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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Secrets of the Secret Service; Major Milestone; New Report Reveals Apple's Tax Avoidance; Testimony from Witness Indicates More than One Gunman at RFK's Assassination; Witness: Two Gunmen in RFK Case; Taking Revenge on Reality TV
Aired April 30, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.
Our STARTING POINT this morning: no more heavy boozing, no more friendly visits in hotel rooms. The Secret Service is force to do play by some new rules. We're going to talk this morning to the man who broke the Secret Service scandal story.
And then this -- the other Kennedy conspiracy. There's an eyewitness who says there was a second shooter the night that RFK was killed. We'll talk to her this morning.
And back on top: one year after Osama bin Laden was killed, the new World Trade Center is reaching a milestone today. We'll tell you what it is.
Plus, he screamed his way through the 1980s. Now, Bobcat Goldthwait has a new movie out that he's directing. His main character is screaming about reality TV, bad morning zoo radio and everything else that is wrong with America. It's called "God Bless America." And he's going to join us live a little bit later this morning.
It's Monday, April 30th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.
This is how it looks this morning in New Orleans. That's Congo Square. New Orleans is celebrating International Jazz Day. It was started by UNESCO.
They are raising awareness of the first jazz as an occasionally tool, of course, for peace and unity. That location, of course, is a sunrise concert there in New Orleans. That is the birth place of jazz.
The event is going to feature a bunch of folks like Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Ellis Marsalis -- pretty much anybody who is a big name in jazz is at this concert this morning. Pretty cool.
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Bruce Springsteen.
O'BRIEN: And some people who are not.
FUGELSANG: He came out on stage with (INAUDIBLE)
O'BRIEN: Yes, amazing.
Let's get right to our panel this morning. Ron Brownstein is with us, the editorial director of "The National Journal" and CNN senior political analyst, wasn't sure he was going to make it in after that big White House correspondents' dinner.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I had 24 hours to recover.
O'BRIEN: Thank goodness.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Tie it on, did you, Ron?
BROWNSTEIN: It gets pretty wild there.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it does. You can give us the inside scoop later this morning.
John Fugelsang is with us. He's a political comedian. He'll give us the weigh in on whether the jokes at that dinner were good. So-so, funny.
Also, Will Cain, columnist at TheBlaze.com joining us. We'll talk about the political implications.
CAIN: Good morning to you.
O'BRIEN: First, though, we want to get to the day's top stories. Christine has a look at that.
Hey, Christine. Good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.
The Obama administration trying to diffuse a diplomatic crisis developing this morning with China. Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng is at the center of all the drama after making his escape from an 18- month house arrest. He angered the Chinese government first by accusing them of conducting late term abortions and sterilizations as part of their One Child Policy. He's been at odds with the governments since the '90s.
It's now believed he is in the protection of the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Officials from both countries are refusing to comment this morning. All this while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to visit China for important economic and strategic talks beginning on Thursday.
Coast Guard officials say a yacht involved in a racing accident looks like it went through a blender. Three crew members were killed. A fourth sailor is missing. Their boat was taking part in the Newport to Ensenada yacht race over the weekend when it apparently collided with a much bigger vessel in the Pacific near the Coronado Islands. The Coast Guard called off the search for the missing crewman.
New clues in the search for missing 6-year-old Isabel Celis who vanished nine days ago now from her home in Tucson, Arizona. Police have now released surveillance video taken outside her home the night she disappeared. Investigators say they have interviewed three of the five people captured in this video. FBI and U.S. Marshals are assisting the investigation. The FBI says it has received more than 350 tips.
CNN has learned Newt Gingrich will be ending his bid for the presidency on Wednesday. The former House speaker is expected to announce his support for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney making a campaign stop in the battleground state of New Hampshire today. And we may be getting a sneak peek at his potential running mate in November. Senator Kelly Ayotte, she is getting quite a bit of buzz as Romney's potential number two. They'll be appearing together at a fishing pier in Portsmouth.
Everything and everyone was fair game at this weekend's White House correspondents' dinner. President Obama and Jimmy Kimmel jokes about the upcoming election, about Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and the Secret Service scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious. My stepfather always told me, it's a boy/dog world out there.
It's great to be here this evening in the vast magnificent Hilton ballroom, or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.
Four years ago, I looked like this. Today, I look like this. And four years from now, I will look like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: And, you know, Soledad, last year on the Monday after, we didn't get a chance to dissect the jokes because bin Laden was killed. And that was the story. No one really talked about the White House correspondents' last year.
Seth Meyer last year was the comedian last year.
O'BRIEN: That's right. And remember, he mouthed congratulations to Leon Panetta. Everybody was like what is that about? And then, of course, the next morning, we were parsing that.
All right. Christine, thank you.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: Some new information this morning to talk about. We know who allegedly refused to pay in the Secret Service scandal in Colombia. CNN learning that Secret Service agent Arthur Huntington, he's 41, married, father of two boys, now has left the service. Unclear, though, under what circumstances exactly.
Also today, we are hearing news about new guidelines that Secret Service members must follow. Nonreputable establishments are off limits while on the road. Just to clarify, that means no more going to visit prostitutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
O'BRIEN: I want to spell that out in case that's unclear.
Foreigners banned from hotel rooms unless it's for official business and agents must comply with U.S. laws, even if they're in another country. No heavy drinking even when you're off duty. Now, a supervisor is going to accompany those advanced teams or the jump teams. Of course, jump team is the one that is associated with this prostitution scandal.
Journalists and author Ronald Kessler is the author of "In the President's Secret Service." He was the one who broke the story about the agents being sent home.
Nice to see you, Roland. Thanks for being with us.
So, I read some of the guidelines. That's not the whole list. Do you think those guidelines, though, are enough to change the behavior and basically, you know, nip all of these potential scandals in the bud?
RONALD KESSLER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, it certainly will help. This kind of behavior really is an anomaly even though it's an incredible scandal. The larger picture is that the management has been cutting corners and has been lax in much more serious ways. I see this episode in Colombia as a symptom of that, as well as the fact that agents from the uniform division let the Salahis, the party crashers, into the White House knowing they were not on the guest list.
Why would they all do that? Because of this corner-cutting at the highest levels of the Secret Service. For example, they will condone letting people into events for the president or the vice president without putting them through metal detectors or magnetometers. That's like letting people into an airplane without magnetometer screening. That alone is an incredible scandal and much bigger than what happened in Colombia --
O'BRIEN: So, are those links? It sounds like you're saying the whole thing has gotten just sloppy. So, are you saying this scandal is symptomatic of a bigger problem of sloppiness at the bureau?
KESSLER: Sure. That's the way organizations work. If the people at the top set a cultural tone that condones this corner cutting and winking and nodding, that even condones dishonesty in some cases. For example, they ask agents to fill out their own test scores and physical fitness tests. Then, of course, everyone says we can do whatever we want, if they are idiots, which is what we saw in Colombia.
O'BRIEN: So, when people would tell me -- we had a number of guests who were familiar with the Secret Service and they would sit here and they would say, listen, this is absolutely not the culture of the Secret Service. This is a onetime thing. This is before we started hearing about El Salvador and whether or not that sort of pans out to be bigger than what it is known to be at the time.
Do you think the issue this is a one time thing or this is the one time they got caught in a very obvious way?
KESSLER: I'm quite sure that this particular behavior is an anomaly and the press reports have been mixing up parties and going to bars with this really egregious behavior.
You know, after the president leaves, yes, they will go to parties and go to bars. So, what, we all go to parties, there's nothing wrong with that.
When it comes to these rules, you know, it's as if these agents are kindergarten kids. The FBI has no rules like that. Their duties are just as demanding. I think that if they don't have the judgment to stay away from prostitutes and not get drunk, then they certainly should not be agents.
CAIN: Well, Ron, this is Will Cain. If this is an anomaly, how is it evidence of corner cutting? How is it evidence of some deeper cultural problems of the Secret Service? That's not really what an anomaly is.
KESSLER: If, in any organization, if your bosses are winking and nodding and violating basic procedures, that just letting people into events without magnetometer screening, then you may be more likely to say, hey, I can do whatever I want. You know? It's a very simple equation.
Certainly doesn't work all the time, but that is the way organizations disintegrate and that really is what's happening at the Secret Service. The agents themselves are very brave and dedicated. They'll take a bullet for the president. I know the FBI admires Secret Service agents more than any other law enforcement.
But the management has been allowing this agency that once had high standards to disintegrate into a shambles.
O'BRIEN: Do you think -- I'm sorry, let me ask -- so you're saying the leader of the Secret Service, Mr. Sullivan, should go?
KESSLER: Well, it's interesting. The more the Secret Service screws up, the more people come out to praise the director, Mr. Sullivan. It's quite a phenomenon.
FUGELSANG: Good morning, Ron. John Fugelsang here.
At the end of the day when you look at this scandal, the people who visit the prostitutes are being sanctioned or fired. But when the American people look at this, what do they see? They see 49 years with no dead presidents.
Is it really going to be that big of a deal in the history of the Secret Service or is this just a blip?
KESSLER: Oh, I think this will remain one of the biggest -- in fact, the biggest scandal in the history of the Secret Service. And, you know, the fact that there was not an assassination is not the standard that we should be going by.
We should not allow any kind of corner cutting such as letting people in without magnetometer. Somehow, people's eyes glaze over when I say that, but one terrorist could come in with five grenades and take out the president or the vice president.
O'BRIEN: Yes. It's interesting how scandal sort of gets everybody talking, talk about magnetometer and was like, oh, blah, blah, blah.
Interesting. All right. Ronald Kessler, his book is "In The President's Secret Service" -- nice to see you, sir. Thank you.
KESSLER: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: just a few hours away from a major milestone for the new World Trade Center. We're going to take you there live straight ahead.
And carving up Apple. How the most profitable tech company in the world avoid paying billions of dollars a year in taxes. We're going to spell it out for you.
This is Ron's playlist, Dave Edmunds, "Girls Talk".
FUGELSANG: A great song!
O'BRIEN: You are. We welcome you in.
O'BRIEN: Consistently Bruce Springsteen --
CAIN: You know, it's not him today.
O'BRIEN: I know. Who is that? That's Christine's playlist.
BROWNSTEIN: But appropriate for today.
O'BRIEN: It is, because we're talking about what's happening downtown in the World Trade Center, about to become home to the Big Apple's tallest building. In just a matter of hours, one World Trade Center is going to surpass the Empire State Building in height. That's when workers install a beam this afternoon that's going to stretch the tower to 1,271 feet, which will make it 21 feet taller than the Empire State Building.
Construction is completed, which they're expecting in 2013 or maybe early in 2014. One World Trade is going to stand at 1,776 feet high. That will make it the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. Poppy Harlow is live for us in Lower Manhattan. Good morning to you, Poppy.
We should mention that this milestone comes on the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death. They're, obviously, you know, separate, but there's certainly an impact when you think about the two of them together.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, absolutely, Soledad. Good morning to you. It means a lot more security, a lot more attention. This very important day for New York and this country comes one day before the one-year anniversary of the death, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, saying on the Sunday morning shows that the U.S. remains especially vigilant.
He noted that al Qaeda has been their impact and their ability to harm U.S. citizens has been degraded significantly. The FBI, late last week, came out with a report that said there is no credible information that al Qaeda is plotting an attack on the U.S. to coincide with this anniversary, but of course, there's a lot of attention given the timing.
That said, the focus here in New York is very much a celebration, a milestone. What this means for New Yorkers in this country and who better to share that with us than a man who, Soledad, built the original World Trade Center, watched it fall, and came back to build it again. Mike Mennella, come join us.
Mike and I had a chance to talk and spend a day together in August doing a story. We actually went up to the 76th floor of one World Trade Center. I was terrified. You took me up there, but we talked a lot about this. What does this day mean for you, Mike?
MIKE MENNELLA, TISHMAN REALTY & CONSTRUCTION CO.: Well, today is a day where we can really look back and say that the milestones we've surpassed and overcome are certainly more significant than the ones ahead of us.
We certainly have some challenges going forward, but the building is in a position now where we can see, you know, it coming to the top and we can see it being finished off in a very, very, very significant way.
It's also big in the region. I mean, seeing this building from all over the region, you know, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, it's just a statement for the region that we've reached a new milestone.
HARLOW: Seven and a half years it has taken to get to this point. It's majestic behind us. The 100th floor is where that steel beam will be placed around two o'clock this afternoon. When you watched the towers fall, Mike, watched the towers that you built fall, you came the next day, September 12th, 2001, did you ever think that these towers would not be rebuilt and that you would not be doing it or did you always know you'd be part of this?
MENNELLA: I was quite surprised that I would be able to be part of it. I was delighted to be a part of it. Knowing that they'd be rebuilt, I sort of had confidence that they had to be rebuilt, and I knew going forward, the city would really go forward and replace the towers.
HARLOW: This also closes a chapter in a lot of people's minds, doesn't it? Or we're getting there. Is that the sense you have?
MENNELLA: We're getting there. I think as people look at the building from afar and they realize the site that it sits on, the memorial that it adjoins and what the site was about, what was lost here and what is now being put back together and how people will go forward from this moment, it's an exciting time.
HARLOW: It's an exciting story to see through your eyes. I'm so glad I got to be up there myself this summer, Mike. Thank you so much. Soledad, a neat day down here. A beautiful, sunny, perfect morning for this to happen -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. All right. Poppy, thank you.
Coming up next on STARTING POINT, a billionaire's plan to build the "Titanic 2." And yes, he went there and said it's unsinkable, but, it will sink if you put a hole in it --
Also, an eyewitness to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy says she is certain there was a second shooter on that fateful day. We're going to talk to her straight ahead.
If you're headed to work, you can watch the rest of our show on our live blog, which is CNN.com/STARTINGPOINT. Chat with us on Twitter @STARTINGPTCNN. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I am. Thanks for asking because I was sick last week. That's robert Earl Keen Jr., "Feelin' Good Again." Who's playlist was that?
FUGELSANG: Yes, Will.
O'BRIEN: All right. Will Cain --
FUGELSANG: Actually, in the backyard, it stomps.
O'BRIEN: One of my favorite songs of the morning, brave billionaire attempting fate he is, announcing his plans to build the "Titanic 2." It will be a full size replica of the doomed Titanic 1, which, of course, doomed and shipped and rebuild is always a --. His name is Clive Palmer. He's an Australian mining tycoon. He says he's hired a state Chinese state owned company to build the ship. And then, he said this "Titanic," unlike the original, will truly be unsinkable, and then, he said, of course, it will sink if you put a hole in it. Then, he went on to say, and you know, you never know what happens if you're superstitious.
But he said it's going to be very luxurious, state-of-the-art 21st century technology, latest navigation and safety systems, gymnasiums, swimming pool --
FUGELSANG: The Original navigational equipment on this ship.
BROWNSTEIN: What about Di Caprio and Kate Winslet?
O'BRIEN: That's right.
BROWNSTEIN: I mean -- a lot of people will be disappointed.
FUGELSANG: The original Titanic was built by the Irish. This is built by the Chinese. I guess, that's pretty much --
CAIN: You know, they studied on the original Titanic and how the luxury liner of its time and how it would be compared today, and it's like sparse.
CAIN: Yes. Not number two here.
BROWNSTEIN: Australia -- sailing it only in warm water --
O'BRIEN: No, apparently, they're going to do a trip that's going to go from England to the United States. I know. You know, otherwise, you don't get the PR value, right, of that. Although, you know, maybe we should pitch the Hindenburg.
FUGELSANG: Now, talking in Jersey.
CAIN: Too soon?
O'BRIEN: Doesn't be it.
O'BRIEN: Yes, too soon for that. When is that going to be ready? BROWNSTEIN: 2016. 2016, yes.
O'BRIEN: So, we'll be covering that when that happens.
BROWNSTEIN: Just in time for the Hillary Clinton presidential race. Yes.
FUGELSANG: Elizabeth Warren --
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, there you go.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, this man was supposed to be giving an anti-bullying speech to high schoolers. Big controversy this morning. Michael Savage --
FUGELSANG: Dan, Dan Savage.
O'BRIEN: I'm sorry. Did I say Michael?
O'BRIEN: I meant Dan Savage. Dan Savage. The speech turned very anti-bible very quickly and created a bit of a hot mess. We're going to talk about that straight ahead.
Plus, she was an eyewitness to a tragic chapter in American history. We'll talk to the woman who claims there was a second shooter in the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. You're watching STARTING POINT. We got to take a break. We'll be back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Let's get right to headlines. Christine Romans has a look at that. Good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Taking look at the John Edwards trial this morning.
ROMANS (voice-over): Week two of that trial set to begin shortly. Much the way week one ended with Cheri Young on the witness stand. She's the wife of former Edwards aide, Andrew Young. She told the court Friday that her husband did everything for the disgraced former senator, including yard work and buying Christmas gifts for his kids.
She testified it almost destroyed her marriage, his devotion to Edwards. Edwards faces six counts of campaign finance violations accused of using campaign cash for hush money and could get 30 years behind bars if he's convicted.
A new blog will keep you updated on George Zimmerman's defense. Attorney Marc O'Mara said he set up the website to keep people updated. Zimmerman is currently out on bail. He's raised more than $200,000 from supporters donating to his cause. Anti-bullying activist, Dan Savage, accused of bullying a group of teenagers calling them expletives all because these high schoolers walked out of his lecture at the National High School Journalist Conference. Savage is best known for his "it gets better" campaign to combat anti-gay bullying, but about a dozen teens walked out on his speech when he slammed parts of the bible using a word we can't repeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN SAVAGE, CREATOR OF THE "IT GETS BETTER" PROJECT: We can learn to ignore the (EXPLETIVE) in the Bible about gay people. It's funny that someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how (EXPLETIVE) some people react when you push back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Savage later said, quote, "I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings but I have a right to defend myself."
Apple is an innovator of tablets and phones, but a "New York Times" investigation finds Apple is an innovator in avoiding taxes. According to the report Apple keeps its tax bill down 9.86 percent last year in part of having offices in low tax states and countries. The practice hurts a cash strapped state like California where Apple is headquartered but it's a common and legal corporate tax strategy. According to "The Times" Apple invented the double Irish with a Dutch sandwich, routing profits through Irish subsidiaries in the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean to avoid tax. Hundreds of other companies now mimic it. Apple's stock is not expected to take a hit. Shares on Friday closed at $603 a share. That's up 74 percent. The S&P 500, by contrast, up just 3.5 percent from last year.
One of the biggest questions in personal finance these days, should you buy shares of Apple? The answer is yes, a year ago. If you owned mutual funds, though, you probably already have Apple. According to a recent "Morning Star" "USA Today" analysis, 788 mutual funds have Apple as one of their top ten holdings and largest portion in 465 of those funds. Apple is in the S&P and the NASDAQ fund. But is Apple a good buy for investors on its own? According to analysts, the answer is an overwhelming yes, Soledad. Almost all of them have big buys on Apple. Whether you can afford to get in is another issue.
O'BRIEN: That would be a no. No, you cannot afford to get in. Should you win Powerball go back to yes. Yes, you should buy Apple right away.
ROMANS: You will pay more taxes on your gains in Apple than Apple.
O'BRIEN: You will.
If you ever felt like you were racially profiled by the TSA, there is an app for that. Yes, a new app is being launched being called fly rights and allow air travelers to report alleged racial profiling to the TSA. They will hold a news conference today to unveil it. Organizations representing several minority groups, there is the seek coalition. Groups are calling it a novel marriage between technology and civil rights activism.
BROWNSTEIN: So many things we have been talking about this morning. The way technology is giving ordinary people the capacity to talk back to big institutions that simply did not exist whether it was Joseph Kony before or this or the father that sent --
O'BRIEN: And in real-time.
I love changing the power dynamics in so many different spheres of our lives.
CAIN: The wrap is the TSA does every rap to avoid racial profiling including patting down four-year-olds and grandmothers. So I love the statistics on this.
FUGELSANG: I think if Gandhi had this technology he could have gotten the British out of India two years sooner. This is little brother, and little brother is watching.
BROWNSTEIN: But little brother is not paying any taxes, though.
O'BRIEN: Back to our Apple story!
FUGELSANG: Apple executives could racially profile and their stocks would still go up.
BROWNSTEIN: It's the iconic product in the 21st century in so many ways. My friend wrote a report. Henry Ford created the iconic product of the 20 century for America. He created the consumer base to buy it because he paid his workers $5 a day. Apple has a lot of great jobs on the top and retail jobs on the bottom, nothing in the middle, nothing in the middle.
FUGELSANG: Breaking news. Corporations do everything they can to find low tax environments.
O'BRIEN: Can I get back to my racial profiling app before we were derailed? How is this -- can you upload your video? You can upload your video. Why wouldn't you upload your video to YouTube?
FUGELSANG: Here is a place they can all go together. The app will raise awareness of the product.
BROWNSTEIN: So many things will an isolated incident be taken as the mean, the norm? It is a very different world when a bunch of voices. Things in the conversation can get out very fast and sometimes it's great and leads you off in strange directions.
O'BRIEN: I think it opens up conversations.
O'BRIEN: Just like the Rodney King or anything else where they are videotaped.
CAIN: Where are the ghost videos? Where are all of the UFO videos?
FUGELSANG: I agree. For every time you've seen a Sikh mistaken for a Muslim, this brings that equality out and will show, and also show TSA agents doing their job completely and being falsely accused.
BROWNSTEIN: But you won't see that.
O'BRIEN: I've been treated so well for the CIA. I just don't mind being patted down. I get it, hey. I want to be safe. Check for weapons.
O'BRIEN: I didn't say felt up. I said I've been screened appropriately.
BROWNSTEIN: Patted down.
O'BRIEN: Patted down, gosh!
O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, we will talk this morning about the other Kennedy conspiracy. An eyewitness says there was a second shooter the night RFK was killed and she will join us next and talk about that.
Plus, take a dark comedy and add social commentary and you have a new film from the mind of Bobcat Goldthwaite. He's going to join us live. You're watching STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: The man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy may get a new trial soon. A federal court could rule any day to a challenge of Sirhan Sirhan's conviction based partially on a theory there was another shooter. It's a theory that's bolstered by Nina Rhodes- Hughes. She was a fundraiser for the presidential candidate. You can see her circled there on the left with RFK. She was at the Ambassador Hotel the night he was gunned down in 1968 and she says she not only heard shots from two different directions, but she says she heard more than eight shots. Sirhan's gun of course could only hold eight bullets and why that little fact is relevant. Nina joins us from British Columbia and joins us by Skype. Nice to see you. Thank you for joining us. Walk me back and take me back to that day at the ambassador hotel. What did you see? What did you hear?
NINA RHODES-HUGHES, WITNESS TO RFK ASSASSINATION: Well, I was basically waiting for the senator to come down after he gave his speech to bring him as I was requested to do to the Salinger press room which was to my right and the senator's left as he descended. Suddenly I saw this man in a tuxedo, a tall blond man, taking the senator in a completely opposite direction. And I shouted after saying, no, no, no, you've gone in the wrong direction, it's this way. Nevertheless I wasn't heard. And I ran after them.
And as I ran after them towards the kitchen, I saw the senator stop and chat with some people in the kitchen and, quickly, and then he moved on. He was then -- I saw his left profile talking to someone, and then he moved on in the direction he was originally headed.
And I was between, I would say, Sirhan Sirhan was to my left and Senator Kennedy was to my right and I was in the middle. As I ran towards him, I started to hear shots. And I turned right to Sirhan Sirhan who was standing on a metal steam table and Lisa Johnson and Rosie Grier ran to subdue him, but there were still shots coming from my right in back of the senator. I was about six to seven feet in back of him. And it sounded like between 10 and 14 -- well, 12 and 14 shots.
O'BRIEN: So as I mentioned, they are going to use your testimony which I know you had given originally. You said then it was tweaked. It was changed over time, even though you've consistently said the same thing. Do you think Sirhan Sirhan shouldn't have been convicted for shooting RFK?
HUGHES: No, no, no. That's not -- that's not my decision. I do know that he was there with a gun. I know that. And I know that he was -- he was -- he was there for a purpose. And I don't know what that purpose is, so I don't want my words to be a conviction or freedom because I did know he was there with a gun and I did hear some shots that emanated from where he was.
O'BRIEN: Nina, hang on. I'm sorry. Forgive me for interrupting you there.
HUGHES: No, no, no.
O'BRIEN: This only lasts four seconds and it captures the gunshots, so let's play that first and everyone can listen to it.
HUGHES: Yes. Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Then you hear the shrieking at the end of that. When you play it over and over it sounds like six gunshots. What they do, they have a graphic of sort of the -- they have graphed out those shots and on that graph which we can throw up on the air now, you'll see that actually there are -- it looks like there's something more than maybe 11 or even 13 gunshots. There is an expert whose name is Van Praag. I forget his first name. Peter -- Philip Van Praag who talks about his analysis of this recording. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP VAN PRAAG, FORENSIC EXPERT: There were 13 shot sounds that I found on that recording up to the point where the screams just totally overrode all of the other audio and that would have been impossible to recover any shot sounds beyond that point. The second discovery was the presence of two double shot instances, and that is two shots that occur so closely together as to preclude the possibility of having come from a single weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: There are other experts as well who said they heard someone between nine and 11 shots when they did a further analysis of that. So you originally said that you had heard more than eight shots. What happened to your story?
HUGHES: Well, the FBI came to my home when I was living in Los Angeles and interviewed me, and I told them that there were between 12 and 14 shots. I told them I wanted to be a witness. And then they left.
And I got a phone call about 10, 11 years ago. I was never called, I was never questioned. I was very frustrated about the conclusion that there was only one shooter. And Philip Melancon (ph) who was a professor at Dartmouth called me about 10 or 11 years ago and he interviewed me saying he would like to revive the case. And he then sent me a copy of the FBI report, which was devastating.
It was 14 different statements that they misconstrued, misrepresented what I said. I promise you I said between 12 and 14 shots. And they put down that I said eight.
O'BRIEN: Has this been frustrating you all of these years?
HUGHES: And don't know why they did that perhaps --for means an end to the case.
BROWNSTEIN: Good morning. Ron Brownstein of the National Journal. Are you aware of any other witnesses who were there that night who have a similar view to what occurred to what you do?
RHODES-HUGHES: Yes, yes. Actually Paul Shrade was one. And right now, I can't come up exactly with all of the names, but afterwards, we -- in -- in the Kennedy entourage which I was a part of the Kennedy campaign we did discuss it and we all knew there were more -- more shots than that.
BROWNSTEIN: So are there others --
RHODES-HUGHES: I believe -- I believe even Jess (inaudible) might have said that.
BROWNSTEIN: Are there other people who will be called -- do you expect other people to come forward now that you have to make a similar argument?
RHODES-HUGHES: I would pray that they do. If there is anyone out there that can corroborate what I am saying, it would be wonderful, because there should be a just conclusion and the conclusion that was come to was not just, in my opinion, because I know I can hear the rhythm of the gunshots in my head and I know it was -- at first, I thought it was flashbulbs. It was pop, pop, and then pop, pop, pop, very rapid fire to my right in back of Senator Kennedy.
O'BRIEN: Nina Rhodes-Hughes joining us by Skype this morning, a witness to RFK's assassination. It's nice to talk to you and thank you very much. It will be interesting to see if they push to get the case dropped or push to get him released or push for a new trial as well. What her testimony is used this time around.
Got to take a break. Still ahead though on STARTING POINT, who says a Bobcat can't change his spots? There he is right there. The high-pitch off the hook comedian is now making a name for himself behind the camera. We're going to talk about his new film which is called "God Bless America".
Nice to have you.
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT, WRITER/DIRECTOR, "GOD BLESS AMERICA": Well, nice to be here.
O'BRIEN: I appreciate you joining us this morning. This is your play list, it's the Kinks.
O'BRIEN: You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDTHWAIT: I am every parent's dream. Hi. Is your daughter home?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Oh it's fun we can make you laugh with your trademark.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yes. Oh no, I think, I'm a serious guy.
BROWNSTEIN: That was for anybody who was still sleeping. GOLDTHWAIT: Oh yes.
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. We've woken them up with the voice of Bobcat Goldthwait. Of course back from the 1980s.
O'BRIEN: And now you're behind the camera. You've been directing.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yes, I am. I can understand why now.
O'BRIEN: Yes your -- your -- it's -- I was going to say comedy but it's really black comedy and it's called "God Bless America" and it's going to be out in theaters next week. You're kind of known for starring in "Police Academy" and your standup work and now this is like something totally different.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yes, I've been directing. This is -- I've made some movies. My movies are very small and they are very personal. No, I said personal, not personable. I know people don't think of me as a director but I've been directing a while now. I used to direct the Jimmy Kimmel Show but they didn't really promote that over at ABC. You know the guy who set "The Tonight Show" on fire? He is our director. They were very quiet about that.
O'BRIEN: Before I show a clip, I want you to tell us the story because it's about a guy who just does not go anywhere near describing how annoyed, angry, furious Frank is. Tell me about Frank.
GOLDTHWAIT: Well, yeah. He's diagnosed with a brain tumor -- no, wait, it gets funnier. And then the jokes just write themselves. And then he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is pushed through events, you know? He gets fired from his job for sexual harassment when he sent someone flowers and all of this stuff piles on.
And he sees that his daughter is probably going to turn into a horrible kid and he is watching just as he is about to commit suicide, he is watching my super sweet 16 or I should say a super sweet 16 show. I don't know if I'd bother changing it. Instead of committing suicide, he drives 400 miles and he shoots that girl in the head that is on my sweet super 16.
O'BRIEN: This is like a hard-core story. I know. As I said, it's black comedy. Let's roll a clip from it and talk on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, next time you want to remember something, instead of taking out your cell phone, why don't you take a picture of it with your brain camera? I mean, when I was your age, nobody tweeted. We managed to have experiences. You know? A phone was attached to a wall back at the house and it didn't have a camera.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you? Jeff Foxworthy? And the cell phone was the phone you called your pappy on to get you out of jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That's Roxie, his partner as they go on the lam. What is the message of this film? Sometimes it seems like the message is America is a terrible mean place and people are awful to each other.
GOLDTHWAIT: And then you die.
O'BRIEN: Kind of. Or you get killed.
GOLDTHWAIT: I'd say this is a very violent movie about kindness is how I like to describe it. I don't know if it's a satire. It is a comedy. I think the people -- in that clip there, it does sound like it's written by a grumpy 50-year-old guy saying, "get off my yard." But I do think we are just a culture that's really nasty. You know, there's no more civil discourse. It's just people reacting. There's a line Frank says in the movie, he says a shocking comet has more weight than the truth. And so I got fed up and I wrote this movie.
O'BRIEN: Is that why you left Hollywood, too? I know you kind of moved sort --
GOLDTHWAIT: No, I still live in Los Angeles but I retired from acting at the same time they stopped hiring me. So it really worked out well. I didn't finally said, I had enough. I'm leaving.
FUGELSANG: Your last film, "World's Greatest Dad" to me is one of the best comedies of the last decade.
GOLDTHWAIT: Thank you.
FUGELSANG: It's one of the truest satires we've seen in American cinema in a long time. And the best thing Robin Williams has done in a couple of decades. I love that film so much. It's so uncompromising. Do you think Americans have a hard time distinguishing parody from satire?
O'BRIEN: I think students studying it have a hard time distinguishing it.
GOLDTHWAIT: You know, sometimes --
FUGELSANG: I found that to be a very moral film.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yes. It is. That one and, yes, the one before it. This one what I'm trying to get at this one, without sounding too pretentious is like, where are we going as people? The big theme here what does it say about us with our huge appetite for all of this stuff, you know.
I understand why name-calling and celebrity bashing and all of that stuff. A bar is never empty because they say two guys are getting along in the parking lot, let's go watch. But it's a call for common sense, hopefully, and kindness. Like I said it's very violent though.
O'BRIEN: You say that as I'm looking at the picture of the film says "God Bless America" and then two people holding weapons and pointing them at each other. Love that.
Nice to have you joining us this morning. We're out of time. We could continue talking in the commercial break.
GOLDTHWAIT: Can I just say something? There is stuff floating in my water. Does that happen to you guys too?
O'BRIEN: Here. You can have my coffee. I'll swap you.
GOLDTHWAIT: You know what?
O'BRIEN: That's ok.
GOLDTHWAIT: It's like I see monkeys in here.
O'BRIEN: Our "End Point is up next". We will continue to fix this problem on the set. Coffee -- just coffee. I wish it were.
O'BRIEN: "End Point" -- Ron Brownstein, we start with you on end point.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. You know a lot of jokes in Washington this week. A lot of anxiety this week about the unemployment rate coming on Friday could have a big impact on what presidential race looks like after that.
O'BRIEN: Jumping for sure. Go ahead John.
FUGELSANG: I'd like to say two things really quick. One is that when that tower is put on top of the World Trade Center, it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere especially when they put the pink berry sign up. And I will be performing tonight in New York at "Laughing Liberally" off Broadway.
O'BRIEN: Nice, nice.
FUGELSANG: That's good. That's a big flexed arm to the world. You knock it down, we build it back -- Bigger.
O'BRIEN: All right. All right. And two seconds to go.
"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Hey, Carol. Good morning.