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Ramsey Case: Trial By TV; Gibson Plea Deal; Aniston Speaks Out

Aired August 17, 2006 - 19:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CO-HOST: A plea deal in the Mel Gibson case.
I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CO-HOST: And has Tom Cruise become a joke?

I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood.

TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now.


HAMMER (voice over): On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the shocking confession in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

JOHN MARK KARR, SUSPECT: I love JonBenet and she died accidentally.

HAMMER: Tonight, did TV coverage of JonBenet`s chilling murder almost convict the wrong people? And why has the obsession with the case lasted so long?

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates.

The almost unbelievable story of the 9/11 mystery Marine. A Marine who helped with an amazing rescue at Ground Zero, then mysteriously disappeared, suddenly appears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew I had someone alive. I just wanted to get to them.

HAMMER: Tonight, the remarkable story of how Oliver Stone`s "World Trade Center" helped solve the mystery of the hero Marine.


ANDERSON: Hi there. I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood.

HAMMER: I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

Big breaking news today on two stories. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT all over it.

Mel Gibson pulled a big surprise today in the drunk driving case against him. It caught everybody off guard and we`re going to have the details in just a moment.

But first, to the JonBenet Ramsey shocker. An almost unbelievable confession and an arrest in the case that has fascinated the nation for 10 very long years.

ANDERSON: That`s right, A.J.. And for much of those 10 years, a lot of the suspicion in the case seemed to center on Ramsey`s parents. But what we heard and saw on TV today was a whole different story.


MILES O`BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A decade after 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was killed in her Colorado home, a stunning turn of events.

ANDERSON (voice over): No matter how often we heard it on TV -- and it has been relentless -- the news was still hard to believe. Finally, an arrest in a long murder mystery that riveted America for nearly a decade.

O`BRIEN: In Thailand, a confession in the 1996 killing of JonBenet Ramsey...

ANDERSON: The face of John Mark Karr was all over TV as he was arrested in Bangkok in connection with the killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. And befitting a case whose every twist and turn got full media attention, Karr`s confession came not behind closed doors, but in front of TV cameras for the entire world to see.

KARR: I love JonBenet and she died accidentally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you an innocent man? Are you an innocent man?


ANDERSON: It`s the first arrest in a case that even through the countless books, movies, and TV discussions it spawned, America was never able to forget.

BETH KARAS, COURT TV CORRESPONDENT: People like a real whodunit.

ANDERSON: Beth Karas of Court TV tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT that the sickening nature of JonBenet Ramsey`s death made it tailor made for TV.

KARAS: This beautiful little girl, a little beauty queen, is murdered in her own home on Christmas Day. People just couldn`t get past that it happened on that day to this little girl who looked like that under these circumstances.

ANDERSON: Before the arrest, the media often discussed the suspicion that hovered over the girl`s parents, John, and the late Patsy Ramsey, who died of cancer just this past June. Now there`s a different tone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family may finally be vindicated.

PAMELA PAUGH, AUNT OF JONBENET RAMSEY: In my mind there was never any need for vindication, because I knew from the depths of my heart that Patsy, John, Burke, nobody in my family ever harmed JonBenet. We`ve lived on that truth, we sit on that truth. And now the facts are going to bear that out.

ANDERSON: The TV obsession with the case began almost immediately after the little beauty queen`s body was found in the basement of her family`s Colorado home the day after Christmas in 1996. The speculation began soon after that.

KARAS: A lot of people judged the Ramseys because they got a lawyer right away. People thought that was suspicious. "Why do they need a lawyer? Just work with the police," is what many people were saying.

ANDERSON: And while no one in the Ramsey family was ever formally accused, pundits like writer Dominick Dunne unabashedly aired their suspicions on the airways.

DOMINICK DUNNE, AUTHOR: There was just something wrong and suspicious to me from the very, very beginning about the parents. I still believe that the son, that the boy is somehow involved in this and that that is what is holding the parents together.

ANDERSON: And local officials did little to quell the suspicion.

ALEX HUNTER, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They do remain under an umbrella of suspicion, but we are not ready to name any suspects.

ANDERSON: And in an unbelievably tense conversation on CNN`s "LARRY KING LIVE," a former Colorado police detective blamed the Ramseys with the couple sitting right there.

STEVE THOMAS, FORMER BOULDER POLICE DET.: I felt that Patsy was involved in this death, in this tragedy.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": John, why did you agree to come on with Steve tonight? I mean, this is rather historic. I don`t -- I`m trying to remember if there`s ever been television like this.

JOHN RAMSEY, JONBENET`S FATHER: This man, as a police officer, has called my wife a murderer. He has called me -- complicity to murder.

ANDERSON: It was certainly not the first time we saw trial by media. Who can forget Richard Jewell, accused and then cleared of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic park bombing, and Reagan administration official Raymond Donovan, who, after being acquitted of public corruption charges in 1987, asked a question that has since become iconic?

RAYMOND DONOVAN, FMR. REAGAN OFFICIAL: Which office do I go to get my reputation back?

ANDERSON: And as the court of public opinion prepares to try a new suspect in the Ramsey case, a word of caution from, of all people, the Ramsey`s attorney.

LIN WOOD, RAMSEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: I would urge that Mr. Karr be given that presumption of innocence and that ultimately his guilt or innocence be proven in a court of law and not in a court of public opinion.

ANDERSON: And that presumption of innocence has often gone by the wayside in this riveting and sad case.


ANDERSON: And we are in no way done with this story. A little later on, on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, more on the trial by TV that we have seen in this case.

Now we want to hear from you. It is our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day."

Trial by TV: Did the media convict JonBenet`s family?

Vote at Send us e-mail,

HAMMER: And we`ve got some other big news tonight. And it came out of nowhere.

Mel Gibson has copped a plea, three weeks after he was charged with driving drunk and the firestorm that followed after broke the news of his anti-Semitic tirade.

Joining me tonight, Harvey Levin, the managing editor of

Nice to see you here in the studio, Harvey.


HAMMER: So you called this one. You said that Mel Gibson would plead bargain in this case and he would plead no contest. That`s exactly what he did today.

Give us the details of this deal.

LEVIN: Yes. I mean, I wish I could feel more brilliant, but it was just a no-brainer in this case. I mean, he would have to do this.

He pleaded no contest to driving with a .08 blood alcohol level or higher. They dropped the other two charges against him. And basically, he`s not going to get jail time, which is typical. He`s going to get three years probation.

He has to go to AA meetings for a year, and he has to go five days a week for four and a half months. And then for the balance of the time he goes for three days a week.

He has to pay restitution. And he`s going to do a public service announcement on the danger of driving under the influence. And he says he is going to voluntary enter rehab, stat.

HAMMER: Now, you say this is typical, but give me some perspective on this, because it would seem that he`s getting off easy. Is this what anybody would face if they were in a similar situation, celebrity or not?

LEVIN: It really is. I mean, you know, he had a great lawyer. Blair Burke (ph) is a great lawyer who represents a lot of celebrities. But basically, she got for him what most people would get if they are first time offenders. They don`t toss people in jail for first offense for DUI. The jails are too overcrowded. But they just don`t do it.

HAMMER: All right.

LEVIN: So this really was standard.

HAMMER: OK. But now let`s talk about those videotapes that you had once told us if they were to get out -- these were videotapes that were taken the night he was arrested when he was on that tirade -- if these tapes got out, game over for Mel Gibson is essentially what it came to. Does this now mean we are never going to see those tapes?

LEVIN: Well, it certainly makes it less likely. I mean, our feeling at TMZ is that it`s not even Mel Gibson now as much as what the sheriff`s department did by pretending like there was no incident when there really was the day of the arrest. So we are still pursuing it, because it really sheds light on the sheriff`s department. So the game isn`t over in that respect.

HAMMER: And what about all the controversy that`s been swirling around this? And there`s been this huge buildup, and now he enters this plea and we know what his deal is. But, of course, the anti-Semitic tirade got people in an uproar. I`m very angry about this still, and I don`t want to see it go away. People angry about him driving drunk.

Does the fact that the deal is now done mean this is going to kind of fizzle out?

LEVIN: You know, I think it does. And I think in some ways -- I mean, I don`t know how you feel about it. To me, I think the comments he made in the back of -- in the back of the car, it didn`t create the uproar that you might have thought.

HAMMER: I agree with you.

LEVIN: It really didn`t.

HAMMER: I agree with you.

LEVIN: And I`ve got to tell you, I`m getting so much -- so many hateful comments on the Web site from people who are angry at me for doing the story.

HAMMER: Yes. Well, that`s insane.

And I have to ask you -- I only have 30 seconds left to find out about another star, coincidentally arrested on a DUI charge, Haley Joel Osment, 18 years old. He`s the kid we know from "The Sixth Sense".

What can you tell us about this quickly?

LEVIN: Four charges today against him, criminal charges, driving under the influence. Apparently, they said he had over a .15 blood alcohol level...


LEVIN: ... which is huge. And driving under the -- and driving with marijuana in his car, according to the D.A.

HAMMER: And at his age it`s some extra problems for him as well.

LEVIN: Absolutely.

HAMMER: Harvey Levin, good to see you in person. We appreciate you joining us from

LEVIN: Good to see you, A.J.

ANDERSON: A friendly reminder now. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is now on seven nights a week. That`s right, we are bringing TV`s most provocative entertainment news show to your weekends, each and every weekend.

So be sure to check us out, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. That`s 8:00 Pacific.

HAMMER: Well, it`s an amazing story from 9/11. A Marine who helped with a rescue at Ground Zero comes forward after all these years. How Oliver Stone`s new movie played into the story.

That`s coming up.

ANDERSON: Plus, Jennifer Aniston strikes back. Coming up, her stunning response to rumors that she and Vince Vaughn are engaged.

We`ll also have this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just a real weirdo. He kind of freaks people out.


HAMMER: Tom Cruise we want from "Top Gun" to top billing at the circus of the strange. Has Tom Cruise become a joke? We`re going to look into that coming up.

ANDERSON: But first, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly" "Great American Pop Culture Quiz".

In what country were the Backstreet Boys first stars? Italy, France, Germany or Canada?

Hang out. We will be right back with the answer.


ANDERSON: So, again, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly" "Great American Pop Culture Quiz".

In what country were the Backstreet Boys first stars? Italy, France, Germany or Canada?

The answer is C, Germany.

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, for Thursday night. TV`s most provocative entertainment news show is on.

I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

Time now for a story that made us say, "That`s ridiculous!"

Can we throw this picture up, please?

I`d like to you meet Sebastian. And yes, those are gold crowns you see there glistening in Sebastian`s mouth. What`s that about? Well, it turns out his teeth grew into sort of fang-like things on the bottom there and he has a massive overbite.

Poor kitty, right? Well, Sebastian`s owner happens to be dentist who was worried that the teeth on Sebastian would just kind of snap off. So he did what anyone would do if they were a dentist and he threw some gold crowns on his cat there -- Brooke.

ANDERSON: I don`t get it.

HAMMER: You don`t do that.

ANDERSON: A cat with gold crowns? You don`t do that.


ANDERSON: You k now, this dentist says that the gold crowns for the cat cost about as much as they would for a human, about $900 each.

HAMMER: He should put a little diamond in there.

ANDERSON: And he said it can be done for any pet with a dental problem.

A cat with gold crowns? We say, "That`s ridiculous!"

Moving now to something more serious, it`s the story that is more than -- it`s the story, rather, that has more he said-she said than a Hollywood divorce. Rumors have been swirling that Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn are engaged. Well, Jennifer Aniston isn`t happy about it, and now she`s lashing out at reports she calls bull, setting the record straight for the very first time to "People" magazine.

And joining us now is "People" magazine`s associate bureau chief, Julie Jordan.

Julie, you actually spoke with Jennifer Aniston when she called in to set the record straight.

Great to see you. This is quite a story.


ANDERSON: Hi there. Now...

JORDAN: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: Yes. And this all started, Julie, right, when "US Weekly" ran a cover story claiming that Jen and Vince had gotten engaged on a plane on their way back from vacation.

Now, Jennifer has come to you to set the record straight. Let me read a quote from her.

She says, "People are getting fed a lot of bull. I`m not engaged and I don`t have a ring and I haven`t been proposed to. Normally we don`t even acknowledge these things because they are endless. At this point, the thing that got me was that I was getting phone calls from Greece."

"My Aunt Mary in Greece is getting accused of lying. I mean, they`re getting angry."

Julie, this is just extraordinary for Jennifer Aniston to do something like this. She rarely talks about personal -- her personal life. She`s really angry, isn`t she?

JORDAN: Well, I think it`s just more along the lines of it just got -- like you said, it had gotten so ridiculous. It was really hard for her to kind of just ignore it.

You know, the reports that have been out there have been so detailed. And she said they have even been catching her off guard. You know, the fact that it`s segued into mainstream media like he "Today" show, and, you know, she`s getting calls from family members who are like, you know, "Is this legit? What`s really happening?" And she said it had gone to far, she needed to set the record straight.

ANDERSON: Well, you mentioned it leaked into the "Today" show. That is when fuel was added to the fire. The "Today" show did a segment with "US Weekly" the day the story came out, reporting the engagement as news. Now, that really set Jen off.

Here`s another quote from her. "The only reason I`m saying something is because if we`re listening to the news, we`re supposed to be believing in the news. Tabloids are going to lie all the time. You`re prepared for that. But it`s in the news. And you think, `Well, we need to trust what our newscasters are saying when we have this horrific situation that`s actually taking place in the world.` I mean, we are getting reported the truth, right?"

Julie, she`s the target of tabloid magazines all the time. All the time. It sounds like she`s just really fed up, she`s had it with rumors, hasn`t she?

JORDAN: Right. But I`ve got to tell you, she sounds -- when I talked to her, she sounded just, I mean, truly genuine.

I mean, she wasn`t bitter. She actually kind of laughed about it. And she said that she and Vince laugh about it. But again, just because it`s really, you know, had an effect on her family -- her friends, like Courteney Cox, are having to go out there and say, "What are you talking about? There`s no engagement."

You know, that reports of the actual proposal and the details of the proposal. And she thinks it`s hysterical, because, you know, she`s afraid of flying. And there was a report that he proposed on a plane.

And she`s like, "OK, so there`s a beach and there`s a beautiful sunset and water, but, no, you do the one place I`m, you know, afraid of? That really makes a lot of sense."

So they`ve got a good sense of humor about it. And I`ve got to tell you, she`s just -- she`s so genuine.

You know, she understands how crazy this is. But -- and it`s -- it was, it`s unusual for her to speak out and feel the need to speak out to set the record straight. But, you know, she wanted to do so just to give her family and friends a little peace of mind.

ANDERSON: You know, this kind of thing isn`t going away with her anytime soon. Did it seem like she would come to you guys and speak out more often in the future?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, obviously our magazine has a relationship with her publicist. And the industry on a whole, you know, yes, we love being first with the news, but we also like being right. And that`s really important to us. So, you know, when there`s so much speculation and rumors out there in other outlets, you know, the celebrities do like coming to "People" because, again, we give them that arena to set the record straight and tell the truth.

ANDERSON: It`s incredibly important to be accurate. OK.

Julie Jordan from "People" magazine, thanks so much for being here.

JORDAN: Thanks, Brooke.

ANDERSON: And SHOWBIZ TONIGHT did contact "US Weekly" for a response to Aniston`s engagement denials and they tell us, "`US Weekly` stands by our report that an engagement between Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston took place six weeks ago on June 27th. `US Weekly` based its story on lengthy interviews with four separate and independent sources close to the couple, including two who learned of the engagement directly from Vince Vaughn."

HAMMER: Singer Sheryl Crow is speaking out about her battle with breast cancer. In a matter of just a few weeks, Crow`s engagement to Lance Armstrong ended and she got the devastating news that she had early stage breast cancer. Well, in an interview for CNN`s "LARRY KING LIVE," Crow opened up about that day.


KING: How did they tell you? What did they tell you, "You have cancer"?

SHERYL CROW, SINGER: Well, I think -- god, you know, it`s a little bit of a blur. But she -- when she came in, she said, "It`s not what I hoped." And I knew at that moment that it was...

KING: "It`s not what I hoped"?

CROW: Yes. It was not -- "It`s not what we planned." And she said, "I`m as surprised as you are." But she -- and then she said, "But this is treatable."

KING: We hear about stage three, stage four.

CROW: Right.

KING: Stage one seems minor.

CROW: Stage one is very early, yes. And, you know, it`s funny, because I immediately started becoming known as a cancer survivor, and I`ve known so many cancer survivors who have really fought for their lives and who have been, you know, in the test studies. And clearly Lance is one of those people, and some amazing people along the way.

And for me, initially I was a bit reticent to even come out and talk about it, but I think my story is, at least for women in -- who are of my age bracket and younger, I think my story is celebratory in the fact that prevention is really the best cure. And if you`re not getting your mammogram, if you don`t know your family history, take responsibility.


HAMMER: The full interview with Sheryl Crow airs on CNN`s "LARRY KING LIVE" August 23rd.

ANDERSON: Did the media convict the wrong people in the JonBenet Ramsey case? We will get deeper into the trial by television coming up.

HAMMER: Plus, Fantasia Barrino`s amazing journey from being a single mom to an "American Idol." It is the subject of a new move that has -- that had "Idol" producers worried. You`re going to find out why when Fantasia joins us coming up.

We`ll also have this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had achieved such stature in Hollywood that he thought he can -- he can finally let loose and be himself.


ANDERSON: What in the world happened to Tom Cruise? He used to be untouchable, but now has he become a punch line? We`re going to look into it coming up.

HAMMER: And now a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT birthday shoutout. This is where we give the fans a chance to wish their favorite stars a happy birthday.

Tonight, one goes out to Patrick Swayze, who`s celebrating his 54th birthday this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is Adam Valavan (ph). I`m from Long Island. I just want to wish Patrick Swayze a happy birthday.

You`re my idol. And I thought you were amazing in "Dirty Dancing."



ANDERSON: Tomorrow, celebrities doing stupid, ridiculous things, and it`s all caught on tape. From Britney Spears talking about time travel, to O.J. Simpson getting a lap dance, to the most stunning car chases ever, even the sometimes dangerous cat-and-mouse game of getting a picture of Angelina Jolie, a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Caught on Tape!" tomorrow.

HAMMER: Supermodel Frederique Van Der Wal has certainly had her share of sexy shots on the covers of countless magazines. Well, now she`s giving you a chance to do the same thing.

Her new TLC show, "Cover Shot," gives the everyday woman a taste of the supermodel life. I sat down with Frederique, and she told me that any women can hide one common problem with a few tricks of the trade.


HAMMER: But what is the one thing you found most common that women sort of were at odds with about themselves? There are many things, as you mentioned, but what was the most common issue?

FREDERIQUE VAN DER WAL, MODEL: Women have problems. No. Lots.

No, but actually, it`s so interesting. What you find is that once they have become a mom, often they feel that their weight has changed a lot, and that with work, with having -- you know, today`s woman is not any more -- I mean, we have also moms at home, but when the working mom on top of it trying to balance and juggle everything, and then to have exercise or a diet is very tough. But there are a lot of things that you can show that - - with tricks of the trade, the way you dress, the way you have a focus on other parts of your body, how you can also disguise that a little bit.


HAMMER: "Cover Shot" premieres on TLC tomorrow night.

ANDERSON: Did the media convict the wrong people in the JonBenet Ramsey case? We`ll get deeper into the trial by television, coming up.

HAMMER: Plus, an amazing story about a hero of 9/11. A Marine who helped with a rescue at Ground Zero comes forward after all these years. How Oliver Stone`s new movie played into this story, coming up.

We`ll also have this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just a real weirdo. He kind of freaks people out.


ANDERSON: How Tom Cruise went from "Top Gun" to top billing at the circus of the strange. Has Tom Cruise become a joke? We will look into it coming up.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: And I`m Brooke Anderson in Hollywood. This is TV`s most provocative entertainment news show.

HAMMER: Major news over the last 24 hours, Brooke. Of course, a suspect in the - is in custody almost 10 years after the death of JonBenet Ramsey. In all that time, many people have been highly suspicious of the parents involved.


HAMMER: Of the Ramsey family`s involvement in this murder. But has it largely been because of the media and all the attention that the media was pouring on this case? We`re going to investigate trial by TV coming up in a few.

ANDERSON: Yes, it seems they were convicted in the court of public opinion for a long time, A.J.

Also, A.J., how in the world did Tom Cruise go from being one of Hollywood`s biggest, powerful stars to a punchline. Comedians are having a field day with him. It doesn`t matter he does. The film "Talladega Nights" takes a potshot at him. We will take a look at what happened to Tom Cruise coming up.

But first, Oliver Stone`s new 9/11 movie "World Trade Center" tells the dramatic story of the rescue of two police officers trapped in the rubble of the fallen towers. But there`s been one missing link, and that`s the identity of a mysterious Marine who helped in that rescue. Who this hero is has been a mystery until now.

Here`s CNN`s Gary Tuchman for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jason Thomas and his wife, Kirstie (ph), walk amid the tourists visiting Ground Zero. But Jason is a tourist with a dramatic connection to September 11 that for the most part he has not talked about.

(on camera): For the last five years, you basically told nobody about this.

SGT. JASON THOMAS, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Correct. My mother didn`t know the details at all.

TUCHMAN: And how come you didn`t tell people?

THOMAS: I just wanted to put it -- I felt that, you know, mission accomplished, you know? Job done.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The mission was his participation in the rescue of two Port Authority police officers buried for hours in the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings. Authorities knew two former U.S. Marines found the officers, but only knew the whereabouts of one of them. The other seemingly vanished.

The Oliver Stone movie "World Trade Center" is the story of the rescue of the two officers, and shows the Marines finding them. One of the Marines is Staff Sergeant David Carnes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone can hear me, yell or tap.

TUCHMAN: The other is Sergeant Thomas, so little known about him when production started that the actor playing him is a white man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recon the area, Sergeant. Our best shot is going up.

THOMAS: At one point, Thomas started in that direction to the right.

TUCHMAN: Three weeks ago, Sergeant Thomas was watching TV and saw a commercial for the movie which featured the two Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no going back. Let`s go.



TUCHMAN: And because of the movie, we are now learning Sergeant Thomas`s story: how he and Sergeant Carnes started a desperate search for survivors.

THOMAS: We were yelling, "United States Marines, anyone down there? United States Marines, anyone down there?" And didn`t hear anyone for the first, I would say half an hour.

TUCHMAN: And then they heard someone under the fiery, smoky rubble.

THOMAS: It was a low voice. And it was saying something.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But you knew you had someone alive?

THOMAS: I knew I had someone alive. I didn`t care what that person was saying. At that stage, I just wanted to get to them.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): More help came, and both seriously injured men were rescued.

THOMAS: As I got out, it was the most amazing thing.: it appeared to be a gauntlet (sic). And there was - they was passing down this gauntlet. And everyone was clapping.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Of people?

THOMAS: Of people. And it was amazing. It was amazing. It was emotional.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Michael Shamberg is the producer of the movie

MICHAEL SHAMBERG, PRODUCER, "WORLD TRADE CENTER": Ever since we started, we kept trying to find him. We had no idea how to find him. And I wish he played himself. If you`ve met him, he`s the greatest guy. He looks like a Marine. He`s, like, you couldn`t have cast him better than he is himself.

TUCHMAN: After a couple of weeks helping out at Ground Zero, Sergeant Thomas went back home to Ohio, grateful when he heard that Police Sergeant John McLaughlin and Officer Will Jimeno were recovering, but content to remain anonymous.

(on camera): How does it feel being back here? You hadn`t been here for five years, right?

THOMAS: I really don`t want to look over. And yes, this is my first time being over here in five years.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): However, with the movie now out, Sergeant Thomas, who works as a court officer at the Ohio Supreme Court, is hoping to soon have a reunion with the two police officers.

But notably, he hasn`t seen the movie. And doesn`t think he will.

THOMAS: Too emotional. Too emotional for me. But I do recommend others to go see the movie.

TUCHMAN: And if you do, you`ll now know that this man is this man.


ANDERSON: What an amazing story. That was CNN`s Gary Tuchman for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. HAMMER: And now back to the startling news that a suspect has made a confession in the mystery surrounding the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. In the years since the killing, JonBenet`s parents, John and the late Patsy Ramsey, had to deal with the suspicion that maybe they had a hand in their daughter`s murder. It was yet another example of trial by TV: the constant glare of the TV cameras almost acting like a court of law.

With me tonight here in New York, Ashleigh Banfield, Court TV news anchor.

And from Washington, D.C., Matthew Felling, media director for the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Thanks for both being with me.

All right, Ashleigh, let`s get into this here, because over the 10 years, particularly when the case was first unfolding 10 years ago, you couldn`t go to a dinner party or be hanging out with people where they weren`t talking about this case, saying, The Ramseys did it. The Ramseys did it.

Was this really a case of all the media attention basically convicting the Ramseys in the eyes of so many people?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, COURT TV NEWS ANCHOR: I`m not sure if it was a case of - of so much attention convicting them, it was the kind of attention I think that they were getting. Because we`ve had Lindbergh baby attention before, too.

And also we had cable-news wars for the first time. I mean, we had MSNBC and we had FOX News Channel that had launched up against CNN for the first time. And they were dealing with a learning curve. We were all making mistakes, I think, in cable news in figuring out how to cover a big, breaking enormous story and trying to beat the next guy, but at the same time be accurate.

And, you know, we all make mistakes. And I think part of that might have led to the frenzy.

HAMMER: And so much - there was so much reason why this was a story that grabbed our attention in so many ways.

And Matthew, this is clearly not the first time that we`ve seen trial by TV, so to speak. One of the most infamous cases like this, Richard Jewell. He was suspected of being the Olympic Park bomber. That also happened in 1996, by the way. He, of course, was later cleared.

How do you keep it from happening? Isn`t it the media just doing their job, as we were just talking about?

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, I don`t think it`s trial TV - by TV. I don`t think it`s a rush to judgment as much as it`s a rush to certainty.

And I think that there are three words that people in TV just forgot to use, which is: "please stay tuned." I`m here in CNN in Washington, D.C., where on Election Night 2000, Florida was way too close to call. And we just need to be able say, "Please stay tuned." But because we want certainty - and like Ashleigh said, We want to be able to come with the scoop - then you - you have to rush the story even before it`s completely ready.

And it`s not just TV, by the way. This was the cover of today`s "New York Daily News": "Solved." This case is far from solved right now.

HAMMER: Yes. Yes.

FELLING: And this - this guy actually sounds like a kook, and he sounds - and there`s a couple things, three or four things, that he is saying already that actually cast doubt on his admission of guilt.

HAMMER: Well, let`s talk about that for a moment here, because the same thing is sort of happening. We saw this coverage today of his rather bizarre confession - the suspect in the case, John Mark Karr over in Thailand. Of course, all the cameras were there and caught it.

And let`s watch how that played out when that happened. Roll this tape.



JOHN MARK KARR, SUSPECT IN JONBENET MURDER: I love JonBenet, and she died accidentally.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you an innocent man?



HAMMER: So you hear that, it`s on television all over the world. And in a lot of people`s minds, convicted, done deal, it`s over.

That`s not the case though.

BANFIELD: And it`s the entirely wrong reaction. Because believe it or not, A.J., you and I might not do it, but a lot of people, for whatever their reasons are, they admit to crimes, notorious crimes, that in the end they didn`t commit. And let`s not forget also that Mr. Karr has spent the last 10 years researching this crime, knows a lot of details and is writing a book.

So let`s just say, down the road, of all a sudden, magically, it`s impossible that he committed this crime, the DNA doesn`t match. He`s not even charged in the case - he`s not charged yet. Shazam, he`s out there in our public lexicon, and he has a chance to sell the book.

HAMMER: Yes. And it is just unfolding.

Matthew, let`s say it turns out that he did make the whole thing, and basically, he is a nut job. As we`ve been saying, it is a developing story, it`s unfolding one piece at a time.

But you can`t ask the TV cameras just to shut down until we know every piece, can we?

FELLING: No, you can`t. And since I have a TV camera in front of me right now, I`d like to confess to shooting JFK and the Lindbergh baby. And I know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

Just the very fact that you say these things doesn`t - I mean, yes, so much of time in America is spent listening to people deny things, that when people admit to things, we naturally believe them. But this guy is going to get his 15 minutes of fame, if that`s all he`s looking. I mean, nobody`s saying this - that this guy is not guilty. We`re just saying that there is some facts, like his ex-wife saying that they were together in Alabama during the time of the death, that lend - that really detract from his case.


FELLING: He will - he will become, like - like she said, our three words in the lexicon, and we will be able to talk about him for awhile. But after the - after awhile, he`s just going to become a sick, twisted punchline.

HAMMER: Well, let`s just hope the story gets reported responsibility - responsibly, and that people process the information responsibly.

Ashleigh Banfield, Matthew Felling, thanks for being with us tonight.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

FELLING: Thank you.

HAMMER: So the media coverage on the JonBenet case for the past 10 years is what we`ve been asking about on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day." And we`d like you to vote: "Trial by TV: Did the media convict JonBenet`s family?" Go to to let us know what you think, or write to us at

ANDERSON: Think you can prove Elvis Presley is still alive - is - is alive rather? Then someone has a few million bucks for you. "That`s Ridiculous!," and that`s next.

HAMMER: A question a lot of people have been wondering about : Did "American Idol" producers actually try to get Fantasia Barrino off the show? Well, coming up, Fantasia`s going to set the record straight on this "Idol" controversy in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

We`ve also got this:


MONTY SARHAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "CRACKED": He had achieved such a stature in Hollywood that he thought he can - he can finally let loose and be himself.


ANDERSON: How did Tom Cruise go from one - being one of the biggest stars to one of the strangest? Coming up, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT investigates why Tom Cruise has gone from a top-line celeb to a punchline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dissolve, music fill. Stand by your break, Master. Roll your break, effect.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s most provocative entertainment news show.

It`s time now for another little story that made us say, "That`s Ridiculous!"

Are you looking at your calendar? Well, if not, I`ll remind you: yesterday marked the 29th anniversary of Elvis Presley`s death. But since then, there`s still people that actually claim the King is still alive and kicking. There`s actually one aspiring filmmaker out there who wants to settle this once and for all.

So, he`s putting his money where his mouth is, offering $3 million to anyone who finds Elvis alive. You can even submit your claim on his Web site, The guy`s actually putting together a movie all about this myth. But we here at SHOWBIZ TONIGHT have "suspicious minds" about this. And "That`s Ridiculous!"

So, a humor magazine called "Cracked" back on newsstands today. It underwent a redesign. The cover is nothing short of hilarious: a doctored of Tom Cruise, the latest in a long line of jabs aimed at him. It seems that everyone everywhere just loves making fun of Tom Cruise.

But we got to say, he - he kind of brought it on himself.


UNIDENTIFIED VOICE ACTOR: Tom Cruise won`t come out of the closet!

HAMMER (voice-over): It was the "South Park" episode that came to symbolize that the joke was now on Tom Cruise and his almost manic and very public devotion to his religion, scientology.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE ACTOR: L. Ron Hubbard did an amazing thing, telling the world this incredible truth.

HAMMER: And now there`s this. Would you believe Tom Cruise as "The 44-Year-Old Virgin"? The crass comic magazine "Cracked" is now back on newsstands, with a cover featuring Tom Cruise`s head on the body of Steve Correll, the real "40-Year-Old Virgin."

SARHAN: Tom Cruise is the-most-talked-about celebrity of the past year and a half, and the biggest joke. He`s just a real weirdo. He kind of freaks people out.

HAMMER: Yes, you could say that, because Tom Cruise`s behavior has been, how shall we say -- a bit off the wall -- over the past year or so.

Let`s go back in time now to that moment when Tom decided to clean his shoes on Oprah`s couch.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV TALK SHOW HOST: Have you ever felt this way before?


HAMMER: An oh-so-giddy Tom went over the top as he expressed his newfound love for his now-fianc'e Katie Holmes.

SARHAN: When you`re on a press junket and you`re jumping on furniture, it`s a bad thing.

HAMMER: Yes, the Oprah-couch moment will live on infamy. It`s a moment that SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you has been parodied over and over again, including in the movie "Scary Movie 4."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The boy has lost it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this woman! I love this woman!

HAMMER: Yep, it was the couch that launched a thousands jokes, like when comedian Dane Cook showed up for "The Jimmie Kimmel Show."

DANE COOK, COMEDIAN: Katie Holmes, baby - I love you baby! I love you!

TRENT VANEGAS, PINKISTHENEWBLOG.COM: Ever since he started jumping on Oprah`s couch, that really changed the way that people looked at him. And now you can`t take anything that he says seriously.

SARHAN: At the end of the day, his fanbase were sitting at home, saying, Do I really like this guy? Do I want - if this guy were my neighbor, would I have him over at my house? And the answer is no.

You know, I used to have a dog that used to jump on the furniture, and I got rid of him.

HAMMER: But the couch was just the beginning. Then came Katie`s pregnancy, and the at-home ultrasound machine.

SARHAN: You know, I don`t have a neighbor who buys an ultrasound machine, personally. I know people who had babies - none of them do their own homescans.

VANEGAS: Every single aspect of what they do is suspect - everything. From their meeting, from their courtship to their pregnancy to their proposed marriage at some point to the baby to - I mean, everything that they do is completely suspect.

HAMMER: Trent is the voice behind the widely blogsite "Pink Is the New Blog." He writes about Tom a lot, and he says things like him and Katie keeping their baby Suri such a secret just adds fuel to the wacky fire.

VANEGAS: Everybody wants to know - everybody, me included - were dying to know what the real story.

SARHAN: I start to wonder - I mean, you see these conspiracy theories on the net - you know, Oh, she was wearing pregnancy suit. There was no baby - there is no baby at all and, you know - you start to believe it. Because we`re - you know, normally, new couples, when they have a baby, do take the baby out sometimes. Doesn`t the baby need to see a doctor? Has that baby seen a doctor?

HAMMER: So what`s going on with Tom? He used to be our idol. He used to be our "Top Gun." But lately, he`s been the top joke - even in the hit movie "Talladega Nights."

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft to make this all all right!

SARHAN: The transformation from movie idol to wife-dumping, starlet-humping, scientology-thumping freak happened for a lot of reasons. And I think part of it is, he - he had achieved such stature in Hollywood that he thought he can - he can finally let loose and be himself. And that`s clearly not the case.

But we don`t want to see the real Tom. No. Keep that under wraps.


HAMMER: Of course. That particularly funny issue of "Cracked" magazine with Tom Cruise as "The 44-Year-Old Virgin" that you`re seeing right here will be on newsstands across the country tomorrow.

ANDERSON: Well, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes seem to be just fine with not being married, at least for now. And that`s the case with a lot of stars.

Last night, we asked you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Question of the Day": "Unmarried in Hollywood: Is it better not to tie the knot?" Seventy-eight percent of you say it`s better not to tie the knot; 22 percent of you disagree.

The e-mails:

Marty from Nebraska says, "Society is just clinging to the institution of marriage as the acceptable way of expressing commitment."

And Tom from Illinois is happy staying single because, "Many men I know are now choosing to remain single because of how poorly they are treated in divorce court."

We appreciate your e-mails.

HAMMER: Well, millions of people watched Fantasia Barrino claim the crown on the third season of "American Idol." But what her fans would be just shocked to know is how tough it really was for her to get there.

In her new lifetime TV movie, "The Fantasia Barrino Story," Fantasia sets the record straight about an "Idol" controversy, being a single mom and rumors of her not being able to read.

Fantasia Barrino, it is a pleasure to welcome you to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

FANTASIA BARRINO, SINGER: Thank you for having me.

HAMMER: You play yourself in this movie.


HAMMER: What becomes very clear to anybody watching it who may not know your story is you didn`t have it easy. You - you became a mom at a very young age. You had trouble in school. You were raped by a classmate.

What was it like for you reliving this while you were making this movie?

BARRINO: It was tough. You know, it was tough. I went through a lot of different emotions, because it`s not easy going back and playing those parts over. You don`t want to go back and relive that. You can`t just act that out.

So when they came to me about the movie, I said, Well, who`s going to play me? They said, Well, you`re going to play yourself. And, you know, I sat down with Miss Debbie Allen, who`s - she`s an - she`s an awesome in a lot of ways (ph). And, you know, it made a lot easier for me on the set by having a lot of people, you know, on the set who were very supportive down to Debbie, Loretta (ph), Kadeem (ph), Viola (ph), and everybody that was on the set, everybody in New Orleans - everybody was so loving and supportive. It made it a little easier.

HAMMER: They knew they were taking a tough situation, but they were helping you out along the way.

One of the things that you deal with in the film deals with one of the controversies that`s just been swirling around. There were all these rumors flying around saying that "American Idol" producers were basically pressuring you to perhaps drop out of the competition because you were not a good role model, and because of e-mails and - and letters that they were getting.

In the film, it`s portrayed that they came to you and said, This is what`s going on. If you would like, you can drop out.

Would you set the record straight on - on what actually was the case?

BARRINO: Yes, because it - I think it got tooken (ph) and blown out of proportion.


BARRINO: In the movie, I say that they do come to me and they allow me to know what`s being said. And, you know, the people at the time made me feel like, OK, well she can`t be an Idol. She should just quit.

I - I could have quit. I could have said, Well, forget it. They`re not going to give me the opportunity if they`re saying this and they`re saying that. I might as well pick up and go home.

HAMMER: Right.

BARRINO: So in the movie, it`s - it`s kind of exaggerated where it`s, like, Well, what do you want to do? And it - it shows the people that are watching, Well, I`m not going to give up, regardless of what they say that, you know, I have - yes, I had a child at a young age and I did make some mistakes in my past that, you know, some people might says, How could she be an Idol? How could she be this, how could she be that?

So it`s - it`s basically showing the viewers that are watching, I didn`t give up because of what they say. I kept it moving. So I think that they took it and they kind of blown it out.

HAMMER: And nobody was saying, You know what? This isn`t really good, get out.


HAMMER: All right.

BARRINO: They - they allowed - they came to me and allowed me - you know, they told me what was going on, what was being said. But the producers took me a liking to me from the beginning.


BARRINO: They believed in me. So it wasn`t like I was saying they were telling me to quit. I think they just blew it out of proportion.

HAMMER: And on the notion - and we heard a lot about this when the story came out - of you being functionally illiterate, which is hard to imagine because you had to learn all those songs for "American Idol."


HAMMER: And you became the champ.

BARRINO: I think, you know, when you - when I - when you give a piece of your life story, and you give just a little piece of something, people will take it and they exaggerate and they make it what they want it to be.

You know, when I say I dropped out of school, I dropped out in the ninth grade. And there were some things that I were weak on. There was some things that I forgot. You know, and I wasn`t the - a stronger reader, let me say that. And because I knew I wasn`t a strong reader, I always ran from it. I always talk about, I have an older cousin who - she`s amazing at reading, but when we were young, we would be outside playing, and she would be somewhere reading. We would be like, What are you doing?

HAMMER: Right. Right.

BARRINO: You know? Why are you reading? Let`s play.

But that goes to show that I want the young people to know that if you`re in there, Take it seriously, and go after it. You know, if you have problems in school, if you`re - there`s things you`re lacking, go to your teacher.

HAMMER: And get the help you need.

BARRINO: ..and get the help you need.

HAMMER: Yes. It`s an inspirational story, and - and congratulations on the success. And we look forward to great things from you.

Fantasia Barrino, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

You can catch "The Fantasia Barrino Story: Lie Is Not a Fairy Tale" on Lifetime. It`s August 19.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT coming right back.


HAMMER: Here`s what`s coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, as we get into the weekend.

Tomorrow, celebrities doing stupid things. And it`s all caught on tape. From Britney Spears talking about time travel to O.J. Simpson getting a lap dance, to the most stunning car chases ever. It`s a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: "Caught on Tape." Tomorrow.

And that`s it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks for watching. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

ANDERSON: And I`m Brooke Anderson in Hol - in Hollywood. Have a great night, everybody.

Glenn Beck is coming up next, right after the latest headlines from CNN headline News.


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