Return to Transcripts main page
PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
One-on-One with Alec Baldwin
Aired December 6, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You never know quite what to expect from my first guest who once was famous for his outbursts and for his acting. But not anymore. Now the smart Alec who once asked me this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "30 ROCK": But I must ask you, Piers, have you ever been properly in love? I was instructed by your staff to pose this very question to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Alec Baldwin, we're talking about everything from politics --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can probably solve this in about a week. It's not that tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: To Bob Costas and gun control. The fate of a thinking man's CEO, "30 Rock's" Jack Donaghy.
Alec Baldwin live and unfiltered.
Plus an extraordinary heartbreaking story of hope after tragedy. A mother lost her three young daughters and her parents in a Christmas day fire last year. Madonna Badger, how she's finding the strength to rebuild her life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADONNA BADGER: For me, finding out the truth of what happened is very important. It is the way that I want to really honor and respect my parents and my children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. With everything that's going on in Washington these days there are not many laughs to be had in politics, unless of course you have a guest like Alex Baldwin. In his real life, you would call him the poster boy for liberals. He does a damn good job of playing a hard core Republican and playing it for laughs. Listen to this exchange from NBC's "30 Rock."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA FAY, ACTRESS: See, this is why 50.1 percent of Americans hate Republicans. Because you're sneaky and cynical.
BALDWIN: Cynical? I think I'm the very opposite of cynical. I'm doing everything I can for my beliefs and I truly believe that one rich person can make a difference in this country, and a roomful of rich people can change the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Joining me now, the always outspoken, always entertaining, liberal and Republican Alec Baldwin.
We've never met in the same studio for an interview. Welcome.
BALDWIN: I'm going to miss that show. I'm going to miss that character.
MORGAN: You know, I was just watching that clip thinking what is going to happen to my life without Jack Donaghy? He must continue --
BALDWIN: Your life?
MORGAN: Well, never mind yours. Some -- he's just the epitome of great comedy.
BALDWIN: You know, even to the wire as we get down to where the -- you know, next week sometime or thereabouts, we finish the show and every minute that goes by, I say, well, I'll never say this line again and I'll never stand in this spot again.
MORGAN: But can't you create some kind of spinoff around Jack? I mean you signed a new deal with NBC.
BALDWIN: Well, I think that would necessarily involve Tina and all the people who birthed this show. It's their project. I don't think that they see themselves -- I mean, Tina has got so many options in her future. I don't think they see themselves doing a show that I'm going to be the star of it and they're not involved with. Yes.
MORGAN: It would be good, though, wouldn't it?
BALDWIN: I think it would have been a good idea. Yes. Possibly.
MORGAN: Let's talk serious politics. Massive day. Washington state and smoking pot legally. For a good liberal boy like you, this must be a happy day, Alec.
BALDWIN: I don't -- I don't know how I feel about legalized pot smoking because the difference is that alcohol is something that's consumed as a part of cuisine, you know, you have wine in particular. And you can drink alcohol and you can say, well, I have had enough and I don't think I want to drink anymore because I've got to drive.
Drugs are consumed for the purpose of being mind-altering substances and so I think to legalize them is -- I'm not quite sure how I stand on that. But however, the medicinal marijuana thing, I'm in support of.
MORGAN: It's been a fascinating year politically because right to the end people assumed it was going to be a very close race. In the end, it wasn't that close. And the GOP are going through a kind of collective internal meltdown, trying to work out what the new identity should be. I know you won't be shedding any tears for that but what did you make of the election battle?
It's pretty bruising, pretty nasty, as we're seeing with the battle over this fiscal cliff. They don't seem to have learned very much on either side about how to get stuff done for the benefit of America.
BALDWIN: I mean, I'm not the first person. There are countless people who have said that the GOP's casting department has to be fired and re-staffed because this was a race that was theirs for the taking. I mean, Obama was ripe for the taking. And I don't know if I agree that that was deservedly so but they really, really could have brought him down and I think again the vice presidential choice was critical. I think if you had Romney, who was plenty conservative for most people I know, maybe not for certain red -- people in red states, certainly Christian conservatives, he needed to put a woman on the ticket.
MORGAN: I was amazed he didn't go for at least someone from one of the other demographics he hadn't got any kind of entry to. If he got the Marco Rubio to the (INAUDIBLE), Condoleezza Rice, you know, assuming they would do it but at least he wouldn't --
BALDWIN: If he'd gone for Meg Whitman from California who ran for the Senate and who was the chair -- who was the CEO of Hewlett- Packard, he might have won. I mean if he took a serious woman as opposed to Palin and the race in 2008. If he took a serious woman, he might have stood a chance, I think.
MORGAN: On Obama, I mean, he ended up fighting a campaign that was pretty skillful on the ground where it mattered in the swing states. Probably why he won. But by any kind of critical yardstick you'd say he didn't live up to the promise that he gave us four years ago.
What does he got to do now he's been re-elected ? That pressure is off. He can't face another election. What do you want him to do to really show some fulfillment to that promise that we all felt? BALDWIN: I think that what I want him to do and what I think needs to be done are to some degree separate things but I do know that we've had a lot of programs, government-funded program for years now that represent both sides of the aisle. Both sides want everything they want and both sides have found a way with this Congress over the last several years to get much of what they want and we bought it on credit. And the time has come, because we have enormous debt, where we have to raise taxes and we have to pay the bill.
MORGAN: My gut feeling is, I think the argument of the moment, you see the Republicans being pushed into this impossible situation for them to win where two-thirds of Americans in all the polls are quite happy for the rich 2 percent to be taxed more and the Republicans have boxed themselves into a position where come January 1st they might be allowing all the middle class to be taxable to try and save the skins of very wealthy Americans.
That's not going to wash with the public, is it?
BALDWIN: I don't think it is washing with the public. I think what we need to do is have a more realistic definition of what wealth is. There are people who have jobs, both parents are working, they're putting their kids through schools, they don't have faith in the public schools in the community they're in, and they have the option to go to private school.
Their knot is a bit higher but nonetheless I think that probably right around a million dollars is a serious breaking point for me. Meaning, you have a certain tax base and there's one definition of wealth. The $250,000 in the household, $500,000, then once you cross a million dollars in the household, then you can really, really have the highest tax rate, I believe.
I don't think you should be taxing people at the highest rate who are earning $250,000 a year in the modern world.
MORGAN: Let's talk briefly about guns. Bob Costas this week -- you're a sports fan like me -- got into hot water for going halftime in a football match and talking about gun control. I've had a lot of debates about this on my show. I got pretty (INAUDIBLE). I come from a country where we have strict gun control, very few gun murders, and we don't have a constitution that many here believe entitles them to bear arms, in other words, to have a firearm.
What is your view and should politicians led by the president be doing more to try to at least limit some form of weapon?
BALDWIN: Well, I'm in favor of people owning guns but I'm in favor of there being the most arduous process for them to qualify to own that gun. We license many things in our society. You can't walk into a store to get all the drugs you need. You could be in agonizing pain and you still have to go to a hospital and stand in line and you have to go to a doctor and get a prescription, from a pharmacist. We license cars. We license a lot of things and I think that we need to license guns beyond the way we do it now. Meaning if you want a gun, you could have a gun, but it might take you a couple of weeks to get them do a proper background check.
MORGAN: Because is it kind of -- it's an inbred thing to an American, this right to bear arms.
BALDWIN: To some Americans, to some Americans.
MORGAN: I would say -- I would say to the majority of Americans.
BALDWIN: I disagree.
MORGAN: You don't think?
BALDWIN: Well, I think -- I think at best it's 50-50 where there's a rural or semirural component or people who live in a city that's kind of a B-sized city and out West where they have access to rural countrysides and shooting and guns and hunting, that sort of thing, is part of the culture. And -- but I think for a lot of them -- look at the a map of the United States and look at the density of the United States.
Most of it is still on the East Coast and a lot of people I know on the East Coast, cities, that don't want to own guns. But I think that people should be able to own them. We should not infringe on that right. We need to make the rules for having one more stringent I think.
MORGAN: Last time we spoke you were flirting with the idea of possibly running for mayor of New York. Are you still flirting with it?
BALDWIN: No. Because to do so -- I mean I was convinced and people told me, although it was something I would love to have done, truly, you'd have to take about a year and a half of your life and to do nothing but raise money, and I didn't have time because I'm doing the TV show now, and I have other commitments, but I'm very interested in what the post-Bloomberg New York will look like.
MORGAN: Who would you like to see, of all the names you've heard in the frame outside --
BALDWIN: Probably Bill de Blasio right now. I'd have to say Bill de Blasio.
MORGAN: Why him? Why?
BALDWIN: Well, because, first of all, I start with looking at the other candidates. All of whom have good qualities. The thing that concerns me most is obviously about Quinn. I'm very outspoken about Quinn who's a lovely person, but she certainly is Bloomberg's handpicked successor. And I resent that to some degree and that Bloomberg feels he needs to control the fate of city hall and of Gracie Mansion beyond his term.
He already overturned a voter-approved referendum that had term limits for two terms. Quinn has that blood on her hands. She was the one who single-handedly killed the voter referendum at Bloomberg's behest and gave him a third term. And I was very, very upset about that. And I just don't think that Quinn is trustworthy. I think that she's a very, very -- she's a very nice person. I've met her. But in terms of her political aspirations, she is a very untrustworthy person, she's very, very self-seeking.
MORGAN: Took a blood on that. I couldn't help but notice your grazed knuckle there. I want to take a short break. I want to leave the viewing public on this cliff hanger. How did he get that mark on his knuckle? Has he punch another photographer? Is there something darker? We'll find out after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I've been to the DMC. They have signs. Can your wife not read?
BALDWIN: OK. We're all adults here.
RICE: So what is it? Is she funnier than I am? She's certainly not younger, is she?
BALDWIN: Condi, we are not doing this.
RICE: Oh, we are doing this.
BALDWIN: I'm sorry that I broke up with you by text. I'm sorry I went drinking with Karl Rove on Valentine's Day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Funny scene from "30 Rock." I can't bear the thought of no more Jack Donaghy.
It's funny there, Alec. You and Condoleezza Rice. She was a comic. I thought the comic timing --
BALDWIN: She was a great foil.
BALDWIN: She was a great comic foil.
MORGAN: We've got some funny pictures for you. End the election stuff with these. These are pictures of Mitt Romney since the election. And they're all --
MORGAN: That's him at McDonald's.
BALDWIN: OK. MORGAN: You like this here? That's him in the store, the supermarket. CVS. Getting some supplies. That's him in the kitchen. That's him gassing up at the station. I mean, kind of -- sad, lonely figure.
BALDWIN: Kicking back. He was kicking back. He was enjoying himself.
MORGAN: It's good to see him back in normal life? Is it good for any politician?
BALDWIN: Well, I would imagine that the period, the grieving period and the acceptance period for when it doesn't go your way, especially when there was every inclination that it would go his way and remember what a long torturous, tedious primary period it was. What, they had about 175 Republican debates before the general election. And he must have been wiped out -- he was wiped out before the finals.
MORGAN: What I find so disgusting about politicians, I got to say, is I actually like Mitt Romney and his wife and his kids. They're nice people. And the way they've all been chucked under the bus by the other Republicans, one by one, racing to distance themselves, I don't like that. It's just disloyal to me.
BALDWIN: I think that Romney was someone who -- I mean, listen. I'm glad the way everything turned out but it wasn't like Romney was somebody I despised.
BALDWIN: I didn't think he was the best man for the job but I do think that the Republican Party, they do have a lot of soul searching to do. But we need two parties. I don't want to have a -- I don't want to live in a one-party country, either. I'd like to have a loyal opposition, as well. But I think that what happened for the Republicans is something that they're going to have to do a lot of thinking about. Because it was theirs for the winning if they had focused more.
MORGAN: Let's put the viewers out of their misery here. We waited to find out what the hell happened to your knuckles.
BALDWIN: I injured myself in the set. I hit a ladder with my hand. When you're on a sound stage, as you well know, especially if you're moving sets and shooting the way we do, you're in pretty constant peril every five minutes of smashing your head on something. You know you're on a real movie set when you're trip on something or hit something, and I cracked my hand.
No, I did not punch a photographer, as you so cleverly alluded to a moment ago.
MORGAN: Your relationship -- well, your relationship with the media is fascinating because you've always been very good copy for them. And you've sort of played the game and occasionally you just blow up and now you seem to be almost permanent rage with them. Why do you have such conflict with them?
BALDWIN: I don't think I really do have any conflict with them in the sense that -- that guy, you're talking about that photographer, I mean, I think the most important thing to remember is I did not punch the guy and the guy was overheard by witnesses going down the street going through his camera with his finger, going, yes, there's a one. There's a good one, oh, I like that one.
And he's going through the roll of his film on his digital camera, then they go down to the police station then he presses charges and the charges dismissed. I don't think I am somebody who I have the New York City D.A.'s office or police department in my pocket. They didn't believe the guy had been struck. They dismissed the charges. There was no case there.
But I also think that, you know, we live in a time where -- and you'll appreciate this and I say this all the time. You know, years ago the press operations of major studios before there were even more television networks, they tried to protect movie stars back then from the Hedda Hoppers and the Louella Parsons and people -- and the Walter Winchells of their day. And they had press officers that would help them and then one day somebody who worked at one of these companies said, why are we wasting our time trying to shield society from the alcoholism, the homosexuality, the extramarital affairs of our stable of stars?
Let's make -- let's make money off of these people falling on their sword, no pun intended, in this -- in this behavior. So for this very company, for example, CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, Warner Brothers owns TMZ. So when you make a film for TMZ or when you make a film for Warner Brothers and you do a television show for Warmer Brothers right down the hallway that very company that you're working for is trying to try stab you in the back when your back is turned, you know, with what's his name who runs TMZ? (INAUDIBLE) in that crowd.
MORGAN: Oh yes.
BALDWIN: So it's become a very, very murky water. You know?
MORGAN: But is the way not to deal with them, Alec, and I say this with great respect because I know that you get much more attention than I would.
MORGAN: But whenever I come across these guys, especially TMZ, they're always (INAUDIBLE), it's quite entertaining, floating around with a video. He's --
BALDWIN: You must have a very low threshold for entertainment.
MORGAN: Well, I just find them a kind of necessary part of the business. I mean it's like -- BALDWIN: That's a difference of opinion we have.
MORGAN: I would call them tax. It's a tax on show business.
BALDWIN: Yes. You have a very different opinion than I do. My attitude is the business will be infinitely better if all of them were gone.
BALDWIN: If I could press the button tomorrow and flush them all down some swirling sewer vortex.
I would do it. Where's the button? Hand it to me now.
MORGAN: Well, what if they said to you, OK, here's the deal. We'll leave you alone.
BALDWIN: Somebody on the crew is laughing.
MORGAN: You could never have any more publicity in any newspaper or magazine for anything you do.
BALDWIN: Well, that's not really practical. You see you and I both know that people you will have publicity and some -- and listen, I'm not opposed to -- even though I'm not completely ecstatic about all the entertainment journalism that's out there because I think it cheapens show business and it demystifies show business, but the once -- where, you know, you typically call this kind of gotcha journalism, that's one I think we can all do without.
MORGAN: Mike Tyson had a good way of resolving things. I interviewed him the other night. He just -- so when was the last time you hit a man, he went, a photographer at LAX. And I said, and what was the fallout from this? He went, paparazzi are really good to me.
MORGAN: Absolutely. Let we give him the right hook.
Let's take a break, Alex. Let's come and talk about more, well, cheerful matters. "Saturday Night Live," you've done 16 of these. You're the king of "SNL." I want to talk to the king.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I have to say your balls are so tender.
BALDWIN: Well, there's no beating my balls. They're made from a secret Schweaty family recipe. No one can resist my Schweaty balls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: A holiday classic.
MORGAN: That is a classic.
BALDWIN: It's a holiday classic, Piers. Yes
MORGAN: Did you bring any of your Schweaty Balls with me?
BALDWIN: Bing Crosby, Dickens. Pete Schweaty. One big basket now.
MORGAN: You love "SNL," don't you?
BALDWIN: I did love it. I really do, yes.
MORGAN: Is it a fact that it's mainly live and it's dangerous? That it's -- you know --
BALDWIN: Well, there's things like that but that's the only place you can say it. I mean one of the things I've loved about "30 Rock" and one of the greatest tributes to the writing is how they do prime time networks that they can only go so blue, they can only be so adult. And they've got to walk that broadcast fine line which they do very deftly and they get pretty outrageous but "SNL" and it is late- night programming, you can go even further and there's things you just can't believe you're saying on TV. It's just incredible.
MORGAN: Let's talk briefly about your brother Steven. He's in the news today for apparently facing jail, being arrested of this tax- dodging thing. What can you say about that?
BALDWIN: I think two things. One is that I don't think he's going to go to jail. I know he's in a negotiated settlement and things that were online which were -- you know, that's what media today does. They try to tilt it the way that they need it to be to sell copies of what you, sell online hits to their sites.
Were talking about him being arrested and taken into custody there what have you. This was all prearranged with the D.A. for him to go him and make an appearance. And they've got to shake him down. And they've got to make him walk that gauntlet because that's their procedure, even though steps have been made to be in the process of remediating that money and down payments have been made. But one of the things I find interesting in my lifetime and I'm sure you will recognize this in yours with people you've known is that when you have far less money than you need and you have far more money than you need they're both equal in terms of how easy it is to get in trouble with the tax man.
MORGAN: Yes. Exactly true.
BALDWIN: The only people who really walked down the middle in a more realistic framework financially seem to keep that right. I have so many with my new annualize their income. They make a lot of money one year, two years, three years, then they just assume it's going to carry on for many, many years, and those people end up spending the money that they ordinarily would have to segregate in to a tax account and my brother is no different than millions of other people who have --
MORGAN: Well, he's a good lad, Steven. I'd be --
BALDWIN: But I think that his problem as of today is being cleared up and but they did make -- they did drag him through that mud today necessarily.
MORGAN: Can you hold the tweets here @piersmorgan if you're interested. And asking, are you going to work with Tina again? Because they're heart broken like me that Friday this week that's it, it's all over next week.
BALDWIN: Well, the show airs until the end of January, I believe, and you know, listen, if something came up that was a good idea, I would love to do that. She's a great writer and she's such a -- she's so unique. I mean there really is no one like Tina who's this beautiful, beautiful woman, and she's winning and warm and funny on screen and very, very clever and very, very, you know, sharp. But the other thing about it is her future is something that I'm very interested in to see what happens because she does have two kids.
Whether she going want to get in to that TV series grinding it and I don't know. Her options are limitless, limitless.
Let's take another break, Alec. Let's come back and just le me intrude in your privacy. Let me ask you about your love life.
Let me ask you, Alec Baldwin, how many times have you --
BALDWIN: Am I gay?
-- more improperly in love.
MORGAN: Back now with Alec Baldwin, who left viewers on a dramatic cliff hanger raising the specter that you may be gay. Are you?
BALDWIN: I may be unconsciously. I don't want to rule that out. I think consciously I'm not. I just got married to a woman, actually.
MORGAN: Yes. Just a cover story, clearly.
BALDWIN: It was a beard, a heavy beard.
MORGAN: How is Elaria (ph)? She's a beautiful woman. And more than that, she has got you in the most spectacular shape. BALDWIN: Well, you know, obviously, I feel funny saying this because a lot of people would say this about their wives, but I'm very lucky. My wife is really -- she's the most special person. She is such a wonderful opportunity for me as a person to grow. She's helped me so much, and not just in terms of this physical health thing and the nutrition.
The number one thing I gave up was sugar. I was always a pretty fit and relatively lean and healthy person. And then about eight or nine years ago, I began to go off this deep end, and I started to get more and more swollen. And I thought, my God, what is happening?
I did exercise. And then when someone explained to me -- I think this is very, very important. When someone explained to me that it was not so much about my lack of discipline or my kind of bad behavior, but that I was sick, that I was pre-diabetic, that it was an illness, and if I addressed it that way, therein lie the cure. I gave up eating sugar and I lost 35 pounds in a year.
MORGAN: Are you a naturally romantic man?
BALDWIN: I think I'm very romantic, yeah.
MORGAN: I saw the wedding pictures. I thought they were very romantic.
BALDWIN: I love my wife.
MORGAN: You threw the kitchen sink at that.
BALDWIN: I can't say enough. I'm very -- I love my wife. I'm in love with my wife. I adore her. But I'm lucky to have her. I just have never had this kind of an opportunity before, because when you're younger and you're with other people -- I was married before. I'm a different person. And you look at that guy, as I'm sure you do in your career and your relationships -- you look at that guy back then and you go, oh God, look at him. He was -- he didn't really have all of his ducks in a row.
MORGAN: You jumped me last time with a very well spoken British accent, asking how many times have you been properly in love, Piers.
So I'm going ask you the same question. Now that you have experienced true, true love here and happiness, is this the proper love you were always seeking? Or have you felt this before, but it just doesn't work out?
BALDWIN: I think as we get older, we have a more acute appreciation of that. Everywhere I was, that's where I wanted to be at the time. Who I was, that guy that I was back then, I was married to my ex-wife, and my daughter's mother. And I was involved with, you know, here and there with a couple different people over the years. And all of those people was where I thought I wanted to be.
But where I'm at now is -- the difference is in me. You know, the difference is -- or not only in who I'm with but in me as well. MORGAN: Are you a nicer guy to be with? Are you a better partner, do you think?
BALDWIN: I think the biggest thing I want to change is just how stress filled my life is, because I try to do a lot. Like the job I have on the TV show, sometimes it almost seems to be a hobby. And I'm fitting in all these other things I do, all these other activities I do, which fill another kind of side of my passion. And sometimes I go home and I just think I am going to go blind I'm so tired.
MORGAN: What's been the greatest moment of your life? Putting aside women and children, what's been the moment, if I could relive it for you, you'd go for?
BALDWIN: I would say it's probably a tie between my daughter being born. I remember that was a really, really great experience. At that point, I got married in 1993. I was 35. My daughter was born in '95. And I was 37. And at that point, I began to mull over -- my ex-wife was older than I was by four and a half years. And I began to mull over the possibility that I wasn't going to have children. My wife was 42 a few weeks after my daughter was born. So as we kind of rolled toward that horizon, I began to look at myself and go, wow, maybe that's going to get by me.
So when my daughter was born, that was a great thrill. And then I'd say the second thing, tied with that, was marrying Elaria. Because I never thought I would get married again. Never, never, never. You've been married once.
BALDWIN: You've been married twice. So when you do go back in it again, it really is a very joyful thing.
MORGAN: I did, of course, start this question by saying you can't have women or children as the answer. And you gave me women and children.
BALDWIN: Is that what I said? Oh so, you want to say other than --
MORGAN: Great answers.
BALDWIN: Other than women and children?
BALDWIN: Other than women and children, the greatest experience of my life, boy, that's really, really tough. I would have to say --
MORGAN: The moment? The moment, if you could relive it?
BALDWIN: The moment if I could relive it? Probably when we won the Emmy for "30 Rock" and the show won and Tina won and I won, and we were only the third show in Emmy history, other than "All In the Family" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," where the two principle leads and the show all won in the same year. We're only the third show in history where that happened. Tina won, I won and the show on. That was a really -- that would be one answer.
MORGAN: Well, it's a great answer and it's fantastic show. And I will be mourning its departure from he airways. But Jack Donaghue is going live on if it kills me.
BALDWIN: Now that I'm not TV anymore, will you still have me on your show?
MORGAN: I will. Come back any time. Alec, lovely to catch up with you. Take care. Alec Baldwin, great guy.
Coming up, an extraordinary story of heart break and hope. Madonna Badger and how she's rebuilding her life after the most appalling of tragedies.
MORGAN: It is almost impossible to imagine what Madonna Badger has been through. She woke in the early hours of Christmas morning to find her house engulfed in flames. She barely escaped with her life, but heartbreakingly was unable to save her three young daughters, Lily, Grace and Sarah, and her parents.
Nearly a year after that appalling tragedy, Madonna Badger is learning to try and get on with her life, an extraordinary example of strength and courage. And she joins me now in a prime time exclusive.
I don't even know where to start with you, Madonna, because I can't imagine anything worse in the world than what you have been through. How do you even begin to cope?
MADONNA BADGER, SURVIVED FIRE THAT KILLED FAMILY: You know, in the beginning you don't cope. And my life was basically shattered. And I went to three different mental institutions. And they didn't know what to do with me. You know, I wasn't schizophrenic. I wasn't mentally ill. I was just sick with grief and sadness.
And finally, I called my friend and asked her to come and get me from the third one in Tennessee. And she did. Kate and I went to college together. And I lived in her daughter's bedroom for four months. And I went to this amazing place called the Psychiatric Research Institute. And it's part of University of Arkansas Little Rock.
And the director there was the first person that really described to me what was going on with me physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, in a way that I could somewhat understand at the time.
MORGAN: Is time, as people say so often in these situations, any kind of healer?
BADGER: I think the only reason why time is a healer is because, you know, my whole life -- or not my whole life but certainly what felt like my whole life up to this point has really been about my girls and my children. And so the time part is I think the idea that -- of learning how to live without them.
And so it doesn't really get better. You just sort of learn new tools along the way.
MORGAN: There's something that really touched everybody, because it was Christmas, your three beautiful girls, your whole life, your parents, everything gone, literally in ashes. The day before, how was your life? How would you describe life before this happened to you?
BADGER: My life was fantastic. And it was beyond my wildest dreams. And we had the most amazing night together. My mother made wonderful apple pies and homemade bread and brought them to my house. And we, you know, had a lovely Christmas eve dinner. And Gracie went around and decorated the table. And Sarah and Lily, you know, did wonderful dances.
And it was amazing. And my life felt -- I have never felt so good in my life than really these past -- the past few months up until, you know, Christmas morning.
MORGAN: When you realized what was happening, there must be -- I'll put my cards on the table here. My grandmother watched her mother die in a house fire and she saw it happen.
MORGAN: So I have a tiny bit of perspective on this for the horror of what that must be like. When you're beginning to realize that you can't get your girls or your parents out of this inferno, what was going through your mind?
BADGER: I mean, it's so horrific and so awful in that, you know, before this happened to me, I would never have imagined that there was anything that could stop me from going into a burning building and to save my children. And yet I couldn't get in.
And I had climbed up to the third floor scaffolding. And I had raised the window. And the black smoke on the third floor was so intense and so filled with burning embers. And I would hold my breath and try to go in and hold my breath and try to go in. I was screaming and screaming.
And then finally I saw the fire trucks coming. And so I came down and then I started to -- I tried to open a foot with my foot. And you know, at this point, my neighbor has just come out of his house. The firemen are there and I don't know -- I'm so lost at that moment.
I was so lost. And I have done a lot of work, the same sort of work that they do with war veterans, with post traumatic stress syndrome, at PRI. Because, you know, up until maybe two months ago, I couldn't have even told you that story.
MORGAN: Did part of you just wish you died, too? BADGER: Oh, God yes. Yes. I prayed for that. And I screamed at God, you know, forever. Why didn't I die, too? You know? Yeah. That was -- I really wanted to die, too.
MORGAN: Do you blame anybody?
BADGER: No. I don't.
MORGAN: I mean, do you even really know exactly what happened?
BADGER: No. That's why I don't blame anyone.
MORGAN: The house was demolished, wasn't it? Without your knowledge or permission, it was just raised to the ground. So there's never been any conclusive investigation that's really told you probably what you most want to know, what happened.
BADGER: Yes, yes. No, there has not been any conclusive anything. And you know, for me, finding out the truth of what happened is very important. It is the way that I want to really honor and respect my parents and my children. And more importantly, at this point, is that I don't want this to ever happen to anyone else. You know? I don't want anyone else to ever wake up on Christmas morning choking in their own bed and not being able to save their children and have, you know, the people, the city come in and tear my house down, and haul it away, and not save one piece of physical evidence, not save a smoke detector.
You know, why --
MORGAN: Why did they do this? Do you know? Do you have a satisfactory answer?
BADGER: No. I don't have any answer. None.
MORGAN: It's extraordinary.
BADGER: It's awful. It's awful. And it's -- and the fact that they could come in and make that sort of a decision without doing a proper investigation -- I mean, my father was the director of safety and security for Brown Foreman for over 20 years.
MORGAN: He was an in store Santa Claus, wasn't me?
BADGER: Yes, in his retirement. In his retirement.
MORGAN: He was very keen on safety and all that. You were very aware.
BADGER: Yes, yes. As a kid growing up, I mean, his nickname was safety man. And you know, my dad was in my house with my all the time. And my mom was, too. And you know, this idea that my house was somehow, you know, halfway built or any of those kinds of things, it is just absurd. It is absurd.
And so the person that came up with the ashes story was me. You know? I was worried that when I went to bed and saw the box next to the mud room -- or I'm sorry, in the mud room next to the door I thought, oh, I should put that outside. And then I thought, no, it's OK. I mean, I vividly remember this. Of course I do.
And so, I went to bed. When I got up, I came out the front on to the front top of the porch. I looked around. And I saw my parent's bedroom windows and I looked up. There was no flame there. And I looked back and the way that my house was built, I could go all the way around. And I saw eight-foot white sparks coming out of the direction of the meter. And the sound was -- it was so quiet. And all I heard was -- like, you know, in a Frankenstein movie when they electrify him.
And I saw a little bit of flame but not much. And then I ran up the scaffolding and opened the window and that's when the smoke, you know, nearly knocked me down.
MORGAN: Your ex-husband. Matthew Badger, has said in interviews -- and he has been very honest about this -- that he was so grief stricken and enraged that at one stage, he wanted to kill you, kill your boyfriend, do whatever he could to try and -- I know that you know have a pretty good relationship with him, I think.
MORGAN: Tell me about that, because it's obviously very -- for him as awful as it's been for you.
BADGER: Oh, yeah. I mean, I would imagine that if I were in Matthew's shoes I would have had the exact same reaction. So I don't at all judge his grief or what he has chosen to say or do or feel. I mean, it's such mind-bending grief, you know. I hope no one judges me.
MORGAN: You said at the funerals for your girls -- you gave a eulogy and you put your hand on your heart. You said "my girls are in my heart. They are right here. This is where they live now." Is that how you feel now?
BADGER: Yes. And one of the places I had a dream, and -- on my way to Arkansas. And in my dream, Lily came to me. She did it with fingers. And she said, mommy, I'm right there. I'm right there in your heart. Don't worry. I love you, mommy.
And then, you know, Sarah came to me, and -- when I was flipping out, and said, don't worry, mommy. There's nothing to be afraid of. Then I had a dream with Sarah where she also said just look into my eyes. It's all OK.
And then with Gracy, I see butterflies everywhere. And I know it's Grace. You know, they'll be in -- if it's cold, if it's raining, wherever. And so I -- you know, not only do I know that they're in my heart, but I know now that their presence is everywhere.
When all of those things were happening, I thought, wow, I am delusional. I must be really nuts. This must be what's happening to me. And you know, actually, I read a book about a month ago called "Proof of Heaven" by Dr. Evan Alexander. He's a neurosurgeon who was in a seven day coma and had a near death experience.
And during that entire time, he was on the wings of a butterfly. He went to heaven on the wings of a butterfly. The messages are love. There's nothing to be afraid of. And you can't do anything wrong. Dreams are more real than this life. That's what Dr. Alexander said.
And that's what Sarah had told me, you know, in June. And I read this book in November. So when that -- when I read that book and I had that realization that this was real, I had what I think the saints call ecstasy, that moment of ecstasy when you really know God. You really know that it's real, that eternal life is real. I had that feeling.
It was amazing. Ever since then, I've felt so much at peace because I know -- I know with every fiber of my being that my girls are OK.
MORGAN: How will you spend Christmas? It will be a year on, normally such a happy day, a family day. For you, it's going to be excruciatingly painful day. Where will you be? What will you do, do you think?
BADGER: Every day has been awful. There have been all sorts of -- they talk about when parents lose a child, that the first year anniversary of everything is really hard, their birthday. I had two because, you know, Sarah and Gracy are twins. But Mother's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving.
So, yes, you know, this is the day. And I'm certainly nervous about it. But because I've had all these other days, I kind of have a little bit of an idea of what to expect. The truth is that the lead- up to the actual day is much harder than the day itself.
So especially Lily's birthday was the first one that came. I was terrified. I mean, I didn't sleep for days. And I was terrified. I couldn't sleep by myself. It was -- I had to go and stay at Kate and Justin's house again. Then I woke up on Lily's birthday. And the first thought that came to my head was, I love you, Lily. Happy birthday.
I dressed up for her. And I put makeup on for her. I just walked around all day, you know, saying happy birthday and I love you. And so I'm going to spend Christmas that way. And I'm going to go to Thailand, because, you know, I'm not -- Santa Claus is not really, you know, a happening thing for me right now.
There's an orphanage there. And these young girls -- I mean, there are orphanages everywhere, but this one, these young girls are -- have lost their families. And so I'm going to take them suitcases filled with toys that I was able to get out of my garage. So that's what I'm going to do. And I'm going to ride on elephants, I hope.
MORGAN: Madonna, it's a heart-breaking story. I just don't know how you got through this. Your courage is inspiring. I think that the way you talk about the girls is extraordinary. I wish I could do something to ease your pain, but I can't. I really appreciate you coming in today.
BADGER: Thank you for having me.
MORGAN: I hope Christmas isn't too unbearable. You have everybody with you.
BADGER: Thank you.
MORGAN: Thank you very much.
BADGER: Thank you.
MORGAN: And we'll be right back.
MORGAN: Tomorrow night, man on a mission; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, he is going through a lot of hunger pains right now. He is in the middle of his Food Stamp Challenge, living one week on just Food Stamps. Mayor Booker will join me to talk about that exclusively tomorrow. That and his potential run against Chris Christie.
It's Cory Booker tomorrow night. It should be fascinating. That's it for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.