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Christine O'Donnell Facing Increasing Scrutiny; Sarah Palin Planning Presidential Run?; The Disease Detectives

Aired September 21, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Christine O'Donnell ducking the tough questions, but threatening to sue the watchdog group that says she committed campaign finance fraud. She's avoiding our questions, but tonight talking to FOX. How do her answers stack up against the facts? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, what is Sarah Palin up to? She's released a new ad promoting the Tea Party, but is it really the first signal that she's planning a presidential run?

Also tonight: What if you were sick, but no doctor could figure out what was wrong? Tonight, a seriously ill little girl battling an unknown illness, you are going to meet the disease detectives racing the clock to solve her life-and-death medical mystery.

We begin, though, tonight, as always, "Keeping Them Honest," with Christine O'Donnell, who increasingly appears to be trying to run a stealth campaign, not answering questions from reporters and today not even telling reporters where her campaign event was taking place. Why would she do that?

Well, take a look. This is what happened last night when our reporter Gary Tuchman went to an O'Donnell event and tried to ask her one question about allegations she spent campaign money on personal expenses after a past campaign was over, which would be a violation of federal election law.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ms. O'Donnell, I'm going to ask you that one question you promised you would answer.


TUCHMAN: No, about the rentals last year.


TUCHMAN: Why were you paying rent money with campaign money?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, tonight, not happening.

TUCHMAN: Well, that was the one question I had.

O'DONNELL: I answered it.

TUCHMAN: No, you didn't answer it.


COOPER: Didn't answer it.

Gary called her campaign to find out where an event was today that was supposed to take place, what time, so he could go, but they wouldn't say, telling him it was closed to reporters. Ms. O'Donnell appears to be closely following the tweeted advice of Sarah Palin.

She tweeted this the other day: "C. O'Donnell strategy: Time is limited. Use it to connect with local voters whom you will be serving vs. appeasing national media seeking your destruction."

Now, there are plenty of liberal media outlets out there that probably want Christine O'Donnell to fail, but I just want to make it very clear, I'm not one of them. We're not trying to beat up on Christine O'Donnell. We're also focusing tonight on questions that have been raised about her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons.

These people are running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. It's their choice. They should be ready and open to answering questions from all quarters. Christine O'Donnell wants to serve the people of Delaware, not just those who agree with her, and it's our job to ask her and all the candidates tough questions to help voters make up their own minds.

I'm not making a big deal out of 11-year-old witchcraft comments or the stuff she said about touching yourself years ago. I want to ask her specifics about checks she wrote, serious allegations made by her former aides and employees, people who ran her campaigns.

There's one media outlet Sarah Palin told O'Donnell she should use, FOX News, and, tonight, O'Donnell did break her silence on Sean Hannity's program just last -- in the last hour.

Remarkably, though, she was never asked during the 20-minute-or- so interview about any of serious allegations made against her. Instead, it was questions like this.




HANNITY: ... a friend of yours, obviously. You did his show a lot, apparently.

O'DONNELL: Yes, yes, unfortunately.

(LAUGHTER) HANNITY: All right. He -- he comes up with this tape. What was it, 1999? You made an appearance...


HANNITY: ... talking, I guess, about a boyfriend when you were a teenager?

O'DONNELL: Right, right, right, right.

HANNITY: OK, saying that you had dabbled into witchcraft.

Why don't you explain for people that may be -- what was that about?

O'DONNELL: Well, teenage rebellion. Some people dabble in drugs in rebel. That's how I rebelled.

You know, but who -- who didn't do some questionable things in high school? And who doesn't regret the '80s to some extent?


O'DONNELL: I certainly do. And I -- I most certainly regret bringing it up to Bill Maher.

HANNITY: What's it like living under -- you know, being the main focus of every news show?


HANNITY: Is it fun? I'm sure you're enjoying it.

O'DONNELL: Two things. It's not fun, because, you know, like, today, there was a news crew filming my father raking leaves.

I went to a forum last night.

HANNITY: We got to buy him a blower.


HANNITY: I mean, I don't know if...

O'DONNELL: He likes that. It relieves stress. And he's under a lot of stress right now.


O'DONNELL: But it's -- it's -- it's interfering with my ability to campaign.

HANNITY: All the talk about, well, you got to do this national show, that national show...

O'DONNELL: No, it doesn't... HANNITY: ... is that off the table for you?


O'DONNELL: It's off the table, because that's not going to help me get votes.

I, instead, want to go to as many town hall forums, as many candidate forums, as many church picnics that I can fit into my schedule, so that I can meet the voters.


COOPER: Well, that's it, no national news show, except for Sean Hannity tonight on FOX. She says she's going to spend time with Delaware voters and because that's what counts.

Well, we got a lot to talk about in this hour ahead as we focus on it.

Gary Tuchman has been reporting on the O'Donnell campaign since last week, trying to get her to answer those specific questions.

Gary, what jumped out at you in the interview tonight?

TUCHMAN: Well, it is a delicious irony that she went on the national media to say she didn't want to talk to the national media.

But we did watch and listen and we didn't hear a lot when it came to her elaborating about the stuff that we have checked out for the past week. For example, when it comes to this question the was asked of her, what about the claim that you have spent $20,000 in campaign funding for personal expenditures, she said she did not. And it was just left at that.

But opponents of hers -- and opponents are mostly Republicans who are talking to us, not Democrats -- she kept stressing they were Democratic opponents -- Republicans have been talking to us about this. They stress they believe she's lived on campaign contributions over the past few years, that she's used them for gas, and restaurants, and she's used them for gas stations in her hometown in New Jersey, while she wasn't running for anything in the year 2009.

But she then went on. And people have been speculating about what kind of job she has. She talked a little bit about public relations work she does for nonprofit companies.


O'DONNELL: I take nonprofit clients. I do freelance work.


TUCHMAN: One of the allegations is, how has she survived without making much money, because the records that we have investigated do show that she has not made a regular livable salary for at least five years.

She also talked about tax problems she has. She was asked about a lien that the IRS gave to her. They said she owed a lot of money. She made it very clear, at least to the viewers who are listening to her, that perhaps that she did not owe any money, that she had no problem whatsoever, and that there were no more problems with the IRS. Listen.


O'DONNELL: I have paid my taxes. They're trying to go after an erroneous tax lien that the IRS admitted was a computer error.


TUCHMAN: OK. The IRS admitted it was a computer error, but records that we have show that she did indeed this past spring pay thousands of dollars to the IRS in back taxes, after the IRS said it was not a computer error.

She also talked about a panel discussion that was held last night with candidates that her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, did not show up to because it was a mostly conservative audience.

She is indeed absolutely right. Chris Coons did not show up at that. And she stressed that she showed up last week before a liberal audience at a Jewish center in Wilmington, Delaware. What we should say is that it was not necessarily a liberal audience. The room was also packed with Tea Party supporters, people wearing T-shirts that said O'Donnell. She got lots of loud applause, very polite applause from other people who were not necessarily in favor of her.

It was a very friendly crowd, but it's very fair to say there was loud applause from Tea Party supporters at that particular political panel, which was held last Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware.

One final thing we should mention is that, during this program, she said that the media was pushing and shoving at that particular event. I will tell you, I have been covering politics for almost 30 years, and it was nothing out of the ordinary. They were coming up to her. That's what happens with any high-profile political candidate.

And she also mentioned that perhaps it would be good if the media was kept out of certain events. And, frankly, I think, for most Americans, that gives you a little chill. When we go to places like Cuba and Iran and North Korea and China, we're often kept out. The media is kept out. There's no free reporting.

And it's just something that we really don't like to hear in the United States of America, to keep the media out -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, appreciate it tonight.

Plenty of "Raw Politics" for our panel tonight. We're also going to be looking into allegations being made against her Democratic opponent, trying to see what is true and what is not about him. But, first, our panel, John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political writer for The Daily Beast. He's also the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Contributor -- CNN contributor Erick Erickson is editor in chief of And John Ridley is founding editor of and an NPR commentator.

Erick, what do you make about this, her saying -- Christine O'Donnell basically on FOX News saying that everyone's attacking her and that the media is actually getting in the way of her campaigning? Does that -- does that strike true to you?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, you know, this is a campaign, and she's playing to her base. She's mobilizing the base.

The base thinks there's a liberal bias in the media. Some of the questions, some of the answers, some of the attacks, so-called attacks from the media play to the base. They rally them. They make her look very sympathetic, and she can get people out to vote based on this.

And, you know, there are a lot of Republicans in Washington patting themselves on the back today because the media is so focused on Christine O'Donnell, they're not looking at other Republican candidates. And they're all thinking, whew, glad it's Christine O'Donnell.

COOPER: I get the hatred of the media and stuff, and stuff, but to hear a major candidate for U.S. Senate saying, like, well, you know, they're -- they're -- they're hurting my campaign by asking me questions, and they're taking pictures of my dad on the lawn, I'm certainly sympathetic to that.


COOPER: Someone's family shouldn't be bothered and stuff. But if she actually made herself available to the media, rather than run away and refuse to ask questions -- I mean, it just seems odd.


ERICKSON: You know, Anderson, frankly, that's the issue there. She doesn't care about the national media, and she doesn't really need to. It's kind of the Rand Paul strategy in Kentucky.

He's raising a lot of money. He's up on the air in Kentucky. He's now 20 points ahead, although, admittedly, she's behind. But they're focused on local media. And the national media attacks, to -- to have Gary bring up the point about Christine saying maybe there's some events that the media shouldn't go to, and then jumping into, this is like in China and Korea and Cuba, I mean, when you hear -- conservatives hear that, they're thinking, obviously, this is biased, whether it is or not.

I mean, she's playing to her base, and the media's just helping her.

COOPER: John Avlon, what about that? Is the media making it easier for her?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she's able to play the victim card, which may play well to certain elements of the base.

But, you know, you need to be consistent about the standards. So often, the political debates we have in this country are fundamentally filtered through a partisan prism. If she's trying to play locally, then it's worth asking, how come she only got five in-state donations this year one-quarter of this year? Most of her money, in fact, was national money, activist money that came in and flooded the campaign late in the closed partisan primary that she won.

She's trying to win in Delaware, where she's got a huge deficit against Republicans, an electoral advantage towards Democrats and independents. So, you know, she can talk now about trying to connect to her base and play in state, but that hasn't how -- been how she's conducted her campaigns in the last three times she's run for Senate in the last five years.

COOPER: John Ridley, the election's only six weeks away from tonight. Is it fair for voters to be influenced by a group, CREW, which is calling for an investigation, an investigation that -- that won't be completed by Election Day? I mean, is that -- that would strike some people as -- as unfair against her. They're basically making these allegations against her, and no one's going to be able to investigate it in time, really.

JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I don't know whether it's unfair or not to bring up what could be a real issue, and she certainly has an opportunity to answer those. She talked about on the show tonight that she posted some letters from the IRS that addressed these issues.

I read them. To me, they're fairly inconclusive. But she does -- John and Erick both talked about playing to the base. Playing to the base at this point is not going to work. She's got very negative numbers in Delaware. Sixty percent of likely voters think that she's not qualified.

And this is a state where the electorate is actually in line with a lot of the Tea Party principles, getting rid of health care, reducing the size of the budget, reducing the government and things like that. So, this, for her, is not even about the issues. This is really about likability. People have got to learn what she's about.

So, bringing up these issues, whether they're fair, whether they're not fair, that's politics. It's, can she answer them, and will she answer them for the people who are going to vote for her? And, by the way, not just a closed Republican primary anymore. This is wide-open now.

COOPER: You know, John Avlon, Erick brings up an interesting point, you know, something that Gary Tuchman had said, which I thought did seem kind of overboard to me.

But he raises an interesting point about -- about bias. And I think bias is something that certainly I'm obsessed with and try to eradicate it, to the extent that it's possible. Do you think the media or us or anyone in the media is focusing more on her -- do you think, if -- if she was a Democrat, would -- and she just had kind of appeared on the national scene, won a surprise election, do you think she would be getting -- with the same kind of record she had, that she would be getting the same focus?

AVLON: Maybe not.

I think both sides do tend to side -- sort of take a look at the crazies on their own side and say, well, they may be crazy, but they're our crazies, and, really, you need to see it in context. They're quick to give them the benefit of the doubt. And that's why it's so important to be consistent in the standards you apply.

I mean, the dabbling-in-witchcraft story wasn't important in and upon itself. It is really just an issue of the larger tip of the iceberg of stories that seem to be coming out consistently about her, because she put herself on television throughout the 1990s as a professional social conservative activist. And now that's all coming back to haunt her, in addition to the very the serious financial questions that are coming into play, which you can't spin your way out of. Those are legal issues.

COOPER: Also, Erick, I guess, to some extent, you have former campaign workers doing -- you had a former campaign worker doing a robocall against her during the campaign.


COOPER: And you had Karl Rove coming out subsequent to the campaign. That rarely happens. So, that certainly adds to the focus on her, I think.

ERICKSON: Yes, absolutely. You know, I'm willing to bet there's been more national media ink spilled on Christine O'Donnell than there ever was on Alvin Greene, accept for the fact that he may or may not have been a Republican plant. And when it was proven he wasn't, they kind of ditched the story.

But, on the Christine O'Donnell issue, the Republicans are the ones who have sabotaged this lady. People like Karl Rove went after her and Sean Hannity a few weeks ago the night she won. They have savaged her.

And, you know, I have said along the Republicans aren't going to win the Senate. She's probably not going to win Delaware. That the Republican establishment turned on her so viciously because she dared to beat their precious Mike Castle, I, frankly, find kind of funny. I mean, they're eating their own.

But the humor here and the irony is that the media now and even Republicans are so focused on Christine O'Donnell, they're not focusing anymore on Sharron Angle or Ken Buck or Rand Paul or Linda McMahon or any of these other candidates, all of whom are breathing a sigh of relief. AVLON: But I think the Christine O'Donnell story compounds that narrative about Sharron Angle. It adds fuel to that fire.

And the issue with -- the reason that there was a lot of conservative concern about her winning from magazines like "The Weekly Standard," from "Reason," which called her a crackpot of the first order before the primary, was in part because they knew that Mike Castle could win Joe Biden's seat. And that would move them towards winning the Senate.

COOPER: Right.

AVLON: And they knew this would be a disaster coming down the pike.

COOPER: We -- we have got to take a break.

John Avlon, Erick Erickson, John Ridley, I appreciate, guys, you being on. Thank you.


COOPER: Just ahead: The watchdog group that Christine O'Donnell is now threatening to sue, what do they have to say about her claims of libel? You will hear from them in a moment.

Let us know what you think. The live chat is now under way,

Also ahead tonight: Christine O'Donnell's Democratic challenger, Chris Coons, caught up in a controversy of his own, words he wrote a quarter-century ago about becoming a bearded Marxist. Those two words are being used against him now. We check the record.

Also tonight: disease detectives, Sanjay Gupta charting a heart- wrenching medical mystery, this little girl battling an unknown killer. Tonight, Kylie's parents continue their desperate search for a diagnosis.


KYLIE: ... bad parent, like, why can't I help my kid? So...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't really put it into words, just helpless.



COOPER: Well, as we mentioned at the top of the program, Christine O'Donnell is firing back against accusations she's misused campaign funds. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed complaints with both the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware, alleging that O'Donnell used campaign money to pay her personal expenses.

The executive director of the group, Melanie Sloan, has flat-out called Christine O'Donnell a criminal who should be prosecuted.

O'Donnell's attorney is now threatening to sue Sloan.


CLETA MITCHELL, CHRISTINE O'DONNELL CAMPAIGN COUNSEL: I have looked at what Ms. Melanie Sloan has filed. And what she is saying is untrue. She's libeled Christine O'Donnell.

We're looking into that, because she has considered libel, per se, slander, per se, by calling my client names. I am the counsel to the campaign. And I have looked at lots of campaign FEC reports, and the things that she's saying simply are not true.


COOPER: Well, Melanie Sloan is back with us tonight.

Melanie, so, what about that? I mean, Ms. Mitchell is not parsing her words, accusing of you of slander and libel. What's your response?


Christine O'Donnell is a public figure. And we have said nothing but the truth about Christine O'Donnell. Cleta Mitchell and Christine O'Donnell would have to prove that CREW acted with reckless disregard for the truth at the very least. And we have only spoken the truth, as anybody who goes through Ms. O'Donnell's campaign finance forms can clearly see.

We're very comfortable with where we stand.


COOPER: I want to play you something else that Ms. Mitchell had to say.


MITCHELL: CREW is a left-wing, George Soros-funded, liberal group that makes -- gets its donations because it goes after Republicans and conservatives. That's what Melanie Sloan does.

She should not have a tax-exempt organization. She should lose her tax-exempt status because of the way that she interferes and intervenes in partisan campaign activities.


COOPER: I mean, what about that, George Soros-funded, liberal, left-leaning group?

SLOAN: CREW is not a left-leaning group.

CREW takes all comers. We go after Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives. We go after public officials and candidates who do the wrong thing. We're about right and wrong, not Democrat and Republican.

COOPER: Funded by George Soros?

SLOAN: Indeed, the Open Society Institute, which gets its money from George Soros, has indeed given us money. But if Soros is -- gives money to us because he thinks we only go after Republicans, then I guess he's sadly disappointed by all of the actions we have taken against so many Democrats, including Eddie Bernice Johnson, who I have been on your show discussing, Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, and a whole host of others.

CREW is strictly nonpartisan.

COOPER: But plenty of Republicans are going to see this and say, well, look -- or anyone who is -- a lot of people are going to see this, no matter what side of the aisle they're on, and say, look, wasn't -- if Chris -- you're saying Christine O'Donnell is guilty of this.

Wasn't she just as guilty a few weeks ago? And you didn't raise this up in -- prior in the campaign. It's only now that it's in the final weeks of the campaign. You could have even waited until after the election, you know, and once the American people had decided, and then bring up these allegations, I mean, because these allegations can't be proven or disproven in this short amount of time, you know, by officials.

SLOAN: Well, Anderson, you asked earlier if it was fair to bring this up.

And, of course, it's fair. Character is a critical issue to American voters when they are considering candidates at the polls. And when there are issues that reflect upon a character's honesty and integrity, we have a right to raise those questions, and a candidate should answer them.

And, instead, Christine O'Donnell is refusing to answer any questions at all about these kind of issues, when it's reporters for your show who confront her or any other media. Instead, she just says she's ethical; you can't question her. I think voters want to know how Ms. O'Donnell can explain living off her campaign funds for so many years and basically stealing supporters' money.

COOPER: We also had a woman from a Tea Party group on last night who said that she had looked through the people who -- running your organization, and they're basically are all Democrats or people who had experience in Democratic politics, and that you don't have Republicans, and so how can you really say you're nonpartisan?

SLOAN: The people who work for CREW are nonpartisan. I have also been a federal prosecutor. That's not a partisan position.

I think CREW's record speaks for itself. We go after all comers. It doesn't matter. It's about right and wrong, not Democrat or -- or Republican.

COOPER: Melanie Sloan, appreciate your time. We will continue to follow it.

Christine O'Donnell's Democratic challenger is also facing questions about his past. The critics of Chris Coons are calling him a Marxist. It all has to do with an article he wrote years ago. We have the article. We have the "Raw Politics" tonight. See what he has to say about it as well.

We will also show you the new Sarah Palin ad that has a lot of people asking if this is her signal she's making a bid for the White House. You can watch it and judge for yourself.

And later: a woman whose own body is turning against her. Most doctors cannot tell her why. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us why she's among those desperate to get answers from a unique team of disease detectives.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt certain that, if there wasn't a diagnosis, I felt like it was pretty certain that it would kill me.



COOPER: Tonight, Christine O'Donnell's Democratic challenger, Chris Coons, is speaking about a controversy in his own campaign. For days, conservative blogs and commentators have been calling Coons a Marxist, pointing to Coons' own words from this article he wrote for his college newspaper back in 1985.

The headline, "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." He talked about the allegations against him earlier on CNN .


CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I am not now, nor have I ever been a Marxist or an enemy of the people of the United States.

And, frankly, at a time when we have got 35,000 Delawareans out of work, when we have got real economic problems to tackle, I'm just disappointed that we're spending time talking about the title of an article written in a student newspaper 25 years ago.

But I think it is important to speak to it and put it to bed. I'm not a Marxist. I have never held Marxist ideas. I believe strongly in the free enterprise system and have worked hard for eight years in one of Delaware's most innovative private sector manufacturing firms.


COOPER: Well, if that's true, then why did he write that article with that headline?

Tom Foreman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest" -- Tom.


The attacks from the right against the Democratic nominee are taking two basic tacks: He is a left-leaning, anti-American communist, or he's a left-leaning, anti-American communist, tax-and- spend liberal. That's pretty much what they're saying here.

The trouble dates back to 1985, when he was in his 20s, a student at Amherst College, an active Young Republican. He went to Africa to study, saw great poverty, and he came back changed, writing this article that you just mentioned for the student paper, "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist," in which he says, "I came to suspect that the ideal of America as a beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world, was not exactly based on reality."

And the conservative talk circuit is tearing him up over this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: By the way, this Democrat is a Marxist. I mean, there's a joke going around he's a bearded Marxist or Marxist with a beard. He describes himself that way. This guy is a sitting duck.



BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": If she says she's a witch, this guy said he's a Marxist. Who are you going to vote for? I would rather have the witch than the Marxist.


FOREMAN: The Coons campaign, as you said before, and the candidate himself denies all of this. They says the term "bearded Marxist" was a joke among his staunchly Republican family members, who suggested, when he became a Democrat, it was essentially the same as becoming a communist.

And the campaign says he was reacting to -- what he was reacting to was what he saw as failures in the Reagan policies, especially in Africa, not failures to the overall American system -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, the natural thing to ask is what about his actual policies? He has a track record. A number of conservatives say he's repeatedly raised taxes as a county executive and presided over nearly bankrupt budget. FOREMAN: Yes, he's getting pounded on that by some big-name Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, who brought it up at this past weekend's Values Voters Summit.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: In the county government, he has raised taxes dramatically, raised spending dramatically, and dramatically lowered the bond value of the county.


FOREMAN: So we have three things to consider here, Anderson, and we want to go over them. We went over both of them with a spokesperson for Coons' office at the Newcastle County government, and a political science professor from the University of Delaware, David Wilson.

First, Coons and the county council did raise property taxes three times in the past five years. That is a fact.

Second, the latest operating budget for the county where he is the chief executive is just under $236 million. That's of about $7 million from the previous year. T hat is up.

And third, the bond rating, which is essentially the government equivalent of a credit score. It shows how likely it is that a government can pay back debt. Well, this county has been bragging lately that it has, in fact, had the highest possible bond rating for nine years, Anderson.

COOPER: So it seems what you're saying is, from what I'm hearing, is kind of a mixed bag of fact, and a little bit of fiction in what Mr. Gingrich said.

FOREMAN: Yes, you're absolutely right about, but it also needs some context. Coons' spokesperson and this professor confirmed that the county had embarked on some unsustainable spending programs before Coons was in charge.

Then they were hit with the housing crash and the recession like everyone else, so he had to cut some programs and raise some taxes to keep from going too deeply into the red.

That said, he has tended to remain popular enough with moderate voters there, who did not see his actions as too severe on either front. And Delaware still has, overall, some of the lowest taxes in the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tom Foreman, appreciate the update. Thanks very much.

Let's talk about this with our panel. Back again, John Avlon, Erick Erickson and John Ridley.

Erick, what do you make of this? Is Chris Coons -- do you believe he's a Marxist, once bearded? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I was raised in a family where any Democrat is a Marxist. I don't really know about Chris Coons.

I would just love to be able to have CNN do all of my defense on the charges raised by conservatives. I will tell you that he's going to go into Washington and he's going to vote for the Barack Obama agenda, that he would vote for a stimulus plan if he were there. He would vote for a health-care plan if he were there. He would vote for financial regulation plans if they were there. And that's what the Tea Party movement and I are fighting against.

COOPER: John Avlon, are the charges -- are the criticisms that have been made against him fair? He did raise taxes. He's...

AVLON: That's legitimate. People should feel free to criticize a candidate based on what they've done in an executive or elected capacity. That is all 100 percent legitimate. People need to defend and be held accountable for what they've done professionally.

But, you know, we're in the political season right now, a political era where the term Marxist is getting thrown around a lot without any context.

In this case it's a joke about a 25-year-old college newspaper. And the fact that, you know, some people would frame this election as a choice between a witch and a bearded Marxist says everything you need to know about the silly psychotic season we're in right now.

So -- so no, get a sense of perspective, a sense of humor and be equal about the criticism and the lenses with which we judge our politics.

COOPER: John, do you think voters really care on either side with kind of the level of detail about, you know, whether it's O'Donnell's -- you know, whether she paid for personal expenses with campaign money or if, you know, what this guy wrote 25 years ago in a paper?

RIDLEY: I think to a large degree we're in the Wile E. Coyote politics. It's just throw a boulder in the middle of the road, and people have to go around it. Whether it's a witch, whether it's a bearded Marxist, whether it's being a Kenyan anti-colonialist, which is apparently the new bugaboo, everybody, left or right, has to go around these boulders and really get to the policy issues.

And it's unfortunate, but these are the things that stick with a lot of folks. It is interesting, though, talking about the Hannity program earlier, they talked about, have you ever seen, in terms of Christine O'Donnell, a local politician being hammered on a national level and then turn around and we've got to deal with this with Chris Coons, all out of Delaware? So, you know, a lot of focus on a lot of things that don't really matter.

ERICKSON: Anderson, Halloween comes before the election season this year. FOREMAN: Came early this year.

COOPER: Yes. That is for sure.

Erick, I want to play this video that Sarah Palin has put out, a new video on her YouTube channel. Talk about really kind of what's behind it, what the thought is here.

Let's take a look.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: The soul of this movement is the people, everyday Americans who grow our food and run our small businesses, teach our kids and fight our wars. They're folks in small towns and cities across this great nation who saw what was happening and they got involved. It is just so inspiring...


COOPER: This is a really well-made ad. This isn't a cheap YouTube ad. This is really well shot, really well done and produced. Is this a signal of running?

You know, it's not the first ad like this she's done. They've all been extremely well produced, probably better than any other potential candidate or even, frankly, some of the national committees on the Republican side.

I don't know yet that Sarah Palin wants to run. A lot of people say she does. I'm still not convinced she just wants to be the king maker and not necessarily the king herself.

One thing that she is doing is she is moving voters. Her endorsement is probably the only Republican endorsement that matters this year.

Nikki Haley in South Carolina will be, probably, the governor of South Carolina after November. She would not be on the map but for Sarah Palin, and she's not the only candidate this year. Joe Miller in Alaska and probably even Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. She doesn't have a perfect track record but her endorsement is the one that matters this year. Productions like this, these are professional quality and you don't see that coming from a lot of the Republicans these days.

COOPER: Well, also, John Avlon, you've got to give her props, whether you like her or not, and you know, the country is clearly divided on her. But she really took a gamble on the people that she backed. It wasn't like she was kind of waiting to see which way the wind blew. She reached out, picked up some people and -- and really elevated them.

I mean, look at Mitt Romney, who suddenly endorsed O'Donnell after she won, you know, after she won the primary. Mitt Romney is like, "Oh, yes, well, I endorse her." I mean, Sarah Palin is out in front and, you know, taking real political risks on things.

AVLON: You can't take away from her. She is a conviction politician. I think that Jim DeMint's endorsement this cycle has been at least as influential.

But look, she is a hugely polarizing figure, hugely popular among the base. Increasingly polarizing not -- in the general electorate at large.

CLINTON: But her supporters love her. There is an emotional connection. An inspirational factor that she has that rallies the base unlike anybody else in the Republican field right now. That gravitational pull towards running for president becomes very powerful, very seductive. Right now she's benefiting from it personally, politically, financially. But the drift is towards 2012 and there are a lot of people saying your endorsement can make all the difference, especially in a caucus state like Iowa.

COOPER: John Ridley, you think she'll run?

RIDLEY: I hope, if she does run, it's as a Tea Party candidate. I mean, I don't love the Tea Party, but I'm really excited about a third-party campaign.

And this is interesting in politics. This is the titans overthrowing -- or the Olympians overthrowing the titans. And I think she's -- I like her as a person, don't love her as a politician. But when was the last time you saw someone outside of the system who can really turn every deficit into a positive? She can quit and people love that about her. So I would love to see her run as a Tea Party candidate. That really is a national...

ERICKSON: I'm so stealing that Olympians versus the Titans line.


RIDLEY: You can have it. I get 10 percent, but you can have it...

(COOPER): Thank you.

Still ahead, some pretty shocking allegations against a popular pastor. He has more than 25,000 followers, ties to the Martin Luther king III family. Now Eddie Long is accused of trying to coerce young male church members into sex.

Plus, part two of our series, "Doctor Detectives," following a family's desperate search for answers that could save their little girl's life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our last hope, but at the same time it's -- we finally made it to the people that are going to find out what's wrong.



COOPER: Tonight, 360 M.S. Sanjay Gupta takes us back inside the intense world of an elite team of disease detectives. They're working deep inside the sprawling campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and they take on the cases that no one else has been able to crack. True medical mysteries in every sense of the phrase. It's called the Undiagnosed Diseases Program. The patients who come here, well, they're running out of time.

Sanjay joins me now -- Sanjay.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, for the last year we've been following the heart-wrenching stories of two patients whose lives literally are hanging in the balance.

One is a little girl. She's just 6 years old. The other, a 53- year-old mother of five. And over the years both have seen dozens of doctors, but no one has been able to tell them what is making them so sick.

So the Undiagnosed Diseases Program really has become their last hope of finding answers they so desperately need.

And tonight we pick up the stories of Kylie and Sally. And the disease detectives who might, just might be able to save their lives.


GUPTA (voice-over): Kylie McPeak was sick and getting sicker. Her parents spent nearly two years with specialists.


GUPTA: No one could diagnose what was happening to Kylie. Her voice tremored.

The twitches that were convulsing the entire right side of her body.

GINA MCPEAK, KYLIE'S MOTHER: I'm a bad parent. Why can't I help my kid? So...

STEVEN MCPEAK, KYLIE'S FATHER: I can't really put it into words. Just helpless.

GUPTA: Kylie had once been a perfectly healthy toddler, until it was as if an invisible force. She again was accepted to the undiagnosed diseases program.

Yes, there was on a diagnoses was at war with her body. Her their little girl's descent. But she wasn't. Absolutely no evidence of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just turned off the families. And I just couldn't -- it was really...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sally's husband, Buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just waiting to find out what's next. But normal, functional thing people have to do to get through the day, which she will not be able to do.

GUPTA: No on could offer an explanation of what was happening to Sally. The medical SWAT teach of doctors and specialists at the Undiagnosed Diseases Program. Quickly ruled out one possibility.

DR. WILLIAM GAHL, DIRECTOR, NIH UNDIAGNOSED DISEASES PROGRAM: Bottom line, they're both not involved. It's not after vaguely (ph). Just confined to the muscle. What in the world could this be?

GUPTA: That's always the question. Kylie and her parents made their way from Reno, Nevada, to Bethesda, Maryland, the NIH, in hopes of finding ads. What in the world could be wrong with Kylie?

STEVE MCPEAK, KYLIE'S FATHER (on camera): Do you want to know who's going on with Kylie? I mean, even if it's treatable, if it is terminal, then how much time we have left, as opposed to not knowing, you know, it could all end tomorrow.

GUPTA: Kylie would undergo a series of complex tests and evaluations by top medical specialist at NIH.

It's physically draining on everyone. For Kylie's mom and dead, emotionally wrenching. The week is intense.

GAHL: I don't think anyone has been anything quite like Kylie. This is a very complex case, and it could be difficult to solve.

GUPTA: Clearly in the right leg, I see a lot of movement. The right foot sort of -- the foot is turned inward. They call that dystonia or abnormal tone.

Not a lot of tone in these muscle groups over here. Left side has a little bit, as well, but not -- not quite as bad, other than there's that constant movement going on. You can see it in the feet; you can see it in the hands. You can see it in her eyelids and clearly, in her voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you pinch the wings of the fly.

GUPTA: Dr. Gahl and his team look at everything.

Nobody cares about what happens to these people.


GUPTA: That's a very important clue.

GAHL: Very important.

GUPTA (voice-over): Kylie tasks begin in early morning. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beautiful. Can I tell you something? You are all done.


GUPTA: And go late into the night.


S. MCPEAK: It's hard. Extremely hard. Hopefully, it's for a good cause.

GUPTA: In the hallways, specialists hold meetings on the fly, throwing out new theories, hoping something they've learned fits into the bigger puzzle and a singular diagnosis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of unanswered questions.

GUPTA (on camera): For a lot of patients, as we were, you know, investigating this, you really got the sense that this ends up being a place of last hope or last resort for them. That's a lot of pressure.

GAHL: Well, it is. We try to be realistic about it and get our patients to be realistic about the issues, too. We've been to the best places in the country. Now you're coming here. We only have 10- 15 percent success rate, so I don't want you to get your hopes up really too, too high.

But on the other hand, we don't want to take hope away.

GUPTA: Sally Massagee knew what she was doing there.

SALLY MASSAGEE, PATIENT: I took that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I heard it. But I still question (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


COOPER: It sounds like such a tough week for any patient. But I mean, for a little girl like that, is so sick, it's got to be just heart breaking.

GUPTA: It is -- it is heart breaking. And I'll tell you, Anderson, I'm not sure what was worse. Sometimes that Kylie would seem so resigned to it, just that she had accepted it -- had accepted this sort of awful existence that has become her life, the life she has known for so many years now. That was almost worse.

But kids are resilient, as well, Anderson. I mean, they bounce back quickly from this sort of thing. And she doesn't know much different. I think it's harder to watch her parents. They're so emotionally distraught and watching a child go through that, I think very challenging.

And we'll tell you that -- that these doctors are puzzle solvers. They have all this information now. They've been puzzle solvers their whole lives. And now it's a whole process of trying to -- to put the pieces together, to eliminate certain things, to solve the puzzle, ultimately. That's what they're going to do over the next several weeks now.

COOPER: We're going to have more tomorrow night and the night after. Part three is tomorrow night. Look forward to it. Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next tonight, a popular pastor with more than 25,000 church members now accused of coercing men into sex. Details on those allegations ahead.

And a key vote to decide if gays and lesbians can openly serve in the military. The decision from Capitol Hill, coming up.


COOPER: We're covering some other important stories. Joe Johns is back with the "360 News $ Business Bulletin" -- Joe.


Two young men have accused an influential pastor in Atlanta of sexual coercion. A lawsuit claims that Pastor Eddie Long used his position as a spiritual adviser to coax them to have sex with him. Long denies the allegations. He heads the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a congregation with more than 25,000 members.

Nine American troops were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan today. The chopper went down in the southern part of the country, but NATO says there were no reports of enemy fire. This is the deadliest year for American forces in the nine-year war.

Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that would end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning openly-gay men and lesbians from the military. Even moderate Republicans who oppose the rule say lawmakers are not being allowed a full debate, so they joined conservatives in stopping it for now.

Lawrence Summers will step down at the end of the year as President Obama's chief economic adviser. Summers will return to Harvard, where he previously served as president.

And Bristol Palin made her debut on "Dancing with the Stars." She and her partner danced to the song, "Mama Told Me Not to Come." Bristol's mother, Sarah Palin, watched the show from her home in Alaska. And we're told Bristol had to get over a bout of shyness in order to do this. It looks pretty much like she succeeded, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I didn't -- didn't actually see it, but I guess I'll watch it on YouTube or something.

Joe, our "Shot" tonight, some pretty crazy moments before a big college game. I don't know if you guys have seen this. We found this on YouTube. A smack-down this past Saturday between the mascots of Ohio and Ohio State.

JOHNS: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Take a look. That's the Ohio University mascot, Rufus Bobcat, tackling the Ohio state mascot, Brutus Buckeye. It goes on. The guy continues to attack him.

JOHNS: I think this is assault and battery.

COOPER: But apparently, he's actually been banned from all future athletic events.

And this video of course. This video, of course,, well, it got us thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got us thinking.

COOPER: Yes. All right. This is the other mascot meltdown, this one from a Milwaukee Brewers game a few years ago. It all just went downhill. Boom. He hit him. The guy hit the mascot, and that's what caused the collision.

JOHNS: Yes. The cascading collision.

COOPER: Yes. You should not hit mascots. That's just not right. Yes. Boom.

All right. Joe, thanks.

Up next, more serious stuff, the latest on politics, Christine O'Donnell firing back, speaking out, but only on FOX. Details ahead. We'll be right back.