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Robin Williams Found Dead; Hollywood Remembers Robin Williams; Interview with Producer Bob Zmuda; New Iraqi Prime Minister Elected; A National Conversation about Race and Police

Aired August 12, 2014 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Dan Simon near Robin Williams' home in California with more this morning. Good morning, Dan.

DAN SIMONS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Robin Williams, a permanent fixture here in the San Francisco bay area, most recently moving to the town of Tiburon. You can see behind me at the family house a growing makeshift memorial here.

I can tell you that emergency crews responding just before noon yesterday. Inside, they found Williams completely unresponsive.


SIMON (voice-over): This morning, the world reeling over the shocking death of Hollywood comedic legend Robin Williams. The Oscar-winning actor apparently committing suicide according to investigators. Death to asphyxia inside his San Francisco bay area home Monday morning.

Williams was last seen alive by his wife Susan Schneider the night before. "I lost my husband and my best friend," said Schneider in a statement released Monday, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists.

The 63-year-old had a long history of alcoholism and drug addiction, but was recently battling severe depression, according to his media representative, entering a 12-step rehab stint in July in order to maintain his sobriety. His sudden death leaving Hollywood and fans stunned.

CONAN O'BRIEN, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: This is absolutely shocking and horrifying and so upsetting on every level.

SIMON: Fellow comedian Conan O'Brien visibly emotional when he broke the news to his audience right before wrapping his late night talk show.

O'BRIEN: We're so very sorry to have to report this to anybody who's hearing it for the first time. And we are going to end our show now and thank all my guests, and good night, and god bless Robin Williams.

SIMON: Williams' last Instagram post was two weeks ago, uploading an old photo with his 25-year-old daughter Zelda Williams as a child, wishing her a happy birthday. Monday night Zelda posted a quote from a French poet with a message about her father, writing, "I love you, I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: We're very sad. We're mourning the loss of such a great man. And he was also a friend and I admired him. He's -- he's a legend. He's unbelievable.

SIMON: Thousands of fans and celebrities also taking to social media to express their sorrow ,from President Obama tweeting he was one of a kind to Billy Crystal simply writing, "no words." Several films featuring the late star are slated to release in the coming months, including "Night at the Museum III." The legendary comic and actor leaves behind a wife and three children.


SIMON: Well, Williams was often seen riding his bike in the neighborhood and talking to the neighborhood children. He was said to be very humble and down to earth. I can tell you that an autopsy is scheduled for some time today. Authorities say they are going to have a news conference with more information at 2:00 eastern time. Kate, we'll send it back to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Dan, thank you very much for that.

Robin Williams was also known for his charity and humanitarian work, including USO tours and his years of involvement with the charity Comic Relief.


ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN: And phone in, we take credit cards, we take checks. Please don't send us any guns because we don't have any toys. But we do have t-shirts ladies and gentlemen. Yes, we do.



BOLDUAN: Bob Zmuda is the president, founder, and producer of Comic Relief and a very good friend of Robin Williams. He is joining us now. Bob, on this morning -- you have to -- you have to try to not laugh when you see him. And I even saw you cracking up when I'm sure you've seen that clip over and over again. That's just what Robin Williams did.

BOB ZMUDA, PRESIDENT, FOUNDER, AND PRODUCER OF COMIC RELIEF U.S.: Amazing guy. And like you said, everybody's talking about his comedy and his dramatic roles, but he did so much to help those who were unfortunate. I started Comic Relief with Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal 28 years ago, and we've raised over $60 million. And Robin, he was the one from the get-go that was insistent that we would raise funds for the homeless community.

BOLDUAN: What was it about the homeless communicate that really struck Robin, do you think? ZMUDA: Well, you know, Robin was kind of born with a silver spoon in

his mouth. He came from a very rich family in Chicago. His dad owned a car dealership that was very successful. So I think he felt he was given so much and that he needed to give back. And he truly did.

They did about - Robin, Whoopi, and Billy probably did about 11 comic relieves. And they would not only come in days before and rehearse and of course perform the show, but they would go to homeless shelters themselves and actually visit people. As a matter of fact the first time we went to a homeless shelter in downtown L.A., a very kind of scary place, and Robin, it was the only time I saw Robin freeze. And he was in front of this mass of homeless families and he couldn't talk, if you could believe it or not. And he was so moved.

And afterwards, we went back into the director's office and the director said, Robin, these people wanted you to make them laugh. He said, "Really?" And he went back out and he killed. He just killed. He really was a tremendous guy. A great loss.

BOLDUAN: And what was your first reaction when you heard of the news yesterday?

ZMUDA: I'm still in shock. You can't believe it, because he was so lively. But I'll tell you this, knowing Robin on a personal level -- I've known Robin before he was a star. And I must tell you when you went with him -- and it makes sense of what happened, because when you were with him just alone, he had no social skills. He couldn't handle it. He would be -- it would be like -- I knew this man for 35 years and yet it was like I was in an elevator with a stranger. There had to be two people in the room, and then you were an audience, and then he came alive.

And I think it was -- it's like when you're that high and performing and was bipolar, the high are highs and the lows are lows. And there's nothing sadder than when a comedian is by himself and has to face the demons. Unfortunately, I believe this is what happened.

BOLDUAN: And Robin Williams has spoken publicly about his struggles. He was really quite open about it. Did he speak about it on a personal level with his friends like you? Did you know how bad it could get?

ZMUDA: No, no, no. That's why everybody's shocked. He was very good at covering it up. Like you said, he spoke about it. So we would see him on shows talking about it, even joking about it. And that even makes it more shocking.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. You've known him as you said nearly 30 years now. Is there a moment when you maybe during one of your Comic Reliefs, was there a moment when you said I have now seen the genius of Robin Williams?

ZMUDA: No, he just amazed you all the time. I'll tell you a funny moment, though. He was -- I was Andy Kaufman's writer for 10 years. When Andy did his famous show at Carnegie Hall where we took the audience out for milk and cookies, it was in the movie "Man on the Moon" and everything. And Andy started the show by bringing out his grandmother he was like 85 years old, because he told his grandmother, he brougt her on stage in front of the audience, he said, "Grandma, remember I was a little boy and I said someday I'm going to be famous and lay Carnegie Hall? And she said, yes. But you didn't believe me, did you, grandma? She says, no. What else did I tell you? I told you something else. You told me you'd give me the best seat in the house. Ladies and gentlemen, Andy brought out his grandma's sofa that he had flown out from Florida. We put it stage right on stage.

And then Andy did this great show. At the end of the show he said, I'd like to thank my guests. He said the New York City Rockettes. And the Rockettes came out and started kicking their legs. Then he said I'd like to thank the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They came in from the back and starting singing. He said, I'd like to thank Santa Claus, it was around Christmas time, and it started snowing. And then he said, "I'd like to thank my grandmother," and this little old lady that you watched for three hours on stage, she gets up, and he says "I'd like to thank my grandmother, played by Robin Williams." And the grandma that throws her cane out in the audience and ripped off the prosthetic makeup, and it was Robin Williams. It was one of the greatest theatrical moments of all time.

But he sat there for three hours not joking around or anything. And then a few years after that, he called me up and said I'm doing this movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Who was that makeup person we use when had I played the old lady at Carnegie Hall? So a great friend of Andy's --

BOLDUAN: And a great friend with a big, generous heart, because you don't often hear -- you don't often see the pairing of genius and generosity.

ZMUDA: And he raised -- him, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal raised over $60 million on the telecast that they did. Amazing.

BOLDUAN: Amazing. There's just one moment. We played it earlier in the show, Bob, but I think you'd enjoy it. I'd love to get your thoughts on it. This was one of the moments of Robin Williams speaking on "Inside the Actor's Studio."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

WILLIAMS: There's seating in the front. The concert begins in five. It will be Mozart, Elvis, and one of your choosing. Or just nice if heaven exists to know that there's laughter, that would be a good thing. Just to hear "God goes, two Jews walk into a bar."



BOLDUAN: You can almost see his process playing out as he's giving just what are perfect, perfect, on-point one-liners. How do you think Robin Williams himself would want to be remembered today? ZMUDA: Oh. That's a tough one. I think -- Robin was so down to

earth, and he really did not walk around with any airs that he was special at all. So I think what's shocking, what we're finding out in this situation is how many people really loved this guy. This is really, really hurting people in a big way. You know, especially, you know, what we're hearing about how -- how this happened to him. It's just -- it's too much to -- to take in.

BOLDUAN: It's a lot to wrap your mind around, especially as someone who knew him so well for so long as you did, Bob. Thank you so much for taking a few moments and sharing them with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

ZMUDA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Bob Zmuda, founder, creator of Comic Relief. John, over to you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Kate, what a terrific discussion.

Now, the political showdown in Iraq. The naming of a new prime minister there is being applauded by the White House. Secretary of State John Kerry urging the quick formation of a new Iraqi cabinet to build a united front against ISIS rebels. There is one big problem, though. Iraq's current prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, refusing to leave, threatening legal or maybe even military action in order to remain in power. President Obama is keeping a close watch on the volatile situation while on his Martha's Vineyard vacation.

Our Jim Acosta is live on the island right now. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. And the question this morning is just how far the U.S. is willing to go to convince Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki to step aside. The president interrupted his vacation here on Martha's Vineyard to congratulate the man chosen to be the next prime minister of Iraq Haider al-Ibadi. The president saying yesterday in a statement that he called Ibadi to say that he supports him, saying, quote, "I've pledge our support to him," and added, "I urge all Iraqi political leaders to work together peacefully in the days ahead." That's as close as he came to mentioning the current prime minister Nouri al Maliki by name, which was essentially a sign that it's time for Maliki to go.

In the meantime, the U.S. is continuing to raise the pressure on Maliki, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying in Australia that the U.S. would continue to raise its support, boost support for Iraq security operations there in northern Iraq should Maliki step aside and a body come in and form a more unified government. But it's unclear at this point what the U.S. will do if Maliki decides to hang on. That could essentially complicate the mission that the U.S. is undertaking right now against ISIS. Last night the central command of the U.S. military released a statement announcing more humanitarian air drops to those refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar. Again, the U.S. is saying, John, that they feel pretty confident that this mission is working both militarily and on a humanitarian front. But what happens next if Maliki decides to stay, that's the big question this morning, John.

BERMAN: President Obama not saying the name Nouri al Maliki. That in fact said everything. Our Jim Acosta on Martha's Vineyard, thanks so much, Jim. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's take a look at your headlines 12 minutes past the hour. Happening now, the truce is holding in Gaza. Indirect talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators get underway today in Cairo today once again. The Egyptians acting as intermediaries as both sides work on a permanent ceasefire. Now, among the Palestinian demands, the revival of a Gaza commercial seaport that began back in 2000. Israeli tanks and bombs destroyed it a few months later following attacks from Gaza.

Two Liberian doctors with Ebola will be given the last available doses of ZMapp. That's the experimental drug used on three aid workers with the virus. One of them a priest being treated in Spain died this morning. The Liberians will be the first Africans to get the untested medication. This morning the World Health Organization announced that an ethics panel approved using experimental drugs to fight the outbreak. The WHO says more than 1,000 people now have died in the outbreak.

One of two teens convicted in the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, is back on the football field. Ma'lik Richmond suited up again for the Steubenville big red football team just two years after his rape case was catapulted into the national spotlight. Richmond served one year in a juvenile facility. He is now a registered sex offender. The other convicted player Trent Mays remains in detention.

Torrential rain causing severe flooding that paralyzed parts of the Detroit air. As much as six inches of rain drenching the city forcing major highways like I75 to close. Look at that. It looks like a river. Motorists were stranded in as much as five feet of water. More than 4.5 inches of rain fell at Detroit's Metro Airport, more than doubling the old record established some 50 years ago. We should point out, rain expected to -- it's dry there right now. Rain is expected again. They are concerned about flooding with thunderstorms making --

BERMAN: It's crazy. It is coming here. Not to say I'm not concerned about them, but I'm very concerned about me. It's coming here.

PEREIRA: Little selfish there, John.

BERMAN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to be remembering a legend. The world truly reeling after the death of Robin Williams. We're looking back at his many historic moments on screen, on stage, as well as talking about his long battle with depression.

BERMAN: Plus, new violence in Missouri after the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen by a police officer. Police battling angry crowds seeking justice. We have the latest developments. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Overnight, gunshots and tear gas in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed teenager was fatally shot by police Saturday. 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times by a police officer in broad daylight. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air when the officer shot him. Authorities, the police, however, say the teen attacked the police officer in his car.

This shooting has sparked outrage and fueled a national debate once again about race and police. We want to dig deeper with Mo Ivory, attorney and radio personality, and our L.Z. Granderson, CNN contributor and ESPN columnist.

It's a heavy heart that I know the three of us discuss this. But I want to start with the op-ed, L.Z., that you wrote yesterday, really moving piece entitled "I Am Tired". I actually want to read a portion of it if you'll indulge me.

"I am tired -- tired of our streets being peppered with dead unarmed black people. Tired of listening to armed assailants describe how they feared for their lives. Tired of people told, quote, 'This has nothing to do with race.'"

That was a visceral reaction from you, L.Z.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I've been a journalist for about 20 years, a little over 20 years now, and have covered all sorts of stories from politics to -- I was a restaurant critic, a film critic, obviously sports. These stories of children dying, of mothers and fathers having to bury their kids, are always difficulty to write. But when it's this particular scenario, it not only is difficult to write as a dad, it's difficult to write as an American. Because this is a story that we've been watching now unfold in front of our cameras for like a hundred years.

I went back and took a look at the American Film Institute list of the greatest films of all time. 1915, D.W. Griffith's film, the name I'm sorry is escaping me right now, but it was the film about what would happen to -- thank you, "Birth of a Nation" -- what would happen to the country if black people were free and how menacing black men were portrayed.

That was in 1915, and you fast forward to today, and I don't see very much difference in the way that black men are portrayed by the media.

PEREIRA: Mo, it's interesting. You know, a lot of people are saying -- and I've heard this resounding -- how many more times does this kind of thing have to happen? Interesting that we've seen another night of protests, another night of tear gas. We've seen the looting, we've seen the reaction. Speaking of the word visceral, very violent reaction there on the ground in Ferguson.

Brown's parents, for their part, have pleaded for calm. I have to ask you, as a mother, as a journalist, as a radio personality, as an attorney, what was your reaction to all of that violence? MO IVORY, ATTORNEY: Sure. I mean, I was of course watching it like

everybody else, just wishing that people would stay calm and not loot and not do those things, because of course it's wrong to react that way. But I do understand the reaction. And we talked about this on the radio show yesterday and went back and forth with a lot of people that just say, you know, that behavior is morally incomprehensible.

But, to me, I understand the pain that is behind that behavior. I understand the situation of the lashing out. And, no, it's not everybody that's doing it. There are people who are just trying to take advantage of an opportunity. But most of it is about the frustration with police and the wanting to just lash out at something, to throw something through a window, to try to get something that you're never allowed to have or that you just can't get easily.

And that's what behind that. And all the time, we look at that and say, oh, people shouldn't be doing that. They're messing up their own neighborhoods. But that's the pain of the struggle that people are going through. That's the pain of another black boy who was unarmed or a black man dying in the street and being left there for hours. There's years and years and years of pain inside of that activity. And so I wish that people wouldn't just look at it as, oh, they messed up a gas station. It's much more than that. It's a systemic problem.

PEREIRA: Our legal analyst Sunny Hostin said something quite astute yesterday. She says often this is how the voiceless try to express their outrage.

IVORY: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: I want to talk to you both as parents. You both have teenagers. And, L.Z., I know you wrote this op-ed partly because you wanted to expression your frustration as a parent of a black teen, a male. Interesting to me that we heard Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, a sobering comment on the challenge of how to get just a young black child to graduate from high school and then to have this to happen.

GRANDERSON: Absolutely. I'll be honest with you, when I heard that statement, I teared up, because I know exactly what she's talking about. I know how proud my mom was, and relieved, when I finally graduated from high school. I grew up in Detroit on the east side, which is a very rough and violent side of the city -- or the more I guess rough and violent side of the city for those on the outside.

And the relief that I lived and that I graduated, and I knew what that feeling was as my son was getting ready to go out of the country this year to study abroad. And I'm like, he's almost done. You know, he's almost graduated. And we've navigated him through all this pain. And it is difficult. I -- you know, my heart just goes out to her.

PEREIRA: Mo, I want to ask you real quick, I want you to put your lawyer hat on and talk as an attorney for a second, and I know you're also speaking as a mother. We know the investigation is not complete. At this point, there's differing sides to the story. We don't know what happened yet because, again, there was not a camera on the -- a dash cam on board that police officer's cruiser.

Is there any doubt in your mind that this could have been anything else than what it appears?

IVORY: Well, I mean obviously there has to be a full investigation and also the Justice Department is doing a concurrent investigation as well. But what I find to be very interesting is that the very young man, the 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, who was with Michael Brown that night, has yet to be interviewed by the police department in St. Louis. His lawyer even offered him up for an interview, and the police department declined. It's as if they do not want to hear the facts of the person who was standing right next to Michael Brown when this incident happened, when this killing happened.

So it's very peculiar to me as to why it is taking the St. Louis Police Department and the Ferguson Police Department so much time to talk to someone who would seem to be the most key witness of all in this case. And it just making you think, there has to be a reason why both sides are not being brought forward right now. And I don't know why that is. I hope we will find out in the days the officer's name; I hope we'll find out what they have from his side of the story and what Dorian Johnson also knows. And then we'll begin to start the process of what really happened that night, that afternoon.

PEREIRA: We need to take a look at that while concurrently try to get that community -- the nation as a whole -- to heal after we reel from such a disturbing turn of events there in Ferguson. Big thank you to Mo Ivory, L.Z. Granderson, thank you both for your contributions today and always.

We're going to take a short break here on NEW DAY. Still ahead, really unbelievable video to show you. Heart pounding, in fact. An incredible rescue effort in Iraq. A CNN crew right in the midst of it all. You're going to see the amazing heroics to save dozens of refugees facing dire circumstances on a mountaintop.

Also still ahead, more reaction to the stunning and shocking passing of actor Robin Williams, dead after an apparent suicide. We're going to take a look at his ongoing battle with depression.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: Well, what did you say to him?

WILLIAMS: I just slid my ticket across the table and I said, sorry guys, I got to see about a girl.


DAMON: I got to go see about girl? That's what you said?

WILLIAMS: I had to.

DAMON: And they let you get away with that?

WILLIAMS: Oh yeah. They saw in my eyes that I meant it. DAMON: You're kidding me?

WILLIAMS: No, I'm not kidding you, Will. That's why I'm talking right now about some girl I saw at a bar 20 years ago and how I always regretted not going over and talking to her.