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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Blockbuster: The Story Of "American Sniper"
Aired February 9, 2015 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biggest weekend ever for a film in January.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American Sniper.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The greatest war movie of our time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $300 million.
BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR & PRODUCER, "AMERICAN SNIPER": Hope I guess that we can educate those of us who aren't really familiar with the flight of a soldier and the soldier's family.
CHRIS KYLE, EX-NAVY SEAL: My only regrets are the guys I couldn't save. That's what keeps me up at night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knew he was serving a purpose, he knew he was saving lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Kyle is now the target of not only glory but controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he tell the whole truth?
JESSE VENTURA, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: A propaganda film that is as authentic as dirty harry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Film maker Michael Moore called snipers cowards.
JEFF KYLE, CHRIS KYLE'S BROTHER: He was a protector, always has been from the time we were little.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the trial to the man accused of killing Kyle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American Sniper success will impact jurors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening I'm Alisyn Camerota along with Chris Cuomo. Tonight we look at the incredibly successful movie American Sniper. The film has smashed box office records becoming the most popular war movie in U.S. history, but why?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESONDENT: The main reason is probably the man at the center, right? Former Navy SEAL Sniper, Chris Kyle. His war experience in Iraq clearly resonating with millions and not just Americans. But the Iraq War is one of the most unpopular conflicts in recent memories, so despite all the film success, it is not without controversy. But all of this is worth a deeper look because American Sniper has quickly become more than a movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUKE GRIMES, ACTOR: You're Complex?
B. COOPER: I just want to get the bad guys, but if I can't see them, I can't shoot them.
CUOMO: The American movie that has become a national moment.
B. COOPER: I'm ready.
CUOMO: Clint Eastwood's American Sniper has already wracked in six Oscar nominations including best actor for Bradley Cooper and almost $300 million, making it the highest grossing war film ever. It's Chris Kyle's story. The Navy SEAL, known as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history at least 160 confirmed kills, over tours in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever think that you might have seen things or done some things over there that you wish you haven't?
B. COOPER: Well that's not me, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not you.
B. COOPER: I was just protecting my guys. The thing that haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save.
CUOMO: And it is the story of what battles were fought by Kyle and others after the war that maybe deepening the film's impact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... called snipers cowards.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions about the real-life sniper.
LEMON: It's a box office Bullseye.
CUOMO: Controversy has followed the lionizing of Kyle as a patriot and hero. Critic's questions celebrating a prodigious kill and say the movie paints a largely rosy picture of America's evasion of Iraq.
B. COOPER: Don't pick it up.
CUOMO: Fuel to the fire came in the familiar form of Michael Moore who galvanized military supported with this Tweet. "My uncle killed by sniper in World War II. We were taught snipers were coward, will shoot you in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders are worse."
The criticism started a debate, was Chris Kyle a hero or a coward. SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The very freedom that Michael Moore has is a gift that's given to him by God and protected by a strong military.
BILL MAHER, HOST OF HBO'S "REAL TIME": This one is just American hero, he's a psychopath patriot and we love him.
CUOMO: Moore later clarified on Facebook. He hadn't been referring to the movie specifically in his Tweets.
SIENNA MILLER, ACTRESS: Your home? What are you doing?
B. COOPER: I guess I just needed a minute.
CUOMO: But there is a larger dynamic at play. Sniper explores Post- Dramatic Stress Disorder or PDSD, a largely underrepresented and underserved reality facing America's fighting men, women and their families.
B. COOPER: It's about the struggles that people go though being at war and being at home. Because more and more military vets are coming back and never before because of medical advancements and we have to take care of them.
CUOMO: Kyle was killed in February 2013 by Eddie Ray Routh a U.S. veteran diagnosed with PDSD, while the two were at Texas gun range. He's murder trial is set to start this week, a reminder of the human toll at the heart of this blockbuster, a disease that plagues American's warriors.
And that's a truth as real as the enduring pain Kyle's family still feels over this death.
TAYA KYLE, CHRIS KYLE'S WIDOW: It sort of a picture of humanity and what we go through when we fight for something we believe in and are affected by it and then have to fight to find our way back to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So who was Chris Kyle? Let's bring in Jeff Kyle, Chris' brother and a U.S. Marine. Scott McEwen, family friend and co-author of American Sniper. And retired Major General James "Spider" Marks, he assigned Chris Kyle to his first mission in Iraq. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here. Jeff I want to start with you. I just saw the movie, yesterday, it is so powerful, so affecting and it's impossible not to think that your brother was just an appealing guy. What do you think about Bradley Cooper's depiction of your brother, was he just like that?
JEFF KYLE, CHRIS KYLE'S BROTHER: He -- Cooper did a really good job. I think, you know, he captured most everything about Chris and put it in the movie.
CUOMO: Your bother was better looking though, let's be honest.
J. KYLE: Of course.
CUOMO: Cooper fell a little short.
J. KYLE: Right.
CUOMO: There's a scene in the movie you also serve, you're a veteran and thank you for your service. There is a scene in the movie not early on but when you're actually supposedly in theater and you run across each other. Did that ever really happened?
KYLE: No sir, no.
CUOMO: All right, so what was -- because he was suppose to be portraying, you know, you are four years younger and you were there, you were having a hard time in the war. That's how it's portrait.
J. KYLE: Right.
CUOMO: And then your brother comes. How was your relationship if your brother knew that you are having any kind of trouble there, what do you think he would have done?
J. KYLE: He would drop everything to do everything he could to come assist me, for sure, and vice-versa.
CAMEROTA: But did you two have philosophical discussion about the wars mission?
KYLE: We did. After every deployment then we would get together and that was our decompression time. You know, we use each other to decompress and we talk about our mission and talk about everything that was going on and, you know, help each other through everything.
CAMEROTA: Scott, I want to bring you in this movie has broken all sorts of records. It is a bonanza, the most popular American war movie ever, they call it. Why do you think it has stuck suck a core with the American public?
SCOTT MCEWEN, CO-AUTHOR, "AMERICAN SNIPER". Well, I want to say first of all, Jeff, its good to see you. You know, your brother really respected you, and loved you, and he made it very clear that you are very important part of his life as well. And haven't really have a chance to tell you that, but that scene in the movie was not from the book as you know, but I'll have my discussion with Jason about later.
Yeah, I think it's broken all record because of the fact that it really breaks down the experience of 100,000 of troops that have been into battle for this country for the last 13 years. I mean, a lot of people don't realize it, but we've had back to back deployments by people such as Chris and Jeff and others from our military for almost 14 years now in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And what we wanted to tell was not just the story of Chris but the story of all Americans and their families that have gone to war, come home and had to deal with the deployments and the things you have to deal with your family. And so, I think it struck a nerve with a lot of different people, not just because Chris was such a patriot and such as amazing individual, but also because the fact it's an experience that all of America is gone through and a lot of people know a lot of people that have been through very similar...
CUOMO: And it's a reality that you can't repeat enough. General, you know, the statistic about your sending him off on his mission or not. What was the reputation of the man and tell us why you do believe an echo what Scott says that there are a lot of soldier's stories that fit this mode (ph).
MAJ. GEN JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, there really are in means numbers of incredibly personal stories. Look, I did not known Chris Kyle, but I knew thousands of Chris Kyle's. The mission that he went on was really essentially started the war in Iraq. It was the gas oil platform on the Northern Gulf and we had to secure that. Our concern certainly was that Saddam was going to set it on fire. So the SEALs had that mission and Chris was on that team.
So this is very personal in a whole bunch of ways. It's quite in amazing story because I think what it does is it grabs the viewer and it puts him and her -- in this rather fulsome experience of combat and the in and out of combat. You're in combat then back home and how do you achieve some degree normality. And clearly, Chris struggled with it.
And I would argue that most veterans do when they come back from combat, because in combat you're so narrow and you're so deep. And the complication of living have just kind of been pushed and washed aside. And the real heroes are your brides that are left at home and your family members that have to deal with all of that while you fulfill you mission.
CAMEROTA: Jeff, you're nodding along as you listen to General Marks talk. What emotional was condition was Chris in when he came back from these tours?
J. KLYE: Yeah, he was just like the rest of us that came back. It took a toll on him, you know, to the outsider you couldn't tell. But to the family and, you know, to his close friends and his teammates, I mean, yeah, you know, because we all know we've been there. We know what he's struggling with. And, you know, I mean, we could tell. But...
CUOMO: So it did it helped you with each other like, you know, you may not want to deal with what was inside you but you saw it at him and vise versa especially as brothers?
J. KYLE: Right, right. Yeah, you know, and like I said before, you know, we would discuss everything after each deployment and we would compare how, you know, each other's deployments were and it would be comprised and I think that would help us get through to our next deployments.
CAMEROTA: There's this really affecting moment in the movie where another soldier tries to thank your brother for saving his life. Let's just play a little clip of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Chief Chris Kyle?
B. COOPER: Yes, Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name Mavs (ph). We met at Fallujah. You saved my life.
B. COOPER: I did?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes sir. We were stuck in the house, until you came in with first marines. You were the one that carried me out.
B. COOPER: Well the by the way the marines saved out lives plenty times. How are you? Are you all right? You're holding up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. I'm just grateful to be alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: The movie makes the scene as though dozen uncomfortable moments for him. He doesn't really want to be thanked.
J. KYLE: He did because he wasn't doing it for the thank yous, you know. He did it because he cared about each and everyone of the Americans over there. And, you know, about the citizens over there, you know, so he wasn't doing it for all the publicity. He wasn't doing it for the thank yous. He wasn't doing it to earn the name "The Legend."
You know, he did it because he actually cared and that's what his all mission was.
CUOMO: Scott, one of the challenges for you is to -- when you were writing the book is nobody sees themselves the way others do. And what was it do you think that Chris Kyle had to accept from the process of doing his story with you about himself that he may not wanted to, you know, inscribe to himself? What qualities of his did you have to convince him, yes this is you?
MCEWEN: Well I think that Chris was very unassuming and really not even the type of guy that would want to tell his stories outside of the fact that his teammates and everyone else express to me that this guys really was an amazing story and Chris got into it and started telling the different things that had take in place during his deployments and particularly in Fallujah and Ramadi where it was such a different time, not only for Chris but he SEALS and the marines such as Jeff, because it was really a mess.
And these guys were dropped in to the middle of a firefight everyday. And they really were living everyday almost like a Normandy or Inujima (ph) or something to that nature because it was firefights that were constant, day after day after day. And I was amazed when I heard it and said, "Chris, I think this is historical, beyond the fact that you have the, you know, the most confirmed kills in United States' history. What you guys went through and what, you know, you lost with the lost of, you know, Ryan Job, you know, and Marc Lee should be told."
And I think as far as history is concerned, this is our times, you know, battle of Normandy Beach or battle to take the mountain, you know, Suribachi or whatever else and I felt like it was that historical that I really try to get him to talk about it or even because of the fact that I felt it was something that really generations to come should know about this generation of war fighter that were patriots such as Chris and the rest of those who fought for this country.
And I'm really happy that I was effective in finally getting him to do it and tell the story because the whole part of the coming home and the family think kind of came later. It started out first to be the story about his experiences with the men on the SEAL Team 3 Charlie and the others that he fought with from the marines and...
MCEWEN: ... I felt like it was very, very important that we got that down.
CAMEROTA: Scott, Jeff, stick around if you would. General Marks, thank you so much for being on it and your service and expertise. Thank you.
MARKS: My pleasure. Thanks guys.
CUOMO: All right, so we're talking about Chris Kyle and to who he was, so you got a better hand over that now. But what mattered to him, especially when he came home it is something that is also creating his movements of momentum. We're going to tell you what that was and why he cared so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST, REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER: Hurt Locker made 17 million because it was a little ambiguous and thoughtful, and this one is just American hero. He's a psychopath patriot, and we love him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: American Sniper glorifies war or simply shows one man's truth. You just heard talk show host Bill Maher slammed the movie was propaganda but he is not alone. So let's discuss the real deal here.
CAMEROTA: We are joined again by Jeff Kyle, Chris Kyle's brother and Scott McEwan, co-author of American Sniper. We're also joined by Sean Parnell, U.S. Army Ranger, friend of Chris Kyle and New York Times Best-selling Author of Outlaw Platoon. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.
Jeff, are you surprise by some of the controversy and push back that the movie has had?
J. KYLE: No. Not at all. You know those people are always -- there is always going to be nice haters out there. It doesn't matter who it is, it doesn't matter if it's Chris or if it somebody else. They are always going to say something derogatory about somebody else. So, you know, we did what we did for them to be able to...
J. KYLE: ... talk their trash, so you're welcome.
CUOMO: So you go with the hate is going to hate and you give them that right by fighting for the freedom.
Let me ask you a little bit different take on it. You're there over doing the mission. This is what you are told to do. Nobody asked you if you wanted do the mission once you volunteered. Nobody asked you to discuss the merits of the mission. Do you think that's a lost a little bit in this when people criticize the war of why we got in and how we did it, how long wind up putting the target on the fighting men and women for that criticism?
SEAN PARNELL, AUTHOR, OUTLAW PLATOON: Yeah, I think that's absolutely the case. I mean, if you watch American Sniper and you saw a political commentary on Iraq war or you saw, you know, a failed study on the intels surrounding a weapon of mass destruction that you are not seeing what most of American's warrior saw and that was in -- like a window into the heart of the Modern American war fighter, and it focuses on the struggle, not just on the battlefield but also at home which is critically important for Americans to understand what is like for veterans like Jeff and I and Chris to come on.
CAMEROTA: Scott, do you think that this is a pro-war movie, an antiwar movie? What is the message?
MCEWEN: Well, what I like about is the fact that you can't really tell. And it's just reality and that's what Clint, and Bradley, and Jason Hall did such a good job of this. You live it for what it is because as the truth, it tells the truth about the American experience and the soldier's experience.
And I wouldn't categorize it as anything more than to say that if you're going to send our men and women to battle, in foreign lands, then you better expect that there is going to be casualties taken and you better give them the resources to fight and win the wars.
And all I can say is that Chris and what Clint did with his story is to tell you, "This is what goes on." So America, we need to fight and defend this country. And if you're going to do it, then just be real about what happens when you do, do it and give our men and women the resources to win the battle.
CUOMO: And you have to be real...
MCEWEN: And I believe that's what this movie does a great job of. CUOMO: And you have to be real with perspective on it. I mean, Mar (ph) is -- he's doing what he does. He's going for a hyperbole there and to make some outrage. Psychopath is not just inaccurate but it certainly insensitive.
So let's focus on Chris' own words. Part up the quote of what Chris have said that got him blowback and I want some context from it, from those who know him, OK?
This is obviously about the number of kills, "The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives."
Now, how can people take that? They can take that as you think all Iraqis are savages. You see, he's a bigot. Do you think that's a fair reckoning of the statement?
J. KYLE: No, no. You know, I mean, it doesn't matter where you're at or where you're in. Yes, our era, they were Iraqis or Afghanis, you know. So yes, you have to have a certain hate for those people because they're trying to kill you. If you don't have that certain hatred for them, you're not going to come home.
Any other war, the Vietnam War, those men over there, they had a hatred for the Vietnamese and they had to. You know, that's just what we do.
PARNELL: Yeah, exactly. And I don't think Chris was referring to the Iraqi people there.
J. KYLE: No.
PARNELL: ... I think he was referring to the enemy that we face. And look, they are. I mean, when I was in Afghanistan, Jeff was deployed to Iraq, we fought against an enemy that throw grenades in the cradle of new born babies.
We fought against an enemy that beheaded children, that stoned women to death. We fought against an enemy that didn't want women going to school or they didn't want women to be educated. We fought against an enemy that gulps the eyes out of little kids and knock their teeth out so that they will be more pleasurable in bed.
This enemy is evil and the world is a better place without them. And Chris knew and understood that. The interesting thing about Chris is that he had the purest form of patriotism and love of country that I've ever seen in my entire life and it was contagious. And I think that we need more people like that in this nation.
CUOMO: Jeff, what message do you think your brother would have wanted to come out of the film?
J. KYLE: I think the message that everybody's received, it wasn't him in that movie. Every parent, every brother, every sister can put their sibling or their child in that position and see what they went through while they're in the country and then why they were -- who they were when they came home. You know, they weren't their little child anymore when they came home. War changes people.
So I think this movie actually, it shows that, you know, it's not just Chris's story, it's every warrior out there that's ever been in combat that's been in country and then come home. It's all of us.
CAMEROTA: Sean Parnell, Scott McEwen and Jeff Kyle, just great to meet you. Thank you so much for sharing...
J. KYLE: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: ... your story of your brother with us. We really appreciate that.
J. KYLE: Thank you all.
CAMEROTA: Well you might be surprise to know that this blockbuster film had played actually in Baghdad but not anymore. We'll tell you what went wrong, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. COOPER: I had a woman and a kid 20 yards out, moving towards the convoy. Her arms aren't swinging and she carrying something.
She's got grenade, she's got RPG Russian grenade, (inaudible) to the kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: American sniper not only causing some controversy at home but overseas as well because it seems like the one you just watch. The movie takes place in Iraq but after just a few heated showing, the film was pulled from the only theater showing it in Baghdad.
CUOMO: We're joining now by Liz Sly. She's the Beirut Bureau Chief for the Washington Post. And she wrote a column about the reaction to American sniper in Iraq and the government's response to it. She joins us now from Lebanon.
Liz, we know that you would wanted to see the movie in Baghdad but you couldn't so tell us what happened.
LIZ SLY, BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: I had arrived in Baghdad. A friend of mine told me it was playing at the mall there and I said, "Wow, let's go. I wanted to see the movie." I thought it would be fun to see it in Baghdad.
We go there and found that it's just being pulled. So I went around and spoke to a number of Iraqis who had seen it, about their reactions and I interviewed them about the reaction in the movie theater but I did not actually see it myself.
CAMEROTA: And Liz, what was their reaction to this movie? I mean, we understand that it got really heated, so what have they tell you?
SLY: One, showing of the movie in particular appeared to have got quite heated with some people in the front raw jumping up and shouting lies, lies at one particular point. And they wouldn't sit down. They were spoiling the film for everybody else. And then some security guards came and led them away. And it was very shortly after that that the movie was pulled.
And I think it might have had something to do with it because people at the theater were clearly very concern but if they continue to show the movie, there could have been some violent reaction, perhaps retaliation, perhaps a terrorist act, something like that.
CUOMO: You wrote a scene of a child holding a grenade that we just actually played before we came in to this segment. That was a flash point. Why do you think people just don't believe that could have happen? What's the reaction?
SLY: I think people -- some people specifically told me that they had served in the military and an RPG would be too heavy for child to lift up. And that this was ever physically impossible and this played into a sense that the whole movie was conveying a misperception of the Iraq war, that it wasn't telling the truth from the Iraqi points of view.
And they -- From the hold movie, the whole portrayal of Iraqis as terrorist, as savages, that kind of thing, very, very, offensive.
CAMEROTA: It's not surprising Liz. I mean when you watch this movie, you know, it does show Chris Kyle fighting the enemy. And the enemy is depicted as everyone that he is seeing in his world their in theater as the Iraqis. I'm surprise that it even try to open in Baghdad, frankly.
SLY: But yes, I'm not surprise at all. The Iraq was an extremely complicated war, you had Sunnis fighting with the Americas, Sunnis fighting against the American. You had Shia fighting with the Americans, Shia fighting against the Americans. You had Sunni and Shia are fighting each other. So to portrait all Iraqis is just against the American not having contributed to talk to the efforts to bring peace to the country. I think that yeah, I think Turkey understand why they found it very offensive.
CUOMO: And yet, it does wind up being window into how the Iraqi people see the United States. I mean because from the U.S. prospective its -- U.S. were liberators. They went there to help remove (inaudible) and free a people. But has the evolution been there of common sentiment?
SLY: I think Iraqis had a much more nuances (inaudible) of American. Some of them did see the American as liberator. Saddam Hussein was the tyrant. But that awful bloodshed of the years that followed their evasion, the political mistake, the (inaudible) people that followed that. Iraqis no longer see the American as liberator. They see them as giant ordeal that they had live with and that they're glad to be rid of now. And I think a movie like this just plays into a perception among Iraqis that American never understood Iraq and perhaps never will.
CAMEROTA: Liz Sly thanks so much for sharing the situation on the ground there. Nice to talk to you.
CUOMO: Now, we keep talking about all these different themes that the movie brings up. Some of them are obvious, some of them are not, and some of them we really haven't seen made manifest yet. For example testimony begins this week in a murder trial for Chris Kyle's alleged killer. How will the movie affect the outcome of the trial? Now the answer may not be what you think and we'll tell you why.
COUMO: The so called American Sniper trial begins this week. The defense says the trial needs to be move in order to be fare. So that's one question. The other is, will the movie help or hurt defended Eddie Ray Routh. Here is CNN Ed Lavandera with more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield brought Eddie Ray Routh to the Rough Creek Lodge and resort two years ago on a Saturday afternoon. Routh's mother had reach out to Kyle to help her son. She said the former marine was suffering from PDSD. Kyle and Littlefield took Routh out to this gun range so they could talk and bond. But instead police say Routh turn the gun on the two men who were trying to help him. Police says Routh left the scene in Kyle's pickup truck and drove to this sister's house right after the murders.
LAURA BLEVINS, EDDIE RAY ROUTH'S SISTER: Listen, my brother just came by here. He told me that he committed a murder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who did he say he had killed?
BLEVINS: He said that he killed two guys, they went out to shooting range. He's like he's all crazy, he's (inaudible) psychotic.
LAVANDERA: Routh is expected to deplete not guilty by reason of insanity in the murders of Kyle and Littlefield. Routh served four years in the marine including a tour of duty in Iraq and a humanitarian mission to help the victims of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He reportedly made several visits to the V.A. hospital in Dallas and spent the two years before the murders in and out of treatment for mental issues. Journalist Laura Beil wrote indebted account of Eddie Ray Routh struggles in a book called "The Enemy Within".
She said shortly before the murder Routh's mother turned to Kyle desperate for help.
JODI ROUTH, EDDIE RAY ROUTH'S MOTHER: He'd been saying crazy things and doing crazy things that were out of character long before this.
LAVANDERA: Routh's trial will be held in Stephenville, Texas, the small town where Chris Kyle went to college in early 1990's, and where he entertained dreams of becoming a rodeo cowboy before he left out behind and join the navy. Routh's attorney asked the judge to delay the start of murder trial because of the intense publicity surrounding the release of American Sniper movie.
COOPER: I think what haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save.
LAVANDERA: In the state of Texas proclaiming February 2nd as Chris Kyle day. The judge denied the request and now the work of picking the jury is underway. Ed Lavandera CNN Stephenville, Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Jeffrey Toobin, he's a CNN Senior Legal Analyst and Sunny Hostin also a CNN Legal Analyst. They are both former federal prosecutors. Great to see both of you. Sunny, let me start with you. I was surprise to hear that the judge announced that the jury pull anyone in it having seen the movie, American Sniper or read Chris Kyle's book. That's not a disqualifier, they could still serve as jurors. Is that unusual?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, you know, I think its necessary unusual. I mean you don't a want a juror that's been living under a rock, right? I mean this is a blockbuster film and so most people have seen it, I've seen it, I'm sure you've seen it. And so I don't think that's should automatically disqualifies them. And what you want is a juror to be able to have seen the movie and read the book and still be open-minded as to the evidence that's coming in. And I think our jurors work pretty good job of that.
CUOMO: And it's also Jeffrey, not unusual on a high profile trial, right? I mean to hear something like this, although, counterbalancing that this town where their holding the trial, for three straight weeks every showing of this movie was sold out. So that tells you something about the intensity of interest. But which way will that play out. What do you think of this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I don't think it's a disqualifying factor. I understand why the judge didn't move the trial, didn't delay the trial. You know, most people don't follow the news as carefully as we do. So even though it's well -- this is a very familiar case, there have been lots of cases involving a lot of publicity. And by and large, you get jurors who -- even if they heard of the facts, they don't have a preconceive notion about what the verdict should be and that's the important thing.
CAMEROTA: Sunny, one of the things their exploring is whether or not the alleged shooter was insane. He was hospitalized at a mental institution before the shooting. Does that prove the case that he was mentally unstable?
HOSTIN: Well, it doesn't necessarily prove that he was mentally unstable at the time of the shooting, right? But I've got to tell you, you know, insanity defenses are really successful. They're not put forth that much. But if ever there was an insanity defense that could work, I think this is that case, because you have the history of PTSD. You also have this movie and this book that really I think outlines the difficulties of reintegrating into society after seeing this kind of violence in war.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting. So in what you're saying basically is that the movie could work through the alleged shooters advantage.
HOSTIN: I do think so. I think that we are, as a society, just more cognizant now of the real trauma that our soldiers experience. And I think PTSD given his history is a real viable option for the defense.
CUOMO: And certainly Kyle, Jeffrey Toobin, if not Mr. Littlefield was very invested in PTS and having people understand how bad it is and what it does, but what's on the other side of that analysis to why this guy may not get an insanity verdict.
TOOBIN: Well, jurors are very reluctant to cut anyone a break who admittedly did something deeply, deeply horrible and that's what's going on here. I mean we have someone who admitted killed two human beings and jurors understandably come to a case like that and they are not filled with sympathy.
The paradox here of course is that the worse his behavior the more chance of an insanity defense, the more irrational, the more inexplicable. In here you also have the fact not just of the movie but of the V.A. scandals that have been going on...
TOOBIN: ... for the past few months, where a jury might be predisposed to say, "You know, the V.A. really screwed up here. They're the ones who should have kept this guy medicated, locked up protecting society...
CUOMO: The V.A. failed to admit him in this situation, is one of the allegations. But then again...
TOOBIN: That's right.
CUOMO: ... you can have PTS and not be insane. You know, most people who struggle with PTS don't kill people, don't do things violent, you know, most of their angers are directed inward.
HOSTIN: That's right. And I think that this is going to come down to sort of a battle of the experts. You know, I think that if the defense does its job which is to educate this jury on PTS and have the appropriate experts to discuss these issues. You know maybe you don't have to -- have seen combat or be in the combat to suffer from this.
I really think they have a good chance at this insanity defense. And I truly say that because it's so rarely successful. But if ever there was a case that it could work, I think this is the one.
CAMEROTA: Sunny Hostin, Jeffery Toobin, thank you so much for your expertise. American Sniper highlights the battle, our troops continue to fight when they come home, the battle as we've been talking about against posttraumatic stress. We're going to discuss this problem and some solutions with veteran war correspondent Bob Woodruff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. COOPER: The thing that haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save. Now, I'm willing and able to be there but I'm not. I'm here. I quit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you can walk down in the hall in this hospital. I got plenty of soldiers needs help. You want to take a walk.
B. COOPER: Sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: That's the moment in American Sniper when Chris Kyle decides to dedicate his life to mentoring veteran, especially those suffering with posttraumatic stress. Now the film's popularity and the upcoming trial of the Iraq war vet accuse of killing Kyle and his friend has put PTS back in the spotlight.
CAMEROTA: So let's talk about it and let's bring in the experts, Heidi Kraft is a former Navy Clinical Psychologist and Author of "Rule Number Two, Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital." Brandon Webb is a former Navy SEAL who helped train Chris Kyle. He is the author of "Among Heroes," and Bob Woodruff is an ABC News Anchor and Co-founder of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. He was hit be a road side bomb in 2006 while reporting on the Iraq war.
It's great to have all of you here for this discussion. I want to start with you Brandon because you have a fascinating job. You were the head instructor in the Navy Seal Sniper Program that trained Chris Kyle. And I'm wondering, is there a particular personality type that lends itself to becoming a sniper?
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER NAVY SEAL: I think the guy that really excel as an sniper have an ability to really manage stress and make complex decisions under pressure and we look for those candidates. And like you and I were talking earlier before the segment, we put them in situations artificially induce very high level of stress to see who has and who doesn't.
CAMEROTA: And do you think that that somehow is a buffer against PTS when they come home.
WEBB: I think the Special Operations Community as a whole has a much lower rate of frequency of guys that don't deal with PTSD effectively and we just -- they show up to training and make it through because they have an ability to deal with adverse situations. And specially as a sniper, we look for those individuals who have those characteristics that can really deal with some terrible situations and be able to make these decisions very quickly and make complex calculations for win and lead and sometimes even the spin of the earth will factor into the shots at a longer distance.
CAMEROTA: OK. CUOMO: With functioning, dealing those two things, well very usually, are not coping. And Bob, you and I have known each other a long time. You have taken this very seriously for a long time. What have you seen in terms of whether you're a sniper or whether you're a cook, what happens for fighting men and women when they come back home and how it would affects their family? What have you seen?
BOB WOODRUFF, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: A lot of this is what they saw, that they lived through, absolutely, what kind of trauma was it that trigger it off. And then this transition when you go from this -- a very different world of fighting on the war. We don't really know where are the so called enemies are, or where the weapons are. It kind of creates a stress and especially from a multiple deployments that all of ours that have served have gone through.
But a lot of it depends on that transition, because they're going from a world where they get closed with their unit. They've got -- Everyday, they know pretty much what they're going to do then you come back in this gigantic world that's spread out. And a lot of times you don't know what to do. But I think most of us link back to the kind of trauma that you lived through and then suddenly, you know, in a brand new world as difficult to deal with.
CAMEROTA: Heidi, in the movie, "America Sniper," it makes it seem as though Chris Kyle did come back with PTS and that he was depressed but then that he sort of found his calling by helping other soldiers who were suffering with PTS and is that realistic? Can you come home and recover from PTS and sort of put it behind you?
HEIDI SQUIER KRAFT, FRMR. NAVY CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. We have treatment for all kinds of trauma both PTSD and everything on that continuum of symptoms that we know are very effective to help people.
And for many of my patients and others who have gone through this kinds of situations helping others and feeling like they are able to give back to their community and other people who might be in similar situations, it's really helpful and it gives a great feeling of hope and looking forward and feeling like there is a greater sense of their being and what they're all about.
CUOMO: You have can versus do there, right? And then do has two different layers. The first is, are ready? Can you handle it? Do you want to admit it? Especially these types of men and women, who already feel like they've put too much on their families, little on add another layer of now, I still have things to (inaudible) you, went back home. And then it's whether the system takes care of them. Let's unpack that.
How hard is it for someone to say, yeah, I can handle this, there's something I can't handle?
WEBB: Well I don't think that's a problem but at -- to Heidi's point and to your point, I think that the national conversation around PTS is to change to one of more positive solution based approach. I hear lots of complaining about the Department of Veterans Affairs and I think that's why myself and a lot of fellow veterans really take matter into their own hands. We started the foundation like Bob's Foundation to really change the way that we set, a positive example to these transitioning veterans.
We had a thing in the cyber program. We took our -- the way that we used to coach and teach from a very negative approach to a positive approach. And once we started changing the philosophy of the program, we saw a 3 percent of failure rate go down to less than 3 percent. So it's great.
CUOMO: And you've seen that too. You've seen that with the foundation. When you give the resources, when you make sure people know that there are people who are there for them, that they have network, what kind of changes is missing?
WOODRUFF: Well one of them I think, you know, as Heidi mentioned that sometimes it's difficult or you said that there is -- it's difficult for people sometimes to talk about it in the beginning, that has completely changed overtime.
You know, that getting over this stigma, it was considered to be kind of unmanly to come back and say you've PTSD. I think we've also overtime looked at the PTSD differently but the fact, that I think all of us don't really call it PTSD anymore. We take off the D, it's not a disorder.
CUOMO: Get rid of the disorder.
WOODRUFF: They don't want it to be a disorder necessarily. And also it -- and it does really matter the kind of PTS you get when you're fighting in a war versus you've witnessed one of your friend's child died right here in New York or something. It's the same kind of PTS and I think that's one of the things that change overtime.
In different ways, I think when we've seen in the beginning, we are really caring about those in ICU, those who were, you know, just injured and then we started help them when they go back to their community because nobody really no many veterans in their neighborhood because we got just about 1 percent of Americans are serving in this war compared to previous wars that we had.
And now we're really looking at -- as you've said veterans helping veterans which is exactly what you're doing because those had been incredibly efficient and effective to do this. You know, service dogs and you get someone of these guys to come back and trained, service dogs to help others that's helping them too.
I have a good friend of ours who's done the same thing and we've back and he just -- he's not even taking the drugs that he was taking before to deal with the PTS because now he's training these dogs to help some of his friends. So he's working well now, and it's getting better as time goes on.
CAMEROTA: Heidi, the movie did a good job of also depicting just the trauma with the family back at home, goes through while they're worried about the soldier overseas. What help if there for them? KRAFT: There are certainly are many programs that are trying to reach out to our families but this is more difficult of course, because it's harder to know where they are at any given time. I think there is a greater understanding now when we talk about PTS or PTSD sort of how trauma can actually be spread across terrible and horrible things happening into someone you love as well. And that can still lead to those symptoms.
So we are I think having a greater understanding now about all the people who might be involved in that soldier, marine, sailor, airman's experience and making sure that they are all sort of included when we talk about that picture.
As a clinician, I certainly -- I'm always asking about the family. I want to know about everyone who might be affected by the experiences that my patient might have experienced.
CUOMO: And people who want to help also and that's why it's great to have people writing and being, you know, in clinical the way Heidi is and for you two gentlemen to work that you do with your organizations. And Bob, you know, I just loved what you do and that makes a difference because you're helping the right people. So thank you for helping us get the message out as well.
CAMEROTA: It's great to hear about all the progress being made. Thank you so much for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Well some closing thoughts on "American Sniper", right after this break.
CAMEROTA: American Sniper is the highest grossing war movie in U.S. history. Chris Kyle story has thoroughly struck cord with millions of people. Some call it war propaganda, others believe the film is patriotic not political and it serves to celebrate the bravery of our men and women in uniform.
CUOMO: And yet the movie itself probably isn't what matter most, it's what remains, the families, the missing moms and dads, sons and daughters and the battles that continue when they come home especially the plague of PTS.
So if you want you can forget the politics of the film but please do not forget what matters the most, helping our troops. And thank you for watching.
CNN Tonight with Don Lemon begins right now.