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Ahmadinejad Strikes Back; A Coup by the Revolutionary Guard; Iran Arrests "Newsweek" Reporter; Troops Withdraw, Violence Mounts; "She Rests with the Real Angels"; Michael Jackson Hospitalized

Aired June 25, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll go live to Baghdad.

CNN's Michael Ware is all over this story.

And the death of an icon -- Farrah Fawcett loses her long and very public battle with cancer at the age of 62.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


His country is in the midst of the most violent upheaval it's seen in 30 years. But apparently is -- it's -- isn't intimidating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's lecturing the president of the United States, Barack Obama -- telling him to stop interfering in Iran's affairs and warning he's acting more like his predecessor, George W. Bush, than an agent for change.

Listen to the Iranian president and the White House response.


PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Don't repeat a burned out and defeated experience.

Why do you speak so rudely with a great nation?

You've gotten it all wrong. Well, we would like to think you're slowly gaining experience -- you are still experimenting. Correct yourself. We don't want to see the big fiasco of the Bush administration repeated in the new U.S. era.



ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I've said and the president has said for more than a week-and-a-half now that there are people in Iran who want to make this not about a debate among Iranians in Iran, but about the West and the United States. And I would add President Ahmadinejad to that list of people trying to make this about the United States.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," which airs Sunday mornings.

All right, it's getting personal a little bit, between the president of Iran and the president of the United States.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And if you call people inside the National Security Council, to the many think tanks -- foreign policy think tanks around town, they boil this down this way, Wolf.

They think, number one, President Ahmadinejad clearly thinks it helps him internally to try to stir up -- at least portray that he's having a debate -- a discussion with the White House.

But he also believes -- most of the analysts believe that President Ahmadinejad has also reached the conclusion that continuing this back and forth and forcing the White House to respond is perhaps not helpful to President Obama here at home, because, as you know, the political debate here has been quite mixed about whether the president has been strong and forceful enough or why it took him so many days to get more forceful in his remarks.

In fact, just today, Senators McCain, Graham and Lieberman came out and said the administration needs to do more in trying to, A, communicate -- get communications -- radio broadcasts, TV broadcasts, Internet broadcasts -- into Iran and help the people in Iran get access to Internet technology and the like.

So, clearly, if you talk inside the White House and to anyone around town, they believe that Ahmadinejad sees it as in his interests to keep this debate going.

BLITZER: Because, you know, some -- some have suggested that the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, is very popular in the Muslim world -- in the Arab world and very popular even in Iran. And for the president of Iran to get into this kind of tit for tat with the president of the United States may undermine Ahmadinejad.

KING: It could undermine Ahmadinejad in the long run. But they believe that he has made a calculation that he is going to be -- he is staying in power; that the supreme leader is with him and that he is going back to what has worked for him in the past. He did this during the Bush administration. He liked to stir up direct conflicts with the United States.

And there are those who say there's obviously some leadership struggle -- some debate at the highest level within Iran.

But President Ahmadinejad has decided to go back to the playbook that he has used consistently -- poke the United States, try to generate a response.

BLITZER: Yes. It's worked in the past. We'll see if it works this time around.

KING: We certainly will.

BLITZER: John, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, one Middle East expert says what we're seeing unfold in Iran isn't just a government crackdown, but an actual coup by the country's elite Revolutionary Guard.

Listen to this exchange between CNN's Fareed Zakaria and former CIA officer Robert Baer.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Do you think it's pretty clear that the government has the ability to really consolidate power and crack down on this?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Fareed, I'm quite sure there's been a military coup d'etat by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Tehran. They've taken over. And the fact that the Basij came out so quickly -- they could have only done that on orders from the IRGC. The fact that Ahmadinejad is an IR -- a former IRGC officer, he has the backing of senior officers. I think what we've seen is a military coup against the old clerical establishment.


BLITZER: Wow! tough words there.

Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria to join us now -- Fareed, what do you think?

You're an authority on this subject.

ZAKARIA: I think that Bob Baer is -- is onto something. I'm not sure I would use the word coup, you know, as strongly. But there is no questions that what we're witnessing in Iran is the displacement of the old clerical establishment and the rise to power of some new clerics, but mostly a group of people who have much closer ties to the military, to the intelligence organizations to the -- to the police and to the Basij.

So what you're seeing is a kind of consolidation of a pure military dictatorship, losing the trappings of the Islam and the ideology as much.

And, by the way, this is very much part of Ahmadinejad's strategy when he is now attacking America. It is an attempt to consolidate power and to move beyond the debate about what's going on in Iran.

BLITZER: Can millions of Iranians, especially young people -- women, intellectuals, university students -- can they, though, be brutally suppressed, given what's happened over these past few weeks?

ZAKARIA: Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes. You know, usually, people -- the people with guns and money win in the short run. And the Iranian regime has lots of guns and lots of money because of the oil. There is, however, a huge ideological crack in the regime. And that ideological crack is very, very important. And it may be fatal in the long run.

But what the regime now has to try to do is to use brute force to win in the short run and to try to drum up a new ideology. That's why Ahmadinejad is trying to pick on America. That's why he's accusing us of interfering.

And, by the way, that is precisely why President Obama has been very wise in trying to be a little bit cautious, stay out this fight, not interfere -- not get entangled into it. It powerfully helps Ahmadinejad to be able to turn this into a U.S. versus Iran tit for tat.

Look at what's happening right now. We've stopped talking about Moussavi and we're talking about Obama and Ahmadinejad. That's exactly what Ahmadinejad wants.

BLITZER: One of your reporters, Fareed, from "Newsweek" magazine, has been picked up -- arrested or -- I don't know if anyone has been in touch with him.

But give us the latest. Tell us what's going on, because I know you're working as hard as you can -- and your colleagues are -- to get him out.

ZAKARIA: It's a very troubling situation, Wolf. He's one of 23, at least, journalists who've been picked up -- arrested without any charges. And what is most troubling about it is this is a guy who has been accredited in Iran -- in the Islamic Republic of Iran, under their laws, for 10 years. He's a very distinguished journalist. He's been a "Newsweek" correspondent for 10 years; a very distinguished documentary. He's won many, many awards in Iran and outside. And there seems to be no procedure that was followed.

So what we're hoping and what we have appealed for is that the -- that the regime -- that the Islamic Republic of Iran follow its own -- its own laws, its own -- it has procedures in this matter.

We think he is entirely innocent and we believe and we have some hope that perhaps he will be released when they see that, you know, he is, in fact, very balanced, very nuanced, very professional.

BLITZER: Have you been able to hear from him?

Have you been in touch with him at all?

ZAKARIA: You know, some of this is somewhat sensitive, Wolf, and I don't want to say anything that will get him into trouble. We're trying very hard to get him out.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Fareed.

We wish him and all our journalistic colleagues -- everyone in Iran for that matter -- we wish them only, only the best. This is a momentous occasion in the history of that country right now. We're watching history unfold.

Fareed, thanks very much.

And Fareed, as all of you know, he'll be covering all the latest developments in Iran. He'll be talking about it one-on-one with the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, this Sunday. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" airs on CNN at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. And it airs again at 5:00 p.m. Eastern every Sunday only here on CNN.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's a pretty good show, too.

BLITZER: It's an excellent show.

CAFFERTY: Yes. One of the more intelligent offerings on -- particularly on weekend television.

Despite doing one of those read my lips deals during the presidential campaign, President Obama might, at the end of the day, be left with no choice if he wants to get health care reform through Congress. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus says his committee has put together a health reform bill that costs less than a trillion dollars -- gee, less than a trillion -- but probably pretty close.

So who's going to foot the bill?

Well, guess.

Baucus told CNN taxing health care benefits in some form will be one way that the reform can be funded.

Now, President Obama, as you may recall, campaigned against taxing health care benefits in his run for the White House last year. Now, though, he reportedly is not ruling it out as a way to pay for one of the top priorities of his administration.

Isn't it interesting, once they get in, they forget about some of those things they said they wouldn't do, like raise taxes?

The staggering cost and an absence of a way to pay for it are among the main reasons that health care reform is suddenly in trouble on Capitol Hill. The president told ABC's "Good Morning America" -- quoting here: "I have identified the ways I think we should finance this. I think Congress should adopt them. I'm going to wait and see what ideas, ultimately, they come up with."

Well, he might be left with no other choice if he wants health care reform.

Here's the question -- will President Obama be forced, at the end of the day, to raise taxes on health care benefits in order to pay for health care reform?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

Well, it was Bush 41 who did that read my lips thing, right?

BLITZER: Yes. I remember that.

CAFFERTY: It didn't work out so well for him, did it?

BLITZER: No new taxes. I remember.



Thank you.


BLITZER: A top Iranian diplomat is now saying the CIA may have killed Neda, that young, 26-year-old Iranian woman whose slaying shocked the world. My exclusive interview with the Iranian diplomat and his outrageous claim.

And a massive rally in North Korea -- what brought 100,000 people into the streets?

And a little bit of Hawaii over at the White House -- the first family hosts a luau.


BLITZER: A senior North Korean official is warning of "an annihilating blow" -- an annihilating blow in response to any sanctions or provocations by the United States. This as anti-American sentiment intensifies in the communist country.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans packed Pyongyang's main square today for a rally against the United States, spurred on by the regime's threat of what it calls "a fire shower of nuclear retaliation."

In the China Sea, an American destroyer continues to shadow a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying banned materials.

No letup in the rising wave of violence across Baghdad. A car bomb exploded today at a Southwest Baghdad bus station, killing five more people. The spike in deadly attacks comes as U.S. troops work toward their mandated withdrawal from all Iraqi urban areas by June 30th. That's next Tuesday.

Let's go to Baghdad.

CNN's Michael Ware is joining us now -- Michael, what's really going on right now, as we get ready for this complete withdrawal of military forces by next Tuesday? MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as we're preparing for this retreat of the forces into these pre-designated bases -- and let's bear in mind, it's already Friday here. So we're now down to four days here on the ground before this significant handover -- the end of the American-led war in Iraq and the beginning of the Iraqi-led war. Well, all being -- all taking place against a backdrop of violence.

Now, you referred to a car bomb here in Baghdad. Well, this evening there was another car bomb. This one was in the northern city of Mosul. Fortunately, it only killed one person. Now, the car bomb that you talked about was at a bus station. Just six, seven hours before that one detonated, another bomb detonated in the same place, just meters away. So the first one killed two, the second killed five people. Just in Baghdad alone, we've had nine people die today.

And let's not forget, nine U.S. soldiers have been wounded today, as well, when their patrol was hit by not one, but by two roadside bombs. We now have a confirmed report from the U.S. military that another U.S. patrol was hit by a roadside bomb. However, there was only minor damage.

Iraqis are reporting yet another attack on Americans. That, however, has yet to be confirmed.

All of the incidents involving the Americans, interestingly enough, are in Eastern Baghdad or Shia-controlled areas. Conversely, all of the bombings, the assassinations, the mortar attacks, the shootings -- all of this slaughter against the Iraqi civilians is happening by Sunnis in Shia areas.

So it's like the Sunnis are attacking the Shia. The Shia, to some degree, have been lashing out at the Americans.

The intent of all of this -- it's part of a long-running campaign. There's Sunni extremist groups who are looking to bring us back to the bloodbath of the sectarian war. And it's hardening. It's intensifying on the cusp of the handover of the conflict here in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael Ware, we'll check back with you tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

The countdown continuing toward next Tuesday -- next Tuesday, when all U.S. combat missions in Iraqi cities must be over with. The dangers, though, continue.

Payback time for South Carolina's governor -- he's now reimbursing the state for an official trip he took to Argentina that included a visit with his mistress.

Plus, First Lady Michelle Obama said to be seeking a bigger role in her husband's administration.

What's going on? We'll talk about what she's doing and what she has in mind. Donna Brazile and Kevin Madden, they're standing by.


BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Deb, what's going on?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Obama administration is increasing support for Somalia's transitional government. The State Department says the U.S. is providing weapons to Somalian forces battling Islamic militants. Washington is concerned that Somalia could become an Al Qaeda safe haven.

In the Middle East, Hamas is urging the Obama administration to do more to bring about peace. The group's political leader says it does appreciate President Obama's new language toward Hamas, calling it a first step in the right direction.

And in Israel today, three years since the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-affiliated militants. This as Israeli media reports say Sergeant Gilad Shalit will soon be transferred to Egypt as part of an exchange. He has not been seen since his capture. Israeli officials had no comment on the report -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Deb.

We'll get back to you.

She was hailed first for her beauty, later for her talent, and in her final days, for her courage. The actress, Farrah Fawcett, died this morning, losing a long battle to cancer.

Here's CNN's A.J. Hammer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We proudly welcome to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Miss Farrah Fawcett.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Farrah baby. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Farrah, look up.

A.J. HAMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Farrah Fawcett will be remembered as one of the sexiest women of the 1970s. Her poster hung in the bedrooms of teenage boys around the country.



What are you playing?


HAMMER: And her breakout role as one of "Charlie's Angels" made her a star.

Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1947 and made her way to Hollywood as a 21-year-old. The blond beauty was soon dating TV star Lee Majors and appearing in commercials and on various TV shows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Mrs. Latrin (ph), this is Miss. Perry (ph), my secretary.


HAMMER: She married and became Farrah Fawcett-Majors in 1973. And then she had her first big break.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once upon a time, there were three little girls who...


HAMMER: In 1976, "Charlie's Angels" made its debut and she was the blond. The top-rated Aaron Spelling show about three female private detectives grabbed the nation's attention. Farrah's face started showing up on magazine covers and even lunch boxes. And a poster of her in a swimsuit sold millions of copies -- becoming one of the iconic images of the '70s.

Then, just as suddenly as her rise to fame, she made a stunning choice, deciding to leave the Angels after just one season to focus on a movie career. Her popularity immediately went on the wane.


FAWCETT: We need him, Victor.


HAMMER: The next few years saw several forgettable movies, like "Logan's Run" in 1976. She got better box office with "Cannonball Run" in 1981. The following year, she and Lee Majors divorced.


FAWCETT: Oh, no.


HAMMER: But she proved that she could be a serious actress in 1984's "The Burning Bed." Fawcett took the role as a battered wife who kills her husband -- a true story based on a landmark legal case. The role earned her an Emmy nomination -- one of three in her career, though she never got to take home a statue.

She also became involved in the longest romantic relationship of her life. She dated Ryan O'Neal for 15 years before the relationship ended in 1997. And although they never married, they did have a son, Redmond O'Neal.

Fawcett continued to turn heads well into middle age. She continued to get roles on TV and in the movies and shocked many by posing nude as she neared the age of 50. The magazine was one of "Playboy's" best sellers.

But as Fawcett approached her 60s, the spotlight turned away from Farrah the sex symbol to Farrah the celebrity battling cancer in 2006.


FAWCETT: The disease has spread. Suddenly there were nine tumors in my liver.


HAMMER: The documentary, "Farrah's Story," which aired in May 2009, focused on Fawcett's battle to beat cancer and stay alive. Her courageous journey was cathartic in allowing Fawcett to finally tell her story in her own words to the world.

A.J. Hammer, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Sixty-two years old.

She was shot to death in the streets of Tehran and became the face of the uprising in Iran. Now, stories are filtering out that the family of that young woman known as Neda -- their family members are paying a price for her posthumous fame.

And the journalist, Roxana Saberi, was jailed in Iran, accused of spying. She's free now and telling her story of fear and repression.

And shaking things up on the White House lawn -- the first family hosts a full blown luau.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now from -- about Michael Jackson, the king of pop, who is 50 years old.

Let's go to Deborah Feyerick.

She's working the story for us.

What are we picking up -- Deb?

FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, here's what we can tell you. This is what's being reported by KTLA.

Apparently, Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest this afternoon. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. Paramedics responded to a 911 call at his home at about 12:25 Los Angeles time. According to KTLA, he was not breathing when the paramedics arrived and they did perform CPR. He was taken to UCLA Medical Center. That's what we have in so far.

We do not know what his condition is. That was confirmed by KTLA, who spoke to the fire department captain who was there on the scene -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll check his condition at the hospital and get back to this story.

Michael Jackson hospitalized in Los Angeles right now.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, shocking claims from Iran's ambassador to Mexico -- you're going to hear what he's now telling CNN about the shooting death of a young woman in Tehran that was seen around the world.

Uncertainty over Governor Mark Sanford's political future -- should the South Carolina Republican step down as the scandal grows over his infidelity?

And CNN's crews in Iran just back -- you're going to hear their firsthand accounts of the violent election protests that went on.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It was a killing that horrified the world and made a martyr of a victim -- a young Iranian woman named Neda Soltan shot on the sidelines of a protest in Tehran.

Now a shocking claim by Iran's ambassador to Mexico. He suggests the CIA is actually behind her death.

Listen to what the ambassador told me just a short while ago.


BLITZER: Are you seriously accusing the CIA of killing Neda? MOHAMMAD HASSAN GHADIRI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO (through translator): We say that. The bullet that we found in his -- in her head was not the bullet that you could find in Iran. These are the bullets that the CIA and terrorist groups use. Of course, they want that there would be bloodshed in these demonstrations and then they could attribute that to the Islamic Republic. This is part of a common acts of CIA in various countries.


BLITZER: And we just received the CIA response to the ambassador's allegation. An agency spokesman saying: "Any suggestion -- any suggestion that the CIA was responsible for the death of this young woman is wrong, absurd and offensive."

And now there's a report that the Iranian government has forced Neda's family from their home in Tehran. Senior editor of Mideast Affairs for CNN, Octavia Nasr, has been looking into that.

Octavia, what are you finding out?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SENIOR EDITOR FOR MIDEAST AFFAIRS: Wolf, the world continues to remember and honor Neda Soltan, the woman who has become the symbol of Iran's opposition movement. And now official Iranian media have something to say about her, as well.


NASR (voice-over): Whether Neda Soltan's family was asked to leave their home, as this news report alleges, is yet to be confirmed. It is confirmed, however, that Iranian authorities did not allow mourners to hold a memorial for her and bury her as a martyr.

The news has spread like wildfire on the Internet, through social networking sites, and got people talking about Neda and her family across the world. Neda Soltan, whose last moments of life and death were captured on tape, has captured the hearts of people across the globe.

They continue to mourn and honor her death in big and small ways. In the U.S., Neda mourners people have erected modest memorials in her honor and offered them to the world through video-sharing sites.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, an oversized billboard shows her bloodied face and reads, quote, "you were martyred so others can live free."

On Iranian TV, no mention of Neda's family or response to claims that they were removed from their home and forbidden from showing signs of mourning. But one Iranian state channel denied allegations that police or Basij were behind the killing and said they started an investigation, while another station offered a conspiracy scenario.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMAL (through translator): We have reason to believe that people on the scene were expecting the killing to take place. They filmed her from various angles, including the scene where she was shot, then handed it to foreign media and the enemies of the Islamic republic.


NASR: And, Wolf, so many rumors around the circumstances of Neda Soltan's death. So much blame is going around but no official word about her family or their well-being.

BLITZER: Thanks, very much, Octavia. We'll stay on top of this story for our viewers.

All right. Let's get back to the breaking news we're following. Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop," we're told by our affiliates in Los Angeles, has been rushed to a local hospital, suffering from cardiac arrest, 50 years old, about to be 51 years old. Let's get the latest from Steve Ruta (ph) with the L.A. Fire Department.

Captain, Captain, what are you hearing? What can you report?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) reporting from Los Angeles is that at 12:21 this afternoon, the Los Angeles 911 operators took a call in regards to a need for a medical emergency at the 100 block of Candlewood Drive, which is in West Los Angeles. We sent a full alarm assignment, which is two paramedics, a full engine company, and a medical captain to that scene to treat the person that called for 911.

When the paramedics got on scene, they treated the patient and then immediately transported the patient to UCLA.

BLITZER: Captain, was he breathing? What was his condition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we really can't talk about that due to the HIPAA laws that we're required to keep the confidentiality of the patient, and also the patient's condition private. So, you can understand that our concern is for the patient and a quick response by paramedics and a quick response to the hospital was what the order of our response was this afternoon.

BLITZER: And of course we're grateful to you for that. But can you respond to these reports we're getting from our affiliates that he had a heart attack or cardiac arrest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, not being on the scene and not being able to know exactly what it was and how it was being treated and what we're allowed to say based on the confidentiality of our patient's condition, I am not able to say.

BLITZER: Could you tell us how long it took to get from the house to the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were on scene, we received the call at 12:21. At 13 -- (INAUDIBLE) about 10 minutes after 1:00 we were at UCLA Hospital.

BLITZER: So it took about 10 minutes to get from the house to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Approximately, yes, sir.

BLITZER: Approximately. And then you dropped him off at the hospital. Now he's...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. That transport care goes from the firefighter paramedics into the ambulance. Extreme care was given to that patient all the way to UCLA, and once at UCLA, we transferred that care from the paramedics of the Los Angeles Fire Department to the doctors and the nurses at UCLA.

BLITZER: Well, we're grateful to you for that information, Captain. Thanks very much for sharing it with us.

Ted Rowlands is in Los Angeles. Ted, what are you picking up?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the same things that the captain just said, Wolf, that Michael Jackson was the patient on this 911 call, that they picked him up and they took him to the UCLA Medical Center, which is not too far from where he has been staying.

You remember he had announced this new tour that he was going to originally begin in July of this year. They had to postpone it for a year, so Jackson has been working, according to his representatives, on this performance, 50 sold-out concerts in Los Angeles.

He has been looking at different dancers and according to his representatives, working very hard at preparing himself physically and mentally, I guess, to get this show to be perfect. That was what they said. They delayed it because they wanted a perfect show and Michael Jackson wanted this show for his fans to be perfect, so they pushed it back a year.

So, that's what he has been doing. He moved, of course, from Bahrain in 2006, back to the United States, first to Las Vegas, and then most recently in May here to Los Angeles, where he has been working on this act.

Of course, Jackson has had a very long time since his days of fame, with "Thriller," et cetera, a long time battling the public image that he has had from the dangling the baby in London to the child molestation charges he faced.

Of course, he was found not guilty of those charges in 2005 in Santa Barbara County. But since then he has been -- kept pretty much to himself, first moving to Bahrain, but more recently, starting in May, when he came back to Los Angeles, he was getting out there a little bit more and he was sort of whetting people's appetite for this big comeback that was supposed to start basically a year from next month in England with these 50 sold-out concerts.

BLITZER: His album "Thriller," as all our viewers know, is the worldwide best-selling album of all time, selling more than 50 million copies. And as you noted back on June 13th, 2005, he was acquitted of child molestation charges, found not guilty on all 10 counts against him.

He then left the United States, went over to Bahrain, as you point out, but recently he has been living in Los Angeles, getting ready for these concerts, which I'm sure were going to be widely attended.

ROWLANDS: Absolutely. You saw the lines outside the ticket purchasing area in London, people stayed up for days, waiting in line for an opportunity to see Michael Jackson. And they had 50 concerts, all of them sold out in a matter of just minutes. So, there was a lot of anticipation for this concert and for sort of Michael Jackson's reemergence.

So then when they canceled the concerts and cited that they wanted it to be perfect, and there was a lot of speculation that physically Michael Jackson wasn't up to it at that point. And that's when he sort of -- he came back to Los Angeles and, as we said, was little bit -- he wasn't out and about like, you know, maybe he was back in his heyday, but there were sightings of him.

He would go to the odd event and, according to his people, he was working diligently, bringing people in to audition, to be part of this what he was calling basically a phenomenal experience, that his fans were going to get starting next year in London.

But then, again, he was taken from his home in West Los Angeles, very close to the UCLA Medical Center, at about 12:20 this afternoon. And that is all the information we're being given right now with your interview just recently, Wolf, with the fire captain here, the information from the hospital is very restricted because of the confidentiality laws, the HIPAA laws, so at this point all we can report is that he was transported from his home to the hospital and that is where he is at this point.

BLITZER: Stand by, Ted, because I want to bring in Jessica Yellin, our national political correspondent, but she covered that trial, she covered him over the years.

You know, I don't know if he had a history of heart problems. I'm sure he had a lot of other ailments over the years, because those were widely publicized. But do you know, Jessica, if he had a history of heart disease?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There were always rumors, Wolf, about instances where he was taken to the hospital, and there were rumors that there may have been heart problems. But no one ever confirmed, as far as I can recall at this moment, that he necessarily had heart issues.

I can tell you the most relevant thing at the moment for me is that I met him once and had an exchange with him. And one of the things you note is when you talk to Michael Jackson is how exceptionally frail he was as a person.

He was -- I'm a small person and he's tiny, tiny. You feel like you could crush his hand just by shaking him. His face was covered in this deep, deep makeup that was the kind of makeup, I'm told, you use for burn victims because his skin was so thin. He spoke in an incredibly quiet, quiet, calm, quiet voice.

There was just this overwhelming sense of frailty around him. And of course that's the way the people around him also treated him. So, you got the sense that this was a fragile person and there were constant stories about his various health ailments that they did acknowledge.

He personally talked about vitiligo, which was a skin condition he claimed he had and part of the reason his skin tone changed, at least that's what he claimed. There have been other recent reports of other kinds of ailments.

But obviously a man who was plagued ever since he had that accident -- remember, when he was taping a Pepsi commercial, there was an accident, he was on fire, and then he talked about after that getting addicted to some painkillers which led to a cascade of other health problems he has had ever since -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Spectacular career, as all of our viewers will remember. He was only 10 years old back in 1968, Jessica, when the Jackson 5 signed with Motown and they moved the family, it was a big family, from Gary, Indiana, to Los Angeles.

And who, who lived through those years, could ever forget the Jackson 5 and little Michael Jackson performing. But you know what, he was under enormous pressure even at 10 years old, in the spotlight. It couldn't have been easy growing up.

YELLIN: He talked about that frequently, the amount of pressure he was under, how his family, he felt, was very abusive in some ways, although they would always debate among themselves what kind of pressure it was.

But I'll tell you one thing, there were always reports of fighting among the family, different brothers and sisters not getting along. But when it came to any of them being in trouble, when he was in court, they all showed up, and they were there for Michael because he was the one that they all could connect around.

And as you say, Wolf, it doesn't matter what age you are, what era you lived in, those Michael Jackson songs are just a touchstone for everyone, because they resonate with a certain American story, an aspirational quality.

The distinction that's so interesting is how hopeful and energetic and optimistic his songs were when as a person he often always seemed so very sad himself.

BLITZER: Yes. What a talent, indeed. All right. Jessica, stand by. Our old friend, former CNN anchor, Jim Moret, is joining us on the phone right now.

Jim, you covered him for a long time. First of all, are you hearing anything differently than we're hearing from our affiliates in Los Angeles that he has been rushed to the hospital, apparently suffering from cardiac arrest?

JIM MORET, FMR. CNN ANCHOR: That's exactly what we're hearing, as well, that he was apparently administered CPR in the ambulance. That a family member has been quoted as saying he's in bad shape, he's not doing well. We don't know anything beyond that.

But clearly, this is a story that's developing so rapidly, Wolf, and on a day when Farrah Fawcett has passed away, and we have so many resources already committed to that, it's almost hard to believe.

You know, when covering his trial -- his criminal trial, up in Santa Maria, he went to the hospital a couple of times. And at first we were suspecting that this was simply because he was trying to get out of a contract. You know, he does -- he has a flair for the dramatic. We've seen him go to hospital a number of times. You remember that famous incident where he showed up in court in pajamas.

But Michael Jackson, aside from being an extraordinarily talented individual, has also been a troubled individual, and he has had a tremendous amount of health-related problems over the last few years.

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers who are joining us not only in the United States but around the world. We're covering this story for you. The hospitalization of Michael Jackson. The King of Pop, 50 years old, almost 51 years old, apparently suffering from cardiac arrest. Jim Moret is still on the phone. He's joining us. He has covered Michael Jackson for many years.

Almost a tragic story. Such a talent who has gone through so much and has suffered so much pain in the process -- Jim.

MORET: Wolf, you know, no matter what you -- whenever you talk about Michael Jackson, in addition to his hits and his tens of millions of albums sold, you also talk about the allegations of child molestation, about the one settlement that was reached reportedly for $25 million, about the criminal trial that then ended him an acquittal.

So, you really talk about two different Michael Jacksons, Jackson the artist and then Jackson the person. And the person often seemed reclusive, sad. He should, by all accounts, be worth a billion dollars, but all we've been reporting in the last few years are his tremendous money problems. So, there really are two Michael Jacksons.

BLITZER: He was twice married, to Debbie Rowe back between '96 and '99, earlier to Lisa Marie Presley from '94 to '96, and has three children, Paris-Michael Katherine, born in 1988, Prince Michael Jr., born in 1997, and more recently, 2002, Prince Michael II, AKA, also known as "Blanket" with an anonymous surrogate. That's the family life that he has had in recent years.

But, you know, the whole troubled experience, growing up part of the Jackson 5, Jim Moret, you know, going way back, that incredible talent of that the Jackson 5 had, and eventually Michael Jackson becoming a superstar in his own right, really an amazing story. MORET: It's an amazing story, but, Wolf, to be honest, it's also a tragic story, because in addition to all of this talent, you see a life that has been marred by someone's sadness and tragedy and turmoil so that when you write Michael Jackson's story, it's not a happy story.

BLITZER: What's the latest, though? He was -- Ted Rowlands was telling us, getting ready for a series of concerts in Los Angeles and elsewhere, rehearsing, gaining strength. What have you been hearing about him much more recently, in recent weeks and months?

MORET: Well, you know, we've heard about these attempts at comebacks for the last five or so years. Even before the trial up in Santa Maria about four or five years ago, he was on what was, you know, believed to be a comeback. And we saw that they fizzled out. And I was always skeptical about this latest comeback.

But frankly, as a Jackson fan myself, and it's hard to find people who aren't Jackson fans, you know, we had always been hopeful that he could come back and resurrect his career, if not in the United States, then certainly abroad where he's still a huge draw.

I have not heard any concrete plans for specific concerts, because, to be honest with you, every time we would hear one concert date set, it wouldn't be too long until we would hear that the date was either changed or canceled.

So, I've always been of the wait-and-see attitude when it comes to his comebacks.

BLITZER: Did you ever see him in concert, Jim?

MORET: I'm just thinking back. I saw the Jackson 5. We actually went to the same junior high school, believe it or not, and I remember as a child looking at him, who was a couple of years younger, and thinking, wow, that's -- you know, it's hard not to become in awe when you see him.

But I've never seen him, you know, as a solo artist in concert.

BLITZER: Jim, we've got a picture that we just got in to CNN here, in THE SITUATION ROOM, and we'll show it to our viewers. There's the photo. The Los Angeles Fire Department truck. He was being wheeled into the hospital there at UCLA Medical Center. That's the picture that just came in to THE SITUATION ROOM. This is one of the premier hospitals in the Los Angeles area, isn't it?

MORET: It is. It's an excellent medical facility. They have a tremendous emergency room. And, frankly, it's the closest hospital to his home. He was picked up in the Holmby Hills. I would guesstimate that UCLA Hospital is no more than a couple of miles away from where his home is.

So, if I were in trouble and I were in that area, that's exactly where I'd want to be taken. BLITZER: Because the fire captain told us it didn't take more than 10 minutes to get him from the house to the hospital and then obviously he's undergoing whatever emergency treatment he's undergoing right now. We don't know. Jim, I want you to stand by. A.J. Hammer is joining us on the phone right now.

What are you hearing, A.J.? Actually, you're not joining us on the phone, you're there on...

A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": I'm right here, Wolf. Yes.

The one thing we can tell you, that he was taken to UCLA Medical Center. There is not a lot of information being dispensed at this time, Wolf. It's coming to us rather rapid-fire, and we're trying to disseminate it as quickly as possible.

But this is almost as big as it gets in the world of pop culture and celebrities passing away and on such a day when we witnessed the death of Farrah Fawcett earlier today. Obviously it comes quite unexpected.

You've been talking with Jim Moret about Michael Jackson's plans to be appearing on stage. He had scheduled a number of shows in London that were supposed to take place. There were some delays in getting those under way, but all indications were those were going to go forward later on this summer.

And he has been working very busily in Los Angeles in rehearsals for those concerts -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And describe in the world of entertainment, how huge -- Michael Jackson, despite the problems, despite the trial, despite all of that, how huge he is.

HAMMER: Well, that's the point with Michael Jackson, is, despite the fact that that was always a part of his story, at least for, you know, the last 15 or so years, he always transcended that part of the story. He was always still the King of Pop. Nobody ever said, you are no longer the King of Pop because of your legal troubles, because of your financial difficulties.

Michael Jackson, who started out as this child star that we all fell in love with decades and decades ago, managed to build this very strong career into adulthood. And, yes, as Jim Moret was saying a moment ago, we all waited for the comeback.

And I think every single one of us, Wolf, in the entertainment business, and fans alike, I think we all expected that one day he would actually be able to pull that off. And we really were looking forward to these concerts this summer, because he seemed so singularly focused on showing the world that he still is, in fact, one of the biggest stars in the world. It is as big as it gets.

BLITZER: Yes. A.J., Jessica Yellin was just telling she had met him a few years ago, and he seemed so frail that, she said, you just even shake hands with him, it looked like he could just break down. He seemed so thin and frail with that high-pitched voice.

You know, he didn't -- he never came across as all that healthy to me to begin with, but do you know if he had a history of any serious heart problems?

HAMMER: That, I can't tell you, Wolf. We have seen him deal with various heart ailments throughout the years. He admitted to a bout with painkillers several years ago in an infamous interview.

I will tell you that when we saw him at his press conference announcing his big upcoming shows for the summer, I remember, and I remarked on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" that he seemed as vibrant and as healthy as we've seen him in public in a long, long time.

He seemed to have a great deal of energy up on stage. He seemed very enthusiastic. And at no time did you look at him during that appearance and say, you know what, maybe he is not up for doing these concerts. I think that gave us an all indication that he was in a decent place, at least in terms of his health.

BLITZER: All right. A.J., stand by for a moment.

Jim Moret, if you are still on the phone, did you ever hear, Jim Moret, of any serious heart problems that he might have had?

MORET: I am trying to think back, no. But he was taken to the hospital a couple of times during the criminal trial up in Northern California. And I don't recall them being specifically heart-related, but they were stress-related. So, you know, Wolf, the situation is so fluid now and things -- we are getting different unconfirmed reports frankly that it doesn't seem that this is a stable or static situation.

It is clearly developing. We are still trying to figure out what his condition is right now. But I am not aware of any specific heart condition that Michael Jackson may have been suffering.

BLITZER: It's a sad story, because the guy is so, so talented. And all of us who grew up watching Michael Jackson, ever since he was a little boy with the Jackson 5, and became a huge star with "Thriller" and all of that, heart goes out to him and his family.

Michael Jackson, just to recap for those viewers who may just be joining us right now here in the United States or around the world, we have been told by the L.A. Fire Department that he was rushed by paramedics to UCLA Medical Center just a little while ago.

There is a picture of the arrival. He is wheeled in to the emergency room over there. Our affiliates tell us he was suffering from cardiac arrest. And as a result, he has been moved in and he is inside that hospital, the UCLA Medical Center right now. Deborah Feyerick is getting some more information.

Deb, what are you picking up?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, as early as really last month, there were rumors that Michael Jackson was suffering from some health problems. At the time, the rumor was that he had skin cancer. Back in December, there was a rumor that he was having respiratory illness and possibly even needed a lung transplant.

Now each time the Jackson camp tamped down on those rumors, but many people thought that those were to blame for him canceling and delaying some of these concerts that were supposed to take place. And again, the timeline, some of the concerts that were supposed to take place in July, in fact, postponed all the way to March of 2010.

The rumors swirling around all of this did prompt his promoter to actually say that, in fact, Michael Jackson's health was good at the time and that's not why they wanted to delay it.

But Michael Jackson has had a history of various health problems. For example, back in 1993, he was diagnosed or came out publicly with that rare skin disease vitiligo, which causes a person to lose all pigment throughout their body.

Then, back in the mid 1980s, he was diagnosed with a form of lupus. But that lupus went into remission. Not clear, whether -- in fact, whether that kicked up again. All of this speculative right now. All that's known is that he did go into cardiac arrest and that the paramedics had to revive him when they arrived.

Now he has had multiple plastic surgeries. He has admitted to rhinoplasty and also a chin implant. There is speculation that he had many, many more. And of course there is the element of mental and physical abuse which he has talked about or avoided talking about vis- a-vis his family.

So, again, all of these sort of compiling up to build the health history of Michael Jackson right now. But the hospital can't confirm simply because of laws that really guarantee a patient's privacy. But again, those health rumors really over the last seven months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, because I want to go to Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, who is also monitoring this developing story, the breaking news coming out of Los Angeles right now that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, 50 years old, has been hospitalized apparently suffering from serious cardiac arrest.

Elizabeth, what are you hearing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I want to explain a little bit what cardiac arrest is. Because sometimes people think it is a heart attack, and they are two different things. Cardiac arrest means simply that the heart has stopped functioning. And someone who has cardiac arrest needs immediate attention.

I am reading now from the Web site of the American Heart Association. They say, "few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes." Resuscitation usually only works if someone gets it within 10 minutes. So we don't know how quickly he got help. But here at CNN, we were on the phone with Dr. Clyde Yancy, who is the incoming president of the American Heart Association. He said that in fact if someone doesn't get attention within three to five minutes of cardiac arrest, the outcomes are not good. The person often doesn't survive. Or if they survive, they survive with sometimes terrible things like brain damage.

Now, cardiac arrests sometimes you can see right here, those are clogged arteries. Sometimes that's what causes cardiac arrest. Other times it's an electrical abnormality. Other times it's drug abuse. There can be lots of different reasons for cardiac arrest.

BLITZER: So basically what I hear you saying, Elizabeth, is that cardiac arrest is much more dangerous than a heart attack?

COHEN: In many ways. I mean, obviously even with a heart attack, you want to get help as quickly as you can, but it doesn't necessarily have to be within three minutes. But with cardiac arrest, you really need to get help. If it is more than 10 minutes without help, the chances of resuscitation are not very good.

WILLIAMS: Because we were told that it took about 10 minutes for those paramedics to drive him from the house to the hospital. But we don't know how long he may have been suffering from cardiac arrest inside the house before the paramedics got there to take him to the hospital.

So you are pointing out that if it is more than 10 minutes, it doesn't necessarily bode all that well for...

COHEN: Right. I will read that sentence again, because I think it is very telling from the American Heart Association. "Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes." Now we don't know how much time elapsed between the cardiac arrest and the paramedics arriving, obviously the paramedics could help him as well as the hospital. So we don't know the timing of this.

BLITZER: And we know he has had all sorts of surgery -- plastic surgery, all sorts of health problems over the years. And who knows what kind of medications he was taking over these many years, all of which could clearly contribute to heart disease?

COHEN: Correct. They could contribute to heart disease and also contribute to his ability to survive a cardiac arrest. People with chronic conditions -- and I don't really -- it's not really clear to me what chronic conditions Mr. Jackson has, but people with chronic conditions are less likely to survive a cardiac arrest.

BLITZER: It's a story that we're not going to leave right now. Michael Jackson hospitalized. He is at UCLA Medical Center where right now undergoing emergency treatment. Was taken there just a little while ago. We are watching this story, very, very closely. The L.A. Fire Department, the paramedics, they brought him to UCLA Medical Center from his home in Los Angeles just a little while ago.

Jeffrey Toobin, I want to bring him in. You watched this case unfold in California when he was acquitted on child molestation charges. And you got to see him up close. And I wonder as you see this breaking new development, Jeff, what you are thinking.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, what I am thinking is that it's surprising but not shocking. Because he was one of the most unhealthy-looking people I have ever seen. I remember on the first day of his trial, I sat in about the third row, and his skin had an unearthly pallor. He was very, very skinny.

The trial, at several points, was delayed because of some sort of illness that he had. He was just a very sickly person. And it's tragic that someone at this age might suffer such a catastrophic event.

But he was definitely a sickly person, and it's not perhaps all that surprising.

BLITZER: And you can only imagine, Jeff, the pressure he was under right now gearing up for a worldwide tour, a series of concerts. And if you have ever seen him perform, as all of us have, you know how energetic and talented he is. The pressure he must have been under, the stress he was under to get his act together, to be able to perform literally before hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fans around the world.

Let me just recap for our viewers in the United States and around the world what's going on. We want to welcome our viewers here to THE SITUATION ROOM. We are following the breaking news out of Los Angeles that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, 50 years old, almost 51 years old, has been taken to a hospital, UCLA Medical Center, in Los Angeles, apparently suffering from cardiac arrest.

He was taken by paramedics from his home in Los Angeles to the hospital, about a 10-minute ride. He is in the emergency room right now. We don't know what his condition is. So we did speak with the captain from the L.A. Fire Department who told us that the paramedics did get involved with CPR as they were bringing him to the hospital.

He is inside UCLA Medical Center right now. That's the picture as he is being wheeled into the Emergency Room over at the UCLA Medical Center.