Return to Transcripts main page


Concern over MERS in U.S.; Casey Kasem Missing; Boys Injured in Bouncy House; Jackie Kennedy Letters to Be Auctioned.

Aired May 14, 2014 - 11:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There is serious concern this morning about an extremely deadly virus that may make inroads here in the United States. Scientists here and abroad on high alert this morning. Why? MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, can lead to pneumonia or kidney failure.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Today, two Florida health care workers that went to the E.R. after coming into contact with a MERS patient tested negative. 20 other health care workers in the Orlando area are now being tested. A healthcare worker in Indiana was the first confirmed case in the United States. The fear over this virus are so high that before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with crown prince in Saudi Arabia, everyone entering the room was looked at for fever.

Joining us is Dr. David Swerdlow, the CDC's lead scientist on MERS; and our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Good to have you both with us.

First of all, Elizabeth, I want to begin with you.

The CDC is contacting anybody who they believe were passengers on the very same flights as those two U.S. Patients confirmed to have MERS. Do we have any update on how these patients are doing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The cases in Indiana where there was a healthcare worker who flew from Saudi Arabia to Indiana, they contacted all of those people on the flight with that patient and they're all fine. That really speaks to how difficult it is to transmit this virus. Here this patient was on the plane for many hours for a period of time with these patients and none of them it appears got sick. The Florida patient is more complicated. There were several flights, London to Boston, Boston to Atlanta, Atlanta to Orlando, and the CDC right now is in the process of contacting every passenger who was on those flights to see how they're feeling and to ask them to give blood specimens.

BERMAN: Dr., the number of actual cases in the U.S., low single digits at this point. Number is not high. Explain to us why there is so much concern and who exactly is at risk here.

DR. DAVID SWERDLOW, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, CDC: Well, any time you have a virus that is emerged over two years ago and seen in multiple countries and travelers and healthcare workers and has a high fatality rate and really has no vaccine or treatment, we are concerned. We've been expecting that there could be possible cases returning to the United States and we have been preparing for that.

PEREIRA: Doctor, you say no vaccine and I think that gives many of us a bit of panic. I want to ask what is being done in terms of infection protection and in terms of control.

SWERDLOW: Well, that's exactly right. The most important thing is if you identify a patient is making sure they are protected and make sure that they are not able to give the infection to somebody else. That is why we've developed very careful infection control guidance that we've put out for over a year and a half and have let doctors all around the country know about so if they do identify a patient, that patient is put into a very strict infection control areas and so that no one else can be exposed to that person. That's our best way of preventing onward transmission of this virus.

BERMAN: The high mortality rate has people so concerned here. However, this is not something that passes that easily from person to person. How do you get this? Remind us.

SWERDLOW: We don't really know 100 percent. We think that there are some cases who have contact with camels. Some patients have had exposure through camels most likely. The other big source is health care facilities and a majority of the cases it appears now have had some contact with healthcare facilities and that is similar to what we saw in 2002 and 2003 with SARS so that's very concerning and why we are preparing and have infection control information on the web and make sure that if a someone comes to the United States with a possible case, we're prepared.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth, real quickly. Give people an idea at home the symptoms to keep lookout for.

COHEN: Right. The symptoms are cough and fever and some other flu- like symptoms. When I say these symptoms, I think everyone in the Cohen family had those this past winter. Those are so common. So the people who really need to be concerned are people who are family members of someone who has been confirmed with MERS and only two cases so there aren't that many of those. Healthcare workers who have taken care of people with MERS who have those symptoms. If I were one of them, I would be worried. For most of us, it's not a concern.

PEREIRA: Dr. Swerdlow and our Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so very much. We'll keep an eye on this.

Coming up ahead on our show, Jackie Kennedy's private letters to a priest that are being auctioned off. Expressions of her deepest feelings are being sold.

BERMAN: Then take a look at this. What do you think that is? It's a balloon, sort of. It's a bouncy house with kids inside. They were hurt. Leading to so many questions about bouncy houses. Are they really safe? That's ahead @ THIS HOUR.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: A parent suffering from dementia disappears from his facility. Where is Casey Kasem? Is someone hiding the radio icon? Is he safe? Is he healthy? Does he even know what's happening to him right now? The facts are his grown daughters and his second wife have been feuding in court over his care.

PEREIRA: Kasem is gone. One of his doctors now says she plans to report him missing today.

Atika Shubert has the latest.


CASEY KASEM, DEEJAY: As we countdown the hottest 40 hits in the U.S., I'm Casey Kasem.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was the beloved voice of radio for decades --

KASEM: Scooby Doo, where are you?

SHUBERT: -- and the voice of Shaggy on "Scooby-Doo" but he's been silenced by dementia in recent years and now the 82 year old is missing.

JULIE KASEM, DAUGHTER OF CASEY KASEM: We want to get him home and get him the right care and surround him with love.

SHUBERT: Casey Kasem was last seen at this hospital in Santa Monica. His daughters, Julie and Kerri, said he was in good spirit and even said I love you. But when the lawyer called to check in on him the next day, he was told by the hospital Casey had been removed overnight.

JULIE KASEM: It is our belief that my stepmother took him out of the facility against medical advice.

SHUBERT: Jean Kasem has been locked in a bitter fight for years. She has limited visits to her ailing father. Jean tells a different story, saying in court documents it's her stepchildren who are making false claims, and courts have sided with her, saying Casey was getting the proper care. But on Monday, the judge reversed course after Jean's lawyer admitted he didn't know where his client was, adding she may be out of the country.

KERRI KASEM, DAUGHTER OF CASEY KASEM: He needs to be moved one facility with 24 hour care, not shoved into a car with equipment he's attached to.

BERMAN: Casey Kasem is a sick man caught in the middle of a family feud.

PEREIRA: Question, is there any way to prevent this kind of thing happening.

We're joined by radio talk show host and attorney, Mo Ivory; along with Avery Freidman, a civil rights attorney and a friend of Casey Kasem.

A pleasure to have you with us, Mo.

For a lot of us who have parents, it makes you think of your family. The take-away here is that we need to get things established before getting sick.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & FRIEND OF CASEY KASEM: You need a power of attorney and a health care attorney power of attorney. That's part of the battle. The difficulty is the children had one and there was one superseded by Jean. Spousal rights trump children's rights. But here, the formula got screwed up. If the wife pulled Casey out, that's what the judge was concerned about. Now conservatorship is in the hands of Kerri Kasem, one of Casey's daughters. This battle continues. All we care about is where is Casey and is he being taken care of properly.

BERMAN: Michaela was just saying look at the issues in our own families.


BERMAN: But people don't usually steal somebody.

Mo, Casey Kasem was stolen and is being hidden at an Indian reservation of in Canada. That sounds like it has legal ramifications.

MO IVORY, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST & ATTORNEY: Absolutely. It seems like kidnapping. That's why the judge gave the children rights because he thinks something going on here. It's sad. Imagine if he doesn't make it. This isn't a fight about money. They said they are not going after it. But maybe it is. That won't be know or revealed. But it's sad. The older children fighting the younger family. We see that so many times when somebody has a new family and the family have to blend together.

PEREIRA: Avery, there are details we don't know.

FRIEDMAN: Spousal rights generally trump children's right. What is strange is what we are talking about. The word kidnapped. I don't know what happened. It sounds like it. That's why the L.A. judge is so concerned. We will find Casey and make sure he has medical help. At this point, no one knows anything. We don't know where he is. The judge is demanding an answer to that question.

PEREIRA: It's very sad.

BERMAN: It is sad. Like he said, we don't know it's about money. I got to say --


FRIEDMAN: It is not about money. I can tell you. I counseled this family. It's not about money. It's about Casey Kasem's health and care. BERMAN: Let's hope you're right.

Avery Friedman, Mo Ivory, great to have you on.

Our hearts go out to that entire family and Casey Kasem himself.

I want you to look at this picture. This is mind-boggling. That, folks, is a bouncy house.

PEREIRA: It's high in the air.

BERMAN: Those are supposed to be on the ground. There are kids in this bouncy house flying high, high, high up in the air. Raising so many new questions about these things and possible dangers. We'll discuss just ahead.


PEREIRA: We know the bounce house is a staple of birthday parties but two little boys in New York are in the hospital after a strong gust of wind swept the bounce house they were into the sky. The 10-year-old girl inside escaped with scrapes.

Our Rosa Flores following this story.

Rosa, how are those boys doing? How did this happen?

ROSE FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tat's the big question, of course. Now the only thing that we do know about the boys' condition is they were transported to the hospital in serious condition. That's according to police. Now, they do tell us that this bouncy house was anchored. It was staked to the ground when all of this happened. We did pull the instruction manual for these bouncy houses and it does say -- I'll quote here. "Do not set up in windy or rainy conditions. Sudden gusts of wind may lift the product off the ground." That's exactly what police say. This was a gust of wind. And how do you even prepare for that? You really can't.

PEREIRA: Bottom line, you said they were staked in because they do come with stakes. You're supposed to secure it to the ground. The

FLORES: Absolutely, we looked into the history of this, how often does it happen. It turns out a doctor out of Ohio did a study and looked at from 1995 to 2010 at the injuries, and he found there were between 21 to 30 injuries on an average day. He did make some recommendations. A few things he said is anchor the House properly so you make sure you use everything that is in that packet properly. Allow the same-aged children to play together. And prohibit horseplay in those little houses.


BERMAN: Thank you, Rosa Flores.

As you said, prohibit horseplay. My problem with bouncy houses are when they're on the ground, when my two 7-year-olds enter, two will enter, one will leave. It's a cage fight waiting to happen.

PEREIRA: We hope those little ones are OK.


PEREIRA: Coming up @ THIS HOUR, Jackie Kennedy's private letters to a priest are being auctioned off. We'll discuss this ahead.



BERMAN: All her life, Jackie Kennedy, life of former president John F. Kennedy, she was a very private person. Now a series of letters she wrote to an Irish priest will be sold at an auction.

PEREIRA: These letters reveal her innermost feelings and insecurities, including her thoughts about JFK's indiscretions and her terrible unhappiness following his assassination.

Our Tom Foreman has the details.


JACQUELINE KENNEDY, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I wondered perhaps you'd tell me some of the issues you think is important in this campaign.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jackie was only 21 and on a trip to Ireland when she met the man who would become part confessor, part adviser and part pen pal, the 73-year-old Irish priest, Joseph Leonard.

From the start, she wrote about her most intimate thoughts. For example, a New York stockbroker she was dating. "So terribly much in love for the first time and I want to get married. It's the deepest happiest feeling in the world." That relationship ended. When she met the young and ambitious John Kennedy, she wrote about that too. "He's like my father in a way. Loves to chase and is bored with the conquest and once married needs proof he's still attractive so flirts with other women and resents you." After she married, she added to one letter, "New address, please note." An arrow pointed to the word Hyannisport, the Kennedy family compound.

There are 33 letters in all to be auctioned off. The auction house will only say they're selling them from a private source. There are letters from 1950 to 1964, 130 pages about religion. "I terribly want to be a good Catholic now and I know it's all because of you." About living the high life, "Maybe I'm just dazzled and picture myself in a glittering world of crowned heads and men of destiny and not just a sad little housewife. That world can be very glamorous from the outside but if you're in it and you're lonely, it could be a hell."

And when her husband, now the president, was gunned down in Dallas, she wrote, "I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him. But that is a strange way of thinking to me. God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him." Although she added, "I have to think there is a God or I have no hope of finding Jack again."

Father Leonard died in 1964 and most of all the letters reveal a deep affection between the young woman and the aging priest. So much so that even though they met only twice in life, on paper, they appear still and forever friends.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Tom Foreman.

Let's now bring in Thomas Maier, the author of the book "The Kennedys, America's Emerald Kings."

Thomas, these were letters from Jackie Kennedy about really her innermost feelings. Not only that, they were sent to a priest. So based on what you know, all of your research into her and her family, how do you think she'd feel about the fact these are now going public?

THOMAS MAIER, AUTHOR: Well, I think she was a very private person, particularly because we know Jackie Kennedy after the assassination. And so a lot of her feelings about the assassination were kept private for more than 50 years. About 10 years ago, I wrote my book about the Kennedys. I had another priest, a Jesuit, who had a similar experience with Father Leonard, who's also mentioned in my book. She was trying to struggle, trying to figure out, after watching her husband being killed before her eyes just exactly how something this horrific could have happened if there was a loving god. And I think that's what we see here. A very, very human Jackie Kennedy trying to express her feelings to a priest.

PEREIRA: We're obsessed with knowing about this family and this couple in this nation. And even around the world. But I can't help but feel as though we're somehow betraying her legacy, having these innermost admissions auctioned off. Has there been any reaction from the family about this?

MAIER: Well, I know the letters that I have from Father McSorley were at the Georgetown Library. We had a press conference. Right after that, the Kennedy family who said to me talk to Father McSorley actually closed down the access to those letters. I think it's very important history 50 years after the assassination have access we as Americans understand the consequence of arguably one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century.

PEREIRA: Fair enough, but these are -- given to a priest, right. When you think about those -- because you think about how isolating her life would have been. She wouldn't have been able to share some of those innermost thoughts with family members or a girlfriend. But to a priest, it seems -- it seems that those things should be kept private.

MAIER: Well, priests are allowed to be friends. There's nothing in these letters, either to Father McSorley or to Father Leonard who -- that violates any tenets of the Catholic Church. I know that from having that experience 10 years ago with the letters that I have. I just think it's very important that history understands what happens. There are tons of letters by many public figures that are in libraries around the country. And I think this just adds to our understanding of a very important event.

BERMAN: Thomas Maier, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

Some people in different times, e-mail's fleeting and disposable. But people often did write letters to posterity.

PEREIRA: To a priest?

BERMAN: Who knows?

PEREIRA: Very interesting, it was a very good point, in this day of e-mail what do we know.

That is it for us. Thank you for joining us @ THIS HOUR. I'm Michaela Pereira.

And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.