Return to Transcripts main page


New Trayvon Evidence Released; Donna Summer Dies of Cancer; New Anti-Obama Ad?

Aired May 17, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight breaking news on the story that shocked America. The latest on Trayvon Martin's shocking autopsy. What it could mean for the case. My exclusive with attorneys for the Martin and Zimmerman families.

Plus last dance for Donna Summer. The disco diva dead of cancer at the age of 63. But was 9/11 to blame for the illness that killed her? I'll ask Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Plus the queen of soul Aretha Franklin pays her own tribute.

Also the political ad that's so dirty it will never see the light of day. With billionaire bank rolling it and pulled the plug and Mitt Romney said this.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign.

MORGAN: Why Obama versus Romney is bound to get ugly. Also the man who says this will be an evil genius campaign.

And "Only in America." Saying good-bye to Donna Summer.


Good evening. We start with breaking news in our big story tonight, the Trayvon Martin case. This is a major new development. Evidence directly connected to the shooting. Never before seen is now being released. The new photographs and video and documents and tapes. What do they reveal and do they mean to the murder charge against George Zimmerman?

Joining me exclusively is Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Trayvon Martin's family.

Mr. Crump, welcome back.


MORGAN: Obviously pretty dramatic developments tonight with the release of a lot of evidence we haven't seen before. I want to go through some of this with you in order if I may. First of all, the revelation that there were traces of THC, a byproduct of marijuana, inside Trayvon Martin's body from the autopsy. What do you make of that? Is it significant? Is it relevant?

CRUMP: There's no significance that there was trace amounts of marijuana in Trayvon Martin's system.

Piers, what's really relevant is the fact there was no toxicology report done on George Zimmerman and we don't know what else was in his system with the prescribed medications that he was on to have him get out of his car, and profile, pursue, and confront Trayvon Martin and then kill Trayvon Martin in cold blood, even though he was unarmed. And so the trace amounts of marijuana is irrelevant.

MORGAN: The second point is this photograph. Quite fascinating. It seems to have been taken in the back of the car after George Zimmerman is being taken to the police station from the scene of the incident. It's a very grainy photograph, but it quite clearly appears to show that George Zimmerman's nose looks like it's been broken.

Now what do you think of that, particularly in light of the fact that later video from the station doesn't seem to show that? So should we be taking this at literally face value?

CRUMP: Well, again, you have to put it in context, Piers. George Zimmerman pursued and confronted Trayvon Martin after he profiled him and initiated an altercation. We believe Trayvon Martin went to his grave not knowing who this strange man was that was confronting him. And Trayvon Martin was fighting for his life. He was fighting a man with a .9 millimeter gun and he was in a fight for his life.

Tragically, he lost the fight. And he tried to defend himself. It was self-defense for Trayvon Martin. If George Zimmerman suffered a superficial injury, Trayvon Martin suffered a fatal injury. George Zimmerman did not have to go to the hospital that night for his injuries. Trayvon Martin certainly was taken away in an ambulance. George Zimmerman did not leave in an ambulance.

MORGAN: It appears that there was a small abrasion on one of Trayvon's fingers, I think on his left hand a quarter an inch. Not a massive mark by any means, but again, consistent with some kind of scuffle. And on behalf of the family, are you basically accepting now from everything you've seen and from the stuff that's come out today, there clearly was a physical fight between them?

CRUMP: Well, Piers, the family has always said that if there was an altercation that it was started by George Zimmerman. We've heard the objective evidence. We've heard the 911 tape that he said, "These a-holes always get away." So we know his state of mind when he got out of that care. We heard him running, chasing Trayvon Martin. We heard him breathing hard. So anything that happened, it was started by George Zimmerman.

And if George Zimmerman would have just done what neighborhood watch supposed to do, none of this would have happened. He was neighborhood watch, not a neighborhood cop. If he would have just stood his -- he would have just stood down.


MORGAN: You bring me, Mr. Crump, to possibly one of the more significant parts of the evidence that emerged today, which hasn't been seen before, which is that Sanford police believe the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was, quote, "ultimately avoidable if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement."

Clearly, they are saying, look, if he stayed in the car, as we suggested to him, then none of this would have happened.

How significant is that in relation to any defense that George Zimmerman might have on the stand your ground?

CRUMP: The crux of the matter, Piers, is if George Zimmerman stays in that car, if he does what every neighborhood watchman tells and instructs and teaches him to do, none of this happens. And as I have said many, many times before, if George Zimmerman would have stood down, there would be no reason for him to stand his ground.

And that is the case. It is real simple. This is completely avoidable. That if he was in fear or anything, he could have just drove away. But he profiled Trayvon Martin. He pursued him. He confronted him. And he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin, we've heard these tapes now, he's crying, screaming, saying, help, no. And yet we still hear that riveting gunshot. We've got to remember what this is about and keep it in full context. This unarmed teenager was simply walking home and had George Zimmerman not got out of his car, they never would have met.

MORGAN: Benjamin Crump, as always, thank you for sparing me the time. I appreciate it.

CRUMP: Thank you very much, Piers.

MORGAN: I want to get reaction from George Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

Mark, welcome back to the show. I know you can't talk for legal reasons about any of the specifics of the new evidence, but on a general level, what is your reaction to all this coming out now?

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Well, we knew it was coming. It's several pieces of the puzzle that we now have to put together. I would only ask everyone wait until we have the whole pieces all of them together to look and see what the whole picture is.

MORGAN: Do you accept as one unequivocal, undeniable fact that if George Zimmerman had stayed in his car then none of this would have happened?

O'MARA: Yes, as simply as if Trayvon Martin hadn't been in the complex, none of this could have happened. But you're going back to circumstances that we look at now, and I don't think it's reality though. MORGAN: George Zimmerman's ability through you to defend himself under Florida's stand your ground law rests entirely on proving, I guess, that he was attacked by Trayvon Martin. Is that really where we are with this case?

O'MARA: I think that a lot of people believe that. I think the analysis of the law is a little bit different than that. But that is what's going to be so fact intensive from what the evidence shows us.

MORGAN: Am I right in thinking there are still a chance, perhaps even quite a good chance, that this may never come to a full trial?

O'MARA: Well, the only way that would happen of course is if some resolution beforehand, and that could include any type of pretrial motions that might end in the dismissal of the charges. But we're way too early to decide what motions and what the possibility of success would be.

MORGAN: That would come down to you having some kind of motion with the judge based on the stand your ground law, stand your ground hearing, if you like.

O'MARA: And that has been talked about since day one. It is certainly a possibility the more facts that we see, the more that it's a possibility. But I just hate to hazard a guess until I see all of the evidence.

MORGAN: Obviously, this latest raft of evidence that's leaked out today or being put out there and all it does is put this right back into the headlines again. Were you rather enjoying the fact that the story, if you like, from a media perspective, had calmed down so that the legal process could work its way? And is this unhelpful in that sense because for your client, all it does is put it right back at the top of the news agenda again.

O'MARA: Since day one, I sort of had this mantra of we need to calm things down and let the process work. And that this needs to be decided in a courtroom. Certainly, the media has their right and their purpose in all of this, but when it comes out piecemeal, as I've always said, we have to go one piece and try and offer significance to that and we can't do that because we have to look at the whole picture.

So whether it's an autopsy report or a medical record or some video or even a picture, it's what becomes the peoples' focus, but it's only one small sliver and then they make the decision on the sliver and that prejudging the facts carries to the next fact. And it's just not appropriate.

MORGAN: Mark O'Mara, thank you for joining me again.

O'MARA: Sure thing.

MORGAN: I want to bring in CNN's legal analyst Mark Nejame.

Mark, I've spoken to both the lawyers here. One wasn't able to talk much about the detail. One hadn't seen much, although he expressed an opinion. You've now seen a lot of the stuff that's been coming out tonight. What is your overview of its significance?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot to digest in a very short period of time. As you know we just received it. But what jumps out to me are several things. One, there's a broken nose. Two, there's a cut on a finger. Three, there is a significant levels of marijuana in Trayvon's system.

What does this all mean? We have to figure that out, we have to extrapolate out the marijuana, the THC level. But you know THC can be in your system for up to 30 days. A high level 30 days later suggest that one time there was a lot being ingested. We don't know if it was current use or past use.

Normally marijuana wouldn't concern me but it does relate back to the 911 call where he says that somebody looks like they were on drugs. Was he really wasted or was way after the effects? We don't know any of that.


MORGAN: I mean the report -- the report, just to jump in, the report doesn't say significant. It just says traces.

NEJAME: Yes, it's got 7.5 nanograms per millimeter on one portion, and 1.5 on another. The 1.5 doesn't bother me greatly. In some states, that's borderline where you're allowed to drive or not drive. The 7.5 concerns me. That's -- that would be five times. I'm not saying it was five times. We needed to do the analysis on the -- on the -- we haven't got a toxicology report. Remember we just have the medical examiner's report right now.

An the broken nose I think is very significant. From the start, or for a while now, I've been saying that it appeared from the information that was coming in that we had mutual combat going on. We need a lot more to extrapolate. I don't know if that marijuana is relevant or not relevant, but I do know that -- you know, the fact that there's been cuts and that there was a -- you know, from the report that came out earlier as it relates to Zimmerman with the broken nose, it shows that a fight was going on.

MORGAN: Yes, I think the new evidence just raises as many questions as it answers in many ways.

Mark Nejame, as always, thank you very much. NEJAME: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, our other big story tonight. The queen of soul pays tribute to the queen of disco. Aretha Franklin on the death of her good friend, Donna Summer.


MORGAN: Now to our other big story tonight, the sad death of Donna Summer. She was the queen of disco and the voice of an era silenced at the age of 63.

Joining me now exclusively to pay tribute, the queen of soul, Arena Franklin, on the phone from her home in Detroit.

Aretha, thank you so much for joining me. A very sad day. I don't think many people knew that Donna --


MORGAN: That Donna had cancer or was fighting this battle. Was it a shock to you?

FRANKLIN: No, they never did and I never heard that in all of this time. I never had an idea that she was sick.

MORGAN: I went to a dinner party actually, David Foster, the producer, had at his home last summer. And Donna was there, Barbara Streisand was there, Regis Philbrin and others. It was a delightful evening. I sat next to her. And I would never have known that she was remotely unwell or anything. So you do wonder how quickly this took a grip of her.

FRANKLIN: My god, you just -- you just don't know. And many times you really don't know what's happening with people. So it's always a good thing to just maintain the positive and try to treat people the way that you would like to be treated because you never really know what's happening with people sometimes.

MORGAN: What was she like, Donna Summer, from your experience?

FRANKLIN: I thought she was a very gracious and a very nice person. Always beautifully gowned and well spoken. And I liked her.

MORGAN: Yes. Yes. I found her very engaging. And I also -- she sang at the end of the evening. She sang "Amazing Grace," which she sung in public before and it just reminded me what an incredible voice she had. Wonderfully powerful, in perfect pitch. It's a really moving moment to experience at close hand. I mean how does she rank do you think as a singer?

FRANKLIN: A very good singer. And of course we won't forget all those many hits that she put out there. You know, "Bad Girl" and "Last Dance" and all of the hits, we won't forget those.

MORGAN: And you were very much the queen of soul, Aretha, but she was really the queen of disco. It's what everyone is saying today. Really incredibly important to that era, wasn't she, the disco era.

FRANKLIN: Absolutely. She and Giorgio Marauder was her producer really put those hits out there. And they had a lot of repetitions per minute. That was the disco cliche of the day. But truly, that will be her legacy. She was the disco queen.

MORGAN: Did you have a favorite song by Donna? FRANKLIN: I liked a lot of them. As I've said, "Last Dance." "Hard for the Money", I really liked that. My little granddaughter loved that, too.

MORGAN: What do you think Donna would have liked her legacy to be? I mean you're a fellow great singing artist. What do you think from a singing point of view she would have liked her legacy to be?

FRANKLIN: I think probably just exactly what it was, she was a reigning queen of disco.

MORGAN: It's a sad day, isn't it, Aretha?

FRANKLIN: It is really a sad day. And I just -- my god, I just couldn't quite believe that. I saw that flash across the screen on the ticker tape on the bottom of one of the shows -- news shows here in Detroit. I'm so sorry that I have to call on this occasion, but my heart goes out to her family and to her friends and fans. It's really a sad day.

MORGAN: Yes. I think -- I think I totally go along with that. I think it's been a real shock to people. As I said at the start, many people just had no idea that she was even sick.


MORGAN: It was never made public. And I think that somebody who always looked, certainly, and I saw her, looked very well and healthy, and having reached this stage so quickly, it's very, very sad.

FRANKLIN: I found her to be a very gracious and a very kind person.

MORGAN: Yes, I did, too.

Aretha, thank you so much for joining me.

FRANKLIN: Thank you.

MORGAN: I appreciate it.

FRANKLIN: Bye-bye.

MORGAN: Donna Summer's publicist said she died of cancer, and sources close to her tell TMZ that she believed she became ill when she inhaled dust particles from the 9/11 attacks.

Joining me now to explain all this is CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, it's a fascinating twist to this very sad story today of Donna Summer's death, that she believed and told friends that she first contracted lung cancer from particles related to the 9/11 attack.

What do you make of this? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, she's not the only one. And this has been a subject of intense study. As you probably know, Piers, people have been looking at this just this last year, which was the 10 -year mark after 9/11. There were several scientific studies that came out.

I think the most significant one was -- one that involved the fire department of New York. And we've spent a year with these guys investigating. What they concluded, and it's a long study, Piers, but simplifying what they concluded was that there was about a 19 percent increase in all types of cancers among firefighters who had been exposed to toxic dust at ground zero. They did not specifically parse out lung cancer, but they said all different types of lung -- all different types of cancers overall, there was an increase at least in that study, Piers.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, it is fascinating. I mean, how long would these particles, these toxins, be in the atmosphere for somebody like Donna Summer, who presumably -- I think we can assume wasn't a first responder. I don't think she was even in the city on the day. Oddly she'd had a premonition apparently about a terrorist attack and told that story in public about leaving for the Hamptons then came back afterwards.

So how long would the risk of exposure exist to somebody from this kind of inhalation?

GUPTA: Yes, it's a really good question, Piers, and there's sort of a couple of things at play here. First of all, if you analyze what happened on 9/11, it was a very different situation than other attacks or other sort of toxic exposures because it was essentially a plume of dust, which was a very unusual amalgamation of chemicals.

And that does sort of went up, you know, quite high into the atmosphere for some time and then dissipated more slowly over time. That's relevant, Piers, because it wasn't, you know, just first a day or so of potential concern as far as exposure. It could have been longer period of time and it also could have been more widely dispersed as opposed to just at ground zero.

But the second point, I think, Piers, and you're making an important one is that if you had an exposure and that exposure led to cancer, how long would it be between the exposure and the cancer developing? That's called a latency period in medicine. And with lung cancer in particular, you know, they say it's usually more like 20 years. Not a couple, three years, not even 10 years, but 20 years, which makes the likelihood of someone who developed lung cancer, you know, immediately in the aftermath of 9/11 having anything to do with breathing in that dust.

MORGAN: I guess, Sanjay, we'll never really know, will we?

GUPTA: I think we're unlikely to know certainly in her case. I think if you looked at the data overall, you know, I think most people would say it's unlikely that 9/11 had anything to do with Donna Summer's lung cancer because it just within a 10-year period, even if she had developed lung cancer over the last year, it would still likely be too soon based on what we know.

But let me tell you something, Piers, and this is something I know you've talked about as well. But the various chemicals that came together on that day, you know, mercury, bromine, a lot of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, all of it super heated by the fire, the jet fuel. The researchers told me when we were doing this investigation that that was an unprecedented thing.

I mean no sort of, you know, collection of chemicals burned at that super temperature had ever been seen before in the world and certainly not been studied before as was done. So I bring that up only to say, Piers, that we may never truly know. But it's also hard to relate this to anything else that's happened.

In medicine, you want to say well, look, it doesn't follow patterns that we already know. This wasn't anything that ever happened. So, you know, it was a truly unique circumstance.

MORGAN: Yes. And I think to be fair to Donna Summer, and the fears that she had, quite clearly in the case of the first responders, there is clear evidence that you helped unearthed would suggest that it is certainly possible that this could have happened to people outside of first responders, I would imagine. But it may remain a mystery. But certainly a very intriguing part of this sad story today.

Thank you very much, Sanjay. I appreciate it.

Coming up, why a billionaire Romney backer pulled the plug on a new political ad attacking President Obama. I'll get the Obama campaign's reaction from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.



ROMNEY: I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can respectively be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America.


MORGAN: Mitt Romney firmly rejecting a conservative super PAC ad, one that was rejected itself before it is even produced. The ad would have linked President Obama to controversial comments by his former spiritual adviser, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But is it an inevitable sign of things to come in the campaign?

Joining me now is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He's also one of Obama's reelection campaign co-chairs and the author of the new e-book, "Faith in the Dream."

Deval Patrick, it's a pretty nasty stuff, this. And what is your view of how this has come out, front page of "The New York Times," the fact they're now saying it was ever going to be made into ads, the backtracking and Mitt Romney's reaction. What do you make of it all?

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, AUTHOR, "FAITH IN THE DREAM": Well, Piers, for something so vile it's gotten an awful lot of attention, hasn't it? And a lot of airtime. It's sad, but frankly not surprising. The Republican Party announced years before the campaign began that their top priority was tearing down this president. Not fixing the economy, not creating job, not relieving suffering. And you compare that, and I think the American people will, with the president who for four years has been asking Americans to turn to each other, not on each other, because we have big challenges in front of us. And we -- it's going to take all of us working together to solve them.

MORGAN: Yes, but the interesting thing, I guess, is that in this publication, it's a multi-page document that's been prepared with a view to this, you know, get Obama out campaign, that in it, if you study the detail, what is expressed there is a regret that John McCain didn't press this button in 2008.

And you get a feeling it's been sitting there waiting to be repressed. And whether it now gets turned into ads or not, it's out there. The image is out there. The claims are out there. Jeremiah Wright is back in the headlines. People will now be pouring over it just as we are now. So in a way, that could have been one of the tactics all along. Normally, he couldn't get them on air. They're sticking it all out there.

PATRICK: It's possible. You know, it's -- we have seen other kind of Machiavellian moves by the hard right, who have been trying to campaign. And when they have had an opportunity to govern, by fear. But as I write in the e-book "Faith in the Dream" that you mentioned at the top of the segment, really what's happening right now is not just a contest of politics. It's the notion that the American dream itself is up for grabs.

And it's going to take all of us working together and coming together to save it. And the president is the only candidate in the race who believes it's worth fighting for, that it's about our coming together and reaffirming our commitment to the American dream.

MORGAN: Perhaps the most poisonous part of this document was the suggestion they would get somebody like Larry Elder -- he was commend -- a conservative-style radio host, somebody with a profile, who would go out there and basically sell the proposition that Barack Obama was misleading the country by, quote, "pretending to be a metrosexual black Abe Lincoln."

That is really offensive, isn't it?

PATRICK: It's more than offensive. It's, I think, self- defeating. One of the things that the hard right has brought on this country, I think, is to limit our can-do spirit, is to make us feel that we can't reach beyond our grasp, which has been so characteristic of the American miracle for such a long, long time.

This president is trying to reintroduce that in his policies and in the way he's governed. And time after time, he's asked these very same people to come in and be a part of the solution. And they have shown that they would rather tear us down rather than lift us all up.

That's what's on display right now. That's the choice before the American people. I think the American people are going to make the wise and right choice when they choose Barack Obama.

MORGAN: Deval Patrick, thank you very much.

Joining me now are Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. I suppose I'll start with you, Kellyanne, as you're sitting in front of me. And you are a Republican. Are you as disgusted by this as Mitt Romney seems to be?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I haven't seen a particular ad, but some of the things that you're talking about in the document, and I read the "New York Times" piece as well --

MORGAN: There's been no ad yet. This is a document in preparation for the mother of all ad campaigns designed to destroy Barack Obama using Jeremiah Wright.

CONWAY: I would reject those tactics, but I will tell you that back before people knew Barack Obama as president, when Jeremiah Wright hit the TV screen, not the right -- hard right wing and not the sanctimony of the left -- but when he hit everybody's TV screen, run, uncut, in his own words, hit a very disturbing effect, particularly on America's women, who then in the Democratic party were pretty much supporting Hillary Clinton.

That forced candidate Obama to give his famous race speech, wherein he famously said I can no more disavow Reverend Wright than I could my own white grandmother. That's a quote. Days later he disavowed Jeremiah Wright, saying that --

MORGAN: Let's assume that all's fair in love and war and politics, right? What Jeremiah Wright did for Barack Obama is a lot. I mean, let's not underestimate the effects. Yes, a hugely-close relationship. He ended up marrying Barack and Michelle Obama. So clearly very, very close spiritual advisor to him for a long time.

Do you think, as a Republican, it is fair game maybe not to do it in this way, which is pretty poisonous, frankly, but is there a legitimate way of using Jeremiah Wright's words, his comments, his outrageous still against Barack Obama, despite the fact he's already denounced him?

CONWAY: It's actually unnecessary and we know why. In 2010, Republicans -- conservatives really swept everything not nailed to the ground across this country running against the first years of the Obama presidency and nobody mentioned Jeremiah Wright.

They ran on the economy. They ran on the bailouts, the stimulus, the failed Obamacare. So we know what the magic formula is. I will say that it's ironic to me that both campaigns today are sort of high mindedly puffing out their chests and saying, let's have a positive campaign on the issues. That would be terrific. But that's not what we have seen so far, have we?

MORGAN: It's never like that. Hilary Rosen, let me bring you in here. I can hear you snorting with derision over there. So what are you so incensed about?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I was laughing because Kellyanne started trickling out the -- you know, the Jeremiah Wright talking points, but then she smartly shifted to the economy. So I'll give you that, Kellyanne.


ROSEN: But, you know, the interesting thing, I think, is that look at advertising in this campaign. We really have seen all of the negative advertising coming from the Romney camp. What we know is, and it's just fact because it's out there, the Obama campaign actually has spent the majority of their media money over the last month in their positive 60-second ad talking about the president and his accomplishments.


MORGAN: But Hilary, let's get real here on two facts. One against both of you, really. One is that Mitt Romney may stand there all piously today saying this negativity is beneath really me, and yet he ran one of the most negative campaigns against all his Republican colleagues to win the nominee.

And the second point I'd say to you, Hilary, is if you think Barack Obama isn't going to start unloading a few negative bombs at Mitt Romney, I think you're in cloud Coo-Coo land.

So let's take a break. Let's take a break.


MORGAN: -- think about Cloud Coo Coo land. When we come back after the break, we can go at each other again. I'll be the middle ground, the copier (ph) man.


MORGAN: Back with me now, Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. Hilary, I left you in Cloud Coo-Coo Land because let's be realistic. Barack Obama said, look, I'm totally against all super PACs. And of course, now he's all in favor of them because he realizes he has got to have them against mitt Romney.

So there is a hypocrisy there. And there's no doubt that Barack Obama and his campaign team are going to be preparing very negative against Mitt Romney, is there. There's no doubt about that.

ROSEN: Well, I think there's no doubt about that. And -- but it is worth noting going forward in this campaign that one candidate, Barack Obama, actually tried to introduce legislation to stop super PACs from going forward and the Republicans have blocked it.

That aside, that hopefully is a conversation that will take place around kitchen tables throughout this election, because these ads are going to make everybody sick.

MORGAN: Kellyanne, you were with Newt Gingrich and you were on the receiving end and dished out a lot of negativity with Mitt Romney. So when you saw Mitt Romney today, Kellyanne, and you saw him with his halo on, saying I really am appalled by this negativity, you must have chuckled. Didn't you?

CONWAY: I feel relieved. I actually would prefer more a discussion on the issues. Most Americans would. It's why, frankly, many Americans love the debates. They are people -- I think the insiders, the cognoscenti complained there were too many of them. People love them because you didn't have to write a 1,000 dollar check to have access to the candidates. You can just turn on your TV and sit in your living room or on your laptop.

So I'm happy to hear that, but it's also unrealistic. I think what it does for these candidates and their surrogates, Piers, is it punts over to the super PACs the nastiness. And people just wash their hands clean and say, I can't control of my super PAC. I've lost control of my message.

It's going to get to a point where candidates are going to say, I no longer have control of my message. Our colleague, Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, friend of both of ours, I'm sure, said recently in a speech we gave that something like 60 some percent of messages now are not given by the campaign.

MORGAN: But I think this is just -- this is why I hate super PACs. A, because you're basically buying your way into political higher echelons. But secondly, and I think more fundamentally, given what's happened today, is that you can use them to do all your dirty work and pretend you have got nothing to do with it.

I don't believe for a moment that nobody in the Romney campaign had any idea that this billionaire was going to be doing this kind of thing. Some of them did. They must have done. So what you're seeing is surreptitious dirty tricks being done through these super PACs.

That's why I wish Barack Obama had shown a little bit more courage and said, I'm not going to go with these super PACs. I'm just not going to do it. But he didn't. Instead he rolled over and said I'm going to do it too.

ROSEN: I think he just -- he had no choice. He couldn't sort of unilaterally disarm when he saw what happened.

MORGAN: You can.


ROSEN: When we saw what happened to Mitt Romney's opponents in the primary, where he spent, you know, a couple of hundreds of millions of dollars destroying them, and I just think that when you've got a record, you've got to do what you can do break through on it.

MORGAN: Let me throw you Meg Whitman in California. You can have all the money in the world, but if people don't actually buy into your message and to your policies, it doesn't always work. Wouldn't it be more gutsy for President Obama to say, you can spend billions blowing me out of the water, but you know what, I'll beat you on the record.

CONWAY: I think it would have been part in parcel. People saw him in 2008 as the person who is above the fray, the nonpolitical politician. He's now complicit in that after embarrassing the United States Supreme Court in the State of the Union Address, with Justice Alito seated there shaking his head in disbelief, and then go ahead in joining into the fray.

MORGAN: Hilary, you want to jump in there?

ROSEN: I think that that -- you know, this is not the president's choice. He has tried to pass campaign finance reform. He has had those ethical standards all along.


ROSEN: No, actually the republicans stopped it when the Democrats were in the Senate, Kelly. And that's true.

CONWAY: They had the majority.

ROSEN: Well, you know that's not true.


MORGAN: Super PACs are just a bad idea generally for the American democratic political system? Can we agree?

ROSEN: I think we're going to be certain that by the end of this election season, super PACs have done nothing but bring the tenor and the emotion and the inspiration of this campaign down into the basement.

MORGAN: I agree. Kelly, do you agree?

CONWAY: The Supreme Court held 36 years ago that political speech -- political money is speech. Money in politics is speech. And what's happened is you have such Draconian limits on what people can give. Many of us think campaign finance reform should allow you to give more, not less, but make it more transparent, so everybody knows -- everybody knows that Barack Obama goes to George Clooney's house.


CONWAY: I think it's a bad idea for campaigns to lose control of their candidates identity and message, so that the voters --

MORGAN: You're sounding like a politician now. Are super PACs a good or bad idea?


CONWAY: Mostly a bad idea.

MORGAN: Thank you. Kellyanne, that's it. There are no supplementaries. Kellyanne and Hilary, thank you both very much.

Coming up, the man who says this will be a campaign of evil genius, Kurt Anderson.


MORGAN: Now a segment we call Keeping America Great. Is this even possible in this campaign environment of Jeremiah Wright and the proposed Ricketts add?

Joining me now is Kurt Andersen, author of "True Believers," out in July, contributing editor of "Vanity Fair" and "Time" and host of Public Radio International's" The Year 360.".

Welcome, Kurt.


MORGAN: Is it possible to have a great America when you have this kind of vile politicking going on?

ANDERSON: It's tough. I mean, we have had a history of vile politicking, but it's gotten I think to an extreme certainly in my lifetime. And the thing about this Reverend Wright ad that was proposed, and according to the document we have read, preliminary approved by whomever it was addressed to, is not just by a third-party vender.

This guy Fred Davis, who runs the firm that proposed this ad, was the -- McCain's chief media advisor. He ran the media for the last Republican convention. This is -- these are the grown ups.

MORGAN: That's what I was saying earlier. To me it's unfeasible that nobody in Mitt Romney's camp -- he may have been distanced, plausible deniability and all that.

ANDERSON: Or implausible deniability.

MORGAN: Somebody in his campaign would have knew all about this. I guess I think the really sinister aspect is, was it part of their intention to just have it leaked to the front page of the "New York Times?" Then you get all the publicity anyway without actually spending any money.

ANDERSON: My suspicion is not. I don't go that next level of sinister.

MORGAN: Really? Anything about the behavioral patterns of these politicians in Washington the last year made you feel less than cynical?

ANDERSON: I feel entirely cynical. I just think it's too stupid. I think this doesn't do them any good. I think what you're supposed to do, if you're Mitt Romney's campaign, is make the people who are uncomfortable with the black president feel uncomfortable without ever mentioning black people.

MORGAN: But Mitt Romney can stand as he did today and say, look, I knew nothing about this. I'm as appalled as you are. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Wright, who had disappeared off the radar, is now all over the news agenda again. And you can bet your life that they will be repeating now all over cable stations in America. They'll be playing his incendiary comments.

ANDERSON: Chickens coming home to roost.

MORGAN: All that stuff. So he's back in the forefront of people's minds in relation to the president.

ANDERSON: You might be right. My belief is that what this does is not help Romney with the independents, that small group of people truly in the middle who could go either way. This looks cynical and wretched and unappealing.

MORGAN: Yes. However, it may help him with lots of other peoples, in galvanizing people who have a race element to their thinking.

ANDERSON: Talk about galvanizing, I think if you're an African- American, 90 plus percent of whom voted for Barack Obama in the last election, this galvanizes into thinking oh, look at these Republicans; they really are trying to make this dead and gone race issue from four years ago a live issue again.

MORGAN: Playing Devil's Advocate, is there any part of Jeremiah Wright which is relevant to this campaign? Is it unacceptable completely for a Republican like Mitt Romney or his campaign to actually use anything that Jeremiah Wright stood for against the president?

ANDERSON: Nothing is unacceptable. I just think it won't work. And it's -- and people judged in 2008 that it was a minor, perhaps briefly disturbing, then put to rest by Barack Obama himself issue. So it's not -- it's ugly and it's stupid and perhaps beyond the pale by certain judgments. But they can try whatever they want.

MORGAN: This sort of has a particularly unpleasant undertone, the Abe Lincoln reference and all the rest.

ANDERSON: Metrosexual Abe Lincoln, yes.

MORGAN: Yeah. It was pretty awful, I thought, to say that. But let's be realistic about political campaigns, when you watched the Republican nominee race, for example, that was pretty vile. You had them all lobbing bombs at each other. And at the end of it, they all kiss and make up and they're all friends again. Is the public really that naive? I mean, do we not just get used, conditioned to this? Has it not always been like this?

ANDERSON: I don't think it has been as much like this. And I think this corrosive cynicism that is afoot in the land as regards to national politics is just made worse by this. I recommend that people go read this document closely.

For instance, one of the things they propose is changing the name of the super PAC to Character Matters.


ANDERSON: I mean, you can't -- Aaron Sorkin couldn't make that up.

MORGAN: I totally agree. Where does this leave us now, as the race really starts to heat up quite literally with this? Where does it leave us in relation to the whole issue of super PACs? Because to me there's a real double hypocrisy, Mitt Romney pretending he knows nothing about what's going on in his name, but also Barack Obama who made this big principle, I'm not going to get involved in these super PACs; they're totally wrong. And then he just plunges merrily in.

I wish he hadn't done that. I think it's bad for him, bad for his credibility in the same way when he said I'm going to shut Guantanamo Bay and he didn't. How damaging is the fact that Barack Obama is now going to do this, deploy super PACs, albeit as scrumptiously as Romney, when he said he wasn't going to?

ANDERSON: It is one more thing that gives those people who are inclined to withdraw and be cynical and disgusted more reason to do that. I think what it leads us to -- ought to lead us to is talking about a Constitutional amendment. As your last guest said, the Supreme Court has said money is speech. It's true.

And the only way to get around that is to pass a Constitutional amendment about money in politics.

MORGAN: When you see, as I said, what happened to Meg Whitman in California, money can't necessarily -- the same way that I can't buy you the World Series, necessarily --

ANDERSON: It buys you a good mayor in New York.

MORGAN: Right. Well, yeah. I mean, there are arguments like that. But it doesn't always buy. If you're fundamentally not the right candidate, people see through you. You can have all the money in the world.

ANDERSON: Yes. But at the margin, and in this very close, essentially 50/50 presidential election, a lot of money could -- might well buy you the election either way.

MORGAN: Kurt Anderson, for now, thank you very much. Come back again soon. ANDERSON: Thanks.

MORGAN: Coming up, Only in America, saying good-bye to the great Donna Summer.



MORGAN: For tonight Only in America, remembering Donna Summer. She was quite simply, as others have said tonight, the queen of disco. A young woman from Boston with an amazingly powerful voice, but more than that, the power to make people dance. And dance we all did to Donna Summer's incredible song list from the '70s, '80s, '90s and the new millennium.

"Love to Love You, Baby," "I Feel Love," "Hot stuff," "On the Radio," "She Works Hard For the Money," all classics in their own lifetime. Donna Summer straddled generations, whether they listened to her sing on the 8-track 40 years ago or an iPod today. One thing was always the constant. Donna Summer made you get up on your feet and party.

I'd like to leave you tonight with my own favorite of so many great songs. "Last Dance."