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Breaking News

Former President Ford Suffers Small Strokes

Aired August 2, 2000 - 11:43 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Word now through the hospital, the Hahnemann University Hospital in central Philly, that apparently a day or two ago President Ford suffered a small stroke, and it is possible, according to the Associated Press, that stroke reoccurred here in Philadelphia.

Apparently, earlier today, the hospital saying that he complained of a balance problem, that's why he was readmitted to the hospital this morning at 9:00 a.m. it has also been reported now, through the Associated Press, that President Ford will stay in that hospital anywhere from five to six days. But again, that's a report we are getting from outside sources here, CNN has yet to confirm that.

Again, what we do know at this time, President Gerald Ford did suffer a stroke a few days ago, he's been readmitted into the hospital here after being first taken in last night, and it is possible he could stay there for several days. Again, this morning, though, the good news on this story, the silver lining in here, is that a hospital spokeswoman, and CNN's Pat Neal confirmed this, that Ford walked into that hospital on his own power earlier today.

So again, Gerald Ford in the hospital, his wife, Betty, with him there in Philadelphia as well. They have been married for 52 very long years, a number of grandchildren. We will continue to track his progress and his health here in Philadelphia.

Daryn, before I give it back to you, just want to reconfirm one more thing. Last night, Gerald Ford was, indeed, a featured spokesperson here, really not a spokesperson, I shouldn't say that, a bit of an embellishment here, but a person who was featured in the theme of security at this convention last night, not only the former President Ford, but also Presidents Bush and also President Reagan here last night in the city of Philadelphia.

He talked with CNN's Larry King yesterday in an interview that aired last night. In fact, he talked about his health now at the age of 87. He was quite spry and quite energetic. And in several interviews last night he showed that energy and showed that enthusiasm, and looked to be in pretty good health as he sat in the front row of the VIP section down here on the floor at the Republican National Convention.

What we know, Gerald Ford, again, suffered a small stroke, according to hospital officials a day or two ago. It is possible that recurred again this morning in Philadelphia. He's been readmitted into the hospital. He has been there now for almost three hours time, and it is possible again he may stay there for several days in Philadelphia.

Daryn, we'll continue to work it, and CNN's Pat Neal is at the scene. As soon as we establish contact with her, we will bring her in and give you the latest from here.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You got it, you know, President Ford has looked so good, and has been so active, you forget that he's 87 years old.

HEMMER: Indeed. And in that interview with Larry King he was quite bragadocious (ph), as he should be as a grandfather, he has four children of his own, now 15 grandchildren, and he has kept a rather active lifestyle. I can remember just a few months ago, I think maybe it was six months ago, in the city of Atlanta, President Ford came down to CNN and held a small round table session with a number of reporters and producers with us at CNN, taking every question that he could from his days as a congressman in Michigan, to the time when he was ascended into the presidency at the White House after the resignation of President Nixon; talked about defending his pardon for President Nixon then; and really opened things up to anything that was possible about his past and his history.

Also the interesting note about President Ford is that he is the last surviving member of the Warren commission, still alive today. You remember that study, based on the assassination of President Kennedy back in the early to mid '60s.

I mentioned that interview with Larry King last night. Quickly now, let's take a quick sample of what President Ford had to say yesterday with Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I couldn't be healthier. Betty and I are having a magnificent life, 52 years of married life, and four great children, 15 grandchildren. Everything is breaking just right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: President Gerald Ford, again, in an interview with Larry King yesterday.

Just to bring you up to date, trying to establish contact now with the hospital. A short time ago, they did brief some reporters over there about the condition of President Ford.

Just to recap, so you know, the hospital saying, President Ford did suffer a stroke a day or two ago, it is possible that recurred this morning here in Philadelphia. Last night, after the convention, he was admitted to the hospital for about an hour.

Aides at the time said he was suffering from a sinus infection, and also possibility a build up of ear wax inside his ear, which may account for the report we are getting today about the questions about equilibrium. Apparently he complained of a balance problem, although he did walk into the hospital under his own power earlier today, 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, which is about two hours and 46 minutes ago.

We have a bit of an interview now from the hospital spokesperson taken just a short time ago in central Philly. We'll have a quick listen on that right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

President Ford has had a small stroke. It is in the circulation at the base of the brain. He's doing well. A little trouble with his balance and presently is being studied for the cause of his stroke.

QUESTION: Any affects of the stroke?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He is having a little bit of trouble with his balance at the moment.

QUESTION: Any weakness?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: A little bit of weakness in the left arm. His thinking is perfect, no problem with that.

QUESTION: How long do you expect him to be in the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Probably in the hospital five or six days. His condition is very good. He's stable right now. He is undergoing testing.

QUESTION: Do you think he will remain here, doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He will be here probably for five days or so, yes.

QUESTION: Can he speak, doctor?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Yes, can he.

QUESTION: What does he say?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He's perfectly awake. His normal function, mentally that's not a problem. He is a little unbalanced, a little weakness in his left arm.

QUESTION: And his legs as well?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: No, legs are normal.

QUESTION: How is Mrs. Ford?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: She's very upset, but fine.

QUESTION: What is his prognosis?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He probably had a little stroke a day or so ago.

QUESTION: A little weak in his left arm, right?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: I don't think so.

QUESTION: What is his attitude, sir?

What was he complaining about this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He was again off balance, and difficulty with his speech.

QUESTION: Doctor, do you think he had the stroke in between the time he was here before and came back...

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: No, I think he probably had a stroke maybe two days ago, and had another little one.

QUESTION: Another one today?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Probably, yes.

QUESTION: Why didn't you catch it earlier?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Well, it looks like an inner-ear infection sometimes, and it is sometimes hard to tell the difference? and he may be a little worse now than he was before, so that's understandable.

QUESTION: What's his prognosis?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Good.

QUESTION: You think he will be fine?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: I think he will do very well.

QUESTION: Will he survive this?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Yes.

QUESTION: Will he have any disabilities?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: No, I think he'll do very well. I think he's going to have to be on medication, but he should do very well, should really recover.

QUESTION: Will he have any brain damage?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Sorry?

QUESTION: Is there any brain damage?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: No, I don't think so. I think this will all clear. It's mainly in his balance center, mainly in the back of the brain.

QUESTION: So it hasn't affected his speech? He can speak properly?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: He understands everything. His words are a little bit slurred, but that should all recover, too.

QUESTION: What is his attitude about this? Is he very upset?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: No, he's very calm.

QUESTION: But Mrs. Ford is not?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Mrs. Ford is very calm, too, but she's just upset like anybody.

QUESTION: What has she said to you?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: Just take care of him.

QUESTION: And are you going to?

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: We are.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED DOCTOR: This is somebody else's experts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Again, the videotape we have from the hospital here in central Philadelphia. Hahnemann University Hospital is the name there. And that pretty decent news given from the doctors there to reporters who have gathered there. The prognosis for President Ford is good right now. Again, the condition very good, in stable condition, said to be quite calm at this point.

Again, I mentioned he walked in under his own power this morning. He does have weakness in his left arm, according to officials there. He is awake, speaking well, doesn't appear to have many problems with speech, although there is an indication he was slurring some of his words. In addition to that, there is -- balance appears to be an issue also at this time.

Again, President Ford last night with his wife, Betty. They've been married 52 years. And President Ford, shortly after this appearance here where he was given a rousing reception at the Republican National Convention, he was admitted in the hospital about 1:30 a.m. Eastern time, treated there for about an hour. He's back in the hospital this morning.

Also an indication his wife, Betty, is with him. Again, married 52 years time. Betty is described as upset but fine. Also getting word that President Ford will be on medication. And, again, Daryn, about five to six days, according to the doctors there, thus far.

Daryn, before we go back to Atlanta, Pat Neal now with us at the hospital.

Pat, if you can hear me, we just heard the videotape from the press conference that took place a short time ago. What more can you give us about the current condition with President Ford?

PAT NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you heard, his doctor came out and said that the former president actually had a small stroke a couple days ago. It was at the base of the brain. That he has -- he was reportedly having some trouble with his balance, and that he's being studied right now, but he's in good condition, that his thinking is perfect and that the prognosis is actually good.

I will tell that just a few moments ago, I was talking with a long-time friend of the president and Mrs. Ford, Peter Secchia (ph). He was the ambassador to Rome under President Bush. He came to the hospital to try to see him. He told me he spent much of the day with the former vice president yesterday, and that he was a little concerned because his speech was slurred and asked him to please take care of it. And he told him about that, and now he has come to the hospital to try to visit with him right here, and he hopes to be able to see him soon.

As you have said, that the former president had a slight stroke. Doctors are still evaluating him. He may be here five to six days, but as of right now, he is in good condition.

Back to you.

HEMMER: Pat, is there any indication from the folks at the hospital there that he's had this problem in the past?

NEAL: There is no word yet on that; not at all. No word yet.

HEMMER: OK, and will they be talking again with reporters there at the hospital? And if so, how long before we'll hear an update?

NEAL: Well, what we've been told by the hospital is that, actually, the former president's spokespeople will actually take over giving us the information from now, so we'll be trying to get an update from them as soon as possible and pass it on.

HEMMER: OK. And, Pat, I know I asked you this question 30 minutes ago. I just want to know if there's any clarification. Was President Ford going to stay in Philadelphia throughout the convention or was he leaving early?

NEAL: I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to that. I do know that he came into the convention. As you know, he was part of the tribute at the convention the other night. He was at the convention last night when he actually left to come to the hospital, and came in on his own accord for treatment of that ear infection that he was treated for, and then he left. And then, of course, as you well know, he returned this morning and remains here now.

HEMMER: OK, all right, Pat. Listen, thanks very much for the update there. We'll be in touch with you throughout the morning and the afternoon.

Pat Neal there live in central Philadelphia. Again, the word we have, balance appears to be an issue. Also a weakness in President Ford's left arm. He will be treated for medication and will be staying at that hospital, we understand, for anywhere from five to six days.

Bill Schneider sitting down with me now.

And this man has had a heck of a life, has he not?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly has. He's most known, when he took over the presidency as vice president under Richard Nixon, for the famous statement, "our long, national nightmare is over." Americans -- you know, he wasn't supposed to he elected in 1976 because of Watergate and all the anger at the Republicans, and, by God, he turned that into a real race, down to the wire.

HEMMER: And probably the one question Gerald Ford has gotten more so than any other is, why did you pardon President Nixon? He's had to defend that his entire life, has he not?

SCHNEIDER: And he said with some -- with a good argument behind it, that he wanted to spare the country an agony of seeing a former president go on trial. That's a good argument, I think, though a lot of Americans may not agree with it because they don't think justice was done. But at least it makes a certain amount of sense.

HEMMER: Born back in 1913, July 14, Omaha, Nebraska, went to the University of Michigan, 1935, graduated there, played football. You remember all the pictures of him growing up as a football player, passed along that athletic influence to the members of his family, and certainly his four kids.

SCHNEIDER: Right.

HEMMER: What strikes you when you think back about Gerald Ford as a man?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think about his association with the House of Representatives. That was always his first love. He was named to the ticket when Spiro Agnew left in disgrace because of the charges that were raised against him and he had to plead no lo contendre, no contest, to some of them. But he was really -- Gerald Ford always thought of himself -- and I know him. I saw him just last month at a meeting at Beaver Creek, his home in Colorado. He always thought of himself as a man of the House of Representatives. They used to have the "Ev and Jerry Show," Everett Dirksen, the Republican senator, Senate leader, and Gerald Ford, the Republican House leader. His heart was always in Congress.

Though he -- as president, of course, he had a big problem with inflation and the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, he just barely lost election. He was never elected, and just barely lost election in 1976, and that was a big surprise. HEMMER: Yes, I remember last night just watching him on television -- I did not see him in person specifically -- but he seemed rather enthused and rather energetic, and he was quite proud to be here along with his other fellow Republicans. And a huge tribute to him last night, as well.

SCHNEIDER: I will tell you something: Gerald Ford was more welcome at this convention than he would have been in any recent Republican convention because, in recent years, Republicans have wanted to put aside their past. You know, to the modern Republican Party, 1980 is the year 1. That's when Ronald Reagan was elected. Everything before that, Nixon, they don't want to talk about it. But now they're trying to recover a past in which the Republicans were more moderate, more cooperative, a spirit of bipartisanship, a generosity of spirit. And in many ways, Gerald Ford exemplifies that. This convention honored him in a way that Republicans in recent years have not, and I think that speaks to what the Republicans are trying to recover.

HEMMER: Yes, I mentioned earlier he's the last surviving member of the Warren Commission.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, he was on the Warren Commission.

HEMMER: Yes. In addition to that, we were talking just about three hours ago, incidentally, about how President Ford had urged Republicans to move back to the center, to take a more moderate position in order to broaden their appeal across the electorate in America.

SCHNEIDER: And they haven't exactly moderated their positions on issues like abortion. His argument is they shouldn't really be taking positions on abortion. Of course, his wife is -- differs with the party line on that, as apparently does Barbara Bush. But they at least have adopted the spirit of inclusion, of generosity, of saying that people who disagree with the platform are welcome in the party. And honoring Gerald Ford is one of their ways of saying that.

HEMMER: A lot more to talk about him, and certainly his family as well. We haven't even touched upon Betty and the contributions she has made...

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

HEMMER: ... through her various programs.

SCHNEIDER: Distinguished first lady, set a model for first ladies.

HEMMER: Indeed, yes. Bill Schneider, thanks.

Want to let you know once again, 87-year-old President, former Present Gerald Ford in the hospital in central Philadelphia, apparently did suffer a small stroke one to two days ago. And according to doctors, that recurred here in Philadelphia. He's been hospitalized, may stay there anywhere from five to six days. But, again, the prognosis is good and his condition right now, according to officials at the hospital, stable and very good, according to them.

We'll keep you posted throughout the day.

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