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AMERICAN MORNING

Campaign Ad Charges Senator John Kerry Lied About His Service in Vietnam; Latest Developments in Scott Peterson Murder Trial

Aired August 6, 2004 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Have police in Britain captured the terrorist who was watching financial centers in the United States?
Perhaps the most controversial ad to appear in the presidential campaign. We'll talk to one of the Vietnam veterans who says John Kerry is lying about his record.

And the long arm of television law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The room was completely stripped -- no bedding, no sheets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No towels, either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The enormous popularity of shows like "CSI" perhaps making it harder now to prosecute violent crime.

All ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

COLLINS: Good morning, everybody.

Soledad is off this morning, resting for the coming of the babies.

I'm Heidi Collins.

In just a few moments, though, we are going to be talking to both sides about this controversial new ad questioning Senator John Kerry's military record in Vietnam. The group, called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is being widely criticized. We'll try to get to the bottom of their claims.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, back in the courtroom, one of perhaps the biggest surprises yet in the Scott Peterson murder case. On hold until next week while the defense gets a chance to look at new evidence it says could clear their client. We'll find out how serious this is or is not in a moment here.

COLLINS: Also, something of an Olympic loophole that could get U.S. baseball players into the Summer Games. You just have to look under the right flag, apparently.

HEMMER: There's a hint in there.

COLLINS: Yes.

HEMMER: Jack Cafferty, what's happening?

Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming up in the "Cafferty File," what was the name of the kid who won the women's singles title at Wimbledon, the young Russian?

HEMMER: Sharapova.

CAFFERTY: Shara -- was it Sharapova?

HEMMER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: All right, we've got the story of a goofy Russian tennis fan who thought he could get a date with this Sharapova lady. He thinks he's a Romeo. He's just an idiot, a moron.

And here's a clever story, actually, a cell phone service that can get you out of a date that's not going well. It's kind of a clever little deal they've come up with.

HEMMER: I like it.

COLLINS: Oh.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

COLLINS: Very interesting.

All right, we'll wait for that.

Thanks so much, Jack.

Meanwhile, there are several developments this morning in the war on terror. In Saudi Arabia, security forces have arrested a top al Qaeda leader. Fares al-Zahrani was captured last night near the Yemeni border. He is number 12 on the kingdom's list of most wanted terror suspects. U.S. officials say a terror suspect arrested in Britain is a key al Qaeda operative. They say Eisa al-Hindi, in 2001, personally cased some of the buildings that sparked this week's terror alerts.

And two leaders of an Albany, New York mosque are being held without bail after being caught in an FBI sting operation. Federal agents raided the mosque yesterday, charging the men with conspiracy and trying to launder money related to the sale of a shoulder-fired missile.

HEMMER: Clearly a story we're watching throughout the day here. Also in politics now, and the politics of war, too, the Kerry campaign up in arms about a new attack ad that accuses the senator of lying about his service in Vietnam 35 years ago. Set to air in three battleground states, here now is the ad in full.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD BY SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you have any question about what John Kerry's made of. Just spend three minutes with the men who served with him.

AL FRENCH, ENSIGN, 2 BRONZE STARS: I served with John Kerry

BOB ELDER, LIEUTENANT, BRONZE STAR, "SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH": I served with John Kerry.

GEORGE ELLIOTT, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, 2 BRONZE STARS: John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

FRENCH: He is lying about his record.

LOUIS LETSON, MEDICAL OFFICER, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER:

I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.

VAN O'DELL, GUNNERS MATE, 2ND CLASS: John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. I know. I was there. I saw what happened.

JACK CHENOWETH, LIEUTENANT J.G., NAVY COMMENDATION MEDAL: His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.

ROY HOFFMAN, REAR ADMIRAL, DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL, SILVER STAR: John Kerry has not been honest.

ADRIAN LONSDALE, COMMANDER, LEGION OF MERIT, BRONZE STAR: And he lacks the capacity to lead.

LARRY THURLOW, LIEUTENANT J.G., BRONZE STAR: When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry. ELDER: Kerry is no war hero.

GRANT HIBBARD, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER, 2 BRONZE STARS: He betrayed all his shipmates. He lied before the Senate.

SHELTON WHITE, LIEUTENANT, 2 BRONZE STARS: John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam.

JOE PONDER, GUNNER'S MATE 3RD CLASS, PURPLE HEART: He dishonored his country. He most certainly did.

BOB HILDRETH, LIEUTENANT, BRONZE STAR, PURPLE HEART: I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Let's talk about this now with Bob Elder, featured in that advertisement. He's with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, live in Wilmington, Delaware.

Also with us today, Del Sandusky, piloted John Kerry's Swift Boat in Vietnam. He's campaigning for the senator. He finds himself today live in Orlando, Florida.

Gentlemen, welcome to both of you here.

And I want to begin with Mr. Elder.

In the ad, you say, and quoting now, "John Kerry is no war hero."

Why do you make that claim?

ELDER: We make that claim for two reasons. One, as you could see, it was that he betrayed all of us when he came home and went in front of the Congress of the United States and accused all of us of war crimes. That is not what a war hero is made of.

Secondly, we believe he grossly exaggerated and even lied about some of the circumstances under which certain awards were given to him.

HEMMER: Let me be a little more specific. The ad says, and quoting, "John Kerry lied about his first Purple Heart." The ad says "John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star."

What did he lie about?

ELDER: That first Purple Heart was the result of him firing an M79 grenade over the side of his boat. The grenade went off too close to the boat and he was wounded, and very slightly, a scratch on his arm, by his own grenade. There was no hostile fire and one of the qualifications for a Purple Heart is that there be hostile fire.

Both the doctor who treated him and his commanding officer denied him that Purple Heart because there was no hostile fire.

HEMMER: Mr. Elder, were you there that day?

ELDER: I was not there.

HEMMER: How can you give that account, then? Based on what?

ELDER: I could fill this studio with people who were eyewitnesses to the events that we recount in our testimony.

HEMMER: Mr. Sandusky, you were there in March of 1969 when this incident occurred in the Mekong Delta. Apparently four boats were patrolling this area. Bought number three hit a mine.

Your version of the events for Senator Kerry at that point are what?

DEL SANDUSKY, VIETNAM VETERAN: I was with John Kerry. I was the leading petty officer and the helmsman on PCF-94. I served with John Kerry. Those men did not serve with John Kerry.

We were all in the same war at the same time, possibly, but I could say the same thing. I served with General Westmoreland.

Their ad is a pack of lies. They're shooting their selves in the foot.

Senator John McCain has said that their ad is dishonest and dishonorable and asked for them to cease-fire. Senator McCain has asked the president to get them to cease-fire, you know, back down.

I don't know where they're coming from. I don't know what their agenda is. I was with John Kerry. I know that he deserved his Bronze Star, his Silver Star and two of his three Purple Hearts.

HEMMER: Mr....

SANDUSKY: I was not there for the first.

HEMMER: If I could, though, can you address the story about this grenade firing that Mr. Elder just talked about?

SANDUSKY: No, that was his first Purple Heart in 1968. John Kerry came on my boat in 1969.

HEMMER: All right. Back to Mr. Elder then.

How do you respond or react to what Senator McCain is saying? I think his words yesterday were dishonest and dishonorable, this ad. The White House apparently saying it has never and will never question John Kerry's service in Vietnam.

Your reaction to that?

ELDER: I think John Kerry knows a lot about dishonor. When he came back and dishonored himself by betraying the men who he had bonded with in combat and betraying them and accusing them of war crimes, he knows dishonor.

HEMMER: Let me try and be a little more specific. Is your problem with Senator Kerry today how he served in Vietnam or is your problem how he acted with his anti-war behavior back here in the U.S.?

ELDER: It is not only his anti-war behavior, but it has to do with what he said about his actions. The event that occurred when the mine hit the boat, three of the men in that advertisement that we just aired were there on site, had an unrestricted view of that site. And they can tell you that at the time John Kerry picked the soldier out of the water, that water was a mill pond. There was no enemy fire at all at that time.

HEMMER: There are also those in the Kerry campaign who disagree vehemently at times with this advertisement and this campaign. They will ask you why now, 35 years later.

How do you answer that?

ELDER: We have sat silent in actual visceral contempt of this man for so many years because of his betrayal. We all went home and did our own thing over the 35 years. Only when he decided he wanted to become commander-in-chief did we begin to seek each other out. We are military men. We do not think this man is qualified to be, or fit to become the commander-in-chief.

HEMMER: Mr. Sandusky, how to you address that?

SANDUSKY: Commander Elliott was our division commander and in our chain of command it went to Captain Hoffman, and Captain Hoffman reported to Admiral Zumwalt. For Elder or any of the other people to question John Kerry's loyalty or say that this was all false, they're trying to rewrite history. They're trying to say that what happened didn't happen.

Commander Elliott put John Kerry in for those medals. Lieutenant -- Captain Rassman, a special forces officer who was rescued by John Kerry, recommended the Silver Star. Commander Elliott put John Kerry in for a Bronze Star for that action.

I was there. I saw the bullets skimming across the water. I saw the firefight gun flashes from the jungle. I know the firefight and the ambush we were in. Those were Elders' and my friends on the 3 boat, where boat crewmen from the Swift Boat of 1969.

HEMMER: Let me just get to one final point, if I could, Mr. Sandusky. I'm almost out of time here.

SANDUSKY: Sure.

HEMMER: Those who oppose the stance of John Kerry today based on his actions from 35 years ago say this was a man who was looking for the quickest way out of the war. Three Purple Hearts did it for him.

Does that square with the John Kerry that you served with in Southeast Asia?

SANDUSKY: No. If I'd have had three Purple Hearts, I'd have gotten asked to be, you know, rotating back to the States, also. John Kerry was a warrior. We need a warrior in the White House. We've got a mess over in Iraq. I support John Kerry. All of the boat crewmen from the 94 boat, we served with John Kerry, we're all behind him. We all support him and believe that he'll make a great commander-in- chief.

HEMMER: Del Sandusky, Bob Elder, our guests this morning.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining our debate today.

SANDUSKY: Thank you.

ELDER: Thank you. HEMMER: Eleven minutes past the hour now.

Here's Heidi now with more.

COLLINS: Time for a look at some of today's other news with Daryn Kagan standing by at the CNN Center -- good morning to you once again, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Heidi, good morning.

Just minutes ago, Private First Class Lynndie England arrives for the fourth day of her hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. These pictures just coming into CNN. We're going to have more on the hearing later in the program.

Meanwhile, some other headlines now. Military sources in Iraq say that two Marines were killed in Najaf. The city is the scene of intermittent fighting between American troops and fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The military also says another soldier was killed yesterday when a convoy was attacked with a rocket propelled grenade and small arms fire. Five others were wounded in that same attack.

Federal authorities are conducting searches in western New York State and in Ocean County, New Jersey in the investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001. The FBI refuses to describe the search locations, but confirms they were investigating the letters laced with anthrax that were sent to the media and politicians. Five people died in the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001.

To Illinois now, officials are questioning a man arrested in connection with a bomb plot. Prosecutors say that Gale Nettles was targeting a federal court building in downtown Chicago. Nettles apparently tried to buy ammonium nitrate fertilizer from an undercover FBI agent. That is the same material used to destroy Oklahoma City's federal building in 1995.

New research is suggesting that eating lots of carbs may raise the risk of breast cancer. Scientists found that women with diets high in carbohydrates were more than twice as likely to get breast cancer than women with less starchy diets. That study is not conclusive. It does suggest a link between high carb consumption and breast cancer.

And with that, we'll toss it back to Heidi -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Interesting news there.

KAGAN: Yes.

COLLINS: All right, Daryn, thanks so much for that.

And we're going to check on the weather now.

(WEATHER REPORT) HEMMER: In a moment here, Teresa Heinz Kerry never short on things to say. Some folks are suggesting whether or not it's time for her to start biting her tongue. And who else is here to tackle that but our Give Me A Minute crew. It's Friday and we'll get to that this hour.

COLLINS: And they're good ones for that.

Also ahead, "CSI" and "CSI Miami" are two of the biggest hits on TV. But the shows get mixed reviews from experts, who say they're changing the way jurors look at cases.

HEMMER: Also, how is the race for the White House in this country playing in the streets of Baghdad? There is a definite favorite. We'll get to it ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A surprise development in the Scott Peterson trial the defense claims could be a fatal blow to the prosecution's case.

Here now Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Scott Peterson murder trial has come to an unexpected halt, with the judge in the case allowing time for scientific testing of new evidence potentially helpful to Peterson. The delay was requested by Peterson's lawyers. The prosecution did not object.

MICHAEL CARDOZA, LEGAL ANALYST: There could only be one thing they are doing forensically, and that's they're re-looking at Laci and/or Connor.

ROWLANDS: A source close to the case says the prosecution told Peterson's defense about the potentially exculpatory evidence Wednesday. Prosecutors left the courthouse without talking. Peterson's lawyer Mark Geragos said very little.

MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON'S LAWYER: All I can tell you is that obviously, as the judge indicated, we need to follow up on it and that's what we're going to do.

ROWLANDS: Legal experts state fact that the judge stopped testimony to allow for testing is very significant.

CHUCK SMITH, LEGAL ANALYST: As significant as anything that can happen in a trial. Because truly, if this evidence is tested and it is exculpatory, the trial is going to be over.

ROWLANDS: The judge did tell the jury to expect to hear more testimony on Tuesday when they returned. When, according to sources close to the court, Amber Frey will take the stand for the prosecution.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: So tests are going to be completed on Monday. They're supposed to go back in session on Tuesday. And meanwhile jurors are like what's going on?

HEMMER: Yes. You're not a lawyer, are you?

COLLINS: I am not.

HEMMER: You're not.

COLLINS: You've been wanting that out.

HEMMER: Hey, if you listen to these analysts talk about it, they say, and also many defense analysts, too, suggest that this is not serious enough to get the case dismissed.

COLLINS: Right.

HEMMER: But we'll find out perhaps midweek next week.

COLLINS: True.

HEMMER: What did Toobin say? They'll all...

COLLINS: Are you a lawyer?

HEMMER: No.

COLLINS: OK. Just making sure.

HEMMER: Let's get a break here.

In a moment, is the Bush administration playing politics with the terror warnings? Another one of our three topics, coming up on Give Me A Minute. We'll get to our panel in a moment here as we continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: We know based on polling that American voters are divided just as much as ever between President Bush and Senator Kerry about the war in Iraq. But who would Iraqis vote for, if they could?

Here's John Vause in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iraq.

BUSH: Iraq.

KERRY: Iraq.

BUSH: Iraq.

KERRY: Iraq.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It could be the issue which decides the race for the White House.

BUSH: Iraq.

VAUSE: A day rarely goes by without talk of...

KERRY: Iraq.

VAUSE: But what about the people who live there, those...

BUSH: Iraqis.

VAUSE: Who would...

KERRY: Iraqis.

VAUSE: ... prefer as U.S. president for the next four years?

AMJAD HUSSEIN, VETERINARIAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I do not prefer either one because I regard them as our enemy.

VAUSE: Well, there is that. Still, a recent poll by Sadoun Dulami from the Iraqi Research and Studies Center asked more than 3,000 Iraqis who they prefer. It was Bush over Kerry by a big margin.

SADOUN DULAMI, IRAQI POLLSTER: They said because he has a good rule to liberated us from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

VAUSE (on camera): Many Iraqis may not love George W. Bush, but they do consider him a strong leader. And among his supporters, there are concerns that a Kerry administration may pull U.S. troops out early.

(voice-over): So here in Iraq, Bush supporters, or red Iraqis, tend to be better educated, living in urban centers. They would be more, you know, liberal. He scored especially high among women.

DULAMI: Maybe he is good looking more than Kerry?

VAUSE: Blue Iraqis, those who favor Kerry, are more conservative, wanting U.S. troops to leave sooner rather than later, like Mawaffq Hassan, a college student.

MAWAFFQ HASSAN, COLLEGE STUDENT (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): George Bush could not solve the problems of the current situation. So maybe John Kerry is better. For me, I elect John Kerry.

VAUSE: On the up side for Kerry, no one here has ever heard of Ralph Nader.

John Vause, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HEMMER: Also, one programming note. Next week, in fact, next Thursday, the first lady, Laura Bush, and her husband, President George Bush, exclusively on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 on the West Coast, for the full hour. We'll have it for you there.

Larry's been getting some amazing coups lately.

COLLINS: Yes, he had Senator Kerry and Teresa Heinz.

CAFFERTY: That's a pretty big deal, huh?

HEMMER: I'll tell you what, Larry's been kicking it.

CAFFERTY: Get the president to sit down for a live TV interview? That's a...

COLLINS: It's real good stuff.

CAFFERTY: ... pretty good.

COLLINS: Check in with Jack now.

CAFFERTY: I bet they don't have that over there on the "F" word network, do they?

The question is whether or not Congress ought to be called into special session to deal with these recommendations in the 9/11 Commission report. The day after the thing came out, Congress went into recess for six weeks. A lot of people think that was a bad move, that there are terror alerts around now, we're being told Washington, New York, northern New Jersey. Shouldn't they ought to maybe be in special session taking a look at this stuff?

A nice hand from Bill Hemmer on that.

Robert writes: "I think if Congress likes their cushy jobs and if they want to win points with the American people, they'll get back in session and immediately start working on the suggestions of the commission. Personally, I think President Bush should make the first move and call them back. As I understand it, three people can call a special session -- President Bush, Dennis Hastert, who's the Speaker of the House, and Bill Frist, who is the majority leader in the Senate. all Republicans, by the way."

George in Chicago writes: "When the issue was gay marriage, the Senate and House made the time to meet in back to back sessions. How comforting to know that although there may be terrorists in this country plotting against us, rather than thwarting them, Congress seems more concerned that they should never be allowed to enter into same sex unions."

Adam in Florida writes: "I work with special needs children. If one of my kids needs me, I cancel vacation and attend to their needs. I'm not the only person who would do this. Every one of my parents and staff would do the same, as would most people that are dedicated to their work. You're damn right Congress ought to get back to work."

And Linda in Milford, Connecticut writes: "We expect to see you rounding up congressional representatives next week while you are off. If you are, I'm off, too, and I'd be happy to help you."

All right, Linda.

"In The Money" this weekend, there's been a lot of talk this week about how vulnerable we all are to another attack by al Qaeda. Some wonder if raising the alert level in order to protect financial centers will do any good or not. Well, we're going to talk to somebody on "In The Money" who says we are actually a lot safer than most of us think we are, which is a kind of a counterpoint to the hysteria that's been running rampant in the news media all week long.

"In The Money" airs Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00 and we would invite you to join us. We'd love to have you attend. It's a tidy little program.

HEMMER: How -- you're feeling good today, you know? You've got a week of vacation next week. You're just a happy guy, aren't you?

CAFFERTY: I'm off for the next nine days. It's true.

COLLINS: And you got the phone call, too.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

COLLINS: Yes.

HEMMER: You know, one thought on this, these hearings there.

CAFFERTY: Yes?

HEMMER: I think you make a great point, that if Congress got back together now and made that a point to the American people, that they were taking this seriously, it would go a very long way to allowing the American people to understand how seriously they're taking this.

CAFFERTY: It would also...

HEMMER: But...

CAFFERTY: ... guarantee that they get reelected.

HEMMER: On the flip side of that, I just want to say that I think there's a lot of confusion out there. It's just my sense that most people don't understand what this whole reorganization of 15 intelligence...

COLLINS: Agencies.

HEMMER: Agencies --

CAFFERTY: Right. HEMMER: Throughout the country really means.

CAFFERTY: Well, here's the deal. It's been almost three years since September 11, OK?

HEMMER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: So all the questions have been asked. A large number of them have been answered. It's time to get off our collective cans and get something done in a meaningful way.

HEMMER: And if they were in session now, that would be our top story every single morning.

CAFFERTY: Every single day, absolutely. Are you kidding?

HEMMER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: And you know what? If they don't do it, if they ignore it for another seven weeks, maybe some of them won't be reelected.

COLLINS: We will have to see about that, that's for sure.

Jack Cafferty, thank you.

Still ahead this morning, we're waiting for the latest jobs report to come out. Andy Serwer stops by to sort it all out for us.

Also ahead, Illinois Republicans had to go out of state to find a challenger to Senate frontrunner Barack Obama. Is Obama really that tough? Give Me A Minute is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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