Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
FBI Director: Agency Uses Surveillance Drones; Whitey Bulger's Chief Accuses Branded A Liar; Was TWA Flight 800 An Accident?; HBO: Actor James Gandolfini Dead at 51
Aired June 19, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the FBI admits it's using drones to spy on Americans here on American soil.
Plus the latest from the Whitey Bulger trial, hitman, wise guys and killing four families.
And there are new claims tonight about the explosions that brought down TWA Flight 800. Why some experts are saying now and only finally now that it wasn't an accident. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, big brother is watching you, literally, with a drone and without rules. Today FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted it under questioning from Senator Chuck Grassley during a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Does the FBI own or currently use drones and if so for what purpose?
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Yes and for surveillance.
GRASSLEY: I think I can assume since you use drones that the FBI has a valid set of policies and procedures and operational limits on the use of drones and whether or not privacy impact on American citizens?
MUELLER: Well, we are in the initial stages of doing that. I will tell you that our foot print is very small. We have very few and of limited use and we are exploring not only the use, but also the necessary guidelines for that use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Mueller made it clear this is happening on American soil. Now the FBI already acknowledged using unmanned surveillance aircraft earlier this year to monitor a specific situation, you may remember it, where the little boy was being held hostage in a bunker in Alabama. Mueller said there were other times, seldom but other times. So we don't know how often these drones are being used and to do what and whether your rights are being violated.
OUTFRONT tonight, Republican Senator Rand Paul, who sits in the Homeland Security Committee. Senator, good to see you. Are you surprised? SEN. RAND PAUL (R), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, I wish I can tell you that I was surprised. I am a little concerned that we are going to use the drones and then we're going to develop rules for them. The most important rules for the use of surveillance are basically the bill of rights. You have to have a search warrant to use a drone to go after someone. Some of this is murky because we have had decisions by the courts saying open spaces don't require a warrant. I disagree with those cases and think we need to revisit that. Particularly if they are using drones they need to have a judge's warrant.
BURNETT: You have been critical obviously at the least, I guess. I think you agree with my characterization, of the administration and its surveillance programs and the recent revelations about the NSA, and others. You've said you wanted to sue the government over them. But I wanted -- back in 2007, you're well aware then Senator Obama was very loud in his criticism of President Bush and surveillance programs.
He says the Bush administration put forth, quote, a false choice when it came to liberty versus security. But today when he was speaking Europe, President Obama defended his administrations' surveillance programs. And I wanted to play you his reasoning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I came in with a healthy skepticism about how our various programs were structured, but what I have been able to do is examine and scrub how our intelligence services are operating. And I'm confident that at this point, we have struck the appropriate balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, he obviously changed his point of view somewhat when he got into office. All of a sudden when you're the president, terrorist attack happens it is your responsibility. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was actually criticizing you when you were so frustrated with their surveillance programs saying surveillance programs would have prevented 9/11. You could be running for president, do you think you would feel differently if you were in the oval office?
PAUL: I think there is a saying that most people know that power corrupts. I think a lot of times when people get elected to be the president of the United States they think, well, my predecessor was a bad person and he might have misused this, but I'm a good person and I will never miss use this power. Really it is about the power and isn't about the person.
Madison talked about this when he said if the government was compromised of angels, we wouldn't need to limit power. I'm a big believer that power corrupts even the best of people, Republican or Democrat. That's why we limit how much power we give to the executive. So I think you do accept the restraints of the constitution because that is how we protect freedom.
BURNETT: I was going to say there were well known angels that became pretty corrupted. It has been said that terrorists only have to be right once to do something absolutely horrific that changes the course of history. The government has to be right every single time in order to prevent the loss of life. Are you confident you can be right every time as president?
PAUL: I don't think anybody can be perfect. We could put DNA chips under everybody's skin. We can stamp the back of everybody's forehead. We could put cameras in everybody's house. We would still get attacked and wouldn't have freedom. If you listen closely to the intelligence committee not one of these people couldn't have been caught with a traditional judge's warrant. They are always saying and other devices. Almost every instance we got a terrorist name and we looked and traced their phone calls. We are not randomly getting anyone's name. We are getting the names through good police work. I think we can have freedom and security.
BURNETT: An interesting point. Now what about what happened yesterday when the NSA Chief General Alexander testified. He was asked by Representative Mike Rogers about whether authorities could -- was saying flip a switch and listen to phone calls. Not just track who is calling who, but if they think something is happening just listen into that call. Here is how he answered that direct question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Does the technology exist to flip a switch by some analysts to listen to American's phone calls or read their e-mails?
GENERAL KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA CHIEF: No.
ROGERS: So the technology does not exist for an individual or group of individuals at the NSA to flip a switch and listen to Americans phone calls or read their e-mails?
ALEXANDER: That is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Senator, Bob Baer, former CIA agent was on this show yesterday and said -- he questioned that. They have the ability. He said it may not be literally flicking a switch, but it is the ability to listen. Do you believe what General Alexander said?
PAUL: Well, the thing is kind of dumb about that conversation is. We do have the ability to look at individuals e-mail, but they are saying to look at the content they have to get a warrant. Now is it a switch or line of computer code typed in? Something is done to read the e- mails because they can and they admit they can read your e-mails and listen to your phone calls with a warrant.
They say they are only doing it with a warrant, but there is a bit of a credibility gap because they also were dishonest with us when they said they weren't collecting any data on Americans. It turns out they are collecting a billion phone calls data every day. So there is a bit of a credibility here and I don't know how we regain trust from the intelligence committee when the director of National Intelligence has admitted to lying to a U.S. senator and to a committee.
BURNETT: Thanks very much to Senator Rand Paul.
Still to come, dramatic testimony today in the Whitey Bulger trial, how the defense plans to discredit an absolutely crucial prosecution witness who happened to murder a hell a lot of people?
Plus new claims about the explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800 killing more than 200 people on board. Why some experts are saying it was not an accident?
And then this is like something out of a movie. Two Americans charged in a plot to use an x-ray gun to target people they didn't like, those are their words. Some of the targets were government officials.
And NASA is worried that there is a giant asteroid barrelling towards earth that completely could destroy our lives and they are not relying on anybody but you to stop it.
BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT tonight, lies and murder. Defense attorneys for accused Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger literally tore the prosecution's key witness today, trying to bring him down. His name is John Martorano. He is a confessed mob hitman. He has confessed to I believe 20 murders. He has now turned to government witness though.
He has given three days of testimony tying Bulger to multiple murders and putting the gun in one crucial instance, the gun with the trigger in Bulger's hand. But today Bulger's team tried to convince the jury that Martorano is not to be believed. Deb Feyerick was there and she's OUTFRONT.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Portraying him as a mass murderer, a serial killer, a liar without remorse who sold his name and arguably his soul, lawyers for James "Whitey" Bulger tried to undermine one of the government's star witnesses. Hitman, John Martorano, finished testifying after three days on the stand.
Bulger's lawyer pointing out inconsistencies or what he called lies. Quote, "You lied to your friend, John Callahan, didn't you?" Asked Defense lawyer, Hank Brennan, referring to a man Martorano shot dead. That was a necessity told the confessed hitman. I told John I wanted to see him. I couldn't tell him I wanted to shoot him.
At times he seemed to parse his words describing another murder Martorano testified, quote, "I stabbed him, I didn't kill him," after a pause, he seemed to remember adding, not until later. Martorano testified that even though Bulger was older by decade, he wasn't my boss. Sometimes however the hitman would do what was needed no questions asked because Bulger, quote, "knew the right buttons to press."
Bulger's lawyer suggested that in cutting a plea deal, the government was prepared to give Martorano whatever he wanted because they were, quote, "desperate" to make their case against Bulger. But the hitman said he knew if he lied he would go back to prison. Before wrapping up the testimony Martorano confirmed that together he and Whitey Bulger were involved in 11 murders and that Bulger had allegedly told him he had killed two others on his own.
FEYERICK: And Erin, tomorrow the families of some of the victims will testify. They will give details of the people who were killed and this trial is so important to those families. They had been waiting decades for Whitey Bulger to be brought to justice -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks so much reporting live from Boston where she has been in that courtroom.
New claims today that TWA Flight 800, you remember this flight, I actually -- I remember where I was the day this happened and I remember reading everything possible about it when it came out in the papers. It exploded over the Atlantic Ocean in 1996. Now apparently it may not have been an accident.
The ill fated flight killed all 232 people on board when it blew up soon after takeoff on a very hot day leaving John F. Kennedy Airport in New York heading to Paris Duvall. The initial investigation said the culprit was a short circuit on the plane that ignited one of the plane's fuel tanks.
Originally they were saying because it was so hot outside the plane was delayed. It had to sit for the heat ended contributing to the spark. But a new documentary suggests that the official government report was incorrect. Filmmaker Tom Stalcup spoke with CNN earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM STALCUP, CO-PRODUCER, "TWA FLIGHT 800": What we do show in the documentary is solid proof that there was an external detonation that's in the form of, of course, everyone knows about the eyewitness statements. We also have corroborating information from the radar data and the radar data shows a symmetric explosion coming out of that plane, something that didn't happen in the official theory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's right. And also as part of the documentary, David Mattingly also did a special investigative documentary on this with many in-depth interviews looking into the NTSB efforts to try to conduct an investigation. And also, David, what some people were saying, there were all kinds of allegations that there had been something shot from the ground, some sort of a rocket, all kinds of conspiracy theories about what might have happened that night. What do you make of this new so-called evidence?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me put it this way. Everything this filmmaker is saying flies in the face of what has become known as the most intense and most meticulous investigation in the history of aviation. This investigation did things that no other investigation ever did before or since.
They actually recovered more than 90 percent of this plane from the bottom of the ocean. They didn't just bring it back to a hangar where they examined it. They gathered these pieces together and actually reassembled this aircraft. Absolutely unheard of in any kind of air disaster investigation. But they did that.
I walked through this aircraft that they reassembled. I saw the pieces that they put back together, and I listened to the investigators as they described how painstakingly they went through this aircraft, piece by piece, wire by wire, to come to their conclusion that it was a spark that ignited this empty tank that was beneath the aircraft.
Now, as far as a missile strike goes, there would have been some telltale signs on the outside of this aircraft. There would have been pock marks, there would have been damage that was done from this missile that was very easy to determine. They found no evidence whatsoever that this happened. They found no evidence whatsoever that there was a bomb on board the aircraft. They went into this thinking it might be terrorism and might be some kind of attack. They came away very quickly able to determine that this did not happen.
Now, a lot of these conspiracy theories focus on the radar. There was about a dozen radar tapes that were compiled from Long Island at the time that this happened. I was able to see one of them that actually landed in the hands of a retired pilot who is one of the people who believes this plane was brought down by a missile. I have watched it with him in his own home, and the conversation went just like this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: If this is a missile, we're about 30 seconds away from the explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
MATTINGLY: How does it take a missile 30 seconds to reach that aircraft when it is so close?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I have no explanation for that.
MATTINGLY: We never actually see it cross the path of Flight 800.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: You don't see the blip that was supposed to be the missile actually striking the airplane. You don't see it even crossing the path of that airplane. But this is just one piece of the evidence that we examined looking at some of the conspiracy theories that are out there.
Now, something this investigation did, it provoked sweeping changes by manufacturer Boeing of these aircraft. And in about three years, all of these aircraft will have been refitted or the new aircraft will have new equipment on them that will prevent this from ever happening again. Now, what won't go away here, Erin, are these conspiracy theories that seem to ignore the facts that were brought up in this investigation.
BURNETT: All right. Well, David Mattingly, thank you very much. It's incredible. You got to walk around in there and have a chance to actually see some of those radars, which is pretty incredible. Maybe for those out there who believe in the conspiracy theory, perhaps it gives you a second chance to reconsider.
Still to come, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke says it's time to take away the drugs from the addict. The addict, of course, is me. And you. What that means.
And for the second time in two months in Ohio, a woman said she was held captive -- in this case for two years. We have exclusive video of what was allegedly going on inside that home. It may shock you, and it is disturbing. But it could be crucial evidence. We have that coming up OUTFRONT.
And this dramatic water rescue in China. We're going to show you the full video of this moment later in the show.
BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, Big Ben's market dive. So, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged today more than 200 points. It was a really big drop even though it's still above 15,000. The reason? This.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FED CHAIRMAN: Generally speaking, financial conditions are improving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That's right. They are improving. Why is that bad news? Well, because today for the first time, Ben Bernanke, the Fed Reserve chairman you saw there, talked seriously about taking the drug away from the addict. That's right. He's talking about cutting back on the Fed's stimulus program, which basically - use all kinds of high- falutin words for - but it's just been pumping money into the economy to keep interest rates low. And that has helped prices for a lot of things. Real estate, stocks included.
Frankly, we have all gotten pretty addicted to Ben's drugs. Here's why. We are now on round three of what I call pumping money into the economy, they call "quantitative easing" with their noses in the air. And as you can see from this chart, each of the new rounds has caused stocks to move higher. So, as they started to end, stocks fell and then back up against. And starting later this year, the Fed will start taking the drugs away and may even cut the addicts off entirely next year.
OUTFRONT tonight, Ben White, chief economic correspondent for Politico. Ben, thank you. So he comes out and says things are getting better.
BEN WHITE, CHIEF ECONOMIC CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: And the stock market tanks.
BURNETT: Right. And so, I mean, you say what's wrong with all these crazy people on Wall Street? But what does this -- Americans say, 44 percent of Americans say they are worse off now than they were a year ago. That is more than say they were better off. What does today's news mean for most people, who just have a small nest egg, who have a house under water, who have a 401(k)?
WHITE: Right. Well, I think what it means for people who have a house who might want to refinance that house right now, they should probably do it because interest rates will be going a little higher if the Fed stops doing all of this drug giving to the economy that keeps house prices going up and mortgage rates low. They're going to go up a little. So, if you are going to refinance, do it now. If you're looking at a new home purchase, you might want to do it sooner rather than later as rates go up.
In terms of stocks, if you have a long-term horizon on your 401(k) and your investments, hold on to them. Wait this out. It is going to be crazy while the market tries to figure out when the Fed is going to take the drug away. It's going to take awhile for that. So if you are really risk-adverse and nervous about it, you might take some money out of stocks. My advice would be sit tight and let the Fed figure it out. Eventually, they'll pull the drugs away, and the market will get back to balance.
BURNETT: Right. And you, I believe, are re-fing, right? I mean, you're taking your own advice.
WHITE: I am actually buying a house for the first time.
BURNETT: Buying a house! So you're going to go ahead and do it while you can.
WHITE: It was Ben Bernanke who sort of encouraged me to do it sooner rather than later. I looked up the mortgage rates and said, they're at 3.9, going to 4.0. They might go a little bit higher. Why not do it now?
BURNETT: Take advantage it.
All right. What about that chart I put up earlier that every time there has been this big pump, this push of money into the economy, it is like a heart, right? You put the money in and the market goes up. So, what happens? You are saying it may not go down sharply. But what happens when it goes away?
WHITE: It will bounce around a while. And it may go down a little bit. As we know, this activity that the Fed is involved in, buying these bonds, they make stocks look cheaper. And people want to get in on stocks, and they have risen a lot every time the Fed has done this.
But the fundamentals underlying the economy are not that bad. Corporate profits are not that bad. House prices are not that bad. If the Fed does it right, if they do it slowly, if they take the drugs away in a methodical way, stocks will find equilibrium again. The underlying economy will be fine. And stocks will continue to rise over the long term.
It just means in the interim, we will have a lot of days like this where traders look at what Ben Bernanke said, try to figure it out. It's very hard to parse what he said. It is unprecedented territory, the Fed to be doing this. So, it is just going to be a rocky ride. There is a chance they really mess it up and stocks tank and it's really awful. I'd say the chances of that are very slim.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. Ben, we appreciate your time. Of course, we will have a new Fed chief at some point during this because Ben Bernanke says he is getting the hell out of dodge at the end of the year.
Still to come, another disturbing case of alleged forced captivity in Ohio. Three people have been arrested for holding a mother and her child captive for two years. And tonight OUTFRONT, we have an exclusive piece of video of something that actually happened inside that home. It is very disturbing to watch, but it could be crucial to understanding what horrible things happened.
Plus, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin was in court today. We have the latest from George Zimmerman's trial.
And what does a $7 million yacht look like? Well, we're going to show you and tell you which world leader that you would never expect owns one.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on reporting from the front lines.
And I want to begin with the IRS and another potential black eye for the agency. It's expected to pay $70 million in bonuses to employees, according to Senator Chuck Grassley. Senator Grassley sent a letter to the IRS' acting chief, asking him to explain why the agency would be giving out bonuses that are supposed to be frozen under federal spending cuts. This news comes just two weeks after we brought you the report about the $4.1 million the agency spent on a conference, including more than $50,000 spent on a video, like this "Star Trek" parody. That's an IRS official.
Well, the federal law enforcement official tells CNN that two men have been charged in a plot to use some sort of ray gun or X-ray machine to, quote-unquote, "target" people they didn't like and that includes high ranking government officials. So, something to be taken very seriously. But Glendon Crawford and Eric Feight were charged with conspiracy to provide material to support terrorists in the Albany, New York area.
Radiation bio physics professor David Brenner (ph) tells us a homemade x-ray machine with enough energy to actually target individuals would be large and heavy device. While there are concerns about the possibility of radioactive dirty bombs, he says an X-ray ray gun just in terms of the form would be pretty implausible.
Well, OUTFRONT has learned that Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend Rafael Sollecito is being forced to leave Switzerland after authorities revoked his permit for residency. Now, this is according to his literary agent who tells us she doesn't know where he's going next. Sollecito and Knox are facing a retrial in Italy over the death of Knox's room mate in 2007. Sollecito took to his fundraising Web site today to ask for donations to pay for his legal expenses.
His agent tells us his family has spent more than $1 million in his defense in the case, thus far.
Well, it has been 685 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are doing to get it back?
Well, under employment remains crucial in this country, especially for those who are just graduating school. A new report finds business majors are 8.2 times more likely to work in jobs they are overqualified for, i.e., pouring coffee, because apparently the typical full time barista makes $19,000 a year.
And now our fourth story OUTFRONT, we have breaking news tonight in the case of a mother and daughter who are allegedly held captive for two years in Ohio.
Now, I want to show you this video. It is exclusive video we have obtained OUTFRONT in this case. I'm going to show that to you in just a moment.
But, first, I just want to explain here that authorities now say a fourth person has turned himself and will be charged with forced labor. This comes after yesterday's announcement that Jordie Callahan, Jessica Hunt and Daniel Brown were arrested for forcing a mother and daughter to live in inhuman conditions, eat dog food and perform manual labor, while threatening them with poisonous snakes and pit bulls.
Now, Callahan and Hunt who are engaged deny the allegations.
OUTFRONT tonight, Andy Hyde, who represented Jordie Callahan in state court.
All right. Thank you very much for taking the time, sir. And we appreciate it.
So, let's just start with the allegations here because as I go through them, of course, the allegations as you well know are pretty horrific. A mother and daughter abused, eating dog food, tormented by snakes and pit bulls, forced to sleep on a cement floor with no mattress in a padlocked room.
How does Jordie Chandler explain these accusations from their side of the story?
ANDY HYDE, JORDIE CALLAHAN'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Well, it was clear they were never forced. This group were all friends. There are photographs we showed your reporters that had them all drinking beer together, laughing, joking on a couch, traveling to other places together. They moved to several different residences together. This is not a forced slave labor like the federal prosecutors are trying to make everyone believe.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you about this video that I know you have. This is video that was taking by Jordie Chandler on his cell phone. And just to let our viewers know, obviously, this is disturbing. We are going to show parts of it.
But it apparently shows the mother here who authorities say was a victim hitting her daughter in 2011. The mother says she was forced to do this by Jordie Chandler and the others. She was threatened with a beating, if she did not beat her own child.
We are going to play the video for our viewers as you try to explain. How do we know -- here it is as you can see her. We have blurred everyone in the pictures. You will see her.
HYDE: Yes, the video is horrific. I saw it again today and I cringe every time you see something like this.
But she initially said she never beat her child. They told her they had video of it and she admitted to beating her child once. They told her she did it numerous times in the video, as you can see, she then admitted to doing that and said no one made her when they told her they were going to investigate if anyone forced her to do it. She then said that she was forced to do it.
This was a woman who -- when they investigated that they said they were in the room egging her on when the video clearly shows she is alone and had no idea of the cameras in the room. Her story has now become that they told her to do it and she went into the room and did it.
Her story has changed so many times I think a strange credibility to believe what she's saying. This is not a slave labor type case at all. They were friends.
BURNETT: How do you explain why she is saying what she is saying now? I mean, it's not just they were torturing him. It's just -- it's so specific. It's forced to sleep on the cement floor without a mattress, it's the pit bulls, it's the snakes. I mean, it's so specific and so -- the list is long.
HYDE: Right. And Jordie Callahan and Jessica Hunt's four children lived with them with the snakes and dogs and iguana. There's an iguana that had free roam in the house. The animals are in the reptile room. The child's mother says she was not in the room with the reptiles when she pointed the reptile rooms with the officers.
To watch the series of conversations they had with her, her story changes as the case progresses until she gets to the point where everything bad happened is something someone forced her to do. It started out with her denying all of this.
So, the evidence shows she's now got this story and I believe she's sticking with it.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time, mar. Hyde. We are going to continue to be covering the story and try to understand what really happened in that home in Ohio.
I want to get to breaking news though right now. We have just confirmed. HBO is confirming that actor James Gandolfini has died at the age of 51.
He was on vacation in Italy at the time. Obviously, everyone watching knows exactly who he is, probably best remembered for his Emmy Award- winning portrayal of Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Soprano". He also appeared in a number of feature films, including "Zero Dark Thirty", "Crimson Tide" and "The Man Who Wasn't There".
Our understanding is he was on holiday, possibly in Italy and that it may have been a possible heart attack. But we will get you more information as we get this. Obviously, shocking, a name and face familiar to everyone with how many awards and the pop culture that has been inspired by "The Sopranos". It is on every night when I come on in my house. There is Tony Soprano.
We're going to have much more on James Gandolfini and this breaking story that he has died of an apparent heart attack in just a moment. We'll be right back, OUTFRONT.
BURNETT: All right. Well, we have our breaking news now.
We can confirm the death of James Gandolfini, the actor best known for his role in "The Sopranos" as Tony Soprano. HBO is confirming that he died while vacationing in Rome, Italy earlier today of a possible, apparent -- at this point that's all we can tell you -- heart attack.
He was 51 years old, born in Westwood, New Jersey.
And I want to bring in Bonnie Fuller of Hollywoodlife.com.
And, Bonnie, this is shocking when you hear this about anyone. Do you know anything about whether he had any idea he had any kind of heart problem or anything or was this suddenly out of the blue on vacation?
BONNIE FULLER, HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM (via telephone): I think from everything we are hearing this is completely and utterly out of the blue. No known heart issues.
Now, I mean, of course, James Gandolfini was a little bit heavy, so a little bit overweight. But, you know, lots of people are overweight and don't have heart attacks. He was only 51 years old.
And I think clearly he didn't think he had any health issues. He was in Italy to attend a film festival in Sicily. So, he thought he was in good health.
BURNETT: I mean, just -- when we first saw this headline, Bonnie, I don't know what your reaction was but, you know, we kind of heard this from somebody in the Italian-American community. He said, oh, I heard this might have happened. CNN started looking into it and everybody sort of thought this was a hoax at first.
Did you have the same reaction?
FULLER: Well, we were shocked. What I think is so sad is he has children. He has a young daughter who was just born about a year ago and he also has teenage son from his previous marriage. So, my heart goes out to them.
BURNETT: A young daughter born about a year ago. I mean, that is just so sad. That is so sad.
What can you tell us -- we all know him as "The Sopranos", Bonnie. That's the kind of -- the lovable guy who is struggling with life and struggling with his lust and his love, right? He played so magnificently. He played the role of a mobster before. He has said he was inspired by a friend of his who was a hitman. I mean, he knew this world personally.
FULLER: Yes, he did know the world personally. But on the other hand, he was supposed to be a great guy. I heard from actors who worked with him, he was very generous that he was not like his character. That he was a man who had a big heart and couldn't be further from the real -- further from his character, Tony Soprano.
BURNETT: And, Bonnie, what do you know about what he was working on now? You're saying that he was in Rome. I guess they were describing it as possibly a family vacation. But his family may have been there. But he was there working right?
FULLER: He was there going to the 59th film festival in Sicily. Didn't he appear with -- I think he appeared with Kristin Stewart in an independent movie that came out about two years ago? And he produced that, so I think he was really picking and choosing what he did.
BURNETT: And what more do you know about his personal situation? I know you are saying that he had -- I know he had -- was married for the second time and had a 1-year-old daughter. But what more do you know about his health?
I mean, I'm just thinking back to people that I knew. You know, my former partner Mark Haines who died suddenly of an apparent heart attack, when we think of Tim Russert of "Meet the Press," who just suddenly died.
This happens to people that they don't have awareness that they have a problem with their heart.
FULLER: Yes, absolutely. I think that -- I don't know if there was a history of heart disease in his family, but clearly he was not aware of it. His family were native Italians. He went to a Catholic high school.
I'm trying to find out, you know, if his father died early. But I just -- you know, we don't have that information yet. And his personal life (AUDIO GAP) he was a -- the thing is he apparently loved motorcycles. He would go to some reckless sports in his free time. He owned a Harley Davidson. He was a fan of riding his Vespa around New York City. He was actually hit by a taxi in 2006 riding a Vespa.
He was a guy who did what he wanted to do. He had fun. I'm sorry, I'm actually on a train, I'm sorry.
BURNETT: That's all right. We can barely hear it.
FULLER: You're hearing the noise in the background.
But, you know, he -- so he indulged things he liked to do. I don't think he had any idea that he was running a risk with his health at this time.
BURNETT: It's amazing the perspective you are able to give, though. I know you say the friends that knew him well are telling you in person he wasn't like his character on "The Sopranos", and that he was so generous and loving to his friends, but I'm thinking about what you're talking about, you know, how he loved his Harley Davidson and his motorcycles and his risk-taking.
I mean, that does seem to fit in a certain way. You think when you play a character as successfully as he did it would seem a part of you has to connect with that person because he just fit that role. That's why he was so fantastically successful, right?
I mean, you look at him. You don't think James Gandolfini, you think Tony Soprano.
FULLER: Right. You know, he had another side. He produced the documentary for HBO which analyzed the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. I mean, I don't think you think of Tony Soprano doing something like that. You know, he had -- he was very --
BURNETT: And it looks like we just lost Bonnie. You heard her say she was on a train.
But I want to bring Larry King. We're lucky enough to have Larry on the phone right now. Larry King was just with James Gandolfini a couple of weeks ago, I believe, Larry, at a dinner honoring Mohammed Ali. You've interviewed him before. You know him.
Two weeks ago, did you have any sense that there was anything wrong? LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST (via telephone): I think it was a little more than two weeks. It was in Vegas at a dinner at the same table. I had no sense at all. He seemed jovial and happy.
In fact, there was a big auction. One of the things they auctioned off was a big cruise of the Mediterranean and the guy next to him bought the whole boat for like $250,000 for the week. He bid on it and he invited James Gandolfini to go with him and James said, of course, I'll go.
He was very, very exuberant, very lively, very friendly. And according to a lot of people in the business, an under rated actor. You know, he stamped himself in "The Sopranos" so much that people overlooked the many diversified roles that he's performed.
What did he die of, Erin?
BURNETT: Larry, we are hearing right now that it was a heart possible. They're not confirming, and they're saying possible heart attack while he was at a film festival I believe in Sicily. So, he was in Italy I guess a combination of vacation and work for the film festival. That they are saying heart attack.
KING: And he was -- obviously he was overweight. But I never knew of any previous illness. I am very sad to hear this.
He was a wonderful presence in America and, of course, he stamped that role. I mean, he made that his role. He nurtured it, he protected it, he was brilliant in "The Sopranos." But his other work, too, as well he did some Westerns. He was a very diverse charter, actor who became a star.
BURNETT: And, Larry, you had a chance to interview with him and sit down with him, you know, get a sense of who the person was. What was he like, you know, when you sat down and had that eye to eye contact, that face-to-face, what was he like as a person?
KING: He was extremely friendly and not -- kind of reduced ego, if I can put it that way. He had no followers -- he had no handlers following with him, he was -- there's only way to put it, he was a regular guy. He was like one of the guys.
It would be like -- you know, I'm a Brooklyn guy. He would be like a guy you want to hang out on a corner with him. You know, he's like let's go have a pizza.
He was just a really down to earth regular guy. A lot of actors have errors about them. He had none of that at all. You would have liked him, Erin. He was a gentle fun person, really sad to hear this. I'm really -- I'm sure many, many, many Americans are very sad tonight.
BURNETT: Well, Larry, I have to say when we first heard it, you know how sometimes you start to hear a rumor of something and people say, well, is it true? We thought it was a hoax, actually because it didn't seem possible because, you know, he is so much larger than life and he's so young, he's only 51 years old, or he was only 51 years old.
No one -- none of us believed it. So, when it was actually confirmed, we were just -- we were just totally shocked.
KING: He did enjoy eating.
BURNETT: So tell me a little bit about that, about the part when you said -- when you were in Vegas with him and you told the story about the $250,000 yacht for the week and the guy bought it and James said, I'll go along, no problem, I'll be there, you described him as exuberant.
Tell me a little bit more about it.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) table of about -- you know, it was one of those major black tie dinners that they did in Vegas for Parkinson's disease and he was a big supporter of that, by the way and a big fan of Ali's. And -- but he went right away -- but he also -- I noticed he enjoyed his food. He -- it kind of humorous to say it but he was not shy at the table.
BURNETT: Yes, so I guess that fits with -- I mean, I'm just enjoying hearing you say this because I'm just a fan that watched him over the years on "The Sopranos". And I was saying, I go home every night and my husband has "The Sopranos" on and I sometimes say, why aren't you watching CNN? Well, I'm going to guess HBO is the family, but he's always watching Tony Sopranos, loves him.
When you say, Larry, you know, just this sense of a person that he was just -- didn't care about entourages and didn't care about the rigmarole of being famous --
KING: None of that.
KING: Yes, he had none of that at all, Erin. I know, if he was in your studio tonight at CNN, he would have hung around with you. You have laughs with him and he probably would go out with you after the show. That's the kind of guy he was. He was really unaffected, unaffected. He enjoyed the moment, too. He went right -- when the guy bought the cruise, sure, I'll go.
BURNETT: Yes, right, like he was just like that's cool, I'm going to do it. No qualms.
KING: Right there, no should I think about it? I'm going.
BURNETT: And, Larry, do you know anything -- I know you and I are talking about this for the first time so I don't want to put you on the spot. Do you know anything about his family?
You know, Bonnie Fuller from "Hollywood Life" was saying, you know, he had a teenage son and she was saying he had a young daughter who was only a year old, his second marriage but just a brand-new little daughter. What do you know about his personal life?
KING: Very little. I don't know. I'm trying to remember who he was with that night, and I believe he was alone. My memory is he didn't have a dinner partner.
KING: I don't -- I don't think he had a dinner partner that night. I'm pretty sure he didn't.
BURNETT: Right, well I guess he was assuming that she would be happy to go along on that wonderful cruise. Who wouldn't, right? I know it's --
BURNETT: Sad to laugh but sounds good.
BURNETT: Yes, I'm sure, absolutely.
And, Larry, so I guess your final memory, if you just had to describe him in a few words, what would you say?
KING: He was a genuine good guy, as strong an actor as he was, as gentle a person as he was. You will not see his likes again.
BURNETT: And, Larry, I know I said that was the last question but I did want to follow up on what you said because when you talk about him being a strong actor and I know I keep focusing on "The Sopranos" because that's what I saw. But you were talking about how he was perhaps under appreciated in so many other roles that he played.
KING: Yes, because he is -- in America we have a lot of people who are character actors and he was a classic character actor. He played many roles, many diverse roles, villain, hero, best friend, through the ages, we have many character actors. Very rarely does a character actor become a star, and "The Sopranos" made him a star, but he was that character actor, which is the kind of person who the role comes first, he would subjugate himself to the other performers, (INAUDIBLE) a unique breed. And great on theater, great on film, great on television, and secondly, he gets this role of a lifetime and becomes a major star.
But in essence, he still was a regular guy. He was James Gandolfini, a regular guy.
BURNETT: And it happened later in life, too, right, Larry? I mean, it didn't happened in his 20s. He wasn't one of those actors. I mean, he was working and perfecting the craft at that time and he broke out when he was a mature person.
KING: Correct, he was not an over-night hit.
BURNETT: He worked hard for it and that's part of the reason I think so many people connected with him, and he worked for it and earned it.
Well, Larry, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join us. I really appreciate it.
KING: Thank you.
BURNETT: Larry King, as he was saying not only interviewed James Gandolfini, but also was with him just a couple of weeks ago with that story, which was just so captivating about his exuberance at a dinner party, at some sort of fundraiser, and the guy next to him bought a week in a boat and said, hey, come along, James, will you come along on a boat with me? He said yes. And that sort of seems to capture the image that we're getting of him as a person.
I want to bring in our entertainment reporter Nischelle Turner.
And, Nischelle, I'm focusing with you on something that Larry King was just talking about, which is that James Gandolfini was so real and he didn't have the entourages around him and he came to this late. And actually, I'm saying it wrong, he did this as a craft, as an actor.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BURNETT: But he was no famous until later in his career.
You know, back in '92, he was on in Broadway, in the street, "Her Name Desire," with Jessica Lang and Alec Baldwin and I think that's when people first saw him but he still wasn't this huge star. You know, he didn't become the huge star like Larry was talking about until we saw him in "The Sopranos". He won an Emmy for that in 2000.
But Larry also mentioned the fact that he like stole a lot of movies and was under appreciated as an actor. A lot of people may not remember, this movie in 2001 called the Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. He stole that movie from them.
He was in that as well, and a lot of people may not remember that. But he took that movie away from them. He was so good in it and this year, he was in -- or last year, he was in "Zero Dark Thirty" as well.
TURNER: He's done so much.
And Larry is right. He was a character actor. Larry also mentioned one other thing, we didn't know a lot about his personal life. He was press shy, very press shy, but he was a regular guy.
BURNETT: It really seems that guy. Bonnie Fuller was talking about a love for Harley Davidsons and now, he had a Vespa, which somehow is so incongruous but it seems to fit with the image that we're getting of him.
But again I have to ask you, Nischelle, I mean, this just seems so out of the blue.
TURNER: Very shocking.
BURNETT: At a film festival, he's relaxing, he's -- I think this is why it's so hard to understand heart attacks. This apex of life and exuberance, and all of a sudden, he's dead.
TURNER: Yes. I mean, we don't have a lot of information. It's still coming in. We're just getting this, but we do know and like you guys said, we confirmed with HBO and through HBO that he did die, what they think was a heart attack. He was there, they said, on vacation in italy but scheduled to appear at an Italian film festival as well.
TURNER: So maybe doing work, too. Just very shocking when it started coming through, and one of the things we're cautious about, Erin, is because there have been a lot of hoaxes out there about him this week.
BURNETT: We thought this was a hoax at first.
TURNER: And so, we were very cautious thinking is this something else out there this week, but unfortunately this one was true.
BURNETT: It seems that way, and the picture we've been showing you- all so many times with the absolutely beautiful woman --
TURNER: Edie Falco --
BURNETT: That's Edie Falco. But there is another one we've been showing. I get it back if we can, I believe that's his wife Deborah Lin, who's been married to since 2008, and from what Bonnie Fuller was saying, the mother of a 1-year-old little daughter that they had just had together.
Yes, and that was Deborah and James Gandolfini.
TURNER: He was a Jersey boy.
BURNETT: Westwood, New Jersey.
TURNER: There you go.
BURNETT: Born and bred, and so true to that.
Well, just the horrible, horrible news that has unfortunately turned out to be true. We hoped we didn't have that for you tonight but we did. So, thank you very much for watching.
Our breaking news coverage of James Gandolfini, sudden death of an apparent heart attack continues now with "A.C. 360".