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Killer Whale, Deadly Attack; Broken Government: Health Care; Haiti Cashing In?; Toyota Chief Grilled; President Obama's Health Care Summit

Aired February 24, 2010 - 23:00   ET



JESSICA YELLIN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: His name is on cars that kill. He went to Washington to salvage that name but tonight, new allegations are casting doubt on Akio Toyoda's promise to put safety first. Questions about whether the researchers who gave Toyota electronics a clean bill of health used junk science to do it. We are "Keeping them Honest."

Also tonight, a killer whale: in fact, a serial killer whale. Today's tragedy at SeaWorld is not the first death or the second, so, why did SeaWorld keep him? Jack Hanna joins us.

And later, "360 MD" Sanjay Gupta takes us through the operating room, item by high-priced item. President Obama is talking health care reform tomorrow but can his plan or anyone's bring down the cost?

And first up tonight, the whale attack. People go to the aquarium to be amazed, entertained, but today, visitors at SeaWorld Orlando were horrified by what they saw. They watched a woman die.

In a moment, we'll speak with someone who was in the crowd when it happened. You'll also hear from the animal's trainer, as well as Jack Hanna on what should happen next.

But first, the deadly incident. Randi Kaye reports it wasn't the first time, it was the third.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She never had a chance, a 40-year-old female trainer in the jaws of a 22-foot-long killer whale, a massive Orca weighing 12,300 pounds.

JIM SOLOMON, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She apparently slipped or fell into the tank and was fatally injured by one of the whales.

KAYE: It happened at about 2:00 this afternoon at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, but exactly what happened is still unclear. SeaWorld says senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was interviewed on CNN two years ago, slipped into the tank, but an eyewitness tells CNN the killer whale, a bull Orca named Tilikum, actually grabbed the trainer and pulled her into the tank. VICTORIA BINIAK, EYEWITNESS: There was a trainer standing nearby the window and just talking about the whale and people were asking questions, how much does he weigh, things like that. And then the whale went on his -- like floated upside down and the trainer downstairs and said, oh, yes, he's -- they are giving him a belly rub, he really likes that. And I could tell it was Tilikum, because you could tell by the -- his huge fins.

KAYE: The whale is believed to be the largest Orca in captivity. His fins alone measure more than six feet. The eyewitness says when the trainer, who was not in the water, gave the go-ahead, the whale took off.

BINIAK: Just took off really fast and then he came back around to the glass, jumped up and grabbed the trainer by the waist and started shaking her violently and her shoe -- the last thing we saw was her shoe floating and then sirens immediately started.

KAYE: The crowd that had gathered for the show was cleared out. The park manager at SeaWorld says the trainer drowned.

(on camera): An expert with the Orca Network who studies whales told me Tilikum has always been known to be aggressive and doesn't swim with other trainers. He told me Tilikum's role in the SeaWorld show is simply to splash and soak the audience, using his massive tail.

(voice-over): Orca Network's Howard Garrett says the whale's lack of companionship may have triggered this attack.

HOWARD GARRETT, ORCA NETWORK: When you put a highly social mammal like an Orca into captivity for long periods, they have nothing, they have no stimulation. They have no companionship. And that can tend to create stress.

KAYE: In fact, park goers say the whales at earlier shows today appeared stressed and stopped obeying commands.

DAN BROWN, SEAWORLD PARK MANAGER: We have never in the history of our parks experienced an incident like this.

KAYE (on camera): But this is not the first time this killer whale has been involved in death of a trainer. Back in 1991, nearly 20 years ago, Tilikum and two other whales killed their trainer at a park in British Columbia in front of a crowd. She had fallen into the tank and the whales dragged her under water.

Eight years later, in 1999, the naked body of a man was found floating in Tilikum's tank. He had snuck into SeaWorld. Authorities said he was the victim of horseplay. Could it be that Tilikum, the killer whale, was looking to horse around this time, too?

BILLY HURLY, GEORGIA AQUARIUM: Unlike your dog at home who will just scratch your leg, if a killer whale wants to play with you, he's only going to show it to you one way and in this case, it's to pull you in the water. KAYE: No matter what Tilikum has done, the Orca Network believes SeaWorld will keep him. As the primary breeding male for all SeaWorld parks, he's worth millions. At a time when whales are dying faster than they are being born, the Orca Network says, Tilikum is SeaWorld's future.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


YELLIN: And joining us now are Paula Gillespie -- she was there at the park with her family and watching the show with her young daughter when this happened; and on the phone, Jeffrey Ventre, he worked with Tilikum. He's now out of the profession.

Paula, let's start with you. You were there. You were an eyewitness to this. It sounds terrifying. Would you describe exactly what happened?

PAULA GILLESPIE, SAW WHALE ATTACK: Well, we just -- we had left the Dine with Shamu show and we went down to look at his full body underneath the observation tank. And everything seemed calm and ok and the trainer was laying down on him and kissing his nose and rubbing him. And you could see her hand in the water and rubbing him.

And the next thing -- I mean it all happened so fast -- in within like five minutes, she was down in the tank and we saw the thrashing and the bubbles and him pushing her with his nose and it was just so, so traumatic.

And all of the people around and of course, my daughter and, she saw it. And I tried to shelter her eyes from it but it was too late. And that's when all the sirens went off and they told us to please, you know, exit the building and head up to the main streets of the SeaWorld attraction. And they just started shutting down everything.

YELLIN: And you saw -- describing this as a scene where nothing but the trainer's shoe was left?

GILLESPIE: No, I didn't see any of that.

YELLIN: You didn't see that?

GILLESPIE: We were underneath the tank because we left from the dining area, which was right above. And during the show, everything seemed perfectly fine. And he was playing with her and she was playing with him. And she would constantly, you know, crawl around on the ledge and pet him and --

YELLIN: No sign this was coming?

Jeffrey, let me ask you --


YELLIN: Jeffrey, were you surprised to hear something like this had happened?

JEFFREY VENTRE, FORMER SEAWORLD TRAINER (via telephone): Sure. You don't expect something like this to happen. Tilikum is a great animal and Dawn is a great trainer. I'm sad it did happen, I'm shocked.

YELLIN: And yet, Tilikum has a history. So, were you aware of this history?

VENTRE: Yes, I was aware of the history.

YELLIN: And do you think it's surprising then that Tilikum would attack again? And there are two other instances where people have died. Do you think this animal should still have access to humans?

VENTRE: Only the most experienced trainers get to work with Tilikum. I'm not sure of the exact incident in Vancouver and the guy in 1999 apparently jumped over the fence at night and got into the pool with Tilikum. It's hard to say whether that was an act of play or aggression. And I wasn't there today, so, I can't really tell you what happened today.

All I can say is that Tilikum is a good animal and Dawn was a great trainer.

YELLIN: And I want to point out we are watching video of you with killer whales when you were still working with them.

Paula, turning back to you, earlier when we spoke to you, you wanted to clarify that this incident took place after the show and you really didn't --


YELLIN: -- see anything strange during the show or immediately afterwards, because someone in Randi Kaye's piece just now said that there was some weird signals before. You didn't see anything that seemed unusual?

GILLESPIE: No. And she walked around the entire area and would have him come up on the rocks that are around the edge where we're sitting. And at one point, they were right in front of us. If I leaned over, I could have touched her and she would have him come up out of the water on his fins and make noises and catch fish and ice and he seemed perfectly fine.

YELLIN: That's Dawn, the trainer, we're looking at. I just want to point that out. Sorry. Go on.

GILLESPIE: Yes, yes and she -- she was very interactive with him and he was with her and she reinforced their affection and give him kisses on the nose.


GILLESPIE: And I mean, when the show ended, it was -- seemed perfectly fine.

YELLIN: Yes, all right.

Jeffrey, do you have a theory why SeaWorld still has this animal, Tilikum, in the tank, despite all these past instances?

VENTRE: Sure. He has sired, I believe, 13 offspring, ten of which I think are still alive, and he is a great breeder and he is a beautiful animal.

YELLIN: So, in other words, he's a male breeder. They actually essentially use him to breed new animals and they need him on their team? Is that what you were saying?

VENTRE: Well, he provides semen to impregnate females. He's a beautiful animal. He is huge. He is impressive. And people just see him and go, wow. And, you know, he is -- he is a money stream --

YELLIN: All right.

VENTRE: -- as well as a great animal.

YELLIN: Jeffrey Ventre, Paula Gillespie. Paula, sorry for what you witnessed today and thanks to both of you for joining us this evening.

And up next: a completely different view from one of America's most renowned wildlife experts, Jack Hanna. Hear his take on whether Orcas should be kept in captivity.

Later, Toyota's chairman on the hot seat and some very tough questions about the firm Toyota hired to investigate potential safety problems in millions of cars.


YELLIN: What happened at SeaWorld today was horrifying and clearly tragic, but it also raises some pretty basic questions, including whether killer whales should be kept in captivity at all, let alone with trainers anywhere near them.

Now, years ago, water parks were much less careful than now. You're about to see video from San Diego's SeaWorld. This is from back in 1971. Twenty-two-year-old employee Anna Godsey, not a trainer, not a pro, a secretary, persuaded for a publicity event to get into a bikini and jump into the tank.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly, the woman is slammed into the water. She is completely at the mercy of the killer whale. Annette struggles for air as she is pushed through the water. Another trainer brings in a rescue pole and Annette reaches for it.

But before she is pulled to safety, the creature rams her again, ripping the pole from her hands. The whale bites down on her leg and won't let go. The trainers know that if they pull too hard, her flesh will be shredded by the animal's giant teeth. One of the trainers forces the whale to open its jaws and the injured woman is pulled to safety.


YELLIN: Oh. Well, it was a different Orca, a different era, terrifying video.

Fast forward to today. So, why did this killer whale attack a trainer? Why was it there in the first place when it's killed before? And is it really time maybe to consider having huge, unpredictable animals still performing in front of audiences?

We spoke earlier with Jack Hanna who is Director Emeritus of the Columbia Zoo.


YELLIN: We just assume these animals are domesticated. They are entertainment. But really, this is an 11,000-pound, 22-foot whale. Should we be surprised that it would kill?


But before I answer that question, Dawn was a beautiful person. I did several shows with her, with Tilly even in the background and that type of thing. And I can tell you now that she would want her work to continue.

Steve Irwin was a good conservation friend. I can tell you now, he would want his work to continue. And even myself as I leave for African next week to do shows with a lot of animals, I would hope my work would continue if something happened.

Now with that said, is it a dangerous animal? Of course it is, it's called a killer whale. Now, when you film this animals like I do in Glacier Bay in Alaska or you filmed that whale, that killer whales in South America and you see these animals coming up on the beach, they can go up on the beach by the way 15, 10, 15 yards to grab a sea lion and bring them back in the water.

And also, you know, I don't know what happened, ok, but I can tell you that about 95 percent of the time when something like this happens, with an elephant, let's say, with a death in a Zoological Park, which is very rare or what happened here at SeaWorld. And by the way and let me explain, the death at SeaWorld, this is the first death they've had at SeaWorld in 46 years from the standpoint of a trainer or anyone interacting with whales.

And your -- some networks, I'm not saying yours, are reporting that there have been two other deaths. That's correct, there was a death several years ago by a young man that snuck in a park at nighttime, hid behind some trees and went in with Tilly. That's like going over the fence at the Nascar Race. So you can't blame SeaWorld for that. The death before in Canada did happen. SeaWorld and I take my hat off to, brought that animal to their parks to give it a life and that's what they did. And of course an act -- some kind of human error was involved, I believe, this is me, I don't know what happened and when there's human error involved with something like this, then things happen.

YELLIN: Well this -- you pointed out two other instances. Those two other instances of deaths are times this particular whale has been blamed for someone else's death; so three deaths on this one whale's head. It seems to me shouldn't one death be enough? Shouldn't SeaWorld have retired this animal?

HANNA: Well, when you say retired. Remember something, that no one ever swam with Tilly at SeaWorld. The animal is with other whales, females and Tilly bred and they had babies. No one ever swam with Tilly at SeaWorld.

The young man that was killed and snuck in the park, I can't feel sorry for that young man. I mean, anybody can go and jump off a building. That's way basically what he did. All right, you can't blame that Tilly is a wild, dangerous animal. You cannot blame SeaWorld for that.

YELLIN: But may I just one -- one quick question, because I don't want to offend dog owners. But I know, for example, if a pit bull kills one human being, often that pit bull is put down, whether it was the person's fault --

HANNA: Right.

YELLIN: -- or the animal's.

So why shouldn't a whale that's killed a human being, three human beings at least be isolated from any kind of contact with people?

HANNA: All right, I'm sure that may happen at SeaWorld -- I'm sure that may happen at SeaWorld now. I'm not quite sure. But again, if an elephant in a Zoological Park or something happens, -- I wouldn't put the elephant down.

You know, SeaWorld has had over a million encounters, interactions with this whale over the last 40 -- not this whale, with whales over the last 46 years. This lady was -- Dawn, was the most incredible trainer in the world. She was like an Olympic athlete. She was one of the top trainers, if not the top trainers maybe in the history of SeaWorld.

Now, this -- whether a human error happened? Yes, it did. So I don't think that the whale, myself, should be punished or something. Will they do other things with the whale now? Probably, I don't know.

YELLIN: All right, Jack Hanna, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and thank you very much for being with us.


YELLIN: And just ahead, what Toyota's president has to say about his runaway cars.

And as if the people of Haiti don't have enough problems already, a new glitch now in delivering crucial relief supplies. It's not about logistic or airspace this time. It's a battle over taxes, of all things.


YELLIN: Let's get the latest now on some other important stories we're following. Brianna Keilar joins us with a "360 Bulletin". Hey, Brianna.


A "360 Follow" in a case we've been following for years. A former New Orleans police officer accused of covering up two fatal shootings in the days following hurricane Katrina today pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Federal investigators say former Lieutenant Michael Lohman knew that two people killed by police officers on a bridge were unarmed, but filed false reports to hide the facts. One of the victims was a 40-year-old mentally disabled man.

The brother of former Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was released on bond. Mark Kerrigan is charged with assault and battery in the death of his father last month. He's pleaded not guilty. Kerrigan must wear a tracking device and can leave his home only to visit his lawyer.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is out of the hospital two days after suffering a mild heart attack, his fifth in roughly three decades. His spokesman said 69-year-old Cheney will resume his normal schedule soon.

And word tonight that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has agreed to face off on a basketball court with President Obama. This invitation actually coming from the Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, where basketball was invented more than a century ago.

And Jessica, the White House is studying this offer. Some face- off that would be, huh?

YELLIN: That's got to be the hottest basketball ticket in town.


YELLIN: I would be play on that one. And I can't play ball. Can you play ball?

KEILAR: No and I don't love basketball but that is a game I would surely watch.

YELLIN: Right. Ok, thanks, Brianna.

And coming up still on 360: aid to Haiti being held up over taxes.

And later, why even ordinary-looking stuff costs so much when it's in a hospital operating room. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us and takes on a very expensive tour.


YELLIN: All this week, we are looking at "Broken Government". And is there any better example than the endless, epic health care fight that's dragging out in Washington? Well, it's no secret that when President Obama hosts a big summit on health care reform tomorrow, he's going to face a lot of disagreement from warring sides in this debate.

But tonight, we're looking at one of the few issues that all sides do seem to agree on. We've got to rein in the exploding cost of health care. The price tag for a single hospital admission can make your head spin.

And we wondered about those eye-popping bills and how they break down. So 360's MD, Sanjay Gupta is here to show us -- Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Jessica, you're absolutely right. First of all, most people do agree on that one issue that costs are really at the heart of this. If you can control costs, you can control a lot of other things.

But really, you know, the individuals, when they go to the hospital, they get these bills. And I have been collecting these bills and looking at them over the day. It is remarkable. You have -- someone goes into the ER because he has an injured wrist, fell and hurt his wrist, got a bill for $10,655.

A woman named Linda in Illinois. She had twins via C-section and was in the hospital for two days, Jessica, $38,000. A lot of money, no question, on these bills and it kind of leaves people scratching these heads.

How exactly do these bills get so high and what are we being charged for? I decided to go straight into the operating room and take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): This is the hospital where I work, where I'm a neurosurgeon. And just having an operation performed in a room like this costs about $3,000 an hour. That's for starters.

Come on in. Give you a couple of quick examples. If you look at a hospital bill, you might see an IV bag charge, an IV like this about $280 just for the IV bag. That might strike people as very high. A stapler, this is a stapler that's often used in surgery, something like this, it costs about $1,200. (voice-over): And like everything else I'm going to show you, it's used once and then thrown away.

Now, keep in mind, all these prices are what you, the patient, are getting billed for. It's all itemized. Hospitals buy these supplies at cost and then, like a retailer, mark it up at a higher price to charge for.

(on camera); And you'll find examples like that really all over a room like this. Suture, something that's used in just about every operating room in the world, this type of suture over here costs about $200.

And if you look at even devices like -- this is a needle that's used for biopsies. If there is a concern that someone has a tumor, they would use a needle like this and this is going to cost about $800.

Now, it's important to keep in mind, if you ask the manufacturer of a device like this, why so much money?

They will say, well, it took years to develop something like this. The research and development costs are significant. Also, they are guaranteeing a certain level of effectiveness of this needle. That costs money as well.

And something maybe you didn't know. When you look at a hospital bill, it's not just the cost of the supplies. There's also administrative costs that are built in. There is the cost of covering people who simply don't have insurance or can't pay. That's built into these costs as well. And finally, keep in mind that what is charged and what is ultimately paid are two very different numbers.


GUPTA: You know what we hear a lot as well, Jessica, you know, the billings. For example, for every dollar, only about four cents in some of these hospitals is collected. So, a lot of these hospitals -- I mean there is a lot of finger-pointing and going on and saying, "Hey, it's not the hospitals that are making too much money. These manufacturers may be charging too much money in the first place."

In fact, if you go back and when you look at hospitals around the country, about half of them are currently operating in the red.

So, we decided to go to the manufacturers, the makers of a lot of those supplies you just saw, Jessica. And in fact, many of them are doing ok. 3M, for example, makes a lot of medical equipment. They had about $800 million in profits last recorded.

And also a company known as MedTronic, they make a lot of supplies, including defibrillators, which we've been talking about quite a bit recently, made about $900 million in profits last recorded. So you've got to sort of to follow the money along here. But it's interesting, after people could take a look at their bill and really break it down -- Jessica. YELLIN: It really is remarkable and I know as you know, Sanjay. The one group that says they are really not benefiting from all of this, doctors who are getting squeezed in the middle. And I'm sure you'll be telling us more about that in the days to come.

But we want to switch gears for a second, Sanjay, because we've been following the story of a very brave 12-year-old girl who survived the earthquake in Haiti. Her name is Kimberly. She suffered a massive brain injury.

Now, you were called in to perform a life-saving operation aboard the USS Carl Vinson. After a full month of rehab, well, Kimberly has been reunited with her father. They were homeless, she had no medicine. She just learned her mother and sister died in quake.

But now a bit of good news and Sanjay we understand that you have an update on Kimberly.

GUPTA: Yes, Jessica I'm just sitting here and looking at these images with you and I -- as I had spend so much time in Haiti and just seeing Kimberly there.

And you know it's so hard when we left her, she was essentially living in this tent outside and trying to recover from this major operation. It was tough to see, I can tell you.

Her story clearly touched a lot of viewers. In fact, one organization called Can Do -- that is the name of the organization -- after watching this piece came us to and asked where she was living, where all these people were living and immediately within a day or so started taking supplies there, including tents, including lots of water.

And ultimately, they were able to get a home, essentially a place for Kimberly and many other people in her family to live. So, she certainly is starting to recover in this home now, so obviously, a good ending for her.

But I can anticipate your question, Jessica, and a lot of other people's questions. Obviously, hundreds of thousands more people like Jessica (SIC) still in Port-au-Prince, still around Haiti tonight, Jessica.

YELLIN: All right. Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

YELLIN: And tonight, there are reports of a new obstacle still facing relief groups that are trying to bring supplies to Haiti.

It has been six weeks since the devastating quake hit there, and until now, relief supplies flowing in the country have not been taxed. But now, government officials in Haiti are trying to change that. Could they be trying to profit off the aid?

Soledad O'Brien joins me now with more on this new development. Soledad, this is surprising.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really surprising. In effect, Jessica, if could you pick a country that really does not need another obstacle to getting aid in, this would be the country, Haiti, of course.

Now the relief supplies, as you well know, have been coming in and out of Haiti ever since the earthquake or right after earthquake, kind of bypassing what has been typically done here before the earthquake, which would be customs and taxes that are imposed on any kind of foreign imports.

Now, the government says that didn't impose the new restrictions because they wanted to allow for quick distribution of all these emergency aid materials that were coming in. But now, today, the government said that the initial phase of the emergency situation is over and they have ordered the customs agents to stall the relief supplies until they can ensure that the organizations really deserve to bring in some supplies tax-free.

The minister of economic and finance told us that Haiti wants to make sure that commercial groups are not sneaking in contraband or just bypassing taxes. Some relief organizations though are telling us that the delay means, clearly, that something that's desperately needed, like a tent, in fact is not going to get to the people right away. They have been told the only way they can get them out fast is to pay customs taxes that could run in the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what exactly you are bringing in, supplies-wise.

So, of course, the alternative for these agencies is to kind of wait it out. The emergency relief organization has to wait for the government to figure out if they actually are confirmed as an official relief organization, all that takes time. Again, we are talking about tents in the rainy season.

Some of these small relief groups and some are really small say they don't have the cash to be able to pay taxes on something that's been donated by the people in the United States. It makes absolutely no sense.

Here's what some of the folks we talked to today had to say.


ANNETTE STOKES, DOCTOR FROM MILWAUKEE: We were bringing in medical equipment as well as medicines and we have nothing. We don't have anything to even see the patients that we were supposed to come down here to see.

O'BRIEN: How many patients are we talking about?

STOKES: Probably 300 a day.

TERRY NELSON, LIGHT MINISTRIES: We are giving stuff away. We have been here 28 years and we have to pay to help people to help their people. O'BRIEN: How much money do they want you to pay?

NELSON: Well, I'm trying to find out right now.

O'BRIEN: What are you bringing in?

NELSON: Tents. I got 250 tents I'm giving to people that are without shelter.

BILL MANASSERO, MAISON DE LUMIERE ORPHANAGE: We had a bunch of things shipped into us to help us to repair houses, to -- tents to give away to people that need homes. And right now, we can't get our things out of customs because they are basically telling us that we -- we have to take all of the stuff that is ours and declare it over to the government and give it to them as a gift. And then what they will do is they will give it back to us at some point that -- we don't know when.


O'BRIEN: So, that last gentleman is Bill Manassero and he is with the Lighthouse -- it's an orphanage, and they have been trying to do some repair work for this orphanage.

And what he's saying is true. The government confirmed that in fact what they want people to do, what these relief organizations to do is to basically endorse over to the government what they are bringing in and then the government will return it to them as soon as they are able to make all those confirmations.

A lot of the people we talked to today, of course, take that promise of return with a little bit of a grain of salt and that is kind of where the consternation is.

The response we got when we asked the people at the customs office, why would you need to do that with a tent? Why can't you just take that tent that is desperately needed and hand it out, was sort of no response, call somebody else. Two relief workers told us they have been operating in Haiti a long time and this is sort of how things go, but that they think signing relief over to them -- the relief materials over to them is just too risky and they really don't want to do it.

The doctor and others say they are only here a couple of days. So the longer you wait, the chances are they could come all this wait way to Haiti with relief supplies that eventually will actually never get to the people who need them.

It is really, really disappointing for a lot of people here who are trying to help and I think also for Americans who sent all these supplies and are now thinking well, maybe they are not getting where they needed to go -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Truly unbelievable. Hopefully this policy will be reversed in the coming days.

Thanks for that amazing report, Soledad.

And coming up tonight, Toyota's president testifying before Congress, but big questions remain about his company's commitment to safety. We are "Keeping Them Honest", next.


YELLIN: Now, the moment a lot of Toyota and Lexus owners have been waiting for. Akio Toyoda testifying before Congress, more than 8 million recalls after the first report of a Toyota or Lexus that just wouldn't stop. He apologized. He told lawmakers his company had put growth ahead of safety. Then after, he reached out to customers and to Toyota workers.


AKIO TOYODA, PRESIDENT & CEO, TOYOTA MOTOR CORP: To those who have had disappointing experiences with our cars, they are very much in our hearts. At the hearing, I was not alone. You and your colleagues across America, around the world, were there with me. Your presence and encouraging and inspiring words cannot express my gratitude.


YELLIN: Well, getting back to the hearings today, Toyota came under heavy fire. Some of it centered on the company's claims runaway car problem is mechanical, not electronic. And Toyota has been replacing gas pedals on millions of vehicles, but what if the decision to replace pedals and not electronics is actually based on dollar- driven science? That was the suspicion in Congress today and now Ted Rowlands is "Keeping Them Honest".


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toyota is apologizing on Capitol Hill but it is not admitting to anything specific. In fact, an initial report given to Congress this month couldn't find anything wrong with Toyota vehicles. That report was compiled by a company called Exponent, hired by, guess who, Toyota.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: We have asked people to evaluate Exponent's analysis and they said it was not a very good analysis.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Exponent is an engineering firm with the nickname Masters of Disaster. When a big corporation gets in trouble, these are the guys they call to help defend them.

(voice-over): And those big corporations read like a who's who of companies with major product or PR problems over the past decades, like Exxon. When the Valdez ran aground, Exponent concluded that a double-hull wouldn't have prevented a spill. Exponent worked with tobacco companies, arguing against the labels warning of the hazards of smoking.

Dr. Stanton Glance has been battling tobacco companies for years. He claims Exponent is basically a hired gun for big business.

DR. STANTON GLANCE, BATTLING TOBACCO COMPANIES FOR YEARS: If I were Toyota and you wanted somebody to do this, I would have found somebody who didn't have this baggage. To get an independent assessment of Toyota cars or anything else, you need to have people doing the assessing who are actually independent.

ROWLANDS: Exponent's initial report given to Congress states that after testing several vehicles, they were, quote, "unable to induce, through electrical disturbances to the system, unintended acceleration, despite concerted efforts."

Electrical engineering consultant Dr. Anthony Anderson told CNN the report was, quote, "seriously deficient", a skepticism shared by some lawmakers.

REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA: Was the interim report produced by Exponent, Inc., to justify Toyota's position the equivalent of junk science? And how much credibility should it be give given by this committee and American consumers?

ANGELA MEYERS, VICE PRESIDENT, EXPONENT: There was a comment made by one of the Congressmen yesterday, "We want to look at this report to see if it is junk science." And as an engineer, that -- we take offense to stuff like this.

ROWLANDS: Exponent vice president Angela Meyers sat down with us and fired back at critics.

(on camera): You are saying that if a victim hired you, had the money to do so, in this exact case, you would run the exact same tests and do the exact same thing as if Toyota was your client?

MEYERS: That's correct.

ROWLANDS: People would have a very difficult time believing that.

MEYERS: Well, we are -- engineers are much like doctors. We have ethical standards. We are all licensed professionals.

ROWLANDS: Meyers says the report given to Congress is only the beginning of what will be an exhaustive investigation. While Meyers insists the wishes of the paying client don't matter, in the same breath, she seems to indicate it is how the game is played.

MEYERS: They are going to look at our report and they're going to tear it apart. And we are going to look at their report, I'm sure, and we're going to tear it apart. And the question is who --

ROWLANDS: but isn't that the frustrating part of it all? That's what's wrong with our system in that you can have PhDs on either side coming to dramatically different conclusions, and lo and behold, the conclusions marry the clients that are paying them.

MEYERS: From a company perspective that does this work and does it well, we are going to do the right science. And if it's -- Toyota likes it, great; if Toyota doesn't like, unfortunately they're going to have to deal with the consequences.


ROWLANDS: Exponent says they stand absolutely by not only their record but by their employees and they say when this is all said and done, they will find out exactly what happened with this accelerator problem in Toyota vehicles. But Jessica, you can bet that somebody else may just find out something different and they will end up battling it out in court.

YELLIN: Absolutely. Thank you, Ted, for that report.

Well, unlike Mr. Toyoda, Ray LaHood is not a brand name. He is the secretary of transportation and today, he too, was on the hot seat for what the safety watchdogs in his department did and perhaps did not do about the Toyota problem.

More on that angle from Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Toyota is on the hot seat this week in Washington but it's NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the feds who were supposed to be looking out for motorists, who are taking a real beating here, accused of missing multiple warning signs and getting caught completely by surprise when the story blew up in their faces last year. Joan Claybrook used to run NHTSA during the Carter administration. Now, she is a consumer advocate.

JOAN CLAYBROOK, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: I think they lack leadership. I don't think there was an enforcement mentality. This agency is a cop. It's a policeman. It should act like a cop.

JOHNS: So, just how asleep at the switch was NHTSA? The House Energy and Commerce Committee says that since the year 2000, NHTSA has received 2600 complaints about sudden, unintended acceleration in Toyota cars, along with six petitions requesting investigations.

State Farm Insurance Company is now confirming that it first alerted the agency to problems with Toyota cars in 2004. That very same year, 2004, the committee says NHTSA did its only study of electronic throttle control systems in Toyota cars, a so-called preliminary evaluation. And then shut the evaluation down, announcing, "A defect trend in the cars has not been identified at this time and further use of agency resources does not appear to be warranted."

An auto safety expert says NHTSA also conducted a technical test in 2007 and concluded that floor mats were causing sudden acceleration problems on Toyota cars. But when the Center for Auto Safety asked for details about the test in a Freedom of Information Act request, they got few answers. CLARENCE DITLOW, CENTER FOR AUTO SAFETY: NHTSA responded to that query by saying they had -- they don't know how they did the test. They don't know what they measured and they had no test data. In other words, they had nothing other than a conclusion.

JOHNS (on camera): The next question is why. Claybrook says NHTSA has long been considered severely understaffed and under-funded and the House committee report says NHTSA appears under-qualified to investigate safety on cars that have electronics rivaling the cockpit of a fighter jet.

But the agency and Toyota have also been attacked for being too cozy with each other. For example, two Toyota officials who have handled safety issues involving NHTSA actually used to work for NHTSA. The company's been defending them.

YOSHIMI INABA, PRESIDENT & COO, TOYOTA NORTH AMERICA: Whatever they have done is within the very good ethical sort of code.

JOHNS (voice-over): And Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood strongly denies that NHTSA has been taking it easy on Toyota or any other auto company it's supposed to be regulating.

RAY LAHOOD, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: We have been a lap dog for nobody. We have been a lap dog for the people who drive cars and want to do them safely.

JOHNS: LaHood says the agency is adding 60 people into its next budget, but the watchdogs want to know whether the new staff will be working on enforcing public safety issues or overseeing grants to the states, which is where most of NHTSA's money is going right now.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


YELLIN: Up next, more on President Obama's health care summit at the White House. Can a deal be struck with lawmakers?

You will hear from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle when 360 continues.


YELLIN: As we told you, we're just hours away from President Obama's health care summit. He is hoping to reach common ground with Republicans tomorrow while also shoring up support within his own party. But he may only end up with more partisan infighting.

Now, this summit comes as a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows that 25 percent of his country wants lawmakers to pass the current reform bill. Another half want lawmakers to work on a new plan. But another 25 percent of this country say it's just time to stop working on health care altogether.

So the question is can a deal be struck? Congressman Mike Pence is the chairman of the House Republican conference and Congressman Chris Van Hollen is the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Both joined me earlier.


YELLIN: First I'll start with you, Mr. Van Hollen. Eighty-six percent of Americans, according to a latest poll, think government is broken. Eight out of ten think that members are mainly concerned with re-election.

So now the president is hosting a command performance TV debate. The head of the senate is already saying they're going to push a Democrats bill through the Senate. So where is the sign that Democrats really want to compromise with Republicans?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D) MARYLAND: Well, I think what Americans are concerned about is insurance premiums that are going through the roof. We see these dramatic increases around the country from coast to coast. Americans are still being denied health insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

So what the president has done is put his proposal on the table. It's been on the Internet for a good period of time for people to take a look at. And he's invited our Republican colleagues down at the White House for another conversation about an issue that's important to everybody in this country.

And he's hopeful that something positive will come out of that.

YELLIN: But is there any element on which the Democrats are willing to give into some of the Republicans' demands?

VAN HOLLEN: There are a number of areas of potential common ground. In other words, our Republican colleagues have said that they want more ability for people to purchase insurance across state lines.

Now in the bill that the president's proposed, in the document he put out, he creates these exchanges that allow people to do exactly that, but there may be room for moving further in that direction.

So there are a number of ideas Republicans have offered that are already incorporated in the proposal the president put out. And he had said come on down and let's talk about some other issues that you may want to incorporate or you may want to address. And so, yes, I do think there's room for that.

YELLIN: Congressman Pence, let me put that to you. At a recent Republican conference, the CPAC conference, you said no is underrated, sometimes no is what this town needs. When Democrats are offering to compromise just like your colleague did there, can you ever take yes for an answer? Will you compromise with Democrats?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Look, I think Republicans will always be willing to compromise for our principles, but we'll never compromise our principles. And to the point of your first question, though, I really do believe that while, like any American, you know, we hope that we can have a fresh start tomorrow at the White House. That we begin with a clean sheet of paper, scrap the bills that have passed the House and the Senate.

The fact that the administration has unveiled a massive new bill which is just some changes in the 2,000-page bill that passed the Senate and they've unveiled that before sitting down for this open discussion tomorrow is a bit discouraging to many of us who know that -- and I'll give you a piece of agreement here -- Chris and I both know we've got to do something to lower the cost of health insurance in this country. We have to do something to lower the long term costs of health care.

But the president even before tomorrow's so-called summit, has thrown his arms around a big government takeover approach that passed the House and the Senate and has dropped that in the middle of the table. And I can't help but think that that is going to make it very, very difficult for tomorrow to be any much more than a six-hour infomercial.

YELLIN: Congressman Pence, are you at all worried that your party will be cast as obstructionist come November?

PENCE: Look. As I said last week and you quoted me, I think no is way underrated here in Washington, D.C. When it comes to more borrowing, more spending, more taxes, more bailouts, more government takeovers, I think the majority of Americans want us to say no.

But they also want us to offer better solutions, positive solutions. And as the president acknowledged in Baltimore a month ago when he visited our Republican retreat, Republicans have been offering solutions, most especially on health care reform.

YELLIN: All right. We'll see how it plays out tomorrow. Thank you gentlemen. Congressman Pence, Congressman Van Hollen; thanks to both of you.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

PENCE: Thank you.


YELLIN: And we'll be right back.


YELLIN: Time now to get caught up on some of tonight's other headlines. Brianna Keilar joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Hey, Brianna.

KEILAR: Hi there, Jessica.

Police say 15 new suspects are wanted in the killing of a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel. That brings the total to 26. Ten of the new suspects allegedly used Australian, British, French and Irish passports. Many of those accused earlier live in Israel, leading police to suspect the Mossad secret service of carrying out the killing.

An emotional plea today from the parents of actor Andrew Koenig for him to contact them: Koenig is best known for playing Boner on the hit 1980s sitcom "Growing Pains". Police say he hasn't used his cell phone or ATM card in eight days.

And say good-bye to the Hummer, because General Motors has given up trying to sell the brand to a Chinese company and plans to scrap it. This is the third brand to fail for GM. Saturn folded earlier this year and the Pontiac brand is also being shut down.

And Jessica, a new spin on religious freedom, I guess you could say. Everyone who visits the White Tail Chapel --

YELLIN: I'm glad we doctored this video.

KEILAR: In Ivor, Virginia. Yes, definitely. They are free, free to worship in the nude. There you have it. Clothing very optional. The pastor delivers his sermons, clearly there in the buff. He says his congregation is family-oriented, and business is booming.

YELLIN: Oh, that shot.

KEILAR: It seems a little wrong.

And just -- just in, Jessica, also. Congratulations on winning a Gracie award.

YELLIN: Oh, you're very sweet. Thank you.

KEILAR: Very wonderful award.

YELLIN: I was just going to riff on all the nude people. I could think of some puns that was good.

KEILAR: Your piece had to do with politics and women. It was amazing, and we're proud of you at CNN.

YELLIN: That is so sweet. Thank you so much, Brianna.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.