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Chopper Crashes in NYC's East River; Christie: "Now is Not My Time

Aired October 4, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much.

Happening now:

Amanda Knox on her way back to the United States. She's flying home to Seattle due to land in just a little while. What awaits her after almost four years?

Also, many Republicans simply begged him to run for the White House, but Chris Christie says now is not my time. Why he's staying in the New Jersey governor's mansion and what that means for the GOP race.

And he calls Rick Perry's benefits for illegal immigrants a corruption of the American Dream. That's a quote. My interview with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All that coming up, but take a look at these pictures that are coming in to CNN right now. Helicopter has crashed into New York's East River and a dramatic rescue operation is now underway. We're told by the fire department of New York, a spokesman saying that at least two people were seriously injured in the crash.

The Chief Coast Guard Petty Officer Eric Swanson tells CNN there were at least three people on board when that helicopter crashed into the East River in New York. In an interview with a local affiliate, WCBS, a former FDNY commissioner says the water temperature right now is approximately 68 degrees.

We're told that the crash occurred just about a half hour ago or so ago, maybe 35 minutes ago in the East River at 34th Street and 1st Avenue, obviously, on the east side of Manhattan.

Chad Myers is watching this unfold together with us as well. Chad, what else are you picking up as we see these live images coming in?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGSIT: Wolf, literally, we are listening to scanner traffic all the way back to how we used to do it in local TV. Scanner traffic from FDNY saying that there were five, five on board, four are out of the helicopter. One is still missing. Three of the four were passengers. One of the four that got out was the pilot.

One, I was watching, there's the helicopter upside down, right there. They have it up. You can see the skids of the helicopter upside down right there from WCBS.

There it is, Wolf. The pilot out, three passengers out, one passenger is still missing. I watched as they were doing CPR on one of them. Two still others in critical condition. They're still looking for one more person, Wolf.

BLITZER: It looks like a weather was pretty good. I don't think it was a weather-related accident. What was the weather like in New York, Chad?

MYERS: Clear skies, some clouds, of course. The wind's not too bad. The water temperature, I think, is the most critical at 66 degrees. People do survive under water for a long time as the body turns itself to hypothermia.

Even though they have no oxygen, people under water in cool water can survive for much longer than you can at the surface with no oxygen.

So, this is ongoing. Obviously, a critical condition for two people here and it continues to change. We're seeing the ladders be put down and those life rings get put out. I still don't see anyone actually coming out of there, although with those two men scrambling, maybe three people scrambling up there, they may have the victim there very close.

BLITZER: Does it, Chad, like this occurred near a helipad over there near the East River?

MYERS: Yes, there's 34th Street helipad, 34th and 1st. That's the helipad right there. The top center of your screen, where all of the members of FDNY, NYPD and the rescue crews there over on the right hand corner and then right next to that would be one of the other helipads where the helicopter may have landed.

I have unconfirmed reports from that same FDNY Web site and scanner traffic that it was a Bell 206, which is a Bell Jet Ranger, a typical flight just going on for maybe a sightseeing trip or anything else. Media uses it. A very common helicopter, obviously, there in the New York City area.

This is the East River. This is the east side of Manhattan. This would be between what would be Williamsburg or Brooklyn and Manhattan itself. It's that river that goes all the way from Long Island sound, all the way down to Battery Park.

And now that we see that they have the skids, they have the helicopter at least up in the -- toward the top of the water, if there was somebody in there, they'd be able to get that person out. One is still missing at this point, though, according to the FDNY scanner -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It reminds me, we were covering it live, you remember it well, Chad. Not the East River. It was the Hudson River, the miracle on the Hudson. Sully Sullenberger and the U.S. Airways flight on the other side of Manhattan. This is the East River, not the Hudson River.

MYERS: That's correct.

BLITZER: But you see a dramatic rescue operation underway right now.

When I hear 66 or 68 degree temperature in the East River, that sounds relatively OK for people to survive for a while.

MYERS: Yes, that's absolutely correct. At least 20 to 30 minutes. Obviously, you would get cold, but that cooling of the body can actually be benefit for the body to be able to be survivable under that water for a longer time. In fact, the colder the water, the cooler the water is, the longer you can survive under that water even after breathing water in and getting into the no oxygen levels there.

You can survive it. It can -- you can be brought back because of the temperature of the water cooling the body down and the body doesn't require as much oxygen and the brain can survive it.

BLITZER: And we don't know if the Bell helicopter was either taking off or landing as it crashed into the East River, do we?

MYERS: That's correct. No, I do have one report from a bystander there that was watching it. He was watching from the New York City water club. He said he saw the splash down. He said it went in very hard. He said it appeared that he try to make a landing but you know -- he may not have seen the potential takeoff and then retry to come back in for the landing. He said he was trying to and missed that landing pad there, but there's no indication whether that could have been an aborted takeoff trying to get back in and re-land or whether this came from somewhere else and he was just trying to find a place to come down.

BLITZER: And just to recap, we believe at least three people were on board that helicopter and two have been rescued. They're searching for the third, is that right?

MYERS: That's correct. That came from the Coast Guard. Now, we've been listening to the Fire Department of New York scanners. And from one Fire Department to the next, they are saying that there were five on board that Jet Ranger and that 206.

And the one pilot got out, three passengers are out. One passenger was still missing. Although I have not seen any indication they're taking a passenger out now, so that still may be the case. It looks a little less frantic right now than it did. So, according to FDNY, the number would be five, and that's different from the Coast Guard. But the FDNY are actually right on scene there. Two taken out as critical. One, I watched as they pulled out from the water and immediately started CPR and took that person into a rescue squad and then on to the hospital.

As we see it now, there are still only four on land that I can tell. I have not been able to se them pull the fifth out.

BLITZER: All right. Chad, I want you to continue to check. We're going to check with our other authorities in New York, get back to the story, but a dramatic rescue operation underway in the East River of New York right now. More on this story coming up.

Let's move on to some other news we're watching, including some political news.

They urged, they pleaded, some even begged Chris Christie to run for president of the United States, but those Republicans who wanted a new face in the crowded field of candidates are very disappointed today.

Chris Christie says he'll sit this race out.

CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us now live from Trenton, New Jersey, with more.

It was a dramatic announcement around 1:00 today, Jim.


After months of denials that he was running for president, Chris Christie acknowledged today at a press conference here to the media in Trenton, that he was reconsidering this decision in the last few weeks, and then last night, he says he made the decision not to run for president and then this morning, started calling donors and key supporters to make his decision clear. And he had a press conference and really needed to only take a few minutes to say he basically wasn't running for president.

But Governor Christie, who is never at a loss for words, held court for an hour talking about the White House to the current GOP field, to running for vice president in 2012 -- you name it. I asked him how is he certain that we won't all be here three months from now, six months from now, the eve of the Republican National Convention asking these questions again -- and here's what he had to say.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I had spoken to a lot of people this morning and told them the answer is no. So, they could hear from me personally, a lot of people have encouraged me and people were serious, and I think they understand that this was a long shot for them to change my mind in the first place. But that I felt an obligation, given as I said before, both the seriousness and the amount of people that were asking me to reconsider, to reconsider. But in the end, they didn't change my mind because I feel in my heart what I'm doing is right and that is to stay in New Jersey, to stay committed to the job that the people of the state give me. And it just -- again, I can't emphasize it enough, if you're looking for something else, it's not there. It just didn't feel right to me -- to leave before the job was done.


ACOSTA: And Governor Christie pointed out he has only been on the job here in New Jersey as governor for 20 months and he said he just could not get beyond that fact, Wolf, that he's been on this job for less than two years, indicating that he probably felt he wasn't ready to run for the White House, but did not rule out a run for the future.

And if he showed anything this afternoon, Wolf, he showed he does have the stamina, despite all those questions about his weight and his health. He does have the stamina to hold a pretty long news conference. This thing went for an hour.

He talked about the vice presidency, saying that he was not going to entertain that kind of question. He didn't think it would happen, basically saying and almost quoting here that the top man on the ticket or top woman would be a food taster if he were in the vice presidential slot there, using some of that vintage Chris Christie humor.

He also took a jab at some opinion writers out there who have asked the question whether or not Chris Christie lacks the discipline to be president because of his weight. Christie said that those columns were just flat out wrong, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta on the scene for us in Trenton, New Jersey -- thanks, Jim, very much.

So, what about the Republicans who are still in the race? A new "Washington Post"/ABC news poll shows Romney is the leader, favored by 25 percent of the likely voters. Romney is campaigning today in Florida, a crucial early primary state.

Rick Perry is raising funds in California and the poll shows a virtual tie for second place at 16 percent with Herman Cain, who was in New York today.

Michele Bachmann is betting heavily on Iowa. That's where she is campaigning today. Newt Gingrich is in South Carolina. Those two are back in the pack at 7 percent each. That's just behind Ron Paul, who's at 11 percent in this new poll.

The president of the United States is campaigning right in the heart of Texas now. He's making his case for his jobs bill. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere right now.

You're looking at live pictures of the president slamming House Republicans for not taking up the measure right now. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. She's traveling with the president.

Clearly, Brianna, a war of words between the president and the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We may be in Rick Perry country, but here in Dallas, as the president urges Congress to take up his entire jobs plan, it is Eric Cantor, the number 2 House Republican, that he's really targeting. In fact, we're expecting him to make those comments momentarily as he speaks here at Eastfield College.

Yesterday, Cantor said that the House will not vote on the president's entire plan, as a sort of whole, as a large piece of legislation, which is what the White House has long said it wants Congress to do, but said instead that the House would take up the parts that there is agreement on between House Republicans and the White House.

Well, you hear the president today hear in Dallas. The strongest part probably of his message is really calling on Eric Cantor. At one point, we'll hear him -- in fact, I can hear him now, Wolf. He's actually standing right now in the White House, told us he would, that he would be calling on and let's listen to that.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does he not believe in rebuilding America's roads and bridges? It has been three weeks since I sent this bill to Congress. It's a detailed plan to get this economy moving. It's a kind of proposals that in the past, Democrats and Republicans have supported.


KEILAR: And actually, right at this moment, I should tell you, Wolf, that's not the sound I was referring to. Live, the president was calling on Eric Cantor to actually come to Dallas and explain what parts of the bill he doesn't like. At one point actually, referring to an unemployed teacher who introduced him here to say -- to have Cantor come and say why that teacher and let's take a listen to it right now.

OBAMA: Rather than tax cuts for middle class families. And if you won't do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand.


OBAMA: Put your cards on the table. I realize that some Republicans in Washington are resistant partly because I proposed it.

I mean, they -- if I took their party platform and proposed it, they'd suddenly be against it. We've had -- we've had folks in Congress who said they shouldn't pass this bill because it would give me a win.

So they're thinking about the next election. They're not thinking about folks who are hurting now. They're thinking, well, how is that going to play in the next election.

Give me a win? Give me a break. That's why folks are fed up the Washington. This isn't about giving me a win. This isn't about giving Democrats and Republicans a win. This is about giving people who are hurting a win. It's about giving small business owners a win.

BLITZER: All right so there's the president .He's making his case for the jobs bill. He's out there in Texas. Briana, the president shows no sign of letting up. This is, I think it's fair to say a new, more assertive, more aggressive, The president of the United States on the campaign trail.

KEILAR: That's right. And over the last few weeks as he's been pushing his jobs plan Wolf, we've seen it kind of step up over time and specifically, really targeting Eric Cantor today. You see this back and forth now going on. Cantor's office weighing in because the White House had released these remarks at a preview. A spokesman for the majority leader saying that Cantor has given his word to the president, that the house will pass portions of his jobs bill in the next month. President Obama needs to understand that his my way or the highway approach simply isn't going to work in the house or the Democratic senate especially in light of his abysmal record on jobs. It certainly feels like quite the campaign back and forth.

BLIZTER: Briana Keilar on the scene for us. Thanks very, very much. We're going to check in on what's going on in the East River of Manhattan right now. Much more coming up on a dramatic rescue operation that is now underway. We're watching what's going on. A helicopter has gone down in The East River. Stand by. Much more of the breaking news after this. We're also going off to Seattle, Washington, to update you. Amanda Knox and her family getting ready to land in the United States. We'll have coverage.


We'll update you on what's happening. The east river, a dramatic rescue operation underway. A helicopter has gone down in The East River in Manhattan. Stand by more information coming up on that .Let's bring in Jack Cafferty though right now. He's got the "Cafferty File

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hold the cheeseburgers. Across the pond in Europe, Denmark is becoming the first country in the world, to impose a fat tax on foods that are high in saturated fats. That includes cheeseburgers and pizza and butter and milk and cheese and oils. Some Danes stocked up on all these yummy groceries before the tax went into effect this past weekend. How much the fat tax is, depends on how much saturated fat is in any given food, but it comes out to about $3 for every two pounds of saturated fat. Officials say the goal is to increase the average life expectancy in Denmark, since saturated fat can cause heart disease and cancer. Denmark has been a leading country when it comes to tougher stands on unhealthy foods. They have higher taxes on sodas, cigarettes and alcohol beyond what's required by the European union. And they have increased taxes on ice cream, chocolate and sweets by a whopping 25%. Also, it's illegal for any food in Denmark to have more than 2% trans fats.

Critics say there's a big brother aspect to all of this, that the government has no right telling people what they should or shouldn't eat .Others suggest that any tax hikes on fatty or sugary foods should be accompanied by measures to make nutrition foods affordable. Whatever Denmark's approach, it works. Danes are downright skinny compared to us Americans. In Denmark, only about 10% of the population is obese. Here in the United States, one third of all adults and nearly one in five children are obese. As a nation, we get fatter and fatter every day. And quote frankly, it's Disgusting. Plus, it's not like we couldn't use the extra tax revenue right?. Anyway here's the question. Should there be a tax on foods high in saturated fats? Go to Post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on the "Situation Room"'s Facebook page. Wolf-

BLIZTER: There's a tax on tobacco and that's pretty dangerous as well Jack, you're going to get a lot of e-mail on this.

CAFFERTY: Well and that tax on tobacco has curved the amount of cigarette smoke in this country. A lot fewer people smoke cigarettes now, than did when you and I were young.

BLIZTER: That's good for all of us. Thanks Jack, thanks very much.

Her four-year nightmare in Italy is now over. Right now, Amanda Knox is on a plane getting ready to land in her hometown of Seattle, Washington. It's expected to land in a few hours. One day after an Italian court overturned her murder conviction. Drew Griffin of CNN's special investigations unit, is already in Seattle. He's getting ready for the return. Drew, what's going on right now? What are you hearing there?

DREW, GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDET: We expect when he arrives, in about four or so hours from now, That the family and the family representatives, the attorney and the PR person, will come out here and meet the press and Amanda Knox is likely to get her first taste of just how big a story this is in person when she comes here. We're not sure if she's going to speak Wolf, or not. We know her parents will speak here at Sea-Tac. We know that her attorney will speak.

But Obviously, a lot of emotions running high with this girl. She was of course released yesterday from prison in that emotional scene where they declared her appeal, that she won that appeal. She was whisked off as she was crying and sobbing. All of this really made possible because of an appeal that included the review of the forensic evidence. That was the key this summer .The Italian court ordered an independent review of that DNA testing that was done and according Greg Hampikian the forensic expert for the Amanda Knox defense and also the head of the Idaho innocence project, when they actually looked at the forensic evidence, listen to what he says There was just nothing there.


GREG HAMPINKIAN, FORENSIC EXPERT: Would this have made it into a U.S. court? I don't think this would have made it on to a U.S. lab report.


GRIFFIN: The big question here today, will Amanda Knox speak? I talked to the parents in advance of this .They said they're going to leave Wolf, to Amanda Knox herself to decide if she will indeed, read a statement, answer some questions. Or if she'll just go and spend her first night in freedom here in Seattle, her hometown. Wolf---

BLIZTER: All right Drew, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. Much more on this story coming up. Amanda Knox and her family getting ready to land in Seattle, Washington. Also, other news we're following including the Republican candidate, Rick Santorum. He's here in the "Situation Room" He has some very strong words about his fellow Republican Candidates. Stand by for that, and much more. You're in "The Situation"


BLITZER: All right let's get some more on the breaking news we're following. .A helicopter has crashed into New York's East River. A dramatic rescue operation is still underway. We are told. the fire department of New York says the male pilot is in stable condition. He was rescued. Two adult females though in critical condition. An adult male also in stable condition right now. But they say the search continues, which suggests there are others, maybe one or two or others still in the water there. Julian Cummings, our CNN producer is on the scene for us. Julian, what do we know about this?

JULIAN CUMMINGS, CNN PRODUCER: Hi Wolf. (Inaudible) down the East river here, on 34th street. I was just able to walk in with the police department and observe the rescue operation -- is indeed ongoing still. There's a diver in the water. The helicopter itself is not visible at all .I asked all police officers there. It's totally submerged and there are at least five to six rescue boats in the water. And again, there is one diver that is still in the water looking for people who may be missing from the crash.

BLIZTER: Julian have they said what was the cause of this crash?

CUMMINGS:" That is unknown at this time. I think this has just happened, and they're still trying to determine what that may have been and I think the most important (inaudible).

BLIZTER: Well at least four people so far have been rescued. The two women are in critical condition. The pilot is in stable condition. Another adult male in stable condition, but as you point out the rescue is continuing right now. Julian, stay in close touch with us. We'll get back to you. We'll have much more on this breaking news story in New York, the East river in Manhattan. A helicopter has gone down. We're watching it closely.

Other news we're following including political news, he's doing better in some of the Republican debates than in the polls, but White House hopeful, Rick Santorum tells me no one is working harder. And he likes his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination. He spoke with me from the Campaign trail in Iowa.


BLIZTER: Let's talk about Rick Perry for r a moment. At that last debate, he suggested that you and your other Republican candidates, your fellow Republicans, were in his words, potentially heartless because you don't support giving in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants as -- as he supports in Texas.

What do you say to Rick Perry about that suggestion?

RICK SANTORUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my -- my father came to this country as a legal immigrant when he was seven years old with my grandfather. And they were promised nothing. They were promised no food, no shelter, no income support, no medical care. What they were promised was America's promise, which was freedom and the opportunity to -- to rise in society, to have your -- your work and the fruits of your labor be rewarded and not confiscated by the government, not be told what to do and how to do it.

That's the greatness of America. That's what -- why immigrants want to come here, not because they want some benefits.

So to suggest that somehow or another by not providing benefits to people here illegally, not just legally -- my -- my father came legally. Not to provide benefits to people who came here illegally is somehow un-American or heartless is a corruption that -- of -- of the American dream. It's a corruption that -- of what people come here. People don't come here for benefits. People don't look for a -- for a helping hand from America.

The helping hand is America. They don't need anything more from the government in order to -- to be successful. That's what millions of -- of Americans have come here for the promise of America, not the promise of benefits.

BLITZER: What did you think of that story -- I'm sure you saw it or you read about it in "The Washington Post," suggesting that an old hunting ground area in Texas that the Perry family had -- had, that vile word, the "N" word, as it's called -- I don't even want to say what it is, it's part of the name and they kept it up there, supposedly, for a long time.

What -- what did you make of that?

SANTORUM: Well, I -- you know, I've read the case and I've read -- read the articles. And I guess Governor Perry says one thing and others say others. I don't know what the truth is. All I can say is that it certainly was poor judgment if he did leave it up there. I don't believe Rick Perry is a racist, but I -- but certainly he showed, in that case, if what you're suggesting is true, he showed poor judgment.

BLITZER: Herman Cain told me last week, when I interviewed him, that he couldn't support Mitt Romney for -- for president because he supported government mandates for health care in the state of Massachusetts.

Are you ready to go that far?

Could you support Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination?

SANTORUM: Well, I think Mitt Romney is dead wrong on -- on a lot of things, including the government mandate. I think the -- the top down approach that he takes on health care, that he takes on education and a whole host of other issues is not the way conservatives want to see our country governed. They believe in the bottom up. They believe in free people and free enterprise, not government control of -- of different aspects of our lives that Romney has advocated in the past.

And so he certainly has severe problems going in as a -- as a moderate, as opposed to a conservative Republican. But as far as I'm concerned, there's not one person on that stage that -- that I could not support over President Obama. I think he is -- he's someone who's doing great damage to our country here at home as well as overseas. And we need -- he needs to be replaced.

BLITZER: On the sensitive issue of abortion in America, I just want to clarify your position. I know you don't believe in any exceptions.

But do you also go as far as to say that doctors and nurses who perform abortions should be criminalized?

SANTORUM: I have taken the position that someone who -- again, if -- if abortion is against the law -- obviously it's not against the law right now, so, of course, it wouldn't be a criminal activity. But if it's against the law to conduct -- to -- to abort a child and take a human life through abortion, then, of course, taking a human life against the law should have some criminal penalties. Of course. I mean that's -- again, we are -- we aren't at that place right now in society and so it sounds somewhat ridiculous to say that -- that people who perform abortions should be -- should be, you know, penalized for it as a criminal.

But, of course, if we do change the law and abortion is illegal in this country because we recognize the fact that we are -- you're taking and destroying and killing a -- a living human person and that laws in place right now, for example, if you're someone who would -- would -- would punch some -- a woman in the stomach who has -- which has a child and -- and cause that -- that child to be miscarried, you can be charged with criminal activity.

And so we -- we say that that -- that you can charge them with criminal activity and nobody gets offended by that?

Why? Because that woman -- because the law protects that child. Well, if the law protects that child in the future and someone then comes and -- and kills that child, of course they said suffer some sort of criminal penalties.

BLITZER: What about the mother?

SANTORUM: No, I -- you know, I believe in -- in a case like that, given the -- the emotional and -- and difficult situation that -- that women -- many women find themselves in, I see women, in this case, much more of a victim than I do someone who should be -- that it's penalty enough to go through an abortion, in my opinion. And absolutely in -- in no way would I support criminal penalties against the mother.

BLITZER: But from your personal perspective, forget about whether or not abortion is legal or illegal. From your perspective, a doctor or a nurse who participates in performing an abortion, that person or persons, they basically are involved in murder, is that what you're saying?

SANTORUM: Well, they're -- they're involved in what I consider a great moral wrong, yes. But it's not a wrong right now that is -- that is illegal in this country. And -- and, as a result, because it's not illegal, they should not be criminally charged.

But what I believe is that they are doing a great moral wrong. And I think a lot of people who have been in that industry and who have walked out afterwards and -- and expressed the -- the very same thing. I think they are taking, without question -- I don't think this is a disputable fact. The child in the womb is biologically alive and is genetically human. It is a human life and people are ending that human life.

And whether you want to call it abortion or whether you want to call it murder, whatever you want to call it -- and it's not murder because murder has -- is a defined thing in a criminal code.

But it is taking a human life. And as a result of that, that, to me, is a great moral wrong that -- that people are engaged in, yes.

BLITZER: Over the weekend, President Obama really blasted you and the other Republican candidates for staying silent when that -- at that last Republican debate, when an American soldier who served in Iraq announced -- said he was gay and there were boos in the audience and none of you reacted.


OBAMA: You want to be commander-in-chief?


OBAMA: You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient. (END VIDEO CLIP)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq. I had to lie about who I was because I'm a gay soldier.

Do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?


SANTORUM: Yes. I -- I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.


BLITZER: And you were the one who -- who had the answer, who was directed that question.

What do you say to the president when he says you had a moral responsibility to react to an American soldier being booed?

SANTORUM: Well, I can say -- and I've said this be -- right after the debate -- I did not hear the boos. I mean I -- as you know, Wolf, when you're up there on stage and -- and you have a potential question being focused at you, you try to focus in on the question, particularly if it's coming from someone on a video. And sometimes those are very hard to hear and the quality of the sound isn't so good.

So I was -- I was just focused on -- on that question and didn't hear it. And as I said before, had I -- had I heard those boos and, you know, they were -- they were clearly clear in my mind that they were directed at someone because of the announcement that that person was gay, I would have said -- I would have said that that -- that that was inappropriate.

But again, I didn't hear it. I still, frankly, haven't gone back and listened to the tape. So all I can say is that if I was -- if it was clear to me that that was the case, I would have said something. But I didn't hear it and -- and so I obviously wasn't going to say anything.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, thanks very much for coming in.

Good luck out there in Iowa.

SANTORUM: Well, I'm having a great day.

Thank you so much for giving me the time, Wolf.

I greatly appreciate it.

Thank you.


BLITZER: All right. We're also watching the breaking news in New York City right now. The East River, specifically, you're looking at these pictures. A helicopter has gone down in the East River, near 31st -- 34th Street and First Avenue, right near that helipad. A rescue operation is still underway. Four people apparently have been rescued. They're searching for one more. Much more on this story coming up.


BLITZER: All right. We're following the breaking news. You're looking at live pictures now from the East River in the New York City helipad. A helicopter has crashed into New York's East River. Five people, we believe, were on board. Four have been rescued. We think a search is continuing for the fifth individual.

But Jason Carroll, our correspondent, is on the scene for us -- Jason, what do we know right now?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just set the scene for you. The rescue operation for that fifth person is underway. Right now, I count at least four helicopters in the sky. At least nine rescue boats in the East River at this point. A diver also in the river, looking for that fifth individual.

Just to recap very quickly, according to what witnesses are telling us, Wolf, it was just at about 3:22 p.m. this afternoon that Bell 206 jet two blade helicopter apparently had trouble while trying to land. It was hovering for a period of time above the helipad. And then for some reason that has yet to be known, it crashed into the water.

Witnesses saying that it rolled over and sank within seconds. Four people were rescued. We are told the pilot, a male pilot, is now in stable condition. Two women, at this point, in critical condition. This according to the FDNY. And another man is also in stable condition.

At this point, the rescue is underway for a fifth individual.

As I said, a number of rescue crews out here in the East River trying to find that fifth individual. Obviously, time is of the essence here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It looks like, Jason, I could be wrong, but if you're looking in the right part of the screen right now, it looks like they've just brought someone in from the water there. That may, in fact, be the fifth individual. If you can see that gurney in the middle of your screen right there, it may be the fifth person that they were looking for.

How far are you from that helipad, which we're showing our viewers -- Jason?

CARROLL: Well, I am just across from where the East River is here, Wolf, behind a police line. So it's difficult to see from my vantage point where that gurney might be coming from.

But we are -- but we are now getting word that a fifth person may have been pulled out from the water. Again, tough to see from my vantage point, but we are now just getting word, as we are out here live, that a fifth person may, in fact, have been pulled out.

We're going to try and check on the condition of that person and give you an update.

BLITZER: Yes. We -- we have now confirmed Jason, that that, in fact -- you're looking at the live picture right now. That is the fifth person on board that helicopter.

So far, just to recap, four people have been b rescued, two in stable condition, two in critical condition. And you're looking at live pictures now. You see that gurney right in the middle of your screen, of the fifth person, who has been brought out of the water. This helicopter had gone down and now that gurney is being moved. You can see it right there. These are live pictures courtesy of our affiliate, WABC, in New York.

We'll stay on top of this story.

Jason, don't go too far away.

We'll continue to update our viewers on the breaking news.

Much more on this and all the day's other news when we come back.


BLIZTER: : Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, Desmond Tutu is upset over a visa delay that led the Dalai Lama to cancel a trip to South Africa. Tutu calls the government led by the African National Congress disgraceful. There's speculation the visa delay is tied to South African relations with China, which doesn't recognize the Dalai Lama as Tibet's spiritual leader.

And at least 14 people are dead in an ambush on a bus in South western Pakistani city of Queta. Police say all of the victims are Shia Muslims. A militant Sunii Muslim group says it is responsible for that attack. Police arrested eight people.

And a courtroom outburst by the terror suspect nick named the underwear bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab disrupted jury selection in Detroit shouting Anwar is alive. He was referring to al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last week. He is accused of trying down a U.S. airliner with explosives in his under wear back in 2009.

BLITZER: All right, Liza, thanks very much. President Obama admits we're not better off than we were four years ago, but will that backfire for the president? A new poll shows Rick Perry slipping, Herman Cain rising. Stand by.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I don't think they're better off than they were four years ago. They're not better off than they were before Lehman's collapsed, before the financial crisis, before this extraordinary recession that we're going through.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The president said yesterday that people in this country are worse off than they were when he was elected. We feel the same way. The economy continues to sputter.


BLITZER: Let's discuss in our strategy session, joining us, our CNN political contributors, Democratic strategist, Donna Brazil, Republican strategist, Mary Matlin.

Donna, is it smart for the president to say we're not better off than we were four years ago?

DONNA BRAZIL, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR: Look, President Obama understands that most Americans are still feeling the effects of the economic recession. He has a jobs bill. Senator Reid has announced he will schedule a vote this week.

Eric Cantor said we will not vote on it. The president is right in saying that the American people still feel the pain. He has a prescription. Let's try to cure the economy.

BLITZER: The Republicans are the majority by far in the House, Mary, why won't Eric Cantor at least allow an up or down vote on the president's jobs bill?

MARY MATALIN, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, the Republicans have repeatedly said to this president there are many elements of the jobs bill that have had bipartisan support. We could pass it immediately. We don't have to play politics here.

The president's nodding to reality when he makes this political statement, which is even the diminishing number of people who did blame Bush say that this president's policies did not work and are making it worse.

He's also having a leadership problem. He's blaming Bush. Now he's going to blame the Congress. There's no Democrats in the House that want to support this and there are no Democrats in the Senate that want to take a vote on it, which is why Harry Reid blocked a vote on the president's jobs bill today.

BLITZER: But it's going to come up in the Senate. Let me repeat briefly the question, Mary. Why won't Eric Cantor allow it to come up for a vote in the House?

MATALIN: He probably should. It would be defeated. I don't think there are any Democrats that want to cosponsor it.

BLITZER: It would be defeated almost certainly, that's why I'm perplexed. Not sure why he wants to refuse to allow that vote to happen unless he's concerned some moderate Republicans will have to vote against the president's jobs bill that could be used, Donna, against these moderate Republicans.

Some of those swing districts and the northeast especially going forward in the election, but what do you think, Donna?

BRAZIL: Eric Cantor has doubled down on those failed philosophy, ideology and economic policies that brought grave damage to the economy. Let's vote on a bill. If they want to vote it one step at a time, fine. If they've been in office now in terms of the House for over 230 days, put on a bill. Give some relief to the people out there who want Washington to work.

BLITZER: Mary, is Mitt Romney clearly the favorite right now to capture the Republican nomination now that Chris Christie has taken himself out of the running?

MATALIN: I think we have the same dynamic. We have a two-way race between the Romney and un-Romney, but we have a two-way for the not Romney candidate. We know that Romney ceiling and floor are the same and we don't know what Perry or Cain's ceiling or floor is.

We know there's a ceiling of Republican enthusiasm, conservative enthusiasm. We have a 13-point enthusiasm advantage, so the non- Romney candidacy is going to have to sort itself out. But if Romney is at 25, which is a solid number, he's been there for a long time. The deal's not closed yet, but the process hasn't really begun.

We just got our challenger situated yesterday or today and we have a short period of time to make a lot of decisions. We're going to go to a lot of states that do not have winner take all. There will be a lot of states with a lot of voices and we're ready to have a good old fashioned conservative debate.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

BRAZIL: Let me just --

BLITZER: Hold on, Donna. I want to go to breaking news. Look at these pictures that we're just getting. This is part of the rescue operation that was unfolding in the East River of the Hudson. There you see one of the female passengers being rescued.

We're being told that passenger, that female passenger and another female there, they are in critical condition right now, but look at these pictures we're just getting courtesy of WABC in New York, a dramatic rescue.

Five individuals were on board that failed helicopter when it went down in the East River of New York. All five have been -- have been brought to shore so far looking at these pictures we're getting in as well.

We don't know the cause of this helicopter crash in the east river, but we're watching it closely. Stand by. More of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack for the "Cafferty File." Jack -

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour, should there be a tax on foods that are high in saturated fats. Denmark just imposed a tax like this, so we wonder if it might be a good idea over here.

Steven on Facebrook writes, yes, they should make the tax as high as they want. It should be the same for tobacco and alcohol as well. People will complain, but they'll still pay for their fix like any other junkie does.

Junior writes, our tax code ought to be designed to raise revenue not use for social engineering and Ed writes, coming from someone who's lost 65 pounds and kept it off, I think losing weight is a lifestyle and one has to really want it in order to be successful. I say we ought to tax those foods high in fat, but then use the money to help people get nutritional and fitness counseling who really want to lose weight, but might not have the money or resources to do so.

Curtis in Philadelphia, sure if we have taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, why not unhealthy foods? Don't drink, don't smoke, no tax. Don't eat saturated fat, not tax. But if you really want to make some money then you legalize weed and tax it too. Then watch all the pot heads get stoned, pay their tax, then get the munchies and pay more taxes. Great revenue stream.

Suzanne writes, I thought after I grew up, I wouldn't need a parent anymore. If I wanted somebody else to run my life, I would have stayed home with mom and dad.

Kent in Iowa City writes, no, as Americans, it's out God-given right to eat ourselves to death. And Daniel writes that would be a supersized Mc-no.

If you want to read more, go to the blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.