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Charges Dropped Against Former Duke Lacrosse Players; NBC Cancels 'Imus'; Interview With Jesse Jackson

Aired April 11, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're talking about it. We're talking about it. So are millions of Americans: three former Duke lacrosse, first accused of rape, then lesser offenses, now cleared of all charges; and, just tonight, MSNBC pulling the plug on Don Imus -- each story fueled by an explosive mixture of outrage, wounded feelings, and race.
Duke in a moment, including a talk with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who led a campaign against the three players. The question now: Did he rush to judgment?

First, though lights out for Don Imus -- NBC canceling the cable simulcast of his radio broadcast, effective immediately -- NBC News president Steve Capus saying the decision came after consulting with many employees. It also comes as more big advertisers pull their spots, all in reaction to what Imus said last week, calling players on the Rutgers women's basketball team -- quote -- "nappy-headed hos."

We begin with reaction from Amy Holmes, who wrote speeches for Republican Bill Frist back when he was in the Senate -- she's in Washington -- in Chicago, radio talk show host and CNN contributor Roland Martin, and,, in Seattle, Michael Medved, media critic, self- described conservative curmudgeon, and a host of a national syndicated radio program as well.

Good to see you all.

Amy, let me start with you.

Imus has been dropped. For now, he still has his radio show. Was this the right decision? Is it enough?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it was the correct decision for MSNBC.

Let's keep in mind that this is a news network, and it's not an entertainment network. And Don Imus has been trying to defend himself that he's an entertainer.

Look, you know, I have known Steve Capus to be a very good and decent person. He was very encouraging of me when I first started out in television. I'm sure this is a painful decision for everyone at the network, but it was the correct one.

A. COOPER: Roland, is this really about advertisers starting to pull out and a tipping point was reached? ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.

I mean, there's no doubt that, if the advertisers had stuck with him, the show would be there. I mean, these shows are all about money. For MSNBC, according to Carol Costello earlier on "THE SITUATION ROOM," she said that it generated $8.6 million. It only cost them half-a-million dollars.

So, there's no doubt: the protest, then moving to the advertisers. Understand, Anderson, they -- everybody wants to protect their brand, whether you're MSNBC, whether you're CNN, whether you're the advertisers. And, so, when your brand is going to take a hit, you move to protect the brand.

A. COOPER: Michael, has this gone too far? Has it not gone far enough?


What's really peculiar about this is that Don Imus apologized promptly. He used horrible language. He did a revolting attack, but didn't stick with it and keep bashing at it.

Look, there are people on national TV now saying that 9/11 was an inside job, which seems to me a much more outrageous thing to say, and don't apologize for it. The fact that he used crude language...

MARTIN: Who is this, Michael?


A. COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead.


MEDVED: Yes. The fact that he used crude language and insulted some very sympathetic people -- and I think that is what makes this thing different, is that the Rutgers team came forward. They themselves were tearful. They were hurt. They were wounded. They were very sympathetic. Don Imus is not.

But it does seem to me that the penalty that he's paying right now, losing his TV broadcast, is excessive and way disproportionate.


HOLMES: You know, Michael, it's surprises to me to hear you say that...


HOLMES: ... because have I read a lot of your writing about the -- you know, the continual denigration and it seems to be lowering, lowering of standards in our culture.

I remember reading something that you said one year. The same year that "Sleepless in Seattle" came out and "Basic Instinct" came out, "Sleepless in Seattle" actually made more money. So, you have been a very -- a strong champion for raising standards in our political discourse and in our culture.

MEDVED: Absolutely so. But that's one of the reasons I don't choose...


A. COOPER: Let Michael answer.

MEDVED: That's one of the reasons I don't choose to listen to Don Imus.

And that, it seems to me, is the appropriate thing. He has been rude and crude and in your face since he started on radio. And that brings him up to the line. This time, he clearly went over the line. But, again, there was a recognition.

There's another host on MSNBC on now, who was a guest on my radio show, and, on my radio show, used the F-word and the S-word. Now, he still has his show. And it seems to me that the -- singling out Don Imus on this particular occasion, somehow -- and it's a mystery, Amy. Maybe you can figure it out. I'm not sure I can.


MEDVED: Why is it that so many of these racially tinged incidents have to do, including the Duke case, by the way, with sports?

A. COOPER: Roland, I know you want to get in.


Well, first of all, it's not -- Anderson, this is not just a racist issue. This is a sexist issue. He has a history of making these comments. Let's not treat this as an isolated incident.

And, again, Michael, you talk about his history of this. Don Imus is no longer a shock jock. He is now a respected member of the media. He hosted the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. He no longer is a guy who is in the corner making the comments.

MEDVED: Very controversial.

MARTIN: That's the difference. That's the difference. That's the difference.

HOLMES: And I would add is that his -- his remarks were not merely outrageous, edgy, pushing the edge. These were clear racial slurs.

MEDVED: Absolutely right.

HOLMES: And not only that -- not only that; it got into territory of racial taxonomy, that the women of Rutgers, by being dark-skinned, were somehow less human than the women in Tennessee, which, again, is another issue has been lost in all of this, is that, for the women of Tennessee, their championship...

MARTIN: Very true.

HOLMES: ... has been tainted. Their experience, what should be a joyous moment for them, has been dragged into the association with Don Imus, who has wrecked this for a lot of people.


But one of the things, Amy, you understand that, for those of us who do hours and hours of broadcasting every week -- and Don Imus is certainly in that category -- what remains a mystery to me is how this became a national issue. He didn't punch and punch and punch and keep on this. Somebody was listening. They said, can you believe Imus said that?

And then it became this huge national issue. Immediately, when it did, he realized that he was in trouble. He realized he had done the wrong thing. And, other than asking somebody to apologize, to offer to meet with the people, one of the suggestions was that he donate a year of his salary, which I think is $10 million, one of the reasons it's hard to feel sorry for him, a year of his salary to a charity that the Rutgers Knights would choose.

Look, my mother was a -- may she rest in peace -- was a Rutgers alumna. I also think it's horribly unfair that these young wonderful young women are tarred by this entire controversy. But it wasn't Don Imus who made this a national controversy.


MARTIN: Michael, how are you skipping over critical facts? Michael you're skipping over critical facts.

MEDVED: Which ones?

MARTIN: He made the comments on Wednesday, in terms of calling them nappy-headed hos. He did not apologize immediately.

HOLMES: Correct.

MARTIN: He waited 48 hours.

HOLMES: Correct.

MARTIN: So, that's first.


A. COOPER: Wait. Roland, let -- finish -- let Roland finish.

MARTIN: Michael, it became a controversy when the National Association of Black Journalist issued a release calling for him to atone for the comments.

But, Michael, here's the other issue. What happens is, when you make a comment, and then, all of a sudden, the curtain is open and then all of your stuff is exposed, that really is how this rose up. A lot of folks didn't know about Imus. But, when they heard about this comment, and heard what McGuirk said, then we heard about the past, then, all of a sudden, you saw a crescendo. That was the difference.

A. COOPER: Amy, I want to give you a chance. And then we have got to move on. Amy.

HOLMES: And, you know, as we have been saying all week, that being a radio show host, having a television show, is not a right; it's a privilege.

And I personally believe that Don Imus abused that privilege. And MSNBC, as a news broadcast station, they made the correct decision to say, we're not going to associate with someone who would have racial slurs popping out of his mouth -- and, apparently, there is a long history of this -- to say, we don't need to have that associated with our network. We don't need to give him a paycheck for it.

MARTIN: That's right.

HOLMES: We don't need to subsidize or finance this kind of language.

A. COOPER: Michael, I want to give you the final thought. Do you think that this is a sort of mob mentality?


And I think that this is -- look, I'm not a Don Imus fan. I mean, in the past, he has attacked everybody. He once said that the term "thieving Jews" was redundant. And he has never apologized for that in particular.

So -- but the point is, this is why people choose to watch the Don Imus show. I think this entire controversy has absorbed the nation in a very peculiar way. And it partially is because of the fascination and the sympathy, rightly so, for the young women of Rutgers.

What if the young women of Rutgers had simply said, we accept Don Imus' apology? Would he still be fired over this? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, he is going to end up on satellite radio with Howard Stern, who does more offensive stuff than this every single day.

A. COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.

Michael Medved, it's good to have you on the program.

MEDVED: Thank you.

A. COOPER: Amy Holmes, as well. HOLMES: Thank you.

A. COOPER: Roland Martin, thanks, as well -- interesting discussion.

MARTIN: Thank you.

A. COOPER: We are going to be taking your calls in the next hour of 360. We're going to put up the number and open the lines in just a few moments.

Last night on the program, a viewer asked whether Don Imus might face any legal consequences for what he said, specifically from the FCC. We didn't really have an answer then.

So, today, we asked CNN's Tom Foreman to investigate. Take a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beyond the sponsors bailing out and the critics piling on, could Don Imus pay a monetary price for his words? Did he violate broadcast regulations and defamation laws?

Legal experts say not likely. Making a false statement about a private citizen is illegal, if you intend to cause humiliation, ridicule, or genuine harm. The problem is, Imus' comments were so obviously untrue, suing him could be difficult, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Imus could say, first of all, this was simply an opinion. And, second, he could say it was just a parody of opinion. Both statements of pure opinion and parodies are protected under the First Amendment. So, it's very unlikely that a lawsuit would succeed.

FOREMAN: Then there is the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates all TV and radio broadcasters who use the public airwaves.

As cable TV and satellite radio, which are largely free of those FCC constraints, have won audiences with shows featuring sex and violence, broadcast TV and radio have tried to keep up. And complaints about indecent programs have shot up.


HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So, let me get down it to.


FOREMAN: Comments by Howard Stern drew fines from the FCC, before he went to satellite radio.

Some popular network TV shows are under scrutiny. And who could forget Janet Jackson's extra point at the Super Bowl? But FCC officials are not commenting on Imus.

And "Chicago Tribune" columnist Clarence Page doesn't expect they will.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": The FCC certainly polices the airwaves, but they tend to have a light touch. They police it for decency, for excessive violence. But, when it comes to qualitative examinations of words that some people find objectionable, there's really not much of a precedent here.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, even without governmental or legal consequences, Imus is being punished. Some big-name politicians, his favorite guests, are distancing themselves. And the controversy is not over.

(voice-over): So, Imus may yet find that free speech can be costly.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


A. COOPER: It may surprise you, but, in terms of listeners, the Imus program doesn't even make it to the top 10.

When it comes to influential listeners, however, not to mention the big names who regularly get up early to spar with Imus on the air, that is a different story, at least it has been until now.

John Leo is a writer and critic who calls these people Don Imus' enablers.

He joins me now.

A. COOPER: What do you mean by they're -- he's -- they are his enablers?

JOHN LEO, SENIOR FELLOW, THE MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: He couldn't have gotten away with using terminology like this for, what, 15, 20 years, if he didn't have powerful friends in the media and political world who protected him.

A. COOPER: They give him a pass?

LEO: Oh, yes. They are enablers, protectors. He calls people Jew-boys, lesbos. And he calls blacks apes and chimps and gorillas. Well, you can't do that for 15 years unless you have powerful people who say, that's good old Imus. It's not -- it doesn't count.


A. COOPER: Why do you think they let him get away with it?

LEO: It's a powerful show. It's a very important show in Washington.


A. COOPER: It sells books.

LEO: Sure.

A. COOPER: It has a wide audience.

LEO: Sure.

And you're certified as a first-rate journalist if you get on that show. So, no one wants to give that up. Cokie Roberts tried to give it up, said she would never -- repeat, never -- go on again. And then she was back, after Imus abused her for an entire week. So...

A. COOPER: I never listened to the show, but did anyone challenge him on this kind of language ever?

LEO: I don't think so. I'm not sure anybody really ever called him on it.

Clarence Page made him pledge that he would not call blacks gorillas anymore. That was seven years ago. I don't think he stopped.

A. COOPER: Were you surprised by the turn of events today, that MSNBC dropped the simulcast?

LEO: Yes.

I think the whole uproar is a surprise, because, if you have been abusing blacks, gays, Jews, and women for 20 years, and then you suddenly find out they're reacting to your terminology, you must -- he must be in shock, because they should -- we should have reacted to this a long time ago.

A. COOPER: I want to read you something -- well, you will know it, because you wrote it. It's in your "Wall Street Journal" piece today.

You said: "Jeff Greenfield once said that appearing on 'Imus' is like being an important novelist excerpted in 'Playboy.' You wish to be judged by your brilliant writing, not your proximity to the centerfold mammaries. But this raises the question of what the pols and journalists are doing when they go on Imus' show. Are they elevating our political culture or debasing it by legitimating -- legitimating an unusually low level of public discourse?"

What do you think the answer is?

LEO: Well, I think they are enabling.

If I quoted something in my column from the American Renaissance Party, the Nazis, I would hear about it from everyone. And I think he never hears about it, because he has got all these powerful journalists around who say it's OK.

A. COOPER: Do you think CBS Radio will follow suit with what MSNBC did today?

LEO: I don't know.

I mean, I'm not eager to see him lose his job. But I think he should be called on it. We should protect the culture. We should not let people go around calling blacks gorillas and abusing gays and women like this. It's...

A. COOPER: He talked about the idea of putting -- of having a -- a black person on the set as part of his team.


A. COOPER: You -- you...

LEO: Well, that's a different kind of protection. If journalists don't work, you get a black person to protect you. I don't think that's the way it works, you know?

No matter how many people, blacks, around you, if you're calling them gorillas during the program, you have made a mistake.

A. COOPER: Do you think those people who do continue to go on the show -- I mean, there have been a lot of people -- Paul Begala was on the show today. I have heard a number of people have already appeared. John McCain said he would appear. Do you think they should be held accountable?

LEO: I think so. I think they will begin to peel off, too.

Barack Obama was on, what, three or four days ago. I don't think he can go on again, and now that it's totally public that he abuses blacks daily on that show.

A. COOPER: Right. And he said -- I believe he said -- it was today -- that he would not be going on it.

What do you think it says about, though, America that this show has been so popular so long, and that some of the biggest, most popular radio hosts are the -- that guy Savage, who...

LEO: Yes.

A. COOPER: ... says some pretty tough things?

LEO: Well, they're all over the top.

I think the average American doesn't know that Imus says this thing. First of all, if you say something in print, it gets looked up on the Internet. It gets faxed. It gets xeroxed.

But, if you say something on the radio, it goes through one ear and out the other. And people are not quite sure. It took me a day- and-a-half to come up with my six horrible examples of what Imus says all the time, because they're not in print anywhere. So, that means the journalism is not doing its job in covering what he says. A. COOPER: It was a good piece in "The Wall Street Journal."

John Leo, appreciate you coming on. Thanks so much.

LEO: Thank you, Anderson.

A. COOPER: Nice to meet you.

On the radar tonight, we have gotten literally hundreds of e- mails on this story, a couple thousand alone last night.

Here's a quick sampling of some of reaction on our blog.

Pete in Wisconsin wrote: "Imus was only doing what he was hired to do, be shocking. We have in our society professional whiners who are constantly on the lookout for excuses to whine and complain."

Linda in Colorado says: "It's time for all of us to be kinder to each other, in our words and actions. Is that so hard?" she asks -- just some of the response we have been getting on the blog.

Straight ahead tonight, we are going to be taking your calls on the Imus affair. That's in the next hour of 360 -- toll-free number, 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639, or e-mail us at

Next, the other story causing a lot of attention today: three former Duke lacrosse players, white, accused of sexually assaulting an African-American woman, accused, charged, and, today, cleared.


A. COOPER (voice-over): Charges dropped, and more.

ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations.

A. COOPER: Declaring the players innocent, declaring the DA negligent -- the reaction, repercussions and the rage, after today's blockbuster announcement.

Also, he led the marches against the players. Did Jesse Jackson lead a rush to judgment fueled by race? We will ask him -- ahead on 360.



A. COOPER: Well, the other big story we are following tonight, and one also very much involving questions of race, is the Duke lacrosse case.

Today, in a stunning move, all the charges of the three former lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer, were dropped. One of the young men said it was like going to hell and back.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the latest.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The three former Duke lacrosse players, along with their families, finally heard what they had insisted from the beginning was the truth.

ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals with are innocent of these charges.

CARROLL: During an emotional news conference, the three players described what it feels like to be publicly vindicated.

DAVID EVANS, FORMER DUKE UNIVERSITY LACROSSE PLAYER: It's been 395 days since this nightmare began. And, finally, today, it's come to a closure.

COLLIN FINNERTY, FORMER DUKE UNIVERSITY LACROSSE PLAYER: Knowing I had the truth on my side was the most comforting thing of all throughout the past year.

CARROLL: Collin Finnerty, Dave Evans and Reade Seligmann never wavered from their original statements to police that they had not raped an exotic dancer hired to perform at a team party last spring.

READE SELIGMANN, FORMER DUKE UNIVERSITY LACROSSE PLAYER: This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed.

CARROLL: The rape charges had already been dropped, but, in a dramatic news conference, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he was also dismissing the remaining kidnapping and assault charges.

R. COOPER: We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse, and a failure to verify serious allegations.

CARROLL: Cooper called Michael Nifong, the Durham district attorney who originally brought the case, a rogue prosecutor who had overreached his authority.

R. COOPER: The Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in this case where caution would have served justice better than bravado, and, in the rush to condemn a community and a state, lost the ability to see clearly.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys also criticized how the media initially covered the case.

JIM COONEY, ATTORNEY FOR READE SELIGMANN: If they had done what journalists are supposed to do and spoken truth to power, they could have slowed this train down. CARROLL: But the harshest criticism was leveled against Nifong, who had publicly criticized the players for months, but, then, when the allegations began unraveling, asked the attorney general to take over the case. Nifong now faces ethics charges on allegations he mishandled the case and kept exculpatory evidence from the defense. Nifong hasn't publicly responded to those allegations.

Reade Seligmann says, Nifong didn't do enough to uphold the moral obligations of his office.

SELIGMANN: If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can't imagine what they would do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys say the final act of justice should be to remove Nifong from office and have him disbarred.


A. COOPER: What does the accuser's families say about the charges being dropped?

CARROLL: Well, a relative of the accuser basically told us that the family is very, very angry that the attorney general chose not to pursue these charges. They believe something happened. They also believe that the attorney general should have pursued the charges.

And, also, Anderson, I should also point out that we also tried to reach out to Michael Nifong. Very late today, his attorney released a statement, basically saying that he had full support of what the attorney general had said in terms of dropping and dismissing the charges. However, that spokesman for Nifong did not indicate, in any way, shape or form, what he thought of what the attorney general had to say about Nifong's handling of the case -- Anderson.

A. COOPER: Jason Carroll, appreciate the reporting. Thanks, Jason.

So, how this case was handled and how it ended has surprised a lot of legal experts and shocked some of them, including our own senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who joins us now.

What surprised you?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean...


A. COOPER: Just that it got this far?

TOOBIN: That it got this far, and, even today, that the attorney general didn't say what prosecutors usually say when they dismiss cases, which is, there's insufficient evidence to proceed.

What he said was, these three guys are innocent. That's something prosecutors almost never say. And that just shows what a bad, bad case this was.

A. COOPER: And, I mean, basically, he said that the prosecutor, Nifong, was a rogue prosecutor.

TOOBIN: It was outrageous, what Nifong did.


A. COOPER: He hid evidence. He...

TOOBIN: I mean, that is the core of the ethics allegation against him, that he withheld or hid exculpatory evidence, specifically the DNA.

But, just on the level of basic competence, think about what he did here. This was a case involving three kids who were not threats to flee. I mean, they weren't going anywhere. They weren't going to flee the country. So, instead of a waiting for all the evidence to come in, to look at the DNA, to examine the accuser's testimony, he indicts them all in a week or two. That's just outrageous. And he paid...


A. COOPER: Was it politics? He was running for reelection.

TOOBIN: You know, I usually resist the most cynical interpretation, but I don't see how you can interpret this any other way

Michael Nifong was in very contested primary to be Durham district attorney. He needed to cultivate the black vote. This was a way to do it. He did it too fast and he did it irresponsibly. But it garnered the support that he needed. He won his primary. I hate to think that is true, but I don't see any other explanation.

A. COOPER: He also did this rush, as -- what the attorney general called a rush to judgment, without even meeting with the accuser. It would be one thing if he was so bowled over by her story and her -- her legitimacy in meeting her. But he didn't even meet with her.

TOOBIN: That's why there was sort of this kind of political corruption -- I'm not saying he was on the take or anything -- but this kind of improper motive of the campaign, combined with basic incompetence.

Why don't you meet with your witnesses? I was a prosecutor. What you do is, you meet with witnesses. That's the basic job of a prosecutor. So, you combine the improper motive with the just rank incompetence, and you get a fiasco like this.


A. COOPER: I talked to some of the defense attorneys. We are going to hear from them in the next hour of 360. But they seemed to indicate that they're -- they believe they might have a case against -- going against the prosecutor.

TOOBIN: They might.

You know, I think it's very tough. The idea of sovereign immunity, that the government is immune from suit, is a very strong idea in government, can only be overcome under very limited circumstances.

A. COOPER: They say he sort of gave some of that up by acting more along the lines of a police officer.

TOOBIN: It's hard to sue police officers, too.

I mean, it's not impossible. I think, just speaking as a human being, not as a lawyer, maybe it's time for these three kids, three young men, to get on with their lives, rather than filing more lawsuits with very small chance of success. Why not take this victory, this tremendous victory, go out and live the lives they planned on doing anyway?

A. COOPER: Could there be charges against this accuser? Clearly, according to the attorney, she lied.


TOOBIN: The attorney general thought very hard about that. That was a very interesting part of his press conference.

And he said, we ultimately decided not to do it.

And then he alluded to what seemed clearly to be aspects of her mental health history that were so problematic that, basically, they couldn't hold her responsible, the way they could a rational person.

But you're right. It could be done. I suppose it's still theoretically possible. But they decided not to.

A. COOPER: Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks.


A. COOPER: Even with the scandal, Duke continues to be a top choice for college students. Here's the "Raw Data."

According to "The New York Times," this year, Duke received nearly 20,000 applications. More than 2,000 were from African- Americans. That's a record number, they say. More than 5,000 were Asian or Asian-American. Another 1,300 were from Latinos -- the chances of getting in, around one in five.

Ahead on 360, much more on the Duke lacrosse case and also on Don Imus. We're taking your calls again tonight -- toll-free number, 877- 648-3639. Call us if you have a question or want to share an opinion about either story. Send us an e-mail as well at Just click on the instant feedback link. First, I will talk to someone who has played a role in both stories, Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Jackson. We will see what he thinks about today's developments ahead.

Stay tuned.



ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.


A. COOPER: With those words, North Carolina attorney Roy Cooper vindicated three former Duke lacrosse players who spent the last year maintaining their innocence all along.

The dramatic collapse of the case came on the same day that MSNBC pulled Don Imus from its lineup, both stories involving race, and both involving Jesse Jackson in different ways. Early on, he put his support behind the accuser in the Duke case, even offering to pay for her college tuition. He's also organized protests in Chicago against Don Imus. He joins me now.

Reverend Jackson, thanks for being on the program.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: You know, Anderson, let's put this -- I never led a demonstration for her. I never went to North Carolina. That is simply not the truth.

When we heard about the case and people that we know in North Carolina who said a young lady was engaging in this act of danced naked before these men, as a way of paying her way through college and supporting these kids. We say, if she has to strip naked to go through college, we will get her a scholarship. We never went there, were never involved in that case.

A. COOPER: I appreciate you clarifying that. You did speak publicly, though, about paying for her education. Now that the state attorney general says essentially that she was lying all along, do you still plan to pay for her education?

JACKSON: You know, I never met her. I've never talked with her. Nothing really about her. What I do know is it was a mess for these young men were involved in paying to watch women dance naked.

They were accused of molesting her sexually. They were freed of that, and that's a good thing. Because no one should have to go to jail on false information.

One young man said something tonight. He said, had we not had the resources, we'd really be in a jam. Many poor people everyday go to jail because some prosecutor puts forth a bad case. I've got a case in Chicago right now where a guy is on Death Row because they could not defend themselves. And so...

A. COOPER: And Reade Seligmann, who said that today -- and now, Read Seligmann, who said that today, wants to go to law school and help others.

But just so we're on the record, are you planning to still offer to pay for that woman's education?

JACKSON: No, I don't know. I don't think she's in school anymore, because she kind of went away. That's kind of the mysterious dimension of this whole thing. She went away some place.

But the idea in general was, if a young woman has to strip naked before men to satisfy them, to pay her way through college, why don't we give her a scholarship so she can go to school and doesn't have to dance before naked men?

A. COOPER: So the offer doesn't stand?

JACKSON: No. While they're free of the sexual molestation, they're not freed of the burden of the at-risk behavior. I hope that they at least learn that lesson. Men should not engage in misogynist acts to pay women to dance naked before them. That they must overcome, because that's not a good thing. There is no -- there's no virtue in that.

A. COOPER: When this case started more than a year ago, you said, and I quote, "There's more evidence that violence occurred to her than she's the lead of a hoax."

The prosecutor today said that the original prosecutor, that there was a rush to judgment. Do you feel that you rushed to judgment in support of this woman? Do you feel you owe the Duke lacrosse players an apology?

JACKSON: No, not really. But if there's anything I can do to help mitigate their misery, I will. We all followed the prosecutor's case, and there was lots, at that time, circumstantial evidence that kept coming out about what happened. And we followed that case.

I never got involved, Anderson, in the case, because I never went to North Carolina, never met her, never met them. I simply said, if in fact, her basis for dancing strip naked to satisfy these men was to get some money, let's just send the girl to school and take away that burden.

We got no deeper in the case than that. So to attach us any further than that is simply not the truth.

A. COOPER: Would -- would you have supported -- if -- there's a lot -- we've been getting a lot of e-mails on this today, and there are a lot of people saying, look, if the accuser had been white and players black, would you have offered to pay for her education? Would you have gotten as involved to the extent you did? JACKSON: You know, when I brought Americans home from Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Cuba, not a one was black. They were all white. The Americans I brought home from Iraq, they were white. The Americans I brought home from Yugoslavia, they were white. The Americans I brought home from Cuba, they were white. The only victim was black. And so, of course, ethics transcends ethnicity. Of course that's true.

A. COOPER: There also was -- I mean, one of the things the attorneys are talking about is this rush to judgment and the media and in the public discourse.

They cited you, as well, as part of this on TV shows and editorials. You did suggest that there was a wall of silence put up by the white lacrosse players, and he repeatedly talked about their past misdemeanors criminal really talked about the arrest record of the accuser.

In looking back in how you spoke about this, do you have any regrets?

JACKSON: No. Well, there were past -- there were past misdemeanor charges. These athletes often feel entitled paying money to watch women dance naked before them. Now, did they go as far as molesting her? Apparently not.

A. COOPER: But if that's a crime, though, then most of the men in America should be arrested, because there's strip joints and -- you know, a couple blocks from my home.

JACKSON: Most men in America don't do that, and shouldn't do that. And when they do that, it is never right. In fact, when you reduce women dancing before you naked, it's the first step for domestic violence.

And so let's not -- while they're free, apparently, of this charge of sexual molestation, and that's a good thing, let's not make a virtue of men paying women to dance naked before them. That's not a virtue.

A. COOPER: On the Imus case, were you surprised that MSNBC pulled the plug today? Do you think CBS is going to follow suit?

JACKSON: I think they will follow suit, A, because this was such an egregious case, Anderson. Here's a case of these innocent young women.

You know, honor and suffering is redemptive. And this is not a slip of the lip but a conversation. The producer apparently said, "These are hard core hos," as if unredeemable prostitutes.

"No, they are nappy headed hos," as in a disparaging appearance.

"No, they look like velociraptors."

"No, they look like raptors. They look like the Grizzlies of Memphis." They look like animals.

Well, they did the same thing with Venus and Serena Williams: they shouldn't be in "Playboy". They should be in "National Geographic".

When Hillary went to speak before the black groups in Selma about three weeks ago, "Well, next year, she'll be having cornrows on with gold teeth making gang signs."

So this kind of pattern of degradation reached a limit. And I'm surprised that the producers didn't catch it before the public caught it.

A. COOPER: Jesse Jackson, appreciate you being on the program. Thanks very much, sir.

JACKSON: Thank you.

A. COOPER: You can catch our coverage of the Duke case on the new 360 daily podcast. Download tomorrow morning, Or just get it on iTunes.

Coming up tonight, more on the growing fallout from what Don Imus said and what one of his networks just did.


COOPER (voice-over): Pulling the plug on Imus. Millions are talking, and so can you. We're taking your calls at 877-648-3639.

Also an 80-year-old who feels half his age. Want to know his secret? Three-sixty M.D. Sanjay Gupta travels the globe and brings back the recipe for living longer and living better, when 360 continues.


A. COOPER: Covering a number of serious topics tonight, here's another: staying healthy as we age. Tonight, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta begins a three-part series on how decisions that we make everyday add or subtract years from our lives. It's the focus of his new book, "Chasing Life". Sanjay will tell us more about it in a minute. First, he takes us to what you could call a longevity hot spot.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the Nequoya (ph) Peninsula in Costa Rica, families are close, hard work is the norm and there's no such thing as retirement. Take this man, Avincio (ph). He's 80 and still wakes at 4:30 every morning to work on this ranch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This 80-year-old has the vigor of a 40-year- old.

GUPTA: Stan Buettner and his research team are looking at men like Avincio (ph). They're comparing Costa Rican men over 60 to American and European men over 60.

They found that the Costa Ricans are four times more likely to reach age 100. That's why Buettner calls Costa Rica a blue zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because most of longevity is dictated by our lifestyle as opposed to our genes, we believe that by going to the blue zones and methodically looking at what these people do, we can distill out a de facto formula for longevity.

GUPTA: Costa Ricans on the Nequoya (ph) Peninsula eat a healthy diet, plenty of vegetables and fruits like papaya and citrus fruits. The tortillas they eat are made using a special process that takes the husk off the corn and puts more calcium into it, helping to keep bones stay strong into old age.

Buettner's team has also studied why people live long and healthy lives in Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, and Lorna Linda, California. So far, Buettner says his blue zone studies show how to add eight good years to your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eat a plant based diet, mostly plants. No. 2, regular low intensity exercise. And then No. 3, invest in family and friends.

GUPTA: Buettner hopes the blue zones will ultimately teach people how to extend their golden years.


A. COOPER: Sanjay, the people who live in these blue zones, what strikes you most about them?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, when you talk about their diets, first of all. You saw sort of what was happening in Costa Rica. They have these tortillas, and they're really calcium rich. They make them on their own all the time.

They're always working. I mean, a lot of these places don't even have a word for retirement. So that, in combination with the food, makes a big difference.

You talk about Sardinia. You saw the wine there. All kinds of different wines with these polyphenols. These are these antioxidants that really get in there and scrub the arteries away.

If you live in some of these places, you're much more likely to reach 100 than if you live in many other places, including the United States.

A. COOPER: What about these other blue zones, like Loma Linda, California?

GUPTA: You know, it was interesting with Loma Linda, particularly. We really researched this quite a bit. But I think more than anything, it has to do with the fact that they have such a high concentration of Seventh Day Adventists over there. They don't smoke. They don't drink. Many of them are vegetarians. They really, really take the Sabbath off.

And I mentioned that only because so much of the book and the documentary is about the idea of stress. And are you able to truly decompress? People say a change of activity is a form of rest. But are you able to take a day off and not do anything else? They say they are, especially on the Sabbath.

A. COOPER: Are you able to do that?

GUPTA: I don't know, Anderson. I thought a lot about this, as well. You know, I'm in the process. Certainly not while writing the book because you have to spend every weekend and every evening writing.

But I think I've been able to better deal with stress. I think that's -- I don't let it get to me as much anymore. I still have it, but I do really look at change of activity as a form of rest

A. COOPER: That's just what you tell yourself: a change of activity is a form of rest. Really?

GUPTA: Yes, I go from being in the operating room to television or whatever.

A. COOPER: That's not rest. That's what a workaholic tells himself

GUPTA: I feel OK. I'm going to be around as long as you, Anderson. How about that.

A. COOPER: Yes. When you're old and gray like me. Sanjay, thanks. Congratulations on the book.

GUPTA: Appreciate it. Thank you.

A. COOPER: Check out Dr. Sanjay Gupta's two part investigative series, "Chasing Life" this Saturday and Sunday at 8: p.m. Eastern, the secrets for living a long and healthy life. That's this weekend, only on CNN.

Plus, pick up his new book, "Chasing Life" in bookstores or order it online. I have my copy. I'm going to read it this weekend.

Up next, the raw politics of war. John McCain, under fire for sugarcoating the situation in Baghdad, firing a new assault.

Plus, the "Shot of the Day". Check out the truck driver on the left side of your screen. Yikes. Slow down, guy. What's the rush? When 360 continues.


A. COOPER: Certainly never a dull day in the race for the White House. Senator John McCain still is scraping his recent Iraq remarks off his shoes, and Senator Barack Obama says he'll send his regrets the next time Don Imus calls. It is all "Raw Politics", reported tonight by Candy Crowley -- Candy.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anderson, John McCain leads "Raw Politics" tonight.

It's his war, and he's sticking with it. McCain, pummeled for saying some areas of Baghdad are safe to walk in, has toned it down a bit, talking now of, quote, "glimmers of progress."

In a major speech on Iraq, the Arizona senator also assaulted Democrats for failing to pass a bill to fund the war. He called it reckless and accused Democrats of putting politics ahead of policy.

The speech is one of three McCain intends to make before announcing his presidential candidacy this month.

Fred Thompson has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer, but he says he's in remission and symptom-free. Thompson is a former Tennessee senator and actor who's thinking about running for a president. In political terms, this is called clearing the decks, getting everything out there before somebody else does it for you.

A friend says the revelation should be taken as a clue to how seriously Thompson is a pondering a run. Thompson's doctor says he tells all his patients to live a normal life, although one could ask how normal it is to run for president.

And look who's got a respect for Rutgers campaign going? It went up on the Clinton campaign page today. To send a message to the team, all you have to do is put in your name and e-mail address. By the bay, Barack Obama says he'll never go on Imus again, telling "ABC News" if anybody on his staff ever said something like that, he'd fire them.

The Senate has passed a bill to loosen restrictions on federally funded stem cell research, but it's nonstarter at the White House. Still, with elections just a short 19 months away it never hurts to make a point.

In Washington, to talk up environmental issues, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says California is making environmentalism sexy and mainstream, instead of a guilty drive movement for tree-huggers.

Quotes the Terminator," Environmentalists were no fun. The were like prohibitionists at a fraternity party. We look this guy. And that, Anderson, is "Raw Politics".


COOPER: It certainly is. More on Imus' story ahead. He's been booted from TV for now, but the controversy does continues.

Plus, all charges dropped in the Duke lacrosse case. So what happens next? But first, our "Shot of the Day", some high speed trouble in traffic. What is this truck driver thinking? See him there on the left, going right across the lanes. Bad driver, very, very bad. We'll be right back.



A. COOPER: A new plan to land.

BECK: A new place to land. Time now for "The Shot of the Day", a high speed chase caught on tape in Israel. We highlighted the trouble maker on the left side of your screen.

A teen stole it, didn't want to stop for traffic, so he just smashed into cars in his way. Twelve cars were damaged, 11 people injured. As for the driver, he is in jail.

We want you to send us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video, tell us about it: We'll put some of your best clips on the air.

And if you want another look at the "Shot of the Day" or today's headlines -- or today's headlines, "The Shot" and a couple other things, you can check out the 360 daily podcast and download it at or just get it on iTunes.

And still to come tonight, hear from the lead defense attorneys in the Duke case. Also, the new challenges Don Imus could be facing. And what do you think should happen to him. We're taking your calls when 360 continues.


COOPER: We are talking about it. Want to hear what you have to say about it. MSNBC pulling the plug on Don Imus. The firestorm over his racial remarks getting even hotter. We'll be taking your calls just ahead. The number is 877-648-3639. Again, toll free, 877-648- 3629.

Or e-mail us at But first, the other story that millions of people are talking about tonight. Like the Imus scandal, it is very much a story involving race and outrage and hurt.

Today in a stunning move, all the charges against three former Duke University lacrosse players -- accused of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer, were dropped.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the latest.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For three former Duke lacrosse players, along with their families, finally heard what they had insisted from the beginning was the truth. R. COOPER: Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

CARROLL: During an emotional news conference the three players described what it feels like to be publicly vindicated.

DAVE EVANS, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER: It's 395 days since this nightmare began, and finally today it's come to a closure.

COLLIN FINNERTY, FORMER DUKE LACROSSE PLAYER: Knowing I had the truth on my side was really the most comforting thing of all.


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