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Graphic Warnings For Smokers; Interview With Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Aired June 21, 2011 - 14:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I read about that this morning. I thought, mmm, don't know.
All right, Randi Kaye, I'll take it from there.
And hello to all of you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Totally switching gears here, they're graphic, they're disturbing. They're the new warning labels that will begin appearing on packs of cigarettes starting next year.
So, why are new labels being attached to all these different cigarette packages? Because if you took all the deaths that happened each and every year from car accidents, HIV, illegal drug use, suicide, alcohol use, and murders, folks, it still wouldn't add up to the number of deaths caused by smoking. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I want to go straight to CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
And , Elizabeth, let's just first begin with some of these images. Walk us through what people will begin seeing on these new warning labels.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, let's start with the old image. This is what's currently on labels, boring and invisible. That's what the FDA calls it, invisible.
These are the new ones. You can't get much less invisible than that, a guy who's dead, I guess. Smoking can kill you. Cigarettes can cause cancer. Those are some nasty teeth. Cigarettes are addictive, smoke coming out of this guy's neck. And tobacco smoke can harm your children.
Now, you will notice that this takes up 50 percent of the surface area on both the front and the back. So these are big. And why are they doing it? Well, one in five adults in the United States smokes cigarettes, and that is 443,000 tobacco-related deaths per year -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I know that they're hoping for these to be effective, and maybe I just work with a semi-cynical crowd. But we were talking about it this morning. And some people said, look, if you want to smoke, you're going to smoke. You're not necessarily going to look at some image on a cigarette box.
So, let's talk about alternatives, Elizabeth. What other kinds of things would work when it comes to reducing smoking?
COHEN: Well, first of all, I want to say that I think your friends may be right --
COHEN: -- because there have actually been studies that show that when other countries have tried to do this, it hasn't worked really all that well, I mean, really kind of modest decreases, if any, in smoking.
So for example, in Australia, when they did this, which is really graphic, or in Chile, this says tobacco reduces your physical fitness and sexual fitness, you know, this didn't -- that didn't necessarily do so well. It didn't really make a huge impact.
But look at what they did in New York. Look at what -- and this did have an impact. In New York, they did ads. Plus, they did tax increases. Plus, they did smoke-free workplaces. Plus, they had free patch programs. Plus, they had anti-smoking ads. And that brought the smoking rate down from 21 percent in 2001 to 15 percent in 2009. So you can't -- these labels themselves are not going to do it.
BALDWIN: Yes. And I was tweeting with some of my tweeps, I guess, before the show and I said, like, bottom line, what is it that maybe would get to you stop smoking? And they were talking money. If we were going to maybe tax, add a dollar to every pack of cigarettes, maybe that would help impact, you know, people's health.
COHEN: Right. Experts tell me of everything on this list, the tax increases are the most effective. If we put a $1 tax on every pack of cigarettes, the American Cancer Society says 1.4 million Americans would quit smoking, 1.7 million kids would never start, and 1.3 million lives would be saved.
You know, for example, in New York City, they put some really big taxes on there. I mean, it can be $10, $11 or even more for a pack of cigarettes in New York. And they are seeing their smoking rates decline.
BALDWIN: That is what many people say would finally be the ultimate deterrent. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
BALDWIN: And Elizabeth mentioned some of the other countries here taking some of these steps. And I just want to give a bigger perspective, because we know the United States may have been the first country in the world actually to put any kind of warning labels on cigarettes, but since then, more than 30 countries have resorted to using graphic warnings on tobacco products.
And Canada started using graphic warnings, what -- like Elizabeth was just talking about, back in 2001. And just last year, they made them even more graphic, more disturbing, and they now have to cover 75 percent of your cigarette package.
I want to go to Louis Proulx. He is the acting director of Health Canada's Tobacco Directorate. He is in Ottawa.
And, Louis, good to see you. We just -- we thought, who could we talk to, to give better perspective? And we wanted to go to you. And, as we mentioned, some of the images in Canada are even so disturbing, we can't even show them here on CNN. They're just that graphic. As I mentioned, your country's been doing this for 10 years, sir. How effective has this been in terms of curbing smoking?
LOUIS PROULX, CANADIAN CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AND TOBACCO DIRECTORATE: Well, since 2001, as you mentioned, Canada has had graphic health warning messages on its tobacco packages at 50 percent, which is still, by the way, as of today, the law of the land.
We are, as you mentioned, trying to move to 75 percent. We're seeking concurrence of our House of Commons right now. In terms of the effectiveness of health warning messages, I would just like to say that prevalence of Canadian smoking 15 years or older has dropped from 24 percent in 2000 to 18 percent today.
Now, it's not all attributable to obviously labeling on -- on packages. There are other factors, other measures that have been put in place that have helped that along. But, definitely, health warning messages have played a part in that drop in prevalence.
BALDWIN: Well, Louis, you mentioned youngsters. And one of my questions is, you look at teenagers, they're particularly susceptible to maybe this type of marketing. Is that maybe more of your target audience here with these disturbing images vs. maybe someone who's just kind of a lifetime smoker?
PROULX: It is -- it is absolutely one of the things that we are very mindful of, our people, is to make sure that people do not start smoking.
Obviously, we are still looking at having people quit. But, definitely, that people do not start is very, very important. One of the measures that go along with graphic warning labels, obviously, in Canada is the age at which kids can start legally buying these packs.
These measures are also very important in trying to reduce prevalence and preventing kids from smoking.
BALDWIN: Yes. But, look, I mean, I know your target audience, it may perhaps be the teenagers and folks who haven't ever puffed a cigarette in their lives, but also you want people to quit, right?
PROULX: Right. Yes.
BALDWIN: So then I have actually a couple Canadians on my team, and they tell me that in Canada it's very, very easy to buy these boxes, you know, maybe at the convenience store, where you can just slip -- slip that over this disturbing-looking cigarette packet and you don't even think about this kind of warning.
PROULX: Such -- you're talking about things to cover the actual --
PROULX: -- images --
BALDWIN: To cover the box.
Yes. These are available, and they are not -- they are not illegal for sales. We don't see a lot of traction on such products. There's not massive evidence that this is popular.
BALDWIN: The bottom line, you say that these graphic images are making a difference, and you're covering more of these boxes. And perhaps we will start to see similar ramifications here in the United States.
Louis Proulx, thank you so much from Ottawa, Canada.
And you know what? You can actually see an entire gallery of what these different warning labels look like from all these other countries. Some of them are very, very disturbing.
PROULX: Yes. Yes.
BALDWIN: Just go to CNN.com/health.
Louis, thank you.
He says the government shouldn't be building new roads in Baghdad if they can't do it in Baltimore. And L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is not alone here. He is joining other mayors all across the country calling on the president to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and shell out those billions right here at home. He's going to join me next live.
Plus, a little close for comfort, huh? We're going to show you more of this amazing tornado footage caught on camera.
Be right back.
BALDWIN: Here is what a bunch of the nation's mayors are saying to Washington. They're saying you are out of touch with people and all of their struggles here in this economy.
This bipartisan group of mayors met a little earlier yesterday with President Obama and Vice President Biden. And then afterwards, they broke it down. Congress needs to do more to create jobs. In fact, the head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors said it this way: "We have a Congress that is dithering."
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the president of the Conference of Mayors, and he's with me now live from L.A.
Mr. Mayor, good to have you back on the show.
I want to begin here with this message. You know, you're telling Congress, you're telling the president and the vice president, you have to do more to stimulate the economy.
What specifically are you asking of them? How can the federal government specifically create jobs?
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Well, we have to invest in infrastructure. We need to make sure that we're doing everything we can to invest in people again, to make sure that the displaced workers -- and there are too many of them across the country in our cities -- are actually getting trained for the jobs that are opening up in our economy.
We have got to educate our workers. We have got to invest in infrastructure. We can't completely eviscerate the safety net, whether it's Medicaid or funding for our cities. And what we're saying is that the Congress is out of touch with what's going on in our cities today.
BALDWIN: Let me jump in, because you used the word infrastructure twice. I want you to just break it down for me. I mean, how exactly can infrastructure create jobs, say, in your city of L.A.?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, we can accelerate the investments that we're making in the city of Los Angeles in public transportation, in highway repair.
We can help the ports, the airports. We could do something about our energy grid, which is outdated and antiquated. We can invest all -- in America all across the country.
Today, what you have is China spending three times on infrastructure and transportation than the United States of America. We need to invest -- as an example, Brooke, we -- the three biggest economies in the United States, New York, Chicago, and L.A., are comparable to the GDP of France. New York alone is larger than -- its GDP is larger than the state of Texas. L.A.'s larger than the state of Illinois.
If we're investing in our metro economies, we're investing in the areas of the country that can generate the most jobs going into the future -- 94 percent of the new jobs that are going to be created in the next year are going to be in our cities.
So, when they're dithering with the full faith and credit of the United States of America, when they're saying that -- the Democrats saying that we're not going to cut Medicare and Social Security, the Republicans saying that we're not going to cut defense spending, what's left? Everything that matters to cities and --
BALDWIN: Sure. Well, let me jump in and let me ask you, what kind of reception -- you were at the White House. You met with the president. You met with the vice president. Did they seem receptive? And what will you see as a result of everything you're telling me here today?
VILLARAIGOSA: They were receptive. Both the president and the vice president were taking notes. We were there for about an hour.
But we recognize we're going to have to push everyone. The fact is we're a bipartisan organization. The fact is both parties are dithering. The fact is that they're going to have to come together and resolve this.
Vice President Biden is working to get a bipartisan consensus --
VILLARAIGOSA: -- around the deficit, the debt. But we want to make sure it's a consensus that doesn't throw cities and our workers under the bus, that doesn't set us back to where we were a couple of years ago.
BALDWIN: Sure. And you want to be able to tell the people in L.A. -- when they come to you and they say look, sir, I would really like to have a job, and I don't even really know what the debt ceiling is, you want them to be able to get employment.
But I also want to ask you about this, because we found this interesting. Also in Baltimore, you passed this resolution urging Congress to quickly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, by the way, the president is addressing the nation specifically on troop withdrawal regarding Afghanistan tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern. We're, of course, going to take it live here at CNN.
But you passed this resolution, not quite as sternly worded as it was back during the Nixon days about the Vietnam War, but yet why was that important to -- for mayors, Democrats, Republicans, to come together and take that stance with regard to the wars here? Why mayors?
VILLARAIGOSA: First of all, it was strongly worded in that we support our troops. And the best way to honor our troops is to make sure that they have a job when they come back --
VILLARAIGOSA: -- is to make sure that they have the skills that they need to get to work.
Secondly, it was not so much a war resolution, as I have heard some say, as a jobs resolution. We want America to invest in bridges here in Kansas City and Baltimore, not just Kandahar and Baghdad. The fact of the matter is that our infrastructure is crumbling and our unemployment rate is still too high. And, so, that resolution was more about jobs than it was about the war. And it -- it strongly honored and supports our troops.
BALDWIN: You want to see that change. You want to see the creation. And you want it here domestically.
I hear you, Mayor Villaraigosa. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Now this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get your babies. Get your dogs. Get what you need and get out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apocalypse. I have never seen anything like this in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Folks in Texas told to get your stuff and get out -- more on the wildfire that's now spreading into homes.
Plus, you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Senator John McCain blaming Arizona's wildfires on illegal immigrants. Well, hang on, because he's backtracking on those controversial comments. He's backtracking today. We're going to let you know what it is he's saying now -- right after this.
BALDWIN: Got a couple of weather stories for you.
First, I want to take you inside a tornado. Take a look at this. This is a tornado touching down. This is along the Nebraska-Kansas border. Remember, we were talking about tornadoes right around in that part of the country yesterday.
Four members in one Kansas family were slightly injured. Their home was destroyed. The storms last night disrupted the College World Series in Omaha, but at first people there didn't take the sirens as seriously as they should have, and then they started to run. Look at this. The National Weather Service says winds were close to 70 miles per hour. The fans were able to take shelter while the storm passed them by. The game was rescheduled for tonight.
Now I want to talk about those wildfires. They're burning across 12 states. It is a huge, huge threat. Nearly a million-and-a-half acres have burned thus far, thousands of people trying to cope with this. The fast-moving fire is in Grimes County, Texas. That is near Houston. That has destroyed at least 26 homes.
One man who owns land there describes the scene as -- quote -- "an apocalypse" -- 1,800 homes and businesses are evacuated right now. Government experts say there are 52 different fires burning out of control, as I mentioned, in those 12 different states. And fire crews, they are getting some help.
In Texas, for example, four National Guard Black Hawk helicopters and two Chinooks are now part of that fight. The largest of the fires -- we have been talking about this fire for days now -- the Wallow fire in east central Arizona and west central New Mexico.
It has burned more than half-a-million acres there alone, and it's about 200 miles from the Mexico border. That is significant, folks, because here's why, Senator John McCain of Arizona walking back a little bit from something he said over the weekend about the wildfires in his home state.
He commented -- quote -- "There is substantial evidence that some of those fires have been caused by people who've crossed our border illegally."
And if you have been reading, you know he's gotten a little bit of criticism for that comment, especially from Latino rights activists. His office says he was talking about the fires in general, not the Wallow fire, which, as I mentioned, is the one near the border.
And this morning, several times, in fact, he offered his own take on the controversy, saying basically, what's the big deal? Here he is, Senator McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Frankly, I'm not sure what all this controversy is about. A group of us senators asked for a GAO study on the same issue, and you just saw Sheriff Larry Dever, who will tell you that the Monument fire was started when the -- when the forest was closed. So anyone who was in there is illegal.
So I'm not sure what all the controversy's about, to tell you the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And want to let you know our own congressional correspondent, senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash caught up with Senator John McCain today on the Hill, and he reiterated the same thing, that he was briefed before the meeting, and echoed the same sentiment as he just did there.
Now, according to the U.S. Forest Service, there is no evidence that the Wallow fire was caused by undocumented immigrants.
Now, firefighters in Arizona, they are getting some help with regard to the weather today. The Forest Service says the winds are dropping and that will allow crews to get back in the sky and fight that fire from there.
Chad Myers is here tracking this thing for me again today.
So, I know, as we mentioned fires, 12 states, starting in Arizona.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
BALDWIN: How's it looking today?
MYERS: Hot. The wind is down. The wind is caused by cold fronts and storm systems over the Rocky Mountains bringing that cold air in, cooler air in.
BALDWIN: Isn't that a good thing?
MYERS: When the -- not when you're blowing the -- fanning the flames with that wind. The firefighters are more comfortable, but the fires are completely out of control.
BALDWIN: Got it.
MYERS: Today, the wind is down to almost zero and the temperatures are going to approach 108.
Tomorrow, the temperatures will approach 113. And you put firefighters in there fighting blazes, even though they may not be completely out of control, with the wind, it's still a very difficult situation.
So, hot from Tucson all the way back over toward Albuquerque, and that's what it's going to be for the next couple of days.
BALDWIN: And now I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: He may respect him, but he wants to beat him next year, wants his job. Does Jon Huntsman have what it takes to defeat President Obama? That is next.
Plus: billions spent, billions more to come, and still no end in sight in the war in Afghanistan. Now the pressure's on the president to do something about it.
BALDWIN: Well, we now know that the president is about to tell us what's next in the Afghan war. President Obama will be addressing the nation prime time tomorrow night.
And we have also learned the president plans to withdraw 30,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year.
Let's go to the Pentagon, Chris Lawrence live for me there.
And, Chris, to be specific, when we talk 30,000, these are the so-called surge troops, correct?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Brooke.
I mean, two years ago, the president surged another 30,000 troops into Afghanistan to bring us to about 100,000 troops. Now we're expecting to hear that he will say that he's going to bring all 30,000 of those troops home by the end of next year. The key is what happens between now and then.
A Capitol Hill source is also telling us that they have been briefed that the president will make the suggestion that he will bring home about 10,000 of those troops this year. The other 20,000 will stay until next year and come home in 2012.
BALDWIN: As you have been reporting, we know that the defense secretary, Robert Gates, had been a proponent, is still a proponent of a smaller drawdown.
In fact, he spoke specifically about the Afghan war today. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The president has to take into account on any national security issue sustainability here at home, both among the public and in the Congress.
And it goes without saying that there are there are a lot of reservations in the Congress about the war in Afghanistan and our level of commitment. There are concerns among the American people, who are tired of a decade of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Chris, so, what is it specifically that the defense secretary would like to see?
LAWRENCE: Well, what he's saying is the reality, Brooke, is that there are political considerations. Sure, he'd like to see decisions based entirely on the facts on the ground, but wars don't happen in a vacuum.
The economy, the will of the American people, all of that does factor in. The war in Afghanistan is costing somewhere around $2 billion a week. That's just one of the reasons you have got senators like Carl Levin, you know, saying, you know, the minimum number that should be brought home this year is 15,000 troops.
He said that would send the message to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, that the U.S. is serious about the Afghans taking responsibility.
On the other hand, retired General Spider Marks said even a 5,000 troop loss this year, which is pretty much what the military officials had put forward, even that would be a loss. He said, you know, you think 5,000 is the low number. He said it's not low to the commander on the ground who loses those 5,000 troops -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I think it just also bears repeating one number that you mentioned. It costs us $2 billion a week.
Chris Lawrence --
LAWRENCE: And one more thing, Brooke --
BALDWIN: Yes, go for it.
LAWRENCE: -- I mean, just to bring up, even after these 30,000 troops come home at the end of next year --
LAWRENCE: -- there's still going to be about 70,000 American troops there in Afghanistan. That's twice the number that was there when President George W. Bush left office.
BALDWIN: We will all be watching the president tomorrow night and his plan here for the drawdown in Afghanistan, tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.
Chris Lawrence, appreciate it from the Pentagon.
LAWRENCE: You're welcome.
BALDWIN: And let's talk about Jon Huntsman, now in the race here, the Republican race for president. He made his announcement today with the statue of liberty as his backdrop, from the same spot where Ronald Reagan launched his campaign some 30 years ago. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will conduct this campaign on the high road. I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president. Of course we'll have our disagreements. That's what campaigns are all about. But I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates and I respect the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Huntsman is the former governor of Utah. He also quit his job earlier this year as U.S. ambassador to cha for president Obama. Let's get a little bit more perspective from our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. And Gloria, I tell you what, I woke up this morning and all this much ado made about his backdrop there, you know, the scene, the same spot, right, where Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy some years ago. Why is that significant?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they chose it in particular because what he wants to be is an optimistic candidate, full of hope, appealing to people's hopes, not to their resentments, more inclusive than he believes you've seen in the Republican field and not kind of your typical attack candidate. That's what his speech was all about today. He said you can disagree without being disagreeable.
But when you look at that picture and you think of Ronald Reagan declaring there, the problem the campaign has with that photograph is that of course you do think back to Reagan. The bar is pretty high when you think back to the speech that Reagan gave, how good a communicator he was. I think Jon Huntsman has a way to go on that front if he's going to be on the national stage. It was a little polite. That's good, but also a little lethargic. So up the energy level a bit, I think.
BALDWIN: OK. He's the latest now to throw his hat in the ring. Gloria Borger, thank you so much, with Jon Huntsman news today.
And the president here at home may be losing some support. But someone who's not, his wife. Up next we're going to take you live to South Africa where the first lady is making a lot of folks smile. Stay with us.
BALDWIN: Quick check of some of the other top stories here. First, astronaut Mark Kelly announced via his Facebook page today he's retiring from the U.S. Navy and NASA. He says his retirement will be effective October 1st. Kelly also posted that he wants to be with his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, on her mission to recovery.
Startling video, this is Syria. We are told this is on the streets of homes where bullets are flying. You heard them. People are clearly running for cover. And these protesters took to the streets following President Bashar Assad's address to the nation yesterday morning. Want to stress CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of this video as our reporters are not being allowed into Syria. New York lawmakers continue to grapple over a bill that if approved would legalize same-sex marriage in that state. The debate has drawn all kinds of protesters there to Albany to the state capitol. No word yet as to when that vote could happen, but our crew there will continue to monitor and we'll bring you any breaking developments.
And Tracy Morgan is returning to Nashville today. Morgan apologized for those anti-gay remarks he made during his comedy show there a couple of weeks ago, which sparked all kinds of outrage. Morgan said he regretted hurting people with his words.
The Obama ladies, all of them, Michelle, the girls, even the first mother-in-law, they are all in South Africa today. In fact, take a look at some of the pictures we have here at CNN. There they are, arriving there in Pretoria. This is a one-week trip, two countries, and a lot of visits and meetings supporting the first lady's focus on opportunities for women and young people.
Let's go straight to Johannesburg, South Africa, live, Nkepile Mabuse. Nkepile, from what I understand, you're describing the cities in South Africa as being gripped by a sort of Mrs. Obama-mania. What is that like for you there?
NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Definitely. I mean, she's front-page news. She's all that people are talking about. And I think South Africans are really struck by how humble she is and how down to earth she is. And South Africans can really connect with Mrs. Obama traveling with her mother and the two girls because you know, on the African continent we're raised by grandmothers. So that has really been one thing that has made many South Africans connect with Michelle Obama, the first lady of the U.S.
I'll just tell you, I've been getting tweets all day from people who have been able to interact with Mrs. Obama. And this is how they're describing her -- approachable and classy. Mrs. Obama gave each individual her undivided attention. And somebody else says "about 100-plus were in the room to welcome Michelle Obama and she took time to talk to all of us one on one. How awesome." I think South Africans are really impressed, that she really is down to earth, somebody who is approachable and yet somebody who is so very powerful.
BALDWIN: Yes. And how awesome an experience it must be for Sasha and Malia as well, taking this amazing trip to South Africa. But Nkepile, tell me about this visit, this meeting the first lady had with Nelson Mandela. It was not planned, correct?
MABUSE: It was -- well, we understand that it wasn't. I mean, until the last minute the White House and the Nelson Mandela Foundation would not confirm that the meeting would happen. But of course when the announcement was made that the first lady was coming to South Africa questions were raised, is she going to meet Nelson Mandela. They did meet.
And I think Mr. Mandela admires the Obamas almost as much as they admire him. President Obama has credited Mr. Mandela for really awakening him politically. He says the first political activity that he ever got involved in in college was in an anti-apartheid campaign. So I think Mr. Mandela was just as excited to meet Michelle Obama as she was to meet him, Brooke.
Enjoy the assignment covering the first lady of the U.S. there and the Mrs. Obama-mania. Nkepile Mabuse for me in Johannesburg. Thank you so much.
And now watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES VERONE, ROBBERY SUSPECT: I'm a logical person, and that was my logic. That's what I came up with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: What he came up with. It's a plot that's got a lot of folks scratching their heads. Have you heard about this today? This man is accused of robbing a bank for a single dollar. But it's not the money he was after.
Also, it is the tweet that has lit this firestorm online. We're going to talk more about Roger Ebert's comment that got "Jackass" fans fuming mad.
BALDWIN: This is not your typical bank robbery. So a North Carolina man, he walks into a bank, hands the clerk a note and demands cash, all in hopes he gets caught. That's not even the strangest part here. He robs the bank for one single dollar -- one buck. But it's not the dollar he wanted. Reporter Rad Berky of our affiliate WCNC picks up the story from here.
JAMES VERONE, ROBBERY SUSPECT: It's the first time I've ever been in trouble with the law. So it's not -- you know, it was -- you know, I'm sort of a logical person, and that was my logic. That's what I came up with.
RAD BERKY, WCNC CORRESPONDENT: That is how James Verone says he came to the decision to rob the RBC bank on new hope road on Thursday last week. He had no gun but handed the teller a rather unusual note.
VERONE: The note said "This is a bank robbery. Please only -- please only give me one dollar."
BERKY: Then he did the strangest thing of all.
VERONE: I got away from the teller and then I walked back and I say I'll be sitting right over here on the chair waiting for the police.
BERKY: And that's what he did. So why did he do everything he could to get arrested?
VERONE: Because I wanted to make it known to whoever would know that, you know, it wasn't done for the monetary value, it was done for, you know, medical reasons.
BERKY: That's right. James Verone says he has no medical insurance. He says he has a growth of some sort on his chest, two ruptured discs, and a problem with his left foot. He's 59 years old and with no job and a depleted bank account he thought jail was the best place he could go for medical care and a roof over his head.
He says he's getting good medical care now but the jail doctor accuses him of manipulating the system.
VERONE: If it's called manipulation, then out of necessity, because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care.
BALDWIN: So here's the thing. There's a hitch in Verone's plan. Since he only demanded a dollar, police charged him with larceny instead of bank robbery, which I guess unfortunately for him means he's in jail for a lot less time.
All right, I want to take a look at a tweet here. It's from movie critic Roger Ebert. And here it says, "Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive." Well, Ebert is referring to "Jackass" star Ryan Dunn's car crash. It's a crash that killed him and a fellow passenger. But Dunn's fans and co-stars, they are so outraged over this. We're going to talk about the controversy coming up next.
BALDWIN: It has been just a little over 36 hours since the tragic death of reality TV star Ryan Dunn. The 34-year-old prankster best known for being one of the stars of MTV's "Jackass" died yesterday morning along with a passenger after his car crashed into a wooded area in Pennsylvania and simply caught fire.
Now, Dunn's crash is still left a lot of unanswered question, but now one we know the answer, to the identity of the passenger in his car. Police identified the victim as Zachary Hartwell, who once work said as a stunt car driver in one of Dunn's moves. Both men died as a result of blunt-force trauma and the fire that consumed Dunn's Porsche after the crash. We know toxicology reports also being done and those won't be back for a couple of weeks.
Joining me now is senior reporter from X-17online.com Marco Gonzalez. Marco, good to see you. Let's talk specifically about this crash. I know you've been digging on this. What are you learning about just some of the events that led up to this?
MARCO GONZALEZ, SENIOR REPORTER, X17ONLINE.COM: Good to see you, Brooke. Well, Ryan Dunn was at a bar before he hit the road that night in his Porsche and he actually tweeted a picture before he hit the road and it was him drinking or appearing with alcohol with some friends and people are saying that maybe he just wasn't ready to hit the road at that point, but soon after is when that tragedy happened near his hometown of Westchester, Pennsylvania.
Now, let's talk a little bit about his relationship with the other members of the "Jackass" family. As you mentioned, the twitter sphere has gone crazy since his tragic death. And many people are responding that he should be made an example. As you mentioned Roger Ebert, the film critic, did come out with a tweet that said "friends don't let jackasses drink and drive." And his co-stars are outraged. They're referring to him so many times in the personal tweets as a brother. He's been with the cast for so long.
BALDWIN: I know they're very sad and they've been treating as well. It is not yet clear. We know that Dunn had tweeted I think it was two hours with a picture of him drinking, what looked to be beer, right, two hours before this crash. And so as you mentioned Robert Ebert -- jumped out with that tweet, and he has since apologized. I do want to get that in. We created a graphic for this apology basically saying he's sorry. He's sorry for what he had tweeted. Do you think in reading other tweets from Dunn's friends, is that good enough?
GONZALEZ: You know, it doesn't look like it. They had some pretty harsh words for Roger Ebert, and I think he felt the pressure that he had to come out. He was saying that that wasn't his intention with that twitter message he put out there. It was more of the fact that friends don't let friends drink and drive.
But he said this before it was confirmed or there was talk that alcohol was involved. So it was a bit premature is what many people are saying. And, you know, this guy had a long history with his cast members. He, you know, came on to the scene with Bam Margera back in the late '90s. They had a group called the CKY Group, it stood for "Camp Kill Yourself," and they did videos. They did videos pretty is similar to what we see in the "jackass" films putting themselves in danger and living on the edge and that's what they became famous for.
BALDWIN: That's totally outlandish. You mentioned the name of this club and they're rock stars to some of these kids throughout and we don't know, as you mentioned. The toxicology reports will be back in a few weeks and we'll know if that at all played a role in that accident. Marco Gonzalez, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
After a rough start to his presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich could use good news, but he's not getting it. Another round of resignations from his staff today. Wolf Blitzer has your Political Ticker. That is next.
Plus, he is one of America's most wanted fugitives linked to nearly two dozen deaths. And now the FBI's hatching up a new way, a creative way to nab him. That's coming up.
BALDWIN: Time now for your CNN = Politics update. Let's go with Wolf Blitzer with some news off the Political Ticker. It was two weeks ago that we were talking about Newt Gingrich and the senior staffers bailing him and now fundraisers are quitting.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You know, it's really amazing when you think about it, maybe 16, 20 of his staffers quit a couple of years ago after he and his wife Calista took that tour in the eastern Mediterranean to the Greek isles and turkey at a time when everyone thought he should be raising money going to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and trying to get engaged.
Shortly after he announced he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. Shortly after he came back from that eastern Mediterranean cruise they quit. And now today we're learning his two top fund raisers have quit as well, his campaign fund raiser and a top campaign consultant.
The Newt Gingrich campaign and press secretary issued a statement saying "Newt 2012 continues its reorganization to achieve a grassroots-driven, substantive solutions oriented campaign. We wish the members of the finance team who decided to leave the best. The campaign continues forward as committed as ever." But only yesterday in announcing his schedule for the week, you're in Atlanta.
BLITZER: He's spending most of his time in Georgia and a little bit of time in Washington, D.C., area, missing in action in any activity in New Hampshire or South Carolina or Iowa or any of the early primary and caucus states raising all sorts of questions if he is serious about running for president of the United States. How is he doing it? Just on the Internet? Not even appearing on TV all that much. We invited him to come on our show, "THE SITUATION ROOM" on an almost daily basis.
BALDWIN: No dice.
BLITZER: Maybe someplace or some time down the road, but so far he's refused to come on the show for whatever reason. But he's got an open invitation if he'd like to.
So we're wondering what's happening with his campaign. I know that a lot of his own supporters are basically concluding it's almost over for Newt Gingrich as a presidential campaign. We're going to be talking to one of his former press secretaries, Rich Galen who is joining us in "THE SITUATION ROOM" today together with James Carville. They've got strong views on this issue and a lot of other issues and we'll have all of the day's news right after you.
BALDWIN: Wolf Blitzer, I do want to let you than we're sending T.J. Holmes after Newt Gingrich and I will have T.J. personally ask him why he has not appeared on "THE SITUATION ROOM." We'll see what he says.
Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much. We'll get another political update for you in a half hour.
And now top of the hour, take a look at this.