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Secret Service Scandal Could Put Obama in Danger; Interview with Meredith Vieira; Interview with Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal

Aired April 16, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, sex, booze, and the Secret Service. The growing scandal over the president's protectors and prostitutes.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then, of course, I'll be angry.


MORGAN: I talked to a former CIA operative who said President Obama could be in danger.

And my favorite newswoman, Meredith Vieira, weighs in on the controversy over working moms, on this picture of Hillary Clinton, and on the morning wars.


MEREDITH VIEIRA: -- where my home is today and I feel it's the best morning broadcast on the air and always will.


MORGAN: And the story of a 9/11 mystery woman.


VIEIRA: She left plenty of pain in her wake.


MORGAN: And he's talking to me. Hollywood legend, Robert De Niro, on how the country's changed since 9/11 and keeping us great.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: It's taking us off the main track, which is to get the country together.


MORGAN: Plus, "Only in America," a tale of two great but very different American lives.

This is "Piers Morgan Tonight."

Good evening. Our big story tonight, the Secret Service scandal. 11 agents and officers as well as five members of the military are all under investigation of allegations of misconduct before President Obama arrived for last weekend's Summit of the Americas. The charges, missing curfew, heavy drinking, and bringing prostitutes to a hotel in Colombia. Secret Service personnel now have their clearances revoked. Lots of red faces in the service and the military over all this.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs today.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We let the boss down because nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident. To that extent, we let him down.


MORGAN: Much more on the scandal in a moment.

Also tonight, Meredith Vieira on the story written in the headlines, the woman behind 9/11's big lie.

And my interview with the one and only Robert De Niro on keeping America great.


DE NIRO: I'm very, very lucky in my life. I'm just lucky, period. The older I get, the more I realize that. I'm very lucky.


MORGAN: We begin tonight with our big story, the growing Secret Service scandal.

Joining me now, a man who says this is a big deal, Bob Baer, former CIA operative and author of "The Company We Keep"; and also presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

Bob Baer, I'll start with you.

Some say this is just boys being boys. You take it more seriously. Explain to me why.

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE & AUTHOR: Well, Piers, I don't have any problem with the morality of it. What I do is the security of protecting the president. One of these suites inside the Secret Service -- you know, the Secret Service stays in a hotel. They keep, for instance, the call signs, their encrypted radios, their routes that the president is going to travel. If I was an assassin, that's where I would want to be. Assassination these days, it all depends on intelligence. You've got to predict movements. These guys would have it there. This is what I think is the big concern of the Secret Service, what had been compromised.

MORGAN: We believe now that there were 11 Secret Service personnel involved and 11 prostitutes and maybe up to five more military personnel.

This is a pretty big scandal, isn't it, Douglas Brinkley?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, yes it is. And it makes everybody wonder what's going on in the Secret Service. So they're going to have to investigate themselves. They clearly -- these 11 officers, agents, clearly let President Obama down.

And, you know, it's one thing if you have an isolated incident. Here's one person going to a prostitute. But the fact they're bringing this many amount of women back into the staff hotel where the staff hotel -- all the White House staff was going to be staying, just days before the president's visit, it's outrageous. And I think it's a story that we've got to fix because Secret Service has been like our Special Forces. They've been beloved. They are beloved. They do such great work. But this is going to lose a lot of confidence that the American public had in them.

MORGAN: Let's watch a clip of President Obama and what he said about this.


OBAMA: If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then, of course, I'll be angry. Because my attitude, with respect to the Secret Service personnel, is no different than what I expect out of my delegation that's sitting here. We're representing the people of the United States.


MORGAN: Pretty censorious there.

Bob Baer, one of the issues people are raising is that the Secret Service now handled under purview of the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Treasury Department as they were before. Does that make much difference? Should it make much difference?

BAER: It's not going to make -- no, it's not going to make a whole lot of difference. The Secret Service has high standards. I worked with them for many, many years. They're very, very good. This is an enormous lapse in its discipline that is established inside the Secret Service. And there are no ifs and buts about it. This president in particular is the target of all sorts of people in the war on terror and the rest of it. Lapses like this are truly unforgivable. I used to be a federal employee with just people. But the Secret Service on a mission protecting the president is honor bound to do 24 hours a day. L

Look, it's easy to kill a president. I mean, their worst nightmare is going back to the roots that these girls could have got a hold of as they take what they call a belly charge. They put it under the road, ammonium nitrate explosives, and there's no way to protect it. The only way to protect it is by unpredictability of the president's movement, and they compromised this.

MORGAN: Doug Brinkley, should they be fired, do you think, these personnel? Is it that serious?

BRINKLEY: Well, we have to keep the word "allegations" out there right now. We need to do an investigation first. Some heads are going to have to roll on this because, as you just heard from Mr. Baer, people have often looked at the Secret Service as being somewhat of super men, something out of a sci-fi book, the way the Secret Service jumped on to protect Johnson during the Kennedy assassination, or the great job they did when Reagan got shot and they rushed him to the hospital and protected him. So we ask a lot of these Secret Service agents.

But I think when it did become part of Homeland Security, a lot of the best officers went for higher pay at TSA. We started getting a brain drain from the Secret Service. And like any bureaucracy, it's not being run properly now. So at the end of the line, if it turns out that this is not an isolated incident -- and it's hard to believe it's isolated when 11 people are gauged in prostitution like this, that other events probably happen other places -- then I think the director might have to go.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, Bob Baer, it does seem unlikely this is the first time this happened. It was apparent the day they got there and, within hours, they got prostitutes back in their rooms. Probability suggests this is not the first time. If it's proven this has been going on before, then senior heads should roll, shouldn't they? As you say, it cuts right to the heart of the American presidential detail.

BAER: Yes. Douglas is right about this. This is a huge decline in the Secret Service. When I worked with them, they didn't drink at night. They didn't go out. They simply worked. They manned the stations. And it's become lax like this.

In addition, it's the military people. Who are those? Was it the National Security Agency? Was it people handing in the codes for the president? I don't know. I'd like to know. If that's been compromised, who knows what we're talking about? You just cannot let these things go.

MORGAN: And also, Bob, finally, I would imagine that this is a proven methodology by groups who want to get into the Secret Service, using women, using prostitutes. We don't actually know yet the full facts of this case. It could be that these prostitutes were working for more mendacious organizations.

BAER: Oh, absolutely. That's precisely the way I would get into a presidential detail, is use hookers, use women, send them in as Trojan horses. That's the only way to do it, is get inside. Colombia has a lot of nefarious groups down there -- Mafia, Mexican cartels, any number of people would like to kill American presidents. They are very well plugged into prostitutes. MORGAN: Bob Baer, Doug Brinkley, thank you very much.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Now we're going to turn to the other big story in Washington, the raging controversy over working moms, and Ann Romney.

Joining me now, the woman who knows quite a lot about that particular conflict, America's favorite news woman, Meredith Vieira.

Meredith, how are you?


Can I just say before we start, why is it every time that I am on your show, you're never here?


Why is that?

MORGAN: You know what it is? I actually don't trust myself in your physical presence.


VIEIRA: Oh, that is such a bunch of bull. Why is it?

MORGAN: No, I'm serious. I mean, for people like me that have woken up with you for years and years and years --

VIEIRA: Oh, go on.

MORGAN: -- and not having you -- not having you in my bedroom every morning is -- is proving agony. I just didn't trust myself.

VIEIRA: Oh, yes. OK. Whatever.


MORGAN: Shall we move off this rather uncomfortable subject?

VIEIRA: Yes, we should. Yes.


VIEIRA: You're embarrassing me.

MORGAN: Let's move to -- let's move to working mothers.


MORGAN: Because I reckon you'd have a pretty good view of this. You've been somebody who's been a hard-working mom and a hard-working TV host. Which is harder?

VIEIRA: I think probably raising your children is the hardest thing you can do and the most rewarding, obviously, because you are -- you are shaping lives, you know. That -- doing television is -- it's -- it is what it is and then it's gone. Your kids, they never really go away.

MORGAN: What did you make of the row with Ann Romney, then, because it did seem a very strange battleground for any senior Democrats to pick?

VIEIRA: Yes, you know, I'm going to stick up a little bit for Hilary here. And I really believe that -- I think she said something that she probably regrets -- regretted after it was out of her mouth. I mean it was not a smart thing to say. I don't think she thought it through.

And then she did a -- and it caused this huge sensation. And then she apologized. And I think that's enough.

I often think that because we're in this 24-hour news cycle, that we need things to talk about. And so we blow everything out of proportion. And I think this is a -- a good case of that.

I don't think she honestly believes that Mrs. Romney has never worked a day in her life. I really don't think that's what she meant.

MORGAN: The other -- well, the other thing I thought was interesting today, the -- the front page of "The New York Post" had a huge screaming headline of "Hillary Clinton" -- another Hillary -- drinking a beer in a nightclub in Colombia, as if somehow this was the most offensive thing she could possibly do.

When you see something like that, what -- what do you make of it?

VIEIRA: I -- I'm surprised she's not drunk every day. That job, that is so demanding.


VIEIRA: I don't -- I could never do that job that she has to do. If she lets her hair down and occasionally has a beer, who cares?

She's done a brilliant job as secretary of state. My -- my hat off to her.

MORGAN: Do you think America is ready for its first female president?

VIEIRA: Yes, I do, Piers.


I think we were ready last time. Absolutely. I don't think it was that she was a female. I think that, you know, people decided that Barack Obama was the one that they wanted. The Democrats decided they wanted him carrying the banner forward. And they made the right choice because he is the president of the United States.

That's like saying were we ready, four years ago, for, you know, the first African-American president? Absolutely.

And I think that Hillary Clinton will run, I really believe that, in 2016. And I think she stands a great chance of winning, because her track record is superb.

MORGAN: Yes, I think you've got a point there.

Now, let's take a break, Meredith.

When we come back, I want to cut to the quick with this interview.

VIEIRA: Uh, oh.

MORGAN: I want to talk to you about what you think of "The Today Show" losing its crown against "GMA" without you, obviously?

VIEIRA: I'm leaving.

MORGAN: And about -- and about Matt Lauer's $25 million payday.

How sick were you when you heard that last week?





VIEIRA: Barbara, we have a whip for you.


And secondly -- secondly, you're talking about getting from behind and my mic fell right out of my rear end, so --



MORGAN: Troublemaker Meredith Vieira on ABC's "The View" today, giving Barbara Walters a whip.

And she's back with me now.


But I don't get the gold lame miniskirt, nor do I get a whip. What's going on?

VIEIRA: It wasn't a miniskirt. It was a dress -- a little short. And Barbara was talking about -- I don't know, you didn't see the hot topics on "The View" today, but she was talking about rough sex and -- and Joy had commented that she looked sort of like a biker chick. And I couldn't resist. So I'm a troublemaker. You know that.


MORGAN: Talking of whipping, let's move to -- to your old whipping boy --


MORGAN: Matt Lauer.

VIEIRA: Loser.

MORGAN: -- who, I just want to know, really, where were you the moment you heard that he'd signed a deal that's worth at least -- and I suspect a lot more. I think I heard -- heard you mutter under your breath, it's more --

VIEIRA: Oh, please.

MORGAN: -- in a very viciously jealous way.



MORGAN: That it's at least $25 million a year for two years so at least $50 million. It may even be like $75 million.

Where were you, Meredith, when you first heard of the Lauer deal?

VIEIRA: I was heading toward the bathroom. And I proceeded to vomit after I heard that big number.


VIEIRA: No. I was actually on -- on Cape Cod.

I'm not surprised. He deserves every penny of it. I mean, all kidding aside, I joke all the time that I propped him up for five years, but Matt's really, really a talented broadcaster. You know that. And he's a lot of the reason why "The Today Show" does as well as it does. I mean it's an -- an amazing staff, all, everybody contributes.

But Matt is the guy up front and has been for many years. So, hey, that show is worth a lot of money and, you know, pay them what -- what they think he deserves. More power to him.

MORGAN: Well, of course --

VIEIRA: He won't share a penny of it, however.


VIEIRA: I want you to know that. None.

MORGAN: Well, no, the tightest guy in New York.

VIEIRA: Oh, please.

MORGAN: And I agree with that, although he -- he is talented, but he is tight. But --


MORGAN: People aren't doing the math here, Meredith. You leave "The Today Show" and for the first time in 16 years today, it's revealed that "GMA" overtook it for the -- the last week.

Are you doing the same math that I am?

I mean, are you hearing that they're going to come now with a big $25 million deal for you?



MORGAN: Reunite the -- the dream team?

VIEIRA: No. I know they're not going to. And, you know, I mean congratulations to "GMA." It's -- they did win the week, from what I understand. And -- and good for them.

But, you know, there's a lot of pressure. When I was there, there was a lot of pressure and it was -- you internalized it. It was nothing that came from above. But when you know you're on a show and it's been number one week after week, year after year, you feel that pressure every day to keep those numbers up.

And there's something I think liberating about finally having the streak broken. It had to break at some point. You know, "GMA" was in number one before -- was in the first place before we became the number-one morning show. So things operate in cycles.

And I think it's also good to have healthy competition. It gets everybody a little bit more excited and, you know, thinking a little bit more about what they're putting on the show every day.

So I -- all in all, I think it's -- it's not a bad thing for us. And I'm still -- I mean my home is "Today." And I still think it's the best morning broadcast on the air and I always will.

MORGAN: Do you feel a bit --


VIEIRA: However, if they offer me $30 million, I would come back, but it's not going to happen.


Maybe. MORGAN: Do you feel a bit sorry -- do you feel a bit sorry -- do you feel a bit sorry for Ann Curry, because I love Ann. I think she's a terrific (INAUDIBLE) --

VIEIRA: She's fantastic.

MORGAN: -- an incredibly warm, lovely person. And she's getting all this bitchy flak.

What -- what do you think of that?

VIEIRA: Well, I hope that Ann has enough perspective, and I'm sure that she does, to ignore it. It -- it comes with the territory and -- and Ann is great. She's an unbelievable journalist. She -- beyond that, she's one of the loveliest people you'll ever meet, as you know, a true class act.

MORGAN: She really is.

VIEIRA: And if the numbers are going up and down, it -- it's not Ann. These things happen. And, you know, I believe in her very strongly. And I'm sure the team does, as well. She's phenomenal.

You just can't -- you can't read into this stuff and you can't look at it, because nobody wants to write you're great. They want to write that you're -- that you're bad. They love to see people fall.

MORGAN: A -- talking to people who have fallen and risen from the embers, we saw that Sarah Palin popped up on "The Today Show" a couple of weeks ago. Many people think she's the new Meredith Vieira.

How did you feel about that comparison?

VIEIRA: What? Who said that?


VIEIRA: Did you make this --

MORGAN: I just did.

VIEIRA: -- you made -- you're just nothing but a troublemaker. You're part of the problem.


Now that we've isolated that.

MORGAN: I'm just plant -- I'm planting that seed in your head.


VIEIRA: I read papers, OK? I read papers.


No, you know what, I didn't --


MORGAN: What did you think of the -- what did you think of the controversy of having --



MORGAN: -- somebody like Sarah Palin, a rather divisive politician, to be, effectively, a "Today Show" host?

VIEIRA: Yes, I don't know. I -- I think everybody was spunking up (ph) the week on both sides. It was all about the ratings game and getting, you know, a buzz going. And she got a buzz going for "The Today Show."

So if that's what it's all about, then it was effective. And from everything I heard -- I didn't meet her. I wasn't there. I was actually on Monday of that week. From everything I heard, she was lovely and easy to work with. And, you know, Piers, it's television. Ultimately, it's television. I don't -- I can't take it that seriously.

MORGAN: Don't you think it's the most serious thing in the world, television, Meredith?


VIEIRA: No, I don't. I actually don't.


I think there are other things that are a little --

MORGAN: Well, let's take a break.

VIEIRA: -- more important.

MORGAN: Well, there are. We're going to come to this after the break, actually --


MORGAN: -- because you've done a fantastic documentary for your new production company. And it's about this --


VIEIRA: Oh, actually, that's on television.

MORGAN: It is on television. So we should take this seriously, presumably?


MORGAN: Let's discuss it after the break. It's a fascinating program.

VIEIRA: Thanks.



TANIA HEAD, INVENTS 9/11 LIE: Dave and I met outside the World Trade Center when he stole my heart (ph), so every year when I go to the site, I bring a New York City cop with me and I put it in the reflection pool so that he knows (INAUDIBLE) --


MORGAN: A clip there from the documentary, "The Woman Who Wasn't There," which airs tomorrow on "Investigation Discovery."

Meredith Vieira is the executive producer, and she's back with me now.

Meredith, it's a fascinating story. So this woman, Tania Head, basically invents a whole story about being a survivor of the 9/11 disaster, lost her fiance, suffered terrible injuries, and she then becomes this great kind of standard-bearer, you know, for --

VIEIRA: Absolutely.

MORGAN: -- 9/11 survivors, and becomes this sort of figurehead, extraordinarily, president of the -- of the Victims Support Association and so on. And it turns out the whole thing is a figment of her imagination.

When you saw this story, what gave you the desire to make a -- a film about it?

VIEIRA: Well, Angelo Guglielmo, who is the producer, he brought us sort of a demo reel or, for lack of a better term, to show us what he was working on. And we -- we looked at it and we were blown away. And I didn't remember the story, Piers. I don't know if you did. This broke in "The New York Times" back in 2007.

But it was on a Friday, as Angelo pointed out to me. So by Monday, the people -- the news cycle had changed and people were talking about other things.

But I didn't remember Tania Head. I didn't remember Survivors Network and her role in it, the fact that she was a fraud, that she had betrayed all these people.

And I -- I just, as I said, I was truly blown away. It was like this psychological thriller set against the backdrop of 9/11. And we just wanted to be involved in this project. MORGAN: Now, I was going to say, it turned out that she had -- herself, had been fleeing a kind of corruption scandal in Spain, where she came from. And this was a -- a sort of get out for her, a reinvention, changed her name, come up with something that made her look better. I mean it was a real -- it's a (INAUDIBLE) of a -- a weird thriller, isn't it?

VIEIRA: Yes. And, well, you know, we'll never know why she did what she did. I mean we can -- I can sit here and play armchair psychiatrist, but I'm not going to do that. But you're right, she was in Barcelona at the time of the attack. And she -- you know, she came here and -- and made herself available to other survivors in 2003, the end of 2003.

So we assumed that she was watching the message boards and really trying to craft her story. And even the fiance that she said she had in the North Tower, that man, Dave, there was a Dave there. So she had done a lot of research. Whether she wanted to -- you know, one of the survivors said something very interesting. She said that after 9/11, a lot of people wanted to be part of that experience, because it so affected the American psyche.

So was that part of the reason why she did it? She always loved America, as a little kid, growing up in Spain? Was that it? Did she have some sort of mental illness? Something's crazy for her to do this. But she was brilliant.

And she never took a penny. There wasn't any -- you know, she didn't get anything for doing this. In fact, she gave the survivors a real voice. She -- she kind of put them on the map. And that's why so many of them, you'll see in the documentary, have these mixed feelings.

On the one hand, she betrayed them. But on the other hand, she gave them a voice. And -- and there is an element of forgiveness in this -- in this documentary, as well, something that, you know, I -- I left it being so angry at her and amazed at the capability and the capacity for other people to forgive, even something as heinous as this.

MORGAN: Yes, quite extraordinary.

Let's watch another clip from the -- from the film.


HEAD: I remember very well the pain of hitting a wall, a marble wall. And then I remember the warmth from explosion and then I passed out.


MORGAN: I mean, I sort of agree with you with the sense that she wasn't making financial gain from this. And I can see why some of the survivors found real comfort from her and, therefore, do have this conflicted emotion. Because, in the end, if she was a comfort to them, how much does it really matter that she actually invented her own story?

VIEIRA: It does in the sense that, yes, she was a comfort but it was also a terrible betrayal.

One of the survivors, Linda, who was her best friend, the things she put Linda through. She had Linda participate in something called flooding exercises where she would have to relive -- this is Tania Head, who was never in the building -- she would have to relive that day and Linda had to be by her side. So that just added to Linda's own anxiety. And Linda was dealing with her own issues, obviously, being a survivor. And it totally messed with her head, gave her terrible nightmares, to the point where her own therapist said you can't -- you can't be part of this experience anymore.

And when she said, to Tania, you know, I just can't, for my own health, Tania turned on her and said, you're a terrible friend, you've betrayed me.

What an awful thing to do to somebody who's trying so desperately to heal themselves.

So there's -- she left plenty of pain in her wake, for sure. But as we said, she also -- obviously, you know -- she's the one who went to Angelo. Angelo didn't go to her. She wanted the survivors' story told. He didn't even want to do this documentary. And she convinced him to do it. He said, I'm only going to do it if I can interview you.

Then in the course of doing it, suddenly this "New York Times" story starts to percolate. Then when she tried to get the tapes back, Angelo went no, this is about the survivors and I am going to now complete this story.

Obviously it had changed dramatically and he had a much bigger story than he ever realized.

MORGAN: Yes, it was a fascinating, gripping documentary to watch. Really found it mesmerizing in parts. As you say, It takes a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the survivors, who aren't quite sure how they should respond. It airs tomorrow night on "Investigation Discovery."

Good luck with that, Meredith. Very quickly, your production company called MVP -- very modest of you, Most Valuable Player. I just wondered what else is in the pipeline. I am hearing other movies, Broadway. I mean, there's no stopping you, is there?

VIEIRA: I plan to take over the -- in fact, your show is the next thing I plan to control. And you are out because you're never here. So we're going to find someone who shows up in New York.

No, we're very lucky. We have a movie that's on Pay Per View now and iTunes. And we're proud of that. Also, we have a one man show that's traveling around the country, "Life in a Marital Institution."

MORGAN: Meredith, as always, it's a great pleasure to have you. I would love you to guest host my show one time. You've been sort of very skillfully avoiding my clutches for this at the moment. But I think you'd be terrific.

VIEIRA: Well, you're so good. I'm a little nervous about that. But we'll talk, as we say.

MORGAN: Perfectly understanding. It would be like going on before Elvis in Vegas.

VIEIRA: Oh, please.

MORGAN: I've always wanted to say this. I've got to leave you. I've got Robert de Niro waiting?

VIEIRA: Oh, really? Leave him a little longer.

MORGAN: Actually really have, yes. Meredith Vieira, always a delight. Thank you.

VIEIRA: Thank you, Piers. Take care.

MORGAN: When we come back, I really have got the one and only Robert de Niro on Keeping America Great.



ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Snack pack for little Jack.

BEN STILLER, ACTOR: What are you doing there?

DE NIRO: Well during the breast feeding stage, Greg, infants can get very confused and upset when they're separated from their mothers. So I invented something to ease L.J.'s anxiety during chow time.

I call it the Manary Gland.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Robert De Niro in the 2004 blockbuster, "Meet the Fockers."

He is, of course, a Hollywood legend. He's also made it his mission to bring downtown Manhattan back after the devastation of 9/11.

De Niro and co-founder, Jane Rosenthal, created the Tribeca Film Festival.

And they're here to talk about Keeping America Great.

Welcome to you both.


DE NIRO: Thanks.

Thank you.

MORGAN: Now, Robert, when I -- when you see a trailer like that -- and we have dozens of great movies to choose from, and we choose the one of you wearing mammary glands in "Meet the Fockers," does your heart swell with pride or does part of you think why the hell couldn't you have done something, you know, a little bit more serious for the great man?

DE NIRO: No, my heart swells with pride.


MORGAN: Let's talk about the -- the Tribeca Festival. It's been an amazing success story. And what I like about it is it was born out of this terrible devastation of 9/11. You got together, you two, with some other people, and decided, right, we are going to bring the creative hub back to Manhattan. We're going to revive Manhattan through what we do best.

And you created this festival, which has now taken on a -- a world and life of its own.

Take me back to how you both were in the I made aftermath of 9/11.

Let me start with you, Robert, if I may.

Where were you?

What went through your mind and how quickly did you think I've got to do something like this?

DE NIRO: Well, we -- I was in Midtown when we were -- when it happened. And my son called me and said a plane has hit the World Trade Center, the first plane.

And then I started heading downtown. I was about to go to the airport, but I obviously couldn't, so I went back home. And -- I was going down Fifth Avenue and I noticed that all the people were silently watching. I -- I think it was on the east side of Fifth Avenue, where they could see the World Trade Center. You couldn't really see it well from the west side of Fifth Avenue.

It was in -- indescribable what the -- what was happening. It was, you know, just un -- unbelievable.

But we -- we -- we had talked about doing a film festival earlier, just casually, with what would that be like and so on. And but then after 9/11, Jane and I had talked about it again. I think she introduced it again, what do you think?

And we were doing these -- these meals downtown in restaurants in the neighborhood to help -- help support and drum up business, because it was getting pretty quiet, obviously. So this came about after somewhere in there.

MORGAN: And, Jane, you -- I mean you pulled together the most incredible collection of people. I remember seeing Nelson Mandela and everybody else cueing up to help you. So you had this great groundswell of goodwill behind you.

But how did you turn that into what has become not just a -- a New York event, but a -- an international event and one that now generates really big money for New York?

ROSENTHAL: Well, it -- it happened with a lot of help from a lot of amazing people, as you said, Nelson Mandela and Martin Scorsese and Barry Levinson and Hugh Grant and studios such as Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers and just volunteers and amazing New Yorkers.

But our -- that first year, it was really about bringing people back downtown. And it was really what could we do, as filmmakers, to do something for our community, because clearly we weren't, you know, firefighters or steelworkers.

And how could we do something -- what was our creative response to our community and what could we do to just help and give people a new memory to want to come back downtown?

MORGAN: I mean it's been -- it's been, as I say, remarkably successful.

But, Robert, what do you think about America's recovery from 9/11 generally?

DE NIRO: Well, I -- downtown has recovered in a lot of ways. It bounced back. I, you know, I -- was it -- we'd like to think that we had a -- helped doing that with the festival and -- and so on. And I think it probably would have happened in any case.

But I think that's a big question.

MORGAN: I mean when you see -- when you see the -- the state that America now finds itself in economically, in particular, and with other countries now threatening its position as the only superpower, you know, I run a -- a regular theme on this show, Keeping America Great.

What do you think America needs to do to keep itself great, particularly given all that's happened since 9/11, since Iraq, Afghanistan and so on, since the economic crisis?

What does America need to do collectively, in exactly the same way that New York did, I felt, coming together and being very proactive in the aftermath of 9/11?

What should the country be doing now?

ROSENTHAL: Well, it -- you want to?

DE NIRO: No, go ahead.

ROSENTHAL: Look, a lot of what we did was a create -- a creative response. And it was artists coming together and artists trying to answer things that you couldn't make any sense out of. And sometimes the artist's voice, the filmmaker, can make more sense out of what's going on in the world than politicians can.

I -- I personally think the biggest thing that we can do is educate our children and education. Education is the most important because our kids are our best natural resources. And teaching them to tell stories and tell stories from a different point of view and a new perspective across all kinds of platforms, whether it's coming to film festivals or watching it on their iPods or going to a movie theater, I think it's important to tell interesting stories.

MORGAN: And, Robert, what would you say?

DE NIRO: the middle class is suffering, as we all know. We -- we allowed, somehow, we went down a bad path, if you will, with all this -- this mortgage situation and people being, in my eyes, taken advantage of and -- through the greed of others. And sort of everybody, it sort of snowballed and here we are in this thing. Hopefully, we'll climb out of it soon enough.

But it really affected us. You know, with all this divisiveness with what's going on with people wanting to get elected and so on, it's sort of take -- taking us off the main track, which is to get the country back together. And if -- there's a lot of posturous things being said by the Republicans, especially. And we know it all sort of feeds off each other with the media and this and that.

And they say, you know, it's like watching people fight, you know, they're both kind of nuts, but they're fighting and it just creates a lot of big interest by all -- the public.

But it really, at the end of the day, doesn't add up to much but a lot of silliness, people attacking each other, saying absurd things that -- that they couldn't possibly really believe or mean.

So we've got to listen to that and witness that instead of getting serious and figuring out what -- what we're going to do, you know, both sides.

MORGAN: I mean you're somebody who -- you know, I mean you're somebody, Robert, who -- who very much personifies the American dream. You know, you took your opportunity. You were given opportunities and you became one of the biggest movie stars in the world, you know, as an American.

Do you think that American dream, the land of opportunity, exists now in the way that it used to?

And if it doesn't, what can be done about that?

How do you get America's image, if you like, its reputation, back as the great land of opportunity? DE NIRO: Well, I think it's still that. I mean, people have the opportunity to do things. And I'm very, very lucky in my life. I -- I'm just lucky, period, you know. I -- I -- and the older I get, the more I realize that.

I am very lucky. And I -- and, you know, I thank whatever -- whatever, whoever -- whatever gave me that reason to be in that situation, whatever.

MORGAN: Do you -- do you agree with -- do you agree with President Obama's campaign, this Warren Buffet Rule, that the weal -- the very wealthiest Americans should pay a lot more tax?

DE NIRO: I absolutely do, yes. I think especially --...

MORGAN: Would you be willing -- you -- you -- would you be happy, personally, to pay, you know, effectively, what could be, in your case, tens of millions more dollars --

DE NIRO: I already pay a lot of taxes. I already pay an enormous...

MORGAN: But would you --

DE NIRO: -- amount of taxes.

MORGAN: Would you object to -- would you object to paying more?

DE NIRO: Well, I'll do whatever I have to do, whatever's fair. I think -- but what I've seen with some people, even people like Romney, from what I've seen, the taxes he pays are kind of astounding, really, from what I've seen and what they've said on the news. And --

MORGAN: Astoundingly low?

DE NIRO: Low, yes, very low.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break.

I want to come back and talk to you about news, because I hear you're a bit of a news junkie. That's basically all you watch. So I'm hoping that includes this show.

But let's leave on that cliff-hangar, Robert.

Don't give it away yet. Your facial expressions aren't telling me any good news.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Sergeant Daniel Dean. There are also some who call me Yoda. I don't like it. I'm your field training officer. Here are my orders of the day: don't get hurt. Don't hurt anyone. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. In essence, just stand there.


MORGAN: That's a clip there from "NYC 22," which is a -- a new drama series in which the executive producer, Robert De Niro, is joining me now, with Jane Rosenthal.

Robert, it launched last night. It details in dramatic form some rookie cops and their experiences on the streets of New York.

And one of the big issues in America right now is this whole Stand Your Ground Law, which we saw in the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman accused of killing him and then using Stand Your Ground to defend himself.

What do you think of that law in modern America?

DE NIRO: Oh, God, that's another big question. I -- I -- I mean, without law, we have anarchy. We have chaos. So we need law. We need -- I always laugh when people, you know, are mad at the police about this or that, then all of a sudden they say call the police, no matter what.

They're the -- they're the last -- the last wall of defense.

MORGAN: Well, I suppose on this -- on this particular case, the Trayvon Martin case, where you had an American citizen, George Zimmerman, who was in a position where he shot dead an unarmed teenager and was then able to go home that same evening without even being arrested, let alone charged, because he was able to say I was standing my ground.

Is -- and that -- it's that, I think, that has been the real bone of contention to people, putting aside any of the racial issues, the fact that in modern America, somebody could shoot an unarmed person and go home the same night.

DE NIRO: Yes, and I -- I agree. I think, I mean I -- we will find out what happened in that. But I think it's -- it's awful, what happened. It's just -- it's awful.

MORGAN: Yes, I -- I agree that justice should run its course.

Let's turn to movies, Robert, briefly.

I've always thought, if I ever got the chance to interview you -- and it's been a long time coming and I'm extremely grateful to you for sparing us the time -- I'd ask you a few questions I've always wanted to know personally.

One is, who, to you, is the greatest actor living today, male or female? DE NIRO: Well, Leonardo DiCaprio is a -- a very serious young actor. He takes it quite seriously, as you can see. And -- or Matt Damon, Sean Penn. He's a little older now. I was speaking the other day with Sean. I can say he's a young actor. I've known him so long now he's -- he's not so young.

But he's, you know, I mean --

MORGAN: But let's -- let's just end on a couple of things.

One is that you and I have something in common, which may be a shock to you, and, indeed, may be a disturbing shock to you, but we both became fathers to little baby girls four months ago.

DE NIRO: Yes. I didn't know that.


MORGAN: How -- well, thank you. It's number four for me, number six for you.


MORGAN: How -- how is -- how is fatherhood six time around going?

DE NIRO: Oh, it's great being a -- a parent and -- and my kids are -- I have older kids and younger kids, obviously. And so it's -- it's -- as any parent will tell you, it's an experience.

MORGAN: Finally, let's -- let's get back to Tribeca. It's running for 10 days, I think, isn't it? An amazingly huge festival now.

What is the main aim now of the Tribeca Festival?

Let me ask you, Jane.

ROSENTHAL: Just to show a wide variety of wonderful and diverse films to the widest possible audience and really allow filmmakers to get to meet other filmmakers and screen some interesting films.

MORGAN: And, Robert, last word with you.

What do you hope it says about your city, New York?

DE NIRO: I like the idea of the festival not only being just a festival, it's a -- it's a cultural thing. It -- it includes things other than just even films. It's the street festival. It's ideas. It's panels, discussions. It's all kinds of things that we've come up with over the years.

We try and make it the outdoor drive-in cinema. I mean, we've tried to do these things that make it a little more fun, if you will, and more popular, if you will.

And at the same time, maintain the serious side of it, when that has to be maintained and get the best films we possibly can.

MORGAN: Well, congratulations on the festival, on "NYC 22," on becoming a father again and on surviving this interview, because I know you can't stand doing them.


MORGAN: But for me, I've loved every second and it's been a great honor.

DE NIRO: Oh, you're --


MORGAN: Robert De Niro...

DE NIRO: You're just saying that.

MORGAN: -- Jane Rosenthal. Well, I'm actually -- I'm trying to hook you into the two hour interview...



MORGAN: -- I think -- I think we'd have a great time. I want to talk to you about movies in more depth.


MORGAN: But for now, thank you both very much.

ROSENTHAL: Thank you.



MORGAN: Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal.

Coming up, Only In America, life, death and an adults-only funeral.


MORGAN: Tonight's Only in America, a tale of two notable American deaths. First, Dr. Lester Breslow (ph), the man who proved mathematically that you can live longer if you have seven healthy habits.

Those are don't smoke, drink in moderation, sleep seven to eight hours a night, exercise, eat regular meals, watch your weight and eat breakfast.

Now Dr. Breslow improved the lives of millions of people with this simple formula for good, clean healthy living. Then there's Colorado's Michael Flathead Blanchard (ph), who took a rather different approach.

Mr. Blanchard wrote his own death notice, which has gone viral on the Internet. He said the following, "weary of reading obituaries noting someone's courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors orders and raising hell for more than six decades.

"He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day dies."

He continued, "so many of his childhood friends that weren't killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats He ask that you stop by his memorial and retell the stories he can no longer tell. As The celebration will contain adult material, we respectfully ask no children under 18 attend."

So there you have it: two polar opposite views of how to lead your life. So which would I recommend? Well, they say the stats don't lie.

Dr. Lester Breslow, who himself didn't drink or smoke, exercised regularly, and practiced moderation in all things, died last week at his home in Los Angeles aged 97.

Michael Flathead Blanchard, who never stopped drinking, smoking and doing everything to excess, also died last week in Denver, Colorado at age 67.

Based on this comparison, I'm confidently expecting myself to live to -- well, at least 68.

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.