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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Duke Sex Case Prosecutor Wants Out; Two Missing Children Found Alive in Missouri; War and Politics; Sergeant Booted from Air Force for Posing Nude; Senate Approves Canceling Pensions for Congressional Felons; Lance Armstrong Lobbying for Legislation to Aid Cancer Patients
Aired January 12, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's been quite a week and quite a day -- tonight, some of the stories that you have been talking about all week, plus a few more to keep you busy right through until Monday.
There is the outrage and now the action over the criminal congressmen still receiving federal pensions, your money, even behind bars.
A real jaw-dropper in the Duke rape allegation story -- the prosecutor now wants off the case.
And the heat over an Air Force staff sergeant, a 12-year veteran, who is now in the headlines and in trouble for posing nude in "Playboy."
We begin, though, with a terrifying story to any parent: A child vanishes. In fact, tonight, there are two children and two kinds of terror, the kind that comes in the hours and days following a disappearance, and the other kind, the horror after months and years of slowly losing hope.
Tonight, just outside of Saint Louis, two missing children have been found. This is our first look at the accused, Michael Devlin. He is under arrest, already charged in connection with two horror stories that, thankfully, have now reached a turning point -- not a happy ending, though, not exactly. Happy would have none of this ever happening.
It is, however, the best ending imaginable.
ROBERTS (voice-over): You're looking at Ben Ownby. He disappeared on Monday. And this is Shawn Hornbeck, who vanished more than four years ago. Tonight, they're back with their families, after being found together inside a home in Kirkwood, Missouri.
GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF: Both boys appear at this point to be OK. Obviously, they will be checked out to make certain that they're in good shape.
ROBERTS: This remarkable story unfolded last night, when two police officers went to serve a warrant at an apartment complex. TOELKE: While they were at that location, they found a vehicle that fit the description of the truck that we were looking for.
ROBERTS: That truck matched the one speeding away from the spot where 13-year-old Ownby went missing. Ownby, a Boy Scout and straight-A student, was last seen getting off a school bus just outside Saint Louis.
DORIS OWNBY, MOTHER OF BEN OWNBY: We want people to know that -- that we just want Ben back, that we miss him, and love him, and just to get him home to us.
ROBERTS: Once they found the truck, police found the boys.
TOELKE: You have one of these in your career, that's quite an experience. And -- and, luckily, that one had a positive ending. And then to have another one come up, this is just unbelievable.
ROBERTS: Arrested was Michael Devlin. The 41-year-old was charged with first-degree kidnapping and is being held on $1 million bail.
ROBERT PARKS, FRANKLIN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: More charges are likely to be filed as we find out more about that, but, at the present time, we have filed one charge. He is still being questioned. And we can't say any more than that.
ROBERTS: While Ben Ownby was last seen four days ago, the family of Shawn Hornbeck hasn't seen him since October 6, 2002, some 60 miles from Saint Louis. At the time, he was only 11 years old, riding his bicycle to a friend's house. Until last night, it was the last time anyone ever saw him. His mother pleaded for help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM AKERS, MOTHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: There's one person out there that has either seen him or is -- you know, is the person that has done something to him. And it only takes the one phone call to let us know where he's at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Tonight, two boys who vanished years apart have finally come home, safe and sound. And the prayers of many have been answered.
ROBERTS: Well, sadly, child abductions are part of life in America.
Here's the "Raw Data" on that.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 200,000 children are kidnapped by family members each year. And nearly 60,000 are taken by non-family members. With us now, and only on 360, John Walsh. He's the host of "America's Most Wanted."
John, thanks very much for being with us.
What can you tell us about Michael Devlin, the accused perpetrator in this case?
JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Well, we don't even know his real name.
It is -- it appears that he was a convicted sex offender in Texas, a convicted sex offender in Utah. And he is one of those guys that I have been talking about for years, just floats from state to state.
And, John, you know that, on July 27, we were in the Rose Garden, the 25th anniversary of my six-year-old son Adam's murder and abduction, to sign the Adam Walsh federal law. And that was supposed to be a law that would prohibit these guys from jumping these registries, and that they would be mandated to notify officials that they have gone to another state.
So, here's a guy that nobody is really quite sure what his real name is. He was convicted in Utah and Texas under the name Michael Tate (ph). And here he is, in Missouri, just roaming around. And it looks like he kidnapped both these boys. I'm sure he did kidnap them, although we now have to say that he's an alleged kidnapper.
But -- but it's a great day. It's a really great day, a great job by law enforcement. And these families don't know -- really, I hope they know how lucky they are.
ROBERTS: So, John, just to make sure that we have got this clear, he was a registered sex offender in Utah and Texas, but not on the registry in Missouri?
And, as of July 27, states are supposed to exchange information about their registries. They're supposed to notify each other. And here's a guy -- we don't know for sure right now. I have a gut feeling that he may have been in violation in one of those two states, and he was roaming around in Missouri. And look at the consequences.
But I also have to say one thing from the bottom of my heart. The -- Shawn Hornbeck's parents never gave up. No matter what the speculation, the innuendo, they knew that somebody grabbed their son four years ago. They never gave up looking for that boy.
And I -- my wife and I were talking about it 10 minutes ago. Our hearts go out to those two families. Thank God those boys were found alive.
ROBERTS: And, John, in your experience, how unusual is it for a child to be gone that long, and then come back? WALSH: Very rare in stranger abductions. Stranger abductions usually end up the worst way. We have gotten back 43 kids in the 20 years on "America's Most Wanted," and probably done maybe over 500 missing kids.
I mean, this is the rare circumstance. I can remember one in -- in California years ago, where a convicted sex offender named Kenneth Parnell was on probation and parole, kidnapped a boy named Steven Stayner when he was little, kept him for seven years, got sick of him, and kidnapped another 6-year-old boy named Kenneth (sic) White.
And Steven Stayner, if you remember the story, went to the police and said: I'm 13 years old. I know -- or 14 years old -- I know something is very wrong here. He went to the police. And those two boys were saved.
And you know the really sad thing about that? Kenneth Parnell had Steven Stayner for seven years, and only served five years in the state of California for those two abductions, those two horrible abductions. We don't know where that guy is now, because he was convicted before this registry.
So, it's very, very rare that two boys are found alive that were both stranger-abducted. This guy obviously is a bus surfer. I don't know if you have ever heard this term, but this is what these pedophiles do. They go behind buses in rural areas, look for the child of their preference. For some guys, it's little girls. For some guys, it's little boys.
They know that the danger zone is walking from the bus stop home. And that's where they get these kids. This is -- obviously was a bus surfer. He did it twice. Thank God these boys are found -- were found alive.
And thanks to that kid on that bus, that 16-year-old boy that came forward and gave the description of that pickup truck. That's what broke this case wide open. I have always believed the public has a huge role. And that teenaged boy on that bus is the one who gave cops this good information.
ROBERTS: John, on that point of bus surfing, let's take a quick look at the geography here.
You had three towns. You had Beaufort, Missouri, which is where Ownby was taken for. You also have Richwoods, which is where Hornbeck was taken from. And then you have Kirkwood, which is the suburb from where they were found. They're about 50 miles away from each other -- Richwoods and Beaufort both very small towns.
The question I have is, it would seem to be easy enough for a predator to go out and kidnap these kids. But how did he keep Shawn Hornbeck for that long in an apartment without anybody becoming suspicious?
WALSH: Well, here's the thing. You know, when you're 10 or 11 years old, and somebody grabs you and says, if you tell anybody, I will kill you, or, for example, Elizabeth Smart, this wonderful girl that we were involved in her -- in her recovery, that guy told her: I got into your bedroom. I kidnapped you in front of your 9-year-old sister. I can get in there and kill you again.
I hate it when people say, why didn't Elizabeth Smart tell somebody? She was terrified.
Shawn Hornbeck was not only probably brutalized, probably brainwashed. He was probably terrified to tell anybody that this guy wasn't his parents. It's not unusual for this type of thing to happen.
In his mind, he probably believed, this is the guy that I'm going to spend the rest of my years with.
WALSH: And he probably was scared to death to tell anybody.
But thank God. Great police work. And I hope people understand how dangerous these guys are. John, you hit the nail on the head, to show that geographical map. That guy was there in Beaufort. And those cops did a great job.
All he did was get in his car and go to rural areas, where they think there are less police, that the kids are less sophisticated, and it's much easier to grab them.
Look at how sophisticated and dangerous this guy was. He went from two other states right to there, and he got these two boys.
But you know what? On Monday morning, I hope that he is charged federally under the Adam Walsh law. I hope there's a whole bunch of other charges piled upon this guy and that he never sees the light of day.
ROBERTS: Well, we're definitely going to keep following this case.
John, thanks for your expertise.
You mentioned Elizabeth Smart. Just a short while ago, I talked with Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, about this whole ordeal and his thoughts about the case.
ROBERTS: Mr. Smart, what were your first thoughts when you heard that these two children had been returned back home, particularly Shawn Hornbeck, who had been gone for more than four years?
ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: You know, I just thought, what a wonderful time it is going to be for that -- those families to be reunited, to get their lives back, to not be wondering what is happening out there.
It was also a big concern to me of what these kids have gone through. And, you know, this need to know, I think that the kids have got to realize that none of this was their fault. And I think that these perpetrators, these offenders, would try and get them mentally to think that, you know, they have chosen to do this, or, you know, take them to a place that is absolutely not true.
ROBERTS: Mr. Smart, your daughter was missing for -- for nine months between June of 2002 and March of '03. Did you ever lose hope? Did you ever think she wasn't coming back?
SMART: You know, certainly, we had doubts at times. We just -- you know, when you hear so much, and it goes on for so long, and everyone says, you know, statistically, they're not going to be alive, you know, certainly there are doubts.
But, you know, there were definite impressions that we had that she was still out there. And we could not give up hope. And I'm just so elated to hear that these families are going to be whole again.
Well, what is the range of emotion that you go through as a parent when a child who has been missing for so long suddenly reappears?
SMART: Oh, you know, it's just kind of like, you know, what a fantastic blessing. How could it ever happen? And, you know, just thanking God for just an incredible opportunity of being back together again.
ROBERTS: Did you ever say to yourself, if I could just get my hands on their abductor?
SMART: You know, I think that you just try to rejoice in the moment, rather than focusing on these outrageous people.
I mean, I -- as we learn more and more about them, that there is no turning the corner, we know that we have to take steps to be safe. You know, I don't know about the neighbors knowing whether or not this fellow was a sex offender or not, and, you know, keeping our eyes open, making sure the sex offender registry is working.
And, you know, one of the things that needs to be brought up at these times of rejoicing is about all of the other children out there that are still missing, and the things that we need to do to make -- to try and bring them home, because I'm sure there are others out there like this.
You know, what the perpetrators put into these children's minds to, you know, keep them there...
SMART: ... is just -- you know, they have got to realize, you know, this is not your fault, and that, you know, their families are there and love them and want them back home in the worst possible way.
Very, very quickly, any advice that you would give the parents?
I would just say, you know, I know they're probably very anxious to hear what happened and why and whatnot. You know, Lois and I were very, very careful about what we did. We did not want to pry into them, but we wanted to reassure them that they are home safe and we love them, and it doesn't matter what happened out there, that, you know, they're home, and they can be safe.
ROBERTS: I think you just made the point.
Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
SMART: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Straight ahead tonight: The president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, is the public buying it? Some new polling numbers.
Also, the top Republicans now abandoning the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they're going to undress me with their eyes, they're going to do it anyways.
ROBERTS (voice-over): OK. She's not your everyday drill sergeant, but should this 12-year Air Force veteran be grounded just because she posed in "Playboy"? We will have the skinny -- next on 360.
ROBERTS: A wise man named Bill Schneider recently said that Iraq has become a political war, something that Americans, by and large, cannot stomach.
They are kinds of wars that aren't won or lost on the battlefield, conflicts in which others frequently control the outcome -- not a comforting place to be, yet, that's exactly where the country is. We will talk about the reasons why tonight with CNN's John King, Dana Bash, and Bill Schneider.
First, though, John King on the Republicans now deserting their president. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Off to Camp David after a difficult week -- the already daunting challenge of an unpopular war complicated by dramatic defections in the Republican ranks.
VIN WEBER, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It's a deeply concerning reaction, because we're running the risk of the United States basically being rudderless in the most important foreign policy question facing us in the next few months.
KING: The scenes on Capitol Hill were stunning, and a clear signal that survival trumps party loyalty, now that so many Republicans believe the president is not only wrong from a policy standpoint, but has lost control of the Iraq political debate -- on the Senate floor, a Republican the president personally recruited to run four years ago...
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: We will put more American soldiers in the crosshairs of sectarian violence, create more targets. I just don't believe this makes sense.
KING: ... and in the hearing rooms, where Republicans could once be counted on to defend the White House against Democratic attacks.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it.
KING: Sixty-six percent of Americans, in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, oppose the president's plan to send up to 21,000 more troops to Iraq.
JEREMY ROSNER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: The public is pretty permissive of its leaders on national security policy. But, once you get over 60 percent opposition on something, you better watch out, because you have people jumping ship all over the place.
KING: In fact, at least a dozen Senate Republicans oppose sending more troops. Many in this group are among the 21 GOP senators facing reelection two years from now.
And other congressional Republicans are still angry at what they perceive as past slights or White House missteps, including the president's decision to wait until after the November election to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
WEBER: I understand that anger. I understand that frustration. But the problem is translating that into a crippling attitude toward this president's ability to conduct foreign policy.
KING: It is worth noting, however, that most of the Republicans who say they oppose increasing troop levels will not go so far as to say they would support any Democratic effort to cut off or restrict war funding. (on camera): Also noteworthy is the position of the three leading Republican candidates in the early 2008 presidential maneuvering. The next president, of course, will inherit the Iraq problem. And Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani all support Mr. Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops now -- John.
ROBERTS: Well, John King joined me earlier, along with Bill Schneider and Dana Bash.
ROBERTS: Dana Bash, all of this protest by the Democrats, are they just making a lot of noise, or might they actually do something about this?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is really the open question.
They are talking behind the scenes -- struggling, I should say, behind the scenes, trying to figure out exactly what they can and should do. There are a lot of different ideas. Right now, probably the leading idea is, when to comes to the money, what to do with their main power, the power of the purse, is to at least tie some strings to the next $100 billion or so that the president is going to request.
ROBERTS: John King, the president is still the commander in chief. He can do what he wants for the moment. But he's got to be in an awfully lonely place right now.
KING: Well, he is in a very lonely place, John. And he was embarrassed this week by the public display of opposition from his own party.
The White House knew some Republicans didn't like the idea of a troop increase. But to have so many Republicans come out the day of the president's speech, some of them before the president spoke, and then have Senator Chuck Hagel use terms like Vietnam, comparing it to even worse than Vietnam, after the speech, highly embarrassing to a president who most Republicans will tell you privately has simply lost control of this debate.
Can he get it back? They say that's a tough hill. They say he has to perform well in the State of the Union and try to inch back with the American people, if he's going to get any control of the debate back here in Washington.
ROBERTS: Bill Schneider, as you told us, Americans, when you look at the polls, are, not overwhelmingly, but in the majority, against this plan. They also want Congress to vote to dry up funds for the increase in troops to Iraq.
Is that a signal to the Democrats that they pretty much have free rein, they pretty much have license to do whatever they want, including restricting funding for the president?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure they have license, but they do have a lot of public antagonism to the president.
And the Democrats, if they have a vote on a resolution, number one, they can communicate to the president: You are alone. The Congress is not with you. The establishment is not with you. That was the Iraq Study Group. The voters are not with you. You're alone on this. This policy is just yours.
And the more Republicans who come out against the president and who vote for the Democratic-sponsored resolution, the more alone this president will be.
ROBERTS: Dana Bash, a question we heard again and again in the hearings on Capitol Hill is: What are you going to do if the Iraqis do not meet the benchmarks that you set?
And that was a question that everyone from the administration avoided.
BASH: Avoided big time. I mean, the answer we heard over and over again is: We will reevaluate the policy when we get there.
They gave themselves two months to just at least see if the Iraqis really are serious about getting their house in order, militarily, at least, this time, as opposed to the last several times the administration tried.
So, that was one of the many things that left some of these Republicans, who have long -- been longtime supporters, even in the face of a lot of opposition at home of the president -- that's what left them so frustrated and, in some cases, outwardly hostile.
But I can tell you, John, one of the most interesting things isn't necessarily what we're seeing in public, in these hearings. It's the conversations that you have with some of these conservatives in the hallways here of Congress. They are actually, in some cases, visibly pained when you ask them what they're going to do, because they really are torn in a way that they never have been before.
They simply are getting the pressure from home. They don't want to support what the president is doing, because it's so counterintuitive to send more troops. But, in some cases, they feel like they have to.
ROBERTS: Is there a difference between the debate going on in Congress and the debate going on among the presidential candidates?
KING: You have Senator John McCain, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. They are widely considered the three leading contenders right now in the 2008 Republican sweepstakes.
All of them support more troops. So, among the Republicans, those who are most likely, if you will, to inherent this war from the president of the United States, they support him right now.
So -- but, among the Democrats, it will be fascinating. They oppose sending more troops. They can vote that way on a nonbinding resolution. It would be fascinating to see how they vote if it really matters.
ROBERTS: And, Bill Schneider, the president obviously believes in what he's doing. But is what he is doing right for the country? Does this nation need another epic battle right in the middle of a war that's giving it so much trouble?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I mean, this is a battle that the president doesn't want. He doesn't need it. You're quite right about that.
The problem with this policy is really two things. Number one, it's a political war we're fighting. Everyone seems to be saying the same thing: The only solution to this war is a political settlement.
Well, Americans don't like political wars. They think the military should fight military battles, battles they can win. And, second of all, it's a proxy war, because, if you listened to the president's speech very carefully, he said, the success of this new strategy depends on what the Iraqi government is capable of doing, not what our own military is capable of doing.
And you know what? Americans don't have a lot of confidence in the Iraqi government.
ROBERTS: Yes, it's certainly an open question.
Bill Schneider, Dana Bash, John King, thanks, all.
ROBERTS: While debate continues on President Bush's new plan for Iraq, two debates are already on tap for the 2008 presidential campaign.
You will be able to see them right here on CNN. We are teaming up with television station WMUR and "The New Hampshire Union Leader" to bring you back-to-back debates, the Republican and Democratic candidates, in New Hampshire on the 4th and 5th of April this year, a very early start to the presidential campaign. So, be sure to mark your calendars.
Coming up next: why the prosecutor who charged three Duke lacrosse players with rape now wants off the controversial case.
Plus: Should an Air Force staff sergeant who took it all off for "Playboy" also be allowed to serve her country?
This is 360.
ROBERTS: Another dramatic twist in the Duke rape case tonight: The embattled district attorney, Mike Nifong, who is facing ethics charges that could lead to his disbarment, wants off the case.
This development comes after court records filed this week show that the accuser apparently changed her story again, and less than a month after Nifong dropped the rape charges against the lacrosse players.
For insight on what this all means for the case, let's talk with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, what do you make of all -- all this? It seems rather bizarre on the surface.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's bizarre, but I think the bottom line is clear, which is that a case that was hanging by a thread had the thread get a little more frayed today.
It's very hard for me to believe that any responsible prosecutor, taking a fresh look at the facts here -- and that's what's going to happen -- a -- the attorney general's office is going to look at the case again -- is going to say anything other that this is an unwinnable case for the prosecution, and it has to be dropped.
ROBERTS: Right. So -- so -- so, Nifong pushed this case so hard.
We also learned, through an interview with the chief forensic guy that's coming up on "60 Minutes" this weekend, that some major evidence appeared to have been excluded from the defense for some six months. What do you think Nifong was up to here?
TOOBIN: Well, I think that, yes, there are real questions about the -- the ethics of the prosecutor in this case.
I mean, the reason he's under investigation for -- by the North Carolina Bar Association is that he was so outspoken at the time of the arrest, calling the defendants rapists, talking about the racially motivated nature of the crime, that -- that was just for starters. And that's why he's under investigation.
But, to me, as a former prosecutor, even worse is this withholding of evidence that apparently went on, because the DNA evidence in this case was so critical and so exculpatory. The idea that the defense was not provided with that, in full and immediately, is really very troubling, and I think lends -- is another reason why everyone is better off with -- with a new prosecutor looking at this.
ROBERTS: And -- and, just to clarify on the DNA, what the forensic report said was that, not only was there no DNA on the woman's body from any of the lacrosse players, but there was DNA from multiple other men that was found. And that was the part of the evidence that was never given to the defense, or at least not for six months.
As a former prosecutor, Jeff, is this case falling apart?
TOOBIN: It sure looks that way. You know, for a long time I was a little skeptical of the media onslaught against the case, because I was saying, you know, well, only the defense is coming forward. The prosecution, after that initial flurry, had been pretty silent.
But at this point, if you look at the overall facts that are public, regarding, as you said, the many changes in the accuser's story, regarding the DNA evidence, regarding the shoddy way that the lineup was done, it just seems to me that there is no way that a responsible prosecutor would even bring this case, much less a jury returning a conviction.
ROBERTS: And we should point out, too, that the accuser is scheduled to testify at the next hearing on February 5. It will be interesting to see what she has to say this time.
TOOBIN: Almost for sure, though, that hearing will be put off as this case gets a thorough review.
ROBERTS: Jeff, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
TOOBIN: OK, John.
ROBERTS: Up next, the ethics -- yes, the ethics -- of serving your country and posing in "Playboy."
And then a man who eats mountains for breakfast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANCE ARMSTRONG, SEVEN-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER: To me the true meaning of homeland security is the health and well-being of its citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: He dominated his sport. He beat cancer to death. His next battle, getting Washington to help millions more conquer the disease that couldn't stop him.
ROBERTS: After spending $40 million and years of planning, Oprah Winfrey's new school in South Africa has finally opened its doors. A hundred and fifty-two lucky young girls have had their lives transformed. They come from the kind of poverty that often destroys hope, something that Oprah, who is now one of the richest women in the world, can relate to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST/PHILANTHROPIST: I see myself in them. I see that I was able to find a way out. And the way out came to me from opportunity through education. Education is the only thing that's going to save these girls and save this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Join us for our special report, "Oprah's Promise: Building Hope in South Africa". It's coming up in the next hour of 360.
First, while Michelle Manhart was serving her country, she was also serving up photos of herself to "Playboy" magazine. The 30-year- old Air Force staff sergeant is in next month's issue, though that is not a picture of her.
A mother of two in the nude, she doesn't have a problem with it. The Pentagon, though, definitely does. The military has relieved her of her duties. I spoke with Michelle Manhart just a short time ago.
ROBERTS: Ms. Manhart, thanks very much for joining us. Why did you want to pose for "Playboy"? Was this a spur of the moment decision? Or was this something that you were looking forward to for a long time?
MICHELLE MANHART, FORMER AIR FORCE SERGEANT: This is definitely something I've been working towards for a long time. Since I was a kid, I remember looking at a magazine when I was quite young, and I've been modeling since I was really young, as well, attempting to get my name out there and do other things.
I pursued "Playboy" a few times and then came this opportunity and I definitely did not pass it up.
ROBERTS: The Air Force has relieved you of duty because of this. Here's a statement that the Air Force released. Quote, "The staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do. It is not representative of the many thousands of outstanding airmen who serve in the U.S. Air Force today."
What do you say about that?
MANHART: My opinion, that's -- you know, that's the Air Force's opinion. That's, you know -- when they're asked for a statement, granted, they have to come up with a statement that fits the entire family, the Air Force family.
And I respect their opinions and their views. However, I don't -- don't feel that that's the view of the entire Air Force or the entire military in general. I've had a ton of support, e-mails, just all sorts of things you can't imagine, the things that have poured in supporting me and supporting me what I did and the decisions I've made.
And I definitely respect everything that comes from the Air Force, whether, you know, positive or negative, and pending, you know, the outcome of the investigation, we'll see where it goes from there.
ROBERTS: Other women have been kicked out of the military for posing nude. I remember there was a New York City cop who was kicked out for posing for "Playboy". Didn't you see this coming?
MANHART: No. I didn't. I actually didn't know about that until you just mentioned it. But obviously, if you're stating that there's been a history of this, you know, with all sorts of jobs, maybe that's something that we all need to step back and look at.
ROBERTS: Now, it's not against the rules for service members to read "Playboy" magazine, and I checked, and it's sold at base and post exchanges.
MANHART: That's correct.
ROBERTS: o the military makes this magazine available. It's not against the rules to read it. Do you see any hypocrisy in the fact that you're being relieved of duty for appearing in a magazine that's available on posts and bases?
MANHART: You know, it takes me a little by surprise because, again, you know, I didn't feel that anything I did was wrong. And so it kind of did take me by surprise, especially since they did sell it. It sold out very quickly here.
I understand, though. I understand the Air Force rules. And when you have an investigation under anything, anything at all that you're ever accused of, the Air Force is really great about making sure that you are treated fairly and equally. And they make sure that, you know, everyone is treated equally.
Therefore, you know, when they put me under investigation, I think it was just a safety precaution, you know, removal from duty, which is a typical thing for any investigation. I don't think they wanted to make anything different in my case.
ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question in closing. You said that the issue sold out very quickly in the base that you're posted at. This is, in the military's eyes, about the ability for you to do your job.
It means that a lot of people that you're training may have seen all of you that there is to see. You don't think that that could hinder your ability to train them? Might they not be listening to you? They might be sort of undressing you with their eyes?
MANHART: No. You know, if they're going to undress me with their eyes, they're going to do it anyways, in my opinion. I don't think it would hinder me at all. When I'm in my uniform, I'm definitely all military, all discipline, regardless of what happened the day before or what's going on when I get home. I'm very, very military and very about training and the mission itself.
Outside of uniform, you know, I'm my own individual. I have my own aspirations, my own goals. I'm very excited, you know, with everything. And I guess we'll just have to see what the outcome is.
ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll keep watching this case. Staff Sergeant Manhart, hanks very much for joining us. Appreciate your time.
MANHART: Thank you very much.
ROBERTS: So did she deserve to be punished for posing in "Playboy" or not? Let's ask Randy Cohen, who writes the ethicist column for "The New York Times".
Randy, what do you think?
RANDY COHEN, COLUMNIST: She does not deserve to be punished. You know, your boss has a legitimate interest in what you do in your own time only if it impairs your ability to do your job, and taking your clothes off in a magazine doesn't do that. And you can't just assume it will do it. If Sergeant Manhart can go out there, can go back to work and continue to do her function as -- and do the work, more power to her.
ROBERTS: As I asked her, though, Randy, if many of the people, potentially, that she's training have seen her in the buff, does that not change their opinion of her? Might they not give her the respect that she needs to have as a commander who's leading training exercises?
COHEN: It might. And that's something that we have to wait and see. You have to let her go out and do her job. You can't just assume that she can't do her job.
ROBERTS: You know, the service has assumed a lot of things about who can and who can't function. They right now assume that homosexuals can't function in the military. For most of our history, they've assumed African-Americans couldn't function as soldiers. Up until five minutes ago, they've assumed that women couldn't do most of the jobs of the service. They don't have a good record for just assuming that.
Let her go out and see. If she can't handle the fallout from it, if she can't handle the flak, then they have a right to revisit it. But you can't just assume that she won't be able to do her job.
ROBERTS: Well, what about moral clauses in her contract with the military? What about bringing disrespect for the military?
ROBERTS: Well, I don't know. I myself don't see anything shameful simply about being naked. If the military believes that it's shameful to be naked in "Playboy", then they have to start busting soldiers who read it, and they have to stop selling it on the base. I think you pointed out before, the word "hypocrite" does float in the air. Doesn't it, John?
ROBERTS: Well, you know, you've got to wonder if, you know, they should sell it on the base, if they are going to punish people for posing in it.
But this -- you mentioned this what you do in your private life is not your boss's business. But she did something privately that also became very public.
COHEN: Well, there's two different kinds of public. If she'd taken her clothes off and walked across the drill field, that's public, because she would impose what she's doing on everyone else.
But now anyone who wants to see her in the magazine, it's an essentially private act. It's volitional. The photographer had to choose to take the pictures. Someone has to choose and go out and buy the magazine. And look at it. She's not imposing herself on anyone. So in that sense, I think it's a private act.
ROBERTS: Well, you make a compelling case. Randy, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
COHEN: Always enjoy it. Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: Still to come, crooked congressmen collecting pensions. You're fired up over it. And with your help, we're keeping them honest and getting action.
Also, he's probably the world's best known cancer survivor. Now cycling champion Lance Armstrong says he's losing patients with politicians who are cutting funding for cancer research. Our interview on his new battle when 360 continues.
BECK: We're watching the clock for you. House Democrats are 23 hours and 34 minutes into their 100-hour legislative blitz. Today they passed legislation that would require the government to negotiate with drug companies over the price of drugs for Medicare participants. President Bush is threatening a veto.
Also today some action on a story that we've been following intensely for you. When we told you about congressmen who are convicted of crimes and still collecting fat government pensions, you were outraged. So we demanded answers and got action.
Today the Senate approved an amendment to the Ethics Reform Bill that would prevent lawmakers who break the law from cashing in at taxpayers' expense. It's not over yet.
CNN's Drew Griffin is "Keeping them Honest" tonight.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't even close, 87-0. The act supported by both Democrats and Republicans would ban the pensions of members of Congress if they are convicted of certain felonies. Not all. Just the ones related to ethics in office, such as bribery, perjury, stealing public money.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The principle is a simple one. Public servants who abuse the public trust and are convicted of ethics crimes should not collect taxpayer-financed pensions.
GRIFFIN: The bill would not ban pensions for congressmen convicted of other crimes, even murder. Why?
SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: It's really that white collar crime where people, instead of representing the public interest in the people of the country, instead of representing their own personal interests. And so that's why we went after the white collar crime.
GRIFFIN (on camera): What has surprised us in our reporting is just how many convicted public servants are collecting. According to the National Taxpayers Union, 20 lawmakers over the past 25 years have been convicted of crime and have gone on to collect a federal pension.
(voice-over) Convicted Congressman Dan Rostenkowski gets the most, based on his years in office, an estimated $126,000.
James Traficant is getting an estimated $40,000.
And the man for which the act is named, Duke Cunningham, collects an estimated $64,000 a year while he serves time in a federal prison. It's costing taxpayers more than a million dollars a year.
JOHN BERTHOUD, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: It's hard unless maybe you're a member of Congress or a former member of Congress, for anybody to understand how on earth you could ask taxpayers to pay pensions for people like that.
GRIFFIN: We soon may no longer be paying for pensions of people like that. But because the already-convicted crooks will be grandfathered in, the bill is not retroactive. That's right, the pension checks sent to Rosty, Traficant and Duke will continue to be sent.
And the bill still needs several more votes before it becomes law. The Democrat controlled House plans to take up a similar bill next week. Supporters are vowing to make sure congressmen who are paid to make the law and uphold it finally, after all these years, will no longer get retirement benefits if they break it.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
ROBERTS: Up next, another push for change in Washington. Lance Armstrong's race for a cancer cure for all of us. The law he's pressing lawmakers to help speed research along.
Plus, a daring move. What is this woman doing? Is this love or lunch? "Shot of the Day", 360 next.
ROBERTS: Cycling made Lance Armstrong a champion. His battle with cancer turned him into a much greater hero. Cancer is the second leading killer in the United States. But Armstrong says it doesn't have to be a death sentence. He's taking his fight for more research funding to Washington. He doesn't want assurances. He wants action. I spoke to Lance Armstrong earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ROBERTS: Lance, back in May you were here in Washington lobbying members of Congress for an increase in cancer funding. It looks like you came away from that empty handed. And on top of that, President Bush in his '06-'07 budget cut funding for the National Cancer Institute by $40 million, following a cut the previous year of $31 million. Were people not listening?
ARMSTRONG: You know what? I think both sides of the aisle listened. It's just a difficult time in terms of working within the budget that we have. You know, times are -- times are tough when it comes to money within the federal government, and you know, we've just got to get in line and make our case. And ultimately, the more people we have behind us, the more people in this army, the easier it will be to make that case.
ROBERTS: Why is there a need for so much public money? The private sector raises $5 billion a year. And some of the greatest breakthroughs in cancer, like the cervical cancer vaccine, have come from private companies like Merck Pharmaceuticals.
ARMSTRONG: I think the reality is that, ultimately, the federal government has to be engaged for the disease that's -- it is so deadly. You can't look at $600,000 lives a year and not say that's a priority. That's just a huge number. And so, you know, for the federal government to actually decrease funding, in my opinion, and you know, without picking a side, that's unacceptable.
ROBERTS: OK. Well, let's look at the leadership angle of it, then. You talk about priorities. The Democrats just took power in Congress. Nothing in their first 100 hours of legislation about cancer. Nothing on their legislative agenda about it. Where's the leadership?
ARMSTRONG: The problem with D.C. is it's sort of the cause du jour. Right now, the thing to talk about is war. The thing to talk about is, of course, Iraq. All the money and resources that are going into that, that's the stuff -- that's going to be the political and campaign issue in 2008.
All I'm saying is that, look, I mean, we wrote a column two days ago on CNN.com. It had more page hits than they'd seen in a long, long time. People care about the disease. I'm going to put a group of people together in terms of an army of millions of people that are going to come together before '08 and say, "You know what? We care about it."
Yes, we care about Iraq and terrorism and immigration and education and all of these things, but you know what? We also care about what's going to become the No. 1 killer in this country.
ROBERTS: Well, Lance, when you look at the amount of money that's being spent in Iraq and what could be done if the country wasn't there, do you scratch your head and say why did all this happen? ARMSTRONG: You know, that's a tricky -- you know, tricky stuff to get into. I mean, the numbers are there. You have -- you have a -- I don't know what I saw the other day, a $4 or $500 billion war. That's a lot of money.
I mean, what would have happened if we would have applied all of that to cancer, all of that to the NIH? I mean, those guys would have liked that. Could they have used it effectively? I'm not so sure. I'm not a scientist. Certainly could have helped.
But I don't want to -- I don't want to step on the president's toes. I mean, he had a reason to go to war. Some people agree, some people disagree. I know that, to me, the biggest war this country is going to face and to me, the true meaning of homeland security is the health and well-being of its citizens.
ROBERTS: Lance, good luck to you. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Lance Armstrong joins our Dr. Sanjay Gupta this weekend for CNN's special "Saving Your Life". It's a look at the fight against cancer. And you can see that Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Time now for our "Shot of the Day", whether you think it's cute or creepy. A woman in Columbia has a bond with a lion that you have to see to believe.
Anna Julia Torres rules an animal shelter in Kare (ph). She saved Jupiter the lion from abuse. Jupiter shows his gratitude by showering her with affectionate kisses and hugs through the bars of his cage. You notice, he's still behind bars, though.
The public displays of affection shock people who visit the shelter, but Anna says they are the most sincere hugs that she has received in her life.
But, again, he's still behind bars.
Next, we take you to the school in Africa that Oprah Winfrey says she was born to build. It's one of the talk show queen's biggest gifts yet, and there is nothing like it anywhere in Africa.
So why isn't everyone happy about it? We'll explore the dream and the controversy in our special hour, "Oprah's Promise: Bringing Hope to South Africa" next on 360.
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