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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Rick Santorum Under Fire; Slaughter in Syria

Aired February 20, 2012 - 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: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with what presidential candidate Rick Santorum said on the stump about theology, Christianity and President Obama. His remarks in the spotlight tonight, that's partly because of what he said and his shifting explanation of what he meant.

Now, Santorum is now running 10 points ahead of Mitt Romney, and though some polling shows the race in Michigan tightening, it's looking like a Santorum blowout in Texas, where University of Texas/"Texas Tribune" survey shows the senator polling at 45 percent, with Newt Gingrich a distant second, Romney third, edging out Texas congressman, Ron Paul.

On Saturday, Santorum speaking into the Ohio Christian Alliance in Georgetown, Ohio, was slamming President Obama's energy policy, suggesting the president wants to see higher prices and summing it up this way. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is what the president's agenda, it's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life, it's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the bible, a different theology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That phrase, "a different theology," sparked the controversy which Senator Santorum at least initially seemed to embrace. Here's what he said when asked about it later that same day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Obviously, he is now forcing people to do things that he believes that they are -- they have the right -- that they should do. The Catholic Church has a theology that says that this is a wrong and he's saying, no, I have got a different -- I have got a different -- you want to call it theology, you may want to call it secular values, whatever you want to call it, it's a different moral values.

And the president of the United States is exercising his values and trumping the values of the church. If you don't want to call it a theology, I'm fine. You can have them, let me know what they want to call it, but it is, it is a different set of moral values.

QUESTION: Do you believe he is less of a Christian than, say, someone like you?

SANTORUM: No one's suggesting that. I'm suggesting that, you know -- well, obviously, as we all know in the Christian church, there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity. And so I -- you can say he's -- I'm just saying he's imposing his values on the church and I think that's wrong.

QUESTION: But if he's imposing one brand of Christianity values on another type of Christianity values --

SANTORUM: He's imposing his values on the Christian church. He can characterize those values any way he wants. I'm not going to.

QUESTION: But he says he's a Christian. Are you arguing with that?

SANTORUM: That's -- if the president says he's a Christian, he's a Christian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now you heard the senator saying, you don't have to call it theology but then on the very next sentence, he call those differences -- quote -- "a different set of moral values," then accused the president of imposing those values on the Christian church.

And the very next day, on Sunday, yesterday, when CBS' Bob Schieffer asked about his initial remarks, Santorum seemed to say this wasn't really about the president or religion, but was about the environment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": So, Senator, I have got to ask you, what in the world were you talking about, sir?

SANTORUM: Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalist, that's why I was talking about energy. This idea that man is not -- is here to serve the earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the earth. And I think that is a -- is a phony ideal. I don't believe that that's what, that's what we're here to do.

That -- that man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the earth, to be a steward of the earth. But we're not here to serve the earth. The earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And I think a lot of radical -- a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how does that translate into some sort of theology that the -- (CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Well, it's a --

SCHIEFFER: The president's theology is not based on the bible? I mean, that suggests that he's not a Christian.

SANTORUM: I wasn't suggesting the president is not a Christian. I accept the fact that the president is a Christian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Rick Santorum on CBS' "Face the Nation" denying he was implying anything about the President Obama's Christianity. As for whether he was questioning the president's moral fiber with phrases like -- quote -- "different moral values," and -- quote -- "trumping the moral values" of the church, well, you can decide for yourself.

Let's get into "Raw Politics." Joining us now, former Bush -- George W. Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer, RedState.com editor in chief Erick Erickson, and Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen.

Ari Fleischer, do you believe that he was just talking about environmental policy here?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think he used inappropriate words. I think he was trying to make the case about the president's ideology. And I'm all for a fair fight and a robust fight about people's ideology. But we should respect each other's theology and it should not become a part of politics.

I think Rick Santorum recognizes that now and he was trying to sort of, sort of take it back. But he used words I don't think he will use again and I just think it's a part of politics that should not be a part of politics. It should be left on the side.

COOPER: Erick, do you think these are words he should not have been using?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, of course he shouldn't. He's running for president of the United States, not chief of the deacon's board. Theology really has nothing to do with.

You can have a debate about someone's values, you can have a debate about their ideology, whether or not they're right for the country. But to go into theology, look, I mean, we've now spent a week on Rick Santorum's theology, it's not the media doing it. For a lot of my conservative friends who are knocking me and others for talking about this, it's not the media. It's -- this is what Rick Santorum was talking. We're responding to what Rick Santorum has talked about. He should get back to jobs and the economy and leave theology to a preacher.

COOPER: Well, because, Erick, I mean, as I recall Rick Santorum saying particularly in Michigan he was going to be running, it was all about jobs and the economy.

ERICKSON: Right.

COOPER: It seems like he is talking about everything but.

ERICKSON: Yes, you know, I'm not sure what's happened to Santorum. It sounds like he's got a little bit of Gingrichitis, when he gets ahead in the polls, suddenly goes off the reservation.

COOPER: Hilary, do you buy what he now says, well, look, I was talking about environmental policy or environmentalists?

HILARY ROSE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. No. No. This is like front-runner fever or something, where, you know, all of a sudden he thinks that everybody wants to hear every deep last wish that he's ever had. But you know I went to some Rick Santorum rallies in small towns in New Hampshire and Erick is exactly right.

This is what this guy has been saying ever since he started running for president. He's not talking about jobs, he's not talking about the economy, even actually has a tax plan that the conservatives kind of like better than Mitt Romney's. But he doesn't talk about it. He really wants the entire country to adhere to sort of his dogma of Christianity and if he's president, he's talked about it openly, that's what he's going to pursue.

COOPER: Ari, do you think he should just get back to focusing on economic issues?

FLEISCHER: Well, no. And actually, Anderson, I think if you look even deeper at this, I think for the first time today in this race, that Rick Santorum has a very decent chance of beating Mitt Romney for the nomination. Two things happened over the weekend and has been building since his three-state win. One is that the conservative angst with Mitt Romney is really coming to a head. People are saying, we don't want to support Mitt Romney, is there finally somebody else to go to.

Now Rick Santorum has really now energized the social wing of the Republican Party, which is a very powerful and vociferous part of the party, a little bit different from the Tea Party part where Rick Santorum has got to get back to. But in the process of a conservative collapse in Romney with the social movement toward Rick Santorum, he really has propelled himself forward into this primary contest.

COOPER: You really think he can get the nomination?

FLEISCHER: I really do. I'm prepared to say that now, for the first time I would say that. I have always thought this was an open race, anybody -- anything could happen, it was that kind of wild year. Don't underestimate what has happened now with people going to Rick Santorum. And he does need to broaden it. The social issues really do motivate him. He speaks from the heart. There was nothing scripted about what he said, by the way, over the weekend. That was just Rick Santorum. And --

ROSEN: I think that's right. He actually believes --

FLEISCHER: What he needs to do is broaden his candidacy and make sure he gets to the economic issues and focuses hard on those economic issues as well.

COOPER: Hilary, you're saying he absolutely believes it.

ROSEN: I think he absolutely believes it. You know, what's interesting is, for a while, Mitt Romney was running against Newt Gingrich and he was able to be sort of a little steadier, a little, you know, kind of more thoughtful because Gingrich was all over the place.

With Rick Santorum, we are seeing a Mitt Romney who is doubling down on his radical conservatism, who is trying to push things that are -- that are going to be rejected by women, and, you know, this notion that women should be prevented from having birth control, that women should stay home and home-school their children rather than being into the work force.

ERICKSON: Well, you know --

ROSEN: Wait, wait, let me just finish, Ari, I will let you talk. So when Mitt Romney now has to compete with Rick Santorum in that sort of conservative thought bubble, there is just no way in a general election, once he gets the nomination, that he can come back to the center and disavow all he's starting to say now. And I think that's really the Republican's conundrum.

ERICKSON: You know, I know radical conservatives. Radical conservatives are great friends of mine and Santorum is not a radical conservative, but he's way off the reservation on these talking points. He should be getting back to jobs and the economy, and if he wants to talk about values, he can phrase them in a different way.

I do have to say, though, that there's this problem shaping up for Romney, Santorum and Gingrich in that while I may agree with Mitt Romney working for Bain Capital or I may agree with a lot of what Rick Santorum says on values, we shouldn't as conservatives or as Republicans say agreeing with them doesn't negate, it could be a political liability in the general election.

And it seems like our candidates this year wanting to amplify their political liabilities instead of downplay their political liabilities. And that will come out in the general election in a not very good way for them.

COOPER: Erick, do you agree with Ari that Santorum could actually get the nomination?

ROSEN: I'm agreeing with Erick Erickson.

ERICKSON: Well, there you go, Hilary.

(LAUGHTER)

ERICKSON: Yes, as a matter of fact, as recently as I think last month, I was saying that Rick Santorum will not be the nominee. If he wins Michigan he may very well be the nominee. Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's spokesman, came out today and said it's not important for Romney to win Michigan, which means it's absolutely important for Romney to win Michigan.

COOPER: But it does seem, Ari, that numbers -- that the gap is closing a little bit in Michigan, Romney coming back up.

FLEISCHER: Well, and I think it's going to be a close contest in Michigan. And when -- we'll cross of course to what I call somewhat Super Tuesday, the 10 states that vote on Tuesday, March 6. And Rick Santorum continues to have a lot of momentum in those states. Mitt Romney has a lot of steadiness but he's been eclipsed, eclipsed in a significant part.

ROSEN: You know --

FLEISCHER: Let me make this point about Rick Santorum and the things that he says. At first glance, many of them do sound too inflammatory. But he often makes a nuance statement about it such as birth control. He made the point here that that was a personal issue, that's how he views it, and then he said I voted for contraception in the past.

What I think you have to be careful of is that they don't let one side make him into a caricature by distorting what he has said on these positions. There are some deep nuances to social policies. It's also, Anderson, why it's so hard for politicians to talk about the most intractable social policy is in America, as soon as you try, you due get caricatured. Rick Santorum lend himself to do this because he didn't talk with subtleties. But his point was not that women shouldn't get birth control, that's not what he believes, that's not what he said.

ROSEN: You know these Republicans are going into these two states, Michigan and then Ohio, looking from what, you know, the so- called, from the '80s, the Reagan Democrats, those independents who will switch party line, conservative social values and conservative economic positions, but the problem is, is that neither candidate is offering for those voters what Barack Obama has offered, which is a growing economy, the auto industry recovery, and lowering unemployment.

And those candidates are not talking about those issues. They don't have answers for them. And that's why I don't think they're going to get them.

COOPER: We got to leave it.

Hilary Rosen, Ari Fleischer, Erick Erickson.

It's good to leave it on a point where both Erick and Ari will disagree with Hilary. We don't want to leave it where they're agreeing.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Let us know what you think.

ROSEN: Hey, I want the record to reflect, Anderson, I agreed with Erick tonight.

COOPER: OK.

ERICKSON: There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight in the hour ahead.

Up next, a growing pressure on America to do something to stop the slaughter in Syria? Is there really something for America to do, though? We'll talk with Arwa Damon, who just got back from being inside in Homs and snuck in across the border. We'll also talk with Bob Baer and Fran Townsend.

Later -- this is just mind-blowing -- a school district that finances plastic surgery for teachers. Millions of taxpayer dollars for cosmetic surgery, nose jobs, breast augmentation. You name it. Question, how did this happen and why it's still happening in the middle of a budget crisis.

We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, in just a few hours, barring a miracle, people in the Syrian city of Homs will wake up to another day of shelling, the 18th day of being targeted by their own government. It's been going on for a year now. Another day of children being pulled from burning, bombed out apartments and houses like this one from the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

Another day of children grieving for wounded parents.

When asked who did this, the child replied, the filthy dog, Bashar al-Assad.

For 2.5 weeks, people of Homs and elsewhere have been the target of weapons normally aimed at tanks and aircraft and enemy troops. This is new video, a line of armor opening up on a civilian neighborhood.

The question, of course, is -- one of the questions, one of the many questions, is what should America or some other country do? This weekend Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey sat down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria and took one option off the table for now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: What would you say to those who argue that the United States should arm the opposition movement in Syria?

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because I -- I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Dempsey on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Today in "THE SITUATION ROOM," both Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are both members of the Armed Services Committee, took issue with the chairman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A massacre is taking place in Syria today and all options need to be on the table.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The idea of trying to arm the opposition forces needs to be considered, very much considered. Ad at the end of the day, what happens in Syria really can change the course of the Mideast and I do hope we can break them away from Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's a strategic concern. The focus for civilian is in Syria remains solely simply on staying alive and on getting rid of their government. As with almost all the video we showed you can't be independently verified, the Assad regime keeps reporters out. However, CNN's Arwa Damon did manage to get into Syria, into Homs, into the basement bunkers with ordinary Syrians, just trying to hang on for one more day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are some of the families of Baba Amr who have nowhere else to go. Finding relative safety in this makeshift bunker but little comfort.

"We're not sleeping at night, we're not sleeping during the day," Intab (ph) howls. "The children are always crying. The bombs are coming down like this."

They huddle in near darkness. Some cover their faces, afraid they'll lose more than they already have.

(on camera): This woman's son has been detained since the end of August, another woman's son has been detained -- this one right here -- for a month and a half.

We just walked in and we've just been swamped, bombarded, by these people's tragic stories here.

(voice-over): At a wood-cutting-factory-turned-bunker nearby, baby Fatima (ph) is cradled in her grandmother's arms. Her 19-year- old mother gave birth to her in this makeshift shelter 24 hours ago. "There are no painkillers. I couldn't sleep all night," she tells us." Still in excruciating pain."

Activists gather the children for the camera, leading a song against the regime. "My husband died on the first day of the bombing. They didn't let me see his body. It was shredded to pieces" (INAUDIBLE) recalls. "His blood is still in the streets. And feel his son. He's sick, and there is no medicine."

"He keeps crying," saying, "I want daddy, I want daddy. I can't bring his daddy back. What is the world waiting for? For us to die of hunger and fear?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Arwa Damon is now out of Syria. I spoke with her earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Arwa, today was the 17th straight day of shelling in Homs. You were just there. I mean, the images you brought back are really just horrific. The situation just seems desperate for the people there and basic supplies just aren't available.

DAMON: That's exactly it, Anderson. I mean, the problem is that the situation is catastrophic and there is absolutely no one at this point in time that is really stepping in to help these people. And that is why we keep hearing them calling out asking the same questions over and over again. How is it that the international community is seeing what we're going through and not doing anything to help?

And also people wanting to know how long are they going to have to try to survive like this? And those are questions that no one at this point in time can answer. And the harsh reality is that the longer this drags on, the more of those images we're going to be seeing of people dying, of people injured, of people dying because of their wounds, because they can't get medical help and the more people are going to continuously be crowded into those bunkers trying to keep themselves and their families somehow safe.

COOPER: For both sides, for all sides in this, there's no going back. I mean, for the Assad regime, it doesn't seem like backing down is an option. Certainly for the people in the neighborhood you were in, in Homs, going back is not an option.

Are -- the Red Cross is talking about creating some sort of, you know, humanitarian corridor. Is that possible?

DAMON: Well, if that were to somehow materialize, it most certainly would provide a very significant element of relief for those families. But one also has to remember that the Syrian government's position has been that, look, we're not at war so why should there be a cease-fire? So that would make the creation of this type of humanitarian corridor incredibly challenging.

COOPER: Arwa, I'm glad you were able to get there and get back safely. Arwa, thanks. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: All right. Let's dig deeper now into what the United States can and/or should do in the face of all this. Joining us now is former CIA officer and TIME.com intelligence columnist, Robert Baer. Also Fran Townsend, former Bush homeland security adviser, current member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee.

Fran, the possibility of somehow arming the opposition, how realistic is that do you think?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, there are all sorts of problems with the U.S. doing that directly. And when you, when you listen to what Senators McCain and Graham are saying, they're really talking about, can we act through the Arab League? Our Arab partners have a better sense of what's going on, on the factions, on the grounds.

I think General Dempsey is right. It's difficult for us from a distance to understand who's in the opposition? We've seen bombings. There's beliefs in the intelligence community, al Qaeda in Iraq may be active inside Syria trying to take advantage of the situation. And so you're really going to -- if you want to arm the opposition, you're better to rely on Arab partners closer to the situation who have a better sense and closer relationships with the different factions.

COOPER: Bob, from your vantage point, how possible is it on the ground to arm the opposition if we know who the opposition is, and given that -- I mean, there's so many regional players in this who have vested interests in what's happening inside Syria?

ROBERT BAER, "TIME" INTELLIGENCE COLUMNIST: Well, Anderson, look at the geography. You've got limited choices. You could send arms through Lebanon, which right now is not possible because of Hezbollah, that would take Lebanon over the edge. Jordan is not going to let arms come across the border. You've got the possibility of the Kurds in Iraq sending arms and in fact some are going across. It's really trying to supply these people both with arms and medicine.

And the other thing is the dissidents in Syria, the opposition is spread out all over. It's really quite a mess there because a city like Homs is divided by sects. There's Alawites, there's Christian, there's Sunni Muslims, and they're all in smaller neighborhoods, it's a mosaic.

But the -- you know, Anderson, what I'm worried about is this is really starting to spin out of control. You've got two Iranian ships in Tartus, you have the Iranians saying they're going to intervene, you've got problems up on the Turkish border. And is this going to spread? We have to do something.

COOPER: And -- I mean, in terms of the level of danger in this region, Fran, how does this compare to what we've seen over the last decade or so?

TOWNSEND: Well, it -- as Bob rightly says, this is now -- the powder keg's ignited. You've got not only the Iranian ships, but look, you know, if we're talking about getting weapons and the Russians are supplying weapons to the Assad regime that they're using to slaughter their own people. And so we're going to --

COOPER: Huge quantities of weapons for years.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right. And they have this port in Tartus that frankly the Russians are using to bring in a nuclear warship. So this is a real -- what we're looking at is akin to the proxy war we saw in Southeast Asia, in Vietnam -- you know, earlier, 40 years ago. And we have to be careful because of the varying interests.

The Iranians are very much in play here as are Russians as are the weapons of both of those countries. And so we've got to be careful about being pulled into a proxy war but we can't use that as an excuse, as a shield to let the slaughter continue. We're going to have to exert ourselves and show a leadership role.

COOPER: So, Bob, what other options are there? And what about the notion of some sort of humanitarian corridor, trying to get relief supplies into these neighborhoods in Homs which have just been under systematic attack?

BAER: Well, I think we should establish a place in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, that would provide refuge for these people. Because it's winter there, it's snowing, it's cold, you've got women and children dying. They have to be able to go some place. And the best people to protect them are the Turks.

I don't know what the Turks want to do at this point. They're very nervous about it. But I think we're coming to that point where there should be a humanitarian corridor.

COOPER: But can you do that, Fran, in a country -- with a country without the permission of the regime in Syria? And the Syrian regime is saying, there is no need for this because there is not a war going on in our country, these are just some armed terrorists who we're dealing with.

TOWNSEND: Well, Anderson, this brings us back to the sort of shameful embarrassment of the U.N. Security Council. What we need -- what we need now, more than anything, is an effective Security Council resolution that includes Russia and China. It looks like there's been some small amount of movement on China's part that can see the humanitarian crisis. I don't know that you can move Russia, other than to shame them by these horrific videos we see that Arwa Damon has got now.

The other thing we need to have the international community push for is the safe passage of journalists. The most important thing in terms of moving the international community and shaming governments like Russia is to have international unbiased observers that journalists are. And to have Arwa Damon and Ivan Watson and other of our colleagues having to sneak in and out at their own personal risk is outrageous. There's a good reason the Syrians don't want them there.

COOPER: Right. And Bob -- but Bob, I mean, repeatedly the Syrian regime has just said things which are just factually incorrect and lies. I mean, they have claimed now for months, when they -- we've had them on this show claiming, you know, the journalists are free to travel wherever they want, and there's no, you know, there's no holding them back. It's just not true.

BAER: Well, Fran is absolutely right. You know it kept the Arab League observers away from the real fighting. They're lying to the outside world. This is a regime that's on the edge. You've got about 14 percent of the population are Alawites. They won't give up, they're going to bring heavy armor in, and they're going to fight into the last because they really do believe their survival is at stake. This is not Gadhafi. We're not going to see Bashar al-Assad removed and it's all going to be over. The Alawites will fight to the very end.

COOPER: Bob Baer, appreciate your time tonight. Fran Townsend as well. Thanks.

Well, the explosive allegations in Arizona against a sheriff and rising conservative star, the allegations he is facing tonight. He's quit his job as Mitt Romney's campaign co-chair in Arizona. We'll tell you why ahead.

Also ahead: a tense standoff inside a police station captured by a new camera that police officers wear like a headset. We'll show it to you ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Up close tonight, an Arizona sheriff with political ambitions is facing explosive accusations that threaten his law-and- order image.

Until this past weekend, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was a rising conservative star, an Iraq War veteran known for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration. In 2008, he appeared in this campaign ad for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BABEU, PINAL COUNTY SHERIFF: We're out-manned. Of all the illegals in America, more than half come through Arizona.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Border security has been Babeu's defining image. When this ad was shot, he was a first-term sheriff. Today, he's running for Congress. He was also co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in Arizona.

The state primary is now just a week away. Babeu resigned as co- chair on Saturday after a former boyfriend who's Mexican went public about their relationship and accused the sheriff of threatening to deport him if he told anyone about it. The local paper broke the story Friday.

Here's what Babeu said the next day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BABEU: I'm here to say that all these allegations that were in one of these newspapers are absolutely completely false, except for the issues that refer to me being gay. Because that's the truth. I am gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That revelation is the only part of the story that's not in dispute. CNN's Miguel Marquez talked to the man who's been making the accusations against the sheriff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sheriff Paul Babeu built a national reputation taking a hard line on illegal immigration. But now allegations about his personal life are threatening to cut short his budding political career.

BABEU: ... driving human smuggling.

MARQUEZ: In 2006, he met this man, Jose, on the dating site, Gay.com.

(on camera) Did you fall in love with him?

"JOSE," ALLEGES RELATIONSHIP WITH BABEU: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Do you think he was in love with you?

JOSE: I don't think so, no.

MARQUEZ: That's hard, isn't it?

JOSE: Yes.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Jose from Mexico claims he's in the U.S. legally on a ten-year multiple-entry tourist visa, even running a business here. But it doesn't add up. Immigration experts say you can't come and go for months at a time on a tourist visa and you can only run a business in a very limited way.

Sheriff Babeu says he never asked about Jose's status because he assumed he was in the U.S. legally.

(on camera) Did he ever have you if you were here legally?

JOSE: No.

MARQUEZ: Never did?

(voice-over) As the relationship soured, Babeu accused Jose of hacking his Twitter account and posting slanderous remarks. Jose denies that.

Jose showed us text messages sent by Babeu. He says he felt the sheriff was pressuring him to leave the country when he wrote, quote, "You can never have business after this. And you will harm me and many others in the process, including yourself and your family."

Jose's attorney says another threat came from Babeu's lawyer, Chris DeRose.

MELISSA WEISS-RINER, JOSE'S ATTORNEY: Mr. DeRose said, "Well, it's come to my attention that your client is here illegally, and he's here on an expired student visa."

MARQUEZ: Sheriff Babeu and his lawyer categorically deny anyone ever threatened deportation or pressured Jose to leave the country.

BABEU: At no time did I or anyone who represents me ever threaten deportation.

MARQUEZ: While the sheriff has resigned from the Romney campaign, he's not giving up his run for Congress, though it's not clear he can still call upon the support he has so far enjoyed from conservatives in this very conservative state.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Miguel joins us now.

So this guy, why isn't he -- I mean, if he's making these allegations against the sheriff, he's not willing to show his face at this point, even though he says he's here legally?

MARQUEZ: He is not. I mean, he says that it's a matter of just concern because the sheriff is a powerful guy and Arizona is a conservative state. And if he comes out, as it were -- probably a bad choice of words, but if he does that, he fears that there will be violence against him by others who support the sheriff or something terrible could happen to him.

COOPER: Is this -- is this pretty much over? Because this guy has made the allegations against the sheriff. The sheriff has denied anything inappropriate. Is there anywhere else for this story go?

MARQUEZ: Well, there's a possibility that it will get a little broader before it's over. The local stations, the local newspapers are certainly digging around much more. I understand there are many more allegations out there, that the sheriff was a prolific online dater.

And if you remember the Anthony Weiner situation, which I'm sure you do, there may be more evidence out there in the form of pictures and others who come forward. And we may not see the end of this.

COOPER: But those would just be, I mean, salacious stories of his personal life, as opposed to -- I mean, it seems what -- what had made this a real story was the allegation that he had somehow threatened this guy and/or knew this guy's immigration status, if in fact, it's not legal.

MARQUEZ: Sure, except that he is running his congressional campaign, and would certainly like to win that. And if these allegations continue to come up in dribs and drabs and throughout the campaign, it's going to be very, very difficult for him to keep that campaign up.

He wants to put a lid on it right now. It's not clear that he can do that.

And Jose, I think, for this piece of the story, it seems to be over. The sheriff says that he is not going to press charges against Jose for hacking in or getting access to his Twitter account, however he did it.

And Jose says at this point, he just wants to be left alone. So for this particular episode or chapter of this drama, that may be over.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez, appreciate it. Thanks, Miguel.

Still ahead, a story that, frankly, seemed too outrageous to be true, but it turns out it is true. You won't believe what a teacher's contract in Buffalo, New York, covers. Plastic surgery on taxpayers' dimes. Botox, facelift, nose jobs. We'll have the full story ahead.

First, Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a horrific scene at a KFC restaurant. This is in Maryland. One person was killed, four were hurt, when a car crashed into the building. Local reports quote witnesses saying the car appeared to be traveling as fast as 100 miles per hour when it lost control, hit the curb and flew through the air. That is the aftermath.

South Korea fired live artillery in a military drill off the Korean Peninsula. North Korea called it a provocation. Two years ago, North Korea responded to a drill in the same area with deadly shelling.

And you have to see this. A camera worn like a headset captured a tense moment inside a Minnesota police station. A man with a knife came inside. You hear the cop saying, "Put it down." His neck was bleeding. The officer wearing the camera ordered him to drop the knife and call for backup. The suspect, who turned out to be suicidal, was Tasered. You see him there.

An amazing story out of Sweden. Local reports say a snowmobilers found a man alive inside this car covered with snow. He told police he had been living in the car since the middle of last year and that he hadn't eaten in two months. He was emaciated and barely able to speak. Apparently, he was living on snow -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's bizarre. That's hard to believe. All right, Susan. Thanks, we'll check in with you a little later. Coming up, an unusual job perk, to say the least: free plastic surgery for teachers in Buffalo, New York. Last year, the school spent almost $6 million giving their teachers facelifts, breast implants, you name it. Meanwhile, the district is about $42 million in the hole. I think a lot of teachers are going to be surprised to hear this in a district where their salaries are lower. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Later, a milestone for Elizabeth Smart. We'll tell you about her weekend wedding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, free plastic surgery for teachers on the taxpayer dime. And here's what's really incredible: everyone agrees, including the teachers' union, that it should be done away with.

The strange policy has been in place for nearly 40 years in Buffalo, New York. Teachers have a rider in their contract that lets them get face lifts, nose jobs, breast augmentation, all of it covered, and when teachers go under the knife, the taxpayers are the ones footing the bill.

Gary Tuchman has the story that's raising eyebrows, literally and figuratively.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Buffalo plastic surgeon has a lot of happy patients.

VALERIE AKAUOLA, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, TEACHER: Let's just suppose that I was a woman who weighed over 300 pounds and I lost maybe 150 to 160 pounds.

TUCHMAN: Indeed, that's what happened to Buffalo schoolteacher Valerie Akauola. But it's not just the results that make her happy; it's the sweet deal that she gets. The sweet deal that all the 3,400 teachers in Buffalo are eligible to get.

Under one of their insurance plan options, they're billed nothing for any plastic surgery procedure -- such as Botox, liposuction, tummy tucks -- and there is no deductible.

Linda Tokarz teaches second grade and says she gets regular treatments.

LINDA TOKARZ, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, TEACHER: I think it's great for us. I wouldn't want to see it taken away.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo has been a plastic surgeon in Buffalo for about 40 years.

DR. KULWANT S. BHANGOO, PLASTIC SURGEON: I feel the teachers pay their dues, and I think it would be wrong to take it away from them. TUCHMAN: While he does have plenty of non-teacher patients, Dr. Bhangoo does say 3 out of every 10 are Buffalo teachers, and the school district insurance covers every single penny.

BHANGOO: They will come in for, like, hair removal on their lips, face.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do they also come in for liposuction?

BHANGOO: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Breast enhancement?

BHANGOO: Yes, they do.

TUCHMAN: Face lift?

BHANGOO: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Rhinoplasty?

BHANGOO: Yes.

TUCHMAN: So it's busy?

BHANGOO: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dr. Bhangoo is one of many plastic surgeons who advertise in -- where else? -- the teachers' union newsletter.

Last year, Buffalo's schools spent $5.9 million on plastic surgery, which is also known as a cosmetic rider. The Buffalo teachers have had this rider for nearly four decades.

LOUIS PETRUCCI, PRESIDENT, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, BOARD OF EDUCATION: I've been unable to identify another district that has cosmetic riders for teachers.

TUCHMAN: Now you might think Buffalo's school district must be flush with cash to be offering perks like free plastic surgery, right? Wrong. Louis Petrucci, the president of Buffalo Board of Education, says he's projecting a $42 million deficit in next year's budget.

(on camera) If you had this $5.9 million that wasn't being spent on plastic surgery, what would you be doing with it now?

PETRUCCI: Hiring about 240 teachers.

TUCHMAN: You don't have to be a brain surgeon to know that a plastic surgeon or a teacher would like this policy more than the typical taxpayer. But the teachers will tell you there's a lot more to this story. They say the contract ended more than a decade ago. The negotiations have failed.

(voice-over) And they add they are woefully underpaid. It's quite interesting to hear what the president of the teachers' union says about the plastic surgery benefit.

PHILIP RUMORE, PRESIDENT, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, TEACHERS' FEDERATION: We've told the district from the beginning of negotiations six or eight years ago that we're willing to give it up. And as long as the district comes to the table and negotiates with us it's gone.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Do you feel that, as a gesture of good faith, they should say, "Teachers, no more plastic surgery"?

PETRUCCI: It would be a wonderful gesture of good faith.

RUMORE: We're willing to give it up. All the district has to come to do is go to the table and negotiate it with us.

TUCHMAN: But you're not willing to do it unilaterally?

RUMORE: No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The fact is that police and firefighters in Buffalo have similar plastic surgery programs, but those departments are not dealing with the same financial problems as the economically-challenged school system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody works for a living. They should pay their tithes and offerings like everybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's right the taxpayer has to pay for that. Not for free, anyway.

TUCHMAN: But at least for now, the policy remains, in a school district with a unique mix of brain and beauty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins me now.

Have teachers in Buffalo been laid off over the years because of the plastic surgery policy?

TUCHMAN: Well, there are currently about 3,400 teachers. And what the board of education is telling us, that five years ago in 2007 there were hundreds more. And they say the plastic surgery -- surgery policy is part of the reason those teachers are gone.

They also add, though, and this is important, that there are fewer students in the district than five years ago. And also, they get less state funding from the state of New York.

COOPER: And are teachers' family members also eligible for free plastic surgery?

TUCHMAN: Yes. Everybody is eligible. Husbands, wives, partners, daughters, sons. Everyone can get the plastic surgery if their loved one is a teacher. I should add, what's so fascinating about this story, Anderson, is that what we're being told is that, at this point, there are fewer students in the district and a lot fewer teachers. That's very important to stress.

COOPER: I've been twittering -- tweeting about this. A lot of teachers on Twitter are very surprised to hear this elsewhere in the country. And obviously feel that it sort of puts teachers in a bad light, because most teachers are doing this for very low pay.

Gary, appreciate it. We'll continue to talk about it on Twitter, @AndersonCooper, right now.

Coming up, happy day for Elizabeth Smart. We'll tell you about her weekend wedding.

Also, a horrifying scene in Washington state: an avalanche buries as many as a dozen skiers. Three did not survive. We have details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDRICKS: Anderson's back in a moment. First, a "360 News & Business Bulletin," starting with breaking news.

Reuters wire service reporting that negotiators tonight have sealed a deal to bail out Greece for the second time. In exchange, the Greek government will make additional cuts to reduce its national debt.

Here at home, three people died in an avalanche in Washington state. Up to 12 skiers were swept as far as 2,000 feet and buried in the snow. Now, most were able to dig themselves out. A sheriff's office spokeswoman says all the skiers were experienced but that, quote, "nature happened."

Elizabeth Smart is married. She tied the knot with Matthew Gilmore in a private ceremony in Hawaii over the weekend. The couple met while Smart was doing missionary work in France. She is 24 now. She was 14 when she was abducted and held captive for nine months.

And you have to see this. An amazing scene from Yosemite National Park. It looks like lava, but it's actually the sun hitting a waterfall. For two weeks in February, the setting sun creates this illusion at Horsetail Falls. Pretty neat.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

Now "Beat 360," our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to outdo our staffers by coming up with a better caption that we put on the blog every day.

Tonight's photo is Will Ferrell, as King Bacchus at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Staff winner tonight is Kat. Her caption: "Frank the Tank gets set to put the raucous in Bacchus."

(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS)

COOPER: Viewer winner is Clark. His caption: "Will Ferrell goes through intense auditions for 'Game of Thrones'."

(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS)

COOPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) A 360 T-shirt is on the way.

Coming up, Newt Gingrich says he wants Brad Pitt to play him in a movie. And we don't really think there's anything wrong with that. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding those who scoff at the notion that Newt Gingrich would want Brad Pitt to play him in a movie.

Newt Gingrich was asked about this on the Rich Stevens radio show. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why not go for it, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it because you both look so much alike?

GINGRICH: No, I don't look like him at all. He's thinner. He's better looking. He's younger. You asked me if I had anybody to play me in a movie. Why not go for Brad Pitt?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, there's been some tittering about this. But you know what? I think Brad Pitt would totally -- he could totally pull it off. I mean, think about it. Tons of people bought the idea that he was a man born in his '80s who aged backwards in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Are we not really not able to suspend out disbelief enough to think he could play Newt Gingrich?

Of course, if this hypothetical movie happens and Pitt isn't available, they could always go with Bobby Moynihan, who's been playing Gingrich on "SNL."

Or back in the day, Chris Farley did a superb Gingrich. Here he is from 1995, showing up at a House meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS FARLEY, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": All right. Here we go. Let's show Americans how many bills a Republican Congress can pass in 10 minutes when we're not hampered by bizarre, weird Democrats.

How about, even though we had nothing to do with it, we take credit for ending the baseball strike, huh? Let's change "Hail to the Chief" to "Hail to the Speaker," huh? HR-424, to make "Saturday Night Live's" ratings better. All in favor?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The late great Chris Farley.

Anyway, my point is this: so what if Pitt and Gingrich doesn't look anything alike? Gingrich was asked who he'd want to play him in a movie, not which star he most looks like.

On that note, a spokesman for a super PAC supporting Rick Santorum says that Gingrich looks a bit like Paula Deen. I'm not sure I actually see the resemblance there.

But I do see this one. "The Daily Show" and others have pointed out a similarity between Gingrich and Dwight from "The Office." Here's Gingrich in his younger years on the left and Dwight as played by Rainn Wilson on the right. Only a matter of time until there's a Schrute-Gingrich bobblehead.

This all got me thinking, if they ever make a "RidicuList" movie, I think I'd like Jon Hamm from "Mad Men" to play me. Although I'd probably look a little bit more like a different character from "Mad Men," Roger Sterling, you see there. Sadly so.

Some people even think I look like this cat. We talked about this when it first came on the Web site TotallyLooksLike.com, and I actually kind of agree.

And I'm sorry, but I can't show that without showing you this. Perhaps the most famous animal celebrity combination -- sorry, let's see that again. Makes me giggle every time. The most famous animal celebrity combination of them all, Larry King. And this monkey.

"Curious George, you're on with Bill Maher. What's your question? The monkey for the hour."

I think that pretty much sums it up, whether it's a monkey playing Larry King or Brad Pitt as an 80-year-old baby, just remember, anything is possible in the movies.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.