Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Obama's Outrage - But is it Too Late?; A Game of Give and Take in New Orleans; New Developments in Custody Case of Polygamist Sect
Aired April 29, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming live to you from New Orleans tonight. Well, tonight the political smack down of Jeremiah Wright. Did it come in time for Barack Obama?
For weeks now Barack Obama's former pastor and his toxic sermons have been poisoning Barack Obama's campaign. Yesterday the dose turned potentially lethal with a preening performance by the reverend at the National Press Club.
Today campaigning in North Carolina just a week away from the state's primary, Senator Obama said "enough." There are no excuses. "Wright," he said, "is wrong."
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.
His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate. And I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs.
And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well I may not know him as well as I thought either.
COOPER: You will hear a lot more of what Barack Obama said in a moment. The question is did he stop the bleeding? The final answer may not come until next week when Indiana and North Carolina hold their primaries.
New polling tonight shows a mixed picture. In North Carolina today's ARG poll shows him out in front 52 percent to 42 percent. That's compared to a 13-point gap three weeks ago. Other polls also show the race tightening.
However a latest Indiana poll of polls tonight shows the same dead heat there as our last edition.
More now on the raw politics of Wright from CNN's Candy Crowley.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Just let me say we can do it.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was like watching an accident in slow motion. You knew it would come crashing down.
OBAMA: I'm outraged by the comments that were made, and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.
CROWLEY: The senator and the pastor had known each other for 20 years. Jeremiah Wright married Obama and his wife, baptized his kids, prayed with him before Obama's presidential announcement.
For six weeks Obama tried to balance that personal relationship and the politics of Wright's controversial statements. He condemned Wright's words but would not walk away from the man. Now Obama is all but gone.
OBAMA: There's been great damage. I do not see that relationship being the same after this.
CROWLEY: It was last Friday, less than two weeks before two primaries that will test Obama's appeal with blue collar white voters. Wright grabbed the limelight. First on PBS, the NAACP over the weekend; yesterday the National Press Club.
He repeated his views. The U.S. Government is capable of deliberately spreading AIDS in the black community. 9/11 was the result of U.S. Foreign policy.
And the unkindest personal cut of all, the suggestion that Obama secretly shares Wright's views.
REV. WRIGHT: He had to distance himself because he's a politician.
CROWLEY: The balance broke.
OBAMA: If what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.
CROWLEY: On the trail, Obama has been trying to push back against all the whispers that he doesn't salute the flag, that he's a Muslim, that he doesn't share American values.
OBAMA: And so you want to know who I am, you want to know what's in me? It is a love for this country that made my life possible. It is a belief in the American dream.
That's why I'm in this race. That's what I'm fighting for. To make sure that everybody has a chance.
CROWLEY: But yesterday after Wright's latest musings were aired endlessly, the campaign knew it needed something more direct. Because more than Hillary Clinton or John McCain, it was Jeremiah Wright who seemed to be defining Barack Obama.
OBAMA: When I say I find these comments appalling I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about; and who I am.
CROWLEY: Half white half black, Obama's entire campaign is predicated on rising above partisan, social and racial divides. Every day he talked Wright was a drag on the politics of hope. The question is whether Obama took too long to see that.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Candy joins us tonight. Candy, you've been following this candidate really from the get go. How did his speech today -- how did it seem to you? How personal was it?
CROWLEY: It was really personal. I mean, there were a couple of things. The room was very tense. It was very interesting to me.
This is a very cool guy. He rarely shows emotions. Sometimes he's a little snippy with the press corps. But beyond that you hardly ever see him break a sweat as they say.
Today he was alternately just looked really devastated by this. Particularly when he was asked what's your relationship now, what do you think it will be in the future with Reverend Wright.
But he was also really angry. You could almost see him seething. It does not come across as well on the television. But inside that room there was a real mix of emotions. He said it right out, "I am saddened and I am angry."
COOPER: Do we know what made the difference, because yesterday the statement he gave was -- I don't want to say carefree but certainly did not seem angst-ridden. Up until last night he wasn't saying anything.
Clearly something happened between now and then. Do we know what exactly it was?
CROWLEY: Well, I think a couple of things.
I think on the personal level Obama said to us listen I had not heard what he said at the National Press Club when I said he can speak for himself. He went home after campaigning, went back to the hotel after campaigning and did see it. And that's when he says he and Michelle both decided that he need to speak out and be very, very strong about what was going on.
I can also tell you though, Anderson, they were really tense inside this campaign yesterday. One of his top strategists said to me, you know, obviously Reverend Wright is out for Reverend Wright. They were very worried about this.
Obviously there were superdelegates outside the campaign that were looking at this really anxiously. There's a definite political here. I can assure you that this campaign would not have taken this story for what is now the fifth day since Reverend Wright reappeared on the scene last Friday.
This is day number five of the story. They would not have brought him out to perpetuate the story unless there was a really good reason and I suspect that reason is that somewhere in the polling they know it's hurting.
COOPER: The question is -- is it too late, will it stop the bleeding?
We'll look at that all throughout this hour. Candy thank you.
Hillary Clinton is appearing in Princeton, Indiana right now. So far she hasn't said anything about the Wright story. This is a live event, a live picture you're watching.
We're monitoring this appearance; we'll break away if there's any reaction from her. So far we haven't heard anything from her today on this issue.
We've said it before sound bites do nobody any favors, really. So again tonight as we've been doing throughout this controversy we're trying to bring you a fuller picture.
So here's Barack Obama today on his former pastor in depth in his own words.
OBAMA: I want to be very clear that moving forward, Reverend Wright does not speak for me; he does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do want him to be very clear about as well as all of you and the American people is that when I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it.
It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am. During the course of me attending that church I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kind of views being promoted.
And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church. So, you know, I think what it says is that, that, you know, I have not -- you know, I did not run through, run my pastor through the paces or review every one of the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years, but I don't think that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.
After seeing Reverend Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for what -- for what the American people are going through, and the need for them to rally together to solve these problems.
You know, now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us to pull together. And that's what we've been doing in this campaign. And, you know, there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What mattered was him commanding center stage.
We started this campaign with the idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided. That, in fact, all across America, people are hungry to get out of the old divisive politics of the past.
What we saw yesterday, out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his intentions, that was the result. Obviously whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this.
I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people. And with the American people.
And, obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern to him and he can do it in any ways that he wants, but I feel very strongly that -- well, I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed.
I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.
COOPER: Barack Obama today in his own words. Last night on this program David Gergen and Ed Rollins said Obama had to essentially divorce himself from Reverend Wright. Was it enough?
We'll ask David Gergen, Ed Rollins, Roland Martin, and Mary Frances Berry. You can also join the conversation online. Our live chat is happening now. Have your voice heard, go to cnn.com/360. Join the conversation.
And later shocking new developments tonight in the polygamist custody case including the birth of a child. We'll explain ahead.
OBAMA: I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I do not expect those views to be attributed to me.
COOPER: Barack Obama today denouncing the words of a man he once considered a father figure and wondering out loud how well he really knew him at all. It may even be too soon to tell whether he stopped the bleeding today. Digging deeper though tonight, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen; CNN contributor, Roland Martin; Republican strategist, Ed Rollins and Mary Frances Berry who chairs the U.S. Civil Rights Commission during the Clinton administration. Thanks for being with us all.
David, you said last night he needed to do this. How did he do it today?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he did exactly what he needed to do. He got angry at Reverend Wright and he came out and smacked him right between the eyes. I think that was right.
I should note that Barack Obama is someone who keeps his anger on a leash. When he hit somebody it's more with a --
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He used to box.
GERGEN: Ed Rollins, he used to box. We'll know that he has the gloves on now and not with bare knuckles and a lot of Americans prefer the bare knuckles.
But even so, I think he did exactly what he had to do today, express the outrage, the anger and divorce himself from this man who is an egomaniac as "New York Times" appropriately called him on page 1 today.
COOPER: Ed, what happens now for Barack Obama? Does he continue talking about this or does he just try to move on?
ROLLINS: I think he has to try to move on? I agree totally with David. You know, he did everything he could today.
The problem is there's a second act here. And the second act is you have a narcissistic guy who was the father-mentor who's now been brushed aside.
And unfortunately there's addiction to television and addiction to all the appearances that he is going to be offered. So is Reverend Wright going to go home, go off on meditation or disappear for a period of time or is he going to attempt to respond?
And that's the critical thing here. And unfortunately for Barack Obama the more Reverend Wright talks about it, unless he wants to sell a book or says something controversial or strikes back because he thinks this young mentoree who is now on the way to possibly being president has thrown him under the bus. There may be resentment.
But I think from Barack's perspective, he did the right thing. He did the honorable thing. And I think to a certain extent, only time will tell.
Politics is a game of addition. There's no question he lost support this last week and I think he's got to try and rebuild it. COOPER: Roland, during the press conference, Obama appeared to take some of Wright's comments very personal. I want to play some of what he said.
OBAMA: What I think particularly angered me was his suggestion, somehow, that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing. Anybody who knows me and anybody who knows what I'm about knows that, that I'm about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all people.
COOPER: Roland you talked with people from Obama's campaign. How angry was he regarding the statements and what changed between last night and him deciding to make this speech today?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he was ticked off. Because it calls into account the question of authenticity as it relates to his position. So folks around him, they were not happy. They thought it was a nightmare.
But it wasn't just what he said. It was also the histrionics. It was the attitude. I got a lot of that in my phone calls as well. And really what changed was the fact that he actually saw it. He heard it.
And look, Anderson, if you read Reverend Wright's comments in terms of a transcript, you can take position -- take offense at what he said. But there's a difference when you see, because remember Obama kept saying today performance, performance. He was also bothered by visually how Wright came across as well. That also spoke volumes.
COOPER: Mary, do you think he has stopped the bleeding on this issue?
MARY FRANCES BERRY, FORMER CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN: I don't know. But what I want to say about this is I think that the conversation so far has been a little bit off what really is going on here.
You had Reverend Wright thinking that he was disrespected by Obama, by being discounted, and thinking that his guy who was in his congregation who he pastored had "dissed" him as they say in the streets. So he felt disrespected.
So he comes out and he's angry, Reverend Wright, and then he disrespects what Obama is trying to do in his campaign and say this guy who I thought I knew him, I thought I was his pastor for 20 years. And now you have Obama coming out angry because the stakes are so high and his campaign was losing support and now he's turned around and dissed Jeremiah Wright.
It's so -- the disrespect game that you see in the streets but you see it played out between the pastor and somebody he thought he knew for 20 years. And Obama saying it's somebody he thought he knew as a pastor, but Obama had to do it and had to do it politically.
It should satisfy Obama's supporters. They should be very satisfied now with what he did today. We'll just have to wait to see if it satisfies people who are not his supporters.
MARTIN: Anderson, I've got to say this here. There were people who were close to Reverend Wright, who are fellow pastors who said don't do this. This thing wasn't just a matter of Obama disrespecting Wright. There were people who called around the country who said please do not do this. They were pleading with him as late as Friday.
Look, if the Bill Moyers interview, even the speech in Detroit, had those two interviews there stood by themselves I don't think we'll be where we are now. But it was the performance yesterday that really caused --
BERRY: Roland, Roland, Roland --
MARTIN: Mary, even supporters of Reverend Wright had talked to him.
COOPER: Ok, Roland you made your point.
BERRY: Roland, I talked to pastors too today and, in fact, I'm not saying Reverend Wright should do it. That was not my point. I'm saying that what we're seeing playing out here is two people who think that each has disrespected each other.
But the stakes are so high because we're talking about a presidential campaign. And that's why Obama had to really be angry with him and put him down. The next question as Ed Rollins said, I think, is what will Jeremiah Wright do now? And will he try to keep this going on?
COOPER: And we want to talk about that. We're going to have more with our panel coming up throughout this hour.
Still to come, up close what pushed Barack Obama to denounce his pastor of 20 years. A look at how he likely made this personal decision.
Also tornado terror rescue crews still going through the wreckage in Southeastern Virginia. Tonight we have new details on the storms, look at the damage there, unbelievable. Officials say it is amazing no one was killed.
COOPER: Coming up -- more on Barack Obama's outrage, that is, his word over Jeremiah Wright's comments. We'll give you an up close look at his very personal decision to distance himself today from his former pastor.
But first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 Bulletin -- Erica. ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin with a 360 follow. Six tornadoes are responsible for a 25-mile path of destruction in Southeastern Virginia; the National Weather Service giving us the number of twisters today. The city of Suffolk took the biggest hit; more than 100 homes damaged, more than 200 people hit. Luckily, no fatalities.
In Austria, police say DNA testing confirms Josef Fritzl is the biological father of six children born to his daughter. A seventh child died shortly after birth. Fritzl's daughter was held captive in his basement for 24 years beginning at age 18.
Flooding and broken drain pipes, mold and more documented by one outraged army dad who posted that video of his son's Fort Bragg barracks on YouTube. Well, not long after, dad got a call from a general outraged by the images. We're told repairs are now underway, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, let's hope so. Erica don't go anywhere.
Here's tonight's "Beat 360." A chihuahua dressed as a scuba diver during a dog show in a mall in suburban Manila. Oh, my goodness.
Here's the caption from our staff winner, Cate: This time they've really crossed the line. It's payback time on their new carpet.
HILL: If I were the Chihuahua I would think the same thing.
COOPER: If you think you can you do better go to cnn.com/360, send us your entry. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program. A scuba suit; my goodness.
Up next up close -- was Barack Obama's speech today just about politics or was he personally outraged?
Also ahead a stunning new development in the polygamy custody case. A teenage mom and another child caught in the middle of the fight.
OBAMA: When I say I find these comments appalling, I mean it. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am.
COOPER: Senator Barack Obama didn't mince words today on the subject of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his inflammatory words; appalling, destructive, outrageous. Those were Obama's words today.
But he also spoke of disappointment. After all, the man he publicly took down today is the man who he says pulled him into the Christian faith. Tonight up close -- Obama's decision to speak out, a tough decision.
Here's CNN's David Mattingly.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Barack Obama, it was personal. He once said he could no more disown his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright than he could disown his white grandmother. But today it was as if Obama had been betrayed by an old friend.
OBAMA: He doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well I may not know him as well as I thought either.
MATTINGLY: It was like a very bitter and very public divorce; the words deeply wrenching. The man Obama had likened to an uncle, who married the Obamas, who baptized their two children had become something much more than a political liability.
OBAMA: If what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.
DAVID MENDELL, AUTHOR, "OBAMA: FROM PROMISE TO POWER": He can be a sensitive man. He's a guy with a conscience. And I think he feels genuinely badly about how this has all turned out.
MATTINGLY: David Mendell is the author of the book "Obama: From Promise to Power." He says, this is a falling out that the Reverend Wright will be taking to heart as well.
MENDELL: There clearly was a great deal of affection that he had for the senator. He looked at him sort of, I think, as a godchild in a way; someone who he had helped get into the Christian faith.
MATTINGLY: The decision to denounce his former pastor could not have come easily.
This was Obama just last month, disagreeing and distancing himself from the controversial excerpts from Wright's sermons but still speaking with affection.
OBAMA: As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding and baptized my children.
MATTINGLY: This is Obama now.
OBAMA: But he was somebody who was my pastor and married Michelle and I, and baptized my children, and prayed with us when we announced this race. And so I'm disappointed.
MATTINGLY: Obama says after his speech on race last month, he called and spoke with Wright on the phone and expressed his objections to his statements. He didn't share any details about that conversation; after all it has been a very private anguish on a very public stage.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: A lot of people would no doubt like to know what he said. Digging deeper now, our panel joins me again: David Gergen, Roland Martin, Ed Rollins and Mary Frances Berry.
David, what does it say though about the Obama campaign that it took basically 24 hours, more than that from the time Reverend Wright made those comments on Monday at the Press Club to the time Obama made his speech today?
I mean at what point, the fact that he didn't actually see the remarks until later that night as his campaign was allegedly, you know, on DEFCON4 mode. What does it say about the campaign's organizational ability?
GERGEN: You know I don't fault them on that. They have a lot of organizational ability for the most part throughout this campaign. And that's why they have come out of nowhere to be in the strong position where they are in.
Look, I went through the same experience myself yesterday, hearing about it, seeing the snippets and then having the chance to sit down and look at the whole thing. And it totally changed my mind late yesterday.
So from the time we talked last night I was in a different position can. Can I add just one other point though, Anderson, while I have the floor, so to speak.
DAVID: On the question of where it goes from here, it does seem to me that Barack Obama does need to move on as Ed Rollins said, but that there ought to be a group of his supporters, many of whom are black who ought to be prepared now to speak out.
If Jeremiah Wright returns fire, they ought to be the ones who come out and handle that; put him in his place, say how destructive this is and how contradictory it is. I do not agree this was a sort of a tit-for-tat kind of deal.
Barack Obama when he first came out -- and to go back to Mary's point is when Barack Obama first came out he was very respectful towards Wright himself as a man. He distanced himself. He denounced the views.
When Wright came out yesterday, he denounced Obama's integrity. He went after him and said he doesn't really believe what he's saying. That's what made him clearly what Barack himself have said about it.
BERRY: David, you may think that Wright should not have been upset but I'm told by pastors who know Wright that he was very upset at the speech when he distanced himself from him, feeling like he should have been told --
GERGEN: I'm not saying he wasn't upset.
BERRY: And so he was upset. He got angry. I'm not saying he was right that he should angry; I'm just telling you he was. And therefore he took umbrage at it. That's all I'm saying.
MARTIN: And Anderson I can tell you --
COOPER: Roland how -- Roland to David's point how likely do you think it is though that other African-American preachers are going to come out in support of Obama and essentially distancing themselves from Wright. It seems like there is a reticence to do that.
MARTIN: Well, first of all, there is a reticence to do that because Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a significant figure in theological circles. But Obama opened the door to that today.
You also have fact that when you have black radio talk show hosts who also have taken dead aim based upon Reverend Wright's performance if you will on yesterday.
And so you're going see that shift and people are going to say you are going to jeopardize the opportunity here. They're going to come at him. So he may want to hold his powder because he's not going to have a lot of support there.
COOPER: Up next, we'll talk to three people here in New Orleans with different views of Reverend Wright and his impact on Senator Obama's campaign.
Also ahead a teenager removed from that polygamist compound in Texas gives birth to a baby boy. The details coming up.
OBAMA: There's been great damage. You know, it may have been unintentional on his part but, you know, I do not see that relationship being the same after this.
COOPER: We've been hearing a lot from Reverend Jeremiah Wright of course. And today we heard from Barack Obama. Tonight we wanted to hear from other voices and get their take on what Senator Obama said in his speech today.
Earlier, I talked with Reverend Norwood Thompson, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference here in New Orleans; also Jasmine Haynes, a student at Dillard University and Stacey Koch, director of Covenant House on the Board for the Institute on the Study of Race and Poverty for Tulane University.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) COOPER: Jasmine, were you surprised that Barack Obama came out and said what he did today?
JASMINE HAYNES, STUDENT, DILLARD UNIVERSITY: I was shocked. For Reverend Wright to be his spiritual leader for so many years that sets a big impact in his family. I was very shocked that he, I don't want to say denounced, but that he was so disliking of his comments and really condemning his comments.
COOPER: The thing Barack Obama was saying today though is that the entire message of his campaign, which is a message of overcoming divisions which exist in this country, is something which Reverend Wright seems to be speaking against now.
REVEREND NORWOOD THOMPSON, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: This country, and I'm getting of age now, have not really had a true heart to talk about race. I heard Senator Barack when he said well, Jeremiah Wright come out of a different time, you know antiquated. But he is not antiquated. He speaks to what we need to be talking about today.
COOPER: Were you surprised by Barack Obama's comments?
STACEY KOCH, DIRECTOR COVENANT HOUSE: No. I wasn't surprised by his comments. I would have to say that overall I'm pretty saddened by the whole thing.
I think it is very sad that a presidential candidate would be judged by what his reverend has to say. I mean I wouldn't be want to be judged by everything that my rabbi has to say. I think everybody has a right to say whatever it is.
I think that at this point in time, Reverend Wright is getting a lot of air time which I'm sure he doesn't mind. And Barack is forced to turn away from the issues and defend something that he didn't even say.
COOPER: Do you think Reverend Wright is hurting Barack Obama's campaign?
KOCH: Oh, I would think that's probably a yes.
COOPER: Do you think so?
REV. THOMPSON: I don't believe so. Not in the African-American community. Maybe the white community may look at it a little different. But you know they tried to put Reverend Wright in a box.
Listen in 1966, Reverend Wright was a United States Navy Corpsman who tended to President Lyndon B. Johnson. He served his country with honor, six years was a marine. So I don't know why they want to make him out a demagogue right now like somebody who's -- that he's out of touch in tune to America.
COOPER: I want to play some of what Barack Obama had to say today, particular about the HIV conspiracy theory and also about Lewis Farrakhan. Let's listen.
OBAMA: And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan has been a great voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and what I believe this country needs.
COOPER: When you hear Barack Obama talking today, did he do the right thing by coming out and saying, and distancing himself further from Reverend Wright?
THOMPSON: I think he's basically -- as Pastor Wright mentioned -- Barack Obama is running to be President of the United States of America. Pastor Wright says I'm running for Jesus and that's different in terms of separation of church and state.
COOPER: Do you think today Barack Obama's comments were about politic?
THOMPSON: He's a politician. That's what he is.
COOPER: Do you think Barack Obama can overcome this?
HAYNES: Ever since I followed him, his speech and with everything associated with that has to be of hope has really inspired me. And through everything that he's been through this campaign, everything that he stands for, I really have the belief that he can overcome anything.
We can overcome anything. I mean, he can't do it by himself but we as a people have to use common sense to judge what's going on. But I do think he can.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Well, we appreciate them taking the time to talk to us today here in New Orleans.
Here's John Roberts now with what's coming up tomorrow on American Morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JOHN ROBERTS, AMERICAN MORNING ANCHOR: Thanks. Wake up to the most news in the morning including an Olympic reality check live from China. Just 100 days now until the Olympic Games. News about unhealthy air to the uproar over human rights; will the world see progress or lingering problems when the Olympic flame comes to Beijing?
A live report tomorrow on American morning beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern -- Anderson?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: New developments tonight in the battle over hundreds of kids of Warren Jeffs' polygamist compound. New details on the kids and a new arrival. One of the young women has just given birth.
And later fresh outrage from some homeowners here in New Orleans. The government is trying to get them to give back money they got for rebuilding. We're keeping them honest.
COOEPR: The sound from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival began last week and it ends on Sunday. Performers include Al Green, Stevie Wonder, the Neville brothers; attendance is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands. Jazzfest is as triumph for this great city in New Orleans. It's also a testament to people here who have never given up hope.
Attendance this year was at a level not seen since before Hurricane Katrina. It is a sign of a city's rebirth; the reviving of this great city. They continue to rebuild their homes here, their lives and the city. Challenges, of course, remain, challenges that to this day nearly three years after the storm kind of leave you scratching your head at times.
This one involves the government who is handing out aid with one hand while demanding it back with the other. Keeping them honest, here is CNN's Randi Kaye.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a game of give and take in Louisiana. A game New Orleans resident John Montegut has no interest in playing.
JOHN MONTEGUT, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I'm angry, very angry.
KAYE: Montegut's angry because he and his wife spent nearly $100,000 repairing their home after Hurricane Katrina. $20,000 of that was a grant from Louisiana's federally-funded program known as "Road Home."
But now this -- A $13,000 bill from the state. Montegut's letter says --
"We overestimated the damages to your house and you owe us $13,000."
KAYE: What did you think when you saw the letter?
MONTEGUT: I went ballistic.
KAYE: Do you have $13,000 to pay back to ICF?
MONTEGUT: No I don't. We spent that at least twice already. KAYE: Why do they want the money back? Turns out the contractor hired by the state to dole out the cash, overestimated some damages and gave residents too much money. Now it wants as much as $175 million back. As many as 5,000 residents could have to pay up; some on the hook for as much as $150,000.
"Keeping Them Honest" we tried to ask ICF how this happened and why they are asking homeowners to repay money most have already spent. A company spokeswoman told us this is the state's program and it would not be appropriate for ICF to give us an interview.
She was quick to point out, though, the program has an extremely low error rate and very few homeowners will be affected.
Homeowners' advocate Melanie Ehrlich disagrees and says anyone who got a grant could get hit with a massive bill. She says she knows of more than 300 residents who have already been billed.
MELANIE EHRLICH, CITIZEN'S ROAD HOME ACTION COMMITTEE: It's so cruel to ask for money back for people who have gone through an agonizing grant application process because of ICF's incompetency and because the state didn't exercise enough oversight.
KAYE: But this isn't just a cut and dry case of incompetence and injustice. It is, like just about everything related to Katrina's aftermath, complicated. Everyone who got a Road Home grant signed a contract agreeing to repay money if overpayments were later discovered. This is Montegut's contract.
MONTEGUT: They made mistakes. They make mistakes all the time. You know, why should people suffer?
KAYE: Montegut says he was denied access to the state's damage report. So he couldn't have known the state's inspector included a claim for six skylights he doesn't even have. Or for 22 windows that weren't even damaged.
KAYE: So the adjusters said these windows had to be replaced?
MONTEGUT: These windows had to be replaced.
KAYE: Even though they were well above where the water level was?
KAYE: The state plans to fine ICF and hire an auditor to review all the cases. Still John expects to find a lien on his house or a collector at his front door.
MONTEGUT: I don't have the money to give back. I spent the money in improving the house, fixing the house up.
KAYE: So the game of give and take continues with no end in sight.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: A game of give and take. As you might imagine, there's plenty of reaction to this story. We're getting a lot of comments on the blog. To weigh in, go to cnn/360 follow the links and we'll share some of your feedback coming up.
Up next on the program, the latest on the FLDS custody case; it just got larger by one. We'll explain that.
And when a race car goes off the course and gets airborne you try not to think about what comes next except this time a truly death- defying ending when 360 continues.
COOPER: In Texas tonight, new developments in the custody battle between the state and a polygamist sect. More than 460 kids, as you all remember, were removed from the compound belonging to the FLDS church.
Well, today one of them gave birth to a baby boy at this hospital and under guard. We don't know the mother's age only that she is a teenager and authorities consider her a minor.
There are other new details to tell you about - details on the kids who are in foster care and what life is like now inside the polygamist ranch.
CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us from San Angelo, Texas -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, now let's see. Last week the people of the FLDS ranch let the news media on to the ranch to talk to a lot of the women; the mothers who lost their children. The feeling was that the mothers would cast a sympathetic light and that would help their case.
Well now, the ranch has been completely closed to us. They've shut the gate. They are not allowing us on there any more.
We wanted to talk to some of the men. Men were not made available. We ended up talking to some of the men as they walked out of the gates as they got in their cars to drive off.
And a lot of them are telling us, they're saying this is not the America we know. Our rights are being violated. Our children never should have been taken away from us.
Nevertheless, state authorities are still saying they made the right decision, that they have seen widespread abuse. 463 boys and girls under the age of 18 have been taken away and according to authorities, this is a startling detail, this is what state authorities tell us, out of the 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 who have been taken away, 31 of them, about 60 percent of them have either been pregnant are or are pregnant. Now we could tell you the FLDS people are saying that is not true at all. They're saying that's blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, we are also being told that today a minor gave birth to a child in the hospital.
Now, FLDS attorneys say that wasn't a minor. They're saying it was an 18-year-old girl who gave birth in the hospital. They say she's in a monogamous marriage to a 22-year-old member.
Nevertheless the FLDS lawyer does acknowledge to us that that 18- year-old girl also happens to have a 16-month-old baby from before. So you can do the math and figure that out.
Either way the men who are in the compound are very angered that their children are gone. They still say though they have faith in God, faith in their prophet Warren Jeffs and they believe they will get all their children back -- Anderson.
COOPER: Gary, do we know anything about the ratio between how many of these kids are boys and how many are girls?
TUCHMAN: Well, this is one of the most fascinating things. Of the children, the newborns to age 13 is exactly split between boys and girls. But from the age 14 to age 17 there are far more girls who had been taken than boys.
The reason according to people who are familiar with the FLDS they say that the men who are on the ranch need to have a number of wives and therefore they don't want to bring teenage boys to the ranch to compete with the older men who are already there.
Once again the members of the FLDS deny that. They say it's just happenstance.
COOPER: Well, that goes to the whole issue of the lost boys who you have covered extensively throughout this. And I mean, I keep thinking back to all those questions you asked the women and others asked the women when you were allowed on the compound about underage pregnancies, all of which they would say, well, we're not here to talk about that, we're here to talk about our kids. Sounds like their kids overwhelmingly are or have been pregnant.
TUCHMAN: Yes. This is what authorities are saying. Those are startling numbers, Anderson. To think that over 60 percent of these teenage girls under 18 have had babies or are currently pregnant. But it must be stressed that the attorneys for the FLDS say that's not true.
However and this is really important, they are not denying that there aren't some people, some girls under the age of 18 who have been pregnant or who have had babies. So, no one is saying it's zero that's for sure.
COOPER: All right. Well, one day I guess we'll actually find out the actual number. Gary Tuchman, I appreciate the reporting.
A lot more happening tonight. Erica Hill is back once again with the 360 News and Business Bulletin -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, in a White House news conference today President Bush accusing Congress of contributing to the economic downturn by blocking legislation; saying lawmakers have either delayed, ignored or replaced his economic proposals with ones that the president does not support. Democratic leaders shot back accusing the president of offering failed ideas and of losing control of the economy.
The Pentagon said it will cut $171 million from its budget. That money was earmarked to build police stations in Iraq. Congress has been demanding the Iraqi government to spend its recent oil windfall on reconstruction projects to lessen the burden on American taxpayers.
A terrifying smash, look at that -- this happened in Italy's circuit. That was a French driver's car. As you can see it's nearly obliterated when it spun out of control, rolled over. Incredibly though the driver only suffered a broken ankle, Anderson.
HILL: I have no idea how.
COOPER: Just missed that other car too. That's unbelievable.
Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winner. This is where, of course, you compete at home with our staff first to come up with a better caption to the picture we post on our Web site every morning. Tonight's picture -- that's right, a chihuahua showing off a scuba costume during a dog show in suburban Manila. He looks thrilled.
HILL: Poor dog.
COOPER: We're told the dog bagged first place in the fashion show category, by the way. Anyway, tonight's staff winner was Cate, her caption: "This time they've really crossed the line. It's payback time on their new carpet."
Tonight viewer -- the dogs liked it -- tonight's viewer winner is Erica, no relation to our own Erica Hill. Her entry: "From Taco Bell fame to scuba suite modeling, shame! Next thing you know I'll be dancing with the stars. Yo quiero retirement.
That was good.
HILL: But very clever. I think it's the name. That her name was Erica; just a thought.
COOPER: No doubt Erica. Yes.
You can check out the captions that didn't quite make the cut at our Web site cnn.com/360.
Still ahead, we've shown you bears bouncing on trampolines, bears stuck in trees. Tonight we ratchet up for our 360 bearmania. Dare you to resist this little guy, oh my goodness.
COOPER: All right, time for "The Shot" now, probably the cutest shot we've ever had. It's official. With this video we now become the most trusted name in bears.
We're showing tonight's shot on cnn.com. Look at this little bear; so cute, so cuddly, so sleepy. He's drifting off to sleep.
HILL: His little nose can't even hold him up, poor guy.
COOPER: I know. Exactly. Exactly.
We're still trying to look for information about this dozing guy, but we've come up empty. Certainly he's adorable. While we watch him, illuminating facts because frankly I can watch this bear for hours.
There are eight species of bears in the world, do you know that? The black bear can hibernate for 100 days.
COOPER: How do I know these things, you ask? Oh look he's trying snooze -- that's a cute bear, I'm sorry.
HILL: He is adorable.
COOPER: All right. Yes, he's really adorable.
HILL: How do you know those things, Anderson Cooper? How are you so smart about bears? That's what I thought.
COOPER: It was the dumb down celebrity jeopardy, though. I do admit that.
HILL: You're still one.
COOPER: If you see some incredibly cute bears or non-bear video tell us about it at cnn.com/360. While you're there, don't forget to vote for the Webby Awards; we're nominated in the celebrity/fan category and we need your support. The link is on our home page.
You can even help us write our acceptance speech. Remember, there is a five word limit. I'm not sure what that means.
Still to come, more on Randi Kaye's report on New Orleans homeowners billed more than millions of dollars. The state gave them too much money, now it wants to be paid back.
It's what's on the radar when 360 continues.
COOPER: On the radar tonight, we're hearing from a lot of you about Randi Kaye's report on the Road Home Outrage. Louisiana government demanding homeowners pay back money they have already spent on rebuilding.
Celene writes, "How much more pain and cruelty is the government going to dish out to the people of Katrina? This is not a third world country. We pay taxes thinking that when a natural strikes our towns and our people will be helped. And yet every time I hear anything about Katrina I hear how our government is screwing these innocent people." A different take from Kevin: "What's the big deal? Money that was paid out erroneously under the auspices of the state is now being asked to be repaid. I call that fiscal accountability."
While Steve puts it bluntly, writing: "I think I'm going to throw up."
As always we welcome all points of view. To weigh in, go to cnn.com/360 and link to the blog.
That does it for this edition of 360 live from New Orleans.
For our international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, "Larry King" is coming up.
I'll see you tomorrow night.