Aired March 4, 2005 - 11:59 ET
WOLF BLITZER: Up first this hour, Martha Stewart, ex-con. Having paid her debt to society, the hyper-successful entrepreneur bids adieu to a federal prison. And by all indications, she's poised to resume her stellar business career. [...] Mary, set the stage for us. Tell us what has happened since she arrived there.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, she's certainly getting her first taste of freedom after spending five months in prison. Earlier this morning, she came out. She's certainly not shying away from the cameras.
She told reporters that she's feeling fine, that she's feeling great. And she even offered reporters and photographers camped outside of her house some coffee and doughnuts. And she also shared a story about not having cappuccino in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA STEWART, MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA: And this is a funny. All (UNINTELLIGIBLE) asked the guards every day for a cappuccino. You know, just as a joke. And they'd come in with their cups of coffee and stuff.
And so I get here, and I have a spot for a cappuccino machine. And it didn't work. So I don't have any cappuccino.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have any cappuccino.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want me to get you one?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have any cappuccino. The cappuccino machine does not work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: One final question, Mary. We saw the picture of her getting on the plane. She was wearing those tight, very fashionable jeans. She looked great. Her hair was excellent, as usual. Not the kind of hairdo we would expect someone coming out of five months in a prison to have.
Did she really lose a lot of weight? Is she in much better shape now than she was before? This is a 63-year-old woman. Take a look at how she looks. She looks great.
SNOW: Right. And, you know, she had that fashionable poncho on, as well.
BLITZER: Can Martha Stewart turn prison into a profit? Standing by live with that part of the story, CNN's senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff.
Allan, what's the answer? Can she turn this company around big- time? ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it won't only be Martha Stewart, but certainly the company learned a very important lesson while Martha Stewart was in prison. The television business suffered. The media business, the magazines, they all suffered. But one thing that actually held up, merchandising, Martha Stewart products.
So the company found that no matter what the public thought about Martha Stewart the person, people still had high regard for Martha Stewart products, for the brand itself. In fact, the CEO of the company has told me she believes that "The Martha Stewart brand is our single greatest asset."
So Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia now plans to build on that brand. They want to expand dramatically. They want to have how-to videos based upon the more than 1,500 hours of television footage from Martha Stewart's shows.
They also are thinking about home improvement products, such as cabinets, perhaps doors, windows, hooks. These are all in the works right now, all on the drawing board.
They're thinking even about the possibility of frozen food. Of course, Martha Stewart known very much for the foods.
But more immediately, we're going to see more products coming out of the company at Kmart, for example. They're offering a new line of five-star linens, some ready-to-assemble furniture. We have a picture of a bed, as well. Only $300, and it looks pretty nice.
BLITZER: Allan Chernoff reporting for us. Allan, I'm going to have you stand by, as well, because I'm going to bring you back later this hour. We're going to continue this discussion of Martha Stewart, now out of prison.
BLITZER: More now on Martha Stewart. With the pain of prison behind her, Martha Stewart gets ready to reconnect with her friends and family. Did prison life change her? Is the headstrong businesswoman perhaps more humble? Where does she take it all from here?
Joining us now on Stewart's next act, CNN's Mary Snow and Allan Chernoff, they're standing by live in Bedford, New York. That's outside of New York City at the Stewart estate. Live from midtown Manhattan Dennis Kneale of "Forbes" magazine, Keith Naughton of "Newsweek" magazine. They're at the Time-Warner Center. All of them have been covering this story very, very closely.
BLITZER: If you take a look at the boots she was wearing, they seem pretty snug. The ankle bracelet must be very, very modest. It didn't show any effect there, did it, Mary?
SNOW: Well, she hasn't actually put it on yet. She'll meet with her probation officer, she has to contact him by midnight on Sunday, and they're going to sit down, she has to sign an agreement, and at that point once that bracelet goes on, it has to stay on for the next five months. She cannot take that off.
BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, I want to bring you back, because in your earlier report this hour on our program, you said that her company wants to branch out into all sorts of areas. One of the most fascinating, frozen food. I take it she used to eat a lot of frozen food in prison that she would put in the microwave. Is there a connection, is there something going on that we don't know about?
BLITZER: Back again now with more on Martha Stewart. Our guests, CNN's Mary Snow and Allan Chernoff. They're standing by live in Bedford, New York. That's outside the Stewart estate. And joining us from Manhattan, Dennis Kneale of "Forbes" magazine and Keith Naughton of "Newsweek" magazine there at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.
Let me start with you, Keith. The statement she released on the web, her prison experience, she said, was life-altering and life- affirming. Is there any indication she's going to become an activist for women's rights in prison?
NAUGHTON: That's what a lot of prison reform advocates would like. You know, she put out that letter while she was still in prison, imploring America to consider these 1,200 women she's incarcerated with, and in fact, all women who are in prison and look at sentences and look at the need for rehabilitation. So there's the hope that she steps forward as a prison reform advocate. But that's a delicate balance, too. You know, you also need the ability to show that you're moving on and that there is a new, reformed Martha, as well. So if she becomes too much of a prison reform advocate, that could, you know, sort of stick her in the past.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Dennis? Dennis Kneale of "Forbes" magazine. That it's a two-edged sword, if she starts becoming an activist for women's rights in prison?
KNEALE: I really think there's a big downside there...
BLITZER: I was impressed, Allan, her daughter, Alexis, who greeted her at the prison, flew back with her, has been at her side every step of the way. This is a pretty loving relationship between mother and daughter?
CHERNOFF: Well, that's very true. Alexis very close to Martha, and actually after the conviction, Alexis was the one who broke down in tears in the courtroom, not Martha Stewart. I should also add something about Martha Stewart's personality publicly. The company certainly wants everyone to see what they call the real Martha Stewart.
Many people who know her say Martha has a wonderful sense of humor, and that hasn't come across very often. But this morning, actually, she did tell something fairly funny to a number of the photographers. She was talking about how in prison, they would every day ask the guards for some cappuccino, as the guards would be walking around with their cups of coffee. And she said, well I came home to my house here in Bedford, I have a cappuccino machine. And guess what? It's broken. So no cappuccino for Martha today.
BLITZER: I suspect it will be fixed very, very soon.
BLITZER: We'll continue our coverage. We'll take another quick break. We'll take another quick break, when we come back, a vicious animal attack in California. What would make a chimp attack a man, leaving him critically injured? It's among the most popular stories right now at CNN.com. We'll have details.
BLITZER: Until then, thanks very much for watching the news from CNN, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
"LIVE FROM" with Kyra Phillips and Tony Harris. They have a lot more coming up on Martha. I'm predicting that right now.