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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Protests Grow in Egypt

Aired February 9, 2011 - 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: Good evening, everyone. A lot happening tonight. We're again devoting nearly the entire hour to Egypt, the entire hour to debunking the lies the Egyptian regime continues to try to spread about what is really happening there, and what is happening now and has happened today continues to defy expectations.

The protests that grew so unexpectedly yesterday, today seemed to spread and appeared to deepen. And as you will see in a moment, Egyptian government efforts to hold onto power by lying to Egyptians and lying to the world, well, those efforts seem to be starting to crumble. You are going to hear from a government broadcaster who quit because she was tired of lying to her viewers, tired of being fed lies by her government bosses. Tonight as always, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

Take a look at Liberation Square today. Now, if the Egyptian government is telling the truth, those people in that square who you see, if the Egyptian government is telling the truth, those people are foreigners, they're agitators, they're criminals, they're paid, people paid to be there. But that is not what you see with your own eyes. That is not what I saw standing in that square.

They are people tired of corruption, tired of dictatorship, tired of secret police coming in the night, tired of torture and terror, and tired of being silent. They are people who are no longer afraid. Their fear has been defeated. That is what they tell you. And for them, there is no turning back.

Today in fact, they branched out from that square, staging sit- ins, not just in the square, but at the gates of Parliament and outside the Ministry of Health. There are reports of workers going on strike at post offices, textile mills, even at "Al-Ahram," the government's main newspaper, reports of open revolt there, a sign perhaps that at least a portion of the government propaganda machine may be cracking.

That government newspaper today ran a front-page story condemning, that's right, condemning recent attacks by pro-Mubarak thugs. But the lies from the regime continue. Today, Egypt's foreign minister said the state of emergency cannot be lifted because they have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets, and many police stations have been destroyed.

And it sounds almost plausible at first, but then you remember that the Mubarak regime has been ruling under a state of emergency for nearly 30 years. That man does not know how to rule any other way. The state of emergency allows the police to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want.

The demonstrators are saying emergency rule must end. Take a look again at Liberation Square. The protesters are actually policing themselves, checking I.D.s, patting people down. The chaos is not in that square, the chaos, the real chaos comes from government thugs who have gone on the attack.

The Mubarak regime has tried to create a crisis. We have shown that night after night, shutting the banks, shutting the trains, trying to shut the Internet. It's a tactic they have used for 30 years, trying to make Egyptians and the world believe that there are only two choices, Mubarak or chaos.

But there are not just two choices. There are other lies as well to tell you about. The government continues to distort or hide the truth about how many people have been killed or detained in the demonstrations. They continue to claim 11 people died. According to Human Rights Watch, that number is closer to 300. And they got that number by canvassing hospitals in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

As for the number of detained people, well, Human Rights Watch says at least 119, 119 cases that they can actually document. What does the Egyptian government say? Well, we have asked here and in Cairo, again and again and again, and we have yet to get a single answer. They don't admit to any detentions it seems.

And they continue to lie by painting foreign journalists as outside agitators who along with other foreigners and Islamic extremists have somehow taken over the protest movement. We heard that first from Egypt's President Mubarak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (voice-over): These demonstrations moved a civilized expression of practicing freedom of speech to sad confrontations which were organized by political groups who wanted to throw fire on oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. That is what he said last week. That message was then repeated. We have heard that message repeated again, trying to make it sound like protesters resorted to violence, another lie.

His regime beat and killed people. And when they could no longer get away with doing it directly, they then had pro-Mubarak mobs and thugs do it. Egypt's vice president and their see television continue to blame reporters and extremists and agitators. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPTIAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): I actually blame certain friendly nations who have television channels, they're not friendly at all, who have intensified the youth against the nation and the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is a great number of people who have infiltrated them and there are countless poisonous thoughts that are entering the thoughts of these youths and many of these youths are actually good.

SULEIMAN (through translator): Maybe there are foreign agendas, agendas for the Muslim Brotherhood, agendas for the private political parties, for businessmen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that's the government's line. Their list of culprits also seems to include Hezbollah, Shiites, agents of Israel and other sinister foreign elements.

And just this evening on PBS' "NewsHour," Egypt's foreign minister suggested the United States is trying to push his country around. He was asked about Vice President Biden's phone call to Egypt's vice president, calling for prompt and meaningful reforms. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET WARNER, PBS: How do you take that? I mean, do you regard that as helpful advice from a friend?

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: No, not at all.

Why is it so? Because, when you speak about prompt, immediate, now, as if you are imposing on -- on a great country like Egypt, a great friend that have always maintained the best of relationship with the United States, you are imposing your will on him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So now they're playing another card, trying to stir nationalist pride.

It's the same strategy we heard from the vice president of Egypt yesterday when he said the protesters and reporters were belittling and insulting Egypt.

Sometimes, the allegation from them is comical. The regime is saying protesters in Liberation Square are being paid $100 or 100 euros or they're being fed Kentucky Fried Chicken. The chanting you hear, by the way, is Arabic for, "They called us the youth of Kentucky."

This by the way is the Kentucky Fried Chicken at Liberation Square. Yes, there is one. But even if it could feed hundreds of thousands of people, which it can't, it's closed and has been since the demonstrations began. But as frankly absurd as the idea of foreigners high on 11 herbs and spices trying to take over Egypt may sound to us, you've got to remember, this is a dictatorship with government-controlled media that's been lying to its people for decades.

And now one of those former liars, an anchor for see television, has come forward, resigning her job, putting herself at great risk because she can lie no more. Her name is Shahira Amin. Until last week, she was an anchor on state-run Nile TV. I talked to her earlier tonight about how the lies get spread.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAHIRA AMIN, RESIGNED FROM EGYPT STATE TV: I had a program on television, and I was given a press release from the Interior Ministry saying that the Muslim Brotherhood had instigated these protests.

And I knew for a fact that the Muslim Brotherhood had opted to stay out initially. They came on board later. And then I had another talk show, and I was told to mention the foreign agents that were fomenting the unrest and also to talk about, as you said, that people were being paid to be in the square.

So when I went to Tahrir Square myself, I didn't find any foreign agents. It was -- these were the Egyptians and it was an all- inclusive revolution. It has everyone on board, women, entire families, and their primary demand, they want President Mubarak to step down, and that was never mentioned on Egyptian television.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Never mentioned on Egyptian television.

Now, I have seen some e-mails suggesting that the reason we on this program are calling out the Mubarak regime for their lies, trying every night to point out these lies, is that it is somehow personal, that because I and my team was attacked by thugs on two occasions, that somehow I have lost objectivity.

And I can understand why maybe some people believe that. But let me just tell you I don't believe that that is the case. This is not personal. This is not to insult Egypt. This is about the truth, and all the reporters on the ground, and frankly all the people in that square and most of the people around the world have seen the truth in Egypt.

You have seen peaceful protesters attacked by uniformed police and then by mobs. And having seen the truth, it is our obligation, I believe, to continue to bear witness to it. For the people in this square, every day now is life and death. There is no going back for them.

We continue to invite members of the Egyptian government in Cairo and in Washington and in New York to appear on this program. They continue to decline. We would like to ask them for evidence of foreign infiltration, evidence that reporters are paying people to protest. We would like to ask them for any proof at all of any of their allegations, but we don't believe they have any.

And so far they have shown none. And they refuse to come here. The invitation is an open one.

Joining us from now Cairo is Ivan Watson and in Washington, Professor Dr. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Fouad, Egypt's foreign minister telling PBS today that America is trying to force its will on Egypt. You have talked about the playbook that these folks are using. This seems yet another play right out of a playbook.

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, look, Anderson, I know this man, not very well, he's not a friend of mine. I knew him when he was ambassador to the U.N.

This is the Egyptian political class of the Mubarak regime. These are men who manufacture their own truth. And now the truth is laid bare. Consider, for example, they tell us we can't lift the state of emergency because there are 17,000 prisoners out there, but then they concede, because they are now putting on trial the former interior minister, they concede that he, the former interior minute, basically went, demolished the prisons and told the prisoners -- quote -- "Leave and don't look back."

So these are men who are not even that good at lying anymore. They trip up over their own lies because they lived for a long time in this manufactured truth that they sold to themselves and to the world. And they sold America, we have to admit, this legend of this stable regime that is our partner in the search for peace and our partner in the war on terror.

And yet, as we know, and we can talk about it a bit later, we know that this is a regime that gave us both Ayman al-Zawahri and the psychopath Mohamed Atta on 9/11. So, this regime has a lot to answer for, but it's been used to lying. It knows no other way.

COOPER: Ivan Watson, you're on the ground there. The regime has fresh reason to worry tonight. The protests actually expanded in a way yet again today. It's literally right at the gates of power right now, right?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's a test of wills that's going on. The battle is furious.

And what we saw last night were groups of protesters who moved out of Tahrir Square, moved up a number of blocks right to the gates of the Egyptian Parliament, and they camped out there overnight. They are maintaining their vigil now. They are conducting a sit-in, and their argument is that the Egyptian Parliament, really, they're saying, is fraudulent, that the elections of last November and December were widely considered to have been rigged.

And they have continued their calls for a new round of elections there and for the current Parliament to be disbanded. The protesters I talked to, Anderson, say they're going to continue trying to ramp up pressure against the Egyptian government by perhaps moving on to other places in the days and weeks ahead.

COOPER: Fouad, a lot of folks in Egypt are watching this broadcast and I know listening to your comments. I have read some of the e-mails that you have been receiving and they're really extraordinary. What do you see happening now? I think a lot of people underestimated these protesters. A lot of people I think in the rest of the world kind of thought, OK, you know what? It's going to be fading down now. The exact opposite has occurred.

AJAMI: Well, Anderson, you should take credit for some of these e-mails. There's one e-mail that came to both of us, and it's not about you and it's not about me. It's about this boy of 16 who told me he's never watched news before. He's never stayed up to watch news.

He's watching A.C. 360 at 4:00 a.m., at 4:00 a.m. Cairo time, and he thanks us for our support of their revolution. These are young people, these are good people, middle-class people, orderly people. They're not interested in anti-Americanism. They're not interested in Islamic fundamentalism. They just simply want the normal life that they're entitled to and that this regime is denying them.

Now, on this confrontation, there is something that just occurred to me between the regime and the protesters. What we're really witnessing, and this hasn't changed, is a sort of, if you will, this is an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The irresistible force is of course we know the force of these decent people out in the streets and out in the square and now the revolution is spreading elsewhere. And the immovable object is both the man at the helm of the regime, meaning Hosni Mubarak, and the regime itself, meaning the supplicants of Hosni Mubarak, his vice president, his ruling party and this fake and terrible world he constructed around himself.

COOPER: I want to go back to something you said right in the beginning of this, Fouad, which is extraordinary and I didn't think about it until just now. So, wait, so the foreign minister says they can't lift the state of emergency because there are 17,000 prisoners.

The former Interior Ministry is now being investigated for letting those prisoners -- intentionally letting those prisoners out to foment crisis and chaos, so they're now using something that someone in their government did as yet another fake reason for why they can't list the emergency. It's kind of Orwellian.

AJAMI: Yes, don't you love this parallel world they live in?

And if I were functionary of this regime -- and I know several of them. I know the editor in chief of the leading paper, "Al-Ahram," and so many of them. If I were in this regime, I would be very, very careful, because this regime is beginning to feeds its own functionaries to the crowd. It's beginning to throw them over the wall. It's beginning to make concessions.

And in making concessions, it's begun to prosecute its former ministers, the former head of the National Democratic Party, the minister of commerce, the minister of tourism, the minister of interior. So I think maybe this regime is cracking. Maybe that immovable object may be beginning to move. But we're still early in this confrontation. There is really no victory for either side yet. But, morally, morally, the regime has completely collapsed.

COOPER: And yet, again, I think every day the lives of these protesters hang in the balance.

Fouad, we are going to be coming back to you after the break to talk about how the White House has been handling the crisis, whether it was caught flat-footed.

Ivan, you spoke today with Wael Ghonim, the man really of the hour of these last few days. I want to play some of your interview with him. He's taken a leave of absence from Google. He's now an activist. He was held in custody basically for this entire protest, taken, ripped off the streets by secret police, blindfolded, didn't know anything that was going on. He's been released, has reinvigorated this protest movement.

You talked to him. I just want to play some about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Did you plan a revolution?

WAEL GHONIM, GOOGLE EXECUTIVE: Yes, we did.

WATSON: What was the plan?

GHONIM: The plan was to get everyone on the street. Number one is that we're going to start from, you know, poor areas. Our demands are going to be all about what touches people's daily life.

WATSON: There's been a lot of speculation about Muslim Brotherhood being involved in this uprising. How would you describe yourself and your friends who helped mobilize for the first protests on January 25?

GHONIM: Muslim Brotherhood was not involved at all in the organization of this. Muslim Brotherhood announced that they're not going to participate officially. And they said if the young guys want to join, if their young guys want to join, they're not going to tell them no.

If you want to free a society, just give them Internet access, because people are going to -- the young crowds are going to all go out and see and hear the unbiased media, see the truth about, you know, other nations and their own nation, and they're going to be able to communicate and collaborate together.

WATSON: Was this an Internet revolution? GHONIM: Definitely, this is the Internet revolution. I will call it revolution 2.0.

WATSON: The Egyptian government right now is talking about change, it's talking about committees, constitutional reform, investigating the last parliamentary elections, respecting the demands of the youth, stopping arrests, liberating the media. What do you think about these messages?

GHONIM: This is no longer the time to negotiate, unfortunately. We -- we went on the street on 25th, and we wanted to negotiate. We wanted to talk to our government.

We were, you know, knocking the door. They decided to negotiate with us at night with rubber bullets, with police -- police sticks, with, you know, water hoses, with tear gas tanks, and with arresting about 500 people of us.

Thanks. You know, we got the message. Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us.

WATSON: Do you feel any responsibility?

GHONIM: No, no.

I am sorry, but I don't -- you know, I am sorry for their loss.

And I am telling you, I'm ready to die. I have a lot to lose in this life. I, you know, I work or, you know, now as an -- on leave of absence -- I work in the best company to work for in the world. I have the best wife and I have, I have -- I love my kids. But I'm willing to lose all of that for my dream to happen. And no one is going to go against our desire. No one.

And I'm telling this to Omar Suleiman. He's going to watch this. You're not going to stop us. Kidnap me, kidnap all my colleagues. Put us in jail. Kill us. Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough. Enough. Enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Speaking directly to the vice president of Egypt. Fear has been defeated, the protesters keep saying, that there is no turning back. You heard that young man, that executive, works for a big Western company, does not need money, has money of his own, has a family. And yet he says he's willing to die, as are the other protesters, for freedom.

Join the live chat now under way AC360.com.

Up next, evidence the White House maybe perhaps should have known Egypt was heading for trouble. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that and talking about it with Fouad Ajami and David Gergen.

And later, the congressman who took off his shirt and lost his job.

First, let's check in with Isha Sesay -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Details of a major milestone in the recovery of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Some are calling this latest development another small miracle. I will explain when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, new images of the uprising keep coming in from Egypt. A lot of them have been posted on YouTube, this one today. We don't know nearly enough about exactly what happened either before or after the camera was rolling, but by and large the pictures speak for themselves. And some of them are tough to watch, I want to warn you.

Take a look. It takes place in a plaza, the Egyptian city of Mahalla on the 28th of January, three days into the uprising. Police vehicles, those are police vehicles there, moving out. A tank is looking on the scene. Protesters are everywhere. Then, from the top of your screen, there on the left top, you see that vehicle? They're just mowing down protesters right there.

It looks like a police vehicle. They don't seem to care if they hit anyone. Soldiers aren't doing anything. The mob -- the protesters catch up to the vehicle, start rocking it back and forth. It looks like they may pull the driver out. Hard to tell. Eventually they succeed in actually turning over the entire vehicle. Let's just watch.

We don't know what happens next. The same can be said for Egypt itself. We don't know what will happen next. And neither does Washington, the White House. The question is should they have been better prepared? Could they have been?

Jackson Diehl wrote a column in today's "Washington Post" titled "The Egypt Warnings Obama Ignored." It centers on a year-old bipartisan working group on Egypt. Last April, it went a letter to Secretary of State Clinton warning that Egypt -- quote -- "faces substantial leadership changes in the near future without a fair and transparent political process," adding, "if the opportunity for reform is missed, prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt."

I want to talk about it with Professor Fouad Ajami and joining us also senior policy analyst David Gergen.

Fouad, we have been told from the start how these developments came as a shock. Now we're finding out about this bipartisan working group did sort of see some sort of a need for changes on the horizon, more than a year ago, told the administration. Do you think the White House dropped the ball here, or is that not fair?

AJAMI: Well, you know I'm not a big fan of the Obama administration, but I think this is a great simplification of the problems that Egypt represented for the United States. I was part -- I was marginally involved in discussions during the presidency of George W. Bush about Egypt, because they wanted to push Egypt toward reform, they wanted to nudge Hosni Mubarak toward reform. They were very concerned about the autocratic ways of Hosni Mubarak. And in the end, they pulled back from it.

So I think there's plenty of blame to go around. This is a man who has been in power from Reagan to Obama. He's known five presidents, and he's picked the pocket and stiffed five presidents in a row.

This kind of guessing who lost Egypt and who should have known, I really am not very interested in it. I wrote a lot about Egypt trying to underline the troubles of the Mubarak regime. It's really not about this debate in Washington. It's really about this revolution in Egypt and whether we go and embrace it and proclaim it and accept it as a legitimate liberal revolution that a free people are entitled to.

David, obviously, it's a difficult situation for the Obama administration, given the history with Egypt, the American support of the Mubarak regime for 30 years. How in your opinion have they been playing this? Is it mixed messages or have they been consistent?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, they have had lots of mixed messages. They were very wobbly in the beginning.

Anderson, I must say they did not see it coming, but nor did any other major government that I'm aware of. Certainly, in the international forum at that World Economic Forum in Davos 10 days ago, there was widespread belief that nobody saw this coming.

And so the Americans couldn't be blamed for that. Where I think they do bear some blame is in not developing some alternative plans should something like this occur. They had no backup plans. They had no plan B, no plan C, and nor did they have a lot of strong relationships within this community of protesters, some of the other -- some of the non-profit groups, some of the other power centers in Egypt.

The fact is that most American administrations stretching back over five presidents have -- yes, have watched Mubarak pick our pockets, but he's also been a very strong ally on a lot of issues such as Iran, such as Israel that have been very, very important for American presidents and there's a tendency in that situation to look the other way at the thievery, to look at the other way at the corruption, to look at the other way at the repression, and to say, look, we have larger fish to fry.

But I -- were they caught by surprise? I think legitimate caught by surprise? Yes. But did they have a backup plan? No. Have they been consistent on this? No. I think they are trying very hard and I think they have been better at it in the last few days than they were in the beginning.

COOPER: Fouad, it is interesting. The Bush administration, as you mentioned, had this sort of policy of -- I think it was name and shame was sort of one of the nicknames for it.

Actually, I think Condoleezza Rice made a very open statement at Cairo University I think it was during the Bush administration criticizing the regime, saying they needed to be more open. The Obama administration took a different tact of privately saying maybe the same things, but publicly not naming or blaming, right?

AJAMI: Well, we're so many light years away now from that famous speech that Barack Obama gave in Egypt, his outreach to the Islamic world in June of 2009. It was full of promise.

But I think soon people in Egypt and beyond Egypt, in Egypt, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iran, in the summer of 2009, they soon took measure, they took the measure of President Obama, and they realized that he is a realist -- quote, unquote -- "a realist," that he's not interested in the spread of freedom.

And the spread of freedom, because it was associated with George W. Bush, had a bad name in the Obama administration. And I hate to just -- I want to respond to something that David said. And I'm -- my respect and affection for David is unlimited. He's worked with as many presidents as Henry VIII had by way of wives.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: With better end result, though, for David.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Some would say with equal results.

(LAUGHTER)

AJAMI: And I'm very deferential to him on matters of policy.

But we must understand the bargain we made with someone like Hosni Mubarak. Yes, he helped us in retail ways, but the terror he unleashed on us indirectly, the kind of Egypt he made and manufactured, and the blowback that came our way from Egypt is enormous.

A thesis has been made. A thesis has been made that the road to 9/11 led through the prisons of Egypt, the torture chambers, the prisons that gave us many, many members of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has had a Saudi financier and a Saudi head, i.e., Osama bin Laden. And much of the leadership, much of the ranks, much of the men who committed terror were the product of Egyptian society and its pathologies and its injustices.

GERGEN: Fouad -- I think that's right, Fouad, and it's fundamental.

But I think you would agree that every administration in recent years has made the bargain on the side of security as opposed to supporting in a forthright way the forces of democracy that were building up and the protests against the repression that occurred long before this president came in.

I mean, we have -- every -- don't you think every president has basically made that same bargain?

AJAMI: Absolutely. I think, as I said, remember, this man was -- he came into the presidency after the assassination of Anwar Sadat on the watch of President Reagan. So he's been around for a very long time.

COOPER: Yes.

GERGEN: Yes.

AJAMI: And he learned how to master and play the American system. He knows how to talk to congressmen. He knows how to talk less so to the media. He's not really a media-friendly guy. But he also knows how to talk to intelligence people as well.

GERGEN: Yes.

Yes, Anderson, I might just add, there's a very interesting piece. "The Los Angeles Times" is reporting tonight that there's a growing split within the administration itself, that, at the senior level, secretary of state, secretary of defense, NSC adviser, they're all for this realist strategy that Fouad has just been arguing, you know, let's have an orderly transition, as Hillary Clinton has just been arguing.

But there's -- but there is a growing group in the middle, the person who, for example, drafted the Cairo speech, who are pushing for the -- pushing to come out much more strongly for the demonstrators: let's get rid of Mubarak. Let's move along.

COOPER: We'll continue to watch. David Gergen, appreciate it. Or David Boleyn, as maybe I should now call you. Fouad Ajami, I appreciate it, as well. Thank you.

Keep your head.

Still ahead, are concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood and the role it might play in a democratic Egypt justified or are they overblown? You're going to hear from a former member of the group, who's now a big critic. And Peter Bergen, as well, weighing in.

And later, a congressman's two-term career ending at lightning speed after he sends a shirtless photo of himself to a woman who is not his wife. Details and the photos, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're going to have more on Egypt in a moment, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood. Two different perspectives on it. But I want to talk -- get you caught up on this story that's happening in the United States that plenty of people, including presumably Congressman Christopher Lee's wife, were surprised today to hear.

The Web site Gawker posted this picture that Lee reportedly e- mailed to a woman he met through Craigslist, a woman who isn't his wife. He e-mailed the picture on the right, not the suit and tie picture on the left.

Congressman Lee apparently didn't get the memo that e-mailing a stranger a shirtless picture of yourself flexing your biceps in front of the bathroom mirror, maybe not such a good idea.

The two-term Republican from upstate New York resigned today, issuing an apology. Dana Bash joins me now with the latest.

Dana, this seemed -- I mean, I've never even heard of this guy before. What do we know about it?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you what we know according to Gawker.com, Anderson, which obtained these alleged e- mails.

And now former Congressman Lee was on a "women seeking men" forum and answered a personal ad from a woman asking if someone could prove that not all Craigslist men look like toads. And Lee, who allegedly used his real game from a Gmail account, sent the following reply, as posted by Gawker. And I'll read it to you.

It said, "Hope I'm not a toad." Note the smiley face there. "I'm a very fit, fun classy guy. Live in the Capitol Hill area. Six feet, 190 pounds, blond/blue," which of course, means blond hair, blue eyes. "Thirty-nine, lobbyist, and I promise not to disappoint."

Anderson, the two allegedly had e-mail exchanges after that, where the married Lee told her that he was divorced and allegedly sent her that shirtless picture of himself.

Now, the woman apparently figured out that Lee was not who he said he was, gave the information to Gawker. So I want to emphasize, Anderson, though, that neither Lee nor anyone close to him has confirmed to us the veracity of the e-mails or the picture but he, of course, did abruptly resign today after all this came out, saying he made a mistake.

COOPER: It's pretty amazing how quickly he resigned.

BASH: It's remarkable. Warp speed, Anderson. I don't think I remember seeing anything quite like this in Washington.

It was just late afternoon that Gawker posted these alleged flirtatious e-mails. Earlier tonight, we got word from a source close to him that he resigned, and then we got a statement. I'll read you part of what he said in that statement, Anderson.

He said, "I regret that the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes, and I promise to work hard as I can to seek their forgiveness." Lee said later that he resigned effective immediately. And actually there was a dramatic moment, Anderson, on the floor of the House where the resignation letter was read. And I can tell you from talking to top House Republicans, they were certainly relieved that he did it that fast. The last thing the new House Republican majority wants is a prolonged sex scandal, sources I talked to said, because they're hoping because he wasn't well known, that it won't hurt the majority and it will go away pretty quickly.

COOPER: I certainly feel for his family and what they must be going through tonight.

Dana, appreciate it. Thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, Egypt's largest opposition group has thrown its weight behind the pro-democracy protests, but are the Muslim Brotherhood's goals at odds with democracy? We'll talk to two different perspectives on that.

First, Isha Sesay has a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is speaking again one month after being shot in the head at point blank range. A spokesman says Giffords asked for toast two days ago at the Houston rehab facility where she's recovering. She's apparently spoken other words, as well. Her doctors say it's an important step in Giffords' recovery.

The December -- December death, I should say, of a 27-year-old woman at the Missouri home of beer tycoon August Busch IV has been ruled an accident. The St. Louis medical examiner said Adrienne Martin died of an OxyContin overdose.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, has been issued a new passport to return home. That's according to the Haitian interior minister. Aristide left Haiti during a bloody revolt in 2004 and has been living in exile in South Africa. His lawyer has said Aristide, who still commands a large following in Haiti, has no intention of reentering politics.

And a new analysis of 15 different studies finds that people who sleep less than six hours a night or more than nine hours a night raise their risk of developing or dying from heart disease and stroke.

COOPER: Yikes.

SESAY: Yes. Information I'll probably stay up worrying about.

COOPER: Well, I was going to say, now I'm going to stay up worrying you're not going to get more than six hours.

SESAY: Yes, thanks for that.

COOPER: Yes, thanks, Isha. Appreciate it. Time for tonight's "Shot." We'll check in with you a little bit later. It's a YouTube video of a guy who's being called the Asian MC Hammer, totally busting out the "Can't Touch This" dance. Take a look.

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COOPER: Simply has the pants. I didn't know you could actually still find those pants now that it's no longer 1993 or whatever that was. You notice the woman in the background? It's my favorite part. He's dancing, gyrating away for more than four minutes. His mom or grandmother is just sewing away in the background the whole time, not even glancing up. Can't be mothered.

All right, let's move along. Isha, we'll check in with you a little bit later on.

Getting back to the serious news. Our Egypt coverage continues with a closer look at the Muslim Brotherhood: who they are, what they say they want, and why some people-are afraid what their role would be in a post Mubarak Egypt.

Now later, a new study on breast cancer, suggesting some patients a very painful type of treatment that's used now could be unnecessary. Details ahead.

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COOPER: Tonight, the Muslim Brotherhood reiterated the group's stance in the Egyptian protest. A spokesman said the Muslim Brotherhood is not -- will not field a presidential candidate in the next elections.

These declarations, though, not allaying fears among some, though, about what the group's influence would be after Mubarak is gone. We'll give you a quick primer on the group.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition movement in Egypt. It's been active for more than 80 years. Its purpose is religious and political. The cornerstone is the belief that Islam is more than a religion; it's a way of life and should have a role in political life.

Because of its religions agenda, members were banned from running for the presidency, but Muslim Brotherhood candidates ran as independents and won 88 of 444 parliament seats back in 2005.

One final point, the Muslim Brotherhood officially rejects violence, but some critics say the group could just be biding its time, waiting for power, and then that anti-violent stance may change.

I spoke earlier with two different people on different sides of this. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is author of "Nomad," founded the AHA Foundation, and Peter Bergen, author of "The Longest War."

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COOPER: Ayaan, when you were younger, you were actually a member of the Muslim Brotherhood when you were living in Kenya. Why are you so concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the chances of them coming to power?

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, AUTHOR, "NOMAD": Because as a 15-year-old, 16- year-old, what -- the members, the strong members of the Muslim Brotherhood who educated me, what they taught me was for us to strive toward a society governed by Sharia law, Islamic law, and it wasn't only for us living in Kenya. They intended it for everyone all over the world.

COOPER: So when people say, "Well, look, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has renounced violence and worked peacefully for this years now."

ALI: Well, whether they work with violence or peacefully, they're working toward the goal of establishing Islamic law.

COOPER: Peter, are you as concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood in general, and getting into power in Egypt?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Not really on either front, Anderson. First of all, as you know, you visited there recently. The Muslim Brotherhood has engaged in conventional politics in Egypt for a long time now.

Secondly, there's no chance of them getting to, you know, run Egypt, because the kind of level of support they have is just simply not enough to take the country over. And we saw that this revolution as -- that they basically kind of got onto the revolution rather late in the game. So they will be a player, but they won't be the player in Egypt going forward.

COOPER: Do you have any doubt, though, that the Muslim Brotherhood wants -- they are Islamists. They would like an Islamic state, no?

BERGEN: Sure, and as you well know, Anderson, and as Ms. Ali also knows, I mean, you ask most Muslims do you want Sharia law, and they would say yes, because it means a lot of different things to different people.

ALI: It doesn't mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As a young child, growing up with Islam, me and all the other Muslims I know were taught two main lessons. Everything in the Koran is the true word of God. Everything that the prophet Mohammed did is right and just, and we have to follow his example.

COOPER: So what is it you're arguing for? I mean, clearly, I understand the concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood. I understand, you know, if you are a woman, if you are a minority, there are many reasons why one would not want the Muslim Brotherhood, if you don't want to live under Sharia, to take -- to take power.

What is the alternative? If they do represent right now 20 to 30 percent, you can't close off that voice in a democratic Egypt. You're arguing, what, for building up other institutions, having time so that other institutions can be built up?

ALI: Yes, and you've seen all of these countries people will say elections, elections, elections. So before an election can take place, you have to campaign.

The Muslim Brotherhood has the resources, the infrastructure, both civic and economic, to mobilize huge masses to go and vote further.

Look at the liberal voices. They're not organized. They don't have a common ideology. What I have seen on Tahrir square and in Tunisia, let the bad guy go out. That's not a program.

And what we need to do is stop worrying about the Muslim Brotherhood. A, there's going to be -- I think -- I hope that the Egyptian constitution has to be rewritten in such a way that there are safeguards against a Sharia state or against the next autocracy.

COOPER: And Peter, that certainly seems like what the United States wants to have happen right now, wants to be able to do.

But it also seems, like what many opposition figures in Egypt right now are hoping to do, Mohammed ElBaradei who says, "Look, the Muslim Brotherhood gets about 20, 30 percent of the popular vote right now." He's talking about allowing there to be time, a year transitional government that allows other forces, democratic institutions to be bolstered and supported and gain support, correct?

BERGEN: Yes, I mean, I think we're all in agreement that is the way forward, but we also have to recognize that democracies are going to throw out people that we don't necessarily agree with, and that's the point of democracy.

ALI: That's a platitude. Of course that's the point, but democracy is more than that. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist radical organization, once they get to power, is going to violate the rights of women, of homosexuals, of religious minorities. We have to do everything in our power to prevent them from violating those human rights.

COOPER: Peter, there are people in the audience who will kind of equate Muslim Brotherhood with a group like al Qaeda. Al Qaeda actually hates the Muslim Brotherhood, from my understanding, correct?

BERGEN: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 in al Qaeda, has written an entire book critiquing the Muslim Brotherhood and is very critical for them for the precise reason that they have engaged in conventional democratic politics, which al Qaeda regards as, you know, kind of against Islam. So there is -- there is quite a lot of mutual hostility between these two groups. ALI: But that hostility should not blind us to the shared objectives, the establishment of a society based on Sharia law. Ayman al-Zawahiri wants to achieve that through violent means. The Muslim Brotherhood's current leadership wants to achieve that through gradual peaceful means, using and abusing the vocabulary of freedom and democracy.

COOPER: But you're not arguing this as a reason to keep Mubarak in power?

ALI: No.

COOPER: You're -- you're saying this is a reason to bolster democratic institutions in however long it takes in this transitional period?

ALI: Yes. I'm frustrated by what I've been reading in the past three weeks, which is it's either a Mubarak-type government or it's going to be Sharia law and Muslim Brotherhood.

COOPER: That's the narrative that Mubarak has set up. For years, he has said...

ALI: Yes.

COOPER: ... it's either me or chaos. It's either me, stability, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

ALI: And what I'm saying is there is a third way. Never limit your options to just two. If you look at the people in Tahrir Square, there are individuals here who believe in an alternative.

What we -- what I am noting is they lack the infrastructure that the Brotherhood has. They lack the power that the Mubarak-type people have. And we need to support them in that way, but it survived that action (ph).

COOPER: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, appreciate your time.

And Peter Bergen, as well. Peter, thank you.

Well, other news tonight. Oklahoma and other states getting hit with another round of snow. More on the storm, where it's headed, coming up next. Huge storm.

And new information out today that may make a routine, very painful procedure for women with breast cancer unnecessary. Details ahead.

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COOPER: I want to get you up to date on some other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has that -- has the story about some buzz in the world of cancer and in the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, new research suggests many women with early- stage breast cancer do not need to have cancerous lymph nodes removed. This could change the way tens of thousands of patients are treated every year. The study of nearly nine million patients found that removing lymph nodes from the armpit did not help patients live longer or avoid recurrence. All the women studied received lumpectomies plus radiation treatment and chemotherapy or hormone treatment.

Well, cue the misery. Another winter storm across the southeast has turned roads and runways treacherous. That's after pounding the nation's midsection. Parts of Oklahoma got up to a foot of snow and wind chills were 10 to 30 degrees below zero in some areas.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's days could be numbered. According to Obama administration sources on Friday, The White House will announce a gradual phasing out of the government-controlled housing giants. They got a $134 billion taxpayer funded bailout back in 2008.

And a source tells TMZ that Charlie Sheen wants to return to the set of "Two and a Half Men" by next week. It's also reporting Sheen is feeling bad for the 300 crew members who are on false hiatus while he's in drug rehab. TMZ says Sheen has offered to pay one third of their salaries if CBS and Warner Brothers pay the rest.

I'm so over him.

COOPER: Yes, it seems so ridiculous. I given up (ph) what's going on, but you know, anyway I guess wish him well.

We're going to go back to Egypt at the top of the hour, Isha, where the uprising appears to be growing and growing deeper. We'll also look at how the Egyptian government, they're just flat-out lying about it. Details ahead.

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COOPER: A lot happening tonight. We're again devoting nearly the entire hour to Egypt, the entire hour to debunking the lies the Egyptian regime continues to try to spread about what is really happening there.