CNN CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT
Poetic Controversy; President Bush Submits National Child Protection Plan
Aired October 2, 2002 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Connie Chung.
Tonight: Should a poet be punished for what he wrote about September 11?
ANNOUNCER: Controversial words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMIRI BARAKA, NEW JERSEY POET LAUREATE: Who told 4,000 Israeli workers of the Twin Towers to stay home that day? Why did Sharon stay away?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Accusations of anti-Semitism in a September 11 verse puts one of America's best-known poets under fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY: Somebody makes a statement to imply that the Israelis were aware of, that's simply inappropriate. That's not tolerable. And he ought to resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARAKA: I will not apologize and I will not resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Outrage and demands for this poet laureate to step down. Tonight, exclusive: Amiri Baraka tells his side to Connie.
After a summer of high-profile child abductions, the president submits a national plan to protect America's children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to send a clear message. If you prey on our children, there will be serious, severe consequences."
(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the parents of Elizabeth Smart and Samantha Runnion share their loss and how they're working to ensure no other parent lives their nightmare.
A monster storm churns in the Gulf of Mexico, a Category 4, with the potential to become even bigger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready and prepared. So we got our sandbags. We're ready to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight: residents along the Gulf Coast evacuating and bracing for Lili.
A parliamentary affair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, I'm feeling lonely and unloved. I wish my flat was filled with one big man in his blue underpants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, for the first time, the woman who revealed her affair with Britain's former prime minister tells all.
This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York: Connie Chung.
CHUNG: Good evening.
Tonight: Should a state's official poet be granted poetic license to propagate falsehoods about September 11 about Israel? The poet is New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka, who will talk with us exclusively tonight.
The lie is an old one, ridiculous on the face of it, because it claims 4,000 Israelis worked at the World Trade Center. That would be almost 10 percent of everyone working in the two buildings. Nevertheless, no one can say they didn't know Baraka might cause controversy.
(voice-over): Amiri Baraka says he warned the New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey that he might -- quote -- "catch hell" for naming Baraka to be the state's poet laureate.
If the poet sensed trouble was brewing, it certainly exploded last month. That's when he performed his poem "Somebody Blew Up America," written shortly after 9/11, at a poetry festival in New Jersey. Most of the poem concerns the legacy of slavery and racism. But several lines made specific reference to 9/11. "Who knew the World Trade Center was going to get bombed?"
BARAKA: Who told 4,000 Israeli workers of the Twin Towers to stay home that day?
CHUNG: The lines in question make reference to a persistent myth about 9/11: that 4,000 Israelis had foreknowledge of the attack, failed to inform anyone, and escaped with their own lives while the towers burned.
These rumors were circulated over the Internet and cited by papers around the world. In some places, especially in the Middle East, the story was presented as fact. Baraka had been a pivotal figure in American poetry for four decades. His work has often been controversial. But, in 1980, he published an essay entitled "Confessions of a Former Anti-Semite." At a press conference today, he defended his poem.
BARAKA: I was not saying Israel was responsible for the attack, but that they knew and our own counterfeit president knew, too.
CHUNG: Following Baraka's reading last month, the Anti- Defamation League and other Jewish groups blasted him as anti-Semitic and called for him to step down as the poet laureate. And New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey joined the calls for Baraka's resignation.
MCGREEVEY: Somebody makes a statement to imply that the Israelis were aware of, that's simply inappropriate. That's not tolerable. And he ought to resign.
CHUNG: But there is no provision in New Jersey law for retracting the honor. He was named by a committee to a two-year post that includes a $10,000 award. At least one member of the selection committee said Baraka should not resign.
CHUNG: Joining me now: the man once described by the American Academy of Arts and Letters as one of the most important African- American poets since Langston Hughes: New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka.
BARAKA: How are you?
CHUNG: Thank you so much for being with us.
BARAKA: Thank you.
CHUNG: Why did you write these particular lines that have provoked such controversy?
BARAKA: Well, let's say the rest of the poem is of no consequence? It's just those lines that are important?
CHUNG: Those lines have created quite a firestorm. And you know that. BARAKA: Well, here's the point. My intention was to show that not only did Israel know, because Israel -- we're talking about 9/11 -- not only did Israel know, but the United States knew. Bush and company...
CHUNG: You're saying that Israel and the United States knew...
BARAKA: And Germany.
CHUNG: ... that these attacks were going to occur?
BARAKA: And Germany and France and Russia and England. And this is confirmed.
CHUNG: And you know that's preposterous.
BARAKA: Do I know it's preposterous?
BARAKA: No, it's not preposterous.
CHUNG: The Israelis did not know. The United States did not know.
BARAKA: You know that's not true.
One of the reasons that what's her name, McKinney, Cynthia McKinney, the congresswoman from Georgia, got put out is because she said the same thing. I have a press release of hers in my bag that says the same thing.
CHUNG: What evidence do you have?
BARAKA: Do you know that the Democratic Party is saying the same thing?
CHUNG: The Democratic Party does not say that, sir.
BARAKA: The Democratic Party does not say that Bush and company knew?
CHUNG: Knew that 9/11, the attacks were going to occur?
BARAKA: Knew that 9/11 was coming, yes. They don't say that?
CHUNG: They don't say that.
BARAKA: That's not what they said last week, two weeks ago.
CHUNG: There have been reports. There have been committee hearings regarding it, but no.
BARAKA: When they were saying they can't connect the dots? CHUNG: No.
BARAKA: I think, though, you're not reading closely. Maybe you hear what you want to here.
CHUNG: What evidence do you have?
BARAKA: What evidence do the people who have said that have? What evidence does the Democratic Party?
There is any number of articles on the Internet. You can check with any number of Israeli newspapers, "Haaretz", "Yediot Aharonot," Manar TV. You can check the Web site of Shevac (ph), the Israeli security. And what's wild is that people like this company, for instance -- and I'm not singling you out -- you have huge mainframe computers. You can get this stuff with just a few taps of your fingers.
CHUNG: All right, let's put aside for a moment whether or not
BARAKA: What's interesting to me, the rest of the poem -- they're going to destroy this poem, they think, by trying to deny that the whole imperialist world knew this was going to happen, that Bush and company knew this was going to happen and did nothing. The FBI agents in Minnesota and Arizona will tell you the same thing. One of the FBI agents is suing them about it.
CHUNG: There is no question that there have been reports, and, at the committee hearings, that there were lots of various warnings and no one was able to pull it all together.
BARAKA: That's what they say, right. OK.
CHUNG: However, if we put aside whether or not it is true or not true, even your critics say you have a right as a poet...
BARAKA: Well, why are they trying to beat me up, if I have the right?
CHUNG: Because you are the poet laureate of New Jersey and you have, according to them, a responsibility. You have an obligation not to foment hatred.
BARAKA: My responsibility is to truth and beauty. That's what Keats said and that's what Du Bois said. That's my responsibility.
CHUNG: Do you agree that your poem includes hatred? And should you be fomenting hatred?
BARAKA: Tell me, what is hatred in there? What is hatred? Tell me what's hatred in there?
CHUNG: You don't think that there's hatred in there?
BARAKA: What is it? What is it?
CHUNG: OH, my goodness. Well, should I read you all the lines?
BARAKA: There's a great Chinese author named Lu Hsun (ph) that says if you can't hate, you can't love. I mean, everything is dialectic. There's no up without down. There's no fat without skinny. So I would admit I hate slavery, you understand? I hate murderers. I hate lies.
CHUNG: How do you view your role as poet laureate?
BARAKA: To bring attention to poetry, to give people access to poetry, to network poetry throughout the state. But if they're going to try to censor what I say -- look, the two most praised poets, American poets, by the academy, by these same people, are Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, the worst anti-Semites in the universe. And I certainly can't compare to them.
CHUNG: I know you have said that you're not an anti-Semite.
BARAKA: That's right.
CHUNG: You say you're an anti-Israeli.
BARAKA: Well, let's say this. I'm against Israeli foreign -- policy.
I'm against what they're doing to the Palestinians. I think they're massacring the Palestinians. And I have two communications from Israel, one by Gush Shalom, which is the peace block, another by 95 Israeli academics, all condemning Israel. And the ADL is condemning them. I want to know how does the ADL gets over to Israel condemning -- are they condemning them as anti-Semites, too?
CHUNG: Are you anti-Jewish?
BARAKA: No, of course not. That's bizarre.
See, this is what I'm saying. You mean to tell me I can't criticize Israel without getting called anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish? You think that Israel and Judaism are the same thing? They're not. Do you understand what I mean?
CHUNG: Yes, I know this has always been your position.
BARAKA: Well, people hide behind it. Israel hides behind that. If you attack them for what they're doing to the Palestinians, by the way, you're anti-Semitic.
CHUNG: When you uttered this poem at a festival, "The New York Times" quotes the director of the festival as saying you did apologize for the poem and you actually extracted the offensive lines the second time you read it. Is that true?
BARAKA: What I did was, I apologized to Mr. Habba (ph), because he was very frustrated. People were jumping on him, you understand? Not people were not jumping on him.
Somebody apparently -- and he was upset and he came to me and said something like, "We're trying to pull things together," or, "We're trying to deal with everyone. And you're trying to marginalize this," or something like that.
And I said: "I'm sorry, Jim, because this is your job. I know it's a difficult job."
CHUNG: Well, there you go. Isn't that really essentially what all your critics are asking, that you are, whatever you said, marginalizing or causing a schism?
BARAKA: Well, let me ask you this. Are you concerned about those Palestinians that are getting killed?
CHUNG: Can you answer that question?
BARAKA: Is the ADL concerned about the Palestinians getting killed?
CHUNG: If you apologized to the director of the festival, why not maintain that position now regarding your poem and say, "All right, maybe I shouldn't have, as poet laureate..."
BARAKA: No, no, no. I was apologizing to him for him having to accept all this criticism and attack from people. You know what I mean? And he felt put upon as a result of what I was doing. But as far as people jumping on me, they got a right to do that. If they want to jump on me, I can take it. You understand?
CHUNG: All right, we have someone right now...
BARAKA: I bet.
CHUNG: ... who would happily jump on you at your press conference.
BARAKA: Is this the same people who attacked affirmative action, who filed a suit against affirmative action?
CHUNG: You challenged the Anti-Defamation League to debate you on national television. Now, the ADL declined to debate you directly.
BARAKA: I'll bet you they did.
CHUNG: But the ADL associate national director, Kenny Jacobson, has agreed to respond.
Mr. Jacobson, thank you for being with us.
Why is it that you so strenuously object to Mr. Baraka's poem?
KENNY JACOBSON, ASSOCIATE NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ADL: Well, just listening to Mr. Baraka's comments, they would be laughable if they weren't so serious.
We're in a situation now in the world where we're having the greatest explosion of anti-Semitism that we've seen since World War II.
CHUNG: Let's keep this on the poem itself.
CHUNG: And the question is, what is it? Doesn't he have a right as a poet to say what he wants to say?
JACOBSON: Everyone has a right to say what they -- everyone also has a right to respond to hatred. And, in this particular case, because he represents the state of New Jersey, there's an obligation for the state to look into his responsibilities.
The simple fact is, the 9/11 myth is the biggest lie that's been told about the Jewish people since the days of Hitler.
BARAKA: Nobody is saying anything about the Jewish people.
JACOBSON: And the simple fact is that this started in Lebanon on September 17; 60 percent of Muslims in nine different countries believe that Jews are responsible for 9/11.
This is a very, very dangerous thing. This isn't just something abstract. This kind of thinking leads to very dangerous consequences. And to have Mr. Baraka representing the state of New Jersey, repeat this kind of lie, is anti-Semitic.
CHUNG: Well, in the same poem, sir...
CHUNG: May I bring your attention to the poem itself?
In the poem itself, he talks about the persecution of Jews. And so you say he's anti-Semitic, that he's anti-Israel. In fact, in the very same poem, he talks about the persecution of Jews.
JACOBSON: I just know the impact of these kinds of words around the world.
The simple fact is, this is an outright lie, the biggest lie that we've seen. The lie that Israel knew about this, the fact is, the story really was that it is believed in the Islamic world that, not only did Israel know about it, but that Israel and the Jews were behind it. "60 Minutes" did a piece and they interviewed people in...
CHUNG: Mr. Jacobson.
CHUNG: You know the governor of New Jersey cannot remove him. The committee that selected him cannot remove him by law. So what do you want done?
JACOBSON: Well, No. 1, first of all, we're very pleased that the governor spoke out. And the truth is, there was a predecessor to Mr. Baraka. And it would be nice if they could replace Mr. Baraka or supersede his role because of the hatred that is not representative of what the people of New Jersey should be seeing.
So the fact is, this is not just a few comments. This speaks to something that is going on around the world. And it's a very, very dangerous trend. This big lie is leading to anti-Semitism all around the world. In Europe, we see this. We surely see that in the Middle East. This has nothing to do with whether one agrees on a particular Israeli policy. That's a straw man.
The reality is, this is classic anti-Semitism. I lost a cousin...
CHUNG: Mr. Jacobson, I thank you so much. I thank you for being with us.
And we're going to turn once again to Mr. Baraka.
Isn't this insulting to the memory, though, of those who died at 9/11?
BARAKA: There were a lot of black people that died in 9/11.
CHUNG: Aside from are what Mr. Jacobson is talking about and the ADL is saying, isn't it insulting to these people who died, to the relatives of the people who died?
BARAKA: You mean, did black people die in it? Were there black people? Were there Asian people who died in there? Were there Latinos that died? Were there Haitians that died? Of course there were. Nobody is talking about that.
The only thing they resent is that I'm saying that the United States knew, Israelis knew, England, France, Germany, Russia knew. They warned the United States previously. You can check that with Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. You can check it in several Web sites across the world. And for him to say that by saying that, I'm anti- Semitic, that's the greatest kind of canard that I've heard.
CHUNG: Do you have any kind of intention of resigning?
BARAKA: Oh, of course not.
CHUNG: Will you resign?
BARAKA: No. Plus, I haven't been paid either.
CHUNG: The $10,000 (CROSSTALK)
BARAKA: Right. I haven't been paid.
CHUNG: Aside from that, wouldn't the honorable thing to do...
BARAKA: Why should I resign? This is my job, to bring attention to poetry. You don't think I'm doing that?
CHUNG: Well, of course you are, but it's probably not in the light that you had intended. Or was it, in fact? Is this your intent? Was it your intent?
BARAKA: I underestimated the fools and the bigots in the world. But certainly, I knew that what I said would be bring more attention to poetry than has been brought there heretofore.
CHUNG: So you intended for this controversy to blossom.
BARAKA: I intended to read my poetry as the flagship poet of the state, obviously. Look, that poem was written a year ago.
CHUNG: Yes, I recognize that.
BARAKA: That poem has been all over the world. I read that poem in German, Switzerland...
CHUNG: And before you were chosen as poet laureate.
BARAKA: ... Spain, Portugal, Africa. I read that poem all over the world. What they should do...
CHUNG: Well, I thank you.
CHUNG: May I thank you for being us?
BARAKA: Thank you very much. Thank you.
CHUNG: We appreciate it. But stay right here for a moment...
CHUNG: ... because we're going to go to a commercial, all right?
CHUNG: Still ahead in our hour: A very different scandal rocks Britain for a very different reason. Two words: sex and power.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: Heartbroken parents who lost their girls unite to spare others the pain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN RUNNION, MOTHER OF SAMANTHA RUNNION: I think childhood is the most incredible, wonderful gift. And I want to protect that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues in a moment.
CHUNG: Tonight, we're going to talk with Erin Runnion, whose daughter Samantha was kidnapped and murdered. And we'll also meet Ed and Lois Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth was kidnapped and remains missing.
Every year, thousands of American children just like theirs are abducted. About 100 of those are taken by strangers. Some of them, but not enough of them, never enough, are returned home safely.
That's why, even though abductions by strangers are actually down from 10 years ago, President Bush put the issue in the spotlight today, as CNN's Bob Franken reports.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the very first White House conference on missing, exploited and runaway children, bringing devastated families together with a wide range of experts and national leaders.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The kidnapping of a child is every parent's worst nightmare.
FRANKEN: President Bush announced a major expansion of the AMBER plan, a coordinated public alert system credited with rescuing 32 children. The president ordered $10 million set aside. Right now, the AMBER Alert program is hit and miss, used in only 63 of the nation's states, counties or cities.
BUSH: We should not allow another day to go by without taking steps to expand the AMBER plan's reach all across our country. And so the attorney general today is appointing an AMBER Alert coordinator.
FRANKEN: This conference follows a summer of high-profile kidnappings: Elizabeth Smart, still missing since her abduction near Salt Lake City; Danielle van Dam in California, who was found dead. That was also the tragic end of the Samantha Runnion case, also in California.
For a while, these abductions seemed to dominate the news. And that painted a distorted picture.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: There is some concern that media attention on these cases can lead alarmed parents to think that child abductions by strangers has reached epidemic proportions. And, fortunately, that is not the case. FRANKEN (on camera): Kidnappings by strangers are down, from 200-300 a year in the 1980s to about 100 now. But that's small comfort to the families who have suffered such a wrenching loss. On the other hand, this conference did offer some comfort to many of them.
ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: There are certain things that you learn about that are new and we're hoping can be implemented, especially in finding Elizabeth, and for every other child.
RUNNION: At times, I'm thinking about my loss and my child. And at times I look around and, at my table, there are four other parents who have missing children.
FRANKEN (voice-over): As one family member said, it's a hard group to belong to, indescribably hard.
Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.
CHUNG: Joining me now from Washington: Samantha Runnion's mother, Erin, founder of the Joyful Child Foundation.
Erin, I look at your face, and you're so beautiful, but I can see those tears in your eyes. Are you OK?
RUNNION: I'm OK. I'm OK. Thank you so much for having me again.
CHUNG: Oh, I'm so glad you were willing to join us.
I know that the president stopped to speak to you. What did he tell you?
He said, "God bless you and keep strong." And he was very, very gracious, very sweet.
CHUNG: I also know that you spent a lot of time with the other families. And one in particular really struck you, Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas. Why did that conversation really strike a chord with you?
RUNNION: Well, I just remember so vividly when Polly was taken. And it struck a chord with me then. And when Samantha was taken, the first thing I did was go to the Klaas Foundation. That just was the first thing that it triggered for me. I identified with Polly Klaas and her spark and charm. It reminds me, actually, now again of Samantha.
CHUNG: And when you talked to Marc Klaas, was he able to give you some comfort?
RUNNION: He was very encouraging, very supportive. It was so nice to finally meet him. And I told him how much his daughter had meant to me and that it makes me sick to think that my child and Elizabeth and Danielle and Casey, there are so many of them now that it took to raise awareness again.
And I'm really just so encouraged by the White House taking the initiative and doing this conference. It was a very inspiring and motivating conference. I was thrilled to be a part of it.
CHUNG: You know, I think we all, all of us in America want you to be OK. And I wonder, how do you spend your days? In other words, I know you're not working. And your bosses have just been wonderful, allowing you to take your time to come back to work, which you will eventually do. You work part-time.
But do you eat? Do you sleep? What do you do when you get up in the morning? How do you allow your day to pass so that you aren't gripped?
RUNNION: So that I can function?
RUNNION: Well, it's really true what they say about there being phases. And I don't know what this phase is called, but I spend time with my thoughts about Samantha every day. And I spend some time crying and being honest about how much it hurts.
But I guess it's a mental discipline. And I insist that I come out of that place reinvigorated, even more committed to ensuring that we stop violence against children.
CHUNG: Do you go through all the rigors? I know you help take care of your partner's children. And they are your children as much as they are his.
RUNNION: Yes. Yes.
CHUNG: So that has to give you some comfort.
RUNNION: It does. It does. And the routine of having school again, it's helpful for the children. It's helpful for us. I don't know what I would do without them. I really don't.
CHUNG: I know you've said that you don't think you will have any more biological children.
CHUNG: But are you thinking -- did you mention that you might adopt?
RUNNION: Yes. Yes.
And I'm not ruling anything out. But Ken and I, actually before any of this happened, had talked about, once the children were a little older, that we would like to adopt. There are so many children that are unwanted in this nation. There are 1.2 million runaway or throwaway children, as they call them. I learned that today. And that just breaks my heart. It breaks my heart.
And the one piece of the conference that touched me so much, at the end, Colin Powell was speaking. And I was just in tears, literally.
CHUNG: Well, what did he say?
RUNNION: He was talking about an experience he had at a Boys & Girls Club, where he was saying how he had overcome a lot of obstacles and done a lot of great things and achieved great success.
And a little boy -- and he said that he had done that because he had his family to support him and the love of his family. And a little 8-year-old boy raised his hand and said, "General, what do I do if I don't have a mommy and daddy?"
And there's too many of them. There's too many unwanted children. And they need to know that America loves them and that we are working to collaborate and get together to protect them, that we are -- we are working on it. And this conference was the first step toward that.
CHUNG: Well, I can personally tell you that adoption is wonderful.
RUNNION: Yes, I know. I know. It is. I admire you for that.
CHUNG: Oh, I'm the lucky one.
Will there come a time when you will step out of the national spotlight? Because sometimes I think: Well, it's good that you're involved and you're doing things and it keeps you going, but, on the other hand, maybe it's better if Erin Runnion steps back.
RUNNION: It's a constant kind of debate for myself, because my personal preference is to hide, to just wallow in this pain for a while.
But you know what? Somebody is disappearing right now. Some baby is being slapped and hit and hurt. And if I just hide from that, I'm not helping that baby and I'm not doing any justice to what Samantha went through. It's just too selfish. I have to do everything I can.
CHUNG: All right. Well, we'll help you do that.
RUNNION: Thank you. Thank you.
CHUNG: Thank you so much, Erin Runnion, for being with us. And we hope to talk to you again sometime.
RUNNION: I look forward to it. CHUNG: OK.
When we return: They still don't have their daughter back. They watched the president's speech today.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: Lili roars at Category 4.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're taking it more seriously than the previous hurricanes because of the strength of the winds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: As the hurricane heads for landfall, we go live to the Gulf Coast for a report on the path of the storm.
CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues in a moment.
CHUNG: We just spoke with Erin Runnion, whose daughter Samantha was murdered earlier this year.
But hundreds dreads of parents never find out what happened to their missing children, never know for sure if or when they're supposed to give up hope. And Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home almost four months ago. It's now just about one month until her 15th birthday. Her parents, Ed and Lois Smart, watched the president's speech today, still hoping they'll be able to celebrate that birthday with her.
Thank you both for being with us.
Lois and Ed, how are you? Are you OK today?
L. SMART: Yes. I think our emotions have run the gamut. We are happy an yet very sad, because there is a definite reminder of what has happened, possibly could have happened to her. And so it's a happy and a sad time.
CHUNG: Ed, are there any new developments, any new leads?
E. SMART: The police and the FBI are still receiving a number of leads that they're following up on. But there isn't anything that just says it's this person or absolutely it was Richard. We still feel strongly that Richard had an involvement in it.
CHUNG: That's Richard Ricci...
E. SMART: Right.
CHUNG: ... the man who was a handyman and worked at your home.
E. SMART: Right. But we're hopeful that something is going to be forthcoming.
CHUNG: Lois, that had to be a very, very difficult turn of events, because Richard Ricci was in the custody of police. And then he died. He suffered a brain hemorrhage, is that correct, and simply died.
L. SMART: Yes.
CHUNG: At the time, you had to be hopeful that questioning him would lead to some information about Elizabeth.
L. SMART: We were very, very hopeful. And we'd just been to court earlier that day. And then they'd asked for an extension of three weeks. And that was hard, the extension and everything. But then, later on that night, to say he was in the hospital dying was very unnerving.
CHUNG: So, in some ways, I know that there was a statement. Perhaps, Ed, you had made it. And that is that you thought perhaps, now that Mr. Ricci had died, that perhaps someone might come forward with more information. Did that happen?
E. SMART: You know, it hasn't happened yet. We're still hopeful that somebody out there knows something. We know that. And we're just hoping that that person will come forward or somebody that knows that person will come forward and help us.
CHUNG: Now, Elizabeth, your daughter, was taken from her bed from her bedroom. And your other daughter, 10-year-old daughter, was there at the time. Did she ever identify Mr. Ricci as the person that she saw take your daughter?
L. SMART: She has always said that the voice that she heard was familiar to her. And she stands by that. Well, actually, I don't know that I can comment any further on that.
CHUNG: OK. All right. I understand.
Now, is it your belief, Lois, that there was someone else involved, in other words, two individuals, perhaps indeed Mr. Ricci and someone else?
L. SMART: Yes.
CHUNG: Why do you believe that?
L. SMART: Well, I think, when he took the jeep back to the mechanic...
CHUNG: When Mr. Ricci did?
L. SMART: Yes, when Mr. Ricci did.
There was someone across the street waiting for him to pick him up. And somebody else was with him. There was somebody else that knew something. CHUNG: And, Ed, Mr. Ricci had racked up some 500 miles in a very short amount of time on his jeep, correct?
E. SMART: Correct.
CHUNG: And so that was a cause of concern, why he did. Did he ever answer that question before he died?
E. SMART: He never did answer that question. And we may -- who knows? We may never find out what happened with that vehicle. But we strongly feel that there was an involvement that Richard had in the case. And we're just hoping that somebody else -- we know that there's somebody else out there.
I think that things were too -- happened too quickly for Richard to have just done it on his own, or we would have found Elizabeth by now. And I feel very strongly that perhaps this person that was with Richard walking down the street may even have Elizabeth in his -- may be holding Elizabeth.
CHUNG: And you do believe Elizabeth is still alive?
E. SMART: I do believe Elizabeth is still alive.
CHUNG: And, Lois, you too?
L. SMART: I'm hopeful.
CHUNG: Tell me, Ed, someone told us -- and you tell me if this is accurate -- that, every weekend, you do go out walking looking for Elizabeth.
E. SMART: I've been out on a number of walks. We try and spend time with our family together, because, as bad as this has been, we've got to bring some normalcy, if you can call it that, back with the rest of the children. And so the kids and -- we try to spend time together as a family. But we have been out.
CHUNG: Right. And now the kids are back in school. Is there some normalcy just by virtue of the fact that they have to go to school?
L. SMART: Yes.
CHUNG: Lois, tell me about how you spend your days. I know I had asked Ed a few months ago how he spends his days. How about you, Lois?
L. SMART: Well, we have five other children. There's a lot of laundry to do, a lot of housework to do, a lot of grocery shopping. And I have a 3-year-old that's home with me all day long.
CHUNG: So you have your hands full?
L. SMART: I'm busy, yes. CHUNG: All right, and one last bit of news: I think you were bringing in Dr. Henry Lee, an investigator, to help you out. Any new developments from his involvement?
E. SMART: He'll be coming in, in the middle of October. And we're really looking forward to having him take a look to see if there is something else there that hasn't been looked at yet.
CHUNG: OK, all right.
Well, we thank you so much, Lois and Ed, for being with us. And I know that the news media was with you day after day after day and we sort of left you for a while. But you call us if you need to bring your situation to the media again, so that you can keep Elizabeth's story alive.
L. SMART: Thank you.
E. SMART: Thanks, Connie.
L. SMART: Thank you.
CHUNG: OK, you take care.
A little later, we'll be going to focus on Hurricane Lili, picking up strength, bearing down on the U.S.
Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: Next: John Major's mistress goes on the record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWINA CURRIE, FORMER MISTRESS OF JOHN MAJOR: It's often been said that, if you want an affair to stay secret, choose somebody whose need to keep it secret is exactly the same to your own. And that's what we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Details of an affair in the halls of British government -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.
CHUNG: The fun thing about any good sex scandal is how new details just keep on emerging. And the stunning scandal out of Britain hasn't disappointed anyone. The story broke this weekend and the world was shocked by the news of who was involved.
But now, as Robyn Curnow reports for CNN, we're finding out more about what they did.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pages of newspaper print devoted to this woman and her diary revelations. This past weekend, Edwina Currie unleashed a media frenzy after she told her story of an intimate affair she had with this man: former British Prime Minister John Major. He's said nothing since issuing a statement in which he admitted having the affair.
Mrs. Currie, however, has had much to say.
CURRIE: There was something a bit devilish about us that was amused by the idea that we were sitting next to each other on the front bench at question time. And he was talking to me. This is before Parliament was televised, of course. And he would be saying: "There's no vote after 7:00. Are you free?"
And I would say: "I am. I am. Usual time. Usual place." And then I would go home first. And he would then come along.
CURNOW: These comments on British TV the day her books hit the stores begging the question: Why tell all now, nearly 20 years after the illicit liaison began?
CURRIE: It's a burden I've carried for a long time, the burden of knowing that the picture of history of John Major, the prime minister, and the years up to his becoming prime minister was not entirely accurate.
CURNOW: A dirty secret, a famous politician and a book launch: Some Britons are skeptical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She should have said it at the time if she wanted everybody to know. But I don't know.
CURNOW (on camera): It's money, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd have thought so, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's probably has to do with money.
CURNOW (voice-over): The reason for spilling the beans? Money for Mrs. Currie? Maybe.
(on camera): Edwina Currie is said to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sensational publication of her diaries. But the cost of John Major's revamp?
PAUL THOMAS, CARTOONIST, "DAILY EXPRESS": This is the biggest gift any cartoonist has had for about probably six months or so.
CURNOW (voice-over): The political cartoonists are having a field day. Whether the former British leader likes it or not, his image has changed: from the public perception that he was a dull and colorless prime minister to something, well, completely different.
THOMAS: There's metamorphosis of this provincial bank manager into some sex god, for the least likely politician in the country to emerge thus, is just irresistible. I suppose it would be like if you found out Bill Clinton was a secret Puritan, sort of the complete reversal of what we were expecting.
CURNOW: What next then?
THOMAS: More. More, please. We want the love child.
CURNOW: An unexpected comeback in the public imagination for the former prime minister.
Robyn Curnow, CNN, London.
CHUNG: And joining me now, laughing and having a great time watching this report, is BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb.
Hello, Mr. Webb. Thank you.
JUSTIN WEBB, BBC WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Connie. Good to be here.
All the things that we can't say on the BBC.
CHUNG: What a pity.
How is Edwina coming off? How is the public accepting her?
WEBB: Not good, actually, not good.
CHUNG: Oh, what a shame.
WEBB: There's a thing in Britain called a stiff upper lip, which we don't have quite so much now as we used to have, but we've still got it a bit and we still expect it in our political leaders.
And, basically, that means, that if things go well or if they go badly, however they go, you just keep quiet about it. You carry on with your life. You don't make a fuss. A program like yours wouldn't do very well in Britain, I have to say, because people are buttoned up there. They don't talk about things that happened to them.
So there's a horror. My mother thinks that Mrs. Currie is the person absolutely at fault here. She wouldn't hear anything about John Major or what he did. It's all about her, because she has broken that kind of British rule that you don't say those things. You just live with it. And you don't go to the press. And you don't write about it in a book.
And Mrs. Currie has always been the kind of woman who is liable to rub up against the establishment and rub them up the wrong way. And she's certainly done it big-time now.
CHUNG: Well, but she thinks that what she's done and what she has said is not damaging. WEBB: Well it's as if I said to you that I could reveal this evening that Lady Thatcher in fact had always been a member of the politburo of the Soviet Union at the time that she was prime minister, and then said: "Oh, sorry, was that damaging to her? Surely that couldn't be anything that could be."
Come on. It's plainly damaging to the man. The fact that, in the papers today, they're full of the fact that he wore blue underwear, it's just something that we didn't want to know, frankly, and he didn't want to reveal. And there's absolutely no question that she has done the dirty on him. And that is, I think, the overwhelming feeling in Britain.
CHUNG: Well, but he used to be known as being bland and gray. Doesn't this sort of make him much more appealing?
WEBB: Yes. Maybe. Who knows? History's a funny thing, isn't it? And I imagine -- apparently, tonight, he's talking in Dallas, of all places, this evening. And the press is being kicked out of that and kept out of it.
But I imagine -- actually, he's a humorous man. He's a warm man. He's a man who does see the ridiculous side of things. And although he's plainly deeply hurt by this and doesn't want to talk about it at the moment, I suspect, actually, that, in the longer term, he will be humorous about it and will be very well aware. After all, he's got a career now as an international speaker, not unlike Bill Clinton. And it didn't do Mr. Clinton any harm, did it?
CHUNG: Absolutely not.
WEBB: And it won't do John Major any arm either.
CHUNG: Well, now, Edwina also credits herself, actually, with improving his self-esteem, for encouraging him to run for -- to be prime minister. What do you think about that?
WEBB: Well, she's got a serious point there.
The thing about Edwina Currie that is not much known was that there was a stage before this affair when she was one of the best- known politicians in Britain, much better known than John Major, much better known than many members of the Cabinet. And that's because she had a flair for self-publicity. She held up a pair of handcuffs once at a Conservative Party conference. And that was a pretty odd thing to do. It had people really choking on their port and cigar, but actually was enormously effective as well.
And so when she says that she trained him a bit and suggested ways in which he could improve his image in front of the media, it's not so completely farfetched, actually, because, if she ever had a great talent, Edwina Currie, it was a talent for self-publicity. And maybe she did teach him a thing or two.
CHUNG: Well, there we are.
Justin Webb, thank you for being with us. And if you're ever in New York, you must come by and see us.
WEBB: That will be a pleasure as well.
CHUNG: OK. Well, we'll call you again between now and then.
When we come back: Hurricane Lili is growing strong and heading closer. Where will it go?
Stay with us.
CHUNG: Almost half-a-million Americans were given some very simple advice today about Hurricane Lili. "Get out of the way."
Evacuations are under way in Texas and Louisiana, after Lili beefed up to a Category 4 hurricane, powerful, dangerous, and now packing winds of 145 miles an hour.
For the latest on Lili's path, we go to CNN meteorologist Orelon Sidney.
Orelon, tell us, it's really bad, isn't it?
ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is bad.
As a matter of fact, the last time I checked, the winds were actually up to 145 miles an hour. At 155-plus, it becomes Category 5. This is an extremely strong Category 4 storm. We're going to keep an eye on this, of course, throughout the evening.
But here are the very latest coordinates that came in at 8:00 Eastern time. Now it's 235 miles south of New Orleans. The winds, again, 145 miles an hour, moving northwest at about 16 miles an hour. You can see some of the thunderstorms here already moving into New Orleans. They've seen wind gusts up around 31 miles an hour. And the rain has already begun out to Lake Charles.
Soon you'll see that in places lake of Beaumont, Port Arthur, Vidor, Texas, and then on down towards Galveston and Houston. It looks like the landfall now is going to be somewhere between the Sabine River and on towards Vermilion Bay. The bad news is, it is going to be at the time of high tide, high tide around 12:30 local time, looking at landfall about 2:00 p.m. Central time tomorrow.
So that is about the worst scenario we could see. Storm surge could be up to 20 feet in some areas. Put on top of that 6 to 10 inches of rainfall. This is going to be a major storm. We'll be with this for several days -- Connie.
CHUNG: Orelon, thank you so much.
And in the path of the storm tonight is CNN national correspondent Frank Buckley, bracing himself in Cameron, Louisiana.
Frank, are you all right there? No, it's not raining yet. Good. Tell us, are people evacuating? Because I know there are mandatory and voluntary evacuations at this point.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, people are evacuating. And, actually, Connie, we did experience some rain just a couple of hours ago, a sudden downpour. It's not raining at the moment, but it has been spitting here and there.
People are evacuating. I heard you mention the figure a half- million people. I just got off the phone with emergency management here in Louisiana. They now say that they've upgraded the mandatory evacuations to cover more than 800,000 people here in Louisiana. So, yes, many people are evacuating. Some of them, however, when we talk to them, we say, "Look, it's a mandatory evacuation in this area." And despite that, they say that they're going to stay and they're going to ride it out.
CHUNG: They are like that. People are stubborn in that respect. They don't want to leave their homes.
Tell us, how are they preparing for the hurricane there?
BUCKLEY: Well, sort of in typical ways. People are boarding up their windows and buying up the supplies. We went to a supermarket where all the bread was gone. All you could get was soft rye and pumpernickel. All the bread, the white bread and the wheat bread, was gone, water, of course, batteries, that sort of thing -- and preparing their homes the best they can.
And beyond that, people are simply getting in their cars and leaving. We can tell you that it's difficult to get a motel room. You're certainly not going to get anything here in Louisiana. They're pretty much booked. I was told by someone in emergency management that you had to go as far away as Little Rock, Arkansas, to find a motel room that's available.
So people are hitting the road. People are evacuating. A sudden migration of 800,000 people, that's a lot of rooms to fill.
CHUNG: They're most concerned about storm surge. Tell us why.
BUCKLEY: Well, the storm surge is the -- what you've heard with the waves coming across.
What happens is, the water level rises. And if it in fact comes at high tide, if high tide is usually a couple of additional feet, add a 20-foot storm surge to that. You have low elevations here on the coastal areas of Louisiana. That water will simply run across whatever is in its way. And if you talk to researchers who look at hurricanes afterward, they will tell you that 59 percent of the deaths that occur in hurricanes take place in freshwater drowning.
So this is the water that comes across during the hurricane from the rain and from the waves from the storm surge that come across. That's the most dangerous part in terms of fatalities. Yes, the wind is very dangerous, especially at these incredible speeds of 131 miles per hour or more. But it's the water and it's the drowning, the flooding, that is particularly dangerous to both property and to life. CHUNG: All right, Frank, before I say goodbye, you have a place to stay tonight, don't you?
BUCKLEY: We're going to do our best to stay out of it.
Thank you, Frank Buckley, in Cameron, Louisiana, tonight.
And CNN will be covering Lili's progress all night and through tomorrow.
Keep it right here and we'll be right back.
CHUNG: Tomorrow: In addition to the latest on Hurricane Lili, we'll have a rare inside look behind the walls of West Point.
And coming up next on "LARRY KING LIVE," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani talks about his new book, in which he reveals that he asked to be allowed to execute Osama bin Laden.
Thanks for joining us. Good night. See you tomorrow.
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