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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Confederate General on License Plate?; Unrest in Iran; Birther Battle

Aired February 15, 2011 - 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: And good evening, everyone.

Tonight: Should a Confederate general be honored on a license plate in Mississippi? He was also a slave trader and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Supporters say they're simply honoring a great general and historical figure. But are they also airbrushing very real, very painful American history? Both sides of a bitter debate square off tonight.

Also tonight, if you thought the battle over President Obama's birth certificate was over, you haven't been paying attention to what is going on in a number of states. New state legislation influenced by the birther movement. Tonight, a Montana lawmaker says he has no idea if President Obama was born in America. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And trying to keep Iran's oppressive rulers honest, as they push uprisings abroad, but try to crush it at home.

And that's where we begin tonight with the brutal crackdown in Iran and the courage of a protester speaking out, a voice the government of Iran wants to silence, a voice belonging to a young woman who is risking her life tonight to get her message out to you.

We're calling her Sarah. Her fellow protesters have been arrested. At least one is dead, shot apparently by Iranian government agents, shot by a government that is as brutal as it is hypocritical.

If you what about to see what the Iranian government is like, what its Parliament is like, take a look at this. They're chanting death to Mousavi, death to Karroubi, two main opposition leaders in Iran. Now, that looks like just an unruly mob, but is the Iranian Parliament chanting death to two Iranians, baying for blood. Can you imagine American lawmakers doing this, being led in their chants by a religious figure?

No matter what you believe about our Congress, it's hard to imagine this. In Iran, however, this is the reality of the regime. Parliament members also signing a statement saying of their opponents -- quote -- "We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment."

Well, as we saw yesterday, plenty of people in Iran have lost their patience, but they have lost it with the government. They have been taking to the streets in Tehran and cities across Iran. And the Iranian regime has been cracking down hard. This was a protest yesterday.

Reports are upwards of 1,000 people have been arrested, though hard numbers are impossible to come by because the regime is shutting out foreign media. They don't want you to see this, but it's flooding out on YouTube.

So they're cutting off the Internet and cell phone service, trying under the cover of media darkness to crush exactly the kind of uprising that only days ago Iranian President Ahmadinejad was praising elsewhere. That's right. On Friday he said -- quote -- "It's your right to be free. It's your right to express your will and sovereignty and choose the type of government and the rulers."

He was talking about Egypt, though, speaking out against the dictatorship there. Apparently that's only OK in someone else's dictatorship.

Today on state television, Ahmadinejad didn't even deign to recognize that the outcry in his own country is legitimate and homegrown, using almost the same words Egypt's rulers used to attack that country's pro-democracy protesters. Ahmadinejad blamed the demonstrations on -- quote -- "enemies" trying to -- quote -- "tarnish the Iranian nation's brilliance."

The hypocrisy not lost on President Obama today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In Iran, this is how the regime handles peaceful protests and how it's handled dissent for years. Take a look. This is how police reacted to protesters back in December of 2009.

These were people marching in memory of another protester, Neda Agha Soltan, who fell that summer, like them, shot after demonstrating peacefully against a stolen election, a police state doing what police states do, then and now.

Both then and now, though, even when they're not safe on the streets, people wait until the sun goes down. This video was shot last night, voices crying out in the night, people literally shouting it from the rooftops: "God is great. Death to the dictator. God is great."

Their voices are being heard. And tonight on this program, a young woman adds her voice to those cries in the night. She's a student. We're only calling her Sarah because the penalty for what she is about to do could be death. She's in Iran and she took part in the protests.

I spoke to her a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You went to the demonstrations. What did you see?

"SARAH", PROTESTER: We didn't want to see any violence, so none of us said anything against the authority or the government. And we started OUR rally. And we started from one of the main squares in (INAUDIBLE). As we moved forward, the guards started to kind of hold us back.

COOPER: The Revolutionary Guards?

SARAH: Yes.

And -- but we kept on moving forward. And from some point after (INAUDIBLE) square, we could not proceed. I mean, we would try -- I mean, we tried our best, but we couldn't proceed.

COOPER: Were you scared to go in the streets yesterday?

SARAH: Oh, yes. And we didn't know what was coming, so we were scared. But when I saw so many people being back like in the old days, that was really exciting.

COOPER: And, at some point, was there violence?

SARAH: Well, yes. As they did not let us proceed, we had to kind of fight to make our way. But, at some point, we couldn't -- I mean, there was too much violence, so we couldn't proceed.

COOPER: We have heard reports of police using tear gas, using batons to beat demonstrators, making arrests. Did you see any of that?

SARAH: Oh, yes, that's routine. That's the least we expected.

COOPER: So, you saw that? You saw police beating people?

SARAH: Yes. And I was with someone who got beaten. And so I saw it, yes.

COOPER: And you know somebody who got killed?

SARAH: Yes. Unfortunately, one of our friends from the University of Art, Sane Jaleh, was killed yesterday. And we are -- I mean, we have entered a phase of serious street mourning.

COOPER: What do you want people around the world to know about what is happening in Iran tonight?

SARAH: I can't speak for others. I mean, I can speak for myself. I can say that I'm just an ordinary person. And I'm fighting for my rights. And we really love seeing these freedom trends around the world. And I'm so glad my people are always there.

COOPER: The government in Iran praised the demonstrations in Egypt, praised the protesters in Egypt. But when you protest in the streets there, they crack down. What does that tell you?

SARAH: Oh. Well, maybe they're not being honest. That's what I see. I mean, from my own point of view, my personal point of view, they're not being honest.

COOPER: Are you scared to talk? I mean, you're being very brave to even talk to us right now.

SARAH: Yes, I am scared to talk. But I really want to be doing this. My -- one of our friends was killed. He was like 26. And that could be me.

I mean, he was shot randomly. And I was planning to go to that (INAUDIBLE) square where he was shot. And I just didn't get there. I was stopped by the guards. I mean, you could -- I'm kind of identifying with him.

COOPER: You feel like that could have been you?

SARAH: Yes. And he was our friend. They're not letting -- there's a Persian expression I'm translating to you, because I don't know the equivalent, but we are not allowing his blood to go to waste.

I mean, my friends knew him personally. And he was one of us, one of the Green Movement. And that's why I'm doing this. I mean, I'm doing this for him.

COOPER: The Iranian government is saying that you are agitators, that you are being influenced by foreigners, that this is not a real movement for freedom.

What do you say to them?

SARAH: I'm talking for myself. I know my own notions, my own motivations.

This is totally self-initiated. And I'm -- I mean, I'm just -- I'm someone ordinary. I went there. I voted for the person I thought that was right. And then it came out that -- I don't know. It -- I'm not an expert, but that sounded like a fraud, because everybody...

COOPER: Sarah?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We lost connection with her.

As we mentioned at the top, Iran is tightly controlling media access to the country.

Reza Sayah has been monitoring developments, working his sources from the outside. And he joins us now from Islamabad, Pakistan. As we said earlier, very difficult to do any reporting out of Iran, Reza, at this point. As far as we know, the streets were pretty quite today, right?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we spoke to some people in Tehran and they said no sign of protests. They did see hundreds of security forces patrolling the streets.

The next time we could see something is Wednesday, tomorrow. Government news agencies have reported that two passerbys were killed by protesters on Monday. And one of them is going to have a funeral on Wednesday. But opposition Web sites are saying they were not passerbys; they were protesters killed by security forces on Monday.

And members of the Green Movement say they might show up to this funeral on Wednesday, which sets the stage for another possible face- off tomorrow, Anderson.

COOPER: Reza, you have reported there. We see this video of the Parliament literally baying for the blood of two opposition leaders, chanting, you know, death, that they should be put to death, and put on trial and then put to death. It's kind of a remarkable scene.

When you're reporting there, how does the state crack down on the protesters? We have seen these what looked like secret police or guys with batons. Who are they?

SAYAH: Yes, these are members of the Basij, all of these security forces led by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

And I have got to say, one of the most glaring differences between what we saw in Egypt and what we're seeing in Iran over the past couple of years is the crackdown by the government. I don't think it even compares. You look at Egypt, you had the military essentially stay on the sidelines and watch. And the state security apparatus, the police in Egypt, was either outwitted or overwhelmed by the opposition movement.

Then you go to Iran, the crackdown led by the Revolutionary Guard. This is a security force that has stakes and influences in all facets of Iran's life, the economy, its natural resources, politics, government. So when it's fighting the opposition movement, it's fighting for its hold on power. And I think that explains why the crackdowns in Iran are much more brutal, much more repressive -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the video we were just looking at, that was a video that was posted onto YouTube. And it reportedly shows the crowd turning on what they believe is one of these -- these secret police members, kind of pro-government militia members who they believe -- and you see the crowd actually beating that person.

I mean, this is really round two for the Green Movement protests that they had in 2009, isn't it?

SAYAH: It is, because they exploded onto the scene two years ago after the disputed presidential elections. But you have to talk about the impact of the Egyptian uprising on the Iranian opposition movement.

And I think these are two movements that right now are feeding off one another. If you talk to supporters of Egypt's uprising, they are well aware of what Iran's opposition movement accomplished in 2009. If you look at a video clip of Wael Ghonim, the poster boy of the Egyptian uprising, the activist, look at his left wrist, and he oftentimes wears a green wristband, the trademark color of Iran's opposition movement.

And if you talk to supporters of Iran's opposition movement, they're well aware of what Egypt accomplished. I think a lot of people in Iran's opposition movement are saying this should have been us, this could have been us. And it's playing a big role in motivating them to come back to the streets of Tehran.

COOPER: Well, we continue to watch it.

Reza Sayah, appreciate it tonight from Pakistan.

There's some disturbing news tonight about one of our colleagues, Lara Logan, of CBS News. You probably heard this. CBS said today that Logan was brutally attacked in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday after Mubarak stepped down. She was there for a "60 Minutes" story with her crew in a mob of about 200 people.

Here's part of what CBS said today -- quote -- "In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel, and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She's currently in the hospital recovering. There will be no further comment from CBS News. And correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time."

Lara Logan is in our thoughts and our prayers tonight.

As always, let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running at AC360.com.

Up next tonight: a lawmaker who says his legislation has nothing to do with President Obama. He just wants presidential candidates to prove they were born here. We will ask him why the proof of President Obama's citizenship, however, isn't proof enough for him. His answers may surprise you. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And later, a brilliant Civil War commander, but also a leader of the KKK and a brutal slave trader, why does one Southern group want to celebrate him on a license plate? Should he be honored with a license plate? A sharp debate tonight.

First, let's check in on some other stories with Isha Sesay -- Isha. ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New developments to tell you about in the trial of Michael Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray. When we come back, I will explain why the judge in this case now has to decide whether there's conflict of interests for one member of Murray's defense team -- that and more just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, halfway into the Obama administration, and the birther movement will not go away. Nor will the push for legislation inspired by it, even though many of the people behind it deny it has anything to do with President Obama. We're "Keeping Them Honest" in this segment.

Some quick background. A significant number of Americans still believe that President Obama was not born in this country, and some politicians aren't doing too much to dissuade them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there; that's good enough for me. The president says he's a Christian. I accept him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: House Speaker John Boehner over the weekend on "Meet the Press." Both he and Majority Leader Eric Cantor refusing to take on birthers directly in their own party -- 11 states now weighing bills that in some form or other require presidential candidate to present proof of citizenship in a state to get on the ballot in that state.

And, in Montana, State Representative Bob Wagner, who you're going to hear from in just a moment, is pushing a bill that would require the candidate to produce a copy of a birth certificate. He says it's not about President Obama. But he also says he doesn't know if President Obama is a citizen or not.

The last time CNN polled Americans, 27 percent said the president either definitely or probably was not born in the country. Among Republicans, that number rises to 41 percent. And other recent polling puts the numbers even higher.

Now, I just want to show you some facts, however. Here's the president's official certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii. This is the official document from the state of Hawaii. It's what they send you when you ask for a birth certificate. It's valid at the Passport Office as a form of identification. It's got the signature stamp and raised seal.

Hawaii's Republican governor when the controversy erupted, Linda Lingle, said -- quote -- "It's been established he was born here." She says she had her health director actually go and view the original electronic copy of the birth certificate in their records. And here's the birth announcement ran in both Honolulu newspapers. There you see it. Today, on another network, a reporter for one of them saying the papers back then would get their birth information directly from the state health department.

So, those are the facts.

Now, in a moment, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is going to talk about the constitutional facts the supporters of birther legislation appear to be getting wrong, in his opinion.

But, first, my conversation with Montana State lawmakers Bob Wagner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Representative Wagner, do you believe that President Obama is a citizen of the United States?

BOB WAGNER (R), MONTANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I don't really -- I'm not really qualified to say whether I believe he is or not. It's irrelevant to me.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What do you mean you're not qualified to say whether he is or not?

WAGNER: Well, there's been no proof offered, and as far as belief, it really doesn't matter what I believe.

COOPER: But how can you say there's no proof offered? There's a certificate of live birth which was shown by his campaign in 2008 which has the seal of the -- the raised seal of the state, is signed off on. You know, there's plenty of evidence that he is. How can you say that there's not?

WAGNER: Well, a certificate of live birth is different than a long-form birth certificate. And I think that's what is intended by the documentation process.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But a certificate of live birth is good enough for the U.S. Passport Office to get a passport. It's what citizens of Hawaii can use to identify themselves.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: If it's good enough for the U.S. Passport Office, that's one thing. But I'm more concerned about good enough for the state of Montana.

COOPER: But have you -- no one has ever asked any other presidential candidate in Montana to do this. I mean, where was George Bush born? WAGNER: That's exactly the problem here.

You know, we shouldn't be discussing this after the fact. This is a process that we will look to mandate in the state of Montana. And what the rest of the states do and what the federal government does in regards to it is their business.

But here in the state of Montana, we're required to keep our election process pure. And that's what we will seek to do in this bill.

COOPER: Are you saying that it's not pure at this point?

WAGNER: Well, it's certainly under -- it's certainly under scrutiny.

COOPER: What does that mean?

WAGNER: It is certainly under scrutiny.

Any time -- any time you go 200-and-something-odd years and you think that there's a process in place at the federal level to determine the accuracy of any commander in chiefs or president running for the purpose of office, and then they say, no, that it's not, it's up to the 50 states, well, I guess it's back in our court, and we will take care of it.

COOPER: But, again, you know, all candidates release information, and this candidate, as a candidate, the campaign of Barack Obama released the certificate of live birth, which is a valid form of identification.

WAGNER: Well, that's your opinion, sir. And...

COOPER: Well, it's not my opinion. It's the federal government's opinion. It's the Passport Office's opinion. It is a valid form of identification.

WAGNER: Sir, I won't argue with you. But we will set our criteria here in Montana according to how we understand the validation to be.

COOPER: You were saying that based on the definition of what you believe a natural-born citizen is -- are you saying a natural-born -- that President Obama is not a natural- born citizen?

WAGNER: A natural-born citizen, according to the "Law of Nations," and the law of nations and the study of natural law in accordance with a book written by Vattel, which we believe to be the standard for natural-born citizenship, requires that you have two parents of -- of citizenship born in the United States to be the son or the daughter of a -- two parents born of citizenship in the United States.

COOPER: Well, that's not what is in the 14th Amendment.

WAGNER: Well, sir, maybe you could do better at it.

COOPER: I don't know what that means.

WAGNER: Well, I don't know what you're -- what you mean.

COOPER: Well, under U.S. law, anyone born in the United States,, regardless of what their parents are, is considered a natural-born citizen.

WAGNER: I don't believe that to be so.

COOPER: But you do acknowledge that your interpretation of what a natural-born citizen is, who is qualified to run for president is different than what has been accepted now for quite some time?

WAGNER: Well, if you wish to accept it, that's clearly up to others. You know, in the state of Montana, we wish to do what we think is right, so -- in accordance with the Constitution.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate you coming on and explaining yourself. Representative Bob Wagner, thank you very much, sir.

WAGNER: Sure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, you heard Representative Wagner allude to the 14th Amendment and the standard it sets for who is considered a naturalized born American citizen. Until recently, that wasn't in question, nor was a candidate's citizenship.

But both are apparently now topics at the state in both cases. And simple facts can kind of get lost. That's why, after I talked to Mr. Wagner, I sat down with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's kind of amazing that this debate continues, despite the evidence that is out there.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this always reminds me of the great Senator Moynihan quote. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, in the United States. This is not up for debate, but this issue persists, and it keeps coming up...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Can a state say, well, we have our own requirements for who should be president, and we get to make laws based on it? Is that constitutional?

TOOBIN: Well, states can say, you need 500 signatures to get on the ballot. They can make all sorts of ballot access rules, and they all do. But they cannot impose requirements that are different from the United States Constitution.

So, what Montana thinks about who was born in the United States is not going to be binding on the Electoral College when it meets. So, I think, in addition to being a ridiculous idea, it's also unconstitutional.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And there's other laws and other states that are trying, along these same kind of birther ideas, birther legislation. Are they also, you think, unconstitutional?

TOOBIN: Totally.

COOPER: You have no doubt that the court would rule that way?

TOOBIN: I don't think -- imagine the scenario. Barack Obama gets more votes than whoever the nominee, Republican nominee is in Montana, and somehow they're not going to let him on the ballot? They're not going to let him on the ballot? It just doesn't seem possible.

COOPER: He also talked about the definition of a natural-born citizen and he talked about sort of -- I can't remember exact phrase.

TOOBIN: Vattel.

COOPER: Well, Vattel, yes, the philosopher Vattel...

TOOBIN: Yes.

COOPER: ... and sort of common -- common understandings. That's not what a natural-born citizen is.

TOOBIN: no.

COOPER: I mean, no matter what Vattel said, that's not what America considers a natural-born citizen, correct?

TOOBIN: Right. Vattel is in vogue on the birther Web sites.

But the words of the Constitution have been interpreted many times by the Supreme Court, and what it means is born in the United States. What Vattel said was natural-born citizens means you were born in the United States and your parents are also born in the United States. And obviously Obama's father was not born in the United States.

The only problem with that is six other presidents had parents who were not born in the United States, including Herbert Hoover and Woodrow Wilson. So, the idea that there is some new requirement that your parents have to be born in the United States is as ridiculous as all their other arguments.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin, thanks.

TOOBIN: OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, still ahead, a fascinating story. A Confederacy group in Mississippi is launching a campaign to honor this man -- he was a Ku Klux Klan leader -- with a commemorative license plate. He was also a brilliant general in the Civil War who oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of black Union troops, and a slave trader. So, should he get a license plate? A sharp debate ahead.

Plus, a new legal maneuver by the doctor charged in the death of Michael Jackson -- details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Mississippi tonight, civil rights groups and many others are deeply offended by a move to honor a leader of the KKK on a commemorative license plate. The battle over the controversial plan is just ahead.

But first, Isha Sesay has a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a California judge has delayed a decision on allowing a new lawyer to join Dr. Conrad Murray's defense team. The lawyer worked on Michael Jackson's child molestation defense. The judge will determine if that poses a conflict of interest.

Murray, Jackson's former personal physician, is facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the music superstar's death.

Former president George H.W. Bush was among 15 people awarded America's highest civilian honor today at the White House. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with poet Maya Angelou, baseball slugger Stan Musial, and investor Warren Buffett.

The Colombian military says it has seized a submarine capable of transporting more than seven tons of cocaine.

COOPER: Wow.

SESAY: It measures more than 100 feet long and is being called the most sophisticated tool ever found to traffic drugs from Colombia.

And Anderson, listen up. The British paper "The Independent" is reporting evidence that it is mounting that either a brown-dwarf-style or a gas-giant planet is lurking at the outermost regions...

COOPER: Wow, that's cool.

SESAY: ... of our solar system. It's estimated to be four times the size of Jupiter and 15,000 times farther from the sun than Earth. And I know you've got a touch of the science geek about you. So...

COOPER: I was just saying, I wish I had remembered my astronomy classes. Like, I wish I had been smarter in science. That's so cool.

SESAY: OK, so let me just help you out. We could be looking at a new ninth planet.

COOPER: Really?

SESAY: Because you know, Pluto was demoted.

COOPER: Not familiar.

SESAY: Yes, I knew you weren't.

COOPER: I mean, I vaguely recall that. I should know that.

SESAY: You should know that.

COOPER: Yes. Well, I'm glad you know that. Thank goodness you are here.

SESAY: I know. I say that every night.

COOPER: Yes, OK. Now I'm going to transition to something really important. "The Shot" tonight...

SESAY: Yes.

COOPER: ... comes from San Paseo, California. It's a cat with sticky paws. Yes, I know. No way we could have transitioned this. Dusty the cat burglar, by day, an ordinary house cat. At night, we're told Dusty hits the neighborhood streets...

SESAY: Nice.

COOPER: ... and scores major loot. Brings it home in the morning, everything from stuffed toys to shoes. This is the stuff that Dusty has allegedly brought back.

SESAY: Yes.

COOPER: He apparently has a thing for bathing suits. His record haul is 11 items in a single night. I would think he would just bring back, like dead rats and mice and stuff, but apparently...

SESAY: No. This is a classy cat.

COOPER: A pair of dirty BVDs? Really?

SESAY: Yes. That was unnecessary.

COOPER: Yes, we don't need to see that.

SESAY: Dusty the klepto cat. Clearly pervy as well, if he likes bathing suits.

COOPER: Dusty the pervy cat.

SESAY: Dusty the pervy cat.

COOPER: All right. We'll have more with Isha in a moment.

Coming up, controversy over a plan to honor a Confederate general, brilliant general, who was also a grand wizard of the KKK and reportedly bullwhipped slaves when he was a slave trader. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is the group that is trying to get a specialty license plate made to honor the general. They say historians are wrong about him. We're getting both sides of the debate. You can decide for yourself. The debate provokes strong emotions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG STEWART, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS: Is this a question or a lecture?

EDDIE GLAUDE JR., PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: What we're trying to ask is -- no, what you have to do is listen. If you listened then perhaps you can understand.

STEWART: I wish you would...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Later, you remember Amanda Knox, the young American woman who was convicted of murdering her roommate in Italy? Well, now her parents are facing charges in Italy. We'll explain what they are going to be charged with, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, controversy is brewing in Mississippi over a plan to make a specialty license plate recognizing a Confederate general who was also a leader of the KKK.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is campaigning to put Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest on a commemorative license plate. There's some debate over Forrest's history, but most historians agree he was in the KKK.

We talked to an expert from the Southern Poverty Law Center who said not only was Forrest the first grand wizard of the KKK, or national leader; he was also known for bullwhipping slaves when he was a slave trader prior to the Civil War.

There's also controversy over whether Forrest carried out or condoned the massacre of hundreds of black Union army members during the night -- during the 1864 raid at Fort Pillow.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans says Forrest has been mischaracterized. The president of Mississippi's NAACP says it sends the wrong message to honor anyone who promoted racial hatred. And the group called on Governor Haley Barbour to publicly denounce the license plate idea. The governor didn't address the issue when it started to make headlines last week. He spoke on camera just today. We'll show you what he said in just a moment. But first, I spoke with Professor Eddie Glaude Jr., chair of Princeton University's Center for African-American Studies, and Greg Stewart, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who's behind the license-plate effort to honor Forrest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Stewart, from what I've read, General Forrest was a slave trader prior to the Civil War. According to some historical accounts, he personally oversaw the bullwhipping of slaves. He was without a doubt a brilliant Confederate officer, but he was also a man who oversaw the slaughter of hundreds of black Union troops, and he was a grand wizard of the KKK, the first grand wizard, the first national leader. Why do you want to put him on a license plate?

STEWART: Well, what you've just alleged is not necessarily true. A lot of that has been in dispute for a long time.

I guess I should address the slaughter of troops first. That was the Fort Pillow massacre, and there was a trial, and he was, in fact -- Sherman was the presiding officer, and he was absolved of that.

COOPER: He might have been absolved by Sherman, but Sherman knew a thing or two about, you know, tough tactics. And there are historical accounts, and one Confederate soldier was quoted as saying that he was -- that they -- that they were ordered to shoot down people like dogs.

STEWART: Well, I don't know. I wasn't there. But there was a trial. There was a hearing. Everybody was heard, and I guess that particular testimony wasn't given much weight.

And as far as the charge that he was a member of the Klan, the last person that had any authority on it was Shelby Foote, and he told us that he was not.

And then the record shows that General Forrest himself said that he wasn't a member of the Klan. And then later in his life, he gave a famous speech in Memphis to the pall bearers, which can be found on the Internet if anybody wants to Google that, and he definitely made it plain that he had great love for all of his fellow citizens there in Memphis.

COOPER: So he wasn't a slave trader who personally bullwhipped, oversaw the bullwhipping of slaves?

STEWART: I don't know. I mean, the bullwhipping part is something that you added.

COOPER: Well, actually, that's in a biography -- that's actually in a biography about -- about him that's been written.

STEWART: OK. I haven't read that. But yes, while he was a U.S. citizen under the U.S. flag, he was engaged in the slave trade.

COOPER: Professor Glaude, what about Mr. Stewart's argument that people basically -- he's saying they have their facts wrong about General Forrest, that he wasn't a bad guy after all?

GLAUDE: Well, I would -- I would challenge Mr. Stewart on this. I mean, one of the things we do know is that the trial was difficult, because many of the persons, the ranking officers were actually -- some of the ranking officers on the Union side were, in fact, killed.

What we do know is that it's pretty much established that what happened at Fort Pillow, at least among scholars of the Civil Wars, James McPherson and others, that what happened at Fort Pillow was, in fact, a massacre. And by any modern standards, Anderson, General Forrest would be a war criminal.

So part of what we have to ask ourselves is what is being affirmed here? He was, in fact, a slave trader. He was, in fact, just as Mr. Stewart will appeal to the Internet as a source -- and we know how questionable that can be -- on that same Internet, we have documentation of him actually being the first grand wizard of the KKK.

And so I want to challenge him not only on the facts, but I want to challenge him on the basis of his moral character. What is he trying to suggest to America by putting, in effect, a war criminal on the license plate of Mississippians? And I'm a Mississippian. I hope my mother and my father, who are still there, will not do that, as well. I know I wouldn't.

COOPER: Well, my dad is from Mississippi, so I don't want you to think I'm just some northerner who's upset about this, as well. I've got a stake in the state. I love the state, as well. And I have relatives who fought, frankly, on both sides of the Civil War, as most Americans probably did.

Mr. Stewart, what about that? I mean, if you were an African- American resident of Mississippi, what kind of message are you supposed to get from this license plate with this man who, by most accounts, most historical accounts was a grand wizard of the KKK?

STEWART: Right. We've talked about that. There's a division, but the authorities that I'm citing and Shelby -- unless he wants to argue with Shelby Foote's authority.

COOPER: Shelby Foote is dead...

STEWART: Said that he was not. A lifetime of...

COOPER: Shelby Foote is dead, but there's a lot of historians now who are saying without a doubt this guy was a grand wizard of the KKK. We talked to Marc Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who said it's indisputable that he was a grand wizard and he's done extensive research on this.

STEWART: Well, I guess we can't agree on that.

COOPER: But again, what message does this send to -- to an African-American citizen in Mississippi?

STEWART: Oh, well, I mean, I'm sorry that he's offended. That was not the intent.

GLAUDE: There is a way in which we can begin to mark our history and our past. That history and that past includes the enslavement of African-Americans. It includes the fact that we were denied citizenship rights. It includes the fact that, even when General Forrest might have denounced his relation to the KKK, by that point Jim and Jane Crow had sedimented -- had sedimented into common sense in the south. So part of it...

STEWART: Is this a question or a lecture?

GLAUDE: What we're trying to ask is -- no, what you have to do is listen. If you listen, then perhaps you can understand.

STEWART: I wish you would get to your question.

COOPER: Sir, wait, wait. Let me just stop here. Mr. Stewart, you dragged on for a long time, too. And I allowed you to speak for a long time. Mr. Glaude, I'm allowing him the same courtesy. So let's allow them the courtesy, and then you can answer it.

STEWART: I just want him to ask the question.

GLAUDE: My point is this. My point is this. When we put forward people who defended the institution of slavery, people who participated in the degradation of a large percentage of the American citizenry, as heroes, as representatives of something, we're affirming a dimension of our past, which says that we haven't, shall we say, moved forward.

And then more importantly, let me just say this secondly, more importantly, we're playing steadfast and loose with the pain and suffering of a particular people, a particular population of the United States.

You, Mr. Stewart, may not be, shall we say, moved by the fact that Union black soldiers, former runaway slaves, fought and were massacred by the troops of Forrest, but I am.

STEWART: I'm sorry you're insulted by it. But you don't have to buy the tag. It looks to me that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a military genius. He kept...

GLAUDE: I would grant that.

STEWART: ... the people of north Mississippi -- thank you. And he kept the people of north Mississippi safe, safe as he could, for as long as he could.

COOPER: The white people.

STEWART: And then in his -- in his...

COOPER: He kept the white people in north Mississippi safe, you're saying?

STEWART: No, I don't think so. I think he was looking out for everybody. Looking out for his -- his country.

GLAUDE: That's not what the dead Union soldiers would say.

STEWART: In his -- in his last years, I think he made significant efforts toward reconciliation. And if anything, if Christian redemption should mean anything to any of us, and we all want it for ourselves, why can't we extend it to this man?

GLAUDE: Well, I think what's important here, Brother Anderson, is if we continue to move on this path of erasure and revision, I think we doom ourselves to a future that isn't bright.

COOPER: Gentlemen, I appreciate the discussion and the difference of opinion. You both argue your positions well.

Greg Stewart, thank you.

Professor Eddie Glaude, thank you, as well.

STEWART: Thank you so much.

GLAUDE: Thank you, Mr. Cooper.

COOPER: Well, Governor Haley Barbour has been silent on the issue until today, interestingly enough. He was pressed by reporters about why he hasn't denounced the idea or said he supports the idea. The governor says he doesn't, quote, "go around denouncing people," but he went on to say that the proposed license plate would never pass the state legislature anyway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: The Nathan Bedford Forrest tag is not going to happen. Isn't that what you asked me? Is that what you asked me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BARBOUR: The answer is it's not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This with Governor Haley Barbour ahead.

Lighter stuff coming up. A close call: a lucky couple finally cashes in one day away from missing out on a million-dollar jackpot. Can you imagine if they missed that?

And even some sillier stuff to make you smile at the end of the night. What has Charlie Sheen done now to end up on our "RidicuList"? It's not what you might expect. We'll explain ahead.

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COOPER: Coming up, we're adding Charlie Sheen to tonight's "RidicuList." The way we see it, his recent motivational speech went too far. We'll explain that in a moment. But first, Isha has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, in Italy, the parents of convicted killer Amanda Knox are facing charges of libeling the police. The couple told a British newspaper that Knox was physically and mentally abused by police after her arrest for killing her roommate. The indictment says the claims were, quote, contrary to the truth.

Also in Italy, a judge ordered the country's prime minister to stand trial on charges of paying a 17-year-old nightclub dancer for sex. Silvio Berlusconi is also charged with abuse of power. He denies the charges. The trial begins in April.

Bernie Madoff tells "The New York Times" from prison that many banks and hedge funds had to have known about his Ponzi scheme. According to the paper, Madoff accused the unidentified investment group of willful blindness. Madoff also tells the "Times" he never thought the scheme would cause so much destruction to his family. He maintains his family knew nothing of his crimes.

A major merger in the works. NYSE Euronext, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, and Germany's Deutsche Borse have agreed to join forces in a $10 billion deal. The merger needs approval from U.S. and European regulators. If approved, it would create the world's largest exchange for stocks and derivatives.

And Anderson, a North Carolina couple claims their $1 million Mega Millions lottery prize the day before it expires. Cutting it kind of close if you ask me. They opted for a lump sum of $680,000 after taxes.

The couple hid the winning ticket for almost six months...

COOPER: Wow.

SESAY: ... in various places, including a Bible and work locker before they were ready to cash it in.

COOPER: Wow. I don't know. I don't think I would hide it for six months. I would be afraid of losing it.

SESAY: Let me just say, Anderson, if I win the lottery, I'm going MIA for a couple of days. I will come back to you.

COOPER: All right.

SESAY: But I'll be gone for a while.

COOPER: All right -- well, yes.

Time now for the "RidicuList." Tonight, I'm sorry, but we've got to add Charlie Sheen. Now I know you're thinking: this is going to be all about hookers and porn stars and binge-tastic hostage situations playing out in fancy Vegas hotel rooms. Au contraire, mon frere. That's not why we're adding Sheen to the "RidicuList" tonight. No, not at all. See, Charlie Sheen is on the "RidicuList" because of his new gig as -- a motivational speaker. That's right. Charlie Sheen gave a pep talk the other day to the UCLA Bruins baseball team. Now I know. I mean, was Tony Robbins not available? Of all the people you want counseling your college-age kids at their most vulnerable time, I'm not sure Charlie Sheen would even be at the bottom of the list.

Apparently, she gave a $10,000 donation to the team a while ago. And now they let him come take batting practice whenever he wants. He was there, so he was asked to give the boys a pep talk.

On the Dan Patrick radio show, Sheen talked about the sage wisdom he imparted to the team. Listen and learn, folks. Listen and learn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: I said, stay away from the crack, which I think is pretty good advice, unless you can manage it socially, Dan. If you can manage it socially, then go for it. But not a lot of people can, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So wise. Stay away from the crack unless you can manage it socially. Now, forgive me for my ignorance on the subject of the crack, but how exactly does one use crack socially? Do people really throw elegant, highly social cocktail parties where they pass crudite, discuss the latest edition of "The new Yorker" in between rock tokes? I don't think so.

Besides, if I want a celebrity giving me drug advice, I'm not going to go to Charlie Sheen. I'm going to go to the one and only Ms. Whitney Houston.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: Crack is cheap. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on crack. Crack is whack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Whitney is a never-ending spring of wisdom.

So let's sum up the subject of crack, according to celebrities. Only use it if you don't have a lot of money, and only do it socially. These two should team up and go on a speaking tour of elementary schools.

In Sheen's defense, he did say that he thought he could manage crack, but it blew up in his face like an exploding crack pipe, and that he's 100 percent clean now. In the next breath, he also said he doesn't believe in AA and he's bored by sobriety. He says he wants to get back to "Two and a Half Men" while the getting is good, since he's, quote, "peeing clean" lately. Check it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHEEN: Check it. It's like, you know, I heal really quickly, but I also unravel pretty quickly. So get me right now, guys. Get me right now.

DAN PATRICK, RADIO HOST: Is there a morality clause in your contract?

SHEEN: Blah, blah, nitpick, nitpick. I mean, I haven't read it, but I don't think it covers "let us totally dominate and interfere with your personal life."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. Far be it for me to blah-blah and nitpick nitpick or interfere with anyone's personal life, but I really do hope Charlie Sheen gets his life straightened out.

The guy is remarkably talented. No sit-com is worth someone's life, though. It seems like his work ethic, though, has somehow remained weirdly in tact.

So here's hoping Charlie Sheen can get back to work, keep peeing clean and stay on the straight and narrow, and let's hope he stays off the "RidicuList."

A lot more ahead at the top of the hour. It's serious stuff. Only on 360. One protester in Iran, courageous enough to speak out. You'll hear from her, ahead.

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