ABC: Did Lack of Insurance Drive Hillary Hostage-Taker to Crime?
Did the New Hampshire man who took several Hillary Clinton staffers hostage on Friday do so because of a lack of health insurance? That's what "Good Morning America" reporter David Kerley seemed to imply during a segment on Monday's show. First, he pointed out that the individual, Leeland Eisenberg, was turned away from a mental health support due to a lack of "money or insurance."
Then, after playing a clip of a Clinton campaign ad in which a man lauds the New York senator for helping to save his son's life by absorbing medical costs, Kerley revealed that Eisenberg targeted Clinton "because he saw this Clinton ad in which a New Hampshire supporter says the candidate helped him get health insurance." Kerley closed the segment by observing that the hostage-taker stormed the office and demanded to see Senator Clinton. The GMA correspondent intoned, "That didn't happen, but he may finally get the help he was pleading for."
Co-host Diane Sawyer, interviewing the family of Mr. Eisenberg, appeared to be making a similar point. She asked the suspect's son, Ben Warren, this question about the root causes of the crime:
DIANE SAWYER: Ben, as we know, he's now facing serious felony charges, your step-dad, but there was a history. He was turned away by local hospitals, turned away by a psychiatrist, unable to get his medicine. You said this was an act of desperation. What kind of desperation do you see?
A transcript of the segments, which aired at 7:32am on December 3, follow:
SAWYER: First, we do want to go to the stunned family that is coming forward today, the family of the man who took those hostages at Hillary Clinton's campaign offices. As you know, he had strapped to his chest a fake bomb made of road flairs. Let's begin all of this though with David Kerley who has the very latest on all of it, this morning.
DAVID KERLEY: Peeling off his fake bomb, Leeland Eisenberg was no stranger to police. On this very day, he was supposed to be in court on a domestic dispute charge.
KITTY CARLSON (Suspect's neighbor) I told her if she got in trouble in the middle of the night with him, bang on my door. Someone would let her in.
KERLEY: Three days earlier, his wife filed for divorce against the out of work 47-year-old. His family says he was trying to get help for a drinking problem.
CECIL PLAISTED (Suspect's neighbor): When he's not drinking, he's the nicest guy you can meet. He doesn't bother anyone. But when he's drinking, he's altogether different.
KERLEY: Early last week, the family says Eisenberg, seeking mental health help, was turned away from a local hospital because he had no money or insurance. Here in Rochester, Barack Obama's offices are just a couple doors down from Hillary Clinton's, so why did Eisenberg target Clinton?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [Brief clip of Hillary Clinton ad]: We called Senator Clinton and asked for help.
KERLEY: ABC News has learned it was because he saw this Clinton ad in which a New Hampshire supporter says the candidate helped him get health insurance.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [From ad again]: I trusted this woman to save my son's life. And she did.
KERLEY: Eisenberg told a family member he was going to do something to get in the hospital. The next day, he walked into Clinton's office wearing what he said was a bomb, demanding to speak to the senator. That didn't happen, but he may finally get the help he was pleading for. David Kerley, ABC News, Rochester, New Hampshire.
DIANE SAWYER: And by the way, his family offered to go in and try to help defuse the situation, and now in a GMA exclusive, Lee Eisenberg's wife, Lisa, his step-children, Ben and Erin Warren. And we talk to them in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ben, Lisa, Erin, thank you for being with us. I know this was a hard decision for you. And good morning to all of you.
ALL: Good morning.
SAWYER: Tell me, Ben, did you turn on the TV? Did someone tell you what was going on? How did you first know that your step-dad was involved in this?
BEN WARREN (Hostage taker's stepson): Well, we were in superior court and a bailiff came and told us said that they needed to go to Rochester to the scene where they had the emergency vehicles set up and stuff.
SAWYER: And when you were watching the scenes on the television, did you think at any point that he might really be going to hurt someone?
BEN WARREN: I didn't know, but I'm sure everybody else did.
SAWYER: Let me get a sense of that morning because I know that he had been drinking the night before. And as you're getting ready to leave, a couple of things, you knew a couple of things. That he was saying he wanted to get help. He was going to do something big to get help. What did that mean to you?
BEN WARREN: I honestly at the time, I didn't really pay it much attention 'cause, you know, he had been drinking all night. I wasn't really, you know -- I didn't really think there was much validity to it. But he -- I don't know. I figured if anything, it would be some kind of suicide attempt where somebody would see it so he would get attention and get some help. I didn't think it would be anything quite this extreme.
SAWYER: He had a message for your mom?
BEN WARREN: He told me to make sure I told her that he loved her and that it wasn't her fault.
SAWYER: When we read about his history, that he had said that he was sexually abused by a priest at one point, had a settlement, in fact, from the church. His mother died young, his father alcoholic and abusive. What was he like to live with? What was the difference on medication and off medication?
LISA WARREN: When he was on his medication, He was always making me laugh. He spoiled me. It was -- it was perfect in my eyes. But without the medication, and the use of the alcohol, he turned into a different person.
SAWYER: Did you see that video of him coming out, dropping to his knees, surrendering?
ERIN WARREN: Yes.
SAWYER: And in that moment, what did you say to each other?
ERIN WARREN: We just -- we really didn't say anything. It was just relief, I think, for all of us.
SAWYER: Ben, as we know, he's now facing serious felony charges, your step-dad, but there was a history. He was turned away by local hospitals, turned away by a psychiatrist, unable to get his medicine. You said this was an act of desperation. What kind of desperation do you see?
BEN WARREN: You know, what I remember most is he kept expressing that he was wanting help, he was wanting help with his problem and that he wasn't able to get it because he didn't have insurance and he didn't have money. And it was an act of desperation, to try to get help.
SAWYER: Lisa-- And Lisa, a final word from you to him, to the man you married.
LISA WARREN: Just that, I still -- I still love him. I'm still here, and I wish there was something I could have done, and that I'm sorry for -- that it ended up this way.
SAWYER: Again, I do know how difficult this decision was to come forward, the three of you, and we thank you so much.
LISA WARREN: Thank you.