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Interview With Sean Penn; Double Standard For Christine O'Donnell?

Aired October 25, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone.

Tonight: Christine O'Donnell, she says she's the victim of a double standard, the victim of sexism, targeted, she says, because she's a conservative Christian woman. Does she have a case or is she actually the one who has been using a double standard? Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: Sean Penn on the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Hundreds have died from the fast-moving disease, thousands infected, death that didn't have to happen, stupid death, as one doctor I know calls it. Sean Penn takes us to the front lines of the disaster and reveals why so little of that promised aid has been actually sent so far..

And later, more than just a burp in the story of hiccup girl. Remember, she got famous because she couldn't stop hiccuping? She's got a lot bigger worries right now, a first-degree murder charge. We will tell you what heinous crime she is accused of in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" segment.

We begin, though, tonight, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."

Tonight, Christine O'Donnell, new charges she's now making that, as a conservative Christian woman, she's the victim of a double standard, the victim of sexism.

Listen to what Christine O'Donnell said when David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network asked her if people are beating up on conservative Christian women like her.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There's certainly a double standard. And I don't often quote but Gloria Steinem, but she says, you can look at a double standard if they wouldn't attack the male opponent that way.

And there's no doubt that they wouldn't say the things they're saying about me, they wouldn't do the things that they're doing if I were not a woman.

I'm not whining, but there is certainly a double standard, especially when it comes to conservative women.


COOPER: So, she's saying she's the victim of a double standard, that they -- probably the media or political opponents -- are saying things about her they wouldn't say about a male candidate.

Now, before you decide if what she's saying is true -- and we leave it up to you -- let's look at her record, because during the primary battle with fellow Republican Mike Castle, one of the most damaging criticisms of Christine O'Donnell was made not by liberal media outlets, but in a recorded call made on behalf of her Republican challenger by a fellow conservative and a woman, a fellow conservative woman who used to be Christine O'Donnell's campaign manager. Listen.


KRISTIN MURRAY, FORMER CHRISTINE O'DONNELL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: She wasn't concerned about conservative causes. O'Donnell just wanted to make a buck. That's why I left and why I won't trust O'Donnell with my hard-earned tax dollars.


COOPER: All right, that certainly doesn't have very often. And when Karl Rove very publicly raised questions about O'Donnell right after her primary victory, there was no evidence it was because she was a woman or because she was a conservative Christian. He was attacking her because of contradictory statements she herself had made.


KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: One thing that Christine O'Donnell is now going to have to answer in the general election that she didn't have to answer in the primary is her own checkered background.

There are just a lot of nutty things she's been saying that just simply don't add up.


ROVE: Why did she mislead voters about her college education? Why -- who did it -- how come it took her nearly two decades to pay her college bills, so she could get her college degree? How does she make a living?


COOPER: So, there's no doubt that liberal media outlets had a field day with Christine O'Donnell's past controversial comments about everything from evolution to witchcraft.

But even non-liberal media outlets felt a sense of responsibility to question her about life choices she had made and about statements she made on television programs in the past for years. Would a male candidate have been asked those questions? Absolutely. All candidates are asked about every aspect of their life and their positions. True, no one else has copped to once dabbling at witchcraft. But evolution, for example, that's been a hot topic, certainly came up in the last presidential election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Huckabee, at a previous debate, you and your colleagues indicated that -- that you do not believe in evolution.

You're an ordained minister. What do you believe?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Brownback, I wonder if you would want to spend 30 seconds and tell our audience out there where you stand on the issue of evolution?

Do you believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools?


COOPER: Well, as for our coverage on this program, Christine O'Donnell, we have held her to the exactly the same standard we would hold any candidate to, Republican or Democrat.

We haven't made fun of her for the witchcraft stuff. We focused on statements she's made that seem to be contradictory. For instance, last week, in a set, she couldn't remember the 14th and 16th Amendments to the Constitution were.

Now, we pointed out on this program that it's easy to get confused for most people, but that most people aren't running for Senate and most people don't claim to have intensely studied the Constitution at a graduate level, as Christine O'Donnell has repeatedly done.


O'DONNELL: We need people in Congress who are going to be advocates for our Constitution.

If you can help me get elected, I will always vote according to our Constitution.

The litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.

And the Constitution is making a comeback. It's almost as if we're in a season of constitutional repentance.

It is the Constitution by which I will determine how I vote on all legislation coming across my desk.

It's the Constitution by which I determine all of my policies. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

O'DONNELL: I also have a graduate fellowship in constitutional government from the Claremont Institute.

It is the Constitution that I will defend and it is by the Constitution by -- that I will make all of my decisions.


COOPER: The graduate fellowship, by the way, was a seven-day course.

Now, sexism certainly exists and of course plenty of people have biases against a conservative Christian woman, just as plenty of people have biases against a liberal atheist male candidate.

But Christine O'Donnell has not provided any specific examples of her being victimized by sexism in this campaign. We wanted her of course to come on the program tonight, but she only appears on programs she believes will be supportive of her.

We wouldn't be unfriendly, but we would hold her accountable for her statements. Now, while we haven't found any sexist comments made by one of O'Donnell's opponents in this race, we did come across an instance when Christine O'Donnell herself almost gleefully bashed her former Republican primary challenger, Mike Castle, in the very same way she now claims she's being bashed. Listen to language she used against Castle.


O'DONNELL: These are the type of cheap, underhanded, unmanly tactics that we have come to expect from Obama's favorite Republican, Mike Castle. You know? I released a statement today saying, Mike, this is not a bake-off. Get your man pants on.


COOPER: So, unmanly, not a bake-off, get your man pants on, that's Christine O'Donnell talking about her GOP primary opponent, Mike Castle.

Now, if you look up the definition of sexism in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, there's actually a couple of them. But one of them is -- quote -- "behavior, conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social rolls based on sex."

Now, you can decide for yourself if labeling a male political opponent unmanly and telling him to put his man pants on is sexist, but it certainly seems to be a double standard. If somebody told Christine O'Donnell to put on a skirt, that would certainly be something that would raise an outcry, understandably.

We should point out, this is not the first time that Christine O'Donnell has leveled an allegation of some kind of gender discrimination. She filed a lawsuit in 2005 against her former employee, alleging gender discrimination and wrongful termination. The suit against -- was actually against a conservative nonprofit in Delaware where she had worked. She sued for $6.95 million, but ended up dropping the lawsuit.

So, is Christine O'Donnell the victim of a double standard, the victim of sexism? You can decide for yourself. But without specific examples put forward by her campaign, it's an easy charge to make and not one that's not so easy to find in the record of this campaign.

Joining us now is Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Dana Loesch, editor of and host on radio station 97.1 KFTK in Saint Louis.

Paul, what about this? You say sexism -- sexism is definitely alive and well in politics. Is it alive and well in this particular campaign?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it is. And -- and you're right. It is alive in politics.

Look, I'm a big liberal, but Sarah Palin certainly has been the victim of some sexist caricatures, particularly, I mean, Photoshopping her face on to a picture of a woman in a bikini. You know, we don't do that to Mike Huckabee. So, there -- it is out there.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton was subjected to a lot of sexism when she ran. But I don't see it here. I think -- I think, by her own standards, she -- quoting Gloria Steinem saying if you would say the same thing about a guy.

We would. I mean, come on. If a guy said these kind of eccentric things about sexuality, about -- about the Constitution, about dabbling in witchcraft, as some guy claimed to have briefly dabble with warlockism, or whatever it might be, you know, of course we would. So, I think -- I think she's crying foul here.

COOPER: Dana, what about you? What do you think?

DANA LOESCH, ORGANIZER, ST. LOUIS TEA PARTY COALITION: I don't think it's sexism. I don't. I don't -- I think that there are -- as Paul pointed out, there are clear-cut cases of sexism.

I think Hillary Clinton, I think that Sarah Palin, I think that Meg Whitman most recently have all been examples of this. But I don't think that sexism has played any role in this race.

And I -- I -- look, I have problems with Chris Coons. I had problems with Mike Castle. I had problems with some of the arguments that Karl Rove put out discussing Christine O'Donnell. But sexism has no place here.

This is about people looking at her as someone who is running their campaign as a person who is very new to politics. She's running her campaign like a freshman. Now, I'm not being mean. I'm saying that she's running -- and it is refreshing to see someone who's not completely just burdened by Beltway baggage and establishment status quo and all of that.

But, at the same time, people are attacking her because of the some of the things that she has said, because of some of the things that are in her past, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman.

COOPER: Do you think, Paul -- or Dana -- do you think that this is a calculated move? Or this is just -- you know, she's just speaking from her heart, this is what she believes, she doesn't give a lot of interviews to national media and this just came up, or do you think this is some sort of calculated thing to garner votes, frankly?

BEGALA: Go ahead, Dana.

LOESCH: Well, I think this is a -- it's like -- some of the things that I have been witnessing lately, and like, with the case of Krystal Ball, the woman who had the photos up on Facebook, the first defense that I see some women -- not all, but some women -- run to is sexism.

And it's becoming as overused as the term racism is becoming overused. Not every single case is sexism. Now, you had Jerry Brown call Meg Whitman and denigrate her for being a female and use a slur -- I don't know if I would call it a slur, but use a nasty word against her, and then now turns around the day -- a day later and endorses him. That was the case of him using her sex against her.

This is not anyone using her sex...

COOPER: Well, it's not clear whether -- just for the record, it's not exactly clear whether he said it or somebody behind him said it, a campaign aide, or maybe even his wife.

LOESCH: Right. But it's -- it's with his camp, yes.

COOPER: Right.

BEGALA: But -- but...

LOESCH: Yes. But this -- Christine O'Donnell, this isn't sexism.

COOPER: Paul, it's...

BEGALA: Well, I...

COOPER: Go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: I agree it's not sexism on the part of Ms. O'Donnell.

I don't think it's calculated. I haven't seen much out of her campaign that seems to have been calculated. She's sort of an accidental candidate. And so I don't think that. And, look, we're seven days out. People are going to say -- we're just beginning to get to the really crazy part of the campaign. I can't wait. I mean, if -- they will do it on my side of the aisle. They will do it on the other side of the aisle.

Look, when you put people under this much pressure and this much scrutiny, they tend to -- some of them are going to say some things that they perhaps later can't back up.

COOPER: Guys, stick around.

We want to talk about this debate that just occurred about two hours ago in Kentucky between Rand Paul and Jack Conway. Obviously, the last time they had a debate, it was a brutal slug fest. The two guys didn't even end up shaking hands afterwards. We will show you what happened tonight.

Also, why is a Democratic candidate telling President Obama to -- and I quote -- "Shove it"? You will find out in a moment.

The live chat is up and running at Let us know what you think about Christine O'Donnell and this charge of sexism.

Just ahead also, a new feature on 360, "Dirty Politics." See who is running the dirtiest ad or pulling the dirtiest trick this week.

And later tonight: Ever wonder what it's like to be in the eye of a tornado? Well, we will talk to the guy who was right in the middle of this absolutely riveting footage that he took. He will tell us what it was like.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Well, you don't see this too often, a candidate telling the president, a member of his own party, to take something and shove it. Listen to what Frank Caprio, the Democratic nominee for governor of Rhode Island, said about being passed over for an endorsement by President Obama?


FRANK CAPRIO (D), RHODE ISLAND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I never asked President Obama for his endorsement, and what's going on here is really Washington insider politics at its worst.

You have two former senators, Senator Chafee and former Senator Obama, who, You know, have, behind the scenes, tried to, you know, put together an endorsement.

He can take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I'm concerned.

(END AUDIO CLIP) COOPER: So, the Senator Chafee he's referring to is Lincoln Chafee, independent candidate for governor. Back in 2008, Chafee, who is a former Republican, endorsed then candidate Barack Obama. So, the White House says, out of respect for that relationship, the president is withholding an endorsement in the race.

Let's bring back in Paul Begala and Dana Loesch.

Paul, are you surprised that a sitting president would opt not to endorse a viable Democratic nominee in a heavily Democratic state like Rhode Island?

BEGALA: You know, I wish I had my thesaurus. Surprise doesn't even begin to explain it. It's unimaginable to me.

The notion that the leader of the party is being disloyal to his party is -- is -- I think it's unprecedented. I can't think of a time when a -- and he went to the state today. That's the thing, too. You go to Rhode Island. It's the most Democratic state in the union. The Democratic Governors Association has spent $1.5 million trying to elect Mr. Caprio there.

And the president has just completely undercut them. Keep in mind, in a three-way race with Linc Chafee, who is a moderate to liberal former Republican, the key vote here, unlike anywhere else, the swing vote here is the liberal vote. The liberals are the most prized voters here in this three-ways race in this very liberal state.

And so Barack Obama, still beloved by liberals, he might have cost the Democrat this seat. He may have cost the Democrats the governorship in Rhode Island. And he's, I think, still a Democrat, Mr. Obama is. It's unbelievable.

COOPER: Dana, do you think it was a calculated move, though, for the candidate to say, you know, to shove -- say "Shove it" on the radio?

LOESCH: That's -- I -- I do and I don't. I'm not quite sure.

I haven't obsessed over this race, like I have others, but everything that I know of Frank Caprio, he's always been pretty well represented. He's always presented his -- his viewpoints pretty articulately. And he's never really just sort of tossed statements out off the cuff like this, which makes me think that this is calculated.

But, then, why is it calculated? Why would he say something like this? Is he worried? Is the gap closing between him and his opponent? Is he trying to make himself look more attractive to those independents and moderates out there? It raises a lot of questions.

And then you have to think, well, if this was calculated, is the president in on it? Like, in Missouri, Robin Carnahan has run from Barack Obama. When he's in the state, she goes to the opposite end of the state. It's kind of comical.

So, I don't know if that -- it's the same situation as with Missouri and Robin Carnahan or if he's just genuinely...

COOPER: Right.

LOESCH: ... that upset, and he was calculated in saying so.

COOPER: Paul, what are you -- what are you hearing?

BEGALA: I checked with some Rhode Island Democrats, Dana, and they did say that they think, perhaps, Frank Caprio overreacted to this on purpose for -- for effect and to -- to get some attention, that perhaps he is...


COOPER: He certainly got a lot of attention.

BEGALA: It -- it did. It's not language I would recommend.


BEGALA: But he is a -- a -- by all accounts from Democrats, perfectly qualified, able.

This not, say, this guy Alvin Greene, OK? The Democratic nominee for Senate in South Carolina, every Democrat has disavowed him.



BEGALA: Oh, they have. He's not a serious or qualified person to be in the United States Senate. And I understand if President Obama doesn't want to support him.

LOESCH: Well, we don't know...


BEGALA: I agree with that.

But this -- this Mr. Caprio, for Democrats, perfectly attractive candidate.


BEGALA: It's -- it's very odd to me.

COOPER: I don't know if you all saw any of the debate tonight in Kentucky between Rand Paul and Jack Conway. Obviously, the last time, the debate was -- it was probably one of the nastier debates certainly I have ever seen. Rand Paul refused at the end to even shake Conway's hand.

I just want to show a little clip from this time around, because I have got to tell you, it was not heated at all. It seemed purposely designed to be as dull as possible, even though they were sitting right next to even other.

I guess one of the most heated moments came when Rand Paul was asked about statements he made to Rachel Maddow and others about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His opponent tried to pin -- pin him on him. Then Rand Paul fired back.

Let's play the clip.


JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I watched on MSNBC 20 of the most painful and embarrassing moments I have ever seen on national cable TV, as my opponent questioned fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His words were, had he been in -- had he been in the Senate he would have been seeking to modify the lunch counter provision.

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I never said that I believed in anything remotely regarding segregated lunch counters. I never said I was for repeal of the Civil Rights Act, which is what Jack said over and over again on Chris Matthews' show.

And then Chris Matthews come back on the next day and said, Jack Conway was lying and it was false, what he was saying. And he ginned up a lot of interest on this. So, he had some success, but he was being dishonest.


COOPER: Dr. Paul there basically taking issue with his opponent's spin on a different MSNBC show -- MSNBC show, which was not really the crux of his comments, I guess, to Rachel Maddow.

I just want to roll that clip of the original comment.


PAUL: There's 10 different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions and I'm absolutely in favor of. One deals with private institutions. And, had I been around, I would have tried to modify that.


COOPER: It seems like, Paul, for -- I mean, at this point in the race, you know, people have heard that plenty of times and have probably made up their minds about it. Why bring it up in the debate again?

BEGALA: Well, you're right. They have heard it.

I have to say, I think that's where the moderator should have thrown the flag, blown the whistle, kept them honest, as you do, instead of just letting each one say, well, you're a liar. No, you're a liar.

I watched the debate. It was both boring and un-edifying.


BEGALA: But Dr. Paul does have this -- or did, at least -- have this view that government, the federal government, is powerless to stop private actors -- lunch counters is the classic example -- from discriminating on the basis of race.

That's an eccentric position, but it is one that is held by libertarians like Dr. Paul. And -- and I don't think the moderator should have let him get away with walking away from that.

COOPER: Dana, at this point, do you think it matters?

LOESCH: I don't think it matters. I think people have heard it enough.

I think that it was framed a certain way. And I thought it was weird, the way that it was allowed to go on in this debate, which I also found at the same time, but then I kept waiting for them to get amped up and reach behind their chairs and grab pillows and start girl-fighting...


COOPER: ... because it was just getting right to that line. It was so close.


BEGALA: That's sexist, Dana.

LOESCH: But...



LOESCH: But -- well, no, because they -- what are you saying, that boys don't use pillows when they fight, too? I'm kidding. No, the whole point is...


COOPER: I saw Rand Paul reaching for something at one point, but I think it was just like a glass of water or something.

LOESCH: It was his pillow.



LOESCH: Well, but that was a really weird moment. There were a couple of really odd moments where they spent the entire portion of that time going back and forth: Yes, I did. No, I didn't. Yes, I did. No, I didn't.


LOESCH: So, I don't know if we got anything new from this debate.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. I don't think we did.

Dana Loesch, I appreciate the -- being on.

Paul Begala, as well, thanks.

Coming up: On a week until Election Day, tonight, on "PARKER SPITZER," their guest was Nate Silver, who predicted the outcome of the '08 election with almost perfect accuracy.


KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": Is there anything candidates do at this point, or is it sewn up, do you think?

NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: Really, first of all, a lot of people have already voted, right, because you can early-vote now in the majority of states. And, second of all, you know, most people have made up their minds.

And so, really, you're dealing with a universe of 5 percent of the electorate is really undecided. If you sweep those voters, it's still not enough if you're down by more than five points, which plenty of candidates are.

ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": And, you know, that -- that is the interesting point. I was in this game for some period of time. And it used be that, going into the last week or two weeks, there was still a significant bloc of undecided voters.

SILVER: Right.

SPITZER: And you could make a play and make your last closing argument to them.

It seems as -- as though there is -- is greater polarization and there are very few less undecided voters still left to capture.


COOPER: That was "PARKER SPITZER." You can see it every weeknight 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Up next: money and politics. You have heard everyone from the president on down railing against secret money funding Republican campaigns. The question is, are Democrats guilty of doing the same thing? Well, the answer probably is yes. We're "Keeping Them Honest," both sides.

And later: my interview with Sean Penn about the totally preventable tragedy now unfolding in Haiti, the cholera outbreak. What about all that money pledged to help rebuild the country? Why has so little of it actually been delivered?

Plus, this:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a tornado. We are in the tornado, in the tornado!


COOPER: We are going to talk to the guy who shot these images, find out what it's like to be in the middle of a tornado and get out alive.


COOPER: Bringing you a new segment, giving you a look at the dirty side of politics. And, well, there's a lot dirty sides. We're going to examine the dirtiest ads, the dirtiest races, and the most unsavory moments on the campaign trail.

Tonight, we begin with a look at a political maneuver that some see as nothing more than a dirty trick. The Obama administration has been pounding away at Republicans for pumping millions of dollars into campaigns without revealing where those dollars are coming from. Republicans, in return, are reminding Democrats of that old adage, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Tom Foreman has been looking at the issues -- Tom?


The complaint from all these furious Democrats is that the floodgates of what they call secret money have just burst wide open for the Republicans, that corporations, individuals and organizations are dumping millions into groups that air ads during the election, while concealing the donor's involvement.

Now the Democrats are targeting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over here, which spent $36 million in 2008 to promote business-friendly candidates. They say that they will spend a lot more this year. They won't say how much, nor will they will tell us who the donors will be.

Neither will American Crossroads. That's a group started former Bush White House's Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. It's also raining down to help Republicans and hurt Democrats.

So, the Democratic National Committee put together this ad.


NARRATOR: Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, they're Bush cronies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they're shills for big business, and they are stealing our democracy, spending millions from secret donors to elect Republicans to do their bidding in Congress. It appears they have even taken secret foreign money to influence our elections.


FOREMAN: Wow, tough ads.

So, when CBS asked presidential adviser David Axelrod if he has any proof that the Chamber is spending foreign money on the election, he answered, "Well, do you have any evidence that it's not?"

The Chamber, for the record, flatly denies that accusation. And look at what Karl Rove is saying about the president himself: "I don't remember him ever saying that all these liberal groups were threatening -- or threats to democracy when they spent money exactly the same way we are" -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, I mean, is that a fair assessment? Have liberal groups relied on the same trick?

FOREMAN: Absolutely. The issue here is hypocrisy. Politicians in both parties have cried about the corrupting influence of this secret money, but they rely on it anyway, all the time.

The Campaign Media Analysis Group says outsiders have spent about $200 million on ads backing Republicans in this election but about 100 million backing Democrats.

So the Democrats are getting badly beaten in this contest in terms of the dollars, but they're certainly playing the same game.

And here's another trick. When taking out really controversial ads, you may notice that groups sometimes don't make much of an effort to clearly spell out to the average voter who they are. Look at this attack ad on Sharron Angle, the Republican running against Harry Reid out in Nevada.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sharron Angle. Your ideas are just too extreme and dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You told rape victims to make...

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: A lemon situation into lemonade.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really? Giving criminals massages.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a waste of taxpayers' money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: AFSCME is responsible for the content of this advertising.


FOREMAN: AFSCME, AFSCME. You've heard it at the end of that commercial right there. You know what this is? A woman's rights organization, maybe? An anticrime group?

Before I tell you we called them and said some Republicans are accusing you of hiding behind this acronym so voters won't know your identity and your agenda. They said -- nonsense. We're very well flown to the people of America. AFSCME, in case they're not well known to you, is a government employees' union that leans heavily Democratic.

Bottom line, plenty of dirty tricks facing any voter who wants either party to show me the money and where it came from -- Anderson.

COOPER: We're certainly taking about huge amounts of money. Tom, thanks.

We're following several other important stories tonight. Joe Johns has a "360 News & Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, breaking news in Philadelphia. Firefighters are battling a five-alarm fire at a warehouse that belongs to a company that is one of the nation's largest makers of manufactured housing and vacation homes. No injuries are reported.

Andrew Shirvell is threatening to sue the University of Michigan. That's what his attorney tells Shirvell, an assistant Michigan attorney general, protested and used a blog to attack the openly gay president of Michigan's student assembly, accusing him of promoting what he calls a radical homosexual agenda.

Shirvell, a Michigan alum, has been barred from the campus. His lawyer says they will sue if that order isn't lifted.

BP's new CEO, Bob Dudley, defended his company's handling of the Gulf oil disaster today and said others rushed to judgment before the facts were in. Meanwhile, Dudley's refusing to testify about the spill before Congress.

And take a look at this incredible video. The emergency management coordinator from Navarro County, Texas, near Dallas was tracking a storm last night when a tornado touched down and turned toward his vehicle.

He was not hurt, believe it or not. But this twister destroyed at least five homes, ripped the roof off of a school and derailed a train. At least four people were hurt, and the fascinating thing is, with all the debris flying around, nobody got hurt. I mean, the driver didn't get hurt anyway.

COOPER: Joe, thanks. We're going to actually talk right now to the man who shot the videotape. His name is Eric Meyers. He joins us now on the phone. Eric you're not one of these storm chasers. You actually have a role to play in a storm like this. Is this the scariest situation you've ever been in?

ERIC MEYERS, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR: Yes, Anderson, by far. This was a phenomenal situation. Like you said, we were out doing what we typically doing during these situations in trying to prepare the community in getting our network activated. And the situation took a turn for the worst. The storm itself took a turn to the right.

COOPER: How close was that to you?

MEYERS: You saw the video, and that's what happened.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, how close is the on the tornado to you right now. We're watching?

MEYERS: About 100 yards when it actually crosses in front of me. It's hard to depict on the video, but the 18-wheeler that you hear about and the three vehicles were less than 75 yards in front of me. They were actually overturned and thrown across the highway.

COOPER: What does it feel like to be that close? I mean, there's got to be, what, like a temperature change? Do you feel pressure? What's it like?

MEYERS: It was just an extreme rush. The pressure, the winds, it was just unbelievable, Anderson. The sound wasn't as much as a train as it was a jet engine. The debris hitting the vehicle coming inside of the cab, it was just unbelievable.

COOPER: And your vehicle is OK? I mean, everyone's -- everyone that you were with was fine?

MEYERS: Yes. Unbelievably, out of this entire situation we only had four injuries, none of them life-threatening. We had five homes that were destroyed. So all in all, that's -- as bad as it was for the jurisdiction up there, everything, I think, this is the best possible situation.

COOPER: Yes. We're now looking at iReport video from someone else. We were looking at your video just a moment ago. It's unbelievable!

Eric, I'm glad -- I mean, bottom line, most important thing is we're glad no one was killed in this. I know some people were hurt, but I hope it's not too serious and I hope the community recovers quickly. Eric, thank you.

MEYERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Amazing. Amazing images. So close.

Still ahead, the deadly cholera outbreak spreading fast in Haiti. We'll talk to Sean Penn. He's been warning for months that this could happen. He wasn't the only one warning. He just got back from Haiti last night. He joins me about what he's seen.

Later the teenager -- remember her? -- whose nonstop hiccups made her famous? She was on a lot of morning shows hiccupping? Well, she's back in the news, accused of first-degree murder. Police say she lured the victim to his death. That's our "Crime & Punishment" report tonight.


COOPER: In Haiti tonight, a public health crisis is edging closer to catastrophe. The death toll from a cholera outbreak has climbed to at least 259, and more than 3,000 people have been sickened. So far, the outbreak has been confined mostly to an area north of Port-au-Prince, but experts are warning the disease is spreading fast and could possibly even reach the Dominican Republic next door.

The United Nations today called the situation extremely serious and warned that tens of thousands of people could become infected.

An infuriating and, frankly, unacceptable fact is that this public health crisis didn't have to happen. It was preventable, and it was predicted. People were sounding the alarm almost as soon as the dust had settled after the earthquake in January. Take a look.


DAVE TOYCEN, AID WORKER: When you see a lack of clean water, for example, lack of sanitation, it's the children, especially the young ones, that will die first, that get sick and die of very simple things.

BAN KI MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: I know that there is frustration and there is a possibility of this disease spreading. That's the point where we are paying extreme caution and preparations for that.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everywhere you look there are tents like this. This is one of the things that people are most concerned about when they talk about a potential second wave of deaths. They're worried about infectious diseases, in part because of living conditions like this.

RASHID KYSIA, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR: In my mind, the next phase of what's going on is an epidemic like measles, like cholera.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: Hundreds of thousands of people are living in cramped tent cities, with no bottoms on there. They're tarp shelters are on contaminated soil that will create diarrheal diseases that are going to kill children in the thousands and thousands if we don't find a better situation for them.


COOPER: That was Sean Penn back in April. The warnings from all those folks on the ground in Haiti. It's a testament to their hard work, frankly, that an outbreak of cholera hasn't happened in the squalor of camps so far where hundreds of thousands of Haitians continue to live. That's the fear right now, that it's going to spread from the area north of Port-au-Prince into the capital and into those camps. then to rest of Haiti.

This is the first outbreak of cholera in Haiti in 50 years.

We should also point out that just a fraction of the aid that's been promised from countries around the world to Haiti for reconstruction, only a fraction of that promise money has actually arrived, just $686 million according to the Associated Press. That is less than 15 percent of the nearly $9 billion that was pledged for this year alone in Haiti, and pledged by some 50 nations and organizations around the world.

Zero reconstruction money pledged by the United States has made it to the ground, none. The lack of money has all but halted reconstruction work. The rainy season has created ideal conditions for the spread of disease like cholera. It's been a perfect storm.

Didn't have to be this way. The crisis was preventable. The cholera outbreak hasn't yet reached the camp where Sean Penn's foundation operates in Port-au-Prince but they are bracing for the worst. They are getting prepared. I talked to Sean Penn earlier.


COOPER: Sean, you were in Haiti, how bad was it?

PENN: It's bad. The latest numbers are about 3,015 infected an over 200 dead. Five in Port-au-Prince and those are just the official numbers and what we know about at this point is that it's affecting a very regional area, in particular, the epicenter, but it's spreading very fast.

COOPER: I think a lot of people don't realize how quickly this thing can move. I mean, cholera can -- it moves, and it can kill very, very fast?

PENN: Yes. Cholera has a couple of characteristic. One is it's highly preventable. It's very treatable. But it has to be treated extremely quickly, between four and six hours after the initial symptoms, or the patient will die.

So one of the big issues right now, there is a lot of question about how much -- how many supplies are in the country. Whether or not there's enough medical staff to treat those in country that get -- that are infected. And, also, the way in which those supplies come -- are processed. Because they tend to be very bureaucratic means by which they are processed out of warehouses.

COOPER: Obviously, the nightmare scenario is it's spreading into Port-au-Prince. Right now, as you said, the epicenter is north of the capital, but it's spreading to Port-au-Prince and these tent camps spreading into these tent camp where so many people still lived crammed together.

You have some 55,000 people living in the camp, I think, at last count that I read. How bad could it be if it get into your camp?

PENN: Well, again, that has to do with the ability to treat it. We're stockpiling now, but it's slow. Access has been disappointing to those -- those supplies in country. We have -- those things that we are initiating ourselves in the support we'll be able to do a lot more.

For example, in our camp we have a partner in Oxfam, who supplies chlorinated water. While it's not pleasant to drink, it's safe to drink and to wash with and to wash fruits and vegetables with.

There are many, many camps that don't have those services. And in those circumstances, one of the things that people have to understand is, well, don't use the water. The water is contaminated. The only way the people will pay attention to that is if clean water is provided. So whether that's through filtration systems or trucked in water, this is going to be the essential element, water, water, water.

COOPER: You know, as if people in Haiti do not have enough to deal with, to have this on top of it. Billions have been promised by countries around the world, and so far only a small percentage of the money that's been pledged has actually been handed over. We're not talking about people's private donations. We're talking about billions of dollars by governments around the world. Do the Haitians feel abandoned?

PENN: I think the Haitians do feel abandoned and legitimately so. And the way that it works is very convoluted.

Right now, we're seeing a lot of NGOs who are looking bad. And all of us are looking bad, because especially if we work in camps, because the people are still without other places to go. My organization has also done a lot of relocation into the neighborhoods as well as outside.

And that's -- that's the priority to be able to do that to provide clinics and education and, hopefully, ultimately jobs in those areas.

COOPER: How long -- I mean, how long do you think people in Port-au-Prince -- and we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people -- many, many, many hundreds of thousands of people -- how long do you think they're going to be stuck in the camps?

PENN: Well, I'll let your audience do the math. And this is another callout to my fellow NGN partners. There are 5,000 temporary shelters that have been established in Port-au-Prince. That's in all of these months since the earthquake.

COOPER: Five thousand?

PENN: To get the people -- 5,000. To get the people out of the camps, we have to establish 400,000 of them. On this timetable, I leave the math to others.

The camps are a devastation. We have probably the best organized camp, and it's a terrible place to live. And it doesn't provide dignity, pride, health, security on any human reasonable level. And, yet, this is where they're going to be for some time. I don't want to make predictions on how long it's going to be. Our job is to work every day to give them other options, but it's going to be a long time.

So in that meantime, we do -- we can't abandon them there. We can work to make more -- less static process, to improve the things that we do in our camp and in all the camps throughout Port-au-Prince and Haiti. But right now there is not a -- they are not going to be less vulnerable soon.

So, again, when we come back to the cholera thing, this is why so much focus has to go, not only into the medical supplies and staff, and all of the prideful sovereignty, whether it be of the government of Haiti or nation's organizations, NGOs, all of that's got to stop right now and people have got to say -- here's the numbers.

Here's how fast the infection rate is spreading. These are our children. And we've got to deal with this right now. Otherwise, it's -- this is going to be one more of those great tragedies in human history that we'll all have thrown up our hands and said "oh, well."

COOPER: Thank you so much.

PENN: Can I say one more thing?


PENN: There's a prison there. It's a prison for 80 prisoners. It houses 300 prisoners. And currently, I think they have eight cases of cholera in the prison. Some of these people stole a loaf of bread. So that's another thing that our partners asked that I had put on the air.

COOPER: Yes. Sean, amazing work. And we appreciate you being on tonight, Sean. Thank you.

PENN: Thank you.

COOPER: The latest numbers on the shelter construction in Haiti to be sure we're up to date. It's higher than the 5,000.

As Sean mentioned, according to USAID, 17,000 additional shelters have been built. If you'd like to help Sean Penn's organization it's called the J/P HRO organization.

Still ahead, the hiccup girl. She made news when she was hiccupping and she couldn't stop for weeks. Now she's charged with homicide, first-degree murder.

A woman breaking down on the stand as she was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). An emotional testimony on day one at the Chandra Levy trial. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, a truly bizarre cover-up to a story that went global three years ago. 2007, you may remember that Jennifer Mee, who had the worst case of hiccups on record. She couldn't stop hiccupping. She was miserable. It put her in the media spotlight.

Well, now she's back. This time, not a medical mystery. It's a murder case. Randi Kaye has the story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jennifer Mee thought she had problems three years ago when a bad case of the hiccups lasted for five weeks. She hiccuped as many as 50 times a minute, a bizarre condition. Her very public search for a cure earned her the nickname "Hiccup Girl."

Media from around the world competed for interviews with Mee, then just 15. This was here on "The Today Show" back in 2007. Listen closely.

First it's kind of funny. It's not funny.

JENNIFER MEE, ARRESTED FOR MURDER: Not no more it's not, not at all.

KAYE (on camera): How are you coping?

KAYE (voice-over): Now Mee, at 19, makes national headlines again. Not for hiccups, but for murder. She and two others are accused of first-degree murder in the death of a Florida man, Shannon Griffin. The police say Mee met the victim online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They exchanged several back and forth social networking site on the Internet. And led up to a series of phone calls where she enticed him to come down and meet with her at this particular address.

KAYE (on camera): When griffin arrived, investigators said Mee took him behind the vacant home and the other two suspect as tempted to rob him at gun point. Officers found his body when they arrived just after 11 p.m. Saturday night.

An arrest affidavit says the victim was shot three times in the chest and once in the shoulder. The weapon, a .38 revolver, was recovered at the scene. Police say Mee told them she knew about the gun, and they say, she was close enough to hear the gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miss Mea, the allegation is...

KAYE: Mee, who police say didn't pull the trigger, was arrested yesterday afternoon. Today, she was officially booked for murder. She entered a written plea of "not guilty". The other suspects haven't pleaded yet. We were unable to reach for comment. RACHEL ROBIDOUX, MOTHER OF MISSING GIRL: Today a local video station her daughter had moved out of the house about a year ago. Through seals, she was defended topic. She entered the aid written plea of not guilty. The other suspects have not pleaded yet.

Before a doctor finally helped them We were unable to reach Mee's lawyer for comment. Her mother said the daughter moved out of the house about a year ago. Through tears, she defended her daughter.

Her case of the hiccups was a case of the hiccups. It was the curse of the hiccups. You know Jennifer as well as I do. She's a lovable, sweet little girl that wouldn't hurt a fly and where things went wrong I don't know.

Before a doctor helped to cure her hiccups with acupuncture Jennifer Mee had tried all kinds of remedies. Sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, pickle juice, even breathing in a bag. But it seems the only remedy she needs today is a good, strong defense.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Just bizarre.

We're following a number of other stories. Let's check in with Joe Johns and a another news and business bulletin.

JOHNS: An embarrassing moment for the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of Florida. Republican Rick Scott and Democrat, Alex Singh. During the debate tonight, each was asked if they knew the state's minimum wage, and neither did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the minimum wage in Florida?





COOPER: For the record, Florida's minimum wage is $7.25.

Testimony has begun in the trial of the man accused of killing Washington intern, Chandra Levy in 2001. One of the first witnesses was a woman who got emotional sharing how she was attacked by the same defendant in the same park where Levy was killed just week after she disappeared.

The defendant denies he attacked Levy. His attorney calls his client, quote, "an easy scapegoat." An unopened water competition with a water competition in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend; may not have been monitored closely enough. That's what a German swimmer told CNN. Several complained said the water was too warm. The official cause of death is under investigation.

And after 31 years, Sony has stopped production of its Walkman cassette player.


JOHNS: The device that changed the way we listened to music. I know. It paved the way for MP3 players which, in turn, made it outdated. Now we have iPods, iPads...

COOPER: I remember my first Walkman. I thought it was the coolest thing on the planet.

JOHNS: Yes, well...

COOPER: It was.

JOHNS: It was at the time.

COOPER: Joe, thanks. Guess it was at the time.

A lot more at the top of the hour, starting with Christine O'Donnell claiming she is the victim of double standards or of sexism. So did the facts back her up? I'm "Keeping them honest."