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Stars, Professional Sports World Mourn Tragedy in Newtown; Charlie Sheen Gives Cancer patient $75K

Aired December 17, 2012 - 23:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, HOST: Tonight on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Hollywood reacts to the tragedy in Newtown. From emotional messages on social media to tearful tributes in pro sports, stars mourn with the nation and offer help in the healing.

Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer.

And I have to tell you, it is hard to remember the last time that there has been such a remarkable outpouring of grief, support, and downright outrage, from the biggest celebrities in the world to a tragedy like the one we witnessed in Newtown, Connecticut -- the slaughter of 26 people, 20 of them children, by a deranged gunman.

And as I was reading through the hundreds of celebrity tweets today, the one expression that came up over and over and over again was this. "There are no words." And as Demi Lovato asks, "What is wrong with this world?" Sadly, there was no answer to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first of the funerals begins today at 1:00 p.m. These two beautiful children Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner.

HAMMER (voice-over): Today residents of Newtown, Connecticut, began the heart-breaking task of burying the children killed in Friday`s shooting as Americans everywhere still try to cope with an immense grief and sense of helplessness. Today you could see those feelings reflected all over TV and Hollywood, as well.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST, ABC`S "THE VIEW": It`s hard, because as a parent you need to be strong for your kids.

HAMMER: This morning hosts of "The View" emotionally struggled with the question millions of other moms are asking today. How much to tell their young children about the unspeakable massacre that unfolded at that Connecticut elementary school?

HASSELBECK: We had a soulful discussion about what happened.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC`S "THE VIEW": What did you tell her?

HASSELBECK: She was very sad.

HAMMER: The tragedy has countless celebrities sharing their sadness through Twitter. Oprah Winfrey tweeted, "Dear Lord, help us to understand as we stand with these families. Heal our broken hearts." Rihanna tweeted, "God have mercy. No one deserves this." And "Modern Family`s" Sarah Highland tweeted, "Still feel like I`m either going to scream or cry at the drop of a hat."

But Friday`s violent deaths of 20 children and six adults have people not only grieving but re-examining their own views and beliefs.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I am a conservative Republican who received NRA`s highest ratings over four terms in Congress.

HAMMER: MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough opened his show, "Morning Joe," with a dramatic, ten-minute statement, where he revealed that the Newtown shooting has changed his own feelings on gun control and violence in Hollywood.

SCARBOROUGH: Entertainment moguls don`t have an absolute right to glorify murder. And our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell a military-style, high-caliber, semiautomatic, combat assault rifle.

I mean it`s just a horrible tragedy.

HAMMER: In an interview with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Quentin Tarantino, director of super-violent movies like the upcoming "Django Unchained," rejected claims that Hollywood is promoting a culture of violence.

QUENTIN TARANTINO, FILMMAKER: I actually think that is a very facile argument to pin on something that`s so real life tragedy.

HAMMER: Still, the star of Tarantino`s movie, Jamie Foxx, says changes are needed.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: It tears you up, because it`s really getting dangerous. We have to do something.

HAMMER: Tragedy has forced Hollywood to make some short-term changes. Fox pulled Sunday`s new episodes of "Family Guy" and "The Cleveland show" because of concerns about the material.

This past weekend the scheduled premiere of Tom Cruise`s new movie, "Jack Reacher," was postponed.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You saved (ph) five people.

HAMMER: That movie includes a sniper attack that leaves five people dead.

But throughout all the debates and soul searching we`re seeing on TV and in Hollywood, it`s still the personal stories that remain the most powerful. Those left bereaved by the tragedy are now emerging to speak of the loved ones they lost.

GEORGE HOCHSPRUNG, HUSBAND OF DAWN HOCHSPRUNG: She put herself in jeopardy and I have been angry about that.

HAMMER: CNN spoke with the husband of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. He talked about reports that his wife died confronting the gunman.

G. HOCHSPRUNG: I met the two women that she told to go under shelter while she actually confronted the gunman, and she could not, she could have avoided that. She didn`t. I knew she wouldn`t. So I am not angry anymore. I`m not angry. I`m not angry anymore. I`m not angry. I`m just very sad.

HAMMER: And the parents of 6-year-old victim Jessica Rekos shared their heartbreak with "Good Morning America."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s still not real that my little girl, who was so full of life and who wants a horse so badly and is going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas isn`t coming home.

HAMMER: Unimaginable grief shared by a devastated town and a horrified nation.


HAMMER: So much emotional reaction from Hollywood tonight. It is still obviously such a very, very raw scene where this tragedy took place in Newtown, Connecticut.

With me now from Newtown, Jane Velez-Mitchell, who`s the host of "JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL" on HLN, Ryan Smith, who`s the host of "EVENING EXPRESS" on HLN. And Jane, I want to start with you on yet another unfathomable day as the first set of funerals took place today for the victims of this terrible shooting. What`s it been like there today?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN ANCHOR: Well, I have to tell you, A.J., it`s heart-wrenching. It`s surreal. This is a beautiful town that dates back 300 years, very proud of its colonial heritage. And now they say they don`t want this to define them. They want to be defined by the courage that the educators and the children showed in the wake of this horror and during this horror.

There is a makeshift memorial in the center of town that is extraordinary. And I talked to some people there, and all of them said, "Enough. We`ve had it with this gun violence. This has to stop. Something has to be done now. Enough with platitudes and general discussions. We want specific action to get these assault-type rifles out of the hands of young men."

HAMMER: If this doesn`t change something and really heighten what we do about this, I don`t think anything can.

Ryan, I know you`ve been looking at the scene and experiencing it from different perspectives and a different angle. Give us your sense of what it`s been like there today.

RYAN SMITH, HLN ANCHOR: You know, I think right after the tragedy, A.J., I think there was a sense of shock and now I think a lot of people are in the sense of grief. Why did this have to happen?

I talked to parents who brought their kids to the memorial that`s right behind us, actually and they were heartbroken. They were saying why would this happen in a community like this or anywhere in the world? And I think one thing people kept reflecting on was the idea of protecting our children. If we can`t protect our children, what`s safe anymore?

I talked to one parent who said that she brought her child here and he couldn`t really -- he`s about 4 years old -- couldn`t really understand what was going on, but she wanted him to get a sense of the moment just so he could understand this tragedy.

And the biggest thing is, parents are wondering how are they going to talk to their kids about this kind of incident especially if they`re young and especially if they start asking questions about why.

HAMMER: And I`ll tell you something, A.J. I talked to a mom who was afraid to send her kids from school. She`s from a neighboring community but she`s like "I`m too scared to send my children to school."

And also some people have reacted around the country -- I`m not talking about this community -- with going out and buying guns, which can exacerbate the problem. It becomes a vicious cycle. Every time there`s one of these mass shootings, people get panicked and they go out and buy guns. So there`s an even greater proliferation of guns.

HAMMER: It is amazing.

Ryan, I have to tell you that the tour that you did of the memorial was so moving. I want to play that for our viewers right now if we can roll that.


SMITH: Most of all, this community is trying to remember what happened here, and they`re trying to remember those who lost their lives. Not in a negative way but in a positive way. So statements like hope, faith, and peace hopefully giving encouragement to everyone here.

You know, there are so many different sayings, words of love, statements coming all the way from Germany. A woman set up that earlier today. There was one sign that really stuck out to me. It was small in the corner, but it showed, really, what people are thinking. "The heavens have gained 26 beautiful angels, and the sky has gained 26 shining stars."


HAMMER: Obviously, this is going to be a very long healing process But Ryan, it is just amazing. And it`s heartening, quite frankly, to see so many people standing so united in the face of this tragedy.

SMITH: Absolutely. And I was so inspired, A.J., by what I saw there.

We`re talking about people who are streaming in all day long leaving candles, stuffed animals, anything they can. Planting Christmas trees and putting their names of all the victims on there.

What stood out to me on all this was they know the families of the victims need support. Their hearts are heavy about what`s happened here. But they want this memorial to show how much they care. A.J., we`re talking about from all over the world.

I saw a woman today put down some material, and she was coming in from Germany to say Germany cares about what`s going on here. So the memorial itself is so inspiring, and they`re hoping that it effects a positive change. It just shows that people really support the families.

HAMMER: Coming through loud and clear. Ryan Smith, Jane Velez-Mitchell on the scene in Newtown tonight. Thank you again so much.

Well, obviously, a tough couple of days for everyone, but our kids really struggling to cope and understand what happened in Connecticut. Tonight, two of the very best experts on TV will be here to help you and your children. I have the host of Nickelodeon`s Nick News, Linda Ellerbee, and the former host of "Reading Rainbow," LeVar Burton, both joining us for a very special "SHOWBIZ Newsmaker" interview.


And now, President Obama`s heartfelt remarks on the incomprehensible tragedy in Connecticut.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people.



HAMMER: The heartbreak and horror that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary even humbled one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz found out that one of the victims, 6-year-old Jack Pinto, was a fan. Cruz honored the boy by wearing his name on his cleats and his gloves during his game on Sunday. Cruz also spoke with little Jack`s parents, and they told him they were considering burying the boy in Cruz`s No. 80 jersey.

Now Victor made a moving personal tribute, but this weekend the entire sports world, from coast to coast, shared in our national mourning. Here`s CNN`s Mark McKay for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, on Friday the nation experienced a horrific tragedy when a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, resulted in the deaths of innocent people, including 20 children. At this time please stand and join in a moment of silent reflection for the victims, their families, and loved ones.

MARK MCKAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a pregame ceremony held at each and every stadium as the NFL paid tribute to the victims of last week`s tragedy.

For the New England Patriots, it hit all too close to town. Newtown is a little more than a hundred miles from Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots lit a flare that resembled a shooting star for each of the victims and wore the Newtown city logo on their helmets during Sunday`s game with the San Francisco 49ers.

The New York Giants took to the field in Atlanta with the initials of Sandy Hook Elementary School inscribed on their helmets. Like the Patriots, this team is also in close proximity to the tiny Connecticut community that`s been torn apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being close to home, the players were greatly upset about it. Many of the players have young children, so they could empathize with the parents of young children that were killed.

MCKAY: Some players have already reached out to the victims` families. The Giants` Victor Cruz wrote the name of shooting victim Jack Pinto on his cleats. The youngster was a huge fan. He was only 6.

VICTOR CRUZ, PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: They seem like a strong family. I spoke to -- I also spoke to the older brother. And he was destroyed, as well. So I told them to stay strong, and I`m going to do whatever I can to honor him.

MCKAY: Social media has been an outlook for athletes to express their feelings. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees took to Twitter to say, "My heart breaks for the families of those killed in Newtown, Connecticut. It is so senseless. I am angry, disgusted, but most of all, extremely sad."

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis` post on Facebook reads, in part, "We must come together. Let`s not let this be just another tragedy. The only way to do it is together. If it takes a village to raise one child, then it is going to take everything we have to save our children."

Miami Heat players were so moved by the shooting that they paused for a poignant moment before taking to the basketball court this past weekend. The men who won the NBA championship last season were seen clutching their own children during the pregame silence.

LEBRON JAMES, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: It`s devastating. It`s very heart felt. Like I said, I didn`t hide my feelings, I would not hide my feelings on something like that. Just having two kids of my own, you know, in elementary, I couldn`t imagine sending them off to school and them not returning.

MCKAY: For millions of fans, sport is an outlet from daily routine. In times like these, it can also be a unifying force as a nation remembers those who so tragically lost their lives.


HAMMER: Our thanks to CNN`s Mark McKay.

Well, there has also obviously been a powerful outpouring from Hollywood. So many stars have taken to social media and have been speaking out, expressing their grief and their pain. Well, tonight SHOWBIZ TONIGHT goes one-on-one with Jamie Foxx. It`s an emotional new interview about the Newtown tragedy.


FOXX: I mean, I have kids. Both my kids are in school. And it tears you up, because it`s really getting dangerous. We have to do something.


HAMMER: You`ve got to hear what the "Django Unchained" star just told us about his hopes for healing in the wake of the Connecticut massacre.


And now the mother of slain teacher Victoria Soto, who died while protecting her class, talks about Victoria`s incredible love for her students.


DONNA SOTO, MOTHER OF VICTORIA SOTO: She was truly selfless. She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children. She loved them more than life, and she would definitely put herself in front of them any day, any day for any reason. So it doesn`t surprise anybody that knows Vicky that she did this.




JASMINE FAULK, CANCER PATIENT: To donate the, like, money and from their heart personally. I think that`s just...


J. FAULK: Yes. It as blessing.


HAMMER: That`s 10-year-old Jasmine Faulk, and the blessing she`s talking about is a $75,000 check that she just got from Charlie Sheen to help treat the rare form of cancer that she`s suffering from.

Tonight Charlie`s big heart. And this is really an incredible story about a little girl who just got a big boost from the notorious bad boy. And I think we can all agree, after days of such unrelenting tragedy, Charlie`s generous gift is something we can all feel good about.

With me from Hollywood is Hyla. Hyla hosts "The Daily Buzz" on, and the Web site just got an exclusive interview with Jasmine and her dad, Everett. He`s a police officer in Hermosa Beach, California.

So Hyla, the story about how Charlie decided to help Jasmine is remarkable. It really touched me. I want you to tell us exactly what "Celeb Buzz" found out about Charlie`s very kind gesture.

HYLA, HOST, "THE DAILY BUZZ" ON CELEBBUZZ.COM: You know, we definitely spent a lot of time about -- talking about some of the bad things Charlie has done, but this one, all that stuff almost doesn`t matter. I mean, here`s a guy who literally ripped out a check from his personal checkbook to write a $75,000 check for this poor little girl, who has a rare form of cancer. She`s going to have to have 48 different chemo sessions between now and the coming year.

Basically the way this came together. You mentioned her father Everett. He is a police officer in Hermosa Beach, and those guys there put together a fund for Jasmine. There`s a stunt man, Eddie Braun, who is friends with some of the police officers and with Charlie and brought it up to Charlie and said, "Hey, listen, there`s this little girl."

And without hesitation Charlie said, "You know what? It`s Christmas time. Where do I write this check?"


HYLA: "Who do I make it out to?" And literally on the spot handed over a check for $75,000. Just amazing.

HAMMER: That is just so cool. Jasmine`s dad says he`s obviously extremely grateful for Charlie and the stunt man, Eddie`s gifts, and he has a message for the TV star that I want to play right now.


EVERETT FAULK, FATHER: A hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. It will -- it will help in her treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Eddie and Charlie were here today what would you tell them?

E. FAULK: Give them a hug and say, "Thank you, brother. That`s awesome. You know, that`s amazing." Like Jasmine was saying, you know, a lot of people, sometimes you get a bad rap. Everybody feels that they can sort of lay judgment down on others. You can`t judge people.


HAMMER: How does it not make you smile? Yes, Charlie has obviously gotten quite a rap over the years, but I think it is just as important to point out the good things people do, as the tough things they go through, as well.

Hyla, thanks for sharing that with us. I appreciate it.

HYLA: Thanks, A.J.

HAMMER: As we move on right now, as the first young victims of the Newtown massacre were laid to rest today, parents everywhere obviously struggling to help their little ones cope with everything that is going on.

Well, tonight we have two of the very best experts on TV to try and help you and your children cope. The host of Nickelodeon`s Nick News, Linda Ellerbee, and the former host of "Reading Rainbow," the great LeVar Burton, also joining me tonight. We have a very special "SHOWBIZ Newsmaker" set of interviews coming up.


And now the daughter of Sandy Hook`s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed trying to save her students, has a final message for her mom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final thing I want to ask you is what would you say to your mom right now?





FOXX: I mean, I have kids. Both my kids are in school. And it tears you up, because it`s really getting dangerous. We have to do something.


HAMMER: Right now on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Hollywood`s emotional outpouring for the victims of the tragedy in Newtown. It`s our special "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Newsmaker" interview with Jamie Foxx on finding hope after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Plus, two more incredible "Newsmaker" interviews that will help you make sense of the massacre. The executive producer and host of "Nick News", Linda Ellerbee shares her advice on making your kids feel safe again at school.

And "Reading Rainbow" icon LeVar Burton is with us and he has a plan to prevent a tragedy from Newtown from ever happening again.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT continues right now.


Hello. I`m A.J. Hammer. Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT and our continuing coverage of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

Tonight, Hollywood`s biggest stars are getting into the debate about what to do next after the murder of all of those children and their teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. And the great debate today was all about violence in real life and what we see every day on TV, in video games, and in the movies.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT just spoke with Jamie Foxx and his co-star, Kerry Washington. They`re starring in one of the more violent movies opening this month, Quentin Tarantino`s "Django Unchained", which also stars Leonardo DiCaprio. And Foxx tells us he has been personally moved by what happened.


FOXX: I mean, I have kids. Both my kids are in school. And it tears you up because it is really getting dangerous, and we have to do something. I think now I feel that everyone is really pulling together and we have to make serious change. And like I have said it before, we have to start a dialogue with the people that are sort of going through this. You know, I don`t know how we start that. I don`t know how we even target it. I just know that there has to be some type of compassion and some type of reaching out to the people that are picking up these guns and going and killing people.


HAMMER: Obviously, this resonates with everybody, Jamie Foxx saying he has kids in school. I think he has some really good and quite frankly, really tough questions.

With me tonight LeVar Burton, who we all know and love for the more than 20 years that he hosted the PBS children series, "Reading Rainbow", and of course for his long-time role as Geordi on "Star Trek Next Generation." LeVar joining me from Hollywood tonight.

Thank you so much for being here, LeVar.


HAMMER: So many people, LeVar, feeling like Jamie, feeling hopeless today. But they want to see change so desperately. To Jamie`s point, everyone wants to get the wheels turning already, to stop the senseless violence, but it seems like as much as everyone talks about it, LeVar, nothing ever really seems to get done about it. How do we change that?

BURTON: Well, I think that one of the things I personally feel that I am experiencing is a real change in people`s attitudes. You know, we didn`t get the Brady Bill until John Hinckley took a couple shots at President Reagan. And it was that incident that really sparked the emphatics of will to get that law passed. So I think we are at a real moment of opportunity here and it seems like there is a lot of support for.

As what Jamie says, whatever our response is, it has to be from the place of compassion. And I think that as the president and Senator Feinstein and others are about to introduce and really seriously consider legislation and then the other side of the equation, you know, it`s really time for us to talk about not mental illness but mental wellness in America, and how many of us know someone or have, you know, issues ourselves.

We are all in this country stressed to the max. And I don`t think anyone would disagree that mental wellness is an issue we need to address. And this culture that we`ve created in America where we work so hard and then a lot of our play is associated with, you know, with violence as represented in professional athletics and the like. We really have to take a look at our culture and make some decisions as to whether or not we want to make adjustments as to how we get on.

HAMMER: And I think that may actually happen because it does seem like more than ever we are talking about that. We`re having that conversation more than I recall hearing in the past.

But something that I heard a lot today I`m sure you did as well -- quite frankly every time we hear it every time there is a violent tragedy -- that people suggest violent movies like "Django Unchained" just desensitize us to senseless violence.

So SHOWBIZ TONIGHT just spoke with Quinton Tarantino who directed "Django Unchained" and we asked him if he understands why people are pointing fingers at the movies like the ones he makes. Watch what he told us.


TARANTINO: Yes. I mean, it is just a horrible tragedy. You know, what are you going to say? I mean, it`s just it`s horrible. But at the same time, no, I don`t think it has anything to do with it. This is going back all the way down to Shakespeare`s days, all right? When there was violence in the street. You know, the cry becomes, "Blame the playmakers." And you know, I actually think that is a very facile argument to pin on something that is so real life tragic.


HAMMER: And so Tarantino being very clear with his thoughts that he doesn`t feel the movies bring on this kind of violence. What do you think, LeVar? Do you think it is basically ridiculous to blame fictional violence, the video games, to blame what we see on television or does it have any place in the conversation?

BURTON: I think it has a place, A.J. And I`m a huge fan of Quinton Tarantino`s and with all due respect, you know, in Shakespeare`s day the depiction of the violent acts of the day were done with stagecraft and the violence and the violent content in movies that is fueled by amazing visual effects. If you can dream it you can do it today.

Look, I`m a director. Served on the board of the Directors Guild of America. And I certainly understand the creative rights issues that Quentin is trying to address in his remarks. However, as a producer myself, I take complete responsibility for that which I produce. In a free market economy, there is room for everything, but I do believe that there is a link between that which we consume as content, as entertainment, and how it shapes our belief systems about the world.

So is it a facile argument? I don`t think -- it`s not fair to say it`s all video games and it`s violence and movies, but it is a part of the culture we have created in this country that we really, again, I think this is an opportunity for us to really take a look at.

I`m not condemning anybody for anything that they`ve ever made of a violent nature. I`ve been in violent movies myself. There are very violent images in "Roots." How violence has become such an inherent part of our lives and how we deal with it going forward, that`s the conversation that I think this country is trying to have.

HAMMER: And among the other conversations happening, LeVar, of course, as we well know, is what are we saying to our kids? And I read with great interest and I believe you know I shared it with people who are reading my Twitter feed, the words that you shared online, some ideas, some thoughts, some suggestions. And you`ve been speaking to kids and working with kids for decades, so try to put into some simple terms how you suggest that people possibly parents, friends, explain to children why people act this way, the way this crazed gunman act -- acted.

BURTON: Well, it`s like trying to explain the inexplicable. However, there are some things that we as parents, we as caregivers, can do, especially today given that our kids now are coming home from school for the most part for the first day after this tragedy and, you know, who knows what they`ve heard on the playground? So just really sort of dialing your kids in and in the sense of what did you discuss in school today?

We have to have the courage to really have this conversation with our kids, one. I think it is really important again to reinforce the message that they are safe and life is getting back to normal, and I think that as hard as it was for all of us today to send our kids to school, it was the right thing to do. I`ve heard numerous times today that today was probably the safest day ever to send your kid to school.

And so having that conversation about the day, what was discussed in class. I can`t imagine a school campus today where this was not discussed.

HAMMER: Well, LeVar, thank you so much. I`m sorry it`s under these circumstances. Always good to see you.

BURTON: Always good, A.J. Thanks, man.

HAMMER: And this is a conversation I want to continue next with the host and executive producer of "Nick News", Linda Ellerbee. She is here with what you need to know about talking to your kids.

Also an uplifting moment to show you amid the tragedy.


HAMMER: This is great. The up and coming singer that got the surprise of his life from his personal hero and a true music icon.




HASSELBECK: I told her, look, Erin, this was a man with a sick mind and sick heart and he did an evil thing, very evil thing. It`s over. He`s gone. You`re safe.


HAMMER: Elisabeth Hasselbeck described today on "The View" how she tried to explain to her 7-year-old daughter the senseless tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. No doubt there are so many parents tonight still having those very same conversations with their own children.

Well, someone who has spent more than 20 years listening to kids and talking to experts about tragedies like this one that took place in Connecticut is Linda Ellerbee, the award winning long-time host and executive producer of "Nick News" on Nickelodeon. Linda is joining me by phone tonight.

I am so thankful you could be with us, Linda.

LINDA ELLERBEE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "NICK NEWS" (via telephone): Well, I can`t say I am happy to be with you because there is nothing to be happy about in these circumstances.

HAMMER: No question about that. I know, though, you have a great deal of experience and knowledge in this area and hopefully our conversation can help some people out. And I know that Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who we just listened to, is not standing alone. Obviously, so disturbing to think that kids all over the country were actually afraid to go to school today. What can and should be said to them?

ELLERBEE: Well, first of all, there is no one size fits all here. What you say to a 6-year-old is not what you say to a 10-year-old. And parents I think do realize that. They understand that. For that 5 or that 6-year- old, I think that you can say to them, "You`re fine. You`re safe. You`re going to be safe. You`re going to be OK."

To that 10-year-old, that 11-year-old, or that 12-year-old, I don`t think you can be that simplistic. You need not to lie to kids. They`re hearing about all of this. It`s really the rare child that has not heard about this. So our theory is always tell them, yes, tell them what happened. Tell them the truth. But always, at the same time, point out that wherever you find bad things happening, you will also notice that you immediately find good people trying to make it better and that there are more good people than bad people.

And that, you know, one of the things Elisabeth said that is so true, is it`s really important to say to kids no matter how much you`ve seen on TV about this or online or read about this, it happened Friday. Those shootings are over. That gunman is dead. It is not still continuing to go on because the aggregate of what they watch sinks in and you have to keep making it plain.

And the other thing we need to be telling our kids, and I know in the face of this tragedy it sounds almost like a joke but it`s not -- it is statistically true, still, that the safest place for a child is in school.

HAMMER: Such an important part of that conversation. No question about that.

ELLERBEE: There is a huge part of it. Most kids who are killed either in homicides or in accidents, it takes place in the home or someplace other than school. School is still the safest place to be. And you can`t tell a 10-year-old, no, this is never going to happen again. But you can say grown-ups across this country are trying as best they can to keep you safe and to make sure these things don`t happen again.

BURTON: Great, great part of that conversation. So, so important.

Linda, I so appreciate it and I know you`ve talked a great deal about this over the many years and unfortunately through many of the tragedies. And I so appreciate you being here to share that with us tonight.

Linda Ellerbee, thank you so much.

Also tonight there is a moment of joy I want to share with you far from the tragedy in Newtown. Find out why the legendary singer Stevie Wonder actually surprised this teen in a recording studio.


HAMMER: I think we all could use a smile right about now. Wait till you see how this amazing moment plays out. I`m going to show it to you coming up next.



HAMMER: Our country has been in mourning since the unbelievable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. But amid the sorrow and the first funerals today, we wanted to share with you a story to uplift your spirit and remind you there is still a lot of good in this world.

Here now is CNN`s Jeanne Moos with a story of a kid with an amazing voice who was left speechless when he met his idol, the great Stevie Wonder.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He`s a 14-year-old up and coming singer.

And when Ahsan Watt`s record management told him to come to L.A. and record a Stevie Wonder song, he didn`t wonder; he just did it and walked with his eyes closed right into the mother of all pranks -- if having your idol suddenly materialize as you`re singing his song being called a prank.

STEVIE WONDER, SINGER: Ahsan, how you doing?

AHSAN WATTS, SINGER: Pinch me. Pinch me.


WATTS: Can I have a hug?

WONDER: What`s up, man?

MOOS: But even after the hug, it can`t hurt to double check.

WATTS: This is Stevie Wonder?

WONDER: Sometimes.

MOOS: I was waiting for you to ask to see his license.

It turns out an Interscope Records exec had begged Stevie Wonder`s manager to listen to get the icon to listen Ahsan`s videos. After listening, Stevie agreed to show up and surprise the kid.

WATTS: That was just mind blowing.

MOOS: And then Stevie played while Ahsan sang. Imagine your idol`s voice joining yours. But it turns out this wasn`t the first time that Stevie Wonder`s done this.

Oprah calls it one of her favorite moments. "Star Search" champion Jake Simpson was belting out Stevie`s song blissfully unaware that Oprah`s staff had arranged for a surprise guest. Eventually they turned it into a duet.

The prank on Ahsan was an attempt by his record company to create a viral video, but his mom cried and so did Ahsan.

WATTS: That one tear.

MOOS: To them the surprise was nothing less than Stevie Wonderful.

WATTS: That was awesome! I love you.


HAMMER: Yes, awesome indeed.

That`s CNN`s Jeanne Moos with a wonderful reminder of the power of surprise and joy.

And tonight, the incredible choice by "Saturday Night Live" to ditch the comedy and pay tribute to the tragedy in Newtown.


HAMMER: This could be the most powerful moment in the history of "SNL." We are sharing it with you next.




HAMMER: That is the New York City Children`s Choir during the very first moments of "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend. Such a touching tribute to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. And I think it struck just the right tone as those kids sang "Silent Night" for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The only other time that "Saturday Night Live" ever ditched the comedy at the top of the show was after 9/11. And just like that horrible event, the Sandy Hook school shooting couldn`t be ignored.

So as we leave you tonight, I want to show you the moment that I think best captures the emotion we all feel for the victims in the massacre in Newtown. Let`s watch the New York City Children`s Choir and their truly powerful performance on "Saturday Night Live."