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tv   Nightline  ABC  April 27, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am PDT

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tonight on "nightline," tempest in a t-shirt. his racy ads have come under fire and so have his antics as ceo of the american apparel empire. but he is also gambling his fortune on a vow to pay a fair wage and keep good jobs in the country. so, who really is dov charney? accidental genius. a freak brain injury transformed his world. now, he sees mathematical form la las he looks. the real life beautiful mind. plus, mr. kimmel goes to washington. imagine having lindsay lohan, uggie the dog and president
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obama in the same room, and making them all laugh. tonight, jimmy kimmel tells us how he will wow the toughest crowd. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, and terry moran in washington, this is "nightline," april 27th, 2012. >> good evening, i'm terry moran. he's got to be the most controversial ceo in the country. dov charney, the man behind those risque american apparel ads, who has weathered several high profile allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. well, just weeks after one such case was removed out of court, charney agreed to a no holds barred interview. so, i went to his los angeles factory and discovered something unexpected. this look. so disarmingly direct. moments of vulnerable sensuality captured in seemingly casual
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surroundings. creepy polar roilds or marketing genius? maybe both. >> they represent our look. >> reporter: it's a famous look. >> it's a look. >> reporter: that look made dov charney and his company american apparel a marketing sensation and put him at the heart of the debate in the fashion world about what might be too sexy. one of the things that people said about your ads a couple of years ago is that you were shooting models that were too young, made to look younger and exploiting their sexuality. >> i don't see it like that. >> reporter: did that hurt or is that what you wanted? >> no, it hurt a little bit because it was silly. the problem is, in the real fashion world, they are taking very young girls and making them look older and it is completely contrived. >> reporter: he's got a point. why should shots of models looking more like real people be more disturbing than the art fish y'allty of high fashion? >> here, there's a photographer, she shot these of herself.
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feeling good in her jeans. i'm proud of that. she is the brand. she's the customer. she's wearing the product and she's the photographer. this is american apparent. >> reporter: like it or hate it, it works. the company semis half a billion dollars of these clothes a year. but the ads aren't the only thing dov charney doesn't differently. >> i'm a schizophrenic creative, you know? >> reporter: today, he's one of the most stroerpt y'all and hyper-active ceos in america. >> this thing here, made in u.s. ums. here, look. new york mills, new york. >> reporter: there are the allegations of sexual harassment. financial troubles, immigration problems. but he's been called a hero. >> yeah! >> reporter: charney took us on a high speed tour of the american apparel factory in downtown los angeles. and every hop, skip and step of the way, he was reveling in the throwback business of making stuff in america. >> we knit it, we dye it, we cut
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it, we sew it right here. this is -- this is pure america, this right here. >> reporter: it is extraordinary in the 21st century usa. just listen to it. american apparel, which charney founded as a 20-year-old in 1989, makes clothes. not in china, not in vietnam or indonesia or some other low wage country, but here. 3,000 people work here. they get health care benefits. free calls home for the mostly immigrant workers and more this is no sweat shop. >> our average wage in this factory in the last quarter i heard was $12 or $13 an hour, which is fantastic. in context, in this industry, you know, to think that people are making 20 cents an hour doing this is sad. >> reporter: when you walk, or run, the factory floor with him, you see how he is involved in every aspect of this business. >> i'm not happy with something, so --
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>> reporter: what? >> i'm not happy with the v. i know we can do better there. >> okay. >> i don't like that. >> okay. >> reporter: the garment business runs in charney's blood. his grandmother was an immigrant seem stress in a factory in month tree y'all. when you look at the women employees, do you see your grandma? >> absolutely. these people are no different. they are mothers and they are fathers and moms and dads and they are part of the family. rrm >> reporter: there's something very real about charney's passion. you love this business. >> i love this business. and so do a lot of people around me. >> reporter: but there's a problem. american apparel's been losing money for three years, in part because almost 2,000 workers had to be let go after they weit wa they were in the country illegally. charney says things will turn around, by 2015. he's got other problems, too.
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have you ever sexually harassed an employee? >> no. >> reporter: charney is currently fighting two sexual harassment law suits and over the years, he have faced other accusations from young women who work for him, claiming he's created a sexual hostile work environment. one, kimber lowe, then 19, alleged in her suit charney grabbed her and violently kissed her. forced her to perform various sexual act lgs. for all your talkle of concern for workers, you have been accused of sexually harassing and exploiting workers. >> all of those accusations are baseless. what has happened, high profile such as myself, are often in the firing line. >> reporter: charney's never been found to have sexually harassed an employee and he says he's never paid any money in the cases against him. but you have had relationships with employees?
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very young employees. >> my first employee when i was 18 years old. of course, i didn't pay her, she was my girlfriend. >> reporter: i'm talking about 18-year-olds who work for you. >> well, i mean, i don't really want to get into details of the lawsuits, i will tell you that some of the law suits have from people i have never met. or nonemployees themselves. >> reporter: here's what i want to ask you. you're the head of this company. >> right. >> reporter: and a dynamic head. >> yeah. >> reporter: you have power over every person that works for you. you've had relations with some of the people who work for you. isn't that inappropriate? >> well, 57% of americans meet their spouse at work. and it's perfectly normal and natural that love can take place within the context of workplace. >> reporter: it's a workplace that stands out in america. and not just for its trading on sex and the sexual harassment allegations against the boss. no, but for what they do here. for what they make. and maybe it's a sign of the
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times that american manufacturing is coming back, in part, under the leadership of a guy like charney. >> here. it's made, livingston, new jersey, okay? >> reporter: no button down carnegie, but imbued with the same audacious dreams. >> my view of america is life, liberty, property, per suit of happiness, for every man worldwide. that's my america. american apparel will live beyond my lifetime. >> dov charney. up next, he woke up from a concussion and now he seeps the world like this. a day in the life of an accidental genius. ♪ ♪
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from washington with terry moran. >> tonight, we've got an amazing story of a man whose severe concussion suddenly made him a mathematical savant. it's a medical mystery that scientists are still trying to unravel. and he's not alone. from a stroke survivor to a young epileptic who mastered a language in seven days, cases like this spark a thrilling question. could this genius potential exist within us all? here's abc's neal karlinsky. >> reporter: behind the counter at a few on the store in tacoma, washington, is not the place you expect to find a man some call a genius. a math phenom of unprecedented proportions. yet, jason sees complex mathematical formulas everywhere he looks. i'm looking, i'm seeing trees and leaves and clouds.
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what do you see? >> i see bits and pieces of the pythagorean this here rum eve everywhere. >> reporter: amazingly, jason doesn't have a ph.d, a college degree or even a background in math. ten years ago, he was only interested in two things. working out and partying. he was walking out of this place, what used to be a karaoke club, when he was brutally attacked by thieves who beat and kicked him in the head repeatedly. >> all i saw was a bright flash of light and the next thing i know, i was on my knees on the ground and i thought, i'm going to get killed. >> reporter: doctors said he had a concussion, but within a day or two, he began to notice something remarkable. the college dropout who couldn't draw became obsessed with drawing intry cat diagrams. but he didn't know what they were. it turns out, they are something called fractals. and he was drawing a visual representation of pi, that
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infinite number that begins with 3.14. >> i'm obsessed with numbers, geometry. ill l i dream about it. there's not a moment that i can't see it and it just doesn't turn off. >> reporter: like the mathematician played by russell crowe in the movie of the same na name, researchers believe jason, too, has, a beautiful mind. to understand jason, neurologist brit brogar took him to finland for a series of tests. a scan of his brain showed damage that was forcing his brain to overcompensate in certain areas that most people don't have access to. the result? jason was now an acquired savant. brilliant, in a very specific area. >> savant syndrome is the development of a particular skill that can be mathematical or artistic, but develop to an
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extreme degree that sort of makes the person super human. >> reporter: these pictures are only a snapshot of what's going on inside jason's mind. he mentally overlays a graph on top of each frame of sight and coming up with formulas everywhere he looks. >> for me, i see things naturally as shapes, where, as most people's minds see math as numbers. >> reporter: we took jason to a museum, where the shapes and images lit up his mind and where he tried to explain a fractal, the very essence of his drawing and his vision of math in the world around us. >> a fractal is a shape, when you take the shape apart into pieces, the pieces are the same or similar to the whole. so, say i had 1,000 pictures of you, that were little and i put all those little pictures of you in the right spot, to make the exact same picture of you, but bigger. >> reporter: do you consider all of this a burden or a gift?
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>> sometimes i'd really like to turn it off. and it won't. but the good far outweighs the bad. so, it -- i would not give it up for anything. >> reporter: his goal now is to get out of the furniture store and into the classroom, to hopefully teach others that math is as beautiful and natural as the world around us. i'm neal karlinsky for "nightline" in tacoma, washington. >> that is fascinating. thanks to neal karlinsky for th that. just ahead, we're going to me meet jimmy kimmel on the white house lawn, as he preps for a m co comic takeover of the commander in chief. motorcycles -- check. atv. i ride those. do you? no. boat. house. hello, dear. hello. hello. oh! check it --
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it's the super bowl of political humor, a fancy dinner with a geek elite, mingling with the likes of kim kardashian. and george clooney and everybody has a laugh at the president's expense. this year's mc, jimmy kimmel, tells nbc's jake tapper all the dos and don'ts at the white house. >> reporter: hey, look who stopped by the white house today. >> well, hello. >> reporter: jimmy kimmel, the star of the late night show right after this one popped by 1600 pennsylvania avenue for a white house tour. why is he here, you ask? he'll be the comedy entertainment at tomorrow night's white house correspondents dinner. well, him and the president, who traditionally makes some jokes, as well. >> matt damon said he was disappointed in my performance.
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well, matt, a just saw "the adjustment bureau" so right back atcha, buddy! >> i insisted that the president open for me. i'm the headliner here. make no mistake about it, these people are here to see me. >> reporter: who usually opens for you, like eddie murphy's brother? >> yeah, something like that. >> reporter: we sat down this afternoon to talk about what's become a rite of passage for comedians. this dinner has become something like washington, d.c.'s academy awards. what some call nerd prom. >> a strange mix of people, like, you have the president, you have kim kardashian, you have lindsay lohan and you have general petraeus, you know? this is -- i just hope everyone gets out with their jewelry. >> reporter: recent years have brought some real moments of note, from stephen colbert's edgy performance art roasting president bush and his faux conservative persona. >> we know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in reality. and reality has a well-known liberal bias.
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>> reporter: to the overcorrection the next year, the hiring of rich little. ♪ tell a little joke and we're gonna poke a lot of fun ♪ ♪ poke a lot of fun at washington ♪ >> reporter: last year's performance by "saturday night live's" seth meyer is thought to be the gold standard. >> donald trump appears on fox, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on donald trump's head. >> reporter: kimmel is funny, though he's not particularly known for his political humor. >> the first auto dispensing machine is already set up and running in santa ana. this is what it looks like. a vending machine made specifically for pot smokers. although if a way, isn't every vending machine made specifically for pot smokers? >> reporter: but now he's playing to one of the toughest rooms for political comedy that exists. though he says it's not hard to find humor in today's politics. >> well, you have dogs on the cars being eaten, you have secret service having sex all over the globe.
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hopefully dogs aren't in any way intersecting there. i guess that would be too far. >> reporter: the president, just a few days before you're going to make fun of him, goes on the television show of one of your competitors. >> but their position is that students just have to make this rate increase work. frankly, i don't buy it. >> mm-mm. the barack-ness monster ain't buying it. >> it didn't make me feel more merciful. that's for sure. >> reporter: so jimmy the merciless left the white house late this afternoon to prepare for his big gig. anything you want to tell the folks out there? >> yeah. it would be nice if you stay up and watch my show right after "nightline." right?


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