Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Vice President Dick Cheney Fires Back at Democrats; Airline Cargo Concerns; Interview With Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey; Drivers Back Over Small Children; Matthew McConaughey Sexiest Man Alive; Man Fired For Being Overweight

Aired November 16, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us.
At this hour, there is a major new development in Washington's newest war, the war of words over the war in Iraq.

The Bush administration has just sent out one of its biggest guns to fire back at its critics. Vice President Dick Cheney absolutely blasted Democrats who, in late 2002, voted for the use of force against Iraq, but now are demanding a closer look at just how the administration used and, some of them say, manipulated the facts in making its case for war.

I want you to listen now to what the vice president said during a speech in Washington less than an hour ago.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war.

The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures -- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers -- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie. The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -- but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.


ZAHN: Fighting words from the vice president.

I want to bring now into our conversation chief national correspondent John King.

John, we should remind everybody that this assault comes on the heels of President Bush, just twice in the last week, also calling his critics dishonest, irresponsible and accusing them of sending mixed signals to our troops and to the enemy. Certainly, we have seen political infighting like this before. But where is -- where are these brass knuckles taking us?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're taking us to new levels and rewriting the rules, Paula.

The president is in Asia right now. Traditionally, most politics stops when a president leaves. It stops at the water's edge, is the old saying, particularly about such a controversial foreign policy. You aren't supposed to argue with the president, the old rules said -- old rules say -- about his foreign policy when he's out of the country. Well, throw that one away.

Not only is the president involved, the vice president, as you noted, very aggressive tonight. Even the president's mild-mannered, normally, national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, in an interview with our White House correspondent Dana Bash today, said the Democrats were undermining the troops and helping the enemy.

So, the administration has decided it has to get bare-knuckles here. Now, there's obvious reasons why. Opposition, public opposition, to the war in Iraq is growing. The Democrats are fighting on two fronts here. They are fighting still about the intelligence used to go to war in the first place. And now they have forced that Senate vote requiring the administration to submit a plan, an exit strategy, for getting out of Iraq.

The Democrats right now are winning the debate. That is why the -- the White House, including the vice president, are turning up the volume.

ZAHN: Why don't we listen to just one more chunk of what the vice president had to say, where he pointedly called his critics dishonest and reprehensible?

Let's listen.


CHENEY: I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully.

In such an environment, people sometimes lose their cool, and, yet, in Washington, you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate.

But, in the last several weeks, we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: So, will the strategy work, John?

KING: Well, if -- from the White House perspective, it has to work, because the point that the vice president was just making, those accusing the president of being misleading, of lying to the American people, essentially, that has always been the pillar of this president's strength, whether you liked his policies or not, that he was viewed as honest and trustworthy, a straight-shooter.

The White House needs to fire back here. Now, in the past, the Democrats have blinked, because terrorism, the war, have always been this president and this White House's strength. As of now, Senator -- the Democratic leader went to the floor of the Senate tonight. As of now, the Democrats are not blinking. That's what the White House is counting on, Paula.

ZAHN: But we also need to make it clear, John, that the criticism of the administration's Iraq policy isn't just coming from the Democrats.

You have got Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who a lot of people think is going to run for president. And he had this to say in a speech last night, that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them."

Senator Hagel also went on to say, "Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy, nor what this country has stood for over 200 years."

And, yet, the vice president again emphasized that point tonight and saying that -- that the country needs send a consistent message to the troops.

KING: A giant challenge, Paula, for this administration, is to keep Senator Hagel very lonely. He also said that the Bush administration -- the Bush administration -- was dividing the country with its rhetoric in the Iraq war debate.

It is the president accusing the Democrats of doing that and undermining the troops. If there are more Republicans, especially more Vietnam veteran Republicans -- and I'm being quite obvious here -- watch Senator John McCain -- if more Republicans join Senator Hagel in that criminal, the White House -- the argument the White House is making will be significantly undermined.

ZAHN: John King, thanks so much.

First, though, I want to get a not-so-objective take on all this with two people who have a very distinct points of view.

Joining me from Washington, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, along with conservative column radio host Armstrong Williams.

Before we hear what both of you have to say, I want all of us to listen to yet another part of the vice president's in-your-face attacks tonight to get your reactions.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHENEY: Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.

These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq's capabilities and intentions that was made by this administration and by the previous administration.

There was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat.


ZAHN: So, Julian, what do you say to folks who say, now, wait a minute; you had some 29 Democrats voting to authorize this war; they can't have it both ways here?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think Democrats are trying to have it both ways.

I think Democrats are levying legitimate criticisms. In fact, it is this -- it is typical of a White House that loses credibility -- the credibility numbers for this White House are in the 30 percent range. It's typical of a White House to go out and attack and blame your opponents.

The fact of the matter is, the public has lost faith in the honesty of this administration. They have lost faith in the competency of this administration with respect to its policies in Iraq. The Democrats aren't the ones that leaked classified information. The Democrats aren't the ones that misrepresented the intelligence information.

The Democrats aren't the ones that ignored all of the military experts who said we needed more capabilities on the ground in Iraq. So, for Dick Cheney to start accusing Democrats of being dishonest, when it is, in fact, his chief of staff, which -- who is on trial for obstruction of justice right now, I think is -- it's going to be a case of a dog that just doesn't bark.

People aren't going to believe it. It seems like a desperation tactic. And it's just not going to work.

ZAHN: Let's look at those numbers more closely with Armstrong right now.

When you look at the question of how the president is handling his job, he has a disapproval number of 60 percent, an approval number of 37 percent. And then you look at the narrow issue of how he's handling Iraq, only 35 percent of Americans think he's doing an OK job on that.

So, how is this strategy going to gain any traction, when it's not just the Democrats that are piling up against him? It would seem that the American public is not in agreement with this president. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Paula, much of this is based on the assault on this president and his vice president in the media and what the Democrats have said over the last several months. And they have really revved up the rhetoric over the last several weeks. And it is forgetting that...

ZAHN: But they -- they alone don't create public opinion.

WILLIAMS: But -- but -- but, Paula, it's...

ZAHN: This is hardened public opinion...


ZAHN: ... that is reflected in poll after poll after poll.

WILLIAMS: Paula, it is having an impact.

Look, it is fair game to discuss the war in Iraq. It is fair game because our men and women are dying. And it seems as though there's no exit strategy. It seems as though there's more chaos. It seems as though that the only victory the insurgents are having is just to kill other Americans. That's how they measure their victories.

It's as if the American soldiers are -- are sitting ducks. It is a legitimate discussion to have, and I think it is fair game. But when you listen to Senator Chuck Hagel discuss the president, vs. the Democrats discussing the president, he's not saying that the president lied to get us in a war. He's not saying the president misled the people.

It is unfair based to say, yes, this president admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction, there were -- there were faulty intelligence. But this president went to war because we have been attacked on 9/11, and -- and America wanted to send a message to the rest of the world that we will not be intimidated.

Understand, this war started 20 years ago. We could go to the World Trade Center in 1993. We can go to the Achille Lauro. We can go to the bombings of the embassies in Africa. We can go to Beirut. We can go on and on and on.

This just did not just start. If we were never in Iraq, these insurgents, these fundamentalist Muslim extremists would continue to try to win this war, because they feel, over the last few...

ZAHN: All right.

WILLIAMS: ... several decades, they have become irrelevant.


ZAHN: But people would argue that simply going into Iraq has actually increased this insurgency movement. Julian Epstein, you get the last word, though. Your still not off the hook on the fact that you had 29 Democrats that voted for the authorization of war.

EPSTEIN: I think the Democrats who voted for the authorization of war and those that didn't still want to see a stabilized Iraq and want to see a -- a positive resolution on behalf of the country. That's not the issue here.

The fact of the matter is, it's Republicans, as you pointed out, Paula, that are criticizing this administration for what is either incompetency or the misrepresentation of intelligence information.

And, furthermore, there is -- there is -- if you compare, for example, how Tony Blair, when he came before the United States Congress in 2003, when he was asked about weapons of mass destruction, he said, if we never find weapons of mass destruction, history will forgive us, because there are so many other important things.

The fact that this administration is the only one that can't see its own warts and wants to blame others, rather than accept any responsibility for its mismanagement...

ZAHN: All right.

EPSTEIN: ... is only making its situation much worse.

ZAHN: We got to leave it there. Julian Epstein, Armstrong Williams, thank you for both joining us tonight.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate it. Glad to have you both.

There is much more coming up, including a story you must see if you are planning to get on an airliner any time soon.


ZAHN (voice-over): Is anyone thinking inside the box? Tonight, a startling new report on air security, cargo containers that fly right underneath your seat, and no one is looking inside.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Is there any government, airline, local police screening that's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None that I noticed.

ZAHN: Tonight, a CNN investigation.

Driving blind -- how big is the blind spot behind your car? Thousands of children crushed because they can't be seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can actually kill your own child. ZAHN: A tragedy for families, a blind spot for the industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many kids have to die or be hurt before you will address the issue?

ZAHN: The dangerous rise in back-over accidents.



TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ted Rowlands in Portland, Oregon.

John McDuffy is a truck driver who weighs more than 500 pounds. His employer thought he was too big to do his job. We will have his story, as PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.



ZAHN: It is estimated that nearly 22 million of you will travel on planes this holiday season. And, tonight, there is a disturbing new report about your security when you fly.

According to the Government Accountability Office, just last year, six billion pounds of cargo flew with you on airliners. And, unlike you and your luggage, only a tiny fraction of that cargo was actually inspected.

The GAO report has even more troubling findings. It says the TSA failed to assess weaknesses in cargo facilities and planes, failed to complete an assessment of the risks terrorists pose to cargo, failed to identify shippers who may pose a security threat. And, it says, the TSA has exempted some cargo from inspection altogether due to its nature or size.

Now, this is just the latest in a long series of troubling reports on air cargo security. And it only confirms what we learned from an eye-opening investigation by Drew Griffin.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): This is the line most passengers don't see, thousands and thousands of trucks a day lining up to bring millions of tons of cargo onto passenger planes. And how much of that gets inspected? How much of that even gets looked at before it is placed right into the belly of the plane you fly? According to this Federal Aviation Administration inspector, on most of the flights this inspector oversees, almost none.

(on camera): You've been in this business a while. Are we safer or just as vulnerable as 9/11?

UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL AVIATION INSPECTOR: In respect to the cargo, we are probably as vulnerable or maybe more vulnerable.

GRIFFIN: More vulnerable?

UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL AVIATION INSPECTOR: Cargo still has a lot of loopholes, where something can get on that airplane.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Fearing employee retaliation, the inspector has asked not to be identified.

As CNN crisscrossed the country over three months, at airport after airport, we saw how easy it would be for terrorists to get explosives or lethal chemicals onto an airplane, to tamper with loads on cargo trucks and how simple it was for us to drive down this road outside Chicago's O'Hare Airport and walk right up to containers sitting outside a Post Office air cargo facility.

(on camera): And you can see, anybody could come out to any of these and put anything inside them. These are unit load devices that will be loaded into the bottom of a plane. We are standing outside O'Hare Airport. This is where a federal airline officer brought us because of the concern of safety.

(voice-over): And for the next three days, we kept coming back to this spot and seeing the open gates and the cargo containers left unattended. A spokesman says the Postal Service relies on employees here to report any suspicious activity, and told CNN so many airlines need access to pick up and drop off cargo, the gate is left open for convenience.

This other veteran airline employee has spent years on the tarmac, working for a major airline. He doesn't inspect cargo, but he sees it being loaded onto planes every day. Like our inspector, he has asked that his identity be concealed.

(on camera): From the time that 18-wheeler comes into the airport, to the time the cargo is unloaded and placed on a plane, is there any government, airline, local police screening that's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: None that I notice. The only government agency that I ever see on a consistent basis that would inspect freight is if it's livestock-related, there's somebody from the USDA.

GRIFFIN: So cows will get inspected, but large crates won't?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): What he observes on a daily basis is the complex world of airport cargo operations.

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: You can't open up a crate when it's right at the airport, ready to be loaded, just to look inside, to see what's in there.

GRIFFIN: At the airport facility itself, we're not talking about any X-rays, you haven't personally seen any bomb-sniffing dogs or anything like that?

UNIDENTIFIED VETERAN AIRLINE EMPLOYEE: I haven't. I'm not saying it's not there, but I have never seen it in my time doing this, and I've been doing this for -- for many years.

GRIFFIN: And this FAA inspector says trucks and cargo-holding facilities are often left unlocked.

CNN has tried to find out from the Transportation Security Administration what percentage of air cargo is being inspected. TSA tells us the information is secret for security reasons. There might be another reason: It could also be embarrassing.

LEE HAMILTON, VICE-CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: The information we had -- and this is now two or three years old -- was that 5 percent or less of the air cargoes were being inspected. I hope more than that are being inspected now, but I don't think it's anywhere close to 100 percent.

GRIFFIN: What the airline industry likes to day is that 100 percent of cargo is screened. James Mayair is president of the Air Transport Association, a lobbying group that represents the major U.S. carriers.

That does not mean inspected.

JAMES MAYAIR, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION: It does not mean physically, we do not physically inspect 100 percent of the cargo going aboard our planes. No, because we don't.

GRIFFIN: What the airline industry does say is 100 percent of cargo is screened through the air industry's known shipper program.

MAYAIR: In some cases, it will be physical inspection. In some cases, it will be explosives detection. In some cases, it will be canine. In other cases, it will be, as all cargo going on passenger aircraft is -- comes from a known shipper program, it will be screened through the known shipper program.

GRIFFIN: In fact, the known shipper program is the backbone of air cargo security. What is it? Mark Hatfield is federal communications director for the Transportation Security Administration.

People on the inside who have been talking to us say it's a pencil whip situation. If the paperwork is good, it goes on the plane.

MARK HATFIELD, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: It's a process by which the airlines, the carriers actually are required to go through a series of steps to identify and know and vet the shippers, so that there is not any kind of mysterious entity out there.

GRIFFIN: But the FAA inspector we talked to sees flaws in the system. Some carriers are so lax in handling cargo, the inspector actually avoids flying on them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL AVIATION INSPECTOR: I know about this. And I can choose which airlines and which planes I want to fly on. The general public doesn't know that there should be some serious concerns about how cargo is handled.

GRIFFIN: The TSA's Hatfield says the agency has 200 federal inspectors nationwide. They don't actually inspect any cargo. They just make sure the airlines are following the rules.

(on camera): And the only way the airline knows what's in those crates is a piece of paper?

UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL AVIATION INSPECTOR: That's my understanding. I'm -- I'm not aware of the process prior to the freight arrival to the airport, but when it gets to the airport, whatever was done to inspect that freight has been done.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Both the TSA and the air industry admit the system is far from foolproof, but say they are working on improvements. But neither expects cargo to ever get the same scrutiny as you and your bags.

Technology may be the long-term solution, but in the short term, CNN's investigation has shown open gates, unattended cargo containers and insecure truck routes.

HAMILTON: You see that, throughout the system, there are opportunities for the terrorists to get at that container and to put explosives onto it. And we're just not as alert to that as we ought to be.

GRIFFIN: Two weeks after our first visit, we're back at this same mail facility at O'Hare.

(on camera): The gates remain wide open. And take a look at this. Remember those unit load devices we saw two weeks ago, just sitting right out in the open? Here's some more, outside the fence that's not even locked, open for anybody to get inside.

(voice-over): An open invitation to terrorists here and throughout America's air cargo system.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: That was Drew Griffin reporting.

One more thing: Here is what the TSA says in response tonight -- quote -- "In the last year alone, TSA has required passenger air carriers to triple random inspections of cargo, hired an additional 100 cargo inspectors to ensure compliance, launched a risk-based approach to provide additional vetting of indirect air carriers, and is testing new technologies to more efficiently inspect the full spectrum of cargo.

In English, I think that means they are saying they have made some progress. Joining me now, though, a frequent critic of the Transportation Security Administration, Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

Welcome back to our show.

First off, you just heard this inspector say that there are certain carriers that are so bad with the issue of inspection of cargo, he simply wouldn't fly them. Are there certain carriers that we should avoid altogether?

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Honestly, I think that the GAO report is a blistering, scalding indictment of the industry in its entirety.

You don't have to single out any individual airline. The reality is that six billion pounds of cargo are placed upon passenger planes every single year in the United States, and only a very small fraction of it is ever screened. So, it's industry-wide.

ZAHN: We know you have been very critical of the Bush administration on this issue. And, yet, do you concede that Congress should bear some of the blame?

It was, in fact, Congress, after all, that passed the intelligence reform bill last year. And, in it, it failed to give the TSA funds to install some of this high-tech security equipment that would allow the inspectors to do more than simple pat-downs for explosions and -- and use dogs to look for explosives.

MARKEY: Three years ago, I made an amendment on the House floor. I made it with Republican Congressman Chris Shays. We won that amendment with over 270 votes. That was before, however, the airline industry, the cargo industry and, sad to say, the Bush administration moved in to kill the amendment, which required full screening of all cargo.

But the Bush administration sided with the industry that doesn't want the responsibility to put in place a screening system that matches the screening system for passengers and their bags on the very same planes.

ZAHN: But you aren't saying Congress has nothing to do with this?

MARKEY: No, I'm not at all.

But, unfortunately in the Republican-led Congress, in the House and the Senate, when the White House says they want something killed, it's killed. I mean, there's no way around it. And -- and that's the sad fact of the matter right now, that the Republicans are listening to the airline and the cargo industry, and they are not listening to the passengers in our country, who are putting family members on these planes for Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

ZAHN: We have got 10 seconds left. Congressman Markey, are you afraid of what's under your feet when you fly commercially?

MARKEY: I think about it every time.

I take off my shoes, my bag. You put your computer through. You are on the plane with all of the other passengers. And then I, like every other passenger, looks out the window. And over is coming a cargo truck filled with hundreds of pounds of cargo that has not been screened at all. And it's been put on the plane by someone who is not flying on that plane. That is scary.

This is a wakeup call for America and, hopefully, for the Bush administration. This is absolutely wrong, for each one of your viewers to have to take off their shoes and put their bags through, but the cargo industry puts cargo on the very same plane that could have an -- an event that could only be matched by what happened on 9/11.

ZAHN: Frightening to think about.

Congressman Markey, thank you so much for your time.

MARKEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Coming up next, a life-or-death crisis in your own driveway. Do you have any idea how many children can fit into the blind spot behind most SUVs? It's shocking. And so, too, is the death toll.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little children do not have to die this way. All of these incidents are not only predictable. They are 100 percent preventable.


ZAHN: Coming up, a story that you need to see -- it could save a child's life.

And then, a little bit later on in the hour, what kind of job do you think this guy could do? He weighs 550 pounds.


ZAHN: Now I'd like for you to see a very important story for you and your family. It happens all the time, all over the country and people don't even realize it. It's killing children. And while it sounds like basic driver's ed, it's actually a growing problem. And these days, of huge SUVs, drivers are simply backing over small children.

Is it the driver's fault or the carmakers' for not adding safety devices? It's a controversial question and our consumer correspondent Greg Hunter has been investigating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-year-old Jackson Peck wanted to be a superhero. He liked to wear a costume wherever he went. Superman was his favorite.

JULIE PECK, JACKSON PECK'S MOTHER: My last words were, do you know how much I love you? I feel very blessed to have that time with him.

HUNTER: Jackson's parents never imagined that moment with their son, 10 months ago, would be their last. It was two days before Christmas. Jackson's grandmother dropped off to go caroling with other grandchildren. As she backed up the family's SUV, Jackson ran behind the vehicle, but she backed up. With the children screaming in horror, Jackson's grandmother backed over him.

PECK: He was gone instantly. I didn't hear a sound when the car backed over him. When they pulled it back off of him, he didn't make a sound.

HUNTER: Jackson's story isn't unusual. All these children were killed in back-over accidents, and the numbers are growing.

Janette Fennell, founder of the safety group Kids and Cars, tracks these tragedies because the government doesn't. She discovered 100 deaths a year, on average. Two children backed over and killed each week, typically in a driveway, with a parent or relative behind the wheel.

JANETTE FENNELL, KIDS AND CARS: Little children do not have to die this way. All of these incidents are not only predictable, they're 100 percent preventable.

HUNTER: Fennell says one factor is the "bye-bye syndrome," where a the child darts out to say goodbye.

FENNELL: The baby thinks, well, daddy can see me. I can see the car. But daddy can't, because you're in his blind zone.

HUNTER: Safety advocates most people know there are blind spots behind every vehicle, but they often don't realize how big that blind spot can be.

DAVID CHAMPION, "CONSUMER REPORTS": More and more people are buying bigger and bigger vehicles, and the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot.

HUNTER: "Consumer Reports" routinely tests vehicles for blind spots. To illustrate just how much size can matter, we went to its auto test track. Using 28 inch cones, the height of an average 2- year-old, testing director, David Champion will mark where the driver in the sedan first sees the cone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, further back. OK, that's good.

HUNTER: Now he measures the distance from the cone to the car.

CHAMPION: It's 10 feet 10 inches.

HUNTER: But watch what happens with larger vehicles, like this minivan.

CHAMPION: It's eighteen 18 feet, one inch.

HUNTER: Or this SUV.

CHAMPION: Twenty-five feet, 10 inches.

HUNTER: And how far away is the cone from this truck?

CHAMPION: Forty-six feet, nine inches.

HUNTER: Now look at the dramatic results. In this case, the truck's blind spot is more than four times greater than the sedan's. "Consumer Reports" also points out, "The shorter the driver, the bigger the blind spot can be."

CHAMPION: On these big vehicles where we see something like 20, 30, 40 feet of blind spot behind, that is where the problems are. That is where the deaths we are seeing with back-over accidents are occurring.

HUNTER (on camera): Backing up in a big SUV can be deceiving. You can't see anything from that vantage point, can you? And when I check my mirrors, driver's side, rear view and passenger, it looks clear to me, too.

But if I get out of the vehicle and walk behind it, we've got a little surprise for you.

Hello, kids.


HUNTER: Twenty-nine school kids from East Hattam (ph) Elementary school in Connecticut, all hidden dangerously out of view.

PECK: You can actually kill your own child, which is the worst tragedy. It's a double-edged sword. I mean, it's guilt along with killing someone that you love dearly.

HUNTER (voice-over): Julie Ann Smith peck brought an SUV to keep their children safe. They say no one warned them bigger vehicles often have reduced rear visibility.

(on camera): Did you realize the numbers of back-over accidents that happen every year before it happened to your son?


PECK: No. I didn't even know that the name of it was back-over.

HUNTER: Total shock?

PECK: Total shock.

HUNTER (voice-over): This recent study from the Centers for Disease Control found more than 2,400 children a year are injured in back-over accidents. The pecks Say drivers need to see what's behind them, because there's no way to watch churn every second.

CHAMPION: They just get away from you very quickly. Anyone with children knows that.

RON DEFORE, SUV OWNERS OF AMERICA: Nobody knows whether it's a vehicle problem, or is it a personal problem? Is it because somebody didn't check behind the vehicle, or is it because of lack of vision?

HUNTER: CNN contacted the automakers trade group. It sent us to this man, Ron Defore. He represents SUV Owners of America, an organization partially funded by car companies.

DEFORE: We aren't addressing this issue right now.

HUNTER (on camera): So 2,400 kids a year being backed over, 100 kids a year dying. How many kids have to die or be hurt before you'll address the issue?

DEFORE: The most important thing that we focus on is how many lives can be saved in an SUV, as opposed to moving to a smaller vehicle.

HUNTER (voice-over): Defore says there's not enough data to require automakers to come up with a fix.

(on camera): Should people who own SUVs be warned that their backup blind zone is bigger than smaller vehicles? Should they be warned about that?

DEFORE: It's in their owner's manual.

HUNTER: It's in their owner's manual?


HUNTER: Do you think that's enough, read your owner's manual?

DEFORE: It would help, because it addresses this issue.

HUNTER (voice-over): Right after our interview, SUV Owners of America posted this message on its Web site, telling drivers, be aware of your blind spots, directing readers to "Consumer Reports."

FENNELL: You need to be able to see when you're going backwards. You can't just kind of close your eyes and hope there's nothing back there.

HUNTER: To help drivers see better, some carmakers are offering new options like bumper sensors. If someone gets too close, the sonar signal shows the location. And a few manufacturers also sell a backup camera, like this one. Shift into reverse and the navigation screen switches to a live picture of what's behind the vehicle.

(on camera): One company puts its rear-view technology right in your rear-view mirror, making it even easier to see someone riding this trike.

(voice-over): The mirror gets a signal from this camera that can be retrofitted on to any vehicle. The system is made by Audiovox, which also sells this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our new a hitch sensor.

HUNTER: It's a set of wireless ultrasonic rear sensors you can install yourself.

(on camera): Installation time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About two to five minutes.

HUNTER: Sensors cost only a couple hundred dollars. But cameras aren't cheap, 1,000 bucks with installation. That's half the price of factory-installed equipment. But "Consumer Reports" says, based on its research, this technology should be required.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have all the manufacturers that produce these bigger vehicles put backup cameras on all of them.

DEFORE: That is a very dangerous public policy, because you start pricing the vehicles well beyond what a lot of people can afford.

CHAMPION: How much is a life worth? You can't put a price on that.

HUNTER: At Jackson Peck's funeral, everyone wore Superman T- shirts. His parents set up a foundation for needy children, so their son will remembered as the superhero he wanted to be, but they say their lives will never be the same.

PECK: To lose a child that was loud, and rambunctious and full of life, is -- you can't imagine. The stillness and the quietness of the house is excruciating.

HUNTER: Greg Hunter, CNN.


ZAHN: So sad. Here's what you should do to make sure that doesn't happen to you. Walk around your car before you actually get into it and always know where the kids are.

And a little bit later on in this hour, this man's fight to keep his job, even though he had no trouble doing it, according to a jury.

Plus ...


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm with CNN. We're doing a sexiest man alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me! I am the sexiest man alive.


ZAHN: In his own mind, maybe. Stay with us though, for the world's sexiest man, past and present.


ZAHN: So we have a really tough question for you tonight. What makes someone sexy? Well, "People" magazine thinks it knows, and the latest issue looks back on 20 years of "People's" sexiest men alive. We couldn't keep Jeanne Moos away from this one. Just watch.


MOOS (voice-over): It's a little like winning the Nobel Prize, though not as noble. For the rest of your life you're stuck with being remembered as having once been the sexiest man alive.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: I was just very relieved to read I wasn't the sexiest man dead.

MOOS: This year, Matthew McConaughey is giving people fever.

(on camera): Sexiest man alive is out and you didn't win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's for sure.

MOOS: Did they get in touch with you?


MOOS: What do you look like behind those sunglasses?


MOOS (voice-over): Speaking of old, Mel Gibson was the very first sexiest man alive back in 1985, though he didn't seem to appreciate people.

GIBSON: One of my favorite publications, by the way. I read it faithfully. It's always in my john.

MOOS: In his john? Nothing sexy about that image.

Sean Connery was the oldest to be named sexiest at the age of 60. When JFK Junior was cover boy, his issue sold more than any other sexiest man alive. Brad Pitt was the only guy to get the honor twice. This year, Brad's former wife, Jennifer Aniston, ended up on the cover of GQ's men of the year issue for exhibiting poise, grace and humor after Brad took up with Angelina Jolie.

Nick Nolte the hard way that learned once you've gotten your mug on sexiest man of the year, perhaps only a mugshot can eclipse it.

MOOS: Can you remember this one?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A long time ago that was my kind of guy. But I progressed.

MOOS: Matthew McConaughey, likewise, has a mug shot. Neighbors complained about noise and police reportedly arrived to find him in the buff playing the bongos. Now that's sexy. "People's" latest sexiest man alive issue features some smart, sexy guys, including CNN's own Anderson Cooper, and even Patrick Fitzgerald.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that name.


MOOS: He's in the CIA leak affair. The magazine calls him a very special prosecutor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His clear, steady voice, piercing blue eyes. I love you Patrick Fitzgerald, because buzz you don't lie to me. I love you.

MOOS: At a certain New York City fountain ...

(on camera): Wait a minute.

(voice-over): The fountain of youth, perhaps, we uncovered a wannabe cover boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm the sexiest man alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Am I the sexiest woman?

MOOS: Possibly the sexiest couple alive? This woman nominated a guy named Sotheby.

(on camera): Sexiest dog alive then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is definitely. You know, he's also -- he's intact.

MOOS (voice-over): Let's hope you can say the same for Matthew and Jude and all the other cover boys. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Jeanne checking out some of the cheesecake of the past and present. Stay with us for one man's remarkable fight. He weighs literally a quarter of a ton and even though he can work, he needed a lawyer and a jury to keep his job.


ZAHN: So you probably heard that oil prices are going the wrong way again. Erica Hill has details in the Headline News "Business Break" -- Erica.


ZAHN: And coming up, is it fair to make people lose weight to keep their jobs, even if they have no trouble doing them?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can still do my job. And I did everything they asked me to do.


ZAHN: Coming up next, a quarter ton trucker's fight to stay behind the wheel.


ZAHN: I'd like you to think for a minute about what you would do if your boss suddenly, without warning, pulled you off your job because he said you are too fat. Well, the man you are about to meet says it happened to him, and he decided to fight back. Here's Ted Rowlands.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): John McDuffy says he'll never forget the humiliation of watching himself trying to prove that he could do his job in this video while it was shown to a jury.

JOHN MCDUFFY, TRUCK DRIVER: I was put on show. It was like they put me up on a stage to watch me perform for them.

ROWLANDS: John is a truck driver who weighs more than 500 pounds. In May of 2004, he was working for Interstate Distributor in Portland, Oregon, when, with no warning, he was suspended without pay. The reason, his enormous size.

MCDUFFY: I thought it was ridiculous because, you know, they had taken me off doing my job when I've done my job. It's not that I never, you know, did my job. I've always done it. I never had any complaints from Interstate.

ROWLANDS (on camera): According to court documents, Interstate was worried that John was so big he was a potential danger to himself and others at the workplace. So they pulled him off the job and sent him to a doctor. (voice-over): John says he was shocked. He had always been overweight but says he's always been able to do his job. John comes from an overweight family. He says his father at one point weighed more than 700 pounds. John had been working for Interstate for 14 months before the suspension and had been driving a truck since 1987. During all of that time, he says his weight was around 500 pounds.

MCDUFFY: I can still do my job. And I did everything they asked me to do.

ROWLANDS: John says he was jobless for about three months before Interstate agreed to let him drive again. He sued Interstate for lost wages and not only won $9,000 in back pay, but also $100,000 in compensatory damages.

MICHAEL ROSS, ATTORNEY: They came out from the jury room and they said, we wanted to send a message and that's why we gave him every penny that he had asked for in the prayer (ph) of the complaint.

ROWLANDS: Jurors say that videotape that John said he hated so much made a difference in the case.

MARNI LYNN BRAKER, JUROR: He was just doing his job. He wasn't breathing heavy. He wasn't sweating. He was just doing it with no difficulty.

ROWLANDS: The company still has a few weeks to decide whether it will appeal the verdict. John says he wants his case to send a message.

MCDUFFY: I'm hoping to help people see that, you know, employers can't treat employees this way. They just can't discriminate against you. They can't, you know, do things for no reason to you.

Reporter: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Portland.


ZAHN: And then there's this tonight from Interstate Distributor Company which said we should talk to the company lawyers. We called the lawyers. They did not return our calls.

Joining me right now, Sandy Schaffer, president of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. She is also a certified fitness instructor. Good to have you with us tonight.

So, obviously, this is a big victory for John McDuffy. But what a lot of people are wondering in a broader context is if you are twice the weight that you are supposed to be, according to the charts, and a doctor says that you shouldn't do some of the duties that are being asked of you, then why should that job be protected even if there are other candidates there who are 300 pounds but who can drive the truck and do some of the other things that are being asked of them like unloading the truck.

SANDY SCHAFFER, ASSN. TO ADVANCE FAT ACCEPTANCE: Well, one, he's actually doing that, doing the things that are asked of him. So it's the doctor that said that he that shouldn't be doing it but that's not necessarily what the truck driver said.

And also, he was asked to drive the truck. That's basically what the job was and basically why they fired him. It -- the other things weren't the issue. And there were -- jobs make compromises for people all the time, especially their good employees that have whatever the difficulties.

ZAHN: So you didn't see any flexibility here on the employer's part is what you are saying. So the question is, is there ever a point where you think it is fair for employer to use weight as an issue?

SCHAFFER: No. I don't. I think you should be able to prove yourself capable of doing a job. And discrimination is discrimination. And if you discriminate against me today, it's going to be somebody else tomorrow. And it just really should be stopped.

ZAHN: So what signal do you think this lawsuit sends?

SCHAFFER: That maybe people are tired and that we are getting bigger as a society. And maybe there's a little more compassion before that because maybe you were afraid your job is in jeopardy, too.

ZAHN: Well, they certainly will be buoyed by John McDuffy's results in the courtroom. Thank you for dropping by. Appreciate your time. Sandy Schaffer.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Dominick Dunne is the guest on tonight's edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," but we will be back same time, same place tomorrow night and we hope you'll join us then. Have a great night, everybody. Good night.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines