Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
American Captain Freed From Pirates; Sunday School Killer?
Aired April 13, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: rescue at sea, how Captain Richard Phillips got his freedom. There he is on board the American hospital ship the USS Boxer, alive and well, after days aboard a lifeboat held at gunpoint by pirates off the coast of Somalia, the rescue simply incredible, three sniper bullets, three dead pirates, freedom for Captain Phillips, pride for President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I am very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies that worked tirelessly to resolve this situation. I share our nation's admiration for Captain Phillips' courage, and leadership, and selfless concern for his crew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One proud president and one heck of a story that is still unfolding.
Tonight, how the Navy SEALs did what they did, how the chain of command operated, from the president on down, also, the political implications, what it means for the Obama administration.
But, first, Randi Kaye takes us inside the operation.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not far off the coast of Somalia, Captain Richard Phillips with a rifle to his back, a pirate apparently ready to pull the trigger.
For Navy snipers aboard an American warship 75 feet away, it's now or never. The head and shoulders of all three pirates on board the lifeboat are exposed. The pirate holding the gun down below in the covered lifeboat can be seen and shot only through a small window.
Just after sundown local time, 7:19 p.m., the specially trained Navy SEALs, using night-vision scopes, fire three shots. All hit their targets. Three pirates go down, each with a single shot to the head.
VICE ADMIRAL WILLIAM GORTNEY, U.S. NAVY: The on-scene commander saw that one of the pirates still held that AK-47, was very, very concerned for the captain's life, and he ordered the shots to be taken.
KAYE: The sea was choppy, the pirates' 28-foot-long lifeboat, where the captain had been held for five days, a moving target.
GORTNEY: And it was a phenomenal shot. The small boat's moving up and down a couple feet in a two- to three-foot sea state. It was at night. Just remarkable marksmanship.
KAYE (on camera): Captain Phillips had been tied up since his daring attempted escape last week. Negotiations were breaking down. And the pirates had threatened to kill him. President Barack Obama had authorized lethal force if the captain was in imminent danger.
(voice-over): When the captain's crew from his hijacked ship, the Maersk Alabama, heard the news, pure joy.
SHANE MURPHY, MAERSK ALABAMA CHIEF MATE: I just got off the phone with our captain, Richard Phillips, for the first time, and it was an extremely emotional experience for all of us to actually hear his voice.
KAYE: While the drama unfolded in the Indian Ocean, the fourth pirate that had been holding Phillips hostage was on board the American ship Bainbridge negotiating the captain's fate, that pirate now in U.S. custody.
Captain Phillips boarded the Bainbridge after his rescue, where he took this photo, released by the Navy, with the ship's captain. Phillips was then transferred to the USS Boxer for a medical exam. He's unharmed and in good condition.
To those who helped save him, only appreciation.
RICHARD PHILLIPS, RESCUED HOSTAGE: Thanks, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
PHILLIPS: Thank you very much.
KAYE: His wife, Andrea Phillips, told reporters today, her husband wants everybody to know he is -- quote -- "just a small part in this. The real heroes in this story are the U.S. military."
But no matter what the captain wants his country to believe, he will be returning home a hero. How else can you describe a man willing to trade his life for the safety of his crew?
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: The rescue was just incredible.
While this was going on, the Alabama was in the port in Mombasa in Kenya, the rest of the grateful crew thankful for their lives and fired up for America to do more against piracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURPHY: America has to be at the forefront of this. It's time for us to step in and put this to -- end to this crisis. It's a crisis. Wake up. This crew was lucky to be out of it with every one of us alive. We're not going to be that lucky again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, if America does, in fact, move to the forefront, as that man recommends, Navy SEALs would be at the tip of the sword. In a moment, how SEALs become SEALs -- a rare look inside their training program.
But, first, a retired SEAL and journalist for Current TV Kaj Larsen join us.
Kaj, three simultaneous nighttime shots from 75 feat on a rolling sea from the deck of a ship, that -- that -- it's unbelievable.
KAJ LARSEN, JOURNALIST, CURRENT TV: Yes, obviously, a very difficult scenario for anybody to operate in.
And the SEALs on board had an amazing tactical success. But you have to understand, Anderson, we train under conditions of maximum pressure with maximum intensity with maximum danger. So, those guys are prepared for this scenario.
COOPER: Are -- I mean, are there specialized snipers within a SEAL unit?
LARSEN: There are. Generally, within a SEAL platoon, you have several well-trained snipers who have been to -- through our snipers course.
COOPER: Now, some of these pirates have vowed revenge against American interests, warning they are going to kill U.S. sailors if they are among, you know, future hostages.
Where does this conflict go now? Because, I mean, it's not over. This one incident is over, but the pirates remain. The ships have still got to go through -- through that area.
LARSEN: Yes. I think you're absolutely correct, Anderson.
I mean, Plato said that only the dead see the end of war. And I think only these particular pirates have seen the end of piracy off the Somali coast. There is still the endemic problem of the lawless area of Somalia, which is a breeding ground for piracy. And you are certainly going to see more in the future.
COOPER: The problem, of course, is -- is functioning and operating militarily on the ground in Somalia.
I mean, as -- as -- as those of us who worked there in the mid- '90s know all too well, you know, what starts off as good intentions -- back in the early '90s, it was bringing food to starving people -- and we -- and the U.S. and the U.N. did save a lot of lives, but it came at a terrible costs.
And what started out as a humanitarian situation very quickly evolved into hunting for this warlord, that ended up with U.S. troops getting killed and hunted through the streets.
It's not an easy area to operate in, in Somalia today.
LARSEN: Absolutely not, Anderson. You and I have both been on the ground in Somalia. And we know that it's a country that's been torn apart by civil war.
We know that guns are rapidly available. And we know that the violence continues to escalate. They're facing a massive refugee crisis. And the U.S. has a thorny history, a complicated history, in operating in the region.
So, any administration is going to be reticent to put boots on the ground there.
COOPER: No doubt about that.
Kaj Larsen, appreciate you joining us. Thanks, Kaj.
LARSEN: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: We're going to have all the angles tonight on what went into capturing Captain Phillips' rescue, both here and online. Let us know what you think, the live chat happening now at AC360.com. Also, check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break. No reason to watch the program by yourself.
Up next: something you probably haven't seen before, unless you're Kaj Larsen or any of the select few who even try to become a Navy SEAL. We will take you inside the training program few try, fewer still make it. We're going to show you what it looks like.
Also tonight, a little girl taken, a girl -- you see her in this video her -- here -- she was murdered, and the shocking possibility that her killer is a neighbor, seemingly loving mother and Sunday school teacher. That's the last video anyone ever saw of her, the last time she was seen alive. We're going to examine the evidence in this disturbing case and look closer at what kind of woman kills.
And, later, a welcome change -- tomorrow's debut of the nation's first dog. We will have the lowdown on what kind, from whom, the name, you name it.
Plus, the president making a new friend over eggs at the White House -- actually, about 4,000 new friends, a lot of little kids on the White House lawn tonight. The annual egg roll happened. We will show you all the -- the fun.
COOPER: Well, take a look at this, new pictures taken from a Navy drone of the destroyer Bainbridge and the lifeboat that held Captain Richard Phillips. About 75 feet separated the two, as three Navy SEALs on the Bainbridge's fantail fired three shots. Three pirates fell, simultaneously killed.
The bullets traveled in about one-tenth the time it takes to blink your eyes. And the decision to shoot may have been barely -- well, it may have barely needed a heartbeat. Orders from the president allowed it all to happen, but training makes it happen, training the Navy rarely shows.
Here's Chris Lawrence with an "Up Close" look.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Navy SEAL team deploys in a California desert. But it's just one part of their training. Each of these SEALs has fired his weapon thousands of times in every way possible, bone-dry, soaking wet, sitting still, at a full run.
The Navy says a SEAL can fire more ammo in one training session than some troops do their entire careers. It's an elite group of only 2,600 men, and they're all considered expert marksmen.
COMMANDER DUNCAN SMITH, U.S. NAVY SEALS: But these are the folks that the nation counts on for those maritime special operations missions.
LAWRENCE: Finding them begins here at basic underwater demolition school, or BUDS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you get halfway, you swim buddy's got to be there to take the dumbbell from you.
LAWRENCE: It's called the toughest training in the world, six months of sheer hell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't see (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
LAWRENCE: Recruits who make it through hell week will sleep a total of four hours max over the entire five days. It's designed to push a man past his breaking point and prepare them to one day complete a mission like the one off the coast of Somalia.
There, the SEALs parachuted into the Indian Ocean and waited hours on the back deck for a split-second opportunity to shoot.
CAPTAIN DICK COUCH (RET.), U.S. NAVY: They were in a higher state of readiness. Toward the end there, I'm sure that they were locked, dialed in, waiting for that shot.
LAWRENCE: Sharpshooters like that have likely been through two tours of duty with their SEAL team.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, Jonathan. (INAUDIBLE) just passed you up. LAWRENCE: Twenty-six SEALs have been killed since September 11, but those deaths motivate this class on the morning of their five-mile swim.
LAWRENCE: More than four hours in cold, open water, each stroke a little closer to earning the SEALs trident.
CHRISTOPHER MADDOX, SEAL RECRUIT: I guess it's a piece of metal that you put on your shirt, but knowing where that piece of metal comes from, everybody that's died or gotten hurt for it, it just -- it means more to me than anything.
LAWRENCE (on camera): Instructors say it's that intense mental discipline that really separates the SEALs.
The sharpshooters on the Bainbridge would have been through a photo-imaging course, where they learned how to take pictures of their target, then surveillance training, then sniper school. Those shots they took would have been like muscle memory for them.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.
COOPER: Well, just a small sample of what it takes to become a SEAL, which, in fact, is an acronym for Sea, Air And Land. A Navy SEAL is at home in or on all three.
Up next, we will focus on the commander in chief, who kept a low profile throughout the crisis. We will look at the political benefits of how this tended, but also the peril of deeper involvement in piracy in Somalia.
Also ahead tonight, what possessed a woman to jump into a polar bear exhibit at the zoo, and what happened when she did? It's all caught on tape -- amazing rescue coming up.
Plus, look out, Captain Sully. You have got some pretty cool competition in the sky from a guy who began the flight as a passenger, but had to take over when the pilot passed out. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Are you in the descent right now, sir?
DOUG WHITE, PASSENGER: I have got a dead pilot sitting beside me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: "I have got a dead pilot sitting beside me," he said.
Later, everything you need to learn about the new first dog, his name, Bo, his pedigree, his training, and who's going to be in charge of taking care of him -- all that and more when 360 continues.
COOPER: A graphic example tonight of what America could be in for if it decides to wade deeper into the fight against piracy.
Rebels in Mogadishu today aimed mortar fire at a plane carrying that man there on the right, New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne. He was there, he and six bodyguards, to discuss the problem with Somalia's president, who runs a country where bullets rule, chaos reigns, and the last American involvement ended terribly in the mid- '90s.
That's what President Obama could have in store for him, but, for now, at least, it's the day the White House can savor.
We have the "Raw Politics" from Candy Crowley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary of transportation.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first test of an untested commander in chief was not Afghanistan or Iraq, but pirates off the Horn of Africa.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.
CROWLEY: President Obama didn't talk publicly about the hijacked U.S. flagship until it was over. The White House says he didn't want to interfere with the rescue.
But, in the aftermath, officials quickly spelled out the president's involvement, 17 briefings and two presidential directives. Friday night, he gave the military authority to use appropriate force to save the captain. Saturday morning, more U.S. forces, presumably Navy SEALs who parachuted in, got authority for potential emergency actions.
Sunday, three pirates were dead, and Captain Phillips rescued. It was an incredible show of marksmanship by Navy SEALs. And, for a president who had been questioned about his toughness and his willingness to use the U.S. military, it was a political victory.
What else would you call something that drew this on Twitter from early critic Newt Gingrich? "The Navy SEALs did exactly the right thing in rescuing the American captain. President Obama did the right thing in allowing the Navy to act."
Captain Phillips' delighted crew turned the spotlight onto a plea for better safety on the seas.
SHANE MURPHY, MAERSK ALABAMA CHIEF MATE: We would like to implore President Obama to use all of his resources and increase the commitment to ending this Somali pirate scourge.
CROWLEY: President Obama is on board, but it won't be easy. Two thousand ships a month go through the Gulf of Aden. The shipping industry wants more Navy patrols. U.S. officials want the shipping industry to arm their crews or hire security forces.
Karin Von Hippel is an international security expert.
KARIN VON HIPPEL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The shipping companies tend to pay the ransom, rather than worry about trying to arm ships or other measures that they could take. It's far cheaper for them in the long term just to pay the ransom.
CROWLEY: And every expert believes the long-term answer lies in the chaos of Somalia, perhaps aid in exchange for a Somalian crackdown on pirates and a P.R. effort to convince Somalians that the pirates they see as heroes are thugs hurting their country.
(on camera): In the short run, Captain Phillips is free, the Navy SEALs are heroes, and the man his aides love to call no-drama Obama has an early political victory as commander in chief.
Candy Crowley, Washington.
COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with senior political analyst David Gergen.
David, I mean, how big a deal is this? I mean, relatively speaking, we have got Iraq. We have got Afghanistan. This is certainly a chance for the Obama administration to feel good and then for the country to feel good, if at least for a day.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, Anderson.
He -- the president has some tough choices ahead. But one has to say up front that Barack Obama was a model of presidential leadership in the early stages of this episode. First, when -- when the captain was taken hostage, he didn't go into a lather on television, overdramatizing the issue.
Second, in order to protect innocent American life, he did authorize the use of force, but he left the decision in the hands of commanders at the point, and -- and let it -- left it to their judgment.
And, third, when it was over and successful, he didn't claim credit for it, but rather pointed to the people who had really deserved the credit. Look at all that combination, and that is a -- that is model of restraint and leadership on his part.
He has tough decisions ahead, but I think it underscores the fact that, as commander in chief, in this incident, he did very well by the United States. COOPER: Does he need to move forward in this situation? I mean, does he need to now resolve the -- the question of, you know, these other pirates, their hideouts along the coast there in Somalia, or does he just kind of move on and -- and hope it doesn't happen again?
GERGEN: No, I think, Anderson, there are times when things are thrust onto your desk as president, and you can't avoid acting on them, and this is now on his desk.
And, as important as the war in Afghanistan is, and as important as the war in Iraq is, he has to deal with it. Now, the question is how. You know, the natural temptation is to want to go in with military force and clean out those nests of pirates and just demolish them for even touching an American in the way they did.
But there are some complications. First of all, you have got 200 people from other nations already held hostage. How do you get them out safely? That means you have got to work with other nations.
And, secondly, Anderson, in his case, this is complicated by his diplomatic outreach to Muslims. You know, he's -- he's done a good job laying the groundwork, reaching out in Turkey, as we saw a few days ago. If he over-responds to this, if he uses force against Muslims in what seems an excessive way, it could totally undercut his -- his own efforts.
So, this is going to require additional finesse by the president and by his team.
COOPER: It's also a place where, I mean, the U.S. had a very bad experience there. The Clinton administration, it -- you know, the conventional wisdom is, based on what happened in Somalia with Black Hawk Down and -- and the follow on that, it limited their involvement or any involvement or reaction to genocide later on in Rwanda, because of fear of getting involved yet again on the ground in Africa.
GERGEN: Yes, that's absolutely right, Anderson.
And Mogadishu, when President Clinton was involved in that, I think the lesson out of that was the United States began increasing its missions and reducing its forces, and they got left with too few forces. And when they -- and Black Hawk, when it went down, a lot of people got killed.
In this situation, Barack Obama is going to have to be willing to use sufficient, if not a strong force, in order to make sure these pirates don't score again.
But, once more, he has to remember the outreach to the Muslims. So, I think it's really important to do this in concert with other nations, so it's not just the United States, but, rather, it's a -- it's a concert of -- of willing nations to go in there, first of all, to protect the ships.
But, secondly, you have got to take them out on the coasts. You just can't leave these people to -- to maraud out there in the -- on the seas.
COOPER: It's difficult, though.
I mean, Ethiopia has been on the ground in Somalia for the last couple of years. They have -- they have now withdrawn. They are getting killed as they're withdrawing. You have this growing Islamist insurgency now.
It's a more complex situation, and certainly one that just having U.S. boots on the ground, you know, would inflame, certainly, a lot of anger.
GERGEN: It's true, Anderson, but, you know, President Reagan also showed us that, sometimes, when you strike really hard, as we did in Libya, and you do it in a surgical way, that can send a message that scares people off.
COOPER: Good thing to remember.
David Gergen, thanks. Appreciate it.
COOPER: Coming up next: Sunday school teacher facing charges of murder. This is unbelievable, a California woman arrested for killing this little girl, just kind of skipping down the street. This is the last anyone saw of her before -- before she was killed. We will have details on that coming up.
Also tonight, a major shift in U.S. policy. President Obama easing restrictions on travel to Cuba. The question is, what does it mean for U.S./Cuba relations, and will further sanctions be lifted?
Plus, the first family, Fergie, and 4,000 kids partied at the annual White House Easter egg roll, after things got off to a slightly rough start. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MALIA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Is it on? Oh, yes.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. OBAMA: Hello, everybody.
That's Malia, our...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
B. OBAMA: ... our technical adviser.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: New, ominous developments tonight in the killing of a little Northern California girl.
The body of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was found one week ago in an irrigation pond stuffed in a suitcase. Now, over the weekend, police arrested a Sunday schoolteacher. Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa Huckaby will be arraigned tomorrow. But she may face more than one count of murder.
David Mattingly has our "Crime & Punishment" report.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The murder of little Sandra Cantu is, for many, as inconceivable as it is disturbing, last seen playing carefree outside her California home, her body, found 10 days later, stuffed in a suitcase and dropped to the bottom of a pond, her suspected kidnapper and killer, a 28-year- old neighbor and mother of her young playmate.
Melissa Huckaby is described as a loving mother and Sunday school teacher.
JOE CHAVEZ, UNCLE OF SANDRA CANTU: What was she teaching in Sunday school about God and love, huh, or how to treat your fellow human being, compassion? What kind of Sunday school teacher is that?
MATTINGLY (on camera): Seasoned criminal investigators say they were stunned. Killers in cases like this are almost always male. Even harder to believe, prosecutors say they are also considering rape and molestation charges against Huckaby. If they do that, it could open up the possibility of the death penalty.
LISA BLOOM, TRUTV ANCHOR: I think we were all trying to put together the pieces. Perhaps there was an accident. Perhaps she struck the child, the child died accidentally, and then she tried to cover it up. When you add in the new allegations that there was an intentional sexual assault with an object, this is really beyond the pale.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Police searched the church where Huckaby taught small children. The suspect's own family was at a loss for answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that the church property has been the focus of some of the investigation. And we are distressed at the possibility that such a tragedy might have happened in a place of worship.
MATTINGLY: Police say Huckaby did not have a history of violence.
She was due to appear in court soon on a petty theft conviction. But now she must appear before a judge tomorrow to hear new charges in the still unexplained murder of a smiling 8-year-old girl. David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Hard to believe.
Up next: A nightmare -- nightmare scenario -- scenario comes true in flight. The pilot collapses, and a passenger has to take control of the plane -- how it ended coming up.
Also ahead tonight, amazing video, all the more amazing because this woman survived her jump. That's right; she jumped into a polar bear pen -- her leap and the rescue ahead.
And the Obamas hosting their first Easter egg roll at the White House, rolling eggs and shooting hoops.
COOPER: A nightmare in flight when a pilot dies and a passenger is forced to land the plane. It's everybody's nightmare. Fortunately, one of the four passengers was a pilot. The problem is: he had never actually flown anything as big and complex as a twin- engine plane he now had to save.
Erica Hill joins us again with the details of the terrifying minutes in the air.
HILL: In fact, this is an event that the Air Traffic Controllers Association is calling an Easter miracle. It's pretty easy to understand why.
The plane had just taken off from Marko Island, Florida, when the pilot became unconscious. We found out later he had actually died. On board with the pilot, a family of four, including Doug White, the man who would bring his family safely back to land.
Now, White just spoke with CNN affiliate WINK. We want to get you some of that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG WHITE, LANDED PLANE SAFELY (via telephone): I touched him on the shoulder. I said, "Joe, Joe." That's when his head rolled over to the side and his eyes rolled back in his head, and his arm fell off the armrest, on his leg, hanging off the armrest. And I knew he was -- he wasn't going in. He was in deep distress, but we were in trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In trouble indeed. He's a licensed pilot, but he'd never flown anything as big and complex as this.
HILL: No, he hadn't. And it was described in one article as this isn't just going from -- driving two different types of cars. He's licensed for single-engine planes. But this was a twin engine. And experts say a major difference here is that there is a lot more speed on the runway.
And we have a picture, actually, of Doug White coming to us from "The Naples Daily News."
Now, remember, he's not the only one on board yesterday. Along with him, his wife and two teenage daughters. When he realized what was happening, White told his family to go to the back of the plane and pray hard. He radioed air traffic control. They talked him through the landing. Take a listen to some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you using the autopilot or are you flying the airplane?
D. WHITE: I'm letting the good Lord's hands fly on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Those tapes were just released this afternoon from the FAA. And he is incredibly calm during the entire 20 minutes or so of tape that I listened to. And it really stood out to all of us here. It turns out, though, it wasn't necessarily calm -- calmness. It was more focused fear, as he later explained.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. WHITE: On the outside, not on the inside. I have a 10,000- pound gorilla on my hands, and it wasn't -- it wasn't wanting to cooperate. So no, it was a focused -- I don't know. I have to make up a word for it -- a focused fear. I was in a zone of focused adrenaline fear or something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: He's just lucky that he was able to get into that zone. Anderson, he said he wants to give credit where credit is due. He's really trying to track down the air traffic controllers. But the FAA is standing by its regulations that it doesn't name air traffic controllers. They just want to, you know, go about their business. He is very intent in that he wants to thank everybody so much for helping save him and his family.
COOPER: You'd think they'd be able to arrange a private meeting somewhere.
HILL: There's probably a good chance it could happen behind closed doors. Yes.
COOPER: I like the term "focused fear."
HILL: I may actually use that.
COOPER: Yes, I have focused fear very often. You're following a bunch of other stories in a bulletin. What do you have?
HILL: We are. And we begin with the Obama administration now allowing Americans to visit their relatives in Cuba and to send them money. This is, of course, a sharp turn away from decades of U.S. policy. Some members of Congress include relations with Cuba as vital to U.S. strategic interests while others say lifting restrictions will only reward and strengthen the Castro regime.
A Los Angeles jury meantime finding legendary music producer Phil Spector guilty of second-degree murder. This was Spector's second trial in the 2003 death of actress Lana Clarkson after the first ended in a hung jury.
Spector now faces at least 18 years in prison. He will be sentenced next month.
HILL: That is the mug shot we just got in.
A mixed day on Wall Street. The Dow closing at 8,057. That's a 25-point drop. The NASDAQ gaining a fraction of a point, while the S&P inched up 2 points. Kind of flat.
"Ebony" magazine naming its most influential black Americans, and three of our own here at CNN share that honor. "CNN NEWSROOM's" Don Lemon, special correspondent Soledad O'Brien, and Roland Martin, host of our 8 a.m. hour while Campbell Brown is on maternity leave, all making the list.
COOPER: Good for them.
Can I see that mug shot again? Just for a second. Yow! Whoa.
COOPER: Yikes! Step back.
HILL: I'm not even really sure what words to use there.
COOPER: I don't know.
COOPER: There's a lot going on there. A lot going on behind the eyes.
So coming up, has the Christian conservative movement lost the culture war? One prominent leader suggesting they have. Others say issues like same-sex marriage come down to a generational divide. We'll have both sides of the debate ahead. We'll let you decide.
And the wait is over. The first dog has arrived. His name's Bo. We'll tell you all about him, coming up.
Take a look at this. A woman jumped into a polar bear enclosure at a zoo during feeding time. She survived. We'll show you the dramatic rescue. It's our "Shot of the Day."
COOPER: Abortion, equal rights for gays and lesbians. Stem cell research, for many, incendiary issues dividing this nation, no matter what side you're on. Now, some evangelical Christians believe they are losing the moral and political battle over some of these hot- button issues. They are now a moral minority.
Listen to what conservative leader James Dobson said in his farewell speech to the group he founded, Focus on the Family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: The battles that we fought in the '80s now, we were victorious in many of those conflicts with the culture, trying to defend righteousness, trying to defend the unborn child, trying to preserve the dignity of the family and the definition of marriage. We fought all those battles. And really, it was a holding action. And the battle is still to be waged.
And we are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So have conservative Christians lost the culture war? Tony Perkins joins us. He's the president of Family Research Council, also author of the book, "Personal Faith, Public Policy." Also with us, Mel White, a minister who's gay and the founder of SoulForce.org.
Tony, when you hear James Dobson basically hearing that they've lost the culture war, do you think that's true?
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: No, and I think there's more to what he actually said. In fact, there's more to that sentence than he said. He said that God is in control, and we are not about to give up, to which there was great applause at Focus on the Family when he made that comment.
I talked to Dr. Dobson about the comments and how they were reported in the "Telegraph," kind of taken out of context. I think he was putting it into the context of where we are today.
Clearly, you win elections. You win policy battles. And you lose them. This is a long, long battle. And I think as Christians, we realize this is not a destination. We're on a journey. And that's to be salt and to be light and impact the culture around us. Unfortunately, it's not like the GPS on your car, when you get someplace, it says, you have arrived. I don't think we're going to hear that in this life. COOPER: Mel, if this is a journey, where do you see the journey the country is on?
REV. MEL WHITE, FOUNDER, SOULFORCE.ORG: I think fundamentalism has lost the culture wars, and a lot of Christians are simply bailing out of fundamentalist churches because they realize that they were wrong about gay people. They were wrong about the rights of women, and they were wrong about stem cell research.
So I think they've lost, but at the same time, they're getting wise. They're seeing that Jesus didn't talk about those issues. The fundamentalists focused on those issues, and now they're coming around and saying, "Hey, let's focus on what Jesus really believed, and that's caring for the poor, caring for the hungry, and looking for the widows and orphans."
COOPER: Tony, we talked about this before on this program with you. There does seem to be a broadening of the issues that many self- identified conservative Christians seem to want to deal with. I mean, we're hearing more about poverty, about Africa, about other issues. Do you think -- I mean, is that true?
PERKINS: Well, I think it is part of the generational understanding of what Christianity is. I just came back from Honduras myself last week, where we're building an orphanage for children whose parents have died from AIDS.
But there's a connection here between our public policy and our work to help the poor, to help those who are in need. You have to look at the church in its total, as Jesus did. Jesus, you know, was very focused on meeting the spiritual and physical needs of people, as well as holding up the standard of what was right and wrong.
And I think in the Christian world, we hear more about Christians who -- in fact, on this show right now, we're talking about public policy issues. We're not talking about my trip to Honduras or other Christians doing work to help the poor or the needy. It's all a part of being a Christian. We just see -- I think the public sees more of these policy debates, because they're more contentious.
COOPER: Mel, it's interesting to hear Pastor Rick Warren. Recently, he was on "LARRY KING." During the whole Proposition 8 debate, he released in the final days, released a video to his supporters stressing his position in support of Proposition 8. I want to play you what he said on "LARRY KING" last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay-marriage activist. Never have been, never will be. During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Obviously Prop 8, the idea of reversing the court's ruling in California, which would have allowed same-sex marriage. Mel, is Rick Warren telling the truth there?
M. WHITE: Rick Warren has a very short memory. Just turn on YouTube and see Rick Warren talking for Proposition 8.
He's a mega church pastor who is not a fundamentalist leader but doesn't want to alienate all those fundamentalists who are reading his book and coming to his church. He isn't telling the truth. He has been an anti-gay activist for a long time. Only he says it nicely, unlike Falwell and Dobson and Roberts and these guys who really said it strongly.
He's trying to edge into it by not saying that really he has gays in his church. He knows that God created them and loves them as they are. He's just afraid to take the step in the truth.
COOPER: Tony, what do you make of what Rick Warren said? I mean, does it concern you?
PERKINS: Well, I have not talked -- I have not spoken to Rick Warren. So I -- I would just say this. I'm concerned by what he said. But I have not talked to him personally, so I won't say any more than that.
COOPER: Can I -- can I ask you what concerns you?
PERKINS: Well, I think -- I think he's -- he's changing his tone. I think that it's not what he said. I think Mel pointed out that he did state some things before. He put out some statements. And in support of Proposition 8.
And I think, you know, however Mel wants to interpret it or others, if he's preaching the Bible and what the Bible has to say about marriage and about men and women and their relationships, then it's going to offend some people.
Look, Christianity is -- hasn't survived over the last 2,000 years. I mean, it's really thrived. I mean, it started with a fearful group of abandoned men who followed Christ and literally became a force of believers who have literally shaped the world. I don't think a couple of elections or a few court decisions or anything else is going to reverse that momentum.
COOPER: I've got to give Mel the last word, because I gave Tony the first word -- Mel.
M. WHITE: It's really important for people to realize that Tony and Dobson and these others have been misleading the public for so many years about sexual orientation and gender identity.
It's so important to see through their half-truths and their hyperboles. It's really important to realize the damage they're doing by not saying that God created us gay. God loves us gay. And we should have all the rights that the American people provide all of us. So Tony sounds good like Rick, but they're really saying things that are horrible and destructive.
COOPER: Tony, I'll give you a quick response, because it was directed at you.
PERKINS: Well, I would just say it's not true. The Bible speaks for itself.
M. WHITE: The Bible says nothing about homosexuality, Tony.
PERKINS: You know that very well that it does. But Mel, nonetheless, Mel, I love you. Appreciate you as a human being.
M. WHITE: Don't say that because as soon as you say about gay people lead to destruction, the break-up of families...
PERKINS: No, that's not true, Mel.
M. WHITE: You continue this, "We love you, but we hate you. We love you, but..."
PERKINS: No, I didn't say that.
M. WHITE: "... We don't want you to have rights."
PERKINS: I didn't say that.
M. WHITE: Tony, I've read your material. I've monitored you for ten years. You've got to get off this anti-gay stuff, because they're leaving the churches, because they've seen through your fundamentalist stuff.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there.
PERKINS: Actually, you're wrong on that point. The surveys, the polling data shows that Christian churches that are preaching the truth are the ones that are gaining members. It's the mainline liberal denominations that are losing membership.
M. WHITE: That's not true at all either.
COOPER: I've got to leave it there. We're not going to resolve it tonight. I appreciate both of you having the conversation. Thank you. Tony Perkins and Mel White.
PERKINS: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Up next, coming up, the first dog moving into the White House tomorrow, already paying a visit. We'll have all the latest on that.
Plus, the egg roll at the White House. The Obamas hosting thousands of kids for the annual Easter egg roll. Gay parents there, I think, for the first time. I'll show you all the festivities ahead. A lot more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Well, it might seem like a simple promise from a dad to his girls, but it led to one of the most talked-about decisions of the Obama White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Just about every interview, even before Mr. Obama took the oath of office, there was a question about when the dog would arrive. I think I asked the president that myself.
Finally the day and the dog are here. We're not sure who's more excited: Malia and Sasha or Erica Hill, who's back with the "360 Follow" -- Erica.
HILL (voice-over): Bo Obama is about to find out just how good life can be. This six-month-old pooch, henceforth known as the first dog, moves into the White House on Tuesday. And all that space, 132 rooms to explore inside, and all that lawn outside, will definitely come in handy.
MARTHA STERN, BREEDER, FIRST DOG: He was a feisty little puppy. Very self-confident. He's going to make them a nice dog.
HILL: Experts describe Portuguese Water Dogs as high-energy working dogs. Translation: the Obamas can expect a lot of fetch in their future and plenty of obedience classes.
LISA PETERSON, AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB: They're an active breed. They need a job to do all the time. So when you get this keep of breed, you're going to want to make a lifetime commitment to training to the dog.
HILL: Bo has been working with a trainer for the last month, and a White House aide describes him as very well mannered. He met his new family briefly last month. And one other big point in his favor: Bo's coat is ideal for allergy suffers like Malia Obama.
STERN: We were thrilled that we could provide them with a puppy that answered their needs.
HILL: But there is one need, or promise, that wasn't met. While Bo is technically being re-homed -- his first family didn't work out -- the folks at the Humane Society would have preferred this first family rescue their dog.
WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: We're disappointed that he did not fulfill what was a fairly explicit campaign pledge to get a dog from a shelter or a rescue organization. We were hoping the president was going to set a stellar example.
HILL: Even though Bo wasn't technically rescued, fate may have had other plans.
STERN: His real name is actually Amigo's New Hope. That was my Hope litter.
HILL: The Sterns give all of their litters a theme. Bo's was named for the Obama campaign. Little did they know this litter would fulfill the first daughters' hope of finally bringing a dog home.
HILL: And Anderson, right now the Portuguese Water Dog's number 62 on the American Kennel Club's list of most popular breeds. They expect that to rise.
But they do stress anyone who's interested in getting one, make sure you know what you're getting into, and also make sure if you go with a breeder, make sure it's a reputable breeder. They don't want to encourage any puppy mills.
COOPER: All right, Erica, thanks.
The first family also hosted the annual White House Easter egg roll today. Thirty thousand guests out on the South Lawn, representing 45 states. Is that possible? Thirty thousand -- 30,000 eggs made out of wood. The kids get to keep them. Plus, another 13,000 of the hard-boiled variety. Take a listen to America's most famous hosts in their own words.
SASHA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF BARACK OBAMA: Is it on? Oh, yes!
B. OBAMA: Hello, everybody. That's Malia, our technical adviser.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We've got Easter egg decorating. Oh, we've got basketball. A little -- a little soccer, as well. And we want everybody to think about moving their bodies, get out.
We don't have tennis. It's on the tennis court. The peanut gallery back here.
B. OBAMA: Get ready. Get set. (BLOWS WHISTLE)
B. OBAMA: This is one of my favorite books. Everybody ready? OK.
M. OBAMA: Wait, wait. Is everybody ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
B. OBAMA: Without blinking once. Can anybody do that? Try staring without blinking. They were howling. Any wild things here? I just want to make sure. Argh!
Dunk. Yes! That's what I'm talking about. You've got to dunk.
COOPER: Looks like they were having a good time.
Check out this photo from the Easter egg hunt. President Obama jokingly whispering into the ear of the Easter bunny. This was our "beat 360" photo tonight. For the winner, check out -- go to the Web site, AC360.com.
And a woman jumps into a polar bear tank. This is no joke. She jumped in at feeding time. The rescue is our "Shot" tonight.
And at the top of the hour, the rescue at sea. The captain of an American ship saved by Navy SEALs. Three pirates shot dead, another in custody, and other pirates vowing revenge. The latest when 360 continues.
COOPER: We're back with tonight's "Shot." A brush with death in the Berlin zoo. A polar bear attacks a woman. She jumped into the enclosure. We have no idea why. It was during feeding time when the polar bears are especially aggressive.
Rescuers frantically tried to save the woman. They pull her out. It looks like she's about to get out, and then, boom, she goes back in. You see the polar bear goes for her underwater. She's bit on the arms, leg, back, before zoo keepers finally hauled her out with a life preserver. She is still in the hospital recovering.
Zoo officials say they're not going to build a higher fence even after this, because, quote, "People who want to jump in will always find a way."
HILL: You know, sadly, that's so true. And it's interesting, as you say, at feeding time. Because I have a feeling -- and you know because you've covered these things for "Planet in Peril," it's not like polar bears are the warmest, fuzziest, cuddliest of bears. So even if it wasn't feeding time...
COOPER: Right, not a good thing.
HILL: Probably not a great idea.
COOPER: Clearly, this woman has problems. All right. You can see all the most recent "Shots" at AC360.com.
Coming up at the top of the hour, how Richard Phillips went from hostage to freedom with the crack of three rifles and all the training and decision-making that led up to that one split second. We'll be right back.