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Paris Hilton Speaks Out; Texas Floods; Converting Gays; The Eagle Guy

Aired June 27, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again and welcome. We watched, we listened and we wanted to know what really made her tick. How did she get to be the phenomenon she's become? Where does her money come from? We'll take a whack at the story from a number of angles and you might be surprised by what you see in the hour ahead. That story is interesting; others, however, tonight actually change lives.
Massive fires in one state, major flooding in two more. We'll bring you the latest on all of that.

And you will meet people tonight who say they can cure homosexuality. What does the evidence show however? We also meet those who call themselves cured and still others who say it is all just plain nonsense.

All that and more on the hour ahead.

First, the heiress exclusively on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING" : The obvious -- the purpose of jail, prison, jail, confinement, is to teach a lesson.


KING: Or at least that's a big part of it. Did it work with you?

HILTON: It's definitely -- it was a very traumatic experience, but I feel like God does make everything happen for a reason.

And it gave me, you know, a time-out in life just to really find out what is important and what I want to do, figure out who I am. And I'm -- even though it was really hard, I took that time just to get to know myself.

KING: You think it changed you?

HILTON: Yes, definitely. I have a new outlook on life.

KING: Was there a couple of days -- when did it happen quickly? Or did it happen over a period of time?

HILTON: The beginning was really hard, really hard for me. It's kind of a blur, it was so, you know, traumatic.

But, after being there a while, I had to accept that I could either make the best of it or make the worst of it. So, I just went with the motto: don't serve the time, let the time serve you. And I did that, and it really helped.

KING: OK, during this time, Paris, what was your -- what were you afraid of?

HILTON: Just the whole idea of being in jail, it's really scary. I haven't -- I hate to be alone. So, that was really, you know, hard for me in the beginning, just to be so alone. And I would have nightmares at night that, you know, someone would break into my cell and hurt me, and just scary times like that.

I suffer from claustrophobia my entire life. And, when I first got in that cell, I was having severe panic attacks, anxiety attacks. My claustrophobia was kicking in. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. It was -- the doctors talked to the sheriff, and he could see that it would be better if I just did it on house arrest.

KING: What kind of a jolt was it when they hauled you back into court and sent you back to jail?

HILTON: It was a shock, everything, you know, going from being so happy to be at home with my family. And then I'm told that I'm not supposed to be going to court the next day. The sheriff said, stay at home.

Then, all of a sudden, 10 minutes before the police arrive, I'm yanked out of bed. They're telling me that they're going to handcuff me and bring me back to the courthouse. I had no idea what was going on. It was -- I was in complete shock. It was unbelievable. I was terrified.

KING: What's the biggest misconception about you?

HILTON: Well, a misconception that I always hear is, Paris doesn't work for a living. She just, you know, gets money from her family.

And I completely disagree with that. I have made a name on my own, by myself. I have not taken any money from my family. I work very hard. I run a business. I have had a book on the "New York Times" bestsellers list. I'm on my fifth season of a TV show, done an album, do movies.


COOPER: Joining me now is Public Relations Consultant Ken Sunshine; Marc Lamont Hill, professor of American studies at Temple University; Court TV's Lisa Bloom; and Jess Cagle of "People" magazine, who scored the exclusive print interview with Hilton at her grandfather's home in Bel Air right after her release from jail.

Jess, what is at the center of her appeal? I mean, you talked earlier about young girls looking up to her. That -- I mean, that I didn't really know. Frankly, that surprises me. What is it they are looking up to?

JESS CAGLE, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Well, it's obvious that young girls looked up to her because of all the things, like the perfume and all the things that are licensed with her name on them. Particularly across Asia, she is a tremendous selling point.

I think it's the beauty and the glamour. I think it's the kind of devil may care, spoiled sort of persona that she has. I think there's something aspirational about that. At the same time, she's very fashionable and most of these things that are sold with her names on them are fashion items.

COOPER: And, Jess, does she consciously use the press? I mean, clearly there is a relationship that they have. They make money taking pictures of her. She makes money by appearing at nightclubs and she needs photographers to follow her to those clubs in order to get the things in print.

CAGLE: Well, look, she's very shrewd and she definitely knows how to manipulate the media. I mean, she's more than just a model. I mean, she has actually built a very large business, and she's at the center of it and she's very hands on. She's not an idiot.

I think that the fascinating thing about her is, like a lot of stars, she lives in a bubble to an extent and she doesn't really understand the negative feelings that are out there.

I think she was surprised when I read to her a poll that said, you know, the vast majority of people think that you got what you deserved. The vast majority of people don't believe you are sincere. She's just now grappling with that, which is kind of fascinating given the vitriol that does spill out in the media all the time about her.

COOPER: Ken, do you think tonight's interview helped her or hurt her?

KEN SUNSHINE, PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT: Both. I think it humanized her. It showed that she's relatively intelligent, and I think it was -- you know, it was -- there was some pluses there.

On the other hand, there wasn't a lot there, there and that was missing. She -- nobody advised her. She never really thought about what the aftermath of this is and this is a rare opportunity. You don't get too many shots, especially when you have had the attention that she's had. So I think it's probably plus and minus on both sides.

COOPER: Professor Hill, you say it's an opportunity as well. What should she do with it?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: I think she should use her wealth, her power, her privilege to make other people's lives better. I think that's the best thing she can do. America is a country of second chances, particularly with celebrities. She has the opportunity to reinvent herself and she can use that and leverage it in order to make other people's lives better.

COOPER: Ken, could she become -- I mean, I don't want to -- you know, people are going to groan when they hear this question, but could she become -- in the same way that Princess Diana sort of morphed into somebody else or something else -- you know, somebody who actually took on issues -- I mean, could she? She certainly has the world brand of...

SUNSHINE: She can do some good, sure. I mean, I don't know at what level, but yes. I mean, she's certainly got the attention. She could do a lot of good in this world. She's never going to become a saint and she's never going to become a real role model, I think in a positive sense, but sure. I mean, she's 26 and she's got this opportunity. She has a gift of marketing. I frankly wish that she would use it to do some good.

I just -- I didn't get a lot of that in a really sincere way tonight. And that was disappointing.

COOPER: Lisa, I want to play a clip, Lisa, of some of what she said about the legal system tonight.


HILTON: Most people on that kind of infraction will only stay 10 percent of their stay. And I had already done more than that. So he just thought it would be better for everyone for me just to be at home.


COOPER: Does she have a point?

LISA BLOOM, "COURT TV" ANCHOR: Yes, she does, except for one thing, that she was released not because of overcrowding. And it's true the L.A. jails are overcrowded and people are only serving about 10 percent for non-violent crimes. But she was released because of her medical reason. That was the only reason given.

And we find out tonight that medical condition was claustrophobia. When she goes back in jail, miraculously, it seems to have disappeared.

So I think the sheriff's position is a lot worse tonight now that we've heard from Paris Hilton.

COOPER: It's been an interesting evening with all of you.

Ken Sunshine, appreciate it; Lisa Bloom, as well. Jess Cagle, who got the exclusive for "People" magazine, thank you very much; and Professor Marc Lamont Hill, thank you as well for your perspectives.

Now, some major news stories of the day -- and we don't have to look too far from the studio where Larry King talked to her.

In California and in Texas, fires and floods are causing havoc. Almost 2,000 firefighters are still trying to get a handle on that 4- day-old wildfire just south of Lake Tahoe.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the hot spots today. He's already promising to make sure the fire damage area is restored. As many as 200 homes have been destroyed, another 1,000 are in jeopardy.

And in central Texas, it is the water. Floods created by torrential storms. Up to 18 inches turning creeks into raging rivers. And there's no end in sight.

Gary Tuchman is in Austin with the latest.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The power of the water. In the Texas hill country, parks ended up with pavement from nearby streets and cars from nearby houses.

(on camera): Your house is two houses behind that and your car came all the way here?


TUCHMAN: While you were sleeping?

KAMASUKI (ph): Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Scott Kamasuki (ph) is a survivor. His car floated over from the flash flood in his town of Marble Falls, Texas, while he was trapped inside the home he just bought two months ago.

KAMASUKI (ph): You can see my pillow, my little makeshift bed right here. This is where I stayed, you know.

TUCHMAN: You stayed here because it was so high?

KAMASUKI (ph): Yes.

TUCHMAN: Scott's home actually started floating. He couldn't open the doors as the water rose. He was frightened.

KAMASUKI (ph): That's my little girl. I'm glad she wasn't here during this.

TUCHMAN: His neighbors rescued him.

More than a foot and a half of rain fell overnight in Marble Falls. The streets in the small town became raging rivers. Many residents woke up to what seemed unreal. At least 32 people were rescued. All the town's residents appeared to have survived, but some pets did not. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my two cats.

TUCHMAN: So they -- they came and jumped through this window to rescue them.



This man's relatives were rescued in this home, one of many homes and businesses with extensive damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's obviously put me out of business. But I'm not alone. There's others here.

TUCHMAN: The turbulent waters literally destroyed the tracks and derailed five multi-ton cars of a train. The damage is now easy to see because most of the water has receded. But the ground in this part of Texas is saturated and there is more rain in the forecast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a ongoing flood event. It's not going to be over today.

TUCHMAN: Scott Kamasuki (ph) has never owned a home before. His life has now gotten quite complicated.

What are you going to do next?

KAMASUKI (ph): I don't know. I'm not sure.

TUCHMAN: His sentiments are shared by many in this part of Texas.


COOPER: Gary is live in Austin.

Gary, how long is it going to take to fix up the town?

TUCHMAN (on camera): I think, Anderson, a long time. People don't realize in these situations how much damage there is when the water is still there, but now that the water has receded, and behind me, this is a typical empty lot in town here. There was about three or four feet of water here. And now you see boats and vehicles and jet skis and building materials that were all thrown here. It shows the people here just how much work they have to do.

And the bad news, alluding to what the gentleman in our story said, there is a flash flood watch until tomorrow morning. They are expecting up to four inches of rain here between now and this morning. And isolated spots, the meteorologists say, could be up to 10 inches of rain.

If that happens, that's an absolute disaster for this town. But the only good news, like I told you, it was supposed to be rainy by now and right now it's been dry all day. It was actually kind of a nice day today.

COOPER: Wow. I hope the people stay strong.

Gary, thanks.

Floods are just one of many acts of nature that kill dozens of Americans every year. Here's the raw data.

According to the National Weather Service, over the past decade floods have killed an average of 74 people in America every year. Fewer people die from tornado strikes. Those kill about 62 annually. Lightning strikes kill about 44 people every year. The biggest weather related killer is extreme heat, which on average takes 170 lives every year.

For other news making headlines tonight, let's quickly check in with Erica Hill for a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Congressional Democrats today ramped up the pressure on Vice President Cheney and other administration officials in the dispute over warrantless wiretaps. The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas demanding documents related to the administration's controversial surveillance program. Democrats on the Hill accused the White House of stonewalling on earlier requests for information.

And the revised immigration bill, facing a Senate showdown tomorrow after surviving potentially fatal challenges today, including ones who deny illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, what some are calling amnesty.

And another twist in the case of a young Georgia man who is serving 10-year sentence for consensual oral sex while he was a teenager -- that happened with another teen. A judge has denied bail for Genarlow Wilson. You may recall a judge voided Wilson's sentence earlier this month, saying it was cruel and unusual. Prosecutors, though, are appealing that. Wilson's attorney told CNN she will challenge the bail ruling tomorrow.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) the fashion world has died. Designer Liz Claiborne styles became a cornerstone of wardrobes for career women in the 1970s and 80's. Claiborne was 78 years old. She's been suffering from cancer, Anderson, for a number of years.

COOPER: Terrible story.

Erica, thanks.

Coming up tonight, Discovery's Jeff Corwin on what it's like to see a new species up close for the first time.

Also tonight, this controversial story.


COOPER (voice-over): They say homosexuality is a disease and they claim they've got the cure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what it is about redheaded men, but whoo! Buh-boom-buh-boom-buh-boom.

COOPER: She said she used to be a lesbian. We'll look at a growing movement that some call therapy and others call out and out cruelty. Next on 360.




COOPER (on camera): That is the unmistakable electric wail of Van Halen's "Jump," another candidate in our semi official 360 campaign coverage song contest. Void where prohibited by law. Rebecca Terrell (ph), who sent it in says I couldn't believe you'd asked me to pick your campaign song. The last day or so has been grueling, she writes. She goes on to say there's always music playing in her head, but on the elevator today those synth (ph) notes just shouted out to her, "Jump."

Well, we're going to pick the winner eventually, so don't keep bugging us about when.

In the meantime, "Jump" seems about right for tonight's edition of "Raw Politics."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the campaign held hostage. Day 100. At least that's how long it feels like we've been talking about Fred Thompson maybe getting into the Republican race.

(voice-over): He's at it again in South Carolina, talking low taxes, a strong military, security.

FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER SENATOR: This is going to be not a war of bombs. This is going to be a war of will. A war of will that we have to win.

FOREMAN: Conservatives want him, so why is he being coy? The "Raw Politics" read? The "Law and Order" man is getting free press, rising in the polls, and he does not have to reveal how much money he has to campaign with until he is in the running.

President Bush, treading lightly at a mosque. He talked about America's long history of religious tolerance and announced that he's appointing the first ever U.S. envoy to reach out to moderate Muslims in the Middle East.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America offers you its hand in friendship.

FOREMAN: The Obama-Clinton slap fight. The Obamarama says he's the guy to lead on health care, energy reform, not his divisive opponent.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only person who would probably be prepared to be president on day one would be Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton.

FOREMAN: Bring in the wife support. Bill says the Hill is ready to end the war in Iraq and restore America's standing in the world. Republicans, loving every minute of if it.

Not so lovely. Conservative Commentator Ann Coulter jokes about Democratic contender John Edwards being killed by terrorists. His wife sees her on TV, makes a call.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE (ON THE PHONE): These young people behind you are the age of my children. You are asking them to participate in a dialogue that's based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues. And I don't -- I don't think that's serving them or this country very well.

FOREMAN (on camera): Coulter says Edwards just wants her to shut up completely, but Camp Edwards may get the last laugh. They put that Coulter crack on their Web site, hoping that outraged supporters will pour cash into their campaign.

That's just "Raw Politics" -- Anderson.


COOPER: Tom touched on the raw side of the possibility of Fred Thompson entering the race.

Now, for the real side. He is, quite simply, the candidate who is filling some sort of void for Republican voters, even though he's not even running -- yet.

CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley was in South Carolina when Thompson stopped by.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There he is, the uncandidate campaigning -- sorry, speaking at a South Carolina party fundraiser, hitting all the right conservative notes.

FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The bottom line is what's best for the strength and the long-term endurance of this country. And this immigration bill is not it.

CROWLEY: His speech was what he hopes to be, Reaganesque, both optimistic and tough, calling for an America strong enough, patient enough to confront the new age of global terrorism.

THOMPSON: This is going to be not a war of bombs. This is going to be a war of wills. A war of will that we have to win. Over whatever period of time. CROWLEY: This was Thompson's first trip to South Carolina as a probable presidential candidate who, as it happens, leads state polls, a feat that speaks to both his notoriety and an unsettled Republican field. The party fundraiser was SRO.

KATON DAWSON, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: We could have doubled the crowd here. We picked a venue where a lot of our people on the ground were undecided and wanted to come see him. They wanted to hear him. And he has instant celebrity status.

CROWLEY: What they heard was a conservative's conservative speech -- a more efficient government, a stronger military, an economy fuelled by low taxes. And while many Republicans are beginning to walk away from the president on Iraq, Thompson stood with him, telling the story of the sons of friends who re-upped for a tour of duty in Iraq.

THOMPSON: I read their e-mails. They sent it to me, full of hope, optimism, doing something good for their country. And as long as they have hope and optimism, I have hope and optimism. And I'm not going to cut it off short.

CROWLEY: He keeps saying he is testing the waters. But the speech says he is already in the pool. Now he just needs to say so. It won't be today.

THOMPSON: Maybe I can come back a little bit later in a different capacity and we can talk a little bit more about some of these issues.

CROWLEY: The uncandidate exits to a standing ovation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to do it. You got to do it.

CROWLEY (on camera): So why not just go ahead and announce your running? For starters, Thompson's campaign right now is really a collection of supporters. What he needs is a strong campaign staff to back him up and compete with some of the other candidates who have been running for months, some of them for years.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.


COOPER: Well, starting next month, presidential candidates are going to have to answer your questions at the CNN YouTube debates. The Democrats face off on July 23rd, Republicans on September 17th. You can learn more about the debates and how to submit your questions at It's a great opportunity to make your own, say, 30-second video. It may be one that presidential candidates will have to answer it.

So tonight, a controversial topic, a question, can you change your sexual orientation? Ahead, how Americans answered that question.

Also ahead, it is a symbol of our nation. And for the first time in years, it is not endangered. Meet a man who helps eagles soar, ahead on 360.


COOPER: As part of our "Uncovering America" series, today, CNN has been focusing on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans. Take a look at this new poll. It's really interesting. CNN has been tracking this for a while. And for the first time ever, the majority of respondents -- 56 percent said they think homosexuality is unchangeable, that people cannot change their sexual orientation, even if they wanted to. That number is up from 45 percent back in 2001 and just 36 percent in 1998.

Also take a look at this -- 42 percent in the current poll said they believe homosexuality results from upbringing and environment; 39 percent said they believe people are born gay.

That close split reflects a fierce national debate. It also explains the controversial so-called treatment you are about to see.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the hundreds, they stream into this massive church in Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enjoy. Have a great day.

TUCHMAN: Parents, grandparents, teenagers, and young adults, all denominations, many filled with hope, others with dread. From the pulpit, words of compassion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to show the gay and lesbian community that we love them.


TUCHMAN: Actually, it's more complicated than that. This is anything but a call for tolerance of homosexuality.

JOSEPH NICOLOSI, PSYCHOLOGIST: We, as citizens, need to articulate God's intent for human sexuality. And that's what we need to do. We're not just opposing homosexuality. We're articulating the wisdom of heterosexuality.

TUCHMAN: This gathering is called the Love Won Out conference, organized by the Christian ministry "Focus on the Family." Organizers claim homosexuality is a treatable psychological disorder that, with enough therapy and enough prayer, can be cured.

Californians Mark and Penny Vatcher are looking to cure their 16- year-old son, Brett.

BRETT VATCHER, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: My dad found this online. So, he wanted us to drive out here from San Diego.

TUCHMAN (on camera): I mean, do you want to be here?

VATCHER: No. Not really. I don't know, he's wicked religious. And he doesn't like that I'm gay.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We will come back to Brett in a moment.

You should know the theory that homosexuality is a treatable disorder is flat-out rejected by the mainstream psychiatric community. And, yet, for more than a decade, Mike Haley (ph) lived as an openly gay man, but then:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realized that I had fallen in love with this girl.

TUCHMAN: He says that life-changing moment, that switch to heterosexuality, came after a long and painful struggle. Today, he's married with three children.

Melissa Fryrear had a similar conversion.

MELISSA FRYREAR, "FOCUS ON THE FAMILY": And I don't know what it is about red-headed men, but whoo! Buh-boom-buh-boom-buh-boom, my heart -- my heart goes a little pitter-patter when I see those red- headed men.

TUCHMAN: She's straight now, but says she was a lesbian for 10 years.

FRYREAR: I had had dozens of relationships. I wasn't happy. I was abusing alcohol, abusing drugs. My life was just mismanaged.

TUCHMAN: At Love Won Out, self-proclaimed ex-gays like Haley (ph) and Fryrear enthusiastically regale the crowd with their personal stories.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is at the center of this. He's an unorthodox Catholic psychologist and runs the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

NICOLOSI: Homosexuality, as we said, is a gender-identity problem.

TUCHMAN: Nicolosi concludes boys can become gay if they don't get enough attention from their fathers or if they were abused as children.

NICOLOSI: The guy with a homosexual problem does not trust men. When he begins to trust men, his homosexuality disappears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appropriate parental reaction requires good judgment.

TUCHMAN: As for 16-year-old Brett and his parents, the morning session convinced the father that Brett was not born gay.

MARK VATCHER, CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: The circumstances in his life that caused him to get to this point.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Like what?

M. VATCHER: Maybe -- maybe I wasn't a good dad, or maybe, you know, somebody abused him along the way. Who knows what happened?

TUCHMAN: Did anybody abuse you?


TUCHMAN: Was he a good dad?


M. VATCHER: Oh, yes.

B. VATCHER: I just have to say yes.

M. VATCHER: Uh-huh.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Brett, for his part, does not agree with Nicolosi's lecture.

NICOLOSI: And, indeed, it appears that these children are normal. They're particularly intelligent. They're very astute. They're very sociable. They're charming. They're very verbal and sensitive.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Does this have a chance of succeeding with you?

B. VATCHER: No. Don't tell my parents. No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Joseph Nicolosi often accuses the media of distorting his research. He was reluctant to speak with us.

(on camera): We were hoping we can talk to you when it's over.

NICOLOSI: Yes. OK. Well, I don't think so.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Eventually, he did agree to go on camera, but:

(on camera): You're categorically saying that, if a father and son have a normal relationship, that child will not be gay?


TUCHMAN: That's a pretty strong statement, right?

NICOLOSI: Do you want to debate? Do you want an answer or you want to debate?

TUCHMAN: Well...

NICOLOSI: I gave you an answer. TUCHMAN: Yes.

So, there are some stereotypes you talk about, how, you know, if a child's effeminate, you know, if he's creative, he's artistic, that those are things to look out for. Is that fair to say?

NICOLOSI: Goodbye. You're confusing effeminacy with artistic. I didn't say artistic.


TUCHMAN: Hey, Doctor?

(voice-over): For the record, the word "artistic" is right here in the Love Won Out literature.

As for Mike Haley (ph), the recent convert to heterosexuality:

(on camera): Any homosexual who wants to, do you think they can become heterosexual?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, every single person that wants to leave homosexuality can do it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But how? Is there really a treatment for homosexuality? Or is the so-called cure just another path to pain?


COOPER: It is interesting when you talk to people who say they have left homosexuality, they still say that they are attracted to people of the same sex. They are just trying to suppress those attractions.

Gary has much more on that on the story ahead. We'll meet another man who struggled with his sexuality and this controversial therapy.

And our "Planet in Peril" series moves off the Coast of Africa and discovers what could be a new species of gecko in Madagascar. Jeff Corwin wants to name it Jeff Corwinious -- well, not really. We kind of want him to, but he won't.

Stay with us.


COOPER: As part of CNN's "Uncovering America" series, we're taking a close look tonight at a controversial treatment that claims to be a cure for homosexuality. It's part of CNN's focus this week on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans. The notion that gay people need to be and can be cured is flat out rejected by mainstream psychology, but not by some of the people you're about to meet.

Here again, Gary Tuchman.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Men, women looking for a way to exorcise homosexuality here at a gathering in Phoenix called Love Won Out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be people there that are just, you know, searching for more information.

TUCHMAN: Christian ministries offer referrals to various treatment programs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a good day now.




TUCHMAN: With more than 120 local branches in North America, Exodus International calls itself the world's largest ex-gay referral service.

ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: You have got to have healthy expectations.

TUCHMAN: Exodus President Alan Chambers says his own journey from homosexuality to heterosexuality followed a long and difficult path.

(on camera): How did you do it?

CHAMBERS: Well, it's not like a light switch. I didn't -- I didn't flip it on and flip it off. It was years of work.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Not everyone has had the same result.

(on camera): Shawn, when did you realize you were gay?

SHAWN O'DONNELL, UNDERWENT EX-GAY THERAPY: At the age of 6, I realized I was different from other boys. And it wasn't until later on that I actually associated the word gay with that. I was 10.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Growing up gay in Elgin, Illinois, wasn't easy for Shawn O'Donnell. His Catholic parents were loving. But the kids at school were merciless.

O'DONNELL: I had very low self-esteem, hated myself.

TUCHMAN: It got worse when, at age 10, Shawn was born-again and joined an evangelical church.

(on camera): How important was religion in your life at that time? O'DONNELL: Extremely important. It was the top of my list. I went to church four or five times a week. I mean, I was always at church. I was so involved in it -- missions trips, Bible studies, prayer groups.

TUCHMAN: And, if you're gay, you believe you're going to hell?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): It was too much for the boy. He started cutting himself. He attempted suicide. And, finally, at 18, he came out to his pastor.

(on camera): Did you feel like he was angry at you?

O'DONNELL: No. No. He was very compassionate, with the understanding that I needed help.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Shawn's pastor referred him to therapy at a local ex-gay organization.

O'DONNELL: I had to deal with my father issues. And I had to deal with my mother issues. And I had to deal with -- you know -- I was never molested, so that wasn't an issue. But that also was an issue that they brought up. If I was, that could have pushed me to be gay.

TUCHMAN: At times, Shawn says he felt like he was making the transition from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

O'DONNELL: Well, I thought I would go a couple days without being attracted to other men. But, then -- you know, then I would have a sexual slip-up. So, then, I thought, you know, I'm failing again.

TUCHMAN: Five years into therapy, Shawn hit another low point and again tried to kill himself. Desperate, he moved to California, and joined a live-in program for gay men trying to become straight.

O'DONNELL: Very controlling environment. We went to work. We -- after we got home, we had dinner together. We didn't go places alone, other than to work and back. We were always in groups of two or three. Sundays, we went to church together. And we had curfews.

TUCHMAN: Shawn says he was totally committed to the program.

O'DONNELL: God, if anybody tried to do this, I tried. I -- I did pray so many hours and sweat so many tears.

And, you know, the -- the picture I get is Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, when he sweat blood. You know, if I could have sweat blood, I would have.

My first year into it, I just -- I felt great. I graduated through the first year. They had a graduation ceremony. And I thought, oh, you know, I'm going to make it. You know, this is all that I needed. Then I had a slip with one of the guys in the house.

TUCHMAN: The next day, Shawn drove into San Francisco and had a one-night stand with a man.

O'DONNELL: You know what? That was it. You know, I was done. I had given it the good old college try. And I decided that I was going to come out again.

TUCHMAN: This is what the established psychological community says about homosexuality.

CLINTON ANDERSON, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: There is no conclusive research that explains why people become gay or why they become straight, for that matter.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Clinton Anderson handles gay and lesbian issues for the American Psychological Association. The APA categorically rejects theories about the causes and cures for homosexuality.

ANDERSON: Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. And does not in any sense need to be treated or need to be cured.

TUCHMAN: But many of the people struggling with their sexuality here in Phoenix don't see it that way.

(on camera): This is kind of blunt, but I mean, I'm curious. Do you like girls now?

CHAMBERS: I love my wife. I am attracted to my wife. We've been married for nine years.

TUCHMAN: Are any feelings towards men still within you? Do you feel it could come out again in some ways?

CHAMBERS: Again, I don't think that I will ever be as though I never was. You know, certainly I'm human. I could be tempted by a homosexual thought. I could find myself...

TUCHMAN: That doesn't go away with you?

CHAMBERS: It hasn't gone away 100% with me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Still, Chambers, and other self-described ex-gays, like Mike Haley, say they would never go back.

MIKE HALEY, EX-GAY: The thought of forfeiting my wife and my children, I wouldn't have the blessings that I have in my life now.

TUCHMAN: But Shawn O'Donnell doesn't buy any of it.

(on camera): We talked to people who tell us they are heterosexual. They love their wife. They find their wife sexually attractive. And they have been "cured."


TUCHMAN: You don't believe that?

O'DONNELL: No. Not one bit. Not one bit.

TUCHMAN: Do you think programs like Exodus can work for some people?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Shawn back in Elgin, Illinois, now, working as a high school science teacher. He has been living as an openly-gay man for six years.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Elgin, Illinois.


COOPER: Well done report.

Ahead on 360, good news tonight in the animal kingdom. First, what could be a whole new species discovered in a most unlikely place.

And a national symbol is making a comeback. The bald eagle, soaring back from near extinction. All that, still to come on 360.


COOPER: So no doubt about it, we love a good comeback story. The bald eagle has reason to celebrate tonight. Tomorrow the Interior Department is expected to announce it is removing the majestic bird from the endangered species list.

For the eagles and the people trying to save them, it has been a four-decade struggle and it may not be the last.

CNN's Miles O'Brien explains why.


PETE NYE, NEW YORK STATE FISH AND WILDLIFE: We don't know where this nest is, but it's somewhere right around this ridge here, not very far.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's another day out of the office for Pete Nye.

NYE: It should be an adult eagle or two.

O'BRIEN: The eagle guy. A man who should be celebrating, but instead is very nervous.

The other day I tagged along as he made his rounds on the Hudson River 60 miles north of New York City.

NYE: Usually it's a pretty good sized tree, pretty commanding tree structure and height. Good visibility and access in and out for the eagles. O'BRIEN: These eagles weren't home, but Pete still had work to do.

NYE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can bush whack our way up to the tree.

O'BRIEN: Pete is planning to retire in just a few years, and yet he gave me a run for my money in the woods.

The main mission here -- raccoon proofing the tree.

NYE: They go after eggs or young. They have been known to kill eaglets in the nest. About the only real predator that bald eagles have, you know, that they have to worry about.

O'BRIEN: Of course, we were the problem 40 years ago when we were trying to kill bugs with DDT insecticides. The chemical made eagle eggs too thin and fragile and the population collapsed. Banning DDT was a big part of the fix, along with putting the eagle on the endangered species list.

But Pete was among those who believed the eagles needed a jump start. So he went to Alaska and he asked for some help.

In the '70s and '80s he imported 198 Alaskan eaglets. The goal -- to get 40 nesting pairs in New York.

(on camera): We're in 2007 and you have how many?

NYE: About 125 pairs this year.

O'BRIEN: Three times what you predicted?

NYE: Pretty much. Yes. Very rewarding that they are actually coming into a lot of these habitats. There is obviously still a lot of good space and a lot of good food.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): For now. More on that in a moment. Pete took me farther up the river to another nest. And this time...

NYE: Got it, Steve?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pine tree? Yes. I see it. I see it.


O'BRIEN: I got a glimpse. Sorry about these shots. I had a hard time steadying up in the canoe. But there's no mistaking what I captured on tape.

It's a beautiful sight to see them, isn't it?

NYE: Oh, yeah.

O'BRIEN: You ever get blahzay (ph) about it? NYE: Not yet I haven't.

O'BRIEN: That's saying a lot. Given all the eagles he's banded and tracked, all the tall trees he's climbed. And that's when I realized Pete Nye is a man on a mission. And now after all that work, he can declare victory. But he isn't celebrating.

(on camera): So you worry?

NYE: Of course we are worried.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Because the eagles may be thriving, but their habitat is steadily vanishing.

(on camera): So what's really endangered now are the habitats?

NYE: Absolutely. That's absolutely right. The chemical contamination issue is no longer with us. There are certainly some concerns in that regard, but by and large, it's the place to live, the undisturbed place to live that we need to maintain for eagles and other species.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The good news is the eagles are no longer considered endangered species. Hopefully that's not the bad news as well.

And while Pete is nervous about his birds, he sure can retire on a high note, can't he?

Miles O'Brien, CNN, Olestra (ph) County, New York.


COOPER: What a remarkable career and a remarkable man.

Still ahead, what you're saying about our coverage of Larry King's interview with the Hilton heiress.

Plus, Wildlife Biologist Jeff Corwin talks about an incredible discovery deep in the jungles of Madagascar.


COOPER: That was Greenland, my latest stop in our "Planet in Peril" series. Jeff Corwin was there with me, but he's moved on to the remarkable island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. It's one of the richest and most biologically diverse places in the world. Unfortunately, its ecosystem is literally disappearing -- logging, slash and burn forming, mining, you name it. It is all happening there.

Wildlife Biologist Jeff Corwin also had a surprise for us. What might be a new species of animal -- one of about two dozen new varieties of creatures discovered in the remaining forests of Madagascar over the last 15 years.

Jeff emerged from the jungle and had a chance to talk.


COOPER: Jeff, in your piece last night you showed us that you might have discovered a new animal. What was that like and when will we find out if it indeed is new?

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: Anderson, I have to tell you, as a wildlife biologist for me, it was both awesome and humbling to look down into my hands and see what could very well be a brand new species to science.

A taxonomist, that's a type of scientist who classifies species, who basically puts them in order in how they fit in the animal world, could easily spend 10 years in a productive ecosystem before finding a new genus in species.

But Madagascar is so mysterious. The wildlife here is so unknown. And this ecosystem is so incredibly biodiverse and productive that these opportunities to find new species are relatively regular.

As to whether or not we get an absolute confirmation on whether or not this is a new species, that will take some time. It has to go through a committee of taxonomists and biologists. It will run through the filters and hopefully -- probably within a month or two we will know if indeed this is a new species.

COOPER: If it is a new species, do you get to name it, like Jeff Corwinist or something like that?

CORWIN: If indeed this turns out to be a new species of gecko, it will probably have a better chance being named carrotopious than Jeff Corwinious or something like that.

But in all seriousness, as a wildlife biologist, to be able to participate with this RAP study was -- was pretty incredible. And these RAPS are so important. They go in there, they gather this information. And this information ultimately could be applied to the conservation of Madagascar, which it needs separately.

COOPER: Jeff, I know carrot top and you are no carrot top.

Which, you know, we have been going to all of these far away places around the world to see what's happening when forests and other habitat get destroyed. What is the importance of Madagascar?

CORWIN: Excellent question. The reason why Madagascar is so important, Anderson, is because 90 percent of the species, whether they be insect, animal or plant only live here. They are endemic species. They're only found on the island nation of Madagascar.

And there's also an incredibly high level of biodiversity here which mirrors many of the tropical regions around our planet. With this said, there's only 10 percent of the habitat left. So that sort of begs the question if Madagascar has lost 90 percent of its habitat, is there a likelihood that many species have come, existed, and have fallen prey to extinction because of, for example, deforestation before humankind ever had an opportunity to discover them? That's a very real possibility.

With that said, I do believe, and many of the scientists I have conversed and explored Madagascar with also believe that it's not too late -- it's not too late to save what habitat remains, what species still exist.

There's also a very real possibility that we could reclimate, we could restore habitat that's been compromised as well.

COOPER: Thanks, Jeff. It really does sound like an incredible place.

CORWIN: Thanks, Anderson. This has been an incredibly productive and enlightening expedition. If there's anything I have learned from Madagascar is that our planet is indeed in peril, but yet, we are not at the point of no return.

COOPER: Jeff Corwin, thanks.

CORWIN: Thanks, Anderson. Good to talk to you.


COOPER: Up next, what you think about our coverage of Larry Ling's interview with L.A. County Inmate Number 9818783. We'll read some of your e-mails next.


COOPER: On the radar tonight, a lot of people have been e- mailing us about Larry King's interview with the hotel heiress and our coverage afterwards. A lot of strong opinions out there. Many not so positive.

Claire in Austin, Texas, writes: "I believe if the jail had given her medicine before releasing her the first time she would have changed and found God in seconds. What a shame that this character is famous for being a shame to us all!"

Joel in Chicago writes: "Dear Anderson, Paris Hilton would not be famous if the public didn't buy what she sells. We are obsessed with wealth and fame and she feeds off it like a leech. If she is guilty of anything, it is of promoting the false belief of many that life is always better at the top."

Melody in Napa, California, writes: "Anderson, I just want to show my support over you having to cover the Paris thing. I think you handled it well and I know we are all sick of hearing about it including you. And I think it became obvious how you feel about her. It's nice to know you dislike her as much as the rest of us!"

I don't really dislike her. I just don't -- don't get it. And if I seemed unfair in my portrayal, I apologize. Nicole, all the way from Philippines, writes: "Ooooohhh, Anderson, you're finally saying the name you said you'd dare not say."

Nicole, I slipped several times. I know. Like her, I'm trying to change.

As always, share your thoughts at

Don't miss the day's headlines with the 360 daily podcast. You don't need an iPod, you can watch it on your computer at or go to iTunes.

Here's John Roberts with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, sun, sand and sunscreen, plus bears, sharks and poison ivy. Lots of ways that summer fun can turn dangerous.

We met one family taking off in different directions. Kids are off to camp, parents are hitting the road. We've got the warning signs ahead for them in ways that all of us can stay safe before hitting the road for the holiday.

"AMERICAN MORNING" beings at 6:00 a.m., Eastern. See you then.

Anderson, back to you.


COOPER: For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is coming up next. Here in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow.


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