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CNN Larry King Live

Katie Couric Discuss Personal Loss, Career and Politics; Widow of Actor John Ritter's Speaks Out

Aired March 22, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, Katie Couric 10 years after she lost her husband to colon cancer, she's here to tell us about her work fighting that disease. And we'll talk politics, too. Fighting that disease. And we'll talk politics, too. The latest on the Obama/Clinton race and a lot more.
And then John Ritter's widow on the huge lawsuit that blamed doctors for the actor's tragic death.

All next, all on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: It's always a great pleasure to welcome Katie Couric to LARRY KING LIVE.

We go back, as they say, a long way. She has even hosted this show.

And it's been 10 years, of course, since the tragedy of losing her husband. We're going to talk a lot about colon cancer later.

But first about the news today. Bill Richardson has endorsed Obama.


KING: What do you think -- what do you think they're saying in the Clinton camp tonight?

He appointed him to all these jobs.

COURIC: That's right. He was a long time steward of the Clinton presidency, of course, and secretary of energy and held an ambassadorship, as well. So I think they're probably disappointed. But I think the longer he waited, the more they probably saw it coming. And at this point, if you listen to Clinton operatives, it's kind of late in the game for him to have a huge impact. But, certainly, it adds to Barack Obama's momentum. And they'd rather he had endorsed Hillary Clinton. John Murtha just endorsed her yesterday, as you know, and that's a big endorsement for her, too.

But I think the John Edwards endorsement will be interesting to see, Larry, whether he endorses somebody before the North Carolina primary in May.

KING: The Richardson thing is big in the Latino community. COURIC: Yes. It is big in the Latino community, although she has done very well among Latinos and I'm not sure it's going to have that big an impact. I think we'll have to just wait and see.

KING: And last night on this program, Obama just about admitted that Pennsylvania is going to go to her.

COURIC: Yes. That's going to be an interesting primary. I think she's extremely strong in Pennsylvania. She has Governor Rendell's support, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia -- African-American mayor, his support, as well. And certainly among lower income Democrats, that's been her core constituency.

But I think it will be interesting to see how Pennsylvania divides up because, you know, it's a state of many colors, if you will, or many demographics and socioeconomic levels. So it will be interesting to see how it's divided up. And hopefully it won't be on such racial - along racial lines, as we've seen in Mississippi.

KING: What do you make of this passport brouhaha?

COURIC: Well, I think -- I guess a lot of things haven't been gleaned about how it happened in the first place and why they were looking into Senator Obama's passport in the first place, if it was any kind of malfeasance. And so I think we're just going to have to wait and see how this unfolds. It's bizarre, isn't it?

KING: What's in a passport?

I mean, what can you find?

COURIC: Well, obviously the countries you visited and so I guess it...

KING: Yes, I guess that would be it, right?

COURIC: It's an effort to maybe get a glimpse of his foreign policy expertise, if you will, in terms of his world travel. I can't quite figure it out. I mean, that's the only thing, it seems to me, they'd be able to obtain.

KING: As a successful woman yourself, do you identify strongly with Hillary?

I mean does a part of you -- I know you're never going to endorse - sort of want her?

COURIC: Well, no. You know, of course I identify with her, because I think just as she is, on a very much smaller scale, I'm a female in a very high profile position.

KING: Yes.

COURIC: So, obviously, I relate to her being a woman. And just as many African-Americans, I think, relate to Barack Obama. But it doesn't necessarily mean that, you know, that I'm not open-minded about all the candidates. I mean, ideally, I think you want it to transcend race, gender and really pick the candidate that you think will do the best job in the White House.. And I think -- hopefully, that's how people will make their decisions ultimately.

KING: Are you going to do a debate?

COURIC: I hope so. You know, we're in the process of trying to obtain one before the North Carolina primary. Of course, I really would love to be involved in a debate. As you know, Larry, I absolutely love politics.

KING: It's fun. That's it.

COURIC: And has there ever been a more fascinating, interesting and engaging presidential campaign?

Certainly not in my career.


COURIC: And I hope that a debate will work out for us, because I'd love to be one-on-one with the candidates. I've interviewed them, of course, many times in the course of this campaign. But to be able to have a concentrated period of time where you can really delve into the issues and ask some provocative questions, of course I'd like a piece of that.

KING: Frankly, are our campaigns too long?

COURIC: I think it is pretty long. I think that there is a little...

KING: It's getting a little wearing?

COURIC: ...a little campaign fatigue. But I think that we get a distorted perspective being members of the media, because, of course, we've been covering it ad infinitum.. And I think that people were really interested in the campaign, they came a little bit later. There's great interest. I think there was interest early on, but not as early as we've been covering it.

But you're right, I think at this point people are starting to teeter on the edge of campaign fatigue. And I think everybody would like the nominees to be decided sooner rather than later. And I think, of course, the Democrats are concerned that the more acrimony within the party, the more difficult it will be in the general election, so.

KING: Do you think John McCain got a break getting this early or is it not a break?

COURIC: Well, I think that he got a break in that he's sort of off the front pages and off the headlines, at least for now. He's obviously been traveling overseas trying to kind of show off his foreign policy cred and his ability to talk to world leaders.

But, you know, you have to think that it's nice for him to have a period of time where he can focus looking forward on the general election -- fundraise, you know, build up his campaign war chest while the Democrats are still battling it out.

So I would say it's a net gain for him.

KING: He insisted, at this desk, that it would be a clean campaign no matter who he runs against, that he will be issue-oriented strictly.

COURIC: I think...

KING: Do you buy that?

COURIC: You know, I buy that from John McCain. But I think as we've seen in the course of this campaign, Larry, it's the surrogates, it's the spokespeople, it's the people who have gone off the reservation, who at that time said things that were really inappropriate or unbecoming for their candidate. And, you know, we've seen time and time again already here in the last month that the campaigns or the candidates themselves have had to tell various people to pipe down.

So I do believe Senator McCain. I think he feels very strongly that he wants a clean campaign focused on the issues. Whether or not he'll be able to bring that to fruition remains to be seen.

I feel like I'm talking a mile a minute. I'm on Sudafed...

KING: No...

COURIC: ...because I've got the worst cold and I feel like the Sudafed has made me incredibly hyper.


KING: I like it.

COURIC: We're going to get a lot in in this half hour, right?

KING (TALKING VERY FAST): When we come back...



KING: It's been 10 years since Katie's husband Jay died of colon cancer. We'll talk about that and her work fighting it.

Don't go away.


COURIC: Colorectal cancer isn't glamorous. It's the second leading cancer killer. But today more people like my friend Carmen are surviving this disease. Regular screening can find early stage cancer when it's highly curable. And you know what, this is one that you can prevent.

Just get screened, OK?

Trust me. It's OK.

ANNOUNCER: Talk with your doctor. Get screened. Make sure you are the picture of health.



KING: We're back with Katie Couric.

It's hard to believe 10 years since Jay died.

COURIC: I know.

KING: He was just 42. After that death, you decided to really get involved in colorectal cancer. In fact, this is colorectal cancer month and we're seeing some wonderful pictures of Jay and the like.

Why -- you could have just turned away and gone on, why get involved?

COURIC: Well, at the time, you know, as the anchor of the "The Today Show," Larry, my executive producer, ironically, Jeff Zucker, had been diagnosed about six months before Jay had. And suddenly I felt like this disease was everywhere. And, of course, Jay lost his very courageous battle after nine months. And I had learned so much in the process of dealing with Jay's illness about colon cancer that I thought it would be almost criminal not to share what I had learned with the rest of the public. Because it is so preventable -- a 92 percent cure rate if detected early and it's one of the reasons...

KING: I go every two years.

COURIC: Yes. And some people every five or whatever.

KING: And it's a nothing - it's a nothing examination.

COURIC: I know. And people just don't feel comfortable. And I thought if I could at least remove the mystique surrounding a colonoscopy that I would be doing a real public service. And if I could spare other families the tremendous pain and loss of losing someone too young, or at any age, to this disease, I really felt I had an obligation to do so.

KING: Katie made television history in 2000 when she underwent an on the air colonoscopy -- unheard of -- bringing awareness to the danger.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she is not overly sedated, you see, and is able to appreciate what is going on.

COURIC: So you didn't put the scope in yet, did you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're doing the examination.

COURIC: Oh, really.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're doing it.

COURIC: OK, good.


COURIC: That's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing it. We're almost done. You're going to feel a cramp there now.

COURIC: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going around a bend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can take some iced tea (INAUDIBLE) if you feel (INAUDIBLE).


COURIC: At one point I said I have a pretty little colon. I think the anesthesia makes you a little loopy.

KING: Oh, yes, it does. And you don't know when it's done.


KING: You think it hasn't started.

COURIC: I kept saying, OK, you can start. I know, but, you know, people thought it - maybe a few people thought it was a bit odd for me to do it.

KING: Yes.

COURIC: But I really wanted to do a step by step look at this procedure so I could tell them what you just said, Larry -- it's really not that big a deal.

KING: It isn't.

Following it, I understand there was a 20 percent increase in the number of colonoscopies performed across the country, which had to make you feel terrific.

COURIC: Oh, no. It did. I mean, I was thrilled because in that statistic, of course, there are untold numbers of husbands, wives, friends, daughters, sisters, brothers who are living longer, healthier lives, not just because of me, but because of the efforts of places like the American Cancer Society. I mean, everybody has - I just had a bully pulpit, so I was able to bring some attention to it. But a lot of organizations like the CDC have worked very hard to get the word out about colon cancer.

And, you know, the compliance rate has increased from 54 percent to 61 percent of people 50 and over getting screened for this second leading cancer killer, which affects women as often as men. And the mortality rates we've seen decline, as well, about 10 percent between 2003 and 2006.

How do you like those statistics, Larry?

KING: Well, you reel it off, kid.

COURIC: Come on.

I'm pretty good at that, right?

KING: What is the Jay Monahan Center?

COURIC: Well, that's a center that we established at New York Hospital. You know, when Jay was sick, it was such a nightmare on so many levels. You had to go to so many different specialists and doctors, nutritionists. It spread to his liver and to his lung and it obstructed his vision, so he had to go to an ophthalmologist. And it was so harrowing for him and for me. And, of course, Ellie and Carrie were just six and two at the time.

So I thought wouldn't it be wonderful to develop a center where you could get comprehensive, compassionate care, that would treat not only the patient, but the entire family?

So we established the Jay Monahan Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital. And it's really been incredibly rewarding to see people come there and get the kind of care they need and deserve and be treated as a person and not simply as a patient.

KING: Who is the number one - give me the tintype (ph) of the number one person who should be worried?

Would it -- it should be a male more than a female?



COURIC: No. Men and women alike need to be concerned about this disease.

KING: What age?

COURIC: Well, the standard recommendation for screening -- for colorectal screening -- is 50 and over. So if you're 50 years old, you really need to get your first screening colonoscopy. But 13,000 under the age of 50 are diagnosed. Jeff Zucker was in his 30s when he was diagnosed. Jay was 41 years old.

KING: Doesn't Matt Lauer go frequently because his father died?

COURIC: Yes. He has a family history and so Matt goes ...

KING: Yes. If you have a family history, go early.

COURIC: Yes. Twenty-five percent of all cases have a family history. But that leaves 75 percent, Larry, that have no family history. So if you experience any symptoms like rectal bleeding, blood in your stools, irregular bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, bloating, you need to be very aggressive about talking to your doctor. I've heard time and time again people saying they went to their doctor about bleeding and the doctor said don't worry about it, you just have a -- it's probably hemorrhoids. And if you have a doctor who is that laissez faire about it, then you need to find yourself another doctor, because you need to definitely say that this is a possibility.

KING: On another course, I knew your late sister, Emily.

COURIC: Oh, Emily, yes.

KING: I was at the house.


KING: Patrick Swayze is battling pancreatic cancer. She had pancreatic cancer.

COURIC: Yes, she did.

KING: That's almost impossible to beat, isn't it?

COURIC: Well, not always. You know, I hate...

KING: Where?

COURIC: It's just heartbreaking for me, Larry, to see the headlines, you know, "weeks to live." That is so insensitive -- grossly insensitive when the media does that to a family undergoing this.

KING: Yes.

COURIC: And I remember they did it to Jay, as well. And the nurse very helpfully brought in the tabloid that, you know, said that.

And I thought what are you doing?

But I think it's really important - pancreatic cancer is very, very difficult but ...

KING: You can't find it right away.

COURIC: Yes, it's hard to detect. But there is something called the Whipple procedure -- a surgical procedure that if the pancreatic cancer is located in a certain area -- I believe it's the head of the pancreas -- then it is quite curable. And every day they're coming up with better and better treatment, adjutant therapies, which really is a chemo cocktail of not only chemo, but other drugs, as well.

So my prayers are with him and his family. And I think we should just wish him the best and not necessarily treat this as a death sentence.

But it can be a very, very difficult cancer.

KING: And we encourage all of our viewers to - if you're over the age of 50, especially if you have family history, especially to get a colonoscopy. It's a big nothing and you'll learn a lot. And it's totally preventable, this disease.

COURIC: That's right. And it's so nice, I saw it -- you know, you ran the PSAs with Diane Keaton, Morgan Freedman, Jimmy Smits reaching out to Hispanics-Americans ...

KING: Vanessa Williams.

COURIC: And Vanessa Williams and Carmen Marc Valvo, the designer, who is also a colon cancer survivor. We have had so many people in the entertainment industry helping us with this. And we've raised over $30 million for the scientists who worked so hard to come up with better diagnostic tools and treatment options.

KING: Some more moments with Katie Couric.

And then we'll meet Amy Yasbeck, the widow of the late John Ritter.

Don't go away.



COURIC: So I keep it in and then (INAUDIBLE) 30 seconds.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are we feeling, everybody?


COURIC: Are you ready, Freddy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're one minute out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, two, one.

COURIC: Good evening, everyone on the biggest presidential primary day... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was -- that was good.





COURIC: Besides your family, what are you most afraid of losing?


COURIC: Who is the single most impressive person you've ever met?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would have to be Nelson Mandela.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It probably would be Ronald Reagan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, this is really dicey territory.

OBAMA: No. No, actually, I probably shouldn't tell that story. You know what?

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to put my handling of health care among one of my biggest mistakes.

COURIC: What is the worst piece of advice you've ever given another person?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody would say vote for me.


KING: Funny guy.


KING: Katie Couric, it's been a year and a half since you made your debut as an anchor at CBS EVENING NEWS.

How is it going?

COURIC: I'm enjoying it. You know, I mean, I couldn't have this position at a more exciting time. As we've mentioned, the presidential campaign is so thrilling. I've been able to get out and do a lot of reporting. Primary Questions was a really fun enterprise that we did, asking all the candidates some very character-driven questions. We interviewed historians and CEOs to find out -- come up with 10 questions that we thought would be really revealing in terms of the candidates' characters and motivations and what makes them tick. So that was fun.

I've been traveling around a lot. I went to Texas to do a piece on the generational divide among Hispanics there. I talked to blue collar workers in Ohio, who told me to their face that the country wasn't ready for a woman president and women are too emotional, which, you know, was sort of an interesting exercise in discipline for me.

And it was - it's been really, really exciting. I'm enjoying it and ...

KING: And the downside?

COURIC: Yes, I think my biggest frustration about the job is that it's 22 minutes all told to do an evening newscast. And so it's very difficult to get all the important news of the day. Of course, you can't get it all in at any night, but we do our best to do the top stories -- but to have it -- you know, to have to do it in such a truncated form and to not be able to kind of really do in-depth things.

But I think we have pushed the envelope. You know, we've had Primary Questions run about eight minutes, which is the equivalent of "War and Peace" in network news.

KING: Do you know that 40 years ago, your introducer, Mr. Cronkite ...

COURIC: Right.

KING: ...said it should be an hour.

COURIC: Yes. Well...

KING: Why isn't it an hour?

COURIC: I don't know. That's something you're going to have to take up with Les Moonves, Larry, because I've brought it up many, many times. You know, the landscape has changed so dramatically since Mr. Cronkite's day and news is ubiquitous, 24-7, of course.

You know, I started at CNN before CNN went on the air.

KING: I know.

COURIC: And I think there's still a really important place - you and I have talked about this -- for a very strong, well-done, well- produced, well-thought-out network newscast. Because cable -- the speed of cable makes it difficult, although you have, you know, your hour show which you can spend all day planning. But it's an insatiable monster that has to be fed. And to be able to really thoughtfully put together an evening newscast every night, I think, is a really important component to people's daily news intake, if you will.

Sometimes it's hard for me, too, because a lot of people -- my contemporaries aren't necessarily home when the "CBS Evening News" is on. They're out and about. They're taking care of their kids. They're at the office. So it's not only - they're not always there when we're on. And so that's hard, as well.

KING: All right, we can't avoid this.

How's your personal life?

COURIC: My personal life is great. Thanks for asking.

KING: Do you like the fact that the tabloids follow you around and...

COURIC: They don't, really. I'm so boring.

KING: I mean they print who you're dating.

COURIC: Not really. Honestly, I mean ...

KING: They don't show pictures of you and whoever you're dating as (INAUDIBLE)...

COURIC: They do sometimes.

KING: Come on.

COURIC: They do sometimes. Not so much recently. You know, they come up with all sorts of funny stories. I mean I've planned and canceled more weddings than Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride."


COURIC: I'm serious, so ...

KING: Was there anyone - you don't have to tell me who -- where you were close?


KING: No, see?

So all those stories were wrong?

COURIC: Yes. I mean, you know, I think there is a lot of speculation and it may be a fun parlor game for certain people. But I tell you, if I ever have any plans along those lines, I've always said I'm going to say -- tell you - announce it on LARRY KING.

KING: Do it live.


KING: Do your girls want you to hook up with someone?

COURIC: Hook up?

Well, you know, that has a very different definition now, Larry.

KING: Oh, you're getting into the governor's race again.

COURIC: You know, they're happy if I'm happy. And, you know, they're teenage girls. They're 12 and 16. I'm going to be looking at colleges with Ellie next week.

Can you believe it?

I know. I know. She's a junior. So ...

KING: By the way, since I used - I didn't mean it, that -- to framework it that way.

What do you make of this Eliot Spitzer story?


KING: And now the new governor. You're going to run out of governors.

COURIC: Honestly, between Eliot Spitzer and Jim McGreevey's threesomes and David Paterson's extramarital affairs, I feel like, you know, they should put a paper bag or a brown wrapper over the newspaper these days. I mean it's really - it's just so disconcerting.

And, hopefully, we can move on, because it's all so disturbingly tawdry, isn't it, honestly?

I mean there are so many important things going on in the world.

KING: Should -- all right, you asked about it in your person - in that terrific Primary Questions series -- should infidelity matter, because in Europe, it don't matter at all?

COURIC: No, I know. I think it depends on the voters. I think, you know, if someone's personal morality matters to a voter, then it should matter. I mean, I think you'll hear a variety of responses to that question. I mean, it matters to a certain degree to me, personally, but also the circumstances surrounding what happened matters, as well. So I have to take it in toto.

KING: I want to get one other thing quickly.

Steve Tyrell, that wonderful Steve Tyrell...


KING: He wrote a song for...

COURIC: The Grammy Award-winning Steve Tyrell, who I adore, who lost his wonderful wife to colon cancer has - is doing an album with Burt Bacharach. You should have them on, by the way, Larry.

KING: Oh, I love Steve.

COURIC: It comes on...


COURIC: It comes out in May. And he did "What the World Needs Now" with Burt and James Taylor, Martina McBride, Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick...


COURIC: They all sing with him different parts of the song and all the proceeds are going to go to the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which is under the umbrella of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. They always like me to get that in.

KING: Thank you, doll.

COURIC: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Be well.

COURIC: It's so good to see you.

KING: You, too.

Katie Couric. We love her.

In 2003, the world lost actor and funnyman John Ritter. His family has been in court surrounding the circumstances of that death. John Ritter's widow, Amy Yasbeck, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE and a great pleasure to welcome Amy Yasbeck to this program. The widow of John Ritter. John died suddenly in September of 2003. God, that's five years.

AMY YASBECK, JOHN RITTER'S WIDOW: Oh my God, is that true?

KING: From a torn aorta. He became worldly known for his role as Jack Tripper in the smash hit "Three's Company." At the time of his death, he was working on his second season of the ABC sitcom, "Eight Simple Rules."

Last Friday a jury cleared a cardiologist and a radiologist of negligence in his death. The family claimed that John was misdiagnosed and was provided negligent medical treatment. He would have turned 56 the week he died.

How did you take the loss of the suit?

YASBECK: Well, the loss of the suit is nothing compared to the loss of your spouse.

KING: Naturally.

YASBECK: So things kind of... KING: Balance.

YASBECK: Balance, you put it into perspective. Our family is disappointed because we really believed that mistakes were made but what can I say? The jury has spoken.

KING: Did you poll the jury?

YASBECK: Did we poll the jury? You've got to talk to my lawyers about that.

KING: You didn't talk to any jury members? Because you can do that.

YASBECK: I did. I talked to a couple. You know, I basically deputized them all and said, now you know more about aortic dissection and aneurysm then most of the - any layperson you're going to meet, maybe besides me and a few doctors, unfortunately. So it's your job to go out into the world and spread the good news that this thing can be absolutely detected and fixed.

KING: Did they tell you why they voted against your reasoning?

YASBECK: I didn't really want to talk to them about that. I just wanted to tell them to go out and spread the word and they hopefully will.

KING: Were you shocked?

YASBECK: I was shocked because I know -- I know the truth of what happened and I know -- because I was there. I was there for a good long time with John. He was sitting up and joking and laughing without getting -- and flirting. Without getting too specific, there was time and I think that what everybody learned from this trial is you don't have to play the odds just because a heart attack is way more prevalent than an aortic dissection would be. If you don't know which one you're treating and you treat a heart -- well, you know...

KING: I had a heart attack.

YASBECK: I know, you can't...

KING: I had a heart attack, but what is...

YASBECK: Imagine if they treated you for an aortic dissection.

KING: What is an aortic dissection?

YASBECK: An aortic dissection is -- OK, your heart is not really this big but your aorta goes up, all the way down to this, right? It's that main artery from the heart and a heart attack is a blockage in your heart, which is what you had.

KING: Cutting off the blood flow.

YASBECK: Cutting off the blood flow. An aortic dissection is a shearing away of the inside of this very long artery. So it's a tear, the opposite of a block. So everything -- and it's not even your heart. So everything you do for a heart attack, doing a catheter, doing the blood thinners, all of that, deleterious effect to say the least to an aortic dissection, so there is ways to hedge your bets.

They can obviously do an X-ray and it shows -- it doesn't show -- you know what? It doesn't actually show the aortic dissection, it shows the widening of all the stuff. The mediastinum, all the stuff, and they go, oh, this isn't good, we can't treat for a heart attack. And then on the differential, it goes up, the aortic dissection and they start thinking it. You can't treat something you don't think about.

KING: But you have to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do. Like I had a heart attack and they didn't do any X-ray.

YASBECK: They didn't do an X-ray on you?

KNG: For a heart attack? No.

YASBECK: Well, you're lucky it was a heart attack. If it was an aortic dissection, you might be dead.

KING: Correct.

YASBECK: Correct. But there is other things you can do without even a X-ray machine. Twenty percent of the cases, because you know it's that arch, right, that comes out of your heart. And then there is the arteries that come up, the great vessels.

If it dissects inside and there's a flap, and it can do a thing where it blocks the blood flow to just one arm so if they do blood pressure and pulse in both arms, in 20 percent of the cases they go, oh my God, it's different blood pressures in both arms, impossible unless you're having an aortic dissection. That's 20 percent. The X- rays 60 to 90 percent. Hedge your bets.

KING: What happened that day? John was on the set.


KING: And what happened? Did he faint?

YASBECK: Well, I'll tell you one thing, he didn't - no. Everybody kept saying, no, Larry, he didn't collapse, which is what I kept hearing.

KING: What happened?

YASBECK: Well, I wasn't there, but from Katie -- not Katie Couric, who, by the way, is my idol, Katie Sagal and Henry Winkler who were there, he felt nauseous, he felt sick, which happens sometimes with an aortic dissection, things are moving around in there and the aneurysm is big and pushing on stuff. He felt nauseous and started having chest pains and so they took him across the street to the hospitals.

KING: Cedars?


KING: What hospital?

YASBECK: It's called St. Joseph's hospital.

KING: St. Joseph's, yes. It's in the Valley.

YASBECK: That's where he was born. Mm-hmm.

KING: Right. And he was taken right across the street, that's right, there are television studio is right there.

YASBECK: Disney, yes.

KING: And did you get over to the hospital? Did you see him alive?

YASBECK: Oh yes.

KING: How long did he live?

YASBECK: Oh my God. I think I got there around 6:30 or something and he died at around 10:40. I spent in and out, I don't know, around a half an hour with him, maybe an hour there.

KING: And you were talking, he was sitting up?

YASBECK: Oh yes, he was sitting up and talking, it was Stella's birthday -- our daughter's fifth birthday. And he was bummed out that he was kind of like screwing up the birthday because we're going to come to some little thing at her school and then go home and let her stay up late and do birthday stuff. It just sucks. It could not suck worse.

KING: More in a minute. We'll be right back with more of Amy Yasbeck and the tragedy of the death of John Ritter. Don't go away.


JOHN RITTER, ACTOR: Kyle! Open up! I know you've got both my daughters in there! Kyle!


RITTER: This place looks familiar.


RITTER: I should ask you the same question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean? We live together.



KING: We're talking about the late John Ritter with his widow, Amy Yasbeck. By the way, his most famous role, of course, was Jack Tripper on "Three's Company." That show lives on through reruns all over the world. Let's take a look at John as Jack. Watch.


JOYCE DEWITT, ACTOR: Just let her fall!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know your way around in barns.

RITTER: What's to know? A barn is a...



KING: He was funny.

YASBECK: So funny.

KING: As I was telling Amy, I saw him do "The Dinner Party."

YASBECK: "The Dinner Party."

KING: Neil Simon's play in New York. He was hysterical.

YASBECK: He was hysterical. He looked good in that tux, didn't he?

KING: He was a great comedic actor and looked good. OK. Now you're sitting in the hospital with him. He's talking to you. Then what?

YASBECK: Well, everything got mixed up and crazy and he was treated for a heart attack.

KING: So he had gotten the pain, he went into...

YASBECK: No X-ray was done, he was treated for a heart attack, he died of an aortic dissection. The rest of that...

KING: Did they show you out into the corridor and have to come tell you?

YASBECK: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Yes, oh, just the whole freaking nightmare of sitting and waiting in that waiting room and time clicking on and then hearing code blue and knowing that that -- I just knew, there was nobody else there. It wasn't a crowded emergency room.

KING: Did he know he had any kind of a heart problem?

YASBECK: He -- I think he knew exactly what a lot of men know at that age, you've got to be careful. You've got to eat the right things and, you know, the usual.

KING: What led you to like -- I'm going to sue over this?

YASBECK: Because I felt that the way it was presented was that this was a very rare thing and nothing could be done and you can't see it and a lot of the literature about aortic aneurysm is like that. And right away, thank you, Google, I started educating myself and I found out not only is it detectable and treatable but it's also familial aortic dissection, the thoracic -- there's 20 percent of the cases at least are genetic.

Well, when your mom instinct kicks in, nothing can stop you for the rest of your life. So Stella got scanned, John's three big kids got scanned, they're all fine. John's brother, at my urging, got scanned, and they found, exactly where John's was, an aneurysm in his aorta.

KING: It has to go to a certain width before they panic, right? If it's a smaller width they don't do surgery. They wait until...

YASBECK: They can treat it, and it's different...

KING: ... it's like five...

YASBECK: Yes, go ahead. You know a lot.

KING: No, because I had an examination once and the guy said, you have a slight spread in your aorta. It's nothing. We'll check it every time we check you.

YASBECK: I am so on you for the rest of your life, you have no idea. OK?

KING: Yes. OK.


KING: But if it goes to a five they bring it -- they surgically go in.

YASBECK: Yes. I don't want to get specific about your aorta, but I will off the air, but it's different in the -- what?

KING: What do want to do to me? I'm fine.

YASBECK: All right. I'm just worried about you. Geez.

So -- and the foundation that I started in John's name...

KING: I'm going to ask about that in a minute.

YASBECK: You are? KING: Yes.

YASBECK: Good. So OK, let me talk about your aorta, then. There's the ascending, the arch and the descending. DeBakey A and DeBakey D - DeBakey B. You know, he said you can't treat something that you don't think about and he also named the different parts of it. And he's a brilliant guy, and there's lots of people in Dr. DeBakey's name that have gone into this field of vascular thoracic surgery.

And these guys are brilliant and we had them at the trial. Our side brought them and their side brought them and this debate was going on and I'm thinking, this needs to happen outside of here.

This needs to happen in my living room with these doctors with pictures of John around and they need to figure out the exact protocol because, you know, they differ just a little bit, like you're talking about, they differ by centimeters on that. They differ a little bit on the protocol of what you do because it's a medical orphan. There wasn't really a specialty for it.

KING: And your contention is they should have known?

YASBECK: My contention is they should have known.

KING: We'll be right back with Amy Yasbeck. We'll talk about the foundation she started and lots more, don't go away.


KATIE SAGAL, ACTOR: I'm filled with love and sadness. You know, I miss him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actress Katie Sagal reminisces about her friend and colleague, John Ritter, the two co-starred on "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

RITTER: Because if you make her cry, I will make you cry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sagal told the jury they were rehearsing when Ritter became ill and began sweating profusely.

SAGAL: It's like somebody has put a bucket of water over his head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though she used the word "weird" to describe Ritter's appearance, she didn't think his condition was that serious because she says the 54-year-old didn't complain. Then again, she says, he never complained about anything.

SAGAL: And he was fine. I was -- that is what is so unbelievable about the whole thing, you know, that he went a hospital and six hours later he was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King in Washington. At the top of hour on "360," passports and presidential candidates. We now know all three candidates, Obama, Clinton, and McCain, had their passport records breached. Now we're asking who did it, why, and what could it mean? And we're starting to get the answers.

Also Bill Richardson's endorsement. He's picking Barack Obama, kind of a surprise since Richardson once worked for former President Clinton. But can it help Obama win?

We'll also dig deeper into those sermons from Barack Obama's former pastor. Roland Martin has listened to much more of the sermons than we've heard before and we'll let you hear it too. All of that at the top of the hour on "360." Larry King will be back in a moment.


KING: We're back with Amy Yasbeck. We're going to talk about the foundation in a minute and find out a little bit about John as well. But just days after he died, John's fellow actors came on this program. Here's a little bit of what happened.


SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTOR: It's such a loss. It really is such a loss. These people that drop into our lives and make us feel good, they have purpose and John had such a purpose. Everybody liked -- you won't find anyone you talk to who didn't like him. Everybody liked John.

DEWITT: He was so full of joy and love and so ready to play all the time and he could make fun out of anything.

HENRY WINKLER, ACTOR: The one thing that John was, was grateful. He loved what he did. He loved his children. He loved his wife Amy, and he loved his work.


KING: What kind of husband was he?

YASBECK: I never saw that before?

KING: Why not?

YASBECK: Because I was, you know...

KING: Sad.

YASBECK: Face down on the bed and going, whatever, going, oy, and taking care of my baby.

KING: What kind of husband was he?

YASBECK: He was a brilliant husband. Absolutely brilliant. The most supportive person in everything I did. I mean, he was a wonderful partner.

KING: Was he funny?

YASBECK: He was so funny. And you know, it's like, you say, well, this, you always use humor to do -- but when John Ritter decided to use humor on your, you couldn't be sad, you couldn't be anything but deeply in love.

KING: Did you ever know his father Tex?


KING: I interviewed Tex.

YASBECK: What the hell? Are you kidding me?

KING: On the radio in Miami in the '60s.

YASBECK: Oh my God. Did you tell John that? Did he know that?

KING: Sure.

YASBECK: Oh my God.

KING (singing): Do not forsake me oh my darling...

YASBECK (singing): ... on this our wedding day.

It's my singing debut. Hold on. Do not -- OK. They think -- now all of these geneticist who I know, Dianna Milewicz, oh my God, this geneticist, this woman at the University of Texas, they think possibly Tex, it was not a heart attack but died of aortic dissection.

And that's -- I mean, how many people do you know, sadly in your family and others that they just kind of clutch their heart, have chest pain and die, there is no autopsy, they are not in the middle of the surgery and they just put it in that cardiac category and I think the word that you and I use all the time, cardiovascular, it's kind of like cardio...

(whispering): ... vascular.

Not -- I prefer the cardio and vascular.

KING: It should be just as big. It's not.

YASBECK: Cardio. I want to say cardio and vascular.

KING: What kind of dad was John?

YASBECK: John was a kickass dad.

KING: Doting?

YASBECK: Doting and believed in giving kids the green light, the green light, the green light, whatever they wanted to do. And what's amazing to me is -- can I tell you one more thing real quick?

KING: Sure.

YASBECK: OK. You know Heath Ledger that passed away, I just heard that they're doing a movie, he was in the middle of the movie and the next part of it, three actors are taking over to do these three different roles.

KING: And it was all going to be him. But they have three different guys who are going to play...


YASBECK: Are going to play different facets of his personality. When I heard that last week or whenever, I went, my God, because John's four kids, Jason, Carly, Tyler and Stella, not to pigeonhole them, but in general, Jason is a brilliant actor, that's that part. Carly is getting her master's degree at a school of public service, that is that part of John. Tyler is a teacher teaching underprivileged children English, Kindergarten kids in Argentina, there is that part. And Stella is the ridiculously goofy but brilliant 9-year-old that lived inside of John. She is mine.

KING: The first three were...

YASBECK: From Nancy, yes.

KING: Were you close to them?

YASBECK: Those three kids? Oh, absolutely. I don't try to mother them. I've always been their friend. But yes, I am steppy, the stepmother. They like me. And they love their little sister Stella.

KING: How did they deal with John's passing? Each differently I would imagine.

YASBECK: Each differently except I lost my parents when I was their age, 19 and 20, my dad and mom. And so I could see that -- how hard that is -- you know, Stella had just been in Kindergarten for two weeks. Tyler had just been taken up to college, taken to the University of Pennsylvania by his dad and left there. And Carly was at Vassar, to be far away from your family, to get that news and have to make that sad journey home. Just a nightmare.

But they're awesome kids and they're so into this foundation and getting the word out. They talk about it to their friends.

KING: That's what I'm going to talk about next. We'll be back with more moments with Amy Yasbeck and the foundation, right after this.


KING: Amy Yasbeck has started a foundation and if you want more information it's the It's a foundation for aortic health.

Give me the genesis.

YASBECK: The genesis, after John died and I found out that aortic dissection was preventable and scannable and you know, you could kind of predict it and see it coming, I started getting Google Alerts so I would get -- read some 30 articles a day and I would track down the families of people who had survived and families of people who had succumbed to the disease.

And I spoke to them directly and there was articles in The Wall Street Journal, 10 articles that won the Pulitzer Prize by Kevin Helliker and Tom Burton that had so much information. And so I would illegally copy those, sorry Wall Street Journal or whatever, and I would send them to the people, then discuss and get them scanned.

So kind of on the down low I've been doing it. And then during the lawsuit I couldn't do the foundation out loud. But I've just been doing it one on one with families and families. And now the lawsuit is over, I did a Web site, I am pretty illiterate with the computer so I have people helping me. Purple was John's favorite color, so the Web site is all purple.

My goal, my dream, and it has already kind of happened, I did a speech at Yale, I didn't even graduate from college, I'm speaking at Yale. What is wrong with this world? I'm doing a speech at University of Texas. I just want doctors to be able to talk to each other and share information freely. No jealously guarding your information. I need everybody to talk to each other -- what?

KING: This is absorbing you.

YASBECK: You mean obsessing?

KING: Yes. Same thing.

YASBECK: I'm telling you, when it happens to you, when it happens to you and your family, I can be in a crowd of people and I go, whoa, I know a couple of them have an enlarged aorta, I want to just start seeing through people's chests, get those X-ray glasses, remember with the legs on the side, you buy them in the back of Mad Magazine, and just -- I'm dying to be able to help people live.

KING: Do people contribute to this too?

YASBECK: People will.

KING: But it is now informational, right?

YASBECK: Right now it's informational, feel free...

KING: If you go to, what will you get?

YASBECK: You will get -- and it's very kind of rudimentary right now. You get a purple home page with a beautiful picture of John that I have to copyright. And it's -- there are tabs up at the top and you can read Tom's story, John's brother, which is great.

I've got four letters from citizens, people who have been affected by John who literally have had their -- some of them had their lives saved by going in and going, before I leave, do you mind checking me for that John Ritter -- and they go, oh, crap, it's your aorta. Glad we didn't treat you for a heart attack.

It's happening every day. It's insane. And there is little information and there is a thing that you spit with the DNA and you send it...

KING: You're going to get a lot of rewards out of this.

YASBECK: I already am. I get to sit with you with no corned beef to separate us.

KING: I've got a cardiac foundation that helps people. You know what you're going to lead to?


KING: Saving lives. And you're going to hear stories about...

YASBECK: You made me cry, Larry.

KING: ... saving lives and you're going to make John be alive. This is saving lives.

YASBECK: If this is an obsession...

KING: Let it be.

YASBECK: Let it be.

KING: Thank you, Amy. I'll see you at Nate and Al's next week.

YASBECK: Thank you, my friend.

KING: Amy Yasbeck, and again, it's the

As always, head to our Web site, You've got me crying. You can download our current podcast, Barack Obama, or e- mail upcoming guests. You can tell us who you'd like to see on LARRY KING LIVE. We call it "Viewer's Choice." We've got quick votes, transcripts, video highlights, too. All at

As the clock strikes 10:00 in the Eastern time zone, and we remind you that Lewis Black will be here Monday night. John King will be sitting in for Anderson Cooper. Here's John with "AC 360."