Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

South Carolina Governor Admits to Affair; New Violence in Iran

Aired June 24, 2009 - 22:00   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 to you from Paris tonight for a very good reason, which we will going to a bit later.

Regarding our top story, this is a place where politicians committing marital infidelity rarely gets more than a Gallic shrug, not the situation back home. It is very different tonight.

South Carolina's governor reveals why he vanished, admits to a long-distance love affair, and asks forgiveness. But that's not all -- his wife now firing back, Internet love letters surface, and the Republican Party reels from the second infidelity scandal this month, both from men who made family values a big part of their political message.

Also ahead tonight, the picture in Iran darkens. You just saw some of it on Larry's program, protesters often outnumbered by police and now the dreaded Revolutionary Guard, brutal beatings, forced TV confessions, and a supreme leader who refuses to soften his very tough line -- all of that in the hour ahead.

We begin with the latest from Governor Mark Sanford. It is a story that is both stranger than fiction and as old and true as human nature. After vanishing without a trace last Thursday, South Carolina's Governor Sanford resurfaced today.

Standing in the hot lights, facing the cameras, his wife and four children not by his side, he shoots down the cover story that the -- he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and tells the world he's just back from Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's where the governor has been with a woman with whom he admits he's been having an affair.

His confession, dramatic. He resigns as head of the Republican Governors Association, but -- and this is important -- right now is hoping to stay on as governor.

His wife is speaking out tonight. His party's doing damage control. We have got all the angles tonight.

First, though, Governor Sanford's stunning story in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And so let me lay out that larger story that has attracted so many of you all here. I'm a bottom-line kind of -- kind of guy. I will lay it out. It's going to hurt, and we'll let the chips fall where they may. In so doing, let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolton, and Blake, for letting them down.

One of the primary roles, well before being a governor, is being a father to those four boys who are absolute jewels and blessings that I have let down in a profound way. And I apologize to them.

And I don't like apologizing in this realm, but, given the immediacy of you all's wanting to visit and my proximity to them, this is the first step in what will be a very long process on that front.

I would secondly say to Jenny, anybody who has observed her over the last 20 years of my life knows how closely she has stood by my side, in campaign after campaign after campaign and literally being my campaign manager, and in raising those four boys and in a whole host of other things throughout the lives that we've built together.

I would also apologize to my staff because, as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail -- that was one of the original scenarios that I had thrown out to Mary Neil (ph) -- that isn't where I ended up.

And so I let them down by created a fiction with record to where I was going, which means that I had then in turn, given as much they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across this state.

So, the bottom line is this, I -- I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- which started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one's life there and advice here.

But here recently over this last year it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. I hurt friends like Tom Davis. I hurt a lot of different folks. And all I can say is that I apologize.

I -- I -- I would ask for your -- I guess I'm not deserving of indulgence, but indulgence not for me, but for Jenny and the boys. You know, there are a team of cameras and crews and all those sorts of things camped out down at Sullivan's Island. And I would just ask for a zone of privacy, if not for me, for her and the boys.

As we go through this process of working through this, there are going to be some hard decisions to be made, to be dealt with. And those are probably not best dealt with through the prism of television cameras and media headlines.

I am, yes.

QUESTION: Are you separated?

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... separated?

SANFORD: What's that?

QUESTION: Are you separated from the first lady?

SANFORD: Well, I -- I don't know how you want to define that. I mean, I'm here and she's there. I guess in a formal sense we're not.

But, you know, what we're -- what we're trying to do is work through something that, you know, we've been working through for a number of months now.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

SANFORD: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SANFORD: We -- we -- we've been -- we've been working through this thing for about the last five months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And where he goes from here is a question we will be taking up shortly.

He stepped down as chairman, as I mentioned, of the Republican Governors Association. He was dropped today from the speakers list for this year's Values Voters Summit, one of the sessions there titled "Marriage: Why It's Worth Defending."

We will talk politics shortly with Candy Crowley and marriage with Dr. Drew Pinsky.

Also tonight, more on the woman in Argentina now at the center of this very big storm, what we have learned about her.

Let's get the big picture, though, right now from David Mattingly, who is in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) podium in, public, the most private matters of the heart.

SANFORD: But the bottom line is this. I -- I have been unfaithful to my wife.

MATTINGLY: Unfaithful and a confession, but, at the same time, plenty of unanswered questions from a Republican rising star who fell to earth. JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, "THE POLITICO": He was widely thought to be a 2012 contender for the Republicans. He's now known to the country and to some of the world because of this indiscretion.

MATTINGLY: It wasn't supposed to be this way. Politically, he was on the GOP fast track, the 49-year-old two-term governor of South Carolina, a traditional conservative, who said no to the president's stimulus cash. He is now a pariah, and his party battered again.

MARTIN: This is one more black eye for the Republican Party, and that, in some ways are their own worst enemies, and they're blocking their own comeback.

MATTINGLY: Personally, the image projected was of a devoted husband, a loving father. Sanford, who worked in real estate and was an Air Force Reservist, married his wife, Jenny, in 1989. She left her job as an investment banker to run his campaign.

The wealthy couple has four sons, who range in ages from 10 to 17. The big question, will they reconcile? The answer, maybe. In a statement today, Jenny Sanford said: "I love my husband, and I believe I have put forth every effort possible to be the best wife I can be."

She also said she knew of his infidelity and this month agreed to a trial separation. And, most importantly, she said, "I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage."

As for the other woman, it is a very long-distance love affair. Her name, reportedly, is Maria. Sanford traveled to Argentina to be with her over the weekend. Sanford, who has not resigned as governor, said he had let many people down. But even his political rivals are offering personal support.

JAKE KNOTTS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATOR: I think that it took a -- a strong man to stand there and do what he did. I saw a Mark Sanford today that I felt was sincere in his apology.

MATTINGLY: Sanford is asking for forgiveness, but he acknowledges it won't come quickly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, David, his wife maybe seems willing to forgive him and work on their marriage. Will -- will -- do we know if the people of South Carolina are willing to forgive him?

MATTINGLY: Well, when it comes to the -- the public, his affair is not the governor's biggest problem right now.

With this trip to Buenos Aires, he misled his staff about his whereabouts, who, in turn, misled the public. He left the state, he left the country without telling anyone where he was going, and was completely out of touch for days on end. The political damage from that may be irreparable -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Mattingly, thanks very much.

A lot to talk about, and the live chat is certainly heating up. You can join in at AC360.com.

Just ahead tonight, the object of his affection -- what he said to this -- to the woman in Argentina in e-mail exchanges about his love for her, but also his confusion about what to do next.

Also ahead tonight, the very latest on what appears to be growing brutality against protesters in Iran. If you thought it couldn't get any worse, it just may be -- the Revolutionary Guard now getting into the act, the ayatollah acting defiant, and scenes of apparently forced confessions -- we will show you some of those -- blaming the uprisings on the West.

All that and more tonight from Paris. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Mark Sanford wouldn't get too specific about the identity of the woman he's been involved with, but today he did reveal some information about how their relationship began and how it changed.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANFORD: And it began just on a very casual basis. We developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years. And -- and, then, as I said, about a year ago, it -- it sparked into something more than that.

I have seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing. And it was discovered...

(CROSSTALK)

SANFORD: Let me finish -- five months ago.

And, at that point, we went into serious overdrive in trying to say, where do you go from here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the governor and the woman exchanged e-mails, some very intimate. Those e-mails, of course, have leaked out. They always do. Tonight, you will hear some of them.

Also, Joe Johns has all that and some new details on who this woman is -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, an Argentinean source familiar with the relationship says, the woman Sanford fell in love with is separated from her husband. He is an executive who runs a multinational business. The source says her first name is Maria, that she's a former journalist, and lives in an apartment with her two sons in an upscale central Buenos Aires neighborhood known as Palermo.

Maria apparently met Sanford in New York eight years ago, when the governor said she was separated from her husband. In his news conference today, Sanford said their relationship started with an incredibly earnest conversation whether she ought to get back with her husband for the sake of her boys.

At that time, it was 2001. Sanford had not yet been elected governor of South Carolina, although he had already served six years in Congress by the time he met Maria. He stepped down from the House of Representatives in the year 2000, keeping a promise to his constituents to abide by a term limit.

Though that relationship may have started out as a friendship, it apparently had blossomed into much more by last year. In an e-mail last July and reprinted today by "The State" newspaper in South Carolina, "Maria," wrote Sanford, "You are the love -- you are my love, something hard to believe, even for myself, as it's also kind of impossible love, not only because of distance, but situation. Sometimes, you don't choose things. They just happen. I can't redirect my feels. And I am very happy with mine towards you."

CNN's efforts to contact Maria have been unsuccessful. As for those e-mails, "The State" newspaper obtained the e-mails. They say the governor's office authenticated them. But state officials would neither the confirm nor deny their authenticity for us -- Anderson.

COOPER: Joe, do we know if those e-mails were sent by government computer, I mean, from -- from -- actually, from his office or -- or from his own government account?

JOHNS: It's just not clear, because we have been unable to -- to get verification on the authenticity. That's something we have to sort of look toward "The State" newspaper for that -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. No doubt, more of that's going to be coming out over the -- couple of days.

Joe Johns reporting that -- thank you, Joe.

More next, including the other question about whether the governor spent taxpayer money any of this, for his trips down to Argentina. Candy Crowley joins with us that.

Also, "Loveline"'s Dr. Drew on the e-mails, the visits and the impact on Governor Sanford's family.

Later, new information about the Washington Metro wreck -- nine people died in all. Tonight, attention is focusing on a key piece of equipment that might have prevented a collision. The question, why didn't it?

And, of course, our coverage of Iran continues -- the very latest out of Iran, with the government cracking down even harder it seems, graphic new images, and new information from Ivan Watson, and Reza Sayah, who has just gotten out of Tehran -- details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ahead, more of those Internet love letters between the governor and the woman he's been having affair with in Argentina, and questions about whether taxpayer dollars were spent on the governor's trips to Argentina.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, at least 62 people are dead, 150 others wounded, after a bomb ripped through a marketplace in eastern Baghdad. The blast comes just days before all U.S. troops are to pull out of Iraqi cities and move to bases.

In Washington, D.C., investigators now looking at whether signaling problems on a stretch of track may have contributed to Monday's deadly subway crash. The system is supposed to control train speed and make sure trains don't collide. Nine people died Monday when one train rear-ended another. Meantime, a Maryland congressman is pushing for $3 billion in federal funding to upgrade Metro cars.

Citigroup is boosting salaries by as much as 50 percent, in hopes of not only keeping top talent, but also to apparently make up for shrinking bonuses. The banking company has received $45 billion from the federal government to stay afloat during the economic crisis.

And Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denying he ever paid a woman for sex -- the 72-year-old told an Italian magazine he -- quote -- "never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest." Berlusconi is accused of paying prostitutes to attend parties at his various homes.

Despite the scandal, though, he remains popular and vows he won't be forced out of office, although he did, in a recent interview with CNN, Anderson, say it's a bit of a burden being prime minister, but he's the only leader who can hold the center-right together.

COOPER: There you go, a modest man.

Italy's leader there, Erica, clearly not about to hold a tearful news conference anytime soon.

We will have more with Erica, another update, later on in the program.

Also, more questions tonight about South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford. Did he use taxpayer money to pay for those visits -- visits to his lover in Argentina? We will find out.

Plus, reports of new violence in Iran's streets, as the government appears to be taking an even harder line toward protesters -- baton-wielding thugs chasing down protesters. Reza Sayah just back from Iran to tell us what he has seen over the last few days.

And newly released Watergate tapes and what they reveal about President Nixon's views on abortion, his words nothing short of shocking.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More now on governor Mark Sanford's confession today and the Internet love letters that tell part of the story.

Columbia South Carolina's paper "The State" obtained these letters -- or these e-mails. They say the governor's office authenticated them. But the state officials would neither confirm nor deny their authenticity for CNN.

Now, you saw an excerpt from the governor's lover in Joe John's report. Here's a sample of one of the replies from Governor Sanford dated July 10 of last year.

He wrote: "You have a particular grace and charm that I adore. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent, gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines, or that I love the curve of your hips."

In closing, he goes on to write: "We are in a hopelessly impossible situation of love. I feel a little vulnerable because this is ground I have never, certainly never, covered before. So, if you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out, please let me know."

Governor Sanford last summer in love, and in a world of pain, certainly, tonight.

With us now, Candy Crowley on the political angle -- angle -- and Dr. Drew Pinsky, addiction medicine special and host of "Loveline" for all things else.

Candy, clearly, Governor Sanford was a rising star in the Republican Party -- talk about a presidential run. Is his political future over, or do we not know at this point?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: I mean, it's -- it's -- certainly, there is some serious damage here, particularly in the Republican Party, where the core is conservative Christians.

But -- but there is also the sort of redemption side of a story. Americans tend to -- voters tend to love redemption sagas. I mean, and we can point to any number of politicians, beginning with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who never lost their popularity.

In fact, the -- the president, former president, became more popular after he left office, as well. So, it is -- it is not one- size-fits-all here, but, right now, tonight, certainly serious damage, not just to the governor, but to the party as a whole.

COOPER: Well, also, Candy, I mean, I -- I guess one part of this story is the actual affair that he had. Then there's the other, which is sort of not only the lying about it, but also the possible use of taxpayer money down to -- for trips.

Do we know, did he use taxpayer money for trips down to Argentina?

CROWLEY: We -- we don't know that yet.

We do know that there were, in fact, state Commerce Department- paid trips down to Argentina. Whose idea those trips were, whether he even saw this woman during those trips, those are the kinds of details we don't know.

But I have to tell you, if it comes to something like that, if he did use state funds, that is a huge problem as far as his staying in office is concerned, because, when you look at the whole host of people who have admitted to an adulterous affairs, if you look at Governor Spitzer, he, in fact, engaged with a prostitute -- illegal. If you look at former New Jersey Governor McGreevey, he also -- he put a lover on the state payroll.

So, it is the illegality that tends to push these people out of office. Others have survived when it is -- quote -- "merely an affair."

COOPER: Dr. Drew, Jenny Sanford issued a statement -- and I want to read part of it -- today.

She said: "I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance."

What do you -- I mean, obviously, she's -- she's, I mean, known about this for a while now. It's a horrible thing for her family. What do you -- when you hear her statement, when you read the whole thing, what do you make of it?

DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, "CRACKED: PUTTING BROKEN LIVES TOGETHER AGAIN": Well, honestly, what I make of it is out -- outrage and anger, I mean, frankly ferocious rage coming from this woman.

And why not? I mean, she's been deeply hurt by this experience. But it seems to be a rage that is sort of pervasive. And it makes me worry that this relationship has been in trouble for quite some time. And that is how a guy like this gets himself into trouble.

As Candy said, people like stories of redemption in this country, but we do not like stories of hypocrisy. And, so, for a guy who's standing for family values to stand up one day or to even to come to terms with the fact that his marriage isn't working, that was unacceptable.

So, perhaps -- I have no knowledge of this, but perhaps they have been in trouble for a long time, and, as a symptom of that now, he's drifted off into another relationship, which is even a more outrageous problem now and even more hypocritical.

COOPER: Well, it also seems a difficult -- I mean, he said he had only seen her three times over the course, I guess, of this past year. They have been having a -- some sort of e-mail friendship for -- for eight years or so.

Do you think their marriage can survive this?

PINSKY: Oh, I think, absolutely, it can. I -- I have hope for almost any marriage. Even when we're treating sexual addiction, about 80 percent of the partners of sex addicts, frank addicts, will stay with their partner.

I mean, there's a reason people are together. And when I work with couples like this, what I -- what I tell them is to really think of these kids and the family and the life they have established together. Do they really want to allow this betrayal to completely destroy their life?

And, usually, the answer is no. And when they commit on behalf of the kids again, these things can be worked through. They are deep injuries. They take time, but they can be worked through.

COOPER: Candy, I want to play for our viewers something that Sanford said about then President Clinton and -- and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and the -- the effect of that. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 16, 1999)

SANFORD: The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of democratic government, representative government, because it undermines trust. And, if you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Mark Sanford, then, obviously, was a -- a congressman. That was in 1999.

Candy, obviously, again, I guess the same thing applies. It's the question of lying and the issue of trust.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

And it's -- again, as Dr. Pinsky says, listen, this is also a question of hypocrisy. If you're going to say, listen, Bill Clinton really has seriously damaged the country and the country's trust in government because he lied, then, certainly, the same can hold true. That doesn't mean that we will see the governor resign. I suspect, if things get too heated, if he loses the respect of the legislature, which is already kind of a problem, this may be a man who leaves office voluntarily.

But you're -- you're right that the fact of the matter is that this is what always sinks Republicans, more than Democrats. And part of that is because of the orientation toward a big stress on family values. So, when the hypocrisy comes up, it always seems much worse than a Democrat who strays.

COOPER: Dr. Drew Pinsky, Candy Crowley, appreciate it tonight, a lot to talk about.

Candy mentioned some of the other recent scandals we have seen, recent sex scandals, how the politicians involved have handled the damage -- a lot more of those stories right now online. You can read details at AC360.com.

A lot more on this program. A lot of you have been weighing on in on Governor Sanford's stunning confession and his secret trip to Argentina. The live chat is still happening right now at AC360.com. Talk to other viewers about what you think. Hear what they have to say.

We are also going to have the latest from Iran coming up next -- reports today of more blood in the streets, what witnesses told CNN, and what the government is saying about the -- the media and the young woman whose dying moments have become a symbol of the uprising.

Send us your questions. Text them to 94553. The message has to start with the letters A.C., then a space, then your name and a question. If you don't include A.C. first, with a space, we are not going to receive the text. We're going to talk to Reza Sayah, who is just out of Iran. You can put your questions to him.

Later, the voice on newly released Watergate tapes is familiar, the words deeply, deeply racist. The subject is abortion and interracial couples and what should happen to their fetuses. Words from Richard Nixon, then president. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now to Iran and two starkly different versions of the day's events. These are amateur videos you're looking at They were taken in Tehran's streets today. More than half a dozen witnesses told CNN that hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police in front of the parliament building.

They said police outnumbered demonstrators and used overwhelming force to crush the planned demonstration. One source said police beat people, quote, "like animals." Another described blood everywhere.

Now, it's impossible to verify the details of their accounts. We didn't have a reporter on the ground there. Restrictions on reporters in Iran remain, as you know, extremely tight. You see the bloody pictures right there.

Iran's government-run television gave a polar opposite account of what happened, saying that a heavy police presence prevented violence in the area, but security forces dispersed about 250 protesters.

At a nearby hospital, a person who answered the phone said no one had been admitted with injuries from any clashes. Interpret that as you will.

Government television also broadcasts what it claimed are confessions of protestors who claim that western news organizations are misrepresenting the story.

This woman says on state television, says, "I was influenced by Voice of America, Persia TV and BBC. They used to blame the government forces for the violence. So I was very interested to see what was going on. And when I attended the rallies I realized that it was the protestors who attacked public property, soldiers and even other people." Confession -- so-called confession on Iranian state television.

Meantime, Iran's supreme leader today vowed that the government won't give into protesters' demands.

There's a lot of moving pieces to this story. Ivan Watson joins me with the latest from Atlanta -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we've got more than a half dozen eyewitness accounts of police carrying out baton charges to crush this attempted demonstration in Tehran today. This is what one of those eyewitnesses, who will remain unidentified for safety reasons, what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, some 500 people with clubs and woods, they came out of Habala (ph) Mosque, and they poured into the streets. And they started beating everyone. And they -- they tried to beat everyone on Sati (ph) Bridge and -- and throwing them off of the bridge.

WATSON: This is a pedestrian bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, pedestrian. But and everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood, and her husband was watching the scene. He just fainted.

And I also saw people shooting. I mean, the security forces shooting on people and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And, of course, people were afraid of the security forces, but they was beating people, like. It was a massacre.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: So you have a harrowing account of this use of force, and we've seen this pattern over the past several days, Anderson, the Iranian security forces crushing these demonstrations, really putting the demonstrators on the defensive -- Anderson.

COOPER: I'm hearing the fear in that woman's voice and those pictures, unbelievable. Ivan, the Iranian government today talked for the first time today about the killing of Neda, the woman who's become such a symbol of these protests. What did they actually have to say about it?

WATSON: Well, Iran's ambassador to Mexico just spoke to CNN Espanol. He said that it's possible that either police or terrorists in the crowd gunned down this 26-year-old woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, on -- on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Iran's state Islamic Republic News Agency indicated that maybe this was a mistake and that the marksman, quote, "had mistaken her for the sister of a terrorist." So we're getting different messages from the Islamic Republic about how and why this woman was gunned down on Saturday, Anderson.

COOPER: Strange, bizarre, hard to -- hard to describe what's going on right now. Ivan Watson, appreciate it.

Reza Sayah has been CNN's reporter on the ground in Iran, one of the few western reporters who's been able to file from Tehran. He left yesterday. He's back in Atlanta tonight.

Reza you were reporting from Iran for 11 days. Why did you leave?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this happened very abruptly, and it was very disappointed to me, Anderson. Tuesday, yesterday, we got a call to go into the ministry that provides us with press credentials. They said we had a meeting with somebody.

We went in, went into an office, and there I saw a very large, burly man who happened to be an intelligence official. And he told me that they had evidence that I had been working since the ban was instilled on Saturday. They've put in a ban. They said, "We have evidence that you've been working." Even though they couldn't substantiate it. I said, "What evidence?"

They couldn't substantiate it, but they said, "Let's put that in the past. Here's what we want you to do." He gave me a blank piece of paper and a pen and he said, "We want you to write that you will no longer do any reports from this point forth unless the reports are positive. And if you don't write this letter and sign this agreement, you have 24 hours to leave. If you don't leave in 24 hours, we won't be able to guarantee your safety, and we won't be able to guarantee that you'll come back here and work."

Obviously, a very unusual request. I spoke to the bosses at CNN, and the decision was easy, Anderson. Because of the requests and the not-so-veiled threat, we decided to leave. It was difficult for me to leave this story at such a crucial juncture, but that's a decision we made.

COOPER: So when the guy said to you, "We can't protect your safety," you took that as a threat?

SAYAH: Yes. Definitely, especially with what's been happening to reporters. I mean, over my stay there, probably around two dozen reporters went missing, and they haven't been heard from.

We contacted some local journalists who were in the reformist camp. And as the days unfolded, their phones were off. There were reports that they were missing. So certainly, if you have someone from Iranian intelligence telling you that "we can't guarantee your safety," that is a classic but crude scare tactic. And you know, who knows? But we left.

COOPER: What do you think was the tipping point that caused the Iranian government to crack down on foreign journalists? And how difficult was it to do your job?

SAYAH: Tipping point was Friday. The supreme leader came out after a number of days of peaceful protests, and he had that message in Friday prayers, and basically, he said, "Enough is enough. These protests are illegal. If you come out, we're going to crack down, and the blood is going to be the responsibility of Mr. Mousavi, the opposition leader."

The next day, the protesters came out, and that was the ugly Saturday when you had so many beatings. You had Neda, the 26-year-old student, who was shot and killed, and then after that, you saw the protests getting smaller and smaller.

Speaking to some of the protesters by phone, you can tell that there was a lot of uncertainty and reluctance to go back out there. So as brutal and vicious as these crackdowns were, they were effective, based on the past four days, in suppressing some of the protests.

As far as my job goes, it was very difficult not being able to report. But we had many eyes and ears on the ground. There was a lot of reports coming into CNN that there were protests here in this major square, and we did our best to confirm them as often as we could.

COOPER: Right. Reza, stick around. Want to continue this conversation after the break. We're also going to bring in Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University to discuss what the latest violence means and what's going to happen tomorrow, the day after that. Can these demonstrations continue? Does the Iranian government triumph in cracking down?

You can also send us your questions. Text them to 94553. The message has to start with the letters "AC," then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include "AC" first, the space, not going to get the text. We're sorry.

Also tonight, incredible video, a 4-year-old boy and a very close call. It is our "Shot of the Day."

Plus, Governor Sanford coming clean. But there are still so many questions. Got the latest on the affair, his wife's reaction, and the fallout, political and otherwise, when we continue from Paris. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're digging deeper on the latest from Iran. Each piece of new video seemingly more brutal than the next. The government response to protesters apparently hardening. Reports say government police using overwhelming force to crush a planned demonstration today in Tehran.

Calling them police, frankly, a lot of these guys are just thugs with batons on motorcycles, cracking heads, breaking bones.

Reza Sayah has been on the ground in Iran for CNN, joins me again. So does Abbas Milani, who's director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, co-director of the Iran Democracy Project.

Abbas, the supreme leader said today the country's not going to yield to pressure at any cost coming hand in hand with what seems to be an increase in violence toward demonstrators. What do you make of what's happening? Is the Iranian government basically winning this?

ABBAS MILANI, DIRECTOR OF IRANIAN STUDIES, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I'm not sure they have won it. They're certainly trying to give that air. They're trying to make people give up the efforts. They're trying to give the air that everything is finished.

But based on everything we hear from the Mousavi camp, from the Kavovi (ph) camp, and based on everything you read in the Web blogs and opposition papers, I don't think they have won this. There are new papers, for example, that are now being printed underground, a kind of a samizdat that has emerged. So I think the regime has yet a lot of bones to break if it wants to feel that it has won the day.

COOPER: Reza, you say you witnessed some of the most appalling things you've ever seen. Describe them for us. What do -- we've seen the pictures. We're seeing that bloody young man being carried right now. We've seen what happened to that young woman, just a single bullet. She was just talking on her cell phone. What have you seen?

SAYAH: Well, just some ruthless beatings. These Basijis, these plain-clothed law-enforcement men, they just do not show any mercy. It's just like one Rodney king after another. One...

COOPER: Who are these guys exactly? Who are these guys exactly? I mean, you called them law enforcement. Are they actually -- I mean, do they -- are they accountable to anybody?

SAYAH: No. No, they're not. It's law enforcement without any identification, wearing street clothes. These are Basijis that were formed during the Islamic revolution, and their job is to protect this regime. And that's exactly what they're doing by any means necessary.

They wear street clothes. The other day I saw one with rubber flip-flops. Another one was wearing camouflage with -- with dress shoes. So these are people who have day jobs that have committed to the government. They're taken care of by the government. But when the government needs them at times like this, they pick up the phone and they call them in. And they give them a baton, and this is what they do. They beat people ruthlessly.

And I got to say, this is a very rare glimpse at this regime, which is very secretive. The past two weeks shows us that this regime will go to any measure to crack down on any kind of dissent.

And when you talk about the nuclear issue, whenever the western governments like Washington has accused Iran of going after nuclear bombs, what has been the response. The response has been Islam. It's a religion of peace. It doesn't coincide, nuclear bombs don't coincide with Islam.

But we certainly haven't seen peace over the past couple of weeks. Based on their own definition, this hasn't been a peaceful approach to a crisis.

And I think a lot of people who are hawkish about Iran are going to point to these past couple of week. And they say if it comes down to it, you know, the teachings of Islam are going to go after the door. They may go after a nuclear bomb.

COOPER: Professor, what do you -- I mean, it's impossible to predict what's going to happen. But based on what you know, based on what you're hearing, your own sources, what do you think the next 24, 48 hours holds?

MILANI: I think the opposition is trying to make sure it has a few casualties as possible. One of the problems of the opposition is that they're democrats. They don't want to sacrifice people. And the regime, on the other hand, is a reckless brutal regime that will kill as many as it needs to.

My understanding is that they're trying to see if they can mobilize and organize a strike, a national strike that would once again show the regime the extent of dissatisfaction and the disgruntleness.

Taliman Tazeri (ph), a very important person, the highest religious authority, just today issued a fatwa making it a sin for these thugs to beat on people.

And in response to your question of who these guys are, they're not just one category of people. Some of these people are the kinds of hoodlums that have been given, for example, a managerial position in a factory. We have recognized some of these people have gone after and taken some pictures. In some cases they're being paid $200 a day for their job, which in Iran is an incredible amount of money to be paid for someone to engage in all of this.

COOPER: Yes. Reza, we've got a question from -- came in via text to 360. Roseanne asks, "What can we believe coming out of Iran?"

What do you think, Reza? What do you tell people?

SAYAH: It's going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult because, I mean, I look at Sunday as an example. We were on the ground on Sunday. It was after an ugly Saturday. And there were so many tweets coming in to CNN, so many YouTube videos. And we were there with our eyes and ears, and some of them were not accurate. We were going to these locations, and it wasn't as bad as people were describing. And we could report that because we were there.

Now, we don't have as many eyes and ears there, but somehow we're going to have to vet through these pictures that are coming out, and it's going to be very, very difficult. But it's a difficult situation not having reporters on the ground over there.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Reza Sayah, professor Abbas Milani, appreciate your time again tonight. We continue to cover this every single night. A crucially important story right now.

Obviously, the Iranian government's perspective on all this is an important piece of the story, as well. Today the Iranian ambassador to Mexico agreed to become the first government official to speak to us. He told us Iran's government is killing -- is not killing people. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMAD HASSAN GHADIRI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO (through translator): In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, we do not beat up our people, and we do not kill them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We're going to have much more of the Iranian ambassador's interview in the 11 p.m. hour -- he's stressing that they are not killing people -- just ahead. And tomorrow you're going to see the full interview on 360.

Also tomorrow, my interview with Roxanna Saberi, the Iranian- American journalist imprisoned in Iran earlier this year on charges of espionage. She was released in May, not long before Iran's presidential election. She says her interrogators pressured her into saying she was a spy. A lot more of that interview tomorrow.

Next, President Nixon on abortion. His own words just revealed. What he said is going to shock you, including his views about what should happen to the fetuses of interracial couples. You're not going to believe this.

Plus one very lucky little boy. We'll show you what happened. It's our "Shot of the Day." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still to come, shocking video. Boy hit by a car, survives. But first Erica Hill joins us again with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, tonight a former high-school football player charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his coach. Authorities in Waterloo, Iowa, say Mark Becker walked into the school weight room this morning and, with about 20 students looking on, shot Coach Ed Thomas dead. Becker had just been released from a psychiatric evaluation after allegedly vandalizing a home and leading police on a high-speed chase.

The South Pole doctor who treated her own breast cancer has died ten years after her story began to be known. Dr. Jerri Nielsen Fitzgerald couldn't leave the South Pole station when she discovered a lump in her breast, so she performed a biopsy on it and gave herself chemotherapy with drugs that were choppered in. Dr. Fitzgerald was 57.

Newly-released Watergate tapes reveal President Richard Nixon's now-incendiary thoughts on abortion. Those tapes, recorded in early 1973, show he believed abortion was justified in different cases, including interracial pregnancy.

And tennis, apparently a contact sport. Today at Wimbledon, Frenchman Michael Llodra running head-on into a ball girl. Ouch. Both of them crashed into the umpire's chair.

COOPER: Yikes.

HILL: Luckily, no serious injuries. And since nobody was hurt, you can bet she's got a really good story for all of her girlfriends.

COOPER: That's probably true.

Erica, next on "The Shot," a remarkable picture. A young boy, an out-of-control car. You won't believe what happened in this video; you just have to see.

And at the top of the hour, confessions of a governor. The affair, the other woman. You'll hear from Governor Mark Sanford in his own words and see the intimate e-mails he sent to his mistress. All that's coming up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture that we put on the blog every day. That's how it works.

Tonight's picture, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and press secretary Robert Gibbs listen as President Obama gives a news conference just yesterday.

So our staff winner tonight is Kay. Her caption: "Rahm: 'Oh crap, there's a camera. Can't play Brick Breaker anymore'."

(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS)

COOPER: ... that. Viewer winner is James from Kentucky. His caption: "How much for these pics of Mr. Obama smoking in the Oval Office?" HILL: Ooh.

(SOUND EFFECT: "Oooh!")

HILL: So timely, James.

COOPER: I imagine there's a lot of money. James, a "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Also, no evidence, I think, he smoked in the Oval Office anyway. Who knows?

Time for tonight's "Shot." A young kid's very close call. Take a look at this video. It's just unbelievable. It's from Turkey. Look at the right of the screen. A 4-year-old boy is standing at the top of the stairs. Suddenly he gets hit by an out-of-control car.

HILL: Crazy.

COOPER: The child falls down the flight of stairs. The boy is OK, though. Shaken up. He gets up, runs over to his dad. He's obviously crying. But he is just incredibly very, very lucky. Take a look at this. Jeez.

HILL: That's amazing to me.

COOPER: Unbelievable. The little boy just gets up. Yes.

HILL: Totally fine. There I am.

COOPER: I love it when kids -- I love it when kids fall, and then they look to their parents to see whether they should cry or laugh.

HILL: Exactly.

COOPER: The parents laugh, and sometimes the kids do. I like that.

HILL: It's true. You freak out, your kid's freaked out.

COOPER: Is that right?

HILL: It is.

COOPER: Well, you can see all the shots at our Web site, AC360.com.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Governor Sanford's remarkable odyssey and possibly -- well, we don't know what's going to happen next with his political career, certainly, and whether his family's going to be able to reconcile or not. We'll have the latest ahead. We'll be right back.