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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Interview With Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich; The Children of Haiti
Aired March 17, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Did a flight on Air Force one do it? We will talk to the congressman who took a round-trip, then did an about-face, switching his vote on health care reform. And what is in that bill anyway? President Obama said the special favors would be out. The question is, are they? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight, a 360 follow on those 33 kids taken by missionary Laura Silsby, not orphans, it turns out. They all have families. Returning them to those families, though, is turning out to be a lot tougher than you would imagine, but not for the reasons you might think.
And, later, a game show where contestants shock each other with high voltage? Could you cheer as somebody delivers a big jolt of electricity into someone's else body? Could you push the lever? You will be horrified to know just how many people did. They called it "The Game of Death." We will take you "Up Close."
First up tonight, what the White House, though, is doing behind closed doors to pass health care reform. They need 216 votes in the House, likely all Democrats, and momentum appears to be going their way.
Now, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a liberal, but a firm no for months, he changed his mind today. We will talk to him in a moment.
Critics on all sides of the aisle, though, especially Republicans, continue to raise questions about how this is getting done. They're still talking about that procedural maneuver that would let House members vote for the fixes to the Senate bill without first voting for the unfixed version.
Now, President Obama sidestepped that question today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I know you don't like to talk about process. But there are a lot of questions in these 18,000 that talk about process.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand.
BAIER: And there are a lot of people around America that have a problem with this process.
BAIER: You called it an ugly process just last month.
OBAMA: Bret, I have got to say to you, there are a lot more people who are concerned about the fact that they may be losing their house or going bankrupt because of health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He was also asked about what exactly House members will be voting on perhaps as early as this weekend. No word yet from the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, which will add up the cost. That may come tomorrow, but hints that some of the special items put in to win votes the first time around and that stirred up such a storm are gone, but others are not.
Ed Henry tonight is doing the digging. He's "Keeping Them Honest."
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was just a week ago the president's aides vowed he was getting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to strip all those questionable side deals out of the final health care bill.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And we have made it clear to the Senate that the president's position in the final legislation should not contain provisions that favor a single state or a single district differently than others.
HENRY: But, "Keeping Them Honest," we tried to find out if the special deals, like $100 million for just one hospital in Connecticut secured by Senator Chris Dodd, have really been taken out. The answer is nobody, not even the president, knows for sure, because, just a few days before the historic final vote, top officials at the White House tell CNN the final bill is still not finished, so they do not know what's in and what's out.
The air of mystery has helped fuel Republican charges the legislation was created by an illegitimate process.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was produced behind closed doors. It was produced with unsavory -- I say that with respect -- deal-making -- the Louisiana purchase, the funding of $300 million for one state, the Cornhusker kickback, which has, I understand, now been done away with.
One of the things that -- provisions of this legislation that was particularly offensive was the carve-out for 800,000 Florida seniors exempt from cuts in Medicare Advantage program. HENRY: A White House official told CNN he's been told the provision protecting Floridians from Medicare cuts is out. But a top Senate Democratic aide said it was still up in the air. Both aides believe the so-called Cornhusker kickback for Senator Ben Nelson that cushioned Nebraska from increased Medicaid costs is out of the final package.
But the White House official said the so-called Louisiana purchase, $300 million in Medicaid help, that won the vote of Senator Mary Landrieu, is staying in. That's because it would apply to any state that has all its counties declared a disaster zone, not just post-Katrina Louisiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THIS WEEK")
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think that's -- that's different than a special state-specific thing. In the case of Nebraska, what everyone was outraged about was that it seemed to be a special deal just for one state. That's not going to be in this bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But, in fact, the White House cannot say with certainty that Chris Dodd's special $100 million hospital deal for the University of Connecticut will be cut. A White House officials said the president has asked for it to be removed. But a top Senate aide said Dodd is fighting hard to keep it in, and may win.
COOPER: So, Ed, there's a lot of mystery about what is in, what is out. Did the president clear it up in the interview he did tonight on FOX?
HENRY: You know, he really didn't. He was asked specifically, for example, about that $100 million hospital in Connecticut, and was vague about the details. And that's because, when I have been pressing White House officials today, they are honest about acknowledging even they do not know what is going to be in the final legislation.
And that is a remarkable statement just hours before this historic vote. I think what does need to be said, though, in that FOX interview, the president was making clear this is a system he's dealing with. He wishes that Congress did not act this way, but he can't turn it around in just -- just over a year, obviously.
And it also has to be noted that the president has been pushing Democrats -- and they say they will do this -- to, once the bill is finalized -- they think that will be tomorrow -- they're going to post it online for 72 hours for everyone to see it before it's voted on. We will see if they follow through on that.
COOPER: So, the -- what, the vote would be then, what, Sunday?
HENRY: Sunday, yes. And what's interesting is that we're supposed to be leaving with the president to go to Guam, Indonesia, and Australia on Sunday afternoon. Maybe this thing is going to be passed in the House Sunday morning. Obviously, the president will want to sign that before he heads overseas. There's been even some talk today his trip could be delayed another day. There's a lot of chaos in Washington right now because really nobody knows where this is going to wind up -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, fascinating stuff. Ed Henry, thanks.
A remarkable example of just how divisive this debate really is, call it, bishops are from Mars, nuns are from Venus. A group of Catholic nuns is urging a yes-vote on the bill, breaking from American bishops, who say it doesn't do enough to block federal money from being used to fund abortion.
Well, let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running at AC360.com.
Up next: Congressman and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on why he changed his mind and is voting for the bill, what President Obama said to him, if there was any arm-twisting involved.
And, later, what would you do? Could you actually shock someone with 460 volts of electricity because a game show host told you to? It's called "The Game of Death." And what it reveals about what is inside all of us, well, it's pretty scary and fascinating.
COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight, and the raw numbers of health care reform, in human terms, 30-some million Americans who would get access to insurance under the bill. In political terms, we're talking about 216 votes in the House, 51 in the Senate, to get it done.
Our next guest, a liberal Democrat from Cleveland, counted himself as a no-vote until today.
Quickly, here's the quick before and after picture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CAMPBELL BROWN," MARCH 4, 2010)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: The bill is a terribly flawed bill that will lock in the privatization of health care, $70 billion bonanza for the insurance industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUCINICH: I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.
If my vote is to be counted, let it count now for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And joining us now is Congressman and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
Congressman, thanks for being with us.
You have said in the past that this bill represented a giveaway to the insurance industry, that it was a -- a bailout, that the public option was taken out in what you called backroom deals.
Do you no longer believe that?
KUCINICH: I don't take -- I don't take back anything I said.
But I -- what I have done, Anderson, is, I have tried in every possible way to change this bill. I wasn't for the public option to begin with. I'm for single-payer. Most people know that. But what I saw at last, despite every effort I made, I couldn't change the bill.
Then I was faced with this possibility. Either I'm going to be the decisive vote to kill the bill or I'm going to be a decisive vote to help pass it. And that was a moment where I talked to the president and others and decided that I will give it a chance to move down the road, that it's a first step, and the things that I'm concerned about, I'm going to keep fighting for.
I'm going to help the states get the right to pursue single- payer. I want to stay in the mix here and not abandon a change here to use the passage of this as a -- as a lever to move towards other reforms.
COOPER: But -- but...
KUCINICH: But I don't like the bill, Anderson. I -- I -- I don't -- I don't like it.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, just last week, you said that, even if you were the deciding vote, that that wouldn't make you change your mind.
So, I mean, your critics will say, well, that was just posturing.
KUCINICH: Well, I -- I was certainly doing everything I could to change the bill, you know, and I still am trying to get it changed.
But, by last week, it became abundantly clear that, in fact, I was looking at being a decisive vote. And I did not want to be the person who took this whole process over a cliff, because there are some things that we can do once the bill passes in order to create some room for more comprehensive health care.
COOPER: How much... KUCINICH: And, so -- yes.
COOPER: ... of your time with the president made the difference?
Because, I mean, he went to your home state a couple days ago. He made it pitch to you personally. You rode on Air Force One. And I want to show viewers a little bit of what happened at a town hall that you both had together. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Your own congressman, who is tireless on behalf of working people, Dennis Kucinich.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote yes!
OBAMA: Did you hear that, Dennis? Go on. Say that again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, someone in the audience saying, "Vote yes."
I mean, did the president give you something or promise you something, that he would campaign for you, raise money for you? Was there -- obviously, a lot of arm-twisting was going on. Did he twist your arm?
KUCINICH: No. You know, I -- I was trying to convince him while we were on Air Force One. It wasn't the first conversation we have had, Anderson.
I mean, I have had four specific meetings with the president about health care. And, before that, we campaigned nationally together. I understood his position. He wasn't for single-payer. But I was trying to use any opportunity I had to impress upon the president the importance of a public option and of having an amendment passed that would protect the right of states to pursue single-payer.
He wasn't going to do that. Now, when I finally understood, after talking to him and the congressional leaders, that there's no way we could do that, then I'm faced with, I have got to make a decision here. It's not the bill I want. It's not the bill I like.
KUCINICH: It's not the one I would have written. But I have had to make a decision to see if we can move the process beyond where we are right now with this. If this bill succeeds, then I'm going to be vitally involved in crafting health care legislation down the road, and I'm going to do it with the president of the United States. COOPER: Very quickly, you said today you didn't want to see the Obama presidency destroyed if this bill doesn't pass. Do you think it would destroy the presidency if this doesn't pass?
KUCINICH: I think there's a lot riding on this, absolutely.
I mean, there's -- there's -- I mean, the president is aware of that and I think the whole country is.
One of the things I'm concerned about is that, you know, right from the very beginning, his presidency has been under attack. And there was an attempt to delegitimize it. I think that, the economy being what it is, people have built so much angst into this health care bill, because we -- we still have yet to -- to successfully deal with the unemployment, the fact that so many people are under water in their homes, so many people who are -- are -- are waiting for an opportunity to -- to get back in the game, with banks loosening up their lending, if that happens.
I mean, there's -- there's a lot of unsettling things happening in the economy. So, the president's health care bill is like at the epicenter of what's happening. And, if it fails, I -- I -- it is damaging, not just to him; it's damaging to the country.
COOPER: Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com, one of the big liberal blogs, said that she was outraged over your decision, that you should give back donations that you have received from people who supported your opposition to the bill. Are you planning to do that?
KUCINICH: We have already set that in motion.
I mean, I knew immediately that, once I changed my position, anybody who -- who made a contribution to support me based on holding out and voting against the bill should get their money back, absolutely. There's no question about that.
COOPER: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.
KUCINICH: Thank you, Anderson Cooper. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Well, we're going to talk strategy next with Dee Dee Myers and Bill Bennett about the reform bill's chance for passage.
And later: an arrest in connection with the death of Corey Haim -- questions about prescription drugs, stolen doctors pads, and whether Corey Haim was doctor-shopping before his death.
Jeffrey Toobin and Dr. Drew Pinsky join us.
COOPER: We're talking about health care reform and the last- minute arm-twisting to get reluctant House Democrats to vote yes. The White House needs 216 -- every single Republican likely to vote know. Republican and Democrat, there are now upwards of 200 likely are committed nos.
Let's talk strategy with political contributor and conservative thinker Bill Bennett, author of "A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears," also Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton's former press secretary and author of "Why Women Should Rule the World."
So, Bill, Democrats picked up a couple more yes votes with Kucinich and -- and Kildee. Do you think the Democrats are gaining momentum in their drive to pass this thing?
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know. I noticed the pickup of a couple of votes. The things I'm hearing is, there's still a lot of arm-twisting and still -- still a lot of reluctance. Obviously, they don't have the votes, because, if they did, they would have the votes and vote.
And, Dee Dee, I mean, Kildee's announcement, I gave hope -- gave hope to some that -- that so-called pro-life Democrats might -- you know, their opposition might start to crumble. Well, Stupak -- but Stupak says he's still voting against it.
DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right. But, you know, you don't need to pick up every single member who was concerned about the abortion language to pick up enough to pass the bill.
So, I do think there's a little momentum gaining. And I think it's going to be a slog right up until the very last vote. You know, there's going to be one or two members sitting in the cloakroom hoping that they don't have to vote in favor of it, but, when push comes to shove, they will do it.
COOPER: And, Dee Dee, why do think Kucinich finally switched?
MYERS: Because I think that you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
We have been trying for 25 years to do something to get 30 million or 40 million uninsured Americans some kind of coverage. And this wasn't the bill that Dennis Kucinich wanted, but he understands this is the best bill we can get right now.
COOPER: But why only make that switch after you get a ride on the plane, and, you know, the president calls you, and...
MYERS: Well, because we're -- you know, you're heading down to the finish line. And, you know, there's a -- just a few days left before everyone's going to have to cast a vote on this thing, or however -- however it ends up being adjudicated in the end.
But I think the time was right for Kucinich to step forward, as somebody who is a leader among very progressive, very liberal Democrats, and say, this is the best we can do. It's not perfect, but let's pass it and make it better. COOPER: Bill, does -- does Kucinich have any impact, though, on -- on, you know, moderate, fiscally conservative Democrats who have yet to come on board? I mean, he wanted a bigger, more expansive bill.
BENNETT: I don't think so. He's pretty much in his own sphere, in his own area of the universe. Interesting guy.
I won't be cynical here, though. You know, I don't know if there was a kickback or a deal. But the most persuasive thing, I think -- I think Dee Dee would agree -- that a president can do in a situation like this is to ask and say, I really need your vote.
When the head of your party, the president of the United States, asks for that, it's a -- it's a big deal. Now, there's a whole question as to what they get when they get this. Dee Dee says the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. Is this good? The American people don't think it's good.
But, if they're going to do it, be careful what you wish for, Bishop Butler (ph) says, because you may get it.
COOPER: Dee Dee, what about this -- this way that the Democrats may end up voting on this thing? I mean, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer said on ABC this morning that the Democrats are going to push the Senate health care reform using this -- this deem and pass procedure.
I just want to show our viewers what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: This is not an unusual procedure. We're going to vote on a rule. It's simply like a conference report. The conference report comes back, you vote on it, with amendments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What he failed to note is that the Senate bill will actually not be voted on. The vote's only going to be on the changes to the bill. So, if this is really a historic piece of legislation, with -- you know, one of the biggest pieces of legislation of social change in decades, shouldn't the American people see where their representatives really stand?
MYERS: Look, I would prefer if they voted on the bill. I think it is a big, important piece of legislation.
But I think, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, this is a big, important, complicated piece of legislation, and I think the debate, as soon as it's passed and signed, will be about what is in the bill. The -- the technicalities of how it passes, even as ugly as it might get, I don't think will be important as convincing the American that this is in their interests, going around the country and showing how many million people now have coverage who didn't, how many people with preexisting conditions who couldn't get coverage now can.
This will affect people immediately, and it's going to be incumbent on Democratic members to go home and to sell this to remind people of what is in it, and convince them that it is in the interests of the country.
COOPER: Bill, if it passes, does the way it passed matter? I mean, Republicans have used this deem and pass method to push legislation through in the past.
BENNETT: I think Dee Dee's first word, or first modifier was most correct. When it's ugly, it's ugly, it's shabby, and, as your own Jack Cafferty said, it's sleazy.
Yes, Republicans have done this. They did it with Dee Dee's boss Bill Clinton, welfare legislation, with capital gains tax cuts. But there was bipartisan support. There is none here. And there is strong public opposition.
You know, I think he runs the choice of even being ineffectual if he doesn't get it, or imperious if he does. I don't think this is going to go down well.
COOPER: Bottom line, Bill, do you think this will pass?
BENNETT: No, I don't. No, I don't.
COOPER: Dee Dee, do you think...
MYERS: I do. I think, at the end of the day, the president is going to do what Bill suggested, which is look these members in the eye and ask them, and say, look, we have been talking about this for generations. It's time to get it done.
And I think that -- that will be the -- the decisive factor.
COOPER: Dee Dee Myers, Bill Bennett, thanks for being on.
BENNETT: Thank you.
MYERS: Thank you.
COOPER: One final item on this topic: If you're a political junkie, you know the vote count is changing by the minute. You can go to AC360.com, where you can find a running tally and see where your elected representatives now stand.
Up next tonight: Those 33 kids down in Haiti, missionary Laura Silsby took them from their families, you will remember -- well, now the "360 Follow" on their return, reunited with their families, and, sadly, some rude awakenings.
And, later, a game show that is really no game at all -- it involves electric shocks to contestants. It's called "The Game of Death." And it uncovers a deadly dark side of human nature.
COOPER: Our continuing commitment to cover Haiti: new developments tonight in a story that we have been following closely here on 360: 10 American missionaries arrested in Haiti on kidnapping charges in late January. You know about this. They were stopped at the Haitian-Dominican Republic border with 33 Haitian kids, claimed they were orphaned by the earthquake.
Nine of those missionaries have been released, returned to the U.S. Laura Silsby, the leader of the group, remains in custody. That's her.
Well, today, nearly all of the children were reunited with their families, but it is not necessarily a happy ending.
Sara Sidner is in Port-au-Prince with the latest.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daphnis Adrien waits to see his family, after being separated for six weeks. It should be a happy moment, but it doesn't turn out the way you might think. Daphnis does not want to go home.
"I am leaving my mom," he says. But the mom he's talking about isn't his mom at all. It's the caretaker he's been with from a child protection group. He knows his biological mother gave him away after the earthquake. And still today, she makes no apologies.
"Life was so bad, he was leaving with foreigners to go to Santo Domingo to look for a better life, and things went wrong," she says.
Daphnis is one of the 33 children taken by American Baptist missionary Laura Silsby and her crew, who had claimed the children were all orphans in desperate need of help after Haiti's earthquake killed so many parents. It turns out none are orphans, and, under Haitian law, they must now be reunited with their families.
SIDNER: For little Jenny (ph), the reunion is also a birthday president. She just turned 1.
"I am happy I have found her," her mother says. But why did parents who say they love their children deeply give them away?
LINE WOLF NIELSEN, SOS CHILDREN'S VILLAGE: These families lost hope after the earthquake that they would ever be able to provide for these children in the way they wanted to. So, they saw -- they saw this opportunity of providing or to give their children a better opportunity abroad, and -- and took it. And now they have been sensitized and in -- better informed about the risks that this might entail for the children.
SIDNER: As the children begin to leave, SOS house mother Amonis Richard cries, sad to see them go, knowing what probably awaits them. "If the parents could not take care of them in the first place, the kids wouldn't be here with me," she says, a fear confirmed by 12- year-old Daphnis' mother.
ELVITA DORLIS, MOTHER (through translator): "He's crying right now because he knows we don't have a place to live, no place to live or even transportation to take them from the children's village."
SIDNER: More than two months after the earthquake, homes, families and an entire country still shaken to the core.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
COOPER: And still no solution in sight as to what to do with all these homeless people in Haiti, hundreds of thousands. We're going to continue to follow the latest developments and stories and other important news out of Haiti here at 360. And if you want to help people in Haiti, you can find information on CNN's "Impact Your World" site. Just go to CNN.com/impact.
We're also following some other stories tonight. Randi Kaye has a quick update in a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an al Qaeda leader believed to have played a key role in a deadly attack on CIA employees in Afghanistan was apparently killed by a U.S. missile strike. A U.S. counterterrorism official says it appear Hussein al-Yemeni died last week in Pakistan. Al Yemeni is thought to be one of the masterminds of the December 30 suicide attack that killed seven CIA employees and contractors.
In Fargo, North Dakota, the National Guard and a small army of volunteers, including school kids who have been excused from class to help, are filling sandbags to keep rising floodwaters at bay. The Red River reached major flood stage early today. It is expected to crest on Sunday.
President Obama is expected to sign the jobs bill tomorrow. The Senate passed the bill today with 11 Republican votes. It contains about 18 billion in tax breaks and a $20 billion infusion of cash into highway and transit programs.
Charities here in the U.S. have raised close to $1 billion for Haiti, according to the "Chronicle of Philanthropy." Approximately $66 million of that total was in response to that star-studded telethon that was broadcast on major TV networks including CNN back in January.
And reporters and politicians took just a little break from the health-care debate at the Radio and TV Correspondents Association Dinner tonight in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden got a few laughs with his photo collection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At our convention, President Obama addressed a stadium of roaring supporters. But let me set the record straight. He's not the only one that addressed the stadium.
Look, I got to level with you, one of the first things the president did, he said, "Joe, we've got to have some ground rules here, ground rules relating to our relationship and how you function in your job."
So the next slide is one of our first days in the White House. The president's complaining to me exactly how far down I have to bow when I enter the Oval Office.
That's not the only ground rule. It's a real simple proposition. People beaten in the primary, walk four paces behind.
Look, I -- holy cow. I have no idea how that got there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Pretty funny, a few laughs.
COOPER: He had a funny.
All right. Time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with the better caption for a photo that we put on the blog every day.
Tonight's photo, elephants from the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, stopped near the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall. They're in Washington, of course, to perform.
Staff winner tonight is Sean. His caption: "Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, your health-care future right here under the big top."
(SOUND EFFECT: GONG)
COOPER: Our viewer winner is Rod from British Columbia. And his caption: "Of course we tried, but Nancy Pelosi insisted that elephants in the room were the last thing she needed."
(SOUND EFFECT: ELEPHANT TRUMPETING)
COOPER: What the heck was that?
Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations.
Coming up next, a game show with a sick twist. This is an unbelievable story: contestants physically shocking complete strangers when they get an answer wrong. Could you actually do that? You're going to be shocked to see how many people did, and we'll tell you the secret behind the game show.
And actor Corey Haim linked to an illegal prescription drug ring. The actor got thousands of dangerous pills from dozens of doctors in the last year. Tonight, an arrest in the case.
COOPER: Up close tonight, "The Game of Death." That's the name of a game show that was really a psychological experiment. It's playing out on French TV this week.
Now, it's a game show format where contestants were encouraged by a rabid audience to shock another participant with what they think is a near lethal amount of electricity. The more he screams in pain, the more he gets shocked. Now, they had no idea that this was fake and that the participant was really an actor.
For the producers of the show, the point was to demonstrate that how much people will blindly follow orders and how the allure of being famous and being on television can lead someone to do just about anything.
Randi Kaye reports.
KAYE (voice-over): It's called "The Game of Death," and it's torture to play. On this French game show, contestants pose a question, but here's the catch: if their fellow player gets the answer wrong, he's zapped with increasing amounts of electricity, as much as 460 volts. The more wrong answers, the more voltage, the more pain.
The audience shouts for more punishment. Some contestants are reluctant but are swayed by the audience demanding higher voltage.
(on camera) But here's what the audience and contestants don't know. There is no electricity, no pain inflicted. The players tortured for their wrong answers are really actors hired to play the part. Their screams of agony, fake.
In fact this really wasn't a game show at all but an experiment about how far some people are willing to go to inflict pain on a complete stranger.
(voice-over) Amazingly, only 16 out of 80 refused to inflict pain on the others.
DR. JERRY BURGER, SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY: They're in a situation where they have to act quickly. They can't stop and think about what is the right thing to do. They have to act now. All of those things lead people to respond to the situational cues.
KAYE: The show is part of a documentary airing on French TV, which examines what its creators call TV's mind-numbing power to suspend morality and the striking human willingness to obey orders.
When it was over and contestants were told it was all an experiment, some said they didn't even think about it; they just followed orders. Others said they were worried but did not want to spoil the show, so they acted against their own principles when ordered to do something extreme.
BURGER: Everybody's torn. Nobody thought that this was a lot of fun or something they enjoyed doing, but they could not find a way to stop themselves from going along with it.
KAYE (on camera): The blind obedience is being compared to the behavior of German solders ordered to commit atrocities inside the Nazi concentration camps. In fact, the show's whole premise was based on an experiment from Yale back in the 1960s, which used a similar method.
(voice-over) In the Yale experiment, the people inflicting the painful shocks thought the electricity was real, too. That didn't stop 2/3 of them from giving the maximum shock available, 400 volts.
BURGER: Most people will, in fact, act in this horrendous way and press the shock levers that they think are delivering very dangerous, if not lethal, electric shocks to another person. The moral there is not that people are horrible or that we're brutal or sadistic individuals. The lesson is really that, in certain circumstances, in the right situation, the average, typical, well- adjusted person will act in these horrendous ways.
KAYE: One added element in the French game showcase: contestants had to sign a contract agreeing to obey orders. For them, there was no turning back.
Randy Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: So why would an average person be willing to inflict so much obvious pain on another human being? It sort of boggles the mind. Let's dig deeper with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
I mean, I remember this experiment they had done in Yale -- I think it was back in the '60s -- where people were administering electric shocks.
DR. DREW PINSKY, PSYCHOLOGIST: That's right.
COOPER: Adding -- doing it in front of cameras, in front of an audience adds a whole other level of, I guess, pressure.
PINSKY: Pressure is right. And it's an interesting thing to think about. You know, what would make humans do that? Why would we be put together in such a way that they would likely listen to an authority, even when it disavows our own sense of...
COOPER: And the authority's actually the host of a game show.
PINSKY: A game show.
COOPER: And an audience.
PINSKY: Yes, it's bizarre. But I think in this case it speaks so much to sort of what we call sort of a mob mentality, or a group mentality where we lose the self to the group. And this is something that had evolutionary adaptation at one time.
I mean, if we were attacked by a lion here in this room, if we all moved together, evidently, and thought as a whole, we're probably more likely to survive.
But the fact is, when we're in certain social situations, which of course we affect one another very deeply in social situations, it also has an adverse potential, which is we can lose our own sense of compass. We lose our sense of value. We lose our sense of where we are, what we're actually doing. And particularly in this case, I think they lose their sense of reality.
COOPER: Well, one of the persons said that they didn't want to spoil programming by disobeying.
PINSKY: Which is bizarre, right? Yet, if you were in that moment -- and this is the part, I think, also, also very important to point out. We're used to thinking of or contemplating that thinking is something we should rely upon.
But as you see, even in that explanation, the thinking is distorted. The thinking was set askew by the social circumstances. So beware your thought processes. You have to really sort of become aware of where you are, who you are, how your surroundings are affecting you. We're not used to taking a break, stopping and thinking about it. We just listen to our thoughts, and sometimes they're off base.
COOPER: There have been some who liken this to some Nazis' activities during World War II, that you know, you usually say, "How could somebody do this?" And that there's sort of this group think.
PINSKY: That was the original intent of the studies back in the '60s, to show how people sort of had this ability to follow authority blindly, even when they were harming somebody else and doing something they would never do under other circumstances. And in a way this study is an OK, because we've proved it before. It's just being shown again in a bizarre context.
COOPER: It does say, also, something about the power of television or the power of the desire to be famous.
PINSKY: I think you're right. I think that's where it sort of gets under our skin with this thing, is that it's about something as meaningless as television and fame and a show. So it's not even about an experiment with -- originally, the original study was with doctors in white coats who were sort of imbued with authority and that's what the story -- this is a good-looking talk show host.
COOPER: It's as if Howie Mandel had the power of life and death.
PINSKY: It is. That's a really unsettling -- nothing against Howie. I love Howie.
COOPER: This is the French version of Howie Mandel.
PINSKY: And that's right. And so it sits -- it sits with us -- it should sit in our craw the wrong way. It's something that speaks volumes about the liability of our evolutionary heritage, frankly. It's a good potential in certain circumstances, but if we're not aware of its potential -- shall I call it illicit consequence, we have to be very cautious.
COOPER: It would be interesting to see this done in the United States.
PINSKY: Yes. It's incredible. I think -- I bet you we could even make it a more bizarre circumstance here. I bet we'd -- particularly if it was something where you were participating in the media, where you were seen by the media. I think people would be more persuaded in this country.
COOPER: Fascinating. Dr. Drew, thanks.
PINSKY: A pleasure.
COOPER: We're going to have more with Dr. Drew in a moment on another subject: criminal charges connected to the death of actor Corey Haim. An arrest was made today, tied to an alleged prescription drug ring. The latest on that ahead.
And tonight Oprah Winfrey is going to testify in court. She has to appear on a witness stand. We'll tell you why, ahead.
COOPER: "Crime & Punishment," an arrest in connection with the death of actor Corey Haim. The California attorney general's office announced the arrest today, refusing to say who was taken into custody and for what charge.
The development comes just days after authorities launched a probe into a prescription drug ring linked to the former child star, who died, of course, last week. Investigators say that dozens of doctors gave Haim prescriptions for pills that could have harmed him. They say the illegal drug ring involved using stolen identities from doctors to order official prescription pads.
Officials don't yet know what caused the actor's death but have not ruled out the possibility that he died of an overdose.
Joining me now is addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Dr. Drew, have you heard about drug rings that use fake identities to get prescription pads?
PINSKY: I've heard of everything, Anderson. I've heard of lots of things like this. I've had patients steal my prescription pads. I've had patients lie to doctors. More often than not, the most egregious thing that I've come to understand is that the addicts in our town will learn who the doctor is that's easy to get medicine out of, and they will go and frequent those particular doctors or urgent care centers.
COOPER: Because I mean, in Corey Haim's case, according to the attorney general's office, I mean, he was going to 10 to 12 doctors, going to, you know, more than 10 pharmacies.
PINSKY: We call that doctor shopping. It's not uncommon. Unfortunately, there's not a good way to monitor that in our system just yet. And doctors sometimes feel justified in prescribing these medications to people. The reality that most people don't understand is if you have a history of addiction and you're on an opiate or benzodiazepine, even for a legitimate reason, you're in harm's way. You could die.
COOPER: And are there laws, Jeff, that are supposed to monitor prescription pills like this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. That's why they are restricted. Laws say that they can only be subscribed under certain circumstances.
But the interesting thing about a case like this is how much of it is the patient's responsibility, because as Drew said, sometimes patients lie. Patients steal.
How much of it is the patient's responsibility. Because sometimes patients lie, patients steal prescription pads. Sometimes it's their responsibility and the doctors and the pharmacists are just innocent accomplices. So the legal question is -- is this the responsibility of people who were helping him or just plain himself?
COOPER: You were talking -- you were naming those kind of drugs. I mean, according to authorities, he had gotten a prescription for OxyContin, for Vicodin, for Valium. Why would somebody be using all those? And aren't those all painkillers?
PINSKY: Well, the valium is not. Obviously, that's an anti- anxiety medication. But if somebody went in and said, "Doc, I've got the worst headache, the worst neck pain, the worst back pain in my life. I've been -- I can't walk anymore." They know exactly what to say to get the right thing from the doctors.
But my patients, the addicts, are a little smarter than that. They know that most doctors will kind of pick up on that and not give them big supplies. They figure out who the guys are that are very liberal with their prescribing habits, and those are the guys that my patients go and see.
COOPER: So producers, I guess, from your show, "Celebrity Rehab," had actually called him up.
PINSKY: His name has come up every single season. People have approached me about him over the years. He never followed through. I made myself available to him. And for her. Although I'm still not involved in casting. I can't say, "Hey, you've got an addiction problem. Why don't you wait until the cameras heat up so I can treat you." I'd have to treat them right then. So I don't get involved in the casting at all by a
COOPER: His family is saying that they don't think it was a drug overdose. They think it may have been a reaction to a pill that he was taking that he'd just started seeing a blood specialist and was trying a new pill that -- that he had been prescribed, I guess appropriately. Who would be culpable in something like that?
PINSKY: Well, in something like that, that would be an accident. But first of all, there's a lot of unknowns here? What is the real cause of death? I don't that's known. And what were the facts about how he got the drugs. You'd have to know all that before you can speculate about what the crime is.
COOPER: You don't buy this?
PINSKY: No. I -- an addict is on these drugs, they're in harm's way. That's it. There's just no such thing as -- I've never seen successful tapering it off. It just this doesn't work, particularly hard-core addict dealing with this for many, many years. But the fact is, this phenomena, as Jeffrey is alluding to, is steeped in all kinds of histological issues. In other words, some doctors...
COOPER: What does that mean?
PINSKY: Well, philosophical issues. Some doctors will defend prescribing to drug addicts as something that is cool not to do. Some pain management doctors would say, "We should give them more medicines, not less."
And some of these doctors who may duped, as you say, into prescribing somebody with addiction medicines that are quite dangerous for them, may in that certain clinical situation have been defensible in making the choice to prescribe; not advisable, not a good choice.
COOPER: But abuse of prescription drugs has been on the rise for the last couple of years, right?
PINSKY: Absolutely. And this, again -- this is the tip of an iceberg. This is what I keep calling the crest of a tsunami of my patients. I see this not just in Hollywood. All my patients are dying young of prescription medication abuse and addiction.
Some of it, they're getting on the street. Some they're getting with the participation of physicians. Some of it, they're responsible for themselves. But it is a very serious problem and it's bleeding down to young people who are getting their hands on this and abusing it even without the addictive process.
COOPER: Dr. Drew, thanks very much. And Jeff, as well, thank you.
As you can see, Dr. Drew Pinsky. He has a new show, VH1's "Sober House with Dr. Drew." Coming up next, autopsy results in the deaths of three people who participated in that sweat-lodge ceremony led by James Arthur Ray. We'll tell you what the findings reveal.
And also, Levi Johnson ordered to pay. The father of Bristol Palin's child will be making monthly child support payments. Details on that ahead.
COOPER: Let's get a quick update on some other important stories we're following. Randi Kaye has the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
KAYE: Hi, there, Anderson.
The deaths of three people who participated in the sweat-lodge ceremony (AUDIO GAP) a retreat in Arizona have been ruled accidental. Elizabeth Neuman, James Shore and Kirby Brown died in October while taking part in Ray's "Spiritual Warrior" program. At least 20 other people got sick during that ceremony. Ray has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges in those deaths..
Oprah Winfrey will testify in a defamation case linked to the sex abuse scandal at her girls' school in South Africa. The school's ex- head mistress filed the suit, and the billionaire talk show host must show up in court. Winfrey has rearranged her TV production schedule to attend the trial in Philadelphia.
A judge ordered the teen father of Sarah Palin's grandson to make child-support payments of $1,750 per month to Palin's daughter, Bristol. The amount is 20 percent of Levi Johnston's estimated $105,000 annual income. Palin and Johnston's son, Tripp, was born in December of 2008.
And a soccer game in Iran turned violent when a player from Cameroon suddenly attacked fans. Look at that. In video updated to Lively.com, he's seen throwing punches and even head-butting people from the stands. His team lost, but it is unclear if that is what prompted this attack.
Whoa! Did you see that?
KAYE: He's angry.
COOPER: Well, tonight's "Shot," in honor of St. Patrick's Day dating. Now we all know that the crew here at "360" enjoys the cutting of the rug.
KAYE: Oh, no. COOPER: Who could forget their style and grace performing "Single Ladies." It swept the country. But we wanted to see how they would fare doing some Irish step dancing. So we brought in the experts, a great group of young dancers from the Innish Preschool of Irish Dance to let them work their magic on our team. Let's watch, shall we?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: They're kind of holding their own.
COOPER: Yes. Now a little leprechaun dance there. That -- Steve.
KAYE: Nice footwork.
COOPER: Yes. And there's Bob doing his unique Irish dancing there.
KAYE: Very unique. I hope...
COOPER: He's also into bonding with his teacher there.
KAYE: Look at him.
COOPER: And Jerry at one point just sort of gave up. There you go, I guess. Yes.
KAYE: I hope we have a real great Bob moment coming up.
COOPER: Look at these kids. These kids were amazing dancers. And they were doing this, and they could go for hours like this.
KAYE: Yes. These guys were sweating by the time this was done.
KAYE: I saw them right after.
COOPER: They are the Innish Free School of Irish Dancing.
KAYE: Oh, wait. Bob is jumping rope. Sea?
COOPER: The kids started to clap, and no one -- no one from our group could clan on cue, which was perhaps the saddest moment of all.
KAYE: Maybe if they had the blond curly wigs.
COOPER: That would have added to the indignity.
KAYE: I think next year we'll try it.
COOPER: I think that would have brought about some sort of charges against us in three states. So -- sort of, you know, OSHA charges. It's on -- all this stuff is on our Web site if you want to see the complete fiasco. The School of Irish Dancing began in 1985.
It's led by Sean Regan, a world champion dancer. We appreciate them taking the time on this busy day to come out for us. They were a terrific group of kids.
Much more at the top of the hour.