Return to Transcripts main page


The Ethics of Making Children With Three Parents; "National Enquirer" Sued for False Story, Apologizes, Funds Foundation; : Swiss Bank and American Dollars; Violinist Survives Illness

Aired February 26, 2014 - 12:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Scientists say they have figured out a way to create a baby with the DNA of three parents.

This may sound like something out of science fiction, but right now the food and drug administration's advisory panel is debating whether to recommend to the full FDA to begin human testing using this procedure.

It is nicknamed "three-parent in vitro fertilization," and doctors say it has the potential to eliminate things like blindness and epilepsy, things that can be passed down, perhaps, from the mother.

Sanjay Gupta joins me live to explain how this worse works. They may call it three-parent in vitro fertilization, but it sounds like "Frankenbaby" to the non-doctors among us.

My first inclination is to say, what could possibly go wrong, because it sounds so wrong. Is it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so. Researchers are obviously putting a lot of faith in these techniques.

Let me give background, which might make a little more sense. You think about babies, you think about the man DNA, the woman DNA, they come together and make the baby.

A lot of people don't realize, there is a lot of other DNA that also comes from the mom, known as the mitochondrial DNA, and that's what we're focused on here.

Women who have a disease of those mitochondria may have a hard time having a baby or transmit a problem on to the baby that could be quite problematic for the baby.

So what they do in this particular situation is they say, with that DNA in particular, they scoop out the mom's DNA and put in another woman's DNA into that, so now you have man DNA, woman DNA and another woman mitochondrial DNA.

It's a brave new world. It's been done in animal studies. They have done five monkeys, for example, where they had good results of actually being able to show that the technique worked.

How well that will translate to humans, that's what this whole discussion is about.

BANFIELD: And isn't it all sort of about not so much the now, but the later?

Things may be very successful right now and the Petri dish might look perfect, but 10 years down the road, we don't know.

GUPTA: You're doing something that is going to change every cell in the baby's body, and it's going to be something that it be inherited down for generations to come, so your point is a very good one.

A lot of people are saying this is kind of like Legos, taking various Lego pieces and putting them together and seeing what comes out.

This is a very specific type of DNA that's actually being replaced, the DNA that's defective in these particular moms, so in some ways, you could think about this as treating a disease, sort of before that disease has a chance to form. That's how the researchers are certainly pitching it.

As far as the impact on humans, we just don't know yet. One of the researchers says, look, human cells, they may just not take to this technique very well. We haven't tried this yet.

But in animal studies, it has shown a lot of promise and that's why they want to take this next step.

BANFIELD: It's fascinating and frightening all at the same time. Honestly, when I say "Frankenbaby," it may sound funny --

GUPTA: Remember we talk about organ transplantation and people had the same reaction.

I'm not advocating one way or the other, but the type of science and people talking about genetic manipulation has been going on for some time.

This may be one of the first things the FDA looks at seriously as a possible avenue here.

BANFIELD: We talked about the same thing with cloning, et cetera, as well. Every time I talk about mitochondrial DNA, it's a crime scene.

Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: You've got it, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Mark O'Mara joins me now, live, to talk a little bit more about the legal implications of this, of which there have to be a myriad.

Mark, all I can think of is who gets custody? I know that sounds crazy, but maybe not so crazy. There's got to be a lot to this, medically, legally, ethically.

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's so many concerns that have to be addressed.

This is really the beginning of true genetic engineering. Because, though it's great that we start with fixing a disease, when do we stop saying I want a 6'2-1/2", blue-eyed, blonde hair athlete? And this is now a little bit along that way.

But looking at the true legal parts of it, now, we have to decide whether or not that mom, that mitochondrial mom, has any rights to the child, because certainly in a perfect world, that'll never happen.

But when she wants to have an interest, when she says that baby is part mine, we now have to have a whole new area of law to address, literally, a third-party benefactor into a baby.

BANFIELD: So that's just the custodial part. What about the issues of something going terribly wrong that we didn't heretofore have any idea could possibly happen?

At this point, who is liable? Who's going to have to deal with the medical costs that might be incurred, 10, 15 years down the -- or God forbid, generations down the road?

And I mean, you can't sign waivers to this kind of stuff.

O'MARA: No. What happens when the birth mom doesn't like the fact that the mitochondrial infusion didn't work out the way she wanted and wanted to blame the mitochondrial mom?

Maybe mitochondrial mom didn't say I used to party when I was a teenager. There are so many -- a quagmire that we're sort of causing by looking into this and the different responsibilities.

That's the problem. When God said -- you know, most religious agree that God made man in his or her own image. I don't know that God planned on us making it better. And we have to be real careful what doors we open up going down that path.

BANFIELD: I cannot wait to see how this ends up transpiring.

Thank you. Mark, stick around. I've got other questions for you as we move down the road.

Here, look at this, folks. I don't know if you get a subscription to "The New York times," but if you do, take a look at this, "The National Enquirer" with a full page in "The New York Times," apologizing to the friend of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman because of what it printed about the man who found his body.

You're going to find out what this is all about, and the very interesting twist, next.


BANFIELD: A close friend of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman says the media got it all wrong.

Was Hoffman self destructive? Wrong. A junky in a death spiral? Wrong. Even what was going on in his personal life. Wrong.

David Bar Katz was the actor's longtime friend. He was the man who found Philip Seymour Hoffman dead on his bathroom floor.

And today Bar Katz was on CNN. And he said he had one of those "enough-is-enough: moments when "The National Enquirer" printed a story suggesting that he and his friend Philip were romantically involved.


DAVID BAR KATZ, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN'S FRIEND: My initial reaction was, ludicrous, when I saw -- when my son first saw something and told me that it was like -- saying Phil and I were lovers.

Phil would have gotten a kick out of that. That's just ridiculous.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": You heard about it from your son?

BAR KATZ: Yeah, he has been online in the morning.

And then when it blew up and it was like this is now becoming the story. And I was being chased by photographers, and it became a thing where I unfortunately had to deal with in the midst of dealing with more important things.


BANFIELD: David Bar Katz dealt with it by suing "The National Enquirer" big-time, and it really worked, because the tabloid has not only apologized to him, they did it if grand fashion.

Take a look at this full page in today's "New York Times." I think it's Page A9. Hard to read the text, but let me just tell you, it's a big, yeah, we were really, really wrong and we're going to pay.

Interestingly enough, though, they're going to pay in a different kind of way. Mark O'Mara is here, one of our legal analysts. Heather Hansen's here, as well, criminal defense attorney.

So, Mark, it's interesting that the way this is going to happen is "The National Enquirer" is going to fund a fund that will pay out sort of a scholarship.

It's called The American Playwriting Foundation. It's being created in Phil's name. And that's what Bar Katz has decided to do, make sure this lives on and helps people who Phil would have liked.

But, man, this is just three weeks, a little over three weeks, since Philip died. Does this tell you about alacrity with which this happened? Does it tell you how badly they messed up?

O'MARA: They messed up hugely, and I like the fact that it was done quickly. I like the fact that they're being held to task.

I hope that that's a huge fund, because if someone like "The National Enquirer" decides to take that type of liberty, they should pay for it.

They've made him look as bad as they made him look; they did it with no sourcing whatsoever.

Ashleigh, you have told me how many times that we can't go to story on something without it being properly sourced because that's good journalism.


O'MARA: The media is going to be involved in everything we think, do and say, and they have to be held responsible.

And if "The National Enquirer" wants to sell a few papers by making a story up, they should get hit very hard in the pocketbook. And I like the way he did it.

BANFIELD: And just so that people know, it was an imposter who claimed to be David Bar Katz telling "The National Enquirer" this crazy fable about being a gay lover of the now-dead actor.

Heather, that person who did that, there's a whole other story there. That could be an entirely separate, massive libel case. What is that person facing?

HEATHER HANSEN, TRIAL AND CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He's facing -- you would assume -- is facing a huge amount of litigation here, Ashleigh, because, first of all, he's not going to have the pocketbook that "The National Enquirer" has, nor the ability, most likely, to take out a full-page ad.

He would face not only defamation, but also perhaps appropriation, which is taking on someone else's identity.

And I don't know that this person is going to have a defense. In New York, the law for defamation is you can get punitives, which means punishment.

So there could be damages just to punish that person and serve as an example so that other people won't do this type of thing.

BANFIELD: So, just so people know, the money from this settlement is going to what I said, The American Playwriting Foundation, and it's going to award a whopping $45,000 annually to people who could benefit in the theater world, people who, again, like I said, Philip Seymour Hoffman would have loved.

And this is what they say. This is to honor him, because he relentlessly sought out truth in his work and demanded the same from collaborators.

Heather, Mark, thank you both. Appreciate it. HANSEN: Thank you, Ashleigh.

O'MARA: Great. Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: This is like a scene from a movie, but the accusations are real. Billions of dollars in off-shore accounts allegedly hidden with the help of a Swiss bank.

And now that bank is being investigated in Senate committee hearings. Wait until you hear how they supposedly smuggled the cash. And if you think I'm talking about a movie that might still even be in the theaters, "Wolf of Wall Street," I kind of am.

Christine Romans, coming up next.


BANFIELD: You know, if there's anything harder than prying tax dollars out of Swiss bank accounts, it might be prying answers out of Swiss bank officials.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: You think you're going to be convicted in a Swiss court? Is the Swiss government going to prosecute you if you comply with our laws and turn over those names? Are you going to be prosecuted? Is that your fear?


LEVIN: That's your fear?

DOUGAN: That is my fear. Absolutely.

LEVIN: At the Swiss government?


BANFIELD: Oh, boy. How would you like to be on that hot seat? Because doing the question was the U.S. Senator Carl Levin. He's doing his level (ph) best to crack the legendary secrecy that's believed to be helping thousands and thousands of rich Americans get out of paying taxes on their billions and billions of stashed dollars. And many stashed in one bank alone, Credit Suisse. My colleague, Christine Romans, has some jaw-dropping details.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The numbers are shocking. According to the Senate investigation, up to $12 billion was being held by Credit Suisse, and about 95 percent of all that cash not reported to the IRS.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Only 1 percent of Credit Suisse' U.S. customers with Swiss accounts have been provided to the United States authorities. ROMANS: But perhaps more shocking, how the bank and its clients are accused of pulling it off.

BRADY DOUGAN, CEO, CREDIT SUISSE: We find and we admit there was behavior that we certainly think is egregious.

ROMANS: Remember this scene from "The Wolf of Wall Street?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET": You have my money taped to your boobs. Technically you do work for me.

ROMANS: These clients are accused of strapping their cash in even more inventive places, trying to get their money out of the U.S. and into the Swiss bank. Senator John McCain slammed the cloak and dagger practices, saying --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Some of the tactics that bankers use to help their U.S. clients evade paying taxes belong in a spy novel.

ROMANS: Among the alleged hiding techniques, a quarter million dollars stashed in pantyhose. The Senate report details a clandestine meeting in a fancy hotel where bank statements were exchanged, hidden in a "Sports Illustrated" magazine. And investors pretended to be tourists, but instead were smuggling in the cash. Here at the Zurich Airport, Senate investigators say the bank even set up a branch inside so that its customers could pop in and out easily. And like something out of James Bond, clients were transported in secret elevators, remotely controlled by the bank.

MCCAIN: It's past time to fully and clearly expose how offshore tax havens, banks, help American account holders evade paying their taxes.

ROMANS: Now the Senate committee is trying to track the cash, asking the bank to hand over the names of those Americans hiding their cash with them.

LEVIN: The Department of Justice needs to use the tools in its arsenal to collect the taxes owed.


BANFIELD: I wasn't sure who to book on this story. Leonardo DiCaprio was my first choice and then my second two choices are on your screen, Christine Romans -

ROMANS: James Bond was already booked.

BANFIELD: No kidding. Christine Romans and Evan Perez, our justice correspondent in Washington, both with me live now.

Christine, I want to start with you. I love the details, the pantyhose, the "Sports Illustrated." It really did sound like a -- right out of the movie. But when we were watching Carl Levin, they want names, they want details, they want to get to the bottom of this. But if these guys on the hot seat, I mean --

ROMANS: They're saying, look, there were some rogue private bankers and that that division has been dismissed, that people lost their jobs and that this bank -- this bank will abide by U.S. law. The issue here, though, and Evan can talk more about this, but the issue here is that these bankers, Swiss law and American law are at odds sometimes about bank secrecy in Switzerland and that seems to be part of the issue.

BANFIELD: Are they worried about being indicted in Switzerland if they something here in the U.S.?

ROMANS: They're worried about being indicted in Switzerland, I guess.

But when you look at -- some of these accounts were $30,000 and $75,000, which you would think -- I was thinking some of these are huge, huge accounts, 30 to 70 --

BANFIELD: Well, that sounds all - not to - normal people. But to these kinds of people, that's nothing.

ROMANS: And some of the scrutiny over the past few years, quite frankly, has brought in people out of the woodwork who have been self- reporting that they had these accounts that they weren't paying taxes on so that they could make sure that they don't get in trouble with the U.S. government.

BANFIELD: So, Evan, you know, the poor Credit Suisse folks, man, they're getting it on the chin today. You know, they're front and center of the headline and the backdrop and the whole bit, but they are not the only bank. There are plenty of people who will come under the fire of the Senate committee, right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. I mean there's 14 banks that are under investigation by the Justice Department alone. And there's, you know, about 100 banks that have already come forward and they say they want to try to provide some of the names of some of their clients.

So the purpose of this committee and their report is, they want to try to collect the billions of dollars in taxes that they believe are owed, and they also want to light a fire under the Justice Department, which they think has been moving way too slow, hasn't been aggressive enough to try to bring the banks on to the -- you know, on to the law, and also to get some of these bankers to justice. There are 34 - I think 34 bankers that have been indicted. They are not facing justice in the United States because, you know, there's no extradition possibility between Switzerland and the United States.

BANFIELD: Huh. Well, I just hope that someone's able to unearth the yacht videos and the parties -

PEREZ: Right.

BANFIELD: Because that will be fun at least to watch as we try to really figure out what happened to all this money and whether we'll ever get some of this tax money repatriated.

Christine Romans, Evan Perez, thank you both. Do appreciate it.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Next up, the surprise request that a 28-year-old job candidate got from an employer and what it had to do with his high school days.


BANFIELD: This week's "Human Factor," Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to a young violinist who overcame a rare disease and then just went on to use her music to help others by raising awareness.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Allison Lint began playing the violin when she was just seven years old. At 16, the high school junior and student at the Cleveland Institute of Music started to feel exhausted and she had difficulty breathing.

ALLISON LINT, VIOLINIST: I couldn't perform everyday tasks. I couldn't remember how to dial the phone.

GUPTA: She was misdiagnosed with bronchitis and then pneumonia and a few months later she was rushed to the hospital coughing up blood from a lung hemorrhage. She spent two-and-a-half weeks then in an induced coma.

LINT: They weren't sure if I was going to live.

GUPTA: When she finally left the hospital, doctors still didn't know what was wrong with her.

LINT: They sent me to the Cleveland Clinic, where I was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis.

GUPTA: Which causes a form of vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels. But throughout several relapses, Allison, she never gave up on her music. She started Violin for Vasculitis and she plans to travel to all 50 states telling her story and performing to raise awareness and money for this disease. Last October came an invitation to join the Akron Symphony.

LINT: It feels really, really neat knowing that I overcame all of this and I'm still able to play.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


BANFIELD: General Motors announced today it's expanding a recall of compact cars due to an ignition problem. And the company's also raised the number of deaths resulting from that problem to 13. The recall affects 1.37 million vehicles built between '03 and '07. It includes Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac G5, the Saturn Ions and the Chevy HHRs, Pontiac Solstice, as well as the Saturn Sky models.

So, do you think that your SAT score only matters to get you into college? How about getting a job? Twenty-year-old Steven Morris' (ph) was a candidate for a communications job when his recruiter told him, get ready to discuss your SAT score in the upcoming job interview.

Morris says he was shocked that a potential boss would be the least bit interested in the result from a test he took more than a decade earlier, but it turns out, according to "The Wall Street Journal," consulting firms and banks, like Goldman Sachs, are asking new college recruits for their SAT scores. And other companies are requesting them even for senior and management level jobs. So get your kids around the kitchen table tonight and tell them, SAT scores matter a lot.

Thanks for watching, everybody. It's nice to have you with us today. Stay tuned. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, and his program, aptly named "Wolf," starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, there's new mystery surrounding papers from Bill Clinton's presidency. A report says the documents should have been made public a year ago. So what's behind the delay and what's in those papers?

Also right now, Vladimir Putin ups the ante, calling for surprise military