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Rodney King Found Dead; Lance Armstrong Accused of Doping; Buzz Bissinger Promotes His New Book
Aired June 17, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Police are conducting a drowning investigation into the death of Rodney King. It was his videotaped beating by L.A. police back in 1991 and acquittal of officers involved that sparked a deadly riot a year later.
Police say today he was found in his pool in Rialto, California, about an hour east of Los Angeles. It happened early this morning in Los Angeles time.
Our Paul Vercammen is there in Rialto.
So Paul, what more do we know about the circumstances of how he ended up at the bottom of that swimming pool?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka, from what we understand, Rodney King's fiancee called police shortly after 5:00 this morning. She heard a splash in the pool. She said, before that they had been talking. She then called the paramedics. Police arrived before the paramedics. They took Rodney King out of the pool and did everything they could to revive Rodney King. CPR failed.
Paramedics arrived and they took him to a local hospital. And, obviously, all of their efforts did not pan out. Rodney King was not revived.
Now, we do know that Rodney King, by the way, was an avid swimmer. And swimming everyday was part of his physical therapy. It was part of his routine. And we had talked to him - we had CNN recently, in fact, just about a month and a half ago, he explained how he went into the pool and kind of used the pool as a sanctuary after, you know, on tough life. Rodney King admitted that he had a problem with alcoholism. And police said this morning, they didn't find any drugs or alcohol or anything around the immediate area of the pool.
And here's what they have to say about the cause of death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPTAIN RANDY DE ANDA, RIALTO, CALIFORNIA POLICE: Right now, the preliminary investigation is indicating it appears Mr. King died of a drowning. However, the police department, the detective bureau is investigating the incident. And when Mr. King was removed from the pool, there was no obvious sign of trauma. However, it will later be determined once an autopsy is completed by the Seminole County's office. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: And police also said there were no signs whatsoever, at least at this point, of any foul play.
Now, Rodney King recently had been interviewed by CNN. And everyone who talked to him said that he was in a rather joyous state, that he was in a good mood. And interesting thing about Rodney King, you may remember this statement, can't we all just get along? You know, often remembered for that.
From what we understand, Rodney King's lawyer had written a far different script for him but Rodney King sort of adlibbed that. And, you know, that is resonated throughout the decades and was a big part of hopefully helping the community of Los Angeles heal after what could best be called race riots.
A lot of sadness right here in the neighborhood in Rialto. Rodney King known to people around here as a sweet man, somebody who was friendly and cordial and knew his neighbors. So, Rodney King passed away this morning extensively because of a drowning, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Paul Vercammen, thanks so much in Rialto, California.
Well, among those who had an opportunity to talk with Rodney King, our own Don Lemon. You spent time with him. We know a documentary followed that. We are going to see that replay of the documentary this evening.
But your impressions of him. You know, you also met his fiancee. And really has been described as in so many ways as a very gentle spirit and one who is reluctant to take on this giant responsible and symbolism that came behind his experience.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: Yes. And he was reluctant even to do an interview when we, back during the 20th anniversary. I went out to dinner with him and his fiancee along with my producers. And his fiancee said the reason you're here is because I like you. Rodney doesn't want to do an interview. I like watching you on CNN. And if anyone is going to do with 20th anniversary, we want you to do it.
He's a big guy. She could in no way have gotten him off the bottom of that pool, if indeed found him on the bottom of the pool. She couldn't swim. I spent time at the home. But yes, it was interesting because he was a big guy but he was a docile guy. Very gentle. And when he talked to you he would look you in the eye and just be really honest. I said, are you still using? Do you still have a problem. And he said I will always have a problem with addiction with alcohol. But, whatever, he would be specific about what it was. But he said he would always have those issues.
And I asked him about that incident that made him famous around the world. He said he still had nightmares. Let's listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RODNEY KING, VICTIM OF POLICE BRUTALITY: Yes. I do.
LEMON: What's a nightmare? Do you wake up?
KING: Tossing and turning. Sometimes hearing the voices that, you know, that was going on that night. You know, hands behind your back, lay down, get down, get down, you know, those words. And I have to wake up, look outside. It's all green, blue. At time has passed on. But the nightmares and memories are still there, you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: It haunted him. Haunted him forever, it seemed. And it seemed as though no matter what he would try to do, if he wanted to escape that memory, it sounds just from his description, it's impossible for him to ever do.
LEMON: No. And listen, Rodney King was no angel. He'll tell you that. Cynthia will tell you that. But he didn't expect to be famous. He didn't expect to be a role model. He was a troubled person. He had addiction issues. He has issues with his parents as a child growing up and then of course, as an adult. It was well documented because he had been on "Celebrity Rehab" with Dr. Drew and all of that. We knew about that.
So, he was I would say a sympathetic figure in some way because you look at that beating and, my God, say who really deserves to be beaten like that? But he didn't want to be a hero or a role model because I asked him during when I spent time with him, why are you still getting in trouble after all this? And he said, you know what, I'm just human. I'm not superhuman. I happen to be human and I have issues. And I don't want to be someone who is a role model. I just want to live my life.
But I do have to tell you, spending time there, it's a little odd thinking about that. I spent a lot of time at that home, around the pool with him and with Cynthia, his fiancee, who by the way was a juror in the civil trial that followed the acquittal of the officers when he got the money. And that's how they met. I mean, where hung out off and on and became engaged about two or three weeks ago.
WHITFIELD: Yes. This would be the place of his death when this ended up being a place that was a real sanctuary for him, helping him deal with these demons for so many years. It really is a sad punctuation to his life.
LEMON: Surprise. I have this shocking this morning when I got the call.
All right. Don Lemon, thanks so much for bring that us. Of course, we are going to see a lot more of your report this evening looking back at that conversation with Rodney King. Stay with us.
We'll bring an encore presentation of "CNN Presents: Race and Rage" 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific right here on CNN.
Again, we will see you a little bit later and will talk about the Newsroom coming up, too.
Thanks so much, Don.
All right. A big victory for Greece's conservative new democracy party.
New democracy leader Antonis Samaras won enough votes to start forming a coalition government. He favored the bailout deal with Europe and austerity measures that went with that. 37-year-old leftist politician, Alexis Tsipras, did not. He wanted to tear up the pact. And even today, in his concession speech, Tsipras called the bailout an unsustainable economic plan.
Back in this country, the White House just issued a statement on the Greek election. It congratulates the winning conservative party and says in part quote, "we hope this election will lead quickly to the formation of a new government that can make timely progress on the economic challenges facing the Greek people" end quote.
On to Egypt now. Polls have closed and votes are being counted in the presidential run-off there. Only about 40 percent turned out to vote due to extreme heat in some areas. On Thursday, officials will declare if the winner is Islamist candidate backed by the Muslim brotherhood or former top aide of ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak. But there are still who questioned about the whether the military will relinquish power.
Jerry Sandusky's defense team is getting ready to make its case this week. So, why is a prosecution's psychologist examining the former football coach today?
WHITFIELD: There is a winner in the Creek elections and possible reprieve in the world economy upset.
CNN's Richard Quest is live in Athens.
So, Richard, why did the conservative party seem to come out on top after backing such unpopular cuts?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because the outcome any other way could have been even more dire. All the parties to some extent -- look, the reality is new democracy had made it clear that they want to renegotiate part of the bailout terms, which they want to do. But, the alternative was the settings of the part which is the far left. And they were talking about ripping up the bailout. And that would have been the end, if you like, of Greece and the euro.
We do know, Fredericka, about 18 percent of Greeks like the euro and want to remain in the euro zone. So today's vote was classic. Do you vote with your heart? You hate the Germans and you hate the way the Europeans have treated yourselves, or do you vote with your head that this is the best deal, you try to renegotiate and move forward? And it seems tonight they voted with their heads.
But I have to warn you, the horse trading now has to begin as the parties have to form a coalition.
WHITFIELD: So, what about the Greek voting public? Is there euphoria, is there relief, is there reluctance to celebrate or outrage?
QUEST: It's all of that and more. I'm just looking at the results. I'm just looking at results.
Look, there are 83 percent of the results are now counted. We have 30 percent for the winning party, 26 or 27 percent for the second party, which is dynamically opposed in the opposite direction. A coalition will have to now be formed. They will have to go to Europe and ask for more, not bail often but changing the rules or changing the terms.
So tonight, I would put it like this.
QUEST: Is there a long way to go, but Greece has taken certainly one substantial step backwards from the cliff edge towards staying in the euro and even, even if markets won't be completely happy and calm because of the result, we should not see the volatility or at least the angst and anguish we've seen in recent weeks.
WHITFIELD: The world economy might interpret that as good news.
All right, Richard Quest, thanks so much. We will keep checking with you.
All right, will Wall Street react after this conservative party's victory in Greece? If so, how so? Our CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi joining us by phone from New York.
Ali, if you're listening to Richard there, talking about that one step back from the cliff. Perhaps that's what this vote did. That sounds like a great analogy.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Someone tweet immediate actually awhile ago and said why haven't you tweeted out about the Greek victory and how great it is for us? I said I'm not sure it's a victory. I think what it means is Greece lives to fight another day and Europe lives to fight another day and sure, investors will be relieved by that.
But you can note at 8:00 Eastern this evening is when Asian markets first open. You'll see a reaction there. Then go all through Europe most of the day. And by the time our markets open at 9:30 in the morning, everyone will like digested, have heard the comments, seen what's going to happen. And it might be that American investors wake up and say, you know what, they took one step back from the cliff. They didn't take a bid leap up in terms of whether it supposed to be.
So, this is -- the result of this election is not dire. Means Greece is not about to fall off a cliff. It's still, as Richard says, it's possibly the better outcome of two scenarios, neither of which are particularly good.
WHITFIELD: So, it does at least sound like there is going to be a lot more green than there would be red.
VELSHI: Probably. I would say to you this. It's probably not going to be a severe reaction in any direction. In other words, there is no investor sits there and says Greece is out of the woods, Europe is out of the woods, Spain and Italy, and all these countries we have been watching. No problems.
I think what might have been a major sell-off if it had gone the other way isn't going to happen. So, you've got it anywhere from flat to probably, you are right, more green than red tomorrow. But again, this is a global market. So, you will see that reaction within three hours, 3 1/2 hours you'll start to see that reaction. What happens tomorrow morning may be a different thing when we realize we are just back to normal.
This is, remember, the leader of this new democracy party conservative, he has to make - he has got to team up with the number three party who are socialists, but they both want to stay in the euro and they both want to keep this bailout deal.
So, there's going to be a lot of negotiation. A month ago when they had a similar outcome, they weren't able to form a coalition government. So, hopefully everybody is more mature about the whole thing and we get something done. But the best case scenario here, is we didn't ruin anything.
WHITFIELD: Ali Velshi, thanks so much for your insight. Appreciate it.
VELSHI: My pleasure, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, back in the U.S. now. A psychologist for Jerry Sandusky's lawyers say a type of personality disorder may explain some of his behavior.
Today, a prosecution psychologist is examining Sandusky to check out that claim. A court order came down Friday allowing the defense to introduce testimony on whether Sandusky suffers from a disorder.
The examination isn't expected to delay the trial of the former Penn State assistant football coach who is accused of molesting ten boys. That means Sandusky's lawyers are expected to begin their defense tomorrow after the prosecution rests.
Susan Candiotti takes a look at what their overall strategy could be.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, for four days, jurors heard prosecutors set out to prove Jerry Sandusky is a serial predator raping and molesting ten boys. Come Monday, the defense takes center stage.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): After a week of listening to withering testimony from and about ten alleged victims, Jerry Sandusky began and ended every day with a smile on his face. His lawyer is trying to be upbeat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day's hard. It's tough work.
CANDIOTTI: Tough work defending a man who himself is a legend for designing defense on the football field. This criminal defense attorney, Ron Kuby, says Sandusky has an uphill battle.
RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY There is a tsunami of evidence against him.
CANDIOTTI: Sandusky's strategy is expected to attack the timeline of repeated alleged sexual assaults raised during cross examination by pointing out conflicts with Sandusky's schedule. The defense is also expected to further question whether alleged victims were motivated to come forward by possible lucrative lawsuits.
Nonsense says Howard Janet, attorney for alleged victim six.
HOWARD JANET, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED VICTIM #6: Does that mean none of them are telling the truth because they've gone to hire a lawyer? That's absurd.
CANDIOTTI: Sandusky's wife, Dotty, appeared briefly in court the first day, but stayed away the rest of the time, indicating she is expected to take the stand to defend her husband.
KUBY: What is his wife going to say in his defense unless she was in the shower with him and the various young boys, which obviously she wasn't. She has nothing to offer this case outside of some sort of plea for sympathy.
CANDIOTTI: The defense also plans to bring in a psychologist to explain love letters Sandusky wrote to alleged victims. In court papers, the defense indicates the letters were not part of a predator's grooming technique but indicative of someone suffering from a histrionic personality disorder. The one who make himself more enduring to the boys in his charity.
Are you looking forward to presenting your case?
A gag order prevents Sandusky from talking now and he isn't required to testify. But, the defense promised jurors they would hear from Sandusky.
KUBY: The only chance he has is to take the witness stand and just maybe he can convince one juror to hold out.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CANDIOTTI: Will he or won't he take the stand? Ultimately Sandusky must decide whether he wants to look jurors in the eye and face prosecutors armed with tough questions of their own - Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Susan Candiotti there.
Thousands of New Yorkers hit the streets in protests. Why they are marching against New York City police?
WHITFIELD: Police in Canada are searching the car of a man accused of killing three people in Canada. Travis Baumgartner was caught at the border attempting to cross into the U.S. Canadian police say the 21- year-old is behind the robbery of an armored vehicle at the University of Alberta. Three security employees were killed and a fourth critically injured.
Al Sharpton leads thousands of people in silent protest in New York City. They turned out to march against the stop and frisk policy being used by New York City police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vast majority, are of those stop and frisk are black and Latinos. And many of them are still children. We have learned to fear the very police officers who are sworn to protect us. We worry about officers stopping us as we head to 7-eleven, go to school or come home from work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said he plans to scale back the program. He also defended it saying it has reduced crime and taken guns off city streets.
Today is the 40th anniversary of Watergate. On this day in 1972, five men working for President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign were arrested trying to break into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Watergate was the name of the building complex housing the DNC offices. The name has since gone into the history books as a scandal that brought down Richard Nixon.
And we've got more on the death of Rodney King. We'll look back at his tumultuous life.
And the sporting world is mourning the loss of an Olympic great. Long-time American public servant and great family friend. Reggie Pearman, an admired mid-distance runner in the post world war II era died Monday from complications of pneumonia. The 1952 Olympian will be laid to rest this week in Brandywine, Maryland.
I talked to his daughter, Lydia, who reminded me how privileged she and I and our siblings are to learn and be guided first hand from a remarkable generation of exceptional world class athletes like Mr. Pearman and like my dad, Mal Whitfield, who would go on to dedicate their lives to sport, global humanity and service.
After his Olympic and athletic career, Mr. Pearman would dedicate his services to the Peace Corps, public school teaching and climb the ranks of the U.S. office of education.
A bit frail and moving gingerly, he told me back in 2008 before the Beijing games, years of hard training caught up with his body, but he had no regrets giving his all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REGGIE PEARMAN, OLYMPIAN: The things I got away with when I'm in my teens, 20s, 30s and 40s have now come home and they demand payment. I'm paying it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: A great Olympian, a great man. Mr. Pearman was 89.
WHITFIELD: Police investigating the death of Rodney King say it appears he drowned in his pool. He was found by his fiancee just after 5:00 this morning in California. It was King's beating by Los Angeles police back in 1991 and the acquittal of the officers involved that sparked a deadly riot 20 years ago.
And CNN's Nick Valencia was a young boy when it happened growing up in Los Angeles. You remember it like it was yesterday. It really did leave an indelible mark not just on Los Angeles, on you personally and other Angelinos, but really a nation.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sure you remember when it happened.
WHITFIELD: I do.
VALENCIA: So many of us remember. And it impacted Los Angeles to its very core and changed the city forever. Earlier today, Rodney King pronounced dead at the age of 47.
VALENCIA (voice-over): It was this scene caught on camera that would turn Rodney King's life and Los Angeles upside down. In 1991, King led police officers from the LAPD on a high-speed chase after leaving a friend's house during a night of drinking.
KING: I had a job to go to Monday. I knew I was on parole and I knew I wasn't supposed to be drinking. I'm like, oh, my God.
VALENCIA: What transpired in its aftermath changed the dialogue on race in America. King 25 when the incident happened, was nearly beaten to death. He was in surgery for five hours. He admitted he should have stopped the car.
Following a three-month trial, three of the officers involved in the beating were acquitted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force. The jury was deadlocked in the case of the fourth officer. The verdict sparked riots across Los Angeles and the United States. In L.A., rioters ran through the streets, looting businesses, torching buildings and attacking those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At least 50 people were killed and $1 billion worth of property was damaged.
As the riot entered their third say, Rodney King emerged to plead.
KING: Can we all get along?
VALENCIA: In the years that followed, King struggled to leave his past behind.
DOCTOR DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST, DOCTOR DREW: You didn't want to be a part of history?
KING: I wasn't expecting to get tossed in history like that. You know, unfortunately, it happens to us unexpectedly, to some of us. And I was one of the unexpected ones to survive through it.
VALENCIA: In his later years, Rodney King battled addictions to drugs and alcohol. Never escaping the demons that caused his infamous encounter with the Los Angeles police officers.
VALENCIA: Rodney King was a decisive character in Los Angeles and U.S. history. Echoing his famous statement, he was quoted in a recent interview saying, "understand, we can all get along. It will always be my saying. And that's how I will want to be remembered."
WHITFIELD: That really came from his heart. Those were his words, not the words his attorneys and everyone around him wanted him to speak at the time.
All right. Thanks so much.
VALENCIA: Thank you.
And of course, you want to stay with us because we are going to bring you more on Rodney King's death.
Tonight CNN presents "Race and Rage." You can see it at 8:00 Eastern time, 5:00 p.m. pacific here on CNN.
A look our top stories right now. Strong winds and high temperatures are expected to continue to fuel a wildfire in Northern Colorado. It has already destroyed almost 200 homes and scorched 55,000 acres. The blaze has forced thousands of evacuations and left one person dead.
U.S. agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, says it will be some time before the fire is out.
And there is a winner in Greece's critical parliamentary election. The conservative new democracy party beat the leftist Tsipras party. But, its lead wasn't big enough to form a government on its own. And it will now look for a coalition partner. Global markets are expected to react positively to the news.
And on to Egypt now were polls have closed and votes are being counted in the presidential runoff there. Only about 40 percent turned out to vote due to extreme heat in some areas. On Thursday, officials will declare if the winner is an Islamist candidate backed by the brotherhood or a former top aide of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak. But there are still questions about whether the military will relinquish power.
More allegations of doping against Lance Armstrong, why things could turn out differently for him this time.
WHITFIELD: More doping allegations against Lance Armstrong and the heat meet the thunder.
NPR sports correspondent, Mike Pesca, is with me for the best in sports today. Good to see you.
All right. Let's get straight to Lance Armstrong. This story of the weak Armstrong has accused of doping by the anti-doping agency and now he is firing back saying this is a witch-hunt. He cannot compete in France's ironman triathlon this weekend.
Is he being banned from everything pending this new investigation?
MIKE PESCA, NPR SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Since the ironman triathlon, and triathlon is one of those agencies that subscribe to the protocols of the U.S. anti-doping agency, then yes there is a temporary injunction against him participating in that event. If he was a professional baseball player that wouldn't be the case.
The U.S. Anti-doping Agency is not a government agency. It gets some funding from the government. It can't prosecutor level a charge. And the actual government, the federal government which was looking into Lance Armstrong announced a few months ago it was dropping his case against him. They hadn't done well in their prosecution of Barry bonds. Only got one conviction. Moist of the charges he was found not guilty by the jury. The Clements, Roger Clemens trial has gone on for a long time.
So him, the federal government saying all right, Lance Armstrong, we'll let you go. That was seen as a good sign. And then, a few days ago it go and comes out that the U.S. anti-doping agency says we have samples, we have some of your teammates ready to testify against you. We are going to be bringing this case against Lance Armstrong.
WHITFIELD: So, are these new samples or is this revisiting old sample with new technology and testing? Because he has passed hundreds of drug tests.
PESCA: Yes, five to 600. Although, you have to realize with a lot of these drugs, there exists no tests for them. So, EPO up until a few years ago, you could say hey, I never tested positive for EPO. There was no test for EPO.
So yes, the technology is to some extent catching up with the doping if there was doping in this case. What we heard, what the U.S. anti- doping agency says is they have testimony that goes back to maybe 1996 when he started to be a competitive bike rider. But they also say they have samples from 2009 to 2010 which they said are consistent with EPO and human growth hormone use. We are not sure exactly what that means.
Another interesting wrinkle is that four of his former teammates who are likely to go to the Olympics are not going to be on the Olympic team. They withdrew their names from the Olympics and it was a surprised to some. And some are speculating that it might be tied up with his case somehow.
WHITFIELD: My goodness.
OK. Let's move on to the NBA playoffs. I know what's your fave. You know, the Heat and even the series. But for those of us, who haven't followed it so closely. However, I did watch Tuesday night's game knowing you and I are going to talk about this.
And, you know, what baffled me the most was who was fear the beard? I was just looking, you know, who is the one wearing the beard? Because Lebron James has a little goatee thing. But that's not the fear the beard. Who are they talking about, by the way?
James Harden is like the mountain man who comes off the bench from Oklahoma City. Yes, I mean, he is the 6th man and his beard, the 7th. So, yes he is a great player for Oklahoma City.
This has been an interesting series. And I know, as a sports journalist, I'm supposed to say it could go either way. And you say that because you don't want to prejudge and sometimes sports journalist -
PESCA: I don't see how you could watch either this two games and say one team is clearly better. And they both, not only play close basketball, but such exciting basketball. Lebron James is attacking the hoop like he hates it. And that's exactly what he has to do.
The biggest problem in this whole series is that Oklahoma City starts out slow, which is great news for the network airing the series because it gives you an incentive to tune in to quarter one to see if Oklahoma City has gone behind by 10 or 17 points, a little drama in the early part of the game also.
WHITFIELD: And the other distraction for me - OK, explain the whole gold mouthpiece, you know, teeth thing Lebron sporting every now and then.
PESCA: Yes. And roman numerals XVI, 16, that's the number of games you have to win. I don't know. You know what, if he needs that kind of motivation, he's doing something wrong.
WHITFIELD: You are right. OK.
All right, Thanks so much, Mike Pesca. We'll continue to watch.
Thanks so much. And you keep us posted, of course.
All right. Today's father's day. And a time to celebrate dads. And Happy Father's day, Mike.
But American journalist and author Buzz Bissinger is using this opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the gift of his challenged son. I spoke to Buzz about a road trip the two took together.
WHITFIELD: Buzz Bissinger is an award winning author, columnist and television producer. But with all that acclaim he's received over the years, there was one thing missing, a connection with his son, Zach.
Zach was born three minutes after his twin Jerry and suffered trace brain damage. As a result, he has the comprehension skills of an 8- year-old while his twin brother is working on a doctorate degree.
In 2007, Buzz took a cross country trip with then 24-year-old Zach to visit places that they lived during their childhood. Well, the journey is recounted in Buzz's latest book "Father's Day."
In one passage Buzz says, quote, "as much as I try to engage Zach, figure out how much to make the flower germinate because there is a seed, I also run. I run out of guilt. I run because he was robbed and I feel I was robbed."
I spoke with Buzz and asked him about the moments he finally saw Zach's talents and personality shine through.
BUZZ BISSINGER, AUTHOR, FATHER'S DAY: I saw little blips of talent all his life. Zach was born in 1983. He has a twin. He was 13 1/2 weeks premature. He weighed 1 pound 11 ounces. And sadly, he had trace brain damage.
I would see little sparks, little sparks of tremendous lucidity and then they would disappear. And so, I felt for very much of his life, I never had a real conversation with him. I never knew if I was getting through with him which is why I came up with this idea to driving across the country with him to really focus on him and be in a concentrated space with him. And trust me, nothing is more concentrated than a rented minivan going 42 miles across the country.
WHITFIELD: And so, you made that decision that we are going to drive from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, but this decision really comes about because you felt like it was time to have that one-on-one special time with Zach to know him better. That he being a twin, he's very unlike Jerry who is at Penn State, a grad student. But you, you at least knew and accepted that, you know, Zach may forever be bagging groceries as he's doing.
WHITFIELD: And that he will forever need his family to help him grow and mature.
BISSINGER: Well, that's right. I mean, he will be bagging groceries all his life. He has another part-time job and he is going to be stocking supplies all his life. And I have to admit, that's hard for me as a father to accept. I've never seen him bag groceries. I just can't bear it.
But this trip, as you say, was an opportunity to basically do with Zach what I had done with Jerry. Those heart-to-hearts. What I had done with my youngest son, Caleb. And I also felt it was time to tell Zach what his condition was. I had never ever mentioned it. I felt he should know. And I wanted to see how self-aware he was. Because if he is self-aware, that can inform other conversations about his future and those are wrenching conversations as to where he should ultimately be.
WHITFIELD: So, how aware was he when you had this conversation? Because you write about, you know, he has unable to add 100 and 100. However, he does have a certain depth of understanding. How did you know what you were saying was sinking in? What was the response from Zach?
BISSINGER: I can tell Zach gives short answers to many things although he is quite preborn. He has no physical side effects, which is amazing. I can tell when Zach has a short answer because he doesn't understand and he wants to change the subject. But I can tell when Zach gives a short answer because he does understand and he is feeling a certain amount of pain.
And I remember asking him, it was on the Indiana toll road. We has a rest stop and saying, Zach, do you know what brain damage is? He said, well, I'm not sure, what is it? I said what do you think it is? He said, well, when my brain isn't right. I said how do you know? And he said, well, my brain isn't right because Jerry can do things I can't do like go to school.
So, I knew that he was aware that he was different. And he did have a sense. I was gratified by that because I believe in self-awareness. But, you know, when your child says something's wrong with my brain, I mean, you know, those words will ring forever. It was really crushing.
WHITFIELD: So then, what happened along this journey? Your feelings about Zach were what in comparison to what happened after that cross country journey? About what he could comprehend, what he accepted? What he was aware of about himself and the world around him?
BISSINGER: Right. I always loved Zach to death, but I was frustrated. I did feel rage. I did feel I was cheated. I did ask myself why did this happen? It was basically a difference of three minutes. But I have to say, not just for the sake of a book, on the trip I found Zach had tremendous empathy for me. I was very, very steady. You know, I was passing out all the time. I would get lost. I would drop the f-bomb.
Zach never lost his cool. And more than empathy, I realized he wanted to help me. He felt my job as a son in this situation is to calm dad down which he did. He had powers of observation I had never seen. Half the time I thought he was looking out a window in a car, not seeing anything. And then, he would see -- mention later a little detail.
I saw his need for independence. And not only his need, he was independent. And really undertaking it with responsibility. And, you know, all along the trip I saw different things like that. I saw a soul within Zach and a character within Zach. Almost an intuitive sense to say the right thing at the right time. And I really mean it. I mean, I floured by -- he was much more advanced than I ever thought he was.
WHITFIELD: So in many ways you saw him for the first time. What did you learn about yourself?
BISSINGER: Well, I learned I'm moody. I learned that I'm volatile. I learned that I have a short fuse. I'm not saying that I have changed because of, you know, I'm not going to change my personality. That is too easy an out.
But, I learned a lot about my son, and it doubled and reinforced what was already a good bond. We are basically inseparable. We are passionately in love. I could never, ever leave him as I once did in my life when I went to L.A., and I'm very proud of him.
And, best of all, he's continuing to make progress. He continues to mature. He continues to connect to the world. He continues to be more conversational, and I say, and it's perfect on father's day in a sense, it's a reversal maybe, he is the man that I do admire most in my life. He has struggled and struggled like many disabled children, but he is making his way in the world as they do.
WHITFIELD: Pulitzer Prize winning Buzz Bissinger, it is a beautiful book "a Father's Day: a journey in the heart and mind of extraordinary son."
Thanks so much and Happy Father's Day.
BISSINGER: Thank you. Well, Happy Father's Day to you, too.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. I'll pass it on.
Buzz Bissinger also said that he still has no idea what his son sees of the world when he looks out the window, but he is sure it's never ugliness, cynicism, or degradation.
Are you guilty of showrooming? You might be and you may not even know it. I'll tell you why. Just a reminder, you can continue to watch CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your desktop. Go to CNNlive.com/TV.
WHITFIELD: All right. It used to be we'd go out browsing for things, a nice afternoon, spend trolling stores, looking for something that catches your eye. Well now, it has become showrooming.
What is showrooming? As CNN contributor, Bob Greene, explains it is the scourge of the modern brick and mortar retailer.
BOB GREENE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's pretty hard to blame store keepers and shop owners these days if they're a little bit angry and frustrated. They look out into their stores and they're beginning to see people come in with cell phones and take pictures of the merchandise or simply writing down the details of the merchandise and then leave, walk out of the store.
The store owners know what's going on. They have a name for it. It is called showrooming.
And what it means is that their stores are being used as against their will as free showrooms for the big online only merchants. The people come in, see what they like, go home, put it in the computer, and order it from the online merchants for maybe a little less money.
This is good for the customers and it's great obviously for the online merchants. Who it's terrible for are the traditional brick and mortar store owners on America's main streets and in the malls who hire employees and pay them every week, who at great cost to themselves stock their store with merchandise, who pay the electric and phone bills every month all in the hopes that someone will come in and see a product and like it and buy it.
This matters because eventually if of this goes on, the American retail landscape or the American landscape as a whole is going to look very different as brick and mortar stores on main streets have to close one by one.
There is that axiom that American businesses are supposed to believe in, the customer is always right. But you'll have to excuse some shop keepers and store owners these days if they look out into their shop, key people taking pictures and making notes with no intention of buying the products in their store and thinking to themselves, OK, the customer is always right. Well, then who in this atmosphere, who and what exactly is a customer?
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Bob Greene, and you can read Bob's columns and other great opinions on the issues that shape your world at CNN.com/opinion. That's going to do it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Much more of the "NEWSROOM" at the top of the hour with my colleague Don Lemon. Have a great week.