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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Politicians Calling for Overthrow of Government?; Politics of Speaking OutNegative Campaign Ads Increase; Trial Begins for Florida Double Murder
Aired October 26, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us, everyone.
Tonight: a Republican congressional candidate talking about overthrowing the government by any means necessary, even violence. All options are on the table. He said it. Now he's running away from it and running away from reporters. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight, did Congressman Louie Gohmert cost an educator his job? You will meet a man who saw our report on Congressman Gohmert's unproven claims of terror babies and didn't like what he saw. He told the congressman's office and now he's out of a job. Is that fair? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
An later: the so-called ninja killings, nine kids at home, their parents murdered in cold blood, allegedly by armed intruders dressed like ninjas. Today, the trial begins, and we will take you inside the courtroom where there are cameras present and the crime scene -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.
We begin, though, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest," with a congressional candidate running from reporters because his fighting words are drawing fire.
His name is Pastor Stephen Broden. He's a Republican. And he's running in Texas Against Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. Now, you may be familiar with Eddie Bernice Johnson's name. It may ring a bell. We have been reporting on her for weeks because she's been funneling tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money for years.
Scholarship money that was meant for needy kids, she's been funneling it to her own relatives and relatives of one of her staffers.
Well, Pastor Broden is now trying to run from comments that he's made that suggests he endorses the idea of a violent overthrow of the federal government if Election Day doesn't turn out as the way, in his opinion, it should.
Last week, a reporter at our Dallas affiliate WFAA asked Pastor Broden about comments he's made mentioning revolution. He's talked about using -- quote -- "any means necessary" to change the government. Pressed by the reporter if that meant violence, Pastor Broden said the option of violence against the federal government is -- quote -- "on the table."
And he said -- quote -- "I don't think we should remove anything from the table." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would include a violent overthrow of the government by saying, if the framers said that don't work, revolution?
STEPHEN BRODEN (R), TEXAS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: No, I would say that -- that, to whatever extent that we can alter or adjuster or abolish it, to whatever extent that is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what does -- by any means necessary, doesn't that include violence?
BRODEN: Well, that's part of the scenario, but that is not the first option. And it's obviously wasn't the first option with the Declaration of Independence either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, so you would include some kind of violent overthrow of the government by including revolution?
BRODEN: It is not the first option.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an option, though, in your mind?
BRODEN: The first -- the first option is alter it or abolish it. It is a part of the scenario. And we, as Americans, must understand that our founding fathers included that in the scenario.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But violence is an option, as you view revolution?
BRODEN: Our nation was founded on violence. We violently resisted King George and revolted against his tyranny.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, you would have that as an option, though?
BRODEN: The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, as you might imagine, those comments have caused an uproar, and "The Dallas Morning News" revoked its previous endorsement of -- of the pastor.
Yesterday, Pastor Broden went on the Web to say his words were twisted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRODEN: My remarks were intended to be historical and philosophical in nature. They were taken out of context by a reporter, and only part of what I said was heard. Our government is justly elected, but terribly misguided. And because it is justly elected, the only legitimate defense to our liberty is through peaceful change at the ballot box. And, as long as we have election, our remedy to bad government is our right to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, he's now saying peaceful change is the only remedy. That's not what he said Friday.
He's saying he was taken out of context in that original interview and that he was speaking historically and philosophically. But you just heard from -- the reporter specify if the congressman was talking about this election, 2010, and he said he was.
And it's not the first time that the pastor has hinted at a violent overthrow of the government. Here he -- here he is last year in Fort Worth at a rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 11, 2009)
BRODEN: We are experiencing, with this administration -- listen to me -- we are experiencing, with this administration, a rapid-fire attempt to implement a socialistic philosophy that first seeks to dispossess and replace our Judeo-Christian heritage with a philosophy shaped in secular humanism, framed in atheistic godlessness, and birthed of a Darwinist Marxism.
And we must wake up. And we must resist.
I'm just about over the hill. I'm on the checkout list. But guess what? I'm going to fight until I get out of here.
BRODEN: I'm going to fight until I leave.
BRODEN: And I encourage you to do the same.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BRODEN: We have a constitutional remedy here. And the framer says, if that don't work, revolution, if that don't work, revolution.
I believe it's time to wake up. We must fight. Not only must we fight -- listen to me -- we must win!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, you can decide for yourself if the pastor's most recent comments about violence being on the table were taken out of context. But, just for the record, the argument that you have been taken out of context is a pretty common refrain from anyone who has ever said anything that they regret.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: What he took out of context was a comment I made in an interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the comments that was taken out of context which maybe wasn't the best metaphor...
SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: When taken out of context, of course you can make anyone look -- look like they -- they don't know what they're talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: And taking snippets of conversations out of context...
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Are you really seeing yourself as one of the great martyrs of history?
BLAGOJEVICH: No. In fact, that was taken out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we wanted to give the pastor an opportunity to explain himself, explain what he felt was the context. And he agreed to come on the program last night. Then he canceled, promising he would come on tonight, but he canceled again today.
In fact, he's not doing any more interviews, which means that Pastor Stephen Broden now joins the very long list of candidates running from reporters.
Thankfully, Democratic strategist Paul Begala agreed to be here, and so did conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com.
Erick, you talk about Broden as -- as part of a wave of kind of unpolished candidates this -- this campaign season.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
Yes, you know, this is what we're seeing. We're seeing non-careerist politicians running. A lot of them say things they shouldn't say, say things dumb, say things that -- that they view as philosophical, the rest of us hear and say, that doesn't sound quite right. I mean, listening to -- to his interviews in context, or as you have played them, it sounds very much like he's going all the way back into the Declaration of Independence, which a lot of Tea Party candidates do. I don't necessarily think he was advocating violent overthrow of government, just pointing out that it's in the Declaration.
But, when they say things like this, it leaves a lot of people scratching their heads. But that's part of what we get from having these unpolished citizen candidates running. You can -- you can bet there are Democrats and Republicans both doing this. And, if they get elected, they're going to go to Washington, and their leadership is going to lock them up and make sure they never see the light of day, a CNN camera, or a flip video camera, or -- or even an iPhone, lest they say something else.
COOPER: He -- he was, though, talking specifically about -- about 2010, Paul. You don't see Broden as just another candidate, you know, keeping a low profile until Election Day. You actually see him as dangerous?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's -- there's unpolished, which I think Erick is being a little generous on, and then there is calling for violence.
By the way, for those of us who love the Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, is really clear. It is treason to wage war against the United States of America. It is not an option. Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Nevada, has said there's a Second Amendment option, which is a clear reference to taking up arms against your government.
Let me say again, that is treason. That's a violation of the Constitution. No one can call themselves a constitutional conservative or liberal and then call for violent overthrow of our country. I think these people are saying it not because they're unpolished, but because they mean it.
There is -- and it's not right and left. There is a -- a -- an undercurrent of violence, sometimes -- it came out last night a young woman got stomped on the head at that Kentucky debate by the county coordinator, the Bourbon County coordinator for Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky. His county coordinator stomped a woman on the head.
Now, Dr. Paul, to his credit, disavowed it, fired the guy. But there is an undercurrent of violence on -- on the right this year that is troubling.
ERICKSON: Oh, come on, Paul. This is happening on the left, too. You had the president of the United States today saying that his opponents are a threat to democracy.
When's the last time he said that about North Korea or Ahmadinejad? The rhetoric is getting heated on both sides.
(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: Rhetoric...
ERICKSON: The violence is getting heated on both sides. This is what happens in the last week, particularly when people are about to get wiped off the map politically.
BEGALA: It's fair to accuse that -- that comment of being hyperbolic. I'm a professional hyperbolist. I get that.
But the line ought to be drawn at violence. And, them, you know, we all, in the heat of a campaign, say things. But when -- when Raul Grijalva, a congressman from Arizona, has been threatened, when the speaker of the House's life has been threatened, when Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat of Washington State, when her life has been threatened...
ERICKSON: Or Jim DeMint or Mike Pence or Eric Cantor. I mean, it's happening on both sides.
BEGALA: Well, I have not -- I have not heard of those threats. It's obviously wrong to -- those are -- those are good guys, and it certainly shouldn't happen in our politics.
But it's not -- there's sort of a false equivalency, I think, that you're suggesting. And it's just -- it's not -- it's not accurate.
ERICKSON: No, there's -- there's an equivalency.
I mean, basically, what is happening this year is, you have these Tea Party guys who are passionately of the belief, rightly or wrongly, that the country is going further into the gutter because of what the Democrats are doing. And they really see this as an exchange between freedom and oppression by the government.
Whether or not we agree with that or not, that's the way they view it. The rhetoric gets heated.
ERICKSON: And they firmly believe in the first principles in the Declaration of Independence.
BEGALA: But, if you believe in the Constitution, certainly, you agree with this, as a constitutional conservative. I'm a constitutional liberal.
It is treason to -- it's the only crime defined in the Constitution, by the way. I would suggest some of these clowns...
ERICKSON: Oh, you know, yes, you know...
BEGALA: ... who say they love the Constitution actually read the document, by the way.
ERICKSON: It -- it -- it is treason in Constitution.
BEGALA: Article 3, Section 3 -- it's the only crime defined in the Constitution, the only one, because we didn't want to be like Henry VIII, locking people up for criticizing the government.
But, if you wage war against the United States, that is treason.
ERICKSON: You know, it -- it -- it is treason. It was also treason when George Washington and Patrick Henry did it to the crown.
BEGALA: Yes, but the crown was an illegal legitimate government. You don't think that's the same. Come on. Erick, you've got to walk that back. You don't think that America today is the same as George...
ERICKSON: No, no, Paul. No, no, no.
ERICKSON: I do not think it's an illegitimate government.
ERICKSON: And I think there's a world view disconnect here between people like and you me and people like them who say these things and what they see as the country headed off into a very bad place, and they believe that, at some point, if the elections don't go the way they want them to go, then we're probably going to have some trouble, but, God, I hope it doesn't come to that.
COOPER: Paul, what happens when -- when these candidates kind of -- you know, to use Erick's argument, kind of untested, you know, new to the process, when they actually get to D.C.? Do they continue to avoid reporters? Do they continue to kind of run from any actual critical interaction with -- with the media?
BEGALA: Ooh, ooh, ooh, I think it's born free if they ever get here, and I think some of them will.
BEGALA: I mean, they're going to be untethered, unchained.
Right now, believe me, professional Republicans have swarmed in. They have swarmed over Sharron Angle. They swarmed over Rand Paul. All of these eccentric conservatives who are in tough campaigns and might win, some of them, they're being handled right now, and they're being leashed and chained and -- and -- and choked and muzzled. If they win, oh, lord, it's going to be God's gift to cable news, Anderson. Pay your cable bill, America, because you're going to be -- want to watch these guys and gals, if they get here, because they're going to be unchained.
ERICKSON: Paul and I -- Paul and I are going to have some bipartisan ridiculing of a number of these people once they get to Washington.
COOPER: You both seem to be sharpening your -- your pencils...
COOPER: ... and computer terminals.
Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, guys, thanks very much.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
COOPER: Let us know what you think, the live chat up and running at AC360.com.
Up next: Congressman Louie Gohmert, remember him? He thinks pregnant women are coming here to -- to have babies from the Middle East, to be raised, then taken back to Middle East -- let me get this right -- taken back to the Middle East to become terrorists, raised as terrorists, then come back here with American citizenship to attack us 20 years from now -- no proof of it, but he believes it.
You are going to meet a guy who thought that was fear-mongering when he -- when he heard the congressman talk about it on this program. He told the congressman's office that. Then he lost his job. Are they connected? You can decide for yourself.
Later, "Crime & Punishment": day one of the so-called ninja murder trial, accused killers dressed as ninjas. You see them there on the left-hand side of the screen on those surveillance tapes, a home invasion, breaking into a family's home, nine kids at home at the time. Their parents were murdered in cold blood. The crime sickened the country, tore a family apart. There's cameras in the courtroom. The trial has begun. We will take you inside in a moment.
COOPER: Tonight, an educator is out looking for a job. He says he was forced out of his old job after a run-in with his congressman, a run-in over what the congressman said here on 360.
This is Christian Cutler. Until recently, he ran the art galleries at Stephen Austin State University in Texas. He loved his job and, according to his last performance review, which we have seen, he as outstanding at it.
This is his congressman, Republican Louie Gohmert. Now, back in August, Cutler says a Gohmert aide asked him to judge a high school art show. Cutler says he agreed -- that is, until he saw the interview that we tried to do with Congressman Gohmert about unsubstantiated claims he was making about so-called terror babies, pregnant women coming to this country, giving birth here, so the babies could then become American citizens, then be brought back their homes in the Middle East, where they would be raised as terrorists, and then come back here in about 20 years to attack us.
So, just to remind me, here's what Congressman Gohmert said on the floor of the House about these so-called terror babies and some of what he said on 360, when we tried to talk to him about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 24, 2010)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I talked to a retired FBI agent who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system.
And it appeared they would have young women who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby. They wouldn't even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would return back, where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists.
And then, one day, 20, 30 years down the road, they could be sent in to help destroy our way of life, because they have figured out how stupid we are being in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 12, 2010)
COOPER: Before going on to the House floor and spreading this story, did you -- did you call the FBI?
GOHMERT: You are going to keep me honest?
You tell the world that you got an FBI statement, you bring on a retired FBI former supervisor, and he says, "We were not aware of any credible report that this was going on"?
I brought it to the attention of America for this reason. It was here -- I'm a former judge. I know...
COOPER: Did -- did you bring it to the attention of the FBI? Did you call the FBI? That's my question.
GOHMERT: ... coming from a lady who first brought in my attention on the -- I -- she brought it to my attention on an airplane, having flown together, and she brought that to my attention.
That's why I was talking to the retired FBI agent about it. And, so, having talked to him, no, I didn't talk to them, because the point is, when we did the research, we found the hole existed. Now, if you're wanting me to come in and...
COOPER: Wait. What research? What research? Can you tell us about the research?
GOHMERT: You are attacking the messenger. Anderson, you are better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem, and you would go after it, instead of going after the messenger.
COOPER: Sir, I'm -- I'm just for evidence of something you said on the floor of the House.
GOHMERT: Now, sure, I speak with a Southern accent.
I did. And you -- listen, this is a problem. If you had spent as much time looking into the problem as you have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week, you would have found out that there are people in the world...
COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I'm giving you an opportunity to say what research and evidence you have. You've offered none, other than yelling.
GOHMERT: Do you ever look at your Web site? Do you ever look at your Web site? Do you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's pretty much how the entire interview went. We continued to ask if he had actually any evidence of this. He didn't. We had an FBI -- a former top FBI supervisor on, who said that this is just completely made up, that there -- there is no evidence of this.
Anyway, that was what Christian Cutler saw and what led him to decline the congressman offer to judge the art show. He said he told the congressman's office that he didn't want to associate with Mr. Gohmert, saying he thought he was a sensationalist and a fear-monger, which were his words, not ours.
Ten days later, he received a letter from Congressman Gohmert, which said that he disagrees with Cutler's views -- quote -- "but will defend to the death your right to be misinformed" -- unquote.
The letter also mentioned that the art show had been slated to be held at the college where Mr. Cutler worked, not at some high school in another town, and that it would now be relocated. The letter was also sent to the college president where Mr. Cutler worked. A short time later, Christian Cutler was told he was going to be fired.
He was given the chance to resign before that, and he did. So, did Christian Cutler pay a price simply for angering someone at the office of Congressman Louie Gohmert, or angering the congressman?
We invited Congressman Gohmert back on the program. He declined, as you might imagine.
His office released a statement, reading part -- quote -- "I didn't know he would be fired, didn't seek it, and do not know all the reasons for it."
We also reached out to the university. They told us they don't comment on personnel matters.
I spoke with Christian Cutler earlier tonight.
COOPER: Do you think this was political, I mean, that -- was -- was there any problem with -- that you had with the university prior to Congressman Gohmert writing a letter to the university?
CHRISTIAN CUTLER, FORMER ART GALLERIES DIRECTOR, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STATE UNIVERSITY: No.
I mean -- I mean, don't you think this was political? I mean, the last contact I had was with -- with Louie Gohmert, and then I was terminated.
COOPER: You have no doubt in your mind that this was political, that, because you had said these things, and -- and, I guess, annoyed the congressman, he wrote this letter, and then the university...
CUTLER: My performance -- my performance was excellent, you know, outstanding performance reviews from...
COOPER: I have actually got one of the performance reviews here, the last one, and it says outstanding.
CUTLER: Yes. Yes, you know, letters of recommendation from my dean and my department chair that are, you know, glowing, calling me brilliant, and -- and, then, all of a sudden, I'm terminated.
COOPER: So, Louie Gohmert, Congressman Gohmert, writes this letter to you, but he C.C.s the -- the president of the university?
CUTLER: Writes it to me, and the only other person to get it is the president of the university.
COOPER: And how quickly after that do you get a call saying, what's going on?
CUTLER: Basically immediately. I mean, 7:30 at night via cell phone at home, I get a call from the chain of command, from the director of the art department.
COOPER: But Congressman Gohmert is denying that he had any direct knowledge of or involvement in your firing.
COOPER: Do you think that's true?
CUTLER: No. No. I -- I -- based on -- based on what happened, I mean, I was doing an outstanding job, and then, after this encounter with one of his representatives, I'm -- I'm let go of, or given the option to resign.
COOPER: So, let's talk about what happened. You basically get a call from them a couple months ago saying, what?
CUTLER: Asking me to jury an art competition. The...
COOPER: At -- at your school?
CUTLER: At -- at Tyler, Texas -- in Tyler, Texas. They asked me to jury an art competition hosted by the congressman.
COOPER: And you thought: Fine. Sounds nice.
CUTLER: I -- I thought, that sounds like a great idea. You know, I would love to hear -- I will entertain that. I'd love to hear more about that. And I asked for more information to be sent to me. And it was never -- never relayed.
COOPER: And then you -- did you know much about Congressman Gohmert before that?
CUTLER: I really didn't. I looked him up.
And then, when I saw the interview that you did with him -- I either saw it live or saw it on television -- I really -- I formed an opinion that I didn't want anything to do with him and I didn't want to -- to be -- I didn't want anyone to infer my opinion, what I was about, by my relating with the congressman.
COOPER: So, then, did you call them, or did they call you back?
CUTLER: They called me back in mid to late September, and started talking about the competition again. And I -- I interrupted them. And I said, listen, I -- I am really not interested in doing this.
They asked me why.
I said, I'm not interested in associating myself with the congressman. I -- I said that I felt like that he was a sensationalist and a fear- monger, but I really appreciate the offer.
And -- and that was pretty much it. She -- she said she didn't know what to do with that information.
I said -- I said, I knew you probably wouldn't. I'm not -- I have never said that kind of thing before. COOPER: He is basically now saying that this was going to be a competition at your -- at your college, which would be a good thing for your school, and that he -- he was basically not asking you to be a judge, but that he was asking you to -- to basically get a date...
CUTLER: To OK the -- to OK the hosting of this.
And, if that were the case, they wouldn't have called me. That's above my pay grade. I -- some -- they would call someone else to confirm that information.
COOPER: The congressman's put out a statement, and one of the things he says is that -- about you -- he says, "If the things he is misrepresenting now are any indication of past performance, then his actions in this incident may have been the least of his employment problems."
CUTLER: Yes, that hurt. That -- that hurt me personally. I -- it's not factual. I really -- I was -- by all accounts, I was doing a great job.
COOPER: What do you think you are the victim of?
CUTLER: Gosh. Politics, maybe? I mean, I -- I don't know. The victim of maybe a bad decision.
COOPER: Bad decision by?
CUTLER: By the university, yes.
COOPER: And -- and, if Louie Gohmert, if you ran into him on the street, what would you -- what would you want to tell him?
CUTLER: I'd like him to right the wrong. I feel like -- I feel like a wrong was -- was -- a wrong occurred. And I would love to be -- I mean, I you know, I don't know if going back to my job would be the best medicine, given -- you know, given all the circumstances in the press and such.
But I just -- I wish that the truth was -- was really out there. And I feel like I have been completely and 100 percent honest with this whole thing. But when you go up against somebody that has such, you know, political power, it's -- it's not easy to be the little guy.
COOPER: Christian Cutler, I'm sorry you're here under these circumstances.
CUTLER: Thank you very much. Thank you. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: Good luck to you.
CUTLER: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, our new segment, "Dirty Politics."
Tonight, we examine some dirty campaign ads. The candidate in North Carolina who is the subject of this ad claims it's pure and simple sexism. We will play it for. You can decide for yourself.
And suspects dressed like ninjas caught on surveillance tape at the scene of a double execution-style murder in Florida, that's one of them -- two of them there on the left-hand side of your screen. Prosecutors say it was a well-planned attack on a couple that were known for taking in disabled kids. The trial of one of the suspects got under way today. Cameras were inside the courtroom.
We will take you there in "Crime & Punishment" -- ahead.
COOPER: Well, I think we can all agree the final stretch of these midterm elections has not been pretty. And with just one week to go, the mud is pretty flying fast and thick these days.
For example, consider this attack ad that North Carolina politician Wesley Meredith is running about his opponent, State Senator Margaret Dickers -- Dickson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Margaret Dickson, who does she really care about? Is it you or is it just a charade? Not once, not twice, but three times, busted. Using her public office to help companies she owned. Special deals, insider trading, no-bid state contracts, all for her own gain. What does Margaret Dickson really care about?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's obviously an actress playing Dickson.
According to "The Fayetteville Observer," Dickson held a news conference to say that the ad portrays her as a prostitute and is full of lies and distortions. She's demanding an apology and that the ad be removed immediately.
To be fair, Dickson has been accused of using smear tactics in her ads, as well. In this campaign season, it seems candidates have taken dirty to a whole new level.
Tom Foreman joins me now with the dirty politics -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.
You know, this campaign has seen more dirty sucker punches than I've seen in most of my lifetime, and I used to report in New Orleans, so that's saying something.
So let's start with one of the toughest ones, in Florida, where Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson lobbed this grenade at his Republican opponent, Dan Webster. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us.
DAN WEBSTER (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: She should submit to me. That's in the Bible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers.
WEBSTER: Submit to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wants to force raped women to bear the child.
WEBSTER: Submit to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taliban Dan Webster. Hands off our bodies and our laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Taliban Dan. These clips were taken way out of context. It was actually in a speech where he was telling people, "Look, don't take these biblical verses that literally. Don't apply it this way." It was twisted around that way.
But Anderson, you know what happened when you confronted Representative Grayson over this ad.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, he was clearly standing by the ad. Though I must say, I give him credit for at least coming on and defending it. A lot of these politicians these days are just kind of running away from reporters.
What do you have next?
FOREMAN: Well, you have to look at another race now. We're going to Nevada, where Republican Sharron Angle is in this mud-slinging war with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, out there. But even in that context, this ad she ran about Viagra raised eyebrows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid? (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I assume when voters hear things that sound just completely outrageous, that -- that, you know, they assume that someone is stretching the truth, at least somewhat.
FOREMAN: Yes, it's a good assumption in this case, Anderson. The truth is, this vote that they're talking about came near the end of that mammoth health-care reform Bill process. When Republicans were introducing all sorts of amendments and things that were designed to delay the vote, maybe kill the vote, this measure did come up.
And Reid did vote against the idea of extending this kind of coverage to ex-cons when they got out and this sort of thing. But the bottom line is, the vote wasn't about that. It was his vote to try to keep the health-care reform Bill alive. So it's a mischaracterization to say it was about that measure.
We've seen a lot of exaggeration in all sorts of ads this season, Anderson. Take this one from Republican Senator David Vitter in Louisiana, against Democrat Charlie Melancon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melancon voted to make it easier for illegals to get taxpayer-funded benefits and actual welfare checks. Melancon even voted against police allowing to arrest illegals. Thanks to Charlie Melancon, it's no wonder illegals keep coming and coming and coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: The exaggeration here is obvious, but the real problem is not. The truth is Melancon has been tough on the immigration issue, not soft on it, Anderson.
COOPER: I know there also have been scads of dirty ads from both parties. Is -- I mean, can one say whether one party has been more dirty in this election? I'm guessing not.
FOREMAN: Yes, you can. Ask a Democrat. He'll say it's a Republican. Ask a Republican, he'll say it's the Democrats.
No, we don't have a final tally on this race this year. Maybe one day we will, but we don't have it right now. What we do have is that groups like CNN, FactCheck.org, and Politifact have all found dozens of instances of dirty play on both sides of the aisle. I know people want to say, "Well, it's more over here or more over there." I'm telling you this isn't just a matter of parity. The simple truth is both sides have had a lot of this going on.
And I want to look at one more here. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, wants to keep his job, so he accused Republican State Senator Bill Brady of -- and I'm not joking here -- being a puppy killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRAPHIC: Just two days after Bill Brady won the primary for governor, Senator Bill Brady's first priority was to sponsor a bill that would mass euthanize sheltered dogs and cats in gas chambers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on Bill Brady. I am a Republican, but I don't support him for the mass euthanization of animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So Politifact says this is half true. This legislation would have permitted shelters to kill more than one animal at a time. It did not mandate it. And Brady dropped his support anyway.
But the truth is, Anderson, the way you react to ads like that and the facts that come along with them, it really is the whole point here. The simple truth is many people will say it's dirty advertising if it's against their guy, and it's fair game if it's for him. That's really the whole problem. But, boy, we've seen a lot of it in this election.
COOPER: And one week to go. All right. Tom, thanks.
We're one week away, obviously, from election, following the big political stories across the country. Joe Johns has the latest on a "360 Raw Politics" bulletin -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, a setback for California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. The former CEO of Hewlett Packard was hospitalized today for treatment of an infection related to reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. Fiorina is in a tight race with Barbara Boxer and needs to win for Republicans to take control of the Senate.
A campaign volunteer for Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul is facing a possible fourth-degree assault charge and has been dismissed by Paul's campaign.
Tim Profitt was issued a criminal summons after he was caught on tape stomping a woman who'd been pushed to the ground outside Monday's debate between Paul and Democrat Jack Conway. The woman was working for the liberal group MoveOn.org.
Florida gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink has fired the campaign aide who passed a text message to her during last night's debate, a clear violation of the rules. Sink says it was a mistake, but her opponent, Republican, Rick Scott, has been blasting the Democrat on the trail and in this radio ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean when CNN caught her breaking the debate rules and getting a note from her coach?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cheating. Hilarious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well here's what's not funny. Alex Sink's debate coach is a lobbyist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same guy who gave her the note in the debate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He's a lobbyist for the insurance industry that Sink is supposed to be regulating.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's who's pulling Alex Sink's strings? Lobbyists? And it looked like Sink needed some more coaching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Safe to say, Anderson, it is very rough out there.
COOPER; All right, Joe. Thanks very much.
Coming up next on "Crime & Punishment," the murder trial of the man accused of leading a group of killers into a Florida couple's home. It's a home-surveillance video, the suspects dressed in ninja-style garb. We're going to take you inside the courtroom with cameras present.
And the young woman who because famous as the Hiccup Girl, who's now charged with murder. Her lawyer may use a pretty unique defense tactic. We'll tell you what it is, ahead.
COOPER: Opening statements, dramatic testimony, and home-surveillance video were part of the murder trial today of Leonard Gonzalez Jr. You may not know the name, but he's the accused leader of a group of masked men who allegedly broke into the home of Byrd and Melanie Billings in 2009 and murdered them execution style.
The Billings, you may remember, were a Pensacola, Florida, couple who took special-needs kids into their home. Nine of the kids were in the house at the time of the killings.
Randi Kaye takes us tonight inside the case in our "Crime & Punishment" report.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If only the Billings had seen them coming. The couple's security cameras did.
You're watching one of Byrd and Melanie Billings's alleged killers on the front lawn, just moments before they kicked the doors in. Seven men, all dressed in black, ninja style. It was around 7:30 p.m., July 9, last year. Authorities said then the men had rehearsed the attack for weeks.
Four minutes after the break-in, the couple was dead. In court today, the prosecutor laid out details too horrible to comprehend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Byrd Billings was shot in the legs twice. Then he was shot, executed in the back of the head at the foot of his bed while his wife watched in horror.
And then she was next, and he demanded to know the combination to the safe. When she said she didn't know, he shot her in the face and blew part of the back of her head off.
KAYE: The combination to a safe, investigators say, defendant Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. believed contained millions. Police say the failed karate instructor was the ring leader, even though his attorney says there's a lack of evidence, and it's a rush to judgment.
One of the other suspects testified against Gonzalez, identifying him as the man with the gun in this grainy image.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is holding that firearm?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant.
KAYE: The cameras also captured a red van as it pulled away. Gonzalez's mother testified today she'd bought him a red van.
Gonzalez and Billings casually knew each other through business. Gonzalez's ex-wife told the court he'd asked Billings to invest in a karate school. Billings chose not to but donated $5,000 to a karate program.
The home invasion two months after that meeting left the couple's 17 children orphaned. Thirteen had been adopted with special needs. The security cameras had actually been set up to monitor them. None of the kids were harmed. One of the children ran to get help from this woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you find Mr. Billings?
APRIL SPENCER, CALLED 911: Mister -- he was in the bedroom in front of the dresser, face down. In their bedroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you find Mrs. Billings also in there?
SPENCER: She was in front of the closet.
KAYE: She called 911.
SPENCER: They're in the bedroom, ma'am. They're dead. Please come.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am, I'm trying to get somebody there. You said the mother and father both have been shot?
KAYE (on camera): And the safe? Turns out the one taken contained children's medicines, documents and some family jewelry of sentimental value. Prosecutors say even after all the planning, all the rehearsing, they missed their target. Another safe, which held money on reserve for the family business, was never discovered. It was left untouched in an upstairs closet.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: The brutality of this crime is shocking, with the kids in the house. The trial is only expected to last three or four days.
Sunny Hostin is a legal contributor for "In Session" on our sister network, TruTV. She's also a former federal prosecutor. And Jean Casarez is an attorney and correspondent for "In Session" who was actually inside the courtroom today. She joins us on the phone.
Jean, you saw this new surveillance video from inside the home where the Billings were murdered. What can you tell us about it?
JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION" (via phone): The jury saw this late this afternoon. They have flat-screen monitors right in the jury box, and they were just leaning forward, watching this video.
And Anderson, this is the very first time that the interior video from the home has been released. There's been a court order up until this point that it was to remain sealed because of privacy concerns for the family.
But now it is evidence, and it is for all of us to watch as these masked men entered the home and began the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings.
COOPER: And did jurors actually see the killings on tape?
CASAREZ: Everything but the actual killings are on tape, because they took place in the master bedroom. And although the family had 16 cameras inside the home, outside the home, they did not have cameras in the master bedroom, and that's where both of them were shot.
COOPER: Sunny, how tough a case is this?
SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, TRUTV'S "IN SESSION": You know, I think it is a difficult case, because the prosecution is really relying upon the testimony of co-defendants. And oftentimes, Anderson, juries are uncomfortable with people that have made deals, people that are also culpable. They have trouble believing them.
And I thought what was really interesting was there was one of the children in the bedroom when these murders took place.
COOPER: Right. One of the -- an 8-year-old child.
HOSTIN: An 8-year-old with autism and apparently, a speech disorder. And the prosecution started the case by saying, "We are not going to rely on that child's testimony. We are not going to put that child on the witness stand." And I thought that was very, very interesting.
COOPER: So Jean, he's -- he's not going to be testifying?
CASAREZ: No. The children will not be testifying. But we saw video today of one of the little girls that was in her bedroom. And her camera actually showed out her window the van arriving and the van leaving. And we see this little girl so upset by what she could just feel was happening in her home.
COOPER: And, Sunny, why do we think this case may only take a couple days?
HOSTIN: You know, the prosecution is not over-trying this case. They have the video. They have the testimony of the co-defendants that have turned state's evidence, and I think they're not going to over- try this case.
I thought it was odd that it was going to be three to four days, but after seeing opening statements, after seeing the way they've presented the witnesses, I think they've got a pretty good chance of getting it done that quickly.
COOPER: Jean, how many others still are to stand trial?
CASAREZ: Well, we -- there are seven other defendants, two of whom have pleaded guilty and are testifying. But this is a death penalty case. So if there is a conviction in this case, it will go into the death penalty phase onto the next week, I'm sure.
COOPER: And you know, we saw this case. We saw the case -- the horrible case in Connecticut, another home invasion. You would get the idea that home invasions happen all the time, but they're pretty rare, right?
They are rare, they don't happen all the time. But it is interesting that we've had the Cheshire case in Connecticut, and now this case, and the trials are happening so quickly. But I think viewers should know that it is not a commonplace occurrence. It's something that is fairly rare.
COOPER: Thank goodness for that. Sunny Hostin, appreciate you being with us. And Gene, thanks very much, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome.
COOPER: Up next, a new twist to that strange case of the so-called Hiccup Girl. Remember her? Now charged with murder? Wait till you hear what her attorney may use as her defense.
Plus Charlie Sheen's bizarre night in New York. What he says caused the strange behavior that landed him in the hospital. And reaction from his ex, Denise Richards, who apparently was there at the time.
COOPER: We're following a number of other stories. Let's check in with Joe again for the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, there's storm damage tonight from Minnesota to the Gulf coast, and as far east as Ohio. High winds damaging homes and knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers. All the result of at least two dozen possible tornadoes.
The Florida woman who once battled unstoppable hiccups and is now charged with murder could have an unusual defense. Jennifer Mee's lawyer says he's looking into possibly taking the position that Tourette's Syndrome may have somehow contributed to the crime. He says she was diagnosed with the condition after being cured of the hiccups.
Mee is accused of luring a 22-year-old man to a Florida home, where he was robbed and murdered, allegedly by two other men.
Michael Jackson is gone, but not forgotten. He's No. 1 on Forbes' 2010 list of top-earning dead celebrities. According to the magazine, Jackson's estate earned a whopping $275 million in the last year.
Rounding out the top five: in second place, Elvis Presley with $60 million in earnings; third, author J.R.R. Tolkien with $50 million; fourth, "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schulz, whose estate earned $33 million; and fifth, ex-Beatle John Lennon with $17 million.
Actor Charlie Sheen has left a New York hospital where his representative says he was treated for an adverse allergic reaction to medication. Sheen's ex-wife, Denise Richards, was reluctant to talk about it earlier on HLN's "Joy Behar Show" because she wants to protect their daughters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENISE RICHARD, EX-WIFE OF CHARLIE SHEEN: You know what? The thing is it's very -- my daughters are 5 and 6 years old and are at an age where they can start to understand. They have no idea what went on. And I'm -- a lot of our stuff happened when they were much younger, which I'm so grateful for.
We're in an amazing place. We've been getting along great for the last year and a half, and, you know, we're doing our best. So as far as that situation, I'm trying to protect the girls from it as much as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So why was she on TV?
JOHNS: You've got me.
JOHNS: You know how that goes.
COOPER: Yes, I think I do.
For tonight's "Shot," some dogs here in New York started their Halloween celebration early. I don't know if you saw this. I know it's a hard transition, but it's actually fun.
This is the 20th annual Tompkins -- Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade. That got me all flustered. And hard to say which costume is best. Take a look.
Here are a couple of the costumes. This is Freda (ph), the Chihuahua. Do we have the picture? Any time.
JOHNS: Oh, man.
COOPER: This would be great if we actually had pictures. Because if we don't, it's just Joe and I.
JOHNS: Pictures -- I can bark.
COOPER: Somehow we were completely unprepared for this segment to actually have pictures of the dogs that we were going to talk about.
JOHNS: Well, you know, we can always show the dog show, the big one in New York. What's the name of it?
COOPER: The Westminster Kennel club.
Here we go.
JOHNS: All right.
COOPER: This is Freda (ph) -- that's a Chihuahua? That doesn't look like a Chihuahua.
JOHNS: What is that? Is that salmon on the back or -- steak?
COOPER: It's supposed to be Lady Gaga.
COOPER: Having spent Saturday interviewing Lady Gaga for 60 minutes, she doesn't look anything like that.
Gracie the pug made an impressive Scarlett O'Hara.
COOPER: She has a sign over her that says "Gracie in Woof with the Wind."
JOHNS: "Woof with the Wind." Very nice.
COOPER: Ba-dum-bah. Oscar the Bichon -- do we have that? -- impersonating an iPad.
JOHNS: More than impersonating. That looks like an iPad.
COOPER: It is. It's basically an iPad strapped to a Bichon.
These two little guys teamed up to pose as a KitKat bar.
JOHNS: That's very nice.
COOPER: Yes. Can't break them apart. And what else? Oh, this -- this is a dog that is just not happy. But someone stuck a pink tutu on this dog.
JOHNS: The dog is going to need counseling after this.
COOPER: It's a tough look for any -- any dog there.
There's also a canine convict, complete with a ball and chain. That's sort of my favorite. Yes. So...
COOPER: ... those are the dogs. Yes.
JOHNS: Very nice.
COOPER: Joe, thanks for playing along and stalling with us for a while.
JOHNS: Always good for that.
COOPER: Serious -- serious stuff at the top of the hour, though, starting with a pastor running for Congress. Does he actually believe in the violent overthrow of the government? Or were his words taken out of context, as he says? We're "Keeping Them Honest." You judge for yourself.