BURNETT: That's why they went ahead with it. By the way, we have reported, a lot of these companies, if they were to be serious gun control legislation, could lose half their revenue and hundreds of jobs.

CALLAN: They are small companies also. You know, the biggest successful argument they said the Department of Defense might have to outsource the production of firearms to foreign sources in the United States if these lawsuits prevail. That was the argument that was a winner with Congress.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much. Appreciate it, Paul Callan. Let us know what you think about this. I know you feel passionately so please share.

And still to come, the Boy Scouts of America set to vote on a proposal that will allow gay Boy Scouts. Why the Mormon Church is going to decide the outcome on this.

Plus, U.S. ski champion Lindsey Vonn involved in this terrible crash.


BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, Mormons and the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which sponsors more scout troops than any other church is key to tomorrow's controversial vote on whether to drop the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts.

OUTFRONT tonight, McKay Coppins, a political reporter for "Buzz Feed." He is a practicing Mormon, has been working his sources all day on this story. McKay, you know, the Mormon Church has been involved with the Boy Scouts since 1913. It's an incredibly tight relationship. How deep is it?

MCKAY COPPINS, BUZZFEED REPORTER: You know, it really is quite important. As you mentioned, there are no other organizations, religious or otherwise, that sponsor more Boy Scout troops. Some estimate that as many as one-third of Boy Scouts in the United States are affiliated with Mormon Boy Scout groups.

So it really is considerable. You know, there's a long history. The president of the Mormon Church actually is a long-time Boy Scout and big proponent of the organization, and there are actually financial considerations, too. The church and the Boy Scouts organization co-own land for Boy Scout camps.

So there really is a long relationship and they're very entangled together. So there's no question that what the church -- what the church does and what the church wants is going to be a high priority as the Boy Scouts make this decision going forward.

BURNETT: Amazing how influential they are and the numbers. Mormon boys really are the core of Boy Scouts of America, 421,000 registered Mormon boys, 15 percent of the Boy Scouts in this country. I mean, those numbers, that just stunned me.

Now faith-based organizations dominate the Boy Scouts. Mormons are the number one, the biggest. I guess, I mean, it feels safe to say that the Mormon Church could be the decider on whether gays are allowed in the Boy Scouts or not.

COPPINS: Yes. I mean, ultimately, the Council on the Boy Scouts organization is going to have to make that decision, but the sources that I talked to on both sides of the equation tell me that the church has been in constant communication with the organization as they made this decision, and their influence is obvious.

So yes, their opinion is duly noted. It's also worth noting that the church itself over the past few months has made moves of progress, some would say, in terms of gay rights. The church launched a web site talking about how it's important to welcome gays into the church. They still have very strict social, you know, rules, but --

BURNETT: But they acknowledge sexuality is not a choice, which I don't hear coming out of Rome.

COPPINS: Right. That was a big deal. That was the first time they had acknowledged that. So some people I talked to say the Boy Scouts may have seen those moves by the church and kind of read the tea leaves and said if there's a moment to do this without kind of losing the support of the Mormon Church, now might be the time.

BURNETT: All right, McKay, thank you very much.

COPPINS: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: Now, OUTFRONT next, the military and SWAT-like tactics used to rescue the 5-year-old boy held hostage for six days. We have the details on exactly how this went down. That's next.

Plus champion skier Lindsey Vonn injured in a dramatic crash. An update on her condition, next.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.

We start with stories we care about where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

And tonight, we begin with the Department of Justice. It's filed a civil lawsuit against the ratings agency Standard and Poor's, saying that S&P misled investors.

Now, here's what the suit alleges. It says that S&P gave high ratings marks to investments that were tied to subprime mortgages and that made them appear a lot safer than they actually were. Many believe securities that ultimately went sour like those helped trigger the financial crisis.

S&P says the suit is entirely without factual or legal merit, but I want to emphasize, this is the first major case brought by the government against the big ratings agencies and it's only a civil suit. The financial crisis was years ago and as of tonight, none, not a single one of the major financial executives involved in the crisis has faced any criminal charges.

Well, ski champ Lindsey Vonn had a scary crash today during the Alpine Ski World Championships in Austria. The doctor treating the 28-year-old says she has a complex torn ligament in her right knee. The U.S. ski team says Vonn will be out for the rest of the season. They do say they expect her back in time for the 2014 Olympic Games. You may say that's so far away.

Well, Dr. Sabrina Strickland of the Hospital for Special Surgery talked to us today and said it's a devastating injury that usually takes nine to 12 months for an elite athlete like Vonn to get back to a full level of training after something like this.

Well, Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon have introduced two bills that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and you know what comes to that, everybody. You all hope for this. You know what that means? It's going to get taxed.

It wouldn't force states to legalize marijuana, but it allows those which do to regulate it without worrying about federal agents raiding legal businesses.

So, how much would this pot tax raise? I'm not a smoker, if you are, this will matter to you. If the federal tax of $50 an ounce were placed on pot, $50 an ounce, Polis' office cites an estimate from the Congressional Research Service that says it would rake in $20 billion in revenue annually.

That's right. Once it's legal, you pay a tax.

It's been 551 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, in its latest economic outlook, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the unemployment rate will stay about 8 percent this year. They don't think the economy will pick up steam until next year.

And now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: the incredible story of rescuing Ethan. One day after the 5-year-old boy from Alabama was freed from captivity, the FBI has released the first photos that show the site of the underground bunker where he was held for six days. And now, the area is tented and we will hold this up for a second, they think the site could be dangerous and still contain explosives.

You can see that pipe in the prior picture. That pipe was actually the pipe they were using to communicate with Jimmy Lee Dykes. These pictures are coming as we learn new details about the daring rescue operation.

Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT with the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For days, as the command center in a nearby church continued to grow, authorities remained in constant communication with Jimmy Lee Dykes, speaking to him over a telephone in his bunker. A law enforcement source characterized Dykes as contentious the entire time.

Despite that, Dykes allowed authorities to deliver what were called comfort items through a hatch.

WALLY OLSON, DALE COUNTY SHERIFF: He's allowed us to provide coloring books, medication, toys.

SAVIDGE: Dykes was said to be caring for the boy, providing even an electric heater and blankets to keep him warm, leaving the authorities to take the unusual step of thanking the boy's kidnapper.

OLSON: I want to thank him for taking care of our child.

SAVIDGE: All seemed well until Sunday afternoon, when negotiators noticed a change in Dykes's demeanor.

STEVE RICHARDSON, FBI: Within the past 24 hours, negotiations deteriorated.

SAVIDGE: According to law enforcement sources on the scene, authorities used a camera to monitor what was going on inside the bunker.

While an FBI source tells CNN surveillance drones were used to observe the site from above round the clock.

Meanwhile, highly trained FBI hostage rescue teams like this one in an FBI training video took turns on standby around the clock. Sources say those rescue teams practiced their assault on a mockup of Dykes' bunker.

Monday, authorities continue to monitor the change in Dykes' demeanor. Publicly, officials gave no indication, but for the first time hinted he had a motive.

OLSON: He has a story that's important to him, although it's very complex.

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, a team from the Dothan Fire Department trained in collapsed building rescues was quietly put on alert and brought in. Then, came the critical moment.

RICHARDSON: Mr. Dykes was observed -- was observed holding a gun.

SAVIDGE: That's when the HRT team struck.

Byron Martin is a neighbor. BYRON MARTIN, NEIGHBOR: I heard a big boom and then I heard -- I believe I heard rifle shots.

RICHARDSON: FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.

SAVIDGE: Sources tell CNN federal agents detonated large explosions, then two or more agents dropped into the underground space, shooting the gunman multiple times, killing him. Five-year-old Ethan was unharmed.

It was all over in seconds.

For a clearly exhausted Dale County sheriff, Wally Olson, it was a relief.

OLSON: We appreciate everybody in law enforcement pulling together to get this job done. Thank you.


BURNETT: So miraculous.

And, Martin, I know you have some news now on Ethan. He had been in the hospital and apparently seems to be doing pretty well.

SAVIDGE: Yes. He's doing terrific by all accounts, from everyone we have spoken to. They said that he was running around playing with toys, he was taking those sticker notes and sticking them on everybody who came into the room.

But the good news tonight, we have just been told is that he has been released from the hospital. We don't know where he is now. That's exactly what his mother wanted. She wanted to get him back into his normal lifestyle as quickly as possible. Don't expect any major press conferences or anything like that where you will see her or him. They want to get back to life and it's going to probably be in hiding for a little bit longer.

Meanwhile, behind us, Erin, they are setting up for a celebration, community celebration, a birthday party, because as you may or may not know, tomorrow is the day that Ethan turns 6. It's going to be quite a day -- Erin.

BURNETT: It is. The whole -- the whole country is going to be wishing that little boy a happy birthday.

Thanks very much to Martin.

And Ethan's mother is speaking out about the ordeal. She issued this statement this morning. "For the first time in almost a week, I woke up this morning to see the most beautiful sight, my sweet boy. I can't describe how incredible it is to hold him again. Ethan is safe and back in my arms and I owe it all to some of the most compassionate people on Earth."

So beautifully written.

Midland City Elementary School principal Phillip Parker is looking forward to seeing Ethan come back to school. And he is OUTFRONT tonight.

And good to see you, Mr. Parker. Really appreciate your taking the time.

I know you have, you know, as the principal you know Ethan, you see him all the time. Everyone is so curious about him. What can you tell us?

PHILLIP PARKER, PRINCIPAL, MIDLANT CITY, ALA. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Well, Ethan's just -- he's a young man that's energetic. He's got a lot of laugh. He's enthusiastic and we -- and everybody pretty much knows Ethan, and we are just looking forward to the time that he can come back in and we can wrap our arms around him and tell him we love him.

BURNETT: And we had also seen reports that he may have Asperger's or also attention deficit disorder, that he may have had a couple challenges like that.

Did you ever see anything like that? Do you think -- how is going to that impact him here as he starts down this path of healing?

PARKER: Well, I honestly believe that Ethan will probably -- it's a shame that this had to happen but for any child that I believe will bounce back better than any child I know of, would be Ethan. He's just -- he meets no strangers and I just feel confident he's going to bounce back and we hope to have him in school as quickly as possible.

BURNETT: So special that you say that. I mean, he would be the first to bounce back.

I want to ask you a little about his mother. You just heard me share the statement that she released to the media, which was so eloquent and gracious. She also, though, according to a state senator, said this when the FBI, they were debating whether to go in and kill Jimmy Lee Dykes earlier.

She was the one, according to Harri Anne Smith, the state senator who said she put her hand on the officer's heart and said, "Sir, don't hurt him, he's sick." Smith told that today to ABC News.

Is that something you would expect to hear from Ethan's mother?

PARKER: Can you say that one more time? I didn't catch that.

BURNETT: They said that Ethan's mother was asking the FBI to not kill Jimmy Lee Dykes, she said to them look, he's sick, don't do that, that she had so much empathy for him. Does that surprise you? Is that the woman that you know?

PARKER: No, I had met with Mrs. -- the parent of this child yesterday morning, and she had told me that if there was anyone that she believed could change the heart of this man, it was Ethan. So that doesn't surprise me that she would say that.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it and look forward to hearing when Ethan is back in school.

And still to come, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responds to critics who say he's too fat.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: So far, up to 50 years old, I've been remarkably healthy.


BURNETT: And he has been.

And North Korea remixes one of the most popular songs of all time. What is behind the country's latest bizarre video?


BURNETT: We are back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And tonight, we go to Cairo, where an historic meeting between the leaders of the two most populous countries in the Middle East, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's trip to Egypt marks an end to more than three decades of tense relations.

Reza Sayah is in Cairo and I asked how Egypt's revolution has paved the way for a warmer relationship with Iran.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, these two countries are talking again. That's certainly an improvement. But no signs that they're going to be best friends any time soon. Of course, in 1979, Egypt and Iran cut off ties because Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and granted the shah of Iran asylum. For more than three decades, they stayed away from each other.

Then came the Egyptian revolution, out went President Mubarak, in came an Islamist president. And there was talk that maybe these two countries would unite and craft foreign policy against Washington and the West. That really hasn't happened because on key issues, they still differ. Syria, for example. Iran backs the Assad regime, Egypt doesn't. Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, Egypt is friends with these countries, Iran is not.

So, for these reasons and more, many expect a cordial relationship between Iran and Egypt but not one where they are best friends -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: All right. Thanks to Reza.

And now to England, where the positive identification of King Richard III's skeletal remains has triggered a resurgence of interest in the notorious monarch. What would he have done if he lived in the era of Twitter?

Richard Quest is in London. I asked him to explain how the long dead ruler is getting a royal makeover.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Erin, this is the portrait most familiar of Richard III, but this is the recreation from the scans of the skull that was found in that parking lot in middle England. Note the tightness of the skin and the way artists have put the hair and the reality to it. It was commissioned by the Richard III Society and when they announced it, they said his grace, Richard, king of England, France and Ireland.

And, Erin, I leave you to decide which of the two you actually prefer.


BURNETT: I just think he looks sort of like a woman.

Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

Hey, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, AC360: Hey, Erin. How is it going?

BURNETT: All right.

COOPER: We got more on breaking news tonight on the program. The FBI has just released pictures of the bunker where 5-year-old Ethan was held for a week. It's so unimaginable. We will hear from Martin Savidge, who has more details on exactly what went on inside that bunker and how the rescue went down.

Also, tonight, Charles Poland died trying to protect 5-year-old Ethan and other kids on that school bus. His son Aaron joins me tonight for a "360" exclusive. He says how his dad acted on that day that he was killed doesn't surprise him at all, because he thought of those kids as his own.

We're also going to take you inside another bunker. It's fascinating to see how people are preparing to survive the worst. Gary Tuchman goes 20 feet underground into a 50-foot long bunker complete with its own air filtration system, food enough to fill a small grocery store and 2,000 gallons of water. The man who built this bunker says he's prepared to survive a nuclear holocaust.

Those stories and tonight's ridiculous and a whole lot more at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: fat attack.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's weight has always provided fodder for late night comics. But last night, Christie showed he could deal just as well as he could take. Here he is.


DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: I have made jokes about you, not just one or two, not just ongoing here and there, intermittent, but --



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I didn't know this was going to be this long.


BURNETT: I think we know who got the upper hand on that one.

All right. OUTFRONT tonight, Emme, the world's first plus-size super model and Simone de la Rue, fitness guru and celebrity trainer.

All right. Emme, let me start with you. Chris Christie is popular with his fans because he is charismatic, he is inspirational, he calls it like he sees it. That's why people who like him, like him.

Should his weight be a real issue or is this inappropriate and unfair that he is constantly the subject of jokes?

EMME, FOUNDER, EMMENATION.COM: It is unfair. However, he is a leader and I think a lot of people are concerned that he could have a heart attack soon, if he doesn't get it under control. I think a health issue is first and foremost in a lot of people's minds.

The jokes can be left behind, the judgment, the value character. He's still an incredible leader. But I think a lot of people are nervous that if he doesn't take good care of himself, he won't able to be around long enough.

BURNETT: I'm curious, though. You know, you made a career of being a plus-size model. It's part of who you are, it's what you are, what people know you for. But in some way, Christie's image revolves around being the big man. I mean --

Chris Christie skinny would not be Chris Christie.

EMME: No, no, that's not who he is. He is a bigger guy but he can be a fit bigger guy. I'm a fit full figured woman. I am -- you know, I'm very, very fit. So there's no way I could ever be anything other than what I am.

If I was much, much larger, I would probably agree with you, I was unhealthy. So I would have to work hard at keeping my bigger body nice and fit.

And I think that Governor Christie could really turn this around in the state of New Jersey and the way that people see him by leading a healthy revolution to follow his own journey. Not to be skinny, right? Just to be the best of who he is.

BURNETT: Yes. I have to tell you, I know he struggles with it. I have eaten with the man before. He doesn't eat a lot. I mean, it's not -- people want to make all kinds of jokes. He's pretty careful about it and he talked to reporters today about how he struggled, Simone.

Here's what he said.


CHRISTIE: I'm making the best effort I can. And sometimes I'm successful and other times I'm not. Sometimes great periods of success are followed by periods of great failure. And so, you know, that's just the way it's worked for me for probably the last 30 years of my life.


BURNETT: Anyone who struggles to lose weight, it would connect with him.

SIMONE DE LA RUE, FITNESS EXPERT: Of course. Anyone on a diet, it's really hard to, you know, commit to something. But he has to realize it has to be a lifestyle.

I mean, there he is, you know, saying he's the healthiest fat man, but he's munching on a donut. But that's not a role model of his, for anyone. He's in a position of power. We are what we eat. It's 80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise.

BURNETT: It's possible that he can't, though? I mean, sort of surgery that he's tried and can't?

DE LA RUE: I mean, I think -- I mean, people can use excuses, you know? And I think he needs to commit to this.

EMME: It's getting in the way -- it's too much of an issue. People are talking about it other than the way he leads.


EMME: From what I see from what he did in New Jersey with Sandy, he really did a good job. Why let his weight get in the way of leading?

BURNETT: Well, here's what David Letterman asked him about his health and whether he's healthy. He asked about the issue. Here's what Chris Christie said.


LETTERMAN: Cholesterol, how is your cholesterol?

CHRISTIE: Dave, my cholesterol's normal, believe it or not.

LETTERMAN: That's pretty good. What about your blood sugar?

CHRISTIE: Blood sugar, also normal.

LETTERMAN: Also normal. So you --

CHRISTIE: Yes. I'm, basically, the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life.


BURNETT: First of all, he's also a comedian.

DE LA RUE: That's funny, right? I mean, I like to see who his doctor is.

BURNETT: Well, speaking about the former White House physician, which is an interesting title, since Chris Christie, it is presumed that he's going to be running, Dr. Connie Mariano talked to our Jim Acosta about Chris Christie. And she said she was very worried about his weight and heart attack.

Specifically, here's what she said.


DR. CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: It's almost like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before he runs for office.


EMME: He's going to gain so many more points if he admits that it's hard and difficult. And he says, OK, let's do this together. Let me at least work on this and perhaps all of us together can take one day at a time, right?

DE LA RUE: I think so. He's in a position where he could do that, so he should work towards being a good role model, for his son especially.


DE LA RUE: For his son, yes, for his family.

BURNETT: Let's talk about 2016. Because you've got William Howard Taft, everyone knows the old bathtub story which is probably an old wives' tale. But, anyway, you know, he was obviously, obese. According to BMI, Taft, Cleveland, McKinley, Taylor and Teddy Roosevelt all had BMIs that were off the charts. Bill Clinton was too fat, 28.3. Obviously he's lost the weight since.

More Americans are overweight than ever before. Maybe Christie reflects America. Maybe we should be quiet about the fact.

EMME: No, I think he does reflect America. I think it's an incredible opportunity for change. I think it's an incredible opportunity to join together and say, no, I'm not doing this to be skinny. I'm doing a little bit more activity.

DE LA RUE: We can use stress, can't we? The stress at my job, but do some exercise. It's a great stress relief. Mix the exercise, mix the diet.

EMME: Yes.

BURNETT: I like your point. He doesn't have to get skinny. He can still be the big man.

EMME: That's right.


DE LA RUE: We don't have to talk about the doughnut. Salad, it's fabulous.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

And right now on, Dr. Aaron Carroll (ph) talks about a new study showing that everything we know about weight loss and obesity is wrong. His column is on

And now, the story I saw in "The Washington Post" today. Really interesting story. It caught my attention. Probably, viewers, maybe you saw it. The title was "The Evil that Rubs Up Against Us."

I'm thinking what is that about? Then I saw this poor, innocent little cat at the top. America apparently has declared war on cats.

Scientists with the Smithsonian Institute say they have produced statistical evidence that euthanasia and/or mass sterilization of cats may be the only way to keep a cat population from destroying America's wildlife. According to the new study, every single year in this country, cats stalk and kill 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals. That's two to four times higher than previously believed. And pretty specific like out a decimal point specific.

Which brings me to tonight's number -- give or take a few billion. That was apparently the margin of error in the study on how many rodents and birds that the cats kill. You know, that margin of error is too big. That's unacceptable. We usually support scientists thon show, but when it comes to the danger of cats, it seems like they're just telling tales.

We love cats and dogs, too.

And OUTFRONT next, a new bizarre video from North Korea. Is it just a case of rocket envy?


BURNETT: "We are the World" was a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones. The single and accompanying star-studded video were released in 1985 and went on to raise millions for famine in Africa. I can remember all summer practicing and then performing this with my friends at the YMCA summer camp.

And now, it's back, and not in the way you might expect. Because, today, the propaganda arm of the North Korean government released a new "We Are the World." It's a 3 1/2-minute music video. You can watch it here.

It features an all-piano version of the song accompanied by a space-age North Korea complete with a successful rocket launch and a spaceship circling the Earth. Where a newly unified North and South Korea celebrate -- here's the clincher -- as New York City burns.

It's a bizarre video, to say the least. And we know -- we think we know why they did it, because they feel a little left out. In the past few months, North Korea has seen countries and companies around the world take bold steps into the cosmos. In the same amount of time, North Korea just got a rocket up, just one rocket up.

OK, maybe they're a little embarrassed about that, but that is not as embarrassing as North Korea using a Michael Jackson song when they're trying to set fire to America. Come on, North Korea, there's currently a South Korean guy setting fire to the charts if you really want to annoy America and win over the South Koreans, next time, go with "Gangnam Style."

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.