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American Morning

A Majority for Hamas Could Mean No Peace in Middle East; Oprah Faces Off With Author

Aired January 27, 2006 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
A majority for Hamas could mean no peace in the Middle East. The U.S. says it will not negotiate with the suspected terror group. We're live in the West Bank and at the White House this morning.


Were you watching? Oprah faces off with the author who made up wholesale parts of his memoir, and she didn't pull any punches. Well, maybe one.

S. O'BRIEN: And some never-before-seen pictures of Hurricane Katrina. Take a look at this. This guy right in the middle of it grabs his video camera and shoots survives as they pull themselves out of the rubble.

Look at these pictures. They're remarkable.

We're going to show them to you, ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning. We're glad you're with us this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Let's talk about Middle East politics, really turned on its head in the past two days. Even Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, surprised they won the election. The trick now, of course, how you go forward, sticking to their violent roots while not making any hostile moves.

Let's go right to John Vause. He's live for us in Ramallah on the West Bank.

John, good morning.


For many Palestinians, Friday is a day of prayer. It will also be a day of reflection, especially now with the Palestinian authority facing the real prospect of international isolation.

Now one of the headlines in the Arabic daily newspaper, "Al Quds (ph)" if we can take this headline here. It reads in Arabic, "A Political Earthquake Shakes the Region."

And those aftershocks are being felt down in Gaza right now. A shootout between Fatah supporters, who denounced the election results and Hamas gunmen. Three people were wounded.

And last night in Gaza, gunmen walking through the streets, shooting in the air, calling on the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resign, calling him a traitor for allowing Hamas to run in these elections in the first place.

As for Mahmoud Abbas, despite this landslide win by Hamas, a group dedicated to the destruction of Israel, he is still hoping to renew peace negotiations with Israel, but the Israelis are saying they will not negotiate with terrorists. So the situation for Mahmoud Abbas, a lot of talk that he will have little choice but to resign. The only question, though, is when -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting.

What happens if the U.S., as they've threatened, and Europe, also threatening, pull the funds from Hamas? Can Hamas continue to govern?

VAUSE: Well, I asked Hamas leaders about this very issue before the election campaign. They said they're not taking this threat by the United States seriously. The money, they say, which came from the U.S., hundreds of millions of dollars, they claim, went into the pockets of just a few corrupt officials within the Palestinian Authority. They say they want to turn to the Arabic world to help the Palestinian people.

The other bigger concern for the Palestinian Authority right now, Israeli is threatening to withhold the custom duties and sales tax, which it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, about 50 million U.S. dollars. The Palestinian Authority said it needs the money to pay wages, about 100,000 workers. They need the money next week. If they don't get it, there's a fear that there could be outbreak of violence -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Gosh, what a mess there.

Our John Vause for us this morning. John, thank you -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, to say the least, the Hamas victory has put the president in a tough spot. On the one hand, he is offering support for democracy and for free elections, but on the other, he insists the U.S. will not negotiate with the victors of that particular election.

Elaine Quijano at the White House with more.

Good morning, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Miles.

President Bush says peace is never dead, but he is also making clear that Hamas must renounce violence before the United States will deal with the organization. In his first news conference of the year, President Bush cautiously praised the democratic process that took place. While, at the same time, delivering a stern warnings to Hamas leaders.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing. And so an election has just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government.


QUIJANO: Now, the president's careful language underscores just how complex the situation is, as the United States tries to determine how best to deal with a democratically elected government led in large part by Hamas, an organization that the United States has labeled a terrorist group.

As for today, President Bush later this morning will be meeting with Saad Hariri, the son of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated last year. A Bush aide says the two are scheduled to discuss the investigation into that assassination, as well as a democratic push taking place in Lebanon -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine, State of the Union is looming. Is the president busy working on a speech this weekend?

QUIJANO: Undoubtedly that will be on the agenda for the president, Miles. That's set to take place on Tuesday. And we already got a little bit of a preview of that yesterday. The president, in his opening statement, before he started taking questions, outlined some of the themes. Of course the war on terror is a big one. Also the economy. But the president, unlike last year, when he unveiled that very ambitious goal of trying to overhaul Social Security, we're not expecting or getting any indications that the president is going to have any such initiatives unveiled this time -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House, thank you.

President Bush could have a major victory in his pocket just before he makes that State of the Union Address. But he may have to beat John Kerry again to get it. Senator Kerry is looking for support to filibuster the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito. But leaders on both sides say he is unlikely to find enough help.

The vote on making Alto a Supreme Court justice is expected Tuesday morning, the morning of that State of the Union speech, but Republican leaders first have to win a vote Monday afternoon to cut off further debate and the filibuster. Alito supporters need 60 votes to block a filibuster -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: A newly discovered tunnel might have been used to smuggle people or drugs, or even into the U.S. from Mexico. The highly sophisticated tunnel starts under a warehouse near the Tijuana Airport in Mexico, ends about a half mile inside of California. Take a look at this tunnel. It looks like lots of things could be brought through that across the border. Maybe a better way to put it is under the border. Five-foot tall, lined with concrete, even has a built-in ventilation system inside. Shocking.


S. O'BRIEN: I think the Gawker (ph) Web site said it all, which was, "Don't Piss off the Oprah." Literally, that's what they say on their Web site this morning. We're going to talk about that.

M. O'BRIEN: Could you say that on TV? You can say that on TV. Right, you just did.

S. O'BRIEN: I think I can. I did.

M. O'BRIEN: It's cable.

S. O'BRIEN: Why not? That's not a bad word.

The message, don't mess with Oprah. She gave author James Frey an earful for lying about his memoirs to her. She was furious. She was practically vibrating. How are Oprah's fans reacting to the smackdown? We'll talk about that this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh my.

S. O'BRIEN: It was ugly.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, gender wars at school. A teenager says his high school discriminates against boys! We'll tell you what he wants done about it.

S. O'BRIEN: And later this morning, we're going to show you some incredible new videotape. This has never been seen before, home movies of Hurricane Katrina as it comes onshore. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. They rescued that dog right there. We've got that story, too.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Oprah's endorsement meant the world to author James Frey. And now that Oprah says she was duped by his alleged memoir, Frey might be on another list, if you know what I mean.

AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho has more on this story.

That was the most riveting television I've seen in a long time.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was riveting. I watched every single minute of it, you know. It was a riveting hour of television. I checked, and every television set in our newsroom was tuned into it. And you can bet that millions more across America watched as well.

After two weeks of standing by author James Frey and his book, "A Million Little Pieces," Oprah decided she could no longer support, and that the truth meant more to her, and that meant more to her fans.


CHO (voice-over): Andrea Scalzo is an avid Oprah fan. Last night, she watched the show with friends anxious to hear what Oprah would say about the memoir "A Million Little Pieces."

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: This whole upsetting controversy has left me with a lot of questions.

CHO: They watched as Oprah told author James Frey she felt conned.

WINFREY: I really feel duped. I feel duped, but more importantly, I feel that you betrayed million of readers.

CHO: Oprah took Frey to task for embellishing his story.

JAMES FREY, AUTHOR: I've struggled with the idea of it, and...

WINFREY: No, the lie of it. That's a lie. It's not an idea, James; that's a lie.

She also criticized the publisher for not checking facts.

NAN TALESE, PUBLISHER: As an editor, do you ask someone, are you really as bad as you are?

WINFREY: Yes! Yes! Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, you do.

CHO: She even apologized to her viewers for supporting the book after the Web site the revealed parts of Frey's story was untrue. She expressed her support in call to Larry King two weeks ago.

WINFREY: The underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me, and I know that it resonates with millions of other people.

I regret that phone call. I made a mistake, and I left the impression that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that, because that is not what I believe.

ANDREA SCALZO, OPRAH FAN: I respect her totally for apologizing for it.

CHO: Andrea Scalzo called it the right thing to do. So did her friend, Sruba De.

SRUBA DE, OPRAH FAN: She needed to say I'm sorry, all of my audience, people who believe in me, and, hey, by the way, author, I thought we had a connection. I thought I really understood who you were and, wow, you completely betrayed me.

CHO: Ad agency owner and image consultant Linda Kaplan Thaler say Oprah's apology was vintage Oprah.

LINDA KAPLAN THALER, CEO, THE KAPLAN THALER GROUP: Oprah always goes with her gut, and she always make the right emotional decision. Her emotional I.Q. is through the roof, and that's one of the great reasons for her success.

WINFREY: Do you think you lied, or do you think you made a mistake?

FREY: I think probably both.

CHO: Andrea Scalzo and friends say Oprah's appeal is that she's real, and that, they say, is why America loves her.

SCALZO: Even though she is like one of the richest, most famous people in the world, everybody just is right there with her. You know, she's reacting like your best friend does.


CHO: That is her appeal. Now in a statement, the book's publisher, Doubleday also apologized, saying of the author, James Frey, "We have questioned him about the allegations and have sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished. We bear responsibility for what we publish and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of 'A Million Little Pieces.'"

Now, Doubleday went on to say that all future printings of the book will include both an author's note and a publisher's note, essentially a disclaimer. It did not say, Soledad, whether that same policy would apply to other memoirs.

S. O'BRIEN: And didn't say you can get your money back at such and such time and location.

CHO: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: But you've to imagine, the book sales are going to go through the roof.

CHO: That's absolutely right. No surprise. It has picked up. We checked And just to give you a rundown. On Wednesday, it was number six on the list. By yesterday afternoon, it had ticked up to number five. And just after midnight, which was the last time we checked, it was already up to number two.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. It wouldn't surprise me if it's back up to number one.

CHO: That's right. No such thing as bad publicity, as they say.

S. O'BRIEN: I know. Isn't that sad to say? Do you think that's going to change the industry?

CHO: You know, I do.

S. O'BRIEN: It was a theme through the show about that, like this is going to change.

CHO: Right. And as you know from watching the show, they had a lot of media critics on, someone from the Pointer Institute as well, who said, listen, all of this could of been solved by spending $25,000, $30,000 a year on a fact checker. That fact checker could have within minutes, perhaps hours, identified these discrepancies in the book.

S. O'BRIEN: As the smoking gun did.

CHO: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Alina, thanks. Great spot. Thank you.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we're going to talk to Senator Joe Biden. He's just back from monitoring the Palestinian elections. Does he think there can be Mideast peace with Hamas in power?

Then later, some incredible new pictures. Look at the fury of Hurricane Katrina. The guy who shot these pictures was huddled on his shrimp boat. And this is a man survived, fell off of his boat right into the water in the middle of the storm. He helped rescue him. We've got that story just ahead. Really remarkable.

Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Streets in the West Bank have become a sea of green as Hamas supporters are still celebrating their big win. Hamas has taken a clear majority in the Palestinian parliament. The victory, though, could cripple the peace process.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden was in the West Bank on Wednesday, observing those elections. He joins us this morning from his home state of Delaware.

Nice to see you, senator, as always. Thanks for talking with us.

Good to see you, Soledad.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Sir, you know what, I can't hear you. And I think it's not your problem; I think it's my problem. Let me fix my earpiece, and standby for one second, because that will be a really bad interview if I have no audio. Thanks. Let me switch out my box. A little moment for technical difficulties.

There we go. Sir, I hear you now. How are you? BIDEN: Can you hear me now?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I do.

BIDEN: I'm fine, thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Can you hear me now. All right, let's get right to it.

You were there, as I mentioned, monitoring the elections. What's the reaction on your part, and also on the part of the Palestinians?

BIDEN: Well, I think there's a sad irony here. This is a time when the vast majority of the Palestinians want to make peace with Israel, all of the polling data shows that, but they were angry are with the corruption of the Fatah party, the party in charge. And all during that time of the election, leading up to it, and the day of the election, there were no banners, there were no slogans talking anything negative about Israel. It was all about corruption, it was all about the way in which they mismanaged the -- the Palestinians had mismanaged their government. So here you have the Palestinian people hoping this leads to peace and electing the one outfit that still calls for the destruction of Israel. As I said, there's a very sad irony in it all.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, really. I mean, Orly Halpern of "The Jerusalem Post," we spoke to her a little bit earlier this morning. This is her description where she was covering the story form Nablus.

Listen to her.


ORLY HALPERN, "THE JERUSALEM POST": When I was walking around the streets of Nablus last night, yesterday afternoon, when there was a big victory rally, people were coming up to all the Hamas leaders shaking their hands, and they just looked somewhat dazed.


S. O'BRIEN: Dazed is not a great description what you want in your new leadership. What do you predict is going to happen next, sir?

BIDEN: Well, I predict the Palestinians -- that is, Hamas is going to make a decision. Do they want to be part of the government? That is the cabinet. Do they want major positions? And if they do, then they have a real dilemma. They've got to deliver for the Palestinian people. It cost $80 million to $90 a month in order to run that government. Only $10 million is indigenous. That means they've got to be able to convince Europe, the United States and others to continue support them. In order do that, they have to change their position. So they've got a tough decision to make right now. But for the time being, the peace process is on hold, at a minimum. S. O'BRIEN: It's described to me as being on ice actually. Here's what the president had to say about this victory. Let's listen for a sec.


BUSH: I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform, and I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing.


S. O'BRIEN: So is it just a matter of saying, okay, we got to get rid of the armed wing and step back from our remarks of destroying Israel, which kind of complicates any kind of peace prospects? Is that it?

BIDEN: No, think it's more than that. The president, by the way, is dead right. I think it has to be two things. One, they have to change their charter, calling for the destruction of Israel. Two, they have to do more than call a cease-fire; they have to, in fact, begin to disarm their militia. Absent that, you cannot expect Israel to go ahead and negotiate with an outfit that says my negotiating end is to destroy you.

S. O'BRIEN: yes, that's not much of a negotiation.


S. O'BRIEN: I want to turn the corners now, sir, and talk to you a little bit about Judge Alito. As you well know, Republicans want him -- would like to have him confirmed before the president's State of the Union address next week. Senator Kerry wants a filibuster. Do you support the senator's filibuster?

BIDEN: If there is any possibility of keeping the judge off the bench, I would support that, because I don't think he should go on the bench, because of his vast, vast expansive view of the president's power. He thinks the president should be able to go to war without congressional power, for example.

But already four Democrats have announced for Judge Alito. I see no reasonable prospect that a filibuster could work or function. Therefore, I think we should make our statements, we should clearly state why we don't think Judge Alito should go on the bench and vote. I don't see a filibuster.

S. O'BRIEN: So does that make five Democrats then for Judge Alito?

BIDEN: No, no. I'm against Alito. I voted in committee against Judge Alito, stated my reasons.

My point is, whether or not you prevent a vote from occurring. That's a filibuster. I know you know that. And I think there's an inevitably of getting a vote, and we might as well, after we've had our say, get on with the vote.

S. O'BRIEN: Senator Joe Biden, nice to see you as always. Sorry about our technical glitches off the top. Appreciate your patience on that -- Miles.

BIDEN: Oh, no, no. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

M. O'BRIEN: I thought that that was very well done, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: You know, I'm getting better at multitasking with my ISB (ph), sad to say.

M. O'BRIEN: Very well done, the mid interview, box swap. That is...

S. O'BRIEN: I think it's all of the kids I have. You know, you learn to juggle a lot of things.

M. O'BRIEN: Varsity editing all the way. Good job.

Coming up a never-before-seen look at the fury of Hurricane Katrina, some incredibly home movies from a shrimp boat captain and his crew. They rode out the storm as it came ashore, and lived to tell the tale. You will hear their incredible story.

Plus, a teenager says his high school discriminates against boys, so he's decided to do something about it. His quest for equality is straight' ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.