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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Bullying a National Problem?; RNC Under Fire by Conservatives; Former Scientologists Cut Off from Church Members
Aired April 1, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Larry, thanks. Tonight our 360 investigation, the church of Scientology widens. Former high level members accusing the church's leader of physical abuse described the personal price they have paid. They said they've been cut off from family and friends as punishment for leaving the church and speaking out.
The church and their ex-wives say it is not true. The question is who's lying and who's telling the truth?
COOPER (voice-over): Jeff Hawkins was a Scientologist for 35 years. The marketing director for the church, he was a member of the SEA organization, the group that runs church operations worldwide. Though he says he had a lot of trying times in the church, Hawkins said leaving Scientology in 2005 was a very difficult decision.
JEFF HAWKINS, FMR. SCIENTOLOGIST: I had no money. I had no job. I didn't know anybody outside of Scientology. I had no friends.
COOPER (on camera): And you left your wife?
HAWKINS: And I had to leave my wife. We - in fact, we never even discussed it. She was presented with the divorce papers. She signed them. I was presented with them. I signed them.
COOPER (voice-over): Hawkins said he was declared a suppressive person, a church term for an enemy of Scientology or its principles. He says the church has a policy called disconnection which pressures church members to cut off all ties with anyone declared suppressive.
CATHERINE FRASER, SCIENTOLOGY SEA ORGANIZATION MEMBER: That is a lie. That is an absolute utter total lie.
COOPER: Catherine Fraser was Jeff Hawkins' wife. She continues to hold a senior role in the SEA organization.
FRASER: He paid for the divorce. He knew exactly what was happening. This is astonishing. He is a liar to the core.
COOPER: Church spokesman Tommy Davis.
TOMMY DAVIS, SPOKESMAN, SCIENTOLOGY: Who a Scientologist chooses to be in communication with or not is the choice of that individual Scientologist?
COOPER: More of our investigation on that just ahead.
First up tonight, as always, keeping them honest. On a nationwide problem that is terrorizing and killing our kids. We're talking about bullying. Now, I know some people say look there's always been bullying and kids just have to suck it up. Now, with the Internet and text messaging bullying goes beyond what it used to be. And kids are cracking under the pressure and they're killing themselves.
We're talking about 11-year-old kids, 13-year-old kids. Why isn't more being done to stop it? You've probably seen the picture of Phoebe Prince. She was just 15. She lived in South Hadley, Massachusetts, hanged herself after months of bullying says the district attorney. Six students have been charged with various forms of harassment.
The D.A. said just about all of the students in the school knew about it, even some of the administrators and teachers. Tonight, though, you're going to hear a school official say they had no idea this was happening for so long. One of them is clearly wrong, either the D.A. or the administration. We're going to try to figure that out right now.
So let's go over to the wall here. Give you a sense of the timeline. This is how the tragedy unfolded in Phoebe's case, according to the district attorney. Now January 14th, after school sometime between 2:38 and 4:30 p.m., Phoebe hung herself in the stairwell of her family's apartment building. Her younger sister found her, if you can imagine the horror of that. And that's how Phoebe's life ended, alone in a stairwell.
Now that day investigators on January 14th, investigators say that Phoebe was bullied repeatedly mostly by three students at her school. Two females and one male. The bullying began, they say, in the library at lunchtime in the school. There were witnesses including a faculty member and several students. But according to the D.A., the incident was not reported until after Phoebe's death. But Phoebe also, apparently the bullying also continued after that library incident in the school's hallway. And again, later that day after school while she was walking home.
Now again, as I said, this goes way back. And this has been going on for three months according to the district attorney. Phoebe and her family moved back to South Hadley from Ireland last summer. Let's just look at this time line here. I just want to shrink this down a little bit. January 14th, that's the day Phoebe committed suicide. Let's move this back here.
Let's go back a few months to summer of 2009. Phoebe prince moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts. She came from Ireland. She was new to this country. Then September 11th, the first day of school, now we move forward to September 27th. We know there was a parent workshop on bullying led by a woman named Barbara Coloroso who we're going to talk with shortly tonight. Students and their parents were encouraged to attend. There was no word if Phoebe and her parents were there that night, however.
Now let's just move this a little bit along. Mid-October, according to the district attorney, by mid-October Phoebe was a target of intensive bullying including verbal and physical threats. Some news reports say the harassment began as early as the first day of school. But we don't know exactly when.
December 3rd, investigators said that Phoebe briefly dated a popular boy and that appeared to result in a lot of the bullying. Around December 3rd that relationship ended. The bullying, however, did not. Six weeks later, Phoebe commits suicide on January 14th. Now the school has said that they discipline a number of students and have held weekly meetings on Monday nights for an anti-bullying task force.
But the question really is, what did they know? And what did they do to protect Phoebe? The district attorney said the investigation found administrators and other staff members at the school were aware that Phoebe Prince was being bullied and that Phoebe's mother had spoken with at least two staff members about the harassment. So keeping them honest tonight, we asked the superintendent of South Hadley Public School to join us tonight.
Mr. Sayer, thanks very much for being with us. You've given a number of statements which the D.A. simply says are not true. Months ago you said to reporters that Phoebe was primarily harassed online and through text messages. The D.A. now says that's not true. That most of it was done during the school day and to critics it sounds like you're trying to deflect responsibility off teachers and administrators. Why did you say it was mostly cyber bullying?
GUS SAYER, SUPERINTENDENT, SOUTH HADLEY SCHOOLS: I don't recall saying that at all. In fact I gave a report through a press release that indicated that we found - we had no jurisdiction over the cyber bullying. We did find examples of it taking place. But our report which came out in February was based solely on our investigation of incidents that took place in school.
COOPER: When you say your investigation - who was actually investigating? The school principal?
SAYER: The school principal conducted an investigation of - to basically to find out if any of the school rules with respect to bullying had been violated.
COOPER: All your information - all your information comes from the school principal who you say conducted this investigation?
SAYER: That's correct.
COOPER: Because the defense attorney is saying, look, you have nowhere near the resources that she has. She has an investigator. She has numerous powers but you don't have. She's been investigating for months and has found that this harassment was common knowledge to most of the students and that certain faculty staff and administrators of the high school also were alerted to the harassment. I mean do you dispute that?
SAYER: Well, you said - there's so many things - parts to what you just said.
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) most of the students knew about it. Do you dispute that?
SAYER: I'm not disputing anything in the district attorney's report. We have not seen any of the details that are in her report. What we noticed in the report is that her report basically confirmed - not so much confirmed but corroborated what our findings were about bullying that took place in the school.
COOPER: So you knew about the harassment - you knew the harassment had been going on for three months?
COOPER: OK. Because you just said that it confirmed stuff from your own investigation and the district attorney saying -
COOPER: This went back three months. When did you know that she was being bullied?
SAYER: We learned about it around January 7th.
COOPER: Just one week before she died?
SAYER: That's correct.
COOPER: So you are disputing what the district attorney is saying? The district attorney is saying you knew about this for three months or should have known, or that students knew, or it was widely known and that some of the administrators and teachers knew about it. So you're saying that's not true?
SAYER: Well, that's not what our investigation found. The principal did - obviously he did not do - he could not use some of the resources that the district attorney had. His investigation wasn't quite as thorough, but what we did find was basically corroborated by the district attorney's report. What we found was that there was extensive bullying that took place in school by two groups of students and those are the same students that the district attorney identified after her investigation. And the -
COOPER: Sir, we got to take a quick break. The question I want to ask you when we come back is how come - I mean, if this was going on, two groups of kids, we're talking about more than six kids here, how is it possible that you only found out about this one week before this poor girl killed herself? But we got to take a quick break. We'll have more with the superintendent Gus Sayer right on the other side of this break. Join the live chat at ac360.com. Tell us what you think.
Also, ahead tonight, a 13-year-old boy who killed himself after being bullied relentlessly was buried today. Now, one of the boys who bullied him is speaking out. He said he was just messing around and wishes he could take it all back. Now he's being threatened and blamed for the death.
Also, tonight, does the church of Scientology force their members to disconnect from loved ones if they leave the church and speak out against it? A number of former Scientologist say they do. The church calls them liars. Who's telling the truth? You decide for yourself tonight.
COOPER: Keeping them honest tonight, how much did school officials at South Hadley High in western Massachusetts know about the alleged bullying raging in their hallways? According to Massachusetts prosecutors, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince spent the final months of her life being routinely bullied. Her school days as they say were filled with insults and physical threats. Her tormentors unrelenting. Phoebe hanged herself on January 14th.
Six teens at her high school are now facing felony charges. Joining me again is South Hadley School superintendent, Gus Sayer. So Mr. Superintendent, how is it possible that you only found out and the principal only found out about the bullying one week before she killed herself? It sounds almost impossible to believe if the D.A. is correct, and this has been going on for three months, and involved more than half a dozen kids.
SAYER: Well, it did not involve - apparently it did not involve more than a half a dozen kids because those are the kids who are being arraigned for carrying out the bullying. That's the same finding that we made in our investigation a month earlier. How is it possible?
You know, I deeply regret the fact that no one came forward to us and reported that this bullying was taking place. The principal does not take these matters lightly, and he would act swiftly and fully using all his powers if he knew about these events.
COOPER: But I mean, on the day she died she was, according to D.A., being harassed in the school library during lunch. It was witnessed by a teacher who didn't alert the school until after her death. So if six kids feel fine about tormenting a girl out in the open in the school library and in the hallway and throwing cans at her head on the way home from school, that seems to indicate, you know, that this wasn't the first time this had happened. I mean, how can this be going on in the hallways and nobody seemed to have reported it? SAYER: Well, first of all, if it had happened earlier, which we believe probably it did, and it had been observed by our staff and reported to us, I'm telling you that the principal would have taken stern action with the kids.
COOPER: Well, the teacher apparently in the library didn't report it until after this girl was dead on the day she died.
SAYER: OK. No, that's not true. What the district attorney's report says is there was a teacher present in the library when the kids were having their conversation. The library is one of the biggest spaces in our entire school. There was a teacher present, but she was on the other side of the library. She did not hear what the kids were talking about at their table.
What the kids were talking about at the table I'm sure they would not have wanted to talk about in front of any adult in the school. So I'm sure that they - we know that there were kids sitting a couple of tables away who didn't even hear what they were saying. But we did learn about what they said from the students directly and from students at that table after our investigation, which took place after the death of Phoebe.
COOPER: You told the "Boston Globe" today, and you said "people have assumed the bullying caused her death. But we don't know why she took her own life. We think there were probably a number of possible causes." What else do you think caused her death?
SAYER: Well, I have to - I would like to be able to discuss that with you, but we have been very clear from the beginning that we are not going to talk about Phoebe and anything that was going on in her life, but there are other possible causes. We don't know - now, if there was a suicide note that said why she took her life, if there was a journal that she wrote in that described what she was going through. Then the district attorney would have seen those things and probably would come to the conclusion that she took her life totally because of the bullying.
For us, it doesn't - the statement doesn't matter because we don't - that doesn't justify the bullying and we know the bullying took place and we took very stern action as a result of that bullying.
COOPER: But your critics and you have a lot of critics now in the school district who said that the principal and the school didn't do enough to help this girl. Your critics are saying that look a lot of what you're saying it all is to deflect, according to them, responsibility from the school administrators.
You said, you know, early on, look, this was just cyber bullying and that you only learned about it a week before. A week before she killed herself. And that, you know, it only involved the six students who have been charged even though you now disciplined other students who apparently were not part of this six.
SAYER: Again, the conclusions that we drew from our investigation are a public record.
COOPER: But your investigation was a school principal who's directly - would be directly at fault for this investigating his own actions or lack of actions. Does that seem like a proper investigation to you? Isn't the district attorney -
SAYER: No, you're not letting me finish. Well, I'm sure it is. But the people in our community were pressing us very early from the day after Phoebe died to come up with some sort of explanation. That's why the principal said he would investigate these charges.
By the way, what you just said isn't fair to our principal. OK. This principal has been in place for 10 years in that school system. He is highly revered by the community and one he is one of the finest principals that I've ever met. If he was going to do the investigation I would trust that he would do it properly and honestly. He did not have anything to hide.
Because as soon as he heard about the bullying, which for the first time was on January 7th, he acted swiftly within the same day. He disciplined the students who were involved, according to our code of conduct. OK. And he effectively put an end to the bullying by one group of students that was involved. He didn't take this lightly at all.
When he - when his investigation revealed that there was a second group of students that we didn't know about that was bullying also, he took the most firm action that he could take. He recommended that these students be expelled. That is the strongest possible action he could take.
COOPER: I know you're under a lot of fire and I appreciate you coming on to talk about the way you see it tonight. Gus Sayer, superintendent of the schools. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
I want to dig deeper now with Barbara Coloroso, an anti-bullying consultant and author of "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander." I mentioned earlier, she led an anti-bullying workshop at Phoebe prince's school back in September for parents and students. Also joining us, legal analyst Lisa Bloom.
Barbara, what do you make of this? I mean, the superintendent, you actually did a seminar on bullying in the school district. What's going on in this school district?
BARBARA COLOROSO, "THE BULLY, THE BULLIED, & THE BYSTANDER": Well, first of all I'd like to say one thing that the Dr. Sayer has mentioned is that bullying - bullies are cowards. They're not stupid. They often do it under the radar of the adults. But for that kind of intensity and for that number of students, it's hard to accept that people didn't know.
COOPER: You can't have six students or more attacking this girl. I mean, two of them are charged with statutory rape. You can't have that going on without the school knowing about it. COLOROSO: Well, also when you have a group and they've been nailed for it and there's another group doing it, one of the things you do is you bring in the person who's been targeted and any others who have witnessed it. That would have come out, that this young girl would say, well, they're not the only ones that are doing it. These are the others that are doing it. We have a dead child and we have kids now convicted on criminal charges.
COLOROSO: I mean, charged not convicted. Charged with criminal charges. When in reality it probably started out as verbal and/or relational bullying which is bad enough in itself but would not have reached the level of a crime.
COOPER: Lisa, what do you make of this? You just heard from the superintendent.
LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, here's the question to me. It's not just what did the school officials know? It's what should they have known? It's not enough in this day and age to put our heads in the sand, especially in Massachusetts, which had just suffered from an 11-year-old boy committing suicide after he was bullied.
At that point you would think that the administrators and that the teachers would get together and do investigations. Pay more attention to what's going on. I don't buy when the superintendent Sayer says well, we didn't receive any reports, as though it's the job of the administrators and the teachers to simply sit back and wait for reports and if they don't come, their hands are clean.
That's not the way it works anymore, especially after one child had already committed suicide. For all of these kids to have been abusing this girl, and I don't like the word bullying. I think it underplays what's going on. It's child abuse. It's harassment. It's stalking. It's threatening behavior. For all of this to have been going on for three months is just impossible to believe that the school did not know.
COOPER: Barbara, so the key question we're moving forward to is how do you stop this? And parents out there who are watching this right now, school teachers out there who are watching this right now. You know, there's a lot of good people who want to stop this in the school system. How do you do it?
COLOROSO: Including people in South Hadley.
COLOROSO: What you have to do is first of all, kids need to know that it will not be tolerated in that school setting. That any kid walking through the door will be safe. If they don't feel safe, if there are people targeting, they need to have a safe person that they can be comfortable reporting it to, knowing that it will not come back in their face. That we do the reporting and that we as adults handle it in a way that the target is not re-targeted. We also have to get kids in that school to stand up and speak out. To say, I saw this and not believe it's ratting. There's a difference between telling and tattling, reporting and ratting. We say to little ones, don't tattle, don't tattle, don't tattle. And then we say at 16, why didn't you tell? We have to teach them that it is OK to tell when somebody is being hurt, verbally, physically or relationally. Also we have to nail the bullies and hold them accountable.
COPPER: Well, talking about the bullies. I want to play a clip from a kid in Texas. His name is Chris Montelongo. And he's with his mom. He admits to bullying a 13-year-old boy named John Carmichael who killed himself on Sunday. He hanged himself in his family's barn. I interviewed the parents last night who, I mean, you know, their lives are destroyed by this. This is what this kid said to one of our affiliates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MONTELONGO, JOHN CARMICHAEL'S CLASSMATE: I can guarantee you as most of the school who messed with John. At times I did bully him. You know, but it was just both of us just messing around. I'm the one that they're blaming, you know, they're making up rumors.
LETICIA MONTELONGO, MOTHER OF CARMICHAEL'S CLASSMATE: As a matter of fact that's the reason I'm picking him up today from school is because he's been threatened.
CHRIS MONTELONGO: There are things I have done to him. You know, I just wish I could take it back, but now that he's gone I can't do anything about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, this little boy's dead. There's nothing he can do about it. Lisa, I mean that is the question. What about parents in a lot of this? Parents of bullies who got to know this stuff is going on.
BLOOM: That's right. We can't blame kids for all of this because they're still works in progress. Children like that 13-year- old, unlike the children at Phoebe's school, need to be instructed very clearly that there will be swift and harsh consequences to bullying. You know, even after Phoebe had a meeting with the school, another week went on and she was still bullied.
What happened then after the school had noticed? Why weren't swift actions being taken to remove these bullies immediately? Why did she have to wait a week? I'm sure in the last day of her life she felt she had no other choice other than to take her own life. We have to be very clear with children, this is unacceptable and the consequences will be harsh.
COOPER: We're going to have a lot more on this. We've been doing this all this week.
Barbara, the book is "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander." I recommend people get it. Barbara Coloroso, appreciate you being on. Lisa Bloom as well.
COLOROSO: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up tonight, what some former Scientologists said happened to them when they left the church. They said they were disconnected from friends and families. Cut off. Their ex-wives still in Scientology senior leadership say that is a complete lie. You decide if they're telling the truth.
Plus, a bizarre moment at a congressional hearing. Lawmakers discussing a U.S. military buildup in the island of Guam. And this comment was no April fools' joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In a moment I want to bring James Carville on to talk about the growing anger among Republicans in the RNC, approving the spending of nearly $2,000 on a bondage theme nightclub and on top of that a fund-raising letter they sent out actually directed some people to some sort of a phone sex line. But before we talk about Republicans, an odd moment on Capitol Hill last week involving a Democrat. Time for -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: "Dispatches from Planet Washington."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. Maybe the graphic took a long time. A lot of odd things happen in Planet Washington. I actually thought this was kind of an April Fools' joke when I saw it today. But it's not. It took place last week in a House Arms Services Committee hearing discussing a military buildup on the island of Guam. Here's Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HANK JOHNSON, GEORGIA: This is a island that at its widest level is what - 12 miles from shore to shore and at its smallest level - smallest location it's seven miles between one shore and the other. Is that correct?
ADM. ROBERT WILLARD, HEAD OF U.S. PACIFIC FLEET: I don't have the exact dimensions, but to your point, sir, I think Guam is a small island.
JOHNSON: Very small island and about 24 miles, if I recall, long. 24 miles long, about seven miles wide at the least widest place on the island and about 20 - about 12 miles wide on the widest part of the island. And I don't know how many square miles that is. Do you happen to know?
WILLARD: I don't have that figure with me, sir. I can certainly supply it to you if you'd like.
JOHNSON: Yes. My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
WILLARD: We don't anticipate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I got to say, I'm impressed with the Admiral Robert Willard, who is head of the U.S. Pacific fleet, for not laughing, frankly. Later when he was asked for a clarification, the spokesman for Johnson said he meant that adding about 8,000 Marines and their families to the population to Guam could be a tipping point for the island's infrastructure and ecosystem that he was "obviously joking." Decide for yourself.
ANNOUNCER: Dispatches from Planet Washington.
COOPER: Now for the Republicans. Republican National Committee is under fire. First it was for dropping nearly $2,000 at the Voyeur nightclub in Hollywood. What exactly -- there we go. A bondage theme strip club apparently. An RNC committee staffer went there with Republican donors. You all know that by now.
The staffer has been fired. Looks like a very plush place.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele says he was not there. But now Steele is facing even more headaches over recent RNC fund-raising mailing that led people to a telephone sex hotline. Here's what donors who called heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sexy guy, welcome to an exciting new way to go live, One-on-one with hot (EXPLETIVE DELETED) girls waiting right now to talk to you. Live, baby. Relax and get ready to meet real local students, housewives and working girls from all over the country. Hundreds of hot girls, all day and night. Because we love nasty talk as much as you do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You get the idea.
On the heels of this news, there's word now from Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor will not be attending RNC fund-raising events at next week's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, even though she's a speaker.
And Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is urging conservatives to just bypass the RNC and donate money directly either to his group or to GOP candidates.
So let's sort out these latest "Dispatches from Planet Washington" with Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville and "Washington post" columnist Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President Bush.
COOPER: James, I mean, I guess if the DNC put out a mailer with a sex phone hotline and had a big bill at a bondage-themed nightclub, Republicans would say it reflects on Democratic values, I guess. What do you make of this?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I guess. Well, first of all I think it was the wrong area code in terms of the sex line. It was pretty funny. Look, I think that this was donor maintenance. This is where these donors hang out. Tony Perkins...
COOPER: Donors -- Republican donors hang out at a bondage-themed night club in L.A.?
CARVILLE: Yes. That's what -- that's what the Young Eagles, that's what they like. I don't know -- look, Tony Perkins is an enormous hypocrite. He endorsed David Vitter, who reportedly wrote a diaper in front (ph) of his multiple encounters with prostitutes. That strikes me as a lot weirder than watching a couple of women pop some leather.
COOPER: Michael, is there a reason to be gassed up about it?
MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, I think it is more stupid than fatal. But unfortunately, for Michael Steele, it comes in a series. And this is a, you know, cumulative problem. You know, with limos and charter flights and Wolfgang Puck, you know, catered events.
COOPER: But in his defense, people will say, "Well, look, in order to make money and get big donors you have to wine and dine them and, you know, take them out."
GERSON: Well, you know, I knew Ken Melvin when he was in that job. There's a way to do that without getting a reputation for excess.
COOPER: Just look at some figures. Republicans had four -- four times as much cash on hand at this point back in 2006. The last time their reserves were this low at this point in midterm election, I think, was back in '94, 16 years ago, just a year or so into Bill Clinton's first terms, and back then campaigns were a lot cheaper. What's going on?
GERSON: Well, some of it, as the RNC would tell you, is that they had to spend a lot of money on New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts. And the money was fairly well spent. It's the reason that Steele still has a job. I mean, he -- these elections went -- went fairly well.
The problem is that they are raising money, but even in January they raised $10 million. They spent $9 million. You know, they had their big confab in Hawaii instead of Pittsburgh, which didn't really make much public sense as far as messaging is concerned.
And I think that there's just a feeling among some major Republican donors, although most of them just want to be quoted off the record, according to the story. But there's a feeling that -- that Steele has a tin ear, that he's conducting kind of the imperial RNC at a time when that's not a particularly good message.
COOPER: But James, I mean, to be fair to Michael Steele, in terms of where they are compared to where Democrats are coming up into these midterm elections, Republicans seem to be in a much better position.
CARVILLE: They are in a much better electoral position right now. Again, I think that Steele is getting a little bit of a bad rap here on these stories. Does he have a tendency to say some kind of goofy things? Yes. But I mean, party chairmen tend to do that.
But I think Republicans are unjustly attacking him for something that he wasn't there. I might have liked him more if he'd have been there. I don't know.
COOPER: Let me just show you something that Tony Perkins said, Michael, and we'll see if you think he's being hypocritical. He said, "This latest incident is another indication to me that the RNC is completely tone deaf to the values and concerns of a large number of people for whom they seek financial support. I've hinted at this before, but now I'm saying it. Don't give money to the RNC."
Is that hypocritical?
GERSON: Well, I think conservatives have not liked Michael Steele for a while. Some statements he's made on abortion and in an interview with "GQ" magazine criticizing Rush Limbaugh. So this is -- this is another excuse to beat up on Michael Steele. It hasn't created this tension.
And there is some evidence that they are going -- not, you know, not giving money. They're going to the Republican Governors' Association, where Haley Barbour is, or they're going to the Senatorial Committee. So I don't think there's a huge effect on total giving. But I do think that there has been an effect on the RNC with major donors, which are down significantly.
COOPER: I've asked this question of a lot of people.
CARVILLE: You know...
COOPER: Go ahead, James. CARVILLE: You know, in 2006, and I know Ken Melvin. I don't know him as well as you do, Michael, but he is a friend of mine. And Michael Steele was the poster person for the Republican Party when he was running for the Senate in Maryland. And why are they jumping all over Michael Steele now? I have no idea. He was the really great Senate candidate in 2006 cycle for the Republican Party.
COOPER: Michael Gerson, James Carville. Guys, thanks.
CARVILLE: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up, accusations the Church of Scientology cuts former members from their own families. Cuts them off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The church denies that families are separated like this, that people are told not to call other people who have left the church.
JEFF HAWKINS, FORMER SCIENTOLOGY MEMBER: They're always separated. If you have a family member who is -- who is declared suppressive or who has been critical of the church, you cannot contact them if you're a Scientologist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: More on that coming up. We'll tell you how the church responds to that. They say that man is a liar, as are the other people who have come forward claiming that there's a disconnection policy.
Plus, he killed an abortion provider. Today he's sentenced for the murder. We'll tell you what he said in court and how long he's heading to prison for. .
COOPER: Following a number of other important stories tonight. Tom Foreman has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
The man convicted of murdering a doctor who performed late-term abortions again attacked his victim today. At his sentencing hearing, Scott Roeder said his trial was a miscarriage of justice, because he wasn't allowed to present testimony about the evils of abortion. Roeder received a mandatory sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.
The federal government jacked up fuel economy standards today. 2016 model year cars are expected to average 39 miles per gallon, up from 27-1/2 now. For trucks it will be 30 miles per gallon, up from 23-1/2 today.
And here is one of 25 students who got in trouble for violating the prom dress code at a school in Oxford, Alabama. She and others were allowed to stay at the party, but a week later, they had to pick their punishment. This girl chose a three-day suspension. The rest picked paddling -- Anderson.
Coming up next on the program, Tom, former members of the Church of Scientology say they've been disconnected from their families by the church by speaking out. Church leaders deny it, say the accusers are out to destroy the church. Who's lying? Who's telling the truth? Well, you can decide for yourself ahead.
COOPER: Over the past few nights we've been reporting on allegations of physical abuse inside the Church of Scientology. The allegations have been made by a number of former high-ranking Scientologists against the church's leader, David Miscavige, himself. Even some of those who make the allegations also admit they were involved in violent acts.
Now, the church says they weren't the only ones involved in the violence. The accusers, in dozens of affidavits, current and former senior members of the church say the allegations against David Miscavige are all lies. The church says the accusers are bitter and are working together to try to destroy the church.
The accusers, some of whom still consider themselves Scientologists, say they don't want to destroy the church, just change the leadership. Well, tonight, we look at what some of these former Scientologists say happened to them when they began to speak out.
COOPER (voice-over): Jeff Hawkins had been a Scientologist for 35 years. A member of the elite management bank of the church, the Sea Organization, Hawkins said he witnessed several incidents of violence perpetrated by the church leader, David Miscavige, and says he was also attacked by Miscavige.
HAWKINS: One time he punched me in the gut with no warning as he was passing me.
COOPER: The church says Hawkins is lying and is out to destroy the religion. He supports a group called anonymous which promotes an anti-Scientology movement. Hawkins concedes he never filed charges.
(on camera) Why not call the police? I mean, these are -- this is assault.
HAWKINS: It would never have occurred to me.
COOPER: It would never have occurred to you?
HAWKINS: No. COOPER: If the police had shown up and said, "We heard that he beat you up," I would have said, "No. No. No. I just fell down the stairs or something." It's like the battered wife. You know, the police show up and say, "Why are you all bruised?" And she says, "Well, I just fell down the stairs." She defends the husband.
COOPER: And so people -- people who believe in the religion, people who have dedicated their lives to it and want to stay in it put up with it?
HAWKINS: They're not going to say anything. They're not going to say anything.
COOPER (voice-over): Though he says he had a lot of trying times in the church, Hawkins says leaving Scientology in 2005 was a very difficult decision.
HAWKINS: It is very hard to leave, and that's why people don't and why they tend to toe the line. Because here I was 58 years old when I left. I had no money. I had no job. I didn't know anybody outside of Scientology. I had no friends.
COOPER: And you left your wife?
HAWKINS: And I had to leave my wife. We -- in fact, we never even discussed it. She was presented with divorce papers. She signed them. I was presented with them. I signed them. We haven't spoken since.
COOPER: That's extraordinary.
COOPER (voice-over): Hawkins says he was declared a suppressive person, a church term for an enemy of Scientology or its principles. He says the church has a policy called disconnection which pressures church members to cut off all ties with anyone declared suppressive.
(on camera) The church denies that families are separated like this, that -- that people are told not to call other people who have left the church.
HAWKINS: They're always separated. If you have a family member who is -- who has been declared suppressive or who has been critical of the church, you cannot contact them if you're a Scientologist. If your son, daughter, father, mother, has left the church and is critical or anything like that, you cannot talk to them. Period.
COOPER (voice-over): He said that when he was declared a suppressive person that was the last time you were allowed communication.
CATHERINE FRASER, EX-WIFE OF JEFF HAWKINS: That's a lie. That is an absolute, utter, total lie.
COOPER (voice-over): Catherine Fraser was Jeff Hawkins' wife. She continues to hold a senior role in the Sea Organization.
FRASER: He paid for the divorce. He knew exactly what was happening. This is astonishing. He's a liar to the core. That is so not what happened.
COOPER: Catherine Bernardini says she was never told to disconnect from her ex-husband, Mike Rinder, the church's former spokesman who left in 2007.
(on camera) You're saying there is no policy of disconnection?
CATHERINE BERNARDINI, SCIENTOLOGY SEA ORGANIZATION MEMBER: No. Absolutely. I did not at all disconnect from him. He was never told that. I said no. I'm not going to drop everything I've had for my entire life and what I believe in and what Mike believed in.
COOPER (voice-over): But Amy Scobee, another former Sea Organization member who once helped run the church's celebrity center in Los Angeles, says her mother was told to disconnect from her when she left.
AMY SCOBEE, FORMER SCIENTOLOGY MEMBER: In fact, I was at her house when Scientologists came with the issue -- my suppressive person issue, to tell her that she could no longer see me. I was in the back room. They didn't know I was there.
And they showed her an issue, saying how I violated command (ph) and had sex out of wedlock and all this stuff and, you know, and that until I got back in good standing with the church, which I had no intention of doing, she could not be in communication with me. So she told me that she didn't have a choice. It was the worst day of my life.
COOPER: We asked church spokesman Tommy Davis and church attorney Monique Yingling about disconnection, and they denied the church forces any Scientologist to break off communication with a family member or friend. They do say, however, that no Scientologist would want to talk to a so-called suppressive person.
MONIQUE YINGLING, ATTORNEY FOR SCIENTOLOGY: You don't want to talk to someone who's attacking your religion. That's your personal choice. I mean, if Tommy were my brother and I were a Scientologist, and he starts attacking the church nonstop, I might get to a point where I'd want to say, "Look, I don't want to talk to you anymore if all you're going to do is attack my religion." And that has happened in these situations.
But it isn't the church saying you can't talk to this person, but individuals make decisions that they don't want to have contact with someone who is attacking what is their life, essentially.
TOMMY DAVIS, SPOKESMAN, CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY: Who a Scientologist chooses to be in communication with or not is the choice of that individual Scientologist, whether they're a member of the Sea Organization, whether they're a parishioner or otherwise. It is absolutely and completely their choice. COOPER: Tommy Davis has said this before. Here's an interview last year with CNN.
DAVIS: Anything that's characterized as disconnection or this kind of thing, it's just -- it's just not true. There isn't any such policy that -- in the church that's dictating who people should or should not be in communication with. You know? It's -- it just doesn't happen.
COOPER: That denial and other disagreements with the church prompted Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis, a Scientologist for 35 years, to resign. In a letter to Tommy Davis, he mentioned the CNN interview. "
You said straight out there was no such policy, that it did not exist," he wrote. "I was shocked. We all know this policy exists. You might recall that my wife was ordered to disconnect from her parents because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did 25 years ago when they resigned from the church. To see you lie so easily," he wrote, "I'm afraid I have to ask myself, what else are you lying about?"
Christy Collbran, another former senior Scientology member, says she was declared a suppressive person after leaving the church four years ago. She still believes in Scientology but says her parents, who remain in the church, refuse to have any contact with her.
(on camera) Now, Tommy Davis, who's now the chief spokesman for the church, has said to us that there is no policy of disconnection.
CHRISTY COLLBRAN, FORMER SCIENTOLOGY MEMBER: Well, he's kind of put a little bit of a twist on it. Because the truth of the matter is, it is your own choice to disconnect. You don't have to. You can say, "No, I'm not going to disconnect."
But then what happens to you is that you can't go into the church and other people won't speak to you. So there's ways of enforcing this. It's kind of a manipulative way. Yes, you don't have to. My parents could have said, "We're not disconnecting from our daughter." And then, you know, they would have had the repercussions of it from the rest of the Scientologists.
And they want to have something to do with this organization, that their spiritual salvation is at risk. And they don't want to lose that. They don't want to lose, maybe, their jobs if they're working for a Scientologist. So they decide, well, I'm not going to go there. I'm just going to follow, you know, the orders and the commands and the things I'm being told to do so that I can not have my life messed up.
COOPER (voice-over): Despite being labeled liars and being cut off from family members and friends, Christy and many other former Scientologists who have now come forward to tell their stories say they do not want to destroy the church. Their problem, they say, is with the man who runs it, David Miscavige.
Over the course of several months, we have repeatedly asked the church for an interview with Mr. Miscavige, but he has declined.
COOPER: Over the last few days we've heard the allegations and counter-allegations of violence incidents among the current and former senior leadership of the church. Now, without physical evidence, it's impossible to prove who's telling the truth. But the seriousness and similarity of those allegations also make their stories impossible to ignore.
The public's entitled to ask why has there been no proper police inquiry into what happened inside the Church of Scientology?
Once again, we'd like to point out that we've invited the leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, to appear on this program to talk about the accusations from the former Scientologists. But through his spokesman, he's declined. That offer, of course, still stands.
Tomorrow on 360, three former members of the church respond to acquisitions from their ex-wives who remain in senior leadership positions in the church.
Let us know you think about it. Join the live chat at AC360.com.
Coming up next, the case against members of the Hutaree militia. They're armed, but are they really dangerous. Should they be released while awaiting trial? The latest on that ahead.
Plus, something to make you smile before you go to bed. Tonight's "Shot," a toddler who just wanted to dance when he heard the single ladies." Take a look. We'll be right back."
COOPER: A quick check of the head -- excuse me. Of some headlines tonight. Tom Foreman joins us again with the "360 Bulletin."
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I told Tom to go home, Anderson.
COOPER: Oh, my good lord. Rick Sanchez.
SANCHEZ: You know what? I was just in the dressing room a little while ago, and I was talking to some of the gals in there. And I've got to tell you, they were making fun of me. And I'm starting to get a little upset about night after night you showing this tape of me being tased. I'm serious. OK? This is -- look. They were laughing at me in there. I mean, look at this. It's like the nightly comedy hour on AC 360.
I know you gave -- you gave me my first break. You put me on the air. You sent me on all these wild and crazy stories. I went -- I went out in the middle of the ocean. I went in a boat. I got sunk in a canal. I did the tase thing. And now you make fun of me.
So you know what? You know what, buddy? First of all, April Fools'. No, no. Your staff, your staff and I have had a little conversation, and I said, "Hey, don't we have some tape of, you know, Anderson Cooper, you know, doing some stuff? You know what I mean?"
So it's like this, you know? I wanted to have an experience with you, when I show you some scenes that maybe you look foolish. You know what I mean by foolish?
COOPER: I understand.
SANCHEZ: Here we go. This is No. 1, OK, from "Rick's List."
SANCHEZ: Take it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA HILL, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: U.S. state.
COOPER: Notre Dame.
HILL: Come on, football. This is your strong suit, Anderson.
COOPER: Notre Dame is Notre Dame.
HILL: South Bend, yes.
HILL: Do you know where Indiana is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I was really tired this day. I was really tired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm panicked.
HILL: This is Indiana right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I was really tired that day. It had been a long day.
SANCHEZ: Duh. OK. No. 2. All right. This is your turn. This is your night, Anderson.
COOPER: I know. Enjoy. Enjoy.
SANCHEZ: You ready?
SANCHEZ: This is your mama.
COOPER: Oh, nice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anderson, it's your birthday, and I want to wish you a happy birthday and tell you I love you a lot. OK? But you would really make me happy if you would do something in the next year. I'd like you to eat more, because you're very skinny and very handsome, but I would like to see you eat more. Eat more, get more rest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Oh. Wow. I had forgotten that one.
SANCHEZ: You know what I mean by comeuppance? This is comeuppance. OK?
Numero tres. You ready?
SANCHEZ: "Jeopardy," Anderson. Not so good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": Cheech.
CHEECH MARIN, COMEDIAN: What is good?
COOPER: What is Frankenstein?
MARIN: What is mild?
TREBEK: Mild. Correct.
COOPER: Who is Margaret Thatcher?
COOPER: Who is Indira?
MARIN: What is abstract?
TREBEK: Correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Cheech, Cheech. I hear that in my sleep. Cheech, Cheech, Cheech. Who knew? Cheech Marin. I figured he'd have no synapses left.
SANCHEZ: Hey, you know what? I got back at you. OK.
COOPER: You certainly did.
SANCHEZ: You know what I mean?
COOPER: Yes. I will never play that tasering video again.
SANCHEZ: Yes, I believe you, too. I believe you, too. Have a good night, man.
COOPER: Thanks, Rick.
SANCHEZ: Take care.
COOPER: More news at the top of the hour. Be right back.