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Are Bailouts the Answer to Economic Woes?

Aired December 3, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, bailout outrage. Some car makers ratchet up the fear factor to get their handout. Among the scare tactics: one executive now warning that, without the $34 billion bailout, the entire U.S. could be thrown into a massive depression.

Should the Big Three get your tax dollars? Can they be trusted to build the right cars for the economy and the environment? I`ll ask the man who directed "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and I`ll take your calls on the great American bailout.

Plus, a call to arms in St. Louis. A local government leader urges residents to lock and load. That`s right. He says the best way to fix the city`s out-of-control crime problem is by arming the masses with guns. Bright idea, or does this guy have bullets for brains?

And the latest on NFL star Plaxico Burress` gun wounds (ph). Now, the doctor who treated his injury has been suspended. Just another in a long line of people who go to extraordinary lengths to take one for a celebrity. Why does everyone have stars in their eyes when it comes to the rich and famous?

These issues and more tonight.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A city leader in St. Louis says local police are ineffective and tells residents to arm themselves. St. Louis is one of the five most crime-ridden cities in America, so why would more guns make things safer?

And speaking of guns, NFL superstar Plaxico Burress thought a gun would protect him, but now, he could face jail time after shooting himself with that gun. Plus, the doctor who treated him is suspended for trying to cover it all up. I will have the latest details on that one.

But first, right now, somewhere between Detroit and Washington, D.C., the heads of the Big Three automakers are driving in their respective hybrids, headed to the nation`s capital to beg for more billions.

While they`re driving and undoubtedly patting themselves on the back for their tremendous sacrifice in foregoing their corporate jets, other auto industry executives are making threats and using scare tactics, publicly predicting America will go into a depression if they are not bailed out.

Here`s my issue: using scare tactics to try and strong-arm a bailout is shameful. The fact is, the Big Three have no one to blame but themselves for this mess. They could have switched to much more fuel- efficient cars a long, long time ago. That`s what America and the world has been crying out for.

Now, here`s what the automakers are offering now. Salary cuts for top executives. The sale of corporate jets and cutting back or even eliminating some models like the Hummer, the king of all gas guzzlers. How admirable of them.

Did I mention that now, they want $34 billion. That`s 9 billion more than a week and a half ago. But who`s counting. Bailouts are America`s latest fad.

If you`re keeping tabs, that`s $700 billion for Wall Street, another 34 billion which the automakers want, and there is even a school district in Ohio asking for a chunk of the feds` change.

The bottom line is you -- yes, you, you the taxpayer -- are footing the bill. And we still don`t know if all these bailouts will turn the economy around.

So what`s your take on the great American bailout? Should we be forking over $34 billion of our hard-earned dollars to the Big Three? Give us a call: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. We want to hear from you.

Gerri Willis is the host of CNN`s "Open House." Debra Borchardt is a reporter for And Virg Bernero is the mayor of Lansing, Michigan.

Gerri, let`s start with you. Chrysler`s vice chairman said today that the failure of even one of the U.S. automakers could trigger a depression, as in the Great Depression. Does he have some kind of special crystal ball? Or is he just trying to scare us into giving Detroit the money?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, you know, look, I think everybody`s lost patience with the CEOs and the auto industry. Look, last year, you pointed out it was $25 billion. Now they want $34 billion. Everybody`s starting to wonder, you know, what will they ask for next?

And as you know, 61 percent of Americans are saying, "I don`t believe in this bailout."

I think, look, the auto industry has to prove that they can make good on big and deep changes. They`ve already said that they`re moving to fuel- efficient cars. But it`s happening too slowly. They`re not making enough money. Chrysler`s own -- GM, that is, their first electric car came out in 1998, a long, long time ago. The oil embargo happened over 30 years ago.

Where are these guys? Why haven`t we seen changes in these companies? I just don`t get it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and Americans don`t get it either. You referred to a new poll just out. Six in ten Americans oppose the auto bailout. So Virg Bernero, you are the mayor of Lansing, Michigan. Presumably, you are in favor of the bailout. But what do you say to all those Americans who say, no, you know, Detroit did this to themselves?

In fact, there was an article in "The New York Times" today, saying a lot of people in Michigan are not in favor of the bailout, because they`ve seen, up close and personal, the incompetence of the auto industry.

VIRG BERNERO, MAYOR, LANSING, MICHIGAN: Let me tell you something. Working people are sick and tired of the double standard, like what I`ve heard here tonight.

You know, $150 billion for AIG for the Wall Street paper pushers? You know, the people in the auto industry actually make something. They produce something. Unlike the hysteria and hot air that are produced in Washington and Wall Street. Two hundred fifty or $300 billion for Citibank? No questions asked?

You want to talk about incompetence and mismanagement? The red ink that has flown from Wall Street and from Washington, and we want to be lectured in the auto industry by these people?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me tell you why the...

BERNERO: These are real people who make real products who have been the backbone of this country, who has been the backbone of our economy. And all you want to do is...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Let me tell you why there`s a feeling that perhaps Detroit deserves a wakeup call, and that we need to take their inventory. And that is because the importance of oil is such that we are in the Middle East right now, engaged in two wars.

And one of the reasons, and I`m not saying the primary reason, but certainly one of the reasons is oil. Had we switched to electric cars back in the 1990s when we could have, we`d all be driving electric cars and we couldn`t give a hoot about oil at this point. And that was the missed opportunity.

BERNERO: You know what -- really, I don`t know how long you`ve been in the car making business. I`ve got to admit I`m not a car expert. My dad did make cars, and I`m proud of that.

But you know, if the cars -- if the electric cars had been commercially viable in 1990 as you say, I can assure you they would have been produced. The fact of the matter is, GM is now working on the Volt. And all of the companies, the Big Three, are working -- they`re making more hybrid vehicles than ever before. They`re cleaner and greener than ever before. This is not your father`s automobile company, to borrow a line...


BERNERO: And they`ve been making this transition...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to get Debra Borchardt in on this, the reporter for I mean, correct me if I`m wrong. It would seem that Detroit has been pushing gigantic SUVs and burly all-terrain vehicles...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... that say you can drive up a mountain, which...


BORCHARDT: Absolutely. They have for years been fighting against having high gas mileage cars. We know this, and it`s out there.

And what really struck me was when I looked at GM`s A.K. Today. That`s what they call it, the SEC. This company has had net cash shortfalls since 2005. They have had quarter after quarter, year after year, of not making money.

And now they act like this is new, that this is all about this current recession. And it`s like, no, this is years of not fixing things that were wrong with these companies.

BERNERO: You know what? If there`s anybody that should know about not making money, it`s Debra. I understand she worked at Bear Stearns. They were one of the first recipients of the big bailout.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, you`ve done your research.

BERNERO: Give -- give me a break. Give me a break. I am tired, and American people are tired, the working people in this country are tired of the double standard.


BERNERO: One thing for Wall Street, no strings attached.

BORCHARDT: Well, here`s the thing. Here`s the thing, though.

BERNERO: And then we want to talk about the auto industry. Can I finish a point? Can I finish a point here?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`ve been talking a lot.

BERNERO: Let`s give the auto industry -- let`s give the auto industry a chance. They have been in transition. They`ve been doing it in the midst of all this tumult. The motor trend car of the year was made in Lansing, Michigan, last year. Don`t tell me that the cars that GM and the Big Three make are not in demand, because they are.

BORCHARDT: But here`s the thing. The thing with Bear Stearns is it got picked up by JPMorgan because it has a cash-making business. And Citigroup, these are companies that will be viable and will have a chance to pay back these loans...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me -- let me say this.

BORCHARDT: I think they`re concerned that the car companies can`t pay back loans.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I will agree with the mayor in one sense. I think there`s been a lot of waste, a lot of arrogance in all of these companies. I think they all deserve a spanking. Citigroup spending $400 million to name the new Met stadium Citi Field. They`re still -- they`re remodeling their Park Avenue apartments. They are...

BERNERO: The point is, those companies -- those companies are peopled -- are peopled by paper pushers who create things like derivatives and things that mean nothing to middle America.

Every GM job is backed up by 7.5 other jobs. And you can try to dispute it, but you can`t, because the fact is these are at the apex of the manufacturing pyramid. But when you look at all the things that goes into an automobiles -- the computers, the rubber, the engines -- it supports a myriad of jobs all across this country. And you can talk about -- you can talk about...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But the primary purpose of any company is to provide a service, not just to support jobs. And I agree with you that the other companies have gotten bailouts, deserve investigations. However, it doesn`t necessarily mean we should applaud Detroit for doing what it`s done.

But hang in there. Debra, thanks for your terrific insight. Gerri, Virg, stick around.

We`re going to take your calls yet. Do you have an opinion on the bailout? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. Our fantastic and fiery panel will cut through all the spin and give you the facts about Detroit`s road trip to Congress.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: New details emerge in the Plaxico Burress gun case. The doctor who treated him, and failed to report it to police, is now suspended. I`ll examine why regular people bend the rules for celebrities.

Meantime, we`re talking about the Big Three automakers and the bailout they so desperately want with Gerri Willis, host of CNN`s "Open House," and Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing, Michigan. And we are taking your calls: 1- 877-JVM-SAYS. Call me at 1-877-586-7297.

Joining in on the discussion, Chris Paine, the director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So really, who killed the electric car? Well, unfortunately, I can`t summarize that in one sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What killed the electric vehicle, very simply, I think, is lack of corporate wisdom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my opinion, it`s big oil that killed the electric car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alan Lloyd (ph) killed the electric car program. I was there when he did it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The California Air Resources Board killed the electric car under huge pressure from the auto companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were an accessory to the murder. But the murder was committed by the General Motors company.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chris, when you look at the mess automakers are in right now, do you believe this could have been prevented, had the electric car not been killed years and years ago? I think it was back in the `90s, wasn`t it?

CHRIS PAINE, FILMMAKER: Yes, and it was -- it was finally killed in 2003. Of course, you can`t kill the technology, but those cars were destroyed.

It is a shame that all the car companies, not just the Big Three, went against the electric car and put them out of -- took them off the table, because it could have really, really helped to have those cars available now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, wouldn`t the technology have increased and improved?

PAINE: Oh, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because everybody said, well, it was a very expensive car. It wasn`t economically feasible. Nothing`s economically feasible when you first create it. Then the economies of scale will eventually kick in.

PAINE: You`re exactly right. And if those cars had been on the road this whole time, by now, all these companies would have viable products that people would want to buy now. So that`s kind of the tragedy of the past. And I think that`s a lot of reason why people give the auto companies so much heat for putting all their -- all their money on one color, you know, the SUV truck color.

But we`ve got to figure out what to do now. And I think that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I want to get -- I want to get Virg`s response to this. Because you`re filled with righteous indignation, but let`s face it, wasn`t it GM that had this electric car that was killed? And they didn`t just kill it; they literally crushed these cars.

PAINE: It wasn`t just GM. Honda had them and Toyota and -- yes.


BERNERO: Well, I mean, I don`t know who`s...


BERNERO: I don`t know who`s filled with righteous indignation. Is it him or me?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you`re both filled with righteous indignation for different reasons. So Mr. Righteous Indignation No. 1, Virg Bernero, continue, please.

BERNERO: Chris made -- look, you and Chris have made one of my points which is, the technology isn`t gone. You know, who killed the electric car? I`ll tell you who killed it. Cheap gas and commercial inviability. It wasn`t popular, and now the demand is there, and the gas prices have gone up.

Look, we didn`t lose the technology, just like you and Chris said. And a lot of that technology is being put to use into other vehicles that GM and the big three are developing right now. The fact is, it wasn`t ready at this time. And this idea that there`s a conspiracy theory, you know, I think the last two EB-1s are off in Area 51 somewhere.

Give me a break. We didn`t lose that technology. It wasn`t ready now -- then. And the technology is being used and developed right now. And it should be supported by the government.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mr. Director, help me out here, because...

PAINE: Yes, yes, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... I don`t think you can just say, "Oh, you know, this was no conspiracy. It happened. The technology is still there." It`s a question of timing. Right now is when we need the entire nation to be on electric, and it ain`t happening right now, because they didn`t proceed accordingly back in the late `90s and the early 2000s.

PAINE: Yes, yes. Well, exactly right. And the profit margins on electric cars in the 1990s were nothing compared to what you`ve got in trucks and SUVs. The car companies went with what they could make money on.

But today they don`t have a product that people really want. So I think what we need to do now is figure out how to get these companies back onboard, because if you let them all go bankrupt, people are going to have warranties for their cars.

WILLIS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We need to talk about not how to help out these auto companies. We need to talk about how to help the American people. And the American people right now, they are struggling with mortgage loans they can`t afford, that were forced on them by an industry that was out of control.

Those are the people who need the bailout dollars, not industries...

BERNERO: Yes, the same industry -- the same industry...

WILLIS: ... who have been throwing ideas at the wall for 10, 20 years, and have only seen their profits diminish over time. Nobody has an argument with the line workers at these companies. It`s about the management and how these companies have been run.


BERNERO: And if you want to help the American -- if you want to help the American people, you will -- you will help the auto industry. You will develop the auto industry.

Look, the Chrysler aid package worked 30 years ago. It was prudent. It was paid off early. It was paid off in full.

WILLIS: And they`re back again. They`re back again. Why are they back again?

BERNERO: We had 30 years of productivity in the meantime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s let Americans weigh in on this. We`ve got the phones...

BERNERO: It was Wall Street that put them over the edge. It was Wall Street that put them -- the credit crunch that put them. They were in transition.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Mr. Mayor.

BERNERO: They`ve laid off. They have reduced blue collar and white collar. They have been downsizing and right sizing. They were turning the corner when this walloping blow was dealt them by the Wall Street wizards.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t buy it. But any way, Lisa from New Jersey, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: HI Jane. I just wanted to call and say I love your show.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m glad. Thank you.

CALLER: thank you. My question is, if our government submits the $34 billion to these automakers, is it worth it? Is it going to be more of a liability or an asset?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think that`s an excellent question, ma`am. And let me follow up. Why do we have to save all three, Gerri? I mean, GM wants the biggest chunk of change, $18 billion. If we took that out of the equation, Ford says they might not even need the $9 billion. They wanted standby credit if case they need it. So it could actually be a pretty reasonable sum if we took, for example, GM out of the equation.

WILLIS: Well, it`s interesting. It`s an ongoing assumption that we`re going to bail out all three. Nobody even questions that we would do all three and not pick and choose here.

Again, I don`t think we`re examining this issue closely. We`re just willy-nilly saying, OK, well, somebody else is knocking at our door who has -- who wants a handout.

And again, to Virg`s point, you know, they have been here before. You know?

BERNERO: That`s absolute nonsense.

WILLIS: Yes, they have.

BERNERO: That`s absolute nonsense. The bailout for...


WILLIS: It`s been on the table.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Caroline in Michigan, your question, ma`am, or thoughts?

CALLER: Yes. Thank you for taking my call. I do want to agree with Virg Bernero. I`m from Lansing, Michigan, myself. I feel that, you know, these automakers have been around, and every family will be affected.

Michigan is in a tremendous, you know, with unemployment at its highest. It`s just going to be a terrible chain reaction. We need to support. We should not throw this towel in automatically. I do believe there should be change. I think some of these upper management needs to be cut.

But in all, I think that we should not throw the towel in. They`ve been around too long.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fantastic point. Now Chris Paine, what do you think? Get rid of the top guys and say, "Well, you messed up, so we`ll continue with your company, but not with you?"

PAINE: Well, I`m not in favor of bailouts. I think what the government should be doing is writing purchase orders and saying, "Hey, we want something for our money. So we`ll write you a purchase order for, you know, $5 billion worth of plug-in cars and hybrid trucks. Let`s use something with our money to get people back to work. Not just hand money out."

So it`s funny. The whole system is about a market system. And then we`re all in bailout mode. Well, let`s -- let`s go into purchase order mode.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? I want to go back to that when we come back from the break. I think that`s an excellent idea. Make it specific. Make demands, not just handing out money.

I`m going to be back with more of your calls on the auto bailout next.

Later, a city official thinks the answer to St. Louis`s skyrocketing crime rate is for residents to arm themselves with guns. We`re going to debate this gun issue with a gun advocate. And I`m going to take the other side, coming up.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Back now with Gerri Willis, host of CNN`s "Open House"; Mayor Virg Bernero of Lansing, Michigan; and Chris Paine, director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" We are taking your calls on the great American bailout. And the phone lines lit up.

Ted in Iowa, your question or comment, sir?

CALLER: Yes, my comment was, I remember awhile back when Harley- Davidson got in trouble and Ronald Reagan bailed them out, and they seemed to be doing pretty good since that happened. I think a lot -- I think that Americans need to worry more about, you know, if you want to help a fellow American, buy American.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. That`s an interesting concept.

Let me ask you this question, Gerri. There have been bankruptcies involving, for example, the airlines, and they...

WILLIS: Over and over again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Delta is still flying.

WILLIS: That`s right. And well, that`s a big debate right now. The auto companies are saying, "You know, we can`t go into Chapter 11. We can`t go into bankruptcy" and expect our audience to be there.

And I think there`s a big debate there that makes sense. Yes, yes, they probably can go into bankruptcy and reemerge, reorganize. It actually might make sense, because it would give us an opportunity to retool these companies even more.

If you leave present management in place, I think it`s an open question whether there will be thorough going changes at these companies.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Virg Bernero, is it possible that they could get the bailout, and yet they would proceed to close North American factories and still lay off thousands of workers? Because I`ve read that that is really part of the plan.

BERNERO: Well, you know, I guess they`re damned if they do and damned if they don`t, you know. If they make mistakes, if they are willing to concede and make some closures and contract and get leaner, they get criticized for that. Look, yes, they are contracting. They`ve been making changes. There have been blue-collar and white-collar layoffs. They`ve been making changes; they`ve been making transitions.

They make more hybrid vehicles at GM than any other company on the planet. But I know that they`re not moving fast enough for a lot of people. They deserve another chance. Just like the caller said, they`ve done a lot. You look at the Chrysler aid package, that paid off. This investment will pay off as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Some people said that it set up this whole crisis, because it said, hey, you don`t have to change.

BERNERO: Wall Street gave them this crisis. And the other thing is - - is the bankruptcy...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me jump in, because we`ve got people waiting.

BERNERO: Chapter 11 -- it`s very important. Chapter 11 is the same as Chapter 7. Nobody wants to buy a vehicle from a bankrupt company.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I get on a plane, which is my life at stake, with companies that went bankrupt. And I don`t think it`s...

BERNERO: That is ridiculous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Gary of Illinois. Gary...

BERNERO: People are not going to buy a car. That is apples and oranges.


BERNERO: Getting on a plane with the new -- you`re dead wrong. And the surveys show 80 percent of people will not buy a car from a bankrupt company. It`s apples and oranges. Buying a car that you`re going to own, and it`s going to sit in your driveway for ten years, is different from getting on a plane that has a different name on the wing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are different ways, though, to get the kind of warranty you`re -- you want when you get a car. Just because you go bankrupt doesn`t mean that there is no warranty and that you can`t get some kind of guarantee that it`s going to be serviced.

BERNERO: People do not want a car, they do not have the confidence level to make a purchase of that level from a bankrupt company.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s get Chris Paine`s final word -- Chris.

PAINE: Well, I think that these companies should be incented for having orders for products. So if the government wants to spend money like this, let them buy plug-in cars, plug-in hybrids, electric cars. Give these companies orders. And then we can rebuild this country. That`s -- that`s what I think we should do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s the final word on this subject. Mayor, Gerri, Chris, thank you so much. Great insights. Come back and debate some more.

Up next, the doctor who treated NFL star Plaxico Burress suspended for trying to cover it up. Give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS with your opinion.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: An NFL star shoots himself, and a doctor takes the bullet? The doctor who treated Plaxico Burress` injury bent the rules for the guy who caught the winning Super Bowl touchdown pass. But why do people continually treat celebrities different than the rest of America?

Give us a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297.

But first, a local leader in the fourth most dangerous U.S. city, St. Louis, is calling on residents to arm themselves with guns. St. Louis City Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe called the local police ineffective, outnumbered and apathetic to the increasing crime this year.

He says the community has to be ready to defend itself. St. Louis has had 157 homicides so far in 2008. That is 33 more murders than the last year at this time. I`m sorry Mr. Troupe, but in what universe does adding more guns to an already crime-riddled city make things safer? And if it`s such a fabulous solution, why haven`t city leaders in the top three dangerous cities New Orleans, Camden and Detroit call for the same thing?

Joining me now is Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. Larry, welcome back to our program, you and I have disagreed before on the issue of gun control. And I`m sure we`re going to disagree again right now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Glad to have you back.

Other St. Louis officials say some of the most violent crimes are committed with guns that are stolen from law-abiding citizens. So to me this suggestion will simply result in more guns being available to be stolen by dangerous criminals when they`re doing their break-ins.

PRATT: Well, the idea that you`re putting forth, I think, is that of a gun-free zone, whether it`s Virginia Tech or Mumbai, India. And the problem is, criminals do not give a never mind about those gun bans in those zones. And in fact, we find that when we look at where they`ve been and where they`ve attacked people, with their mass killings, they almost always go to a place where people are not allowed to defend themselves.

So the idea that somehow more guns is going to make it more dangerous really doesn`t work out in practice. If you go right across the river from Washington, D.C., which is one of our crime capitals, and not just political, you`ll find that people can carry concealed firearms. We have a large urban population. And we have about 100th of the crime of the murders that are committed in Washington, D.C.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me just say this, Larry. Is that the argument that I`ve heard you use and everybody who is in favor of guns uses, hey if I`m in my home and somebody comes in, I can kill them and its justifiable homicide and I can save my life. That`s why people want guns for self-defense.

But here are some statistics. The FBI said in 2007, 14,831 people where murdered ok, 68 percent of those murders caused by firearms. Do you know how many justifiable homicides there were? In the entire year? 391.

So a tiny minuscule percentage of all killings are justifiable homicide, which is the primary argument for having guns for self-defense.

PRATT: Well, as a matter of fact, that`s not the picture that emerges when you look at the data. First of all, those that have gone underneath and looked at -- people who have been charged with a murder oftentimes have the charges dropped when they find out later on that, no, that was a self- defense situation. Or they might even go to trial and it`ll be acquitted.

But the first logging in of the charge is how you get such a low figure. The fact of the matter is, when you do victim surveys, you find that people in this country use firearms over two million times a year to defend themselves. And to tell people that they shouldn`t have a gun --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, then they`re missing.

PRATT: Well, as a matter of fact, you know, you`ve raised a good point. You don`t have to kill or even wound to stop a crime. And when we look at the data, when we look at these victim surveys, we find that something like 96 percent, 97 percent of all of these defensive gun uses do not involve firing the gun.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So why not get a toy gun and just wave it at them? Because basically you can`t tell the difference with some of these toy guns.

PRATT: You do that. I`m not interested in that.

Now, the point is, if we tell people, like the chief of police did, there in St. Louis, that he doesn`t have the personnel to get out on the street to help people, but he doesn`t think people should be able to carry guns, what is he really saying? He`s saying, I don`t care if you get killed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, you`re raising a good point, the Alderman complained about 911. Listen to this.


ALDERMAN QUINCY TROUPE, WARD 1, ST. LOUIS: You call 911, you get an answering service. So if you`re dialing 911 calls and you don`t have manpower, or the system don`t allow you to make a complaint when you`re calling, when you have an emergency, then it absolutely -- that`s unacceptable. It`s completely unacceptable.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree it`s not acceptable. But why shouldn`t we fix the 911 system? Wouldn`t that be the correct response? Because if we give everybody guns, 911`s going to be more inundated than ever before.

PRATT: No, no, au contraire. There will be less business for them. Let`s look at what happened at Virginia Tech; 11 minutes for the cops to get into the building. That`s when all the people were killed.

Colorado Springs, when people in the church themselves that was attacked by a wannabe mass murderer, had organized themselves into self- defense teams, the bad guy was down and assuming room temperature within 30 seconds. The police got there five and a half minutes later. As the bumper sticker says, when seconds count, the police will be there in just a few minutes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, I think that what we do need is a change. I don`t want to see anybody who`s scared go without protection. But there are other solutions, in my opinion, Larry, and I want to thank you. And I want you to come back and argue with me again soon.

PRATT: Let`s do what works; let`s do what they do in Virginia, not D.C.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely, I mean, neighborhood watch programs --

PRATT: No, arm the people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And improved 911 systems and education. I don`t think the answer is arming people. But we agree to disagree.

Gun violence is at the center of our next story.

Stunning new developments in the Plaxico Burress case; he of course the New York Giants superstar famous for catching that Super Bowl touchdown pass and now infamous for shooting himself in the leg with an illegal weapon.

The doctor who treated him has now been suspended. Dr. Josyann Abisaab has been suspended for allegedly failing to alert police about the shooting, and allegedly signing off on medical papers which identified Burress by a phony name.

New York state law requires any gunshot wound to be reported immediately. The hospital says they`re still investigating and may bring disciplinary action against others.

So the question, did Plaxico Burress get the star treatment that you and I would not get? Of course he did. I want to hear your thoughts on this issue. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297 with your questions and comments.

My guests tonight: Drew Findling criminal defense attorney, and Katrina Szish, pop culture expert.

Drew, let`s start with you. It seems clear this doctor did not act alone. The "New York Post" says she got a mysterious phone call in the middle of the night, hey, come to work and treat this guy who had checked in under the name of Harris Smith, but who was actually Plaxico Burress.

Do you think this hospital is throwing this one doctor under the bus?

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don`t really think it`s as much the doctor as I`m starting to feel it`s the influence of the Giants over the doctor. I mean, they have a director, a vice president of medical services for the Giants. What in the world is that? But what it is, is somebody that`s overlooking these multi-million-dollar athletic investments.

And here`s one for an example; a football player, Plaxico Burress, making $35 million.


FINDLING: You can rest assured his first phone call was to the vice president of medical services, and then that vice president of medical services Mr. Barnes sends him to this hospital where this doctor shows up. It`s all about the money. And it`s all about the Giants wanting to immediately protect their investment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, the first phone call should have been to a psychiatrist so he could answer the question, why would anybody who just a signed a five-year, $30 million contract go out of the house with a loaded weapon and then have a drink and fiddle with the loaded weapon; it`s beyond the pale of self-destructive.

But Katrina Szish, as a pop culture expert, I`m sure you`ve seen this weird synergy between superstars and hospitals many, many times. I can think of numerous cases where stars get really special treatment, particularly in hospitals.

KATRINA SZISH, POP CULTURE EXPERT: Absolutely. There was a case awhile -- that`s actually, it`s ongoing now, Michael Jackson was rushed into the hospital for flu symptoms while he was going through his child molestation case and reportedly a man who was on life support was rushed out of the room so Michael could be in that room.

And then later after suffering a second heart attack, that man died. The man`s family is now suing Michael Jackson for an undisclosed amount of money.


SZISH: But it just goes to show that Michael Jackson wasn`t necessarily having an emergency. They were flu symptoms.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, he had flu symptoms. And the person and I believe it may have actually been a female, because I was there, which is a dubious honor, indeed, covering the Michael Jackson trial for months in Santa Maria, and I was actually outside that hospital when all heck broke loose.

It was bedlam -- bedlam outside the hospital. And it was fascinating to see the hospital act almost as if, from my feeling anyway, that it was a private hospital just for Michael Jackson. And this person was moved. And she died. And the family was distraught. And they`ve since dropped the suit because they didn`t get anywhere.

But I mean, that`s the penultimate example of these hospitals giving special treatment.

And when we come back, we`re going to talk about this really special relationship, Drew, between this hospital and the Giants. Give us a very quick description of that special relationship.

FINDLING: Well, the Giants have -- all their medical personnel have relationships with that hospital. All their administrators, all their athletes go there. Even Plaxico in his last injury was treated there. So he was very familiar with the hospital. And I think that`s ordinary. Trust me, that`s ordinary.

But a phone call in the middle of the night is what`s going to really raise suspicion. Particularly when you have an administrator, beyond an administrator, a vice president of the team is called and that vice president is the one that brings doctors in for a hospital like that.


FINDLING: That is really weird and is going to be the center of the probe, no doubt.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Follow the money. Stay right there. Fabulous panel. I`m going to be back with your calls from home. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297. Sound off on the Burress case and celebrity in America after the break.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are talking about the Plaxico Burress gun scandal. Stunning new details emerging that another New York Giant was involved in another gun incident. Police have revealed Burress` teammate, Steve Smith, was robbed at gun point in front of his New Jersey home just four days before Burress shot himself in the leg.

Tonight Burress` friends are springing to his defense. Former team mate Tiki Barber is saying that Burress, knew Smith had been robbed and that could be why he brought a loaded gun to the New York nightclub. Hmm. Sorry, I`m not buying it, Tiki. Good try, though.

What do you think at home? Did Burress fear for his life? Was he simply carrying a loaded gun for protection or do a lot of NFL players carry guns as some people claim because it`s supposedly cool which it`s really not?

I want to hear your thoughts on this issue. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297 with your questions and comments.

Back with me, my fabulous panel, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney, and Katrina Szish, pop culture expert. The phone lines are lit up.

Teresa in Illinois, your question or thought.

TERESA IN ILLINOIS: Hi, Jane. I love your show.


TERESA: I`ve been an RN since `93 but I`ve worked in the ER for over ten years. And my comment is, yes, I do believe Plaxico got star treatment definitely, but I will assure you that due to the Nurse Practice Act in New York, very similar to Illinois, this doctor will not be the only one that will end up suspended and probably lose license and job. Because it is an RN`s responsibility as well to report all gunshots entering the ER.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re making a great point.

And Katrina, anybody who`s ever been in an Emergency Room or in any kind of hospital setting knows you`re processed by many, many people, not just one doctor.

SZISH: That`s absolutely true. I mean, this is not some sneaky meeting that happened in a place that was private. This is a public hospital. Sure, it was 2:00 in the morning, but that doesn`t mean that there weren`t many, many people going through the process of checking and doing paperwork.

But when you do have a celebrity coming into a hospital with an emergency, sometimes maybe a few of those papers aren`t filled out and they`re just sort of rushed through a little bit. And I think that`s what we`re seeing here, again, besides what Drew said about the influence of the Giants that they`re having in the hospital.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes and the hospital isn`t a hotel. You can`t check in under any name you want to.

SZISH: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a place where you`re going to get medical treatment, and they`re legally required to report.

James in California, your thought or question, sir?



JAMES: James in California. Big fan of yours for many, many years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thank you.

JAMES: Anyway, but I`m on the side of the celebrity point. In that, they are so attacked, I mean, constantly by the media, by the paparazzi. I personally think that they deserve a little bit more consideration when it comes to personal protection.

Because they are so attacked on a day-to-day basis, I mean, I don`t need personal protection on a day-to-day basis personally. But I can feel for the celebrity aspect. I mean, football players, actors, actresses, basketball, I mean, anybody that`s in the limelight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I have to read something from the book "Giant of the road to the Super Bowl." Plaxico Burress wrote this in response to the fatal shooting of Washington Redskins player, Sean Taylor. Taylor was killed during a burglary at his Miami area home in 2007.

Quote, "We`re football players and people look at us with jealousy. Usually the enemy is somebody who doesn`t like you, just because they see you out and you drive a nice car, or you`ve got on jewelry or whatever it may be. I just got to take care of myself the best I know how. I can`t relax for a minute," end quote.

Drew Findling, you`ve studied celebrities. Does this sound like a common fear, or is this a rationalization for packing heat?

FINDLING: I think it`s a rationalization for packing heat.

And James, I understand your point. And let`s set aside the fact that he violated the law. Let`s set aside the fact that when he was using the gun, maybe he was paranoid about a carjacking. He was in a disco. He`s a professional football player. Let me repeat that, a professional 6`5" football player who gets assaulted every single Sunday, from Monday through Saturday he is assaulted by people on the football field.

We`re not talking about a jockey. We`re not talking about a synchronized swimmer. We`re talking about a football player. I mean, the question is, was he scared the girl next to him was going to step on his foot doing the electric slide? I mean, what`s the deal?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I hear you. And also, in that same memoir, he said he`s had guns for years. So obviously, guns something he has a bit of a love affair with, unfortunately, turned out to shoot him in the foot.

Richard from Georgia, your thought or question?

RICHARD FROM GEORGIA: Yes. My thought, comment was that I think as a nation, we idolize celebrities, and then when they do get into a mishap, we have a tendency to kind of want to see them burn. It`s not a big deal, but anytime you take a gun to a public place, that`s dumb in the first place. I hate to see it happen to a young guy, but it is what it is.

But as where I come from, we consider people like that in a position that he`s referring to as people being jealous, as haters and there are a lot of them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, obviously and a very good point. There`s a lot of envy that a guy like this has to endure. And you know what`s really sad about this, Katrina, is what he has already lost.

He just signed a $35 million contract recently. Now he is going -- well, he has been suspended. He`s going to lose approximately $823,000, which base salary, plus $100,000 game bonus and he`s out four games to the end of the season. So if you add it up, at least $1.4 million, possibly his entire contract at stake.

SZISH: Exactly. And that`s where it shows that, you know, a celebrity does definitely come under fire, literally, but also of people who are attacking them or coming after them or trying to rob them because they`re jealous of them or just, you know, being very invasive.

But at the same time, a celebrity does need to think. Not only did he have a gun that was loaded, it was also an unlicensed gun. And this is, as you mentioned, a professional football player who certainly should be thinking.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear you. And the sad part, most celebrities who are attacked are female. Let`s be real about that.

Stay right there. I`m going to be back with more of your calls on celebs and their special treatment, right after the break.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back taking your calls in the wake of the Plaxico Burress shooting incident and asking do celebrities get the five- star treatment that you and I do not get? Of course they do!

With me again, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney and Katrina Szish, pop culture expert.

During the break, the camera man behind the camera I`m looking at, Mike, says he`s disappointed because he is a Giants fan and he really was so excited he had caught that touchdown pass to win the last Super Bowl and was looking forward to seeing him in the next Super Bowl. And, of course, he has been suspended and it could affect the Giants` ability to win a Super Bowl.

Erica in New York, your thought or comment, ma`am.

ERICA, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: Hi, I just wanted to say I don`t condone what Plaxico did, but I think what is more upsetting to me is watching our mayor of New York get on national TV and just outright, you know, put all of his personal feelings on what should happen to him on television. I mean, we have people who are criminals, we have police officers who have done terrible things. And it`s always let`s not rush to judgment, let`s wait, but to get all of the facts. And we have no information, other than, yeah, he shot himself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Katrina -- ma`am, that`s an excellent point. Katrina, what do you think, righteous indignation going overboard a little bit by the mayor?

SZISH: I do, actually. And I think what`s interesting here is we talk so much about celebrities receiving special privileges and celebrities being above the law, which often they are, or they do seem to be.

But here is sort of a reverse. Sometimes celebrities are made an example of. And I think in part of Bloomberg`s very outright attack against Plaxico, I think really, you know what our caller is saying is a very valid point that maybe he is trying to make an example of this all- American New York football player, who, you know, caught the final pass in the Super Bowl. And I think we`re seeing a celebrity almost fall harder than a normal person.


Bill, Arkansas, your question or thoughts.

BILL, CALLER FROM ARKANSAS: Yes. I`m a Giants fan myself, and I was just calling in saying that with the Plaxico Burress incident, there were a number of incidents that happened just like this. But my question is, do we as the public and media put too much emphasis on stuff like this. Just like want to tonight, you ran this story a couple of nights. Are we putting too much emphasis on it or should it just be laid to rest?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know what, we`re going to have to leave it right there. And I thank you both, Drew and Katrina, great comment.

And I think the viewer has a point. Selective indignation, are we more outraged than we`d be if an ordinary Joe went out there, like a Joe the plumber and do this?

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, and you`re watching "ISSUES."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tomorrow on "ISSUES," the automakers D.C. road trip ends with groveling. Will lawmakers buy it with your money? Find out right here tomorrow night.

Now it`s time to check in with Nancy Grace. Hey, Nancy. What have you got going for us tonight?

NANCY GRACE, HN ANCHOR, "NANCY GRACE": Jane after an arrest two hours ago, motive finally revealed in the murders of American Idol turned Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson -- her mother, brother and little nephew all killed. Tonight, stunning details emerge about the crime scene.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear there are bombshell developments in the horrible case of that young boy tortured and held captive in California. What`s the latest on that?

GRACE: Jane, you`re right. A boy held captive over a year, stumbles into a California gym. A chain and shackles are on his feet, barely dressed, covered in bruises and cuts, soot all over his body, emaciated. As we go to air tonight, police confirm a third arrest, and if the claims are true, Jane, these three adults made this boy`s life a living hell.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stunning information, Nancy. Thank you so much. That`s all coming up next.

"Nancy Grace" starts right now.