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Piers Morgan Makes CNN Debut; Apple CEO Takes Leave of Absence

Aired January 17, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And a popular revolt and government collapse halfway around the world could spell some major changes for an entire region -- why the U.S. is keeping a very close eye on this dramatic situation right now.

And just hours from now, Piers Morgan's CNN debut, it's a one-on- one interview with Oprah Winfrey. I will ask Piers how he managed to get Oprah to talk about wanting at one point in her life to kill herself.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, first, the tech giant Apple dropped a bombshell today with the announcement that CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs has already faced serious health issues, but now Apple, whose fortunes have been closely tied to its co-founder, it is facing some new uncertainty.

Markets are closed here in the United States, but shares plunged today in overseas trading.

Let's go live to CNN's Dan Simon. He's working the story for us.

Dan, lots at stake here.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot at stake here, Wolf.

And Steve Jobs has always considered his health to be a private matter and no exception with this announcement today. He sent out this note to Apple employees, but didn't provide a reason for this leave of absence. That's led to a lot of open speculation whether this has something to do with his liver transplant in 2009 or the bout of pancreatic cancer he had a few years back as well.

We all heard about this from this note to Apple employees. I want to read this to in you part. It says -- quote -- "At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence, so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company. I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy."

Now, in making that announcement, a lot of people, Wolf, are looking for crews. In his previous leave of absence, Jobs said he would only be gone for six months. In this new statement, he has no timetable for his return, so that has a lot of people questioning when or if he will be back at Apple -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you met with Steve Jobs only a few months ago. How did he look to you at that time?

SIMON: Well, that was actually the first time I met Steve Jobs. This was back in October right after he released the new MacBook Air in front of reporters. There were a lot of reporters around him. It was a brief conversation I had with him.

But he looked very frail at the time. And I learned back then, Wolf, that he does not shake hands. And that probably has something to do with the fact that he's taking these anti-rejection drugs for that liver transplant. That weakens your immune system, so that's probably why he doesn't shake hands and probably a good practice.

BALDWIN: Because he's much afraid of an infection, I assume.

What about the impact that will this have on Apple, at least in the short term?

SIMON: That's a very good question because Apple is Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs is Apple. As you talked about, the stocks overseas are taking a big hit and Apple though does seem to have a very strong bench.

The number-two guy, Tim Cook, he took over during Jobs' last leave of absence. And he was widely praised for his performance, so they do have a very strong management team, but the question is who will fill that vision if Steve Jobs wasn't there? After all he's the guy who dreamed up all of these gadgets that we all use today, the iPhone and the iPad.

Who will fulfill that grand strategic vision? And that's really the open question, Wolf.

BLITZER: During this medical leave, we wish Steve Jobs, of course, only -- only the best. Dan Simon, thanks very much.

So, who exactly is Tim Cook, the man filling in for Steve Jobs as Apple's interim boss? Cook has 30 years of experience in the computer industry including time with IBM and Compaq. He joined Apple back in 1998, became the chief operating officer in 2005. A couple of years ago, when Jobs took his first leave of absence, as you heard, Cook took over and Apple stock by the way rose by 67 percent.

The sudden return of a brutal ex-dictator has stunned Haiti and the world community. Like his father before him, Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, ruled with an iron fist. He was forced to flee Haiti 25 years ago. But now after a devastating earthquake, a deadly epidemic and a chaotic presidential election, Duvalier's return is raising some serious new concerns.

Let's go straight to CNN's John Zarrella. He's in Port-au- Prince. He's joining us live.

What's going on over there, John? JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, absolutely bizarre, the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

It was just 24 hours ago when his Air France jet touched down here in Port-au-Prince. Since then he's been secluded in a hotel not far from here in downtown Port-au-Prince. And no word from him. Although a press conference was supposed to take place today, it never materialized.

We're told now it may happen tomorrow, but we have not been given a time or a location, at which many people want answers as to why he's here, why he chose now, how long he's going to stay.

When he arrived last night at the airport, about 200 people, his supporter, apparently the only ones who knew he was coming into the country showed up to wish him well as he arrived. But again today as he spent most of the day at this hotel just greeting some of his old- time friends and colleagues.

We did talk to one old friend and political ally who gave us at least a hint as to why Duvalier came back.


DR. HENRI-ROBERT STERLIN, SUPPORTER OF JEAN-CLAUDE DUVALIER: He's deeply hurt in his soul after the earthquake. He wanted to come back to see how is the actual situation of the people and of the country.


ZARRELLA: Now, I asked him, well, how long is Mr. Duvalier going to be here? I asked him how long is Mr. Duvalier going to be here? And he said he did not know. That would be up to Jean-Claude Duvalier to tell us.

But it's hard to believe, Wolf, that it's just as simple as that, that after a year since the original earthquake, that only now, supposedly after seeing images played on the first anniversary, that he decided that he would come here. And as you mentioned, he has not been officially charged with, but it believed that he stole, embezzled, bilked billions from this country and that his regime led to the disappearance of maybe tens of thousands of Haitians.

So one of the questions being asked on the island tonight is, is Duvalier going to ultimately be arrested or is he just going to be allowed to stay here and then pick up and leave when he so chooses? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you have any indication, John, based on your time over the years, you have been there, but specifically over the past 24 hours, how much popular support on the streets of Haiti Duvalier might have right now?

ZARRELLA: It's very interesting. People here just going about with their lives trying to make it from one sunset to the next sunset here, people that we talked to on the street today told us, look, if he comes back and he can help, great.

And the one political party that is loyal Duvalier followers still exist here, they all said they believed things were better back in those days than they are now. It seems as if people here almost are ready to embrace anything out desperation, perhaps including Jean- Claude Duvalier -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John Zarrella on the scene for us in Port- au-Prince, we will stay in close touch. Thank you.

Just days after another longtime dictator fled into exile, Tunisia now has a new government. A unity coalition is pledging to steer the North African toward new elections. The upheaval with the mass protests and the dozens of deaths sending a signal to other leaders in the region, including some very close friends of the United States.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us, what it means for Americans.

Lots at stake here, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is, Wolf. And experts say that not only can a lot of the Americans relate to many of the problems in Tunisia that started this, like high unemployment due to the bad economy, but they also have a direct interest in the outcome of what happens there and in the immediate neighborhood.


TODD (voice-over): It's 4,000 miles away from U.S. shores, is only a little larger than the state of Georgia and has a population about 30 times smaller than America's.

The uprising that drove out Tunisia's longtime president may not be on many Americans' radar, but experts say it should be.

(on camera): If I'm a textiles analyst in Chicago or I work at a Wal-Mart in Galveston, why should I care about what's happening in Tunisia?

ROBERT MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: You might not care about what's happening in Tunisia, per se, but you should care about what lesson it sends to the rest of the region where there are many countries with which the United States has very close ties and which are very important to the U.S. in terms of price of oil or the war against terrorism.

TODD (voice-over): Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group is talking about countries very close to Tunisia that have had the same kinds of problems, but where the stakes are much higher for America.

(on camera): Tunisia's revolt started with younger citizens fed up with high unemployment, rising costs of living and a corrupt federal government. Similar problems are occurring in Egypt. There like in Tunisia a protester set himself on fire. And the same thing could happen in Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. The common factors in all these countries? They have all been ruled for a long time by single autocratic rulers. They're all key U.S. allies in the war on terror. And they have all been struggling to fight off some very dangerous Islamist militant groups.

(voice-over): Here's something Americans can relate to, this tweet from Cairo. "Today, Ben Ali, tomorrow, Hosni Mubarak. Today, it's Tunisia's president. Tomorrow, could it be Egypt's?"

Egypt's regime isn't under as much pressure as Tunisia's was yet.

JOHN ENTELIS, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: The discontent is there. It's bubbling over continuously. It's not in our interests to try to keep this slid down artificially because ultimately the explosion will be even worse later on than it would be in the short term.

TODD: And revolutions in places like Egypt could lead to Islamic militants or other radicals taking power or at least having more room to operate than they do now.

MALLEY: We saw it on 9/11 and we will see it again. What happens in the Middle East, what happens in the Arab world can have a direct impact on our own security.


TODD: But analysts say there's a positive flip side if this is a successful transition to democracy in Tunisia. And it's another reason Americans should pay attention. If it leads to more social and economic freedoms, they say, more people in the Middle East will see how all of that works, will see the alternative to militant Islam -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's interesting how quickly some of these very friendly countries to the United States can become unstable.

TODD: If you look at Tunisia, this is unbelievable. A month ago, Tunisia was considered a very stable country. It was moderate, secular, had an educated population. One guy changed everything.

He was a 26-year-old college graduate who couldn't find a job there because of high unemployment, a bad economy. He started selling fruit from a cart on the street. Well, government officials and police started to harass him. He may not have had a license. There might have been some problem like that.

They took away his cart. They confiscated it. He lost hope. He said himself on fire. And he later died. That was the catalyst for everything that just happened in Tunisia. In a month, that event changed everything. That government's gone and something like that could happen in Egypt, Jordan. It's a real powder keg there and it literally could spread very quickly.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, good explanation. Thanks very much. Two federal judicial sources tell CNN they expect the trial of the accused Tucson shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, to be moved out of Arizona, possibly to San Diego. But the Justice Department indicates it will oppose any effort to move the case out of Arizona.

Meanwhile, doctors operated on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords once again over the weekend, repairing a fracture in her eye socket that was pushing bone fragments down on her eye. She also received a feeding tube and a breathing tube in her neck that prevents her from speaking at least for now. Her condition has been upgraded from critical to serious. Her doctors are optimistic.


QUESTION: Is she registering any emotion on her face? Is she smile something or anything?


QUESTION: She's smiling?

FRIESE: Occasionally. Her husband has told me that he's seen...

QUESTION: What is she (OFF-MIKE)

FRIESE: I wasn't there. Mark told me that he thought he may have seen a smile. We're all very optimistic. So we could be there. But we all want if see the best, and sometimes we see what we want to see, but if he says she's smiling, I buy it.


BLITZER: Doctors also say the congresswoman could be discharged from the hospital within days or weeks. We're hoping for the best for her of course.

The battle over health care reform is about to reignite on Capitol Hill. Both sides are calling for civility, but will it last?

David Gergen and Gloria Borger, they're both standing by.

Plus, President Obama's Sunday retune is back in the spotlight. Questions about why he rarely attends church. Details of what one pastor told the first family. Stand by.


BLITZER: The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this Wednesday on the repeal of the new health care reform law, but how vicious or not necessarily vicious, how ugly can the debate get? Will it be really rarely? What is going on?

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analysts, Gloria Borger and David Gergen. They are both here.

There's no doubt, Gloria, this will pass in the House of Representatives, but it's not going to go anywhere in the Senate. And even if it did, the president would veto it and the two-thirds majority override is not there, so what's the point?


The point is that the Republicans have promised particularly those new Republicans in the House, they promised that they would try to repeal and replace health care. And so this is as much symbolic as it is anything else, Wolf, because they know that in the end it's not going to happen, but they want to have this symbolic vote.

And what you're going to see over the year is Republicans try to chip away at the funding for health care reform and repeal parts of health care reform once they have gotten through this.


BLITZER: Smart strategy for the Republicans or not so smart?


I think this is the opening act in effect of a longer play. And this is an important moment when they really can make some arguments and refresh the debate after all. And I think what's stunning, because I do think this is going to be much more tempered than we would have expected a few weeks ago, but what's stunning to me is how much the political landscape has changed just within the last weeks.

We thought you would have these angry Republicans coming in and the country would rally behind them, there would be a lot of desire for health care repeal. The polls are not showing that.


BORGER: Kind of static.


GERGEN: The number of people who are strongly for repeal seems to have dropped some. And of course the president is in a stronger position.

And after Tucson, I just think it's changed the whole atmospherics. That's not to say that the Republicans will not rally as the year goes on, but right now I think it's hard.

BLITZER: I'm going to interview the former speaker, the current minority leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, tomorrow. We will have the interview here. But what should their Democratic strategy be in resisting this effort by the Republicans?

BORGER: Well, we have already sort of seen that start, which is they will say do you want to take away some of the things that you have already gotten? For example, preexisting conditions for children are no longer allowed. Well, if you repeal health care reform, you get rid of that. Now you can keep your older children on your health care policy, for example.

BLITZER: Until age 26.

BORGER: Until age 26. Do you want to lose that?

So the Democrats are going to say, OK, here are the things. Prescription drug benefits for seniors has gotten better. Do you want to lose that? That's what they're going to talk about.

GERGEN: But I think they have also got to be careful not to be too harsh in their rhetoric. And I think they ought to follow the president's lead, and that is to say, if you guys have got better ideas, we're open to hearing them.

This is not -- we're willing to make some small amendments, but we're going to retain the core of it, and we're not going to let these other benefits go away.

BORGER: And that's where Republicans are vulnerable, because while they have some ideas about health care reform, they don't have one coherent health care reform alternative that they want to propose. And that is something that the leadership is well aware and something that they have got to work on.

BLITZER: Here's one strategy someone put forward . Let the Republicans in the House repeal it. It goes to the Senate, but in the Senate, they work on finding some improvements shall we say in the law, they pass some improvements and then they start negotiating, the House and the Senate. Is that at all realistic, that scenario?

GERGEN: If in fact the Democrats were willing to go far enough. For example, if they were willing to do something on malpractice insurance, which has been a huge issue for Republicans, you might find the Republicans more willing. If it's something about changing your tax forms that you sign, if it's fairly marginal, that's not going to draw the Republicans in.

BORGER: The key to it is getting rid of the mandate, the insurance mandate that everybody in this country has to buy insurance by 2014.

The Republicans don't want to do that. They don't want to force you to buy health insurance. Well, if you don't do that, then how do you set up insurance pools to provide insurance for most Americans?

BLITZER: Because the insurance providers all say, if you get rid of that mandate, they're going to be out of business.

GERGEN: By 2-1, Americans want to get rid of it, 2-1.

BLITZER: Yes. Who says?


BLITZER: On the mandate?

GERGEN: On the mandate.

BORGER: On the mandate.

GERGEN: The individual mandate.


BLITZER: I would like to see that poll, not that I'm questioning you. But I would like to see that.


GERGEN: I understand.


BLITZER: Thanks. Thanks very much.

They are the subject of some of the most closely guarded secrets in the world. Now WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may about to tell all. Details of what could be the next big leak.

And 20 years ago tonight, in this hour, the first Gulf War started. I was at the Pentagon. In a few minutes, we will be joined by one of our CNN correspondents who was on the ground in Baghdad that night.



BLITZER: The first family visits a church, but why haven't they actually joined one yet? The latest on the search for a spiritual home for the president.

And Piers Morgan is here to talk about his debut tonight on CNN. I will ask him how he got Oprah Winfrey to talk about contemplating suicide.


BLITZER: A rare appearance by the first family in church here in Washington yesterday and it's bringing up lingering questions about why President Obama still has not joined a congregation.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is looking in to this for us.

Dan, how often has the president over these past two years been to church?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, by our count, the president has attended seven church services since taking office. Four of those were African-American churches, including the one yesterday.

When the president first came into office, there was a lot of talk about whether the first black president would join a black church here in Washington, D.C., but so far, he remains a visitor.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The White House released one photo. The Metropolitan AME Church posted a gallery on its Web site. It was a rare public glimpse of the first family worshipping in Washington.

But two years into his administration, the president who has talked openly of his faith...


LOTHIAN: ... has not picked a local church. Instead, he has opted for the private chapel at Camp David during a few weekend visits there.

But that hasn't stopped local pastors from trying to sway the first family. During Sunday's service, an offer -- quote -- "It would be a good thing if could you join the church."

Jim Wallis of the faith-based social justice organization Sojourners echoes what the president himself has said, that joining a church would be disruptive.

REV. JIM WALLIS, PRESIDENT, CALL TO RENEWAL: I know President Obama as a person of faith. And I know he wants to go to church. But it is made more complicated by the media scrutiny.

LOTHIAN: The Obamas' last home church in Chicago came under intense media scrutiny when their former passer, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, made inflammatory comments, a backlash that now makes this a delicate topic for the White House.

WALLIS: You don't want to be asking, is the president responsible for whatever his pastors says on a Sunday?

LOTHIAN: Questions about the president's faith are not limited to where or when he might attend church. Nearly one in five Americans polled late last year said the president is a Muslim, a dramatic jump from one in 10 back in 2009.

And nearly half of all Americans said they did not know what his religion is.

But the president has been clear on his beliefs.

OBAMA: I came to my Christian faith later in life. And it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me. LOTHIAN: He's also worked biblical references into his public remarks, most recently at the memorial service for victims of the Tucson shootings.

OBAMA: Scripture tells us there's a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

LOTHIAN: And while he may not be in the church every Sunday, Mr. Obama said he receives a daily devotional on his BlackBerry and, in addition to his Camp David services, receives spiritual counsel.


LOTHIAN: Not the president is still -- the White House still leaving the door open, just a bit, that the first family will settle on one congregation. A spokesman here at the White House saying that they're still searching for a home church, but in the meantime will continue visiting other churches around the city -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks very much.

Twenty years ago today, precisely at this hour, the first Gulf War began as the U.S. and its allies launched a massive air assault on the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. I was then CNN's Pentagon correspondent. As CNN's Bernard Shaw and John Holliman described the start of the bombardment from the Iraqi capital. Listen to this.


BERNARD SHAW, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is -- something is happening outside. The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We're seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky.

JOHN HOLLIMAN, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sky continues to be filled with tracers as the anti-aircraft weapons continue to fire. Another huge loud burst from the ground, more tracers going up into the air over the city. And there's a lot of fire going up, and as I say, these -- these bombs continue to come down occasionally on the ground here. There's no sign that any of the -- any of the aircraft that are involved in this, not from Iraq but from the allied forces, have suffered any damage.

BLITZER: Pentagon officials say it should -- it should have come as no surprise that this attack started tonight. They say that the United States wanted to start the attack at night. There are specific targets for almost 5 1/2 months. The United States has outlined virtually every strategic target in Iraq and occupied Kuwait.


BLITZER: A young Wolf Blitzer at the time.

Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. He was 20 years younger, as well. Unlike me, Nic, you were actually in Baghdad with Peter Arnett and John Holliman and Bernie Shaw. Tell us first of all what your job was at the time. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was the engineer. At that time we had that four-wire (ph) communication device that allowed us to keep broadcasting after the communications center, the telephone exchange, in Baghdad got hit. It kept us on the air; it made a difference.

That was one of my jobs. I had smuggled in a satellite telephone that we would use after the phone communications got destroyed. That was the plan. My job was to kind of keep us on the air technically, and I must say learn at the feet of some great journalists.

BLITZER: How scared were you as you saw the skies over Baghdad being illuminated, as Bernie Shaw memorably said?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, it's almost sort of chilling just to listen to -- to Bernie and to hear him say those words that we've heard so many times from 20 years ago.

I went -- it was a formative time for me, and I really was learning. And one of the things I've learned was about being safe. And I was one of the first people in the bomb shelter that night. I got out so quickly, I think there was no one else there.

So I came back up and checked out on what was going on and went back down again. But what I learned from Bernie and from John Holliman and from Peter on that was when you're going to report, you need to be -- you need to be there to see it, to watch it happening. So, come shock and awe 12 years later, I wasn't in the basement. I was on the roof of the hotel. And I owe that to those great journalists, because they imbued me with -- with the skills that I share with our audience today.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe 20 years later the whole Middle East obviously there have been some significant changes, and certainly in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is gone. Not as a result of the first Gulf War, but as a result of the second war, the war in Iraq that started in 2003. As you look at these changes over the past 20 years, what goes through your mind? Because you spend a lot of time in that region.

ROBERTSON: Wolf, I think the longer time you spend covering wars, the more you ultimately realize almost the futility of it.

Between those -- the first war in Iraq and the second, the war in Bosnia, a quarter of a million people killed, and when you look at it today, so little, really, on the ground changed. Slightly different political dynamic.

When I look at the Middle East today, so many lives lost and for what gained? And I think that's the perspective that you get from covering wars close up, is that you realize there's a certain amount of futility in what is actually gained by either side at the end of the day. So it's saddening to witness so much loss of life, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I remember those days very, very vividly, the Operation Desert Shield, leading to Operation Desert Storm, which started this hour, 20 years ago today.

Nic, thanks very, very much.

Let's take a look at this picture. You can see our team there in Iraq. You can see Bernie you can see right there. By the way, that tall guy on the far left, that's Nic Robertson.

Nic, you look so young. You so -- not that you're not handsome now, but you look incredibly handsome as a 20-year younger person over there. Your hair a little thicker. It's red. Was it red then? It's still red right now, right?

ROBERTSON: It was. Wolf, I have to say I'm glad I met my wife back then and not trying to find a wife today. My -- I met my wife in the build up. Margaret Larry (ph), CNN's correspondent at the time, in the build up to the Gulf War, and I guess if I looked younger, that helped me and I'm really happy for that.

BLITZER: Yes. You looked great then; you look great now. And more importantly, you're doing great reporting for CNN. Thanks very much.

A senior member of the Kennedy clan is hospitalized. Sargent Shriver, the father-in-law of Arnold Schwarzenegger. We're trying to get details on his condition right now.

And it's one of the most highly anticipated offerings, but U.S. investors will not be able to own shares in Facebook. We're going to tell you why.


BLITZER: No place is marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day like his home town in Atlanta. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Lisa.


Well, on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the family of the slain civil rights leader laid a wreath at his tomb in Atlanta. King's son, daughter and sister were among those taking part. Martin Luther King III said the shooting rampage in Tucson shows his father's work is needed now more than ever.

Ninety-five-year-old Sargent Shriver is a Maryland hospital. He is the widower of JFK's sister, Eunice, and father of former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria. Sargent Shriver has been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, but the hospital won't comment on his condition.

And U.S. investors will be left out of the scramble to get private shares of Facebook. Goldman Sachs, which has the exclusive selling rights, says it will limit the offering to foreign investors, citing the intense media interest. The company says it could raise legal issues. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently probing the fast-growing secondary market for shares of privately held companies like Facebook and there is certainly a lot of money that's going to be made on this deal, Wolf.

BLITZER: Billions and billions.

SYLVESTER: I can't even comprehend.

BLITZER: And "The Social Network" got best picture at the Golden Globes.

SYLVESTER: I know. It did. I think best director also.

BLITZER: Yes. It is a good movie. Thanks very much.

Piers Morgan is standing by to join us. We'll talk live about tonight's debut on CNN. We have lots of questions for Piers. I'll ask him also about the pricey bet he made with Oprah Winfrey, his first guest tonight. Get ready. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In just over two hours, a new era gets under way here at CNN, the new primetime show. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" airs for the first time at 9 p.m. Eastern, and what a debut it will be. Piers will turn the table on the queen of talk. We're talking about Oprah Winfrey. Piers is joining us now from New York.

First of all, congratulations, Piers. We're all very, very excited. And I want to play a few clips of what Oprah told you, and then I want to discuss.


BLITZER: First of all, clip No. 1, and this is really a painful subject. You get her to talk about one really sad moment in her life, when she was contemplating suicide. Listen to this.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST/MEDIA MOGUL: So I'm thinking, well, I'm just going to have to kill myself. So when...

MORGAN: Did you come close to doing that?

WINFREY: No, not -- you know, I did stupid things like, you know, drinking detergent and all that kind of crazy stuff that you do when you're trying to get attention when you're really just trying to cry for help.


BLITZER: Wow. All right. Give us some context here. What was going on? Tell us what the context of this is, Piers. MORGAN: Well, that was when she was 14, and she fell pregnant. And her father at the time, who she had quite an awkward relationship with, had made it clear to her, without knowing she was pregnant, that if any child of his, any daughter of his, ever got pregnant and brought shame on the family, he would hope that they would kill themselves or words to that effect.

So Oprah was listening to this, knowing that she was pregnant at the time, and it was a harrowing time for her. And, you know, she was throughout the interview, there were quite a few moments where she was as revealing and open as you saw there and candid. And I really appreciated that, because it gave me a completely new insight into her. And obviously, we all know the celebrity and the most famous person on the planet, stuff about her, but what I didn't know was the kind of background to her life that makes her the woman she is.

BLITZER: So tell us what happened. She's pregnant. She's 14. She's thinking about suicide. What does she do?

MORGAN: Well, she ended up losing the baby, which remained, I think, something that was -- something she's now blocked off. And I asked her later in the interview, do you ever wish she'd been a mother, because everyone I know who knows Oprah thinks she would have been an amazing mother. But she says not. I'm not so sure that I believe that. I think her way of dealing with it has been just to block it out and to never revisit that, really.

So it was a fascinating exchange and said a lot about the woman. She's a -- she's a hell of a tough cookie.

BLITZER: She certainly is. Let me play one other clip. Listen to this one, and then we'll discuss.


WINFREY: But I look back to the relationship that I thought that really broke my heart. I was keeping a journal then. You know, keeping a journal is, you know, you get to see yourself how you're evolving as a human being. And I remember having a ceremony in my head for that woman.

I look back at that time, and I have -- I hold no remorse or bitterness toward that person, even though I was like, "You didn't call me. You didn't. and you don't love me and I can't believe" -- and I still have all those crazy letters. I should burn them.

MORGAN: Do you really?

WINFREY: Yes, I do.

MORGAN: You kept them all?

WINFREY: I have them all.

MORGAN: Why have you kept them?

WINFREY: I don't know. I just kept them.

MORGAN: Do you still read them?

WINFREY: No. I haven't read them in years. But you know, I have them in a safe deposit box someplace. But I was thinking...

MORGAN: Wow, that's amazing.

WINFREY: I was thinking I should burn them now because, you know, Gayle knows if anything happens to me, get the letters.

MORGAN: No, I've got a message for Gayle: "Give me the letters."


BLITZER: Yes. WikiLeaks could wind up getting those letters, too. You never know. But give us a little context here, as well, Piers.

MORGAN: Well, it was fascinating. I sort of pride myself, if I can, on asking questions that I suspect my guests have never been asked before, or certainly in a way they've never been asked it. And I don't know where. I just said to Oprah, "How many times have you been properly in love?"

And she distinctively said, "Wow, I've never been asked that. Three."

And then I said -- she said, "What kind of love do you mean?"

I said, "You know, the kind that aches and breaks your heart."

And then she said, "Well, then two, because it wouldn't include Stedman, because he's never broken my heart."

And I said, "Well, who has?"

She said, "Well, I won't name them, but certainly one really broke my heart." She began to tell the story of this journal she kept and the letters that they'd exchanged, that she still keeps in a safety deposit box to this day, which I found quite extraordinary.

And the fact that she can remember them so vividly and remember the woman that she was then, really, really interesting stuff. And the fact -- the fact, also, that she's clearly contemplated something happened to her, that those letters sit in that box and could come back to, I don't know, haunt her, embarrass her, I didn't really get to the bottom of it. But certainly must have for her to want Gayle King to rush in there and destroy them.

BLITZER: And Gayle's her best friend.


BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Piers. We have a lot more to talk about, including, on a much, much lighter note, the bet that Piers made with Oprah. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: There it is, the new set. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," it debuts in just a little more than two hours right here on CNN. And Piers is continuing to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let me play this little clip, Piers. You and Oprah made a bet. It involved Michael Vick the quarterback. Watch.


MORGAN: What advice would you give Michael Vick?

WINFREY: What advice? Well, you know, I really don't want to talk about Michael Vick, because I'm trying to interview him.

MORGAN: Really? I love that honesty about you.

WINFREY: So I will just save all my advice for when I sit down with him. You're trying to interview him.

MORGAN: I'm trying to get him, as well.

WINFREY: And I'm trying to get him, too.

MORGAN: One of us is going to win.

WINFREY: One of us is.

MORGAN: Do you want to do a little wager?


MORGAN: One hundred British pounds says I get Vick before you.

WINFREY: One hundred?

MORGAN: One hundred. You can afford it.

WINFREY: Make it two.

MORGAN: Two hundred.

WINFREY: Make it two.

MORGAN: You're down.


BLITZER: That's, what, 300 U.S. dollars, is that right?

MORGAN: That's about right.

BLITZER: Not a whole lot of money, you know. I would have thought a few thousand at least. But $300, that's the best you can do on a wager like that, Piers?

MORGAN: It's more the principle, actually. We had a rather horrifying development this afternoon, because Barbara Walters has entered the fray and also wants to take part in the bet. So this could end up being quite messy.

BLITZER: I mean, messy indeed. But this is -- are we going to think about, you know, major gets? Give me -- give me a couple of names for your wish list.

MORGAN: Well, I think there are lots of gets out there that everyone's been trying to get for a while. You know, everyone wants to get Prince William and Kate Middleton, someone like that. Obviously, I've got an advantage there. I'm British. And I know them both, or certainly know William quite well, and knew his mother very well. So that, I guess, right now that the first post-marriage interview with those two would be pretty high on most people's list.

But I think with Oprah it was a kind of marking of the card, that things are going to get pretty competitive now. And I want my show to be right in there, scrapping it out with Oprah for the really big interviews. Because that's the way you're going to put ratings on. That's what we need.

BLITZER: I think you're right. And it's not going to be easy, because it's very competitive out there, as you well know. Give me -- give me one pitch that you're going to make, say come on my show as opposed to Oprah or Barbara Walters or some other show?

MORGAN: It's a quite straightforward pitch, actually. Because unlike those two and their shows, mine is seen globally by an estimated audience of between 300 million and 400 million people. And this show is also airing in primetime on CNN International, which it didn't for Larry King. So this is a major sea change by CNN in terms of the reach that this show will get to, in terms of an audience.

And it's a pretty compelling argument. To say to somebody who may be a big star in America, for example, say a big sporting star like Lebron James, who has a huge American following, but may be interested in getting a big overseas following. You know, you do one interview with me, you're going to get to 300, 400 million potential new fans. That's not a bad pitch.

BLITZER: That's a great pitch. CNN is seen in some 240 countries and territories around the world. So Piers, good luck tonight and good luck every night. We're hoping only for the best. We'll be watching.

MORGAN: Thank you, Wolf. I really appreciate that. And it's great to be at the same network with you. You're, as you know -- I've said this to your face -- you're one of my all-time journalistic heroes.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And you're on a special night. It was exactly 20 years ago tonight the Gulf War started, and it helped CNN around the world, as you well know. I'm sure you were watching.

MORGAN: I was in the newsroom of "The Sun" newspaper in London. And I can remember watching Bernie Shaw and Peter on there and thinking it was the most incredible television that I'd ever watched in my life, and the heroism of those guys and the brilliance of the coverage at CNN, and it was one of the things in the back of my mind. When -- when CNN made me this offer I was like, "Wow. I'm joining the network that did that." And that felt pretty special, I can tell you.

BLITZER: We're happy to have you, Piers. Thanks so much.

MORGAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Martha Stewart in stitches. CNN's Jeanne Moos is next.


BLITZER: Martha Stewart expects to have her stitches removed today, stitches she got after an unusual accident involving her French bulldog. It's what happened after the accident that CNN's Jeanne Moos finds "Most Unusual."


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's weird. What some dogs will do in their sleep. But in this case, the sleeping dog belongs to Martha Stewart. And this is what it did.


MOOS: But it's what Martha did that's curious, posting over 30 photos on her blog showing her emergency room experience in graphic detail.

MARTHA STEWART, FOUNDER, MARTHA STEWART LIVING INC.: And those little needles, oh my God, they were fantastic.

MOOS: Not the kind of needles you use to, say, crochet snowflakes. She means the kind they stick in your face to put in nine stitches. And with each photo was a Martha-esque caption. "More stitches. The tying is quite complicated." Not looking too happy.

The culprit was Francesca.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But don't call me Franny!

MOOS: One of Martha's two French bulldogs. They have their own Webisodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: and now it's time for "Chew it Over" with Francesca and Sharkey.

MOOS: Francesca didn't chew Martha. She head butted her as Martha bent over to say good-bye to her sleeping pet.

STEWART: Bang. I startled her, and I ended up in the hospital. MOOS: The woman who grooms Martha's horses documented every step, from injecting the anesthetic to -- Eww!" as one fan posted. Others noted, "how marvelous," how flawless her skin looked in the close-ups.

STEWART: I looked pretty good for being in terrible agony, for God's sake.

MOOS (on camera): But there was one photo that had us in stitches, and it had nothing to do with Martha's stitches.

(voice-over) Even in her misery, as a plastic surgeon stitched her up, Martha couldn't help noticing Northern Westchester Hospital's decor. The photograph was captioned...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The ceiling border in the little patient room could use some updating, don't you think?"

MOOS: That's got to go, agreed Martha's fans. Posted one, "It brings to mind Oscar Wilde's dying words: 'Either this wallpaper goes or I do.' Thank God you aren't dying."

(on camera) Some of Martha's fans offered her a little decorating advice of their own.

(voice-over) "A little bead work on the stitches would have been a nice touch, or maybe a little tassel on the end of the suture string."

"Martha Stewart Living" becomes "Martha Stewart Stitching," from gore to decor.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elegant living from a dog's perspective.

MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: Very cute, thank you.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at, @WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word.

You can also follow us on Facebook,, to become a fan.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.