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DHS Official Caught in Sex Sting; Katie Couric Heads to CBS; Interview With Rosie O'Donnell

Aired April 5, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Thank you all for joining us.

Tonight, scandal at the government agency in charge of keeping us safe.

"Outside the Law" -- he's a top official at Homeland Security with what the police say was a secret obsession.


GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: He talked vile, vulgar. He was obsessed with this 14-year-old.


ZAHN: But she wasn't 14. She happened to be an undercover detective.


JUDD: He was shocked, to say the least.


ZAHN: What is behind the case that is shaking up Washington?

Boiling point. Do you recognize this woman? Neither did a guard on Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He reached out and grabbed her. She turned around and hit him.

ZAHN: So, just who was out of line?


REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.


ZAHN: "The Eye-Opener" -- you think you know Rosie O'Donnell? Well, think again -- her secret life. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSIE O'DONNELL, COMEDIAN: We were all little, young lesbians together in Hollywood.


ZAHN: Her decision to come out.


O'DONNELL: I didn't think at the time that it was that huge.


ZAHN: And raising a family.


O'DONNELL: You can't raise someone to be gay.


ZAHN: Tonight, the Rosie you have never heard before.

We begin tonight with a story that is absolutely shocking and frightening, because of what it may say about the Department of Homeland Security.

This was just breaking late last night, when we first told you about it, the arrest of a high-ranking Homeland Security official in a child sex sting.

Brian Doyle, a 55-year-old deputy press secretary, is charged with using a computer to try to seduce a person he thought was a 14- year-old girl. Well, investigators now say it was really a computer crime detective in Florida. If the allegation is true, it may raise some serious questions about how the DHS screens its workers.

Here is Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve with tonight's "Outside the Law."


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Homeland Security investigates child pornography. Now one of its own officials arrested on child porn charges.

Deputy Press Secretary Brian Doyle faces 23 felony counts, carrying a possible penalty of 115 years in prison. He was taken into custody Tuesday night at his Maryland home, as he talked online to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl, but was in fact an undercover Florida detective.

GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: This is the chats, page after page, line after line of chat. MESERVE: In what are described as hard-core conversations with the decoy, Doyle is alleged to have discussed specific sexual acts and to have sent pornographic video clips.

JERRY HILL, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA, STATE ATTORNEY: The questions and the descriptions this individual gave of the conduct he wanted to engage in is -- is very graphic. And it is clearly not something that -- that I would repeat. It -- it is just -- it is just unimaginable that an adult male would discuss this type thing with a 14-year-old female.

MESERVE: Doyle gave the "girl" his real name and position, his office and government cell phone numbers, even a photo of himself wearing his DHS I.D.

DR. JOHN DEIRMENJIAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UCLA: That was possibly his way of -- of trying to impress her or also trying to show her that he is someone of -- of authority, somebody of security that might lead a child to be more comfortable with him.

MESERVE: But prosecutors say, if Doyle was revealing his identity in other sexual chats, it could have exposed him to blackmail. They say the potential security threat is one reason they rushed the investigation.

Doyle appeared Wednesday in a Maryland courtroom via closed- circuit television. He has confessed and, for now, is being held without bond.

BARRY HELFAND, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: At some point, I would expect to come back in front of Judge Johnson (ph) to ask the judge to allow Mr. Doyle to be released on some minimal bond or personal bond, so that he himself can return to Florida.

MESERVE: Doyle, who worked for "TIME" magazine for 26 years before entering government, divorced in 1987. He has had more than one serious girlfriend since, friends say. He is known as a devoted uncle in a large family, a churchgoing man who is well-liked and well- regarded by friends and co-workers. They expressed utter shock at his arrest, but one described Doyle as "a kind of quirky guy."

DHS' embarrassment at this incident is compounded by the fact that the department itself hunts down Internet child predators.

JULIE MYERS, DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT AGENCY: It is terrible if there are allegations against a public official. But, wherever they are, if they're doing this against children, we're going to find them. We're going to prosecute them.

MESERVE (on camera): Doyle has been suspended from his job without pay, his security clearance, employee badge and access to facilities suspended. But, right now, those are the least of his worries.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: And joining me now, one of the people you just saw in that report, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk county, Florida, where Brian Doyle will face charges.

Good of you to join us tonight, sir.

How did your investigation nab Brian Doyle?

JUDD: Well, the investigation began on March the 12th, when Brian hit one of our AOL undercover chat rooms, where we were logged in as a 14-year-old female.

He immediately began the conversation with our undercover detective, and, within a short period of time, identified himself as Brian Doyle with Homeland Security, as, in fact, deputy director of communications.

ZAHN: How shocking was that for you...

JUDD: We began our chat with...

ZAHN: ... that he would...

JUDD: It was incredibly shocking.

ZAHN: ... admit to that?

JUDD: Paula, we thought, no -- no chance. We thought some kid had pick up the name off the Internet and was playing games with us.

But, as he gave us his phone number, while we were chatting with him, we did some initial investigation and found that it bounced back to his home address. That's when we got serious with the investigation and knew, because he had the ability to have sensitive information, that we had to move quickly to complete the investigation.

Obviously, he had compromised himself to us in just a few minutes, thinking we were 14-year-old girl. Who else may he have comprised himself to?

ZAHN: Sheriff, you have been exposed to some really vile stuff on your job. What is your reaction to what has been dredged up on this man so far?

JUDD: Well, first and foremost, it angers me.

It angers me to think that a 55-year-old man would show 16 separate clips of pornography to a 14-year-old girl and then want to discuss with her what he would like to do with her and what he wants her to do with him. He was outrageous and obscene, in every sense of the word.

ZAHN: What was his reaction when authorities burst into his home? JUDD: Well, I think he was surprised.

First and foremost, during the entire conversation, he had hoped and asked for the girl to get a webcam, so they could exchange pictures, to include nudity. Well, obviously, we put him off. And, on this particular day of the arrest, we called him at work, because he provided his work cell number, his work number, and his home number.

We called him at work and pretended, obviously, to be the 14- year-old girl, and said, hey, we have a webcam and mom's not going to be here tonight.

And he said: I should be home by 7:00 p.m.

He rushed home to get online. And you know he had the surprise of his life, when he was chatting with undercover detectives, and law enforcement officers, to include our detectives and I.G. investigators, knocked on his front door, took him into custody, and served a search warrant.

ZAHN: Well, I know the hardest work is yet to come.

Sheriff Grady Judd, thank you for your time tonight.

I guess it's still hard to believe...

JUDD: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: ... that he...


ZAHN: ... provide those phone numbers to anybody.

Appreciate your help tonight, sir.

There are some startling new developments tonight in a story we have been following for some time now, the disturbing allegations of rape against some members of the Duke University lacrosse team. The team's coach quit today. And investigators released a truly bizarre e-mail they say came from one of the players' e-mail accounts.

Jason Carroll has been covering this story from the start. He joins me now -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Paula, you know, I think these most recent developments are really going to make a tense situation in Durham, North Carolina, even more difficult for the people living there. And the one coach who is stepping down may not be enough to ease all of that tension.


CARROLL (voice-over): Today, Duke's lacrosse team's coach, Mike Pressler, submitted his resignation, effective immediately -- this after the court released information from a sealed warrant which graphically detailed a threatening e-mail allegedly sent by Ryan McFadyen, one of Pressler's players.

It was sent the same night of the alleged sexual assault. It reads: "Tomorrow night, after tonight's show, I have decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. All are welcome. However, there will be no nudity. I plan on killing the bitches as soon as they walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while 'blank' in my Duke-issue spandex."

(on camera): The e-mail was send at 1:58 a.m., just about a half-an-hour after the alleged victim in this case, an exotic dancer, called police, saying three lacrosse players raped and shouted racial slurs at her during a party she was hired to perform at, at the team members' off-campus home.

(voice-over): The university's president, Richard Brodhead, called the e-mail "sickening and repulsive." Brodhead canceled the men's lacrosse season, and says it is likely Ryan McFadyen, who is 19 years old, will be suspended.

No one answered the door at McFadyen's parents' home in Mendham, New Jersey. His attorney released a statement, saying -- quote -- "While the language of the e-mail is vile, the e-mail itself is perfectly consistent with the boys' unequivocal assertion that no sexual assault took place that evening"

The team does have a history of trouble. More than a dozen players have previous minor offenses, mostly for underage drinking.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Out of the door, into the street! We won't be raped! We won't be beat!

CARROLL: The university's critics have been speaking out, saying, given the team's past, school administrators have not been tough enough on the team or the coaches, in the wake of the rape allegations.

In a recent interview, Duke's president asked for patience, as the facts unfold.

RICHARD BRODHEAD, PRESIDENT, DUKE UNIVERSITY: All the ingredients of humanity are present on campus. You know, a university can't hope to be a place that never has unpleasant or stressful or deeply troubling episodes. All it can hope is that -- is that, if and when such things happen, which God forbid, that they be dealt with in a way that gives everybody some further element of education.


CARROLL: No one has been charged in connection with the case. DNA test results are expected some time next week. In the meantime, Duke's president continues to urge anyone with information to come forward -- Paula.

ZAHN: Why anyone would send that e-mail is beyond me. It makes you sick.

Jason Carroll, thanks.

A member of Congress may be in some very hot water, indeed, and could now even face criminal charges. Do you recognize who it is? Well, the police say, that's part of the problem. But is racial profiling involved as well?



O'DONNELL: You know, I didn't have parents to tell. I didn't have eyes to look in to, to be -- you know, look back at me disapproving. I -- I didn't have that.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is her name?

O'DONNELL: Vivie (ph).


ZAHN: So, why did she wait so long to come out publicly?

Stay with us for my exclusive visit with Rosie O'Donnell.

Plus, television history in the making -- will Katie Couric become the most trusted woman in America?

Twenty million of you went on to our Web site today.

Our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on begins with mudslides in Northern California. After nearly a month of nonstop rain in Calaveras County, about 100 homes were evacuated. And a number of highways have also been closed.

Number nine -- in Jerusalem today, doctors performed another operation on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to reattach part of his skull. He has been comatose since suffering a stroke back in early January -- numbers eight and seven right after this.


ZAHN: Still ahead tonight, my exclusive visit with Rosie O'Donnell as she rolls out an HBO special this week. What did she tell her oldest son when he started asking her some very provocative and tough questions about having two mothers?

But, first, there has been a flurry of developments tonight in the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. As we speak, she's attending a special meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, a meeting that is not open to the press or public.

Also, CNN has confirmed that, tomorrow, a grand jury will start hearing testimony about exactly what happened when she tried to go through a security checkpoint at the U.S. Capitol.

Now, at one time or another, all of us have been annoyed at security checkpoints, the long waits, obtrusive searches, and, sometimes, a guard's outright rudeness.

Well, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, looks at why this incident has a lot of people, though, at the boiling point.


REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: ... the opportunity to...

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say, the story of the congresswoman and the cop is about law and order.

TERRANCE GAINER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: Even if you're stopped, you're not supposed to hit a police officer. It is very simple.

CROWLEY: The congresswoman says, the story is about race.

MCKINNEY: This whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.

CROWLEY: A week ago, Georgia lawmaker Cynthia McKinney, with a relatively new hairdo, and without the lapel pin designed to identify her as a member of Congress, walked into a House office building, around security.

GAINER: Members don't have to go through the magnetometers, but they need to be recognized. It was a busy door. The officer did not recognize the member. She was not wearing her pin. He reached out and grabbed her. She turned around and hit him.

CROWLEY: McKinney, who faces possible charges, won't say if she hit, shoved, or poked anybody. During a round of appearances on the morning news shows, she rebuffed repeated attempts by CNN's Soledad O'Brien to find out what happened. She preferred, instead, to talk about why.


MCKINNEY: Let me first say that this has become much ado about a hairdo.

And the real issue...

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, and I -- and I hear you.

But let me -- I'm going to stop you there, because... MCKINNEY: The real issue -- you can't stop me, Soledad. The real issue...

O'BRIEN: Well, I want to get to what happened first, and then we'll get into the real issue, because we need to establish what happened.


MCKINNEY: The real issue -- the real issue is face recognition and security around the Capitol complex.


CROWLEY: In essence the congresswoman thinks she would not have been stopped if she were white, a point made repeatedly in two recent news conferences held by McKinney and company.

JAMES MYART, ATTORNEY FOR CONGRESSWOMAN CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: I will say that Congresswoman McKinney, like many thousands of young black men and women, like thousands of others who are abused, harassed, and brutalized by white and other police officers...

CROWLEY: Some white lawmakers say they, too, have been stopped by Capitol Police, and solved the problem by identifying themselves, something police say would have avoided this entire mess.

GAINER: Even the high and the haughty should be able to stop and say, "I'm a congressman," and then you -- everybody moves on.

CROWLEY: On Capitol Hill, McKinney's fellow Democrats are walking very, very carefully, most of them in the other direction.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It would be hard to see facts that would justify striking a police officer.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I was not there. I have no idea what took place. But I have faith and confidence in our system.

CROWLEY: Meantime, Republicans rustled up a generic resolution praising Capitol Hill Police and turned the incident into a story about security.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is not about personalities. It's not about somebody's ego. It's not about racial profiling. It's trying to make this place safer and working with the people to try make it safer.

CROWLEY: In the end, this is the story about how a relatively minor incident, infused with race and politics and security, can quickly grow toxic.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: Now, according to two sources familiar with the case, the grand jury that will be hearing testimony about Representative McKinney's action should reach a quick decision on possible criminal charges. And that decision could come as early as next week.

A few years ago, Rosie O'Donnell had one of the most popular talk shows in the country. What did she tell her bosses, but not her audience?


O'DONNELL: I said to their faces, everyone at this room, I want you to know that I'm gay. I'm always going to be gay. It is not going to change. I'm not going to become un-gay.


ZAHN: Why didn't she tell her audience, and what happened when she finally did? Stay with us for my exclusive and candid visit with Rosie O'Donnell.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Katie Couric leaving "The Today Show" to become anchor of "The CBS Evening News." I'm Allan Chernoff. And I will tell you what is behind the move straight ahead on PAULA ZAHN NOW.


ZAHN: But now on to number eight on our countdown -- Customs agents bust a human smuggling operation early this morning in Seattle. Twenty-two Chinese nationals have been detained. Officials say, they came to the U.S. in a cargo container on a ship from Shanghai.

Number seven -- Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has now apologized to actress Jessica Alba, after her picture appeared on the magazine's march cover without her permission.

Stay with us -- numbers six and five just ahead.


ZAHN: A seismic shift today for television viewers all over the country -- this morning, on NBC's "Today Show," Katie Couric confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in television news. The longest serving host of the number-one morning show is changing channels. Her announcement is one for the history books, because she will be a first in her new job.

Here is Allan Chernoff.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW") KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST: I have decided I will be leaving "Today" at the end of May.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Katie Couric will make history when she assumes the anchor chair at "The CBS Evening News" in September, as the first female solo anchor and managing editor of a network evening news broadcast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are changing in the world. And I think we need to be open-minded to think that a woman can do it. And I think she will do an excellent job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now there is a choice of listening to either a man or a woman and getting their different perspectives. So, I -- I wholeheartedly welcome that.

CHERNOFF: Couric's competitor, Diane Sawyer, agrees it is a breakthrough.

DIANE SAWYER, CO-ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": The more women in strong positions, yes. Yes.

CHERNOFF: In the past, women have shared the coveted network anchor chair, Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner in the late '70s, Connie Chung with Dan Rather in the early '90s. Neither pairing was successful. Both women were eventually dropped.

ABC's Elizabeth Vargas remains co-anchor of "World News Tonight," even though her original partner, Bob Woodruff, was seriously injured in Iraq.

This fall, Americans will be able to turn to a female network anchor in times of crisis, a woman who will be sitting in the chair once occupied by the ultimate male authority figure, the most trusted man in America.

(on camera): "The CBS Evening News" is not what it was when Walter Cronkite was anchoring. With so many more sources for news, such as cable television and the Internet, fewer Americans are watching network news, especially CBS.

In the '90s, ABC's Peter Jennings and then NBC's Tom Brokaw anchored the leading broadcasts. Now it is NBC's Brian Williams. In fact, it has been 17 years since CBS was number one in the news ratings.

(voice-over): Though fewer people are watching, there is greater pressure for news divisions and their anchors to deliver ratings and profits to their parent companies. That, more than gender, is what could make Katie Couric so valuable to CBS.

MITCHELL STEVENS, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, it seems pretty clear why they chose her. She's really popular. And, you know, she has been probably the most successful person in -- in television journalism over the last decade or two. So, in some ways, it is a no-brainer.

CHERNOFF: A CBS executive tells CNN: "We are not looking to make a feminist statement. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake."

Interim anchor Bob Schieffer has led an improvement in ratings. Now CBS hopes to climb out of the network news cellar. And the network believes its best chance rests on the shoulders of a woman.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: And joining me now, Howard Kurtz, who covers the media for "The Washington Post," also a CNN contributor, had a huge front-page story on this today, and Meryl Gordon, a journalist who has written about the network morning shows as contributing editor for "New York" magazine.

Good to see both of you.

So, the question tonight is, Howard, will Katie bring CBS success?


ZAHN: Can she get them out of third place?

KURTZ: CBS is betting a lot of money on the proposition that she can.

Not just, is Katie a celebrity who is covered by "People" magazine, and she has a colonoscopy, and it's news, but I think this is a -- a psychological moment in network news. But the person who is in that chair is also the person who does the live coverage when there is a 9/11, when there is a Hurricane Katrina.

And I think it is way overdue that that person be a woman. And I also think that the real question here is whether or not Katie Couric can change that newscast to fit her particular personality and set of skills.

ZAHN: Well, that goes to the issue of credibility. Do you think, Meryl, those skills can be transferred from that morning arena to the DNA of an evening newscast, which is a completely different thing?


I see no problems with that at all. But what is interesting is that Katie has such a polarizing persona. People either really love her or they really hate her. And she has really become known for sort of the snappy comebacks. She's a terrific interviewer.

But how they craft that show, as Howie says, will be really interesting, to see, which Katie do we see?

ZAHN: So, which Katie do you think we are going to see, Howard?

KURTZ: I have no doubt that, just as the show was changed for Dan Rather, for Bob Schieffer, it will changed for Katie Couric. I'm sure we are going to see more live interviews, one of her strengths.

I think they are going to put her on the road more. She has some ideas, which we will hear about in the coming weeks. But I also think that she understands that it is a 20-minute window, and that you have got to do the headlines. And that is going to make it -- it's just a much more cramped format for somebody who is used to having a -- a big stage, shall we say.

ZAHN: Howard, you have heard some of the rumblings going on at CBS. You had Andy Rooney going on "Imus" this morning, basically saying: I'm not enthusiastic about it. I think everybody likes Katie. I don't know how you can not like her, but I don't anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she is coming.

KURTZ: I know...

ZAHN: That could be a problem for her, couldn't it?

KURTZ: I know a lot of people who are pleased.

And there's a faction that did not think this was the world's greatest idea. Part of that reason is, a lot of these people love Bob Schieffer. He has done a remarkable thing in the 13 months that he has been filling in, not just getting the numbers up, but kind of changing the format, looser, more conversational.

That's part of Katie Couric's challenge as well, not just to connect with the audience at 6:30, not just to establish herself as an evening anchor, but also to win over the troops at Cbs News.

ZAHN: But Meryl, if this doesn't work, is this -- or will this be a referendum on all women or on the polarizing effect you're referring to of the Katie Couric lightning rod?

GORDON: Well, there have been so many women doing hard news for such a long time, that I can't imagine that half the population will be judged by Katie's success or failure. I think one of the interesting things is whether the morning audience that she has will follow her to the nightly news.

There is -- you know, she's had a hugely loyal group who have watched her through all sorts of phases of her life, pregnancy, losing her husband. Will some of those women in the morning now switch on at 6:30? And how will a more general interest audience react to Katie?

ZAHN: Well, in the interest of full disclosure here, there is a bit of a sisterhood thing running through here and a lot of us women in the industry are really rooting for Katie.

Howard Kurtz, Meryl Gordon, thank you for both of your perspectives tonight. And there is going to be a whole lot more on Katie's big move at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE." Among his guests legendary CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite and some of Katie's closest friends.

So as Rosie O'Donnell unveils a brand new HBO documentary and a controversial one at that, what is the biggest mistake she says she ever made?


ROSIE O'DONNELL, COMEDIAN: The hugest mistake I ever made in my career was getting a haircut.


ZAHN: Oh, yes. We remember that haircut, Rosie. What was she thinking back then? And what is she doing to help other gay and lesbian couples today? Please stay tuned for my exclusive interview.

Before that now, we are going to show you though number six on our countdown. In Baghdad today, two car bombs exploded within 20 minutes of each other. Emergency officials say there were three people killed, 18 others wounded.

Number five rock 'n roll hall of famer member Gene Pitney, known for songs like "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and "24 Hours to Tulsa," was found dead this morning in his hotel room in Wales. He happened to be on tour in Britain and had just given a concert on Tuesday night. Police say he apparently died from natural causes. Gene Pitney was 65 years old.

Number four on our countdown next.


ZAHN: Now we move on to an exclusive, a rare interview with Rosie O'Donnell. You might remember the four years ago she walked away from her wildly popular talk show and then happened to suffer a couple of setbacks, a lawsuit over her magazine, a failed Broadway show.

Well, since then she's been mostly out of the public eye but now as she unveils a brand new HBO documentary, she's revealing a side of her we haven't seen before, talking about coming out, being gay in Hollywood and the struggles of raising four young children. My exclusive interview with Rosie O'Donnell is tonight's "Eye Opener."


ZAHN (voice over): Rosie O'Donnell.

O'DONNELL: What happened with that, guys?

ZAHN: Talk show host.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: There is no crying in baseball. O'DONNELL: Why don't you leave her alone Jimmy?

ZAHN: Actress.

O'DONNELL: Familiar with stretch jeans? I bought them. Size 11/12. I stretched them into a 15/16.

ZAHN: Comedian.

O'DONNELL: You know, the tag says 11/12, and that's what is important.

ZAHN: For years, she was the queen of nice, a nickname she says never quite fit. But the last few years have brought many changes for Rosie. A woman who came into our living rooms every morning like a friend has become a stay at home mom. I had a rare opportunity to catch up with Rosie. We talked about her family, her childhood, and the moment she realized she was gay.

O'DONNELL: I didn't have a family to come out to. My mother died when I was 10. My father was not really present. We raised ourselves essentially. And, you know, I told my sister when I was 18. I am like I think I'm gay. She's like really? I'm like yes. She's like how do you know? And I am like I have a crush on Chris Deluci (ph) in college. She's like I guess that means you are. I'm like yes. Let's go Friendly's.

ZAHN: While Rosie says that her sexuality wasn't that big of a deal, in the early 90s, it was a very big deal to be out in Hollywood.

O'DONNELL: This was before Ellen, you have to remember this. This was even before Melissa was out. You know, K.D. was sort of the first one of our friends because we were all friends. We were all little young lesbian together in Hollywood. We used to have parties. And we all knew each other, and it was very, you know, fun to remember.

And I remember K.D. came out it was like the big thing, and everybody was like what is going to happen? And we don't call each other. And then Melissa came out, and we -- well, Ellen and I remember talking with her, well they are rock stars. It is different. I wasn't really willing to come out and say that I was gay until I knew I was with the person I was going to be with forever.

ZAHN: And Rosie finally met that person in Kelli Carpenter. But while Rosie's siblings were accepting of them, Rosie's biggest challenge was winning over Kelli's conservative family. Kelli's mother was particularly tough.

O'DONNELL: When I met Kelli's parents, they were, you know, very anti-gay. They were very born again Christian southerners. And she told me that there was no way they would ever come to our house if they knew that we were a couple.

ZAHN (on-camera): Never accept you? O'DONNELL: Never is what she said to me. But they've come -- I have to say, when you think of where they started to where they are now, it gives me hope for anyone. It has totally changed and altered their world view and I think opened them up in a way that they never expected.

ZAHN (voice over): Rosie still wasn't publicly out. She and Kelli, though, were in a committed relationship and living as a family. Rosie had already adopted a son, Parker, before meeting Kelli. And then the couple adopted two more children, Chelsea and Blake, and were also foster parenting a 5-year-old girl in Florida, where they were living. Rosie finally came out as a gay parent in March of 2002.

O'DONNELL: As you know, I am a foster parent here in the state of Florida. I have a child...

ZAHN: She was motivated when the ACLU brought suit against the state of Florida for preventing homosexuals from adopting foster children. She was now an advocate and also a target, accused of having concealed her sexuality.

O'DONNELL: I felt sort of out, believe it or not. I thought everyone knew too. When I would say that I was in love with Tom Cruise and people would say, well that was all an act. It is not an act. I never said that I wanted to have sex with him. I said I wanted him to come over and mow my lawn in T-shirt and jeans and bring me lemonade.

ZAHN (on-camera): But you also didn't say you had the hots for Angelina Jolie?

O'DONNELL: No, but I think if you watch the show you could tell. No, and you're right. And I think that is a fair argument, and when people would say that to me, I always would say, you know, but Tom Cruise was not a lie. But there was another part of the story that was left unsaid.

And I don't really function in a level of sexuality of sex in general, gay or straight, kind of on the surface. I think that is very internal for me. It is something that, you know, I don't see somebody and think, oh, I don't go to that. It doesn't go there for me.

ZAHN (voice-over): A very private matter that was now being played out in public.

O'DONNELL: I didn't think at the time that it was that huge. Now since coming out, I think it was huger than I realized.

ZAHN (on camera): So you never made a calculation that if I come out, this is going to hurt my livelihood?

O'DONNELL: No. When I took the job in 1995 with Warner Brothers for the talk show. I remember before I took it I sat down with all the businessmen suits and asked for a meeting of everyone and I said to their faces, everyone at this room, I want you to know I'm gay. I'm always going to be gay it is not going to change. I'm not going to become ungay. I can't imagine saying ever it publicly. I don't feel the need to.

If it comes out, I need to know you all right with that and support me because I will never deny it. They all said no, that's fine. Thank you for telling us.

If you want to find out how to adopt, tomorrow is the day to watch the show.

ZAHN: What is the worst form of discrimination you've suffered from once you came out of the closet?

O'DONNELL: The worst was not being allowed to adopt the foster child that we raised in Florida. We were told by our lawyer that we would have to perjure ourselves. We would have to lie and sign a form in the state of Florida, a form that says you are not now and have never been a homosexual in order to adopt a child, even a foster child you raised. We were told that we were not allowed to adopt this child without -- becoming a felon. Exactly.

ZAHN (voice-over): Realizing they couldn't adopt that foster child, the couple was devastated. They wanted more children. But this time they chose instead for Kelly to give birth using donor sperm. Vivian was born in late 2002. Rosie was out, she was proud, and she was a gay mother of four.

O'DONNELL: To say it comes without problems is a lie. But to say that parenting for heterosexual families comes without problems is an illusion too.

ZAHN (on camera): You have to acknowledge, Rosie, there are people out there who are fearful that gay parents are imposing their sexuality on their children?

O'DONNELL: Yes, if you look at studies, every study that has ever been done shows that there are no greater percentage of gay children that come out of gay families. So although I know it is frightening for some people, the ability to parent has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, at all.

And anyway, your sex life with your husband has nothing to do with your ability to parent your children. And I will say that it brings different challenges to the lives of children who are raised by gay parents, but also brings tremendous opportunity to learn about acceptance and tolerance and bigotry.

ZAHN (voice-over): Even so, everyday life brings with it some very tough questions from her kids. This one from eldest son Parker.

O'DONNELL: He came over to me and said, you know, Mom, some people think it is bad that there is two mommies. I said I know. He said I think I'm one of those people. He was five years old.

ZAHN (on camera): And Mom said? O'DONNELL: I said really? Why you to think that. He said because I think it is good to have a mom and a dad. I said it is good to have a mom and a dad. A mom and a dad is a great family. But in this family you have a mommy who wants another mommy.

In order for you to have a daddy you would have to not have me as a mommy. And he sat and thought and took like about a minute. He looked up and said, well, I guess I'll just keep you then. And I said all right.

There is that moment where you feel there is something that this child is not having because of me. My common theme with our kids is half empty, half full. The rest of your life you can be missing what you think is in that glass. Or the rest of your life enjoy what is in there. It is your choice. And so it works for our family.


ZAHN: My exclusive interview with Rosie O'Donnell continues in just a minute. What does she say to people who ask if she is imposing her sexuality on her own children?


O'DONNELL: I don't think you impose sexuality. Even Dick Cheney, the most Republican Republican and his very Republican wife, they made a gay child.


ZAHN: Coming up, politics, protests and why did she end up going on a cruise with 500 other families and tons of cameras to film their adventure? She'll explain when we come back.

Number four on our countdown. The story everybody is talking about. One we just mentioned a little earlier on. Katie Couric is leaving NBC's Today Show for the CBS Evening News. It is a history making move. She'll become the first woman appointed to solo anchor a weeknight network evening newscast.

Number three, a 34 year old science teacher in Delaware is charged with raping a 13 year old male student. Police say Rachel Holt had sex with the teen 28 times. Gave him alcohol, and let him drive her car.

Number two on our countdown when we come back.


ZAHN: More of my interview now with Rosie O'Donnell. Before the break, we heard about her struggles over coming out in Hollywood. Now she opens up about life as a gay parent in a new venture she's taken on in an effort to help parents who are in the same situation she is. Here is more now of my interview with Rosie O'Donnell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): It is vacation O'Donnell style.


ZAHN: But this family vacation created by Rosie and Kelly O'Donnell is anything but typical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We refer to ourselves as a bunch of misfits, you know.

ZAHN: A safe haven for gay families and those who love them. A week captured by HBO for a documentary. All aboard "Rosie's Family Cruise."

(on camera): How do you think straight viewers will react to what unfolds on the screen?

O'DONNELL: I hope it will educate them. I hope it will replace fear, ignorance with information. People are afraid of what they don't understand. The normalcy of the day, I think is what shocks people most.

ZAHN: One of the more amazing things about this documentary is the rawness of emotions that you capture. There is a scene where there is a straight mother of an adult gay daughter who, while expresses love for her daughter, makes it very clear she does not support her lifestyle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When my daughter became lesbian, I was assuming something. We were not happen. My husband is still very hurt. But what more can I do? She is still my daughter. We love her.

O'DONNELL: Yet she was on the cruise. So I think that the connection of a parent and child is bigger than any kind of internal bigotry that we might have as humans. You know, the love and the bond between a parent and child is almost indestructible.

ZAHN (voice over): That indestructible bond is obvious in Rosie's own family. And we get a rare glimpse into her life in the film.

O'DONNELL: Kelli, you all right with her with this much lipstick on? Chelsea, can we blot the lipstick a little bit? Yes. Your shoes are on. You have to keep them on because we're going outside. Yes. Want me to fix them? Yes.

ZAHN (on-camera): What do you think are some of the misconceptions straight people have about the values you're trying to impart to your children and whether that involves imposing your sexuality?

O'DONNELL: Well, I don't think you can impose sexuality. Because, you know, if you could there would be no gay people. Because it takes two straight people to make a gay person. You know, I mean, even Dick Cheney, the most Republican Republican and his very Republican wife, they made a gay child. You know, one out of every 10 people is gay.

ZAHN (voice over): While most of the cruise was downright fun, there was some very unexpected conflict. When the boat docked in Nassau, families were met by a large angry group of protesters.

(on-camera): You didn't really see the protest unfold until you watched the documentary for the first time because you didn't get off the boat.


ZAHN: What was your reaction?

O'DONNELL: I felt a visceral response in my body. There was one man in particular and he had very sad eyes, big sad eyes. And he's holding a Bible and he turns right into the camera and he screams no.


O'DONNELL: And the rage in this man and the hatred in his heart, I felt it physically. It was frightening to think that, you know -- Parker said to me what are they protesting? And I was like well, they're protesting that we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just was scared of the people but he didn't understand anything.

O'DONNELL: They don't want us to exist. Well, I think it is crazy. That's like World War II.

ZAHN (voice over): And while the protest was painful, it was a reminder of what gay families face every day. It was Kelli who advised Rosie to stay on the boat that day because they both knew that Rosie would sound off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So tell Rosie O'Donnell take her filth elsewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I just think it is good Rosie didn't get off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She would be up there fighting for the microphone.

ZAHN: Rosie told me if it weren't for Kelli, her life would be total chaos. We caught up with Kelli, who barely gives interviews, at the premiere of the documentary.

(on-camera): Do you expect to make some people angry with this documentary? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you can't do anything where it involves gay people or gay families where you are not going to make some people angry. But I also think that it is a different way to look at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's new. I never needed to put him stretched out. It is amazing. Just keep up with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the movie, you just look at all these families just as families. And I think that's the most touching thing about it. That all of a sudden, you know, whether it is two men or two women or, you know, a single parent or whatever it is that is raising the child, all of a sudden it doesn't matter. You see a connection that happened on. You see how beautiful these families are.

ZAHN (voice over): "All Aboard" was a labor of love for the O'Donnells. But for Rosie, it was more. For Rosie, it was life changing.

O'DONNELL: I was asked at one of the press screenings, are you going to raise your children to be gay? And I thought no more than I could raise them to be tall. You can't raise someone to be gay. You know, you can't raise someone to have blue eyes.

Now you can wear contacts your whole life if you have brown eyes, if you desire for blue eyes is that big. But at some point you are going to have to take them out and let your eyes rest and be who you are. And the fact that you have brown eyes has to one day be all right. And it became all right for me through this cruise in a way that I hadn't anticipated.


ZAHN: And Rosie's documentary "All Aboard: Rosie's Family Cruise" premiers tomorrow on our sister network HBO.


ZAHN: At the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," Katie Couric's friends and colleagues discuss her big jump to CBS. Walter Cronkite is among Larry's guests.

Number two on our countdown, our lead department of Homeland Security Deputy Press Secretary Brian Doyle accused of trying to lure a child over the Internet. Well, it turns out that child was really an undercover detective. Number one on our list is next.


ZAHN: We have some breaking news for you. An escaped killer is on the loose in central Louisiana tonight. Richard McNair escaped from a federal prison, where he was serving a life term for a series of crimes including murder. Authorities say McNair is dangerous. Stay with us for more on this breaking story. Number one on our countdown, Oklahoma authorities say the ex-wife of country star Garth Brooks was kidnapped at gunpoint on Monday. Sandy Brooks was forced into a car by one of her employees. She apparently escaped a few hours later. The suspect is under arrest.

That is it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. We will back again tomorrow night. Have a great night.


KATIE COURIC, NBC ANCHOR: I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past.


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