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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bullying: No Escape; Political Theater; Oil Spill Blame Game Continues

Aired October 7, 2010 - 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: Thanks for watching, everyone.

Tonight: how campaign ad-makers create phony public opinion using paid actors, instead of, well, real people. We will show you what's fake in a bunch of political commercials this election season. And hear how one talent agency casting for commercials said they wanted actors who looked like hicks. Is that how they think of voters in their state? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, "Crime & Punishment": It's being called the murder on pirate lake. Tiffany Hartley says she watched drug bandits gun down her husband, but some are now raising questions about her story. You can judge for yourself. I will talk to Tiffany one-on-one tonight.

And later: Phoebe Prince, 15 years old when she hanged herself, you have heard story, allegedly bullied relentlessly, six classmates now facing charges. The question tonight, are those charges -- charges warranted? Some new details tonight that raise some new questions.

We begin, tonight, though, "Keeping Them Honest," with politicians trying to play you for a chump. Now, I know, that's frankly nothing new, but tonight we have got a great example of just how fake some of these campaign ads are.

Exhibit A:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE AD)

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Obama's messing things up.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Spending money we don't have.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Stimulus, Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, and Joe Manchin supported it all.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Joe is not bad as governor, but when he is with Obama. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He turns into Washington Joe.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And Washington Joe does whatever Obama wants.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. Well, we better keep Joe Manchin right here in West Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Away from Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. It's the only way we are going to stop Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, that's an ad put out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee targeting West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, who is running to succeed the late Senator Robert Byrd, ordinary people in West Virginians in a diner speaking out against him -- or so it would seem.

As you take another look at these three -- three people, listen to a memo from the talent agency -- that's right, talent agency -- that found these three -- quote -- "We're going for a hicky, blue- collar look, John Deere hats, not brand-new, preferably beat-up, and trucker hats."

"A hicky, blue-collar look"? That's probably not the term a politician should be using to describe the people of his state, the people he wants to appeal to.

Now, we should stress that this memo is not from the candidate himself, but it certainly tells you something about the attitude of at least some of the people at the talent agency who work behind the scenes on this campaign.

And, yes, these people are actors getting paid $400 a day, according to the casting memo.

In fact, you might recognize that ordinary guy right there in the middle. His name is Damian Muziani. We found him here working as an extra in a sketch on "Saturday Night Live." We saw his video on his Web site where he describes himself as an actor, filmmaker, broadcaster, and host.

Oh, and here he is also on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Mr. Muziani, by the way, says on his site that he's got no comment about the West Virginia ad, but his -- he is still available for work.

He has a quote. It says, "Let's move on now, and produce together," which actually kind of sounds like a political slogan.

Let's go back to that ad. See the West Virginia diner that they're talking in? Well, it turns out it's not in Morgantown or Beckley or Charleston, West Virginia. It's in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As for the ad, the Republicans say they pulled it, but it is still running. The Republican candidate, of course, is now distancing himself from the ad, but it's far from the only such example out there.

This one -- take a look at this ad from Ohio -- features a blue- collar worker saying Democratic Senate candidate Ted Strickland has destroyed Ohio jobs as governor of the state. Now, you would think they could find a real supporter to say. Instead, they hired an actor. His name, it turns out, is Chip Redden.

Take a look at this ad attacking Harry Reid in Nevada. Here's a trio of sinister-looking supposed illegal immigrants. Not only do they look like stock characters. They actually are. Here they are again in a campaign ad for David Vitter, exact same people. Maybe they have forged papers and will travel.

Now, before you get too outraged at Republicans for pulling stunts like this, you should know that Democrats do it, too, using bogus real people, casting ads like Sunday matinees, all the same kind of trickery.

So do special interest groups. Remember Harry and Louise, the fictional couple who were so instrumental in the fight over health care reform? Well, first, they were for it -- first, they were against it, I should point out. And, then a decade later, when someone else was paying them, they were for it.

The question is, why all the spoon-feeding? There is, after all, a real version of the truth. And we're all living it.

Let's talk about it now with former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and GOP strategist Ed Rollins as well.

Does everybody just do this? I mean, is it all kind of fake?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Some of it is.

I wouldn't say everything. The best commercials are head-on. A candidate, if you have a good candidate who can articulate a message, delivering his own message is the most powerful part of it.

COOPER: You have run a lot of campaigns. Why -- why -- why hire actors, though? Why not just have real people?

ROLLINS: Well, in this particular case, I think it's important to know this wasn't done by the campaign.

COOPER: Right, absolutely not.

ROLLINS: This was done by the National Republican Senate Committee. They're running campaigns all over the place. And the campaign itself, because it's an independent expenditure, can't say yea or nay or what have you. That's one of the sat parts of all this, the election laws today. They probably will use these kind of actors in a variety of places, because it's easier to do than go to West Virginia or go -- you're running 20 campaigns. The key thing here is, you -- you -- you're trying to tap into an emotion. When you get down into the closing weeks of a campaign, you're really trying to make people vote against something, as opposed to vote for something, and that's the unfortunate part of the business.

COOPER: Anita, probably a lot of people seeing this, you know, probably new actors are involved, but it just seems incredibly cynical if they're casting around for, you know, hicky, blue-collar-looking people.

ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, it -- well, it does.

And you would like to think that one of the first rules of advertising would be, if you're going to make an ad with real people in it, you want to find real people first, as opposed to casting actors in it.

I think that the -- the ad from Ohio and the ad from West Virginia, though, illustrate something that's really important, which is, you know, if you try to get too cute, these ads can really backfire on you.

In West Virginia, for example, you know, the -- the ad really underscores a key thing that Democrats are using against John Raese, who is the Republican Senate candidate, which is that he actually isn't from West Virginia, that he's from Florida, he's from Colorado, that he's a very wealthy individual who is out of touch with real West Virginians.

What better way to illustrate that than the fact that they have fake West Virginians, hicky, if you will, cast in an ad to attack the Democrat? And, in Ohio, where John Kasich is running for governor, the fact that he basically found somebody who isn't really a steelworker, but plays one on TV, to use -- and using the word us, he's done this to us in here, that violates pretty basic advertising rules that I don't think Ed ever would have been guilty of violating when he was doing this.

COOPER: We should point out, I mean, Republicans do it, Democrats do it, that no one has a lock on this sort of thing. Special interest groups do it.

ROLLINS: No has a...

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: No, but these are egregious.

ROLLINS: Well, I would agree with that.

DUNN: Yes. Mm-hmm.

ROLLINS: The thing -- the thing is, they're spending so much money on advertising. There's going to be $4.5 billion spent.

And so, you know, it's -- it's -- every campaign is not capable of putting together the proper campaign.

COOPER: What do you think about now all these -- because of the Supreme Court ruling...

ROLLINS: Right.

COOPER: ... these groups that are able to basically get unlimited donations, and -- and -- and no one really knows where the donors are from?

ROLLINS: I can tell you, as a strategist -- I'm sure Anita would agree with me -- when I'm running a campaign, I want to control my message. I don't want to do anything that my candidate is uncomfortable with.

You now basically can have outside groups come in, put anything on the air, and confuse the electorate. The electorate assumes these commercials are done by you. And, sometimes, it's a detriment. Here was a campaign that was running along very well, a great campaign manager, Jim Dornan, who used to work for me, who was doing a great job of a come-from-behind campaign, and now they're basically distracted by this story for the next day or two, until they get the thing off the air and get back on...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Anita, should -- should Americans be concerned that they're not going to be able to know who's donating money, and -- and who's behind these -- these campaigns on all sides?

DUNN: They absolutely should be concerned.

Disclosure is one of the keys to our campaign finance system. And disclosure has always been one of the cleanest ways of people knowing exactly who's funding campaigns and why they're funding them.

Now, in this year, egregiously, you have a -- you know, you have the campaigns whose voices are actually getting shouted out and drowned out by these outside interests that, yes, they don't control them, but voters don't discriminate or make a difference between the ads.

And the reality is, candidates have lost control of their campaigns in a lot of these places, as Ed said, and it's -- you know, when you're running a campaign, you do want to control your message. You want to be able to -- you're accountable for what goes on the air, and so you want to be have some confidence that what's on the air is actually reflecting your views and your campaign strategy.

That has changed dramatically, particularly in this year where, in some states, the actual candidates' advertising is being outspent two or three to one by outside interests. COOPER: I guess we should be thankful, in some ways, this is like stimulus money. It's at least making some actors employed and giving them jobs, but it would be nice to see some real people.

ROLLINS: Well, unfortunately, it all ends November second -- or fortunately.

COOPER: Fortunately, yes, exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: And then it all begins again.

COOPER: And then it all starts again, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Ed Rollins, Anita Dunn, great to have you on the program. Thank you very much.

DUNN: Thank you.

COOPER: Let's us know what you think. Should real people be in these ads? Join the live chat at AC360.com.

Up next: Did the White House cover up the severity of the Gulf oil spill? And were they wrong when they back in August that 75 percent of the oil was already gone? You remember that? See what a presidential panel says about it today and how the White House is responding. Local officials also coming in for criticism. We will talk about it all with Billy Nungesser in Plaquemines Parish.

And later, our weeklong series on bullying continues with the very sad, but also much more complicated case than a lot of people realized early on, of Phoebe Prince, allegedly bullied to death, but who might have also at one time bullied others back in Ireland -- new details on the case and the case against the six kids authorities say tormented her.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Harsh criticism for how the White House handled the Gulf oil spill and sharp pushback today from the White House.

Now, a preliminary report from the president's own bipartisan commission says the administration kept the American people in the dark for weeks about how much oil was gushing out of that broken well of BP's.

The report -- actually, it was four working papers in all -- says that, about two weeks after the blast that killed 11 workers, the White House Office of Management and Budget turned down a NOAA request to make public -- make public its worst-case models for the spill.

Now, in fact, the administration stuck to absurdly low flow rates for more than a month. The White House tonight says there was absolutely no cover-up. They say that NOAA's report wasn't even on the flow rate and that officials, including Thad Allen, were talking on CNN about a spill of up to 100,000 barrels a month as early as May 2.

Now, earlier today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did they know about the initial worst-case scenario before they released that information?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Did who know?

QUESTION: Did NOAA or OMB know about the initial worst-case...

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS: Well, again, the worst-case scenario -- the worst-case scenario was being discussed on national television. In fact, on CNN, at that very time, their worst-case scenario was 100,000 barrels of oil leaking a day.

We know that wasn't happening. We know that the response was robust in ensuring that every step possible was taken to protect the coast line and prevent more damage from being done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the report, by the way, also faults the response itself on the federal, but also on the local level.

We're going to talk about it all with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Billy, good to see you tonight.

You know, it's interesting. The White House is basically saying that Thad Allen mentioning a worst-case scenario of 100,000 barrels on television on May 2. And that may be true. He certainly may have done that early on in maybe a couple comments on TV.

But correct me if I'm wrong. The administration and certainly BP were publicly using that 1,000-barrel-a-day estimate and then 5,000- barrel-a-day estimate for weeks, long after independent scientists came forward with a lot higher estimates.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Absolutely. There was never an agreement on the higher rate.

And, as we -- of course, we didn't have the preparation we needed anyway from BP early on, when that oil came ashore. But those -- those rates were never discussed that were disclosed.

And, you know, it's sad. We're sitting here wanting to believe in our federal government, wanting to believe. You know, we -- we're counting on NOAA and all the -- the monitoring they're supposed to be doing out there, and, as we hear things like this, who are we to believe?

COOPER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, I mean, other questions have been raised now, because, on August 4, the White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, came out and said 75 percent of the oil is already gone, that it's disappeared.

And that -- a lot of people were, like, just shocked by that. Today, President -- Press Secretary Gibbs said that maybe she misspoke. The report's critical of that statement. And, just last week, an independent scientist from Florida State University said that maybe as much as 50 percent of the oil is still out there, just basically down on the bottom.

Do you have any confidence that we really know how much oil is still out there?

NUNGESSER: Well, I don't think we want to know, honestly.

You know, our crews picked up 13,000 gallons of oil and about 8,000 bags of oily waste last week. Now, they pulled us off the water for another inspection. It's obvious, you know, today that we're going to step down our jack-up boats, the only crews that are out there finding oil.

The contract workers from BP -- I have got to believe that, between the Coast Guard and BP, they don't want to find anything. They want this to be over. And we're still out there picking up oil. And, as we have said, Anderson, from the very beginning, we're fighting more with BP and the Coast Guard -- here we are again -- to leave assets in place to fight this oil.

There's no written operational plan. The only plan they give us is a transition plan. And they keep wanting us to sign of on there's no visible oil, when they continue to pick up oil. I don't understand it. It's mind-boggling to me.

COOPER: So, they're asking you to sign off saying you're not seeing oil, but you're saying you're still seeing oil?

NUNGESSER: They continue to want us to go from step two to step three, which means they can pull out any assets they want in the transition plan that we signed a month or so ago to leave assets in place through hurricane season.

And, every day, they're ratcheting down, pulling stuff out. And, in this thick document, they say it gives them the right to do that when there's no oil on the surface.

But our crews, the local fishermen, are the only ones picking up oil. Somehow, their crews seem not to see anything. It still blows my mind that they have got all these people out there on the payroll not finding any oil, but the local fishermen that they keep trying to downsize keep finding oil.

COOPER: Right.

Let me -- let me ask you, this report, in addition to being very critical of the White House, they're also critical of local officials, including yourself. In a section of the report they call the boom wars, they write -- quote -- "President Nungesser deplored the lack of available boom" and that -- quote -- "directions went out to keep the parishes 'happy'" -- in quotes -- "which resulted in operational decisions that may have been politically motivated."

They go on to say it was a -- quote -- "serious distraction that took time away from responders' ability to focus on the spill."

They were basically saying that, you know, local -- local officials like yourself were calling for more boom. The White House said, you know, keep those parish presidents happy just parish officials happy, and that they were basically deploying boom in places that it didn't need to go to, and that it was useless and may be causing more damage in some places.

Do you buy that?

NUNGESSER: Well, no, they're damn liars.

And I'm going to tell you this. We never got the first order of ocean boom. The boom they were putting three miles off the island kept washing up every night. We told them from day one it was useless, but they put it out there as a dog-and-pony show.

The ocean boom that we asked for that our Coast Guard guys that we were told was in charge that he said order the boom for President Nungesser, never got our first foot of boom. So that's an absolute lie. That's a dog-and-pony show.

And, as we always said, BP and the Coast Guard are putting their story together to best defend their actions. And, once again, we're sitting here tonight, still can't tell you, Anderson, who's in charge, still don't know.

COOPER: Do you still -- how -- how much -- how much water around Plaquemines Parish is fishable? I mean, are the oyster beds open? What's going on?

NUNGESSER: Well, the oyster beds, a lot of the freshwater killed those beds. We closed the diversions. We're getting back to where we will hopefully have a harvest of some oysters this year.

There's a lot of fishing grounds open, but there's a lot of unanswered questions. We have had massive fish kills. And, yes, it's oxygen depletion, but is that caused by the oil? Because, in the areas where the fish kills are, we have a lot of oil. The oil is surrounded with the dead fish.

And it doesn't seem to be getting help from the federal government to test these areas. Only the local wildlife and fishery is assisting us in testing these areas.

COOPER: Billy Nungesser, I appreciate it.

You have just been reelected president of Plaquemines Parish. Congratulations.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

COOPER: We will talk to you again, Billy. Take care.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

COOPER: Today, Christine O'Donnell gave a rare interview to CNN's Jim Acosta, who asked her how she squared massive tax cuts, which she supports, with cutting the deficit. She the tax cuts would pay for themselves.

Her appearance took center stage tonight on "PARKER SPITZER."

Here's a sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PARKER SPITZER")

RALPH REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the left and the media are making a huge mistake strategically. And I think Christine O'Donnell is the greater decoy in American politics.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST: Absolutely.

REED: While they're firing all their artillery at her, Sharron Angle is beating now Harry Reid, not in one, but two polls this week. Nikki Haley is going to be the governor of South Carolina. Susana Martinez is now up in New Mexico by eight.

These mama grizzlies, these women candidates who are attractive and tough and smart and able are going to win from coast to coast, and Christine O'Donnell may surprise some people and win, too.

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES TRAUB, "THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": I don't deny that.

(CROSSTALK)

TRAUB: I think that may be so.

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER: There's no question, though, that, when people gang up on an individual like Christine O'Donnell, it has the opposite effect. I mean, there's a lot of sympathy for her.

TRAUB: Though it hasn't so far. The last poll showed her doing quite badly behind Coons, the Democratic candidate.

ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST: Right, the Democratic nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

TRAUB: So, she may be a casualty. But I think Ralph may well be right about the trend that she is a representative of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, see more great conversation tomorrow night, "PARKER SPITZER," 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next tonight, Phoebe Prince, you all have heard the story. You know the story of this -- this girl allegedly bullied to death in Massachusetts. She was from Ireland, six classmates now facing charges. The question tonight, are those charges warranted? We have some new details in the case that raise some serious new questions. We will talk about it ahead.

And later: murder on pirate lake. That's what they're calling it -- an American couple jet skiing on a lake along the Mexican/U.S. border, only one of them returned from the trip alive. What happened? Well, tonight, Tiffany Hartley joins us to talk about the death of her husband allegedly at the hands of Mexican bandits.

Some have raised questions about her versions of events. You can judge for yourself. It's our "Crime & Punishment" segment tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, all this week, we have been taking an in-depth look at bullying.

And we're calling the series "Bullying: No Escape," because, with the Internet and cell phones, that's what kids have told us it feels like sometimes, like there's no escape.

We have new developments in a case that shocked the country -- 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, as you know, committed suicide two weeks ago, after his college roommate on his, allegedly, with a Webcam and then streamed video of Tyler kissing a man in his dorm room.

Authorities have now subpoenaed school records, saying that school officials were not being cooperative enough in handing them over.

It's not just kids who are gay or perceived to be gay, though, getting bullied these days. Kids are bullied for all sorts of reasons.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince, for example, she became a target because of the boys she dated at her school. Phoebe moved to Massachusetts from Ireland. And, five months later, she committed suicide, after prosecutors say she was relentlessly bullied by six of her classmates.

The teens were criminally charged, but, since then, some new information has emerged about Phoebe Prince's own medical problems, information that could be used by the defense in the upcoming trials.

Alina Cho has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She had the face of an angel, but, behind those eyes, it turns out Phoebe Prince had demons.

EMILY BAZELON, SENIOR WRITER, SLATE.COM: I think Phoebe had a complicated mental health history. It's still a sad story. It's just a different, much more complicated sad story.

CHO: The story broke back in January...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's investigating an apparent suicide by a teenager.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: ... when this newcomer from Ireland who moved to the U.S. for a fresh start hanged herself in the stairwell of her South Hadley, Massachusetts, home -- then two months later, the bombshell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It appears that Phoebe's death on January 14 followed a torturous day for her.

CHO: The district attorney took the unprecedented move of criminally charging six of Prince's classmates, accusing them of bullying her so relentlessly, prosecutors say it became intolerable for her, and she committed suicide.

All six have pleaded not guilty. Townspeople pointed fingers -- at the kids, at school administrators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what you're doing is wrong!

CHO: But, until now, few have looked into Phoebe Prince's past.

Emily Bazelon is a senior writer for Slate.com, the only reporter to see hundreds of secret grand jury documents related to the case, before they were sealed.

BAZELON: A narrative had emerged of a pack of mean kids who had really tormented Phoebe Prince for months. And that reality doesn't match.

CHO (on camera): The truth is much more complicated. BAZELON: It's much more complicated, exactly.

CHO: According to the indictments, Prince was bullied because she was seen as a boyfriend-stealer, getting involved with the two male defendants, who already had girlfriends.

(on camera): That's just part of the story. What's now emerging, according to those court documents that Bazelon saw, is that Phoebe Prince for years suffered from depression, that she repeatedly cut herself, was taking antidepressants, and even tried to kill herself on another occasion, and was hospitalized just two months before she died. What's more, Bazelon says, Prince, who has become a poster child for bullying, may have been a bully herself.

BAZELON: Phoebe started at a boarding school called Villiers in Ireland when she was in seventh grade. And that fall, she became friends with another girl.

But some time that spring, their friendship soured. And Phoebe was part of a group of girls who really made this other girl's life quite miserable.

CHO (voice-over): By all accounts, a big reason Prince moved to South Hadley. Her aunt tells CNN she went to school officials and asked them to watch over her niece and to help her get in with the right group of kids. But did that happen?

DARBY O'BRIEN, PRINCE FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: They knew. They looked the other way. They attempted to -- to sweep it under the rug. And what they're doing is, they're just hiding the problems. They're just hiding the failures.

CHO: "Keeping Them Honest," we went back to South Hadley High School, where, on this night, the school held one of its anti-bullying task force meetings. After repeated calls to the district that went unanswered, we tracked down Superintendent Gus Sayer.

(on camera): Nice to see you. How are you?

GUS SAYER, SUPERINTENDENT, SOUTH HADLEY SCHOOLS: OK.

CHO: There's a lot of people who are saying, had school officials acted sooner, Phoebe Prince might still be alive today. And what do you say to them?

SAYER: Well, I don't think that's true. I mean, school officials acted promptly when they had -- when they first learned about the -- you know, about bullying that was taking place that was reported to us by Phoebe on January -- I think it was January 7. And we acted immediately at at -- at that point.

CHO: But what has changed in the past months here at South Hadley?

SAYER: Well, the programs. I mean, we have -- we have greatly enhanced the programs. CHO (voice-over): Superintendent Sayer says bullying prevention programs have been implemented at the elementary and middle-school levels. But not yet at the high school. What has happened at South Hadley High is this.

SAYER: In front of each of the buildings in the school is a very large sign called "Respect."

SMITH: It's mind boggling that with a tragedy in this school, that it hasn't been taken more seriously.

CHO: Susan Smith, whose son, Nick, was a pallbearer at Prince's funeral is among those calling for the superintendent and the principle to resign.

(on camera) You did hold a school committee meeting.

(voice-over) We spoke to principal Dan Smith six months ago. This was all he would tell us.

DAN SMITH, PRINCIPAL: We are working through and revising our procedures and policies and so forth, yes.

CHO: Six months later, little has changed.

(on camera) Do you have a second just to answer a question? Not even a question about -- about the students?

(voice-over) As for those charged in Prince's death, the so- called South Hadley Six, all six have been suspended indefinitely until the case is resolved.

For the family of Phoebe Prince, there may be no resolution. But Prince's father tells Basilon (ph), he will ask the court for leniency if the defendants do something they've never done. Simply apologize.

Alina Cho, CNN, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Phoebe Prince's story is a complicated case and raises tough questions. We want to bring in our panel. Larry Hackett is managing editor of "People" magazine. We've been partnering with "People" this week as we take an in-depth look at bullying.

Also joining me, Sunny Hostin, legal contributor for "In Session" on our sister network, TruTV. And Rachel Simmons, author of "Odd Girl Out."

Larry, in "People" this week, your focusing on bullying. And in the article about the Phoebe Prince case, you really look at the impact on the entire town of South Hadley.

LARRY HACKETT, MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE": It's a really incredible story. The town, as the police chief says there, has not recovered and may never recover. It's a story where it's very ambiguous.

The kids are trying to come back to school. There's an account where Sean Mulveyhill, one of the kids, comes to the homecoming football game, and everyone's glad to see him. But in fact, we discover that all the kids are out of school. Some of them are getting threatened.

The kids who had nothing to do with this are asking their teachers, "Why do people hate us? I go onto these blogs and see they're making us in South Hadley feel like we're some kind of, like, you know, hate town."

So it's their incredible mixed feelings about it. The school is very tense. They're trying to incorporate new programs. But an argument broke out one day. There was basically a lock down at the school. So people are really on edge, and they're groping with how to deal with this.

COOPER: It's also that fine line, you know, between what is bad behavior and what is actually criminal behavior.

HACKETT: Absolutely.

COOPER: There's plenty of people in the town who think these kids should not have done this to Phoebe Prince, but do they deserve to actually go to jail for this? And it's a complex question.

Rachel, you know, some of the people are painting the six accused of bullying Phoebe as many just as much victims right now as she was, though obviously in a different way. Where is that line between bad behavior and criminal behavior?

RACHEL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "ODD GIRL OUT": I think it's really unfortunate that we've had to make examples of these kids. And I think one of the reasons the law is stepping in is because the schools and the families weren't able to control these kids. And what we really need is not to make an example out of South Hadley but to turn the discussion to schools and families.

And Sunny, in terms of the case that the defense is making, I mean, how -- the idea that Phoebe had been on anti-depressants for a while, that she may have had a suicide attempt in the past and she maybe, when she was back in Ireland, even bullied somebody else.

SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": You know, I think that's going to be important in this case.

COOPER: You think the defense will bring that in?

HOSTIN: I do think they're going to bring that in. And I think it's important because some have been charged with civil rights violations ending in injury, bodily injury. And so that causal link has to be made. If this defense can prove, perhaps, you know, she was bullied, but she wasn't bullied to death, they're going to have to bring that up. And I think it will be relevant.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are bullying laws in Massachusetts, but these defendants weren't brought up on those charges.

HOSTIN: That's right. My understanding is the bullying laws have been strengthened because of this case. And at the time bullying wasn't necessarily a crime. And so they weren't charged with, let's say, bullying her to death, but they were charged with civil rights violation.

And it's -- you know, I've read the paperwork, and it's sort of creative. But I think it's going to be a difficult case to prove in terms of the civil rights violation ending in the bodily injury. It's going to be tough.

SIMMONS: But whether or not -- whether or not somebody is depressed does not make them more or less of a candidate for bullying. I mean, we live in a country where we give kids different learning plans for different learning abilities. We can't have one anti- bullying policy for the strongest kids.

HOSTIN: That's absolutely true.

SIMMONS: There are different kinds of kids and they're going to experience bullying in different ways. We have to protect all of them.

COOPER: It's interesting, too, because to me the information that Phoebe Prince, you know, had suffered from depression, had taken medication for it, maybe had attempted suicide, maybe even had bullied in prior years in Ireland, to me that just -- it doesn't really necessarily talk to this case, what happened to her. It talks to the complexity of this issue. In that, you know, some kids who get bullied turn around and bully others. There are no necessarily saints. You know, no one is all evil or all, you know, a saint. It's a complex thing, especially when you're a kid.

HOSTIN: It's extremely complex and I think it's a phenomenon, in that bullying is different today, Anderson. Before, you know, you got bullied by the school -- schoolhouse bully, and everybody got into a fight in the schoolyard and those are the people that knew about it.

Now with social media, everyone knows about it, and so the kid that's being bullied is almost put on an island by herself and left there. And that's a different type of bullying. People have to understand that.

COOPER: Rachel, is it -- are we just paying more attention -- do you think this is actually getting worse? I mean, clearly with online component, social media, there's that element which has never really existed before, and that's obviously worse. But overall, do you think bullying is getting worse or is it being covered more? We're paying more attention to it?

SIMMONS: I think it's a combination of both. I think we've decided as a culture, finally, thanks to programming like yours, for example, that this is no longer rite of passage. This is no longer just kids being kids. Technology, it's changed everything. And frankly, if you look at reality television programming, the media has really changed. We see a lot of humiliation and bullying sold to kids as a form of entertainment, and I do really think that ultimately will affect behavior.

COOPER: And Sunny, the judge in the case against the six young people has said that he can decide in the sentencing phase whether they'll be sentenced as adults or as kids. What goes into that decision?

HOSTIN: You know, it's going to be up to the judge. And I think he will take into consideration all of the facts of the case, the individual actions in the case, and also their ages. I think it will be a combination of facts. And that is really specific to this case because of the way that it was charged. But that's something everyone is really looking at. Will these kids go to adult prison? And I think that's something that we should all be concerned about.

COOPER: Sunny Hostin, I appreciate you being on.

Rachel Simmons, as well.

Larry, the issue of "People" magazine is -- it's on newsstands right now.

HACKETT: It's on sale now.

COOPER: All right. Larry Hackett, appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tomorrow on "Bullying: No Escape," a town hall meeting we call it. You're going to hear first-hand what it's like to be bullied. You'll also hear from former bullies about why they did it, what made them stop. We gathered groups of kids and adults, parents, educators. "American Idol's" Crystal Bowersox was bullied in school. She joins us, as does Dr. Phil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: The scars that are left from verbal and emotional abuse run deeper and last longer than even physical abuse. Somebody burns your psychological skin, that can last the rest of your life.

COOPER: You no longer do bully people. But at the time that you did, why do you think did you it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought taking somebody else's power would just add on to mine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids don't want to come forward because they don't want to snitch. Well, I think what happens is the kids will report if they have confidence in the adults in their community.

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX, "AMERICAN IDOL" FINALIST: It gets better. I'm living proof, and a lot of people have been bullied, celebrity types and public figures. It's OK. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A light at the end of the tunnel. That was singer/songwriter Crystal Bowersox. A special town hall done in partnership with "People" magazine and the Cartoon Network tomorrow on 360. I hope you join us for that.

Up next tonight, Tiffany Hartley. She stands by her story of what happened to her husband, David. She says he was killed by Mexican gunmen on a lake that straddles the U.S./Mexican border. She says she barely escaped with her life. They were both on Jet Skis. Some authorities privately raising concerns, questions. So will she take a lie detector test? We'll ask her.

And in Chile, rescuers may break through the trapped miner -- to the trapped miners this weekend, though they won't be coming up right away. Maybe next week. We'll give you details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a plea to a Mexican drug cartel from a sheriff in south Texas: return the body of David Hartley. That's assuming, of course, they have it.

Hartley's wife, Tiffany, whom we're going to speak to in just a few minutes, claims they were Jet Skiing last week on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, which straddles the border, when they were attacked by gunman.

Tiffany says David was shot in the back of the head, fell into the water. His body is yet to be found. She made it back to shore. As I said, we're going to talk to Tiffany in just a moment. But first, we sent Gary Tuchman to Zapata, Texas, to look into the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We have an armada of armed protectors as we head out for a short voyage on what may be North America's most dangerous lake. This is the sheriff of Zapata County, Texas.

(on camera) Are you 100 percent convinced she's telling the truth?

SHERIFF SIGI GONZALES, ZAPATA COUNTY, TEXAS: Who would ever be 100 percent. I'm 99.9 percent, yes.

TUCHMAN: So 99.9 percent.

GONZALES: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Would you be willing to have her take a polygraph test, just to aid in the investigation, be 100 percent sure? GONZALES: I cannot force her to do it.

TUCHMAN: Would you like her to do it?

GONZALES: If she wants to do it on her own, sure.

GONZALES: This is what Tiffany Hartley said at a news conference about suggestions by some she's not telling the whole truth...

HARTLEY: I know what I know. I know what I saw, and I can just tell you what I know. Unfortunately he's not here to, you know David's not here to verify, yes, we were chased and we were shot at. And so it is hard to be judged.

TUCHMAN: What's the main reason you think that the story is 100 percent true?

GONZALES: I look at its is what is there to indicate that it's not true.

TUCHMAN: There's no Jet Ski, there's no body, but you're saying that blood was found on a life preserver? What do we hear about the blood?

GONZALES: Yes, we're working to try and get it analyzed.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The sheriff's department here desperately wants to believe Tiffany Hartley's story, but the fact is that public officials we've talked to in this county who don't want to go on camera are doubting it. Also the state police commander on the Mexican state right across the border also publicly doubting it. It's a tragedy. It's also quite the puzzle.

GONZALES: We're living yards away from actual war in a country. In a foreign country.

TUCHMAN: And it's you're feeling the Mexican half of this lake is not under any authority controls, the cartels are controlling them?

GONZALES: It's not just my feeling, sir, it's reality. It's controlled by the Mexican drug cartels.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The lake is huge: more than 80,000 acres, some of the best bass fishing in North America. But on the other side of this border marker, where Mexico begins is now a no man's land.

(on camera) Do the people know who come out on this water that this is the border marker? Do boaters generally know? Is there any chance...

GONZALES: Yes. Boaters that fish in this lake know.

TUCHMAN: Is there any chance this woman didn't know she was in Mexico?

GONZALES: No, she has said -- she has said that she knew they were in Mexico.

TUCHMAN: But why would she do that?

GONZALES: She is saying that the threats were in April and May and she thought the threats were over with.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Mexican waters were barren while we were there. The threat is certainly not over with.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Zapata, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just a few hours ago I spoke to Tiffany Hartley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tiffany, first of all, I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. I can't imagine how hard this time must be for you. How are you holding up?

TIFFANY HARTLEY, WIDOW: It's tough. It's tough. I think like I've said before, I think I'm just in action mode right now and survival mode. I haven't really had a whole lot of time to just sit and, you know, reflect on everything in a grieving way. I've just been so busy, obviously, with meeting with all you guys.

COOPER: How confident are you that -- that authorities are going to be able to find -- find your husband, to be able to bring him home?

HARTLEY: I'm pretty confident. I'm standing in my faith and believing that, you know, we are going to get him back, and we are going to be able to honor him in the way that he would want to be.

COOPER: There -- have you been in touch with Mexican authorities? I mean, are they searching for him?

HARTLEY: We did have a meeting, and they ensured us that they were going to do everything that they could until they exhausted all their resources. We were encouraged when we left that meeting. We believed that they were heartfelt and that they were sincere about finding David, and that they're going to do what they're supposed to, and we're going to hold them to it.

COOPER: There -- there obviously, as you know, have been several incidents on this lake over the years involving bandits or pirates or members of the drug cartels, and I know, you know, authorities issued a warning. Did you and your husband discuss the dangers involved before going out into Mexican water?

HARTLEY: We knew that there had been pirates there. We didn't realize they were still -- you know, it had been very active in the last couple months. We hadn't heard anything.

We did discuss, you know, that was a possibility. We didn't really discuss too much about what would happen or what we would do. We just figured, you know -- we would run and outrun them. Our Jet Skis are super -- I mean, they're fast. They go up to 70, 75 miles an hour, but you just can't outrun the bullets, unfortunately.

COOPER: How quickly did they start shooting? And what happened then?

HARTLEY: Once we started going the opposite direction of what they were doing, it wasn't very long after once we started -- they realized we were running away from them that they had started shooting.

COOPER: And when did you realize something had happened to your husband?

HARTLEY: After I had seen two shots go over me, and they landed in the water. Instantly when I saw those I looked back to look at David, and that's when I saw -- I saw him fly over his Jet Ski and into the water.

COOPER: And you went back to try to see if he was OK?

HARTLEY: Of course. Of course, yes.

COOPER: And what happened?

HARLEY: Once I got back to him, I flipped my Jet Ski around to the right, went back to him, jumped off my Jet Ski instantly once I got up to him and went and turned him over and that's when I seen that he had been shot in the head.

COOPER: Obviously, you know -- you know, some people have raised doubts about your account of what happened, although they don't really have any evidence or they just say that, you know, since the body hasn't been found, and there's a lack of evidence. You say, though, you were taking pictures on the lake. Did you take any pictures that would support, you know, what happened?

HARTLEY: No, I don't have the camera. David was the photographer. He -- that's what he did. He always made sure he had a good picture. He liked taking the pictures, and I'd rather him take them, because he was better than I was, so he kept the Jet -- the camera on the Jet Ski.

COOPER: We heard a sheriff say that if you wanted to take a polygraph test to back up the story, that he'd support that. Is that something you'd want to do?

HARTLEY: Possibly, but I don't really think I need to, because I know my story and I know what I -- you know, what the story is. But if, you know, that's what the authorities think I need to do, then that might be an option.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about David, Tiffany?

HARTLEY: I wish they would have realized -- seen how much he loved life, how much he loved me. He was a wonderful man. A loving husband, and I miss him terribly.

COOPER: Tiffany, I appreciate you being on with us, and I'm sorry for all you're going through. I wish you strength in the days ahead.

HARTLEY: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, up next the river of toxic sludge. Have you seen this stuff in Hungary? It's unbelievable, the pictures. It's spreading. See where it -- see where it could be threatening right now.

Plus a major development in the effort to rescue those trapped miners in Chile. Some good news ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Following a number of other stories right now. Let's get an update with Randi Kaye and a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, one of the drilling boring toward the 33 trapped miners in Chile is expected to break through on Saturday. It will then be two to ten days before those miners can be rescued. That's because engineers must determine if the shaft is stable on its own or should be encased with steel tubing to prevent collapse, which would take a week.

That massive chemical spill in Hungary has now reached the Danube, one of Europe's major rivers. The wall of a chemical storage facility at an industrial plant burst on Monday, releasing a flood of toxic sludge into the Hungarian countryside. Four people were killed, hundreds forced from their homes.

President Obama will not sign a bill that would make it easier for courts and banks to speed up home foreclosures. The administration is concerned the bill will make it harder for homeowners to question the validity of foreclosure documents and challenge foreclosure proceedings.

And New York City wants to stop recipients of Food Stamps from using those funds to buy sodas and other sugary drinks. The move, Anderson, is designed to cut down on obesity and diseases like diabetes.

COOPER: Interesting. That should cause some controversy.

Tonight's "Shot," Bristol Palin's music video debut. Those are words I never really thought I would say. She wasn't the first in the party. We should point out a few days ago, we showed you this R&B music video co-starring her baby's daddy, Levi Johnston, canoodling with singer Brittany Senser. I'm using one of those Maury Povich terms, baby's daddy. Johnson's P.R. rep says the video is a chance to showcase his acting abilities, such as they are. Bristol Palin told "People" magazine the video was -- that was another sentence I never thought I'd actually say, Levi Johnston's acting abilities, Bristol Palin apparently told "People" magazine that the video was the last straw, the last straw, that Johnston lied about the purpose of the trip to California, during which time he shot the video, which Bristol apparently saw as mocking her family.

KAYE: I can't keep up with this.

COOPER: That's right. You've got to keep up. Keep going. Now Bristol is showcasing her own acting skills in a video for an Alaskan rock band called -- wait for it -- Static Cycle.

KAYE: Oh, my.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The song is called "Inside This World of Mine." I don't need to tell you that, Randi Kaye.

KAYE: Wow.

COOPER: Yes. This is from ET Online. And Bristol has a cameo role as Mother Nature. I did not realize that, which I guess would explain the fur coat and hat.

KAYE: Yes. And the rose. It's sort of creepy. From what I understand...

COOPER: Is that a rose encased in...

KAYE: Yes. It's a rose in ice. This is filmed in what they call an ice hotel.

COOPER: Right. One of those ice hotels. I've heard about those.

KAYE: Yes. And then I guess her eyelashes and her eyebrows also had been -- had ice Crystals on them.

COOPER: It's difficult being an actor. I mean, I'm telling you this. I've heard this time and time again. It's tough on these photo shoots.

KAYE: Yes. I didn't see any canoodling, though, in that one.

COOPER: Well, no. It was a little more icy. But, you know, maybe next video. I don't know.

KAYE: Yes. COOPER: Anyway, Randi, thank you. A lot more at top of the hour. We're going to expose campaign ads that pretend to have real people in them, but they're using actors instead. And you should hear what they think behind the scenes about the kind of people they're looking for. We'll play it for you ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)